Resources: Men and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)


I already know about the difficulties of experiencing the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder as a woman.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be a man with BPD in a culture that undervalues emotional expression from males and often encourages the expression of stereotypical anger, macho-ism, and the suppression of emotions such as sadness and vulnerability.

When we hear about men with regards to Borderline Personality Disorder,  we often hear from husbands, partners, and fathers of woman who suffer from BPD.  It is not too often that we come across men who are talking about their own personal experience of suffering from the disorder.  But that is, thankfully, slowly starting to change.

More and more men are beginning to feel safe coming forward with their own personal struggles with the oppressive symptoms of BPD and are seeking the services that can help in the management of their intense emotions.

There are two men in particular who I credit with helping to pave the way for other courageous men to step up and receive the help that they deeply need and desperately deserve: NFL player Brandon Marshall (Project Borderline) and artist Ben Moroski (This Vicious Minute).

Watch pieces of their stories, here:

TRIGGER WARNING - Contains potentially triggering content.

"This Vicious Minute" by Ben Moroski:


NFL's Brandon Marshall's documentary trailer for "The Borderline Monster:"




END TRIGGER WARNING 

As part of my own effort to help bring change to this area I, with therapist Alicia Paz, M.A., LLPC have banded together to offer a DBT Distress Tolerance class exclusively to men via a 100% online format that allows for a supportive, private, encouraging environment. And, you do not need to have BPD or any other diagnosis to attend.

This class was born out of an identified need for a safe, caring place for men who wish to work on emotion regulations issues such as anger, anxiety, or struggling with intense emotions.

If you are a male looking to sign up for this course, you can find out more information on the DBT Path Class page.

For more intensive services, if you are man between the ages of 17-28, the Roanne Program in Southern California offers in-person services to help you overcome emotion regulation issues.


Are you or do you know a man who has BPD or other issues around emotion regulation?  What have been the biggest challenges to seeking and receiving the support and care you need to work through these issues to recovery and healing?

Also, are you (or do you know) a man who has BPD or other emotion regulation issues who has an established blog or vlog who might be interested in auditing a class at DBT Path for review purposes? Contact dbtpath[at]gmail[.]com if so.

More soon,
Debbie


Other Resources:


Article by Dr. Robert Fischer of Optimum Performance Institute, "BPD and Males: Finally We Are Addressing It."

Article by Richard Zwolinksi, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski of Therapy Soup at PsychCentral, an interview with Dr. Fischer on "Men Can Have Borderline Personality Disorder, Too."

David O'Garr's personal story of "Life As a Man with BPD." 

Online DBT classes for men and women at DBT Path.

Know of other resources for men with BPD that should be included in this article? Tweet them to @HealingFromBPD or comment below or at our Facebook Page.


Quick Tips For Using DBT Skills When Traveling




In contrast to the dreary, snowy landscape outside my window the last time that I wrote for Healing from BPD, I now find myself at the height of summer. The days are hot and long, and the sky is sunny and blue. Looking out the window, it is difficult to imagine feeling anything but relaxed and happy.


Yet, here I am, writing to you about coping with and healing from Borderline Personality Disorder.


The truth is, the summer brings it's own unique set of stressors and triggers. Today, I am going to talk about one of my own biggest sources of stress: travel. Whether you plan to head across the ocean or just across town, many of us travel over the summer. That means that many of us deal with the stressors of balancing logistics and delays, of dealing with the unknown and potentially uncomfortable.


If you follow my own blog, Down the Center, you'll know that one of the most common scenarios that prompts me to bring out my arsenal of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills is travel. I travel often for work, but the challenges and stressors are the same as if I were going on a summer trip. I just have to deal with potentially annoying colleagues rather than potentially annoying family members.


At Down the Center, I typically go into detail with how I use DBT to deal with individual situations. For this article, I will present you with some quick tips for how I use DBT to deal with two of the most commonly experienced travel annoyances:


Annoyance:Intercultural Communication
DBT Solution: The great thing about interpersonal effectiveness skills is that they are (largely) cross-cultural. DEAR MAN is one of my favorite skills to use on the road. Traveling often puts you at the mercy of other people - taxi drivers, hotel concierges, even locals whom you meet on the street. Without your typical resources at hand, you often find yourself forced to rely upon the kindness of strangers. For someone used to being self-sufficient, this can feel odd or even uncomfortable. It can be especially tricky when your request feels atypical. 

For example, I recently found myself stranded in Nebraska. To get home, I had to cancel my previous reservations and make new ones at the very last minute. I experienced feelings of guilt, as I knew that accommodating my needs created extra work for others. To moderate my anxiety and maximize my efficacy, I thought through each step of DEAR MAN in my head before approaching each new employee. When speaking with the employees, I was careful to:


  • briefly DESCRIBE the situation in which I found myself
  • EXPRESS that I wanted to find a convenient way to return home
  • ASSERT exactly what I wanted from the employee - whether this was to check out of the hotel early or book a new flight for a particular time
  • REINFORCE the impact of this change - it would help me attend to an emergency situation at work and save a lot of hassle
While engaging in these four steps, I attempted to stay MINDFUL of my objective (getting home), APPEAR confident (even if I didn’t feel confident), and NEGOTIATE. I actually mentally prepared a list of compromises that I was and was not willing to make ahead of time.


Annoyance: Airport Delays 
DBT Solution: Distress tolerance skills can be hugely important in a modern airport. You get shuffled through lines, patted down by strangers, and then - after all of that - you can be made to wait. And wait. And then wait some more. Whether you are eager to get to your vacation spot or anxious to arrive at an appointment on time, delays can be majorly stressful. 
The most stressful delay that I ever experienced was when I was returning home from a short overnight trip. My co-workers took a different flight that left 15 minutes before mine did. Apparently, 15 minutes is just enough time for air traffic control to decide to close all airspace over NYC. Unfortunately, my own crew did not hear about this until we already were boarded on the plane and sitting on the tarmac. That night, I sat in my cramped coach seat for the maximum amount of time allowable by law. When we finally deplaned, it was late, and all of the hotels had been booked by passengers whose flights got cancelled earlier. Exhausted from a full day of work and travel, I was forced to spend over an hour negotiating with airline agents and hotel desk clerks to rebook my flight and find somewhere to sleep.
What kept me sane - not to mention calm - that night? I used many of the skills from Wise Mind ACCEPTS:


  • I distracted myself with pleasant ACTIVITIES rather than sitting and focusing on a negative situation that I had no power to change. Whenever traveling, I always make sure to pack an extra book or download an extra podcast just in case I find myself bored and without wifi.
  • I attempted to CONTRIBUTE by doing whatever I could to help others. This included warmly thanking the flight attendant for her help and sharing whatever helpful information that I had with other marooned travelers.
  • I kept the situation in perspective with COMPARISONS. I remained mindful of how lucky I was to be safe and sound on the ground rather than flying through a potentially dangerous storm.
  • I could have managed excess anxiety by using opposite EMOTION skills, using mindfulness meditation to focus on feelings of calmness.
  • I used my book to mentally PUSH away and distract myself from the situation at hand.
  • Engaging with my book allowed me to focus on positive THOUGHTS rather than dwelling on negative judgments about my icky situation.
  • In situations of truly heightened anxiety, focusing on SENSATIONS can help. This can be anything from snapping a rubber band against your wrist to digging your toes into the sand at the beach. I recently helped moderate the stress of a busy work trip by stopping by a beach at the end of the day. Engaging in mindfulness meditation while feeling cool water lap around my legs really helped to maintain balance during an otherwise trying week.


What other travel annoyances have you experienced, and how how you used DBT to help? Share your thoughts in the comments, and I will be sure to reply. Also, come visit me at Down the Center to read more about how I use DBT (and other skills) to maintain wellness and balance in all sorts of situations. 

Til next time,
Caroline

You can also read Caroline's first guest post at HFBPD, "Another Perspective on BPD and Recovery."


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DBT Distress Tolerance Skill of Comparisons: How and Why To Use It


As I lay in bed the other night feeling restless and moody, I began to search for what was causing my distress. As an emotionally sensitive person (who is becoming better at managing intense emotions with time and lots of continued DBT practice,) I am still and likely may always be a little more annoyed at little things than the average person; a little more reactive or more easily activated emotionally by things that others may take in stride.

Even when my logical mind knows that the things that are upsetting me are quite minor in the grand scheme of things, I still must remind myself of how true this is.  Practicing the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of Comparisons can be a great help in times like this.

One way the skill can be used is to compare your current situation to those of others who are less fortunate. In this way, you may experience a sense of gratitude that your situation is not worse and a sense of compassion for those who may be suffering even more than you.  For example, you may think of people who have recently been through a natural disaster while you and your family are safe and sound, or someone who is having a difficult time finding a job when you have one that is relatively secure.

Some sensitive people find this way of using the skill difficult, as they then begin to feel guilt and sorrow for the less fortunate. It is okay to experience that briefly, but the goal is to realize how good you have it compared with how things could be.

Another way to use the skill is by comparing your current distress causing situation with a time in your own life when things were worse, and perhaps you didn't have the insight or resources that you have now.  I began practicing this method the other evening.

I was stressing about deadlines and professional commitments even though I had received assurance that I was on-track and on-time. I was also stressing about some creative projects. My muscles were tense, and I had a one track mind, repeatedly playing my worries over and over again.

I decided to begin my skillful intervention with some self-soothing.  I turned on an old CD from Jewel called Spirit, as I remembered it as being a very soothing, lullaby-ish folk album that would put my nerves at ease many years ago.  It delivered on this night as well. What came along with the soothing sounds was a flood of memories, as I noted the release date of 1998 and remembered bits and pieces of what my life looked like then.  

For the most part, it wasn't pretty.  I was young, homeless, and in an abusive marriage.  I thought about that as I lay in an ultra comfy bed, surrounded by my cats and significant other. My life has come a long way.

Those of you who read my first book, Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder may recount one memory that I shared of going though the driving thru of a fast food restaurant just as they were closing, feeling fully humiliated, to ask them if they'd be throwing away any food that I could have.

I'll never forget the kindness of the crew that night that put together a huge bag of food for me. I thought of this in connection with how  I complained the other evening about my "boring" yet abundant, healthy, and delicious leftovers that I had that evening and which allowed me to go to sleep with a full belly.

I realized how much better off I am now. It's not to say that I don't ever have the right to be irritated or upset by things, but using the DBT Comparison skill helps me put these concerns into perspective and take the emotional edge off of my reaction.

Your examples don't have to be as extreme as mine. Perhaps they are even more extreme. My hope is that in practicing this skill the next time you feel distressed, you may experience what I did when I practiced: a sense of renewed gratitude and a lessening of feelings of distress.

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

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.

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