Where’s the ‘Off-Switch’?

While I was driving home from visiting my mother this morning, I realised I was holding my breath. I think I had been doing so most of the morning, as I was terrified (yes, really terrified) that if I didn’t that ‘she’ was going to come out of my mouth.

‘She’ would come bursting forth from what is usually my nice, kind mouth with ‘her’ negativity and judgement. This fear has been building all week and was being triggered by the actions of a staff member at the Dementia Home where my mother lives. I am never impressed by this woman, in total contrast to my usual reaction and appreciative support of the rest of the staff. I don’t like many of the things she does and I don’t think she does her job well. That’s fine, but for some reason she triggers the ‘On-switch’, and I want to tear her to shreds. I think I even want her to lose her job (I am shocked by the strength of my feeling).

That’s right. I’m not always a nice person. Actually, I can be vile. I can be a total bitch. That part of me has been in existence for what seems like as long as I can remember, but actually, my memory of her just goes back to my teenage years when ‘she’ would come burst forth to spew her vileness particularly at my mother.

The explanation of ‘her’ is that I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I hasten to say that perhaps not every sufferer of BPD has this fragmentation. I don’t know. What I do know is that I do, and every so often the nice, kind, even friendly Cate will transform into this nasty, cruel, bitchy ‘she’ who I recognise well, but cringe when I realise ‘she’ has revealed herself. I don’t like ‘her’. That is an understatement. I just wish I could ‘turn her off’ when I realise ‘she’ has taken over, but most times, I don’t realise ‘she’ is in charge until the damage is done.

Read about BPD and you will quickly realise that some writers refer to us as “drama queens” (and kings, presumably). “attention seekers”, “bitches”, “monsters” even. I try to stay clear of such writers because while I don’t want to label other BPD sufferers, I know that for my own part, sometimes I am a “bitch” and sometimes I am even a “monster”. Yes, really. You might think you know me. You might think I am a nice person, but that is only one side of me. Thankfully it is the dominant side, but in the dark, lies the monster, and ‘she’s’ not at all nice.

Lately, I haven’t seen too much of ‘her’. While I admit my mother was on the receiving end of her for too many years (we didn’t ever have a good relationship anyway), ‘she’ isn’t there anymore. ‘She’ somehow disappeared from our relationship, and even though I don’t really understand the change, I am glad and relieved. My mother has enough to cope with in life, without a monster daughter. This was also the main relationship in which ‘she’ appeared so it was good to have ‘her’ gone.

There have been times lately when I have felt ‘her’ rising to the surface and about to take hold, but somehow I have been able to dissipate the rising pressure and somehow escape ‘her’ clutches. It is always a palpable relief when I can do this, but I never know exactly how it happens. I know that for me, being able to do this is a sign of mental wellbeing.

But then in the last couple of weeks ‘she’ has been back. I usually don’t realise ‘she’s’ back until it’s too late. Until ‘she’ has taken hold of me, and I am a monster. One side of me cringes as the other monster side delights in the ride. Yes, ‘she’ loves it when ‘she’ gets to be in the driver’s seat, while I just wish I wasn’t there. I quietly hope I’m not doing too much damage as my words spew forth, but ‘she’ doesn’t care.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about having multiple personalities, having Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This is different, and while I’m no psychologist to understand and explain the brain, I do understand that we all have different parts to ourselves. Maybe for most people, those parts are not the “monster” I see in myself. Maybe they’re not quite so marked.

Scary and a little weird, I actually find myself liking ‘her’ to some degree. I don’t like the hurt ‘she’ can cause, but I do like that ‘she’ just says whatever ‘she’ thinks. There is no holding back with ‘her’ and I like that ‘she’ isn’t constrained by… well, anything. I don’t like the damage, but just sometimes I admire ‘her’ for being free to say anything without fear of consequence. I am torn. I like this ‘me’ but I’m also terrified of ‘her’ because I know all too well the damage that ‘she’ can cause, and has caused.

Aside from hurting people that I actually care about, I have lost along the way. I have lost people. I have lost jobs. Yes, I have lost two jobs where I wasn’t able to reign ‘her’ in. I was, in those jobs, two people. One Cate was very good at ‘her’ job. Staff and clients thought I was excellent at what I did. I got high praise and was rewarded well. But in both situations ‘she’ rose to the surface in my working relationship with a boss. At the time, I had no understanding of BPD and was totally lost. I didn’t understand why this was happening. All I knew was this “monster” would rise to the surface and I didn’t know how to stop ‘her’.

Recently, ‘she’ took over and destroyed what had been a nice dinner out with someone I care about. ‘She’ ambushed the evening while I wasn’t watching and I admit now that I am ashamed of the things I said and did. Once ‘she’ took over, I couldn’t stop ‘her’. I couldn’t take back the control, and part of that was because I kind of liked what she was doing and saying. That is what I am ashamed of most. What sort of monster am I, that I would cause pain and like it?

‘She’ keeps bubbling toward the surface and I find myself holding my breath, terrified that ‘she’ will take over again and that I will lose more relationships. I am inclined to shut myself away and hope ‘she’ is prevented from rising. If I don’t talk with people, then maybe ‘she won’t be able to rise.

This is a pretty negative post. I know that. I don’t expect many ‘likes’. I am ashamed to admit that I am a monster but I know that maybe by writing about that part of me then maybe I can take ‘her’ control away. Maybe by being open to the point of feeling quite uncomfortable with such disclosure, I might take her power away. Perhaps by bringing that monster in from the dark, to bring light onto how she is, I will find a way to take control again. I hope that it enables me to find that elusive ‘off switch’. That has to be a good thing.

One final note. I have called myself a monster and I have related that to my having BPD. But please know that I am not saying that all people with BPD are monsters. Not at all. I am using this word to describe something in myself that I strongly dislike. Something I find monstrous. I do not know enough about BPD and other sufferers to label them as such. I only know about my BPD. Actually, none of those I know who have BPD are people I would describe this way.

Because humans are complicated beasts, the monster said. How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad witch? How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour? How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right-thinking? How can a parson be wrong-thinking but good-hearted? How can invisible men make themselves more lonely by being seen?

“I don’t know,” Connor shrugged, exhausted. “Your stories never made any sense to me.”

The answer is that it does not matter what you think, the monster said, because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day. You wanted her to go at the same time you were desperate for me to save her. Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.

— Patrick Ness (A Monster Calls)

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

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10 thoughts on “Where’s the ‘Off-Switch’?

  1. I know little about BPD, but I’m very happy to read that you accept that part of yourself to some extent, even while wanting to bury her. In any case, even from this distance and as a not-yet-in-person-but-still-more-than-just-virtual friend (well, that’s what I consider you anyway), I know you’re a lovely human, occasional monster or no. And anyway, the world is such that the monster absolutely has the appropriate response sometimes.

    1. Thank you, Sid. I admit that I was terrified at the prospect of comments to this post, but perhaps not enough to turn off comments. But I am greatly relieved to have your comment from a good friend. And one day we really will have to do the in-person thing. Your place, mine or half way in between? 😉

  2. Anyone who is only NICE all the time… is a fake. No one is perfect, just some of us keep the balance better than others. I can understand you half liking “she”… she’s the one without inhibitions. We all have that person inside us, and sometimes not letting them out is partially being a coward and not about being strong.

    1. Hi Michelle. I think you’re right but I’m sure many don’t want to know. I think also, that for some that “she” is a stronger presence than for others. People on the receiving end of my “she” know that she’s pretty damn strong. 🙂

  3. This is such an honest, heartfelt post, I’m not quite sure what to say. I can appreciate losing so much from some ‘invisible’ that you’re dealign with, and it’s really tough. While you feel that part of you is a ‘monster’, I think you are incredibly self-reflective, considerate and strong for dealing and sharing the way you do. Just want to send a hug your way  ♥

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