The follow-up post to “Borderline Personality Disorder: In My Words“, published in June, 2012.
Please…do not use these admissions against me. Instead, use them to help yourself or someone you know.
“People with BPD often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. While they can develop intense attachments, their attitudes toward family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike). Even with family members, individuals with BPD are highly sensitive to rejection, reacting with anger and distress to such mild separations as a vacation, a business trip, or a sudden change of plans.
Distortions in thinking and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, gender identity, and values. Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad, or unworthy. They may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, bored, empty, and have little idea who they are. Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone by acting out; i.e. impulsive behavior or suicide attempts.”
-Understanding BPD, National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder, http://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com
The numbered, italicized headings below are the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), used to diagnosis Borderline Personality Disorder. The unitalicized writing is my elaboration on how each BPD criterion affects me.
(I am beginning with criterion#3 as I was not sure how it applied to me when I wrote the first section of this post.)
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
-While I have a better understanding of this criterion now, as opposed to when I first posted in June 2012, I know that my understanding will be evolving for a long time to come. However, with that being said, I can now look back at my life and recognize many choices and feelings that are related to the concept of identity disturbance.
At the core of all things that make me Redhead, I am a caretaker; I want to affect positive influence in the lives of others. There has never been any question in my mind that easing someone’s difficulties, great or small, makes me glow on the inside and gives a sense of great meaning to my life. And while this is a wonderful personal attribute, the BPD has made it difficult to #1-balance how much I involve myself with others without sacrificing myself and #2-balance understanding where a healthy sense of “great meaning” ends and an unhealthy sense of going too far begins.
Example #1: For many years, I had a group of friends who, in my mind, wanted/needed me as much as I wanted/needed them. I thought that their experiences were my experiences and my experiences were theirs, so to speak. It was not until a few months into Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) (and a picture posted on social media where all women from “our” group were pictured…except me…on a trip I was not invited on) that I realized I did not hold equal stock in our friendship. To be fair, the signs were there all along but the BPD would not allow me to see them because I did not want to admit to something that (I now know) would have translated into feeling emotionally abandoned. I travelled to their wedding showers and weddings, baby showers, ect. that I was left out of planning (even though I asked to help plan them) and in over 10 years of friendship, I was visited in my home only once by any of the women (and that was because she was in town for a conference…not for me). I simply could not recognize that as I became more and more ill, I clung more and more desperately (Can I make cookies for…?, How can I help with…, Here is $60 to help pay for this shower [that I was not allowed to help plan]) to friendships that I had misinterpreted as more important in their lives than they were. (I sure hope you can follow that example, as I have no clue how to punctuate part of it and my thoughts are not translating into the written word as well as I had hoped. =)
Example #2: This is closely related to example #1, but is a bit more broad in scope. To this day, my impulsive side (thank you, BPD) meets with my caretaker side to want to help people in any way I can. The problem is that while it is noble to want to help people, I cannot substitute the external sense of accomplishment or sense of feeling needed for an internal validation that I give myself. Does that make sense? I have to learn to make myself feel good about myself just because…not because someone in the world “gave me permission” by giving me accolades and validation. I have to learn to validate myself as important, special, and good. External validation is a great thing but only when it is first accompanied by a sturdy internal validation. (Why did I not just say that in the first place?! LOL)
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
-When I originally posted on the subject of how BPD affected me, I was not ready to address how suicide played a role in my life. Since that time however, I have posted “Suicide and Me“, where I wrote about suicidal ideation, explaining that, “Almost every day, I think about the action of taking my life to relieve the pain of living. It is not about wanting to not live; it is about not wanting the emotional pain to continue and believing that physical death is my only way out.” Suicidal ideation and I know each other very well, but I have no intention to ever complete suicide. I have never attempted to die by suicide purposefully, although in 2007, I did accidently overdose on a prescription medication that made me forget, many times over, that I had already taken a dose…until the bottle was empty. This led to my first hospitalization because while the overdose was not intentional, afterwards, I wished it had been successful.
Luckily, I do not suffer from suicidal gestures (hurting myself, overdosing, self-harming, etc… just enough to need medical attention in an attempt to get others to realize just how ill I am and how much help I need), threats (although I have been honest with my husband and therapist that, even without the intention to complete it, I do have a suicide plan), or self-mutilating behavior (i.e. cutting with razor blades, burning one’s self, etc.).
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
-In English: My outward reactions (my affect) can be erratic or unpredictable (instability) because my moods or emotions are capable of quickly changing (marked reactivity). It “boils down to this”: it is impossible to know how I might react to what happens around me because, when ill, my mood can change so quickly…how I reacted yesterday is not how I will necessarily react today because yesterday, I might have been in one mood and today, I might be in another. And scarily enough, the fluctuations in my moods can literally be moment to moment. In the darkest moment of BPD, I can transition from Heaven-worthy joy to Hell-induced emotional pain in seconds. A video of such vacillating moods would make for a good horror movie, to be honest. Jack Nicholson would have nothing on me! (Yes…you can giggle.)
BPD can make me very moody when I am in a depressive episode or experiencing high levels of anxiety. While I am decently successful in hiding this from most people, my husband and my mother get the brunt of it. They often see my mood bounce like a Ping-Pong ball from one emotion to another, having no idea what caused any of the changes. Both my husband and mother can see it in my face in an instant! Sometimes, I am not very nice to them.
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
-Dude! I feel empty, lost, unimportant, you-name-it, 95% of every breath of my life! It is SO tiring! And I still have no idea what to do about it. I have yet to find anything that fills the void in my heart other than the external validation I discussed in criterion #3, which we already decided was fleeting, unhealthy, and not a very good Band-Aid when I cannot validate myself from the inside. #7 is why #3 is a criterion I can very easily fall prey to. I am sure that in future posts, I will share my journey with my “chronic feelings of emptiness” and ways I discover to help ease that burden. Until then, just know I am searching and open to ideas! =)
8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
-Ooooo weeee! I DO NOT LIKE DISCUSSING THIS. This makes me feel ashamed, dirty, and low as a human. But I need to be honest to better deal with it, don’t I? Geesh.
Ok. So here goes…until a few years ago, I was pretty passive when depressed. Yes, I could say mean things but nothing that stabbed at a person’s jugular, per se, and I certainly never became physical. However…………. (can I just keep typing periods and skip this? LOL), my emotional pain has increasingly gained the ability to spike quickly, making me a person most loved ones would never recognize. Instead of feeling hurt, I choose to feel angry because, well, angry just seems easier. There can be a sense of power and authority that comes with anger, and perhaps, that is why my brain sometimes chooses to turn the sense of vulnerable hurt into powerful pain…a very maladaptive coping mechanism. I have thrown cherished items and relished the plume of dust as they broke against tile floors and hit pictures so my wedding day signature picture (you know the pictures with the matting that people leave messages on?) is hung glassless. And I cannot tell you how hard it has sometimes been to not thrown things at the television when angered. Sorry hubby. 😉
I swear…you have no need to fear me! LOL Maybe pictures, knick-knacks, and TVs, but not people! =) Lord, what people who read this must be thinking.
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
-I do not think I have ever been dissociative (maybe my LPC husband would say differently. I dunno), but I do worry way too much about what others think of me. For instance, my job is made 100% more stressful than it needs to be because I always worry that my boss will see a mistake I make and conclude that I am 100% incompetent. Does it occur to me that she may just note, “Need to show Redhead how to…”? Of course it occurs to me but then the BPD tells me that I am going to be figured out as the fake I am…dumb and stupid.
Oh! And I worry that if I do not take the time to neaten up before leaving the house, people will think I am a stereotype of where I live. What stereotype is that? Well, when I moved from my home state (also my current state) as a 7 year old, I was asked by my new fellow statesmen (young children, mind you) if people in my home state wore shoes. Yeah. We are often judged as barefoot and pregnant, uneducated hillbillies. Do we have people like that where I live? Sure, but does not every place have a stereotypical element to their society? Honestly, most people do not even know we are a state. No joke. But anyhoo, this is related to my post, “I Am Judgmental and I Am Pretty Enough for Ravishing Red!“. I can be judgemental as a defense mechanism, so it is natural that I think people judge me. It is one of those snowball effect thingys. (Yes, I said “thingys”. I have been writing for two hours. Isn’t that sad?! LOL)
Thank you for hanging in with me to finish this post. It was a bit more emotionally tiring than I expected and it is getting close to my bedtime. I appreciate it if you have made it this far and forgiven my writing mistakes. =)