For me, being borderline means constantly having to navigate the gap between objective truth and subjective understanding. All truths are subjective on a philosophical level but there are certain facts that most of us can attest to, such as the sun rising in the east and how plants give out oxygen. This line between hard fact and subjective interpretation, however, grows increasingly blurry when I’m caught in a place where I’m required to exert emotional thinking. For example, if I see someone getting hurt in a fall, it might not occur to me that they’re in pain and seeking help for it. All my brain will process is that a person fell down and that’s bad thing to be around. Any further consequences of that fall—especially consequences that don’t directly relate to me—will not be apparent unless I put further thought into the matter. Similarly, if I’m feeling unsafe and have locked myself in my bedroom, I’ll still feel the need to check the door every so often because my mind in that state of insecurity can’t bring itself to believe that the lock’s holding fast, even if no one’s hovering outside with a key. So, in a situation where I’m emotionally distressed, I might be able to grasp a few facts, but they’d only relate to how I’m affected in the moment.

Emotionally driven cognition, on the other hand, means you don’t have to work your cogs figuring out other people’s actions or doubting your own (am I sure I locked that door just a minute ago?) It’s also empathic because it keys in your actions to the emotions of others. Most people tend to place a higher value on this instinctual, reflexive way of thinking, however, its absence doesn’t mean that you’re broken or any less of a person. All it means is that your brain’s wired differently, and that’s no bad thing. Sometimes, this lack of emotion toward others is a particularly useful tool, especially in times of stress when you can use it to steady your panic response. The door is locked, and it will stay locked: that’s a fact. The person has fallen down, and going by previous instances of such falls, they will need help, ergo I give them help. And when I find myself dissociating—when my brain pushes the alarm button and threatens to break free of its moorings into the haze—I’ve found that forcing myself to think clearly and unemotionally is what keeps me grounded.

If you feel like you’re dissociating or about to do so, especially in a situation where you need to get to safety (public spaces, big crowds, areas with high-intensity traffic) here are some useful questions to ask yourself:

  • Where am I?
  • Where is the nearest safe space?
  • How can I get there?
  • Is there anyone around me who I know and trust, and could ask to lead me there?
  • Do I need to eat, or drink water?
  • Am I due for taking my meds? (Take them if you are!)

Depending on where you are, dissociation can range from being a minor inconvenience (in the safety of your own bedroom) to fatal (out on a high traffic street.) Evaluating the situation with short, easily defined, and logical steps might just save your neck. A strict adherence to impersonal, logical conclusions might lead people to question what they believe is the essence of your humanity. Honestly, though, if those people aren’t close friends or family who’d extend a modicum of understanding to you, I recommend getting rid of them.