Emotional Instability in BPD
Discourse and personal experience based on the NHS given symptom for Borderline Personality Disorder
Disclaimer: The following account of the given NHS symptom relates solely to the writer and is, in no way, a blanket generalisation of how all people think it feel. It has been shared to potentially allow more understanding, or to allow other sufferers to take comfort knowing they aren't alone.
Taken directly from the NHS website (2020):
If you have BPD, you may experience a range of often intense negative emotions, such as:
long-term feelings of emptiness and loneliness
You may have severe mood swings over a short space of time.
It's common for people with BPD to feel suicidal with despair, and then feel reasonably positive a few hours later. Some people feel better in the morning and some in the evening. The pattern varies, but the key sign is that your moods swing in unpredictable ways.
(Source: NHS, 2020, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms/)
Let's look at these from a Borderling's (person with BPD) point of view. I have to say it seems pretty accurate. The good moods can feel great, but the negative do feel intense.
Going through them in order, we will start with rage. Yes. I do get very angry at times. Think vengeful demon in a horror movie, but dial it back a teeny tiny bit. Obviously there is a difference between normal annoyed/angry and the rage you get when mid-BPD episode. I try not to take it out on others. It more ends with what I call "verbal violence". Basically I will sit there for ages grumbling to Ash or my Mum about how I hope certain scenarios befall the person or thing that has aggravated me, venting it out until I've calmed down. This works quite well for me if I'm honest. It gets out all the aggression without me doing anything immoral or illegal. I have found you need to find someone you trust for this, as a lot of people don't understand our thought processes or feelings and can find it overwhelming or simply backstab you. I have also found that "verbal violence" helps me to combat any self harm urges, of which I've now been clean for 19 months. I would suggest having a trusted person who you can hash out issues to, but make sure that person is okay with it before you do it.
The second point the NHS give is sorrow. Again I'd have to agree. Generally I am a very emotional person and weep at movies etc. When I'm on a BPD episode it gets a lot worse. My mind generally feels like we are in constant worst-case-scenario, that my relationship is ending, I'm an awful mum and daughter. I sob. A lot. This, of course, triggers my anxiety which ends with a godawful noise and sight of me crying loudly while hyperventilating. It's not attractive. Trust me.
The shame, for me, has never been much of an issue. I don't feel ashamed of who I am or being a Borderling. Yet again though, I would agree with the NHS that this is a factor in BPD. In my experience the shame came after a self harm episode, and would trigger a vicious cycle. An event would cause a self harm urge, I would give in to it, then feel ashamed by my actions, so would punish myself by harming again. Rinse and repeat. It's taken a very long time to break that cycle.
Panic is another symptom, and one I do still struggle with. This doesn't help alongside my anxiety. I panic about a lot of things. Am I good enough? Does he still love me? Am I parenting okay? Is Mum proud of me? Would Dad be proud of me? The list goes on. Some days it does get in my head quite badly. Even down to things I'd class as silly, like laying awake at night panicking because I'm 30 and "oh god I'm old will I die soon?". It feels ridiculous. To a non-Borderling it probably is ridiculous too. But for a Borderling, I can't shake it.
Terror is one that feeds from panic I guess. I wouldn't say I get this one too much, but there has been the odd occasion where the panic grips me so much I have a full blown anxiety attack. Terror alone sometimes springs from particular nightmares about people I love dying or leaving me. Terror of abandonment I guess. Other than that, I don't really get this one but can see how people could exhibit this as symptom.
Long-term feelings of emptiness and loneliness tie in to everything above I suppose. Feeling like you aren't good enough, stuck in life, or like no one really likes you or wants you. Particularly when single I found this one hard hitting. Or if people let you down, or are busy and you're on your own. For many years I was a single mum, so this took over me then. Honestly, it was those years where my anxiety started forming, probably from being at home alone too often. Thankfully, I don't get this as much any more.
I also can agree with the statement that the moods can swing. It's true. I can be annoyed one moment and then it can be broken with a joke or game, and then another mood creeps in. We don't plan how we feel.
I often say it's a curse being intelligent. I can feel the moods setting in but, like watching a train wreck, I'm powerless to stop them. It's horrible.
I used to simply go to sleep whenever I felt low. This was easier to do when I wasn't a mum, or when she was a baby and napped lots, but now I have more responsibility so can't just pack it in whenever things get too much.
But would I change it? Honestly, I'm not sure. Sometimes it's truly awful. Yet at the same time I feel everything, good and bad, and am good at empathising with others. Sometimes, using my Borderling powers to help others is more of a reward than a curse. Sometimes.