Boredom in the Time of Coronavirus

Out of all the feelings I generally try to avoid, the one im most afraid of by a long shot must be boredom. I can’t tell if it breeds anxiety, restlessness and emptiness… if it accompanies them… results from them… or if it’s just their more manageable manifestation.

Be that as it may, boredom fills me with dread i cannot begin to explain.

It makes me think. And when I start to think, it always ends badly.

Most people will try & do something productive to stave off boredom… I wallow in it. Whereas others distract themselves from negative thoughts, and manage to actually get something done, or engage in creative pursuits, or just go for a walk or watch TV for goodness sakes — I… think.

Or at least I used to. At some point, i’m not exactly sure when, being alone with my thoughts and “sitting with my feelings” just got too much. But because the thoughts and feelings were still there, as unbearable as ever, and I was still too bloody terrified to address them, I had to tune them out.

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As I’ve said before, I don’t exactly overeat because I love it so much I cant stop myself. Quite the contrary; I eat enough to be physically uncomfortable and to hate myself… because guilt, shame, regret, self-disgust — these are more acceptable, and possibly less painful, than whatever I’m avoiding.

The problem with trying to do literally anything else — draw, read a book — is that these activities don’t distract me from my thoughts; it’s my thoughts that make it virtually impossible to focus on anything else. I would even go so far as to say that attempting to be productive when I’m alone is counterproductive, as it only intensifies the feelings of pointlessness.

My boredom is inextricably linked with my laziness. I’m “lazy” because it doesn’t matter what I do, I am simply always bored. The boredom is a complex feeling; it’s not a matter of being uninterested in whatever you’re doing…

it’s more like an inability to achieve a state of flow. I am so preoccupied with the how of things that I can’t be mindful about the what. And the “how” seems so absurd: how can I, I myself and I alone, just …. do stuff? How is it that I can engage with my environment in interesting, meaningful ways that will produce some tangible real-life results? Just, no.

I always have this fear that I’m wasting time; that I’m not doing enough. The problem is, nothing is ever “enough”. I’m simultaneously obsessed with the idea of productivity and crippled by it —

— possibly because I have no concept of being productive by your own standards. I can’t set goals for myself because I feel like i have no agency over my own actions. like they don’t truly belong to me. like im just living out somebody else’s idea of me. if i want to do something for myself, it doesn’t really matter.

The following is not my original thought, and I’m paraphrasing here, but there’s this quote about how usually it’s I think, therefore I am, but a borderline thinks more along the lines of You exist, therefore I exist. I could never quite grasp the diagnostic feature of

(…) may at times have feelings that they do not exist at all. Such experiences usually occur in situations in which the individual feels a lack of a meaningful relationship, nurturing, and support. These individuals may show worse performance in unstructured work or school situations.

DSM-5, p. 664

…oh… oh, okay. That makes sense. That’s maybe not how I would put it, but I agree that that’s the underlying assumption. I don’t exist, other than as an extra in other people’s lives.

Not to mention I also lack object permanence, so even when i do have a “meaningful relationship”, it’s not enough to sustain me in the long run. Out of sight, out of mind, and again I’m nothing.

This emptiness is now more pronounced than ever, as I find myself having to sit at home, alone with my thoughts, no job to go to or even errands to run. I have my books, my coloring books, my Netflix and my Spotify — but it’s all so… futile, so… insubstantial.

In truth, I blog to remind myself that I do exist.

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The borderline narrative is a compelling one. But what it compels me to do is not altogether productive.

First learning about the disorder was a revelation, and the more I read about it, the more convinced I became that it described me to a T. Okay… so?

Even if that were true, or possible, it’s still only part of the story. It was so validating, and satisfying, to be understood so completely. Except I wasn’t. Nobody can be.

I know it’s basically the essence of BPD to look for things to fill that void where your identity should be, so I’m in something of a catch-22: as soon as I started identifying with it, it became all there was to me. But as I’ve come to realize, I don’t want it to be this way.

Borderline traits might accurately describe parts of my personality, which may be helpful in dealing with them. But no single word can account for the giant spectrum of thoughts and behaviors that any one person will exhibit irl.

The reason I’m saying all of this is because my boss gave me a lecture the other day about my rapidly deteriorating work ethic. He didn’t tell me anything I wouldn’t already know, but I needed to hear him say it out loud. I needed to hear somebody.

It was awful. In its own gentle way, it was probably the most humiliating thing I have ever experienced.

But it was also sobering.

I got exactly what I had always tried to force out of people: I got patronized. Because that’s what you get by acting even more clueless and confused than you really are. It’s cute. In puppies, and small children. Not so cute in a 25-year-old.

I was always looking either for validation or for pity, and when I finally found them, it was equal parts satisfying and pathetic. It was such a relief, though, to find out I had some dignity left to lose.

I overshare because I need people to understand why I am the way I am. I need them to tell me it’s okay and that it explains everything and there’s no more need for me to make any effort with anything ever. But being the way I am doesn’t absolve me of trying my best…

In a lot of ways I am still a child. I am immature, I can’t control my emotions, I refuse to take responsibility for my actions or for my life.

But as much as I crave to be accepted unconditionally, just the way I am right now, I have come to realize that that acceptance can be a double-edged sword. And for all the times I have abused my Mom’s selflessness & lack of consistency in enforcing any kind of discipline, I still resent her for trapping me in my own complacency.

Nothing was ever expected of me, nor did I hold myself to a particularly high standard. I grew up having my life lived for me, so I never had to develop / discover my own internal motivation.

I don’t want “poor mental health” to become a personality trait, or my defining characteristic. To my own surprise, I don’t even want it to be an excuse. When somebody else suggests that my struggles are valid, I’m relieved, yes, but somehow also almost offended. It’s like they’re agreeing that this right here is the best i can do. And i’m like, no!!!??

There were a number of times I have violated the rules of the employer/employee dynamic. I have treated him like a parent, like a friend, like a therapist (the last of which he is btw, though not to me…). And he has put up with all of it, and I’m so so grateful for that.

Most of the relationships in my life are these weird reenactments of my past experiences. But it’s different now. I’m more aware of it.

He — in true therapist fashion — was objective and to the point. And somehow, coming from him, I survived constructive criticism.

It was the other things the said that hit a bit too close to home. Things that should be obvious to somebody my age… but it was only when he said them that they started to make sense.

Things like, everybody’s got their own issues, and I can’t let my feelings interfere with my work. Things like, if I don’t attend to my responsibilities, somebody else will have to. He wasn’t blaming me …. he was giving me credit. Recognizing that I’m not doing something that I’m very much capable of.

And so I left his office feeling not guilty but … hopeful. It wasn’t any less embarrassing having had him explain to me the complexities of adulthood, but I’ve decided that embarrassment is a valid emotion, too, and one you can learn from as much as any other.

I want to grow up.

two I’s in friendship. one I in… I?

The day L left, I went into survival mode. I’ve been hanging on by a thread for going on a decade now, which is more time than we were close friends while she was still here. Of course L is her own person, and I shouldn’t be building my healing around her any more than I should have built my life. She has her own identity that goes way beyond being a signpost for my life or my recovery. Above all else, she’s a dear friend, and the last thing I want is to objectify her like that.

Regardless, in my mind, she stands for everything wrong with me. She wasn’t a person in my eyes; she was way too perfect for that. And by idealizing her, I failed to acknowledge that she, too, might have her own feelings & needs; I was too immature & superficial to meet them, though.

She went on to develop more mutually satisfying relationships, and I was hurt… now I know why: ours was a very asymmetrical one; I got emotional support, she got blind loyalty. Now she gets to be vulnerable and understood, too.

All this being said, even though I understand those dynamics in retrospect, I can’t change the past. Her departure was the catalyst for a process that had been a long time in the making: the disintegration of my own identity.

She is her own person. But, to me, she is also a stark representation of the idea of relying on someone else for your own sense of self, like I did for mine. She deserves more than being reduced to an archetype… but, again, to me she is both.

Since she left, I’ve been… getting by. Coming up with countless ways to not think for myself; to not think at all. I always had poor impulse control. I feel like it might have something to do with not using your internal monologue to its full potential. And when I shut it up altogether to avoid confronting painful feelings & ugly truths about myself, I also deprived myself of a tool that could have been incredibly helpful in regulating my behavior.

It’s not a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of situation. I know I must have always gravitated towards certain types of people because of a natural inclination to follow rather than lead. It’s just that I wouldve saved myself a lot of pain if I had figured it out sooner, and perhaps taken steps to counteract it.

As things stand, I still seek that perfect relationship to lose myself in. I have this need to merge with the other person so completely that there is no more “you” or “I”, there’s just “us”. And I still believe that finding that person will solve all my problems: that they will live my life for me; that they will regulate my behavior; that they will fulfil all my needs.

I don’t (intentionally) deny the other person their right to privacy and their own complex and separate identity… As far as I’m concerned, they can even lead a life all of their own; Ill be sad and jealous, but I’ll understand that I’m not enough for them. But I need them to know & take care of me. To take the lead. Anticipate my needs. Tell me what to think. Is that mommy issues or what? 😬

In the absence of a favorite person to cling on to, and with no hope of ever finding one (because now I know it’s simply not possible in the sense in which i mean it), I am completely lost. I know I’ve discussed this before. But here I’m not talking about emptiness or idealization themselves; im talking about how they relate to impulsivity.

I always used to assume that the latter was an attempt to remedy the former, substituting compulsions and obsessions for a personality. I’m afraid the truth is much simpler than that: because I don’t think for myself, all I’m left with are my urges & no way to talk myself out of giving in to them.

It’s hard to exercise any degree of self-control when you have no sense of self. I may or may not be capable of “self-discipline”, but I’ll never find out until I know what my goals are & what’s good for me. Without some sense of your own personhood, there’s no self-discipline; there are just random rules and restrictions. And why follow those, if going against them doesn’t seem to interfere with any of your goals?

Of course I do have goals. Hopes. Ambitions. Which is why numbing out is so frustrating: every time I engage in harmful behaviors, it takes me that one step further from what I’m too afraid to admit I want.

I

am so…

c o n f u s e d.

asymmetry

I’ll definitely continue writing predominantly in English. It’s an invaluable therapeutic exercise that allows me to explore uncomfortable topics in a safe context, not to mention it’s pretty much the only opportunity i get to use & practise english in my day-to-day life.

It never ceases to amaze me how much people talk about themselves. I don’t at all mean it in a bad way… I just never noticed it before. They talk about what they did, what they’re going to do, what they like to do, what happened to them, the new album that came out that they’re so happy about… they’re just never short of ideas.

It’s actually one of my favorite things to do is to listen to people talk about subjects they are passionate about, and to share in their enthusiasm and enjoyment. I don’t know why it has always felt so wrong for me to talk about things that I am interested in. For as long as I can remember, whenever someone asked me what I had been up to, my go-to response would be, oh, you know, nothing much…

yes, it’s true that most of the time i am up to nothing in particular. But even when that’s not the case, i always kind of just assume that whatever I’m doing, the other person is going to find exceedingly, mind-numbingly dull. i’m perpetually confused as to why anybody would be truly interested in my opinions or activities, and it always feels like theyre just being polite or humoring me out of pity.

of course on many occasions i have done quite the same thing, listening to people talk about topics i knew next to nothing about or wasn’t in the least interested in, just to make them feel good about themselves, and that in and of itself felt rewarding to me.

i like the concept of people putting up with eachothers shit in theory, i simply don’t believe it applies to me specifically. i don’t expect other people to be flawless or endlessly entertaining, it’s my own imperfections that are unacceptable. i can understand that everyone else is sometimes funny and sometimes tedious; but i honestly find the idea of bothering someone with my presence, or them finding me boring or annoying, abhorrent and excruciating. which is not to say that it doesnt happen; in fact im positive it happens all the time. the difference is, it’s less because of what i do and more because of what i fail to do. In other words, they can just up and leave.

my default position has always been to expect them to leave, and i am always eternally grateful to every person who, for reasons unclear to me, decides to stay and listen. …But yet I still expect them to leave at some point. it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when they have simply had enough. and i really wouldn’t blame them, either; i would probably encourage them, and ask whatever caused them to give me a chance in the first place. some kind of oversight or a momentary lapse of judgment, surely, and then they just didn’t know how to extricate themselves from the relationship without hurting my feelings.

i try to be as unobtrusive as possible, but when i cannot contain myself any longer it comes off as obnoxious or over the top. alternatively i turn into this self-righteous killjoy because im just too self-conscious to join in to whatever fun people are having.

I was re-reading what i’ve written so far, and when i got to the passage about “people putting up with each other’s shit” it felt like new information. Really strange. Like, i know it happens. I do it constantly. But the thought of someone finding a flaw in me and not rejecting me right then and there???? Wild. My friendships are always like, I’m so sorry you have to endure this, is there anything i can do to make the experience any less miserable? if you decide to leave ill understand, just tell me when. Also, thank you for being so kind and patient and trying to fix me even though that’s impossible, I appreciate the effort. i mean i dunno why you’re still here, you can go, im sure you have better things to do than to listen to me go on like that… But enough about me, tell me how you have been!

I’m not saying that that’s the way every individual interaction goes, but I’m always vaguely uneasy when it doesn’t.

at the same time, however, i must admit it’s such a relief. liberating. empowering. …to… own the spotlight for once, and not care about how im going to be received. to indulge my own feelings, my own talkativeness, rather than somebody else’s. therapy’s like that, too: it’s a foreign feeling for me to be listened to, understood, accepted, and for me to not feel guilty about it. i mean i still do. i still feel like im wasting their time. but they validate me. and reassure me. and encourage to keep going.

I think I will.