Last month, I was shopping in Kohl’s for a writer friend’s daughter when a song came on the radio that instantly impacted my mood. Happiness and joy are in many ways elusive emotions for me as a woman with BPD, but this song made me feel instantly happy.
It was the exact same feeling I get with the Avicii song “Wake Me Up.” That song helped get me through my crisis pregnancy in back in 2013. The fact that a bit of music could bring me instant hope for peace and relief from my prenatal depression made me think that maybe I could hang on.
I haven’t dealt with such deep darkness for a few years now, but every once in a while things still get hairy. I’d be lying if I said the undercurrent of emptiness has completely left me.
It hasn’t, and I understand that life with borderline personality disorder might mean it never leaves.
“So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost”
– Avicii, Wake Me Up
“I can’t trust myself when I listen to Avicii,” I thought to myself that day in Kohl’s. And then I realized why the song on the radio was affecting me so much. It was another Avicii track. This time, it was Hey Brother.
For whatever reason, when either song plays, I find my mood instantly lifted.
“Hey brother! There’s an endless road to rediscover
Hey sister! Do you still believe in love? I wonder
Oh, if the sky comes falling down, for you
There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do”
– Avicii, Hey Brother
Yesterday, I saw Frozen 2 with my daughter, and then she went to her dad’s. This is my first weekend to myself in, well, months. What am I doing?
Writing, of course. But I’m also still in deep processing mode as I continue to ruminate on the Frozen sequel.
Which means I’m getting swept away, and maybe sidetracked, by the soundtrack.
Since the first movie came out, Elsa has been something of a queer icon. Her status could easily be lesbian, bisexual, or asexual. These days, I’d say asexual as she’s shown no actual interest in romantic relationships.
There’s a lot of relatability for single women of any sexual orientation and I’ve already voiced my support for an Elsa who is (at least for now) self-partnered.
But there’s yet another group that might relate to Elsa on a deep and personal level too: folks with borderline personality disorder.
Does Elsa have BPD?
It’s interesting that I never thought about this ice queen as a possible borderline icon until yesterday, and more so as I listened to the music.
“Intertwined with the emotional dysregulation of borderline personality disorder are instances of emotional instability, bursts of anger, intense efforts to avoid real or perceived abandonment, and unstable interpersonal relationships, all of which abound in Frozen.”
There is some sort of connection between music and the BPD mind. Powerful and emotionally intense music taps into our psyches in a way that I don’t think everyone else can understand.
I feel profoundly connected to certain music, especially the music in Frozen 2.
When a song really speaks to me, I lose time. I listen in awe. I sing. I play the same track on repeat for hours as I process my intricate emotions.
I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, and what it means is that I can’t concentrate on anything else if I tum om music with lyrics that move me.
For me, there’s no such thing as casual listening. I can write or listen to moving music, but I can’t manage both simultaneously.
It puts me in an uncomfortable situation this weekend because I could easily waste all of the time I have to myself on the Frozen 2 soundtrack.
Is deep music listening really a waste of time?
This morning, I decided to Google a couple of things. First, I wanted to know if there was any connection between borderline personality disorder and music. Outside of, say, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (a musical show that successfully delves into the intensity of BPD).
As it turns out, I’m not crazy. Verywellmind confirms that music therapy is often very helpful for folks with borderline because we experience such intense emotions and often lack a healthy way to express them.
As I Googled Elsa and borderline personality disorder, I discovered that plenty of other people (including mental health experts), have been feeling the same intense emotions in her songs.
Jay Boll points out that Elsa’s “Let It Go” is often seen as an anthem of liberation, but that’s not really what’s happening in the song. It’s more like her first steps in trying to accept herself. But she’s still very much a prisoner to her pain and her powers.
In Frozen 2, there’s this scene where Elsa sees the past events in the form of ice sculptures, and sees herself singing “Let It Go.” Elsa gives herself something of an eyeroll, a shudder, and a wave of the hand which suggests she looks back upon that time as a mistake. She’s wiser now and no longer so angry, nor is she denying certain feelings as she did in her original blockbuster song.
Elsa’s music in the sequel is so powerful, but it isn’t angry. And while themes of self-acceptance are still there, she is clearly much further in her mental health journey. At this point, she is dealing with her anxiety head on.
It’s been pointed out that Elsa never finds a cure for her fears. Instead, she learns how to live with her mental health issues. And for me, the new songs make that clear.
Much of the symptoms of BPD involve a challenge to regulate our own emotions, which tend to be more intense than the norm.
As VeryWell mentions, people with borderline personality disorder can use music to express the feelings they don’t know how to articulate. We can even tap into soothing, happy, or empowering music to help shift a bad mood. And because we feel so deeply connected to music, such therapy might be even more effective for those with BPD than for those without it.
It’s possible that I might spend the day oddly engrossed in powerful music. But if it helps me manage my overwhelming emotions, including the “unknown,” I don’t think that’s a very bad thing.