I’ve read a lot of articles and posts about how many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have quick changes in mood or emotion, often influenced by the smallest of events or moments in a day. This is very true in my life, and I find myself changing my mood and outlook on life almost hourly some days. What I haven’t read a lot about is the intensity these emotions pack and the conflict they often cause with each other. I’ve come to refer to my emotions and thoughts as “the storm inside” because that’s the best way I can explain it. It feels like there is literally a storm full of flashes of lightning, booms of thunder, pouring rain and gusting winds inside of my mind and my body.
My friends have asked what this “storm” is like, as they struggle to understand and have not ever experienced emotions the way I do. It is incredibly difficult to put words to how we feel, as anyone who has been through therapy and stared at emotion wheels or charts of feeling words knows all too well. Here’s the best way I can explain this storm inside of me every day:
It is debilitating anxiety mixed with uncontrollable rage. It is smiling and enjoying talking to a friend while looking for a way to escape life because your skin is crawling. It’s pain you can feel in your chest, your muscles and your bones that can start and consume you at any time. It is sharing someone’s happiness while inside your head there’s jealousy screaming at you with a thunderous roar. It is choosing to allow the darkness to consume you and shutting everyone out because it’s easier that way. It’s being so overjoyed that you can’t sit still but every time you move you find yourself starting to fill with that emptiness again. Unlike most storms, this constant brew of emotions never sleeps, never ceases — it can hit you in the middle of your work day or at 2 a.m. It’s a storm that constantly changes directions, something so unpredictable that nobody can get an accurate reading or track the patterns.
Sometimes I can harness the storm and rein it in, keeping it to myself. Sometimes I can tune out the storm with music or work. Sometimes I just choose to sleep it off, meaning I may take naps in the middle of the day or go to bed extremely early. Sometimes I allow myself to use rage as an outlet and scream, kick or throw any object I can find. Sometimes I use self-harm to ground myself and gain back control over the mixture of hell I feel inside. Lately I’m trying healthier means like meditation, mindfulness exercises from dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) or labeling and writing out what I’m feeling.
People seem to think I’ve suddenly become this way, like it happened overnight. When I look back at my past though, I can remember these feelings as far back as I can remember. There have been times where I’ve had better control over the storm, that the storm wasn’t so strong. There have been times where the storm brews up, but then quickly quiets down with time. There have been many times where the storm seems nonexistent to most because the storm usually brews inside of me and targets only me, leading to low self-worth and a very conflicted self-image.
My DBT therapist has told me my current goal is to not allow the negative part of my brain that screams during these storms to win control over me. We are also about to start distress tolerance in my skills group, which I can only hope will help to quiet the storm. As Kiera Van Gelder says so elegantly in her memoir “The Buddha and the Borderline,” “I am determined to fight for my survival. I do not deserve to be trapped in hell.” I will continue to battle the winds and rain, sailing through the waves as they crash, and hopefully someday soon, I will find the beach again where the storms are less frequent and less intense.