For someone was has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, it can take a long time to recover from the anaphylactic shock of raging, damaging emotions that are coursing through our blood when we experience an attack on ourselves. During this time many physical symptoms of post-rage illness are experienced and this I like to call “mental influenza.”
Even though one can have much insight into the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of the scope, breadth and dimension of these rageful feelings and/or attacks you can still be left with the shocking after effects of the toxic flooding of your system; the blackness and physical feelings that leave you with a sense of vertigo, numbness, breathlessness and weakness, the sensation of lightheadedness and giddiness where you think you are going to pass out. These feelings simply don’t diminish as quickly as they should and days later they can still be hanging around at the same intensity level as when they first happened.
Having a cognitive knowledge of influenza symptoms does not lead to immediate wellness, the same as wisdom, hindsight, insight, education, information and even integration of past traumatic memories does not lead to relief and happiness for Borderlines, it just appears one can have a greater understanding of their immediate emotional misery.
Our rational, logical brain might have moved on but our battered and bruised amygdala lags far behind and holds our body hostage till it is ready to surrender.
For me the symptoms of BPD internal rage attacks can be nausea, diarrhea and vomiting or it can be compulsive over-eating. For me, my borderline symptoms, like Borderline life itself, are never consistent. It’s difficult to eat when there is a great big concrete block of fear and anger in your stomach and much food simply tastes like flavoured cardboard. Many years ago I used to try to dissolve that concrete block with ice cream and chocolate, alcohol or drugs, but this only worked for the actual time I was eating/drinking/zoned out.
Tension headaches and sore muscles can persist for a long time as well. Muscles tend to shorten with tension and it can be quite painful to stretch them out again. Or I get this headache right between the eyes that no amount of paracetamol will budge. Even my eyeballs and fingernails can hurt like hell. Crawling sensations of angst and anxiety permeate my back region and I can wake up due to rolling waves of fear and anger which can last for hours at a time. I get repressive sensations of fatigue and restlessness that pervades my limbs where my legs and arms ache and feel as heavy as lead, which doesn’t make me feel motivated to do anything except lie around and watch TV.
So even when I take responsibility for my actions mental influenza can take a few days to clear up completely and I try to take care of myself. These symptoms are real and they can be devastating. Take care of your mental status as well as your physical. During this time it is wise not to make any life-changing decisions because the world is still the same; it’s just your perception that has changed due to recent events. I know this because when I have recovered from mental influenza, I see the world as I did before, as most people who have not been diagnosed with a personality disorder do much of the time.
Be kind and gentle to yourself. During this time eat well, drink lots of water and buy yourself some flowers. Minimize your life. Distract yourself if possible in music, books, nature walks, yoga, exercise, photographing roses, cleaning the bathroom, weeding the garden or painting a picture.
Remember this too will pass. These feelings won’t last forever. Even suicide ideation abates after a while. When you feel better, then is the time to repair any relationship damage if you can, if you are able to, if the other person is still talking to you, if you have not damaged it completely beyond repair. But first of all repair the damage you did to yourself. Forgive yourself.
Always remember, that we do the best we can with the tools available to us at the time. This time I hid in my cave and bathed and licked my wounds till I was ready to come out again. While I had over-reacted emotionally in my head, my observable behaviour was calm and reasonable and gave the impression I was able to push past and move on without a single dent to my dignity. My character and my reputation remained intact.
My mental influenza may have lasted for more than 72 hours but pre-therapy it used to last for several years. I have built up much immunity and can sit with these poisonous feelings knowing they have a certain time frame. I have worked hard, I have made progress and for that I am proud of myself.
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Last reviewed: 6 Aug 2011