From Love: The Power of Peer Support in Healing from BPD (Guest Post by Brittyn Aeshe Calyx)



I am so proud to again present to you the work of Brittyn (Aeshe) Calyx, a friend who is a Certified Peer Support Specialist in recovery from BPD.  Her ability to convey her message of hope while retaining the vulnerability, rawness, and human-ness of her experience always moves me.  Here is the first part in a series that will be featured here at Healing From BPD.  Enjoy!


Borderline Personality Disorder affects relationships… plain and simple.  If you’re reading this, odds are you know that all too well.  BPD can cause relationships with significant others, family members, co-workers, and friends to feel the strains of conflict and out of control emotions.  The most important relationship those of us with BPD must attend to, however, is the relationship with ourselves. 

Nowhere is the harm caused by BPD and other mental health challenges more intense and damaging than from within the person facing them directly.  Shame, self-stigmatization, and hopelessness eat away at any attempts made for recovery.  With such obstacles in the way, how can we have any chance at healing?  Though it is often so hard to get to, the answer lies with self-validation, acceptance, and a belief that recovery is possible for all, including ourselves.

When someone receives a mental health diagnosis or believes they fit the criteria for one, it is incredibly common for them to start identifying with the diagnosis.  I know I did.  Discovering something that summarizes or explains our struggles can be extremely validating and comforting.  It can also point us towards effective treatments such as DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)
The flip-side is that identifying, say, as a bulimic, or a borderline, or bipolar, limits our conceptualization of ourselves.  We then start to lose contact with all the other aspects of our wonderful selves that are helpful, working, and positive.

A Peer Support Recovery Model

“Recovery is remembering who you are and using your strengths to become all that you were meant to be.” ~ Definition of Recovery (Recovery Innovations, Inc.)


I love that definition of recovery.  There is no single definition of recovery; they are as diverse as the many people working towards it.  However, this one is so beautiful because it takes for granted that we do have strengths, that there is much more to us than our challenges.  It also tells us that we have a purpose in this life.  The good news here is that recovery is possible and can be reached by everyone.  It doesn’t matter if you have depression, anxiety, a “personality disorder,” or substance abuse challenges.  Recovery is possible for all.  This belief is at the core of peer support.

I'll dig more deeply into this in subsequent posts here on Healing From BPD, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I welcome you to visit my YouTube channel and to share:

  • How has BPD or another mental health diagnosis affected YOUR relationships?
  • Do you find that you've become identified with your diagnosis and want to break free from this, even though finding a name for your suffering was at first comforting and validating?
  • What is your personal definition of recovery?  Do you consider yourself to be in this stage of your journey?

I look forward to reading and responding to your comments below.

Until next time,
Brittyn (Aeshe)
@AtypicalAeshe


Click here to read Part 2!
 

Coping Effectively When You have Borderline (BPD) Traits


Do you suffer from the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)? Perhaps you do not meet enough of the criteria to have  BPD diagnosis, but you identify with some of them or have even been told you have BPD traits.   Whatever your situation, the good news is that there is hope.  You can learn skills and techniques to help reduce your suffering and build a life worth living, and you can start in this moment! 

As a person in recovery from BPD who still has traits and is emotionally sensitive, I will be honest and tell you that it won't be easy. It will require determination, hard work, and picking yourself up a number of times along the way. But that's okay.  You deserve to feel better, and you are worth the hard work. I believe in you!

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Richard and C.R. Zwolinksi of the popular Psych Central mental health series Therapy Soup.   Below are links to the five part series, which includes the following topics:

  • Help for Borderline Traits (Introduction)
  • Fear of Abandonment and Rejection
  • Wise Mind to Help You Understand Your Fear of Abandonment
  • Emotional Instability: Help for Borderline Traits 
  • Intense Anger and Radical Acceptance

I recommend reading each section in order, opening in a new window, as the series builds upon itself.

Let me know what you think!  Can you relate to any of the topics I discussed with the Zwolinkskis?  Do you have BPD, Borderline Traits, or do you relate closely with one or more of the symptoms?  What have you been doing to take care of yourself and work on self-care and recovery?

Begin reading here:

















Thank you for reading.  I look forward to your thoughts.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie 




Coping With Distressing, Stress-Induced "Scary" Thoughts



Okay. I'm going through a particularly difficult time. A rough patch.  The Queen of emotion management and the poster child for recovery has been suffering and in need of extra support. I was waiting it out a bit in hopes that it would be very fleeting and I had hopes that I would "snap out of it," something that usually isn't very realistic when we are suffering deeply, and something I would never suggest to anyone else. 

Sometimes it's difficult and challenging for me as a mental health advocate, writer, and teacher to write when I myself have a setback or am feeling anything but top notch. I recently did this video on managing a setback for all of you... the truth is, in many ways, I needed it too. In revealing my own struggles at this point,  I worry that I will let others down or discourage people that have witnessed my recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder that being in recovery isn't all unicorns and rainbows, but the truth is, we all know it isn't, and it's unfair to others and to myself to pretend it is. I've acknowledged in the past that this would be a disservice.

That's why I won't hide in shame and am convincing myself there is nothing to be ashamed of when going through a hard time.  I am still in recovery from BPD.  I don't meet enough of the criteria for a diagnosis, and I would say that most all of the symptoms are at bay.  I would also say that my vulnerability of being an emotionally sensitive person is what is showing up right now.

For those of you who do not know, last month, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  Everyone around me, myself included was taken aback by the ease with which I was applying Radical Acceptance to the fact that I'd been told I have this disorder.  I was taking it in stride, focusing on one moment a time, and keeping in mind my neurologist's warning that stress and anxiety would amplify my neurological symptoms exponentially. So, I think there was a part of me that resisted and even repressed opportunities to cry, grieve, freak out, or panic over things so upsetting such as not being able to feel one of my feet or legs for hours a time... tingles in my limbs that progress to intense vibrations just walking from the car to a storefront, and more recently, feeling like my legs are weighted down by cement blocks, causing me to tire just from standing in line at the post office for more than a few minutes.  This past week, I also followed through on getting a handicap placard for my car for those days when I need to conserve energy while getting on with my life.

TW TRIGGER WARNING  TW   
TW TRIGGER WARNING  TW

I finally broke down on Monday. A friend and close source of support mentioned wanting to move back to Europe but felt unable to do so because of what I am going through.  I lost it.  Immediately, my thoughts went to: "I'm a burden.  This person feels trapped."  A train was running by at the moment, blaring it's horn, and, with tears now streaming down my face, I blurted out, "I should just jump in front of that train and end it all!"  I became so anxious that, number one, I'd even have such a thought, and secondly that I would say it aloud and worry someone who loves me.  The thought felt very intrusive and scary.  In my heart of hearts, I know I want to go one living and living a life worth living. I know that I would not follow through on harming myself.  I also know that I felt incredibly overwhelmed, desperate, and unresolved inside (in terms of my fears and concerns about living with MS).  The thought felt/feels very intrusive and OCD-like.  Also, a pattern I have seen in my professional and personal experience over the years is that when a person talks about something like this, it is usually a desperate cry for help more than a true desire to die.  Sometimes we feel so trapped and can't see anything but our fears and pain, and it gets us into a dark place.  We need to ask for help. This thought about the train bothered me and kept coming into my head -- not so much wanting to actually do it but the fear around feeling so desperately that such thoughts would even enter my mind.  I mentioned it to my physical therapist yesterday when I broke down during our appointment, grieving the inability to run or to even walk normally right now.  This set off, of course, a string of events that eventually got me talking to my doctor and then to a crisis support worker in psychiatry, and then to my psychiatrist this morning. I'm glad it did. I don't need to go at this alone or in private.

END  TRIGGER WARNING  TW   

I am okay and am going to be okay, but what a scare! I'm still shaken up and am concerned, but I'm taking steps to get back to feeling and staying well. This incident has really illuminated the fact that I do not need to be a super woman. It is human for anyone, with a background in mental health issues or not, to have a reaction, an upset, a freak out, over being diagnosed with a serious illness.  In my psychiatrist's words, it's "normal." In fact, she and my treatment team are RELIEVED that I am acknowledging and allowing myself to go through the experience of feeling my feelings. It was a bit concerning for them that I hadn't!  Here's what I'm doing right now to take care of myself:

  1. I reached out to Physical Therapist, talked to doctor, crisis worker, and psychiatrist. Psychiatrist has discontinued my weaning off of Ativan and has put me back on it at the time being. I agreed that I do not need this additional variable potentially affecting my chemistry and causing psychiatric and physical withdrawal symptoms.  I am also being connected with an individual appointment with the DBT doctor who facilitated the DBT groups I attended for nearly two years. I'm looking forward to this and see it as a "tune up" to help me address where I can strengthen my use of skills and stay on track -- while also allowing myself to have the full range of normal emotions given my situation.
  2. I'm changing my thoughts.
    TW TRIGGER WARNING  TW  
    Some of the upsetting thoughts I was having that were causing intense emotional distress were: "I am/will become a burden to others. Others feel/will feel trapped needing to take care of me."  It helped to be reminded today (since I still suffer from BPD Black or White thinking and have difficulty seeing shades of grey) that these are JUST THOUGHTS, and furthermore, anyone who CHOOSES to be by my side and help me is responsible for that choice.  If they choose to be by my side and help me, they are doing it out of love and choice.  I am not responsible for that and need to let these thoughts go.  This brought a lot of relief. It's true.  We're all adults here. If someone really didn't want to cope or help with my situation, they are, in reality, free to go. I'm not forcing anyone to do anything.  I honestly think I'll need to keep reinforcing my Wise Mind when these thoughts reappear. They are quite triggering -- but I've coped effectively with other triggering thoughts over the years. Even though this is more challenging, I can do it with support, which I am seeking and receiving.
    END TRIGGER WARNING  TW   
  3. I checked in with my business partner for reassurance.  The main reason I did not want to run DBT classes on my own is because I know that I am a peer, not a doctor or therapist. I know that there are times when my own mental health issues need to be dealt with.  I am so fortunate to have Alicia in my life and to be running my business with her. She is a compassionate, understanding business partner and friend, and she has my back on this. She reassured me, which helped bring my anxiety down substantially.  My plan is to return to work this afternoon. My psychiatrist agrees that it's a good idea. Getting my mind off of these issues and helping others is therapeutic and helpful, and I am blessed to have such work.  I am very responsible with what and how I share during groups.  Students know that I am a peer and often thank me for my transparency around my own struggles, current or past, and what I am doing or have done to get through them.  Knowing that not hiding in shame encourages others helps me, too!
  4. I'm self-soothing my nervous system today.  I have acoustic guitar playing on Calm Radio.  I have my yoga mat and blankets on the floor to practice guided meditations throughout the day, including on work breaks.  I will take my anti-anxiety medication as prescribed later today.  I am sipping on beverages and eating as my appetite slowly resurfaces from the stress and anxiety, and I am going to follow through with my upcoming appointments. I may even get back into a weekly group for a while until I feel I don't need that anymore. I am going to yoga and volunteering with the homeless kitties in the next few days, too.   I'll keep you all posted on the progress and what's working.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share in this way. It's been a while since I've had something of this magnitude that has affected me the way this has.  I want to be clear that I am not looking to elicit or receive ANY pity or anyone to feel bad for me in any way.   I am a strong woman, and even in strength, we need to lean on others sometimes.  I will get through this. It's just huge, and I am sensitive, so I need to take extra good care of myself and allow others to help and support me as I adjust.

Stay encouraged, as will I.  We are never alone.


Thank you for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Why Your BPD Setback is NOT a Failure



So many times those of us with or in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or other emotion regulation disorders see setbacks as failures.  I don't believe they are, and in this video, I get into details as to why as well as how to reframe setbacks so that they become information to empower you.  Sit back, relax, and take these next few moments to listen in on how your recent setback into old, undesired behaviors can be reconciled and dealt with better next time.





Thank you for watching, listening, and reading.


More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

One Way Ticket Out of Freakoutville: Noticing & Describing (DBT)



If you have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or are in recovery and living as an emotionally sensitive person, one thing you can probably relate to is this:  You experience things far more intensely than others around you.   This may be your observation,  the feedback you receive from others, or a combination of the two. 
 
Over the past couple of months, I have been undergoing a series of medical tests that have been causing me to feel anxious.  Not only that, but I was on some pretty strong medication for the physical symptoms I was experiencing, and one of the side effects of the medication is feeling sped up. I was talking more and faster.  I was sleeping less.  Although I've never been clinically diagnosed with any type of mania, I have had my emotions escalate into a scary place before, and the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that this medication generates feels very similar to that experience.  What has been helping to ground me and keep me feeling as best as possible is to practice very specific DBT Skills.
 
Fortunately, there are a few important things that we can do to help ourselves when we become over emotionally stimulated to help bring us back from dysregulation to baseline -- whatever that may be for you on a given day.
 
Today, let's focus on:  Notice & Describe
 
 
So often we jump from a thought, sensation, feeling, or urge to a conclusion or action -- in no time flat.  Recently, in the MRI, I practiced this skill (and a bit of describing as well.)  When I noticed a surge in my anxiety, I just noticed the anxiety and let it go.  When I noticed a sensation in my body, I just noticed it and let it go.  When I noticed a scary thought, I noticed and let go.   This is very different from getting caught up in whatever has caught our attention and allowing it to carry us away into Freakoutville.

It also sends a powerful new message to the brain that whatever is trying to cause us to panic isn't really, in fact, that urgent.  A common example of this skill in action is something you may be familiar with if you've ever had a panic or anxiety attack in the grocery store, mall, or other crowded public place. 
 
Although things seem to happen in a split second when we are anxious, if we allow ourselves to really NOTICE our experience, we might see the series of steps that happens:
 
  • Body sensation freaks me out
  • The thought, "I'm going crazy" enters my mind.
  • I need to run out of here now!
  • Action: Runs out of store
If we run out of the store, we reinforce the message that if I have anxiety symptoms in the store, the safest thing to do is to run out.  Here's the scenario again, using the notice and describe skills:
 
  • Body sensation observed.  I note to self, "Body sensation."
  • The thought, "I'm going crazy" enters my mind, and I recognize this as an anxiety reaction to the body sensation. It's just a thought. Just because I think it doesn't mean it's true.
  • The thought, "I need to run out of here now!" enters my mind.  I notice the intense urge to run out of the store, and I remind myself that just because I have this thought and urge doesn't mean I need to act on it.
  • Action: I stay in the store, complete my task, and feel a sense of accomplishment that I overcame the situation.

This willingness to slow down our process when we become very anxious or otherwise emotionally dysregulated, is of course not easy. It is, however, one way we can empower ourselves to take better control over outcomes in our lives.  Putting that pause, slowing things down, allows us the opportunity to make different decisions than we have in the past... and we all know the saying "If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always got."  Eventually, we get to the point where we are ready to try something else.
 
How might slowing down to notice and describe your experience help you to get through a distressful emotional situation?
 
 
Thank you for reading.
More soon.
 
In kindness,
Debbie
 
 

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