The Thinnest Line

Lindsay Levine
8 min readOct 26, 2020

I’m well overdue for some new writing, and to my own surprise, I’m at a place where I feel miles away from some of the words I once proudly shared on here. For a long time I was very “me” about putting whatever, whenever, on the internet. People often applaud(ed) my bravery and vulnerability, but sharing those intimate details never required those traits of me. It felt natural. Now, I no longer feel attached to the Lindsay that used to write so openly.

Even a few weeks ago, I wanted to share one of my videos on Youtube — a video that describes how my OCD manifests — with a person who’s also diagnosed. I couldn’t share it without trimming off the last 7 minutes of the video, which specifically dove into my grief, my feelings about my last real full-time gig (lol Coinbase) and — literally, as I put it then — “identifying as crazy”. For context, I recorded the video in San Francisco less than a month before I moved back home to PA; only then did I finally start recovering from my NYC trauma and my then fresh, traumatic SF relationship.

Watching those last few minutes of the video made me feel far away from that version of me, just like with my writing. It’s not that I feel ashamed, or embarrassed; I give myself a lot of grace for the particular moments where one might feel most ashamed. More that.. the video’s final minutes look like a person that I no longer want representing me.

The past month has been uniquely difficult. I started a new job, and in almost every aspect of my life, I brought past trauma along and let it interfere in unhealthy ways. I was not prepared for that. I’d been idling for months in a detached state, compounded by the global pandemic, with nothing for my demons to try to sabotage. Besides a brief relationship pre-covid, I’ve been single for basically the first stretch of time since 2015, and I’ve thankfully been in a very coddling environment and with supportive loved ones where my trauma either is fully understood or not really a factor.

My trust issues from the past few years are far, far deeper than I imagined, and this recent month really put them to the test. Almost every single interaction at my new job felt like I was reliving all of the past work-related betrayal and deceit I’d experienced since Venmo. I was paranoid at every turn. And I do want to stress that it wasn’t because of my team (a team I’m very blessed to work with). It was all me.

If you’re close to me at all, or have read anything of mine before, you know that the events leading me to leave NYC have defined the last segment of my life. Even the last year of “stability” tortured me with months and months of grief dreams — sobbing into a person’s arms, feeling her face, or most often, standing just out of reach — only to wake up feeling more broken than before. Still, as these months in my childhood bedroom have trickled on, the familiar sense of belonging has helped nurse my wounds. I felt myself moving forward, if only by inches.

Then, just as I was starting my new job, and in what seemed like the flip of a switch, I felt a strange spark of curiosity towards a person that would end up distracting me for weeks. That spark reminded me, in some odd way, of the time I first stumbled across my NYC ex — a person I’ve thought I may never be able to replace — and I quickly projected that experience onto this new potential relationship. Though I realized what was happening, I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) stop myself from falling into my own trap.

I reached out, and I asked this new woman to talk. I don’t know what I wanted or expected, but as little sense as it may make, I hoped that our conversation would put out whatever fire that spark started. I told a friend that I hoped it’d be weird, or awkward, or unnatural, or something to pull me off that slippery slope.

I left our conversation in worse shape than before. I was even more curious but had no great path towards feeding that curiosity — with a person who was effectively a stranger to me and to whom I was a stranger as well. I was trying to take steps that matched those I took in NYC but in a new world where the results were very likely to differ. This new person and situation is (of course) nothing like that NYC experience.

In fact, what I noticed quickly is that this woman (from what I’ve inferred so far) most resembles a very different person that has shaped me and my life. If you know me, you know this person as Margo — the single most important person to me besides my mother and my best friend Ryan. If you don’t know me or Margo, she saved me as I navigated the hell of my corneal dystrophy and the six procedures I endured to treat it. As I’ve praised many times before, Margo is the purest heart I know.

I characterize the resemblance between the Margo I first met and this new woman as an unwavering, sheltered focus on themselves. When my relationship with Margo began, it wasn’t easy to get her to open up — whether it was to speak about herself, initiate any kind of anything with me, or entertain the idea of a deeper connection of any kind. It’s possible I’m entirely wrong about this new woman, and with Margo, I didn’t have the same trauma I have now. I was able to feel an innate sense of trust with her and was patient as her feelings caught up to mine.

If I’d had my BPD diagnosis and overall NYC trauma when I first met Margo, it probably would have been as much of a disaster as I made this recent experience. Just like my work interactions pulsing with paranoia, my pending relationship (or lack thereof) with this new woman was fused with the emotional devastation from my past. The NYC projection caused me to stake so much significance in this stranger and in the unlikely scenario it could become something special. And I failed to handle the pressure.

Looking back, I’m not sure what I was thinking. I think, like most people who self-sabotage, I was flailing to handle a situation that felt out of my control, and I took control by sabotaging. I guess I was also hopeful that the informal interest would be mutual, but in any case, I hadn’t anticipated the emotional bulldozing I’d feel even just engaging with someone whose spark screamed NYC but whose personality more resembles Margo — someone who is not the type to reciprocate the energy or initiation or feelings I might show very quickly.

It wasn’t sane of me to expect it to unfold like NYC. It wasn’t fair of me to put that pressure on her — to tell her I wanted to get to know her better, in a not platonic way — only to depend on her to be the type of person my trauma more or less demands. None of it is or was reasonable, but despite the painful self-awareness, all of it felt so out of my control. Whether or not she truly understands, I self-sabotaged and made a fool of myself. I don’t know if I care more that I scared another person away or that I scared this specific person away. As she pointed out herself, maybe she’s an asshole.

Between reliving all of my work trauma and ex trauma, I was back again in a place of needing more than it seemed “normal” or natural or fair to ask — both from coworkers and this new person and really anyone at all. I struggle trying to draw and walk the line between what is reasonable to need and what is too much.

This blurry line is the main subject I wanted to address in this piece — how I’ve struggled, and often failed, to walk the thin line between needing extra support and needing to deal with my shit on my own. I believe it’s this very same line that separates who you are and how you might need to change. It’s the same line that separates the tattoos on each of my hands.

What I do know is that holding onto my trauma and trust issues has not served me. If keeping these scars so close to heart was supposed to protect me from getting hurt or betrayed again, it’s done the opposite. I got the best reminder recently from our team’s interim HR consultant, and it’s exactly what I need to do: get out of my own way.

I recommend this same advice to all the other self-saboteurs out there. I sabotaged a friendship by projecting my grief and having a full blown BPD episode to a woman who, very fairly, cannot and/or does not want to understand me and my trauma. I could’ve very well sabotaged my new job by failing to let go of my trust issues and sensitivities instead of focusing solely on my work. After two years of feeling like “too much” (and often too soon), I’ve finally arrived at a place of accepting how much I may actually be.

Realistically — whether it’s friends, coworkers, or romantic interests — I’ll need to be surrounded by people who can be patient with me and my trauma from the start. People who can and want to help with that to a healthy extent, without crossing the line. Wherever that line may be.

I remember saying to the girl I ended things with earlier this year, with whom the stars did not align, that I couldn’t let go of NYC until I found another person who outmatched that once in 20 lifetimes connection. I no longer think that’s true. I know now that it is possible to experience grief in its unpredictable ways and to have also completely moved on. I allow myself to grieve this person who felt like family, but I can no longer glorify her as some kind of soulmate. Soulmates don’t vanish.

Worth noting — the common thread between all of my pain and emotional issues this month was a deep need to be understood. A deep desire to be understood. And peace really comes from accepting that, again, not everyone can or will want to understand. I’ll be happy with anyone who at least tries.

I hope I’ve found a stronger balance treading the line after this month’s growing pains. No matter what, I’ve always done my best to ask for only what I truly need, and I’ll continue to do the same. I’m sorry to those who have been judged, abandoned, punished or generally hurt for crossing the line in tough times. Knowing my own suffering, I believe compassion, empathy and forgiveness should come before everything. You may not know my pain, but you can know that your heart and empathy will make all the difference.

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