BPD: Triggered by the Amber Heard Trial

One of the hardest things about having BPD, BPD traits, or emotional sensitivity is that a lot of people don’t understand what it’s like. Most people don’t understand how our minds work and what we go through – and it’s frustrating.

So that’s why the other day, I was shocked to see someone who reminded me so much of myself. So much.

Except she’s famous and her alleged  BPD traits are on display for the whole world to see.

Amber Heard, me, and BPD

Even before one of the forensic psychologists in the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard case testified under oath that she believes Amber has Borderline Personality Disorder (and Histrionic Personality Disorder), I found myself cringing, unfortunately relating to a lot of the behaviors that Amber allegedly did, especially when in intimate relationships in my late teens and twenties.

Although I’ve been in recovery from BPD for ten years now (I no longer meet the diagnostic criteria and haven’t since two years after learning Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills and integrating them into my life), I still felt a bit shook. 

Guilt… Shame… Embarrassment… all of this started coming up for me when thinking of my past behaviors. I started to think about recent times I’ve lost my cool in my current relationship (happily married now) and whether my BPD traits were covertly hurting my current husband. I felt scared.

Initially, I didn’t say anything to anyone. Shame was taking the wheel. When I realized that I didn’t want to stay in this space and my Wise Mind (inner wisdom, intuition, in DBT-speak) was nudging me that I needed to look at and possibly challenge my thoughts, I practiced the DBT Skill of Checking the Facts.

The person I used to be

I approached my husband and asked him to have a vulnerable conversation about all that was coming up for me around this case. To my great relief, he reassured me that I am an amazing partner and that when I describe my past life with borderline personality disorder in my first marriage and other relationships in my twenties, he can’t believe that things were once that way for me. He encouraged me and supported me through my moment of doubt and reminded me that I’ve done a LOT of work over the years and that I now help hundreds of people around the globe every year to do their work and get on the path of healing from this disorder.

Yes, I have! Thinking about this gave me some immediate relief, and this was followed by  thinking of all of the people who are where I was when I was in the thick of my BPD symptoms: saying vicious things, lying, being verbally abusive, and so much more — only to deeply regret my actions, feel incredible self-loathing (to the point of suicidal ideation), and having NO IDEA how to break the cycle and stop doing things I hated doing.

I didn’t know how to sit with my emotions, how to challenge my thoughts, and how to respond rather than react when fears of abandonment and rejection came up, or when I believed I was being slighted by my partner (happened ALL the time).

(As an aside, I believe we perceive slights because we are hyper alert to being slighted. Many of us have histories of abuse or neglect — not everyone, but a large portion of people diagnosed with BPD — and we were unable to defend ourselves when we were children. As adults, we may be very, very sensitive to anything that even seems like a slight, and with the anger bottled up from all of those years, we may react very intensely.)

The biggest thing that changed my life

It wasn’t until I learned Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills that my life, thoughts, emotions, and relationship issues began to make sense. I started to learn how to self-regulate my emotions  (something that children in healthy environments and healthy relationships with caretakers typically develop, but for most people with BPD, we have what is called a “skills deficit” — we never learned these things), using DBT skills.

I became more aware of my “splitting,” black-or-white thinking, gained understanding in terms of how we can develop this way of coping, and learned how to challenge my thoughts in these moments.

The results? My thoughts changed. My moods became more regulated. My relationship with myself became more self-compassionate and healthy. My relationships with others became healthier. I stabilized and no longer met the criteria for borderline personality disorder and have been in remission for ten years.

If you can relate to that person I used to be… If Amber Heard reminds you of yourself… If you have no idea how things can possibly get better… 


There is HOPE.

Now is the time for you to finally learn the emotional coping skills you’ve missed out on for so long. Learn how to heal yourself, build better relationships with others, and stop being pushed around by your own powerful emotions.

You are more powerful than your emotions.

DBT can turn your life around just like it did mine. Join me in our Online DBT Skills Course that starts soon. Don’t wait another day to change the trajectory of your journey and start building a life worth living for you!

In kindness,

Debbie DeMarco Bennett, BSc., MA in progress

Founder and Online DBT Course Co-facilitator at EmotionallySensitive.com

16 replies
  1. Dkny
    Dkny says:

    Thank you for sharing your very relatable insights and encouragement. Provides a lot of hope and motivation for us in early DBT learning

    Reply
    • Debbie (author)
      Debbie (author) says:

      Dkny, thank you for reading and for your kind feedback. You saw the heart of my intentions with putting this out there. 💕

      Reply
  2. Hadassah Zeltzer
    Hadassah Zeltzer says:

    HI I am really glad you shared this. I usually don’t get caught up in this type of thing as a survivor but when they mentioned her diagnose I also got very upset because the media loves to blame the victim and all of the comments were very negative against her. Even the Expert witness seem to vilify her it did make me very upset and I am glad you are writing about this. To me these types of stories keeps people from getting well and feeling shame and guilt like you said and then most people will suffer in silence. I also know there are always two sides to every story and even if she had all of he symptoms people who have this diagnose sully had some severe trauma which the expert seem to down play. Like we have learned in your course she was being triggered by his bad behavior something was triggering her and she did not have the skills. He is also a famous actor who has the power and fame it is easy to dismiss her pain and suffering. I am glad I am in your group and I really hate how the press and even the courts handle mental illness. Thanks for sharing your post. A fellow student in your course. This is mental health awareness month and this is not going to help anyone seeking to get help in my opinion.

    Reply
    • Debbie (author)
      Debbie (author) says:

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts on this, Hadassah! There was certainly a LOT going on in their situation, as you pointed out. I was tapping into more self-compassion when recently thinking about my own past behaviors and how I didn’t have the skills to cope with having a partner with substance use issues and other problems. My hope is to reach many, many people to help them out of what can feel like hell when it comes to BPD traits as well as emotion dysregulation for other reasons, like past trauma, especially when in situations that make us more emotionally vulnerable. Fortunately, we’ll talk about some of these things in Interpersonal Effectiveness! So glad you’ll be there! 💕

      Reply
      • Sara
        Sara says:

        What’s most triggering for me is everyone defending an awful narcissistic abuser–Johnny Depp–holding him up like he is a go’s, ignoring the extremely abusive things he said to and wrote about Amber, making comments like “she’s lucky he didn’t hit her back,” etc. Yeah, stay away from the YouTube comments unless you want to ruin your day…

        Reply
        • Debbie (author)
          Debbie (author) says:

          Hi Sara! I know — the YouTube comments can get so nasty. I don’t like many of the things we’ve heard about his words and actions as well. I’m watching and listening and feel like I can make a more educated guess once both sides rest. The jury sure has a doozy on their hands!

          Reply
  3. Auri Farr
    Auri Farr says:

    Love this! It’s all about radical self-compassion and loving-kindness towards ourselves while using skills. Thank you for sharing and articulating this so beautifully!

    Reply
    • Debbie (author)
      Debbie (author) says:

      Yes, truly RADICAL self-compassion and loving kindness! I appreciate your kind feedback, Auri! Thank you for that and for reading! 💕

      Reply
  4. Sarah Brownell
    Sarah Brownell says:

    I was glad to read your thoughts on this, Debbie, and even happier that you were able to have a place to publish them! I remember you mentioned this case in class and it peaked my curiosity because due to lack of Internet for most of the month of April, I was not at all up to date on this case. (BTW, no Internet was a very cleansing experience!).

    I am looking forward to seeing the conclusion of this matter legally, and how it all plays out. It will have an impact on society, for good or for bad, but we are in such a tumultuous time in history…there is no telling. I, along with the other commenters, am just so blessed to have found your course and stuck with it, having amazing results. Thank you for all that you do.

    Reply
    • Debbie (author)
      Debbie (author) says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your thoughtful response, Sarah! 💕

      I am blessed to be part of your healing journey. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your kind words!

      Reply
  5. Worth Canoy
    Worth Canoy says:

    Debbie,

    I guess I’m a relatively new member of the BPD group. Was only diagnosed by my therapist less than six months ago…but now I can see it for years prior.

    Just the other day my wife mentioned the trial, and said that they were talking about Amber’s BPD and how people that live with BPD victims (if that’s the right word?) deal with it.

    My wife said I know all about that…day after day.

    Thanks for the post.

    I am now for the first time visiting your online DBT page…Thanks for that as well.

    Reply
    • Debbie (author)
      Debbie (author) says:

      Hello Worth, and welcome to the community! It can be very, very difficult for people who are in relationships with individuals who are suffering from borderline personality disorder who are not receiving treatment. There are support services available for family members and loved ones, if your wife is interested. I highly recommend http://www.hopeforbpd.com, run by Amanda Smith, LCSW.

      That all being said, the fact that you know your diagnosis now and are looking into DBT skills makes me so hopeful for you and the two of you as a couple! Please do not give up hope. It is possible to beat this. 💕

      Reply
  6. Nannette
    Nannette says:

    Thank you, Debbie, as once again you have turned on a light that I have been ignoring.
    Amber Heard…….. when I listened to the professional testify about having met with Amber and explained BPD, it felt like a bunch in my gut. I had been somewhat following the case and all of the sudden I felt as if a spotlight was on me. I wondered what her husband was thinking.
    I hope this doesn’t get used as an excuse for anyone else’s behaviors.
    I’m sick of BPD people being portrayed as “ the problem”!!!!! Everyone plays their own parts in this life and we need help from those that say they care about us, not “” OMG, I’m so glad it’s them. I knew it wasn’t me” I Wasn’t going to look at or set with these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, but, I’m feeling some relief, self compassion, and personal power coming up as I read your blog and replied.
    😟😢😕😊🤗😘

    Reply
    • Debbie (author)
      Debbie (author) says:

      Hello Nannette! Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your reply. This just made my evening:

      “I Wasn’t going to look at or set with these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, but, I’m feeling some relief, self compassion, and personal power coming up as I read your blog and replied. 😟😢😕😊🤗😘” – Nannette

      Reply

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