Fear of Getting Older and Borderline Personality Disorder (Age Regression, Trauma)

One of the major components of having Borderline Personality Disorder, and often for sufferers of PTSD who were traumatized as children, is an intense fear of being abandoned.  For many of us, even sensing a change in facial expression, tone of voice, or mood in someone we love can cause us to panic and worry that the person contemplating giving up on us and leaving for good.

Of course, there is always "cause" for the things that we think. Many of us were abandoned or rejected by important people in our lives when we were children.  We have become incredibly sensitive to such situations as a form of survival. As a child, after all, it's critical that you retain the love and protection of your caregivers.

As we get older, we may realize that continuing to engage in certain behaviors around this issue may no longer serve us and may be standing in the way of our continued healing and growth.  We may also be terrified at the prospect of giving up such behaviors -- after all, won't people abandon and reject us if we stop behaving this way?

Behaving Younger In Intimate Relationships

Often, when I am with my significant other, I engage in cute "baby talk."  I want him to think I am adorable. A moment of realization came for me when he heard me on the phone speaking to my sister and to colleagues, and he mentioned that I am a "totally different person" when I speak to them -- confident, and adult-like. I have experienced some inner turmoil over wanting to relate to my significant other as an equal but often feel compelled to relate to him as someone younger.

Behaving Younger When Re-Experiencing Trauma

I talk about in my book Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder: My Journey Out of Hell Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy of how I would frequently show up in the emergency room after feeling severely emotionally triggered.  When I would engage with the doctors, nurses, and other staff, I would go into that same, child-like demeanor and voice. During routine interviews with doctors and nurses, when they'd ask, "And your age?" My mind would either go blank, and I'd have to literally count up from the age I "felt" to my actual current age, or I'd darn well know my age and feel ashamed to tell the practitioner. I'd think, "Once she knows I'm in my thirties, she's going to treat me differently." 

How did I imagine her acting differently? By judging me, of course. I feared she'd think, "This woman is in her thirties, and she wants me to baby her? Ha! She just lie here in the bed and wait til I'm good and ready to deal with her."

Behaving Younger in Social Situations

When I am out and about in social situations, especially with women 40+, I find myself speaking and behaving in ways that I imagine younger people would behave (I'm thirty five.)  Often, at some point, someone will ask, "How old are you Debbie?" 

Suddenly, shame will come up. I start having thoughts like "I want them to think I'm young," "She's going to think I'm psycho when she finds out how old I really am," "She won't treat me the same way anymore when she finds out I'm old enough to know better and take care of myself."  It's as if I want these women to treat me in a motherly way -- to think I'm a new college student or something.

Do you see a theme? I seem to have had (and sometimes it still happens) a pattern of reverting to behaving at an age when I was more helpless, in an effort to get others to "save" or "rescue" me.  There is a part of me that has been desperate to receive this type of care, love, and support, and it's repeatedly tried to reach out all of my life.  When she's shown up, I've shamed her. I knew there had to be another way.

This was working "fine" for me until I started having the eye opening moments that I mentioned and then shamed myself.

In DBT, I've learned and am continuing to learn that there is cause for the things we think, feel, and do. Judging ourselves doesn't help. Having compassion, understanding the reasons for our behaviors, and then seeking out and working on more adaptive behaviors that help us reach our goals of wholeness and  healing is the direction I've found is most helpful.

Sound familiar? Do you tend to behave in ways that you hope will cause others to believe you are much younger than you are?   How do you react when you realize you've engaged in this behavior?  Do you judge yourself?  Do you see cause for your reactions, feelings, and behaviors? How might it help to remove judgment and work on building new behaviors and responses?

Thanks for reading.

Coping With Distressing Thoughts (i.e. Disordered Thinking, OCD, BPD)

Many of us can relate to finding ourselves on the hamster wheel, with repeated, intrusive, even disturbing thoughts that distress us.  Here are some common thoughts that many people with Borderline Personality Disorder (as well as those with eating disorders/disordered eating, OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and anxiety experience.)

*Trigger Warning: You may want to skip this list if you are feeling particularly emotionally vulnerable right now.*
  • Distorted thoughts about food, eating, and body image
  • Frightening thoughts about self-harm
  • Worries about being abandoned or rejected, even when there is no "evidence" that this is or will happen
  • Fears of being alone
I've personally been dealing with distressing, distorted disordered eating thoughts. It's been an issue for  most of my life. When the thoughts aren't present, I am so much more content and functional, but when they show up, I have choices around how I am going to cope, and these choices tend to affect the intensity that the episode reaches and how quickly I recover.

*End Trigger Warning: You may want to skip this list if you are feeling particularly emotionally vulnerable right now.*

If you're experiencing distressing thoughts that just don't seem to want to go away, you may be tempted to ignore them and deny your experience. Dr. Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), urges us otherwise. She says that trying to deny thoughts only makes them strong.  So, what are you to do to help feel less distressed?

Here are some skills that can help:

  • Radical Acceptance: Radically accepting is saying "I accept that I am having these thoughts right now. There is cause. I'm having them for a reason, even if I don't understand that reason." This is probably (at least for me) the most DIFFICULT skill to practice when I'm feeling anxious and distressed over unwanted, troubling thoughts. What? You want me to ACCEPT this is happening?  Well, to be honest, not accepting them doesn't help much. And, accepting does NOT mean that you're saying, "I enjoy these thoughts. I feel just swell that I'm experiencing these thoughts." No. Accepting does not mean you approve, enjoy, or appreciate the experience. Accepting is just the first step of recovering. We must accept "what is" before we can change it if we want or need to. We must be honest and acknowledge the reality of our experience first.
  • Opposite Action: Every emotion has an associated action. For example, when we are sad, the action is often to retreat. When we are afraid, the reaction is often to run or avoid. With Opposite Action, we identify the action associated with the current emotion and then do the OPPOSITE. This, in turn, helps to change the emotion, if that is what we are seeking.
  • Self-Soothing: Sometimes we cannot change the issue at hand that is causing the distress. During this time, think of yourself as a child who needs your loving care, attention, and soothing. Soothe through activities that please your senses, such as a warm fleece blanket (touch), scented lotion (smell), looking at art or nature (sight), listening to soothing music (sound), eating a piece of  your favorite hard candy (taste).
  • Put it on the shelf:  This is where you get to push away the thoughts if they get to be too much. You've already accepted that they are present, but if they are relentless, you might imagine giving yourself a conscious break by imagining placing the thought on a shelf to be tended to later. In the meantime, you can distract by watching a good television program, reading a book, going for a walk, or something else that gets your mind off of the issue.

How do you cope with distressing, unwanted thoughts?
How might these skills help next time?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

PMS, PMDD, and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

I have been asked by a number of my female readers to share my experience with BPD in terms of how it becomes complicated during the week to ten days before my period, or PMS (premenstrual syndrome).

My description will actually take it up a notch, as I am also diagnosed with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) a severe form of PMS.  So severe, in fact, that when I was younger and I'd often check into psychiatric hospital wards (both voluntarily and involuntarily), almost always I'd wake up the next morning after being admitted to find that my period started.  Coincidence? I think not.

When you read on about what symptoms many women experience before their period, it will be no surprise how incredibly complicated and intense a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder may feel during this time in her cycle.

In PMS, women can experience any or all of the following mental or behavioral symptoms. For the purpose of this article, I am not including physical symptoms.

PMS Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Aggression.
  • Withdrawal from family and friends.

PMS Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms
  • Depression, sadness, hopelessness.
  • Anger, irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Mood swings.
  • Decreased alertness, inability to concentrate.

(Sourced from WebMD)

More severe PMS symptoms may be diagnosed, as in my case, as PMDD. The symptoms include:

  • Have negative behavior and feelings of hopelessness.
  • Feel guilt and shame.
  • Feel they have lost control over their lives.
  • Believe they are mentally ill and fear the stigma of mental illness.
  • Have poor job performance or missed workdays during the premenstrual period.
  • Feel distanced from family and friends.

(Sourced from WebMD)

Not only that, but PMDD can exasperate existing mental health issues. Although BPD is not included in this list, I wonder if it is because the connection has not yet been made. I've personally noticed a correlation after tracking my cycle for half a year, and several other women with BPD have reported the same to me.

  • Mental health problems, such as depressionanxiety disordersbipolar disorder,schizophrenia, and eating disorders.

(Sourced from WebMD)

I highly recommend keeping track of when you get your period along with moods so that you can track a correlation, too.  Share it with your doctor or psychiatrist.  I use Google Calendar for mine. I just write "period" on the day that each cycle starts.

Then, at anytime, I can do a search on the word "period" and see when the last one was, see a history of what the intervals of time were between each cycle, and most importantly, whether my mood on a given day (severe emotion dysregulation, for example), but be explained at least in part by hormonal changes.

Knowing that my intense dysregulation is happening days before my period has helped me to cope with the distress significantly better. I'm able to remind myself of why it is likely happening, and how sure it is to pass. I also increase self-care and let others around me know what's going on.

Last week during a PMS/PMDD episode, I felt so incredibly dysregulated and shared example of this with my Twitter friends. I also shared with my significant other, who was very supportive and understanding. On the worst day, I noted that I was quite sure that my period would start the next day...and it did.

What else can you do besides get extra skillful by practicing Distress Tolerance and Self Soothing DBT skills? (BTW: Type those into the search box on the right for lots of ideas).

My psychiatrist recommended taking slightly more of the low dosage of an SSRI medication that I am on, just before my period. I haven't tried this yet.  Has anyone else taken this recommendation?  How has it worked for you?

Have you noticed a connection between PMS/PMDD and your symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder? What do you do to better cope?

Have you been diagnosed with PMDD? What suggestions have your doctor or psychiatrist made about that time of the month?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

My Wife Is Not Her [Borderline Personality] Disorder

wife has borderline personality disorder

I was so moved to read this beautiful love-letter of a post by Rowan about his experience of his wife, Aeshe, who he so eloquently describes while discussing his own, very real experience as a partner of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Read on, and be moved as I was. Welcome my guest blogger, Rowan.

On: Supporting my wife, who has borderline personality disorder (BPD)
            I feel like I am betraying my wife by writing this, even though I logically know this is not the case.  When Debbie asked me to write about supporting a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), as a companion to my vlog post on YouTube, I was immediately afflicted by the dueling emotions of relief and guilt.  I was relieved I would get another opportunity to share my perspective on loving a spouse with a mental illness, one stigmatized by popular media and the psychiatric community alike.  I felt guilty because, although Aeshe (my wife) is open about her struggles and healing from BPD, she still feels shame and anxiety about even having this diagnosis.

            She worries about the judgment of others, the loss of friendships, the limiting of her options by deciding to be transparent about her life.  Even though I believe myself to be balanced and open in my assertions (not assessments) about what is so for me—when maintaining that difficult balance of being a supportive partner and maintaining my own health and wellness—I also desire to shield her from harm and hurt.  However, maintaining silence about my experience dealing with my wife's BPD has only made me feel isolated and unseen, while making myself responsible for “protecting” her from the world does not acknowledge her as the dynamic and amazing woman I know her to be.

            I met my wife in the early Winter of 2010, and we became friends and lovers in February 2011.  Aeshe's BPD symptoms became apparent to me in early spring of last year (2012).  Though she'd previously had many diagnoses in the past, there was never one that officially stated “borderline personality disorder,” though many of the markers were there.  At first, I felt like I was thrown headlong into a maelstrom of interpersonal chaos, and couldn't make sense of the emotional volatility I was witnessing.  Aeshe had impulsivity with food and spending, she became easily emotionally dysregulated seemingly apropos of minor situations, she was angry, she had difficulties being separated from me if I went to work, her dissociation became more pronounced, and she started self-harming again (i.e. after not having done so for a while).  I made the decision, with my eyes wide open, to support her and commit myself to our relationship.  We married on August 27, 2012, the day after my birthday.  I do not regret that decision, despite the inherent challenges of loving someone with BPD.

            What followed was an intense crash course in BPD and interpersonal dynamics in the face of the criteria/symptoms she was displaying.  My hardest lesson was learning to de-escalate the situation.  My initial reaction to what I considered my wife's intense and extreme emotional outbursts and rage was ineffective.  I am someone who takes responsibility for his own actions and, sometimes to my detriment, the actions and reactions of others.  I also have a minor savior complex.  Consequently, I became frustrated; I thought her reactions were all my fault, that if I just tried hard not to “set off” her emotional arousal everything would eventually settle.  Instead, my emotions fed off her emotions, which fed off my emotions, turning into an escalating ouroborous of dysregulation.  I tried pleading with and cajoling my Aeshe, pointed out how her reactions were irrational and not based in reality...which fanned her frustration and anger because she felt invalidated.

            Eventually, through conscious and honest talks with Aeshe, and with the aid of processing and reading on my own, I developed the necessary skills to better support the both of us as she works on her recovery from BPD.  The following lessons have been very helpful to me:

1.     Consciously remind yourself that you have not caused your loved one's dysregulation or their personal triggers.  You are only responsible for your own emotional states and reactions.
2.     Validate how they're feeling, because emotions are not logical. Sometimes, expressing interest through a statement of concern—“It seems like you're frightened.  That must be difficult for you right now”—is ample.
3.     Gracefully remove yourself from a situation if the both of you are unable to control your emotions.  Make sure your loved one knows you are not abandoning them, but calming down.
4.     Practice healthy selfishness, and partake in self-care. If you are not well-rested, hydrated, fed, and have your emotional needs met (e.g. a good support system for you is also helpful), you will not be happy.  This will, in turn, affect your relationship with your loved one.
5.     Try to interpret your loved one's reactions in the most benign way possible.  People have accused those with BPD of being manipulative in their relationships.  Instead, they are trying frantically to defuse fear of abandonment.

            I have myriad thoughts and impressions about my experience living with my wife, Aeshe.  I've learned so many valuable lessons about the nature of inner strength, what it means to support and love someone unconditionally, how to be authentic and vulnerable without being weak, and how to recognize my own emotional challenges and deal with them.  Since accepting and working with my wife's BPD, I have come to recognize my diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and am taking steps to alleviate these symptoms and poor coping strategies that have plagued me for as long as I can recall. There's more to express than just this brief snapshot revealing my general thoughts about maintaining balance when loving someone with BPD.

            Here's the crux of my life with Aeshe: She is NOT her disorder. BPD is just a component of her identity, though one that touches all aspects of our life together.  Every relationship and every life led has its unique set of challenges and heartaches, triumphs and joys.  Honestly, I cannot imagine being with someone more loving and compassionate, intelligent and quirky, beautiful and sexy.  She makes me question everything I know, inspires me to be a better person, and loves me unconditionally.  It doesn't get better than that.

Rowan has a vlog on YouTube under the name of VadomaPrimal. His wife has a vlog on YouTube under the name of AtypicalAeshe.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Destructive Impulsivity in Borderline Personality Disorder

destructive impuslivity borderline personality disorder

One of the most difficult aspects of having Borderline Personality Disorder has been the repeated destruction I created around and within my life, be it in jobs, personal relationships, school -- you name it. 

I was in so much emotional pain -- overwhelmed by my emotions and unsure how to cope with or tolerate them -- that I would act out in desperate, ultimately destructive ways.

If this sounds like the pattern you've been creating in your life, I want you to know that there is HOPE.  It is entirely possible for you to work on coping more effectively and learning how to tolerate distress without engaging in behaviors that no longer serve you.  I say "no longer," because we are motivated to act in ways that serve us. For example, if when we are a child the only way to get the attention of our caregiver is to throw a fit, we learn to throw fits in order to get our needs met.

Some of us haven't outgrown even fit throwing. I remember one time mentioning in DBT class that I noticed that many of us had described our past week saying things like, "I had a total tantrum," or "when he said no, I got out of control and cried and screamed until he finally listened to me."  If you can relate to this, there is no need to judge yourself. You behave and respond the way you do for a reason. There is cause.  

Sometimes we hold on to patterns that served us in the past but are no longer appropriate in our lives.  We might be stuck in these old ways because we are unaware of them to begin with or because we may not know of any other way to cope.  Both were true for me, and I'm sure I'm still caught up in some patterns that I'm not yet aware of.

But, for the ones I have become conscious of, I have learned, practiced, and religiously continue to apply Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills.  Doing this has ultimately changed my life. 

How so? I won't tell you that I no longer experience intense emotional episodes, because I do.  I won't tell you that I don't have destructive impulses -- especially when under stress or feeling especially emotional, because I do.  I also won't tell you that I perfectly accomplish my goal of not giving in to destructive impulses 100%, because I don't.

But, for the most part, when these impulses come on I am able to notice them and call them what they are.  Stress and anxiety can make us feel helpless and as if we are backed into a corner.  We may feel desperate to feel relief or to escape our distress, but when we learn to notice the distress and then use DBT skills to cope with it and to soothe ourselves through our experiences, we take the time to slow down rather than to react in impulsive ways.  Consistently doing this is life changing.

By now you've probably heard about my book Stop Sabotaging: A 31 Day DBT Challenge to Change Your Life.  If you're looking for a tool to complement your practice of the skills as you work toward creating a life worth living and shifting from destructive impulsivity patterns to being more mindful and skill-focused, it may be what you are looking for on your path right now.  

I believe you can change these patterns if you really want to and with professional guidance.  The only reason I know this is because I see the fruits of my personal labor, and I believe you can achieve the same.  

Stay hopeful. It's not an overnight process, and it's not a straight path road. If you're ready to heal, life will meet you right where you're at.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Dissociation: The Spacey Feeling of Disconnection

what does it feel like to dissociate

One of the possible symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder is "transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms." (You can click here to read the full list of possible symptoms/criteria.)

What does it feel like to dissociate?

The experience is different for each person and can differ from episode to episode, but many people report some commonalities in their puzzling and troubling experience of dissociating, such as:

  • Depersonalization: I've experienced depersonalization ever since I was a young child. It's the strange feeling that you are not in your body. For example, I noticed it today when chopping vegetables. I became aware of my body and what I was doing, but I felt disconnected. I used some grounding techniques, such as noticing and naming what was around me. I also repeated: "I am standing in the kitchen chopping vegetables."
  • Derealization: I've also experienced derealization since I was a child, and this was also a part of my experience today.  With derealization, things around you feel unreal.  I liken it to how I feel when I am in the midst of a severe anxiety attack or sometimes what it feels like when you have a lucid dream (when you become aware that you are dreaming in the sleep state). It almost feels as if I am in a movie. Things feel completely unreal. It can be quite frightening.  The grounding exercises helped with this aspect as well.
  • Losing Time: You know that feeling when you've driven home and you forget lots of parts of the trip? You've basically coasted home on autopilot. You might think, "I don't even remember how I got here!"  Losing time, or dissociative amnesia, is like that. I fortunately did not experience this today.

What causes someone to dissociate?

Most commonly, dissociation occurs during times of extreme stress, and it is common among people with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Knowing that extreme stress is often the trigger for dissociation in my personal case, I worried when I realized I had been dissociating, as I wasn't currently identifying as feeling particularly stressed.

When I thought back on my day, though, I realized that I had some accumulated stress, including having been in several crowded stores, and having my bags searched at one of them, as they suspected that I had attempted to take something. I felt so embarrassed -- like all eyes were on me -- and many of them were.  Perhaps these incidents were the precursors form my dissociative episode.

It's been a while since I've had an episode.  I recognize having one as a bold cue for me to self-care and relax and to cope with the stressors that triggered me as best as I can.

Have you ever dissociated?
What did you experience during your episode(s)?
What have you found helpful?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

The author wrote this blog post several years ago. She is now in RECOVERY from BPD and thriving as an emotionally sensitive person. She teaches all she learned in her live, weekly, global ONLINE classes. Learn more  and sign up for a class at DBT Path.

You might also find these posts on Dissociation helpful to read:

Dealing With Feeling Rejected and Coping With Fears of Abandonment (BPD)

I've made a lot of progress, but I must admit -- for someone who has such a difficulty engaging much in intimate relationships, including friendships, I can become quite distraught when I sense that someone doesn't like me. It doesn't matter who it is, and it doesn't even matter whether I even like the person in question. I experience distress when I think someone doesn't like me.

It used to be intolerable. I would go to great lengths to obtain the approval, acceptance, or kindness of the person I perceived as shunning or rejecting me. I took it very personally and believed, on some level, that someone not liking me meant that my self-worth or value was diminished in some way.

Perhaps it's the issues with identity formation and stability that are common among those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Perhaps it has to do with how many of us had to carefully watch social cues such as a caregiver's facial expressions or posture in order for us to determine if we had met their approval or if they were about to hurt us in some way.

I think I went on to be especially sensitive to social cues and will still often read into the slightest change in social expressions. For example, in one of the support groups I attend, I tend to be very social, make jokes, and generally receive supportive comments from other members.  This past week, I made a couple of comments that people disagreed with. I scanned the room, interpreted others' non-smiling facial expressions as perhaps no longer liking me and thinking I'm a horrible person (Geez - think in black or white terms much?!), and I felt a great deal of distress.

I noticed my face feeling flush, tears coming on, and a desire to ask them how they could all judge me on my comments just today. (But had they?)  I was definitely in Emotion Mind. I'm glad I resisted the urge to speak out about it or to leave. I used the Emotion Regulation skill of Opposite to Emotion Action and stayed put.

After the group, I reflected a bit. It actually took me a couple of days to fully realize the facts of my experience.  I was able to see that I so desperately feared that, based on a couple of comments in a group and despite the bond I had made with the other group members over several weeks, they would reject me (fear of abandonment).  I also thought that just a couple of comments had instantly taken the group from "adoring" me to disliking me (black or white/all or nothing/polarized thinking).  There was cause for my feelings of distress, and staying in the room helped me to realize that nothing that happened in that room that day was directly responsible for my distress. I was reacting to old wounds.

Not everyone will like us.  I know of some people who outright don't like me, and while it's difficult for me to fully accept this, I do the best I can. I remind myself that people have different personalities, and I don't particularly "like" certain people either. It doesn't take away from their value or worth as a person, nor mine. I think that the sooner we accept these things, the less we'll suffer.

Can you relate at all to any of this?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Who Are You Really? Non Judgment and Identity Issue with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

This week for a writing class, I had to choose a poem to write about.  I chose this one and submitted my assignment this morning. The poem so powerfully moved me that I decided to share it with all of you as well:

Let go of your worries

by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Persianجلال‌الدین محمد بلخى‎)
Let go of your worries
and be completely clear-hearted,
like the face of a mirror
that contains no images.
If you want a clear mirror,
behold yourself
and see the shameless truth,
which the mirror reflects.
If metal can be polished
to a mirror-like finish,
what polishing might the mirror
of the heart require?
Between the mirror and the heart
is this single difference:
the heart conceals secrets,
while the mirror does not.

Christina Aguilera's song, "Reflections" may also move you to think about these issues.


Full Video Version of the Open Letter to Non-BPDs From Those of Us With Borderline Personality Disorder (and French video version)

This is the FULL video version of the Open Letter From Those of Us With Borderline Personality Disorder.

You can click here to read the full letter at the original post that went viral.

Please feel free to share this with loved ones to help them understand what you so bravely face every day.

Reader David B. was so kind as to translate the video into French:

Thanks for watching.
More Soon.

The author of this letter has since RECOVERED from Borderline Personality Disorder and no longer meets the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. She 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. Co-facilitated with a licensed therapist. You can read Debbie's books here.

UPDATE: A video version of this letter, complete with narration and text, is now available for viewing and sharing by clicking HERE.

English Version

Opposite To Emotion Action and "Justified" Emotions (DBT)

In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) class, we are back on the skill of Opposite (to emotion) Action in the Emotion Regulation module.

We use this skill when we want to reduce our experience of a certain emotion because it is not serving us in a positive way or it is not "justified."

The word "justified" can seem so subjective -- after all, who gets to decide if your feelings/reactions are justifiable? The answer is: only you.  There are some guidelines for determining whether an emotion is justified by DBT standards so that you can use this information to help you cope with overwhelming emotions that are making you feel miserable.

For example, according to DBT, the emotion of FEAR is justified when:

"There is a THREAT to:

  • Your life or that of someone you care about, OR
  • Your health or that of someone you care about, OR
  • Your well-being or that of someone you care about" ( from the video Opposite Action: Changing Emotions You Want to Change by Dr. Marsha Linehan/ Behavioral Tech, LLC.)

If none of these criteria are met and you are experiencing fear and want to shift it, you would use the skill of Opposite Action. My DBT therapist suggested that we try not to judge ourselves for emotions that occur naturally, but if the feeling is getting in the way or not serving us, then we would use this skill.

According to Dr. Linehan, keep these tings in mind as you notice, observe, and consider shifting your emotion:

  • Every emotion has an action/An emotion motivates you to do something.
  • If an emotion causes an action, you can change the action by action by changing the emotion (and vice versa.)
  • It doesn't always work. (My doctor said that it will work whenever the emotion is not justified by the situation.)

Here are the steps that Dr. Linehan gives in her video for practicing Opposite to emotion Action:

  • Identify Emotion
  • Identify the action of the emotion
  • Ask yourself if you want to change the emotion.
  • Determine the Opposite Action of the Emotion.
  • Do the Opposite Action.

You can read more about this skill, how it works, and how to practice it by clicking here.

Have you used this skill?
In what situations?
Was it helpful?

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

You may also be interested in reading:

I am not my emotions / Yo no soy mis emociones

I am not my emotions or my thoughts, and neither are you.  If you speak or have ever studied Spanish (as I am now), you may have noticed the interesting way in which feelings and states of being are expressed this language.

I actually prefer the way it is expressed versus English, because in English, we take on our temporary, transient states as part of our identity in the way that we speak them.

For example, if you feel cold, you probably say, "I am cold."
In Spanish, however, you would say, "Tengo frío," which means "I have cold."  You don't become the coldness -- you just have it for a while. This makes more sense to me.

It's important to remember that all feelings are temporary and that not all thoughts are true. They don't make us who we are. We are not our thoughts or emotions -- we are the ones who experience them.

Eckhart Tolle describes this concept beautifully in his books A New Earth and The Power of Now, two books I highly recommend if you want to learn about mindfulness and about the concept of being the observer of your emotions rather the emotions themselves.

I'm feeling a lot better after a recent episode that I had of intense anxiety and EDNOS.  If I believed that how I felt would last forever, I might still be suffering. When times are tough, it can be very difficult (especially when you have Borderline Personality Disorder) to believe that you will feel better again, but we must recall a time when we were suffering and came through and know that this instance is no exception.

I hope this encourages you today.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

How My Hypnosis Session Went

You may have watched my recent vlog on this blog post about why I go to hypnotherapy, what a typical session is like, and how it helps me in my recovery, especially around issues with appetite and eating.

I went for my appointment yesterday, and this post is a little update on how that went.

I thought I'd begin by sharing with you some images from my hypnotherapist's office, since I gave you a little description in the vlog the other day. Just being there begins to calm me. I think my nervous systems is conditioned to relaxing in that space.

Here is the waiting room:

It is filled with red, which at first might seem counter-intuitive to relaxation, but you don't go to hypnotherapy just to relax. You go to overcome obstacles and blocks and to feel empowered. I feel this way when I enter the room -- that this is not a place of being passive and letting things happen "to" me. I will be doing some work and allowing my subconscious the space to rise to the occasion of healing.

When I let my hypnotherapist know that I wanted to take a photo of the chair I described to you in the video, she said she'd take a photo of me in it so you could get the full effect. :)

So, here I am, not yet in a trance, but just posing for you guys so that you can see what I was talking about:

Doesn't that look like a relaxing situation? The reclining chair, the soft blanket, soft lighting. It's all very relaxing.

Between the pre-hypnosis session (talking about the issues I wanted to work on) and the actual trance session, I was there for a about 2.5 hours. 

I worked on the troubling thoughts about dairy food (the dialectic of not wanting to eat it for ethical reasons and a need to eat it due to complications from disordered eating.)

When I left, I felt empowered.  I plan to find ways to be able to continue to enjoy dairy while also advocating for the humane treatment of cows -- animals that I dearly love.

I also worked on releasing general anxiety, which has been affecting my appetite and causing issues with EDNOS.  

This morning, I am feeling much better about the aspect of dairy, and I am still wading through some continuing general anxiety affecting my appetite. This is not uncommon. Sometimes the full results of the session can be seen that same day, other times it can take a few days to really set in -- at least that's been my experience.

I woke up a bit judgmental about me and my experience because I didn't feel fully recovered yet, and as you can imagine, such thoughts only served to add more anxiety, so I released them and sent an email to my hypnotherapist -- she likes updates on my progress so we can work to make sure I'm feeling as best as possible -- and I appreciate that!  I did a guided self-hypnosis CD this morning to reinforce the work that I had done with my hypnotherapist yesterday.

Moment by moment, I am feeling better and being mindful to release the judgments, to remember that not all thoughts -- especially the ones we have when we are anxious -- are true. Sometimes they are just thoughts. Often, it is not even the circumstance itself that distresses us but the thoughts we tell ourselves and believe about our situation - which is often worst case scenario, stressful thoughts that aren't even realistic.

I'm using Wise Mind to remind myself of this and being very committed, as always, to staying skillful, knowing that I *can* handle this. It *will* pass, and that I *can and will* tolerate this distress and feel better very soon.

Remember: just because you're anxious or scared and have thoughts in this state does NOT mean those thoughts are true. They can feel powerful and compelling, but challenge them and engage in LOTS of self care, self-soothing, Wise Mind thoughts, and encouraging thinking.

Things will be better soon, and each time you conquer a mountain like this, similar situations will be less daunting in the future, and before you know it, they barely have any power/effect on you.  I've seen it in my own life. May you see it in yours, too.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

PS I also realized that the general anxiety is mostly due to feeling overwhelmed with new responsibilities (grad school), wanting to keep up with my Spanish studies, house chores, etc. I took some time today after breakfast to organize my paperwork and pick up around the house. I took action, and this did help to reduce the anxiety.  If you're feeling overwhelmed, make a list of a few things that need your attention and work through them ONE at a time. That's all we can do -- and it works! When I find myself avoiding things that I know are for my good, due to anxiety, the best thing I've found is to push through and do them. I feel so much better afterward. I hope this encourages you today!

Update and How Hypnosis Helps Me (Anxiety, EDNOS, BPD)

In this vlog, I discuss an update on how I've been doing with a recent episode of emotional dysregulation, but the focus is on how hypnotherapy / hypnosis helps me with issues around EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).

There are trigger warnings before I speaking about the EDNOS issues, and the rest is all about how a typical hypnosis session works and what to expect (based on my experience). It's really interesting stuff!

Thanks for watching and reading.
More Soon.

My Dialectical Diet Dilemma (and how I coped using DBT)

In this video/vlog, I discuss how I became quite emotionally dysregulated last night along with DBT skills I used to cope. There are trigger warnings that give you enough time to fast forward through parts you may not want to hear.

Here are the links mentioned in the video:
What is a Dialectic? What Does Dialectical Mean in Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
DBT Skill: Half Smiling
DBT: Half Smile, Though Your Heart is Aching
Thanks for reading and watching.
More soon.

Would I "turn off" having Borderline Personality Disorder?

I came across an interesting poll asking, "If you could press a button and get rid of BPD, would you do it?"

I give my response in this video.  I also discuss some upcoming plans to work on bringing DBT skills to children.

Thanks for watching.
More Soon.

Here are some books you may find helpful:


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