What do you hold onto in the darkest times?

I’ve posted before about how, like many people with Borderline Personality Disorder, one of the things I find hardest when I feel really bad is to hold on to any knowledge that it will not always be this way. The overwhelming emotions – especially fear, sadness, loneliness, anger, pain, frustration, self hatred, self disgust, hurt, distress, longing or needing, or the feelings I can’t yet name that come with flashbacks – they eclipse everything else and become all that exists.

I wonder if their power is greater if I fear the emotion I sense. But the totality of the experience, their consuming nature, makes them the more frightening.

Descriptions of this emotional experience in BPD often term the feelings intolerable or unbearable. It is that but it isn’t quite either; it’s not all of it. Intolerable, more than I can stand, yes… but it’s not something I can’t stand because it’s me. In that state there is nothing but the emotion and there is nothing of me but the emotion. I cannot stand it but neither do I exist apart from it.

I hate it so I hate myself. I must get rid of it, purge it, so I must get rid of myself and cut away the bad – so I cut.

I can name some of the emotions afterwards. Maybe the therapy is helping me to do that. But in the experience, I cannot. I cannot recognise anything but hurt and pain and hate and evil (me); I cannot hold in mind anything but the impulses to cut, run, scream, end it, reach back for numb. .. and I am gone. ..and I spin between cut off and unable to feel and any attempt to engage being painful, and the state of total emotion, of only existing as that pain.

I cannot control it. I cannot bridge that gap. Therapy is helping me identify what feelings are. But it doesn’t separate them from me, from time, from permanent reality, from right and wrong. It doesn’t tell me how to feel, rather than be, the emotion. It doesn’t tell me how to bridge the gap between the different people I become – the cut off numb one;, the one that hides everything to cope day to day and do what I’m meant to and fulfil my responsibilities and pretend and hope I could ever be good but knowing all the time that everyone really knows how fake it is and how evil I am deceiving everyone; the frightened needing child; the angry, vengeful and impulsive one. More and more they seem to be separate personalities. I am fragmenting. I am more unstable. I lose more periods of the day – when I’m in one state I cannot “access” the other and I can’t remember things that happened (though I may remember the state). I flick so quickly between states without being able to engage my rational mind and try to employ any grounding techniques or DBT techniques to control my behaviour or my experience.

I guess it’s good that I can start to be curious about the process, from the temporary relative stability of my “coping” state. It must show I do have some ability to learn to mentalisa about what’s going on in my mind. Usually my “coping” state would be trying to suppress what I’m exploring right now. Perhaps eventually I’ll be able to build a more curious and stable personality at least alongside these others.

What do you hold on to when your whole reality, your whole existence, is unbearable sensation and emotion? It sounds utterly stupid. It sounds utterly out of proportion. It sounds self centred and I am forced to admit that though it’s the very last thing I want and one of the things I most hate in myself, in a way it is, though at the same time self has got totally lost in the feeling and emotion coming from everywhere.

What do you hold on to when you can’t access your coping strategies or even your most rooted beliefs and deepest cares? I love my God and know God is mercy and compassion, but in the bad states I can only conceive of a vengeful God or a God casting me out. I love my godchildren, I care about keeping my commitments at work,  but in those states I can conceive only that I do everyone harm and everyone knows I’m bad really and would rather I weren’t around. The centre of my beliefs and values warp according to the state I’m in.

What to I hold on to?

Ginny xxx

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