Today’s blog post and Youtube Video is something I am both scared and proud to do. I’m holding two emotions at the same time and doing it with strength and courage.
I’m only able to do this because I’m one of the more fortunate living with Borderline Personality Disorder. (BPD) A very stigmatised mental illness that can be difficult, painful and shameful to live with.
Before you watch my YouTube video, I want to give you some understanding about the mental illness that is BPD. Since being diagnosed I have learned a lot about my illness. I would like to share with you what I have learned.
As someone with lived experience I can offer a different insight to the professionals who diagnose and treat.
I am doing this in the hope that it helps others with BPD to also learn to live their best lives. Helping other’s to find an early diagnosis and treatment. I was 56 years old before my diagnosis and treatment with DBT. That’s a long time to wait until you begin to heal and live your best life.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline Personality Disorder ( BPD) is a mental health disorder. People with BPD may experience intense and unstable emotions, have difficulties forming stable and healthy relationships, and struggle with a sense of identity.
The key diagnostic criteria are:
- Emotional Instability: Extreme mood swings, going from intense bouts of happiness to deep sadness, anger, or anxiety quickly. These emotions can be overwhelming and difficult to regulate.
- Unstable Relationships: A fear of abandonment, engaging in intense and stormy relationships, and impulsive behaviours.
- Distorted Self-Image: A struggle with identity. Having feelings of emptiness. Not knowing who we are and difficulty in setting life goals and values.
- Impulsive Behaviour: Such as reckless spending, substance abuse, self-harm, binge eating, risky sexual behaviour. These behaviours help us to cope with emotional distress.
- Self-Destructive Behaviours: Self-harm or suicidal tendencies. Many of us make multiple attempts, with a suicide rate higher than any other psychiatric disorder.. It’s essential to take such behaviours seriously and seek help immediately.
- Intense Fear of Abandonment: Leading to desperate efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. we can be very dependent ‘needy’ in relationships and intensely anxious when feeling rejected.
- Dissociation: Disconnecting from the world around us. Sometimes a sense of detachment from reality (for me it’s like living in a play or film) memory lapses, or feeling as if observing ourselves from outside our bodies.
- Intense emotions which can be very difficult to regulate. We won’t sleep, our brains whirl around and around.
- Stress related paranoia. We become mind readers and make up stories in our heads about what others think or feel about us, this builds the anxiety in us to such an extent we feel like everyone knows something about us or dislikes us. We avoid going out or interacting with others. I tend to self isolate and hide and for me this includes deleting socials.
The symptoms and their severity can vary significantly between each of us who lives with BPD and not everyone has all of the criteria.
Is there a cure?
No, but there is treatment that can make living with BPD better.
Dialectic Behaviour Therapy.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a therapy that was originally developed by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan to treat individuals with BPD. DBT is based on the concept of dialectics, which is to do with finding a balance between opposing forces. In DBT, the focus is on helping us to find a balance between acceptance and change. The therapy combines elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness practices, and acceptance-based strategies. DBT helps to develop skills in four areas:
- Mindfulness: Being in the present moment, learning to tolerate distressing emotions, and practice being a non-judgmental observer.
- Distress Tolerance: Learning healthy ways to cope with distressing situations and managing intense emotions without resorting to harmful behaviours.
- Emotional Regulation: Learning ways to regulate emotions, identify emotions, increase positive emotions, and decrease negative emotions. (why I now stock scrapbooking supplies.)
- Interpersonal Effectiveness: Learning to develop communication and relationship skills, be assertive, and problem-solve.
I was fortunate to find a DBT practitioner online and spent six months learning new skills and way to be in the world. Learning these skills has made an enormous difference to my quality of life and that my family. These skills need to be practiced consistently and it takes effort to learn them. I regularly make contact with a mental health professional, trained in DBT, to reinforce the skills I have been taught. I will always need to revisit the skills and reinforce my learning.
Today I am so much happier and I obsess less. I can be present, even when uncomfortable. I no longer binge eat to numb my emotions, as a result I’m 15 kgs lighter. Taking one day at a time. I know my thoughts are not always true nor are they me. Know I am the observer of my thoughts. I can hold opposing emotions, I can be scared to write and tell you all of this and at the same time feel brave for doing so.
I do hope you find the video helpful in finding your authentic self and living your best life.