My relationship history isn’t great.
That’s putting it pretty mildly, to be honest.
I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD, also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder). One of the biggest issues those of us with BPD face is the overwhelming fear of abandonment, and extreme efforts to avoid said abandonment. As such, I have accepted and ignored some really toxic behaviour from people who claimed to love me.
One relationship in particular caused more pain and damage to my soul than I’ve ever admitted.
I have no ulterior motive for sharing these experiences today, other than the hope of freeing myself from the flashbacks and panic that locking them inside my mind causes. I guess maybe if someone can identify similar red flags in their own relationship and realise that it’s not acceptable, that would be a positive too.
Trigger warning: The rest of this post includes descriptions of controlling/abusive behaviour, along with mentions of self-harm and suicide. If you feel you are at risk of being triggered or upset by these topics, please do not read any further.
The following events are in no particular order, I just wrote them down as they came back to me. Some are relatively minor, some more extreme.
If he had a bad day at work, he’d come home and deliberately start an argument with me so he could vent his frustration.
He regularly accused me of cheating on him or messaging people behind his back.
I was struggling with insomnia and if I got out of bed in the night and didn’t wake him up to tell him what I was doing, he would accuse me of deliberately staying awake at night so I could message people behind his back.
I was extremely fatigued due to mental illness and insomnia, and if I needed a nap during the day, he would berate me for not spending enough time with him.
He insisted that we go to bed at the same time. I wasn’t allowed to stay up later than him.
If I wasn’t in the mood to be in constant physical contact, like hugging or holding hands, he would accuse me of not being affectionate enough and guilt-trip me until I gave in. Also, if I hugged him and didn’t give him a kiss at the same time, he claimed that I was “in a mood” with him.
On several occasions, he took my phone while I slept and went through every messaging app I had; texts, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter DMs, even Snapchat that I never used. I once caught him doing it, and he outright denied it, even when I showed him the proof I had. He finally admitted to it, but blamed me, saying he was “trying to understand” me by reading the messages because I talked to my online friends more than him.
Once, I woke up from a nap to find him staring at me. He immediately started an argument with me, because he’d logged into my Twitter and read through some old DMs from before I met him where I was briefly flirting with another person. He accused me of being “in love” with this person and that I was imminently going to leave him for them. I was still friends with this person (purely platonic), but he made me message them and tell them that we couldn’t be friends anymore, and I had to unfollow them on social media.
He made me sleep facing him because if I had my back to him, he said it meant that I didn’t love him. If I rolled over in my sleep, he had a go at me when I woke up, insisting I was doing it on purpose.
He wanted me to be waiting at the front door when he got home from work, ready to give him a hug. If I wasn’t there, he got pissed off.
I loaned him £1600 to pay off some of his debt. Shortly after, he started claiming that I hadn’t given him £1600, only £500, despite me showing him the transactions. He never paid me back anything.
On a night out, I posted a photo of the two of us on Twitter. He went to the toilet and when he came back I casually mentioned that someone we both knew on Twitter had liked our photo. He flew into a rage, accusing me of fancying that person, claiming I was paying them more attention than I paid him.
One night, I phoned my mum in a panic because he was frightening me; calling me names and threatening to throw me out of the house. He took the phone from me and completely altered his demeanour, acting like he was the calm, rational one, and I was the one overreacting.
He limited the amount of time I was allowed on the computer and my phone.
He knew from the outset that I was a self-harmer and that part of my care plan allowed me to superficially self-harm as a coping mechanism to de-escalate a potential crisis. However, if I ever self-harmed, he would cut himself too, always more than I had done, telling me that he was doing it because I was doing it to myself. Cue guilt and shame.
He refused to pay for the TV licence and wouldn’t allow me to pay for it either, despite me explaining that the constant threatening letters from the TV licensing people were causing me distress. After persistent begging, he allowed me to pay for it.
He occasionally made sexist or homophobic comments. When I challenged him on it, he became enraged; “I used to have loads of gay friends!” and all that. I’d try to drop it but he’d keep going until I retracted the challenge and agreed that he was right and I was wrong.
The first time he introduced me to his female colleague, he started massaging her shoulders. He made offhand comments like that she needed “to get laid” and he would text her while he was with me. I wasn’t allowed to question it.
Called me a “stupid girl” when I had a panic attack and self-harmed.
Regularly told me “You’ll never find anyone who loves you like I do”.
He was shouting at me on one of his regular “you’re cheating on me” rants, so I tried to leave the house to get away from it for a bit, but he blocked the door. I kept trying to get out, and eventually, he moved, but said: “If you open that door, we’re finished”. I didn’t open the door.
We’d had an argument and had gone to separate rooms to calm down. I came downstairs and he was in the kitchen, holding a large knife. He never explicitly threatened me with it, but there was no reason to be holding it, and he kept gesturing at me with it in his hand while he was talking.
When we first started dating, he told me that he was divorced. He wasn’t.
After I found out he wasn’t divorced, he said he was in the process of getting divorced. He wasn’t.
Yeah. What a mess.
It sounds absolutely ridiculous to say, but at the time, I genuinely had no idea how bad it was. I thought it was normal. That I deserved it. That he was the good guy for putting up with me and that I was the problem.
Seeing it in one long list makes me feel so stupid.
But all of these things were interspersed between moments of intense love; a dangerous, toxic love, but it was love all the same. That, coupled with my BPD-esque fear of abandonment meant that even when I did recognise something as toxic, even abusive, I ignored it. I would cling on to those sweet, beautiful moments of love, no matter what I had to endure to get them.
He never hit me. He never sexually assaulted me. It wasn’t “real” abuse, I told myself. I played everything down in my own mind, only telling others about the good times; how I was so happy and our relationship was picture perfect. I desperately wanted that to be the truth. I’m sure that this post is going to come as a shock to those who knew us together.
I know he had deep-rooted problems.
His life had been difficult and he had experienced a lot of pain and heartache. His mental health was in the gutter and he refused to ask for help. He messed about with his medication without consulting the GP, despite me begging him to go in for a meds review. He ultimately took his own life.
I think that’s why I’ve been so committed to keeping these things locked away in my mind. At the time of his death, I was still in denial, and by the time I recognised the events for how abusive they really were, he was gone, and it’s disrespectful to “speak ill of the dead”.
So I buried everything at the back of my mind and tried to move on… but a year later, the flashbacks of that time, and the damage it did to my mind and soul, still haunt me.
He wasn’t a bad person.
He really wasn’t. He had a huge, loving heart that had been broken too many times and it split him in two; the epitome of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
But I need to get this shit out of my head and stop pretending that it didn’t happen. I’ve got to take off the rose-tinted glasses and be honest with myself. I need to heal.
I don’t hold anything against him and the events above certainly don’t define his life.
Hindsight shows that he was simply at the end of a horrifically painful battle with his own mind… and I just happened to walk into it.
I honestly hope he is at peace now. I believe that he is.
Maybe now, I can find some peace of my own.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this post, here are some links that may be useful…
- Citizen’s Advice: Domestic violence and abuse – getting help
- Women’s Aid: Information and Support
- National Domestic Abuse Helpline (0808 2000 247)
- NHS: Getting help for domestic violence and abuse
- Victim Support: Domestic abuse