Put a Pause on Panic: Coping with Anxiety & Panic Attacks

You know that feeling.... that fear of dread... it shows up in your body and your mind.  Sometimes you can readily identify the trigger or the precise cause of why you are feeling anxious or panicky. Other times, it's not so easy. 

Dr. Linehan, the creator of the powerful skillset known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), says that there is always a cause, even if it may not be apparent us in that moment. The cause could be something we saw on TV the other day that bothered us, but we tried to pretend it didn't.  (Maybe against our better judgment, we watched a show or movie that contained materials we know we are sensitive to and usually avoid.)

Maybe we had a disturbing dream, and although we know it was "just a dream," it still had an effect on us and shook us up a bit.

Maybe there is an upcoming social event and we worry whether we can handle it.  Or, maybe a loved one has a scheduled trip and we are dreading their departure.

Perhaps you are having some financial concerns and worries.

Perhaps there is something going on at a biological or chemical level beyond our awareness.

There are so many things that can trigger anxiety and panic. The good news is, we do not need to know exactly what the cause of our panic and anxiety was in order to begin caring for ourselves in ways that can potentially reduce the anxiety and panic and our suffering along with it.

I woke up this morning with intense panic and anxiety. I was able to readily identify some of the causes, yet this alone didn't do much to take down the level of intensity I was experiencing.  I went to some of my go-to methods for reducing panic and anxiety -- a few methods that are tried and true for me, and they helped significantly.   At that point, I was inspired to make you the video below so that you will have a resource for these issues too.

If you're feeling anxious and panicky today, I hope this video helps.  If you're having a much better day than that, it might also be an opportune time to watch this video.  If we can learn skills and strategies for self-care when we are feeling well, it can be a lot easier to practice and implement them when we are feeling less than optimal.

So go ahead and give this video a watch, and let me know what you think.  Also, please feel free to share what works for you when you are working to manage your own anxiety and panic symptoms.

Additionally, I have this book on my bookshelf, and it has comforted me time and time again when I've dealt with anxiety and panic that seemed relentless. It's called "Help and Hope for Your Nerves" by Dr. Claire Weekes.  I'll warn you -- it's quite an old text and some of the content is outdated, so be sure to talk to your doctor for the most current treatments and findings.  I just like Dr. Weeke's motherly style and approach to coping with anxiety, and this book has always been a help.

Thanks for reading and watching.

More soon.

In kindness,

Clearing Our Space for Mental Clarity

What started out as a DBT distraction skill practice to tolerate distress has turned into so much more.  For years I've been managing what used to be a hoarding problem. Years ago I threw away so many bags of trash that it was unbelievable. At that point, my life changed.  I no longer filled my home with objects.
Since then over the years, I've slowly collected and accumulated little things and started cluttered corners here and there.  Nothing at all like before, but I knew somewhere deep down inside that the reason I was doing it was because I felt some sense of security in having lots of "stuff" around me.
Don't get me wrong. My living space is not and hasn't been something you'd see on a TV show like Hoarders. For the most part, I've kept it neat and tidy. But there are certain spaces that have been cluttered with things. Things that held memories. Things that were cute.  Papers that I didn't want to throw away "just in case."
The top of my filing cabinet was one such place.  The nightstand next to my bed another.  The desk in my office another.
I decided to make one of these little spaces a little bit nicer and practice parting with things.  Dr. Marsha Linehan recommends this as an activity that you can do in order to create a space that is soothing to us through the sense of vision.  You might clear a table and then place upon it a vase of flowers...or leave it as it is... just clean and clear.
I was determined to be effective while feeling bored and thought: what better way to use my time. If I'm so bored, I can get around to all of these little "pesky" tasks I've been putting off for so long.
I started four piles: donate, recycle, shred, save box, and trash.  At first it felt very difficult to participate fully and mindfully in my chosen task.  I would look at a ticket stub and hold a fond memory and put it in the save box.  I'd then look at other articles and realize that I hadn't needed them or even looked at them in a year (or more). These made it into the other pules.  Once I finally had a clear space, the area transformed for me. It became more tranquil.  I felt like a weight had been lifted -- as if I'd released something beyond the physical objects and memories that they represented.  
The process became addictive, and I moved onto a another space.  Before I knew it, I was organizing and cleaning out drawers, closet spaces, and my laundry room.  What started out as a terrifying prospect -- parting with my stuff, because I thought doing so would cause me to lose a sense of myself, has become a liberating adventure with me adding tasks to the "what's next" list. Just when I think I've finally run out of projects, I realize there is more.
At some point, I'll probably run out of areas to organize, and that's okay.  I feel like, in some way, the process has set the stage to "open space" for other possibilities. Not more stuff to replace the old, per se, but something which I cannot yet imagine.  I have a good feeling about this.  I'll keep you posted.

Can you relate?

Might you benefit from taking a bit of time to de-clutter your space?
Thanks for reading.
More soon.
In kindness,

From Love: The Power of Peer Support in Healing from BPD (Guest Post by Mary) Part Two

I am so proud to again present to you the work of Mary, a friend who is a Certified Peer Support Specialist in recovery from BPD.  This is part 2 of her guest post series.  If you missed part one, read it here, then enjoy the article below.

Love as the Doorway to Recovery
“I am honored to walk beside you in this journey.  I’m here for you.  Even when you may lose faith in yourself, I hold belief in your ability to recover.”
My therapist to me as I was sobbing after a major bump in the road…

I was working on a behavior chain one day last summer.  I found it excruciating to go over, in detail, the event that led to me acting out a destructive coping mechanism (Dialectical Behavior Therapy calls them “therapy interfering behaviors”).  I wasn’t allowed to go into group again until I completed the chain analysis.  I got so upset while working on this chain that I ended up screaming and throwing a chair against a wall.  A few minutes later, when my therapist came in and asked me how I was, I just started sobbing...wailing might be a more accurate description.  I was in despair and overwhelming pain, and then she did something that shocked me.  Seeing how much pain I was in, she came over and hugged me, saying those words quoted above.  I was overcome by a sense of love. 

Love is a loaded word.  When love shows up between a therapist and a client, warning signs of transference go up.  However, there are many kinds of love.  Not all love is of the romantic or parental form.  In that moment, the form of love that I felt was closer to what is known as “Agape” in , or “Mettā” in Pali.  A common translation of Mettā is “loving-kindness.”  In my peer support training, I began to understand how love is the key to opening “recovery pathways.”  Love is the key to peer support.  Sometimes when we are facing mental health challenges, we need to experience love from others before we come to cultivate it within ourselves.

“May I be happy.  May I be safe.  May I be well in body and mind.  May I be peaceful and at ease.” ~ Loving-Kindness (or Mettā) Meditation

How Peer Support Helps Me to Recover from BPD

            Before I discovered Debbie and the Healing from BPD community, I felt completely alone in my efforts to overcome BPD, trauma, and an eating disorder.  I was full of that shame and self-stigmatization I referred to earlier in this post.  Though I knew about DBT and had worked through a DBT self-help book, I was struggling.  Shortly after I “came out” about my specific mental health challenges in 2012, I discovered Debbie’s blog.  I decided to begin her 31 Day DBT Challenge  as a way to further integrate the skills.  I decided to document my journey through that 31 day challenge on YouTube.  From doing so, I discovered and was embraced by a supportive online community of peers.  These peers, especially Debbie, helped support me until I found more structured resources from a DBT program in my area.  I owe a great deal to Debbie for her role in my recovery journey.

            When I entered an intensive day treatment DBT program, I immediately connected and resonated with one of my peers who was about to graduate.  She had been there for a year.  We had so much common ground in terms of our challenges and life situations.  She had also just graduated from peer support training through Recovery Innovations, Inc. (where I later was trained in peer support).  This individual lived DBT and radiated the spirit of recovery.  I was hopeful that if she could get there, so could I.  I just needed the right kind of support and skills.  Even after she graduated, we have stayed in contact, and she has been one of the most influential supports and role models in my recovery.

            I was also blessed that−though they did not serve me in a traditional peer-support role−most of my treatment team had faced their own mental health and/or addiction challenges.         Their openness about those experiences inspired me to work towards my own recovery.  They provided professional support in a kind and compassionate manner that respected my personal autonomy and drove me to be more effective.  Upon graduation from that DBT program, like that peer I resonated so deeply with, I also had graduated from peer support training.  From that training, I came to be familiar with the things that make peer support so effective.  These things have aided in my own recovery.  I look forward to sharing the top three things in my next post, coming soon to Healing From BPD.

Until next time,


Intense Emotions and BPD (Borderline Traits, Emotionally Sensitive)

In this video, I discuss how those with Borderline Personality Disorder (or who are in recovery), those with Borderline Traits, and those of us who identify as being emotionally sensitive sometimes experience our emotions in the world.

HINT: Much more intensely than the people around us.

The good news is, we can learn to better manage our experiences with intense emotions.

Check out this video, and let me know if you can relate in the comments below.

Links mentioned:

This Blog: Healing From BPD

Healing From BPD on Facebook

The site where I teach DBT classes from a peer in recovery perspective: DBT Path

DBT Path on Facebook

The page to sign up for my mailing list for the free webinar for Emotionally Sensitive People, coming this summer.  This event will be password protected, and only those on the list will be invited.

Thanks for reading and watching.

More soon.

In kindness,

Mindfully Managing Severe PMS/PMDD with BPD or if Emotionally Sensitive


If there's one thing I've learned about the days leading up to my menstrual cycle, it's not to make any rash or hugely important decisions. Why? I suffer from PMDD, a severe form of PMS that, for many years, hugely complicated the symptoms I experienced as a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder.

I am and always have been a highly sensitive person -- not just emotionally, but also to things like shifts in medications, diet, sleep patterns, environment and routines, and as is the case with PMS/PMDD, hormonal fluctuations.

Here is how I've been coping with the sometimes hugely challenging aspect of the latter from a skillful place.

Mindfully Paying Attention To My Experience

I've noticed that the during the days before my period, my physical energy is lower, as is my emotional resiliency. I'm quicker to become irritable, and I'm craving chocolate and other sweets in large doses.  As always, when these symptoms and states of mind occur and I become conscious of them, it occurs to me that it my be getting close to that time of the month - my menstrual cycle - but, also as always, I dismiss the idea, thinking, "It can't be. I just had it." (LOL.)

Checking the Facts of My Experience

A couple of days will pass, and I inevitably go and check when I last had my period by checking my Google Calendar. I talked about how and why I set this up in this post [PMS, PMDD, and Borderline Personality Disorder] from several months ago.

When I checked the calendar during the recent experience of symptoms, it turned out that I was due to start my cycle in 3 days. So, yes, I was in the thick of PMS symptoms, and in my case PMDD - a severe form of PMS.  

I had recently considered and even started hormone treatment (the birth control pill) to help regulate the intense symptoms of PMDD, which for me have highly mimicked, enhanced, or worsened any BPD-related symptoms, but after feeling quite unwell physically and mentally after just two days on the treatment, I decided to stop it and continue to monitor my symptoms and progress before possibly starting any other treatment.

My Experience of the PMS, PMDD, and BPD Connection

PMS and PMDD symptoms have had a strong connection with my experiences in my early twenties as a woman with yet undiagnosed BPD.  Nearly every time that I would voluntarily (or involuntarily) be admitted into a psychiatric ward for feeling "out of control" mentally, I would awaken the next day in my hospital bed to find that my period started. I felt better, and I was now stuck in a ward for a minimum mandatory 3 days to be evaluated for psychiatric issues. 

Despite this, it wasn't until very recent years that I suggested to my psychiatrist, who has only been a part of my clinical team for the past few years, that I thought I might have PMDD. She had me monitor my moods around my period. I also went off a birth control pill in order to allow myself to learn my body's own natural rhythm in terms of the number of days between my cycles and any physical and mental symptoms I'd experience during these times.

**Trigger Warning**

With this in place, I was able to, indeed, find a correlation between the wild mood swings, irritability, and even suicidal thoughts during times when my life was going along wonderfully, were connected to the approach of my menstrual cycle.

**End Trigger Warning** 

How Mindful Awareness Helped me to Stop Sabotaging
The incredible positive that I have gained by becoming aware of this connection is the awareness that has allowed me to work with my mind and body each month when these symptoms surface.  I can now respond to my body's needs without reacting from a highly activated, emotional place.  It's really made all of the difference. I now know what to expect and deal with myself more compassionately during this time of the month.

Can you relate?  Do you have a loved one who experiences this?  Be sure to check in with your medical doctor or psychiatrist for ideas on what may help in your particular situation.

If you'd like to work on some Distress Tolerance skills alongside me to cope more effectively with the emotional distress that comes up during this time of the month, join me for this online DBT class, which starts in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,


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