She likes me, She likes me not. | Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (BPD)

I recently decided to let my walls down a bit when it comes to connecting with others.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a blossoming friendship with my coworker. For the most part, things have been going well, though I must admit that figuring out boundaries, not getting too intense, and not worrying that every little thing I do will suddenly cause her to "hate" me have been difficult.  Such are the challenges of one living with Borderline Personality Disorder.

I like my coworker very much. She's bright, happy, friendly, and we have quite a few things in common. I enjoy her company and look forward to seeing her each day.  The admiration seems mutual, though I do catch myself having feelings for her that go a bit beyond friendship.  I've always been intense like this. Gender never really mattered to me. I have fallen head over heels in love with people, regardless of it.

I know I am probably idealizing her (another symptom of BPD) and that I am probably a bit euphoric that I am actually getting along so well with another person.  Thankfully, I have been attending DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) - this is my second year now, so I am able to recognize when feelings get intense and when I am crossing over into emotional mind. I am able to see that blurry line between admiration and going over the top.

I must be doing a good job of modulation and regulating my emotions around her, since I was surprised with this batch of macaroons from her on my desk this morning. Wasn't that so nice?

Even so, I feel like I was coming on a bit too strong today. I kept making excuses to be around her and to chat with her.  To be fair, it seemed like she was, too. Maybe this is normal?

What probably isn't "normal" is when I notice a change in her facial expression, composure, or if she turns down an opportunity to do something with me over the weekend, that I go from fully composed and flying high to intensely insecure and fearful that she will completely reject (abandon) me.  That is where I need to bring in my skills. 

I do extend compassion to myself, though, since as a child, reading slight changes in facial expressions, tone, and demeanor were an unconscious survival strategy in an abusive household.

In addition to using Wise Mind to keep clarity around how unrealistic it is for someone to suddenly dislike a person completely and totally and never want anything to do with them again over a random comment, etc., I want to continue to practice my Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills, which are also proving helpful.

In particular, I am focusing on:

"Relationship Effectiveness:
Getting or Keeping a Good Relationship

  • Acting in such a way that the other person keeps liking and respecting you
  • Balancing immediate goals with the good of the long-term relationship
1. How do I want to feel about myself after the interaction is over?
2. What do I have to do to feel that way about myself? What will work?"

(above is an excerpt from Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Dr. Marsha Linehan)

I'm working hard on number question #1, and with regards to question #2, I held back the other day when I was experiencing extreme anxiety. I wanted to cry to hear and ask for her support. It wouldn't have been appropriate in the workplace, and it may have really pushed her away. (Sure, she may have been really supportive, but I wasn't willing to take the chance.)

I experienced abandonment as a child more than once, so it's understandable that's I'd react by frantically avoiding "real or imagined" abandonment (as it is outlined in the Diagnostical Statistical Manual), but I am an adult now, and I want to stop running. I want to have a real friendship.  

This is challenging, but I am sure it will be worth it (and it already is).

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Feel Good Diary Sheets | A tool for remembering

Do you have trouble remembering the "good" and pleasant moments and memories when you are in a crisis or dealing with intense, difficult emotions?  I know that this has been a challenge for me on many occasions, and that this is a particularly challenging thing to do for a lot of people who have Borderline Personality Disorder.

After recently coming out of a crisis period and noticing that connecting with positive memories of when I felt well, comforted, soothed, and joyful helped me to push through the days of suffering to emerge on the other side again, I thought: why not log those positive memories on a sheet that I can keep with me when I need help accessing those memories?

This inspired me to create a Feel Good Diary sheet and to share it with you.  I consider this another self-soothing and grounding tool to put in my toolbox. If you think it will be helpful to you on your journey, please feel free to print it out and keep it somewhere that you can easily access it when you need it.

Always remember: You are not alone, and this, too, shall pass.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Getting Through The Darkest Days of Mental Illness | Borderline Personality Disorder

How do you get through the darkest days that come due to mental illness? 

In this video, I discuss my own personal experience around:
  • Coping with and getting through the darkest days that we encounter as a part of suffering from and living with mental illness
  • Tolerating the distress of miserable emotions
  • The power of using your skills when you actually would rather just give up
  • The challenge of remembering another state of emotion when you have Borderline Personality Disorder
  • How DBT is not always easy to practice, but it is ALWAYS worth it

I hope you feel encouraged.

Thank you for reading and watching.
More soon.

Transcript of Video for the hearing impaired:

Transcript of Video:

“Hi guys, its Debbie from

I want to start out this video by telling you guys how grateful and thankful I am for all of you – for you , you, you, YOU watching this video right now and possibly on my blog reading the post that goes with it.
I have had a rough couple of days – really bad. Really distressed, extremely anxious. It got to the point where the self-harm thoughts were coming. Thank God that I know how to use the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills and that I was able to muster up the strength to do it even though I honest to goodness didn’t feel like it. I really didn’t.

I was so angry and so disappointed and so upset to find myself in a space that I had been in before that I had hoped and thought  wouldn’t get to that point again, that I just – I really wanted to just pull my hair out and scream and cry and just say ‘f’ all of this, you know?  It was so overwhelming and upsetting, but there was that Wise Mind, that little tiny bit of Wise Mind coming up and saying, ‘Debbie, you’ve been through this before, and it totally sucks, and it feels miserable, and it’s almost unbearable the distress, but life is so worth it when you pass through this – because it ALWAYS passes – and it may take a day, it make take three days.’  Who knows how long it’s going to take?

But, I was reminded, or I reminded myself, of how good I feel on those days when life is good, you know? When things are going well and my mood is pretty stable, and I’m happy, and I’m not having anxiety attacks and those kinds of things.

And, I know that’s really hard to do when you’re in the midst of a crisis when you’re not feeling well and you’re not thinking straight, and it was hard for me, too.

I wrote in my blog that I feel really embarrassed, in a way, sharing the extreme distress I was experiencing because  I’m that girl who writes about how DBT is so amazing and will help you and you’re going to feel great – and that is still true,  and I will tell you  that mental illness is very complex.

My blog is “healing” from, not “healed” from BPD, because I think it’s probably an ongoing thing, possibly for the rest of our lives that we have to learn how to keep everything in check.
I’m vulnerable still. I still have these symptoms, and I apply the skills. But, I’m glad that I did share this with you because as expected, and even though it’s been tough, I am starting to feel better…and it was REALLY bad. Really bad.

Some of you saw me on Twitter and Facebook at 2 in the morning my time when it was 10 am in England, and you were asking, “what are you doing online, are you ok?”  And, I wasn’t.  I was NOT ok.
I’ve really had to do my 9-1-1 DBT Skills. The reason I’m glad that I shared after all…Number one, I have received Facebook messages, tweets, direct messages on Twitter, emails, you name it –messages on YouTube – you name it – just an outpouring of caring and support and love and encouragement and people saying, ‘Hey – don’t’ be embarrassed. You’re one of us. It happens’

They were encouraged to see that even on these really, really dark days, that I have been willing to push through and work through it, and so, I feel that, and I’ve  said this before, I’d be doing you a great disservice if I did not share with you the times that I have really difficult – like a crisis or a difficult time with my emotions, because then it looks like, okay, this girl has completely got her act together, and she’s doing DBT, and she never really has a downfall…just oop! a little challenge, oop! a little challenge,  but you know what?

The truth is, a lot of time – and it has gotten more consistent since I have started DBT - I’ll be stable for quite some time, and there will even be a trigger, and I’ll still just come right back up, but when there are multiple triggers at once, especially, that’s when I get really, really vulnerable and end up, a lot of times, in the situation that I was in the last couple of days.

So, thank you for your support. Please know that if you are going through one of these dark valleys or having dark day after dark day, and you just feel like giving up, and if you feel like it’s just not worth it and you can’t muster up the strength to even try the skills or it doesn’t feel like it’s going to even do anything, PLEASE learn from my example that it does help and it does work. It may take time. It may take longer than it’s taken me.

I’m not completely feeling 100% well. I’m still kind of shaky. I was anxious today, but my appetite is coming back, and that’s a huge sign to me that things are getting better.

It will get better for you, too.  It might feel completely horrible, like you don’t know how you are going to bear it another minute, but please just HOLD ON. Hold on.

There’s a song from the late 80s, early 90s by Wilson Phillips called “Hold On.” I’ll put that video underneath this one on my blog as well. If you’re feeling this way, please listen to the words of the song,  and know that if you hold on – if you practice your skills even when you honest to goodness don’t even want to and don’t feel like it, even if it feels like it won’t help at all, please trust that if you hold on, tap into Wise Mind, do your skills, stay safe – let someone know in terms of a psychiatrist or therapist if you feel like you might not be able to stay safe,  please take care of yourself and please do whatever it takes.
I want you to remember those times when you were laughing, and those times when you felt the sun on your skin and you noticed it, and it felt warm and good. Or, the time you were able to focus and get into a really good book or watch a really good movie – or anything like that. In fact, one thing that I do now is on the good days, I make note of it.

They say it’s one of the hardest things for us to do when we have Borderline Personality Disorder –  to remember another state of emotion when we are so intensely engrossed in the one that is happening right now – but I find it’s really helpful to make note of the good days– make note of things that make you feel good, things that make you happy, things that make you smile – so when you’re in those same circumstances but you’re being affected by the negative emotions and the anxiety and depression, you can recall that, and it kind of gives a sense of hope that it can be that way again. It just totally sucks right now. And, I know it does, and I’m not trying to minimize it, but please know that you’re not alone.

Thank you guys so much for everything. I really appreciate it, and I look forward to seeing you in the next video or on my next blog post, and I hope you have a great rest of the day.  Thank you. Bye.”

A difficult few days | Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD

What do you do when you've been going along fine, feeling mentally well, and feeling stable -- when suddenly, as if out of nowhere (though you later discover there was, as Dr. Marsha Linehan says, "cause"), you have an episode, and it feels like you've backtracked?

This is going to be a long one. Writing is my therapy, and if just ONE person is encouraged by this post, it's all worth it to me.

Before I even get further into this blog post, I want to take a moment to sincerely and from the bottom of my heart thank my readers. Last night (in the middle of the morning, really), I chose to reach out on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, essentially being open and honest about this current, very difficult struggle I am experiencing.

Moments after I did it, I wondered if it was impulsive. If I'd regret it.  I felt momentarily humiliated at my own hands -- after all, aren't I the one who writes primarily about wellness and feeling better even though I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder?

As I began to notice the shame rising up, I fortunately had a glimpse of Wise Mind, which allowed me to think about how my THOUGHTS were affecting me. I also read a tweet from another BPD sufferer, urging me to keep in mind something I'd recently told several others who were going through a difficult time: "A thought is JUST a thought."  Others said, "Breathe, this too shall pass," sent hugs, or other encouraging, loving, and kind words, such as that my willingness to be so open about this struggle has given them the courage to also reach out and seek help in the midst of their current suffering.

My fears and thoughts about how people who have been following my journey and sharing their own would be suddenly sabotaged -- that they'd see me for the imperfect being that I am and no longer "like me," that they'd reject me -- I recognized that as an old tape.  Sure, there may be some who are in a place where hearing about another's suffering is too triggering, and I honor and respect that.  

In this post, when I get to the triggers, I will use the courier type font to distinguish it, allowing you to skip over that section if you need to do that to take care of yourself. If that's the case, Please Do!  I will wrap up with some thoughts not discussing the triggers, including a self care plan, which I feel I truly need right now.

HIGH Trigger Alert Starts (I will let you know when it ends)
A number of issues set me off these past few days, including:
  • Un-mindfully watched not one but TWO movies, out of extreme boredom, even though I was well aware that the subject matter could be triggering. I figured I'd been doing well and could turn away, block my ears, etc. during difficult parts. Well, this wasn't enough. It's about to get graphic. In one of the movies, a beautiful young college girl agrees to be fondled under heavy sedation in exchange for large sums of money from a prostitution house that coordinates everything. Although there is a rule of no penetration, I went into several PTSD flashbacks as disgusting, perfected men treated he body with no regard, calling her horrendous names, licking her face, burning her ear, and dropping her on her head. It was SICK!!! Yet, I continued to watch it, feeling dirty and violated, as I had when I was in my early 20s and was sexually assaulted and then somehow was convinced to continue engaging in self-degrading acts with that person. He was older, and the guy who was doing the lewd face licking, names, and burning her ear reminded me so much of him. I'd worked so hard for YEARS to convince myself I wasn't that girl (always knowing of course, that I was, but making that disconnect and being in denial helped me to move on with my life and not be constantly devastated by it), but pieces have been surfacing, along with emotions that are difficult to hold and process, and this movie just sent it into full speed. Maybe I was hoping to have a break though? Who knows what was going through my mind, but it certainly wasn't Wise. Which brings me to other movie I watched, which starred Mariah Carey. I like her, so I thought I could handle it. The gruesome violence, again, literally had me sick to my stomach. These were NOT wise choices, and now I am paying the price with suffering emotionally and needing to work through this.
  • My boyfriend and I haven't had many opportunities to connect during this 24 days away trip of his (6 days left), since he hasn't had the best access to cellular and internet. All kinds of thoughts, fears, insecurities, etc. have been racing through my head. Most of all, I worry that he has completely stopped loving me (crying now as I write this part) and that, perhaps, being away from me for so long opened his eyes to how peaceful his life could be not having to deal with me and my mental illness. I know he's been frustrated when I've had backsliding moments and his expressed his inability and lack of desire to cope with these episodes. Last night, when I had a headache and was sick to my stomach several times, I thought to try to get a hold of him, but as desperate and terrified as I felt being alone and not feeling (yet another trigger I've written about in the past), I just couldn't do it. I knew that hearing him upset would only further my anxiety and despair.
  • My Mom has an illness that is getting worse. I've also been in denial about this, and it's difficult for me to visit her. Not because she lives across the country, but because she chooses to stay with an abusive boyfriend, is getting kicked out of yet another place of living, drinks on the weekends (heavily), and there is just a lot of drama within the family otherwise. I miss her. I love her. I care about her, and I know I need to spend time with her. I'm just not sure how to do it and feel safe.
  • Last week a coworker showed up to work drunk and belligerent and abusive - not to me, but right in front of me to my colleagues. I blogged about this as well. Definite trigger.
  • My job has had some slow days. Seeing that I was unemployed for nearly 1.5 years already once in my life, I've been very anxious about the slow days, freaking out that my boss will come into my office and ask what I am working on. I've been making a good effort to have a list, to do busy work, and to voluntarily help in other departments, but the fear is still strong and upsetting.
  • Appetite is now affected, since I got my whole nervous system all shook up.
END Trigger Alert 

The ways I've taken care of myself so far are:

  • Wise Mind: I am challenging my thoughts, especially intensely, emotionally charged thoughts.  I am reminding myself that a Thought is, in fact, JUST A THOUGHT.
  • Mindfulness: Last night, I did a mindfulness exercise where I literally spoke out each and every move as I did it. This kept me in the present moment and helped a lot.  For example:
    • I'm placing the shower spout back up on its hook
    • I'm turning off the shower water off
    • I'm pulling the shower curtain to the side
    • I'm reaching for my face cloth
    • I'm drying my face with the face cloth
    • I'm putting the face cloth back
    • I'm reaching for the towel
      At this point, you get it. It's also interesting to do this exercise and see how many of the details we ordinarily gloss over and do on automatic pilot.
  • I did deep breathing to help calm my nervous system
  • I listened to a guided hypnosis CD, and although I could not focus, the familiar sounds on the track and the guider's voice were soothing and helped me to stop hyperventilating, which was great.
  • My stomach was very hungry, but I mentally did not have an appetite. I still listened to my body's need and SLOWLY had a 1/2 glass of milk, 2 pieces of toast, and took my meds (which require that they be taken with food.)
  • I cuddled with my cats to self-soothe. They could sense something wasn't right, and this increased my anxiety, as I didn't want them to be afraid. Somehow, they were able to be there for me.
  • I called out sick for work today. A bit anxious about that choice, but it was really necessary. I couldn't have shown up there in the condition I was in this morning and with how tired I am now.
  • I called and left a voice mail for my psychiatrist. I wasn't dramatic. Sleepy sounding, if anything. I let her know that I was having a hard time, would try to make into DBT group this afternoon (which is facilitated by another doctor), and that I was hoping she could walk through my plan with me around coping with the PTSD triggers.
  • I took Ativan, as prescribed for extreme anxiety (this qualified, obviously)
  • I got on here to write.
  • I am going to lie down for a bit more and rest, as I didn't get much quality sleep last night.
  • I'm staying hydrated and will snack here and there throughout the day until my appetite gets better.
  • I will be mindful of all of you, around the world, who understand, having compassion, and have shown me support.

Thank you.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

I don't feel like it! | Using DBT Skills (Even when you don't feel like it)

Despite being well-versed in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), I found it difficult to use my skills when I needed them most.  I hoped and wished for some miracle to suddenly make everything ok -- to make me feel better and to fill the void I felt inside. I felt almost paralyzed and stuck in my pain.

My mood took an interesting turn this weekend. While last weekend, at my initiative, was jam packed with things to do, people to see, and places to go, I didn't plan anything for this weekend, and I was suddenly faced with two evenings and two full days of what I saw as nothingness. 

Perhaps that's why, early Friday evening, I already began experiencing moodiness with intense feelings of loneliness, boredom, and emptiness. I was dissociating and having thoughts that I didn't want to have.  It frightened me.  

I realized I'd had a number of triggers this past week, including the incident at work with the drunk colleague, which required me to pull out my "911 DBT Crisis Skills" for triggers, the boundaries issue with another coworker on Friday, my boyfriend being away for what is now the third week (and the related identity disturbance that I experienced), issues with my Mom's health, DBT group was cancelled, my cat had to be taken to the vet, a pervert on Twitter, and the fact that, due to extreme boredom, I went against my better judgment and watched two movies that I had strong reason to believe could be triggering (thinking maybe, just maybe, I could handle them), really, it's no wonder I felt so nuts.

Having just re-read my last paragraph, I can't help but have a little bit of compassion for myself for feeling a bit discouraged. Who wouldn't?

Somehow, I was able to bring Wise Mind on board and decided that I would JUST NOTICE the thoughts and feelings with curiosity, rather than get caught up with them. This, in and of itself, was the start of implementing the skills.  

Here are some of the things I observed:

  • A thought: "I don't feel like doing the skills" has arisen.  Ok. A thought is a thought. It doesn't mean I have to abide by it.
  • The phrase "Feel the fear and do it anyway" came to mind, though it was, "Feel like not doing the skills but doing them anyway."
  • I have physical tension and pain in my shoulders, neck, head, and back, likely due from the extended periods of being on the computer.  I need to listen to my body and take a break. (It took a few times of noticing this before I actually did self-care and took that break.)
  • A thought: "I may need to go and grab an ice cube to help with these intense feelings if they don't go down on their own soon."
In addition to noticing, observing, and describing, I self-soothed by wearing a fleece lined hooded sweatshirt today. It was a bit breezy, so it wasn't totally out of place, and just having it on made me feel a bit more safe. 


I got away from the computer screen, took a walk, returned some lipstick that didn't really suit me, and picked up some takeout. 

As I look at the night head of me, I know I have the choice to fall prey to the intense emotions that may arise in my loneliness, or I can keep busy, distract, and stay skillful. For my own well-being and long-term mental health goals, I choose the latter.  I'll also look forward to going to work tomorrow, as it's a chance to stay busy and socialize with others.

How has your weekend been?  How do you get yourself to practice your skills and get into Wise Mind when you really "don't feel like it"?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Hello. I Love You. Won't you tell me your name? | Boundaries and Borderline Personality Disorder

"Hello. I love you. Won't you tell me your name?"  Boundaries and Borderline Personality Disorder -- That's what this post is about.

When I first meet someone, I know that all of my insecurities come up. I desperately want everyone to like and approve of me.  Of course, this probably stems from a childhood in an invalidating environment, but knowing that doesn't make it much easier to navigate this world as an emotionally sensitive person.

When it comes to relationships (friendships, in particular), I tend to go through phases. I am just coming out of a phase where I had literally pushed all but one friend and my boyfriend away.  I had some close friendships, but I sabotaged them beyond repair, leaving myself all alone.  It's interesting how someone who is so terrified of being abandoned has set the stage for it and orchestrated it so many times. 

The other extreme is that I can come on really strong.  It's an issue of boundaries really.  

When it comes to complete strangers, I've gotten a lot better. I used to over-disclose my business (really personal things) within the first conversation I'd have with someone -- even if I might never see that person again. Maybe, deep down inside, I hoped that the "right" person would hear my story and give me some wisdom to help me heal.

When I realized that most of the time, after revealing way too much of myself to someone I didn't know, I would feel "dirty," or embarrassed, I began to apply the skills I was learning in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) to such opportunities. That's how I was able to get better around this.

As far as what I'm noticing nowadays, I have this new co-worker -- the only other female on staff. We get along SO well and have a ton in common. We spent last Sunday together bowling and doing fun things (here's that blog post), and every day at work we end up laughing and spending time together. 

The thing is, my emotions for her are becoming intense. I went so far as to jokingly say, "I love you!" today, to which she replied, "Me, too" and giggled...but I've been obsessing over it the entire afternoon. Why did I have to do that?  I was doing so well holding back and reigning in the intense emotions so as to know push her way, come off as a psycho, or do any other damage to this friendship we are building.

Yes, I am being harsh on myself. I've stepped back, taken a deep breath, and decided that I need to be more compassionate.  I am out of practice with this whole friendship thing -- in fact, I've always had issues with being very intense, attaching very quickly, and having issues with boundaries. Being able to at least have a couple of true friends (and to capable of being a true friend in return) is part of my idea of "building a life worth living," a phrase coined by DBT founder, Dr. Marsha Linehan.

My DBT group leader recommended this book to us before:

Click for more info...

It's called "Boundaries Where You End And I Begin: How To Recognize And Set Healthy Boundaries."  I think I am finally ready to order it this weekend and give it a good read. Have you read it? I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'm going to add it to the BPD Resources page right now.

I am then going to study up on my DBT Skills -- specifically those around Interpersonal Effectiveness.

Can you relate? How do you handle when your emotions get intense around others?

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

Why Do We Feel Empty? | Emptiness and Borderline Personality Disorder

Feelings of emptiness can sometimes creep up unexpectedly when you have Borderline Personality Disorder. How do you cope when this feeling takes over?


Several of my readers have asked "What do you do when you experience that deep feeling of emptiness? How do you tolerate it?!"

Do you ever feel "emptiness"?

Prior to and shortly after my diagnosis of BPD, I would often experience episodes of deep loneliness and incredible emptiness. After starting DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), I started to keep a journal of my moods, and I noticed a pattern that the feeling of emptiness would tend to show up in the evening, specifically around 7 pm.

I found this interesting. Do you notice a pattern to when your feelings of emptiness show up?

When do you get that empty feeling?:

By 7 pm, my day would be winding down, and I had nothing productive left to do. It was just me, sitting there on the couch with my thoughts and at the mercy of whatever might be on television that night.  Even with my live-in boyfriend just upstairs, I felt like something was missing.  

I would sometimes (and I see this now in retrospect) start up fights with him or let him see me with a an expression of sadness or discontent, all in a desperate attempt to engage him, thinking somehow that would cure the empty feeling.

It didn't work.

What really causes the emptiness?:

According to the DSM (Diagnostical Statistical Manual), chronic feelings of emptiness is one of the criteria in the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Google Dictionary defines emptiness as:

    noun /ˈem(p)tēnis/ 
    emptinesses, plural
    1. The state of containing nothing
      • - the vast emptiness of space
    2. The quality of lacking meaning or sincerity; meaninglessness
      • - he realizes the emptiness of his statement
    3. The quality of having no value or purpose; futility
      • - feelings of emptiness and loneliness

Personally, when the empty feeling come sover me, I can relate to numbers 1,2, and 3. How about you?

Through DBT class, I've learned that my own experience of emptiness comes as a result of not having a strong sense of identity, yet another symptom of BPD.  

I also notice that I experience a physical sensation -- sort of a hollowing in my abdomen and chest area (a true sensation of "emptiness"). It's a bit difficult to explain, but perhaps you know what I am talking about.

I feel empty when I feel bored:

It seems there is a correlation between feeling bored and feeling empty, which is why skills such as Distraction, Opposite Action, and Self-Soothing are often recommended to cope. I wrote this post, called Boredom and The Borderline, which gets into why some people with a BPD diagnosis turn to self-harm when bored and ideas for turning the mind to thoughts and behaviors that will better serve you in the long run.

What can I do RIGHT NOW if I feel empty?

Emptiness is a difficult feeling to experience and hold. Sometimes we have to ride it out, knowing that every emotional state is temporary and that this, too, shall pass.  We can also try to turn our mind in order to change our experience by getting skillful:
  • Distract: 
    • Turn on and get into a good movie or TV show that elicits and emotion that you want to feel (joy, happiness, etc.)
    • Go for a walk
    • Clean the house
  • Self-soothe:
    • Cuddle up with a pet or stuffed animal
    • Listen to soothing, relaxing music
    • Listen to upbeat music that makes you want to dance 
  • Distract and Self-soothe:
    • I started Pinterest boards to refer to when I need to distract or self-soothe. Have you given this a try yet?
  • Opposite Action:
    • Invoke the opposite feeling of what the emptiness is causing you to feel by engaging in a safe activity that has made you feel the wanted emotion in the past

Do you experience episodes of emptiness? How do you cope?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

DBT Diary Card - There's an App for that! (Review) - Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Many of us have the best of intentions when it comes to filling out and submitting our DBT  Diary Cards, but for some reason, we have difficulty following through. Well, it turns out that there's an app for that!

A few months ago, I began using an app called DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach by Durham DBT, Inc. 

DBT Diary Card App Main Screen
In this video, I demonstrate the app's main features and benefits. 

Some additional information:
  • The app was created by a licensed therapist who has intensive training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Available for iPhone and iPad
  • Cost was $4.99 as of the date of this post
  • The developer is working on a feature that allows you to set a reminder to fill out your diary card each day
  • There were some bugs/glitches that I noticed over the past few months, but promptly upon my advising the developer, these were fixed, so I did not see a need to go into them here
  • The link to download is HERE
  • I was not compensated for this post nor the video, however I was offered a free download of the app solely for the purpose of a review. This did not affect my opinion of the app at all, and I tested it for several months before deciding to share it with you.
  • Since posting this, I was told by some twitter followers that Dr. Marsha Linehan of Behavioral Tech (the founder/creator of DBT) will be coming out with her own app. This promises to be amazing, and I will download it the second it becomes available and let you know about it. Until then, this app is working out great.
  • Since posting this, the app creator added: " One thing I'd like to highlight is that you can add your own targets and skills to the app through the Customize section. Around the 3:51 mark, tap on those big + buttons. You'll get a sheet where you can create your own new items. You can also edit items by tapping them. "
If you need some motivation to fill out your diary cards, I have blogged in the past about why I choose to fill out and submit mine each week (though I was slacking until I found this app.) You can find that blog post HERE.

I hope this was useful and helpful to you.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Added note on August 16, 2012:

Received documentation (manual) from the app creator for you to download:
DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach Manual

911 Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills for When You're Triggered

When things get so intense that you begin to go into crisis, it's time to pull out your 911 Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills.

In this post, I will briefly go into a situation that triggered me today (it's about an abusive alcoholic... if that might be a trigger for you, you can skip the italicized section to avoid...) and then what I did to cope. I will then add some ideas for a DBT Crisis Toolbox that you may find helpful to put together for when things get really difficult to handle.  If you have additional ideas on what could go in such a self-care kit, please let me know your thoughts.

The situation that set me off, as I Facebooked and Tweeted this morning:

I facilitated staff meeting at the office. A colleague showed up drunk and belligerent and became very verbally abusive and physically intimidating with a number of employees. I'll have to blog about it later. 

Right now, it's 911 on the DBT skills, because his drunken cruelty has triggered me. 

Also, another colleague suggested I move out of my office to a desk space upstairs so that they can store boxes in my space. That would suck, but I could live with it and make the best of it.

Doing the best I can. Breathing. Just this moment. All is well.

The great thing about all of this work in Dialectical Behavior Therapy is that when you apply it outside of the clinical group/class setting, it works. I'll keep you updated with how it goes and some ideas on dealing with being triggered.

Although I did not have an Emotion Regulation Worksheet 1a handy from my DBT Binder, I mentally ran through some of the questions in my mind. Here, without judgment, is what I noticed:

  • jaw clenching
  • shoulders and neck tensing
  • trembling
  • the impulse or desire to run from the situation

  • Tearful
  • Anxious
  • Afraid
  • Angry
  • Triggered
  • The impulse to be Mother Hen and take care of all of my coworkers
  • Impulse to cause a scene/get out of control emotionally
I managed to get into Wise Mind and acknowledge that while these physical and emotional symptoms were manifesting, they were purely a reaction to an old emotional wound. Hearing a drunk man be verbally abusive is something I hoped I would never again experience, and I least of all expected to experience it at the workplace - a place many think of as "safe" and as an escape from such things. (And it should be! Our boss is out of town but was contacted, so this WILL be dealt with.)

In order to keep from escalating, I had to get into my skills. Fast.

I started by going to my office and closing the door.

I took some long, deep, calming breaths...slowly.
I used self talk, "All is well. This is upsetting, but I have the skills to manage this. I don't have to make it any worse than it is."

Fast forward a few minutes: I get a call from the clinic that my group was canceled today (ironic timing, I know). Perhaps it's more "interesting" timing, because a main goal of therapy, I'm told, is for us to become more integrated in all ways and to not be dependent solely on outside sources for support. We want to learn to tap into the power and strength within, and all of the hard work we've put into learning and practicing DBT skills.

So, that's what I intend to do. 

In the past, before Dialectical Behavior Therapy, if this incident had happened, I know I would have spiraled out of control.  I would have made things worse and possibly have sabotaged my job, my relationships with my coworkers, and so much more.

But this time, I kept it together, and I am proud.

Here are my 911 DBT Skills that I pulled out:

  • Taking space to myself to regroup
  • Deep breathing
  • Noticing my body's reaction
  • Noticing my thoughts
  • Using Wise Mind to do self-talk that encouraged  me through the clutter of emotional reactions and emotional, intense (and somewhat hysterical) thoughts
  • Thinking of my long term goals of maintaining my job, self-respect, respect of my coworkers, and the relationships with my coworkers
  • I checked in with a co-worker who was also visibly upset, and we supported each other. He suggested that I go home if I need to or get online and do something that would take my mind off of it. He doesn't know my diagnosis, but he, in a sense, gave me permission to "distract," which I did.
  • Decided to self-soothe with some comfort food. I'm not one for feeding emotions through food, but I do make exceptions
  • Referred to my Pinterest boards, specifically the Self-Soothing Board. The images and music are ones that I collect when I am not in crisis so that I have them to refer to when I am. 
  • As a result of DBT group being cancelled, I used the time to blog and to create a video for you
  • I decided that I can keep it together, not add more drama to the situation, and get through...and you know what? I am.
Here is a sheet that contains a reader's digest of the DBT skills. It's helpful to have this handy. You can keep it in your purse, wallet, etc.:

DBT digest/cheat sheet. Click to enlarge.

And here's that video for you:

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

What's in my DBT Binder? (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)

In this detailed video, I show you the contents of my DBT Binder, including the four basic modules:

My DBT Binder

  • Mindfulness
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Distress Tolerance
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness
and a homework section.

Whether you want to compare the contents of your DBT Binder with mine or if you are curious as to what is in a DBT binder, I hope you enjoy this video.

(Somewhat irrelevant side note: Apologies in advance for my horrific hair in this one. Fortunately, this is not a beauty tutorial. :-D)

Most of these sheets are available in the  Skills Training Manual for Borderline Personality Disorder by Dr. Marsha Linehan.

Here is the DBT "Cliff Notes"/Cheat Sheet that I mention in the beginning of the video:

DBT Core Skills "Cheat Sheet"
Just click to enlarge.

Thanks for reading and watching.
More Soon.

DBT Practice: Creating a Life Worth Living and Interpersonal Effectiveness

One of the main goals of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is for the patient to take steps toward "Creating a Life Worth Living," according to DBT's founder, Dr. Marsha Linehan.  Today I had a chance to practice this while also practicing Interpersonal Effectiveness skills - one of the four modules in the program.

Creating a Life Worth Living will look different for every person. I will share my current perspective on it (as it changes for everyone over time), and I encourage you to think about what it means to you.

I'll start out by mentioning that I've written several blog posts on the painful loneliness I have experienced as  person with Borderline Personality Disorder. Because I sometimes have difficulty with my emotions getting too intense, frequent mood swings, and difficulty with boundaries (to name a few issues), my relationships with others have been tumultuous.

I'll go from liking a person to admiring them to putting them on a pedestal, and sometimes, for the strangest of reasons or excuses, I will suddenly go to the other extreme and consider them "bad" and dismiss them.  Once my emotions would settle down, I would apologize and hope to start over. This happened many times with many people, and, to be quite honest, I had pretty much given up on my ability to be a good friend and to maintain friendships.

Only recently did I decide that I do want to have a social circle. No huge commitments. No hanging out every day or anything. I just wanted to reach out to people I had been close to in the past (and to one new person, a coworker) to just have some casual fun  and hopefully practice being a good friend.

This weekend was my first practice. I went out yesterday with a friend to a French café . 

I'm not going to lie. I was nervous. So much so that my appetite all but vanished. I used opposite action to the anxiety and began to behave in a calm way, taking a picture of the beautifully colored macaroons.

I then waited for my friend, who was a few minutes late finding parking.  When she arrived, I got up, hugged her, gave her eye contact, and we then sat down and ordered some lunch. 

We ended up sitting there talking for 2.5 hours! It was awesome, really. I didn’t do all of the talking, and although I was anxious, I did not disclose this. I continued to urge surf and focus on our conversation.

Though I wasn’t consciously calling up the skills, in retrospect, because I set an intention of being receptive, friendly, and making sure the conversation was 2-way, I ended up practicing the following DBT skills from the Interpersonal Effectiveness module:
  • GIVE, which stands for Gentle, Interested, Validate, (use an) Easy Manner
    • Gentle: “Be courteous in your approach.”
    • Act Interested: “Listen and be interested in the other person. Listen to the other person’s point of view, opinion, reasons for saying no, or reasons for making a request from you. Don’t interrupt (this is difficult for me, as I get excited about responding) , talk over, etc….”
    • Validate: “Validate or Acknowledge the other person’s feelings, wants, difficulties, and opinions…”
    • Easy Manner: “Use a little humor. Smile. Ease the person along. Be lighthearted.”
      (the above section on “GIVE” is from Skills Training Manual for Borderline Personality Disorder by Dr. Marsha Linehan)
Today, I spent the day with a co-worker. It was also a success, though I felt a bit more vulnerable, anxious, and self-conscious.

We started out our day bowling.


The fact that we both stunk really bad at bowling made it fun. I took this picture at a point where we were tied. Several of the employees offered us tips as we were playing, and by the end, I got 3 strikes…but that’s neither here nor there. ☺

We had a good time laughing, talking, high-fiving, and encouraging each other. I did notice that as I began to feel hot (and, sorry for the details, but, sweaty), I got anxious. I started looking around at other people to see if they looked hot.  I was unsure about my own experience and was looking for outside validation. I even casually said to her, “Geez, it’s hot in here, huh?” It wasn’t until she agreed that I really felt “safe.”  I just noticed that, and I acknowledged that I was just experiencing anxiety and again surfed the emotion until it passed.

She’s actually a big picture taker, like me, and this made it even more fun. For me, it also kept me grounded in the present. She took this photo of me getting into the game.


After bowling, we went and had a nice Mexican lunch and then split a cannoli for dessert.

As we were eating, she said, “You know – you worry A LOT – you didn't impress me as someone who worried.”

Oh great. The façade had worn off. I was exposed as weak and vulnerable. That’s what my emotion mind said, anyway. I took a deep breath and said, “Yeah, well then show me how to live!” I smiled, and she laughed. I also then became more mindful of my words and mannerisms.


We actually ended up talking about some pretty deep things about our families. I got to know her well, and she got to know a lot more about me.

At times, I noticed the urge to over-disclose, but I pulled in the reigns.

I also noticed the urge to come on too strong and a sense that I was suddenly very emotionally close to her. I recognized these as manifestations of BPD and, again, took a deep breath and pulled in the reigns.

Overall, I would say the weekend has been a success in terms of practicing Creating a Life Worth Living and Interpersonal Effectiveness, and I managed to have a good time. 

What does Creating a Life Worth Living mean to you? What types of things would you need to get/push yourself to do to make progress this area?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.


How To Use Pinterest for DBT Skills Practice

This post is about how to use Pinterest in a practical way to practice your DBT Skills. When I first signed up for Pinterest, I noticed that I spent an awful lot of time on there "pinning" (selecting pictures and videos that I like and attaching them to virtual cork boards that I created and categorized) things I hoped to have some day, songs I like, ans interesting makeup looks.

It occurred to me that Pinterest could be an excellent way to organize things I come across online that related to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  More importantly, I could create boards to sort my findings by the different DBT modules and related topics.

Currently, I have the following boards:

  • Anxiety & Panic Attack Reminders
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness
  • DBT Skills (general)
  • Mindfulness
  • Mental Health Resources
  • Be in The Moment (Mindfulness)
  • Inspirations (quotes and images)
  • BPD Awareness
  • Opposite Action
  • Distraction Ideas (things to do when I get BORED)
  • Wise Mind
  • Radical Acceptance
  • Creating a Life Worth Living
  • Distress Tolerance
  • Mental Health: Borderline Personality Disorder Blog Posts 
  • Mental Health Humor
  • Self Soothing (<< My FAVORITE. I look at this when I need to self-soothe visually. I also have music videos of some songs I find soothing, and I can listen to them from there.)

You can click the pic above to see a larger version of it, or to go to that actual page on Pinterest, click here.

Which board is your favorite? Might you use Pinterest in this way?

What other ways do you organize or create DBT reminders in order to practice?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Mindfulness for Dissociation and Racing Thoughts

Like many of my readers, I suffer from time to time with dissociation, depersonalization, and racing thoughts.

All three of these experiences can be quite frightening, but I've found that the more I have had them, the less frightened I am because at least I understand what is going on and have some coping strategies.

Dissociation and depersonalization, from what I understand from my own experience, are when your brain temporarily escapes reality because a particular part of the brain has been triggered to "check out," all with the good intention of protecting you from emotional trauma and harm.

The official definition of dissociation, according to Google Dictionary, is:

noun /diˌsōsēˈāSHən/ 
dissociations, plural

  1. The disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected
    • - the dissociation between the executive and the judiciary is the legacy of the Act of Settlement
  2. The splitting of a molecule into smaller molecules, atoms, or ions, esp. by a reversible process
    • Separation of normally related mental processes, resulting in one group functioning independently from the rest, leading in extreme cases to disorders such as multiple personality

    One of the main criteria for diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder, according to the DSM (Diagnostical Statistical Manual) is:

    • Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

    Although Borderline Personality Disorder is quite different from Multiple Personality Disorder or, as it is now called, Dissociative Identity Disorder, many people with BPD experience episodes of dissociation, and it can be quite frightening.

    Everyday, the average person "spaces out." Have you ever driven to your destination but totally forgotten how you got there (or realized that you hadn't been paying attention at all? that your mind was somewhere else the whole time?)  This is essentially what dissociating has felt like for me and how I have heard others describe it. There are times when I feel completely disconnected from the here and now. My mind is off "somewhere else."

    Then there is depersonalization.  I described an incident when I looked down at my arm and had this strange feeling that it wasn't a part of me. I know how crazy that must sound, but that's one way that depersonalization manifests itself. I have also felt that I am not myself at all - that I am observing myself from the outside. This feeling has been quite frightening for me.

    Google Dictionary defines depersonalization as:

    noun /dēˌpərsənələˈzāSHən/ 

    1. The action of divesting someone or something of human characteristics or individuality
      • A state in which one's thoughts and feelings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself, or in which one loses all sense of identity

        Sound familiar?  One of the main criteria for diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder, according to the DSM is :
        • Identity disturbance: Markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
        The other symptom I mentioned is racing thoughts. Racing thoughts are when your thoughts start coming in faster than you can handle or process them. It can be overwhelming, and like the other episodes, frightening.  You may experience difficulty or an inability to focus on any one thing at a time. I've heard this is a rather common occurrence in bipolar (mania), OCD, and in many anxiety disorders.  All I know is that, for me, when it happens, it's quite distressing.
        Now that we know a bit more about each of our topics: dissociation, depersonalization, and racing thoughts, what can we do to FEEL BETTER when these episodes occur?
        You may never look at a conveyor belt at the supermarket the same way again after you try this DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) mindfulness exercise by Dr. Marsha Linehan (creator of DBT.)
        Before I even get to that, I will share with you that since I have been suffering for a day now with dissociative episodes and for many mornings in a row with the racing thoughts, I have decided to use the principle of Radical Acceptance to stop pushing away and denying/suppressing the reality that I am experiencing these things. For me, this is Step One, and a huge relief, as if you can't change it, the next sane thing to do until you can (at least for me) is to accept it.
        I just basically said, "This sucks, but I accept that it's happening. I also know for certain from experience that all moods and situations are transient. This is only temporary."  That alone began to help.
        Back to the mindfulness exercise. Here is how to do it:
        • Read these steps first so you know what to do ahead of time and can practice without referring to the list.
        • If you have a gentle timer, set it for 5 minutes.
        • Once you've read the steps, get comfortable in a chair. Feel your feet on the ground, and sit with your back a bit straightened so that you stay alert.
        • Focus on a spot on the ground with a soft gaze, or if you can remain awake and feel more comfortable, close your eyes.
        • Picture a conveyor belt in your mind's eye. You're standing at the end of the conveyor belt and imagining every though that occurs to you as an item coming down toward you.  
        • As the items come closer, toss them in a pail/bucket that you use to categorize your thoughts. For example:
          • Thoughts about tomorrow
          • Thoughts about work
          • Thoughts about later today
          • Physical Sensation
          • Sound I can hear
          • Worry thoughts
          • Boredom thoughts

        Conveyor Belt DBT Mindfulness Exercise by Dr. Marsha Linehan
                You can have as many buckets as you want and call them whatever you wish. 
        •  Just watch the items come and go into the pails and then go back to noticing what is coming next
        • Try to release attaching yourself to a particular thought and getting caught up in it, but it you do, just NOTICE THAT, "Caught up in Thoughts Thought," and sort it into a pail.
        • Try not to push away, but if you do, notice "Pushing Away Thought," and sort it into a pail. 
        • If you get the urge to quit - it does MEAN you have to quit. Just notice "the urge to quit" and put it in an Urge Thoughts pail. Keep going.
        This exercise helps us to get into the moment, to focus, to NOTICE, and to realize that even if we have one thought after another or feel disconnected, we can get in touch with what we are thinking, make sense of it, and even become more calm.

        Video Guidance on how to do the exercise from my YouTube channel:

        I'll be interested in knowing how this exercise works out for you if you decided to try it. 

        If the mindfulness exercise is not effective enough for where you are at right now, here is another blog post that you might find helpful about using the DBT skills of Distraction and Describing to get through an episode of dissociation, once you become aware of it.


        Thank you for reading.
        More Soon.




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