Borderline personality disorder triggers turmoil and rage

For as long as she can remember, 26-year-old Tannis Jackson has found herself routinely slipping into fits of rage. After one particularly bad day at work, she became so infuriated she made her own head bleed.

“I remember being so angry I pulled out two fistfuls of hair and smashed my head against the wall,” Jackson tells the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “There was no other way to express how I felt.”

Jackson (who requested anonymity), who works in a health-care field in the Interior, didn’t know why she couldn’t control her everyday emotions. She just knew that the most minor conflict would aggravate her delicate state of mind, leading to explosive outbursts. Imagine a cup of water filled to the rim: when everything is going smoothly, the water stays still and calm. But any slight disruption, such as a disagreement, has an effect like a tsunami, making the water churn and spill over, with devastating consequences.

“I wasn’t able to cope with anything,” she explains. “I would have temper tantrums, and I would take things out on myself. If I had a bad day at work, I figured everything was my fault. Every day was a struggle.”

Four years ago, Jackson was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. BPD—as misunderstood by the public as it is missed altogether by many doctors—is a serious mental illness marked by severe instability in moods, relationships, and behaviour.

Jackson had never even heard of BPD when her psychiatrist told her that was what was causing her relentless torment. But she couldn’t deny that the telltale signs—including intense but stormy attachments and extreme emotional reactions—described her perfectly.

Although not as well known as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, BPD is more common, affecting about two percent of adults, mostly young women, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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constance
This illness is so incredibly misunderstood. There is so much blame associated with it, as though the person suffering with this incredible illness is somehow responsible. No one blames an epileptic for having seizures. Why does this have to be different? People with BPD have a set of challenges that are like a personal battlefield, and every day one must go to war.
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frank
My partner of 9 years was diagnosed with BPD 7 years ago. She started seeking treatment a year later, and now, all I notice are the ways which BPD gives her strengths that others don't have. She is remarkably intelligent, and quick-witted, extremely kind and compassionate... in short, she's amazing!
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exscapegoat
People with Personality Disorders aren't responsible for their illness, but they are responsible for how they treat others.
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constance
exscapegoat - it's true. They are responsible for their behaviours. The problem is they have to RE-LEARN how to behave and be in the world. It takes a long time and a lot of patience, similar to helping a child grow and learn how to be in the world.
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exscapegoat
I was raised by a mother with a PD, not sure if it's BPD or NPD. Both parents were alcoholics. I can relate to people having to relearn behavior. I'm just tired of PDs expecting far more than they are willing to give. I'm willing to relearn behavior even though it's not easy. I'm willing to leave the blame behind. Sadly, the PDed in my family aren't as willing.
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SurvivorX
Constance: That's because seizures don't have the same effect on the people close to the epileptic.

BPD is, because of it's nature, very difficult when someone close to you has it. Physical and emotional abuse, as it may lead to (intentionally or not) is not ok. I belive that a big part of recovery includes getting the disordered people to realise how others actually feel when getting exposed to some of their behaviours.

Do you at least agree on that they're responsible for taking whatever course of action needed to recover?


Frank: Nice to hear that she's getting better! Could you perhaps specify these strengths that the disorder has given her? Would be nice to hear some success stories for a change. :)
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constance
SurvivorX - while it's true that seizures don't have the same effect, the fact remains that people with BPD have no control over the fact that they have this illness. And as such, while they are responsible for taking action to recover and change their behaviour, this can't happen overnight. Even realizing they have a problem, that takes time and a lot of support from those people close to them. The stigma out there is so big and so terrible that it is very difficult for someone to seek help - even many professionals in the field speak with negative connotations about BPD. Unfortunately, it's not because the things they say are true, but rather, because of fear and misunderstanding. You know how children lack the language to express their feelings and frustrations, and so they cry? It's kind of the same with borderlines. At first, without help, they lack the insight to see what they're doing, and further, they don't have the words or abilities or skills that someone without the illness has, in order to stop themselves from lashing out etc. And it's really, really hard for the people close to them, because one's initial reaction to the behaviours is to take it personally. But it's not.
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julie
In the late 80s, I believe I was diagnosed with BPD. I was a bulimic and was very active in my own recovery.

There were several psychiatrists in my journey that wanted to medicate me. I was lucky as I knew I'd had a pretty messed up childhood and had to work some stuff out. I also came across several people, psychologists and non-mental-health individuals who guided me through learning to cope with feelings and stresses and managing my quirks.

I have no time for anyone who thinks they can use any diagnosis, mental or physical, as an excuse for cruelty and messing with other people, especially their own children. In this day and age we have enough information at our fingertips to get the help we need, and we should expect as much from those around us.

I am a functional person now raising a healthy family. When I come across things that I don't know how to cope with, I seek out the answers. I took a couple of different parenting courses to get the skills I need to rewire myself to give my children the healthy upbringing that I was provided.
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jesson
those borderlines are NUTS! ex girlfriend drove me to have my own mental breakdown. stay away!!
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george marks
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exscapegoat
Constance, I've been diagnosed with anxiety, my therapist thinks there's a PTSD component to it because of the emotional abuse I experienced from a mother with a PD along with the occasional physical abuse from her (e.g. being punched in the back from behind hard enough to make me stumble), along with some medical negligence, etc. I've also been diagnosed with ADHD.

Does that mean I can treat people badly with no consequences when I get bored during a staff meeting or triggered because someone in the elevator reaches into my personal space to press a floor without saying excuse me? No, because while I didn't ask for anxiety and ADHD and it's not my "fault" I have them, it is my "responsibility" to manage the symptoms and behaviors that accompany them.

I know with my mother, she refuses to accept even the most basic of responsibility for how she treats people. Up until we ceased contact a year and a half ago, she was still emotionally abusive with rages, smearing campaigns, etc.

She was very likely responsible for excluding me from most meaningful participation in my brother's wedding. Her smear campaign against me with my sister-in-law destroyed the budding relationship we had, as well as that with my brother. I have a niece born during the estrangement who I haven't met.

Sure, my mother didn't ask to have a PD and I know it was abuse and trauma that made her the way she is. But as long as she refuses to acknowledge/take any responsibility for the emotional carnage she's wrought, I want absolutely NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with that toxic piece of work.

I kept trying to make things right and be the bigger person. I can't tell you how many sleepless nights I've spent, how many times I've walked on eggshells dealing with her. I overthink everything and constantly blame myself because I was conditioned to do that as her scapegoat.

You claim they have no control over their behavior. Well, then, why do they behave differently in public than they do in private? My mother made a big show of being the loving mother in public. Yet in private, she'd tell me I'd probably get breast cancer too if I didn't lose weight when I took 2 weeks off from work and spent airfare to care for her after a mastectomy. Btw, I'd lost 25 pounds since the last time she saw me during that incident. Yet, my golden child brother, who was in prison at the time, got a friend from the outside to send flowers to her for Mother's Day (he couldn't be told about the cancer/surgery because she didn't want to worry him). And he was the best and sweetest son ever. I was screamed and yelled out for asking the nurse to show me how to handle the drains/changing bandages, etc.

And speaking of the golden child/scapegoat dynamic, IMO that's MORE PROOF they can control themselves. I'm not saying it's easy to control behaviors. Just that they choose not too.
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exscapegoat
PS if anyone with a Personality Disorder is reading this, here's what I have to say as the daughter of someone who likely has a PD:

Get help, get meds if need be. Yes, it's great if other people can help/be supportive, but one should never use a fellow human being as a doormat or an emotional scratching post. That goes double for the ones we claim to "love"



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soi'msick
A few of these posts really showcase how misunderstood this disorder is. You don't blame a rabid dog for biting, do you? That being said, no one said it is okay for a BPD to lash out at other people, but it is part of the disorder. You don't walk up to someone in a wheelchair and say "You can walk! I can!". But we get told time and time again, "You can control what you say and do, I can!". I would love to be able to! I feel like I should be able to, but I can't. And luckily, only a few people can relate. Can you help crying when a loved one dies? I guess that is an example of similar emotional lack of control.

As for public versus private actions, unfortunately we act out more towards people we trust, which is terrible and I, for one, feel horrible every single time. I feel badly for the family and friends who are hurt by all people with BPD and it isn't fair but no, actually, we can't control it, no matter how much we tell ourselves "not again" and no matter how much we despise ourselves for it. As for being a doormat, that isn't fair either, but it is then it's up to you to draw the line and take care of yourself; cut the tie until that person gets help or forever if need be. Just because that person can't control themselves doesn't mean you have to live with any abuse.

Hopefully with knowledge of the disorder, more will get diagnosed and get help so no one, BPD or otherwise, will get hurt by this disorder.
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george marks
soi'msick:

yeah, we should just walk away from the people we love because it's up to us? walk away from our kids too? our obligations?

sadly what is glossed over in this article is that most, not all BPD's are hardwired like this and therapy, if they ever admit to having a problem, which, most don't , doesn't work.

i find it offensive that they claim their therapy "works" because i have read almost all of the scholarly work on BPD and NPD, including the work quoted here in this article.
1 out of 100 BPD's will succeed in getting therapy.
1 in 1000 will succeed.

the issue here isn't that it's misunderstood. it's understood.
it's that our culture of entitlement promotes and rewards this behavior.
BPD's make bad choices and they know the difference.
they just don't care. and when you love these people, it wreaks havoc on everyone.

BPD's also trust no one. they go through a cycle: they idolize it, they demean it, they destroy it. this is all in the research.
as soon as you get close, they demolish you. then they try and destroy your friendships with others.

they don't "relearn" either. they adapt and go covert.
few get through this. it's in the research thats quoted here.
i suggest for your own "understanding " on the subject, you look it up. it's all online.
then hit a few of the BPD support groups and see what those people have to say. this isn't a BPD witch hunt.
but it is what it is. they are hardwired this way.
and that is heartbreaking.to see people with so much potential who can't see it in themselves..unless they see it in others...

hard to move a highway once it's been paved and painted.

i suggest to anyone reading these comments or this article to read up on it. do what you can to help but don't be surprised.
if you are a BPD, good luck. you have your work cut out for you and you do have my sympathies...


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exscapegoat
From soi'msick:

"As for public versus private actions, unfortunately we act out more towards people we trust, which is terrible and I, for one, feel horrible every single time. I feel badly for the family and friends who are hurt by all people with BPD and it isn't fair but no, actually, we can't control it, no matter how much we tell ourselves "not again" and no matter how much we despise ourselves for it. As for being a doormat, that isn't fair either, but it is then it's up to you to draw the line and take care of yourself; cut the tie until that person gets help or forever if need be. Just because that person can't control themselves doesn't mean you have to live with any abuse."

For adults and those in chosen relationships, it's possible to do this. For children growing up with a parent with a PD, it's quite different. Adult children who go no contact with a parent with a PD are judged more harshly than a significant other who ends the relationship.

While I agree with you that more awareness and treatment is necessary, I disagree on the public vs. private thing. If the person can control behavior in public, they can do it in private. Behaving vastly different in public also contributes to the gaslighting and crazymaking. People often don't believe the person who's been abused by someone with a PD because the person with a PD acts so differently in public. If parents with PDs can treat the child they scapegoat differently than their golden child, they're obviously capable of some control over their actions.

I have enormous respect for people like Julie who posted about her own experience. She doesn't use her illness as an excuse and makes an active and concerted effort to address the effects of it.
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Marushka
I was diagnosed with BPD in the early 1970's, went into intensive 3 x week therapy with a psychiatrist, and was deemed 'cured' after 3 years. I later disputed the diagnosis ... was it just that I didn't want to have to act like a 'woman' nor be treated as one? Was I bisexual or a lesbian? Did my early sexual abuse and religious upbringing create my problems?
I suspect that most people (women) with BPD don't know they have it, will never accept that they have it, and will never get treatment. Perhaps they need interventions by family & friends, like alcoholics & drug addicts.
Relearning how to deal with emotions takes many, many years. Kudos to those who are willing to try to understand and support the afflicted.
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tinternettime
I'm a 'recovered' borderline - I finished therapy a couple of years ago, from a person who tried to kill herself more than once (and not just scrapes to the arms, tho I have those from self-harm) I'm now much better.

To the people saying it's horrible, it is. It's not as controlable as people may think - I guess the only way I can explain it, is that it's like a massive tsunami. There's the initial wave of anger and hurt which boils over, and then slowly ebbs (i.e. rather than being angry/upset for days at a time, it can be minutes/hours)

It takes a lot of time to relearn and change your thinking an behaviour - and as it's often an auto response there are times and things you regret on the way to being better - but believe me, it can happen.

Nearly 3 years later I'm much happier. No more suicidal ideation, or hate or even anger. I still get the lovely parts of borderline (very emotional both for happy and sad things, very intuitive to how people are feeling, and very empathetic) but no where near as much of the bad things.

To any sufferers out there or friends and family of borderlines, there is hope.
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george marks
awesome comments...
Marushka, you are right. interventions would help but the problem with that is most times the parent are bpd as well and or think they are "bad parents". or they are just flat out in denial.

in regards to a friend of mine (former friend quite sadly ) i kept hearing about how "it's a phase" from members of her family who are all BPD's in denial. a whole cluster of cluster b's.
i would laugh but that's hardly funny.
so her family will live in LA LA land, she will never get help and go on to a sad sad life. seen it a number of times.
that is a very very sad thing. i am glad at least that she is too vain to do any harm to herself.

if you mention it to her (as her friends are starting to do ) the professional victim in her comes out, the blame wheel fires up and bang...off to find a new set of "friend" as she only travels in threes..one on the go, one for backup and one on the make being groomed.
sad sad sad ...

nice to see that half the battle is recognizing it.
hopefully there will be more success stories like the ones here.

hopefully people will see this, something will ring a bell and they will go and get themselves some help.

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Joy
Well, finally.....2011 and it is now debated about with much finesse , I am 43 now.....the 70's 80's 90's were my hell....and stigma......the torment, pain, and quite honestly, very little help in the "professional" venue. Yeah, she really did name me Joy! Wrong word......Jezibel, became my new name at home. Still today I can not have a truly "real" talk with her....it's sort of sad from her venue, I have finally learned how to make the most of my life....however, I still have deep scars and often wonder how I have survived . There is a silver lining I am provided with at times....perhaps to help ease the pain, and
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ShakyCore

I'm a recovering BPDer and after several years of therapy (including DBT) am no longer suicidal, far less depressed and almost never have bouts of rage”¦ so there is definitely hope, no matter what's written "out there".

Recently I've started working on the black&white thinking and was able to make up with someone even after she badly triggered me and after I "painted her black" in my mind.
The thing is that when you think of yourself as subhuman (as I've recently realized I do) then other people look like all knowing Gods, there to protect you, and when they don't/can't and when the stay stuff you find hurtful and therefore think they want to destroy you (once your mind escalated to that point that is) – your only choices are either self destruction or devaluation of the person you idolized in order to diminish their imaginary power over you.

I hereby plan on being the only source of my own validation from now on. Other people are just plain old human beings and can't really provide me with what I need to provide for myself.

The very core of BPD is invalidation, yet, funnily enough, much of the world likes to invalidate us. It's nice to read that there are some researchers out there who actually care.

To all the BPDers out there: be strong for yourself, fight for yourself and – against our very nature – have faith in yourself.
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