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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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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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Image via Thinkstock.

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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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.

Image via Contributor.

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