If you hadn't gathered from the title, I was or am lowkey a huge Lil Wayne fan. I say lowkey because I generally don't seek out rap music or certain rappers the way I used to seek out Lil Wayne's music. Before I turn this into a fan girl post, the reason I titled this How to Love is because of Lil Wayne's song of the same name. My now-deleted 2011 Facebook statuses would be telling of just how much I loved that song - now that I think about it, if you scrolled far back enough through my Twitter history (passed the Tumblr spam), you would probably find it there from when I had nothing else to offer the Twitterverse other than quoting song lyrics thinking I was being deep and relatable. I used to sing that song as though I were genuinely the woman in the song that Lil Wayne is referring to - even though at that point young Jillian was probably more innocent and inexperienced than she would've liked to be. I was only 17 - plagued by peer pressure and an intense desire to be desired. That time of my life was certainly marked by a lot of self-discovery - particularly figuring out how to love and how I loved.
The reason why I wanted to write about this now is because I have embarked on a bit of a self-improvement/transformation journey and what becomes inevitable on this kind of journey, is that you have to call yourself out on unhealthy behaviors and the causes of those behaviors. So welcome to the journey, to the narrative, to the discussion - I hope to begin to find out why I am so messed up and how I got that way.
It makes me rather angry to admit that there's no obvious reason (at least at the time of writing this) as to why I have such a difficult time forming relationships - particularly romantic ones or intimate ones (see my previous post Ghosts for more on this). I suppose on the other hand, I'm grateful for there not having been a traumatic experiences or a series thereof that I can say I went through. I feel it would be somewhat easier to embark on a path of healing if I knew what it was that I was supposed to be healing from. I would like to think that it would make me feel less guilty. Without a definitive cause, my defectiveness seems like something inherent to me as though I came out of the womb a defective and messed up individual - as though I am a botched job of a human. My personal opinions of the psyche and nature vs nurture theories however, would not allow me to be satisfied with that opinion of myself. That's why I recognize the importance of unpacking why I seem to be so incapable of forming healthy, stable relationships and why I turn into a gremlin when splashed with the idea of love.
I'll talk a little more about personality disorders a bit later on, but generally they require an experience or experiences of early childhood trauma. Since I don't have that, I'm just working through what I know and can remember. Throughout my school career, I had a series of crushes and feelings as most young people do. My experiences were usually unrequited and met with mild rejection. Even as early as 9 or 10 years old, I remember behaving in a way that could be considered obsessive, intense, highly sensitive and emotional. I cannot remember ever having behaved 'normally' when I had a crush on or feelings for someone - what I mean by this goes far beyond feeling and acting awkward around someone I liked. I can only describe it as having an incredibly uncomfortable experience where I felt like my body was being controlled by someone else and all I could do was watch in horror as "I" sabotaged myself. I'm not saying this to avoid taking responsibility or ownership for my behavior - I am merely attempting to account what it felt like and to emphasize why I recognize my behavior to have been a problem. I didn't want to do what I was doing, but I couldn't stop myself.
I remember asking myself, throughout high school, why I couldn't just be normal. The phrases "You need to chill" and "You're too intense" became and still are) incredibly triggering, mostly because I felt like I had no control over what I was doing. Let me try to describe it like this:
Imagine wanting something so badly and for so long that it began to feel like you needed it. You became so excited to have even a glimpse of this thing, preparing as best you could to have it - to be worthy of it. You would go out of your way to learn everything you could about how to take care of it, how to nurture it and how to keep it - most importantly, how to love it. Then came a chance for you to prove yourself. You could obtain it, if only your proved yourself. As soon as you gazed upon it, you were overtaken by the cruelest form of performance anxiety. The second it was placed in your hands, you clutched it a little too tightly - your desperation and excitement getting the better of you. It cracked beneath your touch. You watch as it was reclaimed from you hurriedly - its hooded owner recoiling from you in disgust. You had instantly been deemed unfit... unworthy. You were left alone in dark room of swirling echoes - "What's wrong with her?" , "She's just too much." The emptiness and darkness - your failure - infuriate you, so you adamantly promise that you will do better, work harder to prepare next time... Little do you know, you will only perpetuate the cycle. The desire to redeem and prove yourself only further solidifies your inevitable failure. They will never want you. They will never love you.
I've done my research and having also studied psychology, I was afforded more insight into how I view my relationship with relationships. I spent so long with a sneaking suspicion that there was something wrong with me, but I never had a name for it other than that I viewed myself as a messed up person. I finally went to therapy to deal with other more pressing symptoms of my messed-upness. At that point, I had gotten so good at sabotaging relationships and I had no one to blame other than myself for my own loneliness and state of dejection. At the same time, I was getting just as good as punishing my own deviance in ways so cruel that I now weep for my former myself.
In therapy, I came across the term Borderline Personality Disorder for the first time. I wasn't entirely sure what it meant - I remember assuming that it just meant that I was crazy but not crazy enough to be diagnosed with a personality disorder. I've since learned what it actually is thanks to an abnormal psychology module I had the next semester and finally watching Girl, Interrupted. I also found out that it was one of the most misunderstood disorders thanks to its name (petition to change it please #notmyBPD).
I'm not going to get into the history of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as much as the symptoms, but I urge you to learn more about mental illnesses such as these especially if you have a mental illness or you know someone close to you who has one (CrashCourse Psychology is a great resource). BPD can be described as a complicated set of learned behaviors and emotional responses to traumas or neglected environments, particularly in childhood. Some symptoms include unstable relationships characterized by dramatic shifts between obsession/idolization and detachment/disassociation, unclear or unstable self-image, chronic feelings of emptiness, impulsive or self-destructive behaviors, self-harm and frequent, dramatic mood swings. Over the years since becoming aware of likely having BPD (I have never been officially diagnosed nor do I feel it is necessary for me to be diagnosed), I have begun addressing each of the above-mentioned symptoms. Especially since living away from my childhood home and my family, I have been somewhat forced to become more disciplined about what I express and what I allow myself to do. I am constantly self-monitoring, introspecting and attempting the best self-care than I can manage.
I haven't recently found myself in the throws of obsession for the better part of three years. That's partly due to strict self-discipline, but also social withdrawal employed as a defense mechanism. I've thrown myself into my work and made excuses to avoid having to make particularly deep connections with people. I haven't completely withdrawn, I am just severely guarded to a point where it probably wouldn't matter if I suddenly disappeared. This is why I started to write this in the first place. The place I am in after disaster and the pain of loss, rejection and failure is one where my mind, body and soul are being so heavily-policed in order to emulate the slightest feeling of being in control. Now it feels like one really long episode disassociation and avoidance. It feels like I've broken myself. There is a light bulb that blew, but I don't know which room it's in. I remember a time where I felt capable of 'love' despite it being defective and unstable it was still something to be felt. I'd like to think that I'm capable of love - the untainted kind. The last person I loved made me feel and express something close to it - alas I managed to mess that up, too. Since then, I can't bear to fail again. I can't bear to feel that blame one more time - I don't know what comes after being broken. I don't know where to start, I don't know how to learn how to love.