Friday, September 7, 2012

Bonus Post courtesty of 5 Stupid Habits You Develop Growing Up in a Broken Home

Bonus Post tonight! I'm shunning society in favor of my amazing roommate and enjoying some bad horror movies. Don't judge. Scary movies rock. In between being scared and my short attention span I've been reading which everyone should read because it's hysterical, but also they occasionally come out with something relevant to us here at Beyond the Borderline Personality. So here it is:

5 Stupid Habits You Develop Growing Up in a Broken Home....

How many do you have?

How do you react when you hear the phrase "dysfunctional family"? Do you smirk and say, "Oh, man, I could tell you some stories"? Maybe you roll your eyes and think, "Christ, here we go with that 'My daddy didn't love me enough' bullshit." I used to do the latter; people use a bad childhood as a "Get Out of Responsibility Free" card, and even if they were actually from dysfunctional families, who gives a shit? Get over it and move on with your goddamn life, pussy.

But research says there are some very weird, specific and often annoying personality traits a person develops coming from a bad home, and once you know how to look for it, you see them everywhere. See if you recognize any of these people. Maybe you remember them from high school. Or, hell, maybe it's you ...

#5. Lying Becomes Their New Reality


You Know Them As:

This is the guy at school or work who always has to top everything you say. You tell him that you just learned how to do an ollie on your skateboard, and he responds with "Yeah, I learned that when I was 4. I can kickflip over a bus now." Or he tells you the story of how he was almost robbed at the ATM, so he had to use his martial arts skills to disable and apprehend the three attackers. You just automatically know that his story is closer to him walking by a bank and seeing someone who sort of scared him. Then he picked up the pace and went home without issue.

God, just look at the bloodlust in their eyes.

How It Happens:

I haven't told this to many people, so it makes total sense to admit it in front of hundreds of thousands of strangers ... but I used to be a compulsive liar. Don't worry, I confronted and dealt with that issue several years ago, but from early childhood well into adulthood, I lied about absolutely everything. Stupid shit that didn't even require lying to protect myself or someone else -- lying without a purpose. Things like my shoe size or level of education. Claiming I could play certain instruments, in conversations where nobody even gave a fraction of a shit in the first place.

It wasn't until I started doing heavy research into dysfunctional families that I realized that this was a pretty common trait among people who have lived through abuse or neglect. It starts off the way you'd imagine: You learn by example from your parents or siblings. "No, I'm not drunk! We were just out of water, so I bathed in vodka. Get off my ass!" Then you start using it as a tool. "Yeah, I got all of my homework done. Can I go out and play now?"

"This is a recipe for homemade C4. What have I told you about lying to me and planning acts of terrorism?"

Eventually, it gets so ingrained that lying becomes more comfortable than telling the truth. Then, even further down the line, telling the truth starts to feel uncomfortable -- the same way lying feels uncomfortable to normal, healthy-minded people. In the minds of many people who have grown up in a dysfunctional family, lying and honesty literally switch places on their moral compass. Before they know it, they're saying shit that isn't true and not even stopping to ask themselves why. "So far this year, I've had sex with 218 women. At the same time."

They don't do it to be evil. There's no malicious intent behind it. But it's so hard to not think of them as manipulating assholes who are only out to fuck with your head. In truth, it's a defense mechanism, learned and utilized in order to avoid horrifying consequences for mundane things. "If I tell Mom that I broke my glasses, she's going to flip out and beat the piss out of me. Just tell her a bully did it. The kids call him 'Mean Breakglasses' because he does it so often." Or they're looking for the praise and respect that they never got growing up. "When I tell people I'm a 12th-degree black belt in taekwondo, they act impressed, and that feels awesome. Obviously, they're afraid that if they don't show respect, I'll spin kick their head completely off of their fucking neck."

"Let's see you come at me. No, not like that, come at me like this. Yeah, perfect. Now, EAT FOOT!"

#4. They Lose the Ability to Finish Projects


You Know Them As:

The friend who constantly shows you this awesome drawing they've been working on. "And over here, I'm gonna have a black dragon wrapping around her naked boobies and breathing a stream of flaming skulls while the boob woman casts some wizard shit. He fucking breathes skulls, man. It's gonna be so badass." Then you never see it again. When you ask him how it's coming along, he tells you he got busy or decided he didn't like it, so he scrapped the whole thing. And that's that. A week later, he's showing you the beginning of another project that is doomed to incompletion. What a lazy fuck.
"Fuck it, close enough. We can live on that left side, in the back."

How It Happens:

Obviously, there are plenty of people out there who are lazy or just have short attention spans but have never had their pets thrown at their head by their mother or been called "future corpse fucker" by their father. But their reasons for stopping a project in midstride tend to be because either they got distracted or they realized how much work was involved and just said, "Screw this."

Personally, if I had finished all the short stories and novels I've started over the last 20 years, I'd have enough money to retire, based on bulk alone. It turns out that's pretty common among kids who come from dysfunctional families because they lacked the instruction and motivation that's readily available in a normal, healthy family environment.

"Christ, look at that dumbass. Those angles have to be off by at least half a degree. What a piece of shit."

Some of you are about to realize that your home situation wasn't as normal as you thought when I tell you the following: In a normal family, when a child has a hobby or homework, the adult generally helps out, serving as a makeshift teacher. They're right there to point out why you need to add glue here before you hammer a nail into it, or why you carry the one in this math problem instead of writing "Go fuck yourself" in the blank. Even if they're not directly instructing, the child can watch the adult do their own project, while asking questions along the way. Either way, there's an education present that isn't there in the dysfunctional atmosphere.

So the child learns that starting something is pretty easy. But when the hard stuff shows up in the middle, they give up, because they don't know what to do next. They feel like they've failed before they even reach the halfway point. But just as damaging is the absence of a cheering section. For instance, in a healthy household: I'm in the middle of a clay sculpture of a fully erect penis. Detailed right down to the most subtle capillary and circumcision scar. I show it to my dad, who glances over and says, "Oh, wow, that looks great. Exactly like your grandfather's! Keep going, I can't wait to try that out on your mother!" I've been shown praise for my creativity, and I've been motivated to finish the project.


In a dysfunctional family, the best you can hope for is a quick glance away from the TV, followed by, "Can you not see I'm in the middle of this show? Fuck off and stop bothering me." This is the beginning of what will eventually morph into ...

#3. They Become Ultra Responsible (or Catastrophically Irresponsible)


You Know Them As:

This is the friend who gets super pissed off when you're four minutes late for something trivial like going out for coffee. They may or may not go as far as becoming OCD, but in general, household objects have their place, and they need to be put back in exactly that spot when you're done using them. Bills can never be late under any circumstance. Everyone in the world must be taken care of first, before they, themselves, are even considered.

On the opposite end, you have the sack of shit who just crashes on friends' couches until they kick him out. Then he finds a new couch, repeating the process while thinking that the world is out to get him. Life has made him a shit sandwich, served on a plate that's also made out of shit.
And for dessert? That's not cake.

How It Happens:

There is rarely any middle ground with people who have been through a lifetime of dysfunctional bullshit. In many cases, children end up taking on a parental role due to neglect from one or both of their actual parents. They learn from an early age to feed themselves, get to and from school on their own, do their homework without help or guidance ... and often the only help they get in any area is from older siblings who have taught themselves these skills. So you get a 9-year-old kid taking on the responsibilities of a 40-year-old adult, and it seems absolutely normal to them. "Where's my briefcase? I have a parent-teacher conference to attend so I can speak to my teachers about myself."

When they move out, the upside is that they are fully trained to take on "real life." The downside is that they often become obsessive about their responsibilities, and end up teaching this to their children, using the same method that their neglectful parents did. Because they don't view that as neglect -- often, they just see it as a teaching method.

"Shhh. We're teaching him how to make a meatloaf."

Unless something happens to provoke the revelation of "Holy crap, that was all bullshit," it still feels completely normal to them. That's hard enough to realize when you're on the responsible end of the spectrum. On the other side are the people who tried everything to please their parents, but realized that the fight was futile. So they simply gave up out of emotional exhaustion.

Unfortunately, that "Fuck it, I'm done" attitude isn't a one-time thing. Just like the rest of the traits in this article, it becomes a point of habit. Then it further becomes an ingrained behavior. Then a virtually inseparable part of the personality. You see these people refusing to get jobs or continually quitting the ones they have. They neglect chores, relationships, bills. I've been through both of these traits, and I'm telling you from experience that finding a middle ground is like parachuting into a foreign country without knowing the customs or language and trying to survive from scratch. All while being gang fucked by bears. Foreign bears.

#2. They Judge Themselves Without Mercy


You Know Them As:

Chris Farley used to have a skit on Saturday Night Live where he played a nervous interviewer who didn't do much research. And when something didn't go quite the way he wanted, he'd flip out, punching himself in the head and calling himself an idiot. One of the reasons that was so funny (besides the fact that Chris Farley was ball-punchingly awesome) was because most of us know people like that in real life. They constantly beat themselves up over minor mistakes and missteps that most of us would consider insignificant.

"MOTHERFUCKER! This is bullshit -- I'm rubbing every last bit of that in my eye!"

How It Happens:

You'd think that adult children of dysfunctional families would paint themselves as victims. Constantly expecting or wanting sympathy and reassurance that they're special and loved. "Please feel sorry for me! My daddy didn't love me enough!"

It turns out that more often than not, the opposite is true. They tend to judge themselves exponentially harder than other people. In many cases, this is because when they were growing up, the consequences for failure were pretty dire. You just didn't bring home low grades, or make mistakes, or have bad moods, or express feelings. If you did, it was met with explosive reactions that made it pretty clear that those things are off-limits. It's what weak people do. It's taught that failure is the worst thing a human can do -- it's unforgivable.
"Now, you get out there and play against the fully adult Bruins and think about how much you suck at history class!"

And though sympathy and empathy generally make us refrain from giving other people shit when they fail (except in extreme sociopathic cases, such as the entirety of YouTube commenters), we do the polar opposite with ourselves, going overboard and beating ourselves up over the situation. We can't let it die. I still do this -- I'm not sure if I'll ever get past it. It just feels natural that if you fall below your own or someone else's expectations and standards, you deserve to have your ass kicked. And since no one else is going to do it, it might as well be me. And strangely, because of all this ...

#1. They Become Hypersensitive


You Know Them As:

You come home from work, exhausted, and you just want to sit down, relax and enjoy the silence for a bit. You're not in the mood to talk. Your appetite is shot. You just want to be left alone so you can collect your thoughts and normalize. But every two minutes, your worried partner asks, "Did I make you mad? Did I do something wrong?" Meanwhile, you try to figure out a good spot to put the saint trophy that you're sure you'll be receiving for not grabbing their skull, pushing it into the floor and juicing them like a fucking orange.

"Ask me what's wrong again. I dare you to ask me how you can fix it."

How It Happens:

Believe it or not, they knew about your mood long before you returned from the fridge, flopped on the couch and let out that long, beer-tainted sigh. It's another defense mechanism (notice a pattern here?) that they picked up years before they even knew of your existence. When Mom or Dad's moods started to fluctuate, bad shit happened. Over time, the kids learned that those moods always had telltale signs that predicted their eruptions. Ash that preceded the lava.

At first you take notice, even if it's subconsciously, that before Dad explodes, he starts rubbing his temples. Big, obvious things like that. But over time, you can't help but pick up on more subtle signs. He lets out a very soft sigh when it's going to be just a quick stick-and-move belittling session. He fidgets with his lighter when it's going to be a really bad one. The skill is developed so that when you see it happening, you can either brace yourself for the train wreck, or you can make yourself scarce so you don't have to deal with it.

"I'm sorry, there is no Erica here. I am just a normal, everyday bunny."

Just like any skill, the more you use it, the better you get. Over the years, it becomes so woven into the fabric of your personality, you couldn't remove it without completely breaking down who you are as a person and rebuilding the cloth from scratch. So it's rarely ever a case of the person just trying to smother their partner with attention out of some sense of insecurity. It's force of habit. Alarms are going off in their subconscious that shit is about to hit the fan, and they need to defuse that bomb before it goes off. And anything can trip the alarm. The slightest change in tone of voice. The most subtle shift in eyebrows before you speak. The way you're standing. A simple change in your daily routine. The subtle way you look them in the eyes and say, "I'm about to physically punch you directly in the face with my fist. Here I go."

It sounds like a damn superpower, but it can be a real problem in relationships, because the constant questioning and attempts to fix the other person's bad mood can be suffocating. Every person needs to be allowed room to vent their stress and frustrations, but that thought scares the ever-loving shit out of the person who lived through a dysfunctional family. Because he's used to those very things being followed by aggression and hate.

"It's for y- oh, would you stop? I'm not going to hit you with it -- it's just the phone."

All of these things are fixable, but it requires you to take a long look at yourself and decide if there is even a problem in the first place. It's harder than you think. If you need help, here's a good place to start. Either way, it's a whole lot more common than you think, so don't let the assholes of the world make you feel weak for seeking help. You have as much of a right to be normal and happy as everyone else on this goddamn planet.


How many make sense for your life? Sad isn't it? Can you tell how many I might identify with. And I'm positive my home isn't a broken one =(

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Borderline Personality Disorder and Jobs/Careers: Part 4

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….

Co-morbid Disorders

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. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Borderline Personality Disorder and Jobs/Careers: Part 3

Back to work and the challenges those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder can face in the work place.

Criticism and Rejection

No one likes to receive criticism in the work place. No one really likes to receive criticism ever (constructive criticism can be helpful*), but it especially sucks when it triggers that super fun paranoia which in turn inspires the debilitating anxiety because now you feel like you might be fired.

“Those with BPD may be more sensitive than others to criticism or workplace stress. He may interpret an interaction with a cross coworker as a criticism or rejection. This perceived rejection might trigger an angry outburst from the person with BPD and possibly change his overall view of his job. He may fear that, as a result of his angry feelings, that he will be fired or, at the very least, that others do not like him. This can create a vicious cycle for someone with BPD, which can create additional anger.”

I kind of like being angry, especially when I can channel it constructively. But being angry at work is a big no-no. There’s no constructive when you’re angry at work. Just a lot of pissing people off, getting more pissed off yourself, and then potentially being escorted off the property for destruction of public restrooms or something. (I made that up. That’s never happened to me. I swear!). It’s a big chain reaction. Fear leads to Anger, Anger leads to Hate, Hate leads to…. Getting fired and a bad resume. (Star Wars paraphrase for the win*) It’s just not good.

For me, I feel like I’ve utterly failed. I’ll now never be able to redeem myself. I’ve solidified a poor image in the eyes of someone that has control over my livelihood. Because what they say is true. There will be days I’m moving too slow, or days I can’t seem to focus as well, or days I’ll feel so overwhelmed that I’m just utterly, stuck. There’s a lot of reasons for these things, which I’ll get to, but having someone in a position of power over you, in a position to take something necessary away from you, someone in a position to have that much sway over your already tenuous self-esteem, it’s stressful. Extremely stressful. Stressful to the point of anxiety attacks, knees buckling, dissolving into a puddle of despair and self-loathing determined to resign yourself to the lines of unemployment, kind of stressful. Yes, that feeling has happened to me. More times than I care to admit to. It’s a debilitating hit to an already tenuous sense of self-worth and esteem. There are long stretches of time when I’ll feel that kind of pressure on a daily basis. It’s too much to handle sometimes.

Fortunately this is not where my impulsive behavior comes into play because in my mind I’m screaming, “Well if it’s not good enough I’ll just quit!” quickly followed by, “Holy crap I have to become the superwoman of my job right now! Right the hell now!” Yay, ambivalence.

Impulsive behavior is a totally different tale.

Impulsive Behavior

One of the problems with having impulsivity as a part of the way your brain reacts is that by definition, there’s no time given to consider consequences. When you’re faced with a scenario that makes you feel threatened (paranoia, stress) that fight or flight response kicks in. Adrenaline pumps, fear chokes you, and all there is to do is react. When you have a disorder that is marked by emotional dysregulation (a.k.a. impulsive emotional responses) controlling those emotional responses is extremely difficult, if not impossible, if we haven’t learned how.

For example, receiving criticism in the work place can trigger a fear or anger response leading to vocal attacks or quitting on the spot. Hearing something, being in a situation, where you feel like your job is threatened, you become paranoid that you’re going to get fired, so instead of letting someone do something to you, take that control away from  you, humiliate you, it’s better to take action, make the decision yourself, quit on the spot… except less thought out and more emotionally charged.

Impulsive decisions outside of work can also impact employment. Frequent absences can make it very difficult for someone with BPD to hold down a job. Sometimes if we’re in a very emotionally volatile place it results in frequent hospitalizations or in-patient programs which force us to take off of work. We make impulsive decisions that have severe consequences and subsequently need time away from work.

Impulsive behavior can also manifest in how we try to mold our workplace identity and cope with stress. As one person struggling with BPD has explained:

“I'm a 'high functioning' [person with] BPD. I run my own business in the most cut throat industry you could imagine. None of those people would ever think I have a problem. I'm tough and I achieve. Little do they know how much day to day life hurts. Or how much drinking with work colleagues messes me up. I wish I could walk away from situations I know cause me harm. But tonight, like many others I've drunk way too much [in order to] not stand out. I see this behavior as impulsive because my need in those times is to be liked or rather not to be disliked which makes me drink my own body weight in alcohol even though I'm on anti-depressants and I know I shouldn't. I’ll deal with the consequences the next day [moving slow, mood swings due to medication interactions with alcohol, absent due to hangovers, etc]. And wish I hadn't....But at the time, in the moment, it’s the best thing in the world, I feel normal.” —Guest Nick

It’s also important to note that impulsivity doesn’t always manifest in the workplace. My personal brand of impulsivity doesn’t bleed into my working environment very much at all. If anything I’m exactly the opposite, and overcompensate by being hyper-structured and compulsive about my control. My identity issues are more of a problem for me than impulse control. And that’s something else that’s important to remember… all these things (oh, yes, and there are more) manifest differently for different people. Just because we all have BPD, doesn’t mean it expresses itself the same way for all of us. Where some people would lash out and react emotionally to a work pressure, others internalize failure and overcompensate by taking on too much responsibility and overachieving, or any variation in between. Some people function quite normally because they’ve chosen a job that suits their skills and doesn’t challenge their emotional responses.

In some ways I feel a little fortunate in regards to how some of my brain crazy has manifested. I mean, if I had to have issues (clearly I would rather not), but as I have no choice the way that some of mine display could certainly have been worse. I’m compulsively on time otherwise I have panic attacks so I’m never late. I feel guilty for taking any time to myself, even if I’m legitimately sick or haven’t had a vacation all year, so I almost never take time off. I have a failure complex so I overcompensate and try to do everything to perfection TIMES A MILLION.  I work hard because I’m afraid not to. I’ve never been fired. My particular brand of crazy has come in handy. That doesn’t mean it’s pleasant though.

Unfortunately for many of us, if not most, finding a job that doesn’t create additional stressors in our life isn’t easy. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have some level of work stress in their life, and being hypersensitive to stress can make it all the more difficult for someone with BPD.

Hypersensitivity and a poor response to stress are yet more problems. Ones we’ll talk about tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nervous Habits

Nervous Habits. Stress Habits. Anxiety Habits. I have quite a few of them but some of them actually hurt. I tend to tear at my fingers. I push back my cuticles. I tear them off. I rip at my skin around my fingers. I never used to bite my nails, but on long car rides going home to see my family I find myself ripping my nails off too. Until I bleed. I can’t seem to stop either. It hurts. I know this isn’t good. Especially as it makes doing anything throughout the day hurt as well. Washing my hands, soap and lotion, sting. Bending my fingers at all, which if you’re even remotely functional as a person you’ll notice you do almost continuously throughout the day, my skin is tight and painful. This isn’t good. It hurts and I hate it.

When I’m incredibly stressed out it becomes kind of a compulsion.  I’m not sure why. And I’m not sure how to stop even though I know this isn’t helping me in any way. I just can’t stop myself.

At university I had a group of 6 friends in my major and we’d all study together. One of them wasn’t quite the high achiever I was. He would come in to class periodically, sit next to me, look at my hands (as I took notes with multiple pen colors), and blanch… “Oh crap, when’s the test?” I had such severe test anxiety I would destroy my fingers in the few days preceding any of our tests and consequently have band-aids on half my fingers. He’d see all the band-aids and know we had an exam. It was seriously ridiculous. It still is. It’s been getting worse lately.

I’m trying so hard to remain grounded and optimistic about this move, but I’m so incredibly stressed out.
A habit is an activity that is acquired, done frequently, done automatically, and difficult to stop. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines habit as: a) a thing done often and hence, usually, done easily; practice; custom; b) pattern of action that is acquired and has become so automatic that it is difficult to break.

“Sometimes, a nervous habit begins as a reaction to a physical injury or psychological trauma. When the behavior continues long after the original injury or trauma, takes on an unusual form and is performed in excess, it becomes a nervous habit. Often, a habit begins as a normal behavior that becomes more frequent or becomes altered in its form.”

I don’t even remember when these particular habits started. Cherry Pedrick, RN says, “Think back to the first time that you performed your particular habit. If you are like most of us, you don’t remember the first time. It probably started as one behavior among many behaviors in your daily life. It may have relieved anxiety, stress, or boredom. Most nervous habits do; that is their purpose. You did it that first time and it brought relief, so you did it the next time you faced a stressful situation.  It was incorporated into your behavior patterns and you forgot why you did it the first time.”

I think this is true for me as well. Especially in the way that it momentarily refocuses my attention on something other than the stressor at hand.

I find it concerning though because it also reminds me of my self-harming behavior that I’ve done so well to recover from. I’m not saying that nervous habits like nail biting or skin picking or whatever are on the level of self-harming behavior, but in myself I see a correlation. It’s a way to manage and reduce anxiety.  In myself the habit gets bigger the greater the stressor becomes. I recognize this so it’s important to find more constructive ways to redirect that focus. I don’t even realize I’m doing this half the time until I’m in the middle of it.

Clearly I’m a bit older now, but I’ve always had nervous habits. I sucked my thumb as a child. I know a lot of kids that did. Often the development of this kind of habit serves an important purpose, usually comfort. “We call them nervous habits but more commonly it's about being overtired, out of control, or trying to concentrate,'' says clinical psychologist Laura Gutermuth Foster, who researches developmental disorders at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. They’re responses developed to soothe where soothing is otherwise not found.

I guess it doesn’t surprise me that I still have these kinds of habits, but it’s interesting for me to note that I’ve always had them in some form or another. And in many instances my habits have become rituals which are a whole new level of compulsion.

It’s good to take note of these things. Especially if you feel the need to quit. I think this is a problem for me because I want to stop and I’m struggling to. I’ve quit other kinds of destructive habits before, so I’m sure I can do this too. This one keeps coming back though. By time I notice it though, I’m full swing in the middle of something that isn’t destructive enough for most to consider it “a problem”, but is uncomfortable enough that I don’t want to do it. And it’s never so bad as when I’m stressed out. Stress is unavoidable in life, so it looks like I need to work on managing mine a little better. Ugh.

Do you have any nervous habits?

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