So, overwhelming emotions are a big part of borderline personality disorder. Marsha Linehan, the creator of DBT, has said that people with BPD “feel the mental squalls of rage, emptiness, and anxiety much more intensely than most people do.”
I’ve always felt things pretty strongly. Even as a kid I remember that my emotions were often overwhelming and people called me sensitive. They became much more of an issue when I was in college, which is when I was first realized something was actually wrong and sought out help.
Since then, my emotions and regulating them has always been an issue. I am constantly aware that I am feeling–that I’m experiencing emotions. They are too powerful and distracting to filter out. I might get small breaks, like for an hour or two at work if I’m absorbed in something, or if I’m home alone playing a video game. But as soon as something pushes one of my 523 million buttons, my feelings are back in my face again.
Anyway, this is the way I have lived for the past 10 years at least. It has varied in severity, and some emotions have been more intense and more constant at different times in my life. And I hate it. It makes me tired. It feels like I’m fighting all the time. Sometimes it makes me cry. Sometimes I feel like I can’t possibly go on dealing with my dumb feelings erupting over every single tiny stimulus.
However, lately this particular part of BPD has been particularly awful. About 5 weeks ago I became suicidal and severely depressed. I kind of slowly declined over a few months and then crashed very quickly in about a week. I took some time of work and spent 2 weeks in a partial hospitalization program, as I’ve mentioned before. Then I had about 2 more weeks off while I adjusted to med changes and rested. I started back to work again today.
Since becoming suicidal 5 weeks or so ago, I truly feel that I have spent every waking moment actively attempting to regulate my emotions. Once the overwhelming urge to hurt myself abated, I started feeling extremely hopeless or achingly hollow or angrier than I can remember feeling in years. I had to get up and leave groups during the partial program a few times because I was so angry about things other group members said or things I was thinking about. That is not typical for me.
Slowly other feelings came into the mix, but they were just as intense and difficult to handle. I had trouble doing regular life stuff like housework or grocery shopping or exercising because I couldn’t think about anything except my dumb feelings. One afternoon I was in the backyard working on the garden with my boyfriend and a song lyric touched a nerve. I went inside to try to deal with my emotions before they escalated and ended up pacing in the kitchen while crying and flapping my hands.
Even emotions typically considered positive were often overwhelming to the point of being unpleasant. One afternoon I felt hopeful about the future and confident that I could make progress in several areas of my life, and that very quickly escalated into feeling determined to solve all my problems and my significant other’s problems. I was so sure everything would be better once I got to work that I couldn’t hold still and I felt physically uncomfortable with how slowly time was passing. I felt as if I couldn’t possibly deal with living through the next 6 months if time was going to keep taking as long as it does. A few other times I felt something like happiness and laughed uncontrollably in a way that kind of freaked me out. I wanted to stop laughing but couldn’t.
During one 36 hour period, I experienced 1) the determined, impatient feeling described above 2) utter self-loathing because I believe I am worthless and bad at the core of my being 3) euphoria/being in love immediately followed by the fear abandonment 4) misery over the revelation that the best thing I can do for everyone in my life is to leave them alone and not subject them to my illness 5) anxiety that I couldn’t reach my boyfriend on the phone 6) anger at myself for worrying 7) guilt for the way my illness and emotions affect others 8) self-loathing because I can recognize the irrationality of a feeling and still not stop it 9) suicidal thoughts and 10) a disconnected, empty feeling, like the world was getting farther away from me and I was watching it from space. There are actually 23 more emotions I wrote down that I felt during that 36 hour period, but listing them all would make this post way too long.
It was also very strange to realize later that during each one of these emotions, I believed/felt them with all of my being. It’s part of the intensity of it and part of what makes it so exhausting. I feel like I haven’t been at a resting point in weeks; I’ve just bounced from one out of control emotion to the other. I’m ready for this to slow down. I’m so tired and I need my feelings to chill out a little so I can work on some CBT and DBT skills.