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Why BPD Makes It Hard for Me to Be Around Other People's Emotions

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I am a very sensitive person — it’s kind of a main symptom of having borderline personality disorder (BPD). It’s been said that having BPD is really being an “empath” and not knowing how to control your abilities. Everything I’ve read about empaths leads me to believe this could be true.

When I’m around other people, I can feel their energy. I can feel whether they’re happy or unhappy. I can walk into a room and feel whether there’s tension in the air or if everyone is getting along. I can feel in my body whether someone is being authentic or not. When someone is presenting their false self, I feel like I’m crawling out of my skin — my mind goes haywire and I can’t think straight. I am attracted to certain people because of the energy they give off, and I am repelled by others for the same reason.

Having my own identity issues makes it even harder to be around certain people. I feel other people’s emotions so strongly that sometimes, I believe they are my own. Sometimes, a person will walk by me and all of a sudden I feel like I’m going to cry. Other times, being around a friend who is excited will make me feel like I’m on top of the world. Borderline personality disorder magnifies every emotion I have to the point that it’s often debilitating. Sadness becomes despair, anger becomes rage and happiness becomes mania. It’s exhausting to ride these waves of emotion constantly throughout the day.

Due to my past being filled with emotional invalidation, abuse and bullying, my self esteem is very low. I internalize the emotions of others and believe in those moments, I am responsible for having “made” them feel how they do. When someone is angry, I feel it and my BPD takes it and makes it my fault. It looks for any possible reason that this person could be angry with me. It tells me I’m a horrible person for making them so mad. This person may have had a rough day at work or their car broke down, but in that moment, none of those things occur to me. Quickly my mind starts going over every interaction I’ve had with them, seeking out my failure so I can shame myself. I am convinced with my entire being that every emotion someone has is because of me and it’s my job to fix it.

Sometimes my mind can’t find a reason they should be mad at me, so I get angry at them. “How dare they be so angry with me? I’ve done nothing wrong. They are horrible and abusive.” I start to avoid that person because I don’t want to be around someone who gets angry at me for no reason. I push people away because being around the rise and fall of their emotions is already exhausting, but whenever they have a negative emotion, it triggers my shame or inner rage. I am terrified of confrontation so with most people, I won’t even clarify if they’re angry with me. Especially if I’ve tried in the past and they’ve responded with anger in their voice — which is a normal thing to do when you’re angry.

I know this way of thinking isn’t logical. It’s based in fear and a lifetime of things being my fault. I try to be aware of when it’s happening, but it feels so real. It’s extremely difficult to remember other people’s emotions are not my responsibility or my fault. It’s exhausting to try and remind myself I can’t always trust my perception of reality. It’s isolating and lonely to be unable to be around people because I feel their emotions and my own at such an extreme intensity. I hope one day I’ll be better equipped to handle these things, but for now all I can do is try.

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Thinkstock photo via alexandralarina.

Originally published: August 17, 2017
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