Spill The Tea in Therapy: Rae & Borderline Personality Disorder
Welcome to the Spill The Tea in Therapy Series
I have some HOT TEA to share today: it’s the first day of our new stigma-busting guest post series! On select #MentalHealthMondays there will be a new post written by a reader about their experience with mental health– today it’s Rae and her experience with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Many of you reading already know what this movement is. But just in case you’re stumbling upon this for the first time, I’ll give you a brief synopsis.
First things first.
When the kids these days say “spill the tea,” they’re basically saying “tell me the drama”. Kind of like “spill the beans” of 80’s-90’s fame. It’s the perfect mainstream phrase to help make mental health care mainstream. By the time we’re done here, getting help for your feelings will be as easy and going to the gym. Or the doctor. Or a nutritionist. Why is it so easy to justify caring for our bodies, but not our minds?
There are a few ways to break this stigma and make self-care feel “normal”. The first is using products that contribute to the cause, which lots of therapists right now are making and selling. You can see a list of them here, but for succinctness’ sake I’ll just shamelessly plug my own Spill The Tea in Therapy tote bags. Publicly carrying them normalizes mental health care without you having to say a word. In addition, a portion of the proceeds go directly to TWLOHA, an organization that helps fund therapy for those in need.
The other way to break the stigma is what this post is all about– actually spilling the tea on our own mental health struggles.
The Guest Posts
I asked people all over the internet if they’d be willing to share their experience with mental health. Rae answered the call first, and she also actually helped me hone in on what the series should be. In reading her story, I realized I didn’t want to limit you all to stigma specifically. I just wanted the series to be an outlet for people to share what they’ve been through, what they’ve learned, and how they cope.
Maybe someone’s post will resonate with you, and for the first time you’ll realize that you’re not alone.
Perhaps you’ll comment on a post that speaks to you, and find friendship with that author.
Maybe you’ll just learn something new about mental health from someone who has been there, done that.
I’m so happy that Rae is the person who gets to help me introduce the Spill The Tea guest post series. I was so excited to see that she explained her Borderline Personality Disorder the same way I explain mental health care– by using a mainstream example that most of the world can understand right now. So sit back, relax, and learn all about BPD using characters from the Marvel Universe.
Related: Spill The Tea in Therapy
“WARNING: ENDGAME SPOILERS
Recently, I read a post in one of my Borderline Personality Disorder support groups about the response to not getting validation and love.
People described lashing out at their partners when they don’t receive the love they think they deserve. They become so obsessed with getting that person to love them that they almost try to force it out of that person using guilt and anger, until that partner gets driven away. I used to be this person.
When describing this feeling to a fellow Borderline, I made an analogy that I had never thought about until that very moment.
“I have it under control now. I feel like Professor Hulk.”
My friend laughed. It kind of made sense.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bruce Banner frequently goes through a transformation from mild-mannered scientist to a raging, powerful creature, which happens every time he is triggered into doing so. However, in the most recent MCU film, The Avengers: Endgame, Banner has merged himself and the Hulk persona, demonstrating that he now has complete control over his anger. He even wears glasses and regular clothes, rather than the iconic ripped jeans.
The Hulk is a great example of what having Borderline Personality Disorder feels like. Something, anything can set you off- being left on “read” during a text conversation, being criticized in any respect, not getting enough attention from a significant other or friend- and it can lead into a spiral of self-hatred, confusion, and anger. And this spiral can lead to something bigger.
I’ve had situations where I felt like the Hulk. There was one time, in my college days, where I was completely abandoned by my ex-boyfriend. His phone was off, and he left me alone the apartment after a terrible argument. So, I raged, by myself. I threw things, I screamed, I left angry voicemails. I’m not proud of how I acted in that moment, and in retrospect I’m glad I was alone at that time.
I became someone else. It was very much a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation- I was not me. I was a manifestation of my anger, unable to control my emotions and creating a path of destruction. Unlike the Hulk, I didn’t use my “powers” to protect anyone or fight bad guys. The only person I was fighting was myself.
The time that followed that situation was not a pleasant one. I was forced to drop out of school, fly back to my hometown, and live with my parents for three months while I sought outpatient treatment for my Borderline. There, I learned about CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This temporarily calmed my anger, but every time my now-ex boyfriend called me, it was more screaming and rage. I wanted attention. I wanted validation. And I wanted to be loved.
It’s been four years since that incident. And there have been plenty more Hulk-like moments since then. The only difference is that now, after years of therapy and finding a supportive partner, I am able to catch it when it happens and reign it back in before the anger manifests into something too powerful.
Now, I’m able to read stories of BPD breakdowns and think, “I used to be just like that.” And sometimes, I still feel that urge deep down, but I’m able to stop the physical reaction to it before it happens. It still swims around inside my brain, but I don’t let it consume me. I am able to sit with my BPD and shamelessly accept that it is part of my identity, similar to what Bruce Banner is able to do once him and his Hulk persona become one.
There is a scene in Endgame where, after going back in time, modern-day Professor Hulk watches past-Hulk rage around New York City, throwing cars and roaring loudly. Once past-Hulk stomps away, Professor Hulk goes up to the same car and half-heartedly tries to knock it over, almost as a kind of a test to see if he is still the out-of-control beast that he once was. And he isn’t. He has developed into someone that can now wrangle himself in, and become a stable person.
That’s how I feel looking at my past self. I wonder to myself, “am I still capable of that self-destruction?” And the honest answer is, yes. Will I let it happen to me? Hopefully not. I hope to face BPD-me with the same manner that Professor Hulk faces his past self- reflecting on the frustration that once consumed me and realizing that I am much more than my emotions.
I may not be saving the world in doing so, but I am certainly, finally saving myself.”