I grew up wanting a Bollywood romance — thankfully, life had other plans

Two people lie together on a bed with a yellow patterned cover. One looks into the distance, the other rests their head gently on the first person's shoulder, eyes closed. They share a pair of earphones, connected to a laptop placed beside them.

BPD amplifies all my emotions, which is wonderful when it comes to the positive ones, but often worrying when it comes to all the ones that make me want to just curl up and not move. My partner, though, usually ensures that he curls up with me and reminds me that emotions, like much else, pass.

I absolutely love having sex. I also absolutely love anything that relates to sex — foreplay, uske baad wala play, and whatever play in between and beyond. Sexual intimacy makes me feel powerful, like I can conquer anything no matter what I am going through.

The flaw in the plan of my undying love for sexual intimacy is that I have borderline personality disorder, which means that I have a cocktail of symptoms that makes most of my relationships extremely intense and unstable. This is the reason I can, often, and without warning, go from being Poo-lusting-after-Hrithik to Rani-from-Queen-after-she-drinks-too-much in the span of a second.

Like my mood swings, my distorted self-image changes wildly too. I go from having feelings of utter worthlessness to believing that I am the be-all and end-all of everything. Most often I am the former, which makes me worry that I am not worth being with. So, as an exercise in self-preservation, I often get hostile so that I can leave people before they leave me. The weird thing about borderline personality disorder is also that I can be highly empathetic and thus know exactly how my actions will hurt the other person, which then leads to high levels of guilt and another cycle of self-hate. What’s more, the instability of my moods often leaves me fatigued, making it hard for me to commit to actually meeting and spending time in relationships that matter to me.

Growing up, I always believed that that the goal for my life would be to be in a happy intimate relationship and that this would be easy to do, because it was easy for Kajol in every movie. Being in love and in an intimate relationship, for me, meant that I would not have to worry about anything else, because a real-life version of the heroes Shahrukh Khan played would be part of my life.

The unfortunate part about taking your fantasy of love and life from Bollywood movies is that often, you accept toxic relationships with men, and the toxicity is seen as part and parcel of being happy and in love. I was in various abusive relationships for five years, where I was policed, shamed and isolated by my partners. This was also the beginning of the signs of my depression and borderline personality disorder showing.

During one of these bad relationships, when I was 19, I met my current partner through a mutual friend. After being friends for a year, we started dating and I was in absolutely new territory. For the first time in my life, I was not in a toxic relationship. The first time we had sex, it wasn’t something right out of a B-grade macho porno, but rather a brilliant kink fest in which we called the shots and where sex was a safe space again.

A person stands amidst swirling rings of light. Behind them, the darkness of outer space, filled with shining stars.

Credit: Minjung Gang via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Soon into our relationship, I was diagnosed with BPD. In fact, it was the support, love and warmth of my partner that made me seek support. Being in this relationship helped me realise how much emotional harm a lot of my previous relationships had done, and how I’d never felt supported enough get therapy. Going to therapy and being on medication certainly helped me through the years, but now that I look back, it was being in this feminist relationship (along with some wonderful sisterhoods as well) that was the biggest help.

While I initially feared that my diagnosis would spell the downfall of my relationship, it turned out that every waking minute was filled with respect and love, and possibilities of a future where I could be completely happy. When I was first diagnosed, I remember my partner going through articles and more to understand how to be a care-giver, and I would get documents in my Facebook inbox, asking if this would work and if this was what I needed.

BPD amplifies all my emotions, which is wonderful when it comes to the positive ones, but often worrying when it comes to all the ones that make me want to just curl up and not move. My partner, though, usually ensures that he curls up with me and reminds me that emotions, like much else, pass. While doing this, I am also reminded that I must continue taking help and reaching out (which is hard because I often worry I might be more of a burden than watching a Salman Khan film).

I have learnt that there is no shame in loving my body and loving sex and loving being touched, when BPD in many not-so-gentle ways asks me to stop loving what gives me power and happiness. My sexual pleasure, my voice in my own sexuality, and my voice within the relationship are given utmost importance.

I often run to literotica when my partner isn’t around and am never made to feel like I am wrong because I want to masturbate. When I have anxiety attacks in the middle of sex because I think I have said something silly, he tops it by saying something sillier that makes me laugh or calm down. This doesn’t always work but it always reminds me that it is okay to be silly.

The fact that this is a long-distance relationship makes things harder, because often I want to be physically intimate but cannot, because my partner is not in the same city. Instead of figuring out a solution, my immediate go to would be to break up. I would then shame myself for wanting physical intimacy in the first place, and would fall into a cycle of shame and guilt that I could not come out of. But that’s another perk of being in love with someone who fights alongside you every day, they don’t let you cycle alone. They hop on and help you along.

I have slowly started exploring how I can express my anger in ways that don’t hurt him or myself, and it’s come from being encouraged to have conversations, no matter how difficult.

I am 23 years old now and I have not found Shahrukh, but I have found someone caring and warm and funny and supportive and absolutely magnificent in bed. While I realise now that love doesn’t make everything okay or make me happy always, it does makes life a little more bearable, and gives me enough gentleness to remember to be kind with my illness and myself.

Amla spends most of her time trying to smash the patriarchy, keep her privilege in check, travelling, and planning her next tattoos. She believes that poetry and pani puri can change the world.


Featured image credit: Upasana Agarwal