…but not as we know it. ”
I can’t remember if that’s an actual line from Star Trek, or one of the ones that’s been made up, but it neatly summarises today’s blog.
Once a week, I want to take a break from writing and talk about my life with BPD. And I reckon people with BPD are a little like the aliens in Star Trek.
Now, I don’t want anyone to get upset by that analogy; please bear with me. I don’t mean it in a nasty manner, after all I have BPD. But, and I’m sure 99% of people with BPD will agree, you feel like an alien most of the time.
Social situations: unbearably stressful because you don’t always know what to say. I don’t know about you, but I either say nothing (just to be on the safe side), or I overcompensate and try to make witty repartee. I generally fail.
School: arguing with teachers because you don’t understand why they can’t see something the way you do. Arguing with your classmates because they’re not following the same set of rules as you.
Home: growing up and getting into trouble for not controlling your emotions the way you “should”.
Relationships: pushing friends and partners away because you can’t handle the emotions they churn up in you. Arguments with your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend over the stupidest little thing; arguments that appear to come out of nowhere. My favourite one with Lovely Boyfriend happened in an Indian restaurant when he gently teased me about my vegetarianism. Five minutes later and he was staring at me, absolutely befuddled, by my intense (over)reaction to his joking.
In all these situations and then some, those of us with BPD feel like aliens amongst the “normal” humans. And that’s because WE ARE.
One thing I’ve learnt from my years of therapy is that I AM DIFFERENT. I don’t choose to have exaggerated and prolonged emotional reactions. I don’t choose to get tearful because Lovely Boyfriend has gently suggested a better way for me to deal with a situation. I don’t choose to lose my rag with The Porglets because it’s been a long day, I’ve put on weight, eaten more chocolate than I should, written less than I should and am feeling tired. I do all those things because MY BRAIN WORKS DIFFERENTLY.
In basic terms, the emotional centre of our brains, takes over and, no matter how hard we try, the rational side CANNOT get a word in edgeways. Everyone has different triggers – for me it’s criticism, or even the merest hint that I can’t do something. The trigger gets pulled and my rational brain walks away with its hands in the air.
Saying that, with a LOT of therapy and practise of “mindfulness” exercises, I’m now able to persuade my rational brain to come back to the table and discuss matters. Not immediately. I have to blow up emotionally first (apologies to Lovely Boyfriend for the many, many times this has happened). But I’ve learnt to spot these moments of intense emotion and recognise them for what they are; my emotionally-driven BPD brain running away with itself.
And, once I’ve recognised the moment for what it is, I can calm it down and invite the rational brain back into the room. What I CAN’T do is alter my brain so it doesn’t happen in the first place. That would be like asking a Romulan to turn into a Vulcan.