Wanted: An Angry Spokesperson, BPD Preferred, for Gulf Oil Spill Crisis

I’ve often wondered what would be the perfect job for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. One of the first things that comes to mind is acting, given the dramatic mood swings and desperate attempts to avoid abandonment. Another thought is professional study subject, where the BPD simply participates in every paid clinical psychological trial available. It would be a fairly easy job, since there is no particular need to keep oneself together. A third thought is motivational speaker about mental illness, perhaps even testifying before government bodies as proof that more money and resources are needed in the mental health field.

Then, the other day, I thought of another potential job: angry spokesperson. This thought came to mind while watching CNN’s coverage of the recent and horrific BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which threatens to destroy all Louisiana coastal wildlife, fishing grounds, and the livelihoods of many hard working people. CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed a number of different individuals regarding the impact of the spill during his nightly 2 hour special, including local citizens, politicians, and environmental experts. In most cases, I found the interviewees to be candid and thought provoking, but at times emotionally distant from what is really going to happen as the spill worsens (…that is, except for James Carville, who was very clear about expressing his disgust for BP’s negligence).

During various interviews and new conferences, President Obama made it clear that “getting angry wouldn’t help anything”, and he is probably right if speaking for himself. For others on the Gulf coastline, however, there needs to be an exponentially greater expression of anger, because without creating a viable emotional element to this story, people in the rest of the country (and the world) will not connect. They’ll begin to lose interest with the oil spill news, because it will eventually become repetitive and dry.

That’s where a pissed off, livid spokesperson with BPD makes sense, broadcast on national TV in a blinding fury of acute anger and outrage. Now, you’re probably thinking that I’m making a joke about BPD here, and you’re partly correct. Once in a while, if you can see the lighter side of mental illness, the constant impact it has on daily life doesn’t seem as bad. A BPD rage is so dramatic to others that they can’t help but notice, especially if the rage is justified and appropriate given the circumstances. Also, BPD rages are packed with emotion, passion, and fire that always lives long in the minds of bystanders. So, given these characteristics, I believe someone with BPD would be the perfect hire for any job that requires emotional expression, particularly anger.

One thing is for sure: I’m NOT making a joke about the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf. It is the largest environmental disaster in USA history, and will negatively impact the Gulf region and the lives of its citizens for years to come. Government response to the crisis has been lukewarm at best, and many in the region feel like it is another Katrina episode all over again (granted that the particular facts of each disaster are separate and unique).

For its part, BP has lawyered up, lied to everyone around them, stonewalled when asked to release footage of the continuing spill, and have acted completely disconnected from the impact this spill has made on so many people. According to CNN reports, some of the families of the 11 workers who were incinerated on the oil rig after the explosion haven’t even received so much as a sympathy card from BP. Instead, BP has acted completely arrogant, careless, and asinine. They have shown absolutely zero compassion for the victims of this disaster, most notably demonstrated by CEO Tony Hayward’s callous statement that “he wants his life back”. What kind of prick allows such negligence to take place, and then declares angst over the disruption of his million-dollar lifestyle when asked to actually step up and do something about the problem? This guy is an asshole inside and out, and should be fired and thrown in prison.

Furthermore, the impact on non-vocal majority – the wildlife in the region – will surely be felt forever. Already, pelicans are washing ashore dead or dying from being coated in crude oil. Marshes and wetlands are all but silent, indicating that even the bugs have died or disappeared, simply because their environment is ruined. But who cares about marshlands? Well everyone should: these vital natural sanctuaries act as breeding grounds for much of the Gulf region’s wildlife, fish, and mollusks. As a result of this disaster, it’s possible the Gulf will never see the level of diverse animal life again, not to mention the fact that fisherman and others who make their living by sea are now out of work and have little or no money to pay the bills.

Now do you see what I’m getting at when I suggest someone with BPD would be perfect representing the emotional toll this crisis has taken on people and nature? Trust me, if they can get someone on TV spitting mad, throwing things, and cursing BP with every name under the sun, people would take notice, and there would be more action from the responsible parties.

To be sure, a BPD style rage would not be appropriate every night on TV. Instead, just one or two clips or sound bytes would suffice, just to reinforce the desperate needs of this dire situation.

You might be wondering about the conflict of subject matter in this blog. On one hand, I’m detailing the terrible events about a disaster with lasting effects for years, but on the other, I’m half jokingly suggesting that someone with BPD would be perfect to enunciate the emotional toll this crisis has taken.

Well, there actually is no conflict in this blog if you look at everything altogether. Sometimes, when a situation warrants an angry response, you need someone to be absolutely livid in a passionate rage that grabs everyone’s attention. Therefore, in such circumstances, a BPD outburst is actually just what everyone needs to experience in order to wake up and realize what is truly happening.

Borderline Personalities are Prone to Impulsivity

To be honest, this aspect of BPD is not really a surprise. At times, the need to act on impulses can be distracting and stressful, creating more “garbage” in your day than you really need. Other times impulsivity leads to light hearted, even humorous actions (about as humorous as BPD can get 🙂 ) that would appear quirky to the outside world. A darker side of BPD impulsivity is the act of self harm, ie. cutting, burning, or other disfiguring acts that come about suddenly and without any sort of reasonable forethought.

Just what do I mean when I say “BPD Impulsivity”? In broad strokes, I mean those mental hiccups that make us do things which create stress, distraction, or some degree of neurosis during day to day living. For example, while you’re reading this blog, your mind might be thinking: “Did I shut the car door all the way?”; or “I should lower the volume of the TV right now instead of finishing reading this blog first”; or “the ants crawling around on the floor are making me crazy!”.

On the surface these things might seem quite innocuous, but in reality they only serve to clog up the mind of a Borderline and send them in every direction except straight forward. It’s possible this could be a product of Attention Deficit Disorder (and/or Hyperactivity), or even some form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Speaking for myself, however, I’ve never had a diagnosis of those conditions, so I tend to conclude that my BPD is scrambling the signals in my mind.

Here are a few examples from my own life, from harmless to serious:

  • The Impulse to rid my surroundings of annoying insects – Sometimes I’ll be working at my computer, and I’ll hear a mosquito buzz in my ear. Like anyone else, I initially shoo it away. A few minutes later, the bug returns and starts buzzing again. I hate mosquitoes and they make me crazy. So, instead of just ignoring the situation and continuing with my work, I immediately drop everything and spend 30 minutes hunting down the mosquito as it flies around my room. I don’t feel “relieved” of this impulse until there’s a dead bug on the ground. All this fuss creates unnecessary stress and wastes time.
  • The Impulse to go to the bathroom even though it’s not urgent – After working all day, I like to watch TV in the evenings. I use this time to relax and unwind, and maybe even have a laugh if I’m watching a sitcom. I tell myself to hunker down in my chair and enjoy the free time away from life and my job. Ultimately, instead of just watching TV for an hour and going to bed, I find myself getting up and going to the bathroom (even during the shows, not just at commercial breaks) even if it’s not an emergency. The sudden urge to urinate passes through my mind, and instead of putting it aside for another hour, I feel the unabating need to get out out of my chair and “break up” my relaxation time. The end result produces free time that wasn’t really “free”, because I wasn’t allowing myself to unwind.
  • The Impulse to Gamble – One symptom of BPD is the need to gamble, abuse substances, or pursue some other potentially reckless behavior as a way to self medicate. In my case, the poison is gambling. I turned 21 in college, and found the casino to be an irresistible distraction from my boring, lonely college life. It was a great escape from social pressures and feelings of worthlessness. Some nights when I was studying in the library, I’d have the sudden urge to gamble. Instead of ignoring this urge, I’d find myself in the car and exiting my college campus 5 minutes later. Truth be told, I once got pulled over by a policeman for speeding on my way to the casino, because I was so desperate for a rush and need to get out of my surroundings. I never really “planned” my trips to the casino, it was more just a way to release pressure from my BPD stress valve.
  • The Impulse to Self Mutilate – I’ve detailed the tendency of Borderlines to self mutilate in a couple other blogs, but I also want to take this opportunity to say that sometimes, self mutilating behavior happens and we may not even know it. To return to my example of watching TV at the end of a long day, I’ll find myself sitting quietly in my chair, and then a couple minutes later my fingers will inch their way to my head and start to pick at my scalp. Other times, I’ll feel around my shoulders or back for pimples and squeeze them. In college this urge was much more dire: I would occasionally feel a sudden need to grind at my arm with a knife or do a “pain tolerance test” with a match and my flesh as proving grounds. I never planned to do these things, nor would even want to do them. I just found myself doing them at the spur of the moment, arising from stressful thoughts or depression.

I have to admit that it’s very hard to control impulsive behavior, unless one is in a highly focused mental state. If not, the BPD mind tends to wander towards the direction of low grade self abuse or some other inane activity that opens the proverbial “can of worms” emotionally and physically.

Is spending a half hour chasing a mosquito around my room, getting more frustrated as each moment passes, really a good use of my time? Absolutely not – but sometimes no matter how hard I try to avoid impulsive behavior, it just takes over my mind anyway.