Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Battle

Trigger Warning: Mentions of abuse and detailed description of emotion mind

Nobody talks about the type of abuse that is probably the hardest to get away from. Everyone talks about external abuse, but how much to you know about internal abuse? That’s right, there is such a thing as internal abuse. At least that’s what it feels like for me and so many others. Hi, my name is Hazel Rose and I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder.

BPD is a severe mental disorder, and has been considered one of the most difficult to deal with and to treat. I won’t bore you with a bunch of psycho mumbo jumbo, but here are the important things you need to know about this disorder. First, our biggest fear is abandonment. Not spiders, not clowns, not crowds, not even being mauled to death by a grizzly bear on fire. Abandonment. Second, we see everything (and I mean everything) in black and white. There is no gray area for us. Either you love us or you hate us, either we love you or we hate you, either everything is great or everything is terrible. Third, and probably most important, we deal with internal abuse every day.
What is internal abuse? You may ask. Imagine having to fight against someone every single day, only the someone is your own brain. Often what BPD feels like is two people inside your head constantly fighting (though, I want to be clear, we do not have split personalities. That’s a different disorder). However, to make this explanation easier to follow imagine, if you will, that there are two people living inside my head. One is called “emotion mind” and the other is “rational mind”. If these two people got along and worked together they would make what is called, “wise mind.” Sadly though with BPD, the two often do not get along. Let’s start by, meeting and getting to know these two very different people.

Emotion mind (we’ll call her Lily) is, as you probably guessed, very emotional. She thinks emotionally, reacts emotionally, and does everything emotionally. Of course this is not always a bad thing, sometimes in life we need to do things in Lily mind. Imagine if you told your partner you loved them for the first time and there was no emotion behind it. Imagine getting punched in the fact and reacting logically. Those are examples of when being emotional is okay. Let me tell you when it’s not okay. When someone has to cancel a meeting for legitimate reasons, when someone cannot hang out, when a job turns you down. At this point you’re probably wondering what is so wrong with reacting emotionally to these situations. Nothing, because most people would react emotionally and rationally. It’s perfectly normal to be a bit upset about canceled plans, especially if you’ve been looking forward to those plans. However, most people would just say, “oh well, I’ll just see them another time.” That’s not what it’s like with Lily, oh no, not at all. Lily screams, Lily begs and pleads, Lily texts or calls multiple times in a row, Lily feels rejected, and Lily basically throws a tantrum.

Next we have rational mind (we’ll call her Bridgette). I mentioned before that there are certain situations where being rational is called for. Actually, there are probably quite a lot. Bridgette however, is often bullied by Lily. Bridgette needs to let Lily know that it’s okay to be emotional, but she can’t go overboard. Lily is a forced to be reckoned with, and Bridgette is shy and meek. Bridgette can hold Lily off, but only for so long. It’s only a matter of time before Lily comes in and makes a mountain out of a mole hill. If they worked together they would be harmonious, creating a perfect wise mind. The fact remains that Lily and Bridgette do not see eye to eye, and the main part of the problem is Lily is extremely alpha. Allow me to give you a demonstration.

Some years ago I was dating T. I had been with him for six months, and was convinced I would marry him. I became attached very quickly. He ended up breaking up with me for personal reasons Instead of dealing with it, I had a complete mental break down. I was at my mother’s house and decided to leave in the middle of the night and drive back to my now ex’s house (there’s a lot more detail, but it’s not important here). At this point if Lily and Bridgette were real people; Lily would hit Bridgette over the dead, drag her to the car, and throw her in the back seat. She’d do this just to take her along for the ride for her own amusement. Lily would then get in and start driving to T’s house. Driving fast, running red lights, not stopping at stop signs, and putting herself in danger. Bridgette would wake up in the back, and start pleading for Lily to pull over, but Lily is too far gone. But Lily and Bridgette are not real, this was all me.

I feel like a prisoner in my own head sometimes. I feel as though I am being pulled in two different directions, yanked back and forth in a mental tug-o-war. It’s overwhelming, it cause me tons of anxiety, and most of all it’s exhausting. Oh, if you’re wondering what happened with T; he stopped talking to me for over a year. We’re friends now, but we’re not as close as we used to be. I truly feel that if I had been in control of Lily and Bridgette that night, T and I may have been able to form a closer friendship.

This disorder has caused me to feel fragmented. This disorder wants me dead. That’s right, BPD has wanted me dead, and it still wants me dead. It fights me, knocks me down. It is stubborn and persistent. So what’s the solution? Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), a type of therapy created specifically for people like me. DBT is the object I use to strike back as I’m pinned down on the ground by this harrowing, resilient disorder. It’s the soft mat that I fall on after I’m pushed off the cliff, my disorder maniacally laughing. BPD hates me, it wants me dead. It’s tried. It may have succeeded if I didn’t act or fight back.

BPD feels like a 400lb guy pinning me down and I have nothing and no one to help me, to free me. It feels like an abusive relationship, except the abuser is my own brain. It feels like the emotional part of my brain is driving 100mph, while the rational part just goes along for the ride. Meekly trying to object, but getting yelled at by the emotional bully. It feels like my own brain has a knife against my throat. It makes me feel fragmented. Like the emotional part is another person taking over.

Emotional: ::Anger, outburst, push away, have a melt down…::
Rational: “Um, maybe you should take a step back.”
Emotional: “No. This is the only way.” ::Blind rage, splitting.::
Rational: “Yes, but, you might make it worse. Just try…”
Emotional: “I SAID SHUT UP. I AM STRONGER THAN YOU!”
Rational: “Stop, stop. Please don’t do this. You’re going to regret this.”
Emotional: ::lays waste, wreaks havoc:: “Okay, Rational. I’m done. Have fun cleaning up my mess.”
Rational: “……”

That’s what borderline feels like. It feels like you’re being abused by your own brain. It feels like you don’t have control, and that there is nothing you can do. It’s scary, it’s difficult, and it feels like you’re trapped inside your own head. I’ve been dealing with this since I was 14 years old, though I can think of earlier incidences where Lily would creep in. I was impulsive, acted out, lashed out, couldn’t control my emotions. Of course everyone thought it had to do with puberty, so no one got me help. It wasn’t until I was 25 years old that I was diagnosed, that I finally realized there was something going on other than being an angst ridden teenager. Once I found out what I was going through, I immediately started to fight back. However, like any abusive relationship, fighting back isn’t always easy. Lily is stubborn, Bridgette is lethargic, and they very rarely get along.

That was the key to my recovery. Getting my emotional and rational mind to cooperate, to understand each other. I didn’t want Lily gone, I just wanted her to understand that she couldn’t run rampant whenever she wanted. I wanted Bridgette to know that Lily had her place, but she couldn’t let Lily bully her and completely take over.

Borderline is a harrowing disorder, and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. I’ve lost so many friends and people I cared about because I couldn’t control my emotion. I often feel like I have two toddlers inside my brain, fighting to take up real estate in my head; when really there is enough room for both of them.

That’s what it’s like living with mental illness. It’s like being in a never ending abusive relationship with yourself. Lily control me and Bridgette makes me feel weak. Lily is a bully, and Bridgette is lethargic at times. Lily needs to tone down and Bridgette needs to step up. Most of all, they need to learn how to cooperate. They need to learn how to work together and let the other be an individual.

Borderline has taken so much from me; not just T. It’s taken away jobs, friends, and romantic relationships. It’s taken away housing longevity, countless opportunities, but most of all it’s taken away my sanity and piece of mind. The question, or rather criticism, I have gotten the most has been, “why do you use your disorder as an excuse or a crutch?”

That is one of the most difficult parts of explaining BPD. Mental illness itself has a lot of stigma, but some is easier for people to accept than others. Since it’s called Borderline Personality Disorder, many people believe I can just simple change my personality. It’s not like there is a chemical imbalance in my head, or there are hallucinations controlling me. I should simply be able to not do things. I wish it were that easy, but it’s not. If I were able to simply not act the way I do sometimes then I wouldn’t have a mental disorder. The other thing people may not be aware of is that BPD is a disorder that is affected by both nature and nurture. For a long time researchers believed it was environment that caused BPD, but more recently they have discovered that those of us with the disorder have over-active limbic systems. This is the part of the brain that controls emotion and reaction to emotion.

I wish I could accurately describe what it’s like to have a mental illness, but to those that truly do not understand it just sounds like a bunch of excuses. Here’s what people don’t get, for me it’s not just about being worried sometimes or not liking rejection (who does?), it’s about those things overtaking my life. That’s what makes something a mental illness, when it affects a person’s life and their everyday way of living. The fear of abandonment that comes with BPD feels like drowning in the middle of the ocean with only a kiddie flotation toy to save me.

Something that surprises people is to hear that despite all my hardships, I would not change anything. The disorder has made me a fighter, and being a fighter has allowed me to endure more in life than a lot of other people couldn’t.

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