Life Is Unpredictable For Everyone, But This Is an Added Challenge with BPD
With life in general, none of us know what exactly will happen on a given day or how we will feel and respond in situations that divert from our expectations. Unexpected issues happen to everyone, but being emotionally sensitive and having mood swings, which are both common with BPD, serve as additional challenges to coping with life's curve balls. We might be overreactive in our responses and either take extra long to adapt to the change, or our moods may rapidly change.
Although I am, in general, quite stable with two years of DBT under my belt, I still observe these symptoms within myself.
How My Day Started: Dialectical at Daylight
For example, it was difficult to get out of bed this morning. I was so cozy and warm and felt so comforted under the blankets and with my two cats on the bed. I experienced the dialectic of wanting to stay in bed for hours self-soothing and at the same time really wanting to get up to honor a commitment I made. I ultimately made the decision to get out of bed. Even though the other person had to cancel the appointment, I was glad to be up.
Surprising Not a Hair Trigger Situation at Lunch
I worked in the morning from home then went to have a nice lunch with my boyfriend. The lunch was a buffet, and surprisingly, I was not triggered, despite my recent realization that I've gained weight (which majorly upset me) and my subsequent commitment to slowly make healthy choices with the help of DBT "PLEASE" skills.
I noticed and acknowledged that I was able to handle the thoughts that came up at lunch time with Wise Mind. I ate a reasonable amount and didn't obsessively try to engage my significant other in a conversation about my weight-related worries. Perhaps I felt especially balanced in that moment. This happens more and more over the years, and to me, it's a sign of my progress.
I know that at other times, perhaps because of vulnerability factors that weren't there today, I would easily flip, obsess about calories and restrict my diet, or go to the other extreme and eat like a wild beast at the buffet. I've done each in the past at the very same restaurant, but today I was able to find balance - the middle ground that can often be so elusive for us dialectical thinkers.
So, that went well.
"Can You Hear Me Now?" asked the extreme anxiety within me.
Next, more work and then an appointment for my ears. Unfortunately, from time to time, both of my ears require ear washes that need to be administered at the clinic. Since I've been turning up my TV volume incredibly loud and still needing to read lips, I realized I needed to get medical assistance. This is supposed to be a routine, non-scary visit, and for the most part it was, but when the nurse took my temperature and other vital signs, she noted and mentioned to me that my temperature was 99.4.
She referred to this as a "low grade fever" and asked me if I was feeling well or if I had just had anything hot to eat or drink. Honestly? I felt pretty much fine until she mentioned this, and I hadn't had anything to eat or drink in at least an hour.
Temperatures and fevers, as you'll read in some of my earlier posts, are triggers from a time when I was a child and got very ill. Within seconds of her questions her pointing out my body temperature, I began to panic. I told the nurse I hadn't had much to drink yet today (insert trigger number two: fear of dehydration due to same childhood incident). I could feel myself breathing more quickly. My speech got quicker too. I asked the nurse a series of questions in a failed attempt to reassure myself that I'd be OK. She wasn't very reassuring. She wasn't rude either. I hoped that she was just being overly cautious. When she left the room, I immediately began googling "99.4 temperature," and of course got a mix of websites, some with terrifying information that didn't help my mood.
At this point, I noticed that I had gone from feeling really calm and balanced just before the appointment to feeling incredibly anxious, nervous, and desperate for reassurance-- a stark difference indeed.
Feeling Spacey (in a Good Way)
I should mention that on my way to lunch, I had the chance, just for a second, to catch a glimpse of the space shuttle descending (in the opposite direction than shown in this photo.) It felt like serendipity that I got to see this sight, even for a few seconds, and I had an intense, warm, feeling of connection with humanity, in awe of the amazingness of where this craft had been throughout space and that it had just crossed my path in just that moment. Again, those feeling and thoughts were quite different from those experienced at the doctor's office.
Ear Wax is NOT Sexy (Not that I was trying to BE Sexy, of course)
Anyhow, the nurse performed the ear washes and then I worked using the clinic's wifi until about 20 minutes later, when in walks the doctor. And: he's a hunk. I felt my anxiety rise again. I have to talk to a hot doctor about my ear wax? You're kidding, right?
I kept my composure, though anxious, and asked some questions. I could literally FEEL my pupils contracting and expanding. How weird is THAT?
Anyhow, I found it odd that when I expressed concerns to the doctor that the nurse said I had a low grade fever, he proceed to feel my forehead with the backside of his hand (instead of using a thermometer) and told me I'd be fine and that 99.4 isn't even really considered a fever.
Honestly, my heart sunk a bit. I wondered if he had seen my chart with my diagnoses (BPD, Anxiety Disorder, etc.) and was just patronizing me and treating me like a little girl, but of course I said nothing to that effect. I let it go. In that moment, I convinced myself I was fine and walked out into the sunshiny, 74 degree, first day of autumn in Northern California day. Mood shifted to feeling pleasant again almost immediately.
I Can't Come To The Phone Right Now. I'm Dissociating.
A few minutes later, my attorney called, and the call lasted for quite some time. Triggered by having to, once again recall the details of a recent violating and traumatic incident, I felt emotionally drained and snappy. I did my best to stay composed but definitely had moments where I just wanted to hang up the phone. My mind would drift sometimes during the conversation to imagining being in bed and snuggling up with the cats, as was my comfy situation earlier in the day. I wanted to escape. I could hear his words but definitely had moments of dissociation. I didn't want to radically accept that the conversation was necessary, albeit stressful, although I eventually did, and we were able to finish up.
Pop Goes The (Very Expensive) Headlight
When I got home, my boyfriend noticed that one of my headlights had blown. I had purchased a top of the line bulb just months ago, and it was quite pricey. I noticed that I handled this well, as in the past, this very same happening would propel me into a "woe is me" mode and cause me to feel stressed. I decided to remain calm, allowed him to replace it with a spare, and decided that I'll research the manufacturer's website for the return and warranty information. (Can you say "rational mind"? I was proud of myself for this.)
A Day In The Life...
So, although there was no major crisis, I hope this post serves to show you what a day in the life of this woman with Borderline Personality Disorder looks like. I don't call it a "typical" day because there's no such thing. When the variables (circumstances, interactions, moods) are adjusted at all, my day can look radically different. The hope and difference in my life now is that I understand and apply DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills to my life, and in doing so, I create more stability, self-sabotage less, and have an overall more pleasant daily experience than I did before knowing the skills.
I hope this post encouraged you.
Thanks for reading.