“Even Pain Has Become Dear To Me”

Warning: I would run away now if I were you. The original title of this post was: Monstrously Long Post Full of Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Me. It’s unreasonably long, and it’s about me more than anime.

I changed the name to what it currently is because, if you read far enough into the essay, I mention this Homura quote from Madoka Magica Rebellion. While I do make references to an assortment of anime characters, this post is unabashedly about me. It really has no place here at Anime Rants, but I spent 3.5 days working on it, and if I don’t get a little bit of feedback on these things I’ve worked so hard to admit, I’ll feel pretty down. (Yes, that was a shameless plea for some recognition. I’m sorry. Deal with it.) If you are brave and strong of heart, or you just have too much time on your hands, feel free to continue.

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Me

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you were some kind of elf that wandered
out of the forest one day and got taken in by your parents.”
~Zachary O, my first boyfriend

I’m a broken and unstable individual. Some people think that I only broke after a certain time in my life (onset of BPD), but I was broken long before that. As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a chronic sense of emptiness and sad moods that overwhelmed me. I’ve never once felt like I was truly part of the same world as everyone else, or even the same world as the trees and the animals. I’ve always been trapped inside my mind, looking out at the strange world through clouded eyes. I’m referring to several things here, including dissociation, false memories, delusions/visions, and trouble keeping reality and fiction straight. But we’ll get into those topics later. For now, I’m only referring to feeling out of place.

(I might as well have had horns like Lucy.)

I wasn’t particularly interested in other people as a child and young teen. For one thing, I didn’t get to see many of them, living a very isolated life. Humans didn’t make sense, and I didn’t feel like one of them. Instead, I fell in love with trees and animals, things I could learn about in detail in books, field-guides, and papers. Something constantly drew me to “nature.” Yet, I wasn’t a tree or an animal either; I just loved them because they were soothing to see and exciting to learn about. (I loved learning. I still do.)

Still, I looked at people, trees, and animals as things different from me that were from another world, the world outside my head, called reality. Feeling out of place was also due to my personality and ethics being different from those of my family, but beyond that, it was a more profound feeling: one of being another kind of existence entirely. It was (and is) lonely.

(Natsume isn’t quite “all there” either.)

(Now, many things that happened in my late teens and early twenties made me much more broken, but it started before that, and it continues far beyond that. Some people will go to great lengths to convince me that I’ve had terrible trauma (and to convince themselves they believe so), but for better or worse, that’s just not the case. At times I think, oh, how much easier it would be if I could blame my brokenness on some major, traumatic event. But of course I know that’s not a good thing to think. I don’t wish for trauma.)

Somebody once told me, “I’ve never before known a beast of such passions.” Obviously, that person didn’t mean it in a good way. We had recently broken up after a year-long relationship. My ex was referring to the way I obsessed over them and yet became so hateful to them once things didn’t work out. But the bigger point is that my emotions (my “passions”) are hyper-active and extreme. Just because I know that is part of Borderline Personality Disorder doesn’t make it any less mind-boggling to me when I try to fathom my absurdly powerful feelings.

In the past, I’ve gotten so happy I become manic, hyperactive, and start having delusions of being able to talk with gods and feel the “spirits” of trees and animals. I am also capable of feeling such deep love that I would die for that person. (And indeed, when people I love that much have left me, I injure myself, attempt suicide, or quietly obsess over the pain for 5+ years.)

Putting manic happiness and deep love aside, most of the over-the-top emotions I feel are more negative. Sorrow. Fear. Panic. Profound hopelessness. And rage. Rage so fierce I can’t remember anything or do anything other than shout, cry, punch the walls, or break things. These fits are short-lived but leave me scared of myself. (I work so hard to control myself that, amazingly, there has only been one incident in my life where I physically harmed a person out of rage.)

Writing and the concept of words are my saviors. They have rescued me from madness so many times. But there are cases where not even words — at least the ones I know — can describe depth of feeling. I wish people could understand what it feels like to have your whole mind and body consumed with obsession or hate, completely unable to understand any kind of reason. My ex was correct, in a way, to refer to me as a beast. What I feel are beastly emotions.

(Most animals don’t feel complex or subtle emotions, but they have basic emotions rooted in their lymbic systems, the oldest emotional circuits. That’s what makes them feel uncontrollable hunger, desire, rage, envy, and similar “primitive” emotions. Guess what? BPD has been linked to a hyperactive lymbic system. My mind feels, to me, closer to that of an animal than a person. Of course, there is the scientific principle of neuroplasticity; basically, it means human brains can change and adapt, making up for impairments and damages. Many long years of therapy, including behavioral therapy, has changed my brain to make me somewhat more stable.)

If I get any more detailed on this subject, it’s sure to disturb you, so let’s move on. Even though I have such stupidly powerful, useless emotions, they are interspersed with complete lack of affect. It’s a little different from feeling empty, because even emptiness is an emotional experience. What I mean is, at times, feeling nothing at all. It’s becoming increasingly common for me. I don’t care. I don’t get excited. I’m not even sad. I get over any little bout of anger quickly, and there is no rage. I’m bored. I’m tired all the time and/or unmotivated. I can’t care about people on an intimate level and I don’t follow through on my plans to be with them. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing nothing for as long as I can get away with it.

(I’m not lazy, I’m just “energy conservative.”)

Now, when the emotions come back, they of course come back with great force. But that happens less frequently now. Why do I no longer have any passion? Why don’t I feel as much anymore? Part of it is natural maturing. Part of it is a defense mechanism— don’t care about anything, and you won’t be hurt by anything. But mostly, I think it’s because I’ve changed into a different person. I’m not nineteen anymore. The person I was in my teens and early twenties has gone away. I’m trying to be ok with that. After all, I don’t even want to go back to being some hyper-emotional idealist… but at the same time, I grieve for the loss of that person I once was, how dedicated she was, and how much she wanted to do good.

And speaking of that former me, I’d like to say a bit about her, and about two certain things that led me to become so different: Disillusionment and Disappointment. I thought I was realistic compared to my family but my view of the world and my ideals were actually extremely naive and rosy. For one example, take wildlife science. I thought there would be at least a few others like me who valued animal lives highly regardless of whether they were useful to humans. I was wrong. I believed the Sixth Mass Extinction could be stopped, and the rain forests saved, and climate change wouldn’t be so bad. Well, that was all wrong, too.

(What do you mean reality isn’t like a fairy tale?)

My experience studying wildlife at a state university is just one example of many cases where I suddenly became disillusioned about things all near the same time. I had lived largely isolated from people, and truths were carefully kept from me by my parents in the name of religion and raising a child of pure heart. That includes scientific truths, important historical facts, and matters related to the state of the world, such as widespread poverty, crimes of religious leaders, and millions of deaths due to preventable or curable diseases. This is of course contestable, but I was also shocked to learn that my beloved spirits and gods didn’t exist. My spiritual experiences were perfectly explained by neuroscience.

The disillusionment was accompanied by bitter disappointments related to love and friendship over ages 20-23. Even I, usually fine with saying whatever I feel like, am not eager to go into detail in this instance. Let’s just say that there were a few very close lovers and best friends with whom things did not work out, and I was always the one rejected. I thought that my girlfriend leaving me and cutting contact was the most painful thing ever, and I attempted suicide over it, but that wasn’t actually right. The most painful thing ever was losing my first real friend who had also been my best friend. It’s been 4.5 years since she cut all contact with me, but I still think about her and miss her about once each day without intending to.

(Maria and Saki, best friends and lovers who were torn apart)

A bit earlier I said I’m a different person now than I was in my early twenties, which implies I have a good idea of who I am. But that’s only true when I’m stable and thinking clearly. As soon as I have dissociation from reality (and by the way, this can be caused by alcohol or some drugs as well as just abnormal brain chemistry), I lose all sense of who I am. Sometimes, even when I’m stable, I still wonder if I’m the person I think I am, how to define myself, or how to be sure that my memories are real. Often, I feel so empty or so weird that I question my humanity.

Identity confusion was at its worst during onset of depression and BPD. I was convinced I had five different personalities, and I named them all, too. Since I didn’t meet the criteria for real DID (Dissociative Personalities Disorder), my therapist helped me learn to see my five selves as all being one self that I had separated in my mind to make it easier to understand the different parts of me. There is only one me.

Along these same lines, I get dissociated and confused easily when it comes to names. I’ve changed my desired name several times to different variations and forms of my original name. Today, I try to stick with my original name, but some call me by other names, occasionally causing confusion. Part of me still believes that I haven’t yet found the right name.

(Johan, the Monster Without A Name)

Note: identity confusion has been “a thing” for me since, well, forever. While I never forgot I was my own individual, I was frequently confused and frustrated trying to develop an identity with so many siblings so similar to me. In particular, I felt like a bad combination of my next youngest sister and next oldest brother. As a child, I was very insecure and competitive, so I felt like I was always fighting for the “right” to have my own interests and traits tat stood apart from those of my siblings. I still think all my siblings (except that one sociopathic brother) are better people than me, and that I ultimately failed in establishing myself as a good and unique person.

And speaking of failing to establish myself as a unique person worthy of a good life, let me disclose another issue I have dealt with and sometimes still deal with. That would be inappropriate guilt, combined with the need for another person to affirm my worthiness to exist. Things have happened which I was not responsible for or even remotely related to, and for some reason, I felt guilty over them. Somehow, in some way, I am to blame. According to my behavioral /psychological therapist, this is a cognitive distortion called personalization. It can be dealt with relatively easily using skills and good thinking learned from DBT therapy. All that to say, my false guilt is another reason why I sometimes think I am not worthy of living.

(Atsushi needs affirmation from others in order to live)

Now let’s turn back to some things I mentioned near the beginning: false memories, confusion over reality and fiction, and my powerful imagination. If there’s one thing that made me distinct from my six similar siblings, it was my imagination. I created whole worlds of fantasy, heroes, animals, and my own creatures. I made histories and country maps and even solar systems for this “playing pretend.”

My siblings caught on quickly and played with me, making their own stories, lands, and creatures. Since I had minimal exposure to TV and movies, it’s impressive that I came up with so many stories. Playing them out with my siblings was something I took very seriously. It was a beautiful thing: a bridge between worlds that let me communicate about the world inside my head in way my siblings in the world of reality could understand.

Obviously there is something a little off here, though. Reality and fiction? It was very hard to separate them when I was a child and into my teenage years. I try so hard to be a fact-based, reasonable, and logical person now, because in my broken state, I have no idea what’s real and what’s not. When I say “fiction,” I don’t usually mean books, movies, or other media. (Though there were a few instances where I got dissociated and ended up believing that a character from anime was real.) What I really mean by fiction are these: the dreams I have at night, the random things I imagine without intending to during the day, and the delusions that I sometimes get caught in while dissociated.

(Me ranting about things in my head)

I sometimes remember my dreams when I first wake up, but much more often, I remember bits and pieces of them throughout the day, and if I’m not careful and don’t make a point of examining them logically, I may confuse them with reality. For instance, my dreams are frequented by my sociopathic brother wherein we may try to kill each other or compete for something; or he may be the villain of the dream who tries to hurt everyone else. When I wake up, my dislike for that brother has increased and I feel angry, even though the events in the dream didn’t happen. If the dream seems remotely close to things that could happen, I’m more likely to get confused.

I imagine the above is not uncommon for those who have vivid dreams and can remember all or parts of them. My imagination, though, is a little weirder. My mind gets carried away with random and sometimes upsetting imagined scenarios, and I am frozen and blind to reality as I see them play out clearly in my mind’s eye.

When I was 16, I went shopping for clothes at Walmart and got so bored of it that zoned out. (I’ve never been into clothes shopping.) I then saw some strange events unfold before my mind’s eye just like a movie. Two armed men dropped down from where they were hiding on the ceiling and tried to attack me. I saw myself defeat and disarm them with amazing martial arts moves. I had never seen a martial arts movie at that point, let alone learned any in the real world.

That was an instance where the imagination vision was cool and not disturbing. Other times I am shown horrible things that I do not wish to disclose. There are also the delusions I have when in states of dissociation or paranoia. Those aren’t much fun to talk about either. Usually, false beliefs and delusions only last a short time, as in a few minutes. For example, I was once panicking badly, and became convinced there were demons out to get me. There are also a select few delusions that last much longer. These are only corrected by therapy and much reassurance from my family. An example of this is when I believed for 2-3 years that someone had sexually abused me growing up, even though nothing of the kind happened.

When I believed I had been abused, it was partly because some people in my life suspected it or told me that it was likely. But I was also so convinced of it because I developed false memories of incidents in my past. For a long time, I couldn’t distinguish those vague “memories” from reality. Which brings us to the lovely topic of false memories: another thing that I confuse with reality when not thinking clearly or when distressed.

My false memories are probably the most problematic of all these examples of zoning out of reality. It really frustrates and confuses me. Sometimes I think that other peoples’ memories are my own, and sometimes I think things that happened to characters in my stories happened to me. Or my mind just makes up shit and I think it really happened, seeing false memories.

(Homura is confused and dissociated in Madoka Magica: Rebellion)

Like with my emotions, my empathy for others is either there in full force or completely nonexistent. It’s rarely a healthy level of in-between. For example, as a kid and teen, I empathized with every little thing my younger sister went through. It even expanded to sympathy pain and sickness (E.g. throwing up because she threw up, even though she was sick and I wasn’t.) I empathized deeply with most experiences that my first boyfriend told me about. On an absurd level, I empathize with animals.

Too much empathy and sympathy was a problem for all the girls and in the family, and I once said as a young teen, “You know our family We can empathize with a pencil.” That leads us into something I call false or misplaced empathy. It refers to empathizing with people and or peoples’ situations that aren’t real. For example, say someone told me an elaborate lie about a tragedy in their life. Even they didn’t act sad about it, and even if I discovered it was a lie, my heart would ache profoundly, and I would vividly imagine that tragedy happening to me. Another example is the way I can “empathize” with fictional characters, causing long-lasting mood fluctuations.

Perhaps even my empathy for existent beings isn’t exactly “real.” Empathy is supposed to mean understanding another’s suffering because you have been through something similar. My “empathy” is thinking I understand another’s suffering because I automatically have vivid imaginings of the same things happening to me.

Real empathy and misplaced empathy aside, I mentioned that my empathy is usually all or nothing. So what happens when I can’t feel normal empathy for another person? I do horrible, hurtful things to them and don’t feel bad about it until much later (or sometimes not at all). However, this much may be relatively normal. Everybody has times when they don’t think about others’ pain and end up hurting them. Maybe I’ve done this a little more often than a neurotypical person because of the things I said and did during onset of BPD. The bigger problem for me is that misplaced and/or false empathy coming up too often and confusing me.

This all seems like a fuck ton of messed up and overly detailed stuff, I bet. But that’s only the half of it. There’s so much more I could mention, like other delusions or false beliefs I’ve had, cognitive distortions, fucked up dreams at night and visions during the day, and events in my childhood that might have influenced me to growing up confused and melancholy. There’s also the cutting and suicide business. I’ll mention it briefly.

My cutting addiction started because of onset of BPD when I was 19 or 20, and 5 years passed before I got it under control with help from therapy and the friends and family who supported me. I also made several suicide attempts during those years, but only one of them was truly serious. I’m lucky I survived. Beyond that, I struggled with thoughts and fantasies of death (suicidal ideation) for 4.5 years straight. Medication helped a lot, and now, I definitely don’t wish to die. But that’s enough on those topics.

The main purpose of this long collection of words is to express myself and help me sort out some feelings. Also, here near the end, I want to tie it all together with a common thread. What trait is shared among most of these issues and examples of mental instability? Pain. They cause mental and emotional pain and suffering.

Competing with my siblings and comparing myself to them made me feel insignificant, unworthy, and angry. Painful. Feeling empty and inhuman is painful too. My hyperactive emotions make me feel extreme and long-lasting sorrow, regret, envy, and hatred. False memories, dreams, and imagined visions? So confusing it disables me. Too much empathy? I feel pain that isn’t even mine. Sudden and cruel disillusionment? Painful. Being rejected by all my closest lovers and my best friend? Agonizing. Hospital stays in the psych ward because of suicide attempts? Infuriating. Ugly, mutilated skin? Humiliating. You get the idea. It’s all painful.

I’m not a masochist because I don’t feel pleasure from pain. All during my childhood and teens, and for onset of BPD, I never wished for pain. But things are a little different now. When I’m having those deep, chronic feelings of emptiness, I have come to believe there is a part of me that seeks pain. When empty, my mind turns to digging up the past or coming up with new delusions that cause me pain. Anime characters who in some way cause themselves pain speak deeply to me. And statements like Homura Akemi’s quote in Madoka Magica: Rebellion Story are shockingly profound to me. “Even pain has become dear to me,” Homura states.

Really, I have nothing to feel significant pain about other than what goes on in my head. I’ve had a blessed life. Maybe I was too blessed, and that made me bored and empty. When I feel empty, I need to have something to define me, to make me real, and more like a human. Happiness never works because I rarely feel it and when I do it was fleeting and kind of uncomfortable. Temporary misery is the route my mind chooses. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which came first, me feeling emotional pain or me half-consciously causing myself pain? Either way, I have fallen in love with it. Pain is dear to me. It gives my life significance and meaning.

One night last week, I was feeling zoned out, tired, bored, and frustrated because I couldn’t focus on anything. Maybe it’d be good to listen to a few positive or inspiring songs, I thought. And I did try, but I felt disgusted with those happy songs. So I switched to my playlist of depressing songs and/or songs that made me think of missing the people in my life that abandoned me. Listening and singing along to those songs was both saddening and soothing at the same time. I felt miserable for the rest of the night, and even cried. But that was better than feeling empty. My pain was real and solid. The pain of loneliness, bitterness, and regret.

(Zero Two also has chronic feelings of emptiness)

I think perhaps I am actually very afraid of feeling neutral and/or feeling nothing. I’m scared of having an empty existence, of being insignificant, and of fading away. In the words of Three Days Grace, “I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all.” But do you remember me saying that the person I am now is much more apathetic than the one I used to be? I’m not a very motivated person. I don’t care enough about anything. I don’t think enough about the concerns of reality. I’m just always kind of deadpan and sleepy.

Over ten years or so I changed from a Yuno Gasai to a Houtarou Oreki. This presents some problems, like increasingly low motivation, and fewer emotions. However, it also presents a new opportunity for personal growth: I must must face my fear of emptiness and nothingness, and convince myself that it’s ok to not have any particular burning passions, positive or negative. There must be a way to feel nothing, or to feel sort of empty, and handle it, without turning to pain for psychological relief. It’s about leaving my comfort zone, growing to tolerate silence and emptiness, and becoming less dependent on my one true lover, pain.

If you read this monstrously long piece of writing, you have my thanks. Feel free to start some discussion or tell me your thoughts and reactions in the comments. I do hope that reading this didn’t disturb you too much. Thanks again. *Shy Smile*

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