Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Balancing Act: BPD and Anger

 Good morning! A couple months ago, I made the promise to discuss Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) once a month. Guess what? Today is that day.

 This was the very first thing I ever wrote about BPD, working from the prompt, “The lowest point you’ve ever been at with your mental illness.” It’s all about the anger – one of the hardest parts of the disease for most people to understand.

Balancing Act

 I’d known for years that I was bipolar. I knew the signs to watch for that alerted me to an impending manic or depressive episode and, for the most part, had managed to find ways of curbing how bad the bad times got. But the borderline beast was a completely different story.

 When you’re fighting for your equilibrium, there are certain situations that end up becoming your worst nightmare. Exhaustion, pain, and fear aren’t a good combination for the most seemingly normal of folks, but to someone with borderline personality disorder, they’re a worst case scenario.

 At the time my father disowned me, I was 41 years old, working close to 80 hours a week, and dealing with an as of yet undiagnosed autoimmune disease. All I knew was, I was getting sicker by the day, I was in pain, and I was beyond exhausted. It all amounted to an uncontrollable and indescribable, emotional tsunami.

 The specifics of what happened really aren’t important, since it doesn’t take a monumental event to trigger mood swings in a person with BPD. It doesn’t matter who was at fault or even if the faults were real or just perceived. The point is, my trigger was tripped.

 If you’ve never lived with borderline, then you can’t know what that anger is. It’s nothing like being pissed-off, seeing red, or even a downright furious variety of being ticked. Borderline anger is pure, unadulterated, uncontrollable, blind rage. It’s an anger that’s brittle like untempered steel, with the potential to snap at any moment and shatter not only those around it, but the body that houses it as well.

 This is the feeling of your insides filling with burning acid and if you don’t find a way to release it, the pressure will either blow you wide open or burn its way through your chest into your very soul. It’s like having the most vile of ferocious beasts trapped inside your guts, trying to bite and claw its way out.

 It’s an apocalyptic fury you can’t just swallow or breathe through, because you can’t breathe.

 In those midnight black moments, all you know is there’s a primal scream of inexplicable rage rising up from your core and if you don’t open your mouth and release it into the world, it’ll demolish all that you are, leaving behind a million jagged shards.

 These are the bad times. The REALLY bad times. When things are thrown and words without meaning (to you) are screamed; words that can never be taken back. Sometimes, it feels like you’re standing at a distance, watching a terrifying and wild stranger take control of your body, and then lose all control.

 I’ve had people tell me that this is complete bullshit, that I can simply choose not to give in to it. To a certain extent, they’re right. There is that one, brief instant before the white hot darkness takes you, when you find yourself standing at a fork in the road where turning back the way you came is no longer an option; only the choice of left or right.

 To your left is the sweet release for the rage; giving in to oblivion as your brain shuts down and the maelstrom is freed from the body that’s far too small to contain it.

 To your right is…on some levels, a worse option. This is where you refuse to give in or give over, choosing instead to try and swallow the rising gall, turning the beast in on yourself. The beyond-anger that’s denied release becomes the darkest of depressions, focusing all of its distorted hate and disgust inward.

 I’m not sure if I know a word for the place this takes a person; the depths that your soul sinks too. It’s like lying on a feather mattress with a 1000 pound weight on your chest and you’re not sure which will kill you first, being crushed by the weight or smothered by the unstoppable sinking.

 Whichever one wins, there’s no way out of this sucking quicksand of pain and self loathing. Even if there was a secret escape, you wouldn’t have the energy or care enough to find it.

 Unless it’s self harm.

 This bottomless pit is the one place a human can come to, where pain becomes the only weapon you can grasp at to combat the pain.

 For me, it was always branding. That initial burst of agony, followed by the gradual calm as nerve endings cauterized, stopping their signals from completing their journey to your brain. I knew the added bonus would come days later, when the REAL intensity began. The initial burn would be nothing compared to the ceaseless fire of nerves regrowing and days worth of failed signals finding their way home.

 Fuck the guilt and the shame that you’ll feel later when you’re hiding your scars. If it carries you away from this place of funhouse mirrors where, no matter which way you turn, you’re faced with so many hideously distorted views of yourself, then putting your hand through the broken glass and cleaning up a little blood is worth the cost.

 So you stand there, wishing you’d just explode; die so you could finally find some kind of peace. Instead, you’re forced to choose which of the unthinkable to embrace. Because, as unbelievable as it may be to someone who’s never stood at this place of complete and utter hopelessness, death looks like the best option that your barely functioning rationale can see.

 This is where I came to with my Father. And I chose my path.
 I embraced the rage, giving it free reign of my body and my vocal cords. I screamed until I was hoarse, threw things, punched the floor in hopes that the explosion of crushed knuckles would drive the beast out before it’d finished wreaking its havoc. The only saving grace was that the man wasn’t there when the blind fury took me.

 Then the creature learned a new trick; it wrote a letter. I wrote a letter. And then I sent it.

 It’s taken a lot of years for me to come to terms with the result of where that lowest of moments led me; disownment.

 Forgiveness, especially for oneself, is one of the rarest of currencies we humans trade in. When this happened, it wasn’t a price I was willing to pay for myself. Since then, I’ve learned to be a little more generous.

 I may not regret what I said, but I truly regret the way I said it. While I refuse to use my glitch as an excuse for what I did, it does provide some form of explanation for the inexplicable. As far as my Father’s way of responding? I can only shoulder the weight of my own actions.

 Today I understand that, on one level, I’ll never be able to fully control the ebbs and flows of my emotional tides. I don’t just live with bipolar II, but borderline personality disorder. My brain is hardwired in a way few people will ever be able to understand.

 But over time, I have learned to watch for a different set of warning signs; the tightening in the chest, the metallic taste that’s accompanied by the constricting at the back of my throat. The way my shoulders pull and the right eye twitches just so…it’s how I know it’s now or never with altering the course of the hurricane before it makes landfall.

 Before my muscles gave way to the autoimmune (Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease), dance was my favorite release. Loud music, eyes closed, letting the angry rush carry me along until I was too tired to even think. Something to exhaust the body while the mind dug its way out of the quagmire.

 I’ve learned to scream-cry into a pillow until my throat is raw, put on a special playlist and go outside to throw rocks at trees or (in the past) chop wood until I can’t lift my arms. Anything I can do to give the energy a conduit to the outside without leaving emotional casualties behind in its wake.

 Today, instead of picking up a lighter and a piece of metal to burn the creature out, I call a friend who understands. In that safe zone, I can shout out my rage, unleashing the beast where he can do the least amount of damage, before it reaches the point of all consuming.

 Those who know me understand that I am a woman of extremes. My moods can flip-flop like a fish out of water, going from happy, to anger, to sad, and back to laughter in the impossible blink of an eye. I sometimes joke that it’s simply how nature and nurture decided I would be the most fun at a party.

 The simple truth is, my life is and forever will be, a balancing act. I can’t change that anymore than I can change my fingerprints or the color of my eyes. All I can do is learn how to cope.

For more discussions about BPD:

Your Borderline Buddy (or The messes BPD friends make.

Make BPD Stigma Free! shares amazing articles from across the interwebz. Excellent way to find new blogs and voices!


  1. You are very brave. Thank you for the raw honesty of this post.

  2. Thank you sweetie! I don't know about brave, I just hope by openly discussing BPD, it'll erase some of the stigma and shame surrounding personality disorders.

  3. You are a very strong woman. And I admire you. I'm sure this will help someone. And you too.

    1. I wish I could hug you right now! I was terrified to hit the publish button. The hope that it would find someone who needed it – just to know they're not alone or to help someone understand their loved one? That was why I did it.
      Just…thanks Liv!

    2. Hug received and reciprocated. I'm sure it was terrifying to put yourself out there like that. Well done.

  4. I, too, have bipolar and borderline. This is the most accurate description of BPD rage I have ever read. I hope you don't mind, but I'd really like to share a link to this post on my blog. We really do need to talk honestly and openly about it. We didn't choose this, we're just trying to live as best we can and do as little damage as possible. Keep fighting the good fight. *hugs*

    1. I'd be honored to have you share! Personality disorders are so misunderstood – there's just so much shame for us and you're right, we didn't choose this. Hopefully, the more we talk about it, the more people will understand. *hugs*

    2. Thanks, the post is at https://mentalinthemidwest.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/lets-talk-about-rage/ if you'd like to read it. 🙂

    3. Thanks sweetie! I left a comment and passed it on.

  5. You and I both wrote about family estrangement and writing letters to them today. I'm not bipolar, but I get where you're coming from on some level. At some point you just explode because nothing else seems to make a dent. And then the conversation turns from the original issue to the fact that you got angry. Then to being disowned. Do I regret how I handled things? I sure do. But to a certain extent, I had no other choice. I had tried everything else. And as trite as it sounds, I truly do believe things kind of play out as they're supposed to. My family, anyway, is a toxic clusterfuck, so it turns out my life is more peaceful with them at a safe distance. I hope you feel some sense of peace with the way things played out for you too. xo

    1. Thanks sweetie. I've managed to make a tentative peace with myself and the way things happened. I have the occasional flare-up of guilt, usually after I have a smug period because something I spat turned out to be true. Yeah – smug, guilt, peace. It's a cycle. *grin* Honestly, I think mostly I feel sadness, but things happen for a reason and life moves on, right?