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!


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