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5 Tips for Coping With Borderline Personality Disorder Through COVID-19

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I have dealt with the effects of borderline personality disorder (BPD) for the majority of my life, and I am finding my symptoms to be especially challenging during this time due to the coronavirus, the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system. Being forced to isolate at home has spurred on my intense mood swings, impulsivity with online shopping and my feelings of abandonment. I frequently feel abandoned if someone doesn’t respond to my messages in a reasonable amount of time, and I tend to read between the lines of text to find an undertone that is often nonexistent. I also find comfort in buying things, and with a plethora of downtime at home, I am struggling with online compulsive shopping. One of my biggest struggles with BPD, however, is my experience with extreme dissociation. I have been struggling with dissociation while in isolation that is so severe I am losing time and having trouble with remembering what day it is, or the events of the day before, or even a few hours prior!

However, understanding these symptoms, and others, about myself has brought me insight into how to handle my BPD while in quarantine, and I hope my story helps you as well.

BPD presents differently in each person, but is typically marked by nine diagnostic criteria as referenced in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.

2.  A pattern of unstable and intense relationships.

3. Unstable sense of self.

4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are self-damaging (such as spending, sex, substance abuse, binge eating).

5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats or self-mutilation.

6. Mood instability (short instances of irritability, euphoria, anger, etc.).

7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.

8. Difficulty controlling anger/intense/inappropriate anger.

9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

To be diagnosed with BPD, you must meet five of the nine criteria, but it is possible to experience more symptoms. BPD symptoms can be particularly trying when we are in isolation because of the stress we are experiencing during this time, and self-care is more important than ever for our mental health. While my symptoms have been particularly severe, I have found some things that have helped me to manage them I would like to share with you.

1. Limit your media consumption.

Constantly seeing updates on the coronavirus online or on the television has been one of the most damaging things for my mental health. I tend to fixate on my media consumption when I am experiencing high stress, but this has caused me more stress and severe emotional reactions that often result in self-harm urges. Identifying this has helped me to realize I need to limit my media consumption.

One thing that I do is check the coronavirus updates in my area in the morning, then I tune out for the rest of the day. Other people in my household notify me if there is anything paramount I need to know during the day, but for the most part, this limitation of media consumption has been very beneficial.

2. Make a schedule for yourself (add in at least one thing that brings you joy).

Creating a schedule while we are in isolation is so important. If you work, you can schedule your time to make sure you have dedicated time where you work, but also dedicated time to complete any other responsibilities. However, it is extremely important you set aside an hour or so (less is fine!) each day to do something that brings you joy. If you are alone, maybe this is watching a favorite TV show, working on a craft project, playing games or virtually visiting with a loved one. Or if you are at home with family, maybe this is playing games together.

Creating a schedule with some fun activities will help you to keep track of your days to make sure you are getting everything you need to get done, done, while also attending to your mental health.

3. Create a list of your favorite things.

I have an entire notebook dedicated to my favorite things, most of which include my favorite TV shows, books, movies and songs.  These forms of media have always helped me to feel less alone, while helping me to manage my thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flashbacks and delusions. Creating this notebook was very therapeutic because it reminded me of all of my favorite things, while providing me with a resource when I am in a crisis to remember things that bring me joy.

You can put anything at all in your list that brings you joy, it doesn’t have to just be my examples! This is a great exercise to do when you are feeling down to help improve your emotional state, or when you are feeling good to be able to create a resource for yourself for when you may be experiencing a mental health crisis or disturbance.

4. Stay in contact with loved ones.

Isolation can increase feelings of abandonment, which is a symptom I struggle with a lot with my BPD. If you experience this symptom as well, it is imperative you let your loved ones know you are experiencing abandonment while in isolation if you don’t communicate regularly, and then try to set up a schedule for spending quality time with one another. For example, I have set up times to have a phone or video call with my friends and my family at home, and we play games every Friday night to keep each other company. Having set times to socialize has really helped me with lowering my feelings of abandonment.

5. Keep mental health resources close.

Sometimes, my BPD symptoms can become so severe I reach a point of crisis and helplessness. To help me with this, I have put up a list of my local crisis phone numbers, the national suicide prevention line, a page of questions to ask myself when I am feeling down (such as, have you eaten? Have you taken a shower?). Having these resources up help me to have options when I am in a crisis and may not be thinking clearly.

I hope my ideas help you! If you are living alone with BPD or need any associated support, please comment on this post and I will be happy to support you. Let’s stay connected!

Struggling with your mental health due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community:

Getty image by Comeback Images

Originally published: April 22, 2020
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