“The brain of a person with Borderline Personality Disorder is extremely sensitive to environmental stress.”
The holidays are often the perfect storm of pressure and emotional triggers that can lead to a meltdown. There’s pressure to perform, to smile and appear happy and “put together.” There are uncomfortable questions about how your year has been, and what you’ve been up to lately. Not to mention the hectic rush of visiting family, shopping for gifts, and cooking meals. It’s enough to make your head spin.
“It’s like the trauma anniversary from hell!”
For the person with BPD, this is more than just a busy season of holiday cheer. This is a bomb waiting to go off. Sure, we might love the colorful lights and the pumpkin spice lattes. But if you’re like me, you’ve got a long history of awful holiday memories and embarrassing breakdowns that make this season somewhat of a threat to your peace and comfort. It’s like the trauma anniversary from hell. And who knows what fresh new nightmares are waiting this time.
This is a recipe for a fight-or-flight reaction. The BPD brain goes into survival mode. We might avoid the holidays altogether and hide away until it’s over. Or we might go in with guns blazing, on high alert for all the things that can go wrong, unsure of what exactly will happen but knowing we will probably have to come home and cry for a few days when it’s over.
“It’s impossible to enjoy family, or gifts, or celebrations when your brain thinks you’re in danger of being hurt.”
This is no way to live. It’s impossible to enjoy family, or gifts, or celebrations when your brain thinks you’re in danger of being hurt. This is where your mental health skills come in. If you are aware that holidays are a stressor because of your Borderline Personality Disorder, you can prepare accordingly instead of being dragged along by your circumstances.
First step, be gentle with yourself.
Your brain is unique, and you have to take care of it. Don’t beat yourself up for having a hard time. Understand that your body is trying to take care of you, and thank it for its efforts.
Second step, cope ahead!
Describe what situations may come up that can trigger you. Write down a list of coping skills you can use when those situations come up. Maybe you take a bathroom break, go put some cool water on your face to get your nervous system to chill out. Or maybe you arrange your schedule so you have time to go home and relax in between family obligations.
Finally, practice, practice, practice!
“Train yourself for the holiday season like you are about to run a marathon.”
Visualize yourself in these situations, using your skills, and walking away feeling good about yourself for how you responded. Train yourself for the holiday season like you are about to run a marathon. Instead of building fear and apprehension about the upcoming holidays, you will be training your brain to experience self-respect and mastery. It’s not about avoiding stress. It’s about approaching stress with skills.
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