The Process of Overcoming BPD - Follow Up Guest Post by Clare




Debbie has very kindly asked me to write a further guest post expanding on how I recovered from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It seemed difficult for me to narrow down exactly what to write about when it is such a complicated process, but then I realised (I'm going to be controversial again) fully recovering from BPD and living a happy full life is not complicated, it’s really quite simple. In my own experience, all we need to do is to heal all the damage that was done to us as  children and then continually make sure we get all our emotional needs met (more on that here).


Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder: Simple but not EASY


Yes, it is simple, but it’s not easy. It’s a long, hard painful process and no-one knows that better than me who did it without professional support. I'm not saying that to impress or get sympathy, I just want to be very clear that it is possible and if I did it on my own then anyone can do it. Back to the healing part – I'm going to try and focus the rest of this post on what healing all that damage involves and how I went about it.


The Process of Healing

In first guest post here at Healing From BPD, I wrote about a process that I went through:
self-analysis -> self-awareness -> understanding -> forgiveness -> compassion -> self-love
The crucial thing that this process lead to was compassion. I used to have no compassion for myself at all. Deep down I didn’t think I deserved it. I didn’t believe I was worthy of sympathy, compassion or love and those beliefs tainted every aspect of my life. 


BPD and Invalidating Environments in Childhood


If you have BPD the chances are you did not receive the unconditional love and validation you deserved and needed as a child. When a child grows up without those things, that child is damaged, their emotional growth is stunted – just like a plant that doesn’t get enough water and sunlight. The natural result of that is you want those things even more. 



Effectively there is a little child inside you that craves love and validation so much it hurts, it really hurts. And when those things are still denied it leads to feeling empty, and needy, and desperate. And when someone’s desperate what to they do? Absolutely anything they can to get the things they need and deserve. And that is often not pretty so it leads to more self-loathing. It becomes a vicious circle. Your life’s a mess, you hate yourself, how are you ever going to crawl out of this hole? What’s the point of even trying?



To make things worse, we don’t even fully understand why we are doing all this. We say things to ourselves like “Why am I so needy? So sensitive? So pathetic? I can’t do anything right. I'm useless, no-one will ever love me.” And that makes us feel worse, we have no compassion or understanding for ourselves and we continue to act out of desperation and our lives continue to be a mess and that just proves that we can’t do anything right. Right? 



Wrong. We can – we just need to stop, think and learn to understand ourselves. It takes strength and will power because for our whole lives we’ve been running away from the pain and the fear, the pain and fear control us and in order to heal the first thing you have to do is stop running and turn around and face it so you can take back that control. 



The Importance of Self-Empowerment and Self-Love, and Compassion in Healing


I have been through this process many times. I sat down and I thought about what I felt and why I felt that way. It all came back to the things that happened to me when I was too young to have any control over my life. I was terrified of being abandoned because when I was a child the people who should have loved and protected me hurt me and I never felt safe. 



I didn’t grow out of those feelings, no-one does, they stay there until you deal with them. So how did I deal with them?



I learned to give myself, my inner child, the love and validation that she needed. I used to hate Little Clare, I resented her for all the things in my life that were wrong and hard and unfair. But hating her only made it worse. Is it not bad enough to be rejected by the people who should love and accept you without rejecting yourself as well?


 
If you don’t love yourself, it’s almost impossible to accept that anyone else will love you and that’s why we destroy our relationships and get involved with people who hurt us even more, deep down we feel that is what we deserve. Love has to come from the inside first. 



Now I understand how difficult that is, it’s not something that happened overnight for me, it’s something I had to really work at but the key was understanding. Picture this: a drunk man slumped on the ground outside a shop, he’s dirty, he’s begging, he’s a mess. Chances are people think that he’s disgusting, weak and pathetic and needs to get his life together. You go into the shop, the shop owner tells you that the man’s son died, the stress broke up his marriage, he couldn’t cope at work anymore so he started drinking, he lost his job, his house, he lost everything.



Do you feel any differently now? The man could perhaps have made better choices along the way but he was doing the best he could, maybe his father was an alcoholic and he never learned a better way to cope. It’s not too difficult to give compassion to others when we understand their stories, people with BPD are particularly good at this, yet it is harder to give ourselves that compassion but it comes from the same pace – understanding. 



Self-Analysis as a Powerful Tool in Recovery



I know self-analysis is very hard for some people. It has nothing to do with intelligence, I’ve met many smart people who just really struggle with it. I am fortunate that once I got to a certain point in my life, it started to come naturally for me – I am an analytical problem solver. The way I did it was mostly through writing, I would ask myself why I felt a certain way and then I’d just keep digging deeper until I got some insight and understanding. (For an example of what I do, read my post “I feel ugly”  where I chose to explore some extremely painful feelings publicly to show others the process I go through.) 


As well as writing, I find talking to other people really helpful, even talking to them about their own problems can trigger some insight into my own. Social media is a fantastic tool for this, you can connect with people who understand and empathise with you and you don’t even have to tell them your name if you don’t want to. I also read dozens of books and they gave me valuable insight. 



A lot of books give exercises that help you explore your feelings so you have some guidelines. If you have a therapist or mental health worker then that is a wonderful opportunity to try and understand yourself more. I know that it is very difficult for some people to talk about their problems and their pain, they are scared it will drive people away, they believe that for people to like them they have to give everything and take nothing, they feel that they don’t deserve to be listened to – that they are being ‘self-indulgent’. When people talk to me about their problems I thank them for giving me the opportunity to understand more. Most people appreciate being asked for help and advice, it makes them feel valued.



Check Your Thoughts: What you Believe Matters



As part of understanding why I felt the way I did I had to also understand what underlying beliefs I had. Sometimes called “self-limiting beliefs,” these are often ideas that we carry around with us that we aren’t consciously aware of or that we know to be irrational but don’t really challenge. 

One of my strongest unspoken beliefs was that I had to be perfect so everyone would like me and they would stop hurting me. Through self-analysis I identified this belief and started to challenge it, whenever it was present in my mind I would say things like “ It’s not possible to be perfect – whose idea of perfect is this anyway?” or “I can’t control what others think of me and I'm going to drive myself mad trying, but I can control what I think.” One of the most common beliefs is “I don’t deserve to be happy, I am bad.” Are you? Bad people don’t torment themselves, they just get on with being bad. Is the idea of being bad something you picked up from people when you were growing up? Was it being hurt and invalidated that made you feel that were bad or wrong in some way? Are you always going to live under that shadow?


Once I started to understand why I felt clingy and needy and insecure and empty and all the other things that I hated I gradually started to feel compassion. One time my ex, who I talked over a lot of this stuff with, told me he hated my inner child and she was a bitch (it was a bad day) and I immediately jumped to her defense. That was a turning point for me, it wasn’t all straightforward from there but it was something I gradually worked at. I have now got to the point that I rarely think of my inner child as separate from myself, she’s just me, I have fully accepted her and that is what healing is. 



See Yourself as Complete, Enough, and Wonderful


It’s stopping the habit of separating out parts of yourself for blame and resentment; fracturing yourself into pieces that you can’t and won’t accept. Rejecting yourself and being terrified of seeing that rejection mirrored by others. 



To heal you must accept that it’s a long process and takes a lot of work and effort but it is achievable. I really only started to face up to my pain about three years ago though and that’s not really a long time to come so far. Everyone has to go at their own pace and find their own way, many of us have other problems that go alongside BPD (I have a history of major depression and anxiety disorders) and those complicate recovery. 


I think the thing that really pushed me to keep going was my complete refusal to give into fear, I’ve had that attitude since I first stood up to a bully when I was fourteen – I didn’t stop being afraid, I just refused to let it run my life any more. If you keep waiting to not feel afraid anymore, you’ll always be waiting. Occasionally that attitude has been drowned out by all the BPD, depression and anxiety but it’s still there. I'm stubborn, obsessive, single-minded and I refuse to be told what I can and can’t do by anyone and I am very grateful for that. I now see myself as a whole person, full of contradictions and flaws and capable of making mistakes but I don’t think I'm bad and deserve to suffer any longer, and I know that you don’t either.



-- Clare


Read Clare's first guest blog post at Healing From BPD:
Is Full Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder Possible?

You can visit Clare at:

Tackling BPD 

I recommend following her to stay encouraged by her recovery process.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for that compassionate post, Clare! You definitely deserve to feel good about yourself!

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    1. Thank you, that is a lovely thing to say!

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  3. Thanks for sharing those insights. This is something my therapist preaches to me often. She is currently wanting me to go into residential treatment between my BPD and my major depression I am just spiraling down, but I struggle to break my wall down and find compassion. I can sit and find an argument as to everything as to why I do not deserve the compassion...and you know what I probably do deserve it, but I just cannot feel it at all. I hope someday soon I will be able to...if not for me then at least for my one year old son. Thanks again for your post.

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    1. I think this is why for a time when I was in recovery I separated out different parts of me and almost thought of them as different people. When I realised I had an inner child that was struggling I tried to think of her in the way I would think of any lonely lost child so I could start to feel compassion. There are workbooks on how to go through that process, some use visualisation techniques which can be helpful. I also wrote letters to Little Clare. It feels a bit strange but I was willing to do whatever worked. I hope that you're able to find your way back soon, I'm pleased you have a therapist who cares for you.

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  4. Clare - thank you SOO much for this post. I relate to so much of it, particularly the parts about feeling ugly (I avoid mirrors just in case seeing myself in bad light sends me into a downwards spiral) and feeling inherently 'bad' (I love your response to this too - why would we try so hard to change if we really were bad?).
    I been on a self-help mission for years, and only recently have worked BPD might be the problem. I don't have access to BPD therapists where I am, so have little choice but to try and do it myself. So this is why you my dear, give me so much hope! Thank you for this xxxx

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    1. Hi Kate, I am so pleased that you were able to identify with and find hope in my post - it is great to hear from someone who is also working on healing through self-help, we are not alone!

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  5. What a wonderful, thoughtful post - thank you so much for sharing, Clare!

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    1. Thank you Caroline, I really appreciate you saying that!

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