Thursday, March 9, 2017

They are just words you say?

I have an illness called Borderline Personality Disorder, ("BPD"). I am not just defined by that but it's a huge part of my life. BPD is described by the Mayo Clinic as a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes a pattern of unstable intense relationships, distorted self-image, extreme emotions and impulsiveness. With borderline personality disorder, you have an intense fear of abandonment or instability, and you may have difficulty tolerating being alone. Yet inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though you want to have loving and lasting relationships.

All the emotions I feel are intense, "more intense than normal". All my reactions to my feelings are intense, "more intense than normal". My feelings and emotions are typically either greater than or much less than the "normal persons reactions". My reactive feeling in any given situation may be completely different than yours. When you feel sad, I typically will feel anger instead to mask the sad. I will get incredibly angry while you cry. Because of all this dysregulation people with BPD are always looking for ways to numb their feelings, to tamper down their emotions, to dull their obsessive thoughts that go with both. Addictions are always an issue for people with BPD.

BPD is a bugger is what it is. All my life I haven't felt like I had normal responses to things, to situations, but I was able to control it by sheer will into my mid to late 30s.  Then it became clear that I was not stronger than my own feelings or I was simply too tired to control them anymore.  Either way you look at it, I couldn't hold it in any more. I was sick.

To survive with BPD I have to use DBT (Dialectual Behaviour Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) skills all day long unless I am completely alone and very intensely distracted from my own thoughts and feelings. I see a therapist that specializes in these therapeutic fields every week for an hour and a half to review the previous weeks emotional responses, the skills used to get through the week, and my diary card and journals representing all of it. There may come a time where my therapy might become less intense but most people with BPD are treated at a much earlier age. People with BPD usually present with the symptoms and inability to live with them much earlier than I did. It's very unusual for someone to have kept as much control as I did over my feelings and emotions for as long as I did. Especially to have been as high functioning as I was. That was even more unusual. I spent a good 20 plus years controlling my moods and responses with sheer willpower. The symptoms were still there, self harm, self worth issues, anger, suicidal thinking and disassociation but I managed to get by and then some for years. And then I didn't. Now I have to retrain myself, rewire my brain entirely. I have to undo 20 years of harmful coping mechanisms. I need to stop masking my moods and feel them, react to them, study that and then learn how to live with them using skills and not willpower. Having complete control over any mental illness can only last so long.

Because this is an emotional dysregulation disorder I have a really difficult time with compliments and criticisms. I am sure many of you are thinking, "most of us do". But my entire world can change with just one word, one good word, or one bad word. The funny thing is the only difference in a word being defined as "good" or "bad" is our perception of that word. If we didn't assign words labels of "good" or "bad", we would only see them as letters put together to represent something in the English language. To live with this disorder I have to study my responses to these words, feel them, record them, and try to lessen their impact by exposing myself to them. This is something I am working on with my therapist, exposure therapy. We do daily exposures to situations that have caused me to feel shame, fear, and hurt/sadness. In each of these instances I will revert to anger to avoid these. In the case of compliments I turn to humour to avoid taking in a compliment I cannot understand due to self image issues. In the case of criticism I also revert to anger and lashing out to defend the self image that is so fragile. None of these outcomes are good. I must just learn to take things in stride.

This is where Facebook came in. My therapist and I played a word game to see what words triggered a good or bad response in me. We were curious to see how I reacted and how big the reaction was. It was interesting to learn that for a compliment I have little to no response but for a criticism I have a massive response. To test this further we decided to ask all my friends on Facebook to define me using 3 words. The study will be of my reaction to the words received in response to the request. My next post will get more into what was said in response and how I reacted to them.

I am my own little science experiment I suppose. I am the psychology exam. I cannot begin to tell you how frightening and how embarrassing it was for me to ask people to define me at all. My first emotional trigger was just in the assumption that people wouldn't feel me important enough to respond at all.  Once I posted the request I was immediately terrified that people would send a lot of criticism because of my emotional swings or tailspins.  I was terrified of getting any perceived (by me) "bad word" responses.  Generally speaking I am never not concerned about what people think of me. It never stops. It's all the time, everywhere, with people I know or don't know.  I can be offended just by how someone looks at me even though I have no idea if their look is simple resting bitch face or an actual scowl at me personally.  I assume the latter.  How will I react to bad words being used to define me?  Can I not respond violently to a perceived negative? What about compliments?  Will I believe them?  Listen to them?  Take them to heart?  Will my entire well being change because of a simple one word compliment? Will I become manic or depressed because of either?  It's definitely going to be interesting. I will let you know tomorrow after I've printed it all and reacted to them.

Thanks in advance to all that participate in this or who are just finding the study interesting.  There are over 30 of you so far who have responded.  That's 30 times my heart has stopped today.  Don't worry, I let an aspirin dissolve under my tongue.  I should be okay.  *weak laugh*

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