I lost my temper at my husband last night. I felt guilty and equally entirely justified! I lost my temper over words and their subtle meanings. Subtle meanings can deliver hammer blows to a cPTSD/BPD sufferer like me.
Let’s call Mr Amygdala Andy. It’s so much easier! Here’s some more background on Andy. Crucially he is a good man. He doesn’t understand mental illness but tries. I believe he loves me although I don’t understand why. Perhaps because he has low self-esteem? Which he does. Andy makes no assumptions about gender specific jobs in our house – actually that’s a lie – certain things he sees as his job as the man but, generally, we share responsibilities for the domestic chores and childcare. Andy is easily summed up, and has been many times before with the phrase he’s a good ‘un. And he is. And I love him very much.
Of course it’s not that simple. If you have BPD you’ll understand that loving someone doesn’t negate the turbulent extremes of emotion: love, hate, love, hate, love. I always love Andy but sometimes I feel I just cannot be near him; that everything about him is wrong for me. I still love him though.
Anyway, last night’s squabble. Here’s how it went.
The scene is teatime at the Amygdala’s. Trudy, the mother, is busy washing dishes, cleaning up whilst simultaneously cooking and watching the kids. The kids are in the next room watching a DVD. Andy arrives home from work on his bike. He comes straight in the kitchen. The required and pointless hellos are exchanged. Pointless because they cannot speak of anything adult in front of the children.
T: I’m actually really proud of myself. I cycled to Tesco and bought dinner stuff. And had a shower. And I felt OK. Not now though. You know what it’s like at this time of day.
A: yes I’m sorry. I wish we could change it.
T: well we can’t. It is what it is and actually I’ve done really well today it’s just this time y’know?
A: I’m off next week. I can do it all then.
Anger explodes inside of me. Why? Well I’ve just told him how well I’ve done today (note how I have to encourage myself. That’s not his thing.) and rather than acknowledge that progress, that achievement, he wipes it away: not to worry he’ll do it next week. It’s no bother for him. This makes me feel like my hard work to achieve these things doesn’t matter. I feel useless. And stupid. I recognise that’s not what he intended. I recognise that actually he wanted to reassure me so I breathe and calm down before speaking. When I do it’s still snappy. I do my best to be calm but I’m trying to contain a volcano of rage and that isn’t easy.
T: you don’t have to do everything for me. There is a world of difference between supporting me and helping me to do things and just doing them for me, cutting me out.
A: ok that’s not what I meant…
T:..I know. I get that. It’s just how it makes me feel and I’m sorry I’m such a nightmare.
A: you know I’m no good with words.
***uh oh. She’s going to blow***
He always comes out with this ‘I’m no good with words’ line. It does my fucking head in. It’s like it’s ok for him to not think about what he’s saying and I should just accept that because he’s no good with words. If I question his choice of phrasing then I’m being unreasonable. It’s not fair on him. I know he’s no good with words. No, I decide, I’m going to try and discuss this with him.
T: I hate when you say that – like it’s an excuse. It’s ok to make mistakes and say the wrong thing but learn from it. Always saying you’re no good with words is like a get out of jail free card for you.
A: look I’m sorry. Really, really sorry. I’ve said the wrong thing. It’s not what I meant.
***Now I feel hideous. What on earth was I kicking off about? Why have I just verbally whipped Andy? I hate myself. He’s such a nice guy and I’m a bitch. I wish I could run away and let him be happy. Why won’t he let me go? I wish I wasn’t like this and yet still…still…I feel angry. But my anger is unjustified. Let it go Trudy. Defuse the situation. Change the subject***
T: ok let’s leave that behind and move on. How was your day?
There are a few more questions. All answered with one word. I’m so fucking annoyed right now.
T: you can answer in more than one word you know?!?!?!?!?!
A: well I don’t want to say the wrong thing and make things worse.
Right. Because I’m so awful that he can’t speak around me. All those internal emotions run riot. I smother them. Kill them. It works for now but I know they’re still there. Waiting. It doesn’t matter because right then I’m just pleased that no damage was done. I let it go.
Yes it’s a nightmare for Andy. I get that. God, I get it so much that I am a nightmare. Of course I do. I hate myself, I hate the things I do, I hate the words I say. I wish that he didn’t have to deal with me. It’s not fair on him.
There are some things he could do though that would help.
- If I’m bold enough to suggest something positive about myself let’s just stop there. Agree. Validate it. Give me a hug. Whatever. Even better if you can recognise an achievement!
- Don’t help the “I’m useless” voice in my head. When you take over it cuts me out and I feel even more useless.
- Support me doing things. Help me to still take part in the world. Shutting me away to rest, alone, all the time isolates me further. Instead listen to how we can make it work. Let’s tackle stuff together.
- Stop making assumptions about me.
- Please don’t act like a victim if I disagree or dislike something you say. I love you. I am not cruel to you (I think). I recognise that I am difficult. Acting like a victim makes me feel more guilt and more self-hatred. Instead perhaps accept your mistake or, if you think I’m wrong, we can agree to disagree. No victims here.
I’m sure there’s more but I’ve run out of steam and need to bath the tiddler.
I understand that it’s quite rare for someone with BPD to maintain a stable relationship. It’s a question mark over my BPD diagnosis (not yet official but said by several inc a psychiatrist). We’ve been together for 13 years! That’s pretty amazing! All I can guess is that we must have something special. I’m lucky to have have him. I doubt anyone would say he’s lucky to have me. Hopefully we’ll figure it out.
He’s the good one, I’m the bad one. I’m the one that can’t cope, I’m the one that social services are concerned about, I’m the one that overdosed. Poor Andy. And that’s how the world sees it too I think. Except, sometimes when I feel a bit stronger I think poor me. The illness means I can’t cope, my illness concerns social services, it was the illness pushed me to overdose. Poor me living with that! But that’s not how the world sees it.
I lost the point of this post as I was writing it. My brain has gone on lots of tangents. I love Mr Amygdala. I hate me and my BPD.