How I Would Describe Life in One Word as Someone With BPD

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A friend of mine came up to me today and said, “Describe life in just one word.”

He waited, anticipating responses such as Hope. Love. Fun. Travel.

Without a moment’s hesitation and with fiery eyes, I blurted out, “Survival!”

That’s what life is for me. Survival. When you live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you can’t possibly plan for the next year, the next month or even the next week. For me, it’s all about getting through the next 24 hours.

Twenty-four hours often seems like an eternity. This is especially true if you go through a roller coaster of emotions in a matter of minutes. It’s all you can do to maintain some semblance of normalcy and not let yourself be forcefully taken on the most devastating of rides.

Sure, I have it all. Beauty. Brains. Talent. Skill. Supportive friends. People who care. What I don’t have is me. I have no sense of identity, and I am almost too scared of myself. I know how awful I can be (without realizing it at the time of course) when am in the midst of a crisis. I sometimes hide away from the world, simply so that one less person will be hurt.

I wake up each day wondering when the switch will be flicked on or off  in my mind, making suddenly even existing too hard a task. In fact, I’ve learned to work around this, by identifying when I’m in a “can do” mood and making sure I supercharge my day by accomplishing all I can in those precious few moments. God forbid I’m in the midst of something hectic or exceptionally stressful when my mood takes it’s next swing! For only I know how embarrassing it is to break down into tears or burst into rage, when I was perfectly capable and confident just a few minutes before.

I have a house, friends, family and a good job, one where I can utilize my attention to detail, my determination and my mathematical prowess. Yet, every day is survival. I need to be able to put up the front that shows confidently what my professional skills can achieve for my organization and our clients. I need to ensure I look up at the ceiling just before the first tear drips out of my eye (a trick my therapist told me).

I need to be able to control my words, which often escape out of my mouth before I could even register the thought that preceded it. I need to be able to laugh, smile, say hello to everyone and make them feel validated and loved, when I can barely feel anything myself.

Most of all, I need to make sure no one finds out my “secret.” Everyone looks at you differently when they know you have an emotional dysregulation disorder. It’s not like they didn’t notice you struggled with your emotions before. They simply brushed it off saying, “She’s just quirky.” Now, just hearing the term makes you a monster or a weakling. Either way, you’re someone to be avoided at all costs.

People with BPD aren’t monsters. We’re not weak either. Yes, it makes us more prone to stress, which makes us more liable to be angry than assertive, more teary-eyed than happy-go-lucky, more pessimistic than realistic. That’s only when we’re stressed. When we’re rested (think regular sleep), refreshed (think less caffeine, more water), supported (think family and friends), we’re uniquely wonderful people. Some of the most caring, most intuitive, most empathetic, most helpful, most supportive, most smart, most logical and most confident individuals happen to be struggling with BPD or a similar disorder. This unique combination of traits often make for fantastic people to be around!

I know living with BPD is survival. Every hour I survive is an hour I worked hard to get through. Speaking for other BPD challengers, I am often much harder on myself than I need to be. I know I sometimes hurt those around me, and I really don’t want to. That’s why it’s survival. I get up and try again.

Going back to the encounter with my friend, he then asked me, “OK, perhaps at this moment, life for you is survival. But what would you like it to be again, in just one word?”

I thought about it for a moment and said, “Passion.”

When BPD no longer rules my life and I control it instead, life will be no longer be survival. It will be passion. Passion for friends. Passion for family. Passion for my career. Passion for fun. Passion for life. I know I’ll get there.

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Please Don't Assume I'm a Bad Mom Because of My Mental Illness

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OK, so I’m just going to say it.

Just because I have borderline personality disorder (BPD) doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to be a bad mother. I’m saying this because this is what I instantly thought when I was first diagnosed with BPD. I thought I had failed. I thought, “I’ve got these issues now so I can never be any kind of mother, let alone a good one!”

A mom holding her baby boy at sunset

Yet, I am here to be brave and say I am a good mum. I’ve always been extremely protective of my little boy H. I’ve always given him lots of attention, love and affection. I’ve played games, baked cakes, cooked, been creative and arranged days out. I am always cooking meals from scratch and trying to make sure he is as healthy as possible. My husband and I are always being told what a lovely kind, polite boy H is.

This is so lovely. Amazing in fact because how can this be true? I’ve got borderline personality disorder? BPD rules my life so I must be failing him! I must be doing something wrong!

A hand playing with a small toy truck

This is very much the way you are treated by professionals after your diagnosis. I was, at least. It is wrong and unfair, and it actually feeds the negative views we already have of ourselves.

Everyone would be better off without me.

I may as well disappear as I am failing at everything.

I was terrifyingly thrown into the world of social services after my son was born. Meetings, appointments, checks ins. There was never any questions about whether I was causing any harm to H, but I was told after we had been discharged from social services, the reason they got so involved is because of my diagnosis.

I mean, seriously! My family and I went through hell and back because I had a diagnosis that people think suggests I might not be a good mum.

Professionals should not be focusing on a mom’s BPD diagnosis solely. They should be focusing on and encouraging the positives we bring to our child’s lives. They should be treating every case individually, and of course, if there is a need for intervention, then absolutely, 100 percent I agree with the necessary precautions being taken.

Please, don’t assume because I have BPD I am not a good mother.

AmyStevens3

I actually feel my BPD makes me a better mother at times. I am sensitive and feel every emotion intensely. Because of this, it makes me closer and able to understand H more. I can put myself in his shoes and communicate better with him.

Since I like to see the people I care about most happy, I do a lot with him. I take him to his favorite places, play his favorite games and make him smile at every opportunity I can.

Ultimately, I do now believe that I am a good mum. Wow. Did I just say that?

There are always days I look back and feel guilty for the times I was struggling. I imagine what it must have been like for H when I was at my worst. I look back and think that for more than half of his life, I was ill. What a shitty mother!

Then, I remind myself, he spent plenty of time with friends and family, who adored him. He grew in confidence. More importantly, it gave me the time and space I needed to get better. So that I could look after him to the fullest.

I’m not a perfect mother, far from it. Yet, I am no longer striving for perfection. I am just doing the best I can with an amazing, little boy I am blessed to have in my life.

Lots of love,

Amy x

This post originally appeared on Amy’s Boarderline World.

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The Implications of Suicide Statistics for Someone With BPD

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Popular media and literature about borderline personality disorder (BPD) often speak about the susceptibility of affected individuals to attempt suicide. Can we blame them? The DSM-IV itself defines “recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats” as an identifying characteristic of BPD. Some studies show that as many as 80 percent of people with BPD exhibit suicidal intentions and around 70 percent of BPD patients will attempt suicide at least once.

I carry the weight of a BPD diagnosis.

These numbers, strewn carelessly around the internet like dead leaves on a November day, are ominous and incredibly frightening.

But they make sense, too. BPD is associated with high sensitivity and intense, prolonged emotional experiences. Thoughts can easily escalate to an overwhelmingly painful degree and I know I often want to escape from them at any cost. The most alarming research shows BPD patients are at a high risk for completed suicide. This means people with BPD are approximately 50 times more likely than the general population to die by suicide.

It looms large on the horizon every time a therapist, unwilling to accept the possible consequences of the clinical relationship, turns away a BPD patient.

You’d be surprised how frequently this happens.

Some people plan how they will kill themselves and therefore allow time to change their minds. However, individuals with BPD are likely to engage in suicidal behaviors in a moment of intense emotional pain  without fully considering the consequences.

Indeed, every time I’ve tried to kill myself, I’ve surprised myself as much as anyone else.

These figures pop up to haunt me every time my thought process begins its familiar downward spiral.

I’ve experienced suicidal ideation since I was a child. A journal entry from when I was young depicts my conviction that I would die by the age of 14.

At 23, I’m still alive.

I’ve always wanted to be.

I want to live every single one of my dreams and I want to be mindful as I tick off each line on my lengthy bucket list.

Then, why does it feel like I’ve been fated to die by my own hands?

The facts and figures forget we are all unique individuals. Society doesn’t define us or what we do. We can’t be herded together by numbers. We make our own choices. So at the end of the day, what should we learn from these statistics? The take-home from these figures is really to show the severity of the pain experienced by people struggling with BPD. David Foster Wallace’s analogy describes this phenomenon well when he says,

[The person in pain]…will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. …Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror.

Every time you want to tell someone contemplating suicide they are “selfish” or “a coward” or “sinful” or “attention-seeking”  — pay attention to the statistics.

You may not be able to empathize with it, but sometimes life can feel more terrible than death.

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.

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The Symptom of BPD That Makes My World Black and White

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Splitting is a symptom of borderline personality disorder (BPD) I was unfamiliar with until recently despite having been diagnosed in 2015. Splitting is a coping defense mechanism people with BPD use to avoid rejection or being hurt. It means that someone is either good or they are bad. There are no good people who make mistakes. There are no bad people who are nice sometimes. It is black and white, good or bad.

I know this feeling, and I recognize it in my own behavior. Splitting feels like self-destructive behavior. I can get consumed in my anger toward people. All my memories with that person become tainted, bad and wrong. Just thinking of them fills me up with anger.

Hatred builds up deep inside my body, flows through me and consumes me. I obsess over this hatred. I want it to go away. Yet, I can’t stop thinking about it at the same time.

There is a rational part of my brain that tells me to try and ignore these feelings, but the emotions are sometimes just too strong for me to move past. My personality disorder does not mean I’m broken, but it does mean I think and do things a little bit differently than the average person.

It’s a reaction to the fear of abandonment, the rejection and hurt that I cannot face. The idea of being rejected is so abhorrent to me, it’s easier to just tell myself that person was evil, and everything they ever did was part of some sick plot to humiliate, hurt or upset me.

The initial anger and bitterness fades eventually. In the meantime, I perceive everything that person does as being meant to hurt me further because that person is not a good person. They don’t care.

It’s like you can be my best friend or my worst enemy. There is no in between. There is no middle ground. Unfortunately, splitting can often isolate people with BPD, and it’s difficult when you are a victim of this behavior to see a good side to that person either.

It is the classic, “I hate you. Don’t leave me.” For me, eventually, the anger will fade, but it takes a lot to overcome that completely. Unfortunately, it does require work on the other party as well.

Actions speak far louder than any words ever can. After all, most communication is nonverbal. As someone with BPD, it is so easy to start perceiving things as an insult or slight when they were never really meant that way at all. It takes time and reassurance to come back.

One thing I have been told my entire life by teachers, friends and family members, is that I need constant reassurance that I am, in fact, a good person or that what I perceived wasn’t actually meant that way at all. I even need reassurance that I’m following instructions correctly! I will turn everything around as another reason to hate myself if left to my own devices.

Splitting is not reality. I know that. In the cold light of day, I can pull myself back from those thoughts, but when you’re caught up in that twister of emotions, it can be so difficult to break free.

I’m incredibly lucky I do in fact have a support network that treats me well, cares about me enough to put up with this and helps me along the way. It’s a road that goes both uphill and downhill. I am sincerely grateful to all who listen, soothe and love when it feels like I am on a steep ascent. I am grateful to have people who refuse to give up on me even when I do feel like giving up.

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What Helps Me Get Through a 'Borderline Crisis'

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OK, so I’m borderline. What that means is I have a psychological disorder called borderline personality disorder (BPD).

I’m not going to delve into what that feels like or what the typical symptoms are. There are some pretty cool posts online that can tell you more about that. Instead, I’m here to talk about borderline crises.

So, I’m currently in what someone with BPD would describe as a borderline crisis. It’s an extreme feeling where everything seems out of control and you simply don’t know what to do, even though you know you want to and have to get out of the rut.

And yesterday, when I was feeling my worst, I wanted to find some ideas on what to do when in a borderline crisis — but I simply couldn’t find anything that spoke to me… which prompted me to list out things that really helped me out (yesterday and in the past):

The main thing is trying to control those desperate, exaggerated thoughts and emotions. And the best way, I’ve found, is to distract. Do anything that takes your mind off those thoughts. It might help to have a goal. For example, take your laptop and start typing. Type what you feel until three pages are filled. Then go back and re-read it and correct it. Or watch a hilarious comedy you love. I personally can always go for “Friends” or “That 70’s Show.” It’ll take your mind off of your feelings and give time for your emotions to get back to “normal” levels.

The other thing you can do is connect. Connect with anyone. Have a friend ? Call her. If she’s busy or doesn’t answer, try the next one. It’s not directed at you, but you need to find a person to help take your mind off things. Don’t think about whether they would want to listen to you (they most likely would, but it’s your negativity that’s making you think otherwise). Try and make a plan. You’ll feel good knowing you have somewhere to go. Don’t have a person you can call? Go to the next point:

Use your senses.

SEE. Anything calming. A candle flame. The ocean. The people passing by. The horizon.

HEAR. Something that invigorates you. Loud music. Soft music. The sound of rain. The buzz in the coffee shop. Birds chirping.

TASTE. Something sour. Something sweet. Something tangy. Your favorite candy that comforts you. 

SMELL. The soil in your freshly watered plant pot. Your favorite perfume. Your favorite food. A scented candle you love.

FEEL. Hug your pet. Or a friend. Or even yourself. Take a shower. Just get under the water and keep it running. Cry your heart out and hear/taste/feel yourself as you do it. Better still, play some music and dance. Get into it.

To expand on that last point above, when you get out of the shower, change into your outside clothes and get outside. It’s fine if you’re crying while you walk. Go to the coffee shop in your neighborhood, grab a tea or hot chocolate, grab a seat and watch people around you. Make up stories about what they’re doing, who they’re with. The point is to think of other things besides what is currently making you swing on the BPD spectrum.

For those who can’t feel themselves or their emotions (a very real BPD phenomenon), and are thinking of self-hurting, get an ice cube, and hold it against your skin until it feels really cold. If it melts, get another one, an another and another. Dip your feet in ice cold or warm water. Keep at it until you’re no longer feeling as bad as you did before.

If you live near a dog-park or any park for that matter, go there, grab a bench and watch the kids and dogs playing. You’ll feel your emotions calm down and your heart soar.

That’s all I could think of, but they all helped me time and again. I purposely didn’t include things like reading a book, solving a crossword, doing a puzzle, going to a place of worship; primarily because I usually find they don’t take my mind off my emotions and thoughts fast enough. But if it works for you, give it a shot. You know yourself and your coping mechanisms best.

Finally, things not to do. I repeat, not to do.

  • DO NOT drink alcohol
  • DO NOT go for a drive, unless you can think clearly.
  • DO NOT call someone from the past you had a bad relationship with.
  • DO NOT make any major decisions — buying a ticket to go on  a holiday, accepting or rejecting any offer (job, house, divorce), breaking-up, etc.

If anything, simply running through the list above should help you find something that strikes a chord. You can adjust so it resonates with you.

If you’re reading this looking to feel better, I really, really hope this helps you find your sweet spot! Remember, you are loved!

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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5 Helpful Skills for Distress Tolerance When You Live With Borderline Personality Disorder

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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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