How I Learned Recovery From Borderline Personality Disorder Was Possible
My body sits uncomfortably in a cheap plastic chair while my consciousness soars throughout the abyss that is my mind. I am trying to imagine myself anywhere but here — anywhere that isn’t the hospital. I close my eyes and try to picture my happy place for a moment, and then I remember I’m depressed and I don’t have a happy place.
What was supposed to be an attempt at calming myself turns into a rabbit hole of self-pity and hatred, just like every other thought on my mind.
At this point, the nurse brings me back to attention. She takes my vitals and then leads me to my room, a sterile yet serene scene where I’m inspected for self-harm related injuries.
Nope, none of that. I’m not depressed enough to hurt myself, says a voice in my head. I’m not really sick, I’m just lazy, says the same voice. At this point in my life, I am too weak to fight the battle in my head against my inner critic, so I cower in the corner in a fetal position and take a beating like I have for most of my life.
Fast-forward five days. And while I say “fast-forward,” I want you to know it was the exact opposite for me. Each day felt like an eternity, filled with therapy sessions, tai chi exercises and mindful doodling. The doctor assigned to me looks like a modern-day Jesus and acts like a sarcastic man, but somehow a miracle happens and I am allowed out. Back to the real world.
And so my journey begins again. Recovery. One more time, here we go.
My body sits uncomfortably in a car seat while my consciousness soars throughout the abyss that is my mind. I am being driven to an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for students with mental illness. I am skeptical, I don’t think anything will help me. I feel like I am going to end up back in the hospital within a matter of days, so while everyone goes around the room, smiling and introducing themselves, I stay quiet and avoid their eyes.
That’s when my angel, or my new therapist, starts talking. Her smile brightens the room and it hurts to think that some people can genuinely be that happy, yet her existence is proof you can struggle and still be OK. She passes out these giant books and tells us what page to turn to. I look at the cover and shrug.
“The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Handbook.” I have no idea what dialectical means, and I am intimidated by the handbook, yet I comply and turn to the page the group is currently on, and continue my journey to recovery. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT for short) is all about mindfulness — being in the moment. They say depression is dwelling on the past and anxiety is looking to the future, so for someone with both those conditions, this seems like the perfect therapy.
Fast-forward a few months. And while I say “fast-forward,” I want you to know it was the exact opposite for me. Each moment feels like an eternity when battling the inner workings of my mind. I learn all these skills intended for me to use in these moments of distress. I laugh cynically to myself thinking, they’ll never work, I’ll never be mindful, I’ll never really “recover;” I’ll just be OK.
Somehow, another miracle happens, and I graduate the program. I get a summer job and meet a lot of amazing people. Life happens. One thing leads to another and despite all of the wars going on internally, I manage not to scream whenever I open my mouth. My summer job ends and I start going to school, as well as a new therapy program, centered around DBT.
My body sits uncomfortably in a metal chair while my consciousness soars through the abyss that is my mind. I meet new therapists, each so amazing and inspiring. Yet I still think that recovery is “fake news,” or at least it is for me. I meet even more wonderful people in “Group,” which is a hybrid class/support group I attend each Monday night. My best friend in the group is a divine being — she always knows what to say and is so incredibly full of love, despite the ongoing hatred she feels for herself.
I learn — and I mean learn — skills the hard way. Through heartbreak and brief euphoria, my therapists and peers are there for me. I learn skills such as “check the facts” and “self-soothe,” which seem so basic yet are so complicated when put in practice. These skills break down step by step how to cope with everyday matters.
Fast-forward a year. And while I say “fast-forward,” I want you to know it was the exact opposite for me. So many ups and downs. I forget to take my pills, I get depressed again. I fall in love, I remember to take my pills. I go to school. I make friends. Life is a whirlwind of activity that interchanges between smooth and tumultuous, but I know if I’m buckled up for the ride, I will survive. Somehow, a third miracle occurs, and I graduate the program.
My body sits uncomfortably in a wooden chair while my consciousness soars th— no, wait, actually, I’m changing chairs. I’m aware of the discomfort I feel and decide to practice self-care and move — something so elementary yet groundbreaking for me. I am still learning and loving my way through life, and it feels so good. I start thinking about moving out, about chasing my dreams, about starting a life with the person I love.
“Why in the world would someone want to be with you?” the voice in my head asks. Because of course it does. But I am now strong enough to swat this thought away like a pestering fly and give it no more thought. At least for tonight.
Recovery is out there for everyone. Even if you think you’ve been through it all, that nothing will work for you, try just one more type of therapy. Give it one more try — you have nothing to lose and the whole world to gain. It doesn’t have to be DBT (although I highly recommend it), but just know that if recovery happened for me, it will certainly happen for you.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
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Photo by Jiří Wagner on Unsplash