Maybe you’ve been accused of being manipulative because you behave in certain ways due to having borderline personality disorder. Maybe you’ve heard the term “Drama Queen” thrown in your direction. Both of these labels and accusations imply that you are deliberately behaving in ways that are upsetting to others or inappropriate to the circumstances. But as a person in recovery from BPD, I can speak form personal experience that this isn’t always the case.
Suffering from BPD means that you experience difficulty with intense emotions, namely, you may get completely dysregulated and nervous system activated, from those upsetting things that others can easily bounce back from and continue on with their day. I remember that when I was in the thick of my symptoms, even day to day minor stressors like being a few minutes late for an appointment or a boyfriend not calling back exactly when he said he would could cause me to derail.
I just didn’t know how to cope with distress in an effective way. That all changed when I learned Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). The skills truly changed my life. Distress Tolerance in particular helped me to learn how to manage dealing with upsetting situations that didn’t have a solution in the moment (without making matters worse or sabotaging).
So, why do we sabotage? This is a complex question with complex answers, and it varies from person to person, but in my work as a peer educator teaching DBT skills online, (I teach because learning these skills and routinely implementing them into my life is what helped me overcome Borderline Personality Disorder – I no longer meet the criteria for the diagnosis), I see some common themes.
People with BPD tend to be very, very, emotionally sensitive. Even things that aren’t meant to be offensive or slights can send us into a spiral of deep despair. A common fear among those with BPD is that people we love will leave, abandon, or reject us, and due to our sensitivity, we are almost always on hyper alert, whether we are conscious of it or not, for signs of this being a danger. We may interpret an innocent sigh or someone looking away or a change in tone of voice as “That’s it,. He’s finally had enough of me. He’s leaving me forever. I can’t handle this!”
Once the nervous system is activated into fight or flight mode, we may engage in sabotaging behaviors as a way to cope or as ineffective, maladaptive ways to try to fix the situation. Unfortunately, these behaviors tend to defeat the purpose of keeping people close to us and actually push them away, When we pick up on this happening, the fear gets worse, and it becomes a vicious cycle.
So how do you stop sabotaging? The answer for me was intervention in the form of DBT. I didn’t know any other way than what I was doing, and I needed to learn alternatives. Something effective. Something skillful. Something that would help me achieve my goals and not constantly sabotage them. Something that would help me form and keep healthy relationships, not push and scare people away. While I’m not trying to make it sound like DBT solved all of my problems, I can honestly tell you that it did help me accomplish all of the above.
Here’s a quick video with a bit more of my story with BPD:
Did you learn anything helpful from this post or video? I’d love to hear form you in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and watching.