• Sonia Neale

Borderline Personality Disorder and Toxic Rumination

Have you ever found yourself awake at 3am, that loneliest of lonely times where you overthink the Top 20 mistakes of your lifetime? This is where your mind takes you on a Rumination Nostalgia Journey where you might have said something or done something stupid, perhaps said something about someone else in front of others that you now wish you could take back? Or posting something on social media which caused a lot of hurt feelings? Instead of being able to go back to sleep, you think over and over again about how you could have done things differently.

Ruminating is the preoccupation where you can’t think of anything else, and you go round in circles feeling crazy that you might be trapped in this pattern forever. This process can take up all the head space you have which means there is less room for other past times, such as in the future where you might be looking forward to something enjoyable, such as a project you want to work on, or a wedding you are looking forward to, even a holiday to a nice destination.

Rumination on past mistakes gives you less room for concentration, mindfulness, solving a problem, studying for an exam or reading a book. There is a difference between rumination and worry. Rumination involves trying to change the fixed negative past and worry is about what the future holds for you, whether in the short term or long term. The future can be changed by problem-solving and trouble-shooting but the past is locked in forever.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), are prone to engaging in rumination involving arguments with loved ones, other interpersonal relationships with chronic excessive anger, thoughts of revenge, major anxiety and depression. These ruminations cause untold stress due to generally distorted thoughts and feelings. The level of which is far above and beyond ordinary sadness and generally negative mood. There is an attempt to solve the problem that has occurred to understand what just happened and to understand and make sense and meaning of it.

This is where overwhelming toxic feelings can turn into impulsive behaviour involving black and white thinking, all or nothing thinking that can lead to self-harm, and suicide ideation or it can involve substance use and abuse. Food, drugs, alcohol and cigarettes can temporarily soothe our hurt feelings. Because there are not healthy coping mechanisms, long term effects can accumulate and cause even greater problems. It just doesn’t sound fair?

The trick is to catch yourself in rumination mood and actively do something different in order to think and feel something different. My favourites are reading a book, doing some gardening, making a list of jobs to do (trying to make something productive out of senseless rumination). Or do some housework, rearrange a cupboard, or choose to sort out things in my house and see what I can throw away. What am I hanging onto that I no longer need? Both physically and metaphorically.

I try to create a different space for a different “feel” about my house. A cleaner space in the house can (for me) lead to a cleaner space in my head. And because I am older with a long history of therapy behind me, I can now actively take my ruminations and push them behind me where I cannot see, hear, touch, taste or feel that toxic baggage.

I tell myself, what do I want to put my emotional energy into? I have a limited time left on this planet and I want to spend it wisely. This works for me most of the time.

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