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.


Waitng For Godot…

One of my favorite plays seems to be about absolutely nothing, but when I read it I got so much meaning from it.  Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett is about two days in the lives of two men, who are waiting.  They are waiting for someone named Godot, whom they hardly know.  In the time they wait they eat, sleep, even think of suicide -“to hold the terrible silence at bay.”  I have related myelf to these two me for a very long time.  I have been waiting.  As a child, I waited for other kids to ask me to play, I waited for my mother to be happy, I waited to be happy,  and today I am still waiting….  Not to say I haven’t tried, but have I really tried as much as I could, have I really put in the effort it takes to have a life worth living, or am I just sitting around waiting like these two men, for this external force to come into my life and save me.  Tonight was especially difficult, the monsters in my head were acting up and I could not bear the pain alone.  So, I did something I have done before but the result was different.  If you read my blog “Dear God”.. you may know the story, me drugged up running to the rectory to get some help from a priest , only to be told they were too busy.  However, I tried again tonight, I stopped waiting and went to God… different church.   Shivering in the cold and rain, I knocked on the rectory’s door.  A  sweet elderly woman answered the door, who immediately let me in to speak with a deacon.  Thinking I was going to get some lecture about how I have sinned and must confess, which is what I am used to by the Catholic church, I began crying.  Sitting across from me, without even hearing my story he began speaking.  “You’re suffering, you’re in pain.”  “I have been there.” SHOCK. A man of God was suffering and in pain?  He told me of his life’s struggle with heroin, cocaine and crack addiction, of his alcoholic father, and physically and verbally abusive mother.  I could not utter a single word, I could only weep.  How could this man, who is a messenger of God, who we go to to pray with, who we look  up to, revere, see him as almost a Supreme being have been a drug addict?  “Whatever, they have labeled you as, Borderline etc… I probably have it”, he said.  “But, I’m telling you there’s hope.” ( For some reason this scared me, and I’ll get to that later on.)  He asked me if I believed in God. “NO”  “Why not?”  “If there was a God, why would I be suffering so?” “Why me?”  “Why not?” he answered.  This went on for about ten minutes.  I gave up. I taked very little and listened closely.  “I grew sick and tired of the way I was living  my life, it’s all I knew, but I’m telling you there’s a different way.”  Again I got scared.  “O.K” I said. “How?”  “I just surrendered.” he answered.  “I had no ties with religion, but I was so desparate, I surendered to God, and little by little asked Him to come into my life.”  “How?” again I asked, still skeptical and afraid.  “It’s simple, humans make it complicated just tell Him, God I can’t do it anymore and open the door to Him.”  Still, in my agnostic head I wanted to believe badly there was a magic door, all I had to do was open t up and all the pain would be gone, but I still couldn’t understand and I still don’t.  He asked me to pray with him and I tried to say the Our Father, I began, but then I just began sobbing.  I’m not sure why, but all I could do was sob as he prayed and I mouthed the words. I think I sobbed because I had said that same prayer as a child so many times, and nothing had ever changed, God had not listened.   He handed me his card after about two hours of speaking to him and told me I had a friend.  I’m not sure how to practically follow his advice, but I know I have to.  After, I left, walking home in the rain and cold I felt a burden lifted off of me, however I also felt fear.  You see, I have ben waiting, waiting for things to change, yet they are in my power to change them aren’t they?  And, I am afraid for waiting around is all I know , Godot has not come, he is not coming and I must accept this and stop waiting.  Hope is a good thing, but it is also a scary thing.  What do you do when you are finally able to face the world, where is my path taking me, how can I handle a life worth living?  I am as hopeful tonight as I am scared and I’m not sure which is worse….

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.


I have run marathons, 13 miles, 26 miles, 37 miles… I’m not going to say they weren’t hard, but I always knew I’d make it to the finish line…  Whenever I ran, there wasn’t a sense of fierce competition.  There were slow runners, there were the middle runners, and of course there were the elite runners who the average mortal could never even try to catch up to.  I didn’t really mind the time I made, I didn’t really mind what place I came in, because I knew that it wasn’t the whole world running this marathon, just us recreational runners.  I’d usually finish somehwere in between, many came in after me, many came in before me.  Today, everyone is so far up ahead, I can’t even see them anymore.  They are so close to the finish line and I have just begun, no I haven’t even begun yet, I’m lacing up my sneakers, trying to get the will to begin.  I watch today as others move forward through life, becoming more successful, moving, getting married, having children, even just plain taking care of themselves is a feat I haven’t mastered and I have to say I have envy.  Yes, I am not embarassed to admit it, I am jealous of you.  I am jealous when I see you smile, when I see a group of friends getting ready for a night out, a man and woman holding hands, even a mom pushing her baby in the stroller…I am jealous.  I may never have what you have, I may never accomplish more than just surviving, so can you blame me?   This is not a plea for pity, it is the reality I feel every day.  How many friends I have watched accomplish the things I wanted to do but couldn’t,  how many people I see every day enjoying life as I sit paralyzed by my fear, by my pain.   Not everyone, but many of you have fond memories that can help you even through the dark times, I can’t remember any of those.  I remember only pain, which is not to say that I haven’t had joyous times in my life, but they don’t soothe me, they don’t give me strength.  I have dreams, like all of you, and I am in a race to fulfill those dreams before it’s too late…  I want to be called Mommy, I want to live in a peaceful place, I want people to love me and to love back, I want to actually enjoy my job, heck, I’d be happier even just waking up without so much pain…  While all of you enjoy your trophies at the finish line, I am lacing up my sneakers and I pray that there will b e a trophy left for me…

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week!

Check out I Chose To Live, which is “a Recovery Movement utilizing team principles in the recovery process. We intend to work hand in hand with other organizations, treatment centers, and fellow activists to support and empower those fighting for Eating Disorder Recovery and Awareness.”

You can also find them on facebook and twitter.