I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) at 21, but I’ve been known as a ‘drama queen’ for as long as I’ve been big enough to throw a proper tantrum.
There was one birthday with my ex boyfriend that ended in a blazing row in the middle of Oxford Street, and more recently, my boss watched me have a full-scale melt-down about not being able to find the right key to the office in the morning.
Maybe I’ve quite rightly earned the many nicknames I have due to my ‘emotional outbursts’, but telling a person with BPD to ‘calm down’, ‘it’s nothing’ or ‘you’re overreacting’ is one of the worst things you can do.
Let me tell you why.
The best way to describe BPD is like having the top layer of your ’emotional skin’ stripped off; everything feels 100 times more intense for the person, and seemingly minor emotions can feel overwhelming.
If someone in your life is currently struggling with BPD then you may notice the following lovely symptoms: extreme mood swings (sorry, Evie), irrational reactions to small stimuli (why have you not taken the bins out since yesterday), impulsive behaviour (did I need a rose gold laptop stand and scented drawer liners?)
Most people with BPD are aware the way they’re acting is out of turn.
Hell, even we’re embarrassed with some of the outbursts we’re capable of. But it doesn’t stop us feeling how we do at that time.
When a friend doesn’t call because they forgot or are busy, it can feel like the end of the world – that they hate you and they’re probably with all your other friends having a great time without you.
In reality, you know they’re probably just stuck in work or have run out of battery, but it doesn’t feel that way.
As you’re reading this, you’re probably nodding and thinking, ‘Ah, I can see why people say she’s dramatic.’
The fact is, though, the rational side of my brain knows that my friend does still like me.
However, the irrational or emotional side feels differently; with BPD, that emotional/irrational side, when confronted with a difficult situation, will override anything our helpful rational side has to say.
With that in mind, maybe now you understand why telling someone to ‘calm down’ really isn’t going to help.
We understand you have our best interests at heart and just want to soothe us, but we can’t stop feeling those intense emotions at that moment.
Saying anything that detracts from those emotions makes us feel like our emotions aren’t valid, and it’s important we know that they are.
I know that everyone is different – we all have a different set of things that make us feel better – but I know for myself, someone acknowledging my feelings nearly always does the trick.