Stress and the Art of Maintaining Sanity

March 8, 2011 Becky Oberg

I have a confession: today's post was going to be about the role of gender and BPD diagnosis. However, after the morning I had, I realize that one on stress management would be more helpful.

Every Tuesday, I walk a quarter-mile to the bus stop, catch the bus to the medication clinic, meet with a nurse to have the medications filled, ride the bus back to the stop, and walk a quarter-mile back. Today, that didn't go according to plan.

[caption id="attachment_384" align="alignnone" width="170" caption="Stress is inevitable, but it does not have to overpower us."]Stress is inevitable, but it does not have to overpower us.[/caption]

Setting the scene

About halfway to the bus stop, I realized I had a problem: my exercise-induced asthma was flaring up despite my medication. Breathing was difficult and I was very weak. As a result, I was cranky due to exhaustion.

When I arrived at the clinic, I discovered that a computer glitch had deleted my appointment. I waited two hours for a walk-in.

Since my rescue inhaler did not help, the nurse called my apartment's case manager. She said my inability to make the walk home wasn't her problem. It took another two hours to arrange transportation home--and once I arrived, the case manager said "If your asthma's bad, they shouldn't mess with you."

Now imagine that's been your morning. That's stressful even for someone without borderline personality disorder (BPD). How would I respond?

Prior to my schema therapy treatment, this probably would have led to either self-injury or an outburst of extreme anger. The result probably would have been a 24-hour hold.

Is this a situation I can control?

First, ask "Is this something I can control?" If yes, do what you can, mindful that if you think you have absolute God-like control, BPD is the least of your problems. If no, then find a way to cope with it.

Consider having a backup coping plan in case the first one doesn't work. For example, I tend to do deep breathing exercises when stressed. That didn't work this morning, so I went to a backup plan. I read a book I'd brought with me. When I became too tired to read, I played a video game on my cell phone.

Is this worth it?

As time stretched on, I got angry. Anger can be a scary emotion, largely due to its unpredictability. When angry, it is important for anybody, not just a person with BPD, to keep his or her anger under control. Uncontrolled anger often results in others--police, psychiatrists, nurses--controlling it for you.

I remind myself "You are not in control of what life throws at you. But you are in control of your attitude."

When tempted to really lose it, I ask "Is it worth it?" Is losing my temper worth jail time or another hospitalization? If no--and that's usually the answer--then I redirect to a different thought process.

A mile in someone else's shoes

I'm human, and I rant sometimes. This was one of them. However, I also listened to the other patients in the waiting room. This had two benefits: one, the realization that it could be a lot worse; two, the humor with which we told our stories.

One woman described herself as "bin Laden's daughter"; she'd had a $130,000 bond on a hit-and-run. "I hit him, but I didn't run," she said. "He ran. So I left, and the entire Eastside Indianapolis police force descended upon me, and that's when I got that stupid drug charge..."

Given the choice between being the hit guy, a bond that I wouldn't be able to pay even one percent of, and sitting in a waiting room... well, I'll bring a book since I'm not the Better Homes and Gardens magazine type.

Stress is inevitable in life. Losing to it, however, is not.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2011, March 8). Stress and the Art of Maintaining Sanity, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Becky Oberg

Lawrie Prickett
April, 17 2011 at 10:29 am

Can I control the situration. Sometimes. While stress does lower our "baseline" of normal behavior, it is not the cause of our behavior. CSLewis wrote (I paraphrase liberally), if one opens a basement door and turns on the light, and see rats scatter, it would be wrong to assume the light created the rats. Recognizing our own limitations and our "rats" truely is a good start. Working toward their elimiation is a worthy second step.
Is it worth it? Clearly those with BPD are not simply "stressed" people. They are ones who, for whatever reason, have been conditioned to believe their inner turmoil can only be resolved through angry and sometimes violent outburses where they decimate the hearts and minds of other. It is an attempt to assuage their own pain. They are so "disconnected" from their inner selves they are shocked when they then demand that those wounded do not revile them. Taking stock of the relationships we could potentially loose is critical.
Danger arises when, for whatever reason, some are so conditioned they feel entitled to violate that unwritten rule that guides us all toward civility. When we refuse self-examination and force others endure our angst we cross a terrible line. Those important boundaries that say, "my pain is not your pain' are necessary, relevant and real. So,
Developing the capacity for empathy is necessary. The "walking in another's shoes". We all have our "rats". Some more devastating and virulent then others. We all have our paradigms that color our thinking. There is simply an unwritten societal agreement (across all cultures) that we will not go Ape-crazy on each others.
Stress in no way creates our character, it mearly reveals it. It is ever so easy, when we are alone, to imagine what fine people we are. Stress unearths our true selves. BPD is a behavior and thinking problem worsened by stress. It requires specific, an intense process change on the part of both the person with the disorder and the recipent of their rage.
I commend the author on her insight. BPD is a long road but one that has an end.

Dr Musli Ferati
March, 18 2011 at 2:51 am

Stress as a recidivist trouble load our life with many unpredictable provocation on road, between friends, along working hours, in family mourning and to momentary beauty. Therefore, the spectrum of events and circumstances the causes vigorous emotional reaction is never-ending. So much the worse, when it is well-known that modern civilization is characterized with many psycho-social contradictions. However, it shouldn't be pessimist, because in every misfortune might find the best life opportunity. In other side, the failure would to serve as useful life lessons. In this direction, it will help us the tolerance and self-control by our relationship. Preliminary, we ought to perform some correction in our mind upon the reality. And the reality is a conglomeration of many attitudes and diverse interesting. The world is somewhat more than we seen at.

Sara Catron
March, 14 2011 at 4:57 pm

I know whay you mean about stress, making you lose control. I have a problem there also. I have a car to drive. But then I get stressed out, on the road. I just don't have the patience, for anything!! I try to exercise 3 days a week. But it doesn't always happen. Things come up. I had a bunion taken out, a few months ago. Now I have to get my other foot operated on, in 3 weeks. I have Tendenidous. And it hurts!! Thanks for listening!

sandy Taylor
March, 11 2011 at 6:33 pm

Oh boy I identify with this and I do not hav BPD- I do work as a manager of a MH supported accom house and we house 3 adults short to med term- many have BHD diagnosis many don,t but pretty much all display it often including all peer staff--- it is finding ways to control, or seeking help- if both fail it is up to those closest to see and hear our call for help-- sometimes we miss the call ourselves--
anything is better than NOTHING--

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