3 Things That Help Me Stabilize My BPD

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Doctors, mental health workers and other healthcare professionals often recommend various tips and tricks to help stabilize the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD). But, when in the clutches of this disorder, it can be hard to even see how many of these could work, let alone actually implement them. When I was clinically described as being in the midst of a “mental health crisis,” I struggled to comprehend how such simple alterations to my lifestyle could make such a great difference. I was, frankly, in total disbelief of the doctors who recommended I make these changes. I thought their reductionism of the hardships of BPD was undermining to my struggles. It took me getting to a point when I was no longer considered a “crisis patient” to finally start working towards a better lifestyle, and since, I have tried a few of these little changes. I have most certainly seen a difference. I not only feel more in control of my BPD, but my life as well. Here are what I consider to be the three most helpful changes I have made to my lifestyle that have benefited my BPD recovery.

1. Exercise.

I was always an athletic person, right up until my depression made any physical activity feel impossible. I had previously been a runner, a keen martial arts enthusiast, and all around fitness fanatic. Then, I slowly but surely stopped working out, stopped attending my classes and felt any form of exercise was futile. It felt much easier and — in that moment — better, to just lay in bed, crushed under the weight of my sadness. Last summer, I decided one day, with a random burst of motivation that I dared not question, that I would bite the bullet and try a short workout at home. I love aerobics, so I dug out my old hula hoop, went out into the garden, and danced around for half an hour. Afterwards, I felt great, endorphins coursing through my veins. So, a few days later, I did it again. But this time, I stayed out longer, adding in some strength exercises too. Over the following weeks, my workouts became more structured, more centered around parts of myself I wanted to tone up, and I started noticing differences. Not only physically, but mentally, I felt more in control. My anger subsided somewhat now that I had something to channel it into. My stress could be turned into something productive. The rush of hormones post-workout made me feel more stable. Now, I try to work out at least once a week but I’m not hard on myself if I miss a week. I cannot stress enough just how beneficial my exercise regime has been to my mental health. Even a brisk walk for ten minutes can help, and I would encourage you to try it if you feel up to it.

2. Social media detox.

I love social media. I am on almost every platform. I can waste away hours liking and sharing posts, whittling away the day on something that is,
really, meaningless. Social media is a great distraction from work and always has me procrastinating on my projects in favor of another makeup tutorial, another few posts to read or something else to “like.” It also is incredibly damaging to my mental health. Twitter especially makes me feel as if I am vying for attention. It has me posting petty, passive aggressive things aimed at loved ones who haven’t really done anything wrong. In a moment of bad mental health, in seconds, I can post something I will later seriously regret. I hate when friends message me, asking me to clarify who a post was aimed at or what I meant by something I posted in the heat of the moment. So, I am currently on a detox. I have cut down the number of social media apps on my phone to just two and, perhaps, that number will shrink even further. I feel so much better. I am no longer allowing myself to act out in such a public way, therefore, I have nothing to feel guilty or embarrassed about later, so I don’t spiral into a cycle of shame. I can’t see things my friends are posting, so I can’t allow my BPD-related abandonment issues to be played upon. In essence, I am freer, not a servant to my phone anymore. I never thought I’d be able to tear myself away from social media like this, but I feel so much more stable for doing it.

3. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

I have always been very untrusting and skeptical of doctors and the health services, to my own detriment. When I was at my worst point with my mental health, I was a difficult patient. I would imagine, not really cooperating with the treatment I was so lucky to be offered. When I was somewhat more stable and began seeing my current, wonderful therapist, I was more motivated to get better, work on myself and find ways of coping and living with my BPD. Regardless, though, I still held a level of skepticism about DBT. I’d had some therapy before, and had not gotten on well with my previous therapists, limiting the amount of good work we could do together. I wasn’t so sure that this round would be any different to the others. But, my new therapist and I have an excellent working relationship and she understands me, knows what will and won’t work for me and my BPD. Some of the tools she has given me have, with no exaggeration, changed my life. I have learned how to be assertive, how to sit with my feelings instead of reacting to them immediately, how to communicate my mental health better, how to stop my emotions from becoming too intense — among so many other things. She has turned the great skeptic of therapy into the great believer. I am a huge advocate for this kind of treatment and, though it doesn’t always work for everyone, I think a lot of the tools it gives us as individuals with BPD can make this disorder far more livable. It also does not have to be wildly expensive, either. The internet has some great resources for free that can act as a wonderful starting point for DBT.

I recognize not all of these tips are employable for everyone. When you are in the grips of mental illness, it can be near impossible to take the most basic care of yourself, let alone get out of bed and go for a run. But, on the days when you feel you can, I would encourage you to try some gentle yoga, browse some DBT resources online or put your phone away for an hour or so. I am far from recovered, and I still have days when I am unable to put these tactics into play, so I do not want to sound sanctimonious. But, these little alterations to my lifestyle have really benefited me in stabilizing my BPD, and I hope they can help you, too.

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Thinkstock photo via Rebekka Ivacson.

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Why You Shouldn't Be Fearful of My Borderline Personality Disorder

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People are often scared of things they don’t know. In terms of mental illness, it can mean associating that fear with the person themselves, especially if it is a heavily judged or misunderstood disorder.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is the most heavily stigmatized disorder I have come across. Which is unfortunate, because I also happen to have it, and I promise that you don’t need be scared of it. BPD is a personality disorder which is defined by instability in behaviors, moods, self-image and ability to function. This can lead to dangerous actions and unstable relationships, alongside episodes of severe anxiety, depression, dissociation or anger which may last minutes or days and can be very fast-cycling. Sadly this is why the suicide and self-destructive statistics for BPD are so high. This doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence though, it’s just a slightly different way of life.

Don’t back away from or be scared of borderline personality disorder. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Because we are already scared. Can you imagine the fear of not being able to feel secure in your own brain, ever? The terror brought by not knowing when you might be in immense pain at your own hand or feel something that’s not real is constant and can feel devastating. We are scared enough for both of us, trust me.

2. Because people with BPD have incredibly empathetic minds. People who have been through pain tend to be good at helping others deal with and accept their pain. It can come in handy! What doesn’t kill you might not make you stronger and it can definitely make you more experienced.

3. Because everyone is the world has problems; if you happen to be close enough to us to know about our BPD then you know (in part) the problem we face. You know what makes us hurt, what makes us vulnerable. Knowing the problem is half the battle. Don’t back off at this point just because we aren’t “perfect.”

4. Recovery is possible. We will never erase the parts of our brain that are a tad extraordinary. However, with therapy, medication, a lot of courage and some life tweaks, we can be in recovery. Don’t presume that everyone with BPD is in crisis because I can promise from personal experience that is possible to go through BPD hell and come out the other side. Even if some of us are trying to survive each day with BPD crisis or relapse — some are also quietly living with it and functioning very highly. It’s a spectrum.

5. We. Are. Human. Yeah, BPD sounds scary, but don’t let that make you forget the human. It might have some very severe risks for us, but for you, just remember we are the same as any other friend! My favorite color is pink, I love Marzipan and glitter makes my world go round. Oh, and I have BPD. It doesn’t mean I am BPD.

People might not realize they’re participating, but the mental health stigma attached to things like BPD makes us feel judged and excluded. It often makes me feel ashamed of myself and that’s something that should never happen. I didn’t choose this disorder — all I did was choose to fight it. The thing which will help the most is if you can stay a constant thing in our seemingly ever-changing lives. My mind might feel all over the place, but the amount of difference a friend can make just by staying a good friend is so huge. Don’t look for the hard parts, we will be fighting against them. Just look for the silver linings. Don’t be scared of borderline personality disorder, there’s really no need to be.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

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Having Borderline Personality Disorder and Being in Love

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I feel as though I am looking through somebody else’s eyes into a reality far from my own. My head isn’t a part of my body, and my brain cannot seem to connect the two. The world is foggy, the air thick and heavy. I feel the crushing weight of being alive, while simultaneously feeling as light as a feather. I am floating through the days as they blur into each other, so dissociated I can barely recognize myself anymore. Living with borderline personality disorder feels like I am constantly walking on eggshells in my own mind.

I’m trying to convince my mind that this is not me; it’s simply a part of who I am. I will have to take the highest of highs with the lowest of lows to survive. Constantly switching between admiration and wanting to run from those I allow to get too close. I am holding my head in the palms of my hands, my internal thoughts screaming at myself for being such a flawed human being. It’s not my fault. But it is my fault for pushing those who care away.

Since the age of 13 I have been in serious relationships, and I feel like it’s all I know. It’s put a lot of strain on how I see myself and how I feel I should be. I mould myself to the girlfriend who is kind, nurturing, and loving for the sake of keeping another happy. And I don’t know if who I am is true or just the parts of other people I have taken with me. I don’t feel like I have my own identity because I constantly immerse myself in the lives of others. I am so deeply afraid of being abandoned and allowing myself to become vulnerable to anyone who has the power to break my heart. In the past I have stayed in relationships for far too long with people who were wrong for me in so many ways simply because I didn’t want to “give up,” because I have always seen giving up as a sign of weakness. I still don’t know which thoughts are mine and which thoughts are the product of years of emotional abuse and trauma. This leaves me feeling unsure of anything and my defense to this is to dissociate and disconnect. Can I still be hurt if I’m not all there to begin with?

I have never known love as something that genuinely brings me joy until I started dating my current boyfriend almost nine months ago. When we started seeing each other romantically I almost convinced myself that I didn’t have this personality disorder that causes me to have self-doubt and abandonment issues. I convinced myself I was better and I wasn’t going to fall in to these patterns of questioning everything and pushing people away. I can slowly feel myself finding ways to sabotage something so special to me, and that is causing a great deal of distress and anguish. My mind is finding ways to tell myself it will only end in heartache, that I am better off alone. All I had known is the fire of a passionately abusive relationship and the mediocre love that simply brings me comfort. After all I have been through in past relationships, anything healthy doesn’t feel quite right and I feel like something is missing. It has taken me so long to try to unlearn these habits that I have known as “love,” the abusive behavior I received in my first and the emotional pain I inflicted in my second. I am not able to love easily, and trust is something I have struggled with most of my life. I have been taken advantage of sexually, financially, and emotionally. Because of this, I find myself in a difficult position when faced with a love that feels as right as this. I don’t know how to react, and I find myself swaying between two extremes: allowing myself to get so close to another, to expose myself in such a way that leaves me feeling naked and raw, and closing myself up like a wilting flower and hoping  they can still see the beauty in my rotting discolored petals.

I have read and seen so much negativity surrounding BPD, and it terrifies me that the stigma behind it has painted me in a light that could make you love me less. I am not just the ugly sides you sometimes see. I am all of the passion, the overwhelming fits of laughter and happiness, and the chaotic madness you have fallen in love with. I am the storm and the calm afternoon breeze all at the same time. For so many years I have been “too much,” “not enough” and have endured the question, “Why are you like this?” far too many times, and although I know I will always exhaust those who delve deep into my life, I am finding the balance inside me to calm my mind of these reoccurring thoughts of self-destructive behavior and sabotage in relationships, platonic and romantic. The intrusive thoughts I think and the emotions I feel are beyond my control, but how I choose to deal with them as they arise is up to me. I choose to be gentle on myself, I choose to make healthy decisions to get myself closer to where I want to be, and I choose to let the terrifying unknown space between now and then inspire me and not push me further into the deep hole of despair I know all too well.

If I ever feel weak I can find comfort in knowing I have made it this far, and that alone is enough proof that I am strong enough to keep going. I have the strength to continue love.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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The New Barometer I Use to Understand When I'm Struggling With My BPD

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I haven’t written in quite some time. It’s not that I was lazy. I just couldn’t.

As a contributor to The Mighty, I’ve realized the process of writing and sharing my thoughts with everyone has been very cathartic. Why then have I not written anything in over two months? Simply because I’ve been struggling recently with my issues, and when it gets really bad, I avoid doing what’s good for me. Previously I’d know when I was spending less time exercising or simply avoiding going out with friends. Now I have a new barometer: my contributions — or lack of — to The Mighty.

Writing for The Mighty was often a way for me to empower myself and others. When I’m at my lowest, I feel I simply do not have the strength to even exist. Writing at that time seems even more daunting. And strangely so, the moment I put pen to paper — or in this case finger to keyboard — I immediately calm down and seem to gain perspective.

So today, I decided to push through all the thoughts, beliefs and moods that kept me away from opening up to my fellow suppress and readers. And here I am!

To everyone reading this, it can be difficult to begin to do the things you know will make you feel better. My advice is to find the one activity you love that’s the easiest to begin. Ignore what your thoughts say about it not being worth it. And plough through the starting bit! Give yourself credit even if you took just one step more than yesterday or spoke to one more person than you otherwise would. Because you alone know what you overcome to reach there. And because you alone know that you deserve to revel in the success of your efforts. Just as I am now.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Mila_1989.

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The Poem That Helps Me Cope With the Challenges of BPD

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For so many years I have struggled, as have so many others, but what I find works best for me as a daily affirmation to myself to keep on moving forward is the poem below. I don’t always get to write daily, and when I cannot, I do see a difference in my emotional health, so now I carry a notebook and pen so the possibility is never far.

Written only three years ago, I started to travel a different path as I recognize — and accept — myself. There is no perfect person, so that should never be the aspiration. However, the goal should be to discover yourself. Find a new hobby, get out in the sun, go for a swim, reflect the thoughts in your head on paper, for then they are out of your head for you to see. For me, the written word is the most powerful tool for healing, and I find comfort in my daily reflections, whatever the emotions may be that flood out through the ink.

“In the Eyes of Borderline”

Tonight here I sit; slowly brush away tears
The house eerily silent as I devalue my fears
My world always changing, hope ebbs as it flows
Weaving around through blurred lines and shadows
How much time has now passed as I refuse to take aim
But when faced with the barrel, who can say who’s to blame?
I can know “it gets better” or “just give it some time”
But when faced with the past, what’s today’s paradigm?
The struggle through panic, self-loathing and doubt
A joke’s dime-a-dozen; Sarcasm’s my out
Flipping and tripping, floundering against pain
Metaphorical, physical, emotional, insane?
Reflecting, perfecting but never quite “real”
A chameleon alone who cannot truly feel.
In retrospect maybe, empathy none surpassed
But amidst human beings, wholly viewed an outcast.
Creative and boundless, an unyielding force freed
By the smile of another viewing the particulate me.
But what becomes of the soul, limited by the strain
Of the wholehearted desire for the beautifully mundane?
Life constantly changing; my poetical illusions
I can’t handle the darkness, but I’ve healed the contusions
As words becomes weapons; addictions conceal
No one knows ‘til the end; death a great reveal
An emotional martyr; a history of silence
Tumultuous energy in lieu of the violence
My rendition within lies inescapably clear:
If I continue this route, implosion is near.
So how to move forward; recreate my design?
I accept that I am who I am; Borderline.

Sometimes we need to realize the only person who can truly accept who we are — the only person that matters — is ourself.

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To My Past Self Living With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Dear past self,

In what feels like bottomless loneliness in life, don’t despair. Through all the darkness that seems to bind you, there is hope. At one point in your life, you will look at the shattered expectations surrounding you and think: This is it. That there is nothing worth living for. That just because things aren’t what you thought they should be, they are worthless. Nothing is worthless, especially you.

There are times where you will fail. You will lose your temper. You will say things you don’t mean and you will be sorry. You’ll be so sorry for who you are. There will be times you will want to give in to the darkness. But don’t underestimate your worth. You may be broken right now, but you are not worthless.

You will find in all the chaos, someone who quiets you. Someone who understands your rain. Someone who sees past the twisting roller coaster you ride and sees your worth. Never settle for less than that. Even if your reflection is like a funhouse mirror. Even if you cannot see yourself for who you truly are. You are worth so much more than just settling. So much more than just being comfortable.

Don’t be afraid. It’s hard. It’s so hard. But you will make it.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo via Arkady Lifshits.

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