Is Full Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder Possible?: Guest Post by Clare of Tackling BPD

Is Recovery From Borderline Personality Disorder Truly Possible?

First of all,  I'm going to say something that some may consider a little controversial. Full recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder is possible. I have heard a lot of people say that you only ever learn how to manage it and live with it (and some not even that), but I disagree. I have fundamentally changed - I am still "me" but I am also very different to who I was even a relatively short time ago. Debbie has asked me to write about this, and I will do my best to explain what has changed and how it has happened.

How BPD showed up in my life:

In some ways, I was very typically "borderline." My past is full of drama, inconsistency and, to put not too fine a point on it, failure. Despite having the academic ability I never went to university; I barely managed to hold down a (part- time) job for more than a few years at a time and was sacked on more than one occasion; I've had no relationship last longer than two years and, worst of all, I have a seventeen-year-old son I have never consistently looked after (he lives with my mother across the country). 

All of these factors obviously reflect a very emotionally troubled and unstable young woman. I have taken several overdoses (my first at age fourteen) either out of desperation or as a genuine attempt to end my life. Most of my family do not speak to me.

I have no friends I have known for longer than four years. My life had been a series of 'phases' usually based on who I was in a relationship with at the time. Like most people with BPD,  I had serious attachment issues tied in with identity disturbance which dominated my whole life for as far back as I can remember. Everything had been about my moods, and my moods were nearly always influenced by those around me. From hypomanic when things were going well to suicidal low mood (with the added complication of a separate diagnosis of severe depression) when things were bad. Quite often in the same hour, or even minute. You know what I'm talking about.

Despite being in and out of psychiatric care of one form or another since I was fifteen, I wasn't diagnosed as having BPD until Spring last year after having waited to see a psychiatrist for several months. I was then put on a waiting list to receive Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT) as it's the only treatment for BPD available on the NHS in my area.

I began seeing a counsellor in the Autumn, and after roughly ten sessions she decided that I had already recovered sufficiently and didn't need further treatment. She, in fact, said that I had developed skills that most 'normal' people never do. The reason that I wasn't diagnosed until the point where I had almost recovered is because a) I had been in denial about what was wrong with me so I wasn't giving them the information that would have lead to diagnosis, and b) in Britain, when you wait to see a specialist in any medical field, you can wait a very long time.

So I think I need to answer two questions here: 

What did I do to recover, and how do I know I've actually recovered if I was only first diagnosed roughly a year ago?:

First things first: I have always been a problem solver, and for some reason (either maturity or desperation) I turned this ability on myself a few years ago. 

It went something like this as an example: "My boyfriend has gone away and I feel lost, alone and empty, I need him with me. I can't stand this, I hate myself. I want to die." 

Instead of falling back on my old mal-adaptive coping strategies (heavy-drinking, chain-smoking, manipulative behaviour etc.), I tried to work out why I felt this way. 

I realised that I felt just the same way I did when I was a small child and my mum would go away (I was a super-clingy child) and then I thought about why I was like that as a child - because my older siblings bullied me relentlessly, and I never felt safe unless I was with my mum. 

I had heard about attachment issues so I read up on them and learned what was going on with me. I came across the concept of the 'inner child' and read about that, I read about healing and building self-esteem and dealing with shame. In essence, I did a lot of thinking, a lot of writing (a journal helps my thinking process) and a lot of reading.

 My journals from this period

During a very intense period of self-analysis I wrote hundreds of pages, read dozens of books and figured out why I am the way I am. Of course, just knowing 'why' doesn't automatically fix it but it's a beginning. (I'm trying to bear in mind that Debbie asked me to write a guest post and not a manual so I will try to summarise as best I can.) 

Putting it simply: self-analysis -> self-awareness -> understanding -> forgiveness -> compassion -> self-love. 

That is the process I went through, but along the way I also had to learn a number of valuable skills, such as re-parenting my inner child (an ongoing process); deep-breathing through emotional crises and self-esteem building techniques. I learned most of the skills l needed from books and the rest from paying attention to how my 'healthy' friends dealt with life, relationships etc. (Please bear in mind that various techniques and skills work differently for everyone and we all have to find our own path to recovery, no two people with BPD have the same experience.)

 Some of the books I read during my recovery
(A list of the all of books Clare read are at the bottom of this post.)

So how do I know that I am truly recovered?:

Firstly there is the professional opinion of the counsellor I saw who was very thorough. 

Secondly, I have had 'false recovery' before - back when my diagnosis was Bipolar Disorder I went into a manic phase and abandoned therapy and medications - I know the difference between recovery and high mood and it has mostly to do with lack of tension and not thinking you know everything (I won't go into that too much here). 

Most importantly, I know I am recovered because of what recovery is: learning and accepting who you are (flaws and all); developing essential 'life-skills' and healthy coping mechanisms not learned in childhood; learning love and compassion for yourself (being able to treat yourself as well as you would a loved-one); and being able to cope with what life throws at you, as well as anyone can (we're all human, after all).

Although I still have to stand the test of time, my life is very different today than it ever was. I am in a very stable relationship, living with someone who is right for me. In the past I tried to make myself fit people who weren't right for me because of my attachment issues and not accepting who I am. Now that I have learned to accept who I am and I'm no longer ashamed of myself, others also accept me for who I am and respect me as I respect myself - that is how all relationships work. My friendships are more stable now, I have learned the skills needed to cement good long-term friendships. I get on better with my son and my mum and they see a big difference in me.

I haven't worked for several years, both due to depression and BPD. But jobs are similar to relationships, you have to find the right fit or you end up making yourself more ill. Now that I understand myself better I can choose a job that is right for me and I know what that looks like now. I am fortunate to not be under too much financial pressure to find work at the moment but when I do I'm confident that it will be a very different story than before.

The Acceptance Piece:

One of the most crucial and difficult aspects of recovery is acceptance. Acceptance isn't about liking everything about yourself, it's about not fighting who you are. It took me a long time to get my head around acceptance, I didn't think it would ever happen and it was a gradual, frustrating process. 

I don't like everything about me, and I often get annoyed with myself but I don't beat myself up about it. I think about how I can change the stuff that it's possible to change and I simply accept the rest, for example, I will always be moody but now it's within 'normal' range and isn't erratic

I am very sensitive, this is not a flaw, it's part of what makes me who I am and it has its good and bad sides. 

I am careful about the films and TV I watch because I respect that side of me, so do the people around me - I do not apologise for who I am. Being sensitive makes me very empathetic and caring, I am a good friend and I have helped a lot of people feel better about themselves because of my sensitivity - I wouldn't change it for the world. I am always going to be highly emotional, it's a part of being sensitive to experience overwhelming emotions at times, I have learned to let myself do what's needed to get it out of my system (usually a good old cry) and then when I'm calm I'll figure out what to do about whatever set me off. 

I am much less likely to be triggered now, both due to the changes in my life and the stability that those changes have brought about for me. I also appreciate that I can experience very strong positive feelings that a lot of people just can't (an ex once told me people took drugs to have the euphoric experiences I do). I will always move from one obsessive interest to the next, it's not about seeking an identity or being dissatisfied with who I am, it's because I have a very low boredom threshold. I have known many people with this characteristic who were perfectly healthy - sometimes it's frustrating, mostly it's fun. I miss my boyfriend when he goes away on trips but I don't feel lost and alone without him. I get on with being me. I haven't felt lost and empty for a very long time. I know who I am now.

I do not think I have reached some magical end point - I am a work in progress and always will be. I am still learning about myself and what makes me happy but isn't everyone? 

Unless they've totally given up on life that is. I no longer meet diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder, I am still seeing a psychiatrist every few months but that is because of my long history of depression which I am hopeful I have also recovered from but it's too soon to call that one. 

I have given a lot of thought to developing my methods of recovery into a programme to help others with BPD, I have many, many ideas for this and I am very excited about the prospect but I am also considering whether I am suited to taking on such huge responsibility, I am learning not to rush into things without thought of consequences. I might just start with a book...

-- Clare B.

You can find Clare at her:

I recommend following her to stay up to date with her plans.

Thanks for reading. More soon.

Here is a list of the books Clare read to assist her in her recovery:

Another Perspective on BPD & Recovery (Guest Post By Caroline of Down The Center)

I need to start with an admission.  When Debbie suggested that I write this post about how I have “integrated the skills [of DBT] into your work life,” my initial excitement about getting to write for her blog dissipated into feelings of terror.  

Despite having moved past my initial diagnosis of BPD and gone on to do some pretty cool things, I don’t view myself as a model student of DBT.  

I even tend to put “recovered” in quotes, because, while I no longer fulfill the diagnostic criteria for BPD, my mind is not truly different than it was when I first received my diagnosis. Yet, something had to have worked.  I am happily living with my boyfriend of nearly four and a half years.  I have a cool degree and a job to match.  

On paper, my life looks pretty good.  

I wish I could write this article like a recipe, detailing exactly how I took therapeutic skills and turned them into life experiences.  In truth, as I worked to study sociology, epidemiology, anthropology, and all of the other “ologies” that made up my degree in public health, my Linehan book sat stagnant on my shelf, gathering dust. 

As I spent the last week or so pondering what role DBT has played in my life, I realized that perhaps distorted thinking was coming into play again.  I was considering my experience with DBT a failure because I do not adhere to it religiously.  It was only then that I realized the lesson, which was the same lesson that motivated me to start my blog, Down the Center, in the first place. 

The moral of my story is about letting go of perfection, letting of viewing things as a success or a failure, as good or bad. 

The moral of my story is about balance.

While practicing DBT and using all of its associated acronyms can be really useful, it is the general principles of DBT that guide my life much more than the nitty gritty details.  I have spent the last seven years learning to become aware of my emotions and how they intersect and interact with reason.  In DBT lingo, I remain mindful of my emotions to try to maintain a state of wise mind.

Yes, I still am emotionally sensitive.  Yes, these emotions still surface as monsters more often than they should.  They do their best to gobble up any reason that might be hiding out in the recesses of my mind.  They try to make me do things that do not make me proud. 

Rather than trying to cure my borderline personality, I have learned to become aware of and responsive to it.  

When I feel my emotions start to take control, I have a game plan that helps me calm down before things get out of control. If that fails, I have learned to be humble and apologize for whatever havoc I wreck.

I actually had one of those incidents earlier this week.  A task leader on a project at work gave me very lengthy comments on a piece that I had written.  As I read through her email, my self-esteem plummeted and my anger at her grew.  Thankfully, I had my boyfriend take a peek at my response email.  He edited out all of my passive aggressive language.  After he was done, the email was about a third of its original size.

A few days later, I had a call scheduled with the same task leader.  The first thing out of my mouth was an apology.  I shared with her how I should have handled the situation differently and spent the rest of our conversation brainstorming about how to redo the same piece to make it awesome.

Despite my original poor reaction, this situation ultimately improved both my final product and my relationship with the task leader.  I also am tucking this incident into my memory bank so that I can avoid repeating the same mistake. I let my emotions take control this week, but I was given the opportunity to think through how to handle a similar situation in the future.  In this way, my efficacy is able to improve over time.

Ultimately, this is why I feel funny using the word “recovered.”  

BPD affected and continues to affect my life in countless ways, both good and bad.  

However, by using the skills and philosophy of DBT, BPD does not have to be a disability.  While it can present some nasty challenges that can feel overwhelming, it does not have to define your life.

Far from the stereotype, I have found that people with BPD are some of the most compassionate and truly kind people that I know.  

I feel lucky to be a part of this community where I can learn from others and hopefully share bits of my own acquired wisdom in the process.  Even though I have studied BPD in academic settings, I do not profess to be an expert in “recovering.”  However, I do hope to have the opportunity to share anything that I have learned along my own long path to where I am today while learning even more from the amazing bank of knowledge that this community has accumulated.  

-- Caroline

Down The Center 

If you want to join Caroline on her journey, visit her at her:

Blog "Down The Center"

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

The Shower as a Sanctuary: DBT Self-Soothing Skill

One of my favorite Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills is Self-Soothing.  I went from a time in my life when I believed I was totally undeserving of feeling "good" to becoming immersed in this skill, to finding a balance.

It is still my top go-to skill when I am feeling emotionally dysregulated and distressed and there is nothing that I can immediately (or ever) do to solve the particular issue that is troubling me. (For example, I cannot travel back in time and change the past, no matter how desperately I may wish for this or fantasize about it.)

Each night, I take my Self-Soothe shower, and I usually announce it just prior on Twitter. I take this extra step to model for my followers the importance of taking the time to practice this skill, even when there is no crisis or problem. Regular self-care - especially treating ourselves with extra love and pampering, can go a long way to increase our emotional resilience for when times get rough. If we've been depriving ourselves of self-care and self-soothing, we often come up against emotional challenges from a place of feeling depleted, which is a difficult place from which to start.

Also, when we are feeling distressed and dysregulated, it can be very helpful to take some time out and focus on something positive. Will it solve the problem? Of course not -- but it can help slow us down long enough to not make matters worse and to calm our frazzled nerves.

So, each night I go into my Shower Sanctuary. It's nothing fancy, really. My bathroom is actually quite tiny. My tub is small, so I don't often take baths (though baths can be soooo incredibly relaxing!), but I do fill my shower with "potions" that help me to feel better.

With them, I soothe through scent and touch.

Here are some of my absolute favorites that I have on-hand right now (and at most times):

Pure & Basic Scrub and Body Gel

I picked up the Pure & Basic shower gels on a trip to TJ Maxx.  They always have huge sizes of lovely smelling body washes, scrubs, shampoos, etc. for very reasonable prices. I believe these were only $7.99 each, and they are HUGE.  I believe TJ Maxx often gets surplus, high quality products from other stores, so you can almost always find a great deal like this.

This is the scrub. Love the name. The scent is very subtle, and the feeling of the little exfoliating beads is just wonderful.  My skin feels so soft and smooth afterward. I love this step. If you can't find this brand, I tracked down this Coconut Body Scrub from the Body Shop.

This is the body wash. Again, love the name. The smell is tropical, and when I use it on my skin right after the scrub, it glides on beautifully, lathers wonderfully, and fills the whole shower with a beautiful, soothing scent that helps me take a mini mental vacation.

Here's another body wash that I love to use as well.   The smell is much more intense. It's the Gud Orange Petalooza Body Wash, and it smells like Blood Orange and Vanilla.  I don't have a personal photo of it because I recently ran out.  I'll be replacing it this week.  I usually pick  mine up at Target.

Before we move on, I have one more body scrub to mention. It's from Alba Botanica, and it's the Natural Hawaiian Cocktail Body Wash in Lava Flow. This is my absolute FAVORITE body scrub.  It smells so vividly juicy -- as if you're whole bathroom is filled with freshly sliced pineapple.  I usually pick this up at Target as well. 

Next is shampoo. It is also by Alba Bontanica. To go along with my tropical theme, this one is the Drink it Up Coconut Milk variety.  Side note: it makes my hair so silky soft that I no longer need to use conditioner.  As far as it being self-soothing, again, you get an all-natural coconut scent, and the shampoo has a very silky feel as you lather it up and work it into your hair.   It's a very gender-neutral scent. Who doesn't want to smell like they've been out on the beach in Hawaii?  This is another one that you can find at Target.

Next is my shaving cream.  Yes, I've even found something soothing for this part of my shower experience.  I use the Trader Joe's Honey Mango Shave Cream. It doesn't lather up but rather softens your skin and hair for easy shaving. It has a light, gender-neutral scent, and it's made from all vegetarian ingredients. Resist eating it even though it smells yummy!

When it comes to my face wash, I've been addicted to Bare Minerals Purifying Facial Cleanser since I started using it a couple of years ago. It has a very earthly, soil-like scent to it. It's something I find very soothing, and it makes my skin so soft and clear. It also gently takes off my eye makeup, which saves me an extra step when I get out of the shower.

Last but not least is a body milk lotion that my friend Crystal gave me a while back.  It's the John Master's Organic Blood Orange and Vanilla Body Milk. It is absolutely divine.  It is not shy with it's very vivid scent of blood orange and vanilla, and it absorbs wonderfully into the skin, leaving me feeling refreshed, soft, and beautifully scented. I put this on after I step out of the shower, and it's a great wrap-up to my self-soothe shower experience.

I am always on the look-out for new potions to add to me Shower Sanctuary.  Please do comment with what you use or have used in the past that you recommend.  I can't wait to get some new ideas from you!

Do you use the shower as a self-soothe sanctuary? Might you try it this week?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Top 3 Reasons to Be Hopeful About Recovering From BPD

1.) People are getting better.  

There is evidence around you that people recover.  I recently posted this video about how I no longer meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I thought I would suffer the rest of my life from the symptoms of BPD, and I am so relieved that this is not the case.  In fact, through hard work and learning new skills, specifically Dialectical Behavior Therapy, I, and others, such as Amanda Smith, who founded My Dialectical Life,  a service that provides daily DBT tips via email, and Teresa Lynne of Essence Happens Mental Health & Emotion Management, who now specializes in helping those with BPD and their loved ones, are in recovery.  You can do it, too.

2.) Perceptions among psychiatric professionals are shifting.

Though there is still stigma out there within the medical community, there are therapists like Amparo Penny, who offers online therapy, and Alicia Paz, with whom I run an online DBT group, who choose to specifically work with the "borderline population."  They have hearts that want to help us  awaken our inner ability to heal and recover.  They are not alone. There are also incredible programs out there such as OPI Living and the Roanne Program, which specialize in helping young adults with emotion regulation disorders. Their motto is: "We treat the WHOLE person, not just the diagnosis."

3.) A major stigma smack-down is taking place.

There is an uprising of positive efforts to bring awareness to what Borderline Personality Disorder is and what it is not.  More and more sufferers of this condition are coming forward and shedding their shells of shame to bring hope and encouragement to others.   One such person is NFL Chicago Bear's Brandon Marshall, a three time Pro-Bowler who has made his journey of coming to terms with and overcoming BPD quite public. He started a foundation called Project Borderline, a nonprofit organization devoted to raising awareness for BPD and helping others gain access to the resources they need to recover. Brandon also has a forthcoming documentary called "Borderline Beast," in which he shares his very personal experience with the disorder and his mission to get and stay well.

Borderline Personality Disorder is no longer the psychiatric "death sentence" diagnosis. We can and do get better. There are reasons to have hope!

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

P.S. Further Encouragement: Just days ago, The Minister of Mental Health and Aging in Australia, Mark Butler, was quoted in a media release as saying that "treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder is effective and people can recover and lead fulfilling lives."

Discussion on BPD & Identity Issues (and more, Video from live Ustream session)

In this video, which is from a Live Ustream session, I discussed Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) with respect to my experience with identity issues and more.  Ustream is where I sometimes meet up with readers live, online.  You're able to see my video and hear my audio, but I can't see or hear you.  I only see what you choose to type (questions/comments) in the chat box while watching.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to learn of upcoming live events.   I post the videos from the sessions afterward.


Thank you for watching and reading.
More Soon.

DBT Prayers: A Skill for the Spiritual Seeker (Distress Tolerance)

In this video, I discuss the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of Prayer, which falls under the IMPROVE the Moment component.

Thank you for watching and reading.
More Soon.

If you enjoyed this video, you may like this post:
DBT Distress Tolerance Skill: Prayer

The Grace of Abandonment Issues (Borderline Personality Disorder)

Many people with Borderline Personality Disorder have an intense fear of abandonment. Many times, this is because we experienced it early on in life. Many of us have even developed a keen ability to detect what we perceive to be behaviors that might precede someone abandoning us.

While I still experience these extra sensitivities from time to time, they have also evolved in a way that allows me to have incredible compassion and love for beings who are abandoned or appear to be abandoned, and I wouldn't trade that in for the world.

I'll give you an example.

I must be the dog whisperer (even though I actually have two cats who are my babies), because I often find dogs running in the middle of the street, literally with their lives in danger.  Today was one of those days.

Meet Gracie, an adorable King Cavalier Spaniel who was just seconds shy of being hit by a car on a very busy road this morning.   I saw her running, stopped my car, and began screaming.  There were bicyclists around who stopped traffic. I called to her and patted my knees, "Baby, Baby!"

She came running to me.   Her ears looked matted, but she looked well fed.  She had an old dirty collar on, but there was a name tag and a phone number.  The bicyclists and I called but kept getting voice mail. We left messages.

I decided to take Gracie to Petco to get her a treat and some food.  I didn't know her story. I just knew that she looked quite frightened, was shaking, and had pee peed on herself in fear. My sensitivity around seeing any being having this experience is quite high.

My instinct is to comfort and care for anyone or anything feeling this way -- as I think is the case for most human beings.  I suspect my experience is a bit more intense as a highly emotionally sensitive individual.

Even though it's quite unrealistic given my current living situation, I wanted to keep her. I wanted to make it all better.  I refused to take her to the humane society at the suggestion of my boyfriend. I couldn't bear to let her go through any more trauma.

I left a few messages for the owner:

  • I have your dog.
  • I have your dog -- if this is an old number and you're not Gracie's owner, please let me know so I know how to proceed.
  • If Gracie is your dog, and you can no longer care for her -- with complete non-judgment, I want to help, please call me.

Gracie's Mom called back a few minutes later, frantic.  She said that Gracie must have gotten out of the car when she stopped at the gas station.  We met up, and Gracie went back to her Mom.

I was happy, because things worked out as they were "supposed" to, right? But there was also some sadness in my heart -- the sadness that came from the place of so closely relating to my interpretation of this animal's experience and wanting to keep her in my life a little bit longer.

Emotional? Yes. Expected and reasonable? Yes.

Thank you Gracie for helping me see the grace in the person I've become despite and because of my own abandonment issues.  I love you little girl.

What DBT skills did you noticed that I used in this situation?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Do It Yourself DBT - Guest Post by Sue Sibbald

Sue's Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder three years ago when I became ill in April. It was very shocking for me,  as I was 46 years old and had managed my life up until that point. I had been very successful managing and part-owning a night club and live music venue and offering trainings at a local college. 

My thought on being diagnosed was: "What the hell is this?" I knew about schizophrenia as my mum has that but what was this? 

The one feeling I had in reaction was pure anger. I was angry both at having been told that I had a mental health problem and anger at my psychiatrist for landing me with such a diagnosis. 
I raced home and went straight to my laptop.  I began to research.  This research, I may add, hasn't stopped for three years. I have a deep thirst for learning about BPD. Initially I was out looking for a cure. Silly me.

Research and DBT

I spent my time unravelling a huge amount of information and came to the conclusion that I needed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It had the most research proving it worked and now has 25 Randomized Controlled Trials backing it -- more than any other therapy. 
So off I went to my psychiatrist, and told him I needed DBT.
"Sorry... no DBT in this area. You can have this therapy, that therapy..."
Blah blah, I'm not listening....

The Pivotal Moment

I think this was a key point for me, I could have:
1) sat in a corner blamed the whole world, everyone in it, and given up.
2) got up and done something about it.
So I'm not someone to give in, blame my psychiatrist , my social worker, my parents, family, the rest of the world. Oh that would have been so easy. But, no -- I was going to HELP MYSELF.

Support on The Net

During my time spent trawling the Internet I had come across a Fa
cebook  group that practiced DBT skills and supported one another. The person who ran the site also mailed out everyday a skill to practice (My Dialectical Life).   

I joined this group run by Amanda Smith (@dialecticallife on Twitter) and also bought Dr. Marsha Linehan's DBT Skills Workbook and began to teach myself DBT

That was maybe two yeas ago now and along with using the website, and more lately Debbie's site here at, I  began to learn and practice DBT skills. This was quite difficult, and I admit I get envious of people who are in actual DBT treatment. If you can access it, I'm happy for you, but if not, it is possible to learn the skills. 

(Debbie along with therapist Alicia Paz, MA, LLC also now offer an Online DBT Group , offered worldwide, as of this year.)

What I found enormously helpful was the phone app Diary Card, which helps me log the skills I have used each day. It's a constant reminder of how skillful I can be everyday. I wasn't giving up or giving in.

Advocacy Evolved into Bringing Education and Help to Others

While all of this was going on, I started to campaign via Twitter and in my local area for better services for people with BPD. I wrote letters -- not being negative,  but rather coming up with ideas about how to  educate both staff and the people with BPD. I was invited to join my NHS Trusts Personality Disorder Strategy Team and began paid work educating staff and people with BPD about Personality Disorder. The really wonderful news is I'm going to train to help teach DBT skills, I could never have dreamed of that before, but I suppose hard work pays off. 

I still suffer, but it doesn't take me down

In the meantime, yes, I've had bad times -- days where I felt  I couldn't go on.  I still have trouble coping sometimes and need support. I  sometimes fall by the wayside with unhelpful behaviors,  but yes  -- you guessed it, I get back up and carry on. I have joked before I'm like a weeble:  I wobble but I won't fall down. 

Having the skills helps me manage day to day. If I hadn't have learned them, who knows what I would be doing today.  I love Opposite to Emotion Action. That's my favorite skill. 

Additional Support For YOU

In April last  year, with a friend decided to set up a Twitterchat with hashtag: #BPDChat, which happens every Sunday at 9pm GMT/ 4pm EST, so that people with a diagnosis of BPD could get together to discuss different topics and share ways of managing day to day.
It's still going but I handed over the general running to  friend and fellow BPD sufferer and advocate, Amanda O'Connell , as I'm really busy with work. You will find me on there still, and I may run the occasional chat, or you can find me using the links below.  I'd love to connect!

My main message around all of this is:

If you can't access DBT you don't have to give in, you can learn with Peers on Twitter, Facebook or by yourself or use all three as I do. 

I'm not anyone special, just someone with a passion. Remember you are more than this diagnosis and - YOU ARE NOT ALONE : ) 

Have you got any good tips of how you learn skills, how to remember them, what works for you? Please leave a comment if you do.

Thank you,
Sue Sibbald

Connect with and follow Sue at her:
Blog: Borderline Personality Disorder and Me
Twitter: @BPDFFS
Facebook Page

Coping With Severe Panic and Anxiety using "Just This" (DBT)

Whether you have Borderline Personality Disorder or are emotionally sensitive, from time to time, most of us have experienced the dreaded panic or anxiety attack.  In the midst of it, it feels as if it is going to last forever -- like there is no relief or end in sight.

The more we feed the fear by entertaining these kinds of thoughts, unfortunately, the worse the episode can get.  This is because our brains, specifically the amygdala, has sensed that we are in some type of danger. We may be perfectly safe on our couch in front of the television when we have this reaction.  This is because the amygdala reacts even to perceived danger. So, if you become frightened by thoughts and thoughts alone -- with no imminent or present danger, your brain can still go into red-alert and react accordingly.

This is the state I had been in since last night.  I'll spare you the gory details, but I ended up in the emergency room for intense pain.  I dreaded going to the ER.  I had been away from that place for 20 months -- a record.  I used to frequent it when having mental health crises and hoped I wouldn't see that it again for a very long time.

So, despite sharp pains, I was hesitant to follow through on the advice nurse's recommendation to go in. My Wise Mind kicked in, though, and I followed through. Six hours later, I found out it was probably just a combination of referred nerve and ovary pain.  It's all dissipated now.  

I did my best to stay grounded while at the hospital.  I counted how many green things I saw (not many!), self-soothed visually by looking at this photo of polar bears on the wall (thank goodness it was in the room!)

and the crack of light coming through this window...

and I even made it through an invasive exam in this room though deep breaths and self-talk.

Overall, I made it through a potentially triggering situation with flying colors. 

I didn't feel like myself at all when I got home last night, though. I hadn't been allowed to eat or drink at the hospital in case I needed to have an operation (they thought at one point that it was my appendix).  I needed to get an IV, which those of you who have been following me for a long time know that the combo of not eating and drinking and being made to have an IV have been quite triggering for me in the past due to past trauma. They also gave me Benadryl, which made me groggy. Last night and this morning, feeling disoriented and having become emotionally dysregulated, I ended up having 2 bad panic attacks with a relatively high level of anxiety in the interim.

It wasn't until I noticed my thoughts that I started to get a grip on my state of mind.  It was time to get skillful.

I did some guided meditations for about an hour and lots of self-talk.  I noticed the thoughts, and most of them were future, fear based: 

"What if this never ends? What if I don't feel better again?  What if I let my readers down after recently announcing my recovery from BPD -- is it okay to still have and show my moments of suffering?" 

That's when I got into mindfulness. I kept repeating and reassuring myself, "Just this..."

Just this...

  • moment
  • breath
  • thought
  • bite of food
  • step
  • rapid heart beat
  • transient feeling
  • episode
  • deep breath
....etc.  It's amazing how powerful it can be to ground yourself with the phrase "Just this..." followed by whatever you are feeling or experiencing.  It's a powerful reminder that, as intense as things feel, they will pass.  It's also a reminder that all we ever have to deal with (and in reality, all we CAN deal with) is in this very present moment. We can't know if we'll still feel anxious by dinner time (I just wolfed down a sandwich by the way, so the worry thoughts of the emotional mind that I would feel that way "forever" have been disproven), or even how we'll feel in the next hour.

I encourage you the next time you feel anxiety or panic, as incredibly difficult as I truly know it is, to get a hold of your Wise Mind in any way that you can. Start counting things around you. Notice anything that is comforting or soothing.  Lie down and try some guided meditation, even if it feels like you are going to crawl out of your skin.  Go for a walk.  Anything you can do to reassure your very well-meaning brain that you are not in any real danger will help to reduce the symptoms all the more faster.

I am the type of person where, even when I logically get that I'm okay and no longer feel anxious emotionally, my body is still metabolizing all of the chemical effects of the anxiety and panic, so the rapid heart rate, etc. may last beyond me beginning to feel better mentally. Knowing this can help me from getting hysterical. (For example: OMG -- why is my heart STILL racing even though I'm "over" the anxiety attack?)

I hope this helped or encouraged you in some way to know that you are not alone in  your experience of anxiety and panic and that there are ways to skillfully and effectively reduce your suffering.

Do you experience anxiety or panic attacks?  What do you find helpful during these difficult episodes?  Your comments are always encouraged.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

PS...I have permission from my psychiatrist to share her response email with me regarding my choice to go into the ER for the pain and the resulting panic attacks and thoughts...Here it is!

Dear Debbie- thanks for this email- I think you did the RIGHT thing going into the ER- think of it as "exposure" in terms of separating physical from psychological.

Also, re meeting the BPD criteria or not, I think you were very clear about the criteria you still meet-and those are real and create suffering-its okay to have what you have--think of all the work you have done and all the people you are also helping-
Perfect does not exist (for any of us!!!) Go back to your skills, write, relax and take the ativan 1 mg-that's fine--I look forward to our meeting.

Now that's what I call a caring and validating response.


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