I need to start with an admission. When Debbie suggested that I write this post about how I have “integrated the skills [of DBT] into your work life,” my initial excitement about getting to write for her blog dissipated into feelings of terror.
Despite having moved past my initial diagnosis of BPD and gone on to do some pretty cool things, I don’t view myself as a model student of DBT.
I even tend to put “recovered” in quotes, because, while I no longer fulfill the diagnostic criteria for BPD, my mind is not truly different than it was when I first received my diagnosis. Yet, something had to have worked. I am happily living with my boyfriend of nearly four and a half years. I have a cool degree and a job to match.
On paper, my life looks pretty good.
I wish I could write this article like a recipe, detailing exactly how I took therapeutic skills and turned them into life experiences. In truth, as I worked to study sociology, epidemiology, anthropology, and all of the other “ologies” that made up my degree in public health, my Linehan book sat stagnant on my shelf, gathering dust.
As I spent the last week or so pondering what role DBT has played in my life, I realized that perhaps distorted thinking was coming into play again. I was considering my experience with DBT a failure because I do not adhere to it religiously. It was only then that I realized the lesson, which was the same lesson that motivated me to start my blog, Down the Center, in the first place.
The moral of my story is about letting go of perfection, letting of viewing things as a success or a failure, as good or bad.
The moral of my story is about balance.
While practicing DBT and using all of its associated acronyms can be really useful, it is the general principles of DBT that guide my life much more than the nitty gritty details. I have spent the last seven years learning to become aware of my emotions and how they intersect and interact with reason. In DBT lingo, I remain mindful of my emotions to try to maintain a state of wise mind.
Yes, I still am emotionally sensitive. Yes, these emotions still surface as monsters more often than they should. They do their best to gobble up any reason that might be hiding out in the recesses of my mind. They try to make me do things that do not make me proud.
Rather than trying to cure my borderline personality, I have learned to become aware of and responsive to it.
When I feel my emotions start to take control, I have a game plan that helps me calm down before things get out of control. If that fails, I have learned to be humble and apologize for whatever havoc I wreck.
I actually had one of those incidents earlier this week. A task leader on a project at work gave me very lengthy comments on a piece that I had written. As I read through her email, my self-esteem plummeted and my anger at her grew. Thankfully, I had my boyfriend take a peek at my response email. He edited out all of my passive aggressive language. After he was done, the email was about a third of its original size.
A few days later, I had a call scheduled with the same task leader. The first thing out of my mouth was an apology. I shared with her how I should have handled the situation differently and spent the rest of our conversation brainstorming about how to redo the same piece to make it awesome.
Despite my original poor reaction, this situation ultimately improved both my final product and my relationship with the task leader. I also am tucking this incident into my memory bank so that I can avoid repeating the same mistake. I let my emotions take control this week, but I was given the opportunity to think through how to handle a similar situation in the future. In this way, my efficacy is able to improve over time.
Ultimately, this is why I feel funny using the word “recovered.”
BPD affected and continues to affect my life in countless ways, both good and bad.
However, by using the skills and philosophy of DBT, BPD does not have to be a disability. While it can present some nasty challenges that can feel overwhelming, it does not have to define your life.
Far from the stereotype, I have found that people with BPD are some of the most compassionate and truly kind people that I know.
I feel lucky to be a part of this community where I can learn from others and hopefully share bits of my own acquired wisdom in the process. Even though I have studied BPD in academic settings, I do not profess to be an expert in “recovering.” However, I do hope to have the opportunity to share anything that I have learned along my own long path to where I am today while learning even more from the amazing bank of knowledge that this community has accumulated.
Down The Center
If you want to join Caroline on her journey, visit her at her:
Blog “Down The Center“
Thank you for reading.