An article describing what BPD feels like was posted on the site and Bon (@bondobbs)
What BPD Feels like
A lot of friends and family members want to understand what the BPD sufferer is going through, but they don’t have a proper understanding of what is actually happening. For the BPD sufferer it is hard to explain what it feels like when honestly, they don’t know exactly what it is that isn’t “normal”. People around the BPD sufferer know that something isn’t right with the person, but quite often the sufferer does not know there is anything wrong, which is why they can attack you when you suggest there may be.
As a BP sufferer myself, I can say that there are definitely times when you can “cope” better than others. But then there are times when it is all you can do to get out of bed. Your emotions can be that out of control that you suffer an emotional pain that is similar to the experience one feels when a loved-one has died, but it doesn’t get better and there is no reason for it. Some people deal with emotional pain in various ways, such as drinking, using drugs, crying all of the time, or becoming angry. It can affect BPD sufferers in different ways, depending on how they usually deal with stressful situations. I know for me I have a strong belief in being non-violent as I know that if I don’t keep my anger in check it can verge on being out of control, so I work extra hard to avoid that.
Unfortunately that means that I will do things like drink or drugs to distract myself, and so I have had addiction problems in the past that I have also had to deal with. This is quite common in BPD personalities, as they try to do whatever it takes to find a way to distract themselves, or ease their pain, for a little while. If they find something that works, even if it is for a little while, then they will latch onto it in the hope that if they do it all of the time the pain will go. This obviously doesn’t work, and provides the BPD sufferer one more thing they need to fix in their life.
At my worst, the ability to think clearly or to make rational decisions is completely gone, and it is almost an impossible task. You can try your hardest to take your time to think about things to make the right choice, but this doesn’t happen. It is unclear whether this is a response to the overload of emotions on the brain or another cause due to this illness, but it is a fact.
Then there is also the other part of BPD which can cause depersonalisation, which can cause huge problems in a person’s life. Depersonalization is when the person experiences a sense of detachment from the self. It is often associated with sleep deprivation or “recreational” drug use. It may be accompanied by “derealization” (where objects in an environment appear altered). Patients sometimes describe depersonalization as feeling like a robot or watching themselves from the outside. It may also involve feelings of numbness or loss of emotional “aliveness.” When I have experienced this it is almost like I have been tricked into thinking I have no feelings for certain things. For example, a few years ago I went through this phase of depersonalization in which I was convinced that I had no feelings (almost overnight) for my partner. Whilst in hospital after a suicide attempt I met someone there, and thought that because I felt something for them that my relationship with my partner must be over, so I split up with my partner. A few weeks later my feelings for my partner kicked back in and I realized that I had made a huge mistake. Luckily for me my partner took me back after this indiscretion, but I know it is the only chance I have. I now understand from this experience that I can’t always trust my emotions, because for me, as a BPD sufferer, they are not all real.
BPD sufferers can also experience bouts of dissociation, which can lead to dissociative amnesia. This means that they will have no memory of what happens when they are in a dissociative state. Dissociation is the state in which, on some level or another, one becomes somewhat removed from “reality”, whether this be daydreaming, performing actions without being fully connected to their performance (“running on automatic”), or other, more disconnected actions. This can be a lot more serious than the usual “automatic pilot” that most people will experience, and can be as a result of depersonalization as well.
Family members and friends say that BPD sufferers have extreme mood swings for no reason, and while this is true to outsiders, the BP sufferer always thinks they have good reasons. They feel like they are only reacting to what the people around them are doing, but this is only because their view of what is happening around them is skewed. Because of the extreme emotional reaction they have to normal events, what may seem small to other people becomes a huge thing in the mind of a BPD sufferer. For example, if my partner looks at me in a weird way, it could mean absolutely nothing on their end, yet I may blow up at my partner because in my mind it means that they are angry at me. The mind of the BPD sufferer makes these kinds of assumptions all of the time – they believe that they are experts in reading people and body language, when in fact they are the exact opposite. And it is when they make these errors in judgment that they react wrongly and overly emotionally, and the friend, partner or family member has no idea why. In our mind it all makes sense, as we tell ourselves we know what is truly going on, when in fact we have no idea.
The fear of abandonment is also a major issue in the life of a BPD sufferer, and this is what can cause most of the issues when it comes to personal relationships, either romantically or not. When starting a new romantic relationship, the BPD sufferer will usually test the potential partner to see whether they will stick around. If the partner passes this test, then the BPD sufferer will latch on and treat that person like they are a God/Goddess so that the other person will fall in love also. Once the BPD sufferer is comfortable with where the other person is at, they may then start to switch between intense bursts of love/hate that confuse the other person. This is not done consciously to torture the other person – in fact, the BPD sufferer has no idea that they are doing it. They are actually responding to perceived events in their own mind which causes them to act this way, even though these acts don’t exist. For example, there are times in my relationship where my mind makes the leap that my partner is cheating on me even when I know in reality that this is not the case. All it takes is for me to experience rejection one night when I make sexual advances, and my emotional response is out of control to try to figure out what the problem is. In my mind it couldn’t actually be that my partner is tired from work and our children – it has to be more than that. So I go into this emotional free-fall until it ends up in an argument where my partner has to defend themselves from something they haven’t even done.
It is extremely difficult for BPD sufferers to have successful relationships, and it is because of our reaction to the fear of abandonment which is the reason why a lot of non-BPD sufferers refuse to have relationships with us. I can certainly understand why, if my partner was always looking for the negative in our relationship instead of just being happy. I know for me if I have times where I recognize that I am happy, it will be quickly followed by me searching for a reason that things are bad as I can’t believe that things are as good as I think they are.
The BPD sufferer can not accept that things are good or happy or uncomplicated – they expect things to go wrong any second and are always searching for any sign of this occurring. It even gets to the point that if they can’t see one then they will make one up (sub consciously of course) so that they can prove themselves right. This can be very frustrating for those around them, as they constantly go through this dance of proving to their partner or loved one that they are not leaving. It eventually gets to the point where the BPD sufferer will push the other person that much that they will leave, and then the BPD sufferer is in some way validated for doubting the person in the first place. It is a no win situation.
Another area in which BPD affects my life is in maintaining focus on areas in my life. For example, I will develop an interest in religion, so I will then have to read books, watch documentaries, live, talk and breath religion until a few weeks later when suddenly this obsession will pass. It also happens in things like career choice. I have started University study four times as each time I start a course I am 100% sure that this is what I want to do, but as soon as I start studying I lose interest so I stop. I have sunk money into so many ridiculous career choices and money making schemes that I guarantee I will commit to, only to have given up when my focus changes to something else. I can get so excited by something only to give up on it after a month or so, and it is just as frustrating for me as it is for those around me.
A lot of BPD sufferers, including myself, have experienced episodes of self harm and suicide attempts. Luckily for me I have never been successful, but unfortunately 10% of all sufferers are. This number should indicate how hopeless, distraught and pained BPD sufferers are. Suicide is not something anyone takes lightly. I know for me, every time I have thought about it, it has been over a long period of time, until finally it gets to the point where it feels like I have no choice. It is not something I rush into. Suicide is only an option to sufferers because they are not thinking clearly, and are having inappropriate reactions (which they can’t control) to events and the environment around them.
To a lot of non-BPD sufferers it can seem like the BPD sufferer is using suicide attempts as a form of manipulation. From my experience, although I can’t speak for everyone, this was never my intention although I can see how it has been interpreted like this. Normally to get the point where suicide is considered the BPD sufferer is experiencing an episode of immense pain for a long time, although sometimes if they can feel one of these episodes coming on they may consider it as a way to stop the torture they are about to sink into. When I have got to the point of actually attempting suicide, for me it has been more about preventing other people from being hurt by me than trying to hurt them by committing suicide. As I have previously said, I can not say that this is true for all sufferers, but I know the majority would feel this way.
Episodes of self harm are also common for BPD sufferers. I have experienced these episodes on many occasions, but for me there is not always one reason as to why I do it. Sometimes it is because I feel so much emotional pain I want to let it out so I try to do it physically, other times it is because I am feeling absolutely no emotion that I want to feel pain so that I know I am still capable of feeling something. Some times it is even because I am almost in a psychotic state that for me it makes sense to cut myself if an angel tells me to. Whether this is what the doctors call true psychosis or not I am not sure, but it can seem real enough at the time. All I know is that the ability to think properly becomes that distorted that things that would normally seem stupid become really good and sensible ideas. You start believing things that could not possibly be true, and can even imagine conversations with people that don’t exist.
BPD affects virtually every area of a sufferer’s life. It affects the decisions they make, how they respond to stimuli in their environment, how they behave towards themselves and other people, and their emotional reactions. I could not imagine anyone choosing to live this lifestyle, as it destroys virtually everything around them. Overcoming BPD is the biggest challenge a sufferer has, but it is possible with a lot of hard work. And to have any semblance of a normal life it is necessary.
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