Do you have Borderline Personality Disorder (also known as BPD) or do you know someone who does? It is not easy to live with or manage for many reasons. Recently, I was in an article for ABC about Borderline Personality Disorder. I did not expect it to go as far as it did or to hit such a chord with people. I have been inundated with emails and questions. I am very open about my life so happy to answer things. I am still quite stunned with the response to the article.
In 2010 I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder after years of a diagnosis of depression and ADHD. After working with my psychologist for a few years, actively doing what he said, practicing certain things and despite going through a traumatic period of my life (domestic violence, robbery, rape, homelessness and moving interstate) at the end of 2012 early 2013, by October 2013 my psychologist said I no longer exhibited Borderline Personality Disorder traits and would not class me as borderline anymore. I will always have what we called an ADHD brain. By this he meant ADHD attributes, a very fast brain and a little hyper at times, easily excited and that sort of thing, but he didn’t want to label me ADHD either as I had improved so much and was very in control now.
The fact I and others have overcome Borderline Personality Disorder does not mean that everyone can. It is extremely difficult and there is a lot of debate about the best treatment, plus many doctors will not deal with it at all.
How did I know?
I had known from a young age things weren’t quite right. I tried running away from home, I hated myself, I thought about suicide etc. I had great parents, a really good home life, wonderful siblings and not the traumatic upbringing people tend to associate with BPD. I look back on my childhood quite fondly.
As a teen my mental state got worse, especially when my mum died of cancer, then within a few months I was sexually assaulted down the road from my house. It was after that I attempted suicide. I was diagnosed with depression and ADHD then, put on anti-depressants and started counselling.
At that time it wasn’t very beneficial and honestly, I was too self absorbed and depressed to do much or think beyond myself. My only goal was to move out of home asap. I started working at 14, dropped out of school at 16, moved out of home at 17 and at 19 married my now ex husband.
I married him because I was depressed and felt no one else would love me. Even on the wedding day I cried not tears of joy but tears because I wanted to run.
In 2010 my step mother recommended a book for me to read and it is a book I think everyone should read called Stop Walking on Eggshells. It is aimed at family members and those dealing with people who have Borderline Personality Disorder, not those living with it. As I read it I knew, this was me. I was quite upset, but now that I felt I knew more, I could do more.
I discussed it with my GP, was referred to a great psychologist and started my treatment.
What worked for me?
What I am sharing is only a snippet of what I remember from my treatment and if you have BPD you really need to get professional help. No if, buts, or maybes. You NEED to.
It took some time for me to build a rapport and trust my psychologist. He was great and I felt more comfortable with him than any other professional I had seen before, but I was still scared.
He did things like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Schema, DBT and more. It was always a combination of things, not one specific thing.
We approached things one step at a time and I would have homework to do between our visits. I had to become much more aware of how I was thinking, retrain how I thought, have affirmations, set goals, take care of my health, make sure I eat and avoid situations that weren’t good for me.
With all of this, I am very aware of my mind and feelings now. I know certain habits I have to keep in order to keep me mentally healthy and I know the impact bad habits have on me. Some of the things I have incorporated into my life are:
- An attitude of gratitude. I write at least 3 things every day that I am grateful for. When bad things happen I write a list of what I could be grateful for or what I could learn from that situation, what opportunities could come from it and I focus on that. Even the night I was robbed of everything including my underwear I did this. It wasn’t easy to start with, but once it was done I felt I could handle the situation and overcome it easier.
- Goal setting. I have 10 steps to success with goals and follow this method whenever I am working on goals. I never go without goals. Any time I have not been working towards something I get restless and I feel I have no direction. Goals keep me focussed, productive, happy and progressing.
- Visualisation. I use visualisations in many forms. I try to do them before sleep to help me settle and drift off easier. I do them before speaking in public or appearing in media. I have different ones for different situations and I have found they have a profound impact on how I handle situations.
- A safe place. If I feel scared about anything, I have a safe place in my mind. It is somewhere I visualise that I can go to and it calms me down. For years my safe place was a particular location we used to camp as kids with another family. We loved it there and I could easily visualise sitting near the cliff there, feeling the breeze from the ocean and relaxing. I now have a few others and don’t need them as often as I used to.
- Journal. I have always kept a diary or journal, even well before getting help for this. It is a habit I have continued and I find it interesting to see my progression. During treatment it helped a lot because I could track what my moods were, what happened to set me off, what helped me and so on.
- Affirmations. My favourite quote is “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” By Carl Jung. I write affirmations on my mirror, share them on Instagram and twitter and always look out for more. Years ago I saw a program where they were helping a couple and the woman had low self esteem. One thing she had to do was to stand in front of a mirror, then repeat “I am a confident, intelligent woman with an incredibly sexy body!” ten times a day with conviction. By the end of the week you could see it was no longer a forced saying, she had begun to believe it.
Look at how you talk to yourself. Many of us put ourselves down constantly. Every time you start to berate yourself or put yourself down, stop the thought and rephrase it. Have an affirmation about yourself you can say to increase your self esteem and help you overcome things. When I was really struggling with all the things happening in my life I used that Carl Jung quote. That quote wasn’t about me though, more about the situation I was in and how I could change my life. And I did.
- No caffeine. Caffeine ruins me. I drink anything with caffeine and I can feel the blood pumping through my veins, my patience decreases and it causes many issues. I avoid it as much as I can.
- Meditation. At least 10 if not 10 minutes a day I meditate. This can be through visualisation or sometimes it is simply listening to zen type music I have on my phone. There are apps you can download with guided visualisations too.
- Clean eating. I am gluten intolerant, but I try to eat sugar and dairy free too. When I am eating clean my mind is clearer. When I let my eating habits slip, my mind gets foggy, sluggish and I am more likely to struggle with my self esteem.
- Exercise. This is essential. Whether it is a 20 minute daily walk or a full gym workout, exercise has to happen daily.
- Outdoors. Sitting inside all day is one of the worst things I can do. I need social interaction, but more importantly I need time in the sun. We get vitamin D from the sun and Australians are often deficient in it.
- Holidays. I plan and book trips for my family and I. I love travel and I need it. I feel restless without it. It gives me something to look forward to and to plan for.
- Support. The biggest thing you can do is create a support network for yourself. I have an amazingly supportive family, wonderful friends and feel very blessed. My family have always been there for me, friends have fluctuated but in the past 5 years I have found the tribes I fit in with and love it. I finally feel I have a wonderful, full network of people I can rely on and who can rely on me.
How do I manage now?
In 2013 my psychologist declared me as no longer having Borderline Personality Disorder. I will always think a little different to most people, which I like, and really, we all thinking differently as our minds and thought patterns are shaped by our life experiences. My daughters were a very powerful motivator for me to get better so I could be the best mum possible for them. They have been the driving force behind everything I do and I am so incredibly grateful I have been blessed with them.
I am really happy with my life and how I have progressed. I am not the same person I used to be and I am grateful for my experiences in life.
I want to be really clear. Even though I overcame Borderline Personality Disorder, it does not mean everyone can. It is an extremely complex disorder and those with BPD need a lot of support. If you have it, please seek out the right help and support for you. No two people are the same and no one should compare their life to my life. We all have struggles.
I am pretty open about my life, so if you have any comments or questions feel free to leave them here, email me or message me on Facebook.