Crybaby.

kid_crying

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE MAY BE TRIGGERING.
I spent the first 13 years of my life almost constantly crying. I was a perpetually squalling cranky baby, a screaming tantrum-throwing toddler, a tearful preschooler, and a school child prone to attacks of uncontrolled crying in public places and embarrassing situations. During my teen years, my crying was downgraded to near-constant sulking and negativity. Tears came mostly when I was angry or frustrated by the time puberty hit. Rage frequently accompanied the tears, or maybe it worked the other way around.

I had the curse of the blonde and fair skinned, so my emotions showed on my face in neon reds and pinks against the white background of my skin. I blushed easily and that was embarrassing enough. I could feel the blood rising up my neck like a sudden wave of heat and my ears would start to burn. My bullies picked on my tendency to blush and would deliberately embarrass or humiliate me to see my ghostly pale face turn as red as a fire engine. If it went on long enough, my lips would start to quiver and there would be tears, and that’s what they were really waiting for–to see me cry.

The crying was awful. I wasn’t a pretty crier; in fact I was ugly when I cried. My skin would turn into a mottled red and pink that looked like a bad case of rosacea, my nose ran like a faucet and turned so red it was nearly purple, and my eyelids turned bright red too and swelled up as if they were bee-stung. It would take hours for these facial giveaways of my pathetic vulnerability to finally disappear.

I had a great deal of difficulty controlling all the intense and confusing emotions that seemed to crash over me like tidal waves when I least expected it. These feelings were just too big for me to handle, and I was so easily overwhelmed by them and had trouble soothing myself (this is an early indicator of BPD and other disorders like PTSD). Whenever I cried I thought I would never stop. No one could calm me down. My emotions were a force of nature too powerful to be tamed. When I wasn’t crying, I felt a constant dull ache in my chest (heart area) and congestion in my throat. Even that early, I knew crying would relieve the tightness and pain, but the crying was like vomiting and sometimes as painful because the intense waves of emotion plowed through me like an out of control bulldozer.

Raised by a narcissistic mother and enabling (possibly low spectrum or covert narcissist) dad, I became the the family scapegoat (made even more crazymaking by the fact that as an “only” in their marriage, I also sometimes served as Golden Child). I was either held on a pedestal that far exceeded my actual abilities/beauty/intelligence/whatever, but most of the time I WAS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM. I questioned myself and everything I did; it seemed I could do nothing right. I wasn’t allowed to do things for myself or speak my mind. I felt awkward and defective in my family and everywhere else too.

Not long after I started elementary school the bullying started. I was the class crybaby and kids always target the kid who cries the most or seems the most vulnerable. I had no defenses at all; I had never been taught any and lacked the confidence to stand up for myself. Things got especially bad in 3rd – 5th grades. During 4th grade, I was followed home every day by a group of kids who laughed and jeered at the way I walked and imitated my walk, as my tears welled and threatened to overflow (no wonder I hate mimes). The bullies would call out to me and sometimes even throw things to get my attention, but I wouldn’t turn around. I just kept on walking. I knew I couldn’t let them see the tears streaming down my face because that would make everything so much worse.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Morse, was a psychopath with arms like Jello who always wore sleeveless dresses, so whenever she wrote on the board, all that quivering, pale freckled flab hanging from her bare arm made me want to throw up, but I still couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was mesmerizing in a horrible way, like a car accident.

Mrs. Morse knew how sensitive and scared of everything I was. She knew I was bullied by most of the other kids. But she had no empathy for my plight. She was a sadistic bitch straight from the pit of hell. She deliberately called on me whenever I was daydreaming, which was often (no kids got diagnosed with Aspergers back in those days and the idea of “attachment disorders” that lead to later personality disorders was an afterthought in those days), then she would make me stand in the front of the room and answer a question or solve a math problem while she glowered at me like wolf about to pounce and kill their prey. She never did this to the other kids, who were allowed to answer questions from their seat. She deliberately tried to humiliate me, because she knew she would get a reaction.

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One time I couldn’t solve the math problem on the board (which was my worst subject), and she berated and belittled me in front of the class.
“You never pay attention. You’re always daydreaming. Do you have a mental problem?”
The class laughed.
My tongue was in knots and I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt tears burning the backs of my eyelids like acid.
I swallowed hard and tried with all my might not to let a tear loose but they started to flow anyway. I hung my head in shame and rubbed away the tears with my grubby fists as I turned away toward the wall. My narrow back and bony shoulders heaved with silent sobs.
That was exactly the moment this sadistic malignant narcissist who passed for a teacher was waiting for.
“Look everyone! Lauren is crying! Look at the tears! Cry, cry, cry, baby.”
The class burst into screams and hoots of laughter.
“Cry, baby, cry!”
I stood there in front of the class, staring at the floor, snot mingling with my tears, and longed to melt into those scuffed green-gray linoleum tiles, and never return.
In today’s anti-bullying environment, this “teacher” would have been fired for that shit. She might have even lost her teaching license. That kind of thing isn’t put up with anymore.

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Later that year, there was a similar blackboard incident. This time, I was stood in front of the room and told I looked like an albino rabbit when I cried. (I actually did, due to my fairness and my slight overbite.) I was mortified as this unbelievable cruel bitch encouraged the entire class to laugh at my pain and humiliation. I ran out of the room and fled to the library sobbing. The librarian was a sweet and very young woman (probably just out of college) who actually liked me and knew about my love for books. That library was my refuse and the librarian was my friend who understood me. This time, she saw me rushing in like that and held her arms out to me as I crashed into her and sobbed into her warm fragrant neck. We stayed like that for a long time, until Mrs. Morse (accompanied by one of her 9 year old flunkies) came marching in looking for me. Mrs. Morse grabbed me roughly by the arm and marched me back to the pits of hell she called a classroom. Sadly, I looked back at my librarian angel and saw the wetness on her face and her sad little wave.
She knew, and I knew she knew. I’ve never forgotten her. Sometimes in my fantasies I still see her waving at me with that sad tearful smile, and that image gives me comfort and strength.

I think my years of uncontrollable emotional displays came to an end when I was 15. They had already been abating somewhat, replaced with rage and anger, but I had trouble controlling my anger and constant dark moods, even though I wasn’t crying as much. I started to drink and do self-destructive things. I started “talking tough” but inside I still felt anything but.

The year before, when I was 14, my parents divorced and I was taken to live with my mother in the city. She loved it; I hated it back then. We fought all the time, mostly because of her self involvement. My grades slipped and I never did my homework. I was depressed all the time and cared about nothing. When I cried (which was still often) I usually did it alone. The other kids at school didn’t like me. I was never invited to parties, always last picked for softball. I felt intimidated and shy all the time, but I still tried hard to make friends–a little too hard. I fit into no clique (I have never fit into any clique) but there was a group of girls low in the high school pecking order consisting of the geeks and quiet, studious girls. They seemed welcoming enough at first. I saw their small (or more likely, polite) displays of acceptance and wanted so badly to believe they actually LIKED me that I guess I started following them around like a needy puppy.

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I noticed after awhile they avoided me too, and my “birthday corsage” box was proof of my unpopularity, because it was not signed by all the girls and when it was signed, it was just a name. No long flowery messages, no in-jokes, no high-school risque comments, no “you are such a great friend” or “Love ya, Lauren. XXXXOOOOOO” Just…signatures and an occasional terse “Happy Birthday.”

My fears were confirmed later that day. After weeks of avoiding me, the group of nerdy girls approached me and told me they wanted to take me out to a restaurant for my birthday after school. Wanting so much for them to like me I remember grinning like a fool and nodding like the needy puppy I was. Inside I was a little suspicious, but dammit, I wanted to believe them! Maybe their ignoring me had just been my overactive, “oversensitive” imagination after all, and they really did care. Why else would they want to spend time with me on my birthday?

At the restaurant I was picking up a certain tension. The girls kept looking at each other worriedly and wouldn’t look me in the eye. As I ate, I watched their anxious faces. Something was up, and it wasn’t good. I felt like I was going to throw up. I spoke to no one.

Finally, Harriet, the leader of that clique told me she needed to talk to me–privately. I felt like I was on my way to the principal’s office for some transgression. My heart pounded in my throat and I felt tears burn the backs of my eyelids, but I didn’t cry. I bit my lip until it bled and tried to just breathe through my terror.

Outside, she smiled at me sympathetically. Then went on to tell me the real reason they had planned to take me to lunch was because they didn’t want me to hang around with them anymore and didn’t have the opportunity to tell me at school. She actually got tears in her eyes when she said this, and then told me she hoped my feelings hadn’t been hurt. Um…hello? But all I could do was stand there staring at her as if I was cognitively challenged. For the first time ever, I felt emotionally numb. I didn’t realize at the time that would soon become my new way of coping with my pain.

nobody_loves_you

I was traumatized by that rejection. I spent the next two days in bed. I felt sick and couldn’t go to school. I told no one what happened because the shame was too great. I didn’t cry; I couldn’t anymore. I just wanted to sleep forever and maybe die.

After that I couldn’t cry anymore. At least not in most situations that call for it. I had and still have trouble accessing my emotions. It was too scary to let them out, because when I did, bad things happened. It scares me to realize I might have easily become a narcissist, splitting off from all soft emotions, even empathy and guilt. Many narcissists started life this way too, without natural defenses.

I know now whenever I feel that painful tightness in my chest and throat, that means I need to cry. I’m not afraid of it anymore. I want to retrieve my long-ago ability to feel intensely connected to my emotions, because used properly, being an HSP is a gift and a blessing. The big difference will be that I’ll be able to let emotions pass through me freely and be able to express them without shame and without allowing them to overwhelm me or control me.

Are BPD and complex PTSD the same disorder?

age_3_1961_2
Me at age 3 in the zone. Was the template for my BPD already laid down?

Ruji, a new commenter on this blog, made an interesting observation–that BPD should be divided into at least two subtypes: Empathy Challenged/Character Disordered (closer to NPD/ASPD) and Highly Sensitive Person with Emotional Dysregulation (closer to the type I have, although at different times in my life or when extremely stressed I have displayed the more character-disordered subtype). I agree with her. Ruji’s idea is remarkably similar to The World Health Organization’s two subtypes of BPD:

1. F60.30 Impulsive type
At least three of the following must be present, one of which must be (2):

–marked tendency to act unexpectedly and without consideration of the consequences;
–marked tendency to engage in quarrelsome behavior and to have conflicts with others, especially when impulsive acts are thwarted or criticized;
–liability to outbursts of anger or violence, with inability to control the resulting behavioral explosions;
–difficulty in maintaining any course of action that offers no immediate reward;
–unstable and capricious (impulsive, whimsical) mood.

2. F60.31 Borderline type
At least three of the symptoms mentioned in F60.30 Impulsive type must be present [see above], with at least two of the following in addition:

–disturbances in and uncertainty about self-image, aims, and internal preferences;
–liability to become involved in intense and unstable relationships, often leading to emotional crisis;
–excessive efforts to avoid abandonment;
–recurrent threats or acts of self-harm;
–chronic feelings of emptiness.
–demonstrates impulsive behavior, e.g., speeding, substance abuse

Psychologist Theodore Millon has gone even further, proposing that BPD should be divided into four subtypes:

1. Discouraged (including avoidant features): Pliant, submissive, loyal, humble; feels vulnerable and in constant jeopardy; feels hopeless, depressed, helpless, and powerless.

2. Petulant (including negativistic features) Negativistic, impatient, restless, as well as stubborn, defiant, sullen, pessimistic, and resentful; easily slighted and quickly disillusioned.

3. Impulsive (including histrionic or antisocial features) Capricious, superficial, flighty, distractible, frenetic, and seductive; fearing loss, becomes agitated, and gloomy and irritable; potentially suicidal.

4. Self-destructive (including depressive or masochistic features) Inward-turning, intropunitively angry; conforming, deferential, and ingratiating behaviors have deteriorated; increasingly high-strung and moody; possible suicide.

Millon’s Types 1 and 4 would correspond to the Highly Sensitive Person/Emotional Dysregulation type mentioned above (and therefore closer to the Avoidant/Dependent PDs); Type 2 sounds very much like NPD; and Type 3 seems closer to ASPD or Histrionic PD.

complex_ptsd
BPD symptoms are almost identical to those of Complex PTSD.

There are so many diverse–almost opposite–symptoms that can appear with this disorder that one person with BPD can be very different from the next. In fact, you can take 10 borderlines and they will all seem very different from each other, with barely any similarities in their behavior at all. One will be shy, fearful and retiring, never making waves, acting almost like an Aspie or an Avoidant; while another may break the law, lie constantly, and act obnoxious and rage whenever things don’t go their way. A borderline could be your raging boss who drinks too much and ends every annual Christmas party with one of his infamous rages, or it could be the sweet and pretty schoolteacher who goes home every night and cuts herself. She could be the come-hither seductress or the nerdy computer programmer. He may have few or no friends or a great many.

This diversity is not the case with the other personality disorders, which have more cohesiveness in the symptoms their sufferers display. So I wonder–is BPD really a personality disorder at all? Does it even exist, or is it really just a group of trauma-caused symptoms the experts in their ivory towers stuck in a single box called “BPD” because they didn’t know how else to classify them?

In fact, all these diverse subtypes have one thing in common–they are all very similar or identical to the symptoms of someone with complex PTSD (C-PTSD). People with C-PTSD are often misdiagnosed as Borderlines because their behaviors can be just as baffling and manipulative, and both disorders also include dissociative, almost psychotic episodes. Extrapolating from that, I wonder if ALL borderlines actually have C-PTSD.

Earlier today I posted an article outlining 20 signs of unresolved trauma, and I was struck by how similar these were to the symptoms of BPD. And there is also this article that Ruji just brought to my attention that also describes how remarkably similar the two disorders are, but that the idea of fear of abandonment (which is recognized as the root cause of BPD) is not recognized as a factor in causing PTSD and that may be part of why they have been kept separate.

The BPD label, like any Cluster B label, is very damaging to its victims because of the “evil and character-disordered” stigma it carries. One psychologist has even included us, along with narcissists, among the “People of the Lie”!

Yes, it’s true some borderlines do act a lot like people with NPD or even Malignant Narcissism or ASPD, but most probably do not, and are really much more similar to people with Avoidant or even Dependent personality disorders, which hurt the sufferer more than anyone else. But if you have a BPD label, people start backing away from you slowly due to the stigma. Therapists are reluctant to treat you because they assume you will be either difficult and hateful in therapy sessions, or will never get better. Insurance companies won’t pay claims where there is a BPD diagnosis, because it’s assumed there is no hope for you. I’ve had this problem when I’ve tried to get therapy. I remember one therapist who I had seen for the intake session, who told me he needed to obtain my psychiatric records before we could proceed. The session had gone smoothly and I felt comfortable with him. A few days later I received a phone call and was told he did not treat “borderline patients” and wished me luck. So that’s the kind of thing we’re up against if we’ve had the BPD label slapped on us.

Also, as an ACON blogger who works with a lot of victims of narcissistic abuse, my BPD label sometimes makes people wary of me and they begin to doubt that my motives here are honest. At first I was reluctant to talk about my “Cluster B disorder” here, because I knew it might be a problem for some ACONs, who think borderlines are no better than narcissists. But I eventually decided that to hide it away like an embarrassing family secret would be misleading so I “came out” about having BPD (I never actually lied about it, but played it down in the beginning and rarely mentioned it). I’m glad I fessed up, but there have been a few people who left this blog after I came out about it or began to doubt my motives. So there’s that stigma and it’s very damaging.

Both C-PTSD and Borderline PD are caused by trauma. Both are complex defensive reactions against future abuse and both involve things like splitting, dissociation, psychotic episodes, self-destructiveness, wild mood swings, and behavior that appears to be narcissistic and manipulative.

The way I see it, the only real difference between C-PTSD and BPD is that the traumatic event or abuse happened at an earlier age for someone with BPD, perhaps during toddlerhood or infancy, while all forms of PTSD can happen at a later age, even adulthood. But the symptoms and defense mechanisms used to avoid further trauma are the same for both.