It's OK to Let Me Be Sad Sometimes With Borderline Personality Disorder
I am tired of receiving the demands:
“Stop being so negative,”
“Don’t be so negative,”
Or the informative, “You have been so negative lately.”
This may come as a surprise to everyone, but I know. I know I have been negative. I know because I feel it. I feel really sad. And I’m struggling.
I’m sorry for the inconvenience it causes, but I can’t switch it off. My brain does not respond to demands to feel better, to look at the bright side, or to count my blessings. These only add shame and guilt to the emotions I’m already carrying. I can be grateful for everything I have and still feel sad. Those feelings are not mutually exclusive. Don’t ask me to be more optimistic; toxic positivity doesn’t help. Everyone feels sad from time to time. We have no obligation to feel happy for the sake of someone else’s comfort. Our feelings are valid and we should be allowed to feel them without shame or guilt.
I’m not sure anyone can switch off being sad, but I learned I have an especially hard time with it because I have an emotional dysregulation disorder, most commonly known as borderline personality disorder (BPD), one that is hard to talk about because it is so misunderstood and misrepresented. I also have other mental illnesses that affect my mood. No, I don’t lean into my “illnesses” or disability, but my diagnoses, despite pushing back on the labels each time I received a new one, helped me understand that at least I’m not alone. Some of us feel things deeply and intensely. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
Let me cry. Let me feel my feelings. The sadness will pass. Just as the periods of joy and euphoria do. But being asked to stop feeling what comes from deep inside me, what feels beyond my control, what I have very valid reasons to be feeling in the first place, are all ineffective at best and damaging at worst. Remind me that I’ve learned tools in therapy. Never stop being present and compassionate with me. Stay with me. But, please, don’t try to force a change on how I’m feeling.
Sadness is not all bad, anyway. It’s better than feeling numb. It’s better than feeling empty. When you feel sad, at least you’re still feeling something. It’s a painful but potent reminder that you’re still very much alive. Like all emotions, it gives you information — information primarily about what matters to you, what you long for, what you wish for, what you no longer have that you realize you valued so much. Don’t take away from me that which I may not be ready to stop feeling. I know it’s hard to see someone you love crying and showing signs of depression. I’m sorry. I’m in pain, too. I just can’t “snap out of it” or “let it go” on your demand, though. The duration of my sadness doesn’t follow your timing. Or mine. Let us be patient with me together.
As the sadness fades away — naturally or by using the tools I’ve learned in therapy (but mostly, it just seems to say goodbye to me on its own terms) — I start feeling hope. By the time the sadness is reaching the revolving door of my emotions, though, I’ve been left with a sort of inspiration, a quickening, an awakening that helps me feel at one with my surroundings. Sometimes, it even fuels my creativity and it always deepens my empathy for others.
As the Brazilian song, “Samba da Benção,” reminds us, even though “it’s better to be joyful than sad; joy is the best thing that exists,” we do “need just a tad bit of sadness” to “make a beautiful Samba.” So, let me be sad. Let me feel my feelings. The sadness will pass and I’ll find a way to turn it into a beautiful Samba.
Please note: Persistent sadness that worsens and does not go away can be a sign of depression and a possible risk factor for suicidal ideation. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideations, please reach out to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 and/or visiting https://988lifeline.org/