For When “Calm Down” Isn’t Enough

I think that one of the biggest struggles of trying to communicate distress to another person is that there aren’t always enough words to say what it is you’re feeling. This isn’t exclusive to the mentally disordered population. I feel as though every person has had an experience where he or she has tried to communicate some seemingly astronomical thought to another, and the words don’t come out right. The other person doesn’t hear you, or you don’t even know what to say.

So, sometimes, when you are stressed, the other person says the most dreaded two words in the human language: Calm down.

That isn’t enough, is it? If you wanted to be calm, you would be. You may even engage in self talk that consists of those very words. Maybe you get so pissed at yourself that it doesn’t work.

So what do you do?

This page isn’t an advice column. I cannot provide the template for coping mechanisms for how to make the impossible feelings feel tangible, real, and tolerable.

But, here is what I do.

I remember that I am only human. If there is an emotion I am feeling, someone else has felt it too. We learn in psychology that there are universal emotions: anger, sadness, joy, you name it. When we speak to clients, we ask them to name those feelings. It isn’t just for kicks. By naming those feelings, you claim them. You make all of those impossible, pent up feelings a reality. You narrow down to the truth.

What happens from there?

That is the hard part. For me, personally, that is the hard part of living with personality disorder. I am beyond terrified of feeling anything, because every time I do it goes to such extremes that I feel as though I will never go back to my “normal”.

But, I am only human.

My trick is to treat my BPD self as an entirely different person. I named him Boris. Every time Boris comes out to play, makes my life a living hell, I tell myself “Shut up Boris, you have no idea what you are talking about”.

This allows me the chance to acknowledge that presence, to understand it is there. However, it allows me to understand that the stress can be managed. The feeling is temporary. All emotions are temporary.

You cannot change the way your brain is wired, necessarily. We try to with medications, cognitive restructuring, you name it.

We can change the way we choose to deal with it. With practice. With time. With patience.

Learn to be patient with yourself. Patience is a virtue.

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