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.

A LESSON IN DBT: DEAR MAN


So, at my last DBT therapy I learned DEAR MAN. Basically, it is a technique used to ask for what you need or to learn to say NO to others. I was in a beauty salon today, a woman walked in after me.  The hairdresser clearly told me it was my turn.  So, I went over to the chair to get my hair washed.  It was a beautiful day, sunny, warm, I thought nothing could agitate me. WRONG.  The woman came over and told me it was her turn.  Not just told me, but in a very condescending, who do you think you are kind of way.  I wanted to say OK fine go ahead, or get the hell out of here but instead I used DEAR MAN in this very simple situation to practice. This woman, whose eyes could’ve burned a hole through me, clearly  had never heard of this skill.  Which got me to thinking, why do I have to adjust my reactions and the rest of the drones in society don’t. As my therapist would say, you cannot control other people, you can only control your reactions.  So anyway, I Described the situation.  I said to her, “I know you think it is your turn.”  Well, the battle began or so she thought.  “I don’t think its my turn, I know it’s my turn, I was here first.”  So now, second step.  Remain confident and calm Fia… Express my feeling and opinion about it.  “Well, I know you think it’s your turn but I believe it’s mine, since the hairdresser said it was and I was here about a minute before you.”  She continued.  Ranting and raving.  “It is my turn.”  By this time she was beet red and I thought was going to punch me over who was going to get their hair washed first.  Usually, I would’ve said OK, screw you, go ahead.  But no.  I Asserted myself.  “I’m sorry you’re so upset but it is my turn, (gave her a litte validation, thought she could use it, she seemed ready to cry or tear my hair out, this way I wouldn’t need to wash it 🙂 )  But, it didn’t end there, and I know you’re thinkng all this over who is going to wash their hair first, but believe me, this was only a practice for me, for her it seemd like life or death.  She, told me to go ______ myself and that she was getting her hair done first.  By this time I was determiend to get my self respect.  I Reinforced, “Look, by this time I could have had my hair washed and you would’ve been done too, we’re just standing here arguing and wasting time.  I’ll go, it will be two minutes, and we can get this over with.” She tried to distract me with emotions by calling me names, but I remained set on my objectives and Mindful.  I Appeared confident by continuing to be a broken record and saying, no, I’m going.  Really, by that time I just wanted to cry.  So, it was time to Negotiate.  Everyone in the salon by now had been staring at us, only I’m not the one who looked “out of control.” This could’ve been solved a long time before had I negotiated in the beginning, but like I said I had to practice my skills 🙂  “How about you go to the other hairdresser and I’ll take Joe.”  “Fine,” she yelled. Finally, I thought I actually said NO without feeling guilty or looking “unstable.”  I wanted to hand her my manual as we sat there next to each other getting our hair done so she could be more Effective next time.  But for now, we’ll keep it between US…. 🙂

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.

Fia’s First Day of Therapy…Ever (17 years ago)


I found this in a diary entry from 17 years ago… my first session with a psychologist.  I had written it in third person and thought that was interesting, so kept it that way.  I guess it was as if everything was happening to someone else…  But this is my account dated September 1993.

She walked in and immediately the surroundings brought back the time that she most wanted to erase from her memory, the guilt ridden howls in the bathroom, the desparate calls searching for answers, the imprisoment that had controlled her very existence.  Years of solitude had passed as she watched through glass windows at those on the outside, all those who had no idea what lay beneath that pseudo smile, and the deep pools of brown, engulfed many times by rainstorms and cries of death.

“Come in,” said the doctor.  Fia sat on the couch filled with pillows, multicolored, wondering why they were there , wondering how many people had spilled their guts onto them and their tears.  She noticed the box of tissues, it was so far away, why would this doctor keep the tissues so far away? Anyway, all Fia wanted was a place to rest, to find some kind of peace, even just to sleep in the multicolored pillows as the doctor would watch over her, making sure she was safe.  I don’t want to talk she thought, I don’t want to tell you the torment that lays in my soul, I don’t want to be listened to, I don’t want to hear advice that will seem plausible for a few fleeting moments and then like a small ray of sunshine that filters throught he clouds on a dark day vanish…  I just want to sleep.  But, she knew she couldn’t ask that, after all she had asked for help and this woman, this doctor, this “Superhuman”, would give her all the answers, wouldn’t she?

So, it began.  “You know Fia, your story is not as unique as you think it is.”  ANGER filled the corpse in front of the doctor.  She knew she would not see that ray today.  In those few words, the doctor had destroyed any chance of moving the dark clouds… She opened herself up to this woman, told of the demons that haunted her in the night, told her how she couldn’t bear one more day, hour, second, but her story was NOT unique..

Doctor looked at her watch, time was up.  “Let me pencil you in for next week.” ANGER

Fia gathered every last bit of strength she had left, paid the DR., gave her one last look of DESPERATION and decided right then and there it was inevitable, nothing would save her, and walked out the door.  The color of the sky matched her thoughts.  surrounded by people, hundreds, thousands, she wondered where they were going.  Their eyes were fixed on one place, their destination, but where.  Maybe it was a place filled with laughter, and love and joy.  She quickly negated that thought and remembered the tulips, pink, yellow, long stading  tulips who proudly took their position  in the garden.  They provided what seemed like seconds colors that splashed into the souls of those who strolled by them.  But for Fia those tulips were stupid, a facade, like love regal at it’s best but always ending.  Soon, those tulips would lose thier pride, whither , the stem unable to hold any longer the beauty.  They would break bit by bit, until all that was left was a fleeting memory.  People rely too much on tulips, she thought.  Fia preferred the trees.  TRUTH.. Bare in the seasons she hated most but always standing, even in the gloomiest of days always standing, showing the reality of existence.  Stupid people, she thought…

DBT and CHEERLEADING???????


Get the pom pom’s out ladies and gentlemen, it is time to cheer.  I actually had homework in DBT tonight that had me memorize cheerleading statements.  Seriously?  I neve made the cheerleading squad in high school and I’m not making it now.  This cheer actually got me so angry I didn’t continue.  “I can stand it if I don’t get what I want or need.”  Is that so?  By the way all the cheers had to do with interpersonal effectiveness, and since I have no “persons” in my life what am I getting mad about anyway?  I can stand it if I don’t get what I want or need…ok…I can stand not having a friend, I can stand not having a person who loves me, I can stand  being told, “Fia, I really don’t want to help you anymore,” I can stand not having a hug, I can stand having not a soul to talk to, I can stand, not being caressed, I can stand silence, I can stand my mother not telling me she loves me EVER, I can stand the phone never ringing, I can stand being used by men, I can stand being left by EVERY SINGLE PERSON I HAVE EVER LOVED… I can stand this… lol.  Tell me, COULD YOU?????

Shame Continued…


Today I had to get a physical to make sure I was “healthy” enough to continue with DBT, who would’ve thought it’d be so difficult?

Shame continued…

It was time to get a physical, Dr. Robot was giving me the physical, I was petrified.  He could feel it in my body as tried to get my reflexes.  He told me to relax several times, but I couldn’t.  My body was stiff, perhaps ready to fight.  I was not a violent borderline, my feelings were for the most part kept inside and I for the most part fought with myself, but this man frightened me to the point of wanting to defend myself.  He chuckled a few times when I couldn’t relax my shoulders, elbows and I was humiliated… A young good- looking man walked in to add to my humiliation.  He was taking my blood.  Confusion set in.  What were they looking for in that blood?  Why I was in sheer terror of beng alone?  Why I had almost no friends?  Why I was so angry?  Why I had cried every day since I could remember?  Why I was so helpless?  Would these results really come up in a blood test?

I was both envious and intrigued again at this kid taking my blood.  He was probably working a job he liked, had friends, went home every night to a girlfriend and if they broke up he most likely didn’t swallow 47 xanax to “ease” the pain..  I also felt shame, I was older than him , yet in front of him I became a child, talked very little, only when spoken to, kept my eyes down so he wouldn’t see how sunken they were from withdrawl, and just prayed in my head he would go away quickly.  I was a failed woman in front of a thriving young man…

Next, came a three hour interview.  I sat in the waiting room for the interviewer.  In she walked, long black hair, same as I’d had as a little girl, before everyone told me blondes were more beautiful, petite, frecke faced, she looked lke she’d just com out of the womb and again here she was to offer me help.  Shame.  We sat in a samll room.  I felt inflated next to her, I had always been thin but in the last month due to cutting down on running I had gained 10 pounds.  I looked at her, she too was floating, cut in half, but I PRETENDED TO BE OK.  That is until she asked me questions, three hours worth of questions, that resurfaced memories I didn’t want to relive over and over, my brain was doing that on it’s own already.  I sobbed throughout most of the interview, wiping my tears with my sleeves, with my scarf and she watched me, finally offering to go get tissues.  Shame.  At one point I looked at her.  I had just told her all about my pain, my agony, the demons that lay inside me, my suicide attempts, how I’s wish to die, and I noticed a callous indifference in her, which scared me.  FEAR.  “Do you ever get depressed doing this?”  I aksed.  “No”, she answered as if I’d just asked her if she wanted some ice cream.  I couldn’t understand, who was the “crazier” one me or her?  I’d get depressed looking at hot dog vendors ont he street, in the cold, trying to earn a dollar to pay bills, living an unfulfilled life, instead of the Amreican Dream and she didn’t get depressed by people’s stories of abuse, drug addiction, suicide attempts.  It was then that I knew how different I really was….

Day 1 DBT…


(This blog is in no way meant to discourage anyone from DBT, please remember it was my first day and I am praying for me and everyone who is going through this process.)

I have been through DBT before, never stuck with it and tonight I realized why… I walked in as usual full of pain, wanting someone to tell it to.  My therapist seemed to be a very nice girl, and I call her a girl because I do believe she was younger than me…intimidating factor#1.  I was being videotaped because, as you know, this is a research study.  My mind was a jigsaw puzzle that I could not put together.  My body was exhausted as I hadn’t slept the night before… my soul was crying, bound by feelings SUFFOCATING it.  Matter of factly, she stated what DBT does and how it helps my condition.  Matter of factly, she gave me the rules… Matter of factly, I wanted to run out screaming…but I didn’t.  I heard what she had to say, but I wasn’t truly listening, the voices in my head were too loud, and they wanted to talk, but I wasn’t permitted.  Matter of factly, she ran down my suicidal history as if taking a survey… Suicide attempt #1, check, Suicide attempt # 2 check…etc.  She asked me my goals.  My goals?  Heck, if I knew that I wouldn’t be here, I thought.  How could I know my goals when I don’t even know who this woman is?  I rambled on making no sense, my goals?  TO BE FREE… TO MOVE SOMEHWERE WHERE NO ONE HAS EVER SEEN AMBULANCES OUTSIDE MY HOUSE, TO KNOW WHAT MY GOALS ARE… With that I shed a tear, nothing more, I didn’t feel I was allowed.  When was it going to be my turn to talk, when was she going to hear my story, Fact: she wouldn’t.  “We can’t change the past, but we can change the future,” she said.  “These skills will help you cope.”  She asked me finally what I was thinking, again I rambled… “I’m helpless.” “I’m alone.”  “I can’t do anything.”  She allowed me to continue, seeing that I was yearning to be heard.  “Explain why you think you’re helpless?”  I almost laughed.  The night before I had a complete breakdown because I was unable to hook up my printer to my computer, this proved what a worthless, weak, helpless, pathetic person I was.  Imagine, fits of hysteria because I can’t hook up a printer.  She told me it was perfectly normal, people get frustrated, I just escalate my frustration instead of solving the problem.  In front of her was my complete history, a shattered girl/woman incapable of living.  I felt shame.  “Knowing your past, it is perfectly understandable why you are where you are, ” she said.  And, so with that, we went into skills therapy.  I became the shy child I was in school.  I said nothing, while everyone else was talking about how they used skills and how it worked for them.  They laughed, they joked, they seemed like “whole” people.  The lesson was on interpersonal relationships, might as well skip over that, I thought, for this girl/woman has no interpersonal relationships, so who could I possibly practice these skills on.  The others did.  They talked of how they used skills on friends, boyfriends, husbands… my heart wept, perhaps I could practice on my dog, I thought.  And so I listened, said nothing  but my name, but wanted desperately to share my life story to everyone there, but that’s not what DBT is about, I assumed.  My eyes began to close… exhausted from the sleepless night before.  Finally, the session ended.  I walked out and a woman approached me, I think she sensed how scared I was.  I don’t know what I said, but something to the effect of, “I don’t think I belong here.”  She answered saying she had been there for 2 years, and was a disaster when she first came in.  I couldn’t imagine it.  She was tall, thin, a dancer, long blonde hair with a carefree air about her.  Again I felt shame.  We exchanged goodbyes and I noticed how quickly she found her car.  Frazzled as I am, it usually takes me 20 minutes to figure out where I have parked, but I found it, started the engine and began to cry… alone.