This is a book for those diagnosed with BPD to give them knowledge and hope.You can do it!
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a debilitating mental heath condition. It’s sordid past made it difficult for the patient to get proper treatment to cope on a daily basis. Finally, in the decade of 2010-2020 BPD is getting the attention it needs making it easier for clinicians to properly diagnose and treat patients. Due to numerous studies the mystery surrounding the brain of the BPD patient is being discovered. The findings of these studies are showing a connection to the BPD diagnosis and structural sizes (Schmahl, 2009) and the misfiring of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of the brain (New, 2007). After all these years science is providing tangible proof that BPD is not a general label given to someone when clinicians have trouble fitting patients into other mental health categories.
In 2009 Dr. John G. Gunderson, a psychiatrist from Massachusetts, published an article entitled Borderline Personality Disorder: Ontogeny of a Diagnosis. In 1967 the psychiatric community described people that we know today as being “Borderline” between neurosis, which was a treatable mental illness and psychosis, which was not treatable. In the decade of the seventies patients were viewed as “difficult patients with a high suicidal risk. They were unruly. Furthermore, it was thought these patients used hospitals to escape their responsibilities. It was believed these patients were not treatable.”
It wasn’t until the decade of the 1980’s after BPD was was entered into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, third edition (DSM-III) (ND) that the psychiatric community realized patients were not faking symptoms to get admitted into the hospitals. Their symptoms were very real. It also became clearer that this diagnosis was treatable. This is when the first HOPE began for a patient diagnosed with BPD.(2009)
There are certain criteria to be met before a clinician diagnoses BPD. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines BPD as an on going pattern of varying moods, self image, and behavior with the affects being impulsive actions and problems in relationships. Patients may experience intense episodes anger, depression, and anxiety lasting hours to days. There may be a question how they see themselves in their role in the world resulting in interests and values changing very quickly. The criteria to be met are as follows:
• Tendency to view things as all good or all bad
• Opinions of people can change very quickly
• Efforts to avoid abandonment by rapidly initiating physical or emotional relationships or cutting off communication with someone in fear of being abandoned
• There is a distorted self-image or sense of self
• Impulsiveness often resulting in dangerous behavior
• There may be self-harming behavior such as cutting
• Recurring thoughts of suicidal behavior or threats
• Chronic feelings of emptiness
• Inappropriate intense anger or problems controlling anger
• Difficulty in trusting someone with an irrational fear of other people’s intentions
• Feelings of disassociation being cut off from one’s self, seeing self from outside the body, or feelings of unreality
“Not everyone with borderline personality disorder experiences every symptom. Some individuals experience only a few symptoms, while others have many. Symptoms can be triggered by seemingly ordinary events. For example, people with borderline personality disorder may become angry and distressed over minor separations from people to whom they feel close, such as traveling on business trips. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and their illness.”
In the world today we have too much negativity. In our lives we migrate to the negative so easily and the positive gets pushed aside. I admire a person who has overcome negative thoughts and displays a positive attitude even in the darkest times. As a person with BPD I struggle to get out of the world of negativity and into a world of peace within my own heart. Not many would understand the need to hide within ones own self when we are taught our focus needs to be on others to make us happy.
I’m Roman Catholic and within the teachings we are taught to help one another. Since I started catechism classes as a toddler this has been a focus. Organized Christian religions place a high emphasis on this. I do not feel GOD would ever want us to neglect ourselves or our home to make it in life. Not everyone is called to be an apostle: to leave our family and friends. We are all called to be saints. We have those who are called to be teachers, physicians, mothers, fathers, leaders, and people being placed in other positions that are to help humanity survive and thrive.
Thrive is an important word to remember throughout reading my book. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word thrive is an intransitive verb and defined as follows (2005):
• to grow vigorously: flourish
• to gain wealth or possessions: prosper
• to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances - often used with on: as in thrives on conflict
Anyone can go through the motions and just survive. Not everyone knows how to thrive. Our aim with healing BPD is not just surviving; we want to thrive. No one states that they want to feel like a failure when they grow up. As children we have all sorts of aspirations for ourselves that keep changing as we mature and find where our interests and talents lay. Those with BPD usually have not had the proper teaching of how to go about finding those interests and talents. If we find them, we surely do not know what to do with them or how to set goals and complete tasks to be able to make our dreams come to fruition.
Although I do feel helping others is important I advocate when a patient with BPD starts the healing process that focus needs to be on the self. One cannot know how to properly help others if they are neglecting their direct needs to live on a daily basis. Most patients are diagnosed at a time where they are living on their own. In my own observations, one of the reasons it seemed like patients “used hospitals to escape their responsibilities” (Gunderson 2009) is because BPD patients don’t know how to care for the most basic needs of the human person especially when it involves interactions with others. Life for us gets unmanageable and confusing.
With years of being told to “grow up”, “don’t take things so personally”, “stop being a drama queen”, “you have issues”, “you are lazy”, and many other negative responses and not being shown how to do all those things we get confused and become needy. We begin to define ourselves through other people’s perceptions of us. We start looking up to others because they seem to know what they are doing in life. We aspire to be like them and then when they fail us or move out of our life we lose our identity again. After this, another person comes along and it starts over again until that person moves out of our lives as well. We drive ourselves insane just trying to gain an acceptance from others that never comes.
No matter how overwhelmed others get with dealing with us, we are even more overwhelmed with being us than they ever will be able to comprehend. I want to go back to where we are all called to be saints: that is to live a life with virtues in place, with kindness, and patience. To those who preach this, how does one expect us to live this kind of life, if we are not shown this kind of life to begin with? If we witnessed ungodly things in our childhood and pasts, if we were not shown kindness, or patience, how are we supposed to know what it even looks like? The human person only has those who raise them as examples.
As Christians our first example is Christ. However, not many realize that parents are the first examples children have. If we are sent to learn about Christ and his Way, yet, it’s not practiced in the home, how good is the teaching really? The old adage here is that we are only as good as our teacher. Our teacher should be the silent example of who we need to aspire to be.
Right here I will tell you the beginnings I had. None. That is right. While my mother was dying she told me what happened after I was born. I don’t know if she told me because she wanted me to know or if she needed to get it off her chest before she passed. I let her speak even though I didn’t want to hear it. “We didn’t want you. When you were born we took your crib and put it into a closet and just left you there. I fed you when I wanted to and diapered you when I wanted to: not when you needed it.” She went on to tell me they didn’t hold me nor did they care if I cried. And, I cried a lot. Why? Because I was probably detoxing from all that alcohol my mother drank while she was pregnant for me.
How am I supposed to understand a God who loves me and who would never abandon me? As an infant, I never bonded with either of my parents. Infants are supposed to learn who is going to protect and nurture them. Not caring if I cried? That is not nurturing or protecting. That shows no compassion and it surely does not validate my feelings. Yes, even an infant needs to have their feelings validated.
I don’t begrudge my parents. Not for this. It was what it was. I wouldn’t say it was the right thing to do however it happened, it wasn’t my decision, and I can’t change it. So it just is and was. Fact is fact. As far as being a family there was nothing virtuous, kind, or patient about it. My parents had two other children living their lives and they lived it as if I was not even there. They were selfish.
Yes, all this played into my CPTSD and BPD. How I get to the point of not begrudging it is the question. For those of you who are newly diagnosed and in your teens and twenties I am really feeling excited for you. The brain doesn’t stop growing until around the age of twenty-seven so you have a one up on me with being able to grow new neurons and connections through DBT therapy. Even at my age there is hope. You, though, you have life ahead of you. And yes, even though I do not know you personally or that you are even reading this, know this: In my heart of hearts I am ecstatic for the prognosis you have.
In my twenties this was a fairly new diagnosis and still not much was known about BPD to begin to heal the patient. I still see those who are even older than I begrudging their past making comments like “no one has had it harder than me”. Let me tell you everyone has their hard stuff they go through: with BPD or without.
My heart goes out to the whole town who experiences devastation. There are many lives going through traumatic events every single day around the world. I watch tsunami videos where children are losing all their family members and friends in one event and wonder how they are managing to cope with their losses. I watch things going on overseas in war-stricken areas where they are murdering people over their religious idealizations and leaving the bodies for passing children to see on a daily basis. How do those children manage growing up? So everyone does have their own things that are traumatic happening in their own lives.
We need to be like thousands across the globe. We need to become Warriors! We need to conquer! Our fight is from within our own selves. No matter what others are putting us through it’s still an inner-battle.