BPD User Error - Your System Will Shut Down.
A Londoner, living in the North of England with my husband and two young children. I am a 30-something Freelance Writer and lead a busy, busy life. Oh, and I also have Borderline Personality Disorder.
On Twitter as @sjmyles.
On Jottify: http://jottify.com/writer/smyles/
So, there I was, feeling all confident in my understanding of my illness and experience – damping down my symptoms as and when they flared up, like some kind of BPD ninja.
Then came a bad news phone-call.
I’ve received a number of these in my life, as I’m sure most people sadly have. The news that a dear loved one is seriously ill and we cannot predict what will happen. The poorly loved one and their family are several hundred miles away, so action and usefulness in practical terms is not really possible (beyond supportive emails and texts). So we had to just let the news settle in, and try to comprehend it all. There followed about 24 hours of numbness.
The following day, I noticed I was getting ‘snappy’ and short-tempered with the children. They were simply being their usual selves, while my irrational mind was screaming internally “Why are you taking so long to put your shoes on?! Don’t you REALISE what we’re dealing with here?!?!” (Rational mind: “Of course they don’t. They’re 4 and 7 years old and we haven’t told them.”) Noticing my own behaviour like this gave me something to do - concentrating on regulating my emotions.
Based on my experience of my own BPD, I predicted a bumpy few days of trying to stop myself bouncing off the walls and getting back on that balanced tightrope. So I dug in and kept watch for emotional spirals.
Imagine my surprise when everything just ground to a halt. As opposed to the usual extreme explosive emotions, my reaction was sudden, extreme low mood which, for those unfortunate enough to have experienced it, is incredibly frightening. I haven’t experienced it in this way for over a year. Without warning, as if someone has simply flicked a switch: ZERO interest in anything at all. Nothing. No appetite. No emotions. No energy. Why should I? What’s the point? It is a terrifying sensation to suddenly just be a non-entity – entirely disconnected from both yourself and the world around you.
The most powerful skill I have learned, however, is how to recognise what is happening in an objective way. Even though I was so deep into it that I was unable to remind myself of the CBT strategies that can get you through these dark points, I was able to say out loud “This is what is happening.” And crucially, I was able to hear the right people reminding me of the right things. Focus on breathing. Set one easily achievable goal for the day. Focus entirely on the tiny things – not the big scary things. Think only about the next five minutes, not the next six months. Sounds simple, but these are very effective strategies in returning to a functioning state.
A few days on and, firstly, I’m learning the lesson – don’t get too comfy. I may be fairly good at managing my mental health problems, but I certainly don’t have all the answers. Secondly, I’m wondering where it came from, and I have a theory. Emotional dysregulation is a key problem for me, and this has always given rise to unconscious coping strategies – which is where issues such as OCD and dissociation come from. I suspect that, at a time when I am under general stress anyway, receiving news that is emotionally overwhelming led to a safety ‘short-circuit’ as an extreme coping mechanism. A psychological power-cut, if you will. The system is overloaded, and so it shuts down to prevent further damage to the hard-disk.
Now I am installing updates and re-booting.