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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