Do I Have to “settle” for someone in a relationship?

That’s a question I ponder often. When the time comes to get married, will I end up settling for a life partner that is “OK” versus the “love of my life”? Likewise, will my partner feel as if she has settled for me (ouch 🙁 , even with the BPD), perhaps for no other reason than the fact that I was 30ish, single, and available to marry? Is settling for someone instead of your true ideal partner a matter of living in reality, or is it just giving up in a way that could possibly make your existence rather pathetic? I actually believe this is a rather interesting question.

First, let’s look at it from the rational, statistical point of view. Even though there are billions of people on earth of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors, and cultural backgrounds, the reality is that you’ll probably spend most of your life floating inside a relatively small social circle. Most people can count the number of “true, bona fide” friends on one hand, and in many cases perhaps less than 3 fingers. Furthermore, most people spend at least the first 18-20 years of their life in some sort of family setting, which is limiting in and of itself if you are truly looking to meet your soul mate. If you’re spending a third of your day eating, sleeping, and being around family, you’re obviously not in prime position to meet a life partner.

There is one other parameter to consider: how many unique people can you actually meet in your lifetime, up until the point of actually getting married? Again, the reality is that you’ll probably only introduce yourself to someone new perhaps 3 or 4 thousand times, and of that number, actually be acquainted – enough to recognize each other in the supermarket and chat – with about 400 or less. Then, of that 400 well acquainted group, you of course have your closest friends and family, which mostly remain the same in total. For example, if one relationship with a friend goes sour, it’s likely you’ll fill that position with another new friend later on, keeping your true friends very limited in terms of numbers and relatively constant. Anyone who tells you they have 20 best friends is exaggerating. There isn’t enough time in a day to manage 20 truly beneficial friend relationships.

Thus, the pool of people from which to choose a life partner is actually fairly limited, unless you are constantly meeting new people on a daily basis, which is not a typical behavior for the average person.

Now let’s consider the emotional reality of meeting people and selecting a life partner. Ask yourself, right now, if you’re emotionally ready to risk love and start a relationship with someone new. For some people, getting into serious relationships is easy because they are very good looking, extremely social, or overtly confident (bordering on arrogant). For most others, however, you go through periods in your life when your emotional energy is being expended by other needs, such as keeping close family relationships, making up with friends after an argument, or dealing with the death of loved ones as you get older. Think about it: if a dearly loved grandparent died 2 weeks ago, chances are you’re not going to be emotionally available to meet a true life partner. Instead, your energy will be sapped away with the grieving process.

One also has to consider mental illness in this equation, in part because this blog is about Borderline Personality Disorder. Anyone with BPD knows the intense emotions experienced on a daily basis, the depression and despair, and the emptiness that is nearly fathomless. With so many of your thoughts, emotions, and daily routine tied up in managing your Borderline Personality, are your truly open to meeting the love of your life? Similarly, will a potential partner who senses that you’re a BPD emotional train wreck even bother introducing himself/herself and taking a chance on you? The number is few and far between.

So, given that the number of people we can actually meet is limited, and that we also have to consider the emotional component of our lives, the reality of “settling” on someone for marriage is a likely possibility, even if we’d like to think otherwise.

Such a notion actually troubles me a bit. I believe I have a picture of an ideal partner: beautiful, intelligent, caring, understanding etc., but where and when am I supposed to meet this person? Furthermore, would they be ready to deal with my BPD emotional turmoil, which is nearly always responsible for turning people away, not closer? How do I meet my soul mate with everything going on in my life? Do I constantly introduce myself to attractive women every change I get, or do I settle on the first one that comes my way?

It’s a bit of a conundrum, because you’re potentially committing yourself to this person for the rest of your life (if you believe in the general definition of marriage). Also, if you want to have children, you’re REALLY committing yourself to this person for life, because the reality of raising children is in fact more permanent than marriage. As a result, the mere thought of settling presents a number of unique challenges, all of which could be negated if you found someone better.

I have only one solution to this problem, with three unique components. First, you can’t continually go through life turning people down until you meet the perfect Mr./Miss Right for marriage, because you could literally spend a lifetime trying to find the right person. Second, the notion of meeting a beautiful, sexy, caring, perfect person is just not possible. In many ways, it is a bit of an adolescent fable, an immature view of others that limits you from meeting others.

Finally, given these two components, the idea of marriage has to be redefined. Instead of viewing marriage as riding off into the sunset with a Brad Pitt or Angelia Jolie, you have to realize that marriage is a constant work in progress, not a final destination. In essence, a mature view of marriage involves accepting the fact that no one is perfect, not even your life partner, but that you can forge a productive life together if you’re willing to meet each other’s emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.

Therefore, marriage is really a commitment between two people to better each other and themselves, not necessarily the final result from searching the world for the most attractive person you could find.

If you truly believe marriage is a work in progress, the notion of “settling” is moot. You’re not settling. Instead, you’re embarking on a new challenge with someone who has come into your life that is somewhat – not necessarily completely – compatible with you. Your relationship will change and evolve, but the binding commitment on your wedding day is not because you settled, but because you’re mature enough to realize that there are many people outside your dreamworld notion of a perfect partner who are worth getting to know.

All I Want to Do is Sleep…

It seems the pendulum that regulates mood and activity level is always swinging back and forth, sometimes to quite extreme lengths. Over the weekend, I fell into a depression and overall feeling of despair. I starting sleeping Friday night after getting bored of watching TV, slept all Saturday (getting up for the bathroom and food of course), and finally until 9:00 PM Sunday evening. No matter what I tried to do, I just couldn’t get myself out of bed, nor motivate myself to get out and move around. I tried going to my computer to do some work a couple times, but even then I became disheartened within minutes and found myself crawling back into bed.

Now, if I was old and tired, or in a psych ward for clinical depression, this behavior might be acceptable. The fact is, however, I’m a 31 year old male in the prime of my life, unmarried, and without many responsibilities, yet I’m spending the better part of the weekend in bed. I know this can’t be healthy. BPD and depression can really pull me down, and it seems to come out of nowhere, or sometimes after a series of disappointing events.

I’ve been trying to think what precipitated my sleep filled weekend, and I’ve come up with the following thoughts:

  1. Business Partner and I lost a potential job with a client who was stonewalling us on signing a contract. We were working for free and needed to take a stand. The client told us to take a hike. I think my partner and I were in the right asking for a contract after 2 months of providing free consultation and professional advice. Apparently this guy felt otherwise.
  2. Memories of unrequited love. I realize it may sound hopeless and desperate, but my mind still wanders back to women I’ve loved in my past who did not have those same feelings for me. I imagine myself being with them and somehow being extremely happy. All the same, in the here and now, I almost feel like I will never meet anyone worthwhile again, and will spend the rest of my life single and longing for opportunities that never materialized years ago.
  3. I’ve been suffering chronic constipation, and a few months ago I went to the doctor because I had enough. Since then I’ve been on a few different meds, each somewhat helpful but not quite doing the trick. As a result, the doctor recommended that I have a precautionary colonoscopy and endoscopy. Again, I’m only 31 years old and live a relatively healthy life style. I already have to cope with mental illness and Type 1 Diabetes, do I really want stomach problems too?
  4. When I get down I also tend to start thinking about dead people and pets that gave me comfort while they were alive. When I’m lying in bed completely depressed, I picture our old family dog lying at the foot of my bed, snoring away, keeping me company in my low moments. Although this is sometimes a soothing thought (since it can’t be taken away) I tend to feel overly sad that the pet is gone and will not come back.
  5. Am I Normal?…and similar thoughts. Having BPD makes me grasp at threads. I don’t know whether or not I’ll come out of it and live a normal life, or if I’ll be stricken with it for the rest of my life. My real fear is not what happens to me, but those around me. Suppose I get married and want to have children: do I really want to pass on a predisposition to mental illness (it runs strong in my family) and Type 1 Diabetes (The devil’s curse)???

Throw all this together and mix it with a heaping amount of self doubt and lack of confidence, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for sleeping. And that’s what I did, I just slept, preferring to live in dream world instead of the real world.

The funny thing about dream world is that while I’m there, it feels like reality. In essence, it becomes a place of escape instead of a brief visit during a normal night’s rest. My dreams are vivid, and I often talk in my sleep, move around frantically, and generally mess up my bed to the point that it looks like I was fending off a monster in my sleep.

From a global standpoint, the thoughts behind these sleep marathons are helplessness, hopelessness, and an inability to effect the sort of change I want in my life. I wonder why people I like don’t like me back. I wonder what makes their partner better than me. I also feel trapped by the obsession itself: for me, it seems to make more sense to carry on thinking that I could have had a wonderful life partner, instead of actually getting out and trying to find someone new who might really like me.

On the small scale, sleep makes sense because it is relatively harmless and does not indulge my addictive personality. Instead of drinking, smoking, doing drugs, gambling etc. I sleep to kill time, and usually the only side effect is a sore body and stiff legs. These results are much better than a weekend-long binge on alcohol or gambling, since I don’t end up penniless or horribly sick from side effects.

You’re probably thinking, “this guy is obviously addicted to sleep. He uses it as a crutch in down moments.” Well you’re absolutely correct. What else can I do when real life seems so intolerable, while dream world waits around the corner, only minutes after closing my eyes and laying down?

BPD and Depression Cause Lack of Concentration

Here’s a little experiment for you, even if you don’t have depression or BPD: the instant you open your eyes in the morning to start your day, try reciting the alphabet backwards as fast as possible. Right away, you’ll probably stumble a bit on a couple letters, and might even forget some altogether. This doesn’t mean you don’t know your ABC’s, it just means that your mind is not in a focused state.

For people with BPD and depression, this lack of concentration that normal people experience in the morning upon rising happens throughout the day. Sufferers of depression find it hard to complete tedious tasks. A Job like computer programming, which requires focus and logical thinking, is made twice as hard simply because your mind is not at peak performance levels. If you add BPD and its impulsive nature into the mix, you end up with a person who has no motivation or focus, plus severe mood swings and anger issues. All this combines to produce unproductive people, handicapped not by a lack of desire,work ethic, or intelligence; but by there own mind’s inability to function properly.

Many doctors believe that depression is caused by an imbalance of serotonin in the brain. The lack or over abundance of this crucial chemical is a chief contributor to depression. Furthermore, serotonin also helps regulate sleep. If you’re unable to sleep or sleep too much, you might have issues with serotonin in your brain. One of the first steps in treating any case of depression is analyzing sleep patterns, and taking medication that will help your body sleep when necessary, and function properly the rest of the day.

This brings us back to my initial example about reciting the alphabet backwards immediately upon rising in the morning. Your hazy state of mind, caused by the sleep process and serotonin, inhibit you from peak performance. Again, this doesn’t demonstrate a lack of intelligence or general knowledge: it just means that your mind is not ready to work yet, and needs extra time to “warm up”. Now, imagine that same frustration and cloudy feeling throughout the ENTIRE day. This is what part of depression feels like for people who have never had it.

Borderline Personality only complicates things further. People who are otherwise highly competent and bright will find ordinary tasks difficult. Moreover, when it’s necessary to focus and really do your best, your mind chokes and is unable to get itself together.

I can use myself as an example. Part of my diagnosis for BPD came from a standard personality and intelligence assessment from a neutral psychologist. He gave me a battery of the usual IQ challenges: arranging blocks, using logic, complete word puzzles, etc. Most of the test went as expected, except for one area where I was completely useless: memory recall. In this part of the test, I was first shown eight letters and their corresponding symbols. Then, I was told to fill in as many letter/symbol combinations in order as they appeared on the paper under a certain time limit. The result: I failed horribly. Although most of my results were consistent with the fact that I had a college education, the memory and concentration tasks fell short of what I should be able to do.

As a result, the psychologist concluded that my mental health status was slowing my brain’s capacity to function at its best. He recommended that I continue working with my psychiatrist and take any prescribed medication to help get rid of the depression. For the most part, the use of medication and psychotherapy has helped me concentrate better, but the effects of BPD and depression still loom large in my mind.

My BPD was probably at its worse during college, when I needed a clear head the most. I can recall several instances during tests, music performances, or races where my mind just shut down and I completely blew it. Instead of completing these tasks in a satisfactory manner – or at least commensurate with my level of preparation – I failed and completely frustrated professors, teachers, and coaches around me. It was only after I revealed my diagnosis of depression and BPD that those instructors who knew me best understood why I performed the way I did.

So, if you have BPD and depression, or know someone who does, give yourself and them a break. Most importantly, realize that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with your level of intelligence if you find yourself struggling at work or school. For the moment, know that your mental health is acting like a ball and chain on your mind, and that with time and medication, you’ll begin to truly perform to the best of your abilities.