Something that people with Borderline Personality Disorder are known for is over-thinking and worrying about something that has happened, or something that may happen. We often struggle to ‘be in the moment’ or live ‘in the now’.
I can’t begin to count the number of conversations I have replayed in my mind, or for how long: did I sound stupid? did I make sense? did I make a fool of myself? will they hate me because of what I said? did I say enough? I think I said too much…
Last week I gave a talk to a group of people, about my experience of BPD and also about my book. The talk was organised by Viewpoint, a charity in Hertfordshire, that is involved with helping people with mental health, or drug and alcohol problems and I was refreshed to hear a trainee counsellor say that practising mindfulness does not work so well for people with trauma-based mental health problems.
BPD sufferers are very ‘good at’ overthinking, overreacting, over-worrying, so it would be a reasonable assumption that to teach us to “pay more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing” (NHS.uk)
However, there is a flip side to every coin, and the flip side here is that sometimes we borderlines’ are very good at living in the present moment – too good, in fact.
It is often difficult for those with BPD to hold on to the knowledge that somebody loves them unless they are physically present to ‘prove’ it. Failing that, they need to be phoning or texting us – or at the very least responding (preferably immediately) to our texts or phone calls.
If my wife is late home from work I have a hard time to convince myself it’s not personal, and that she does indeed still love me! Of course she’d rather be at home than at work (I hope!) but in that moment, more often than not, I initially feel abandoned which then turns into anger. I am getting better at challenging this automatic assumption and, as with many borderlines, the moment she arrives home I feel un-abandoned and all is well!
When I did my first ever ‘talk’ at Viewpoint I got a fantastic response – far better than I could have hoped for. I got some incredible feedback the following day too, via email, and I was buzzing – for about 19 hours. After which time, the emails ceased and the feedback (both verbal and written) was not ‘there’ anymore. It had been there, but it was no more.
I wasn’t worried about the past, or the future. I was paying absolute attention to the present moment and in that present moment it was almost impossible to keep believing that the feedback I had got was still real and applicable. What if they don’t mean it anymore – if I asked them today for feedback would they still say the same?
The same can be applied to relationships: yes, they loved me yesterday, but how can I be certain they love me still today?
Perhaps because our own emotions are volatile and transient we assume it is the same for everyone. Our black and white thinking (often referred to as ‘splitting’) means we can hate and love the same person within seconds. It is possible that we project this onto others, because we ourselves find it hard to hold onto, and believe in something, that isn’t constantly tangible.
I am getting better at talking to myself firmly when, for example, my wife is going to be late home from work; sometimes it takes longer than others to believe that I have not been abandoned by her, that she still loves me and she isn’t out to get me.
In the same way I have to argue with my default setting that discounts evidence if it is not current (and therefore is no longer applicable).
There are times when I may well benefit from being in the present moment rather than worrying about the past or the future although mind, but there are also times where I would relish the ability to hold on to positive things from the past and carry them with me into the future and, more importantly to really believe them in the now.
My talk was awesome. It really was!