In my mind, I am normal. This is because I live with me twenty-four seven (OK, not always twenty-four seven because some of those hours I am asleep).
I have BPD. In the past, I never realised that I feel emotions more easily, more deeply, and for longer than others do. I thought the intensity of my emotions was normal. Turns out, it’s not. I read somewhere that in non-BPD people an emotion typically fires for 12 seconds. In BPD’ers it can last up to 20 percent longer. BPD’ers emotions also repeatedly re-fire, or re-live, or recur, however you want to say it, so emotional reactions occur for even longer. I do. I go over and over and over the emotions, pinging from one to another like a steel ball in a pinball machine.
Emotions are extreme, intense feelings for me. Especially the negative ones, but I can feel entirely euphoric, which is often followed by more extreme lows, so I try to avoid them.
Emotions are also a bit confusing.
I remember one of my first CBT appointments Kerry (my psychologist) gave me a sheet of A4 paper with a thermometer on it and a scale of one to ten. For the scale of one to ten I had to write the feelings and emotions leading up to anger, anger being at the top where the thermometer ran out.
I couldn’t do it. I still can’t.
I remember feeling really stupid. I’m (usually) an intelligent person, I should be able to figure out the feelings or emotions that lead to anger, but I couldn’t. That was when I realised that although I am factually intelligent, my general knowledge of things is bordering on useless, I am not emotionally intelligent.
Why couldn’t I figure it out?
To me an emotion is, or it isn’t. I’m extremely angry or I’m not. There is no build up. Classic all or nothing Borderline behaviour. I’m sad or I’m not. I’m happy or I’m not. I’m bored or I’m not. I hate you or I love you.
To this day I can’t even begin to figure out the emotional thermometer. I’m still one emotion or another, there is no build up. It just is or it isn’t, but I recognise that now.
I’ve been trying to figure out if I can feel more than one emotion at once. I don’t think I can.
It’s not often I feel ambivalence towards someone or something. Sorry, for me it is either love something to the extreme (sharks) or hate every single thing about it and fly into a rage at the mere mention of it (Micheal Buble, emotional thermometers). There is the third thing that is “I don’t care about it so it doesn’t even register on my radar”. I guess that is ambivalence, but can you have that emotion if it doesn’t exist to you?
The only way I would love Micheal Buble is if he got eaten by a shark
BPD emotions cycle rapidly (not on a bicycle). Euphoria can go to anger in an instant. But I don’t think I feel more than one emotion at once, the emotion cycles rapidly from one extreme to the next. It’s quite simple if you think about it, the emotions are rudimentary and uncomplicated because they are pure and unfiltered, but they are also extreme.
So I’ve explained how complicatedley-basic emotions are to me. Now I want to explain how complex the rest of the world is.
Fuck those HD TV’s with surround sound, my life is in HD with surround sound.
There are days where I experience hyperacusis – this is where I’m sensitive to noise, and it happens frequently, almost daily so I’m quite excited when I get a day off.
The world is a noisy, fast paced place. From what I understand, loud sounds drown out other sounds.
I can hear all of the sounds and then my brain separates them out. It’s not just a noise. I hear dogs bark and birds sing and traffic and airplanes and the autoclave and the buzz from the light bulb above the heating is on and there is that high-pitched noise just coming from behind the music on the radio as well as people’s voices. Sounds on top of sounds on top of sounds. It’s not one noise drowning out another, it’s somehow my brain’s fascination and concentration of separating the sounds out. Sometimes the sounds are processed in order of closest to furthest away.
I long for quiet, or even just the sound of my heart beating in my chest and the woosh of sea without the complicated layers of other sounds.
My sense of smell is sensitive to things others can’t smell. It also doesn’t help that memories (good and bad) are triggered by smells, but that is besides the point because we all know that BPD’ers are prone to PTSD.
I see everything. Sometimes there is too much to take in, I feel like a pigeon. I only realised this today when I was talking to colleagues about details in things I noticed and they don’t, or never thought of. Maybe I’m just super observant, but I think maybe it is the BPD. Painting, in some ways, helps me get away from seeing the detail, even if I hardly ever see the big picture and see all the tiny brush strokes and lines.
Lines and colours and white space.
Sometimes my skin hurts. Even the gentlest touch sets me on edge, no matter how much I long to be hugged some days (even if the PTSD and fear of abandonment didn’t kick in). It’s a different feeling to an ache or a pain, it’s like I need to peel my skin off or scrape it or burn it because it is too much, it’s too tight, it’s too skin-y, almost like there are too many nerve endings.
Sometimes I come home from a busy day at work and there is a tinnitus ringing in my ears, I want to peel my skin off just so it stops hurting, I want to eat dry toast with nothing on it so I can just taste the simplicity of the bread and nothing else. I just want to turn all of the lights out and put my head under the duvet and close my eyes so I can’t see and hear and be seen.
Some people think I am lazy because of this. It’s not lazy, its needing to get away from the stimulation of everyday life and the rapid emotions.
Some people think I should go and achieve something and that will make me feel better. It won’t, the over stimulation makes things worse and I’m less able to concentrate.
Some people just don’t get it when I explain it to them and look at me with a puzzled look on their face. I don’t really care if they don’t get it, I have to look after myself.
I’m getting used to the fact that I am not some-people. I’m getting used to my normal not being everyone elses normal. While I sometimes get cross and frustrated with that fact, talking about it in the real world is getting easier and I am gaining more understanding about myself, and other people, and just how fascinating, as well as bizarre, BPD is.
Love Sailor xox
Want to read more? -
Fun pigeon facts – Super vision
Black and white thinking in BPD
Rapid cycling – The differences between BPD and Bipolar
Ultra confusing anger thermometer
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