stigma posts

BPD A-Z: EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION

April 19, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

ebony-nash-bpd-emotional-dysregulation

TRIGGER WARNING: mention of suicidal behaviours

Ever have one of those days where just abso-bloody-lutely everything seems to be going awry and you can’t help but get sucked into a seething mood? A mood that no chocolate, Netflix marathons (not even Queer Eye), or depths of bubble bath can cure? I often write that some elements of BPD are akin to the behaviours of ‘neurotypicals’ – but on hefty dose of acid and speed – which is where we come to the symptom of emotional dysregulation.

When a regular person experiences a debilitatingly irksome mood, it’s a complete pain in the arse but, it will eventually pass as seamlessly as it arose. However, factor a BPD sufferer into that scenario and we could be hitting a potential danger-zone.

With Borderline Personality Disorder, that feeling of being annoyed quickly becomes creeping anger, which then takes off like wild fire – where every perceived slight or issue elevates us until we’re seething in red mist – with no quick fix to anchor us back down to earth. The only way to clear the red mist is to do something reckless and/or self-destructive or, once regulation skills have been learned, by waiting until it passes through the use of distractions (also known as ‘mindfulness’ in DBT terms).

When we factor in the impulsivity issues that are synonymous with BPD; this often proves dangerous. Self-harming, substance abuse, overspending and risky sex are but a few avenues we launch ourselves down when these moods become too much to bear.

Given our inability to self-soothe and regulate our emotions pre-therapy, we often tend to feel like these unpleasant feelings are never going to pass – which can be said for both depressed and positive moods.

This dysregulation can also present in ‘good’ moods that ascend into mania. When this happens, the BPD sufferer may feel as though they’re completely on top of the world – and that they can no longer recall ever even feeling depressed. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that we’re never going to come back down; we’ll never feel sad again.

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BPD A-Z: DISSOCIATION

March 20, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

Can I start this post by clearing up that neither dissociation (nor its dastardly cousins derealisation and depersonalisation) are exclusive to Borderline Personality Disorder. Dissociation is actually commonly attributed to Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which I was diagnosed with at the time I first started experiencing it; long before BPD was mentioned to me. But as misery likes company: BPD loves a co-morbidity.

Dissociation could be likened – baring in mind that I have never actually ‘dropped acid’ personally – to daydreaming on acid (or really strong tranquillisers). It essentially refers to the experience of zoning out; which can be as ‘harmless’ as just completely losing track of conversations and feeling like an ignorant arsehole accidentally, to extremes of blacking out for periods of hours to days at a time. During this time, you’ll have no recollection of what you’ve done, which is terrifying (believe me!).

My first experiences with dissociation and – in turn – derealisation, mark one of the earliest occurrences that made me realise I wanted to be vocal about my mental health and to hopefully help others someday.

When I was around 17, my anxiety started mutating into scary guises that I’d formerly never dealt with. Depression and anorexia had been my main bag – the latter of which I was in recovery for and undoubtedly exposed to heightened anxiety as a result of which. Depression I could reconcile with; it was familiar and comfortable in its gloominess, but this new-found anxiety really knocked me for six.

I started feeling very detached from everything around me, looking too far inwardly until the warped rhetoric that my brain was spewing became louder than my rational mind. Holding conversations became incredibly difficult as they brought with them a bizarre new feeling that something just wasn’t right; something more intense than general social anxiety.

Reality felt floaty and unlinear, with sunny days in particular making me feel ‘unreal’, or like I was in a dream.

This kept seeping into more and more of my thoughts, until the only times I didn’t feel ‘unreal’ were when I was distracted by sex, drinking, or watching ASMR relaxation videos (my partner at the time didn’t complain, unsurprisingly).

One day, I hit something of a breaking point after being in the kitchen with my ex-partner and my mum whilst they were having a conversation. I watched their mouths move and could almost tell what they were saying, but I felt lightyears away from the room and I just couldn’t understand them. It felt like I was on another planet, trapped in the terrifying recesses of my brain, no longer properly present.

At that point, I was convinced I’d gone insane and that my brain was irreparably broken, so decided I had no choice but to kill myself. Thankfully, my active suicidality only kicked in 7 years later, but I sat on the bathroom floor bawling my eyes out in secret, desperately looking for answers on my phone.

I tried to research it without scaring myself further; paralysed with fear at the prospect of telling someone lest they locked me up.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you exactly which video it was today, but I happened upon a YouTube clip where someone was describing their experiences with anxiety and how sometimes – in bad periods – they sometimes feel ‘unreal’, or disconnected. I cried my eyes out with relief.

I wasn’t broken. I didn’t have to die – I was just severely anxious and experiencing what I then discovered was dissociation and derealisation.

And guess what? From that realisation, the severity and frequency at which I experienced those symptoms waned significantly. So, for goodness sakes guys: let’s keep sharing our stories, no matter how uncomfortable or scary (and oftentimes, even embarrassing) it can be. That YouTuber may have saved my life.

BPD A-Z: CAUSES

March 18, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

By this post, you’re probably all too aware that BPD is a raging little shit with little rhyme nor reason, but you may be wondering: where the hell does it come from? Is it a genetic disorder; a chemical imbalance? Is it environmentally fuelled? Are we just oversensitive aliens, unequipped for the trials and tribulations of everyday life?

As tends to be the case with all things Borderline Personality Disorder related, this is technically still unclear, due to current lack of research and the many guises that the illness takes.

One of the most prevalent cited causes for BPD are the abandonment issues we discussed in the first part of this blog series. Whether real or perceived, feelings of neglect and invalidation in formative childhood years correlate with a diagnosis later in life. This is dubbed as ‘childhood trauma’ in most writings, but doesn’t have to have been as drastic as such wording suggests.

Another recurring trait in those with BPD is perfectionism. As to whether this is the result of the ‘fear of abandonment’ – forming an obsession with getting everything right – has yet to be proven.

Personally, I relate very much to the above – I’d describe myself as a ‘faulty perfectionist/fraught overachiever’ (or ‘tortured genius’ if I’m pissed and think I’m being funny…). School was always a way I could prove my worth – something that arguably isn’t at the forefront of your average 10-year-old’s mind, but in the aftermath of my parents’ messy divorce, it was a means of control which was mine alone. The question is, which came first: the perfectionism or the predisposition for developing BPD?

In recent years, studies have begun to reveal an array of potential causes that relate to our grey matter. There have actually been findings that have shown certain parts of the brain within afflicted individuals are oftentimes either a different size, or operate at a different rate to those of ‘neurotypical’ subjects.

A tendency of the illness to be passed down has started emerging, with many sufferers finding a familial link; often a parent who exhibits many of the key traits who may not have been officially diagnosed. Whether that is an environmental effect or purely hereditary has also yet to be found.

Upon receiving a diagnosis of BPD, it’s important to reflect upon – ideally through the guidance of therapy – what may have been the cause of its emergence. Once you feel like you have adequately identified this, the next step has to be to learn how to move on from it – something DBT founder Marsha Linehan calls ‘radical acceptance’.

Many of us BPD-ers are highly nostalgic folk, whether for good memories or bad; with a definite tendency to ‘live in the past’ if left untreated. This can manifest in myriad ways; from returning to toxic relationships as they remind you of the inconsistent push/pull of affection in your youth, to living a life poisonously embittered by something someone afflicted upon you in your past.

Of course, this is all entirely relative and I’m not sitting here saying “forgive your abuser and crack on, mate”, I’m saying that all you can do is move forward and stop the past from eating you alive for any longer. You deserve to live – not to exist – but to live and to thrive.

If you relate to the above and would like to discuss/learn more, you can find me harping on about mental health (not exclusively BPD) on Twitter @Ebzo.

BPD A-Z: BREAKUPS

March 14, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

It’s pretty much a given that nobody exactly enjoys a breakup – your heart feels like it’s just fallen out of your arse and life becomes a walking Dido song with no pause button. When you experience a breakup whilst suffering with BPD, however, said heart feels like someone carved it out, ate it for dinner then returned its rotting remains to your chest cavity for a laugh. And that Dido soundtrack turns into Damien Rice wailing along to the tune of your own funeral march.

Does this sound over-the-top? Bloody good, because – unfortunately – that’s essentially the crux of what living with Borderline Personality Disorder is all about.

Rule #1 in the mind of any (dys)functioning BPD sufferer is always: thou shalt never be alone (or thou shalt surely die). We’ll hold onto our codependent sinking ship until the other person inevitably says “sod this” and does a runner with the last remaining life jacket. Then we’re untethered, and life becomes an empty room where the lights have been switched off – where only the person who left you in there holds the fuse to put them back on.

So we pine, beg and – sometimes in desperation – threaten; anything to avoid drowning alone in this dark room (this metaphor is starting to get a tad messy). This is where we so often get painted with the moniker of “manipulative”, as we can go to debasing or often downright dangerous lengths to make the person stay.

Some corkers of my own include sitting in my ex’s porch for no less than eight hours in the winter, waiting for him to get home so we could talk (in my defence, I was 15 and fuelled by the lunacy of teenage hormones and self-starvation); to sending another ex a nude a day when I was 20 for months after we broke up as he moved abroad, in any vain bid for validation.

You will very, very seldom find an untreated Borderline sufferer instigating the end of a relationship, unless one significant caveat is involved: someone else. This isn’t a given for all with the diagnosis – by any means – but something I’ve personally struggled with throughout my fruitless career as a repeatedly unsuccessful long-term girlfriend.

Spurned by this overwhelming fear of being ‘alone’, I’ve been known to make sure I’ve always got someone to fall back on and never had the guts to leave a relationship cold turkey – even if it was abusive – without a safety net in place.

Right now, I’m as single and ‘in control’ of it as I’ve been in as long as I can remember, after spending a year falling between relationships with two guys who ultimately ended up being toxic to my BPD nature. The jury’s out as to whether they’re toxic full-stop, but only time will tell for them.

I’d like to say I’ve ‘Single Ladies’d myself through the entire break-up period, but it actually culminated in my darkest hours to date. Thankfully, after almost three months of self-imposed purgatory (and one hell of a lot of ignored emails to my ex), I’m beginning to light tiny candles towards a future that I’m creating for myself, by myself.

This has mainly been achieved by a) no contact (I can feel the visceral shudder of fellow BPD-ers tremor through as they read this), b) living life as simply and as ‘on auto-pilot’ as possible and, c) temporarily eschewing my other toxic lover: alcohol.

By forcing myself to live as though I’m caring for a friend and not in fact myself, there’s been little time for pining and wallowing. Podcasts, home-cooked meals and ultimately, routine far-removed from that experienced with the ex-partner – these are your new best friends.

It’s early days for me to say I’ll never fall into the “oh god, I’m so alone – love me – love me – love me” headspace again – which, let’s face it: I undoubtedly will. However, the aim is that this time it will be someone entirely new, who won’t take advantage of my unwavering adulation and appoint himself the ‘privilege’ of treating me like an emotional punching bag. It’ll be someone who will have to prove that they actually offer something to the life I’m nurturing for myself, as I won’t be settling out of any dogged avoidance of being alone this time.

Anti-Depressants: A Love Affair

October 13, 2018

If you’d told me even six months ago that I’d be writing this, I’d have undoubtedly scoffed and begun reeling off tales of how Sertraline made me hallucinate white-noise and blew my anxiety off the charts; staunchly proclaiming that I wouldn’t “touch the shit with a bargepole” again. Until about three months ago, medication just wasn’t a plausible option in the arsenal against my wonky brain. The Sertraline stint had seen me living on the constant verge of panic attack; completely dependent on my ex-boyfriend – around the clock – for the entirety of the fortnight I stuck with taking them for.

Fast-forward seven years and the situation had hit a breaking point. My mental health was plummeting, what with balancing a full-time job and learning to navigate a brain I’d been told was fundamentally broken, without the cognitive tools needed to begin fixing it. NHS mental health waiting lists became ever-more astronomical: I’m still, to this day, waiting to start Dialectical Behavioural Therapy over a year after my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

The avenue of medication was scarcely even considered, given the uneasy marriage of my past bad experience and the fact my diagnosis was borne off the back of an overdose that had left me hospitalised a year prior. Medical professionals offered a mixed bag of opinions, ranging from the endlessly helpful “if you won’t take medication, you’re not trying to help yourself, so how can we help you” assessors, crisis team psychiatrists who tried to put me on Mirtazapine before discharging me to cope with side effects alone, to my own GP, who expressed decided hesitancy whenever we even danced around the subject.

By this point, I was a high-functioning wreck. Frequenting A&E fortnightly, experiencing an absolute rollercoaster of emotions within each mere hour, struggling with self-harm and putting such considerable strain on those around me that people were beginning to throw the towel in, as I’d already done on myself. Imagine living with and loving someone who can go from unnaturally hyperactive and giddy in one moment, to scathing and moody the next. To whom you have to posit every sentence with learned consideration, lest they take something out of context and fly off the handle. All whilst trying to remind yourself that they’re not the living nightmare that increasingly inhabits both their tongue and their actions. Something so desperately had to give.

My GP offered me 10mg of Citalopram, an SSRI anti-depressant that I’d actually heard good things about, in the smallest available dose to lessen the impact of side effects. The first couple of days were surprisingly smooth-sailing – a bit of tiredness here, arguably psychosomatic anxiety there – then it started getting interesting. The tiredness became exhaustion; rendering me essentially bed-bound for nearly a fortnight, with anxiety that morphed into creeping nausea that saw me lose almost a stone in the same timeframe.

I won’t lie: it was hell for almost a month. Once my appetite came back in the third week, it brought with it a pervasive sense of doom that sat heavy on my chest at all hours of the day – warning against absolutely nothing. I did nothing but sleep, watch bleak documentaries and convince myself that I was never going to get any better. Until one day I did.

Day by day, I began to feel that the world became slowly more manageable as my energy returned. The heavy, rotting sensation in my chest that had presented so regularly for as long as I could remember waned, until one day it just wasn’t there anymore. Neither were the occasional bouts of mania that had led to stupid impulsive decisions and the guaranteed decline into heavy self-harming episodes. The easiest way to describe it is that it feels as though someone’s taken the edges off the dangerous sides of my emotions, like the aspect ratio crops itself when the cinema switches to a letterbox-style film; the highs aren’t as high, and the lows most definitely are not as low.

It’s almost three months since I began taking Citalopram and I can quite confidently say that I’ve never felt as consistently mentally well since I was a child. The only danger with this inviting sense of new-found normalcy, however, is that it can make you complacent. ‘Oh yeah, I’m cured now – I can definitely get completely blind drunk, or knowingly mess up my sleeping pattern, or skip meals – without fearing consequence’. Not quite. The only occasion of relapse since I started my medication was due to drinking far too much on an empty stomach.

With said lessons learned, life looks so much brighter since I started taking Citalopram. Not the garishly supermarket-bright of anxiety, but a welcoming lightness filled with prospects. One that uncovers enjoyable things that had lost their shine to my illness – such as writing this post right now – something I haven’t done in over nine months. But most importantly, it’s a light that illuminates the future that I’d so desperately tried to end.


Ebony. 25. Manchester.
Marketing Manager who likes to mouth off on here about stuff she cares about. Expect mental health, Borderline Personality Disorder, and reviews - from restaurants, to books, to fashion. Talks to cats more than people, but seemingly has a lot to say.
ebonylaurenn@gmail.com