Experiencing Physical Pain Because of BPD's Heightened Emotions

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

I don’t believe you understand the intensity of the pain I feel as it’s ripping apart my soul. It’s like I’m ripping my own chest open with bare hands, claw marks across my chest, and someone’s grabbing my heart and trying to tear it apart. Like I’m sitting in the darkness, on the floor, clawing at the walls. Like the calm of sitting on the edge of a cliff, watching the stormy seas below and wanting them to just swallow you whole.

It’s like grasping at anything that will take this pain away. I can’t breathe. Make it stop. It’s fucking messy. You want to tear your hair out and self-harm until it all just disappears and you disappear along with it because you’re tired of not belonging in this world, too sensitive and too feeling to survive. You can’t play the game of emotionless zombie — you never could. I wear my heart on my sleeve and this world eats those people alive. I feel like I don’t belong in this world. I never did.

No one ever really tells you about the physical pain that comes with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It was described that I feel emotions more than others, comparable to third-degree burns, but I don’t think you ever realize how physically intense it really is. A trigger can send you spiraling into this darkness that consumes you both physically and mentally, that can take days before the intensity dies down, along with the suicidal thoughts that come along with it because it’s so unbearable.

I wish I could say it gets easier to feel as time goes on, but it doesn’t. Instead, I’ve learned lots of tools through dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to try and cope with the intense physical symptoms that come with feeling heightened emotions. Learning to sit with those physical symptoms and just feel them has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was worth it.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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When BPD Makes You Feel Like 'Too Much'

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I’ve always been “too much.” Too emotional, too loud, too talkative, too loving, too intense.

Even as I child I remember being this way, crying when a voice was raised just slightly out of my comfort zone, crying and uncontrollably apologizing when I had dropped a glass or plate which then smashed. The smallest of accidents I carried with a heavy burden because I believed they were my fault, I had done wrong.

I carried my label of “too much” into high school. Being the loudest and a lot to handle. Creating arguments with teachers and profusely apologizing afterwards because they were safe people who I knew would validate me. Laughing so hard and passionately at a classroom joke for a while after everyone else had stopped because those few minutes of happiness in a world where emotions were forbidden for me, were so euphoric I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Feeling love so deeply that every inch of my being aches with affection I can’t always give to people. Having so much love that ultimately people run away from because I’m “trying too hard” or “trying too much.”

Passion. My fuel. The one thing I know will keep me going, like a car on petrol. If I am not passionate about something, I will not do it. A lot of people have mistaken that for laziness, but it’s the opposite. Sometimes having arguably “too much” passion, having to complete something perfectly, so much that it starts to feed into my OCD.

Although “too much” may be an accurate term to describe me, I know that to someone, someday, my “too much” will be just enough for them. But until then, I believe it’s always best to have to have “too much” than not enough, especially in this world.

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Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.

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20 Unexpected Coping Techniques for People With Borderline Personality Disorder

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When you live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), sometimes traditional coping techniques simply don’t work in the way you want them to. If you are facing thing like emotional instability and fear of abandonment — possibly in addition to trying to explain your experience to others who don’t understand — it can be hard to cope.

We know how difficult living with BPD can be for individuals affected, so we asked members of our mental health community who live with BPD to share one unexpected coping technique they use.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I watch horror movies! Hear me out: my head is just a slew of erratic emotions, so I need to occupy myself with something intense. Horror movies are very intense, and a big distraction, with the end of the movie being a huge sigh of relief from that intensity. It’s a feeling of relief I almost never get any other way. I suppose you could get the same feeling from action films if horror isn’t your thing.” — Morticia A.

2. “Boxing (hitting a heavy bag) has greatly helped with the rage. Lets me get it all out without being destructive.” — Liz T.

3. “It’s silly, but selfies. I struggle a lot with a lack of identity, and even though I really don’t like having my picture taken and feel very awkward taking my own, going through them every once in a while gives me a more realistic and definitive sense of my self and my appearance than what’s in my head, which is too nebulous to make sense of.” — Sissi C.

4. “Humor. When life goes wrong in ridiculous ways all at once, sometimes searching for a way to laugh at something I find upsetting or overwhelming takes away its power over me. Sometimes all you can do is laugh and keep going! It can be a good way to defuse unproductive arguments as well.” — Amy C.

5. “Cleaning. Not even deep cleaning, just small things like a load of laundry or a few dishes. Hard as it is to get myself to do it, it picks me up from a low and slows me down from a high.” — Baylie E.

6. “Cold shower with your clothes on. Sounds [silly] but helps when the emotions are intense and you are having destructive urges. The cold water helps ground the body into reality. The point of having the clothes on is not only to elongate the feeling, but distract after the shower is over. You need to get into warm clothes and such and by the time you have done that, the urge has diminished, if not completely gone.” — Izzy C.

7. “Write lists. I will sit and write lists of everything I have to do, everything that I’ve done, things I would like to buy, ideas I would like to try out, etc., etc. The more things I can fit into a list, the busier and more distracted my mind is. It’s also very grounding and forces me to think about something else and think about myself.” — Kayleigh M.

8. Isolation. It might sound unhealthy but sometimes a little (or a lot) of seclusion is more than comforting, it’s a necessity. Like solo hiking, or going to a quiet library and reading an entire book, or a long drive that takes all day, or even just locking yourself in your room and watching ‘Game of Thrones or ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ all day. Resets the batteries. It’s like my soul is taking a deep breathe and exhaling slowly, so when I go back to the world and people, it’s not as impossible to respond to life with rational, logical reactions.” — Destiney B.

9. “To be honest, doing a kind deed really helps me.. Especially if it’s for someone who can’t do anything for me in return. I don’t know why… but something about doing a kind deed calms me down.” — Maha D.

10. “You know, there are a lot of unexpected things BPD does to a person’s mind, so there are a lot of unexpected things I do when I’m in those intense moments. My favorite one is going on impulse runs. I’ll just go and run in whichever direction my mind wants me to and I’ll keep going until I finally feel the relief from within and walk all the way back home while doing mindfulness exercises. Nothing helps release the negative energy more than that for me.” — Sami S.

11. “Writing down my opinions, dreams and thoughts during my highs, and reading them during my lows. As hard as it is I have to remember the lows don’t last too long and it’s just something I have to deal with and can’t change. Knowing how strong it has and will make me and remembering who I truly am always helps.” — Nyle O.

12. “Dance it out. I know people know it as a ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ thing but I have been doing it most of my life.” — Kristi T.

13. “Writing poetry. It’s the only way I can get out what I’m feeling/going through and it helps me clarify exactly what’s going on.” — Victoria S.

14.I have a hair elastic on my wrist and I snap it — it helps me focus back into reality when I’m feeling out of it.” — Amanda R.

15. “I go into my room and make it as dark as I can get it and lay down with my animals and listen to silence. Darkness has always had a very calming affect on me and silence is very soothing.” — TJ G.

16. “I constantly find myself tapping my fingers, like thumb to pointer then thumb to middle thumb to ring thumb to pinky and then back the other way. It helps me stay focused. It’s also a good way to warm your hands up in the winter lol.” — James S.

17. “Writing letters to people I never intend to send. That way I say all the things on my mind uncensored without causing conflict.” — Anastasia A.

18. “I watch cute animal videos and cat gifs… anything that’ll make me smile and say, ‘Aww.’” — Emma H.

19. “If I’m triggered or upset, instead of blowing up and doing something impulsive, I try to separate myself from the issue and wait to deal with the situation for about 20, 30 minutes or even an hour. That way I can actually think before I act. My emotions control my behavior, waiting helps me calm down and think of alternative solutions instead of blowing up and causing a mess like I usually do.” — Erica M.

20. “Strange as it may seem, I put on pro wrestling.” — Travis M.

What would you add?

Thinkstock photo via aelitta.

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Build-A-Girl Workshop: The Making of My Identity With BPD

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Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Fortunately for him, he probably knew what it meant to be himself. I don’t think I ever knew who I was aside from being bits and pieces of other people.

Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can involve identity struggles. For me, this means having a personality dependent on traits I’ve picked up from other people. When someone is speaking to me, they’re also speaking to everyone who I’ve recently interacted with. My open mind has no bouncer to control who influences me. Instead, the collage of aesthetics, beliefs and habits that make me who I am are curated from an unlimited variety of sources. Through casual interactions, I am designed and presented as what some people would call an individual.

The process of building my personality is quite simple. Like a limp carcass at Build-A-Bear Workshop, I begin as an empty body, waiting to be stuffed. Before I am stuffed, I’m fluffed up with some minor alterations to my clean canvas. I paint my hair with the dye my sister’s passion stems from. She resents that the spotlight is moved away from her budding career and onto my aqua hair that looks “so original.” My sister knows better. She did it first. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have even known where to purchase the bottle of dye in the first place. My sloppy makeup pays a poor tribute to my friend’s girlfriend, whose winged eyeliner is sharp enough to cut through glass. My lines are dull, like an overused pencil that hasn’t seen fresh graphite in weeks. Thankfully, she showed me how she wings her eyeliner so beautifully, so I can eventually rip off her style effectively.

My seams are opened wide enough to fill me with every bit of stuffing that will fit into me. Some feminist ideology is pushed into my head (but of course, it’s only my communication professor’s version of feminism). There’s still some room to squeeze Wicca, Judaism and Unitarian Universalism into the remaining space. I was told they would change my life, so they must be worth giving a try. Despite all of that, atheism manages to make its way into my mind. God doesn’t exist, but He will still make my life whole. Contradictions make my belief system whole, with my opinions changing every time someone brings up a new idea. There is always room in my head for more stuffing, even though I’m already stuffed enough up there. A few more concepts to consider won’t hurt.

My stomach is stuffed next. I am always taking stuffing out and putting it back in based on how much stuffing is inside of the women on my Instagram feed. When being big feels beautiful, I’m stuffed with my favorite cuisines. When the models at my height weigh lighter than me, stuffing is removed. Sometimes, I see a PETA video on Facebook, and my stuffing is replaced with tofu and vegetables. Once I read the comments section of the video, I’ll find some criticism of that lifestyle, and will put the chicken back inside of my stomach.

A few silky, plush hearts are placed inside my chest. One heart is filled with my friends’ opinions of others. My first roommate in college decided the guy who hung out with us in the dining hall was someone who should annoy me. Even though the guy sitting next to me in my drama class never gave me any problems, he’s apparently a terrible person. My classmates told me so, and therefore, he is to be avoided. Apparently, Quentin Tarantino is racist, but I haven’t watched any of his films or listened to any of his interviews. My professor said it, so it must be true. Another heart is filled with half-assed hobbies that were inspired by others. I was never a fan of anime until my crush in high school started watching it. He didn’t even offer to share it with me; I simply decided that passion was also mine. When we started dating, he complained he wanted to have just one hobby I didn’t try to pick up as well. Thankfully, my current boyfriend doesn’t seem to mind I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan by proxy, even though I’ve never watched a game and know nothing about the Premier League. All I know is that, apparently, I dislike Arsenal. My cousin’s performance in a local production of Annie lead to my audition for a drama program at school. Nobody celebrated my acceptance, since they all knew I only tried out to copy my more successful cousin. The third and final heart contains the wishes that other people have for me. Apparently, I wish I would finish college. I guess I also wish I’d marry a nice Jewish man with an upper-middle-class upbringing. I don’t even know if these are things I truly want, but I don’t know anything else to strive for that hasn’t been suggested to me.

In my foot, a voice box contains phrases that are repeated when you squeeze the limb. My friend Tom recorded the word “groovy,” and it’s now my response to everything that sounds pleasant. My other friend Barbie recorded a joke I now recite whenever it’s relevant. New catchphrases are recorded into the voice box every couple of months, and they get added to the cycle of rhetoric I stole from others.

Eventually, I’m sewn up. A little bit of room is left to add more stuffing as needed. Besides, it needs to be easy to take out the stitches to add to my curated being. My full form is taken to a clothing store to complete my aesthetic. I steal a little bit from my sister’s closet, and a little bit from my best friend’s closet. My friend and I have different body types, but I still wear her clothes. They don’t flatter me quite as well as they flatter her. They’re probably not supposed to. At the end of my shopping spree, I walk out of the mall dressed like Hot Topic and Forever 21 had a baby. My T-shirt has a quote on it from a movie I never saw. I just thought it looked cool.

Borderline personality disorder has left me with no true personality of my own. Whatever the mess is I’ve created right now will be replaced with a brand new set of traits in about a year. When my therapist tells me to just be myself, I roll my eyes and sigh. Without everyone else’s personalities stuffed inside of me, it makes me feel bare.

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Unsplash photo via Alex Blăjan

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Dealing With the Distorted Narrative of Borderline Personality Disorder

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For me, having borderline personality disorder (BPD) means there is a constant running dialogue in my head that doesn’t belong to my true self. This voice tells me I’m ugly, I’m fat and unworthy of love. It tells me I look like a man or a troll and I should be ashamed of myself. This voice has me convinced that I am a horrible person at my core, and as soon as someone gets to know the real me, they’ll see how awful I am and they’ll leave. Not believing this voice is a battle I fight every day.

I think I’d be able to manage better if this was the only way the voice affected me, but it’s not. This voice chimes in constantly with every interaction I have with someone else. It narrates every situation and tells me what people “really” mean when they say or do things. When someone is kind to me, the voice says they’re trying to manipulate me or they’re being fake. When my friends say they miss me and want to see me, the voice says they only spend time with me out of pity. When my partner tells me he’s proud of me, the voice says he only does so to satisfy my narcissistic need for approval.

Being around friends and family is incredibly difficult with this running dialogue inside my head. No one can see it happening, and yet I react to it as if it’s real. I forget it’s my disorder talking and I feel like everyone is truly out to get me. Because of this voice, I require a lot of reassurance in relationships. I need to hear my partner tell me he really does love me and isn’t trying to hurt me. I need him to tell me I’m safe and he isn’t manipulating me. Addressing the voice like that makes it go away temporarily, but it always comes back.

I’m slowly learning how to combat the voice by reassuring myself and choosing to trust in the people I love. It helps to remind myself that it’s not possible for everyone to be against me, and that most people don’t pretend to care about someone if they don’t.

Life is full of uncertainty and trusting others is an extremely difficult thing to do, especially if you’ve been hurt as much as I have. The voice in my head is simply making assumptions based on that hurt. That’s all they are — assumptions. They are the worst possible scenario painted as the most likely. But at the end of the day, they’re not facts.

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Thinkstock photo via pecaphoto77

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We Need to Talk About Mental Health in the Asian-American Community

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by clicking “chat now” or calling  1-800-799-7233.

“You’re supposed to be the doctor, not the patient!” My father spat, disgusted.

I stared blankly into the tiled floors of the hospital, disassociating, as people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) sometimes do. 

“Is this what you want to be like?” my father gestured around the room, completely ignoring the other teenagers with their parents waiting to be checked into the psychiatric ward.

I crumbled and tried to will myself to sink impossibly deeper into my chair.

“Wong!” Finally, a nurse had called for me. I was ready to get away from my father.

“You tell them you are fine,” my father hissed in Cantonese, grabbing my arm as I stood up. “You tell them this is all a mistake and don’t take any medicine they give you.” 

This memory burned itself into my mind, after that day. 

Asian immigrants come to this country with the clothes on their backs, their passports and maybe enough money to get to their first destination. They can spend years working illegally in nail shops, salons, restaurants, getting paid under the table well below minimum wage. Several families get crammed together in the run down apartments of Chinatown where they all try to make ends meet.

This was the American dream.

Naturally, a lot of Asian parents push their children to do better. What’s a life of servitude, picking toe jam out of other people’s feet?

In my experience, each Asian-American child was like a racehorse, bred to become a lawyer, a doctor or a politician. Asian-American children I knew went to school, went to after-school school and then went to Saturday and Sunday school for more work. When homework from all of these schools were finished, you had a personal textbook for the next grade up to do, ensuring you were ahead of your classmates.

Being “average” meant you could choose a belt from your father’s closet. Choose which one you’d like your whipping with today.

Getting an “A”meant you needed to be disciplined and told you weren’t good enough, because you didn’t get an A+. 

And yet, here I was, straight “A” student, member of the school choir, member of the ROTC, AP classes, set for college and instead of skipping the next grade or applying for a more prestigious school, I was laying in a psychiatric ward’s bed with both arms bandaged from a suicide attempt. 

“I can see why you were diagnosed with borderline personality disorder,” the doctor said, when it was finally my turn to be seen. He flipped through my file quickly, reading the notes from my last hospitalization. “Do your parents still beat you?”

“No.” But they tell me I’m useless and pathetic every day of my life, not that I’m going to tell you that because that’s not actually considered abuse, right?

“May I?” he asked, gesturing to my bandaged arms.

I held them both out in front of him.

He delicately opened one of my bandages. “Oh my…” he said, “And what was the reason you wanted to end your life?”

I seriously debated over what answer I wanted to give him. My parents told them it was because a boy had broken my heart but no… that wasn’t the truth. The truth would have taken hours, some backstory and lots of screaming, but he only had five more minutes with me before he needed to move on to the next patient.

“I just don’t want to be alive anymore,” I said.

“Do you have a specific reason?” 

“Because life sucks.”

“Is this because of a boy?” He asked.

I wish. I wish this was all because of a boy. 

My parents, who were high school sweethearts, were still married. No history of drug or alcohol abuse. No previous arrests, except for a little visit from Child Protective Services. They were legal immigrants paying taxes. A child from that kind of home has no business taking up space in a psychiatric ward. 

In less than a month, I was released with a prescription for antidepressants and antipsychotics, that my parents insisted I didn’t need. I had taken them previously and they had shamed me over and over for being so weak for needing Western medicine to fix something that was all in my head.

When their friends would inquire about where I had been, my parents would tell them I had poor health. It’s much easier to say that your child is chronically ill rather than mentally ill, apparently.

And they would always remind me… it was all in my head. It was mental weakness not mental illness.

Yet, despite the fact I no longer speak to them and I’m completely estranged from my family, I do feel sympathy for them.

For Asian-Americans, this is a culture — and no, I am not using culture as an excuse to treat your children terribly. My parents were beaten by their parents, and their parents were beaten by their parents. You had to be strict with your children to protect them.

I had asked my mother once why she had never expressed love and affection towards me, to which she said, “This is just the Chinese way.” She accepted it and she never questioned it.

My parents have always been cold, physically violent and emotionally abusive — not only towards me but even towards each other. I’ve never seen my parents hug, kiss or even show a shred of romantic love for each other.

To them, there was no such thing as mental illness. Where they come from, everyone is violent. They were taught it was OK to use violence to teach a lesson. It was accepted because everyone in the neighborhood practiced it. The children were brought up with this being the norm.

Their children (Asian-Americans like me) are often left with the burden of trying to honor our parents and more importantly, our culture. We try to hang on to what we can of our identity, because we’re sometimes not accepted as a “true minority” while we’re not white either. We try to find some way to still be Asian — speaking the native tongue, learning cultural rites, eating the foods of our people — while our parents force us to assimilate, learn English and blend in with the Americans.

And some of us become lost. 

We get the straight A’s, learn how to play piano, become this model student tutoring our peers and yet, Asian-American women have a higher lifetime rate of suicidal thoughts than the general population.

But we don’t talk about it.

We’re told mental illness doesn’t exist in our culture and we have no idea where to begin.

Where do we get help?

Who will listen to us when we are the oxymoronic example of being “high-functioning,” yet fucked up? 

What about the shame that we bring to our family who risked everything to come to this country? 

I have two sons now, little boys, who will one day grow up to be Asian-American men. I struggle every day with trying to figure out how to best show them love and affection and discipline them in more appropriate ways, completely different from my upbringing.

For their sake, I try to take guesses on how I can break the cultural cycle of violence, abuse and silence.

 And what if my sons do have borderline personality disorder (BPD) or suicidal ideation like I do? What if they begin harming themselves the way I did? How do I spark the conversation that the Asian-American community so desperately needs to have?

I’m still trying to figure that out… This is something that we, as the Asian-American community, need to talk about.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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Unsplash photo via Larm_Rmah.

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