BPD User Error - Your System Will Shut Down.

by Sarah Myles

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.

Sarah Myles


Sorry to hear you have been struggling, but your self awareness is great and a real inspiration. GL x

Thank you. x

Wow! I love the way you described short circuiting and how you evolve to OCD. I'm sorry you are suffering.

Thank you for your comment. It's just a reminder that I still need to take things one day at a time.

Sarah Myles

I had not had a really bad day for a while, then last week I got hit with two and a half days of self indulging abandonment. It came so hard and fast, that and your story reminds me it is day to day management, or shorter times on a bad day. Thanks for your blog, inspiring!

Sorry to hear you had a bad few days. Hope you're feeling better now. Thank you for your comment - it sounds cheesy to say it means a lot to me, but it really does! smiley

Glad to say this week has been so much better, I have learnt that with BPD you have too take the good with the bad. I have been doing DBT and it has been a life saver!

smiley Glad to hear it! It certainly is a case of learning to ride the rollercoaster. Hope the DBT helps you go from strength to strength. wink

Thanks for reading. x

Sarah Myles

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