Since the start of my blogging journey, I have hoped that my posts have made a difference to someone, no matter how small. I always wonder whether people take the time to read my long rambling posts, as I try to explain different specific situations, and my sometimes long and complex reactions to them. I have come to the conclusion that it may be a good idea to try to put together an ordered list of the things I feel were important in my recovery from Borderline. It is never going to be easy as saying “Just do this, and then you will be cured”. Beating borderline takes hard work, and the hard work never stops. But I hope this post serves to help at least one person get on the right track. (Note: This is what worked for me, specifically. I am sharing it to help, but I am no means a medical professional. If you have any concerns about yours or someone else’s health, you MUST contact a qualified health professional).
A step by step method to recovery
1) Find out more about your condition
Borderline has such a large range of symptoms, and to be diagnosed with the condition you need to have at least nine, and any combination. This means that what Borderline is to one person, will be completely different to the next. For me, it involved issues with interpersonal effectiveness, self harm, suicide, eating and risky behaviour. When I say find out more, I don’t mean from peers or websites such as tumblr and pinterest. Really find out the theory behind your problems. Where do you think your symptoms originated from? Was it an invalidating environment as a child? Was it genetics? Was it in response to a serious of traumatising events? When you know what you are fighting, the battle becomes easier.
Some good websites include http://www.mind.org.uk/ and http://www.bpdworld.org. Obviously these are general mental health websites so it would help to seek out websites that are specific to your symptoms. Read books! I have an entire bookshelf full of books on BPD, and how the condition comes about. I found it so useful to learn about how I developed the condition – just as useful as how to treat it. Learning about how you have developed the condition means you can fight the causes (which may be ongoing) at the same time as fighting the symptoms.
2) Find a coping mechanism for emergency situations
Two of the symptoms of Borderline are tendencies of self harm and suicide. Borderline CAN be beaten, but not if you are dead. Sorry to be blunt about this, but suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. God knows, I have been there. I have been so low that you simply cannot carry on any longer, and you don’t even have the energy to lift a handful of pills to your mouth. I have felt that pain and felt that desperation. But look – I came back from it, and I turned it around. I am strong, and you can be too.
Before learning in depth about how to heal yourself, you need to learn some coping mechanisms for use in situations such as the one described above. I was a regular self harmer from the age of 12 to the age of 24. I cut with razors, scissors, blades, glass. I burned, I scratched. I tried methods of avoiding self harm such as snapping elastic bands on my wrists, buying a ‘Thought Stopper‘, drawing on my arms in red ink. At the time, I felt as though I was doing all I could to kick this destructive habit, but the truth of the matter was that all of these attempts were half hearted, and I was never going to stop until I addressed the thoughts and emotions behind the behaviour. Of course, this takes time and temporary measures are needed to avoid the behaviour.
There are lots of ways to avoid self harming, mostly forms of distraction (sleep, exercise, music, watching movies, talking, eating… the list is endless) and these need to be used until you have had the time to prevent the need to self harm through self healing. Even now, I still have urges, and it is important to remember that self harming is addictive, and the urge will always be there, in the background.
3) Find a treatment that works and learn it inside out
This will be different for different people. In my opinion, the two best treatments for Borderline are Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT). In the UK, healthcare is free, however when I asked for DBT, I was told that there was a nearly 2 year waiting list for it. At this point, I could have thought that I ‘wasn’t worth it’, but I decided against that. I decided that if I couldn’t get DBT on the NHS (and I couldn’t afford private) I would buy the books written for the therapists, learn the therapy inside out, and teach it to myself.
I went ahead and bought the Skills Training Manual for treating BPD written by Marsha Linehan, with therapists in mind. I made my way through it, and learnt lessons from all parts of DBT, including Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance, Core Mindfulness and Emotional Regulation. I learnt the skills taught by the therapy and pushed myself to put them into practice.
I used websites such as DBT Self Help and Get Self Help, and the Yahoo Group here which amazingly provides free DBT lessons, with marked homework each week. How they continue to do this with no funding from the government amazes me, as this must take up an awful lot of their time.
For each of the symptoms that I had, I found a way through DBT to fight it. For example:
Self Harming Urges = Distress Tolerance Module
Problems with Communication = Interpersonal Effectiveness
Dissociative Tendencies = Core Mindfulness
4) Change your life, and begin to love yourself
With these therapeutic principles in place, I was already well on the way to improving my life, and being released from the tight grip of Borderline. However, I then decided to look at other areas of my life and how they were affecting my mental health. I started with my diet. I was eating a lot of high fat and high sugar foods, and lots of carbs. My eating has previously been disordered (both anorexic and bulimic tendencies) and I could not cook. I didn’t pay much attention to the nutritional value of food, and ate lots of junk food/chocolate/sweets/fizzy drinks.
I decided that this could not be healthy and took some time looking and planning a more healthy diet. I reduced the chocolate/sweets/crisps/biscuits/fizzy drink intake, and instead snacked on fruit. I swapped cereal covered with sugar in the morning for fruit an muesli, which funnily enough tastes just as nice, but in a different way. I felt a lot healthier for it, and I felt a lot better about myself (and not because I had lost a small amount of weight from it, but because I felt as though I was taking care of myself). I had more energy and my skin improved.
Next I decided to do more exercise. Not a huge amount, as I have to be careful not to fall into the trap of eating too little/exercising too much to lose weight, and becoming disordered. I took a walk every day with my dog, which gave me both fresh air and exercise. This in turn released endorphins which made me feel happy with life. The more time I spent planning my new healthy lifestyle, the better I felt about myself.
I got my haircut, and I started to wear mascara, and shave my legs more often. I painted my finger and toe nails and bought a few new clothes. These sound like little things, and in the grand scheme of things, they are. However, the whole change in my life as a whole helped me to begin to love myself again. Yes, there were still things I hated about myself (for example, facial hair from poly cystic ovaries or fat on my stomach) but by this point I had begun to hate those THINGS rather than hating MYSELF for having those things. See the difference?
So the important point to take from this section: By allowing myself to love myself again, I no longer wanted to harm myself. I wanted to take care of myself without harming myself first. Yes, there were times where I felt the urge to cut in response to stressful situations, but by the day, the urges were reducing until one day I realised that I had had the day from hell (my Dad had told me his cancer had worsened) and at the end of the day I sat down and suddenly realised that not once during that day had I had an urge to cut. Result!
Time is a great healer and little things help. The longer I didn’t cut, the easier it became. I put a ticker on this blog of the date I last cut, and when I felt an urge, I looked at it and told myself how sad I would be to have to re-set it. For a long time, I avoided looking at pictures of self harm, so I was not triggered. It was like being on a diet and avoiding temptation. You wouldn’t walk into a bakery on a diet and unable to eat cake – so why look at triggering images? When the urges were really strong, I gave myself time to fight them. I wasn’t too hard on myself, I didn’t blame myself or taunt myself like I used to. I treated myself with care and love, and this gave me the strength to recover.
5) Move on with your life
By now, I was feeling a lot better about my life. I decided that it was time to enrich my life as the borderline had on occasion rendered me housebound, my only contact with my friends before the borderline got ‘bad’ being through Facebook and email.
I decided that I would join an internet dating website. (Note: I am not saying this is what you should do to recover, it is just that it helped me. Other ways for you to move on and enrich your life could be to find a new hobby, arrange to meet and go out with friends for example). My primary goal was to meet people, and to try out my new skills learnt thought DBT (An absolutely terrifying thought, even now!). I hoped that maybe one day I would find a partner, but wasn’t expecting a miracle.
Thankfully for me, I did meet someone, and slowly I opened up to him about my previous problems. It hasn’t be an easy road, but his love has given me a reason to continue to be well, and to be strong. For the first time of all the relationships I have had, I have not told him my ‘life history’ as such. I have told him that I have had problems and briefly explained, but I have not gone into any great depth. This is not because I don’t want to, or because I think it will scare him off. It is because I feel that that chapter is now closed. I don’t want him to treat me any differently than as he would if I hadn’t had those problems.
Of course, this does cause some issues in that he doesn’t understand why I react the way I do to certain situations, but it has given me the opportunity to feel what ‘normal’ is like. I never thought I would feel ‘normal’ again so I am so grateful that I have this chance. I am able to use the skills learnt in DBT to maintain this relationship and for the first time in a long time, I am truly happy, and although I know I will need to continue to work harder at ‘life’ than someone without my history, I believe I have beaten Borderline Personality Disorder, and hope that this remains the case for the rest of my life.
Some time ago, I compared my symptoms now to the diagnostic criteria for the disorder and was happy to see that I did indeed no longer meet the criteria for Borderline.
I hope this post is of help to someone out there who may feel lost or overwhelmed by the way they are feeling.
Take Care. xx