My emotional instability explained

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

[TW this post mentions suicidal thoughts]


Everything feels like it's going wrong


I have these moments where I feel convinced that everything is going wrong. I feel like I can't cope which means I fear I'm going to fall on the floor and start screaming that everything is 'too much' and I 'don't know what to do'.


When this state comes over me, it feels like everyone I love and everything that makes life worth living is about to me ripped from me and I will be left with nothing. It's incredibly upsetting and scary to feel this way, so much so that it usually makes me feel suicidal.


During these times, nothing comforts me. Photographs of people I love, texts from them, cute birthday cards, gifts or mementoes cease to have any meaning. I can’t find even a moment of solace or comfort from a memory because I’m convinced I will never be loved or safe again.


Catastrophic thinking


In these instances, my thinking becomes fast paced and tends to be catastrophic. Often the trigger for this panicked state of mind is an interpersonal interaction such as something someone close to me said.


For example, someone could give a short answer instead of a longer one and I interpret that as bored. In a matter of seconds, I have concluded falsely that they are bored with me and therefore that I have always been boring and always will be that way. Then, before I know it, I am thinking that I am terrible to be around, I'm worthless and that nobody loves me.


[Image shows white blossom and blue sky in the background. The text reads 'At times, I find it difficult to believe anyone who says anything positive about me.' - Talking About BPD]


Often this leads of paranoia. I find myself looking at my friends and thinking that they talking about me, or thinking about my family and how I am the one everyone is fed up with. I think some really unkind things at myself during these times. My self-worth slips onto floor like a birthday cake sliding face down of a kitchen counter. I fantasise that everyone is desperate for me to just get away from them.


The most I can hope for during these instances is that I don't act on my impulsive and feelings and instead just wait out the storm. In DBT, this skill is known as 'riding the wave' of emotion and the principle behind it is that emotions rise and once they reach their peak of intensity, they fall. I try to use the DBT mindfulness skill and notice the concrete world around me to bring myself out of this spiral of terrifying thoughts.


other people & origins of instability


I feel that I demand a lot from people because of my emotional instability. It may not be necessary for me to feel guilty for the impact my mental health has on others, but it's something I feel guilty about nonetheless. I take comfort I know that it can be hard for people who love me to see me in the throes of a BPD anxiety attack.


One of the reasons for this is that during these times I find it excruciatingly difficult to believe anything positive that anyone tells me. It can be difficult for someone who loves me to see me feeling so upset and behaving as if something awful is happening when there is no objective terror occurring.


However, inside my head when I feel this fear it all feels so real. Multiple therapists and psychiatrists have explained to me that these emotional states are activated in the present when something happens to reminds me of difficult and painful past experiences.


The challenge is to realise that the fears activated in the present do not represent the real dangers from the past. The danger has past, but the fear remains. (Note: Many people believe that borderline personality disorder is more accurately understood as a form of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, known for short as C-PTSCD).


The power of validation


Validation helps me more than anything when I feel these overwhelming fear and sense of loss. For example, my boyfriend often tells me kindly that he can see I'm scared, even though he will tell me that he can't see any facts that show I need to be scared.



Validation is such a powerful healing tool for me because it helps me feel seen and heard. I don't know exactly why being acknowledged helps so much. Maybe when I feel I can't cope I get the urge to scream because it's a communication: see me, hear me. Perhaps deep down I'm trying to make up for all those times my suffering was invisible and unheard.


Nowadays, I’ve found a small part of myself that can listen to those positive statements of care from another. Although I often benefit from reminders, I have some capacity to recall moments of affection and care when the fear takes over. There are some small moments during crisis when I can even grab hold of them, even if only for a moment. The power of that cannot be underestimated.


The emotional rollercoaster of bpd


Sometimes I can have these moments of terror multiple times per day. It can leave me in toilets or public transport crying my eyes out. I can be walking down the street, breathless and tearful. It can stop me from sleeping because I am so fearful. Often they stop as quickly as they arrive. When they end, I'm confused. How did that happen so quickly and feel so intense?


Recently I heard someone explaining BPD like this. Imagine how it feels to go through a really bad break up. Imagine feeling that most days, if every day, often multiple times. I don't normally shout about it for fear of what people would think of me. However, when someone close to me died, I felt the deepest and most devastating sadness that I've ever experienced.



Except that it wasn't. It was only the most painful sadness I have ever experienced that was completely unrelated to my BPD. The emotions I feel that relate to my BPD fear of abandonment and rejection are so much stronger and more agonising than this grief I felt.


What I'm trying to express is I feel I have two categories of emotion. BPD and non-BPD. And the BPD ones are just on a whole new level. Many people who be sceptical of this, even angry to hear me say it. Emotions cannot be separated like this. I don't know- I'm just saying how it feels for me.


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Although I'm learning each day to manage, it's exhausting to be continually engaged in a project of 'getting better'. I really benefit from the support of friends and loved ones who accept me as I am, see my strengths and see just how hard this is and how much I'm trying.


Thank you for reading and thank you to everyone who supports Talking About BPD. The encouragement and support means so much to me.

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​© Talking About BPD

Rosie Cappuccino 2020

Please note that this site is not a substitute for professional medical/mental health advice.

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