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,
Debbie

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,
Debbie

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,
Debbie

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,
Debbie

To learn more about the author of this post, visit www.emotionallysensitive.com


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