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How Borderline Personality Disorder Therapy Helped My Approach to Creativity

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I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). I’ve known for three years but before that, I was told I had bipolar disorder. This is a common mistake, apparently.

I’ve had BPD most of my life, but I didn’t know until someone showed me a list of the symptoms. I looked at it and said, “Yep. Every one of those is me.”

Since then, I’ve been taking what’s known as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). For me, this is like “mindfulness” or “meditation” on steroids.

Daily, I am asked to “look inward” and notice how I feel, and how I responded to people and situations. I’ve been asked to change the words I use. For example instead of using “like,” “dislike,” “good,” or “bad,” I might say “I notice,” “I’m curious,” “I feel (insert actual emotion).” This is where the creative change has happened in my life.

I’m a teacher of creative digital art. I’ve been doing this for six years now. I’ve taught every creative digital art process you can think of. It’s been so stressful and miserable, until…

I started bringing the skills I was learning in therapy into my classroom. I stopped judging how “good” my projects were and actually spent significantly less time on them. I started questioning my students rather than telling them to “change” or “fix” their art. Instead of me making all of the decisions, I started allowing (and trusting) them to make them on their own with my guidance. I began to allow the natural curiosity and wonder of the human mind lead me and my students in our creativity.

I’m happy to report that this had made all the difference in my life as a digital art teacher. Not just creatively, but relationally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I was actually told for the first time in my teaching career by a student that I was a “good teacher.” BPD and DBT have actually liberated me to act spontaneously and intuitively in my teaching, creative art and relationships.

Follow this journey on the author’s website.

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Originally published: February 16, 2018
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