When loved ones intervened in my self-harm attempts, dysphoria made it hard for me to see or accept the help for what it was. As they tried to remove the sharp object or called emergency services, I would scream and fight like a wild animal. At that moment I truly believed they weren’t there to help. My brain and body were flooded with the message that I was under attack.
The Borderline Personality Disorder brain has trouble with overwhelming emotions that can hijack information-processing and behavior. Overwhelming fear says “this person is threatening me!” Whether it is a real or imagined threat of abandonment, the threat of being rejected, the terror of being out of control…the fear response takes over.
Overwhelming fear leads to anger as a defense mechanism. It’s important to realize that anger is often a secondary reaction to feeling vulnerable. The BPD brain turns anger to rage in an instant, falsely assuming that angry attacks will protect it from further pain or harm. It’s all an attempt to survive a situation that is emotionally too painful to bear.
Ultimately the quick-acting, intense emotional experiences of the person with Borderline Personality Disorder can distort the facts of reality sometimes. Overwhelm can lead us to mistake words, actions, and body language as personal attacks and threats to our well-being. We may see help as harm, and attempts to keep us safe or get us to calm down as attempts to control or manipulate us. Remember, these are not deliberate twistings of the intentions of people who truly love us. These are quick, automatic survival responses that may take time to re-learn and change.