You know those moments where you just literally fall apart and want someone to hold you and tell you everything will be alright? I experienced that this evening. I curled up tight in a ball on the couch and cried, frustrated over a computer file that didn’t save my changes. I had worked on it for a while was devastated. Not just sad, irritated, or made — but devastated. Many of us with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to experience our emotions quite intensely. This is not surprising, considering that one of the main criteria for the disorder is emotional instability or emotion dysregulation.
As I laid on the couch, I desperately wanted my boyfriend to notice and to comfort me. I wanted him to hug me and soothe me, but he didn’t. He said some things that helped calm me, but I got even more upset that he didn’t read my body language and tears as needing to me soothed beyond that.
This made me think. I noticed how I expected him to provide the soothing and comfort that I’ve worked so hard to learn how to provide to myself. I felt needy, and I wanted to be taken care of in that moment. Was that so wrong? Of course not, but it also wasn’t fair to him, as he was stressing about his own issues and focused on something else at the time. I expected him to read my mind, know my needs, and meet them, instead of being assertive and direct and saying, “I really need a hug.” I’m not judging myself for this. Everything has cause. I’m sure my inner child showed up, and she tends to operate from Emotion Mind.
I kept watching my thoughts. I noticed how I had quickly escalated emotionally, and because I’ve been practicing DBT, I am more aware of when these shifts take place. This awareness is a gift. It gives me an opportunity to take some deep breaths, notice what I am thinking and feeling, and to take steps to engage my mind in rational thinking. My goal in these situations is to get Wise Mind — the intersection between Emotional and Rational Mind.
As I stood there and decided I should wait until I calmed down before saying anything or doing anything (otherwise, I may say things I regret or act impulsively), I realized that it wasn’t just about the file. The file was the icing on the cake, but I’d experienced a disappointment this morning. I also ran some errands, incurred a fee that stressed me out, and didn’t eat lunch. By allowing my blood sugar to get low earlier in the day, I set the stage for feeling physically unwell. This opened the door to emotional vulnerability.
I calmly told my boyfriend why I was upset and decided to take a break from the computer. I’d taken quite a break from it, as it was, for the entire weekend. I kept busy, walked 7.5 miles yesterday, and with the exception of skipping lunch today (purely because I got very busy and didn’t make eating a priority — not because I was deliberately restricting) I’d eaten healthfully, and I rested well.
Today was different. We never know what a day will bring, and even though I can tell it is sometimes frustrating for my boyfriend to witness me become suddenly and intensely upset about something that most other people would not react to, I know that it is. I explained it to him again. At least these episodes are not as frequent as they used to be.
I’ll be practicing some self-soothing tonight with my fuzzy blanket on the couch, hopefully accompanied by my two cats. I’ll also distract by watching one of my favorite TV shows on Neflix. I just practiced the PLEASE skills by having a healthy snack when I felt hungry again, and I hope plan to get a good night’s sleep. I have an appointment with my psychiatrist in the afternoon, and I look forward to that.
Thanks for reading. More Soon.
P.S. With the recent incident of being violated at work, Tori Amos’ songs (she was one of my favorites in high school) have begun to serve as self-soothing. Tori writes about the many ways that she was sexually violated as a child and young woman and does so in a powerful, artistic, and beautiful way.
Some of her song lyrics may be too graphic for those of us with current, intense triggers, but there are other songs, like this one, “Silent All These Years,” where the lyrics are more ambiguous and open to interpretation. I like this because each of us can fill in the blanks and give the song personal meaning. This song really speaks to me right now. I need to reclaim my power and not be a victim. My inner child needs this of me. I need this of me. The imagery of her rolling around in the box also come to mind when I find myself in the fetal position. I hope you enjoy it.