episodes. very difficult to define, but essential to be aware of. people label them differently. i believe the medical definition is ‘feeling reactive’ as opposed to ‘having an episode’ but my reactions/reactive feelings usually have a beginning, a middle and an end– and i can’t call them ‘stories’ so i call them episodes and will refer to them as such on this website.
what constitutes an episode? i’d say its a moment where you’ve lost control of your emotions beyond a neurotypical person’s ability for any amount of time. there’s usually something triggering it, whether it’s happening in that moment, something that’s underlying or something that has happened recently. your emotions rise or fall really really quickly, and that can be accompanied by panic, depression or mania. sometimes, episodes can be triggered by a delusion. something you perceive to be real in your mind or right in front of you. during these episodes, whatever you’re feeling or perceiving– you believe it wholeheartedly. if you’re having an episode because you thought you maybe heard someone in the street call you a skank (speaking from experience), you believe 100% that this situation is real. your emotions, whether it be sadness or anger or shock begins to build and build. this can be accompanied by crying, yelling, fleeing, spiralling, you name it. this reactive state can last a few minutes or as much as a whole day (at least that’s the longest it’s lasted for me, although some of my peers have had these episodes for weeks on end) and then you start to come down a little. you begin to feel less elevated/start reasoning with yourself– nah, those people probably didn’t say anything and why would i care if they did– and the storm starts to calm a little.
and then comes the dissociation. essentially a spaced out, out of body type scenario, my eyes cast a semi-permanent glaze after any episode. i probably couldn’t tell you any of the conversations i’ve had in a dissociative state, nor could i offer you any sound advice or solve any math problems during a dissociative state. i like to think of this as your brain resetting itself, out with the old episode, on with life. that makes it seem a little less daunting anyway. i wanna talk more about the dissociation specifically and will probably do so in another post.
examples of episodes:
-while driving in a car with my friends to chestermere, i was triggered by the route we were taking because it wasn’t my usual route and the music was up too loud so i couldn’t hear the people in front. i immediately started hearing my name and hearing general ‘gossip’ coming from their mouths, and I somehow convinced myself we were on my route by actually seeing the proper signs that we would be passing had we gone my route. these are delusions/hallucinations and they can be very common in episodic behaviour. delusions and hallucinations can appear to a person with bpd when their stress levels are high. some experience more than other people, while even more likely will not experience this phenomenon. but its all human, and don’t mean you’re any worse off than anyone else that doesn’t experience this. its just something new to notice and navigate around.
when i first moved into my apartment, i was given a laundry card that i had to go to a gas station to fill with money. the first two i went to didn’t know what i was talking about, and the third did but their machine had broken earlier that day. it was raining, i was soaked because i thought i was just leaving for a second, and i had an episode. i started crying on the walk home and wondering how i would be expected to do anything if i couldn’t even fill up a laundry card. these episodes are more normal and absolutely human. anyone would have reacted negatively to the situation, its just heightened with bpd.
and then theres times where you just have an episode for episode’s sake.
whenever i see my mom, it’s the best time of my life. i feel reunited with my person. we connect on all the same levels which makes for in depth and highly transformative conversation. yet at the same time, i can’t help but have an episode at bay pretty well all the time because i’m overwhelmed by the happiness and sad for it to end. in this scenario, theres no reason for the episode because im with my mom and everything is good, yet the episode remains.
these are some of the examples of episodes i’ve had in my life. anyone’s episodes can look entirely different, but i’ve tried to outline the types of episodes that come up most frequently. i try and deal with them by taking the time to slow down my thoughts– usually by stopping what i’m doing, sitting with the feelings i’m having (knowing that they are reactive and NOT necessarily how i’m actually feeling) and waiting for them to pass. sometimes the episodes are longer and in those cases i find distraction is the best medicine– netflix, reading, sleeping. sometimes a restart is all you can do. in the worst cases, always know that your nearest hospital is always available with resources and your episodes are valid sources of medical distress.
these are definitely a downside to having BPD. however, they do make us stronger by forcing us to recognize our feelings closely enough to discern when an episode comes on, how we’re feeling throughout, and when it ends. exactly like a storybook. which makes us all writers, right? ain’t that swell.
i hope this has identified with some of my bpd friends out there.
as always, if you come to this site and you’re going through it and the posts aren’t enough, message me. my instagram is @rattyqueeen (three e’s) and I will NEVER not answer you or let anyone go alone.