Start off the New Year with DBT Skill of Contributing

We recently talked about the important role of self-care in our well being, and I continue to maintain that this is a priority.  While we are doing doing that, we can still serve others, but from a place of feeling like our own cup is full, or in the example of air travel, that our own oxygen mask is securely in place.

I get that often the last thing we think will help us when we are suffering is to put our situation on hold to help others; however, with the DBT Skill of Contributing, this is exactly what we do, and it can have profound effects.
You may be overwhelmed at the thought of giving when you are feeling in so much need yourself. But, with the skill of contributing, you needn't do something of epic proportions in order for it to be effective.

Here are some very BASIC ways that you can practice the skill of contributing:

If you're feeling up to doing a bit more but are apprehensive about making any type of long term commitment, consider:

  • One Brick -  a website that allows you to volunteer on a project-by-project basis with no long term commitment.  Feel up to doing some organic planting in a community garden? Sign up, show up, contribute, and feel better about  making a difference and getting your mind off of your own problems for a bit.  Other opportunities exist as well, and they vary by region.  I've seen tasks such as helping to clean litter along the ocean shore and serving a meal at a soup kitchen.  If you know of other sites like One Brick in your area, please do share in the comments below so that I may update this post with those listings.

If you'd rather make a difference and volunteer from home (or if health reasons make it difficult to leave home, consider:

  • Volunteering OnlineThis website list a number ideas for opportunities to volunteer and make a difference right from behind your computer screen.  If your schedule is very tight or you have difficulty leaving the house, this may be a good place to start.

If you want ideas to make a difference today that can have ripple effects:
  • Smile at others
  • Hold the door open
  • Offer to take a shopping cart back to the store
  • Offer to help an elderly person or a Mom load groceries into the car
  • Offer to walk someone's pet
  • Offer to babysit to give a couple a night out
  • Make a nice meal for someone
  • Send a card or a handwritten note to someone who may be lonely

Here are some additional ideas for random acts of kindness that involve very little time and money:

What other ideas do you have to practice the DBT skill of contributing?

Thank you for reading.
More soon.

In kindness,

The "Skillful Splurge" and Self-Care

Years ago, long before we had Facebook walls to share images, quotes, etc., I remember an email that was being passed around about a woman who had a very special and expensive bottle of perfume.  If my memory serves me, her husband gave it to her as a gift on a special occasion. She adored the perfume -- the beautiful bottle it came in, its scent, the luxury of having an item from a designer line. She vowed to cherish each drop and save it for use only on what she considered very special occasions.
Years later, the woman passed away, and when her loved ones came across the bottle of perfume, they noticed she had never used it.  She had evidently never deemed any occasion special enough and therefore never allowed herself to enjoy the perfume.
I'm not sure if this email was based on a real story, but I suspect that there are many of us out there hoarding away perfume or other things or not treating ourselves to something special because we are waiting for some elusive moment.
Life is happening now, in this moment.  Sometimes, I believe, it's okay to "Skillfully Splurge."  What do I mean by this?  If you have issues with compulsive or impulsive spending, that's one thing -- but if you rarely treat yourself to something special and have been feeling the urge to do so (and can afford it without causing yourself or those around you financial hardships or emotional distress), I say go for it!
If it's not wise to splurge right now, there is still great fun that can be had in allowing yourself to fantasize about what it would be like to have the experience. Or, perhaps like the woman in the story, you have a bottle of perfume, a piece of jewelry, some expensive lotion -- something that was given to you or that you purchased that feels like a luxury, and you don't ever use it.  Why not allow yourself the experience?
So, what item comes to mind for me? I have always thought it was so silly to spend over $30 on a lipstick, until this email came to mind recently.  Yes, it is an awful lot of money for something that I usually buy at the drugstore for under $10, and truth be told, I'll probably end up doing the fantasizing option over the actual purchasing.
It's from YSL line.  For some reason, the packaging of it reminds me of a mix of royalty, renaissance, and luxury.  There is something special about this one that caught my eye quite some time ago, and it often comes to mind when I feel the urge to splurge.  Interestingly, I never have.
Even just thinking about splurging on it and treating myself feels good. Perhaps it's my Wise Mind that knows I'll probably give myself a hard time for "foolishly" spending the money on something like this, so until that worry or concern is not present, I probably won't follow through on the purchase.  But I do have other things at home -- like a gorgeously scented vanilla and citrus milky body wash, and some Miracle perfume from Lancome that I use so sparingly.
For those items I already have, I plan to skillfully splurge this week -- to use the items and enjoy them. I'll enjoy their soothing scents and the tactile sensation of applying them.   I'll remind myself that I'm worth it and that this moment is special enough for me to treat myself kindly and even pamper myself a bit.
Can you relate?  Are there some items you have that you don't use because you're holding out for just the right moment?  What about an item that you've been thinking of gifting to yourself? 
What can you do this week to pamper yourself, just a little bit?
Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Choices and Borderline Personality Disorder

One of the things that I like to be sure to tell my new students is something that I hope will leave them feeling empowered and motivated.  It's something that they may have never been told before and something that they may have difficulty believing, and it's this:
"You have choices.  Even though you may feel like BPD or being emotionally dysregulated causes you to be completely out of control, this is just an illusion.  Every moment is a choice."
It can be really difficult to hear this and nearly impossible to initially believe it when you have Borderline Personality Disorder, are a very emotionally sensitive person, or if you suffer from chronic emotion dysregulation.  I remember when first heard it while I was in the thick of the intense symptomology of BPD. 
I was hurt and offended that someone seemed to imply that I was CHOOSING my misery.  I was appalled that they thought I would CHOOSE to make the same mistakes sabotage myself and important relationships.  What kind of monster did they think I was?  The truth is that they didn't think I was a monster. 
They thought I was, (and I extend this same compassion to many of my students today as I get to truly know them), a hurting person who was living to a large extent unconsciously on a number of levels. I don't mean this in the sense of ignorance as stupidity, but as of truly not knowing better -- and boy was I there for many years.  I wasn't fully aware of who I was, what I wanted, what my intentions were, and how my actions impacted not only myself but also others around me.
It was with time and learning DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills that I began to understand what was meant by this concept that I had a choice in every moment.  As I began to learn the core concepts of DBT Mindfulness, I learned skills that helped me to understand how shifts in perspective could help me change my life.
Maya Angelou's quote, "When you know better, you do better," aptly captures the concept of choices and BPD for me.  Up until now, you've been doing the best you can, where you are, and with what you have.  As you learn new skills and alternative, more effective ways of coping with your emotional distress and pain that cause less suffering than your current behaviors, then you become more accountable to be responsible and begin practicing these newly learned skills. 

It doesn't happen overnight, and if you're like me (determined but imperfect), you might fall down a few times before you really get consistent with living skillfully.
Always a sensitive person (since childhood), I was quite easily and frequently dysregulted emotionally when I got into my twenties.  Things that others might pass of as offensive slights felt like wounding daggers to my psyche and nearly non-existent sense of self.  I told myself stories all the time about why people did the things they did.  I believe these stories often without checking the facts.  I thought that if I had a thought or a feeling, it had to be true, and I acted in accordance with this belief, often causing myself and other upset and pain.
I didn't realize I had a choice.  I was in constant fear of spiraling of control, of losing everything (which I ironically did a number of times), and of being alone.  That fear kept me in an almost constant adrenaline rush/survival state.  I was afraid to slow down.  Afraid to be alone with myself. Afraid to feel my feelings and face myself.

As we learn Mindfulness, we discover ways to slow down our thoughts, and more importantly, our REACTIONS to those thoughts. We put a buffer of time between the initial thought or intense emotion and taking any action -- especially actions that we often later regret (which involve self-sabotage or harm on any level.)

As you go through the rest of the week, when you notice an intense emotion or upsetting thought, try just noticing it.  Notice that you can have the thought or feeling with the option of choice of acting on it.  Try with little things at first to build up your confidence.

For example, let's say someone cuts you off in traffic.  The immediate tendency for most of us is to tense up, tell ourselves what an idiot the other person must be, and maybe to even give them a rude gesture.  Look for opportunities like this to just notice, observe, and describe your experience without taking any action. Make a different choice. Think higher.

"I was just cut off by that person. I notice this makes me angry. I notice I'm feeling tense.  I can release this. It has passed. I can move on. All is well."

Every moment is a choice.

I hope this helped you in some way today.

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

In kindness,

Emotionally Sensitive & The Holidays

"Why aren't you working?" "Why did you move back home?" "Are you not well?" and other triggering questions emotionally sensitive and people with Borderline Personality Disorder might hear this holiday season (and some ideas for coping.)
Editing issues led to an audio only video with a distorted Christmas tree.
Happy Holidays :-D .... I took into consideration your requests for this month's topic.  Less than six minutes of your time might help you get some ideas for coping more effectively this holidays season.

I hope this helps you in some way.
Thanks for watching and reading.
More soon.
In kindness,

Four Ways of Letting Go and Reducing Suffering (with DBT Skills References)

I was so happy to come across this lecture by Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm,  on "Four Ways of Letting Go."  The principles tie in quite nicely with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a treatment that is often very effective at helping those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and other emotion regulation issues, and I'll elaborate on that more below. 
1. Let go/release the past and the future.

Radical Acceptance is a major part of DBT, and this monk's description of it bewildered me at first. He describes with some analogies on how to let go of burdens. He makes it sound so simple.  It made me question, "Is it possible that it is that simple and that we just complicate things by refusing to accept them and moving on?"  I'm definitely reflecting upon this concept. 

One thing that he said that definitely hit home and made sense was that when we let past hurts go, we release the power that the situation or person had over us. If we hold on to past hurts, they continue to hurt us over and over again while life (and often the other person) have long moved on.

Accepting that past events happened (while not necessary approving), is Radical Acceptance in action, as is trusting that we will have the tools, resources, and abilities needed to handle anything that may come our way in the future.
2. WANT to be here.

Ajahn Brahm describes any circumstance, relationship, health condition, etc. that you are resisting, fighting, or don't want to be in, as a prison.  He talks about how we make conscious choices around where we choose to be in our lives and whether we live in ease and in harmony with our circumstances or fight against and live in resistance and struggle.  This is a very interesting concept to me. 

One of the examples he uses is being stuck in traffic. Rather than get upset, curse, and complain, which never really accomplish anything good for our mental or physical well-being, we can find a way to want to be in the traffic.  At first, I laughed and thought that this would be nearly impossible. Imagine being stuck in traffic, running late because of it, and needing to be somewhere important...and somehow shifting your state of mind to wanting to be stuck in traffic.  And yet, I found myself in this very situation today.

A friend and I were heading to the airport, and she needed to catch a flight. We got stuck behind a truck whose driver kept stepping on the brakes. At first, we were frustrated, complaining to each other about this person's awful driving, and even snickering about what a less than intelligent being this person must be (that's the PG-13 version of the conversation).

I then realized what we were doing and recalled this segment from Ajahn Brahm's talk.  I told my friend about it, and we began to make a game out of the brakes lighting up every time the driver stepped on the pedal. We guessed when he would do it and laughed when we right and when we were wrong. It changed the whole experience.  My friend ended up making it on time, too.
3. Give with no expectations of return.

There is rarely an act that is completely and totally altruistic.  We almost always gain something from our kindness, even if it is a feeling that we are a good person or knowing that someone smiled as a result of our act.  But, still, the less we expect in return for our giving, the purer it is.  It's not about recognition or getting the credit.  There is something about giving with no strings attached that helps us to let go in other areas of our lives.  It's one of the most beautiful things we can do for one another, whether for a loved one, an animal,  a stranger, or a person in need on the other side of the planet.

In DBT, there is a skill called "contributing."  One of the benefits of contribution, even when we are not expecting anything in return from the person we are gifting or helping, is that almost inevitably we have the blessing of removing the attention away from our problems and issues for a little while, and we realize that we matter and can make a difference, even if our lives are not "perfect."
4. Have a Teflon mind.

We talk about the Teflon mind in the online DBT classes that I co-facilitate.  Until hearing this monk's explanation of the concept, I hadn't fully gotten it.  I knew that Teflon was the non-stick black coating on pans that keeps food from sticking, but I had never really thought about this DBT concept as meaning to not let thoughts, moods, feelings, etc. "stick" in our minds.

Another aspect of this skill that he illuminated for me is how, when we let things stick in our minds, we can miss the present moment.  He mentioned that we tend to get so caught up in our preconceptions and what we "know" about people, situations, and circumstances, that we often bring our prejudices and "knowing" to the present moment, and we miss out on the possibility that this conversation, this day for this person, this situation - though it looks and feels so familiar to others I've had - could be different

When we approach situations as if they are happening for the first time, without expectations that are clouded by prior experiences, we open the door for the possibility to be in the very present moment.

I really enjoyed Ajahn Brahm's presentation, and I hope you did too, as well as my own reflections.  I look forward to your thoughts.

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

Emotionally Sensitive in an "Always On" World

Emotionally sensitive people can find it especially difficult to cope with society's "always on," always doing something, always multitasking expectations. Even droves of averagely sensitive people have found themselves burned out and turning to self medicating or prescription drugs to literally take the edge off of life and numb the overwhelm.  This can't be the solution. There's got to be a more effective way to take care of ourselves.
Self-Care is a huge component of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), the set of skills and concepts that helped me overcome the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder and no longer meet the symptoms (see my 30 minute video Both Sides of The Borderline.) 
Self-Care is sprinkled throughout the four modules of DBT: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness, and there's a reason for it.
The more vulnerable we feel due to feeling worn out or exhausted physically and/or mentally, the less prepared we are to effectively cope with our emotions. We become, in essence, "emotionally vulnerable." One of the main goals of the emotionally sensitive person and for those coping with Borderline Personality Disorder is to be able to cope effectively with both everyday emotions and the more intense feelings.
Unfortunately, the way most of us become aware that we are in need of a break is when we are becoming symptomatic physically (muscle tension, headaches, trouble sleeping or over sleeping are possible examples) or mentally (feeling irritable, resentful, wanting to isolate are possible examples).
So what stands in the way of ongoing self-care "maintenance" or intervention for most people? Self-Judgment. Common self-judgments around this include:
  •  I don't deserve a break.
  • No one around me is taking one - why should I?
  • This would be self-indulgence.
  • What will people think if I take a rest?
  • What if I let go and become lazy and lose my momentum?

It's time to release these judgments and replace them with more compassionate thoughts, such as:

  • Yes, I'm busy like most people, but I do deserve a break.
  • I see others around me being unwilling to stop and make this time for themselves, and I also see the emotional and physical toll it takes on them as well. I am choosing to pause and take care of myself instead.
  • Self-care is necessary.
  • It doesn't matter what others think of my choice to slow down and take care of myself. This is my body, my mind, my spirit, and I am responsible for my own health and well-being.
  • I will not lose my momentum but will rather allow my body much needed rest and will restore and rejuvenate as a result of my willingness to slow down for a little while.  The world will keep spinning, and I won't fall off.

Consider this week what messages stand in the way of you allowing yourself some much deserved rest and self-care.  Ask yourself: Is it really worth the impact on my mental and physical health? What can I do this week to take care of ME and let go of the messages that doing so is selfish?

I look forward to your shares.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Boundaries: Should You Tell Someone That You Have BPD?

One of the most common questions I am asked by my readers is "Should I tell ______________ that I have Borderline Personality Disorder?"  The blank is usually filled in with things like: my new boyfriend/girlfriend, my boss, my co-workers, and the like.

Disclosing your mental health diagnosis is a very personal decision, and each and every time you are faced with it, the circumstances are incredibly unique, from the relationship you have with the other person to the potential benefits and troubles that could come from the disclosure.

When it comes to new relationships, I err on the side of practicing strong boundaries.  This is not something that I had the ability to do in the past.   I felt that I had very little control over how much I told people -- even people I'd just met at a bus stop. (I literally remember telling one woman so much about me by the time our bus arrived that I felt sick with regret.)  I also remember my DBT therapist recommending that, especially in the context of a new potential partner, it's important that the nature of disclosure grow as the relationship does and that it be reciprocal.

For example, if your new date just told you that he or she really loves romantic comedies, replying with "Me too -- oh, and I have Borderline Personality Disorder" is obviously inappropriate.  But, if you get to a point where you are both discussing more emotionally deep topics, and it feels like disclosing would be helpful to the building of the relationship and for your new partner to understand where you are coming from, then it may be something to consider.  At some point, in the natural course of developing a deep relationship, I believe that something like this will begin to reveal itself and will come for discussion at some point naturally, in due time.   You must decide, for yourself, what feels comfortable, right, and safe.  No one else can know this or make this decision for you.

When it comes to the workplace, most of us aren't out there doing mental health advocacy work where our diagnosis is part of our credentials. For example, I have come across people like Sue Sibbald in the UK who has advocated for her own care with regards to BPD to the point where it gained the attention of local community services, and she eventually carved out a full-time job for herself revolving around BPD and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy).  In this situation, the disclosure was natural, appropriate, and came before acquiring the job.  My situation is similar, in that this blog has led to an online health education company called DBT Path, where I co-facilitate online Dialectical Behavior Therapy groups with licensed therapist Alicia Paz. (DBT is what helped me overcome BPD.)

For most people, this is not the case. Many of us work in offices, in professional careers, wait tables, tutor children.  In these situations, what would be the value of disclosing that you have BPD?  More than once I disclosed to an employer that I was mentally ill (before I knew my BPD diagnosis -- I already had the aresenal of  PTSD, OCD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder to disclose), and in my own personal experience, in every case, I regretted it.

In nearly every instance, I ended up revealing my mental health issues in a moment of panic and insecurity, and I believe it setup situations where I was judged or treated differently due to my disclosure.  I realize that this is not the case for everyone.  I've also spoken with a number of people who have said that sharing with their boss or co-workers that they have mental illness has created a closer bond and fostered a sense of truly being cared about in the workplace.  So, just like disclosing your diagnosis in personal relationships, the choice of whether to disclose in the workplace is also highly individual and personal.  There is much to consider, and only you can make the choice as to what is right for you in the long run.

How have you handled this in the past?  How might you handle disclosure of your mental health issues in the future?

Here are some books I've found helpful with this issue:

Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin: How to Recognize and Set Healthy Boundaries

Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder: Relieve Your Suffering Using the Core Skill of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT Studies that can be helpful:

Online DBT Emotion Regulation Course
Online DBT Distress Tolerance Course

Thank you for reading.
More soon.

In kindness,

7 Signs That You Might Be An Emotionally Sensitive Person

 You might be an emotionally sensitive person if...
  1. You cry at Cheerios commercials
  2. You sometimes literally seem to feel what others feel
  3. You have an especially hard time coping with criticism.
  4. You've been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.
  5. You have a hard time sorting out and identifying what you're actually feeling.
  6. You feel emotionally triggered when you hear or witness stories about things that happen to vulnerable people or animals.
  7. You often experience mood swings or unstable emotions/emotion dysregulation.
For over a decade, I suffered with the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.  I was often misdiagnosed as being Bipolar Rapid Cycling as well as other diagnoses connected with emotional instability.

When I finally received the correct diagnosis of BPD, I was referred to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which ultimately helped me to finally get my life on track.

Being an emotionally sensitive person is not a "bad" thing. And, although I no longer meet the criteria for a BPD diagnosis, I do meet some of the criteria and need to practice DBT Skills to help me feel well -- essentially, these skills help me to cope more effectively when I'm feeling dysregulated emotionally.

For example, I implement Emotion Regulation skills, such as:

  • Observing and Describing What I'm Feeling:
    Discerning WHAT I am feeling so I can identify and describe the emotion that needs attention.  This is something I did not know how to do before DBT. I would become completely overwhelmed with how I was feeling and would often feel that I was experiencing dozens of emotions at ones. Emotion Regulation skills have helped me to learn how to better discern how I am feeling. Being mindful of what we are feeling in any given moment is the first step to coping with not feeling well emotionally.
  • Opposite to Emotion Action:
    There are things we can do to shift from one emotion to another when our current emotion is not serving us in a productive way.
  • Letting go of Painful Emotions: Many emotionally sensitive people feel that they must "punish" themselves by extending their experience of painful emotions. The reasons behind this are complicated, of course, but we can learn how to have more compassion for our ourselves and, in the process, reduce our suffering by letting go of painful emotions that no longer serve us.

  • Riding the Wave of Emotions:One of the most helpful skills I've learned is to ride the emotional waves -- another way of acknowledging that "this too shall pass." No feeling, mood, or state of mind is permanent. It is all transient. Even if you feel miserable at 8 am, this doesn't mean you'll still feel this way at 4 pm (or even an hour later, really).  Learning to ride the wave allows us to wait until the intensity has passed rather than reacting and acting impulsively and in sabotaging ways. 

If you want to learn more about Emotion Regulation skills, check out this online, worldwide DBT class that I am co-facilitating with a licensed therapist at DBT Path, where we'll dig deeply into these concepts and more:

Emotion Regulation Online DBT Class 

It gets better!

More Soon.

In kindness,

Obsessive Love and BPD - When It's Difficult To Let Go And Move On

What causes someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD traits to fall into (or back into) what some describe as "obsessive love," especially when it comes to having difficulty letting go of a past lover?

I asked myself this very same question.  Although I am in recovery from BPD, meaning I no longer meet the criteria for the diagnosis, I do still meet some of the criteria/symptoms.  I wanted to understand how I could still get so stuck on a relationship from the past, seemingly unable (or unwilling) to let the person and relationship go from my heart and mind, even though the other person (through his silence and lack of response), was making it painfully obvious that he was not interested in reconnecting with me.

I wondered if my inability to let him go was part of human nature, so I sought out opinions that would support this. "Oh, lots of people look for past loves -- especially now with Facebook and all" is one thing I heard that helped me feel like my desires were less pathological and more "human."

I wondered if my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), which is in remission, might be sneaking out it's ugly head in the form of intrusive, repetitive, distressing thoughts. (It turns out, this was part of the problem.  As I was making a transition on a low dosage of one SSRI to another to manage OCD symptoms, I did experience this aspect).

I wondered if any of the remaining "borderline traits" that I still suffer from could be, in part, responsible.  It turns out that one of them in particular makes total sense.  I'll get to that in a moment.

First, I will tell you that one thing I found helpful in reducing the intensity of my preoccupation with getting this person's attention was my own version of an "Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind" experiment that I underwent in the form of clinical hypnosis. I wrote about that experience in this post.  While I didn't try to erase memories of the relationship, I did have the opportunity to have a very realistic encounter with my past love while in hypnosis - an opportunity that allowed me to have the chance to say what I desperately wanted to say to him face to face - even if only in my own mind and heart.

So back to the BPD trait I think is contributing largely to my inability to let go of the memory of the relationship I once had with a man who I thought was my soul mate: it is known as Black or White thinking.

In clinical terms: "A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by extremes between idealization and devaluation (also known as 'splitting')" (from

Here's something I never realized before. When my mind would wonder to fond memories of my European love that I met in my early twenties (he was nearly forty), I would tend to remember all of the "good" things about him and the relationship.  For example, I believed he was my soul mate. I remember how we gazed into each others eyes and how loved I felt in his embrace.  I remembered how kind he was to me and how good it felt to be so desired in someone's eyes. I remember us working together in the same office....carving pumpkins together at Halloween outside of the company building, the beautiful diamond pendant necklace he gave me for Christmas, and all of our fun dates. I remember all the poetry and songs I wrote him and how he could listen to me sing and play guitar...the look in his eyes.

On the other hand, my mind was blocking out or seriously minimizing all of the "negative" aspects of the relationship, and there were many, as painful as that is and was to acknowledge, admit, and look at.  I was not yet diagnosed with BPD and was highly emotionally unstable at the time.  The both of us were already in relationships. While I told my partner of the time about the situation and left to see my new love exclusively, my new love did not do the same.  He continued living with his partner, not revealing our affair. 

In getting caught up in the nostalgia, I somehow conveniently "forgot" what it felt like to be "the other woman," from feeling like I wasn't good enough, as if I were in a constant competition (feeding into fears of abandonment, big time), and never mind the intense guilt I had with regards to his partner. In fact -- that's another memory -- calling her, revealing the situation, and apologizing.  She actually gave her blessing on us being together, saying she knew he hadn't been in love with her for years and wanting him to be happy.  Knowing this - that he received this reaction from her and still chose to not leave her and to not be with me - made his ultimate rejection of me all the more painful and difficult to bear.

What an awkward and painful situation all around for four people in total.  It's funny how when my mind would go to reaching out to this person, I remembered the affection, the attention, the hopes and dreams of us truly being soul mates and somehow creating a life together, and not all of the other things I mentioned. Or how, when I felt suicidal (as I often did at that time in my life), he refused to come to the hospital to pick me up because it was "too much for him."  He broke up with me because of my emotional instability (and probably other reasons, based on the complicated situation).

I became really disappointed in myself for allowing memories of him to fuel my urge to seek him out.  We didn't have Facebook back then when he and I were together.  I beat myself up over it. What if he's still with his partner?   Won't he think I'm crazy for reaching out after all these years?  When his response to my numerous attempts for connection went unanswered, I felt overwhelming shame, sadness, and great disappointment.

(some comic relief)

I don't know exactly what I expected to happen, but I know what I hoped for.  I hoped that he would be single and available.  I hoped that he would respond to me with warmth, telling me that he, too, had thought of me all of this time and was so happy to be connected again.  I dreamed that he would agree to meet up with me. In my big-term fantasy, we would fall in love again and have another chance at what went so sour years ago.  I have compassion for the part of me who wanted all of this. 

So, what can you do if you discover you've also been caught up in black or white thinking that has you clinging to the past, and something feels a bit off?

Please have compassion for yourself as I eventually learned to do with myself.  You are only human. Everyone wants to feel loved. Most people want an intimate love who they feel very connected with and may even consider a "soul mate."  Look at other emotional vulnerabilities in your life right now.  Are you feeling lonely, rejected, or otherwise sad or anxious or alone?  These can all contribute to us idealizing a past relationship or love while conveniently forgetting, ignoring, and pushing away the other aspects of the relationship - often the ones that led to it coming to an end.

We can't convince others that we've changed, that they should give us a chance, or that they should love us.  I'm being less hard on myself for reaching out.  I know my intentions and heart were in the right place. Now I must use Radical Acceptance to work through the fact that I have no control over the outcome and that life goes on, even if not the way we dreamed it to be.  That being said, new dreams are born every day.  We can love again.

More Soon.

In kindness,

The author of this letter has since RECOVERED from Borderline Personality Disorder and no longer meets the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. There is HOPE for you. Recovery happened through a commitment to DBT. Debbie now teaches the DBT skills that helped change her life over at DBT Path ( where you can take online Dialectical Behavior Therapy Classes from anywhere in the world. You *can* overcome this disorder! Visit DBT Path to learn more.

Motherhood and BPD:How I Saved Myself & My Family (Guest Post by Wil)

Please welcome Wil of Write Into The Light with her first guest post at Healing From BPD.

What it used to Be Like

I bee lined down the hall into the bathroom, and shut and locked the door behind me before falling to my knees.  Covering my face with my hands, I sobbed.  Outside, my two and six year old girls banged on the door.  “Moooommy!  Moooommmyyy!”   I thought, “Oh, my God!  Why can’t they just leave me alone?”

I dialed a friend’s number and when she answered I cried, “I can’t do this.  I can’t be a mom.  I don’t know what I am doing.  It’s too much.  I can’t do this!”  She calmly asked me what was wrong.  I babbled through snot and tears, “One won’t eat her dinner, the other one always needs her diaper changed, they are fighting over toys, the Disney channel is driving me insane, and of course my husband is working all night again!”  I was spiraling out of emotional control…over every day, typical motherhood stuff.

That was six years ago – four years before I would be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD.)  On many occasions, my husband would have to come home from work to calm me down during times like this.  Feelings of inadequacy, fear of harming my children or myself, anger, self-pity, gripping anxiety, immobilizing depression and loneliness were my constant companions.
The unpredictability of the children’s behaviors and moods, and my inability to set boundaries and provide structure in my own life, let alone theirs, only heightened my anxiety.  I was permanently in fight or flight mode – instincts gone haywire.  I was filled with self-doubt and self-hatred.  I felt like a caged animal ready to chew off its own foot to escape the chains shackling it to the cold and filthy floor.

Then I learned (in Dialectic Behavioral Therapy - DBT) that this chaotic environment, in which I felt like a prisoner, was imitative of my own childhood home.  Sure, I wasn’t walking around drunk all of the time like my parents, but the moodiness, anger, and self-absorption that consumed me were not much different than theirs.  Also like them, I had no real sense of how to be a parent.
Everyday interactions with my children baffled me and left me reeling in emotional binges filled with terror like when I was a child.  I felt as if I lived in a carnival fun house filled with mirrors that distorted my view of the entire world while everyone else had regular old mirrors to look at.  In hindsight, this was closer to the truth than I realized at the time.

The Turning Point

I was already being treated for alcoholism and bipolar and anxiety disorders when my psychiatrist suggested that I might have BPD as well.  My first response was, “Great, another fricking diagnosis!”  What I didn’t know, however, is that being diagnosed with BPD would be the best thing to ever happen to me and for my mental health recovery.  For if I was never diagnosed with BPD, I may have never sought out DBT, which did for me in one year what years and years of individual and group therapies based on other psychological theories could never begin to do.

What it is Like Now

In DBT I learned how to be mindful of and radically accept my limitations as a highly emotionally sensitive person and mother.  For example, this past spring I was beating myself up over not being emotionally balanced enough to take my children to church on Easter.  The old me would have ignored my high anxiety levels and begrudgingly gotten them ready while screaming at them to, “Hurry up. Do this. Don’t do that!”

Then I would have suffered through the service feeling like a martyr while becoming angrier by the minute.  Or I would have had a panic attack and then drove us all back home in a dangerous state of mind.  Then I would have spent the rest of the day in bed, completely abandoning the kids to the television and their own devices.  And let’s not forget the verbal hell my husband would have received for having to go to work, thereby leaving me to deal with the children alone, and on a holiday at that!

Instead I sat back and observed my thoughts and feelings as if I was watching another person go through them.  I acknowledged the guilt and anxiety rather than fighting them.  I also consciously did not make them who I was, but chose to view them as an experience of something separate within me.  I chose to believe that deep down all was ok – that I was ok – no matter what thoughts and feelings occurred in my mind.  I also made special care not to judge my thoughts and feelings as good or bad.  The just were there or they were not…period.

Later that morning, I found an Easter service streaming live online, and my girls and I worshiped along with them from the comforts of our family room.  It was a blessed day in which I owed no apologies at the end, neither to my kids or my husband, and most importantly, to myself.

What is it like for you as a mother with bpd?  Or if you are the child of a mother with bpd, what is that like?  What are some positive aspects of being a highly emotionally sensitive mother?

Wil is a mental health writer and mother with BPD.  She is also the founder and editor of Turtle Way, an online literary art journal for those with mental illness.  She blogs at Write into the Light.  Find her on Facebook and Twitter.  

If you'd like to learn more about Dialectical Behavior Therapy and the DBT skills that helped Wil changed her life, please visit DBT Path.

PTSD Symptoms that Overlap with BPD (Week 8: Wrapping Up Trauma Recovery Group)

To read Week 1, click Here.
To read Week 2, click Here.
To read Week 3, click Here.
To read Week 4, click Here.
To read Week 5, click Here.
To read Week 6, click Here.
Week 7, no post
Week 8 - You are here. :)

Seven weeks ago I began attending a trauma recovery group to cope with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in connection with the symptoms of my former diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (I know longer meet the criteria for BPD and am in recovery).  I first of all want to mention that one of the biggest things I got out of this process was learning the incredible overlap between BPD and PTSD symptoms (at least in my case), and how much of what I experienced at the height of my suffering from BPD symptoms now makes sense in the light of the trauma I experienced in the past.

Here I sit, eight weeks later, reflecting.

So -- am I all better?  Did I resolve and get over my trauma in two months?  No, but there is so much good that came out of my willingness to show up, participate, and commit to the process that I am so glad that I did.  I've also seen significant improvement in my ability to handle emotional triggers around the specific issue I worked on over the course of the class (you only pick one trauma incident per (normally) 8-week round.

In fact, I was issued a chart today that validated my perception that things had truly improved. It shows how my distress level plots out based on questionnaires we were asked to complete at the beginning of each group.  As predicted with trauma recovery work (by the doctors who facilitated the group), things got worse before they got better, and my distress level increased on the weeks that it was my turn to tell and record my trauma story. Then, there was a steady decline of distress to a very low, manageable level.

It was emotional tonight.  Saying goodbye to peers with whom I've shared such intimate details and held space for theirs, knowing I may never see them again....that wasn't easy.  I also became emotional during the certificate ceremony at the end.  One of the doctors who ran the group and I discussed how I tried to do this very same group years ago, showed up for two sessions, then dropped out because it was too difficult. My emotional reactions were unmanageable for me at that time.

I actually had an episode of emotional detachment, but that was "normal" given the circumstances, I'm told.

Since learning and implementing DBT skills into my life (and now even teaching them), I was finally able to cope effectively enough to work on things I never wanted to face. What's more is that I have hope of returning at a future date to conquer other trauma memories.

I had tried to complete this Trauma Recovery group years ago before DBT, and I just want' able to cope with the intensity of the emotions that showed up.  I am finally able to start working on my past trauma experiences. This group was the first big step.

I mentioned some overlap with PTSD and BPD symptoms in myself and some other people as well.

Here are the ones I identified:

PTSD symptoms that Overlap(ped) with BPD for Me

  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Difficulty controlling your emotions
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships with family and friends
  • Irritability or anger
  • Overwhelming guilt, shame, despair, or hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or self-destructive behavior
  • Changed beliefs or personality traits

(From Mayo Clinic's and Web MD's lists of PTSD symptoms.)

Have hope. You can get there, too!   You can overcome BPD and be strong enough to work on past trauma. It takes time. It takes effort, but you can do it.

Hope this helped you.
More soon.

In kindness,


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