A Friendly Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder

19 July 2017

*content warning: suicidal ideation, self harm, abuse/trauma mention -- if any of these trigger you, please be mindful that this post has mentions and references, in not-too specific detail, to these triggers. Please read with discretion and take care of yourself  

Disclaimer: I am in no way a medical professional nor an expert on Borderline Personality Disorder or any other mental illness. This post is based solely on my experience as someone with BPD and what I've learnt through day-to-day life, therapy, and dialectical behavioural therapy educational group sessions. Everyone experiences mental health differently, and so what works for me may not necessarily work for you, even if you have the same diagnosis! Also never diagnose yourself--please seek help from a psychiatrically trained doctor or social worker with the credentials to diagnose you!




For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with mental illness. Having attended therapy since the age of 10, I've heard hardly every diagnosis possible: depression; generalised anxiety; obsessive compulsive disorder; phobia; even ADHD (thanks to a horribly lazy psychiatrist who determined this after asking me just one question). Although depression, anxiety, and OCD hit very close to home, I still didn't feel as though how I felt and dealt with my emotions was ever really "normal". It can't be typical to jump straight to suicidal ideation in situations of moderate to high stress, even with depression. After a visit to the ER in the months following trauma, and a visit back to my therapist who I hadn't seen for nearly a year, it was finally concluded that my symptoms matched up perfectly with BPD, or borderline personality disorder.

So what is BPD? The best way I describe it is feeling things 100% more intensely than the average person, including both negative and positive emotions, and having difficult regulating these emotions. Contrary to popular belief, BPD is not Bipolar Disorder, despite seeming somewhat similar. Although people with borderline experience extreme lows and issues with anger, there is no mania involved in BPD, as there is with bipolar disorder.

I had heard of BPD very briefly, but never looked into the definition and symptoms thoroughly until my therapist brought it up. I know if I had, I would have figured out my diagnosis a long, long time ago. I fit nearly every single symptom listed and suddenly my life made sense. I read information and symptoms on this website, but I can provide a gist of it in my own words below.

You might have BPD if you...

  • feel incredibly intense highs and incredibly intense lows
  • have distorted self-image or body dysmorphia
  • have difficulty controlling anger/lash out
  • self-harm or frequent suicidal thoughts
  • have severe abandonment issues
  • experience dissociation
  • feel chronically empty
  • have difficulty dealing with moderate to high amounts of stress
  • have stressful, paranoid thoughts
  • act on impulsive and harmful behaviours (unsafe sex, drugs/alcohol, retail therapy)
  • have a pattern of unstable and/or abusive relationships, romantically or otherwise


There are several things that can essentially trigger BPD, though it is not certain what the exact cause may be. Most people with BPD are survivors of abuse (mental, emotional, physical, or sexual), either from childhood or other developmental and transitional periods of life. It took a lot of therapy, digging, and self-reflection to find my own personal triggers and where my BPD truly got the most out of hand. Once I got to the bottom of that it was easier to begin to treat my illness. BPD has no known cure, but there are thankfully several ways to manage living with borderline.

Treatment options for BPD:
  • one-on-one therapy -- when I first was diagnosed and was at my lowest point, I attended one-on -one therapy weekly, which later went to bi-weekly, then monthly.
  • medication -- daily antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication to help treat the symptoms of BPD. The medication that I take that works for me is 10mg Lexapro, daily. Be sure to take note of the symptoms of each option and keep them in mind when deciding which medication will be best for you. Keep in mind that it will take trial and error to find the right medication--it definitely took years for me. Also each medication can take 3-6 months to start working, so patience is key.
  • group therapy -- I'm currently in my second round of group therapy and I've found it to be so valuable in merely the fact that you're a part of a small community of people going through exactly what you're going through, especially if you feel particularly alone. The group therapy designed for people with borderline is DBT, or dialectical behavioural therapy. I found group therapy through my therapist/medical provider, but there are plenty of internet sources to find your own!
  • mindfulness -- this is something I went into extensively in group therapy, so I highly recommend finding a DBT group to better understand it, but mindfulness in itself is something you can do each and every day in all that you do to centre yourself
  • radical acceptance -- this is the technique I found most useful in my time healing. This is essentially accepting how you're feeling or what you're thinking 100% without judging it. I notice in my own life that I very often thought or felt a certain way and told myself I shouldn't be feeling or thinking that way, but when I just said to myself "this is how I'm feeling" and had no opinion of it, I felt very at peace and more aware of my emotions.
  • The Wise Mind Chart -- one of the first components of handling my BPD that was taught to me was awareness of The Wise Mind. People with borderline tend to react in their Emotional Mind, so it is important to balance that with the Rational Mind and bring yourself to your Wise Mind (example of Venn diagram below):
(source)
Dealing with someone with borderline (especially living with them) can be difficult, as it can be anxiety-inducing to not know when unexpected intense emotional reactions could be headed your way. This is why many people with BPD have issues having meaningful and non-destructive relationships with partners, friends and roommates. If someone you love, know, or just have to deal with has BPD, below is some ways you can help and adjust.

Ways to support someone with BPD:
  • understand that strong, emotional reactions, although often hurtful, are irrational and is just a symptom of their illness, not who they are as a person
  • try to keep a level head when having a conversation or argument
  • politely remind them to use their Wise Mind, in a non-condescending manner
  • educate yourself on the symptoms and causes of BPD
  • be compassionate and understanding
  • take their feelings seriously, even if they're not rational
  • understand that BPD is an illness, not a personality trait
  • advise against harmful or symptomatic behaviours 
  • acknowledge that even if you would not react to something or feel so strongly about 
If you'd like more posts about BPD, please leave a comment below with more you'd like to know, or any questions you have! I am always happy to share my experiences if it will help those of you also suffering. I hope you found my insight helpful, whether you suffer yourself, or know someone who does. Just remember that having Borderline Personality Disorder does not define you! You are not your illness, and you can overcome anything, despite feeling like it's absolutely impossible.  x





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  • 2 comments:

    1. Very awesome article. People need to know they are not alone when it comes to living with mental health.


      Hugs,
      Kendall
      http://stylebaus.com

      ReplyDelete
    2. I could never write or even speak about my BPD, I have an eating disorder as well as anxiety along with my BPD.I don't know how to control it, Well done for speaking out!
      Thank you for writing this.

      Best wishes.

      ReplyDelete

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