The Borderline Time Traveler: BPD and PTSD

I am currently reading for a future review and lots of little posts like this in the meantime,

(FTC Disclaimer: I was sent this book by New Harbinger Publications with no obligation.) Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder: Relieve Your Suffering Using the Core Skill of Dialectical Behavior Therapy by Blaise Aguirre, MD and Gillian Galen, PsyD.

Having recently had the pleasure of joining a conference call with both doctors via Amanda Smith's special call-in program, and since my friend Kiera Van Gelder, author of The Buddha and The Borderline endorsed the book, I was excited to begin.

Both doctors really seem to get the experience of someone who suffers from BPD, but I'll dig more deeply into that in the full review.  For this post, I'm focusing on a few lines that immediately impacted me:

If there has been trauma in your life, integrating past events into the present can lead to a fragmented sense of who you are...It can feel as if the pieces and moments of your life don't flow in a straight line, and memories from the past can jump out into the present and feel as if the past events are actually occurring in the present. (p. 21)

Can you relate to this?  It falls under a category of experiences that are not in the DSM but that many people with BPD can relate to: "Lack of Sense of Continuity of Time."

Finally someone actually captured and articulated something that I have been and continue to struggle with.  Many of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter know that I will soon begin an 8-week trauma recovery group. I'm finally ready. And it's reasons like the ones above that I intend to fully immerse myself in the experience, to pay attention to what I am taught, and to apply the skills that I learn.

As I always do with DBT skills at this blog, I will also be sharing any new coping skills that I learn here as well.

Those of you who read my book, Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder: My Journey Out of Hell Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy know that I grew up in the Boston area and now live in Northern California.  I had a painful childhood filled with things that no child should have to bear, and my environment was often invalidating.

Trigger Warning:
My parents didn't know how to respond in the way that a sensitive child required, and they were often in survival mode themselves.  My father had a violent temper, and my mother, sister, and I were often the victims of his frequent lashing out. I spent years in the foster care and group home system.

End Trigger Warning.

I swore that once I turned eighteen, I would move to California, as far away from Boston as I could get, and this is exactly what I did. A myriad of other challenges, crises, and triggers awaited me out here, too, and I get into that in the book.

In my young, naive mind, I believed that I could run away from the pain by moving and putting physical distance between myself and the place that I associated with all of my pain.  At first, it seemed to work, but eventually it caught up with me. As the old saying goes: wherever you go, there you are. You can't outrun yourself.

Again, here's that section from Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder:

If there has been trauma in your life, integrating past events into the present can lead to a fragmented sense of who you are...It can feel as if the pieces and moments of your life don't flow in a straight line, and memories from the past can jump out into the present and feel as if the past events are actually occurring in the present. (p. 21)

Here are the ways I can relate to this:

  • My Dad passed away two years before I moved, and his passing was quite tragic, especially at that time, due to lack of proper medical care and knowledge. Shortly after moving to California, I would have dreams that my Dad was living back in Massachusetts -- that he hadn't passed but was simply far away.  I would wake up feeling disoriented and confused, sometimes (although knowing in my core it wasn't) wondering if it were true.  As a child, my dad often took off for months at a time only to randomly show up when he needed a place to crash or if we bumped into him accidentally while out and about with our mother.  It was as if my mind was integrating those past events into the present. It was a very unsettling experience.
  • It has become very difficult for me to go back to Boston to visit.  At first, I would go once or twice a year.  Things still were familiar and similar, and I knew I could leave and come right back home to what was more of a save haven in California (I thought).  As the years went on, though, as others got older (and I remained very childlike in my demeanor and the way I felt), I felt a sense of disconnection with my environment. 

    Aunts and uncles were passing on.  People who I thought would stay together forever were getting divorced.  I saw people I loved in difficult situations such as domestic violence, substance abuse, and health issues.  I wanted to rescue them all.  I wanted everything to be the way I remembered it before, even if that was hard enough to bear.

    Because things were changing and I was so far from it, only to see the changes once every now and then (my elementary school had been replaced, a relative developed a bone disease that causes her hands to deform, another relative broke up with someone I considered part of the family -- life things that happen and that most people can cope with), I would become quite dysregulated and would, indeed feel like my sense of self was fragmented.

Combine these things with the fact that simply being back in Massachusetts brought back flashbacks of memories too painful to bear, and you can understand why I have been hesitant to travel, even though I greatly miss my family and want us to be a part of each others lives.

I look forward to starting the trauma recovery group next week, especially because I'll get to share my experiences with you.  I'll apply the DBT skills I've learned up until now and will share with you new coping strategies as I embark on this next chapter of my journey.  As always, as a co-emotionally sensitive person, I will be careful to use the "trigger warning" label before anything that seems particularly upsetting. I've lost so much time due to PTSD triggers. It's time to learn how to cope effectively and cherish every moment that we have.

Thank you for being on this journey with me.
More Soon.


  1. Another good topic. I believe BPD and PTSD are quite common, because of the trauma. I can relate to that paragraph about how there seems to be lost time. I never thought about that. I lost track of a lot of time in my life. Especially my childhood, which I have no recollection. I have been wanting to write a book for my son as a legacy, but I cant remember bits and pieces. Its like I checked out in life so many times. Now you wonder why we struggle with our identity. I need to find a good counceler who i am comfortable with so i can start this journey of writing. I know writing is therapeutic too.

    1. Thank you. You make an excellent point about the connection of a sense of identity when we experience the symptoms associated with PTSD, especially issues with remember things as they happened. Thank you for sharing.



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