Are you worried that having a BPD diagnosis (or having a loved one with this diagnosis) means doom? That there’s little or no hope for building the life you want and that you are forever stuck repeating self-sabotaging, destructive behaviors and not getting anywhere with your goals? I have good news for you: If you’re ready to be encouraged about the reality of this often misunderstood diagnosis, this article is just for you. Read on.
It’s been said, but I’m going to say it again: “Borderline Personality Disorder is no longer considered a psychiatric death sentence.” To say this inevitably implies that BPD was considered just that: a psychiatric death sentence. In the past, the mental health community agreed that there was little hope or help for the patient who demonstrated the traits to qualify for this diagnosis.
They were seen as difficult, manipulative, and untreatable.
While people with BPD traits may resort to behaviors interpreted as others as manipulative, the truth is that they have learned maladaptive ways to get their needs met. They are doing the best they can by doing what they know — behaviors that at one time, earlier in their lives, may have served as a way to survive and get their needs met. These behaviors no longer serve them, but without learning new ways of coping and responding, they stay stuck repeating these unhealthy behaviors.
Because they often struggle with self-harm or self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors and suicidal thoughts, it is true that people with BPD may be more challenging to work with, but what is NOT true is that they are untreatable.
We now know that Borderline Personality Disorder is one of the rare psychiatric diagnoses that can actually go into remission and that the sufferer can enter into recovery, not all mental health and medical professionals are up to speed on this truth, and people with BPD to this day often experience stigma, fear, or a refusal of help from the very people they seek for support.
My story of recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder started in 2010 when I finally received BPD as my diagnosis. I had suffered from trauma (to the extent of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD), anxiety, OCD, and a myriad of other issues but had eluded the diagnosis for many years until I came clean about my behaviors and struggles with my treatment team.
My emotions were intense. I was often emotionally dysregulated, and my behaviors in response to this distress were impulsive and reckless.
To the outside world and within my own mind and body, I was almost always in constant crisis, showing up in emergency rooms suicidal, quitting jobs and dropping out of school without giving thought to the potential consequences or effects on my short and long-term goals (until it was too late), having one tumultuous, unhealthy relationship after another, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what my life looked like.
Fortunately, during an intensive outpatient hospitalization, the clinical team monitoring me during my stay evaluated that I had borderline personality disorder.
I say “fortunately,” because this diagnosis opened the door to learning DBT skills, which changed, and ultimately saved my life.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills are skills that help us learn to manage our emotions. These skills are not about shaming ourselves for being emotionally sensitive or intense. What they are about is acknowledging how we feel, growing in our ability to exercise self-compassion for our experiences, and learning to manage the intensity that can sometimes arise when you have emotion dysregulation issues. And, they made all the difference in my life.
DBT helped me to overcome:
- Identity Disturbance Issues: I had no idea who I was and became like a chameleon around others. I wanted to be loved and accepted and not rejected, and my subconscious had learned to mimic others and be like them to improve my chances. These skills allowed me to begin to become mindful of what I was doing and why I was doing it, and it opened the doors to learning and practicing new behaviors. I now know (and even *love* – something I wouldn’t have believed would be possible) myself!
- Self-Sabotaging: No longer am I jumping from one unhealthy relationship to the next, acting on impulse with other people, money, or my health, safety, and well-being. No longer am I making commitments and sabotaging relationships, education, or schooling with knee-jerk reactions and behaviors that would serve to make me feel better in the immediate but then only cause a world of additional problems and the need for damage control. You can read more about my story of overcoming BPD with DBT skills HERE.
If you’re ready to learn the skills that helped me reclaim my life, I invite you to check out my online DBT informed course at DBT Path (www.emotionallysensitive.com). Each week, along side a licensed DBT therapist, I teach you everything I learned in live, real-time global online classes. You’ll learn the skills that changed and saved my life, along with so many more tools to help you begin to build the life that YOU want, to learn how to reduce your suffering, and to begin to finally and truly care about and for yourself in the way you deserve.
DBT takes work! Know this: Learning the skills is not enough. Putting them into practice is everything!
It takes a willingness.
It takes getting out of your comfort zone.
It takes being willing to try and fail sometimes and still get up and try again.
Getting support and ongoing treatment from a qualified mental health professional in your local area to help you through the deep work needed to heal is so important.
Equip yourself for success, and you can achieve it. If it was possible for me, I have hope for you, too! The more we demonstrate our ability to overcome this disorder, the more evidence we present to those who are stuck in an antiquated perspective of this disorder. Our hard inner work has important ripple effects.
Stay strong. Believe in your ability to overcome.