Feeling My Way Through the Dark

Feeling My Way Through the Dark

I wouldn’t call what I’m going through right now an episode. It hardly captures what happens on a day to day — sometimes hour to hour — basis. The difficulties I’ve been facing is a part of the reason I haven’t posted in a while. It’s hard for me to share what I’m going through while it runs its course. Oftentimes, those close to me have no idea the depth of my internal pain. But it’s not their fault.

I’ve been living with this for such a long time, a part of me feels like I just have to wait until it passes, no matter how excruciating the pain can be. Other times I’d rather not have my loved ones worry, or make them feel uncomfortable trying to figure out what to say. Sometimes I believe talking makes it worse and that nothing people say will make the pain go away. So I keep it to myself.

My therapist and other people who are familiar with dialectical behavior therapy call it apparent competence. On the one hand, apparent competance helps me get through the day — acting as if I was doing well — and lets me lead an outwardly drama-free life. I can work, hold a conversation, do daily tasks and get along with others quite well. But what happens when all the drama plays out in the confines of your own head? What happens when no one can help you because everyone thinks you’re doing fine? The reality you present and the reality going on inside your head grow further and further apart. And you start to ask yourself, who am I, really? That’s when the problem starts.

Not knowing who you are creates a huge vulnerability to the already emotionally sensitive, so I’ve been trying hard to let people in bit by bit. I’ll tell them that I’ve had better days. I’ve been having bad thoughts. I’m not doing too well, but I’m trying to stay positive. I’m vague on purpose and always reassure them the worst is over, even though more often than not it’s not true.

One of the obstacles I have to face by becoming more transparent is showing my vulnerability. It’s scary to be vulnerable, especially in front of those you love. The stakes are higher. I’m afraid of breaking down, of losing control. I’m afraid of scaring them away, of rejection. I have to keep my armor up because it hurts both you and the people you love when they don’t know what to do. Again, it’s not their fault. Mental illness is not easy for even the best professionals, let alone those that love you.

What I do know is that I am lucky; fears aside, they have always expressed their love. They do want to make the pain go away. They do want me to know how much I matter. And oddly enough, that’s the hardest thing to accept. It’s so hard for me to believe I have a space here and that other people value that space. It is the real reason I don’t express how difficult it is for me. Because then I’ll have to listen to them.

If someone else can love me, then I’m worthy of existing.

This is perhaps the hardest thing I had to write, the hardest thing I must admit. This has always been the problem, this very core belief that I should not exist. All my suffering hinges upon this myth. And as much as I try and work it through, I can’t seem to shake it. Today I teared up during therapy. I told her how sad I was, how difficult it was for me to have all these terrible thoughts, how I didn’t want to die, but that I didn’t feel strong enough to handle all of it. I told her as much as I knew I was an integral part of other peoples’ lives, there was one thing I was so deficient in, so lacking, that all the wise mind and rational thoughts and love couldn’t help me.

I don’t know how to love myself.

For all the times I have found myself at my wit’s end, love has saved me. For all the times I could not believe in myself, another person’s faith has carried me on. They gave me faith, they gave me hope, they gave me love. But I suffer. And I’ll continue to suffer so as long as I cannot do what others have done for me. Loving yourself will perhaps turn extraordinary suffering into ordinary pain.

To be honest, I don’t know how to do it. But I’m not giving up on myself. I’m feeling my way through the dark, hoping I can get by with the help of my friends.

Help me understand how to live, how to love. I’m listening.

9 Comment(s)
  • Andre Posted July 22, 2014 9:29 pm

    Wow, lately I’m starting to finally frame what I’ve been living with for so long – I don’t possess a stark sense of self-awareness. Who am I? Do I simply perform the same survivor’s routine, or do I really emerge into my own? I’m sad to say it’s not the latter. But it helps to be able to name it.

    I have contacted someone to see about getting help for the journey ahead, hoping I can experience what you described so beautifully: “Loving yourself will perhaps turn extraordinary suffering into ordinary pain.”

    Thank you for this vista of hope and open road…



    • Amanda Wang Posted July 23, 2014 4:11 pm

      Thanks Andre, I’m glad this resonated with you. You are already taking the first step into self-awareness — just by naming it for what it is, without judgments. I wish you well on this journey ahead and hope the person you contacted will help guide you through. I know that all the help I have received has made a huge difference in my life and is the reason why I keep on going. Take care.

  • Dasha Posted July 22, 2014 9:36 pm

    I understand your pain all too well. I cannot offer any advice as I am fighting a similar battle with BPD and have done DBT and I thnk it is finally starting to work for me. Another thing I found helped me was meditation, but hey…i am not you.
    All I can tell you is that i truly empathize with you. When the downward spiral stops it is very difficult to keep a positive outlook, but with DBT and some meditation and the proper meds, I have found some hope.
    I hope this helps in some way

    • Amanda Wang Posted July 23, 2014 4:16 pm

      Dasha, it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in this fight and I’m glad we are both working hard using DBT, mindfulness and meds. It’s not easy, but I commend you on the commitment you have made to do the hard work. Thanks so much for your thoughts and suggestions. Every bit counts and keeps me committed too. Best, Amanda.

  • Talia Posted July 24, 2014 8:44 am

    The first part of what you’ve written could’ve been written by me. Your writings remind me that I’m not alone, so thank you.

    I want to offer you a suggestion about your inability to love yourself – stop trying! What I mean is, try letting go of the word love and the belief that so much hinges on your ability to love yourself- the word “love” is too loaded. Ruminating about why you don’t love yourself, how you can love yourself, the consequences of not loving yourself seems to torment you.

    Instead, try to think of love as a verb- something we feelin our actions. While love is a difficult concept to wrap your head around, actions are concrete, Try focussing on and practicing SELF-COMPASSION. Treat/talk to yourself as compassionately as you would want and expect the people who love you to treat/talk to you.

    • Amanda Wang Posted August 7, 2014 5:55 pm

      Love as a verb — I like the sound of that! Self-compassion will take some time, but I’m thankful that you’ve reminded me to become more aware of that. Thanks for your support and encouragement!

  • Erin Posted July 30, 2014 7:40 pm


    I can only say what others have; first that your story resonates so clearly with me it’s like ready my own words; and second, thank you for sharing your story and helping others realize they are not alone. I have struggled with what has variably been diagnosed as chronic major depression, anxiety, stress-related breakdowns, since I was about 12 years old. Only in the past month have I actually been treated as BPD (I’m 33), and been offered DBT in addition to meds which made me, as you say, “apparently competent”.

    I find that writing is helping me find who I am – when asked that question outright I stopped in my tracks as I didn’t have an answer. I know things that I do, I know what my education is, or my job, but who am I? It’s like a hollow space. Recently having ended a torrid relationship, being on my own not near family, I am reaching out to the blogosphere as I embark on this journey of self-discovery.

    Thank you for putting yourself out there. You may not know how to love yourself, but what you do for others is very much love-worthy.

    • Amanda Wang Posted August 7, 2014 5:49 pm

      Thank you Erin for your kind words. It touches my heart! I wish you well on your new journey and I’m glad to know I’m not alone on this road towards recovery.

  • Diane Posted February 4, 2015 3:03 pm

    Hi Amanda,

    I just wanted to say I am so sorry that you have been in so much pain. I understand what it is like to be doing well and finding yourself in a place of starting over again. Everything you have written, I can relate to so well.

    As I told you in our interview about recovery, when I am doing well, I consider myself in remission, or in recovery, vs. recovered. While that may not work for everyone, it works for me. Accepting that, reminds me that while I may have long periods of recovery, I may face a time when it is harder for me to do well, and I may have to start over. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I am waiting for it to happen, I just remind myself that it could. Acknowledging this, helps me recognize the warning signs, and I am able to catch it sooner, than I did it the past. Instead of white knuckling it, to seem well for everyone else, and going it alone, I let my supports know and do what I need to do get back on my recovery road.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I printed off a couple of these to give to my mom, who really has a hard time understanding my illness and experiences. I figured if I gave her some of your writings, it would help her understand better, by reading a perspective of someone ( other than me), struggling with BPD and it’s ups and downs. It has really helped her and our relationship. The part about “apparent competence” was so important to help her understand that while I may seem fine, that is not always the case.

    Thank you for sharing this, and if there is anything I can do to help you, please let me know.

    All the best,


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