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!


Jade S.


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.


Let’s Donate!

Hey everyone,

As some of you know, I was planning on raising enough money to make On The Borderline an official (501(c)(3)) non-profit organization. However, I’m too busy at this point to make that happen. We have had several donations from people and have made a couple hundred dollars. Since I won’t be using that money for this organization anymore, I thought that I could donate the money to another cause– but I want your input! Here are the options:

  • www.tara4bpd.org : “The Treatment and Research Advancements Association for Personality Disorder, TARA APD, is a 501 C3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to foster education and research in the field of personality disorder, specifically but not exclusively Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD); to support research into the causes, psychobiology and treatment of personality disorders; to support and I encourage educational programs and endeavors targeting mental health professionals, consumers of mental health services, families and/or the community at large in order to reduce stigma and increase awareness of personality disorder, to disseminate available information on etiology and treatment and to lawfully advocate for accomplishments of these goals.”
  • www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com : “Formed in 2001, the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD), is a non-profit organization staffed by volunteering consumers, family members, and professionals. NEA-BPD seeks to “Advance the BPD Agenda” by raising public awareness of BPD, providing education, and promoting research about borderline personality disorder through a variety of programs. For example, with partial funding from a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), NEA-BPD has hosted over 30 conferences worldwide, featuring internationally recognized BPD researchers and scientists. All NEA-BPD conferences encourage attendance by professionals, family members and consumers alike.”
  • www.buddhaandborderline.com : “The Buddha and the Borderline is the first ever  memoir to describe the recovery process utilizing these new, cutting edge treatments and Buddhism.  Kiera Van Gelder’s finely-honed literary talent  offers us a stunning and intimate look into a  life-threatening condition that has been a shameful secret even among those with mental illness.”
The next option is not a BPD organization, but I think it’s a great cause to donate to. I know they’re trying to raise money to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and I’d love to help them out:
  • www.facebook.com/defeatdepression (new website, ddepression.org coming soon!) : “Helping teens and young adults with mental illness since 2007. Defeat Depression was started to help teens and young adults who struggle with depression/mental illness overcome the everyday obstacles.”
Which organization would you like to see the money donated to? Please take our survey here.
“Voting” will be open until Friday, May 13th, 2011.