Can you imagine being in a car, speeding up, pressing the NOS button and the suddenly stepping on the brake and putting it in reverse? That wouldn’t feel so good, would it? Imagine you repeat this cycle endlessly. Well, that’s basically how being borderline is.
It’s like a rollercoaster. Every person has ups and downs: it’s natural. The intensity and span of these moments can oscillate from a ‘normal’ standard deviation, up to Bipolar II. So how could you embrace all this? Well, when you’re in a rollercoaster, you can either feel tense the whole time, fearing you’ll fall from your seat (not recommended) or throw your hands in the air, scream and let the wind brush your face.
Let’s draw an imaginary line which is the “normal” behaviour for the society you live in, OR rather for the society you grew up in and formed as an adult. Context is important, because what’s normal in an Amazonian tribe would not be so normal in Paris and the other way around (some may argue against this comparison 🙂 ). On top of this line you feel energized, excited, ready for action and below it, you feel down, sad, unhappy. Our state of mind is like a wave rising above and falling below this line, with a variable amplitude (duration) and intensity (peaks).
People with borderline personality (either disorder or just traits), live their life on these peaks (feeling either hyped or depressed) with a relatively low distance between them (from hours to days or two weeks tops). Without understanding the underlying condition, they suffer because of it (thinking they are going crazy) and it’s hard for them to keep it under control, as the actions they take during these peaks may affect those around them.
Borderline people tend to experience addictions, potentially self-harming and addictions are rarely alone (just one). When you hear the word addiction, I bet you’re thinking drugs, but a person can be addicted to substances, spending, sex, compulsive eating, impulsive driving, adrenaline and many others. This addiction may manifest either during a peak state (like the adrenaline or impulsive driving addictions) or a low state (starting to drink). As a result, they can experience both a feeling of chronic void and intense fury. Struggling to control these manifestations, can be tiring as it consumes a lot of resources.
Under stress, the ideas crossing their mind may neighbour paranoia or send them temporarily into dissociative symptoms (amnesia, feelings of disconnection from the world or their own body, asking themselves “who am I?”, loss of feelings). At other times their behaviour might be self harming, fighting with their own image of themselves, repressing natural behaviour. It sounds like a torment, doesn’t it? An important differentiator compared to other severe conditions is that although they may threaten with self-harming or even suicide, they don’t actually go ahead and do it. This could be a bit misleading because our personality construct doesn’t rely on a single personality type – it reunites elements from several others, in different degrees.
In relationships, they bounce from one extreme to the other, experiencing either fear of abandonment or rejection, falling into toxic relations OR intense euphoria. “You were fine this morning, looking happy, now you’re so down, what happened?” “Nothing…” – this is a common dialogue with borderline folks. They tend to perceive themselves and others through extremes: things are ideal (‘so beautiful and kind’ ) or straight out of hell (‘mean, evil person, that doesn’t care about anyone’). This intense reactivity can affect romantic relations (switching between euphoric states and anxiety). Same extreme perception applies to their own self-image.
Ok, so the overall picture is not that jolly. How could you embrace all this?
As long as a borderline fellow does not understand the phases he/she is going through and the fact that after a peak of productivity will come a low point, they suffer because they don’t understand what went wrong: “I was so fine last week, now I’m so down”. Step 1 is – yes, again – Acceptance and calling facts by their name. It’s important for borderline amigos to understand their personality traits so that they can control their behaviour both during their ‘up’ and their ‘down’ phases. If you find yourself in this situation try to identify how long these episodes last. Accept that after your typical ‘high’ state, will come a ‘feeling low’ state, with literally no outside reason. See which actions are more productive during each phase – you might feel more creative in your ‘low’ state. At this point, I hope it’s clear for you that you’re not crazy, it’s just the way you are and instead of fighting it, you can make it work for you. If you understand yourself, you can help others understand you.
Try to be the driver when you’re at your peak, leading everyone, and the thinker, when you’re unhappy (or actually calm), doing some introspection, planning or analysing the things you couldn’t focus on during your energy boost. Most successful (and creative) people are usually the borderline type. As long as it doesn’t turn to a disorder affecting your daily life, you could be ok with it. In order to change it or reduce the amplitude, the long term solution is to treat the root cause (usually a sort of trauma or abuse). Would you try to get off a rollercoaster at high speed? No, you need it to slow down first and until that happens, throw your hands in the air and enjoy the ride!