I am a competitive, ambitious, fairly intelligent person on the outside. On the inside, I’m ruled by BPD and its torrent of instability. Further, because my sense of inner self is nearly non-existant, I rely heavily on external events, emotions, and achievements to define me. BPD has served as a constant fog over my true self, a self I am still trying to figure out.
I watched the CNN specials, “John McCain & Barack Obama: Revealed”. In each documentary, the candidates spoke about times in their life when they realized they felt a calling to a higher purpose. The energy, heart, and experience it takes to motivate oneself into a Presidential campaign is enormous, and I imagine both of these men has had their share of struggles, but even in the darkest of moments, never questioned their inner worth.
By virtue of their candidacy, they are successful people. McCain, war hero and statesmen; Obama, Harvard Law Grad, community activist, and elected representative. If I was in their shoes, I would feel pretty good about myself.
BPD’s emotional issues cause me to only feel satisfaction, to feel worth, when I achieve something. In High School, it was getting A’s, running in races, or playing in a regional honor Jazz Band. In the bigger picture of my life, these moments were fleeting. Moreover, every time I did something that made me feel good, I fell into an addictive pattern that naturally set the standard for the next level of “happiness” higher than the previous.
As a result, I naturally burned out, never satisfying myself, never making myself happy.
I have always felt I’ve gotten the short end of the stick on things. To be honest, there have been times when I’ve had genuine success, but no matter what, I yearn for the next level – to be notably sucessful – to be extremely prominent.
For the longest time, this might getting and Ivy League education. In High School, I graduated 4th in class. While this is a nice achievement, especially given the amount of time I dedicated to tons of other school related activities, 4th just doesn’t cut it for the Ivy League. My SAT scores were mediocre, and I was good at – but not a state standout – in my musical, athletic, and other extra-curricular pursuits. To get into these schools you almost have to be Valedectorian and ALL state athletics…Sadly, I just didn’t measure up.
As a result, I have rebelled against myself and my parents over my perception of what post high-school life was supposed to be like. I felt I worked hard enough to earn admission to top schools. Futhermore, if they truly could understand my personal story, they would see that my intentions, feelings, and sacrifice were so that I could go that extra yard. Instead, Christmas day my Senior year of High School, I find out that I am diabetic and go to the hospital. Meanwhile, other high school seniors are sorting out their post-secondary plans, some even planning their first months at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, or Stanford. If the admissions staff at these institutions knew what I went through to get where I was, they would truly and genuinely offer me admission. Instead, my mediocrity drops me to the bottom of the pile.
As a result, since I did NOT go to an Ivy League school, I was upset and felt as if all my efforts were for not. I felt that I would be climbing the corporate ladder forever, kissing some jerk-off boss’s ass for years while my Ivy League peers skate their way to the board of directors and 7 figures a year.
When I arrived at my school, I thought I’d make the best of things, and continue in the same fashion as I did in High School: work hard in the classroom, study, run on the track team, and continue my musical studies. For some reason, I felt I needed to be considered one of the best at one or all of these pursuits in order to feel good in College.
Sadly, this didn’t really occur. I burned out. I collapsed emotionally. My unrefined and untested social skills were poor. Thus, instead of coming home to a household with people around me constantly (as I grew up), I came to my dorm room faced with the challenges of not only pleasing my inner ego, but also attempting to connect to people: a skill I never worked on in High School because I was busy chasing windmills.
What is success? I always say: It’s a top education, it’s being the best in your class, becoming a corporate CEO, meeting your dream girl and having a wonderful relationship, earning six figures, making a million bucks, running a state high school track record, playing a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, etc. All my ideas of success are benchmarked by what it means to be “elite” in our society.
I don’t quite understand why I feel this way. Perhaps I have an inferiority complex? Perhaps I’m afraid to be the person I really am – who isn’t a world record holder, gold medalist, or perfect SAT? Perhaps my vacant inner self needs these seemingly “larger than life” accomplishments to fill its abyss?
After college I didn’t get a dream job, I didn’t get married, I wasn’t summa cum laude, and I didn’t feel like grad school.
I’ve probably lived a completely different life than I had originally planned. Am I successful? Well day to day, I constantly measure myself and torture myself if I’m not number 1. NOT being the top dog drives me to push harder, to sacrifice more, to be more self critical, to be more harsh on myself when I want time out. In the end, the only thing this really does is tire me out, depress me, and make me bed ridden because I am tired of living a life of chasing a carrot I’ll never reach.
I think the answer to my question will probably take a lifetime to figure out. Maybe I will experience success in a form completely unlike anything I had ever pictured. I honestly hope so.
What would be the ultimate success for me, aside from being cured of BPD and diabetes – which sadly will not happen?
I say that success would be to wake up each morning and feel whole – even in the most treacherous of times. I say that success would be to not be measured by material or quantifiable achievement, but rather by pure, unadulterated happiness.
For now, that idea is still a bit of a pipe dream. I’m still very much addicted to society’s measuring stick of achievement, and in the end, we all know that living by society’s standards aren’t always the best.
My challenge: find happiness that emanates from my inner self without prejudice, feelings of being deprived, or material failure.