Trauma Triggers: Tips for Handling Visits From Estranged Family Members (BPD)

Enjoy this post via the Roanne Program for young adults with BPD or BPD traits..

The holidays often inspire estranged individuals to attempt to restore contact with the family. If the estranged individual acts as a trauma trigger for your Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), just the thought of direct contact can suddenly intensify your symptoms. Unexpectedly ending up face-to-face with the individual has the frightening potential to send your condition into a tailspin.

Thankfully, you can remain in control by resisting the urge to flee (the “fight or flight” reaction), utilizing your established toolkit of coping skills, challenging emotional responses, and seeking professional assistance for care when needed.

Resist the Urge to Flee

Upon noticing the offending individual, you have the opportunity resist the urge to immediately flee the area. If you give in to the urge to flee, this act of avoidance only serves to intensify the trauma trigger in your mind. As long as you are not in physical danger, you can consider attempting to face the trigger head on. By curtailing avoidant behaviors, you reinforce that your adult self is strong enough to face the people your inner child could not.

You may only be able to stand this level of internal confrontation for a few minutes, but that is okay. Once you face your fears, you can cease the interaction and retreat to use your coping tools to head off rising BPD symptoms.

Utilize Your Coping Tools

Give yourself permission to immediately and actively utilize your established coping mechanisms to keep the BPD symptoms at bay. Distraction, meditation, and breathing techniques work really well to distance yourself from overwhelming emotions caused by the trauma trigger. You may need to go into a separate room so you can quiet your mind enough to work through your coping mechanisms and find one that works in the moment. You will need to return to your coping mechanisms for several days after the initial interaction to keep negative thoughts and behaviors from overwhelming your being.

Challenge Emotional Responses

Even after bringing out your coping tools to deal with acute reactions to the trigger, you may find harmful thoughts and emotions bubbling to the surface. You must remind yourself that you are responding naturally to a challenging situation that you did not cause. You will also benefit from positively reframing the situation by looking at it as a chance to reinforce your recovery skills, including mindfulness and meditation. After all, every time you are triggered, you are given the opportunity to restore your balanced state with the toolkit you built, especially if you have had some experience with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Seek Help When Needed

If you cannot quickly return to a state of calm, you may need to seek help for your Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms. Without professional assistance, your symptoms may continue to rage out of control and cause your thoughts and behaviors to negatively impact your life

A skilled therapist can help you confront emotions and thought patterns that lead to destructive behaviors typically seen in cases of Borderline Personality Disorder in young adults. 

Your response to the trauma trigger of seeing your estranged family member will tell you a lot about your location on the road to recovery. You can use the information to prepare yourself for future triggers. With each triggered event, you will further hone your coping skills and recovery response. Eventually, you will find that you have the ability to maintain a calm, centered state of mind, no matter the trigger you face.

Do you anticipate encountering relatives over the holidays who might create a triggering experience due to the past?  How do you plan to cope effectively?

3 Ways To Handle Feelings Of Abandonment When A Loved One Travels

Enjoy this post via the Roanne Program for young adults with BPD or BPD traits..

With the holidays fast on their way, you may need to start preparing yourself for your loved one's yearly travels. Throughout life, there may be many necessary short and long-term travel periods that cause you to be separated. You must adequately prepare yourself for these events to maintain control, despite the sometimes destructive urges and impulsivity that can come with Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms.

Thankfully, you do not have to simply accept feeling hopelessly abandoned every time your loved ones must travel away from your side. You can enact the following strategies to maintain control over your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Establish Strong Communication Pathways

To dissuade feelings of abandonment, you can maintain direct contact with your loved one throughout the travel period by using your phone, tablet, or computer. With instant messaging, email, social media sites, Skype, and apps on your side, you may never feel truly alone, despite the actual physical distance from your beloved.

Establish a communication schedule that does not disrupt either party's planned activities. Periodic texts and a nightly phone call go a long way in reminding you that the distance is temporary and abandonment has not occurred. Between calls or texts, remember to stay accountable for your own feelings by practicing mindfulness and challenging negative thought patterns.

Plan Activities With Other People

You can abate feelings of abandonment by surrounding yourself with friends and loved ones who enjoy your company. Sharing meals and activities with your loved ones can help remind you that you are not alone in this world. Try to look at your beloved's travel plans as a blessing that allows you to spend more time with friends and family you do not see often enough. Attempt to maintain these restored or strengthened connections after your beloved returns to keep your social circle open and inclusive. By surrounding yourself with a large social circle, you will have plenty of proof that you are not alone or abandoned.

Challenge Internal Dialogue

When your internal dialogue turns negative, the worst thing you can do is believe and reinforce those destructive thought patterns. Harmful thoughts may burst into your mind as soon as your loved one relays his or her travel plans. At that moment, you must take a few minutes for mindfulness to assess how you are feeling. Challenge the internal dialogue both on your own and with help from your loved one or therapist. Have an open dialogue with your beloved to attempt to keep your fear of abandonment in check.

Bringing Out Your Self-Healing Toolkit

The intense fear of abandonment will likely push your Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms into overdrive. Upon hearing travel plans, you will need to work hard to avoid redirecting emotions to a more comfortable subject. Try to write down all of the emotions you feel and correctly link them back to their source.

If you cannot remain rational and work through the emotions on your own, you may need to seek assistance from a center offering intensive treatment specifically for BPD such as the Intensive Outpatient Program ore residential, transitional living. Treatment professionals can help you learn to stay in control of your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions while coping with your loved one's travels. Once you regain footing, you can use the above strategies to stay in a positive state of mind until your beloved returns once again.

Throughout life, you will have many chances to practice coping with feelings of abandonment when your loved one travels. The earlier you start to build your toolbox of coping techniques, the better you will handle the intense feelings in the future. 

How are you coping ahead for a loved one's departure during the holidays?

Real life vs. Social Media: Who are you really? (BPD & The Internet)

Please welcome back guest blogger Michelle Dabach, MA, MFT, of the Roanne Program in Southern California. 

You have to admit, you are not the same person online that you are in person. Online, you’re courageous, more confident, and you have an opinion that you don’t second guess. You might be more or less confrontational, you’re successful, happy. You and everything about your online personality is perfect. School is great, your job is amazing, and life is grand.

In reality, your life is a bit messier. School is hard, and you might be struggling to pay your tuition. Your roommate gets on your nerves, and that picture you posted of your perfectly decorated apartment was a one-off or, forget the apartment, you’re living at home with your parents and trying to pass the space off as your own! You’re definitely not as put together in real life (IRL) as you make yourself out to be on your social media streams. And, you’re not alone.

Via Facebook: P.L. says “I am definitely different online than in real life. Online I am very verbal and I genuinely feel confident about myself. Real life is where I feel the persona takes place, that is where I act confident but do not feel confident inside, so I kinda go overboard in trying to act confident and outgoing. “

J.W. concurs: “
Most times tho i try to show i am ok & fighting like H*** to persevere with my illness, when all i want to do is really .... [the opposite frown emoticon] Feeling like i still have this "mask" to show at times....& not show others how frustrated & sad & empty i really feel inside most times.”

Some more of your comments that came in on this topic on the Healing From BPD Facebook Page:

Add to the pressures of keeping up with an online persona the debilitating effects of a mental illness, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, and things get even more complicated. So, how can you show the world that you’re suffering from these drastic mood changes, that your depression is so debilitating that you can’t imagine how to continue living, or that you’ve just self-harmed? Or, maybe you’re the opposite, leaving cryptic messages as your postings for anyone to make any kind of meaning, good or bad, out of it? Leave it to the reader to figure out what’s going on with you today. 

The question comes up, then, why bother hiding your “real self” online? Are you afraid of stigma? Do you really value what other people might think of your symptomatic posts? Do you base your self-worth on the number of likes or re-shares you get? Where does the pressure you feel to keep up with this online persona come from? And, how does it contribute to even more distress than you might already be feeling?

Many young adults, with mental health issues and not, feel immense distress at trying to keep up appearances. For those suffering from BPD, you’re trying to keep up this appearance that all is ok and that you are “normal” like anyone else. In some instances, you might be trying to hide your BPD from the general public. But, this hiding of one’s true self not only causes great stress because of trying to hide and not get caught, it causes distress from you ultimately believing that you should be like your online self! Now, you’re not just attempting to keep up with the Jones’, but you’re trying to keep up with Social Media You. Social Media You doesn’t suffer like you do. This attempt at trying to maintain a personality that is not truly you may contribute to your depression and anxiety and make it much worse than it needs to be. You may become even more depressed that you’re not as perfect as you’re making yourself out to be and anxious that someone is going to find you out. Or, you’re leaving those cryptic messages and depressed at not getting the responses you were hoping for and anxious that no one seems to care enough to save you.

What about when a family gathering presents itself and now you have to face all those friends/family that you’ve only been in contact with online? How are you supposed to be Social Media You when you’re in the same room as Aunt Sue? The reality is that you can’t be Social Media You in real life because Social Media You doesn’t really exist. What happens instead? Your anxiety and stress levels increase drastically, which causes a shift in behavior. Now, instead of being slightly depressed, your mood is raging in one direction or the other and one of two things happen: You either end up skipping the function to AVOID or you go and have a complete MELTDOWN, neither of which accurately portray Social Media You.

The best advice I could give that you didn’t ask for is to always be true to yourself, both online and off. Your self-worth isn’t based on how many followers you have, how popular your posts are, or how creatively you say that you’re depressed and have no will to live. Your self-worth is what you make of it. If you value your life, others will, too. And, when you are suffering, those who know and love you will offer their support. Best of all, if you need that extra support, all you have to do is ask for it!

The Truth About Recovery From BPD

Do you or a loved one want to learn more about recovery from ‪#BPD‬ (Borderline Personality Disorder)? I am so pleased to be a guest at this important online event, hosted by Amanda Smith, LMSW, in recovery from BPD, and founder of My Dialectical Life. Hope to see you or your loved ones there! ♥ Debbie


Peer educator and author Debbie Corso and Amanda Smith, LMSW are in recovery from borderline personality disorder. But what does recovery really look like?

We'll cover:

• How is recovery defined?
• Does everyone recover from BPD?
• What can do today to increase the likelihood of recovery?
• How do I know when my recovery is complete?
• What can individuals diagnosed with BPD and their families realistically expect in recovery?

This special event is open to anyone who would like to learn more about this important topic.

SATURDAY, NOV. 7th at 10 am Pacific / 1 pm Eastern

The cost is $39 for the 60-minute webinar. This event will also be recorded for registered participants.


See you there!

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Wellness Planner by Amanda Smith, LMSW

Please welcome guest blogger, Amanda Smith, LMSW of Hope For BPD and My Dialectical Life and now author of the fantastic spiral bound resource, The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Wellness Planner: 365 Days of Healthy Living for Your Body, Mind, and Spirit.

dbt wellness planner amanda smith
I love DBT. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy not only saved my life, but it also gave me a framework for creating something that I thought I'd never have—a life worth living. For me, recovery from borderline personality disorder has been hard work, but it's also been worth it every step of the way.

For a lot of people I know, keeping track of their skills, moods, and behaviors with a diary card can be a challenging (and often frustrating) experience. But keeping track of this important information is a good idea for several different reasons.

1. Recording our skills helps us to identify gaps.

Sometimes we can get stuck in a DBT skills pattern. We may find ourselves engaged in a little too much Distress Tolerance and not enough Emotion Regulation or we might recognize that we are leaning heavily on the FAST skills and that our GIVE skills may need a little extra work. Because mindfulness is a cornerstone of DBT, it's essential that we stay on top of those skills throughout the week, too. Keeping a diary card can be a valuable way to help us to see what we may be missing.

2. Keeping a diary card helps us to celebrate our progress.
Early in my DBT program, I remember looking at my diary card and thinking, "I'm using a lot of skills!" I needed this visual evidence to help me see that there were small things that I could do each day to help myself. After a few months, I could look back and see what I had been working on during any given week. It gave me a boost to keep moving forward even on difficult days.

3. Tracking our skills and behaviors helps us to see where we are going.
One of the central goals in DBT is to create a life worth living. It's hard to do that when we don't have a plan that is broken down into small daily steps. A diary card can help us to see the bigger picture of what we are working towards and the skills that we are using to reach those goals. For me, keeping a diary card during graduate school helped me to focus on one of the most important accomplishments of my life.

I created The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Wellness Planner: 365 Days of Healthy Living for Your Body, Mind, and Spirit as a way to record our skills while also helping us to stay focused on what it means to create the life we've always wanted. Because it's a spiral-bound book that can easily fit into your book bag or purse, you can take it anywhere. My hope is that The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Wellness Planner is helpful to those who are just starting to learn dialectical behavior therapy and also DBT graduates who are interested in practicing and reinforcing what we've already learned. 
You can learn more about Amanda Smith, LMSW at and her daily DBT email subscription service My Dialectical Life (MDL) at  I am a proud subscriber of MDL! :0)
Here are some sample pages from her planner, supplied to Healing From BPD so you can get a real feel for the planner before purchasing it. (Click on each for larger images.)


The Clincial Myth Of BPD

What is BPD?” I remember asking this question when walking into my first presentation as a Marriage and Family Therapy trainee. As the presenter went on to describe Borderline Personality Disorder as a diagnosis, I began wonder, "What does diagnosing someone with BPD mean for the individuals, and moreover what does that mean for me as a clinician?"

On the Borderline

I come from a professional background of working with children who  suffered severe trauma and were living in a group home setting as foster children. That is where I had my first hands-on experiences with BPD. It appeared that the intense trauma that many of the girls had suffered throughout their life triggered, often times, undiagnosed BPD symptoms. In my early experience, I saw many of these behaviors as attention seeking or “being dramatic.” It was not until a friend of mine was diagnosed with BPD that I became thoroughly interested in how I viewed BPD as not only her friend, but as a clinician.

The more I sought BPD treatment for my friend, the more I became intrigued by the topic in general. I came to the realization that, like with most labeled disorders, we all have a little of the BPD criteria within each of us.
How many times have your emotions changed for a loved one? How many times have you felt abandoned when there were no signs of abandonment?  The only thing that would make anyone different from individuals diagnosed with BPD is what others do to cope with stressful or triggering situations.
As a clinician, we are taught that coping skills are key to lifelong success. If clinicians can employ coping skills with clients who are going through divorce, moving, or job transitions, why would employing these ideals with someone who is impacted by BPD be any different?

Clinical Intervention

When gauging appropriate care for individuals who are impacted by BPD, clinicians should remain aware of their perceptions and beliefs. In the therapy world, we call this countertransference. While working emotions are difficult, therapist report 2x more burnout when working with individuals with BPD.
It is important for clinicians to first and foremost see the individual as an individual, then work their way through the diagnosis. Many clinicians opt to intertwine DBT therapies, cognitive therapies, and humanistic ideals to work on the whole person. I believe the key phrase to be: The Person. I find it  necessary to develop an individualistic approach to treatment in order to render positive outcomes.

What about you?

As a therapist who has now become specialized the BPD treatment of adolescents, I can say that my clients that have been impacted by BPD have changed my outlook on diagnosing for the better.
When a client walks into my session, I first and foremost want to know their story. When presented with an individual with any diagnosis, the person becomes a “client.” As clinicians, we have to shift our views from simply treating the symptoms to promoting lifelong wellbeing.
While it appears major, BPD is only a small part of what makes these individuals human. Many people diagnosed with BPD have families, careers, hobbies, and passions.  By separating clients from their diagnosis, they can be empowered to develop extended resources to build upon as coping mechanisms, thus, promoting furthered tolerance, love, and acceptance within both the BPD community, as well as the therapeutic community.
by Tia Brisco, MFT-Trainee     Independent Living Specialist 

The Shifting Chameleon: Identity Disturbance and BPD

Hello, Dear HFBPD Community!  Please help me welcome guest blogger Robert Fischer, M.D. with this excellent post on identity disturbance and Borderline Personality Disorder.  "Dr. Bob" is a psychiatrist, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCLA, School Of Medicine
Dept. Of Psychoneuroimmunology, Mindful Awareness Research Center, and he is the Executive Director at Optimum Performance Institute and its Roanne Program for young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder and BPD traits. 

Please let us know what you think about this article.  Can you relate? Do you struggle with identity issues?  If you do and have a difficult time expressing the experience, consider passing along this article to your parent or loved one.

In kindness,
Debbie Corso 

To the outside observer, young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD traits appear to be making drastic shifts in terms of what they like and/or are committed to in any given moment. This can manifest in repeatedly changing their major in school, shifting career goals, including difficulties sticking with jobs when they suddenly and completely lose interest in what they are doing at work, becoming very interested in a hobby and then suddenly wanting nothing do to with it, and even relationships where they were very close to someone one day and want nothing to do with them the next.  Being unstable in these areas can ultimately lead to a failure to launch to their next stage of development, namely being able to live independently and support themselves.

Through all of this shifting, the young adult portrays a sense of undependability.   After all, if interests change so rapidly, where is the consistency?  It is hard for the external observer to appreciate the fact that the individual is not consciously being deceitful, hurtful, or undependable.  That is not to say that their external behaviors could not be interpreted in that way or have a negative impact on those that are closest to the individual, but in truth, what appears to be inconsistent externally actually feels quite consistent internally.  A major drive for the young adult is to have a sense of feeling accepted, loved, and validated. The desire and drive are not the problem.  That desire, eventually, can lead the individual towards a healing path of finding a passion, expressing it joyously, and sharing it; however, in order to do that, the sufferer must connect with who it is that is finding the passion.  The problem lies in that the person with BPD or BPD traits shifts depending on who they are with in a given moment, because the shifting is an unconscious attempt to secure that love, acceptance, and validation. Ultimately, it is simply unsustainable.

Debbie Corso of Healing From BPD notes “I just couldn’t do it anymore with the lack of sense of self, and this is what ultimately led to my BPD diagnosis.  As I began to have an awareness of my ‘shapeshifting’ ways to please others, it became exhausting, and I knew I needed help.  I didn’t have the insight in my twenties to know it was a problem, so I encourage parents who see this in their young adults to pursue getting their child the help they need early on to reduce suffering as much as possible.”

One can see how the individual goes about trying to achieve the goal of validation and intimacy is not possible because of the way in which they are trying to achieve it.  It is in answering the question “who is it that is shifting?” that the true complexity and suffering of that individual can be seen.   For those who have not had the opportunity, based on thousands of experience over the years of feeling, “You’re OKAY as you are” there can be an absence of a validation of the self.  To some degree all of us may feel that we have not received sufficient validation from those who we generally seek it from: parents, mentors, friends, families, lovers; however, for those with BPD who have identity disturbance issues, who you have to be depends on who you are with for validation: you may behave one way for your mom, one way for your Dad, one way for a friend, and a different way for another friend.

For the individual who has not had the opportunity to consolidate and create a more complex self, you have to patch a quilt together rapidly depending on the circumstance, unfortunately usually out of fear of being rejected or abandoned, and for most this entire process is unconscious. This may manifest as, unconsciously in one moment, you are compelled to be this sweet, demure young woman to please Daddy, somebody who is sharp, witty, and bright to please a friend, and someone who is seductive to please a boyfriend. If this shifting takes place due to underlying fear from past experiences and of being left or invalidated in the now, many times the words and mannerisms of the person with BPD in these moments will seem to come through the eyes of the frightened child, a child who understandably does not have a strong sense of self, and it is from that position that they speak unconsciously. 

When one’s lover says, “You’re behaving like a four year old,” it is the intense sense of fear and rejection experienced by the young adult with BPD that stimulates this kind of unskillful reaction. It’s about survival. It’s about you not leaving. It’s about you realizing how much I need you. As a young adult who knows she is no longer four years old, if she is in a moment of emotional dysregulation and vulnerability, she may still behave as if she is. So, from an external point of view, we can begin to appreciate that these individuals are not malicious, are not insensitive, and that they must begin to adapt to a world of imperfections without unconsciously going back into a fantasy world that keeps them safe – they think – but that actually serves to make them more isolated and more detached from reality.


Over time, their internal self-esteem and sense of self is not helped by this process.   It is therefore very difficult for these young people to launch into independence. For many, there is not a deep faith in a stable self who can persevere to get them to their target goals. They may also be very unclear of any certain goals due to their identity disturbance. So, how do you find out who you are and develop that sense of self? It is clearly experiential. The complexity of the experience is that the young adult must learn to be present, and this often requires caring, skillful professional guidance, patience, and time.  When he or she learns to be present, the skillful creation of opportunities to explore one’s gifts and to begin to develop a sense of self unique from anyone else present themselves. We have seen this numerous times in our Roanne Program for young adult males and females with BPD and BPD traits. 

The question is: Can anything be done to accelerate or facilitate the process?  Of course! 

For most of us, when we were children, the environment was composed of other individuals who were supportive of our creativity, who fundamentally allowed us to explore as children without judgment, to laugh at our silliness when we would make mistakes, who would clap and cheer and support us when we were successful and share a sense of joy and hope based on the notion that we are all trying our best and want to help each other.  For many with BPD, this environment didn’t exist, or issues of survival competed for their attention of noticing it if it did.

Through both therapeutic and creative experiences, we create such an environment. In it, young adults who have been struggling for years begin to see and appreciate the complexity of who they are, their vital role in this world, and their interconnectedness with others. They learn that we are all imperfect.  We all want to be validated and loved, and sometimes we go about it very unskillful ways.  It’s not too late.  At Roanne, we provide this environment in the now as a bridge to reconnect and find one’s creative self that allowed us all to learn to walk, talk, and experience the world. Through the acquisition of skills and therapeutic interventions such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and a myriad of experiential therapeutic and healing opportunities, we witness young adults beginning to fit the pieces into a more cohesive, balanced, and joyous self.

We create new neuropathways by creating opportunities to see and do things differently.  We encourage the discovery of the self through inventories of one’s values and pursuing various avenues that may lead to a passion that lasts.  Our environment is one in which there are may “toys” to play with, including music, acting, scuba, tennis, art. These can be shared with others in an environment which supports the exploration.  This process is accompanied by an internal shift that allows the young adult to use his or her Wise Mind to appreciate the gray in us and the world, and through that gray, he or she is able to experience the clarity and light of internal joy.

Ultimately, the young adult must be presented with opportunities to discover who he or she is, without the fear of perfection, the fear of letting anyone else down, or the internal pressure from identity disturbance to shape who he or she is in order to please the person standing in front of them.  It is a complex process, but the tremendously good news is that there is hope, and these issues can be overcome.  A young adult struggling with these issues can not only go on to find a strong sense of self but to then go out into the world and live a meaningful, full, and happy life.  Borderline Personality Disorder and BPD traits are very serious mental health issues that require the intervention of a clinically sophisticated treatment team.  A young adult in his or her twenties may not yet have the insight to know that help is needed.  As a parent or loved one, your gentle guidance of their receptivity to getting help is very important in assisting them in avoiding years of unnecessary suffering. Intervention is the key.

Is your young adult struggling with identity disturbance issues?  Is it getting in the way of him or her living independently and building a life worth living?  Reach out to us for more information on our intensive residential and outpatient programs to help young adults with BPD and BPD traits to discover who they are and to build full and healthy lives that they feel are worth living.

Take care,
Robert Fischer, M.D.
At the Roanne Program for young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder and BPD traits, we intensively integrate DBT as part of your treatment plan. We offer compassionate, clinically sophisticated intensive residential help, including genetic testing to determine the best course for medications, if needed. Rather than a sterile, hospital-like environment, we offer beautiful accommodations in luxury apartments just outside of Los Angeles.  At Roanne Program, we treat the individual, not the diagnosis.  Our clinical team is made up of a diverse community of passionate, highly skilled individuals working together with you to help you find your joy and express it.   For more information on Roanne residential programs and our measures to help young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, call us at (888) 814-5985 or click HERE to submit an online form. We’ll be in touch promptly.

Quiet Borderlines - Guest Post by Joyce Savage

Dear HealingFromBPD community, please welcome again, guest blogger Joyce Savage of the Make BPD Stigma-Free community. Let's give her a warm welcome back!  - Debbie

Hello - my name is Joyce, and I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I am passionate about raising awareness and fighting stigma associated with Borderline Personality Disorder - especially for men, who experience even more stigma than women with the disorder, and adolescents, who, if they get treatment as soon as possible, may save years of unnecessary pain and suffering.

One of my passions is to create accessible resources. I have a BPD Discussion / Support Group that I run every other week at my local Peer Support Centre.  Attendance has been very poor, but I’m trying very hard not to get discouraged. My Peer Support Centre is one of several in a network across Southeastern Ontario.  I have just started doing my group at one of the other centres once a month.  I am going back soon the second time, and I think this centre will have a much better response than my local one.  I am so excited and hopeful now.

I have created this video to help explain BPD to those without the disorder.  The inspiration came from reading about different types of “Borderlines,” including “Quiet Borderlines.”  A Quiet Borderline typically doesn’t “act out”, but rather tends to “act in,” turning their anger inwards into depression.  Because of this, many times they are misdiagnosed or missed entirely. Please let me know what you think!

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I have also been diligently working on my blog, compiling informative articles, posts from other blogs and much more.

Debbie has been an inspiration to me since before I started my blog.  I hope that one day I can be half as good as her.  I appreciate this opportunity to share a little about myself with you all.

Till next time,
Joyce Savage,


PS I have been working on a book about BPD and it’s nearing completion.  I can’t wait until it’s ready for you to read!

You can find me at:  Facebook       YouTube        Zazzle       Twitter       About.Me        tumblr   LinkedIn       Google Plus      newspaper       Pinterest

Emotional First Aid Kit - Self-Soothing (DBT)

Do you have an emotional first aid kit that you can turn to when you're feeling emotionally distressed.  Check out this lovely video by  Youtuber "Life in Recovery."  She goes through self-soothing through the five senses -  one of my very favorite DBT skills!

Let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,

Men and Borderline Personality Disorder

May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness month.  As a woman in recovery from BPD, I share my story to encourage others that this is a disorder that can be overcome!  Yes, you may still meet some of the criteria (I still do!), but you can get to the point where this disorder no longer rules your life and dictates your every move.

You can go on to have healthy, lasting relationships, finish school, and keep good jobs.

And, it's not just women who are affected by this disorder and who can get well -- it's men, too.  I think this aspect of BPD is under-discussed, so I'm focusing on it for this post.

Here are some posts over the years on HFBPD about men with BPD:

Help Wanted: Men Have BPD, Too (and they are reaching out for help and deserve to receive it!)
Resources: Men and Borderline Personality Disorder
The Guy With BPD: Life as a Man Living With and Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder
Men, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Breakups

And, here's an article on the Psychology Today website by the Roanne Program (at Optimum Performance Institute), a residential program near Los Angeles for young women and men with BPD. They focus on the developmental years of young adulthood (17-28), but the article is relatable beyond this range.

What are your thoughts on this important topic?  Are you a man with BPD?  What have been your experiences with stigma and with getting help?

Thank you for reading.

More Soon.

In kindness,

Not Everyone is an Emotional Exhibitionist (Review of Welcome to Me)

I wondered how much I would relate to the character of Alice, played by Kristen Wiig in the new movie Welcome to Me.  In the movie, Alice says that she was thought to have bipolar rapid cycling  but was later told she had borderline personality disorder. I could relate to that.

She disclosed this while on-camera on an infomercial.  Not her infomercial mind you.  She was an audience member who was selected... errr, who selected herself as a volunteer to try a sample of a high protein algae drink on camera.  Instead of doing so, she began to talk about herself and her diagnosis while her mortified friend signaled and called for her to return to the audience.  Alice ignored her.

Alice has a habit of disclosing deeply personal information at highly appropriate times and then getting angry with those who attempt to censor her or inform her that her behavior is out of line.  She is off of her mood stabilizing medications (she ditched them against professional advice) and is threatening to stop her therapy sessions since they were only required in order for her to receive her disability checks. She no longer needs those since becoming suddenly very rich, so she reasons she no longer needs therapy.

Alice's therapist desperately wants to help her, but she refuses to observe and respect limits set within the therapeutic session.  She violates her therapist's trust and causes him to seek a 5150 psychiatric hold to have her observed as a danger to herself. 

She is almost constantly despondent and in a near constant state of self absorption and preoccupation. And, she is portrayed as not being very intellectual, mispronouncing simple words like "carbohydrates." 

With the exception of the last sentence I can't help but wonder, with an open mind and a willingness to be vulnerable, if I was ever or am currently ever perceived to be any of the other things I observed about Alice.  I think it's important to be willing to search one's self in order to continue to grow.  The quote that opens the movie captures this perfectly, "I study myself more than any other subject. That is my physics. That is my metaphysics" by Michel de Montaigne.  To this, I can certainly relate.

Because of this opening quote, I imagined that Alice would be an introspective character who would be conscious of her process and deliberately seeking to understand and rectify her dysfunctional behavior.  What I saw instead was a lack of awareness, which is where we all start.

She makes a career out of her dysfunction, publicly displaying the past traumas that play out in her head on a stage shown on television for all to see. She Skypes her mom while on the air.  Displeased, and with Alice in disbelief that her mother or anyone else wouldn't want the attention of being on television like she does, her mother tells her "Not everyone is an emotional exhibitionist."

Alice wants to be seen. She wants to be heard.  She wants to process through the past traumas of her life and have victory of them. She wants to rewrite the script. And, she does all of this in the best ways she knows how.  Meanwhile, she's dealing with unstable moods and behaving in impulsive ways.  She's writing checks for millions beyond what she actually has (having not considered that taxes would be taken out of her big pay day), has spontaneous sex with different men, tells a man she loves him after only knowing him 4 minutes, and she eventually does end up briefly in the psychiatric hospital after, in what appears to be a dissociated state, she walks through a casino buck naked.

While on the psychiatric hold, her best friend tells her that she is a "terrible friend" and that she only cares about her own pain...that because she's sensitive, she thinks there is no room for anyone else to be vulnerable.  Alice's friend recently lost her job.  She told Alice, and Alice showed absolutely no empathy or concern and immediately redirected the conversation back to her herself and her own personal dramas and crises. I remember being in a place where I thought only my pain mattered. It was a wakeup call for me, and it is for the character of Alice as well.

At first I was a little disappointed that this character was not more highly relatable to me personally, but the truth is that ALL types of people have BPD.  The criteria for meeting the diagnosis are such that you could fill a room with people who have the diagnosis, and they may all meet a different collection of symptoms. The character of Alice is one possible representation of a living, breathing, woman who suffers from this disorder and her attempts to cope and find happiness and connection in this world. That actually makes her relatable after all.

Let me know YOUR thoughts on the film!

Thanks for reading.

More Soon.

In kindness,

If you have borderline personality disorder and are seeking intensive help to overcome and reclaim your life, check out the Roanne Program. This program focuses on the developmental years of early adulthood and is open to women and men between the ages of 17 and 28. The program is located in California, close to the Malibu coast. Locals and those willing to relocate to the area for treatment often find it to be a beautiful place to recover. The Roanne Program is private pay only (they do not accept insurance). Included in tuition is room and board in a luxury apartment in the area. For more information, call 888-814-5985 or click HERE. Let them know you found them through Healing From BPD's article on Welcome to Me!

Bus Stop Disclosure: Boundaries and BPD

Recently in my online DBT class, I shared a story from back in my early twenties when I had a very difficult time with boundaries.  I call the story "Bus Stop Disclosure," a play on the phrase "doorknob disclosure," which therapist use to describe the major disclosure bomb that some patients wait until the very end of the session to reveal.

So there I was at a bus stop, and some unsuspecting stranger got to hear the story of my life -- all before the bus arrived.  I didn't know why I did this, but I felt compelled so strongly to tell my whole life story to anyone who was nice to me.  A smile? Yes, that counted.  An exchange of a few words?  Yes. I desperately wanted to be liked and loved.  I took these innocent cues as messages that I needed to tell my whole life story, right away, to fend off those who might reject me later when they found out the details of my life piece by piece.

Is any of this sounding familiar?  If it is, then you may also relate to the consequences I suffered as a result of this indiscreet behavior:

  1. Feeling filthy/dirty/exposed/naked/shameful after taking my emotional dump on a person I barely knew, yet repeatedly doing it.
  2. Feeling regret that I shared such precious, private parts of my story and life with someone who hadn't earned that right and honor
  3. My behavior was so unhealthy and inappropriate that it did the opposite of reeling in a person and securing a relationship. It pushed and scared them away.  I came off as unstable and desperate.

I have so much compassion for my former self. I didn't know any better!  I look at the intentions of the heart: to truly connect, love, and be loved.  I was just ill equipped and didn't know effective ways to develop and maintain healthy, meaningful relationships like I do now with DBT Skills.  A mix of Borderline Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome ruled my life.  It doesn't anymore.  My goal is to help as many people as I can to find hope and to learn how to empower themselves to build the lives they want.

I don't do bus stop disclosures anymore, but that doesn't mean I'm never tempted to do so.  It's very rare, but if I'm feeling emotionally vulnerable due to stress or hormonal fluctuations or a poor night's sleep, I can become a bit insecure, which is one of my red flags.  I find that on those days, it is better to say LESS and take good care of myself until the storm passes.

Can you relate to any of this?

How are you working on having healthier boundaries for yourself?

Thanks for reading.

More Soon.

In kindness,

BPD: Why do we seem so needy?

So many of you resonated with my recent article "BPD: Why Do We Sabotage?" that I thought I'd cover another topic that many of us with Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD traits, or who are in recovery can relate to: Why do we seem so needy?

There was a time in my life, both before I was officially diagnosed with BPD and for quite some time during my treatment, that I couldn't bear being alone.  Not just the alone that would happen when my significant other would need to travel overseas for business or to visit his family, but even the alone that came from him needing to go to work or out with his friends.  I found it intolerable. I would freak out, have anxiety attacks, wouldn't be able to sleep, and would lose my appetite for days.

I was very clingy and desperate and would beg him not to go.  I would "act up" and would often, because I really believed it, convey to him that I wouldn't be safe if he left.

Why was this?  For me personally, as part of having borderline personality disorder, I lacked a sense of self. I was very chameleon-like, observing and mimicking the mannerisms and behaviors of whoever I was with at the time. To be alone meant to feel deep emptiness.  Because I had no one to mimic, I felt as if I didn't exist.  It was a very painful, lonely, complicated experience that can probably only truly be understood by those of you who have also experienced it.

So while our behaviors may come off as "needy" to others, the truth is, someone who is experiencing this level of anxiety and pain when faced with being alone even for short amounts of time needs understanding and professional support to learn to manage and overcome this issues.  It's not as simple as dismissing and invalidating someone with a statement like, "You're being ridiculous and dramatic."

For the person experiencing the fear and lack of sense of self, the situation is terrifying.  Often no amount of reassurance can really reassure the person that everything will be okay.  This is a complicated aspect for many with BPD, and it requires time and professional intervention to find safety within and to be able to better handle being alone.

For young adults (17-28), there is the Roanne Program, which focuses on young adult males and females in the developmental stages of early adulthood.  It's an intensive residential program, and they are private pay (no insurance, no medical), but the benefits of such a an investment in one's well-being (intensive DBT throughout the day, therapy, psychiatric services, groups, fun recreational activities, and living in a luxury apartment with other residents [the apartments are not co-ed] and caring staff members available to support you through those rough days) is invaluable.

BPD needs to be professionally treated.  I am happy to be able to share with others that I am in recovery/remission from borderline personality disorder. It took years of deep, personal work with qualified professional support.  In addition to obtaining your own professional support, you might find supplementing your journey with an online DBT class helpful. DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and I credit it with helping me overcome this disorder.  I now teach the skills (and everything I learned, really) to others who are working hard to build the lives that they want.

Let me know if you relate to the topic of this article.  Do others see you as needy?  Do you have a deep fear of being alone?  Have you been working in this issue with your therapist or other mental health care professional?

I hope this helped you in some way.

Thanks for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,

BPD: Why Do We Sabotage?

Maybe you've been accused of being manipulative because you behave in certain ways due to having borderline personality disorder.  Maybe you've heard the term "Drama Queen" thrown in your direction.   Both of these labels and accusations imply that you are deliberately behaving in ways that are upsetting to others or inappropriate to the circumstances.  But as a person in recovery from BPD, I can speak form personal experience that this isn't always the case.

Suffering from BPD means that you experience difficulty with intense emotions, namely, you may get completely dysregulated and nervous system activated, from those upsetting things that others can easily bounce back from and continue on with their day. I remember that when I was in the thick of my symptoms, even day to day minor stressors like being a few minutes late for an appointment or a boyfriend not calling back exactly when he said he would could cause me to derail.

I just didn't know how to cope with distress in an effective way.  That all changed when I learned Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  The skills truly changed my life.  Distress Tolerance in particular helped me to learn how to manage dealing with upsetting situations that didn't have a solution in the moment (without making matters worse or sabotaging).

So, why do we sabotage?  This is a complex question with complex answers, and it varies from person to person, but in my work as a peer educator teaching DBT skills online, (I teach because learning these skills and routinely implementing them into my life is what helped me overcome Borderline Personality Disorder - I no longer meet the criteria for the diagnosis), I see some common themes.

People with BPD tend to be very, very, emotionally sensitive.  Even things that aren't meant to be offensive or slights can send us into a spiral of deep despair.  A common fear among those with BPD is that people we love will leave, abandon, or reject us, and due to our sensitivity, we are almost always on hyper alert, whether we are conscious of it or not, for signs of this being a danger.  We may interpret an innocent sigh or someone looking away or a change in tone of voice as "That's it,. He's finally had enough of me. He's leaving me forever. I can't handle this!"

Once the nervous system is activated into fight or flight mode, we may engage in sabotaging behaviors as a way to cope or as ineffective, maladaptive ways to try to fix the situation.  Unfortunately, these behaviors tend to defeat the purpose of keeping people close to us and actually push them away,  When we pick up on this happening, the fear gets worse, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

So how do you stop sabotaging?  The answer for me was intervention in the form of DBT.  I didn't know any other way than what I was doing, and I needed to learn alternatives.  Something effective. Something skillful.  Something that would help me achieve my goals and not constantly sabotage them.  Something that would help me form and keep healthy relationships, not push and scare people away.  While I'm not trying to make it sound like DBT solved all of my problems, I can honestly tell you that it did help me accomplish all of the above.

Here's a quick video with a bit more of my story with BPD:

Did you learn anything helpful from this post or video?  I'd love to hear form you in the comments below.

Thank you for reading and watching.

More Soon.

In kindness,

My Journey With Medication (Now in Recovery from BPD)

I have had a long journey with psychiatric medications the predates my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.   As a young teenager (age 15), I was put on Zoloft for depression after entering a residential group home for girls.  I would remain on Zoloft (other than those impulsive cold turkey stops and those times when I didn't have insurance or the ability to pay) for just short of two decades before being told I had to stop taking it.  It was suspected to be the cause of severe jaw tightening, tension, and pain that I had begun experiencing.  My psychiatrist told me that this symptom can arise after long-term use.

The other drug that I was on for a very long time (on and off for about twenty years) and that is by no means intended to be a long-term drug, is Ativan.  I even wrote this post about it years ago, regarding my body's addiction to the drug, even when I was down to just 0.5 mg a day.  (At one point, about 12 years ago, I was on 4 mg a day!)

I was often thought to be bipolar rapid cycling, and I had a clear, severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that became disabling at one point.  Years of Zoloft and then Paxil (which I had to stop due to an allergy) and then Celexa helped manage the symptoms while I underwent seven years of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).  I was then taken off of Celexa, because it was shown to cause heart issues in some people (and the test my psychiatrist sent me for showed I was at risk), so I was then put on Prozac.

In the past, I was put on the following drugs to try to manage the symptoms that I was presenting.  Keep in mind that my seeking of psychiatric care was very erratic.  In my twenties, I was often homeless, bouncing from one shelter or psychiatric inpatient to the next, and I didn't have a steady psychiatrist.  I saw so many different providers each year, and they didn't communicate with each other because I was so erratic and couldn't pull it together to get my medical records.  I had not yet been diagnosed with BPD, though when I was 19, my discharge paperwork from one of my hospitalizations read under follow-up care "Rule out Borderline Personality Disorder."  I ripped it up and didn't follow up on this advice for 10+ years later.

Here are some other psychiatric drugs I have been on over the years:

  • Depakote - for mood swings - typically given to those with bipolar, but also used sometimes for people with BPD, from what I have heard.  I was never on it steadily enough to really evaluate if it made a difference, and my life was so tumultuous at the time (homelessness, etc.), that it would have been hard to tell. 
  • Xanax  - for anxiety - I am one of those rare people who experienced a surge in anxiety when I took this medication, so one pill into that plan, and I was taken off of it.
  • Risperdal - used for bipolar and schizophrenia - this is an antipsychotic drug.  I was given it because when I in my late teens, I was deeply involved in an evangelical church, and we commonly spoke such things as, "I know God is telling me,"  or "I believe the Lord is letting me know..." and I was thought to be psychotic.  This drug knocked me out and made me feel so slow and like a robot.  My husband at the time came to visit me in the psych ward, and he told the doctors I was not myself.  When told why they put me on this drug, he explained that this is the culture of many born again Christians, and this is how we talk in our church.  Were they going to lock everyone up and medicate them?  They immediately took me off of this medication.
  • Seroquel - antipsychotic - At low dosages, this is used for non-psychotic people as a sleep aid.  This was recently prescribed to me for the purpose of help with sleep when I was having side effects from a steroid medication

I'm sure that there were many more that I can't even remember now.

Recently, while on steroid medication, I was unable to take the Prozac, as my psychiatrist was concerned about it inducing mania.  By the time my steroid treatment was over, I learned that the Prozac was completely out of my system (I was only on 10 mg a day for the past few years, primarily to manage OCD), so I decided to give it a shot off of it.  So far so good.  I've been under some stress, so I've noticed a slight increase in OCD symptoms, but nothing major.  I've been managing my best with the CBT skills.

Also, I had so much fatigue recently from MS that I skipped my Ativan pills for several days.  When I learned from my psychiatrist that this drug was also out of my system, and I didn't have the terrifying withdrawals that we imagined I might, I decided to try staying off of this as well.

It is SO IMPORTANT that you make wise decisions around the course of your medication and that you do not stop taking your meds as prescribed or cold turkey.  Do this only under the guidance and advice of a qualified, licensed psychiatrist for your safety and well-being.   I realize I should have done this with the Ativan as well. I am very fortunate that everything turned out okay.

Am I happy to be off of psychiatric meds?  That's an interesting question. In some ways, yes.  It feels good to be stable off of them; however, I fully acknowledge that there were times in my life that they were completely necessary, and if I were to feel that I needed them again, I would consult with my psychiatrist and go back on them if I needed to do so.  There is no shame in this. This article is not about vilifying medication, psychiatric or otherwise. It's not about making medication "bad." It's about making wise, informed decisions for our overall well-being.

I hope this post helped you in some way.

Let me know!

Thanks for reading.

More Soon.

In kindness,

To learn more about the author of this post, visit

Coping with Anxiety When You 're Emotionally Sensitive

This past week has been pretty good, with the exception of reemergence of intense anxiety.   Just like most everyone else, from time to time work gets stressful, health issues, etc.  I won't whine, because I know we all have our "cross to bear," as my mother says.   We are all carrying something.  We're all doing our best in the face of difficulties, issues, and struggles of all kinds.

What I will share is how the anxiety showed up, so that perhaps you will feel less alone in your own experience.  I'll also share what worked to help me get back to baseline as quickly as possible.

Basically, I kept waking up, pretty much on the hour, and always from the same recurring nightmare.   It was clearly anticipatory anxiety, based on the dream content.   Each time I awoke, my heart was racing and pounding out of my chest.  I also had to keep going to the bathroom.  No further details to avoid TMI.

In the past, the racing heart would panic me further.  Now, I don't let it.  I practice my DBT Skills and use self-talk to remind myself that my body is responding, and the quickest way to calm my nervous system, which was now clearly activated, would be to do things that would calm it.

These things included:

  • Radically Accepting that my body was responding to my insecurities and fears through anxiety and panic symptoms.  Radically accepting this meant not fighting it. Not complaining about how I "shouldn't" feel this way, and also not resisting the physical sensations such as the racing heart.  It mean lying in bed and noticing my heart, reminding myself that I was in no danger (from the fear nor the pace of my heart), and that my heart rate would return to a normal rate sooner if I managed to stay calm.
  • Used deep, slow-paced, measured breathing to calm my mind as well as my body, particularly my heart.
  • Observed my heart rate with the interest of a scientist.  I held my wrist of my left hand with a couple of fingers from my right hand to notice how my heart/pulse rate slowed a bit when I took those deep breaths.
  • Took medication a prescribed (DBT PLEASE skill) in the form of a 0.5mg tablet of Ativan.  It is prescribed to me in cases of severe anxiety or panic that does not respond, despite my best efforts, to skills. It is something I use infrequently, but it was needed this evening (middle of the night).
  • Mindfully stayed in the present moment.  When thoughts came like, "What if I feel exhausted in the morning?" or "What if I get really physically sick over this?" etc. came up, I asked myself, "What is wrong with THIS moment?" (something I learned from the wise Eckhart Tolle.  I answered, "I am anxious and up when I am normally sleeping, and I am taking care of myself and will be sleeping again soon."  I reminded myself that I didn't have to worry into the future.  Not into the morning.  Not how I might feel hours later or even minutes later.  I didn't have to suffer into the future.  And, I'm glad I didn't.  It would have been a waste of time, it turns out.   I felt better hours later when I woke up and started my day.

I hope  this post was helpful to you in some way.  If you'd like to learn DBT skills with me, I have a new, weekly online class starting on April 20th. You can learn more about me and the classes at

These classes are not affiliated with Optimum Performance Institute or the Roanne Program, and if you are looking for more intensive services, such as IOP Day Treatment or Residential Treatment to overcome Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD, please do visit the Roanne Program's website to learn more.  They have an awesome program and were rated best in treatment for BPD by Psychology Today magazine.  One of the things that differentiates them from other BPD treatment centers is that they serve both young women AND men with BPD.  I think that's awesome.  Men need help, too!

Thanks for reading.

Please do let me know if you can relate to anything that I shared about anxiety, and feel free to share how you cope most effectively when anxiety and panic rear their ugly heads in your life. You might help someone else with your share!

More soon.

In kindness,


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