I have always felt like I had a “base mood”, which is the state I’m in. Depressive, hypomanic, stable. I noticed that there was kind of an “atmospheric mood”, which was a wispy, temporary mood state that would come through. I’ve always characterized this as weather.
This emotional weather is just about as predictable as meteorological weather. Forecasts can go out based on current information and predictable outcomes. But, things can change quickly, and suddenly, storms crop up. Unfortunately, they don’t make an emotional barometer. There are no external instruments to sound an alarm on the emotional accuweather forecast.
I considered the weather to be just regular “moods”. I know one thing that is difficult for all people who have bipolar disorder is to draw the line between typical and symptomatic. It becomes a nearly impossible task when a person is actually symptomatic. That’s why it’s considered a disorder.
Over the last three years, I’ve become pretty familiar with episodic behavior. I cannot always identify it straight away. But, eventually, I tease it out. What I encountered in January was genuine symptoms, starting with an ultradian cycle I wasn’t even aware of until I reviewed my logs.
What I started to experience toward the end of that depressive episode was uncharacteristic. I hadn’t experienced those types of symptoms in some time. It didn’t look as if it was a coincidence that my mood chart started jumping at the same time my marriage got thrown on the rocks. And now, two months later, I’ve seem to hit some semblance of a period of stability coinciding with the start of my husband’s admissions and treatment.
He broke the silence. Now, I’m breaking it too.
Criteria 1: Fear of abandonment:
My fear of abandonment isn’t typically characterized, because of the keen awareness of the consequences. My fear is very real. The frantic efforts are a little unusual. It’s not outwardly frantic, because I know that behavior actually drives people away. Instead, I take huge strides to make myself more appealing. That feeds into the destabilization of self-image.
There’s a hidden switch, though. At some point, when I’m overloaded with anxiety, I shut down. I will shut down on a person, and it will be over. It will be difficult for me to feel anything for them until they have been out of my life for awhile, or they take a big leap of faith to me.
This disrupts my ability to make friends. I keep everyone at a distance, because I know that I will drive them away. I know that I am intense and strange. And I know that most people are passing ships in my life.
Criteria 2: Unstable Relationships and intense relationships:
I’ve been in a serious relationship with two different psychopaths, one diagnosed (Avi, the abusive one), and I’m now in a marriage with a man with MI. I always swore that these men found me. I think it was a little bit of both.
But, the catch about my marriage is however intense it is, it is stable. Go outside my romantic relationships. Looking at the intense dysfunction between my parents and me tells the tale.
Those people hurt me. And yet, I still love them. I hate them for everything, but I still vacillate between pandering for their affections and shutting them out. I know that they had their hand in this. And still, I blame it exclusively on myself.
Criteria 3: Identity Disturbance:
I used to dye my hair everytime I had a serious mood shift. When my first ex and I broke up, it shattered my whole world. And I said “F*ck the world.” At that point, I let go of everything. It was at that point in time that I started partying my life away.
That wasn’t me. I was a control freak. I always wanted control of my reality. I wanted control of the direction of my life and was always goal oriented.
My ex, Avi, was the worst agitation. I let him tell me who I was, what I should and shouldn’t be doing, and how I should live my life. I let him victimize me, because he told me I was a victim.
C.S. helped me find my way back to me. The me that I liked and was used to. The me that read, wrote, played music, and enjoyed artistic expression, not mindless video games. He helped me find my way back to goal-orientation and showed me that he could love me. That was the only reason I could even be me. Because that’s what he loved.
Criteria 4: Impulsivity:
After I had experienced sexual assault for the first time, I had come to the conclusion that I was a slut. So, I started to act like a slut by having sex with any man who looked at me sideways. I wanted to convince myself that I was at least good for something.
I have alcoholism. It is mostly controlled now. That’s no secret.
Now, here’s the big secret. I likely have an eating disorder. In times of serious distress, I deny myself food. I don’t deserve to eat. I’m a fatass. No one loves a fatass.
I have pindged and purged. It’s not often. In times of depression and self-depreciating behavior, I will binge to feel good. And then I’ll purge, because I worry about my weight. But worse than that. I’ll purge, because getting rid of that overstuffed feeling feels good. There is no better feeling than an empty belly.
I would excessively spend. But, you can’t spend without money in the bank. As a teen, I used to shoplift. And I got caught and got in the worst trouble of my life with my parents. I get the impulse now and again, but the fear and embarrassment is enough to keep me from doing it.
Criteria 5: Recurrent Suicidal / Self-Injurious Behavior:
Admittedly, as a teen, I was more satisfied with cutting with a steak knife than a razor. A razor was too easy, and the cuts were always thin, sleek, and healed without incident. The serrated knife left jagged cuts that never healed right.
I used to pick at the scabs. I only recently started scraping them with a luffa.
I take scalding showers for two reasons. First, there is the whole germ part. But, secondly, sensitive skin burns easily. Scrub it with a luffa, and it flakes and peels. It hurts so nicely, I can’t think about anything else.
I don’t ever threaten. I warn. Because I know certain stressors will set it off.
I used to attempt suicide. I have probably a dozen serious attempts under my belt. I probably have about a dozen more half-assed attempts where I hoped I’d die of alcohol poisoning. Or, if I let an infection go long enough, I’d cause organ failure. (I almost did that with my kidneys that started as a UTI).
I don’t anymore. It’s pointless. I have never come close to succeeding. And I’m convinced that there is a reason for that. Besides, I’m not so cruel as to leave my husband and son like that. Not now. My son is old enough to remember me. My husband might actually go down with me, although he’s never indicated as much.
Criteria 6: Affective Instability
Rage. I’m almost always irritable. I’ve always thought that irritability and reactivity were hallmarks of bipolar disorder. I was wrong.
I have bouts of intense anxiety. Especially when I feel like I’m not in control. It is expressed in OCD-like symptoms when it goes critical. I start hoarding. Or purging items. I check constantly. I do mental checks. I fear contamination.
Dysphoric moods. It’s always been suicidal ideation in the past. It’s only recently that I’ve had homicidal ideation, and it’s enough to scare me. But, I don’t imagine harming loved ones. No, I imagine harming people who are a perceived threat to my family and me.
That emotional weather, that was affective instability. When it produces serious storms, it becomes separate from bipolar disorder completely. Layered moods.
Criteria 7: Chronic Feelings of Emptiness:
Curiously, I don’t have the typical definition of this. Most of the time, I feel too full. I’m full of emotion, turmoil, life. I’m bursting at the seams.
But, if you examine the criteria a little closer, it can be characterized by never feeling good enough. I’m bad. I have never achieved anything noteworthy. No one really loves me. I feel as if I am worthless, rather than empty.
Criteria 8: Inappropriate Anger / Difficulty Controlling Anger
Sometimes, yes. I have a temper. I try to be careful at expressing this anger. It’s usually restricted to times when I am alone. I scream. I break things.
I don’t want to scare my family. I don’t want the shame and guilt I would suffer from such impulsive, inappropriate behavior. I don’t want anyone to leave me, because they fear me. I try so hard to practice restraint. I’m not always very successful.
Criteria 9: Transient, Stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions, or severe dissociation symptoms
This was the key to finally prove the potential for BPD to me. I’ve always had delusions. I’ve always had the berating voice. But, my paranoia has always turned out to be justified in the end.
When C.S. and I were very rocky, I was convinced that a man, who I would never otherwise suspect, was cheating on me. The voice separated into a an auditory hallucination, free of any rational mind, feeding me horrible things. I had my first real break from reality.
But, it was in fits that never lasted longer than a few hours to maybe a few days. And it could be broken by immediate distraction.
I’m nowhere near as volatile as I used to be. Medication has tamed my symptoms, and nearly domesticated me. There are a lot of behaviors that I don’t engage in anymore.
But, I am a far cry from ridding myself of all of them. And if I keep going on this course of alienating people, disabling my supports, and self-sabatoging, I’m going to end up in a very bad place.
So, I made an impulsive move yesterday morning. Finally, a good one. I called and made an appointment to start meeting with a qualified professional with an objective eye. I could’ve gotten in today, but my hours are restricted right now due to work.
So, next Thursday. In one week, I will take my first baby steps back into the world of therapy. Honestly, I don’t have high hopes. Thankfully, I have a number of therapists to choose from. And if it doesn’t work out, at least I gave it a try.
I want to keep trying and not get discouraged. But, I’m so picky about my professionals. I know there has to be some hope for recovery.
I had never considered Borderline Personality Disorder.
The term “Personality Disorder” carries so many negative connotations. It assumes that it’s a defect of someone’s personality. That in itself assumes that a person can just snap out of it, or just change it.
BPD gets such a bad rap in the media. I thought of “Fatal Attraction” and “Single White Female”. “That’s not me,” I insisted. I even reviewed the DSM-IV criteria, and still could only see a portion of it.
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
- Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, excessive spending, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars or picking at oneself (excoriation) .
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms
First, my fear of abandonment and the way I react to it is complicated. True, if I sense that there is something off with my partner, I do come to a conclusion that I am responsible and this person will eventually leave me. But, I didn’t feel as if that was unreasonable.
Yes, I do have a history of intense, explosive relationships. Now, the intensity of my relationship is usually shared up until a certain point. I have never had this problem in my marriage where I was “too intense”. In fact, it is preferred that I am so invested in my marriage and co-dependent. Not “dependent”. Co-dependent. We depend on each other very heavily. It works just fine, and I was pretty sure that a good marriage was a marriage that worked for both people.
I never considered an identity disturbance. Not frequently anyway. I have always been mostly the same person who liked the same things. Everyone goes through periods of change and self-renewal, right?
I’m not very impulsive. I am too anxious for impulsive behavior, because I fear the consequences. Impulsive behavior doesn’t allow for fear. I have too much fear. I don’t sleep around; I’m a devoted wife. I’m very careful with money, because I never have had or have any. I have had a history of alcohol abuse though. . .
Yes, I self-harm. But, self-harm happens in affective disorders.
Of course I have affective instability. I have bipolar disorder. But, the mood doesn’t usually last only a few hours to days, unless I’m ultradian cycling. That’s rare.
I don’t feel empty. As a matter of fact, sometimes I feel too full.
I do have a temper. But, I’m usually very good at controlling it. When I go off, I’ve just gone beyond my limit. Everyone does that.
I have always been paranoid and delusional. But, I’ve spoken with doctors about this problem in the past. They don’t seem to see it as a problem, nor do they really see it as full-blown delusions anyway. Despite that voice.
I was set on disproving it. Well, until I started reading personal accounts that struck me. Then, I read explanations of the wide variety of behaviors that fall into the diagnostic criteria. And finally, certain characteristic statements. “If people actually got to know me, they probably wouldn’t like me.”
I have a private blog entitled, “If You Only Really Knew Me”. I don’t update often. But, sometimes I do. Times where I am too much of a coward to stand up and confess on Pendulum. Those words that bang at the inside of my skull, but I’d never dare reveal.
I had absolutely no idea that BPD was so diverse. The stigma would have everyone believe the “I hate you, don’t leave me” thing. But, there’s so many different ways it can operate. I started to see the pattern emerge in early adolescence, as is described. I saw how it dominated my previous relationship and sustained the mutual abuse. And I could see it in me.
When something, an emotion, an urge, an impulse, is so severely suppressed that a person becomes oppressed, we can often observe extreme opposite reactions. This is consistent with the laws of physics and the universe, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Except, one thing. I believe when it comes to emotions and behaviors, the opposing reaction is more like equal plus. The plus being an x-value holding place for a value with the meaning “a little more.” Determining that exact value in numerical terms may be difficult, since there is no numerical value for emotions.
It basically conveys the message that the situation perpetuates itself. Any potential absence of behavior or action can still be perceived as a positive value. Inaction can still be considered an action in this case, because there isn’t really such a thing as a complete absence of behavior.
This is potentially a huge factor in mental illness. Obviously, we are aware of the psychological damage abuse and neglect in childhood can cause, even throughout adulthood. It is thought to manifest in anxiety disorders, particularly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. However, that does not account for people who did not experience what is typically considered childhood trauma.
Even as adults, we are susceptible to psychological damage. This is a fact that is well established through research involving war veteran and victims of sexual assault. However, we only consider extreme forms of trauma as something qualifies as such. Such is also true of childhood trauma.
Other qualifying trauma often happens over a period of time, and goes consciously unrecognized. This does not mean that it is also subconsciously unrecognized as well. In fact, the subconscious is likely keenly aware, but unable to translate to the conscious mind.
Once the conscious mind becomes aware that there is something amiss, the traumatizing behavior seems commonplace. The person has likely become desensitized to what was once a subtle, but generally constant external stressor. By then, it becomes internalized and often mistaken as an internal stressor.
Those are the seeds for maladaptive behaviors in both children and adults. At this point, unhealthy coping mechanisms have already been adopted as part of a person’s behavioral repertoire. This is directly the result of an extreme reaction to the accumulation of what may be considered subtle long term stressor(s).
The maladaptive behaviors are recognized as such, and perpetuate trauma through mistreatment of oneself. It can be behaviorally observed by an unusual response to certain unpleasant stimuli. Unfortunately, the subject is often unaware that their responses are abnormal. By the time it is either pointed out or realized by oneself, the original cause is well buried under layers of self-abuse / neglect.
The result of this is much larger than anxiety disorders. It reaches out to grab behaviors typical of a variety of psychological disorders. Behavior repertoires are often observed in personality disorders and mood disorders. it would stand to reason this is true, due to the nature of long-term external stressors, particularly subtle abuse and neglect.
Mutually Abusive Relationships
There is practically no literature on the subject of mutually abusive relationships, as this is only a recently recognized phenomenon. While professionals, such as Dawn Bradley Berry, J. D. acknowledge that it occurs, few can agree on whether it was mutual in nature.
The dynamics of abusive relationships are significantly more complex than professionals seem to think. In decades prior, society bred women to be docile, obedient, and complacent. Most research reflects that in abusive relationships. The man “attacks”, and the woman is “victimized”.
Unquestionably, that is precisely the manner abuse presented itself in my relationship prior to this one. It began innocuously with casual criticisms and negative remarks. A person is inclined to believe that a loved one only means the best, even if the words sting. There was hardly a second thought toward the words. Eventually, they grew into berating remarks, lambasting lectures, and generalized nitpicking over every action, behavior, expression, inaction, word, thought, emotion . . .
By then, I was already convinced that these heinous contortions were the embodiment of what I truly was. I was already manipulated into believing I had been delusional about my own nature to begin with. It was like being in a house of mirrors. Every reflection revealed a new flaw.
But, a miniscule portion of my consciousness spotted the cracks all along. It seemed I was not entirely convinced that this was the absolute truth. Contradictions existed at everywhere in this fun house. How was it possible that I was so stupid when my grade point average was far above his? If I was such a flawed, inadequate, and vile person, why did I have so many faithful, loving friends?
At that point, the seeds of alcoholism were taking root. I violated my own rules of drinking. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! I’m not drinking alone if I’m drinking with my boyfriend. Hair of the dog, best way to cure a hangover. If I’m still managing to get to school and hold an honor’s average, I’m not drinking too much.
Liquid courage and comfortingly numb.
Naturally, I engaged the fire breathing dragon with my own fire. Raw throat from screaming for hours, until one of us locked the other out, or I started packing a bag. I was attempting to turn his own game right around on him. The problem is that he was the gamemaster, and I was just a pawn. I was always the pawn. He could play me against me, and change the rules at will.
It was common knowledge. I would never leave. I was already too terrified of the potential consequences. Besides, all of my money was tied up in that apartment. We had acquired a sizable amount of mutual property. I was unwilling to sacrifice all of my gains, my gains, because I paid for them, to someone else.
Next, we moved into the isolation stage. Suddenly, all of my girl friends were whores and my male friends wanted to get into my pants. Your friends are a reflection of who you are. No wonder you’re a completely stupid whore. A drop of truth existed. One of my closest friends was a teen mom, a stripper, and into drugs. I didn’t see a whole lot wrong there. She had a good heart, despite her mistakes. But. . . maybe I was wrong.
We graduated college, lost our apartment, and moved onto some family property. This was the turning point. Here, we were completely alone.
I was a victim as much as I was an abuser.
It is one of the most difficult realities I have to face.
Prior to that point, I had never laid my hands on anyone with malicious intent. And truthfully, I can’t pinpoint where it began. Being in a perpetual state of inebriation has likely damaged that portion of my memory to beyond retrievable. I can only recall certain events. But, my mind will never be able to purge itself of the horror, guilt, rage, terror, hurt, and animosity I felt.
He started abusing me first. Again, it started innocently enough with playful roughhousing that usually got out of hand. Eventually, it turned into vulgar, degrading, often coerced, dangerously rough sex. Then, it finally graduated to domestic life. The transitions were so smooth that it was too hard to distinguish in the house of mirrors. Sometimes you need to be put in your place. You don’t know what’s good for you.
I became the monster that I loathed. I was an animal, trapped in a cage, and emotionally, verbally, and now physically beaten for mistakes. Sometimes, it was events that were beyond my control. And, I gave in to my natural instincts. I started fighting back.
I wanted him to feel the pain he inflicted upon me.
I recall a specific incident, the worst of them all. We were drinking and playing World of Warcraft. He was highly competitive, and I was entirely defensive. As usual, he had remarks on my lack of skill and inadequacy in the team. I started back in on him. There was a back and forth that eventually provoked me to get up in his face. He saw me coming and hit me in the face with a CAT5 cord. The cord slashed my face and the connector rendered my right eye useless.
I pounced, but he knocked me flat on my back, with his foot on my chest. He commanded, “You stay down there!” I wrested myself free and attempted to get on my feet, only to be knocked flat and pinned again. “Stay on the f***ing floor!” Once more. “I thought I f***ing told you to lay on the f***ing floor!”
I couldn’t free myself this time, and I angrily searched the floor for something, anything. I grabbed a discarded vodka bottle and hurled with all of my strength at his head. He jerked to dodge the impact, and I got to my feet. I stared at him defiantly with my mouth twisted into a snarl.
“What the f*** do you think you’re doing?! You could have f***ing killed me, you stupid b****!”
“I’m sorry I didn’t!”
He came at me, but I lunged for him, tackling him to the floor. I began mercilessly wailing on him as he antagonized me, “Is that all you got?! A fly could do more damage!” I slapped him across the face so hard that my red handprint swelled on his cheek.
He threw me off of him, but I was still in pursuit. My cheek burned, my eye puffed shut, and my rage incinerated every last shred of humanity that remained. I grabbed him by his shirt before he made it to the front door. He shoved me, but I remained latched to him.
“I’m leaving you, you crazy b****!”
“Take this with you!”, I spit at him and sunk my teeth into the flesh over his heart. He picked me up by my throat, viciously thrust me to the floor, and slammed the door. I laid there, coughing and gasping to regain my breath.
That wasn’t the end. The end didn’t come for nearly another year. And in that year, incidents such as these were commonplace. I could not legitimately claim victimization. I shared equal fault for the escalation of the abuse that occurred. Despite any trauma I have suffered, I am responsible for another person’s trauma.
That alone hinders healing. Most of the world will never see themselves in that light. I have more than glanced at the monster in the mirror. I became it. I abhor all parties involved in each and every single last act. Including myself. How could I possible forgive myself for such atrocities that I committed when I have personally felt the pain they inflict?