We tend to view our personality as a sense of self, who we are, and all the nice things we like to perceive ourselves to be. It can feel frightening if something suggests that our core being is in some way defective.
Last week in therapy, we were exploring why I avoid living life in the present moment. A few days before, I had come across a post about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and quickly realised these symptoms play a major role in the origin of my avoidance.
The complex nature of BPD is not very pleasant and portrayed a person I tried so hard not to be. I didn’t see the behaviours as a set of symptoms, but more a problematic part of a personality I would go to great lengths to hide. I wanted people to see a ‘balanced’, fun, and easy-going person. In reality, a certain side of my character appeared to point to the opposite.
Like every other mental health issue, BPD has various degrees of severity. The symptoms I’ve been considering lately mould around Unstable Intense Emotions and Unstable Personal Relationships.
People living with BPD can experience the world in ‘all-great’ or ‘all-terrible’ ‘black and white’ thinking and battle with an inherent Fear of Abandonment or rejection. Emotions and opinions can swing from one extreme to the other.
In private, the fluctuating emotions could change like my home city of Glasgow weather, where it can rain for 170 miserable days of the year. You might experience all seasons in one day and that was very much how the mood swings played out.
In public, the portrayal was something very different. Making friends has always been easy. Nevertheless, beneath the warm and friendly persona is a history of Unstable Relationships. Things would get off to a quick bosom-buddies start, only to be up against a sudden change of heart. There were times when altered opinion felt more like demonic possession.
If I’m brutally honest… ouch… relationships, particularly long-term intimate ones, needed to pass certain subtle tests. They might not necessarily recognise them as tests, but the potential results could either soothe or trigger emotional insecurities that trickled between us.
Through that distorted process, a judgement could then be made about whether the person cared enough… did enough… loved enough… made me feel secure enough. My warped sense of reality would always conclude it was safer to leave before the erratic emotions had a chance to spiral into a full-blown BPD meltdown.
Admitting our flaws is never easy. Each therapy session seems to be more powerful than the last. My head was swimming while the Therapist was saying something about my BPD possibly originating from early developmental problems… and if we continue to develop throughout our lives… it makes sense that we can relearn or redevelop the skills necessary for turning around a set of symptoms…