In the search for people to write posts on their lived experiences with mental illness, one of the ladies who agreed to share her story is Tegan. She was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and describes the experience as feeling her emotions without her skin on. If you’ve ever had a wound on your arm where the skin has been torn off, you’ll know how tender, raw and painful it feels. Now imagine all of your emotions without their skin. You get hit with everything at once. It’s really intense, and you don’t have any skills to deal with it. You get so many emotions that you can’t even decipher or make sense of them.
So how do you cope?
I would imagine that your survival instincts (remember that Neanderthal man who Sam talked about in the anxiety posts) would kick in. Your brain would narrow your focus to one simple thing. Survival. All those emotions at once would be really overwhelming. You’d probably panic. And then do anything that you could possibly think of to stop it all. You’d feel so overwhelmed and panicked that you’d choose the first thing to enter your head, whatever that may be.
As I mentioned in the last post, it is very common for people with personality disorders to have had a history of trauma or abuse. So it is very likely that you would feel really crappy about yourself. You might even hate yourself so much that you feel like you need to be punished. So the strategies you’re likely to turn to will be things like hurting yourself. It could be with food or it could be with alcohol. Or even with drugs, cigarettes or razor blades (burning or cutting yourself). Anything to relieve the pain you feel inside. Even suicide.
And when people try to help, you reject their advances because you feel like you need to push them away before they abandon you (which is what you feel you deserve). And this confirms your belief so you push people away even more, by using any means necessary. You argue with people, yell, scream, insult, push, shove, steal. And so on.
And then you feel even worse about yourself because you know that kind of behaviour isn’t what you should be doing. So you increase your efforts to punish yourself. You would be unlikely to recognise much good in your life. You might meet someone and marry, but because of how you feel about yourself, the relationship is likely to be full of arguments and bad feelings. Parenting would also be a huge challenge. As would your work relationships.
If you’re lucky though, you will reach a point, like Tegan, where you acknowledge that you can no longer live that way. And so, after many false starts, you begin a very long, slow journey to make changes in your life. You seek professional support from a psychiatrist and psychologist skilled in working with BPD.
Stay tuned to hear from two very brave women, Tegan and Kaye, about what it is like to really live with BPD.
Comments on: "Personality and Disorders – Part 2" (6)
I have found one of the best ways to describe borderline to people who don’t understand is to tell them about the emotional instability. Due to the stigma that BPD receives in the media, a lot of people think that someone who has it is nothing more than a manipulative cow who will only cause you harm. That may be true for those who do not seek help but I have a couple of friends who have it and they are the most caring, beautiful people that I know.
Borderline is like walking around with no skin on, with a giant volcano bubbling away inside. Anger is a huge issue for me, I push it down until it comes spewing out, usually at the wrong time and with unwanted consequences. It is only through years of learning how to regulate my own emotions, of learning how to act ‘normal’ that I have been able to appear to be high functioning. These emotions and the way that I react to them is something that I will have to work on for the rest of my life, but the moments of clarity and wellness show me that I can do it. They show me that it is worth it.
Once I learned to be my wife’s safe haven it made all the difference in her healing progress with d.i.d. because I could help the mitigate the huge emotional storms that accompany that process.
Sam it sounds like you’ve made a huge difference to your wife’s recovery. It’s a tough job to take on and I admire your willingness to do it. I’d love to discuss what kind of self-care routine do you have for yourself if you’re willing?
Self care? Well for me I journal like crazy; it’s definitely helped me keep my sanity in a very difficult situation and also figure out what makes me tick so I could deal with my own issues so that I stopped complicating a difficult-enough situation. I also have a little blog that is an outlet for me. I had hoped to attract other spouses/so’s, but they never stick around too long..maybe they are just as overwhelmed as I am trying to help their spouse/so heal and such. And I meet with an uncle who lives in town with me. He doesn’t totally get it, but he gets it enough that I can talk to him just about day to day life and such.
The first couple of years were EXTREMELY difficult: I felt like I was in a trauma ward as the others came out and I had to help them heal and acclimate to their new life with me and our son. But now things are better…still far from perfect…still hard…but I’m not in constant hyper-alert trying to keep them safe and such. And now, sometimes, they even try to reciprocate in our relationship which helps.
Some of the things I used to do, I’ve had to stop doing as I put their healing above non-essentials. I miss those things, but I’m hoping when we are thru this healing journey that there will be the ‘pay off’ of a healthy wife: something I’ve never had in our 26 years of marriage. I have to be careful and not wish for what my wife simply isn’t able to do at this moment; but she(they) have come a long way and sometimes I see the hint of a ‘light at the end of this tunnel.’
Wow, it sounds like it can be super difficult living in your own skin sometimes! Being on hyper-alert on a constant basis can be extremely traumatic! Not only are you faced with constant trauma as you witness your wife’s experiences, but also as her behaviour becomes erratic as other personalities surface.
I’m so pleased that you have found some things that really work for you and I wish you the best as you continue your journey and help her heal.
Those “non-essential” things can sometimes become essential if they are things that provide you with the time out to breathe and regroup. It does sounds like you have found somewhat of a balance though, which is great.
And I commend your wife! From what you describe it sounds like she has put in a huge effort in healing from those wounds. She has incredible amounts of courage, commitment and determination to be able to do that, and it sounds like it is made a lot easier with your support.
If you are ok with me doing so, I’d like to share your blog on my social media. I have a small network of other bloggers and many of them have their own experiences with mental health.
I’d love to keep in touch 🙂
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Thank you for all your kind comments. You are welcome to share my blog. Thank you for doing so.
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