Hands of young beautiful woman practicing yoga indoors

Distress Tolerance is one of the four major parts of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These skills do exactly what it sounds like — they help you tolerate distress. For people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it is easy to get emotionally overwhelmed. For me, when I get overwhelmed, that’s when I start to go down the rabbit hole. Here are five of my favorite skills to use when I’m in emotional distress.

1. Distract.

For me this means multiple things. I watch television so my brain focuses on that instead of the problem, or I get into a really good book. For my first time of emotional distress, I tried photography, and I came home laughing and lighthearted. Finding something to distract yourself is always a good start when in emotional distress.

2. Self-soothe.

Find something that will calm you down, and use it. I prefer soft blankets and cuddling with my dog. This puts my mind into a safe mode rather than an alert mode and reminds me I’m OK and nothing immediate is going to happen to hurt me. People laugh at my obsession with buying blankets. (If they even knew the half of it!)

3. Radical acceptance. 

I use this one in particular circumstances. My mother has Parkinson’s Disease, and I often get overwhelmed and emotional when discussing or thinking about it and its unfairness to her. However, I have to radically accept this is how it has been for 17 years and how it will be. Rather than getting upset, I work on finding moments to turn to, instead of ruminating on the sad parts.

4. Sensations.

This is a trick I learned in the hospital. When my mind begins to ruminate or I feel the tides crashing into my chest as I start to get overwhelmed, then I take an Atomic Fireball (the candy) and pop it in my mouth. The heat from it immediately pulls my attention away from the rumination and instead focuses on the candy setting my mouth on fire. The first time was tough, but it has worked wonders for me.

5. Prayer.

This might not be for everyone. However, if you do not believe in prayer, then you can try meditation. Prayer works for me because it allows me to feel connected to God, to trust in Him and center myself with thoughts of love and good work. I usually get emotional when I pray, but it’s not the bad type of emotional. I feel so calm that I shed quiet tears because calm is not a feeling I’m used to in my life. Financial troubles are one of the top things that cause my emotional distress overload. Thus, I find it helpful to read specifically Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV) when I feel that my mind is consumed by financial burdens.

Have a wonderful day, triumphers.

Peace, Love & Triumph.

This post originally appeared on She Triumphs.

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I woke up today with a yearning in my heart to be better. For so long I have battled who I am and who I choose to be. For so long, I’ve watched the tears fall from my eyes while looking in the mirror trying to remember who I am.

The problem is, I haven’t been sure for a long time. I’ve seen my pain on my shoulder, my heart on my chest. I’ve heard the shouts of anger and agony boil inside my head.

I’ve lived with this monster brewing inside of me for as long as I remember. The monster that has changed my passion to pain. The monster that has destroyed relationships so crucial to me. I’ve fought back tears as I’ve questioned my validity in life. As I’ve questioned whether my feelings were real or if the monster was playing his game again.

Who am I today? I wonder as I stare into the mirror in front of me. Where will the day take me and how will I be. I usher my kids off to school, unsure of how my mood will affect my day. See, because in the morning I am always unsure. I am always working the motions and trying as I might to avoid my own brain. It’s only when I’m alone do I know who I will be. Is my brain going to be numb to the pain going on inside or will there be unabashed chaos? A type of chaos that means torment to those I love.

I take my time on my chaotic days to sit and reflect. The monster and I are in a constant battle. I can almost envision a dark mass, fighting a little piece of me on top of my brain. The problem is, the mass is bigger and the girth he has is always enough to overtake. Even if only for the moment. But I keep strong and I fight that monster with everything I am.

I wander the days waiting for him to creep up, waiting for his valiant hold. It doesn’t always last through the day. Sometimes the piece of me bursts through, triumphant, holding him back. And in those moments I cry out the “sorry’s” for the hurt I caused when the monster had taken over. I refresh my brain. I fall and heal. Because there’s only so long before he takes hold again.

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Living with a mental health condition can mean keeping a lot of secrets. Not necessarily because you want to keep them, but I’ve generally found people often don’t want to know about what they don’t understand — what is not perceived as “normal” behavior. Try, for example, answering someone who asks how you are with “I am having an excruciating week because my mind won’t shut off and all I want to do is pull the duvet over my head and not face reality.” I am sure many people may not know how to respond to that, never mind deal with it.

Here are five secrets I have never told my friends about my borderline personality disorder (BPD):

1. Social gatherings drain me.

When a social event is coming up, I have to mentally prepare myself for days in advance (sometimes weeks). A social gathering is not a time when I can unwind, relax or have fun. No, my thoughts are constantly racing, and it takes an enormous amount of energy to act social. When I arrive, I always compare my outfit with everyone else’s: Am I over/underdressed? Who looks prettier than me? Should I wear my hair up or down? In what position must I sit or stand in order to look comfortable and not give away my anxiety? Am I fiddling too much?

Then, during a conversation, I would always think ahead to two or more subjects to talk about so there are no awkward silences — all the while trying to concentrate on what you are saying. There are moments when I can’t hear you, but I find it difficult to ask you to repeat yourself for fear of looking like I wasn’t paying attention in the first place. I try to laugh at the right time, have the correct reaction or facial expression, and try to hear what you are saying above the loud chatter and music. Then, at some point — completely unpredictable — everything becomes louder. The sound of people talking and the music. And it feels like bugs are crawling inside my brain and I am going to lose my sanity and composure at any moment. Then, when the night is over, I am exhausted and am reminded of why I always find random excuses not to go through with a social gathering.

2. I hate small talk.

Almost just as exhausting as socializing to me is talking about insignificant things. If I can’t philosophize about life and talk about topics that matter to me, I don’t see the point of engaging in the conversation. I do realize chit-chat is part of life and I do it, but it takes every inch of my energy to entertain conversations that feel pointless to me. I want to talk about what you are passionate about, your past, your hopes and dreams, and what struggles you face. I guess I need to have heartfelt conversations to feel I am not alone. That you, too, have a level that people don’t see. I ask the questions, because deep down I wish someone would ask me the tough questions people may not want to hear the answers to.

3. I am not a “bad friend,” I just don’t see the point of investing in relationships.

For over 20 years, I have lived with people rejecting me. They seem to love being with the spontaneous, creative and loving person, but when things get tough, they leave. They can’t seem to deal with the neediness, the mood swings, the depression, the anxiety and the fears. They love me when I fit their picture of “perfection,” but they move on when I cannot keep up appearances. So forgive me if our friendship or relationship seems superficial to you, or if it seems like I “don’t make an effort to spend time with you,” but I just don’t trust you. I don’t see the point of putting in effort and building a relationship if you are just going to abandon me later on.

4. Pushing you away is my way of saying I truly need you in my life.

Despite all of this, I still need you. Despite me pushing you away, I still hope you will stay by my side and hold my hand. I am so desperate to tell you how I am suffering and that I truly want a relationship with you, but I don’t know how! I don’t know how to operate in today’s society, I don’t know how to sustain relationships if I can’t even have a good one with myself, and I don’t know how to trust people to accept me for the dark, broken person I am. If I push you away, at least then I can say I did you a favor. It was going to get messy, and you would end up resenting me for emotionally blackmailing you to stay with me. At least when I push you away, I make you leave before I am left.

5. The words “be positive” are like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Whatever you do, don’t tell me to be positive. If it was that simple to switch my mindset, don’t you think I would have done that by now? You must understand my world and the way I view it is completely different from yours. My reality is like something out of “Alice in Wonderland.” Everything to me is either life or death, big or small, exhilarating or torture, high or low, black or white — it is never in between or a perfect equilibrium.

So when you tell me to look at the bright side, it kills me. I would love to think about things as positive or “happening for a reason,” but to me, it all seems hopeless. I just want you to hold me and tell me you care about me and that everything is going to be OK. I can’t see past this very second, so when you tell me I must view things in a positive way, I want to scream. How can you not see how dark this situation seems to me? I am most probably overreacting, and I believe there is a better way to look at things, but not right now. Right now, my world is falling apart, and I just need you to make me feel safe and loved.

In my experience, living with secrets is what BPD is about, and I believe this is probably the main reason why many people don’t understand our condition. We may often act in a certain way, and what we say is not always what we feel — a never-ending seesaw ride.

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What do I think is the worst thing you can say to someone who struggles with borderline personality disorder (BPD)?

Nothing at all.

Let me clarify: Say we’ve been having an argument. You may think it would be best to just go to sleep and leave things to cool off until morning. So you roll over in bed, turn your back to me, and say nothing.

Or we’re texting, and things have become heated. You leave the last text from me just hanging there because you’re tired of the discussion and you don’t think there’s anything left to say.

Bad move.

Nothing is the worst thing you can “say” to me as someone who struggles with BPD. You see, having BPD, I can have difficulty just “letting things go” in a disagreement. I don’t just “get over it” when things go wrong. Seemingly insignificant things can start a spiral of self-loathing and despair that is often impossible to overcome without excruciating amounts of effort. While you may think just saying nothing is better than saying something “wrong,” to me it is actually the worst thing you can do.

Without closure, my mind goes into overdrive. First, there’s the anger. I have all kinds of things I need to say, to get them out of my head so they stop circling endlessly in there. But you’ve made it clear that you’re done, so I can’t. I’m stuck obsessing over them for the next 24 hours or more.

Then there’s the self-recrimination. You hate me. Obviously, you simply can’t stand me anymore. I’m worthless. Not worth the time of day. Let’s face it, I’m sh*t.

After that comes the bitterness and fatigue. I become so exhausted from the inner monologue that I shut down and spiral into depression. Nobody cares. What’s the use in trying anyway?

I understand that sometimes you may walk away because you just can’t handle the drama anymore. Sometimes you may have to walk away so you don’t lose what little patience you have left. But maybe reading this will help you understand the effect it has on me. Walking away, turning away, not returning a text, giving me no closure is saying, to my mind: I don’t care about you. I don’t care what you have to say. You’re not worth my time anymore. This relationship/friendship is over.

So the next time you’re finding yourself tempted to just let the sun go down on your anger, please reconsider. Let me have closure. Please. It means the world to me.

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I didn’t know what “crazy” looked like until right now. I’m watching myself have a nervous breakdown, half-naked, in front of a mix of friends and strangers.

This isn’t good.

I’m crying and writhing around on a bed. I’m screaming and hitting myself. My fists are balled up, white with fury. I’m holding onto pills, lots of pills.

This isn’t good.

People I know and don’t know try to calm me down. I don’t listen. I just grip the pills and continue to scream and cry. I look different. I look wild. I look like a Jack that’s just popped out of its Box.

A voice says the ambulance is coming.

This isn’t good.

I wake up in the hospital. I’m tired. My brain is sizzling and my throat is splintered. I am happy. I am laughing. My best friend is here. She looks perturbed. I look at her, relieved, like “Well, I’m glad that’s over!” It’s not. She leaves and I’m left wondering why I’m here. I close my eyes.

I wake up in a small, cream-colored room. I’m sat at a table opposite two women. They are stern, wearing navy blazers, and asking me why I tried to kill myself. I’m confused. I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I was trying to make it stop. They question me for an hour. I tell them I can’t answer any more right now. I’m tired and not able to think straight. They stop and diagnose me with borderline personality disorder.

I’m taken to another room. It has a bed and a small desk. A stocky, black lady called Angela tells me to remove my clothes. I’m still confused. 


“You have to shower.”

“I have to go home.”

“You’re on a 5150 hold. You have to stay here for the next three days.”

“I’m not staying here. This is a fucking nut house and I’m not fucking crazy!”

“How about you shower first and we’ll talk after?” 

“I’ll shower first, then I’m going home.”

I wait for her to give me some privacy. She doesn’t. She leads me to the shower. It’s more of a wet room. The walls are lined with small, dark blue tiles. There’s no curtain. There’s nothing but a faucet. Angela stands in the corner of the room. I turn on the faucet and let the lukewarm water run over me. I stare at Angela.

“This is ridiculous.” 

She says nothing then hands me a small bar of soap. I half-heartedly rub the soap over the tops of my arms and nothing else. I will not wash my genitals in front of a stranger. I turn off the water. Angela hands me a towel. I dry off and we return to my room.

There’s a hospital gown on my bed. This is what I wear now. This is my uniform. I put it on and begin to cry. Crying turns into screaming. I want out. I’m not crazy. I’m normal and I want to go home. 

A short, white lady with red hair comes into the room. She tells me her name is Nina and hands me two pills. Ativan. I swallow the pills and continue to cry. Nina leaves, and I turn to Angela. 

“Where am I? Why am I here?”

“You’re in a psych ward. You’re on an involuntary psychiatric hold because you’ve been deemed a danger to yourself on account of you attempting suicide.

“I wasn’t trying to kill myself! I don’t know what I was trying to do. My brain was melting out of my fucking ears. I was trying to save myself.

I cry harder. After a few minutes, the Ativan takes hold. My tears come to an abrupt stop. I don’t know what time it is, but it’s dark now. The only light is the light coming from the hallway that shines through my always-open door. Angela is reading a trashy magazine. I stare at her. I study her face. She must be in her early 40s. She looks like she’s seen some shit.

“So what, you just going to watch me sleep?”


“This is what you’re going to do for three days?”

“No, someone else will take over from me in the morning.”

I realize I don’t know what day it is. Angela goes back to reading her magazine and, in that moment, I hate her. I hate her for no reason other than she’s the only one here and I’ve maxed out on hating myself. I glare at her as she turns the pages of her gossip rag. Who does she think she is? Keeping watch over me? I lie down on the bed and turn to face the wall away from her. 

My body is heavy with fatigue. I feel myself sinking but my mind is fighting the Ativan and wins. A deluge of anxiety and despair hits me. I hear the frantic wails of other patients. My throat tightens. I can only hear static, static from hundreds of televisions at top volume. I scream a silent scream. My mind collapses on itself. I go to throw myself on the floor but Angela catches me. She’s on the bed. She’s holding me.

“Get off me!” 

She holds me.


She holds me.


She holds me. 

Everything is so loud. The static. The screams. My skull feels as if it’s about to explode and just like that, it stops. Silence. Angela is still holding me and I hold her back. I’m exhausted. I feel my body slipping away from me. I cling to Angela for dear life. There’s a rush of hands on me now. They’re pushing me down and giving me Ativan. I scramble to get back to Angela but there are too many hands, and the pills are taking hold. My vision blurs. I flail my arms one last time, but I’ve lost her.

You can follow Amanda Rosenberg on Twitter @AmandaRosenberg.

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From the first day I started struggling with mental illness, I was shamed by stigma.

My experiences with mental illness began as they do for a good majority of people, when I was in puberty. I had a blog where I talked about the normal exciting things teenagers talk about: boys, clothes, school — you get the idea. But I began to write more about my feelings as I ventured into my first journey with depression, as I was experiencing feelings I had never experienced before. The darkness, the sadness… it was all new to me. As with a lot of teens, I didn’t really get along with my parents and didn’t believe I could tell them what I was going through, even as I became suicidal.

But I could blog about it.

Instead of getting the much needed support from my followers, I was faced with cruelty and was cyberbullied before the term “cyberbullying” had even been invented. What was the ammo my attackers used? My mental illness. In what seems like unbelievable evil of humanity, my attackers left anonymous comments on my blog.

“You’re not really depressed, you’re making it for attention.”

“If you were really depressed, you’d kill yourself.”

“The world would be better if you committed suicide.”

And I almost tried thanks to their taunting.

This went on for months, until my depression finally started easing up as spring came around. I didn’t know it, but I had undiagnosed seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and still get more depressed during the winter. I think because I was beginning to regain my self and the depression was lessening, I was able to tell my mom what was going on. After telling her how depressed I’d been, how I had been suicidal, she promised to get me into therapy.

Then we never talked about it again.

This further made me question if what I experienced was really that serious. No one seemed to take it that seriously. Earlier in that first depression, my friends told my guidance counselor I had started to self-harm. She called me to her office in the last 10 minutes of the school day and told me what my friends reported and asked me, “Are you cutting?”


“OK, you can go get the bus.”

That was the full extent of our conversation. It was winter and I had on long sleeves, but if she’d asked me to roll up my sleeves, the evidence couldn’t be hidden. I was cutting. But she didn’t even spare enough time to have a real conversation about what was happening. She didn’t call my parents to warn them. Again, someone looked at it as no big deal. I felt as if no one cared about my mental health.

My mom. My guidance counselor. The cyberbullies. None of them took me seriously. So I rarely shared with others that I struggled with my mental health. I was alone and hid due to the massive stigma that surrounds mental illness. So I didn’t try to get help as it seemed like no one wanted to help anyway. Each winter, I struggled with self-harm and suicidal ideation all alone, as I was too ashamed to share my pain.

This invalidation led to a series of abusive relationships. I got engaged way too young,. I had a particularly bad bout of SAD during our relationship, but he discouraged me for getting help, even though I was an adult and ready to talk to a doctor about my depression. He told me that if I took psychiatric medication I’d become a “different” person and no one would love me if I was one of those “zombies.” His father, who had been highly abusive to him growing up, was a much nicer, better version of himself after seeking treatment for his narcissistic personality disorder, but my fiance hated this version of his father because he was “fake.”

There it was, another person discouraging me from getting help for what was a very real problem. Since I felt no one believed me, no one believed I had something wrong with my brain, I self-medicated. Pills and alcohol became my life. Though my family knew about the addiction, helpfully telling me to “just stop,” I still couldn’t open up that I yearly struggled with suicidal depression.

But all that invalidation came to a head in my mid-20s when I attempted, and almost died by, suicide via overdose.

The secret was out — I had a mental illness and now everyone knew as my family called relatives and my health deteriorated to the point that they transferred me to another hospital after my liver failed and I needed a transplant. As I was being prepped for my transplant, by some miracle, my liver began functioning again and I never got that transplant.

After that first attempt, I became out of control. My mental health deteriorated greatly and I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). I felt hopeless and was highly suicidal, being hospitalized almost 20 times in one year due to suicide attempts and ideations.

I started dialectical behavior therapy, a therapy designed specifically for BPD, and that was the turning point. It would be a few years and a hell of a lot of work, but I am now living in recovery from BPD. This doesn’t mean I don’t still have BPD, it just means that now I know how to cope with my illness and live a life worth living.

My sister had outed me on Facebook after my first attempt, and everyone knew about my attempt to take my own life. At that point, support poured in from friends around the world. And finally, I was able to admit to myself and to the world that I had a mental illness.

I used Facebook to go back to the days of when I blogged about my feelings, and I shared my struggles and what I was going through on this new platform. First, it was only to update my friends of my next stint in the hospital, but as I met more people online that also had mental health problems, I began to talk more about it. I had always had an interest in psychology, and now I had an insider’s perspective of what mental illness was like. Stigma had silenced me for so long that I finally struck back and began to be open, maybe too open, about my mental health.

And people listened. As I became more well known in my Facebook world, I was asked to be an admin of a mental health support group. It was there where I started to mentor my peers, talking with them when they were lonely, counseling them when they in dangerous territory and helping many people find doctors when they needed professional help.

I became more and more open about my struggles, knew from personal experience the power of stigma and I became an advocate for ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. As I got better, so did my advocacy. When I was actually living in recovery and had finished dialectical behavior therapy, my online advocacy came out of the computer and into the real world when I became an “In Our Own Voice” speaker for NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness).

The stigma that had kept me prisoner for most of my life was no longer holding me back, and I am now a force to be reckoned with. I publicly speak about my journey to larger and larger audiences. When my physical health made me take time off of doing public speaking, I started doing YouTube videos talking about mental health and BPD. I am still part of the online world, tweeting, talking on Facebook and even being featured on a Facebook Live event on The Mighty, where my video has been viewed over 18,000 times.

Mental illness and stigma cursed my life and ate up many good years of it. Now, I consider myself to be a voice for the voiceless. I speak openly and honestly about my journey with mental illness, and I speak loudly to speak for those who are still stuck in stigma’s cage or can’t speak out due to work, church or other institutional stigma. I never thought the worst thing that ever happened to me would eventually be my purpose in life. This year I was also trained to be a Peer Specialist, so I can also work using my lived experience to help others, but I prefer my work as an advocate and speaker.

Much to my surprise, I have become an inspiration to many people. People see me and know that recovery is possible. It’s still always surprising when someone tells me I inspire them. My favorite quote is “I want to inspire. I want someone to look at me and say because of you, I didn’t give up.” (Author Unknown). And they have. I now have found my purpose in life.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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