BPD tantrums, rages, and emotional fall out: what can one do?

People with Borderline Personality Disorder appear to have anger management issues. Frequent or volatile outbursts, tantrums, or physical violence are common ways in which Borderlines react when they feel angry. With women, BPD anger is vitriolic, hateful, and emotional. With men, it is more physical, confrontation, and out of control. Being fair, however, there are many cross-overs in terms of the kinds of anger experienced by BPD in both sexes.

I have found that I have a very short fuse, and that I blow up over little things after days or weeks of frustration have been pent up in my mind. In general, I’m a reserved person, so instead of showing negativity publicly around people in small amounts ( thus venting a little ) I tend to “save it” until I am home, around close friends, or others with whom I feel close to; because I feel that no matter what I do, say, throw, or break, they will generally still like me afterwards ( hopefully ).

But it is important to emphasize that BPD anger is different from “normal” anger or frustration. Here are a few examples from my own experiences:

  • BPD Anger is uncontrolable, the rage takes over and all self-control and emotional regulation evaporates.
  • With men, it is physical and confrontational. I will threaten, push, punch, or otherwise harm others when I am really going off the deep end. Other times, I will punch the wall, break things, or damage property.
  • BPD anger is reckless. I can remember a few episodes in which anger and driving made for a bad mix. One night, after finishing work at a restaurant bar, I was in a very angry emotional state. The result was disastrous: I got into my car and sped down country roads with little regard for posted speed limits or other people. When I approached a turn, I was going so fast that I completely went off the road and into a someone’s front yard. In a matter of seconds, I had ruined a stone wall, damaged a tree, spun 360 degrees around, and completely totaled the car. Had I been “in control” of my emotions, this never would have happened.
  • BPD anger is self abusive. In college and the years following college, I can remember getting so angry that I physically would cut myself in a vain attempt to express the pain I was feeling. One time, I was so mad at my parents that I took a dull dinner knife and slashed at my left arm in hopes of making them feel the pain I was feeling about myself. Of course, this didn’t work, and the result was a terrible incident which left me and them with terrible emotional scars.
  • Speaking personally, when I feel rage towards women, I have rape or sexual violence thoughts. *** LET ME BE CLEAR: I HAVE NEVER HIT, RAPED, OR OTHERWISE HARMED A WOMAN IN MY LIFE *** – but that doesn’t mean the thought hasn’t crossed my mind when I’m flying off the handle. The feelings of abandonment, failure, and loss of love that comes with love and emotional commitments to others tends to give rise to fantasies of showing them “who’s boss”, in a cowardly hope to control them and quell one’s own feelings of worthlessness.
  • BPD anger makes one say horrible things. When I am in a BPD tantrum, not only do I speak my mind, but also throw in the kitchen sink, using every emotional spade I can gather to harm the opposing party. I say horrible things, pass judgments, and often do so to the point that one single episode of my anger ruins the entire relationship forever. I have lost friends in a matter of minutes over BPD anger.
  • BPD anger is overly-dramatic. Because the BPD sufferer is feeling so emotionally charged, angry outbursts can give way to dramatic acts, words, or threats. Although most never come to fruition, on some ocassions, what would otherwise be a passing angry word erupts into a huge scene that troubles everyone in its wake.

For the victims of a BPD rage, I think the important thing to understand – coming from a person with Borderline Personality Disorder – is that for every 5 things a BPD does in anger, maybe only 1 of them are really genuine. The rest are just products of anger and frustration over peripheral issues that don’t have anything to do with the particular event that sparked the BPD rage in the first place.

That said, one should also realize that BPD rages are not necessarily like the temper tantrums thrown by a toddler who isn’t getting his/her milk and cookies before bedtime. It is quite the opposite: the BPD sufferer feels so lost, hopeless, worthless, and desperate that anger and rash emotional behavior feels like the only way out of the situation.

Don’t take a BPD rage personally, but do make sure that you process it and if possible, get help for the BPD person. If you feel anger in return and feel so detested that you can’t even speak to the BPD who threw the fit, it might be better that you talk to a professional and get advice about how to cope with the incident.

I don’t condone or make excuses for my BPD rages. In the days, months, and years following acute outbursts, I often feel guilt and shame. At the same time, I hope the people around me get past the anger and look between the lines for the pain I am feeling. If they can admit that they see the pain, and not the anger at its face value, they have made an enormous leap that is both laudable and extremely beneficial for me as a sufferer of BPD.

In the end, BPD sufferers are mostly motivated by fear and feelings of loss. If you remember this the next time a BPD person you know acts out, you’ll be that much closer to helping this person through the pain that they feel. In fact, by understanding and vocalizing the pain displayed in a tantrum back to the BPD sufferer, it may help prevent future BPD rages, which is the ultimate goal of everyone surrounding a sufferer of Borderline Personality Disorder.

1. Edited for clarity, grammar and spelling – 05/31/2015

Holding One’s Bladder Painfully for no real reason

I’ve been away from this blog for a few days because of travel to see friends and family before the fall busy season begins. During my travels, I used airplanes as a means to go from Costa Rica to Panama, and also from Costa Rica to the USA.

This entry is much like my listing of strange, self-competitive habits that produce negative feelings if I don’t feel I achieve the “goal” or aim of the habit I am obsessing over.

When I travel by plane, I have this strange obsession about holding my bladder until it is utterly painful and probably damaging to my organs. For some reason, I feel “trapped” on an airplane: There’s no where to go but to stay in one’s seat, and this makes me feel as if I have no other alternative but to remain absolutely still throughout the entire journey.

Basically, my obsessive need to hold my bladder is due to a feeling that I am somehow less of a man, wimpy, or like a girl for having to get up during a flight to use the restroom. This fear is compounded if I have a window seat, since I will have to disturb others in my row in order for me to get to the restroom. As a result, I choose to simply “hold it” until landing.

The result is a painful abdomen and a really long urinary discharge, but emotionally I feel as if I’ve climbed Mount Everest or completed a marathon. As a result if I DON’T hold my bladder and “give in” during the flight, I feel like a pussy, a wimp, and hopeless that I’ll ever be able to face challenges in the future.

Usually, this feeling gives rise to “catastrophe” thinking, ie. What if I was kidnapped and unable to use a bathroom? Would I simply wet myself? What if I was stuck in a van or bus without a toilet, and I really had to go? Would I stop the whole bus and demand to “use the woods” – how embarassed would I feel?

For some reason, I’ve come to equate holding one’s bladder with social, physical, and emotional confidence or prowess.

Speaking scientifically, this is a horrible habit. I forget that I am diabetic, and that my blood sugar tends to run high when I travel by plane, because one is imobile for hours on end while in the air. As a result, the higher blood sugar and its byproducts spill into my bladder, waiting to be expelled because they are dangerous to my body. Under “normal” circumstances, the body signals the brain to go to the bathroom when one’s renal tolerance is being exceeded. Put another way, the body signals the brain to go number one when the bladder can no longer accept waste from the body without first making more room.

As a diabetic, I should give myself credit for being able to hold my bladder for even the smallest of time periods, because of the stress diabetes places on the kidneys, liver, and bodily waste removal systems. Instead, however, being diabetic feeds my habit of holding my bladder psychologically by making it “more of a challenge”. If I can hold my bladder as a diabetic for 3 hours, when I’m finally in the airport and get to the restroom, I truly feel like a man.

Sometimes during longer flights I’ll count the number of times I see people get up and go to the toilet. Once in a while, I’ll count one or two people going to the bathroom 3 times within a 4 hour flight. Usually these people are older, female, or are children. Most of the time, young men in their 20-30’s (my age) are not the “multiple goers”, but instead line up with me after the flight in the airport restroom, or go just once during a longer flight.

I really don’t understand why I feel the need to hold my bladder excessively. On one hand, it feels like a rewarding challenge, but on the other, it surely must hurt my body.

Moreover, if I can hold my bladder for a long time, I feel like I’m in “bladder holding training”, so that I can teach my body to hold it longer and longer. The result is an image of being able to hold my bladder under the most extreme circumstances, or during social situations where going to the bathroom would be awkward.

Ultimately, I don’t really think the body works this way physiologically. It’s one thing to lift weights and build muscle everyday (because that is how muscle is nourished and increased), but to hold one’s bladder to the point of excrutiating pain on a consistent basis must hurt the body, not “build it up”.

Again, this is just another strange habit I have that feeds my Borderline Personality need to feel whole, to feel worthy, to feel like everyone else. I can’t explain how this developed: perhaps when I was travelling during long car rides as a youngster my parents ignored my requests to use a restroom, or when I was in grammar school I had anxieties about asking a school bus to pull over during class field trips.

Either way, it boils down to a feeling of personal embarassment or social weakness if I have to go to the bathroom “in front of” a plane, bus, train, or car load of people.

I am going to make a promise to myself: the next time I take a trip that involves air or bus travel, I will make it a point to go to the restroom ON THE PLANE OR BUS as soon as I feel the need to go, instead of holding it until I feel like I’m going to burst.

I think this is not only better for the body, but less stress on the mind. It will also stop feeding my Borderline Personality machine that seems to never be satisfied with self critical challenges no matter what I do.

Anxious Traditions: 4th of July Town Road Race (a few years ago)

Every 4th of July, my town hosts a 4 mile road race. When I became active in my junior high school track team, I ran this race for the first time. After that, I ran it every year I was involved with running competitively, from Junior High through High School, and into the first two years of College.

It was always meant to be a “fun” race, but never really felt that way. I felt as if I should run it, but at the same time, felt overly competitive and put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. As a result, the days leading up to the 4th of July holiday were wrought with nervous tension, anxiety, and constant mental imagery of running this race.

My dad would run with me (he has run the race for over 20 years now), and he would always say “have fun and relax”. This is much easier said than done for a BP. The hours leading up to the start of the race were nerve wracking, and tended to ruin most of the holiday.

8 AM: Get out of bed and have cereal for breakfast. Stomach feels nervous and my body feels tired, even though I made sure to get to sleep early. This is typical of how I used to feel before most races: tired, lethargic, and nervous; instead of energized, upbeat, and hungry for competition.

9 AM: Go with Dad up to the town parish center and enter race. I wasn’t an elite athlete, so I just paid the day of the race and picked up a number an hour before. Stomach feels queasy and nauseous.

As I see others I recognize, I begin to get anxious about running against them, and worrying if I will do well or not. I see some top athletes stretching, doing warm up runs, and appearing very ready for competition. This tends to psyche me out a bit, because I never feel quite confident before a race.

9:30 AM: Return to home and put on running shorts and shirt. Usually, once I pin the number to my jersey, the real nervousness starts. To kill time, I wander around the yard, stretching here and there.

Most years, unbeknownst to my father and family, I would vomit a couple times behind the trees, out of sight. Vomitting before and after races was typical for me: before the race because I was so nervous, and after the race because all that nervous energy collided with fatigue from running.

10 AM: The gun fires, and off we go on a hot day. I usually get a good start, but tend to fade by the 3rd mile. As I run through town and the many spectators, I get a little lift when people yell my name, but otherwise I am feeling very tired and nervous about the last 1/2 mile at this point.

10:20: I’m now within or approaching the last mile. This is when the nervousness I had before the race meets the fatigue of the final minutes of the race. As others begin to finish with a kick, I start to run harder too, in part because I trained as a 1/2 mile runner and have some sprint in me.

Race Finish: As I approach the finish, if I’m really working hard, I tend to vomit in my throat as I cross the finish line. Once in the race “chute” or line of competitors waiting to collect their place cards, I might also vomit again out of sheer exhaustion. I feel like I have just gone through a race with someone pointing a loaded gun at my head.

After collecting place cards, it’s over to the local fire department’s spray/shower of water that is setup to cool runners down after the race has finished.

Typically, the race had about 800 competitors. My best finish was 29 th one year and 36 th another – a good achievement, but my times were nothing to brag about, nor competitive if I was running a college race.

Once the race is over and the town center clears, everyone heads home. Usually we’d all stand around and talk with others about the race and socialize with the neighbors.

After returning home following the race, I felt a sense of relief come over me, that I could finally relax emotionally and physically and enjoy the rest of the 4th of July. In the early afternoon, my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins would arrive for a trip to the beach, where I just laid on the blanket most of the time, exhausted from my race that morning.

I guess the thing that really got to me was the intense emotional anxiety and accompanying physical response to this stress.

Some years, I would watch the top competitors prepare for the race, and they always appeared calm, collected and energized for the run. During the first mile, I would watch as the top runners would distance themselves from the rest of the field, flying way ahead of the pack at a fast pace.

Sometimes, I would see people vomit at the finish of the race, so I didn’t feel alone when this happened to me. At the beginning, however, I didn’t see much vomitting (except for my own). I could see that some people were nervous, but not the nervous sensations I experienced in the 36-48 hours prior to the race start.

My Dad used to stay: “(NAME), You look like you just saw a ghost”. I hated this remark, but in many ways he was right. All the nervous tension from the hours and days before actually took a lot of good energy out of me, which made me feel like I was running half empty.

As I look back on this tradition, and running in general, I am slowly coming to peace with my feelings about it all. I think that all I wanted was to be one of the best. I practiced hard and wanted to experience the magic of competition, and let it push me to great results.

To a degree, I did do pretty well, but I was never satisfied. The nervousness I felt was really from the pressure I put on myself to be happy when I crossed the finish line. Even though I wanted to impress others, I still had to live with my own thoughts before, during, and following the race; and this became a constant critic of sorts that would beat me up.

Hence, the “fun” of the Fourth of July race was lost amongst anxiety, vomitting, and putting a lot of unecessary pressure on myself.

As I’ve said in other posts, elite athletes are elite because they can control their emotions, feel positive, and possess the ability to “out do” themselves when the money is on the line (so to speak).

If I had to do it all over again, I think I would choose to have the mindset of an elite athlete, even if it meant I ran slower than the nervous wreck that characterized my running career.

Being competitive is not about beating yourself up physically and mentally until you improve….. it is about BUILDING yourself up until you succeed, and always remaining confident in your efforts.

Somehow along the way, this feeling was lost…..