I may have learnt (and written about!) many techniques and strategies to manage my personality disorder, but that doesn’t mean that I’m magically healed. In reality, it affects me constantly. Because of my frequently shifting and intense moods, and a tendency to mask or mirror the mood of who I’m with, it can be really easy to come across as ‘well’ a lot of the time.
This is probably why it’s hard for people to understand the severity of the lower moods when they come. But you always seem so happy. It’s normal to get upset sometimes.
Although I’d never wish BPD and the living hell it can bring on anyone, I do sometimes think it would just be easier if I could let someone spend 5 minutes in my head and body. It is a constant ache, a constant fear, constant monitoring of my surroundings and a constant longing for more. I don’t even know what more is, but there’s an emptiness that sits under my skin that I can’t shift. A physical sensation — a constant urge for something to provide relief from the void.
Content warning: this post discusses self-harm and binge drinking.
Numbing, Dissociation & Urges
For me, I seem to cycle between a few different things when things are feeling overwhelming. If I’m backed into a corner where I’ve either created a disastrous situation or I’m in an emotional confrontation or I can’t get the help I need, the urges I have will be like a fire in my entire body. I literally ache. And over the years, the urges I have developed are to either hurt myself physically or numb the pain with alcohol or drugs.
Booze was the easiest thing to turn to and I have to admit it is ridiculously hard to cope with my breakdowns without alcohol. But I will get there. I have infinitely more control over my impulses and urges when I am not drunk. But one thing I have found is that without the option of picking up a bottle when things are feeling too much, I still ache for that relief from how I feel, and hurting myself still feels like something I can use to control that.
That is not me condoning self-harm in the slightest. Please reach out for support in one way or another if you are struggling with harming yourself. That is just the reality of how I feel in these moments. Like the only way I can actually let some of this excess of pain out is to implement it physically. It momentarily validates, yet somehow never seems to be enough to match, all the inner agony.
Another coping mechanism my brain has learnt to use in the moments I am feeling my lowest, which I am hoping to work on when I start my full DBT course this year, is dissociation. For example, after I have hurt myself and I feel a state of shock or realise the extent of what I have done, or even if I am really trying hard to fight the urge to hurt myself but my feelings are too intense, or I’m in a situation where I physically can’t drink or hurt myself. I’ve also had periods of dissociation and depersonalisation that have been triggered by really intense panic attacks and have lasted up to 2 weeks.
It feels like my panic and overwhelm builds and builds and builds until it hits a point that the system just overloads and I shut down. Complete numbness and nothingness. A total empty shell, like I’m buzzing just outside of my body and I am unable to think or feel or do anything except stare or do something mundane like binge-watching Netflix. Nothing exists anymore, I can’t feel it.
I can even cycle with this if a situation is ongoing, which is just the absolute worst. I mean it when I say it feels like a living hell. I now have a wealth of self-soothing practises that I can use to help me regulate urges and dissociation a little better, but it is definitely a hard cycle to break.
Daily Life & Spinning Plates
I’m not gonna lie, Living With BPD is fucking hard. Everything feels like I’m constantly spinning plates. Like I just have less ability to function than a human needs. I’m sure that to some extent so many people resonate with this, so I’m truly sorry if modern life is purely overwhelming for you too.
With BPD, the normal fluctuations of emotions and interactions that occur in day-to-day life are processed and amplified in ways that someone without the disorder may not understand.
Staying on top of everything just takes every ounce of energy I have and more, so I live life like an exhausted toddler that’s been kept awake too long — ready for bed, on the verge of tears and ready to scream and shout about it. When one thing goes wrong, if it sets me off too much everything else will come crashing down with it and I’ll have to start from scratch again.
All of these things, I understand, can and will improve as I get my treatment and continue to work on integrating therapy skills into my daily life, navigating my shifts in my mood and learning how to cope a little better.
I also just can’t wait to get on top of my panic and anxiety, as if I’m honest I am not leaving the house very often at all at the moment and do not have the want or urge to because of how intense my anxiety has been. I’m really trying to work new practises into my coping toolbox, so I’m really hopeful for the next year or so when my therapy gets on track. I just wanted to share this little insight into exactly what the reality of BPD feels like for me sometimes.
Note: This is just my experience of Borderline Personality Disorder and will not sum up everyone’s experience. Please feel free to share your experiences or thoughts below. Sending peace and love to all as always.