Having a mental illness generally means there is some part of your life that you have less control over than you would like. That portion is run by Captain Illness. Either C.I. bosses you around, you just have salute him at all times, you need to constantly avoid him, or perhaps he punishes you in random ways. He has the power to discipline you, harm you, confine you, and generally take over when he sees fit. Even if what he controls is how you make your bed (perhaps there is a compulsion to do it perfectly…), his presence is more than an annoyance – it’s a depressing fact of life.
So with BPD lots of people’s C.I. interferes with, say, relationships, completely throwing them off course. C.I. goes all Ahab on our ass and redirects the ship after some crazy, possibly unreal obsession. But I’d argue that Captain I. generally interferes most with my emotions. He has them in an iron grip, and although I have a lot of techniques for dealing with him, there is one environment where I have nowhere to hide.
Watching movies and television.
Last night we watched the new episode of Castle (season 7, episodes 1 and 2, possibly spoiler alerts ahead). From the first five minutes, I was actually shaking in my seat. I could not help it. I tried layering on the blankets, cuddling up to Patrick, knitting while watching as a distraction – nothing helped. I was just that adrenaline high and anxious from watching the show.
Last time that happened was the episode when Stana Katic steps on a bomb. Fuck you, episode whatever that was. I spent nights sleepless after that, shaking in bed. Why? Ahab took hold of the wheel.
Lot’s of people are probably shouting, “No, dear, that’s your imagination going out of control, not your emotions”. Wrong. It’s emotions. It’s emotions because I’m (sadly) actually anxious for Castle and Beckett. It’s emotions because the shows make me sob myself to sleep. It’s emotions because I’m so worked up after watching them that I begin to catastrophize about everything else.
Next argument I have with people – but that’s normal. Everyone gets excited about TV. Really? How excited? Do they lose sleep? Do they have endless nightmares? Does it prevent them from working the next day? Do they cry about it once the episode is over? Or the next day? Or the next several days? Does it follow their every waking thought because once they’re emotionally involved with something it’s guaranteed to follow their every waking thought? Most importantly: do they limit their TV watching behaviour because of their reactions to shows? And I don’t just mean “meh, I don’t like that show” or “I don’t watch it” – I mean, if a friend really wanted to watch it with you, would you be terrified of doing it, enough that you refuse? Enough that it’s broken up friendships? I think you can get that the rhetorical gist of these questions is that I say yes to every single one.
That’s one way that BPD affects my life. There are plenty of others, but it’s a microcosm of the ways that I have to adjust to BPD’s presence. In order to manage my emotions, I have to manage television and film watching. Castle is something I usually save up and watch all at once when I don’t have to work the next day. Castle is also just about the most extreme television I can watch – nothing more intense, or I would explode (correction: I would probably self harm). I almost never see films in theatres any more, because I can’t vet them sufficiently beforehand, the effects are too big, too loud, and too intense, and because I don’t have an easy escape. I warn new friends that I simply will not watch certain things, and they can take it or leave it. I almost never seen shows or films without reading all the spoilers first. I still enjoy the film, but the emotional investment is significantly reduced.
I don’t feel worse off for this. It’s simply a fact of life for me. It’s just my Captain, and I have to respect him. Given that he has been allowing me greater freedom to manage other aspects of my life as I get healthier, I’m happy to continue to salute him on this matter. Cheers, sir.