What It’s Like to Live With No Emotional Skin

The hardest things for me to deal with as someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are my emotions and their effects. So often I feel completely powerless to them. Most days I feel like everything is dialed up to 11 and if I feel something, I’m going to feel it completely.

For most people, emotions are like waves. We ride the ups and downs, weather the storms and hope we’ll wash up somewhere sunny after it’s all over. Well, you know that scene in “Cast Away” when Tom Hanks is desperately clinging to his deflating dinghy as gigantic waves throw him around? That’s exactly what it’s like for me when an emotion takes over. I close my eyes and hide my head until hours later, I finally tumble onto some forgotten island, alone.

And the most frustrating thing about all of this? It’s that the thing that gets me in the dinghy in the first place, my plane crash — it can be anything. It can be as simple as someone not texting me back or canceling plans — or as complicated as something completely unknown to me at the time.

Let’s say someone cancels plans… Even if they let me know and have a genuine excuse, my head can spin off in every direction.

They don’t like me anymore, or maybe they never did. They’ve finally had enough of me. I’m unworthy of anyone’s time and attention. If I would have just been a better person, this would never have happened.

Everyone knows what it’s like to think the worst, but imagine that feeling times 10. Imagine that feeling completely gripping you for hours, pulling you under until you no longer see light, just darkness all around as you suffocate and struggle. You want to get back to the surface, but shedding the weight of your emotion takes time. You’re helpless.

Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) once said, “Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree-burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering.”

Not long ago, I found the above quote in a medical article. When I read it, I felt the words strike me so deeply inside. That protective layer most people have that stops the little things hurting from hurting them — I don’t have that. Whether it went away through childhood trauma or difficult teenage years, I don’t remember. All I know is that for a very long time, I’ve had massive reactions to anything that hurts me.

“Why are you so dramatic?”

This is something people with BPD hear many times and the truth is simple — we’re not being dramatic. At least, not to us. It’s not an overreaction to us because the little things hurt like the big things. There’s little difference when you’re so raw and overexposed. I can’t help what hurts me or how — no human being can do that. That being said, I am striving to heal.

Though I am not ashamed of my mental illness, I am still trying to recover from it. I don’t want to have these reactions. I don’t want to get ground down into the earth by emotions. I don’t want to cry for hours. I don’t want to hate people I love. I don’t want to be a prisoner in my own mind. I want to get better.

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7 Comments

    • Thanks, Lil, I am fortunate in the fact that FINALLY after nearly 40 years I have a lot less meltdown days and a lot more enlightened days. Therapy and Buddhism has changed my life. Two things that ten years ago, I would have scoffed at. Thank you sweetness for your loving friendship and being a big part of my blogging family♥️♥️
      Love ya big big🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I am fortunate to learn you suffer from BPD. I am interested in hearing how you deal. Having insight would help me considerably……
    My best friend for 20 yrs was “labeled” with BPD years ago. I never had the opportunity to talk to her about her illness. She built a wall around her & kept the ones who loved her OUTSIDE. (Her defense mechanism I suppose to keep us from seeing the ravages of her mental illness)
    I felt many emotions when she cut me loose & still question “what did I do wrong?”
    No idea the demons she battled daily for many years, if not her whole life.
    Still surreal to say, “Her demons won in 2005.” Miss her terribly yet hope in my heart she is at Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi PHIN, I’m so sorry to hear about your best friend.
      Being diagnosed with BPD years ago was like being diagnosed with leprosy. You had a stigma attached to you and were considered a pariah in society. Your friend was having a vicious, violent, losing battle with
      her own EXTREMELY volatile emotions. Her only options at the time were probably being medicated into oblivion or fighting her demons unmedicated. You did nothing wrong. She pushed you and everyone else that loved her away to protect YOU. That’s the thing with us. Even in our darkest moments (even when our actions suggest otherwise) we are always thinking about the people we love first.
      It’s so awful to live every single day of your life in torment. Just when you think that you finally have a grasp on it, you collide with the huge waves of emotion so deep inside that your insides stay all constantly battered and bruised ALL of the time. Please trust me when I say with all of my heart, she is at peace.
      I hope I helped you find solace💙💔

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Bella, Good to get insight into what she was trying to cope with those last 12 yrs on Earth.
    It’s difficult for me to grasp cuz I never knew her sick. She made damn sure of that. I heard from her X that “ I was lucky cuz I am able to remember her I’m happier times”
    Ya, I guess. Still coming to grips with that.

    As my 93 yr old gal pal used to tell me, “You really don’t know people…. you ‘know’ them for decades yet, you don’t know them”

    I can remember the fun times when we were kids, then young adults & how we both were ‘finding our way’ in our lives back in the 80’s. I will cherish all the memories as those can never be taken from me.
    Peace to you in your battle.
    May you have more good days than bad. Lucky to have a living hubby in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope and pray that you are able to find some peace with the way life worked out for everyone involved. If she ended her own suffering, in her chaotic mind, that was the only option she had left to attain some peace after a horrific lifelong battle within herself that she made sure no one else could see. I hate that she did feel that was her only option, but I NEVER judge as I have similar battles that I fight everyday and there have been plenty of days “that option” seemed like the only option that I had. Her choice could have just as easily been mine many times over.

      You are one of the lucky ones to have good memories to hold onto. Cherish them.
      Sometimes that’s ALL you can do. Your pal is right. Very few people know the battles that many keep buried deep to spare the ones that they care about the most.

      Liked by 1 person

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