Today is probably going to be a relatively short post. Because today my friend is getting married! So I have a ton of stuff to get done. But I want to head towards finishing up this project I’ve been working on where I told myself I’d look at how all the different criteria applied to me. It’s part of me trying to open my eyes a little bit to all the ways BPD has crept into my life.
I’ve got 4 criteria left, but I’m going to explore two of them today because I think for me they are incredibly interlocked. If I discussed them separately, I’d just be doing a lot of repeating what I had already said. And anyway, isn’t that the recurring theme in this little journey that all of it is supremely connected?
Criterion #6: Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
I think what’s most important about this criterion is that it’s been with me for the longest. I have always been the person who feels things at a deep, intense level that far surpasses most of my peers. Too the extreme. It took me what feels like eons to realize that other people didn’t feel things like I did! Which is why I was always confused when others weren’t crying when something felt like it was the end of the world to me. Or why I was confused about how no one else felt so damn angry about the same things I did. Because everything was Earth-shattering. Everything felt like some grandiose change. Even the little things, although I didn’t comprehend that those things were “supposed” to be little.
So I was a sensitive kid. I cried (and still do) often. If I was annoyed, I was annoyed with everyone and everything. If I’m happy, I’m really excited. My mom has always said that I’m easy to please but she’s also told me I’m way too sensitive. I’ve written in previous posts how I was considered dramatic. Well, funny, now I understand it a little better. To others, that’s exactly how it seems. But in my world, I’m reacting with the same intensity that I’m feeling. How could anyone possibly know that though?
The overwhelming intensity of my moods makes them nearly impossible to sit with. The physical sensation of these feelings complicates that. For example, when I’m anxious, it’s like an electrical current runs through my whole body. That can be so intense that I don’t know what to do with myself except try to escape it, which is impossible when now the feelings are in my mind and my body. Sometimes I just have this low lying dysphoria that’s…running through my veins for lack of a better phrase. It’s there and I feel it, this general feeling like something in my life isn’t right and maybe I’m the part of my life that isn’t right. And it’ll be there for hours or days until maybe it’s just not. So for so long, I’ve tried to avoid my moods as much as possible. This is probably part of the impetus for my depression, seeing as I’ve been shaming myself for feeling anxious, sad, mad, etc for about 10 years. If you tell yourself long enough you’re not supposed to feel, you’re going to believe that. But believe it or not, that didn’t stop me from feeling, it just stopped me from accepting the fact that I did. For a typical person, that would be a problem. For me? Disaster.
When I feel anything, I feel like I’m a prisoner to my feelings. I never know how long it’s going to last. My therapist has always tried to remind me that everything is temporary, but that’s the ultimate problem sometimes. I can’t trust myself to stay in any one mood for awhile, which sucks when I’m feeling good or happy about something. I can flip at the smallest trigger: a mistake on my part, the words of someone else, one minor inconvenience. I think the easiest thing to slip into is anger. Which leads me to…
Criterion #8: Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
Like I said, I think this goes hand in hand with extreme moods and mood instability. Anger is a mood after all. But perhaps it is it’s own criteria because the repercussions of expressing anger inappropriately are the most damaging. I can’t really cry myself into trouble, but an angry outburst at the wrong time could be cause for trouble. This happened a lot more when I was a teenager. I remember exploding during gym one day and screaming at a group of people for whatever reason. But when I was with my ex, it used to happen too. My ex could get my temper sky high with little effort.I think there’s something to be said that it was the worst during my only real relationship, where feelings are already more precarious. I’d get so angry that I’d slam my hands into a wall or would just explode and walk away because I couldn’t handle the fury stewing in my stomach.
Probably the hardest part of having such extreme emotions compared to the rest of the world is that I don’t know how I’m supposed to be reacting. I’ve gotten better over the years at knowing when it’s better not to explode into anger, but it’s still difficult to gauge if it’s appropriate to be expressing how I’m feeling at all. For example, if something bothers me, will I face judgement or criticism for communicating that to someone else? Or will I just be perceiving the judgement because I already feel guilt for feeling that way? I’m still working on that and on coping with my extreme moods. It’s become an instinct to flee when what I really need is practice is just getting through them. My therapist wants me to start looking at my extreme feelings in a positive and more accepting manner, but I’m not always quite there yet.
Day by day, my friends.