I was remembering the way I used to overreact to a lot of things before I learned DBT skills to control my Borderline traits (and before I got older and a tad more mature as well). Although I didn’t usually become violent (and most of the time stuffed my anger), I did occasionally explode when it all got to be too much.
When I was 20, I was working part time at a publishing company. The building that housed it was ancient and also a terrible firetrap–creaky old dried out wooden floors, yellowing cardboard boxes containing ancient bookkeeping files stacked in every corner, and a storage room containing stacks of books and other paper material. Stupidly, employees were allowed to smoke in the storage area. The employees were always sneaking off in there to smoke and I remember one guy who used to hide his whiskey in there and drink it on his breaks. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this sort of thing was tolerated.
I remember there was a girl my age named Rochelle who seemed to live in the storage area.. I don’t think she ever did any work. From the first day she came, we never liked each other. Every time she saw me, she made some rude or snarky remark. These comments didn’t go over too well with me, but usually I bit my tongue and said nothing, just tried to get past her quickly or better yet, avoid her altogether.
But one day she got me at the wrong time and I really went off on her. I was sitting on a milk crate full of books in the storage area smoking alone, and she and a friend came in. I looked up in time to see her staring daggers at me. I asked her what her problem was.
“You’re sitting in my spot.”
“You don’t own this place,” I countered. I saw her friend move forward, so I backpedaled a little. “Well, I’m not trying to be rude, but I was here first. I’m leaving in a minute.”
“Get off my seat.”
I stood up. I felt my fists curl into knots and my face turning red. “I was here first.”
The friend mocked me. “You don’t OWN this place.”
I glared at Rochelle’s friend.
“Don’t look at my friend that way,” Rochelle said.
“What way was I looking at her?”
I saw Rochelle turn to her friend and whisper something in her ear, and they both giggled meanly. This triggered me and all my memories of past bullying came rushing back. I lost what little composure I’d managed to maintain. Normally I wasn’t an instigator at all, but my anger overrode my normal tendency to flee rather than fight.
I lunged and grabbed Rochelle’s hair and tried to wrestle her to the creaky floor. Her friend fled the room, leaving the two of us to go at each other. Rochelle was smaller than me but much stronger and within seconds, had me pinned to the floor and was pulling my ear hard with one hand and punching me with the other. I tried to push her off me but couldn’t do it. She was yelling obscenities in my face while I did the same.
Finally I managed to push her off me long enough for me to roll over on top of her and start pummeling her. It was a hair pulling, snarling, obscenity-screaming catfight. A group of employees (mostly men) had come in and were actually cheering us on. It could have been a scene from Bad Girls Club! What is it about men and catfights anyway?
Finally two of the men pulled pulled us apart. I was sure we would both be fired, but neither of us were. Instead, I was transferred to another department. We never spoke to each other again. We’d pass each other in the hallways or in the bathroom and not say a word.