We’re reaching the end of my list of things that contribute to how BPD impacts having a career. I still have a few crucial things to cover though, so let’s dive right in.
Black and white.
“People with BPD may be more likely to view potential work situations in terms of extremes, idealizing each potential job or career choice as an opportunity like no other. A person with BPD may be blind to anything potentially negative or questionable about the job. This perspective can also hide potential difficulties in achieving the idealized goals. For instance, if Bruce were looking into certain sales positions, he would need to be able to clearly assess his ability to make cold calls and deal with the rejection from these calls (something that he is extremely sensitive to) in order to reap the rewards of the generous sales commission plan.”
I’m not sure how I feel about that particular example but I definitely know what it’s like to idealize and then demonize a particular job. Hell, I do it all the time. Ever have one of those days where everything goes wrong, nothing goes right, and all you can think about is the bad, atrocious things you have to do and put up with every single day? Sure. Everyone has. Now imagine those scenes from the day projected onto an I-MAX screen in 3-D magnified with surround sound replaying endlessly on repeated ruminations inside your own head. Everyone deals with it, but it feels extreme. And it’s impossible to remember the reasons to stay when you’re shrouded in the darkness from the day. I have plenty of days where I hate what I do. I have days where I love what I do and feel like I’m the king of the world wearing a clockwork crown of awesomeness. I rarely have days where I just feel content. I actually hate feeling like I’m not progressing. I hate the feeling of stagnation. I hate that sometimes you just have to keep plugging on, for what seems like an endless indefinite amount of time with no site of change.
Anyways. The point is. It’s important to remain realistic when looking for a prospective job. What I do sounds amazing on paper. And to be fair it is really nifty. However, there are a lot of stressors and things that I needed to learn how to cope with that I didn’t expect and wasn’t initially prepared for that don’t exactly jive well with my personality [disorder]. When things like that pop up, as they inevitably do, that dream ideal seems like it crashes down and life is utterly miserable in the moment we’re living through now. Until something good happens. It can be very much like a relationship in that; when things are good they’re very good, but when things are bad, I want to build a laser death ray on the moon and aim it at the planet until people quit being assholes. Because yanno, it’s always everyone else, and not anything I’m doing to myself that’s making me unhappy < ------ sarcasm.
It’s really hard to set a goal and stick to a goal when you have this picture of the perfect thing in your mind, only to have reality show you that it might be a lot of those good things, but it has some drawbacks, or mundane things as well. Except when your ideal turns out to be not so ideal, it can make us think that we had it ALL wrong, not just part of it. If one thing isn’t right, how many other things are wrong. Maybe I was wrong about this entire idea! The flaw gets amplified, and magnified, until it overtakes reality and all you can focus on is the glaring mistake of a life choice and how doomed and miserable we’ll be for the rest of our lives!
It’s hard to maintain a realistic perspective, but it’s important to keep in mind.
For lack of a better segue….
I don’t know anyone with Borderline Personality Disorder that doesn’t also have other co-morbid Axis-I type disorders. These are things like Major Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorders, eating Disorders, Bipolar disorders, autism, ADHD, etc.
One of my best friends is ADHD. Very clearly ADHD. You talk to him for 5 minutes and you can tell his focus is all over the place. It makes it difficult for him to stay task oriented. He gets distracted, gets off track, doesn’t show up on time because he got caught up with something else… add that to something as already distracting as having a roller coaster of emotions and it can be very difficult to stay on track or leave personal problems at home.
Anxiety disorders? We know I have it. My medication helps it significantly but I didn’t always know there was something I could do about it. I just walked around in a constant state of anxiety, feeling like I had the clammy grip of unemployment looming around my throat, ready to clamp down if I ever slipped up. No one wants to feel that way for any amount of time, let alone a significant amount of consistent time. It can make you physically sick. Leading to needing to take time off from work, sometimes too much time off from work.
Got Depression? Just getting your ass out of bed in the morning can take all the energy you have. Especially when all you can imagine for the foreseeable future is a monotonous drone of the same stress and pressure that’s already been building up, weighing you down and making it even harder to get out of that bed. Depression is a major mental shackle.
When you add these kinds of clinical problems on top of the other BPD symptoms we already deal with, it’s like trying to balance a mountain on your shoulders while sinking in quicksand.
It makes me sad because unless you’ve actually suffered with these things, people just don’t understand. I hear all the time, “Oh just think more positively,” or “If you wouldn’t always be so down things would be easier on your,” or “If you had a better attitude things would be better for you”… as if plastering a smile on our face will fill the gap in our chemically misfiring synapses. I realize it’s frustrating, and people find it tiresome, but depression and anxiety and all of that doesn’t just go away because it’s inconvenient.
Wrap all of these things up together, stick them in a bottle, cork it, tie them in a big grey bow, give it a shake just for good measure, and watch the pressure build.
Poor Stress Responses
I’ve talked about stress and BPD before. To quote myself:
“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…. 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.”
How many people do you know that have a stress free job? AND a stress free life? I’m guessing that number is between 0 and 0. It may even be a negative number because I know a lot of people with enough job and life stress for multiple people. It can be very difficult to separate home stress from job stress. Each stressor on its own is often significant. When you can’t separate them, can’t leave the personal strife outside of the office, you’re compounding that stress that you carry 24 hours a day. And if there’s one thing someone with BPD has, it’s stress in our personal lives… so when the copier jams on top of everything else, it may be a small straw, but it can be the final one that causes an emotional break. Or:
“It may also be difficult for someone with BPD to separate personal and work lives, resulting in a “bleed over” of emotions. In other words, someone with BPD may be unable to separate her anger at a friend from her regular interactions with people at work. Instead she is angry at everyone around her until she no longer feels the anger.”
Learning to reduce our stress levels, learning to cope with stress, and develop better emotional responses is an extremely important skill set to develop. Fortunately I’ve talked about those before too! You can get there by clicking on this link ---- > Stress Reduction for BPD.
As I’ve mentioned many times, and will continue to mention. Borderline Personality Disorder, while it shares a common set of symptoms, manifests in different ways for different people. If you subscribe to the idea of low and high-functioning aspects of personalities, people that are lower functioning (more susceptible to exterior and interior stressors and less capable of controlling the display of what results) these issues will be more apparent and more detrimental. If you’re of the more high-functioning kind (feel all of those exterior and interior stressors, but are capable of masking it so that the outside world doesn’t know what’s occurring within and are able to push through and function) people may not ever even know there’s a problem. No one that works with me would ever guess I’m Borderline. I function very well while at work. I’ve never been fired, and by most peoples standards I’ve excelled with a large amount of personal success.
BPD presents a significant amount of challenges. But that doesn’t mean those challenges can’t be managed. And it doesn’t mean we can’t be successful. Everyone has their own personal challenges. There may be some challenges for us that others don’t typically have to deal with. But there are plenty of other people that have their own challenges that we don’t have to deal with. It’s a matter of recognizing your limitations, recognizing your strengths, and developing the necessary skills to work with both in mind. Don’t try to push too hard, too fast. Go at a pace that is comfortable but challenging. Above all, don’t give up. It is absolutely possible to succeed and develop a fruitful career. Our tool box just needs some additional resources to make our BPD more manageable.