I am shocked at what happened this afternoon. At my own behavior, really.
I had an angry outburst in the middle of a supermarket and looked my boyfriend in the eyes and said, in a hostile, cold voice: “F___ You!” The visceral sensations (blood pressure rising, everything else around me fading) reminded me of a time over a decade ago, long before I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and when I would feel very triggered by my former partner.
I would often lash out with intense angry outbursts, often behaving inappropriately in public places (causing scenes, swearing, throwing things, storming out.) I was “well known” where I used to live and was thought of as crazy.
The DSM (Diagnostical Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Criteria for Diagnosing BPD) describes this as:
“Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).”
For so long, “Angry Deb” has been nowhere to be found. I was so incredibly taken aback by my reaction and behavior. I was in control, but I let myself lose it in a way that I haven’t in a very long time.
All these years later, with so much personal work done (and much more to go, of course), I knew, in that very second that the anger consumed me, that this was an old, familiar feeling.
My boyfriend walked out of the store and did not want to talk to me. I chased after him, trying to apologize, but he didn’t want to hear it. I realized that I really needed to go back into the store for the original purpose: to buy cat food. I walked back toward the store, following my breath. I called Wise Mind on board.
As I did this, I was able to acknowledge that although I perceived my boyfriend as being insensitive by discussing things that he knows have been triggering to me in the past, my anger was grossly misdirected at him.
The truth is, I have been sexually harassed at work by the same manager that did this to me five years ago. I never thought he would go there again, and he has. He even used the word “molest” in his conversation with me. I have been dissociating ever since Friday when this, and other overtly sexual gestures were made to me. I ended up taking it out on my boyfriend and having graphic thoughts of cutting.
I knew immediately that I needed to calm down. I focused on the cans of cat food. I got into line and noticed details about the people in front of me and the cashier.
I paid for my order and engaged in small talk with the cashier. As I walked out of the store, I felt the wind on my face. I knew that I had to be humble, apologize sincerely to my boyfriend and be completely honest that my anger was inappropriate and misdirected. I shared with him that I hadn’t felt this upset and angry in over a decade, and I talked with him about what happened at work.
I also filled out an Interpersonal Effectiveness Worksheet 1 DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) form. I wept. I sobbed. I took deep breaths. My boyfriend forgave me and understood why I was behaving this way. We both talked about my need to get skillful to cope with these issues.
I plan to:
- Radically Accept that while I do not APPROVE of what happened on Friday, I do ACCEPT that it did happen and that I must respond like the adult that I am and deal with the situation appropriately.
- Engage in self-care to soothe my nervous system over what has happened. This will include a hot shower, my favorite television shows, and listening to soothing music. I am also debating on whether to take a mental health sick day tomorrow from work (I’ve emailed my boss today, confronting him on the incidents, by the way.)
- Engage in mindful breathing and eating.
- Get proper rest.
- If I feel the anger coming on again, I will excuse myself and cry/scream/get it out in private.
- Refer to my DBT binder and fill out worksheets as often as needed to stay grounded and mindful of my emotions and behaviors
- Stop beating myself up over what has happened. Everything has cause. It wasn’t right for me to behave the way I did, but I have figured it out, sincerely apologized and am taking every step not to repeat my behavior.