I’ve had this problem for as long as I can remember: when I’m out exercising (gym, running, or even just walking) my mind resorts to negative motivation instead of positive thinking. This was especially apparent during my running years in High School and College. If I was lacking the motivation to push myself – during practice or even during a race – my mind would start hurling negative insults at me left and right. Perhaps it was last-ditch motivational thinking. More likely, however, it was what I call “BPD on replay”.
“BPD on replay” is something everyone with BPD experiences. Think carefully about your day-to-day thought patterns, especially during challenging moments. Does your mind say things like “You gave it your best”, “Great effort”, or “You should be proud of yourself”, or does it start replaying images and experiences from negative moments in your past? More often then not, I get a play-by-play review of all the mistakes I’ve made, the times I’ve given up, and every embarrassing moment I can think of. Ultimately, this makes living very unpleasant and especially difficult during stressful times. Thing about it: would you rather have Richard Simmons cheering you on during your workout (even if he is a bit weird 😉 ) or would you rather have Mr. or Mrs. Negative screaming at you, sh*tting all over your every move, and reminding you of what a worthless piece of crap you are?
My guess is most people with BPD would take Richard Simmons in a heart beat.
Doing something healthy like exercising shouldn’t be a negative thought experience. It should be something that eases tensions, builds stamina, and makes you feel good about yourself. After a good walk around the block, you would think you’d feel a sense of accomplishment, but instead you’re warding off an assault on your self esteem from deep inside you, and it’s almost impossible to stop.
That’s the thing about BPD that “outsiders” almost never understand. The negative thought patterns are like rabid dogs gnawing on your leg. They come from nowhere and are nearly impossible to interdict with positive thinking. I find myself trying to yell back at my “inner critic” (a term borrowed from a book I read about self esteem) but most of the time it doesn’t work. The derogatory thinking, put-downs, and constant negative evaluations of self worth are like facing a machine gun that never runs out of ammo. You’re dead no matter what you do, and it’s going to be a painful and miserable demise.
The worst part about this barrage of negative thinking is that it makes you feel like your ENTIRE life has been an abject failure, opposed to a progressive journey with peaks and valleys. When you have a quiet, peaceful moment, remind yourself of the good things you’ve done, the people you’ve helped, or the accomplishments you’ve achieved. Once you’ve taken stock of all the positive experiences you can muster, chances are they probably outweigh all the negative thoughts that pelt your brain like an out of control hailstorm during more stressful moments.
I don’t even think my psychiatrist has a grip on the depth of my negative thinking. Every time I try to describe it I end up giving a confusing explanation because the bad thoughts come on so many different levels. It could be my own voice, a teacher’s voice, a parent’s voice, a coach’s voice, or even some random voice I heard on TV. Either way, this chorus of negativity pulverizes my fragile sense of self worth into smithereens.
While an outsider might say “So what, you yell at yourself during a run, NOT a big deal”, the fact is it has far reaching consequences beyond your exercise time. Visit any dating website. Look at 20 profiles, writing down the most common attributes someone is looking for in a potential life partner, weeding out the extremists and quirky folks. My guess is, a partner “with self confidence” is either top three on your list if not the number one thing someone else wants you to have. If you’re constantly putting yourself down, how attractive can you really be?
That’s where all of this comes full circle. We sufferers of BPD are so absorbed in just keeping life on an even keel that we sometimes forget how we’re coming off to other people. Haven’t had a date in a while? I’ll bet it’s because you just don’t feel up to it or worth it, because you are too tired from battling BPD on replay.
I am frequently in awe of people that have 100% belief in themselves, even to the point of being arrogant. It must be very self empowering. Even megalomaniac politicians who think they’re changing the world seem to have themselves all squared away and built upon a rock of unending self confidence.
I wish I could feel this for just one day: maybe I’d have an epiphany and see where I should REALLY take my life. Until then, it’s off to the movies where every bad experience from childhood to present is center screen in my mind , day in and day out, morning and night, awake and in my dreams.