Emotions Are An Open Ocean With BPD

This theory is one I apply when attempting to explain to people how it feels to have emotions when you have BPD. It’s not 100 percent — there are occasional exceptions and variations — but for the most part, it’s like this:

Imagine you are in a little rowboat. Imagine this little boat holds the things you need to live a functional/fulfilling life (friends, jobs, objects with value to you, money, etc.). Now imagine you and all these things and this little boat are drifting in the open ocean, no oars.

When the ocean is calm, you feel nothing. This is only a slight exaggeration. You can feel the gentle sway, you know you must be moving, even if the scenery doesn’t change even the smallest bit. This is when you get bored.

Side Note: Boredom to a person with BPD is not always just an “I have nothing to do” feeling. We can feel that of course, but it’s easily fixed by doing something, just like anyone else’s boredom. No. Boredom with BPD means emptiness. It means you can’t feel anything, and when you can’t feel anything for too long you get desperate to feel something again. Desperate enough to do things that can/will hurt you in the long-run. I’ve got a theory to explain this to people too, but that’s for another time.

You’re so bored you start to wonder if any of this is even real. Do you exist? Does the water? Does the boat? Will you ever not be drifting slow and even through the uniformity of the open ocean? Will you ever be able to feel anything again?

When you are drifting, there is no way to direct yourself to an emotion.

No. That’s a lie. There is no way to safely direct yourself to an emotion. You could always rock the boat and dump yourself and everything you need into the ocean and fight not to drown. You could always jump out and swim away, or even just float away, from the boat until it’s so far away you wouldn’t even know where to look for it again. You could throw things out of the boat, important things you know you will miss so that you can feel the missing of them.

But none of those things are good for you in the long-run so you breathe deeply. You keep your hands in your lap; you hold as still as you can. You force yourself to wait.

Because the truth is, you do know an emotion will come. The clouds will roll in, the waves will build and the rain will fall in sheets. And when it does you will have plenty to do.

The emotion is a storm. This can be confusing for some because a storm is typically related to a negative emotion. But this isn’t the case with BPD. When you are borderline, every emotion — good or bad — is a storm. You don’t get to choose your storm.

Imagine the storm now. It doesn’t matter which emotion you imagine it to be; even happiness can be destructive when it’s a storm. It will happen one of two ways.

Sometimes you will see the clouds rolling in, feel the waves getting stronger. Sometimes you will feel the electricity in the air, smell the rain before it falls. Sometimes, if you get lucky, you’ll have the chance to prepare. A chance to tie the most important things down. And brace yourself.

But most of the time, the storm sneaks up on you.

One second you’re looking at calm waters, so calm a storm seems impossible. Then you blink. And in that millisecond, the storm is upon you in full swing, in such force it seems the storm was always there.

Keep imagining. You’re in the storm now. The wind is gusting; it stings your eyes so you have to fight to keep them open. The waves toss you like you weigh nothing. You grip the edge of the boat, fingers red, knuckles white. The bottom of the boat is filling with seawater and rain. You watch your things – those essential to a functioning/fulfilling life things – floating in the bottom, some even tossed out when a wave threatens to capsize this stupid, inadequate dingy you’re stuck in. The wood creaks and groans; maybe the boat will break apart under the strain.

You can try to fight it if you like, but it won’t make the storm end sooner. In fact, it may make the storm worse. The only thing for you to do is ride it out, try not to drown.

And then, as suddenly as it began, the storm is gone. The ocean is calm.

You assess the damage. Some of those things in your boat have been lost, carried away by the storm and the waves. You search the water frantically, but you can’t even see most of them anymore.

And now the ocean is calm. You feel nothing. This is only a slight exaggeration. You can feel the gentle sway, you know you must be moving, even if the scenery doesn’t change even the smallest bit. This is when you get bored.

You’re so bored you start to wonder if any of this is even real. Do you exist? Does the water? Does the boat? Will you ever not be drifting slow and even through the uniformity of the open ocean? Will you ever be able to feel anything again?

When you are drifting, there is no way to direct yourself to an emotion.

But the truth is, you do know an emotion will come.

This is what it feels like, to me, to feel anything. Because I have borderline personality disorder.

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