BPD and Emotional Sensitivity

So if you have BPD, you’ve probably noticed that you may be easily “triggered” into very intense emotions. You may feel uncontrollable at times and even unable to hold back when an emotion hits, leading to impulsiveness. You may blurt things out that you don’t mean, or do something ‘crazy’.

If you know someone with BPD, you may have also noticed this. Though you may be wondering why they react with such intensity at seemingly small things. Or you may simply not understand why they feel so strongly about certain things. Their impulsive acts or “blurts” of words may hurt your feelings, seem misplaces, over-reactive, or just down right unnecessary.

So what’s the deal?

People with BPD have been described as severe burn victims with 3rd degree burns all over their body. We are like open wounds exposed to anything and everything, that even the smallest thing will will cause a reaction of sorts.

Often times our initial feeling is so strong that it sends us off on a tirade. The feeling itself is scary to us, because of it’s intensity, that it tacks on secondary emotions, or even more! Layer all of that together and you’ve got yourself a handful.

One thing to remember, is that we often don’t mean what we say or do. That doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want and you just have to deal with it. It just simply means that we, at times, don’t have control over ourselves. We are learning. Unfortunately, we are very emotionally immature and we need a little leeway, and possibly a lot of forgiveness.

One of the biggest words I throw around when it comes to dealing with a borderline, is VALIDATION. When we feel like our emotions or something about us is being invalidated, that can drive us mad. It may bring us back to childhood or past relationships where our feelings meant nothing. We go from 0-100 in under a second, we can hardly see it coming ourselves. I know for myself, once I feel validated, like someone has listened to and acknowledged how I feel about something, without any sort of backlash or contradictory opinions or thoughts, etc…just pure validation…I calm down. Sometimes we just need to know that someone is listening and understands that we feel x, y, and/or z.

You can’t reason with a borderline in the midst of an episode. So try validation.

Here are 3 great articles about BPD and Emotional Sensitivity:

https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/defining-features-of-personality-disorders-problematic-emotional-response-patterns/

http://www.hsperson.com/pages/2May04.htm

http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-emotional-vulnerability-of-borderline-personality-disorder/

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BPD: Splitting

“In this context, splitting refers to a primitive mechanism of defense characterized by a polarization of good feelings and bad feelings, of love and hate, of attachment and rejection. Splitting, archetypally imbedded in a patient’s psychic structure, acts as a powerful unconscious force to protect against the ego’s perception of dangerous anxiety and intense affects. Rather than providing real protection, splitting leads to destructive behavior and turmoil in patients’ lives, and the often confused reactions manifested by those who try to help.

(http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/borderline-personality/borderline-personality-disorder-splitting-countertransference-0)

Splitting is very common with BPD. It’s a hallmark symptom/sign that your loved one may not only suffer from BPD, but is a very clear cue as to when he or she is in the midst of an episode, either falling into or out of one.

Any sign of rejection or abandonment, perceived or real, can flip the splitting switch and turn your loved one into your worst enemy. Or rather you are theirs. You’ve officially made the hit list. We may hate you. We may become defensive or overly-independent. Hate, you say? Sadly, yes. The hate and rage we may feel for you when we’ve split you and you’ve become “all black” or “all bad” is very real to us. We may even think you are part of the rest of the world and are part of the conspiracy to hurt us. Remembering as you once being the good guy is either so stupid to us, or we literally cannot even remember or tap into that “oh so in the past” reality.

But then something changes. Something shifts and now you’re as good and needed as the very air we breathe.

This may happen often within a relationship. Sometimes even multiple times a day! What a roller coaster ride, right? Yea. Now really think about it. I can only imagine how difficult this would be for a non, but imagine with it’s like to truly believe that the same person you may think is your only safe place, suddenly is “after you”.

How long does an episode last? Could be minutes. Could be hours, days, months…or could go all bad and never return. We may even may a somewhat conscious decision to keep you in the black because we feel safer that way.

So what do you do when you’ve been split? I don’t know! No matter what you say. if you have been split and are in the black, anything you say will be a lie in our minds. You’re just lying and trying to manipulate us or hurt us. Time. Give it time. Express your emotions (softly) and let us know how this is making you feel, and then leave the ball in their court. The more you force your way back in, the worse you will make things.

Marilyn Monroe

I love this song. It describes me 100%. I like Marilyn Monroe. I wish I knew her personally. My favorite lines of this song:

“Call it a curse or just call me blessed. If you can’t handle my worst, you ain’t gettin’ my best.”

“Take me or leave me.”

It’s Normal

“It’s normal.”

I’m caught. Caught between two things that don’t mesh.

Thing A: I know I’m not what one would call normal. I can feel it. I can see it. Mostly I can feel it. Every day. All the time. It hurts me that I’m not normal.

Thing 2: When someone tells me that something about me is “normal”, I lose it. But isn’t that what I wanted? To be normal?

Well, yes? But no. When you tell me its’ normal I only feel invalidated because I know its not. Yes, maybe it in and of itself is in some way “normal”, but that’s a very surfacey way to look at it. Take it in its context. To say it is normal that we all experience sad emotions upon, say, a break-up, is in fact true. To say we all sometimes have the fear that our partner will be unfaithful and so the fear is “normal”, is I guess true.

Be real. I don’t just get sad. I don’t just “have a fear or worry”. MY POINT IS, my sadness is so painful it makes me want to kill myself. The fear/thought that my partner could be unfaithful, is beyond a fear. It’s such an intense paranoia that I get enraged. Suspicious. Accusatory, and yet again suicidal.

Take away the intensity and distortions and delusions, and I just may be normal. But don’t dismiss the intensity, distortions and delusions. They’re my crazy. I don’t want them but dammit don’t ignore them. It doesn’t make the weight I’m carrying any lighter.

My Borderline Manual: Part 1

I wish I came with a manual. I feel like it’s purely unfair that I don’t. Unfair for me because I confuse the hell out of myself, and even more unfair for others who have to deal with me. Borderlines are a complex people. I know this. I know I’m difficult. I know there’s no one set of responses that will work in every scenario…or is there? No, there probably isn’t, at least not for every precise situation or phase. There are a few key things, however, that remain consistently needed and useful at all times. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before.

1. VALIDATION: Borderlines need validated. It doesn’t matter that you think (or know) that our current erratically expressed rage is at an intensity level that is well beyond whatever it was that set it off to begin with. It doesn’t matter that you think we shouldn’t be so upset about this or that, or that we don’t have a reason to be afraid or what have you. That’s where you’re wrong. You have those beliefs from your point of view. You’re forgetting that we live in an entirely different reality, at times, and the reality we are in totally warrants our feelings, behavior, and reactions. We don’t need you to tell us that we shouldn’t feel that way or that we have no reason to, we need you to realize that our reality is different than yours in the moment, and we need you to validate THAT along with its package of emotions and behavior. Validation often times will lessen the intensity of those very feelings because we’ll feel that you hear us and understand.

2. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY: Unfortunately, if you are a loved one of someone with BPD, you will often times be the target of their episodes. It may seem like you are the very reason they are the way they are. The reason for their episodes. The reason they are sad, angry, suicidal, etc. You aren’t. You may have inadvertently triggered something, but being an accidental trigger does not make you responsible for what the trigger brings out. I’m sure it’s not easy to not take it personally, just keep this in mind.

3. KNOW WHEN TO WALK AWAY: This is for two reasons. As a continuation of the above, when you can’t not take it personally, you may just need to walk away. You have to take care of yourself. I advise (request as a borderline) that you do so as lovingly as possible because it’s going to feel like abandonment, but you need to take care of you. You have needs and emotions too. The second reason you may need to know what to walk away, is because there comes a point where your being there during an episode may start to become counterproductive. If the borderline is targeting you, and you are aware of what is happening while the borderline may not be (i.e. that they are in a symptomatic episode not based on the then and there reality), you may need to be the one to walk away and put an end to the interaction before the borderline causes even more destruction. This is a hard one.

4. KNOW WHO YOU’RE DEALING WITH AND ACT ACCORDINGLY: An extension of this may be to set your expectations accordingly. Before you, you see an adult. Possibly even a healthy adult. Healthy meaning no physical ailments. As they say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” If you could remove yourself from the situation, or imagine yourself reading the situation you are in, the dialogue, the actions of the borderline, etc…you may think you were reading about a crazy person, or even a child in the middle of a tantrum. Well don’t forget that you may be dealing with exactly that. You can’t expect adult things from someone who is emotionally just a child, just as you cannot expect “normal” emotional and behavioral responses from someone who is emotionally “not normal”. Its only going to frustrate you if you have these expectations, and its only going to invalidate the borderline which will result in further escalation. Know who you’re dealing with. Think your borderline is acting crazy? Well assume the truth of that belief and respond according. In other words, see #1…and/or #2 and #3. Think your borderline is being childish? You just may be dealing with the “child inside the adult” now. I know for myself, when I let that child part of me out…it needs to be treated as such. There’s something she needs. Treating a child like an adult simply makes no sense. You’d never do that to an actual child, it’s really no different here. When a child is scared, you provide protection or words of protection. Sometimes all it takes is some validating acknowledgement that you see, realize, and understand who your borderline is in that moment. That alone can sometimes be enough to push them through the moment into the more “normal” state of mind that they came from.

These really are just my own thoughts and experiences. I could be “wrong”. This isn’t necessarily intended for all borderlines because maybe it doesn’t apply. It’s definitely part of my manual.

How you can help

An excerpt from http://owndoc.com/health/borderline-personality-disorder-cause-therapy/

Borderliners need love and want to give it, too

Borderliners are misunderstood. Some call them “emotional vampires”, a bottomless pit for love, a one-way street, unable to reciprocate on affection, using people for temporary relief and discarding them as used bubble gum. The borderline person comes across that way due to a total lack of love throughout their entire childhood. It should not come as a surprise that borderliners have one gigantic need: The need to feel loved. No person has a greater need for genuine affection than the borderliner. A borderliner needs love like a person with scurvy needs vitamin C. And they desperately want to give themselves to those they feel affection for – but they often have great difficulty doing so. Borderliners are so emotionally insecure that it is easy to hurt them. And because they have never experienced the safety of the knowledge of being loved, they’ll “split” you one way or the other: They will immediately and often permanently reclassify you from “friendly” to “hostile”, and a small perceived slight can terminate a relationship before it had a chance to come to fruition.

This oversensitive black-and-white thinking may make borderliners look “needy”, but that would be oversimplification.  Their sense of belonging in the relationship need regular reinforcement in the form of tenderly expressed physical affection and a genuine interest in, and respect of their persona. If that condition is fulfilled, they can become loyal partners, even when things aren’t always perfect in the relationship. Borderliners do very badly with people who make careless hurtful remarks or who are unable to regularly express affection. A borderliner’s fragile sense of acceptance easily becomes a feeling of being a tolerated burden. He will never again want to be an undesirable element and thus will crudely cancel a relationship in which he is hurt once too often.

The Faces of my Episodes

Last night was one of the worst episodes I think I’ve had…possibly ever. Mainly because it’s the closest I’ve ever mentally been to the ‘S’ word: suicide. So today when looking back on the night, I was thinking how I have three different kinds of episodes. 1) The non-destructive episode, 2) The verbally destructive episode: A. Directed at me, B. Directed at someone else, and 3) The physically destructive episode (always directed at me unless coerced or cornered; yea it’s happened). Quite honestly there may be a fourth, which would just be a combination of 2 and 3.

Phase 1: Each episode usually begins with silence. It’s like the calm before the storm. I talk less, I text less, my responses are shorter, I may take longer to reply back to a text or email, won’t answer my phone, etc. I may appear to still be ok, but someone putting effort into getting in tune with me would be able to pick up on this. I may even go up and down a little in terms of opening up and closing off. I bounce back and forth a bit but it may be subtle enough that most wouldn’t notice. When I’m in Phase 1, I still have the ability to turn things around. I don’t always win that attempt, but if anything I learn in therapy or have put into place for myself is going to work, it is only during this phase.

Phase 2: As it starts to set in more, the ups and downs become higher and lower. The pushing and pulling, the opening up/closing off, is more noticeable. I may seem detached, disinterested, irritable and a bit overly sensitive. I’d say it’s similar to a “normal” female’s PMS. Sarcasm makes it’s debut here as well. If I’ve reached this phase, there’s usually no going back at this point and everyone better just buckle up for the ride, or hide.

Phase 3: However, it doesn’t stop there. That’s just a short phase. Phase 3 is the meat of the episode. This is where the real destruction happens. This is the phase where limits don’t exist, self-control is an unreachable concept, no one is safe, and the end result is a mental game of Russian Roulette and one of us is the target. Phase 3 leads to abnormal behavior beyond just self-harm, delusions, or rage that seems to have no real cause for such intensity. Things like running away. Hiding or locking myself in rooms. Laying or curling up in places not meant for laying. For example, last night I found myself curled up in the corner of the little laundry room, laying in a pile of laundry, and wrapped up in the sheets. Somehow it just felt safe.

It then takes on one, or a combination of the three types of episodes listed in the first paragraph above.

What they look like:

1) Non-Destructive Episode – This episode is the usually the mildest. It’s the one that I manage to be able to “just sit” with my emotions. The crying and tears are just as prevalent as they are in the other types, but they may be a bit more controlled. Pacing doesn’t occur as much but I may just sit, lay down, or rock back and forth a little with a stuffed animal on the floor. Panic attacks are also a signature trait of all three types, but I’d say I’m mostly safe in this type, even though I may not quite feel that I am.

2) Verbally Destructive Episode – This one speaks for itself. It is all of Type 1 with some verbal additions that are nothing other than damaging. The verbal lashings are not your normal controlled things one simply chooses to say. No, they lash out impulsively. There may be periods of silence or attempts to communicate or seek communication or help from others, but those attempts from others are often met with further verbal gun-fires that seem to flow out in sectional floods. All I can say, although not an excuse, is that it all comes from immense pain and the need to self-protect, even though its counter-productive. Pacing happens here. Pacing, the stressful fingers grabbing through the hair behavior. Panic attacks. Sobbing. Impulsiveness.

A. Directed at myself – while this is also a common thread, it’s much more evident here. The self-hatred shows itself out loud. Projection is also seen here.

B. Directed at someone else – there’s usually a target, and it’s usually the primary loved one in my life – my boyfriend as of late.

3) Physically-Destructive Episode – Types 1 and 2, and more. If suicide attempts were to happen, they’d happen here. Self-harm lives here as well and has been a frequent visitor in the past. I’ve never seriously hurt anyone while in a rage, at least never without being abused first, and so I will say that the ability is there but only if summoned. It’s like cornering a wild animal. If I feel physically threatened, I will certainly not hesitate to go physically and violently crazy, and so its best to keep a distance and never block the exits. All-in-all, however, the physical destruction is directed inward. The pain is so unbearable that the only fast relief comes from the slice of a blade, the bruising punch of a fist, anything that will cause pain and therefore release pain. Type 3 may be a fake-out and may appear to be a Type 1 or 2, but if you observe the intensity, behavior, and body language cues, it should be obvious that I may only be sitting or pacing because I’m battling the urge to go to a location that I know has a sharp object in order to make some pretty little lines.

Sadly, the end result is usually that of destruction and damage, when all I want is love, safety, security, and RELIEF. Anyone pulled into the storm is nothing other than an innocent bystander. No different than the person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got shot or injured even though the shooter never intended for that individual to get hit.

And when it’s all over, I’m left with nothing but SHAME and fear.

“What did I do…”