I have the distinct privilege of enjoying 2 delightful mental illnesses. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as well as the super-fun Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar is also known as Manic Depression. People like me have enormous mood swings, switching from depressed to manic (almost unreal happiness) very quickly at times, which brings about very confused relationships.
A odd condition in bipolar is what’s known as “mixed state” in which the sufferer can be in a depressed AND manic condition AT THE SAME TIME. That’s a delightful little nugget ‘o knowledge. Here’s a joyous quote from that Wikipedia link above.
Individuals experiencing a mixed state may have manic symptoms such as grandiose thoughts while at the same time experiencing depressive symptoms such as excessive guilt or feeling suicidal. Mixed states are considered to be high-risk for suicidal behavior since depressive emotions such as hopelessness are often paired with mood swings or difficulties with impulse control. Anxiety disorder occurs more frequently as a comorbidity in mixed bipolar episodes than in non mixed bipolar depression or mania.
So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
The other, and faaaaar more serious, condition I have is BPD. This is a cute little condition that is marked by highly unstable relationships.
…the essential feature of which is a pattern of marked impulsivity and instability of affects, interpersonal relationships and self image.
The most distinguishing symptoms of BPD are marked sensitivity to rejection and thinking about and feeling afraid of possible abandonment. Overall, the features of BPD include unusually intense sensitivity in relationships with others, difficulty regulating emotions and impulsivity. Other symptoms may include feeling unsure of one’s personal identity and values, having paranoid thoughts when feeling stressed and severe dissociation.
People with BPD feel emotions more easily, more deeply and for longer than others do. Emotions may repeatedly resurge and persist a long time. Consequently it may take longer than normal for people with BPD to return to a stable emotional baseline following an intense emotional experience.
People with BPD are often exceptionally idealistic, joyful and loving. However they may feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, experiencing intense grief instead of sadness, shame and humiliation instead of mild embarrassment, rage instead of annoyance and panic instead of nervousness. People with BPD are especially sensitive to feelings of rejection, isolation and perceived failure. Before learning other coping mechanisms, their efforts to manage or escape from their intense negative emotions may lead to self-injury or suicidal behavior. They are often aware of the intensity of their negative emotional reactions and, since they cannot regulate them, they shut them down entirely. This can be harmful to people with BPD, since negative emotions alert people to the presence of a problematic situation and move them to address it.
Whilst people with BPD feel joy intensely, they are especially prone to dysphoria, or feelings of mental and emotional distress. Zanarini et al. recognize four categories of dysphoria that are typical of this condition: extreme emotions; destructiveness or self-destructiveness; feeling fragmented or lacking identity; and feelings of victimization. Within these categories, a BPD diagnosis is strongly associated with a combination of three specific states: 1) feeling betrayed, 2) “feeling like hurting myself” and 3) feeling out of control. Since there is great variety in the types of dysphoria experienced by people with BPD, the amplitude of the distress is a helpful indicator of borderline personality disorder.
In addition to intense emotions, people with BPD experience emotional lability, or changeability. Although the term suggests rapid changes between depression and elation, the mood swings in people with this condition actually occur more frequently between anger and anxiety and between depression and anxiety.
I know that was a really long quote.
BPD sucks. Over sensitive to emotions, we react inappropriately (explosive reactions) and are easily hurt emotionally.
I’ve written about these in the past but thought I need to hit it again. Virtually no one, outside of those afflicted, know anything about BPD much less how to interact with someone who has it. Even My Bride, the smartest person I’ve ever known, and I’ve taught a few certifiable geniuses, doesn’t understand this crap. At least I don’t think she does. Yesterday she made the comment, I don’t understand how you were a comet sly different man over the past 2 weeks and now true back in an incredibly low place. I know how, I’m a sick puppy.
I have enormous fears where my mental illnesses are concerned. 90% of relationships involving a partner with Bipolar Disorder fail. “Unexpectedly, people with BPD do not have higher divorce rates than the general population. By an average age of about 40, the divorce rate for people with BPD is around 35%; this is comparable to the divorce rate for the average U.S. citizen. However, people with BPD are far less likely to remarry after a divorce.” That stat was shocking. Interesting that I have a greater chance, statistically speaking, of having a successful relationship with the worse disorder. Of course, 90% of statistics are made up, the other half are just wrong.
One thing that has always scared the crap out if me is abuse. I was an abused child in every sense of the word. If you can name it, I was a used by it. Beaten, neglected, demeaned, insulted, belittled, abandoned and even raped. Sigh… I have always been terrified that I would propagate the same behaviors as an adult; to My Bride AND my children. Thank God Almighty my kids have never been abused. I cannot say the same for My Bride.
I never beat her or verbally a used her. No, I emotionally abused her. I was a serial cheater and a life long user of pornography. I knew she thought of porn as cheating, I continued. See, I deserved those pleasures. I worked hard, My Bride would not provide. It was she that drove me to what I had done. That’s what I told myself. Over and over and over I would justify my actions.
As I progress through recovery and therapy, I see that I was mental predisposed to make the decisions I did. How easy would it be for me to blame all of my failures as a man on mental illness? Believe me, that temptation is there. It grows and builds every day. I can’t do it though. It is true that I completely lose control of myself within my mind. As an addict, that brain chemistry takes hold and overwhelms me. As someone with BPD and Bipolar, my illness takes hold and literally shoves me into situations. I do, however, have a same mind (most of the time 😉). That mind IS capable of overpowering all of my limitations. What sucks is, I’m just now learning what my major malfunction is. Before, there was that still small voice in my mind trying to get through the fog I was in. I even heard it, but didn’t listen.
therapy training I’m going through now helps me to not only hear that voice, but to also listen to it. I’m told the voice will get louder, stronger and more forceful as I move along. That is something I have a strong desire for. THAT will be when I feel like I’m in true recovery. I can’t wait.