Boredom and BPD – or: Borderline brain doesn’t agree with ‘normal’

I’m having a good day today. No misunderstandings. No hurt feelings. No arguments. Everything has been smooth sailing so far. Great, eh?

Guess so. After all, it’s what I strive for. Feeling normal. Not intensely good. Not incredibly low. Just normal. Perfect, right?!

NO! At least not really.

While I’m glad I’m not having an emotional rollercoaster ride today, I’m totally and utterly bored. In bold capital letters. B-O-R-E-D. It’s gnawing at me while I’m hanging around, not finding satisfaction in anything I do. It’s like being stuck in a deadening pit of unbearable nothingness.

Listening to music? – boring

Watching mom do housework? – boring

Helping with housework? – boring

Talking with mom? – boring

Playing the guitar? – yep, you guessed it: boring.

It feels like I’m about to drop dead from boredom or from gathering dust or something.

So I started bugging mom. “Do something with me! Something more fun than housework! No, playing a game is boring. Something else! No, I don’t want to go anywhere, I want to do something in the house. No, something else! Why aren’t you done with the stupid washing already?! How long can it take!? No, I don’t want to help so it goes faster. Geez, get ready, I’m so bored! Hey, look, I’m gonna eat laundry detergent!”

And seriously, I was this close to having some, only to make something happen, because of course mom wouldn’t just watch me eat laundry detergent. So while I wasn’t really planning on eating it, and wasn’t even feeling like I really wanted to, I would have only to make something exciting happen. Anything. Anything that doesn’t feel so unbearably boring.

So the wash waited as mom rolled her eyes, went for a playful wrestle for the detergent and while I was laughing (yay, finally something going on!) she declared if I wanted action, it would have to be something harmless, no absurd threat ploys with laundry detergent. We ended up playing ‘grab the thingy’ with a clothespin instead, which is a little rough and tumble game that consists of nothing more than trying not to let the other get their hands on the whatever it is and taking turns when the other was successful. It’s silly, but fun to play, and kind of intense when mom and I play, and it usually ends in laughter. So that was good. Not boring.

Thereafter mom addressed the boredom itself. I asked her why I can’t just enjoy a good day, and feel so awfully bored instead. She suggested it might be because my brain is not accustomed to average levels of excitement and feels like something is wrong if it is underwhelmed. After all my brain was exposed to very high levels of arousal for prolonged periods of time during my childhood. Threatening situations, stressful situations, painful situations and a need to be permanently alert. It has adjusted to those high levels of arousal, by releasing chemicals to match that intensity. It has not, however, learned how to produce dopamine (a joy and excitement chemical) in response to normal levels of excitement. So it doesn’t recognize normal things as good enough to trigger a response, because it’s still waiting for some high level of arousal happening. Hence boredom when there’s not.

But she also said the good thing about brains is that they can adapt to new situations. It’s a slow process, because one can’t just alter the natural brain chemistry over night, but she said it’s going to happen. So I’m hoping it will happen. If only patience was my more of a friend. At least interpersonal excitement, like getting intense attention through a little rough-and-tumble game, does trigger a happy brain response. I guess that’s something, after all this kind of excitement is usually available. As for the rest, time is probably my ally. Sigh. What do you guys do if you feel unbearably bored?

Things that make me feel safe & loved

Since feeling safe and loved is something I struggle with a lot, I thought maybe it would be good to make a list of things that help those feelings along. To get some clarity, and maybe to actively seek out those things when I run low in a way that’s a little more constructive than becoming a nuisance to those around me.

So let’s see.

Things that make me feel safe:

  • Knowing someone is home with me.
  • Being in the same room with mom or dad.
  • Having the lights on at night.
  • That mom and dad don’t yell and only rarely raise their voices.
  • Having the same predictable routines every day.
  • That my mom keeps an eye on what I do and where I am. (Okay, it’s annoying, too, especially when I’m up to no good, but then, it’s kind of the point that she notices when I drift south before I’m all the way there, even when I hate it at the time.)
  • That mom takes my hand when we’re out and about on the streets, so I can relax and don’t need to stress about getting lost, and neither about losing face by actively taking her hand (yes, life is complicated).
  • Knowing in advance what’s planned for the day.
  • Getting things explained to me, so I don’t feel left out or stupid for not knowing something.
  • Getting included.
  • Mom and dad staying calm when I’m upset.
  • That we talk about things in the family.

So far so good. I have a feeling that those were the easier ones. The ‘love’ part is more difficult because I have an even harder time feeling loved than feeling safe, and I also feel more embarrassed about the things that make me feel loved. But I guess the point of this post is to try and figure it out and be honest about it, so here goes.

Things that make me feel loved:

  •  Sitting on mom’s lap. Yes, physically I’m kind of too big to be sitting on her lap, but emotionally there’s not a single thing in the world that compares to it. I’m lucky I’m small and light, but I guess I’d like it just as much if I were tall and big. (Poor mom, though, in that case.) It feels loving and safe and like she must really love me if she allows me on her lap. After all you don’t let people be that close who you don’t really like that much, right?!
  • Small things like mom and dad never leaving the house and waiting for me outside, even if I dilly-dally and they are long ready to go. I’d probably be way faster if they waited outside, because I hate being left behind, but they always wait and only leave the house when I’m with them.
  • That they see through my relationship tests and use them for good stuff. I often construct situations that invite them to give me negative relationship messages, to punish me or to discipline me. I am annoying on purpose to see what it takes to make them snap and lose it and show their “true face”. But instead of snapping or losing it, they acknowledge that I’m stressed, make me aware that I’m stressed and try their best to help me figure out what I need to feel safe in our relationship again. That they do that instead of taking the easy way, makes me feel like they care about me and love me.
  • That my mom pays attention to what I do, even when it’s nothing important, and either smiles or says something to let me know how she feels about what I do. I often do things just to see if she will notice, and nine out of ten times she does. That makes me feel like I’m important to her and like she loves me enough to care.

Those are only four things, and I’m sure there must be more, but I have a really hard time becoming aware of those things. I’m actually pleased I made it to four, plus explanations. 😉

Being Oversensitive and BPD – making it from survival skill to safety

One of the things that probably make me hard to be around is that I take notice of countless small things, read meaning into them, draw (hasty and often unjustified) conclusions, become emotional and act upon it.

Small example: Yesterday I watched mom set the table for our weekend family breakfast and she set my place last. Everyone’s place was set and my placemat was still empty. Now most people would probably not even notice, but I do and when I notice I’m sure it means something. Mom likes everyone else better than me. She sets my place last because I’m the least important to her. Or she forgot about me, like I’m not even part of the family. She’d never say it, but that’s her way of showing me. The conclusion is hasty and full of flawed thinking, but when those thoughts flash through my mind, it’s hard to reason with them. So I felt hurt and rejected and like I’d never in a million years want to have breakfast with any of them again. Ever.

When I rushed out of the kitchen my mom could tell which way the wind was blowing, came after me and after taking some verbal abuse about what a mean bitch she is, she asks what upset me so. I cuss something about why doesn’t she just fucking say she hates me, cause I’m not stupid and can tell what she means by leaving my place at the table empty. So mom took my hand and took me back into the kitchen where she opened the dishwasher that was still swooshing its last round. When the cloud of steam had drifted away, she pulled a wet breakfast plate and mug from the rack and showed it to me and said she thought she’d set those for me. They’re my favorite dishes, because they’re cute with dots and hearts and a little scrawly skull on them, and she got them for me when I saw them at a shop one day and couldn’t tear my eyes away from them. She thought she’d wait for my favorite plate and all.

So my mom was being extra considerate, but I get it the wrong way and get upset like some nasty crazy person. I felt awfully sorry and ready to go punish myself for being so mean to my mom who I love so much and who was only being nice. But mom knows how I tick and doesn’t let go of me in this situation, so while the dishwasher finishes, we sit down and talk about my being so sensitive instead.

Or rather mom talked, because I felt ashamed and like the most awful person ever which turned me mute, until her words helped me feel better.

It’s probably not the first time she told me, but I think this time I got what she meant. She spoke about how it’s been sensible for me to be so sensitive. How growing up in a family where life was spiked with truly threatening behavior it was a survival skill to tell the meaning of small changes, so I could get myself out of harm’s way, if at all possible. A minor sign could be the only advance warning I got, so I had to learn to take them seriously. In general, my mother and step-father never really said out loud what they wanted, but just assumed I was able to read their minds and act accordingly, with punishment waiting if I did not, so it WAS an important skill for me to monitor the smallest things and read their meaning. And because it was such an critical skill for keeping myself safe, my brain has a hard time letting go of it, even when it’s not necessary anymore. When there is no real danger to be detected, my brain is not convinced and sees threatening signs anyway.

My mom told me before, but I think I wasn’t ready to really accept that being so sensitive is not just me being crazy or a terrible person, but me having learned a survival skill that was so important that it became automatic. I don’t really know why, but yesterday it sank in. At least for now. I felt better after we had talked, could accept some cuddles and that mom finally set the cute plate and mug for me when the dishwasher was done. I even had breakfast without struggling to eat, so I must have really felt okay and not like I should get punished anymore.

It’s really exhausting to be so oversensitive. After all, I don’t just notice something with my rational mind, but my emotions immediately flare up. But I hope that maybe being aware that it’s my brain going into survival overdrive can help me distance myself from the emotions and from acting on them a little. After all, I’m not with my first family anymore. Maybe being aware that the hypersensitivity is a survival skill that belongs with them, not with my family now will help me with not jumping to conclusions so quickly, hopefully making things less exhausting in the long run. After all it’s not nice to have had a load of emotional drama already by the time I have breakfast.

I’ll see how it goes. For now it’s good to know that hypersensitivity isn’t me being awful, but an automatic response that comes from an unsafe upbringing. That it’s not something that goes away through punishment (logically thinking, it would even get reinforced with punishment), but through calming down and helping my brain feel safe, so it goes out of survival mode. Hm, and I guess that may even be a small part of the self-love that I wrote about yesterday. Not beating myself up for being oversensitive, but realizing it’s simply a skill that’s not necessary anymore, but got activated out of instinct or habit or something, so I can let go of it and shape my brain some new responses instead. I could sure use those!

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