Jade S.’s BPD Story


I am slowly learning that Borderline Personality Disorder is not as bad as I thought it was…and I believe BPD is one of the worst illnesses to exist.  It has affected my life in so many ways I hardly know where to begin.  Beginning at the beginning, my experience with BPD began at age 17, after a psychological examination gave a doctor my diagnosis of BPD, ODD, and other disorders.  However, my experience had really begun years before when my relationship with my family began to fall apart, depression hit, and my habit of self-injury began to manifest itself.  When the doctor gave my parents the long list of problems with me, BPD was just one of many.  We didn’t know anything about it, had never heard of it, and the doctor didn’t explain any of it to us.  He was the first, but not the only, doctor to ignore my diagnoses, thereby threatening my health and my safety.  This didn’t bother him at the time, apparently.  I wish he could see me now.

My symptoms simply increased from there.  After dozens of visits to therapists, a long residential stay at a program for teenagers, and years of cutting and emotional turmoil in college, my parents took a second look at this BPD diagnosis and decided it was the perfect fit for me.  I resisted at first.  I didn’t want to be labeled as anything.  I was rebellious.  Yet after reading the paperwork they had printed from the internet explaining the disorder, I began to realize: this was me.  There was finally a title to my problem.  So began a long and close relationship with BPD that unfortunately may never end.

The ending isn’t so grim.  After graduating from college and having yet another emotional breakdown, my family sent me to see Dr. Leland Heller in Okeechobee, Florida.  He was unlike any doctor I had ever seen or met, and he seemed to know exactly what was wrong with me and how to fix it.  I started on new medications and started down the road to recovery.  Since then, I have improved dramatically enough to be able to take on intense therapy, an internship, and blogging for a magazine, just to name a few of the responsibilities I have been able to take on.  The medicine and Dr. Heller and the therapist he works with have given me a new hope and a new life with Borderline Personality Disorder, one which I don’t have to end with suicide or treat with drugs or self-harm.

Dr. Heller’s treatment is based on a model of BPD as a form of epilepsy in the limbic system of the brain.  Inappropriate firing of neurons requires a treatment of anti-seizure medication (Tegretol) and Prozac, a drug he has worked closely with and swears by, along with antipsychotics for dysphoria.  Dr. Heller also agreed to treat all of the co-morbid disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder and OCPD, which often accompany BPD.  He convinced me that it was important to treat the worst symptoms first, before I tackled therapy to retrain my brain to think positively and to regain some of the self-confidence I had lost from years of living with this disease.

I began group therapy and recovery came in leaps and bounds.  Mindfulness, anger management skills, positive self-talk, repetitive affirmations, self-monitoring skills, etc. have all served to help in my recovery.  I am now free from the worst symptoms of BPD, such as rage and terrible mood swings.  I am able to function relatively normally and I can handle relationships and responsibilities and stress with my medications and skills.  My recovery has truly been a miracle.

And….that’s my story!

Sincerely,

Jade S.

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“The Unliving”


By Jason Punko

Have you ever wondered what it means when someone says that they are the
unliving? Well, for me this is what it means:

The Unliving

Death without death,
Life without life,
That is the unliving

Empty and hollow,
Of purpose, value and meaning
That is the unliving

A black void all encompassing,
Nothing but darkness to be seen
That is the unliving.

Not living in the shadows,
Being the shadows
That is the unliving.

Pain, suffering, hurt – not enemies to be defeated,
Rather lovers to be embraced – just to feel SOMETHING
That is the unliving

To drift through life,
A ghost unseen by any
That is the unliving

To scream at the top of your lungs
Into a tornado unheard
That is the unliving

No identity
No hope
No feeling
No existence
No value
No self-worth
Unseen
Unknown
Unheard
Undead
Unliving
An outcast
Unloved

Your main goals for any given day:
1. Getting out of bed
2. Functioing
3. Not dying

Welcome to the world– not of undeath, which is the world between the worlds of
the living and the dead– but the world of the unliving. The world detached
from them all. Cold, dark, lonely, isolated.

So the next time you hear someone say they are struggling, that they are
dead and hollow inside, that they are dead but their body just hasn’t
figured it out yet, or any of a host of other things, do not tell them to
“suck it up” or “to stop wallowing.” Instead show them compassion,
understanding, and just plain listen. At these times, just knowing someone is
listening, someone “sees” them can make all the difference in the world. Do
not turn a blind eye and deaf ear to them, especially when it is someone
that you mean the world to. Even when you can’t solve their problems, even
when you can’t “do” anything, listen. When you listen, you do more than you
realize.

Trust me, I know from both sides.

Coping Skills: The Cornerstone of Sustainable Recovery


By Rachel Reiland

It’s one of the most difficult questions I’ve gotten since I’ve been touring for my book, “Get Me out of Here:  My Recovery From Borderline Personality Disorder”.
“So…are you cured?”

A part of me wants to knock on wood every time I’m asked this, as if my answer could jinx my recovery.

I’m not a big fan, by the way, of the word “cured”.  It makes it sound as if someone waved a magic wand and suddenly, poof, all my self-doubts, insecurities and irrational thoughts disappeared forever.  Recovery, however, is a different story.

Perhaps this is why I waited so long to come out and speak publicly about the book–I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t some vestige of BPD that would metasticize like a cancer cell and swallow me whole.

It has, in fact, been 16 years since I successfully terminated my therapy with my psychiatrist, Dr. Padgett.   That’s plenty of time to face all sorts of challenges inherent in life, the kind that could have capsized me.  I can now say with all honesty that, in fact, my recovery has been sustained.  The coping skills that were so foreign and seemingly impossible to me so many years ago are now ingrained in me.  While I am still subject to intense emotions at times, I know they are simply that–emotions.  Emotions do not equate to actions unless I make a choice to let them do so.  I also know that emotions are transient, like the waves of the sea.  If I ride them and do not try to fight them, they will subside into calm.

Even though my therapy opened my mind to a completely different framework of thinking and exposed a lot of the irrational fears that drove my self-destructive behavior, I am still inherently a passionate, feeling person.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing–depending on how I cope.  Over the years, I have relied upon coping strategies that have enabled me to live a truly satisfying life filled with love.

The moral of the story is not only that there can be light at the end of the tunnel, but I have been blessed with the coping skills to have been able to keep that light burning, regardless of the circumstances.

Here are a few things that have helped me maintain the gift of new life recovered from the ravages of the worst of BPD.

SIT WITH YOUR FEELINGS:  It doesn’t matter how intense or frightening the feeling or fear may be, so long as it is not acted upon, it remains only a feeling.   I’ve found that if I am harboring feelings that are hard to handle, I can go to a safe place–for me it is the bedroom–and park myself there until the feelings have subsided a bit.  I also use this time to explore the emotions in a rational light.

ACCEPT IMPERFECTION: Certainly, Borderline Personality Disorder is very stigmatized.  A lot of therapists don’t want to treat it. The term itself implies there is something wrong with the sufferer–and that is true!  There is something wrong.  The thing is, though, there is something wrong with all of us.  Once I reached what would be considered recovery, there was a long time I feared that one little episode could send me right back into a full-blown case of the disorder.  The reality is far more grey than that.  The thing is, every one walking around has imperfections–it is the nature of our existence. To borrow a term from alcohol and drug recovery, just because you fall off the wagon, doesn’t mean you have to stay off.

NATURE AS GROUNDING:  One of the best therapies for me is to connect with nature, which touches my soul without words or analysis.  I love to go hiking and walk along trails beside the river, anything that puts me in touch with the fact that I am just a part of something that is so much more vast than I am.  I’m a particular fan of sunrises and sunsets, the slowly evolving portrait of ever-changing colors.   I think of the scriptural reference to God taking care even of the birds and all the tiny creatures–I am part of that vast universe. There is something inherently calming in nature–it slows the churning currents of the feelings inside of me and brings me peace.  Sometimes I get “too busy” to take the time to experience the beauty around me–that is when I have to make sure I find the time.  If I find myself feeling a bit out of sorts, it’s amazing what a difference a trip to the park or to the middle of nowhere can make.

MAINTAIN SPIRITUAL CONNECTION:  My therapy and recovery journey started out on two tracks–psychotherapy and spirituality.  Just as I can begin to feel negative effects if I don’t connect with nature as much as I need, the same holds true with my spiritual journey.  I am a particular fan of silent retreats and quiet meditative prayer, as well as sung prayer.  So many times I feel like I want to tell my story of how my day is going and how it feels, I realize that I don’t have to relive it all.  I don’t have to pursue a spiritual journey intellectually.  All I have to do is be there, be present, and God will do the rest.  In my own Catholic faith tradition, I have found solace in Eucharistic Adoration.  If I sit quietly long enough, my emotions calm and I find answers within.  It doesn’t tak training to be able to do this; just a willingness to sit down anywhere–be it a church, a river bank, wherevver–and stay there for long enough to reconnect.

These coping strategies could rightly apply to just about anyone, regardless of whether or not they have a mental illness diagnosis.  The difference is, at least for me, that these things are not optional.  They aren’t “it would be nice ifs…”.  They are necessary to maintain my recovery, and in doing so, they also have the positive benefit of enriching my life.

RACHEL REILAND IS THE AUTHOR OF “GET ME OUT OF HERE:  MY RECOVERY FROM BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER.”  SHE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH BPD IN 1991 AND TERMINATED PSYCHOTHERAPY IN 1995,  SHE IS NOW DOING RADIO BOOK TOUR INTERVIEWS, IN WHICH SHE SPEAKS OUT TO RAISE AWARENESS OF BPD AND HOPE FOR THOSE WHO SUFFER.  FOR MORE INFORMATION AND AUDIO LINKS OF MEDIA INTERVIEWS WITH RACHEL, GO TO “GETMEOUTOFHEREBOOK.COM” OR GO TO THE FACEBOOK PAGE, “GET ME OUT OF HERE RADIO BOOK TOUR.”  RACHEL IS 49 YEARS OLD, IS A MOTHER OF THREE, AND WILL BE CELERATING 25 YEARS OF MARRIAGE TO HER HUSBAND IN THE FALL.

Friendship


This is an email that I recently received…please read and respond! Thanks.

I am dealing or am confronted on a daily basis with loss, rejection and failure in relationships. My friendships seem to be a legacy of failures….I have set extreme boundaries because I cannot deal with the conflicts that arise that end up being about personal power. I know I get myself into these situations and I’m doing my best to get out. Yet, it’s like being stuck at the bottom of a deep well treading water. I get purchase to climb. The rocks become slippery and the climb daunting. My foothold slip, and I’ve been too aggressive and confident with my hand holds, yet they aren’t as strong – My footholds need to be more solid.

The only person who has stood by me – albeit not always in a healthy way  is my boyfriend on and off of 10 years. He’s finally clued in that he can learn how to communicate differently as well.

From conflicts to now, trying to accept what my diagnosis is (I’ve accepted it privately – I’m quite paranoid of the stigma in a broader social context) seeing the ramifications of the failed relationships, I have reached out to resolve some of the past conflicts.

I am feeling horrible. One of the things that I cannot deal with in my own behaviour is my inability to stop back stabbing people after they have said or done something that has triggered me. Which HAPPENS ALL The time. I cannot control other’s behaviours (I know this yet I just fall into being the victim) and I do not know how to control myself. When I”m triggered, I HAVE to talk about it to the point of compulsion. I’m working on it…in very small ways. In group DBT, they told me I couldn’t talk for the first 15 mins of each session. I started to see what was happening in my body and what was going on with me. Oh, I saw what was going on. A complete and utter physical response to me trying to hold back saying anything. WOW…incredible. HOLY CRAP! A VERY good learning tool.

In the past, I had a friend that was a sounding board and vice versa. She seemed to relish in my misery, actually. I could only be happy in a way that she could relate – or I’d be invalidated. This made me very scared of what would come out of her mouth – my life and identity seemed to depend on her validation. This IS VERY similar to my relationship I had with my aunt. My aunt was exactly the same. As long as I behaved the way she liked, it was all good.

Yet, this got to be so unhealthy because she would assume that what ever negative thing she would say I would agree with – totally co dependant thought process. I was tired of being told how to think or it being assumed that I thought the same. You know those mean girls that are supposedly popular in the high school shows and movies? It’s kind of like that. I really dislike it. I dumped on her so that I didn’t feel so alone and isolated in my own troubles. I wanted, NEEDED someone on my side. Then, I could deal with the world, or so I thought. Yet, things got out of hand and still get out of hand. Her behaviour got abusive towards me and my daughter. She would say the most horrible things about EVERYONE and if I crossed her to tell her I didn’t like what she was saying or say that I didn’t think so, I was very afraid at what the consequences were. It’s still the same. I’ve gone on this rollercoaster in our friendship, where we’ve had screaming fights, silence, sometimes for months, and then conversation, no resolution – the ILLUSION of a resolution and it starts all over. This winter, I really tried. I’ve also wondered if she shows that mean side to other people? Or does she just show it to me?  I also wonder – is this something I’m bringing out in her because of my dark side? I want to bring out the light in myself and people. The dark? I have to make friends with my own first….

I have also spent time in the outdoors with this friend having some great times skiing, biking, hiking, etc. So, there have been positive experiences – the behaviour still comes up, though and it’s time to put it to bed.

Now, the only thing I can think of is to use as a mediator – my coach or someone to resolve the friendship. I have put it out there in another email – well written and respectful again… I know in group they say you’re supposed to end HOPELESS RELATIONSHIPS…well – when do people stick around? JESUS!!! And – when do you know it’s hopeless for sure?

I have to keep myself separate from others – groups of people – to cope with my paranoia..and to make healthier life choices. I just want to fit in – yet, drinking, smoking pot going to the bar all the time, etc etc is just not something I can do or WANT to do – MOST of the people my age are doing that still.

Yet, I truly want to be connected with people and reach out. I just don’t trust myself in the aftermath. I give my power away. I idealize others as if they have something I don’t and I want them to give it to me so that I have what they have.

The results are – I get a WHOLE lot more of what I don’t want and then, again – I’m treading water cuz…well that well water is contaminated with junk that people dump on me – either material or emotional. I get so angry and become extreme – like not talk to the person (isolation and judgement), yell or get hurt because they avoid me like I have a disease (rejection and failure). When does this stop? I do try to communicate effectively.

All of this is about taking things personally. It’s my target behaviour to manage. Also, every time I promise myself – okay in this friendship, it will be different…and then…? Same result.

What can i do to resolve this? Living in a small town makes me vulnerable all the time. There are masks that I have worn, and I know what my process is. It is so hard not to feel judged and rejected. and the masks are burned off, so to speak..

Yet I have such a deep propensity for this behaviour. It is ingrained in my entire family everyone constantly criticized back stabbed put each other down…incessantly behind other’s backs. LIKE TO a NEW Level of negativity. I feel so trapped by my own resistance to turning things positive. IT’s suffocating. Turning things positive? Some how THAT hurts too.

In the meantime, I’m destroying relationships, or I’m choosing relationships that are destructive and unhealthy for me because I’m using backwards skills AND convinced it will be different this time.

I still resent that I learned all this shitty behaviour from my family. My mom’s solution to every one of my friendship battles is to ditch them like a sack of hammers. My whole life she’s told me that. Unbelievable. When does it stop? where is the nurturing of GOODness in relationships?

Does anyone out there have any advice or experience to share that is similar to mine? What steps did you take to create healthier relationships, instead of making the same ones over and over…. Also, WHAT the heck can I do about this friend that I mentioned earlier. The latest thing I did was put the ball back in her court to say – hey what do you suggest is the solution? That’s about all i can think of.

Thanks for being here…thanks for being out there. I look forward to your responses.

-Anon.

Future


Future

by Hope Mousley

Here I sit out under the sky,
watching the silent world go by
feeling at last that my troubles have flown,
forgetting the need I had to moan.

Sometimes I feel depressed and sad,
but this evening I dont feel so bad,
Sat out here under the stars alone,
thinking about the seeds for the future I have sown.

My future I hope is going to be brighter,
and the weight of my past will become lighter.
my past was full of sorrows and abuse
and I used to feel like becoming a recluse.

I can now live my life again.
a life that’s no longer full of pain.
To my friends and God I owe a great deal.
with their help my wounds began to heal.

Being abused is no fun at all,
but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
take heart all survivors out there,
tell someone as there are people who care.

Bathroom Graffiti


Written by Nicole Dean

I love bathroom graffiti.  People seem to be more contemplative and honest while they are ‘doing their business.’  Why is it we feel so comfortable, compelled even, to share our secrets, our pearls of wisdom on the insides of bathroom walls?

Forget that for now.  The real question is how could I have ‘tagged’ myself in this photo which my best friend posted on Facebook a couple weeks ago and not seen what was coming?  The truth is I knew it was coming and I just wouldn’t accept it.  It was different this time.  But, this is a lie I tell myself.  And, it’s a sneaky lie.  It’s gotten me a few times.

There is a person in my life who I have been unwilling to recognize (consistently) is dangerous for me.  He was brought up almost every session with my FT (former therapist); countless times the police had been called to the apartment we (formerly) shared, several times he or I have ended up in the hospital.  We are each other’s worst trigger.  All the proof is there.  We have concrete evidence.

I know how the story plays out.  Yet, I just can’t let my dream of this person go.  This is a story I keep coming back to, trying my hardest to rewrite the ending.   How much proof do I need that no matter how hard either of us tries it just doesn’t end well?  Does one of us need to die before we can let go of each other?

Some things you can fix.  Some things you can’t.  This is a perfect example of using wise mind and radical acceptance.  This is a great example of why it can be so hard.  I love X.  I don’t want to admit that we are unhealthy for each other.  If our worlds are black and white….I will focus on the white Light when it comes to X.  How easily I forget the dark.  No matter how dark.

I met X a month before beginning DBT.  I fell in love with him immediately.  We inspired each other and we accepted each other with all of our flaws.  It moved fast.  Circumstances as they were – he needed a place to live, I needed a place to live, we found an apartment and moved in together a month into dating.   We knew it was quick but neither of us cared about Time.  I had never had a sense of time.  I had always acted spontaneously.  Plus, this was Love.  And, it was love.  I still believe that today.  I also know now, that love does not conquer all.

I warned him that I was entering the year long DBT program and that things were going to change.  I could feel the change that was coming; I wanted it for a long time.  I knew (at 30 yrs old and 15 yrs in the mental health system) more than he knew (at 24 yrs old and no experience with therapy) about the enormous commitment that I had made. I warned him that it would be different and that I would “grow up” and I was scared because all of a sudden my age and my experience came into light.  But, neither of us knew what DBT would do to me, and in turn to our relationship and him.

As my behaviors changed from applying the skills, I fell apart and pieced myself together and fell apart and came together again, each time building a little stronger foundation of Self.  The beginning of DBT was rough for me and X was wonderful.  He would just hold me and say nothing as I raged, or cried.  He held me and he didn’t judge me.  I thought he got it. I didn’t know why but he just got me.  I thought he was wise beyond his years.  I feel indebted to him for that.  He was there for me in a way that I will never be for him (this is probably why I keep trying to rewrite the story – I wish I could return the favour).

Things eventually began to stabilize for me and I began to develop a sense of self and healthy boundaries.  Certain behaviors we once shared were no longer acceptable for me.  Our home dynamic changed.  I had to create boundaries around drinking ie. no alcohol.  And, also for my own health, around his use of pot (he knew he was self medicating for anger issues), as I no longer wanted to be around these temptations.  All of these new “rules” (that’s how I saw it at the time) weren’t fair for me to put on him.  But, slowly I began to see that they weren’t rules.  They were the path to my new life.  I was going nowhere with the old one.  I wanted a life without the drama.  I wanted to grow up.

It was about 4 months into my DBT that he began to fall apart and I became the one taking care of him.  And, we both started to realize our relationship was unhealthy.  But, we were best friends, the very best of friends and we were all each other had (in our sick sense).

He finally got an evaluation at CAMH and he was diagnosed with BPD as well.  Now we know why he “got it”.

When we are “good” together, we are a match made in heaven.  We go to restaurants and people interrupt us at dinner to give us advice on “love”, because they can just “see it”.  That has never happened to me with any man I’ve been with before.

But, there is now history and that history is dark.  The things that I am most afraid of are the things that he needs to work on.  I’m too honest.  He can’t tell the truth.  And, that’s just one example of the black and white opposites.  We have the same fears.  But, we handle them in different ways and the ways that we handle them – those have become the triggers to the potential danger that we can be to one another.  We love each other so much and at this point we just want to be friends.  But, we can’t.  We are like Syd n’ Nancy minus the heroin.

We thought with therapy we could graduate to friends after a short break but that just proved to be untrue.  He graduates his 20 week program tomorrow.  And, while we are both improved and beautiful people, no matter what skills we use, we always end up pushing each other’s buttons.  And, it always ends up dangerous.

Love plays no part in this.  I wish love could conquer all.  I wish SKILLZ could conquer all.  We both have the best intentions.  “The road to hell was paved with good intentions.”

It is so hard to let go when love is involved. It is also the strongest act of love to let go. We both need to let go. I am fighting to find the center, where love and letting go coexist without canceling out all the beauty that was. That is the gray I’m searching for at the moment. And, searching for the middle is still incredibly painful and unnatural to me sometimes.

Maybe it’s better that we (only) always see each other in everything beautiful when we are apart?

For me and X, that is sensible love. If there is no gray for us, I would rather remember the white, the light, the Love.

Recovery Doesn’t Happen All At Once


I recently posted a status on Facebook about how I was frustrated that people kept telling me that if I wasn’t happy with my life, I needed to make a change, when I already AM making a change– I have been in remission for almost a year, and now I’m taking the first step at making my life better. I was frustrated that they seemed to want me to do everything all at once- I’m doing the best that I can, and I wish they realized that. Here’s a message that one of my Facebook friends sent me and allowed me to share with all of you– I thought it might be especially helpful to show to your loved ones.

I am not an expert in anything except for my own life’s difficulties. Let me just say that recovery and reclaiming balance in our lives does not happen in a linear pattern like that of a staircase–stepping up constantly and consistently and predictably. No, rather our recovery comes in waves, some smooth and others radical–but waves no the less.

It is next to impossible for most other people (non-mental illness) to grasp the gravity and depth of our struggle, our tragedies, nor celebrate the milestones of triumphs. We are expected to just become better in the same way we flip a light switch. Of course we know that our light switches are wired slightly different–whether it be bipolar, borderline, schizophrenia, anxiety, or depression.

Because our wiring is different from others, we will live our lives under the spotlight and microscope of others who feel we are not as we should and could be, and carry the expectations that we change as soon as we discover a diagnosis and hit two therapy sessions.

Well, it doesn’t work that way for most of us. We have become who we are because of genetics and our environment which has taken now –how many decades??? While change is certainly possible and recognizably desirable, we still must work hard and long to make the changes at our own pace and in our own ways.

Unfortunately, for many, the recovery process is hindered by the very people who want to see it the most. As we become educated about the illnesses, symptoms, relapse triggers, warning signs, and crisis, it becomes our responsibility to educate our loved ones, family and friends about all these issues as well.

Be strong for yourself, be proud of and for yourself. Be well– you’re worth it.