How to Manage The “I’m Gonna Snap Switch” in the Face of Borderline Personality Disorder.

BPD is colorful and emotional. There is nothing logical or predictable about how a person with BPD expresses themselves: they just do it. Whereas some people are always very much “in control” and measured in how they conduct themselves, someone with BPD will often come across as a Drama Queen or unable to keep their emotions in check. Fact: the very nature of being on the “borderline” between psychosis and neurosis means emotions are volatile, instant, and constantly in swing. One minute you’re feeling even keel, the next you’re spitting mad hurling insults at the unfortunate soul who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. As a society, we can’t have people with BPD constantly running around losing control. This is why we BPDers get medicated, thrust into psychotherapy, and sometimes even committed to inpatient psychiatric care.

The better part of my adult life has been spent trying to figure out ways to control myself and my emotions. No matter how hard I try, the slightest annoyances from the outside world will make me snap and then all hell breaks loose. I hold grudges: some that go back to last week; some that go back to the last decade. I get upset about things I can’t control and take them extremely personally. The slightest bit of criticism from another human being acts like a wrecking ball on my self esteem, destroying any fragile sense of self worth I have. After that, I have to start all over again. Anyone with BPD knows that once the flood gates open, it’s nearly impossible to stop the flow emotions that follow.

I wish I could discover a way to push blindly through life with an enduring high sense of self worth and self control. The problem is, BPD creates a life that is the exact opposite: with little value and little control. When this comes up against seemingly random negative events in life the only sure thing is that someone with BPD is going to explode. Whether or not this melt down takes place publicly, privately, between friends, or among family is the unknown factor. If you like to win easy bets, start a pool on the next time your BPD friend will go off. The question isn’t “if” he/she will go off, it’s “when”. If you bet on the “if” opposed to the “when”, it’ll be the easiest money you’ll ever make in your life.

Last night, just before bedtime, I discovered my cat had peed on my bed. Almost instantly, a BPD rage started boiling up inside me, and quite honestly, I didn’t care to stop it from erupting. My cat seems to pee on my bed sporadically. For all those feline lovers, “yes” I know she doesn’t have a urinary tract infection, and “yes” I clean her litter box faithfully every two days. She’s the only cat I have and isn’t in competition with other cats for food, litter box territory, or my attention. I’ve always used the same brand of litter and her box has remained in the same place for 2 years now. Of course, I make sure food is always available to eat and even rotate through my jumbo-pak of cat meat in the same fashion so she doesn’t feel surprised when tuna fish shows up in her bowl instead of turkey giblets. Thus, the only reason I can come up with for her peeing on my bed is behavioral, not environmental.

I’m embarrassed to admit she’s peed on my bed more than 15 times, and each successive time, I get even more angry with her than before. The first few times I yelled “NO” and made it clear I was mad with her. This worked for a month, but then she started peeing on my bed again. So, I upped the ante: I got so “pissed” ( 🙂 ) I grabbed her by the throat and rubbed her face in it.

Again, I’ve probably just lost all my feline loving readers, but to me this type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable. I took her in after someone abandoned her. She was a helpless kitten running around a vacant lot with no food or shelter. I thought I would make a difference in the world and adopt her. Now all I get in return is cat urine on my sheets and nearly two dozen urine stains on my mattress. Yes, I DO sleep on my mattress even after she pees on it. If it was my policy to get a new mattress each time, I’d be out over $1,500 easy.

As you can imagine, last night my reaction was the worst yet. I screamed at her for two or three minutes, then chased her around the house with a spray bottle (like a water gun) and hit her with as much water as possible. At one point I cornered her and she started growling and hissing (which enraged me even more) and landed several direct hits of water on her face. Hopefully, she got the message, because I made sure to let her know that I was NOT happy having to clean up cat piss at 1:00 AM in the morning.

Most people would agree that it’s understandable to get mad at an animal that urinates on their bed. Most people would not agree, however, that a BPD explosion is an appropriate response to the situation. Chasing my cat around the house and squirting her with water after screaming at her is a bit over the top. At the time, I felt it was justified emotionally because the past few days have been very stressful and disappointing for me. Having to clean cat piss off my own bed on a Sunday night was literally the last straw.

Here’s where we BPDs need to stop and think. Weigh out your reaction based on the event that sparked it, NOT the sum total of your emotional state created by prior unrelated events. This is much easier said than done, but it’s important to remember there is a degree of randomness to life that can’t be controlled no matter how mad we get.

If your car breaks down, the bill collectors keep calling, a bird sh*ts on your head and you are contemplating a BPD explosion, keep a couple points in mind: 1) These three stressful, upsetting events are unrelated, so don’t bottle up your anger to the point that the slightest negativity will set you off. Alleviate the pressure on the anger valve long before you explode. 2) Realize that exploding will only make matters worse – much worse. Suppose the mailman comes to the door with past due bills, and you explode at him for continuing to deliver these notices. Did it feel emotionally satisfying? Sure! Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely not. Now your mailman thinks you’re an a$$hole and won’t go out of his way to be helpful in the future. The entire relationship you built with this person goes up in a puff of smoke because you took out your anger on him for no justifiable reason.

How do you manage the “I’m gonna snap switch”? Try pacing out your emotions opposed to saving them for one angry sprint. If a toddler at the mall drops his ice cream on your new shoes, be a stern, frustrated adult opposed to a BPD volcanic eruption. Of course the toddler’s parents will be annoyed with a strong rebuff to their child’s reckless behavior, but that’s a lot better than having the police called because you threatened to rip the kid’s head off his shoulders.

If you have BPD, always think of how you want to be remembered prior to exercising your emotions. If you don’t care, then by all means go nuclear. If you do want any semblance of a normal life moving forward, however, make sure you react to life’s stressors in a measured, appropriate manner. You’ll be glad you did when your head finally clears.