"During the course of her admission, it became clear to the clinical treatment team that she was suffering from a Borderline Personality Disorder, (BPD). Her presentation was quite unusual, probably due to the fact that she has numerous protective factors, including a remarkably high intelligence. As a result, the phenomenology of her BPD presents in a rather unique way. Nicolle experiences frequent periods of emotional dysregulation, frequently triggered by situations which she interprets as abandonment, loss or rejection. Her behaviours associated with desperate attempts to escape this experience have in the past included: binge eating, sex, drugs and alcohol, tasks which were totally consuming including her previous career, and anger bordering on rage".
Well that just about sums me up doesn't it?
I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Damn it. Because Bi Polar wasn't enough?
Most people suffer from BPD in some form or another. If there has been any trauma at all in a person's life, most likely there is some BPD at play. For example; a person of adoption can disassociate from love, not trusting it, as they feel a deep sense of being unloved/unlovable, having been "given away". A woman who has been raped will most likely disassociate during sex. And most definitely these women will find themselves responding unusually to certain scents, hair colour, even the race of a man based solely on their negative experience in the past. Children of divorce believe in their hearts that parents, people who are supposed to love them, leave. An abused woman will have a hyper vigilant reaction to perceived threats to her safety. She will either fight disproportionately or flight at the perception of the threat, before it is even present. These are all forms of Borderline Personality Disorder. They can be small, minuscule changes you have made to adapt to your current environment or large changes to disassociate from the same. In almost all cases, we never know we have BPD, we just know what we don't like or what makes us insecure, makes us feel threatened. We don't realize we have re-conditioned ourselves to protect ourselves from pain. Our brain will do anything not to experience pain. And once it has, the brain will do whatever it can to avoid the same type of pain again.
This had been mentioned to me before and I didn’t really listen to it. It freaked me out a bit to hear those words. No one wants to hear they are THAT crazy ( we can say "crazy" having been in a Mental Institution, we (the patients) decided that in there). Automatically a person thinks that there are multiple personalities at play. But like I said, it’s not actually that. You don't call out "Nicolle" and I turn a blank face because at the moment my name is "Sybil". Borderline means a person that has personality traits they’ve created to deal with stress, trauma, pain etc. I learned a lot more about this during my two month stay and it’s definitely me. It all makes sense now. Even some of the highs and lows and matching them to circumstance, the environment I was in at the time, makes more sense in some cases than even the Bi Polar does. I developed traits over time, defences, reactions and behaviours that happen automatically. They are how I behave when events trigger feelings related to my childhood. I don't even realize it sometimes. That I am back there, as a child. I simply have automatic thoughts based on a warped core belief system I developed as a broken child. Then I behave accordingly. They are typically damaging behaviours, unhealthy.
To see this in action, all you have to do is hurt my feelings. Do something that might make me think I am less than important, and then sit back and watch me explode in rage, sometimes an almost uncontrollable rage. It’s not a normal reaction to the current situation but in fact my reaction to my past. Therefore most of the time the current situation is almost forgotten and my reaction totally out of proportion to the now. It's because I am not there, not present in the now at all. This controls me, a lot. If I feel insecure, I feel rage or shut off completely. I feel nothing. I am cold, ice cold. My husband says it’s like I am turned right off, that I feel nothing. And in fact that’s true. When I feel exposed I can turn off so much that I don’t care about anything. And other times, if I feel vulnerable to potential pain, I can become bigger than life, very aggressive. There’s a million more of these traits but the result of this hospital stay was, I am now aware of all this.
Borderline Personality Disorder is totally curable. I can actually be cured from BPD, I just have to do a lot of work. I have to stop and think about my reaction and whether it’s “normal”, proportionate or not. Is my reaction related to the current issue or the past? Is it based on my warped core belief system, or healthy?
It was something to really see this at play in the hospital when a few patients came in with anger management, aggression, issues. I felt threatened, even though nothing was directed at me. I became very manic, and very aggressive. I had serious game but it was very angry game. In a class on problem solving I said, “punch them in the face” as my response to how to solve a problem. I felt very out of control with my responses but they just kept coming, like I said before, uncontrollably. Don’t get me wrong, the class was in hysterics but I was out of control. Then, within an hour of the class, I got called into an emergency appointment with the doctor, my nurse, and the occupational therapist asking if I was okay. I realized that I was feeling really vulnerable due to the expensive therapy into my childhood and these new patients. Both left me feeling exposed so I was being aggressive in response. Like a dog showing its hackles, I got bigger than life in response to potential harm. I was in threatened physically as a child, I felt scared as a child. Damned if I was going to be scared as an adult. HELLS TO THE NO!
I have been referred to multiple (no pun intended) Doctors that specialize in BPD and a therapy called Dialectual Behaviour Therapy. It’s basically having to rewire your brain from its auto pilot. We, or I, auto pilot to the past. I need to turn this off and be present. To have more current and realistic behaviours based on the now. I did some CBT in the hospital (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and I really enjoyed it. I liked the teachings but even more, I really learned a lot about myself and my auto thinking. My auto thinking is very self deprecating, very self loathing, and very much based on my childhood where I deemed myself unlovable. When my father left abruptly and my Mom then checked out mentally I determined not only was it my fault but that I was unlovable therefore this is what happened(s) to me. Because of who I am, people leave. My own parents didn't know how to love me, didn’t appreciate me, or value me. And of course if THEY don’t, then why should I? So I have a lot of work left to do. But I am working on it now. I have been since about weekend 4 of 8 in the hospital. I quickly realized my auto thinking and feelings are warped and need work. Work I can and am willing to do.
BPD comes from trauma and as much as we’d like to deny it or say, “get on with it”, “get over it”, a person has to go back and look at their childhood and see where their being may have been altered. Where normal patterns of growth and development might have been adjusted incorrectly, not appropriately. Did you know that from the ages of 12-18 a person does more brain development and growth than in all the other years combined that they are alive? When I was 12 my father left suddenly and abruptly, and was gone for years. He was my best friend. I lost my protector, and hero. And then my Mom neglected and abused me in his absence. It’s just a fact. I don't need to emotionally reinvest in that time, it is what it is. It happened, I cannot change it, accept it I must. As much as my father appears now when needed, (as he inevitably always does), it will never fix the damaged little girl inside me. Only I CAN do that. I have to reassure her and fix her. Then add to that the mess I lived in with my Mom, the anger, neglect and abuse that was our relationship, and I basically turned off as a child. I did what I needed to do to survive but I have never stopped “surviving” versus living. Don’t get me wrong, I have had happy times. Times where I let go of the past and live in the moment but it doesn't take much to push me back to my old ways.
Because BPD is almost always brought on by trauma. We need to define "trauma". Trauma is stress like situations that are not normal everyday situations. Not normal stressors. Not the "every day". Accidents, crime, deaths, abuse of any kind, are all traumas. Think of the people and families left behind after 9/11. They all suffer from trauma. Extreme trauma. Many of them probably can barely make it through September 11th every year. A lot of time people who deem their lives at some point so laden with stress block their memories. Sometimes they filter and block only the bad. Sometimes the good goes with the bad. I do not have solid memories of my entire childhood and many years after. That time period was of such high stress my brain stopped working properly for memory storage. My brain doesn’t know exactly when to store something so in emotional situations, it barely stores anything. I can remember an entire book I read but if you insert any emotional response in me I remember NOTHING. Honest to shit, I remember almost nothing at my Mother's house but weird flashes of bad stuff. Really bad stuff. Not how a kid should grow up. Insert “survival” techniques here.
Now add in the fact I have a really high intelligence. My brain barely, if ever, slows down. I have a practical photographic memory for things I’ve read (things of an unemotional nature). I remember client phone numbers and accounts from 1989. I have empathy that’s unrivaled. I cannot walk past someone in pain and not only help them, but I feel their pain. I am extremely hyper vigilant. So much so that I see and hear everything around me. I am hyper sensitive to all. Let's summarize shall we. I am very smart. My brain is always firing, thinking of a response or comment to all the things I hear. My hearing is so great that I cannot bring in normal clocks around the house and the clicking sound of the hands will compete with all other sounds. I can remember anything I have read or written, unless I had an emotional response to it, then it's completely blank. I feel everyones pain around me and want to help, obsessively so. I do not miss anything. I see and hear everything. If you ask me what someone was wearing from a day ago I can tell you, unless, I felt an emotional pull, then there's nothing. If that person needed me or was in pain, I will feel it all. I just might not remember it. Doesn't that sound fun? The doctor at the hospital was surprised I made it this long without more serious self harm.
Whew, that was a mouthful. I am tired now. I think this writing deserves a nap, don't you?
So how about you? Got any abnormal reactions and behaviours to normal situations that seem out of proportion? Come on, the line up begins right behind me. I will make cookies.