I write a lot about hope and doing better, but I know that doesn’t give my fights and my battles justice. It wasn’t as if I got out of the hospital the second time and suddenly all was well in the world… In fact, it’s quite the contrary.
I wanted to write a little bit about some of the struggles I face, and one of the toughest demons I have ever had to face: my borderline personality disorder. Well, let me rephrase that… I didn’t want to write about it, but sometimes when I get bad writing is the only thing I can do to keep me from doing things I’ll regret.
For those of you who don’t know what borderline personality disorder is, please don’t assume I have little voices running around my head dictating which person I want to be today. Borderline personality disorder is a mood disorder. It includes intense mood swings, as well as eight other symptoms. The symptoms are as follows:
Being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder has helped save my life a couple times. Since being diagnosed, I have a much better idea of why I act the way I do. When I get bad, it is easier for me to feel as though I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings, and that these struggles are struggles other people have faced as well.
However, being knowledgeable of my illness doesn’t suddenly make it go away. Let’s take last night for example:
I was doing alright, despite the migraine I had all day at work. Then, something relatively small set me off. I went from feeling goofy and happy to hardly being able to get up out of bed to brush my teeth. I became vehemently angry, and I quickly switched from being full of hope to feeling crippled by hopelessness.
If you’ve ever experienced mood swings, you know how exhausting they are. It is physically and mentally draining to experience such drastic alterations in your state of being. Now imagine them amplified. Imagine having mood swings so bad that you can’t even recognized how intense of a mood swing it was. Imagine going from happiness to anger to devastating sadness. It’s hell. And even that may be an understatement.
Now imagine those mood swings with some or all of the above symptoms. Imagine going from happy to sad in the course of five minutes, and then feeling impulsive on top of it. The impulsivity is one of the most frustrating parts of BPD for me. It is draining to try and refrain from doing something stupid that I know I will eventually regret. It is exhausting to not send that angry text message or not run halfway across the country when your brain is telling you to get the hell out of your current environment. The impulsivity is the reason for every broken wall, every broken hand, every scar on my wrist, every regretted text or message, and a lot of the drinks that have entered my system. The best way I can explain it is that when my mood switches, especially really fast, or I have either an anxiety attack or enter a depressive episode, my body wants to do something to try and prevent it. However, it’s like all at once I forget every healthy coping technique I’ve ever learned, or every socially acceptable thing to do, and I can’t understand that trying to punch my way through a concrete wall won’t solve anything. The impulsivity generally walks a blurry line with the tendency to self harm.
Now fast forward to the rest of the night. After already experiencing the mood swings. I find myself stuck in a depressive episode, and I won’t have much hope that it will go away before the next morning. I know the best thing would be to simply go to sleep, but my brain won’t shut off and I am unable to keep it from wandering. I will experience feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Like I am just a object in people’s lives that they feel they can discard when it’s inconvenient for me to be in their life, and pick back up when they are bored… I have been feeling these feelings since before I was ten years old.
I began to sincerely believe that everyone is going to leave. And that they’re going to leave soon. At that point in the night I know need human contact. I need reassurance that no one is going anywhere, but 9 times out of 10 I am too scared to ask for it. Why? Because 9 out of 10 people will believe it’s just me being “needy” or 9 times out of 10 I won’t actually be able to believe what they’re saying. So there’s a disconnect that forms within me: I need to know I’m not alone, but I am too scared to ask someone to help me remember I’m not alone. I don’t know who to trust, I don’t know where to turn, and frankly all I do know is that I am mad at myself.
My fear will eventually turn back to anger. At first at everyone, and then at myself. “How could I get like this? Why can’t I just regulate my emotions better? What if people have good reason for getting rid of me?” At that point, I know the only healthy thing I can do is go to sleep.
Fast forward again. If I’m lucky enough to have fallen asleep, which is not always the case, I’m destined to wake up with a headache, stomach ache, and body pain (which is exactly what happened in this instance). It is almost a 100% guarantee. Why? Because after intense nights such as last night, my brain doesn’t know how to shut down in my sleep. There are no happy dreams or no dreams at all. There are hellish nightmares that reflect my fears of being abandoned and worthless. It will take me at least a couple hours to shake everything off and remember that a lot of these fears are simply that: fears. I know that I have people who care. I know that I am never truly alone, and that I have a lot of people who would be here at the drop of a pin if I asked. But I have to fight to remember that. I have to remember which reality is truth: the one in my dreams that feels so real or the one in real life that can often feel like a lie.
The rest of the day will likely go by in a fog. I will struggle to focus on whatever task is at hand. The intense flood of memories that hit last night will still be floating around in my head. See, the thing is that when I get bad, I’m unable to really stop the memory of every shitty thing I’ve experienced from flooding back.
Hopefully, I’ll still feel some sort of emotion. I’ll usually be okay with anything, as long as it’s something. If I’m not lucky, I’ll be numb for a little bit, unable to even really feel human.
I will most definitely be mad at myself for the rest of the day. I will know I could have handled the situation better, and I will have to remind myself consistently that there is only so much I can do. It will take everything in my power not to count myself out as worthless. Going to class or work will be a struggle. Getting myself to eat will be a pain. Simple things that normally wouldn’t be an issue, will more than likely become an issue.
After nights like last night, I am entirely unable to just “shake it off” or “start fresh”. I know that regardless of how I reacted, there was some sort of truth behind my feelings. I will spend the day trying to figure out why it is I got as upset as I did, and what I need to be doing to try and make situations like that easier to encounter. My mind will be encapsulated until someone or something is able to shake me out of it.
This takes a lot of energy, which means I will likely be exhausted prior to noon. Every part of me will scream “GO BACK TO BED”. But I know going back to bed is not an option, so I will keep myself excessively busy to try and force the thought out of my mind, leaving me more exhausted by the end of it. My hope lies in the chance that by the end of the day, the exhaustion will put me to sleep before my mind has the chance to go down the same path as the previous night. If not, the cycle will repeat for a couple of days, a couple of weeks, or even possibly, as with what happened last semester, a couple months.
Thankfully this is the first time I’ve been set off in a while, meaning the likelihood of this lasting more than a couple days is slim (Update: Today, I have shaken myself mostly out of the cycle).
Now, to get a couple things clear, this doesn’t happen every time something puts me in a bad mood. It is not as though I am always unable to handle my emotions properly. In fact, I would say 90% of the time or more I believe I handle my emotions and problems in an acceptable way. Often even in an exceptional way. However, the remaining 10% of the time, it becomes a very tiresome and weary battle.
This is ONE of my experiences. It doesn’t reflect every situation, but it reflects some common themes among them. My experiences are not a representative for everyone else’s, but they may help to promote better understanding.
I want to leave you with this: my brain is perfectly okay. Whether it has neurotransmitters that aren’t always being released and received properly does not make it any less than anyone else’s. It doesn’t make me any less of a friend or any less of a person. It does not make me love any less or treat people any less. It simply is a part of who I am. Sometimes I will ask for more understanding when I have really hard nights or days. Sometimes I will need a little help to remember my worth. But that doesn’t mean my brain is not okay, or how I am is not okay. It simply means I have to work to be aware of who I am. But hey, if you ask me, you should be working to do that with or without a diagnosis.
*DISCLAIMER: This post was written over the corse of two days. If the tense changes randomly, it is because it was written at a different time. This post was not meant to be a well written piece of work… It was meant to be a glimpse past the walls I so often put up, and my frame of mind when I find myself in these situations. If it seems jumpy and all over the place, guess what, so am I.*