It often starts off with the simplest of negative thoughts. Sometimes it is triggered by something someone has said that I may have misconstrued, which is easy to do with BPD and the lack of tone in text messaging, and at other times it is just my mind beginning its uncontrollable spiral downwards. Is it caused by anxiety and fed by depression? Is it common among those without a mental illness? How can one simple word or thought turn into such negativity and self-hatred? What makes our mind spin out of control with such fury? How is it we are upset about something in the present yet within minutes we are condemning ourselves, yet again, for things we did or said when we were children, or young adults?
The snowball effect really is the perfect analogy. Starting out with that first handful of cold, white wonder, and as we roll it along, it collects snow from whatever direction we push it and does not stop building in size until we effectively stop it. My thought process is really not much different; a random negative thought travels through my mind and gathers the other negative thoughts, until they are in a ball so big I feel physically heavy from the weight. Just the other day I read something into a situation that was not even there and instantly started with the first thought of self-doubt…there’s so much wrong with me; followed by I’m a failure, a loser, not loveable and so on and so forth, which then somehow spirals either backward or forward. Those initial thoughts of present day self-hatred, guilt or shame, or whatever emotion, have now triggered past situations in which I felt the same way, so now, not only am I fretting about how I feel about myself today, I am also travelling back in time collecting all the negative emotions that have been stored with each trauma, and bringing them to the forefront, in essence creating a snowball of negativity, which, remember, started with a single negative thought.
This exact same analogy applies to future thoughts as well, and when anxiety adds fuel to the fire the downward spiral now includes the future. Yet again, one simple dark thought can take me down the hill of negativity, projecting all the things that are going to go wrong, the bad things that are going to happen, or all the ways I am going to screw up or get hurt…and the list continues. Funny, because I don’t ever recall being able to predict the future at any other point in time in my life, but suddenly through this snowball effect, I am psychic and not only foretelling the upcoming events in my life but in my mind, actually trying to prepare for them, and keep in mind, nothing has even happened.
For example, I have to move in the spring and just the thought of doing so after being in my place for 12 years is causing me extreme stress and triggering past traumas. Now, my rational brain knows that after all that I have survived, a move certainly may be traumatic, but will not kill me. It is simply a change that I need to adapt to, as with everything else in life. The emotive side of my brain however, has begun the snowball process. What if I can’t find a place, or can’t afford it, or it’s in a bad area, or they won’t accept pets, or I don’t like it and I can’t get comfortable enough to call it a “home”…and those are not even the worst thoughts. Snowballing even bigger, I have also created the scenario of all of the above happening and ending up homeless or in a shelter, which then leads me to question if any of it is worth it and perhaps this is now the excuse or reasoning I need in my head to justify taking my life, as I am simply too emotionally exhausted to start over, yet again. So now my thoughts have sunken into the darkness of the ultimate finality over a sequence of events which I have created in my mind, most of which are likely never going to happen.
A single negative thought leading to a scenario of death, in five minutes or less, which in turn leads to an uphill battle to get out of the darkness, and as soon as I see the light, the self-defeating cycle repeats.
Is it possible to stop the snowball or at least slow it down? Is there a way to restrain it so it doesn’t reach the bottom of the hill, but perhaps comes to a standstill midway? Having BPD increases impulsivity which can also include thoughts and not just actions, and in my case racing thoughts and lack of verbal restraint are making the struggle more difficult. I am learning the first step is to recognize that original negative thought as quickly as possible because if I at least know the snow is starting to gather, I can be better prepared for the storm.