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!
Debbie DeMarco Bennett, BSc., MA in progress
Founder and Online DBT Course Co-facilitator at EmotionallySensitive.com