*TRIGGER WARNING – SUICIDAL IDEATION*
For many people with BPD, changes in mood and can be sudden and dramatic, particularly when precipitated by a powerful trigger. In my own experience, my resistance to particular triggers wears down over time, so that rather than becoming gradually ‘immune’ through exposure, the opposite happens – the more often I become triggered in a certain way, the more easily and more quickly I spiral down into incredibly negative thought patterns. It’s as if the feeling of being ‘trapped’ and the belief that the situation can’t and won’t change, is reinforced every time I find myself at that point.
I haven’t said a great deal about my marriage in my blog – out of a sense of ‘propriety’, wanting to protect my husband’s privacy, and to avoid any awkwardness given that a couple of friends who know us personally, read my blog. However, I don’t think it would be too ‘disloyal’ to admit that unfortunately, my husband is one of my greatest triggers – or rather, his words, and our arguments, are. I think it would also be fair to say that the triggers are as powerful as they are, because of the way in which I have come to associate him, and certain patterns of behaviour, with my mother and how I felt when I was younger. After these arguments, I am left feeling worthless, annihilated, and despairing. My mind turns to suicidal ideation, and the phrase ‘I can’t live like this’ repeatedly presents itself to me.
Last Friday was one such triggering evening, which led to me, for the first time, to begin to act on thoughts I had had for a long time, of driving to ‘the place in my plan’ (if I can put it that way). Not necessarily because I had definitely decided to end my life, but because I felt I needed to know what it would be like to be there. How would I feel? I also had a vague thought I might phone the Samaritans but didn’t want to do that from home. I picked up by bag, put my coat on, told my husband I was going out, and went out of the door – at which point my husband said something perfectly ordinary, but something that made me hesitate and come back in.
Sunday night was also triggering – but that time things were different. I think it was probably one of the briefest spikes in intense despair I have had, dying down almost as quickly as it appeared. The suicidal ideation was there and for a short period I felt very unsafe, despite being at home with my husband and children still around. But the feelings of worthlessness did not continue all evening and rather than being consumed by sadness, I was angry – I still am. And I think that made a difference. Rather than absorbing it all into myself as I had done on Friday night, and turning it into a different, self-critical emotion, I gave my anger outward expression. Perhaps not in the best or most productive or most helpful way, but not in the worst way, either. It involved some fridge door slamming, and some use of swear words, and some heavy sarcasm (though directed self-mockingly at myself, rather than at him). But it seemed to work – at least with regard to reducing the desire to inflict pain (or worse) upon myself.
And so given recent events, I thought it would be timely to link to a post from the summer of 2014, on BPD and anger:
Re-reading it now, the idea that ‘disappointed expectations’ might lie behind at least some of my anger, seems very persuasive. Friday was even more of a blow because it came so soon after an evening when for the first time we had spoken more openly about how we felt about our marriage and what we wanted to change, in the presence of a couple from church. For a short time it felt like a step forward – and then on Friday it felt as though nothing had changed. Opening up and being vulnerable was incredibly difficult for me – I spent a good part of the meeting physically shaking with the effort. And yet to have ‘business as usual’ occur on the Friday night felt as though everything I had said had gone unacknowledged and unheard. I’m sure he feels the same about me – and that we both have a lot to learn about ourselves, each other, and the way we relate to one another. But in the meantime, I will try to give expression to my anger a bit more often – not in deliberately hurtful or vengeful ways, but in ways that allow me to express something, rather than internalise something, and in ways that aren’t likely to be as risky to my well-being.