What Happens After a Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis
I am realizing that with borderline personality disorder (BPD), there are various stages which we go through.
First of all, there is the pre-diagnosed stage where we are acting out constantly from our impulses and “emotion minds.” This is where all the symptoms are strong and seemingly unexplainable. We may come off as erratic, dramatic, unpredictable, even a little “crazy” and toxic with our rapidly changing moods, opinions and behaviors. People may tire of us and leave us. Our relationships may crash and our jobs usually do not last; that is if we can work at all. At this stage, we are unaware of why we are even like this and it is not a happy place to be, either for us or for the people who care about us.
Then comes stage one — “The Victim.”
We get a diagnosis. Usually, for many of us, it brings a kind of relief — a massive glowing lightbulb moment. This was certainly the case for me. At last, I had an answer to why! Despite the unpleasant thoughts of having a mental illness hanging over me, I could now also look for the support and help I needed.
Unfortunately, for a lot of us, there is precious little local support, and even fewer therapists trained to work with BPD, so we can quickly become disheartened. This is why I think there are so many Facebook BPD groups. They are full of thousands of people, all struggling with the same demon.
We have finally come home.
The ugly duckling becomes a swan.
Suddenly, we have so many people we can connect with, who validate us, who tell us that our symptoms and feelings are “normal” (for those with BPD). We may finally feel an acceptance. We gain sympathy and after years of not having this understanding, it can feel like balm to our burning souls. We can post whatever we want in these groups and there is always someone who will validate us. Great, right?
The danger is, we can then get caught up in over-identifying with our disorder. Over-identifying with the symptoms will eventually make us feel far worse. It’s a paradox. We can find temporary comfort in these groups, but at the same time we get triggered a lot, either by others’ posts or by the fact we can act out our BPD, and then we continue doing so because that validation feels so good. For a while, I became my BPD. There was no Marie. There was just this “Borderline” woman. Everything began and ended with Borderline. My entire life story was published as “Borderline – A Memoir,” even though there is so much more to more story than BPD. I was borderline.
So many posts start with, “is this a BPD thing or…?” It is like we begin to forget our own identities and BPD becomes the answer for everything. I have noticed that in these groups, a lot of us blame our loved ones for not understanding us or our behavior, and we become total victims of our own BPD demon. We forget we have any say in the matter, any power or control or even accountability. We don’t realize that, even though we are so emotionally sensitive, other people can have any feelings at all and we hurt people with our actions and words. We get offended when they react to us.
So many of us then attack the one person in the group who realizes this before we do and says, “hey, we are accountable for how we act.” Swans can get vicious and we jump on the individual who thinks and voices something different, so comfortable have we become in our pain. Why is it so hard to hear that truth? Do we really want BPD to be “forever?” To have such a hold on us that we have no power over our own selves? Why is it so hard to accept that we can get better? That we can take steps? That there is always help, even if it is not on our front doorstep? We buy so much into our disorder that we forget there is a person much bigger than BPD locked inside and struggling to get out. We insist doggedly, even loyally, that BPD is omnipotent and will always hold us in its grip.
“BPD is forever and will always be there, controlling me.”
No. Stop that runaway train. We are all stronger than our BPD, but we all need validating at all stages of our BPD. Feeling invalidated, especially in these groups which have become our comfort zone, can trigger us. We attack the person who threatens us with their alternative thoughts to our problem.
Then we come to stage two — “The Warrior.”
If the self-awareness does kick in and enlightens us, we generally seek help and find ways to kick the BPD’s butt. A lot of us access dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) courses and the majority can find it does work, providing we get a good DBT support group/therapist, and that we actually throw our whole selves into it. Some find it does not help after a few sessions, and then go back to stage one. Some do not have good DBT support networks and sadly encounter unsympathetic therapists so understandably, they fall back again. Some people actually need other therapy alongside DBT — trauma therapy, person-centered counseling or psychotherapy — but are not made aware of this. It is so wrong to insist that DBT is the only therapy that will help us, as it can trigger off past fears we have never dealt with and it is important to have a lot of support in order to deal with them.
At Stage Two, once we start healing. I personally find we become a little less sympathetic to our old BPD peers, the ones who have not yet really sought help beyond the BPD support groups and medications which may not work for them. Like the true warrior’s nature, we become hard and tough and lose sympathy for others still stuck where we once were. To my shame, this started happening to me. I want to help people so much that I end up hindering them. I became very much: “If it worked for me, it will work for you. There is no excuse to carry on like you are.”
It was like I wanted to distance myself and only be around solution-focused people, not BPD-focused. I am at a stage now where I take full responsibility for my behaviors and always look for solutions, for reasons, for things I could have done differently, but I made the mistake of forgetting that other people are still in their early stages and that change takes time. I upset a couple of people on my Facebook page recently with a status about accountability. A couple of the commenters managed to get me to remember where I came from and to think about putting things across in a more sympathetic way.
Hell, I still need lots of validation. What makes me think others need berating?
Stage three — I have not yet christened this stage as I have yet to reach it. I get glimpses of it at times, and I find myself getting into “Wise Mind” before making a decision, walking away from a potential argument, being calm and solution-focused at school meetings about my daughters (something which was always a massive trigger for me). I don’t even smoke cigarettes as much anymore and I think yes, finally I am getting there! I am doing so well. Then something sets me off and I plummet briefly into stage one before rapidly scrambling back up to stage two, where I can begin again with my DBT.
My DBT mentors and peers are at this glorious stage three. For me, they are like my earth angels. They know my pain, they do not berate me ever and they always seem to know how to get a point across without hurting anyone or being offensive — something I struggle with. They have beaten their BPD and for the most part are able to self-soothe. be independent and self-sufficient. They know their triggers and how to deal with them. Their hardness softens up again into something that is caring while remaining very strong. They know so well how to validate. I know, with time, I will get there too. I also know that everyone with BPD has that potential and my frustration lies in the fact that so many continue to struggle.
My closing point is this… BPD is certainly not our fault, but it is our responsibility to deal with and in order to do this, we need validation, support and accountability.
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
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