Being Emotionally Sensitive in an Abrasive World (Borderline Personality Disorder)

Ok. So perhaps the world is not quite “abrasive.” At least not entirely. But to someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, it can certainly feel that way.  

Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for the treatment of BPD, likens those of us diagnosed with the disorder as third degree emotional burn victims. Ouch.

This came to mind today at work.

The day started out pretty ordinary, though I was in pain due to TMJ, which no doubt affected my vulnerability level. I had a headache and felt nauseous, but as I usually do in times like these, I put on my makeup, got dressed, and went to work.

It wasn’t easy. One of my coworkers had been on vacation for a week, and the moment I walked through the door, she was ready to talk about her exciting adventures. Any other day, I’d be excited, but I didn’t feel well, and when I don’t feel well physically, my sensitivity around emotions is stronger, too.

I felt so anxious. I smiled through it, as sincerely as I could. I listened to her fun stories, and then I focused on my work.  

But every interaction that came my way seemed to heighten my anxiety.  My appetite was low (which is a trigger for me), and when a coworker said, “You need to eat more than that [breakfast bar and peanuts] for lunch,” I could literally feel the surge of cold adrenaline rush through my veins as my mind went into overload and into anxiety (fight or flight) mode. 

I wasn’t in any real danger, of course. We all have off days physically and emotionally. We all have days where are appetite is less than usual so we graze rather than eat the way we normally do, but I was really triggered by the comment and needed to use my skills in order to keep my composure and carry on at work.

The average, non BPD person may not understand how incredibly intense we can experience our emotions and how vulnerabilities, such as not feeling well or not sleeping well the night before can really have an effect on how we experience our days, mood swings, and our ability to cope with things that we can ordinarily handle.

I used:

  • Self-soothing by using Wise Mind and telling myself that today is just “one of those days,” and that this, too, shall pass
  • Distraction by diving into my work and focusing
  • PLEASE skills by picking up a bagel, even though I didn’t feel like it. I ate it slowly, and it actually helped
  • Was mindful by focusing on my breath and just noticing the various sensations and thoughts that were coming up
All in all, I am beginning to feel better. Self-care continues tonight with a nice hot shower, some good tv, and snuggles on the couch with the cats.
It takes some adjusting to radically accept that the day-to-day challenge of navigating the world when you have BPD isn’t always easy, but as we apply the skills and get through the challenges, it is certainly worth it.
Thanks for reading.
More soon.

4 replies
  1. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Thank you for this blog. I knew I was diagnosed with BPD at 13 and am 35 now and finally realizing I DO have this and I can get better.

  2. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Thank you for this blog. I knew I was diagnosed with BPD at 13 and am 35 now and finally realizing I DO have this and I can get better.


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