BPD, Living in an Emotional Rollercoaster

People with borderline personality disorder live in an emotional rollercoaster, and this emotional instability can lead to negative consequences. However, they can learn to manage their condition. Today's article contains the testimony of a person with this condition.
BPD, Living in an Emotional Rollercoaster

Last update: 22 June, 2021

As if life wasn’t already hard enough, a person with BPD (borderline personality disorder) basically lives in a constant emotional rollercoaster. Thus, their life is much more complicated because they’re never sure when this “ride” will derail.

However, one thing to be clear on is that borderline personality disorder doesn’t define the person who suffers from it, as it’s only a mental condition.

However, even though there’s more talk about mental health problems, there are still many myths and prejudices about BPD. Is it possible to live with this disorder and lead a stable life? The following testimony will provide an answer to this question.

“People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.”

-Marsha Linehan-

A person enjoying the sunset.

The feeling of not fitting in

This person begins their testimony by saying that some painful life events change or at least shake you up inside and invite you to take a new path, that of becoming aware in order to heal.

They say they were at war with BPD for many years until they decided to learn to live with it. Now they say it’s possible to live with this personality disorder and lead a normal life.

After many years, they add that they still have the stigma of a past marked on their skin, the marks of cuts and burns caused during times of crisis. In addition, like many BPD sufferers, they were also hospitalized on several occasions without much success in recovery.

They also say that they had a happy childhood but felt insecure in their living environment. The feeling of chronic emptiness, emotional instability, and the need to please people became a constant dynamic in their daily life. They paid a high price for this: the cancellation of their identity.

To be or not to be

Furthermore, they wonder how they could act so pleasant and loving at times and then tear everything in their path to pieces? How were they able to act so irrationally? They believe it’s because they were sort of suspended on a pendulum: between normalcy and intense feelings of loneliness. Ambivalence marked the rhythm of their particular music: love-hate, anger-happiness, or black-white. There was no middle ground.

They add that they were practically friendless. This is because people didn’t understand the way they behaved and distanced themselves from them little by little. It wasn’t the most painful thing, since there were still people around to fill their emptiness and give them affection. However, this person had to blur their identity in a reality they couldn’t understand.

The pieces of their puzzle didn’t fit and they felt strange and empty. They say that they continue to tell themselves that they don’t belong in this world. Thus, their self-destructive behaviors and attempts at self-harm began. This is because they just wanted to die to end the emotional rollercoaster.

Diagnosis: borderline personality disorder

It was then when they desperately wandered from specialist to specialist and did so for several years until they obtained a BPD diagnosis at the age of 18. From that moment on, their labeling as BPD began. Still, it helped them understand the reason for their impulsive behaviors and fits of anger for no apparent reason.

It was important for both them and their family to understand what was wrong. Therefore, a proper diagnosis was vitally important to stop walking on eggshells.

Living with BPD is like being on an emotional rollercoaster

Today, this person says there’s light in the dark, chaotic tunnel that a person with BPD finds themselves in. The road isn’t easy, of course, but it isn’t impossible either.

They state that the first step is to accept this disorder even though it hurts, as doing so is also kind of liberating. In their case, knowing their diagnosis put some order in their life. In fact, they read much of the existing literature on borderline personality disorder.

Thus, they learned that, although there are various psychotherapy treatments and different drugs to mitigate the symptomatology, it was important to understand that the way to get better wasn’t outside of them, but within themselves.

They learned that it was important to know themselves. That they had to heal the wounds of the past in order to do so. Only then would they remove certain dark layers they had been heaping on themselves throughout their life such as confusions, fears, ruminations, and negative beliefs.

Those affected by BPD often lament having this disorder. What happens is that, sometimes, they don’t have answers to their questions because they’re poorly formulated.

Resources for a person with BPD

As the years went by and this person attended therapy, many positive aspects they kept hidden under the cloak of BPD came to light. In fact, they changed their questions from: “How can I live with BPD in a healthy way? to “What can I learn from a disorder like BPD to fulfill myself as a person?”

In addition, little by little, they acquired certain guidelines and skills that helped them (with a lot of effort) maintain a balance in their life. They list them as follows:

  • Going to therapy.
  • Learning to manage emotions and frustrations.
  • Practicing assertiveness.
  • Increasing self-esteem.
  • Avoiding toxic substances.
  • Practicing relaxation and meditation techniques.
  • Improving interpersonal relationships.
A person meditating.

Some guidelines for family members dealing with someone on an emotional rollercoaster

From the experience of the person who’s overcome this condition, it’s quite difficult to help a person caught in an emotional rollercoaster when they’re not ready for it. Therefore, it’s important that all family members living with a BPD patient to heed the following advice:

  • Seek information about borderline personality disorder. Knowing what it consists of and how its crises develop is fundamental. 
  • Consult a psychologist to learn protocols for acting in crisis situations with BPD. Living with a person with this condition can be emotionally exhausting. Thus, they must take care of themselves in order to experience the minimum psychological wear and tear.
  • Manage the feeling of guilt. BPD isn’t anybody else’s responsibility, even of those who live in the same household. Neither relatives nor friends can cure it, only understand it and offer help and support.
  • In addition, don’t overprotect a person with BPD. This is because overprotection only reinforces dysfunctional behavior and the feeling of worthlessness or frustration these people feel. Hence, it’s best to avoid it.
  • Be assertive. This is because the proper reaction can influence a person with BPD. As you can see, it’s important to be aware of the language, both verbal and nonverbal, and try not to respond aggressively. Otherwise, it’ll make the person defensive.
  • Patience. Cultivating patience can be a complicated matter. However, it’s fundamental for the treatment and self-acceptance of the person with BPD.

Conclusion

There’s no magic formula for learning to live on an emotional rollercoaster. It requires a lot of effort, understanding, awareness, and emotional management on the part of both the person and those closest to them. It’s possible to lead a stable life, in which impulses are no longer setting the pace. There’s life behind any fear, so make yours worth living!

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Marsha Linehan: from patient to psychologist and overcoming BPD

Marhsa Linehan is a psychologist, professor, American author and the creator of behavioral dialectic therapy who herself has suffered from BPD.