Stress affects everyone. You, me, your dog, your office chair; everyone. How stress affects you personally will also vary. People with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to have a reduced tolerance to stress. Which is unfortunate because we tend to feel stress at an elevated level. Emotional stress compounds on mental stress compounds on our bodies’ ability to physically cope with the day. The magnitude of stress we feel is often like a weight crushing down on our shoulders, making it difficult to even sit up, let alone get out of bed. I find this is also common for people suffering from depression.
Stress has a very significant, if not dramatic, effect on our moods. People with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to have pretty volatile mood swings and are emotionally reactive to begin with. Even your regular old emotionally normative person will experience a shift in their mood and levels of happiness depending on their levels of stress. Tempers get shorter; tears are a little closer to the surface. You can imagine how this would be magnified for someone with BPD. Currently my medication seems to have done wonders for my anxiety levels, but previously it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to dissolve into an inconsolable panic attack puddling on my bathroom floor. That mental pressure can physically crush you down making it impossible to bear the burdens this world continually piles on top of you. Where we might have been able to control the outward expression of our internal turmoil before, having to redirect our energy to contain the buildup of pressure creates leaks in our external façade. The anger starts to slip out. The sharpness of our words. The ability to contain our frustration. One thing after another, another voice, another request, another this, another that, hypersensitivity to even more situations abound and it all seems to start coming at you faster and faster before you’ve been able to get anything in order, until your mind feels pulled in too many directions dizzy and reeling and finally, you snap. Stress can have a very negative impact on our moods and the control we try to maintain over them; making mood swings even worse. This could come out as angry, frustrated shouting, breaking things, picking fights, dissolving into tears of helplessness, or even manifest physically and present as migraines or illness.
We live in a high pressure, fast paced world these days. You’d think with the advent of our technological progress it would make our lives easier. In fact it just means that we need to accomplish more in less time. Something doesn’t seem right there. There’s a lot of fear these days that if you don’t measure up, don’t take on massive amounts of responsibility you’ll be judged harshly and punished; lose your job, suspended, or just talked about behind the water cooler. Cue the terror of judgment and potential loss. Fear of a potentially huge life change is debilitating and can drive anyone, let alone someone with BPD, to increase their stress levels instead of working to reduce them.
This can impact someone with BPD in an even more significant way than most because we tend to take the weight of the world onto our shoulders, including the weight of other people’s worlds onto our shoulders. Many of us are ‘people pleasers’, feel guilty for saying ‘no’, and want to relieve the pressure felt by those we care about so we take on their burdens as well. Whether it’s good for us or not. Which it usually isn’t.
Am I saying helping people isn’t good? Of course not. Helping people in need is great, as long as it doesn’t tax us beyond our ability to cope with our own stress.
If you can’t take care of yourself first, how can you really help someone else? The problem is that when I see someone that I care about in need of help, I feel guilty for not offering my assistance, even if I know I can’t manage to take on any more. The guilt leads to fear that they will think we don’t care, or that we can’t be relied upon. They’ll look to someone else for help. Make a stronger connection elsewhere. Not need us anymore, and we might lose them. This may not sound entirely rational, but I know the thought is there. I actually get jealous when people ask someone else for help sometimes; even when I know I can’t possibly take on more. It’s a conflict of what I need versus what I fear. Fear often wins out and I’ll do what I can to relieve someone else’s stress, making things worse for myself in the process.
I feel like I should have Yoda saying something like, Stress leads to Guilt, Guilt leads to fear, Fear leads to Abandonment…. Abandonment leads to the Dark Side! Geezus I’m a geek.
I try to remind myself that it’s counterproductive to take on other people’s stress to the extent I feel compelled to. We may be helping them in short term, but in the home stretch we’re disabling their ability to take care of themselves and learn to deal with stress in a productive way (This applies to us as well when we continually reach for others to lift our burdens!). For many people with BPD this isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. If someone comes to rely on you in order to deal with their stress, then they’re less likely to leave you. If you’ve made yourself an integral part of their coping mechanism then the disadvantages of not having you in their life are glaring. It’s one more way we act to not be abandoned.
A couple things. This may sound like a backhanded sort of ‘help’. We’re not really helping you, for you, but we’re helping you, to gain something for us. In a way this is true. But if you weren’t someone we cared about in the first place we wouldn’t feel this need to do whatever we can to keep you in our lives. Also, all help, no matter how altruistic it may seem, has some benefit to the person doing the helping. Even if it’s just a feeling that you did something good, there’s benefit to both people, and a bit of selfish gain.
Clearly there’s a whole lot of conflicting feelings going on here. This is why it’s SO HARD for us to make such seemingly simple decisions; like taking care of ourselves first. If this, then that. If this other thing, then potentially a million hazardous pits filled with snakes to bite us in the ass. I’ve been watching too much Indiana Jones lately I think. Anyways.
In conclusions: Stress is especially bad for people with a Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s essential to work on countering the stressors in our lives as much as possible. This will decrease the panic and anxiety that we are constantly consumed with, and make us much less grumpy, and therefore more pleasant to be around. See! Taking care of ourselves, is in actuality, taking care of those around us! Maybe that thought will help with some of the nagging guilt at the back of your mind.
So how do you work to reduce those stress levels? Well, that can be easier said than done…..
|Yoda's pretty smart.... for a Jedi.|
(Also, I’ve noticed my inbox has a lot of letters in it. I’m incredibly stressed out currently – hence the subject material – so I need to prioritize my time, but I will get to them all! I promise.)