How Being an ‘Angry Young Man’ Was Actually a Sign of My Borderline Personality Disorder
For the last 18 months, my mental health has been deteriorating. If you’d told me this only two months prior to that period, I’d have laughed.
On reflecting on this period of my life, and with the research I’ve done to compliment my non-existent knowledge of mental health issues, it seems the warning signs began to surface several years prior to now. Up until I was about 16, I was a fairly regular young man, albeit a very shy, awkward and emotional one. I remember being the only boy left on the pitch, crying that we’d lost. I remember an “emo” phase others thought was largely an interest of teen rebellion and, although admittedly the fashion doesn’t wear so well anymore, I was an emotional lad. The music I listened to was, in many ways, an extension of myself. Not just an interest.
By the time I reached 16, I was beginning to experience what has come to be a problem that has plagued my life ever since: uncontrollable fits of anger, often triggered by the smallest of things. That anger, in part fueled by educational underperformance and the inability to keep a close friend for little more than a year, began to search for outlets. An uncontrollable mind and seething anger never more than a scratch beneath the surface began leading me to spend time around people and activities that, to a more balanced person, would be unthinkable. I can only believe I was blind-spotted. Where other people very clearly saw danger, trouble and a road that led to nowhere, I simply couldn’t see it. There were people and things out in the world that brought me such extreme elation. Unleashing the extreme emotions I felt seemed so natural to me that I didn’t realize I had an issue. I simply didn’t see the trouble I was leading myself towards because I was too consumed with venting. Had it not been for my family, I probably would have ended up in a dark place.
By the time I was 18, I realized I was on a spiraling trajectory. Getting into trouble was becoming regular for me. Thankfully, I moved away from those surroundings. Very little changed mentally, however, and without the release I’d come to depend upon, my “acting out” began to internalize. I realized the angst, frustration and confusion I felt couldn’t be released in the way I had done. I had to be more responsible. Those feelings began to change and soon I came to feel isolated, depressed and abandoned. In my first year of university, I was on a form of medication that ruled me out of most social activities. The anger I had used was still there but was just bottled up. I was unable to make friends and too proud, to be honest. The writing was on the wall really.
By the time I was 19, months of wrestling with my feelings and continued isolation spilled over. Intense feelings of abandonment, habitual categorizing of people into hostile groups and inability to understand what was happening led me to explode more than once. By the end of the year, I’d sussed that there was something deeper at work. My irrationality, I realized, was beyond my control and more worryingly was becoming self-destructive.
The last year was hell. I experienced the worst struggle I’d ever gone through. I wouldn’t sleep for days. Weeks surviving on the most minimal portions of food. My hair began to thin and fall out. I drank excessively for days on end and self-harmed more than once. I stopped going into uni for a few weeks and was offered therapy by a lecturer. I put my head in hands and closed my eyes and wished with absolute conviction that when I opened them everything would have disappeared and I’d be floating alone in the universe. My head was flipping between irrational and depressed while I sat alone in my room, wishing it would just shut up. I’d gone from an angry young man who played up to his notorious reputation around school as a bit fractious to wishing I just wouldn’t wake up. It’s sobering even now to think what has happened to me in the space of a couple of years. There still remains, even after everything, a voice in my head that tells me I’m just overreacting and I’m just being soft. In the pas,t I think I’d be more inclined to indulge it.
I’m rarely far away from another episode, unfortunately. It doesn’t take much for my head to become convinced I am and have always been expendable. That my primary function is a stop gap for a year until something better comes along and I’m forgotten again and left in purgatory until I can serve another year.
Realizing the voice in my head is inventing its own world where I’m being manipulated by everyone close to me has been a long and painful process and unlike some other young, angry men, I’ve been lucky enough to realize I can’t trust the way I’m feeling or thinking. My mind is, in many ways, detached. It’s living its own life and seeing its own things. It’s a maddening experience but one I’ve identified.
If there is a particular point to this, it’s that men are not simply trained to understand this. It does not occur to us, in the mindset into which we’ve been raised, to be skeptical of the voices in our heads and while rebuilding different concepts of male identity is only the tip of the iceberg as far as getting men to reach out is concerned, it’s a start. If you can, seek help from your friends. Don’t be disheartened if things don’t work out the first time. There are too many men becoming statistics. I’ve been lucky enough to not become one of them.
Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash