People on Reddit will often talk about what ‘type’ of BPD they have. There are those who identify as the more typical type, those who make frantic efforts to fix things and keep people close which only make things worse. Then there’s the quiet type; those who just bottle everything up and suffer in silence, those who withdraw and avoid.
I was definitely the quiet type until about a year or so ago. I used to be so afraid of confrontation, I would never tell people when they had upset me for fear of the backlash; this was definitely a behaviour that had been ingrained from my childhood. I’d just suffer and cry alone. Under the advice of my therapist I started to challenge that, keeping everything in all the time was starting to do some serious damage. The lid came off that bottle and as it turned out there was a lot inside.
I was no longer the quiet type, I was about as typical BPD as you could get. The problem is that once you’ve taken that lid off it is incredibly difficult to put it back on. Avoidance was an instinct for me once, now even the idea of it feels so alien to me. As much as I’ve mourned the loss of friendships which haven’t been able to survive a more assertive and, yes, a more erratic version of me, there are a lot of positive changes which have come with this.
The friendships that have endured have also strengthened. I used to be surrounded by acquaintances who didn’t value me for who I was and only tolerated a meek version of me who had no backbone. For the first time in my life I think I have a small handful of friends who might just understand me and still want to be a part of my life.
While I may have some bias on account of people with White Boy Syndrome who run from their issues, I truly believe avoidance is not a healthy path to follow. It festers, constantly inflicting pain and anxiety not just upon those who rely upon it as a coping mechanism but also on the people around them. When we avoid our issues we cannot resolve then and we do not learn from ourselves or others.
However, without being able to rely on avoidance as a coping mechanism any more I am left with a new issue: impulse control. When I’m experiencing intense emotions and my head is screaming at me that I have to fix everything that’s going wrong that’s when the typical BPD comes into play. Frantic efforts to contact people and make them listen to my perspective, desperately trying to claw my way out of the pain through any reassurance that I’m not despised.
The thing is normal people really do not like this. Mental health is confronting and most people are, ironically, avoiders.
This is where those good ol’ DBT skills come in. In short, DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy) is a type of therapy designed to help Borderlines function, in revolves around building skills to cope with stressful situations without relying on the unhealthy clutches we undoubtedly have. While I have a long way to go, one thing which really stood out to me when I began my workbook is the distinction it made between avoidance and distraction.
When we avoid something we don’t intend to deal with it or reflect on our actions. When we distract we’re giving ourselves a break until we can handle it in a more constructive manner.
…can you tell I’ve still got a long way to go there?
My current homework from my therapist is to make a box filled with distractions and soothing objects and it’s something I’m pretty stuck on. My first idea was to roll joints from the little book of calm, buy a bottle of overpriced whiskey, add a vibrator and presto! While I can’t think of a more perfect way to not deal with the world I’m fairly sure that’s not what my shrink had in mind.
For now I’m trying to sink myself into my work and my hobbies. And dear god, I’ve got a lot of hobbies. Baking, photography, gardening, gaming, textiles, gym, craft, decorating, writing to you fine folk; I’m the jack of all trades and master of none. I think part of me has been trying to build up this smorgasbord of distractions for a long time. I’ll find myself sewing while half in tears, which isn’t ideal for neat seams. Within a few days of my pet rabbits death I had completely redecorated the balcony so I didn’t have to look at the empty space where his hutch once stood. I can be surprisingly productive when my life is a mess.
(Above: result of stress decorating)
It’s really hard at the moment. I know I’ve said this many times before but when you have BPD your mind can be like an untamed beast. Anxiety and depression can overpower your logic until you’re working purely on instinct. Distraction is just one small part of the puzzle I need to master to tame that wild animal, but at least for now I can help it can sleep sometimes.