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How Borderline Personality Disorder Amplifies Your Emotions and Tells You Lies

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For weeks, I was struggling with my relationship. I have been married for 13 years, fought through countless struggles with this person and have had two beautiful children with her. For some reason, I wasn’t happy. My mind would drift to those extreme measures unhappy married people resort to. Then I would feel intensely guilty, then suicidal, and back and forth I would go like the pendulum on my grandfather clock. Then the fog would clear after a few weeks, and I was completely (and I can’t emphasize this enough) happy with things. It was a complete 180 degree turn.

I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), and this my reality. I have experienced this swing with my career, hobbies and many other things, mostly because I never learned proper attachment. I have come to realize, however, a lot of my strong swings are results of lies I tell myself, lies that stem from my disorder.  And it’s not just one or two, BPD is a hydra. Thankfully, I’m finally learning from my mistakes by somewhat distinguishing my everyday emotions from the amplified BPD feelings, and I have found some solutions that are working at the moment. So here is the list of lies I tell myself and current solutions I find most helpful:

1. I’ll never be good enough.

One of the results of not having proper attachment is intense self doubt, feeling empty, intense sadness and depression and suicidal thoughts. My internal dialogue is full of negative absolutes like I never get things exactly right, I always screw things up in some way or I’ll never be good enough. The irony is I teach my high school students about not using absolutes in their writing, that words like “always” and “never” are bad words to use, and here I am using them in my internal dialogue. I know better, and yet I still do it. To top it off, with these thoughts, anxiety comes into play… and it’s a feeding frenzy.

Solution: With most of the solutions listed here, it takes a lot of self awareness and distinguishing regular everyday emotions from those of the disorder. For instance, if everyday emotions are blowing snow, the BPD emotions are an avalanche. There is always going to be snow, that’s part of being human, but if I can notice when the momentum is shifting in that snow, I can more frequently escape being swept up in it. So one of those seismic indicators I use is noticing internal dialogue. Just notice it at first. Then I work on changing how I talk about myself. I try to remove the absolutes and make more honest and realistic assessments.

2. I’ll never be happy long term.

If the previous lie poisons the here and now, this one poisons my future. It’s easy with depression, BPD, or many other illnesses to see the future as endless, unceasing challenge and suffering. Again, it’s the thinking in absolutes, and thanks to a certain “Star Wars” movie, we all know the problem with that. Of course it’s intimidating looking up at the mountain one has to climb. My problem is I’m not thinking about the fun I’m going to have along the way, the victories I will have, the things I will learn from my failures and the beauty I will be fortunate enough to behold.

Solution: Here my dialectic behavioral therapy (DBT) has been helpful. Mindfulness is key, enjoying the journey, the moment and each breath. I celebrate when things are good. I focus on enjoying food and loving the people around me. I focus on the beautiful.

3. I will never be good enough for my partner/my relationship will never be good enough.

Confused? Yeah, me too. It’s hard to talk about this. I have been a couple people in my relationship: anxious and doing anything to please in the hopes my partner doesn’t leave me, or the (pardon the term) a@#hole. The latter basically says that if she is going to reject me then I’m going to reject her right back. So I become rude and disrespectful, I fantasize about going outside the marriage, and then I feel guilty… and you’ve heard this part already.

Solution: I apologize now for the string of cliches, but they really do help explain this. I have had to remember love isn’t just around every corner. We’re all complex puzzle pieces. One can find someone else attractive and have similar interests, but it’s still not the right fit. My wife fits me perfectly. She is who I have that magic with. She’s my puzzle piece, and these realizations help clear away any confusion I have about my relationship, dispel the negative thoughts going through my mind and allow me to focus on having positive moments with her and my family.

4. I won’t stay happy with my job or hobbies.

I don’t just swing back and forth about my relationships, but also with my career as a teacher, my side gig as a rock singer, my hobbies and other things. At times, I don’t feel I’m a good enough teacher or singer. I experience anhedonia (not enjoying things I usually do) with hobbies and things in general, which limits my ability to decompress and feel refreshed before a coming work week. I become more stressed, and my issues intensify, feeding on themselves.

Solution: This is a hard one. I’m still working on consistent solutions for this. Again, I have to be self-aware of when things are working and when they aren’t. If I’m playing video games or watching a show and not staying interested, I need to switch gears and try something else like calling a friend, singing, writing or reading a book. BPD can be a dynamic and shifting monster, so I have to react accordingly.

5. I’m damaging my kids.

Of all the lies, this one terrifies me the most. I love my children, and I try to be there for them as much as I can. However, as toddlers that age has a lot of challenges. Every time they throw a fit or become overemotional, I’m worried I’ve done that to them, given how overemotional I get sometimes.

Solution: I have to remember that more than likely it’s just typical of the age they are, and every parent worries about their child’s development, which is infinitely complex in and of itself. They are going to have their strengths and challenges no matter what I do. Of course, I have to be the best parent I can be at the same time, and I’m doing the best I can. Realizing all of this helps diminish my anxiety, so I can focus on being the best parent I can.

6. My best course of action is to not exist.

To live with BPD in my experience is to live with this frequent, out of control fear of losing those we love — so we panic. Some of us with BPD beg or scream at our loved ones; we blow up at our jobs; we impulsively gamble, consume drugs or have sex to cope. Then we feel guilty for doing these things and collapse. The pain we create both in our minds and in the wake of our panic tornado can feel seemingly insurmountable. As a result, BPD has an incredibly high suicide attempt rate at almost 80 percent of those diagnosed, according to Psychology Today. It’s a convincing lie because no one knows how to lie to me better than I do.

Solutions: Again, DBT is crucial here, distractions are helpful sometimes, using mindfulness and radical acceptance, exercise, getting adequate sleep and nutrition, talking to someone, calling the National Suicide Hotline (saved my life a couple times) or going to the hospital. Bottom line, I do something, anything to get myself through that moment. I have come to realize I don’t really want to die. I just want the pain to stop.

Thankfully, I am so lucky to be in that 20% who have not attempted…so far. I have come horrifyingly close though at times. I’m fairly certain it would have been fatal given my plans. Luckily, through sheer determination I didn’t know I had, I have survived. But make no mistake, many of my brothers and sisters fighting this monster have not been so lucky. My heart goes out to all of you, sincerely. I realize too that other people’s experiences are vastly different from my own. I do feel a common thread though is the lies we tell ourselves. We all have our monster. The problem is we can’t kill something that is a part of us. The best we can do is try to understand it, manage it and live with it. I finally have a clearer picture of mine now, and with that, I hope I can keep it under better control.

Getty image by graphicwithart

Originally published: October 21, 2019
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