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To the People Who Tell Me to 'Calm Down'

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An open letter to family and friends,

OK, let’s be real. Sometimes I can be a little over the top. I get excited easily, I get sad easily, I get mad easily and I get anxious easily. When these emotions hit me from out of the blue, I get hit hard.

Excitement spreads through my bones and makes me want to share it with others. Sadness turns me blue; I cry and withdraw from the world. When I’m mad, I become purple with rage; I rant, rave and gnash my teeth. Anxiety is the most unpredictable mood-changer for me. I never know whether my reaction will be to fight, freeze or flee. However, you can always guarantee the reaction will be over the top. I don’t do quiet anxiety. When it hits, it sends me into a panicky overdrive almost instantly.

I’m sure most of you know this already. But can I ask you a favor? The next time you see or talk to me and I’m clearly riding some sort of emotional roller coaster, don’t tell me to calm down. I know what you’re thinking, that there’s got to be a time and a place where it is appropriate for you to tell me to calm down, right? Wrong.

Telling me to calm down will never get the result you’re hoping for. Quite simply, a verbal request will not get me to calm down. Instead, it triggers my anxiety. I’ll become louder and argue with you, I’ll withdraw from the world and start to panic or I’ll leave frantically, trying to distance myself from you.

I understand it can be frustrating to be around me, especially when I’m riding an emotional rollercoaster. I can get loud and intense. Louder and more intense than I usually am. But please understand that I’m aware of this. In fact, I’m painfully aware of this. I know my expression of emotions isn’t in line with the status-quo. I have borderline personality disorder and it causes frequent mood changes. Many describe borderline by saying people with it have no emotional skin, so when you feel something, you feel it hard.

I’m working on getting better at controlling my emotions. I promise I am. But telling me to calm down is just going to hurt my feelings and trigger another emotional rollercoaster.

Instead, you can listen. You can remind me to be present. Remind me that you care about me, even when I’m at my worst. You can celebrate with me when I’m excited, and you can mourn with me when I’m sad. Do this, and I will be eternally grateful.

Thank you for your patience and understanding,

Your loved one

Unsplash via Kyle Broad

Originally published: November 25, 2018
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