You may also have the gift of being empathic
As a child, I lived in a home of neglect and abuse. Being raised by a single mother who was too young to have children, my growing up was heartbreaking and painful. Because of this, I wasn’t prepared to handle what life threw at me when I turned 18 and was sent out into the real world as an adult.
I had a lot of emotional and mental problems: I had anxiety and was prone to panic attacks, I reached out to anyone who would love me, using promiscuous sex was a way to placate me with pseudo-love. I had a crippling fear of abandonment that reduced me into hysterics (especially when that toxic pseudo-love ended),and numbing myself with alcohol and drugs.
Although I’d never been formally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I did express many borderline-type behaviors. Before I explain more, let me give you a formal explanation of BPD:
Borderline Personality Disorder: A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by 5 (or more) of the following:
1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment;
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships 3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
5. Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour.
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
(taken in part from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-5 Personality and Personality Disorders)
When you are young and haven’t been raised with the appropriate social construct, your world, in a sense, becomes a shitshow. My behavior catapulted me into more unstable relationships, and as much as I wanted to be healthy, I wasn’t. I didn’t even know how to become healthy.
There’s also another way my brain is wired, and it’s genetic. It wasn’t the result of a toxic childhood, but certainly made my childhood circumstances even worse for me.
As I got older, I learned the word for this genetic vulnerability: I am empathic
Being empathic goes beyond having empathy for others. I’m able to pick up cues from others and feel what they feel. If they are angry, I feel anger. If afraid, I feel fear. Pain? Happiness? Yes, all of those emotions. You get the idea.
Being empathic is a gift and a curse. When I was a child, I innately used my empathic ability to keep me safe. I could sense a danger and steer clear of it. I could feel the rise of someone who started becoming emotionally unstable and hid from them. My empathy helped me stay alive.
But, my empathy also made me experience negative energy on the Nth level. I witnessed a lot of bad shit when I was growing up, and it greatly impacted me. I cried a lot. I was always on my guard. I took everything to heart. And I felt alone and empty.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a result from a combination of factors such as genetics, brain development, altered brain chemicals, and environmental factors. The environmental factors include being a victim of abuse, being exposed to long-term fear and distress, or being neglected by one or both parents, or from a parent with mental health or addiction issues. (source).
Having the gift of empathy is the result a mix of sensitivity and being raised in an unstable upbringing can bring about BPD. When the person has an inherently enhanced empathic ability mixed with an unstable childhood, it creates an empathic adult who is unable to regulate her emotions, and may experience personal distress, anxiety, depression, even aggressive or violent behavior. (source)
It is no secret that BPD and being empathic can go hand-in-hand. There’s been several studies regarding women with BPD and the connection to hyper-empathy. BPD v.s non-BPD people, have shown that BPD people are exceptionally more clued in to reading emotions than non-BPD people.
I’m not a psychologist, and although I can’t attest to the psychological diagnoses of Borderline Personality Disorder and its connection with empathy, I do understand this on a personal level, having experienced the emotional upheaval firsthand.
For many who have been given the diagnosis of BPD, it is possible that you’re empathic. This unexpected gift can empower you if you learn to regulate your emotions and hone your abilities. It’s like having a superpower and learning how to use it.
However, it takes working exceptionally hard in therapy. With hard work and a good therapist, you have a chance to recover and thrive.
When you step onto the long road of recovery, you can actually use your empathy to heal yourself from BPD. With a therapist, you can channel that empathy towards yourself.
Learn how to regulate your emotions and conjur up the empathy that you so desperately needed as a child. Teach yourself how to use your empathy to give love, support, and forgiveness to yourself and others.
You can also use it to create boundaries for yourself. Like a mother protecting her child, you protect yourself from being mistreated. You channel a great love for yourself and start inviting more joy in your life. You learn how to regulate your emotions during conflict and negativity. This is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
Part of my healing process was journaling. It was my creative outlet and also a way to express my emotions. I always felt better when I was done writing, and I could also look back at what I wrote (because I usually forgot it later). This helped me to connect my thoughts and my feelings together. I still journal when I’m going through a tough time in my life. It’s my salvation.
I worked hard for years in therapy to learn about myself and process what I went through in my childhood. I learned more about me and accepting myself. I still have to manage my emotions, and this is life-long. I realize that, but, I’m in a much better place.