If there is one thing you learn real fast when you have a mental disorder it is to hide your symptoms as much as possible. Let's say you had cancer and lost all of you hair and walked around bald or with a scarf on your head. That is perfectly fine. People will applaud for your courageousness and ask how you are feeling. Cancer is championed and accepted by society.
This is not at all true with Mental Illness. People will shake their heads in agreement or offer consolation if you choose to share what you suffer from. Yet for them to actually witness a PTSD, Panic attack or Bipolar mania state is quite another thing. By displaying an episode, we are immediately put down and disavowed by most. You will not find much sympathy and will probably be ridiculed and shunned for your symptomatic behavior.
Mental illness scares people. I mean the symptoms scare people. When they manifest, most do not know how to handle the manifestation, and I have found that if witnessed, people’s opinion of you changes dramatically. No big deal if you throw up from chemotherapy, you will be consoled and held. Someone might even hold your hair back as you vomit. However, to be in the throes of a PTSD attack will have people dialing 911 for intervention out of sheer terror.
I have experienced this to be true my whole life living with mental illness. It is fine to talk about it and even intriguing and interesting to explain your symptoms to someone. They listen with bated breath about the details of what you go through. Yet if they were to see the real deal, they would run screaming.
This is why I feel that people with mental illness are so badass. Not only do we experience symptoms, we have to live through them and spend the rest of our life trying to figure out how to make them stop and keep them under wraps. What particular method in our bag of tricks will work for this episode? It is up to us to figure it out until we find the answer. Then we are left to pick up the shattered pieces of ourselves and somehow put them back together so that they make sense and we can carry on with our lives.
Usually it's those closest to us that witness episodes up close and personal. They have the treat of being on the front lines. If you are lucky and have a good support team with you, they will even know how to help you through the episode. If not, it is a very hard road to travel.
This is probably the reason that, in days past of our society, the mentally ill were institutionalized, strapped in a bed and laced with drugs to render them into a state of being a vegetable. You're not going to get much action there. That's somewhat easy to deal with isn't it? To contend with a vegetable strapped to a bed is much easier than someone screaming in agony through a Panic Anxiety attack is.
None of us asks to have any type of illness rendered to us to have to live out our life with. We have no choice. It's the luck of the draw if you end up with diabetes, Alzheimer's, heart disease, mental illness. The human body, although it is a miracle of God, is susceptible to sickness. We are all at risk of facing illness of some type during our lifetime.
What we with mental illness have ON TOP of living with our disorder is the stigmatism, lack of knowledge, acceptance and willingness to have those around us put up with our symptoms. This is true especially for those of us lucky ones that suffer with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). If you have ever been on the receiving end of a “black” episode from a Borderline, then you understand. When a Borderlines brain flips from white to black, we are in full outrage mode. We will say and do things that we would NEVER do when our brain is in “White” mode, unspeakable things that put us in the category of being a monster. Yet when in black mode we do not realize what we do half the time. I find the recollection of a black rage attack fuzzy and fragmented, hard to piece together in my mind. We no more ask for this to happen to us then we would to chew broken glass.
Splitting is one of the main symptoms of BPD. The switching of the brain from black to white and vice versa thinking that leads to the persistent fears and panic that those of us with BPD have to live with 24 hours a day. For non-BP’s such feelings can be reduced or escaped from by every day actions such as going for a walk or reading a book, however, there are NO such distractions that work for the person with BPD. Black and white thinking and splitting mean there are no grey areas in life for a person with BPD. Everything is all or nothing.
Usually an event of splitting occurs in the brain of somebody with BPD from a trigger. The trigger is most likely associated with trauma suffered during early childhood of the person with BPD. What happens is that the person with BPD is brought back to the very age in their mental thinking and personality at which the trauma occurred. This can be as early as 2 years old. The person who has split goes from a white mind to a black mind and will actually display as the child at that age will in their mind suffering the trauma over and over again as the incident plays out. It has been proven that in the brain of a Borderline, the trauma has never been properly dealt with or processed. There seems to be an incapacity in the brain of someone with BPD to sort out trauma events.
Once the person with BPD has gone in their mind from white to black, they are no longer the same person. There is no reasoning or ability to logic with a BPD rage attack. The person suffering through the attack is completely incapable of thinking in the grey area as a non-BPD would. Once the split has occurred, the Borderline has actually changed in personality to all black thinking. This means that everything is horrible, negative, fearful, painful, and enlarged in meaning. After the episode has subsided and the brain of the Borderline returns to a white status, they are capable of seeing well again. They are capable of being logical and understanding the better side of life. However, this splitting has left a trauma on the brain. This is why, when coming out of a black rage attack, the Borderline often does not understand why the other person is so upset with them. It is very hard for us to piece together what has just transpired. In the meantime, the recipient is left wounded and dumbfounded, often wanting nothing to do with the Borderline again, as far as relationships are concerned.
If a Non Borderline could experience just one time what a black rage attack was like from our side, the understanding would be complete. There would be no reason to have to continually explain yourself over and over again and apologize for your very existence.
I have found that we as Borderlines often hate and loathe ourselves more than anyone else could possibly. How do you live a lifetime as Jekyll and Hyde? How does one accept we are incapable of stopping the flipping that our brains do? How do you stay in a relationship when you don't know whom you are dealing with that day? Jekyll or Hyde?
I have found over the years that there are ways to damp down the symptoms of a black episode with certain methods, yet sometimes we are so triggered and pushed to the edge, that there is no returning. All that's left is self-loathing that consumes you for having let the monster out of the cage and then having to try to piece together the damage done. For this reason, I hate having Borderline Personality Disorder. There is no other disorder I know of that has the tendency to hurt, destroy and demolish relationships more than BPD. The pain and heartache that we live with every day knowing what we can be capable of doing to another person is a burden that can define and swallow us up. It can leave us in the position of not being able to accomplish what we were set forth on earth to do.
The destruction we caused by our own actions leaves a path of glowing embers of lost dreams and desires we wanted to achieve. The fire has long burned out because we were incapable of accomplishing the task. Instead, we’ve left behind a string of bodies, or relationships, that represent our failed attempt at life.
I have found that the longer we live, the harder it is to look back at the path of destruction. The longer we stay on the planet, the harder it is to realize that most of us with BPD will leave our song unsung.
The physical and emotional effects that having BPD leaves on us shows themselves in the guise of chronic migraines, stomach ulcers and intestinal and digestive problems, fibromyalgia, and in general a feeling of ill being that causes us to have an incapacity to work full time or hold a job. We have to figure out how to work between episodes and get as much done as we can before the next episode hits.
We may self-mutilate our bodies because of our pain and wanting to eliminate or punish ourselves for our horrific behavior that we are capable of displaying. We can deny ourselves food or overindulge to try to take away the emptiness and loneliness that we feel from being constantly misunderstood. There are times where we can go for a lengthy period of time without having an episode and we can fool ourselves into thinking that perhaps we are healed. Then the demonic hulk comes out and we are reminded that we are left to live out our lives with this disorder till death do us part.
For those of you who find it in yourselves to judge our behavior on your sin scale and find our behavior worse than yours, I will remind you gently that God sees your sins too. For those of you that are related or in a friendship with us, and find it tiresome and debilitating I would like to remind you that you can walk away. You have the luxury of leaving the room. Those of us with BPD are locked inside the mental hell prison of our brain. There is no vacation, there is no walking away, there is no ending a relationship, unless we end our life. This is why the suicide rate is so high for those of us that suffer with this disorder. I wish there was a Magic Bullet, a medication, way out, a treatment, but there just does not exist such a thing for us. We are left to try to utilize Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills or Cognitive skills in the middle of an incredibly stressful event. It is superhuman to try, akin to using Lamaze breathing during a birthing contraction. It takes time, practice and the more stress that is heaped upon us, the harder it is for us to utilize or even find those skills when we are under pressure.
Once the black has taken over, we are consumed. It's end game. There comes a point when we are so gone that we lose our ability to focus or think properly, logic does not come to us and we spin out of control into a nightmare of darkness. Maybe it will help those for whom our rage is being thrust upon to understand that our episodes are triggered by something in our past, usually childhood. Although we may be an adult, our mind has reverted back to that very young age and our ability to reason is the same as that of a child. Just as you wouldn’t expect a two year or a five year old in pain to process information and reason on an adult level, neither are we able to regardless of our chronological age. Finally, when we come out the other side we are exhausted, spent and we despise ourselves. To say that this has been a fun existence would never be true for my life. I have had spurts of calm times, times of white brain where I am able to produce, be a good wife and parent, and friend... but they are mixed in with my dark side so it all cancels out in the end. Who could love somebody like that? I can't. Until death do us part, we agonize.
With you in the Journey, Alice