There are times when our lives get out of order and our decently stable environment unravels. We may have an intense life occurrence or we reminiscence on some horrible experiences, but either way, we are left trying to make sense of it and to cope with the chaos around us. A mentally healthy individual may have minimal difficulty, but for those with the Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, this can be hell.
In times of fear of lack of control, parasuicidal behaviours could be exercised by one in major turmoil. Parasuicidal being defined by the act of self harm or suicide attempt with no end goal of killing oneself. The individual participating in these may not care if they die in the process, but they do not exactly wish to harm themselves to that extremity.
A good portion of those with a borderline personality disorder diagnosis may take this to the ultimate extreme, losing entire control of their behaviour, or choosing to let their emotions take over. The intensity in which they feel natural emotions can bring to the brim of what they believe they are capable of enduring. The idealistics of someone with this diagnosis, especially those with a strong form of it, may be using this unhealthy coping mechanism because of the following:
Lack of control. A lack of control to one struggling with this diagnosis may lead them to practicing parasuicidal behaviours, sometimes just self harm which can have no relation to parasuicide, to gain what they feel is missing. The behaviour may give them a sense of satisfaction or gratification, giving them the feeling of power. For that moment, they have all the control in the world. Whatever they do, they made that decision and they can be responsible for the intensity of their actions. The concept of making a decision, living it through and seeing the consequences can feed that fear of lacking control. They may lead themselves to fear if they hurt themselves passed what they had originally intended, or be upset with themselves if they didn’t attain their “goal”, and in this fright, they may seek control by scaring those around them.
Negative Life Events. An upsetting life event is natural, unpredictable and out of the hands of the “victim”. A relative being diagnosed with cancer or a suicide close to us isn’t our responsibility, though one may blame themselves, and to justify this, they may practice violent acts towards their bodies. Their goal may be to numb the pain or bring forth the pain on themselves, and at times, to gain sympathy from those around them.
Reminiscing. Reminiscing on past traumatic events leads the individual into a dramatic thought process. They will ponder on experiences, evaluate what they could’ve done better, where they went wrong and may sugar coat or diminish an individual party entirely based on their thoughts. This may lead them to reevaluate their decisions around that individual and seek some type of truth, even if they’ve already found it. They will want immediate responses and will create a castle of terror for themselves. This could even bring them to reinvite abusive partners into their lives, further harming themselves, and they will do everything in their power to make it work to not be alone and to align their perception of events and their hopes of that individual.
Triggering comments. “This will show them!” Sound/seem familiar? That’s because a triggering comment can hurt them, throw them into an intense emotion, and they may seek vengeance and revenge. Sometimes, they take the remark too personally and create a whole new world of horror. Maybe if they self harm or take dozens of pills, the “culprit” may be held liable for their actions. They use this to blame and target that individual and cause them the same, if not more pain for their actions. It’s almost like having the last word. If practiced around family, members may feel like they are walking on eggshells, trying to avoid offending them so they don’t end up self harming or landing themselves in the hospital.
Loneliness and Boredom. Boredom is like a traumatic event for people with borderline. Suddenly, things are stable or relaxed, their hands aren’t busy, things and thoughts aren’t racing and they may consider themselves lazy. In response, to get things going, they convince themselves that a parasuicidal act may be the answer to these feelings. They may even mistake boredom and loneliness for sadness and react as if it were true. Loneliness is perceived as abandonment and they shake things up to make people “come back.” They must keep busy, attend recovery groups and try to avoid these behaviours, knowing they won’t benefit them in any way.
Scare loved ones. This concept is mainly to be in control. By doing such violent things to themselves, they may feel they have control over you and your emotions. They can predict how you’ll react and they want to tell you because your fear could mean love and care in their eyes. It’s almost a test. How far can they push it? And if they don’t get the reaction they want, they make themselves worse. They will freak out and feel invalidated; making accusations that their loved ones just don’t care about them. That fear they can implant is such a strong form of power and they will abuse it until it runs out.
“They’ll love me when…” The main borderline trait is a fear of abandonment; seeking love is the result of that. They have noticed that when they are in a specific state, “everybody comes back.” They will take their already deteriorated and ill state and bring it to the extreme. If they are suffering from an eating disorder, that may be dropping 10 more pounds really quick. It could be a suicide attempt, believing that death will bring them love, or even just being hospitalized. The impulse thought tricks them into believing a total lie. They want the world to stop because things are too chaotic. They can’t possibly understand how “everyone” is so okay with the world, that they can cope with all these unbelievable experiences and come out okay. “They’ll love me when…” is a self-fulfilling prophecy that is very complicated to escape. Once it’s implanted, even through a good period, they may turn to that. It gives them a sense of validation and dominance when they notice that it “worked”. Suddenly, they are sick enough for treatment and they will have the support of family members that had been distant for a period.
Though being parasuicidal often leads someone to seek love and attention, it shouldn’t be seen in a negative way. That individual is trying to gain control of themselves and cope with their turmoil. At times, they lose complete control and may even feel a disconnect from their speech. They will speak from the heart and try to feel less alone, as the chaos isolates them. They ultimately seek someone to love them and reassure them everything will be okay. Participating in this with your loved one may not be the healthiest thing you can do for them, as you could be feeding a rollercoaster that will persistently worsen.
It is not their fault, most of the time. Even when they forcefully try to worsen themselves, it still isn’t their fault. They must take responsibility for their actions and understand they were taught or demonstrated this behaviour and that control will come if they work on it and break it.
What to do now? As for advice, do not join them in the chaos. That is the worst thing that you can do for them. Be objective. Teach them they can handle being alone and that stability is not the enemy. Be there to support them, but do not be their dance partner. Remind them that things will be okay. Remind them that you will not abandon them, that you love them and that they need help. Encourage them to go to group sessions and get themselves out there. It cannot be stressed enough that they should be using the The Out-Of-Control (DBT-CBT Workbook) and need to complete it.
There is hope and they will gain control. They need to work at it. Recovery is possible.
On a personal note, I am guilty of all of these, and even in my recovery, I still participate in these. The outbursts are a lot further in between and I’m learning to keep some things to myself in order not to use someone’s fear as my control. I am learning that healthy relationships just don’t work that way.
Not everyone with borderline personality disorder or with a mental illness will display these actions as every mental illness affects people in different ways. And not fitting into these categories doesn’t diminish your mental illness in any way.