Triggers – What they are and how to handle them

I recently attended an online webinar led by Debbie Corso, author of ‘stronger than BPD’ and creator of the website ‘Healing from BPD’ the webinar was about triggers and how to handle them, here is some of what I learned in that webinar along with my own ideas and research, I hope you find it useful.

What are triggers?

Triggers are something that reminds you of a traumatic event from your past. Causing you to react like it is currently happening even if it’s not. You tend to hear the term commonly used with PTSD but triggers can be linked to any sort of mental illness. For example A depiction of suicide can be triggering for someone who has depression. It may not just be anything so obvious, anything could be a trigger. External triggers are things like a certain smell, something you hear or see in your environment but triggers can also be internal, a thought or feeling can trigger you. Basically anything that reminds you of your trauma can be a trigger. An example of mine is I was once grabbed by a man that had a certain pungent smell my brain remembered so, when someone walked near me with that smell, I would recall that night and feel how I did then, causing me to panic.

What happens when you are triggered?

Everyone’s experience of being triggered can be different, you can react with an extreme emotion such as panic or rage or you can completely shut down emotionally causing you to feel numb or empty. You may also have a strong urge to do something such as do drugs, drink a lot of alcohol, self harm etc.

Triggers and the brain

The amygdala is the part of the brain that is associated with memories and is connected to the nervous system, it’s function is to protect us from danger. This part of the brain is activated when we are triggered. This part can be especially heightened in those that have been traumatized or have a mental illness such as BPD. The prefrontal cortex is the rational/ logical part of the brain and balances out the emotional reactivity of the amygdala, however when we are triggered the amygdala can take complete control and make us act out in ways that seem irrational. When dealing with triggers the aim is to strengthen the pre-frontal cortex to achieve equilibrium and better manage distress.

How triggers help us.

Triggers are messages, sent by the brain, telling us that something is wrong, something in our life or ourselves needs to be addressed and dealt with so we can move on. They can also be a signal that we need to take extra care of ourselves. For example, I can be more sensitive triggers when I haven’t eaten or slept enough, if I find things that people are saying or doing more triggering than usual then that usually means I need to spend time to myself away from everyone. Triggers and how they make us feel can tell us what we need thus they can be useful when handled in healthy ways.

How to better cope with triggers

Journaling – writing down your triggers can be useful for keeping track of them. describing where it happened, when it happened and what happened to trigger you can help you predict potentially triggering situations so you know whether to avoid or, if avoiding isn’t an option, plan how you will cope in that situation. This skill called ‘cope ahead‘ and is taught in DBT, it involves describing a potentially triggering situation and planning how you will handle it effectively.

Communication- Talking to someone you trust about what has triggered you and how it made you feel can help you feel less alone and isolated. It’s best to talk to someone who knows a lot about you and your problems and doesn’t judge you, someone who could give you advice or just listen to you whether that be someone on a helpline like Samaritans, a friend/family member or your therapist, basically whoever you feel most comfortable sharing these type of things with.

Distraction- If possible, get yourself away from the situation that has triggered you to do something you enjoy or something that requires a lot more concentration such as completing puzzles or reading. If you can’t get out of the situation, try distracting yourself mentally by daydreaming of nice things for a bit or using ‘safe place visualization’ as learned in DBT.

Self care/self soothing- What I mean by this is doing anything to make yourself calmer and feel less overwhelmed. For example I have a ‘self soothe’ box which is filled with stuff to help me calm down when I’m triggered, the box has various things such as scented moisturizers, a puzzle and coloring book and a small cuddly toy but your box could be filled with anything you like. Another way of self soothing could be practicing calming mantras such as “I am safe” or “everything is going to be okay” this can be useful when you struggle with intrusive thoughts like me.

Distress Tolerance skills- In DBT the first unit you cover is ‘distress tolerance’ these are a series of skills you learn to cope effectively when you are distressed.  Distraction and safe place visualization are a part of this but there is also, STOP, TIPP, ACCEPTS and more. I will leave links to videos and articles about these techniques below to explain further.

Thank you for reading, I know its been some time since I last wrote and I’m honestly not sure when the next post will be as I seem to have lost the drafts but thank you for being patient with me and hope to be back soon, until next time ❤

Useful links/videos:

Cope Ahead: The Power of Planning How to Cope in Advance

The Safe Place part 1 (guided imagery)

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/trigger

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-triggered-4175432

Mental Health Triggers Explained and Tips

 

The C in ABC PLEASE stands for cope ahead, I couldn’t find a video with cope ahead alone but I think its useful to know the rest of the skills in the acronym 🙂

Advertisements

Taking A Break

This blog is now over 3 years old and I must say I’m surprised I kept it up for so long. These past few years have been a crazy ride for me and if you’ve been reading my posts for some time now you’ll know that a lot of things have changed over the years, mainly me. I’ve learned to be alone and take care of myself while also making sense of my personality Disorder, things are far from perfect but I’m in a better place than I was 3 years ago, heck even 1 year ago.

My writing has changed and my blog has gone through quite a few makeovers, It’s been a while since I’ve done a post about my life and how I feel. I think this is the first one since the end of last year! I’ve really enjoyed making informative posts about what I learn but recently I feel like I’ve been treating this blog as more of a job than a hobby, I try to spend at least one day a week writing new posts and it’s time to be honest with you, I love the attention that my blog gets, since I started using twitter to share my posts and network they’ve got more likes and this blog has got more followers.

I started seeing numbers as validation and approval, when a post didn’t get many likes or people unfollowed me, I’d get disheartened and wonder why they don’t like me or what I write.I became very envious of people who seemed to do better than me on twitter and on here. The relationship I developed with social media became unhealthy and I’ve had to take a big step back from it all but not too big otherwise I’d lose people’s attention thus the scheduled blog work time. I put myself under pressure to keep improving my posts, make them longer with no mistakes sort of thing. The informative posts I wrote seemed to get more traction than my personal story so I kept going with them as its what other people wanted but I’m not sure its what I want. Recently I tried to force myself to write a post but my brain and my emotions weren’t co-operating, became anxious and a bit manic whenever I tried to write a post like I was trying to force enthusiasm and taking it too far.

At the time when I first started changing my blog style it was because I was inspired to do so but the inspiration just isn’t there now, I’m still very proud of my new posts don’t get me wrong but now the writing just feels forced, like I’ve started blogging more for the attention and validation rather than because I want to. Today i found myself sitting in the bathroom with pain in my chest from stress and the thought of my blog came up and how I’ve just been putting it as another part of my weekly to do list instead of utilizing it as a therapeutic hobby, the thought of writing this post calmed me down and this does feel like a weight lifting off my shoulders.

I still love this blog and I’m really proud of the work I’ve done but all good things must come to an end unfortunately, I’m honestly not sure what the future of this blog is going to be but right now I need to take a break, focus on getting well and then maybe come back to blogging but I’m not sure and I don’t want to worry myself about it now. I hope you understand where I’m coming from, I feel like I’m now starting a new chapter of my life and I’m not sure my blog is currently reflecting that. I hope to one day come back here better and brighter but if not, don’t worry about me I’m just doing different things with my life 🙂

Thank you for reading,

NI2M ❤

Anxiety Management Workshop

Recently I enrolled in this thing called a recovery college that has a bunch of courses and workshops to help in recovery from mental illness. My DBT therapist suggested I sign up to a few things with it once my therapy was finished to help myself and give me something to do. I signed up for a mix of courses/workshops for emotional development, help looking for work and trying new hobbies. The first workshop I went to was anxiety management which involved an introduction to CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) this is what we covered in that workshop.

What Is CBT?

To give a quick run down on what CBT is I’ve linked the video below. Please watch it, if you don’t know what CBT is, before proceeding as I don’t think what I say will make much sense if you don’t;

 

The cross sectional formula (hot cross bun model):

75c2cbf6f331371fe6dcdf0ba5cdfbbf

This model was designed to show how our thoughts connect with our environment, behavior, emotions and bodily sensations. It shows how all these elements of an anxious reaction interconnect. Thoughts are usually the first in the diagram because CBT believes that our thoughts are the main cause of our problems so it focuses on our thought patterns and how to make them more helpful to us. When filling out a template such as this you’d have to describe in each section what happened to trigger the reaction (environment) what thoughts came up, how it made you feel emotionally, what physical sensations you experienced and how these things made you behave. Below is an example of a filled out model;

hot-cross-bun1

 

The Worry Tree

ShrunkCBT-GoogleFoundWorryTree

The worry tree is a diagram that offers guidance on identifying the type of worry you have and how to resolve it, the two types of worries identified are Hypothetical and Practical (current). Hypothetical worries are things that aren’t actually happening right now but what you are worried might happen. These type of worries can be dealt with by setting a worry time. Practical worries are problems that are currently happening and need to be dealt with as soon as possible, usually through problem solving.

 

Worry Time

Worry time is when you schedule a time everyday to focus on whats worrying you so you can satisfy your brain’s urge to worry without disrupting your day by distracting you from your tasks. You can set aside time in the morning, afternoon, evening whatever time is best for you and you can make this worry time as long or short as you want. When you dedicate to this time, you’re not supposed to rationalize or talk down your concerns but allow yourself to feel anxious and ruminate a little to get it out of your system. You may want to write your thoughts and feelings down, once the time is up its a good idea to calm yourself down through things like Progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercises.

Problem Solving

This skill is also learned in DBT and can be applied to current problems by going through this step by step process to problem solve;

IMG_20190610_115953.jpg

dav

  • Identify the problem– For help identifying the problem you should focus on, there is something called a Problem Statement which is a way of summarizing the difficulties you face. When writing a problem statement you need to consider the trigger, the symptoms and the impact of these things, to the right are some examples of a statement from ‘The CBT handbook‘.

 

 

  • Write down as many possible solutions you can think of– You can do this by making a list or mind map. The idea is to consider ALL possible solutions even if they seem silly. It’s best to think outside the box at this stage.
  • Think of the pros and cons to each solution– Write a list of ways that each solution could be beneficial and the ways they can be harmful.
  • Pick the solution you think is best– Weight out the pros and cons of each solution, deciding which one you think is best for your situation.
  • Plan how you will carry it out– Once you have decided on a solution plan step-by-step how you are going to implement it.
  • Put the plan into action
  • Review the results– Review how well the solution worked and if it didn’t, go back to step 4 and pick a different solution you think might work better.

I hope you found this post informative and useful, feel free to let me know what you think and whether you’ve had CBT before. Did it work for you? are there other helpful techniques you’ve learned from it? Thanks for reading, I hope to see you in the next one ❤

NI2M

Growing Up With BPD

Trigger warning: This post talks about self harm and suicidal behaviours

When I was diagnosed with BPD at age 18 a lot of things fell into place. When I showed my mum a leaflet about the diagnosis she was able to link a lot of my behavior to the disorder. Fair to say we both agreed with the diagnosis, in hindsight the signs were there all along but professionals are reluctant to diagnose children and teens with BPD as the mood swings and unsure identity could be put down to growing up. They tend to wait until you’re 18 or older to diagnose you but I think if someone had picked up on the signs at an early stage I might have got better but instead the symptoms got progressively worse.

For as long as I can remember intense emotions have affected my life. When I was in nursery and primary school I would get so distressed about going and being separated from my mum that I would cry, scream and put myself at risk to avoid going. I’d run away from home or undo my seat belt in the car in the hopes that we would crash and I would get hurt or die so I wouldn’t have to go to school.

I would cry out of nowhere even if, like a minute ago, I was laughing I could suddenly start crying or get angry at the drop of a hat. Attachments were an obvious issue for me as well, not just being overly attached to my mum but I would get attached to toys and games, getting incredibly upset if they broke. At the age of 10 I was in therapy for anger management problems. I only got six sessions with the therapists but when they “dropped” me I felt unwanted, unimportant and abandoned.

I used to go horse riding every week which I enjoyed but from one week to the next I could feel completely different about it. I remember looking forward to this special riding party with other kids but on the day of the party I was crying and screaming like I was being forced to go to school.

My friendships were very unstable in my primary school/early high school life. I would get angry easily for reasons that not even I knew sometimes but it meant a fight nearly every other day. We would always make up and be good friends until the next time I got upset with them. Being friends with me was like trying to handle a ticking time bomb that could go off at any minute or with even a slight wrong touch. There are a lot of diary entries from my first year of high school talking about this one girl and each entry would be either about how bad of a friend she was or how we made up after a fight… Again.

Suicidal ideation was around from a young age too. I wrote in my diary about how I hurt a friend and how I felt so guilty that if she didn’t forgive me I might as well end my life. This may all sound dramatic but this was how I was genuinely feeling at the time. I was considered a drama queen and a crybaby for years because of this emotional intensity.

I was bullied as I wore my heart on my sleeve and it was obvious there was something wrong with me as I was able to go from laughing to crying to lashing out in a matter of minutes. I was aware of how my emotional sensitivity was a problem but I didn’t know how to control it. In my teen years these erratic emotions morphed into severe depression and anxiety.

I was crying almost every night and having a panic attack nearly everyday, I’d also learned how to self harm and that became my way of releasing my emotional pain and self hatred. I eventually got counselling and group therapy for these things which helped a little but as the disorder could not yet be diagnosed, the issues were still there. I just became better at hiding/suppressing my emotions at school and with family, saving my “meltdowns” for when I was alone.

I changed my mind a lot too, picking my subjects to take at GCSE was a nightmare as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be when I got older. My aspirations would change nearly every week and I went to the office multiple times to change my options, I eventually settled for Drama, Art and Child development as, for a short while, I wanted to be a social worker,that dream changed quickly though.

In college things seemed to be looking up, I was happier there but underneath the cheeriness was the fear that if I let my “true” self show everyone would hate me and I would be bullied again so I played up the happy/hyperactive persona as that is the side of me people seemed to prefer. However, this escalated into mania that would last a couple of hours but by the end of the day I was emotionally and physically drained from all the hyperactivity. If something went wrong during the day or I perceived someone as being upset with me, my mood would quickly change to depressed and distressed.

So you see, when I was a child, I had no pause button on my emotional reactions. Whenever I felt overwhelmed I didn’t know how to stop the tears or the rage, I didn’t know how to react to these intense emotions in a healthy way or communicate how I was feeling to others appropriately so very soon a wedge was driven between me and the other kids. It was when I started being bullied more severely in high school that I learned to not let my feelings show, bottling them up and suppressing them as much as I could but even then some of it would show, especially the rage.

The emotional intensity, mood swings, unstable relationships, attachment issues and lack of identity were there with me from a very early age. Things have improved since I got neurofeedback, DBT therapy and medication but there are definitely things I need to work on like resolving my trauma and coming to terms with the way my life is now because of said trauma. I understand why professionals are reluctant to diagnose people with the disorder before 18 but I think early intervention is key for BPD. I think there is a term called ’emerging personality disorder” that identifies symptoms of a personality disorder in young people without actually diagnosing them. I think this would have been useful for me as it would have got me treated sooner and improved my school life but alas that was not the case. I do think it would be a good idea to teach children about how to deal with difficult emotions and how to look after their mental health, not necessarily if they show signs of mental illness but in general.

Hope you liked this post, do feel free to let me know what you think or share your experience with a personality disorder in childhood. Thanks for reading.

NI2M ❤

19 Signs You Grew Up With Borderline Personality Disorder

18 Signs You Grew Up With ‘Quiet Borderline Personality Disorder’

https://thetab.com/uk/sheffield/2018/10/11/this-is-what-it-is-really-like-growing-up-with-borderline-personality-disorder-36588

BPD Obsessions

A while ago I was really into the sims and I’m talking OBSESSED with it to the point that I could barely think of anything else. I couldn’t afford the actual PC version but I made do with the Create-A-Sim demo, the mobile version and youtube videos. It got to the point that, when I tried to do something else, I would get agitated and itch to get back to the sims like withdrawal symptoms of an addiction. I would daydream about owning The sims on PC and create storylines for my characters. When my phone got stolen I became really distressed as it meant I lost all my Sims mobile progress and the characters I created and loved were gone. It’s sad I know but I think at the time the game was the only thing making me happy.

This happened other times as I grew up as well, when I was in year 10 I became obsessed with this online game called Poptropica, I would play it for hours in my spare time and then talk about my adventures in the game with my friends the next day. It was actually one of them that pointed out how obsessed I can get with things. I didn’t think anything of it at the time and just put it down to me being my weird self but once I was diagnosed with BPD a lot of the behaviors like this started making sense. The sudden attachment I would get to these things that made me feel happy the way I couldn’t seem to control and got addicted to the euphoric feeling, spending as much time on that thing as possible until I eventually got bored of it.

disorder-personality-4I guess, for me, these things are a form of escapism, especially if I’m going through a time where I feel particularly lonely and depressed. When I found something that made me feel excited and happy I would cling on to it and consume my life with it. It’s not just games I can get obsessed with but also ideas, TV shows, books and even people.

With people though it tends not to be someone I know in real life as I’m afraid of intimacy or overstepping boundaries so I tend to get attached to far away people I won’t ever meet like celebrities and youtubers. I had a crush on Jacksepticeye for a while and would watch his videos for hours a day until I just found I lost interest again. I do this with other youtubers, but I don’t usually develop crushes, just rather enjoy their content and enjoy how happy they make me.

About a year ago, I became obsessed with crystals, angels and general spirituality. Whenever I went out I became fixated on buying everything I ‘needed’ to be spiritual. I spent a lot of money buying as many books about crystals, angels, etc as possible. I collected things to put on my altar/sacred space. I joined online groups about witchcraft and other such things. I even attended workshops to learn to read tarot and changed my diet. After a few months, when my contract for my first job ended, my obsession seemed to die down however I felt guilty for buying all the things and not using them so I still practice when I feel the need to.

There are other obsessions I had that are still part of my life today. When I was about 14 I got really into the music of the band EVANESCENCE. I learned all the words to nearly all their songs, Idolized Amy Lee and got my dad to take me to see them in concert… twice. I found Evanescence and Amy Lee could put words to how I was feeling in a way that I couldn’t and, even though their songs were dark, it made me happy to pretend I was on stage singing their songs. I’ve got nearly all their albums and some merch, some recent as I still love them over 5 years later.

VIe4ysN

Around the same time I developed an interest in Evanescence, I started watching BBC Merlin and loved it. The show was about three seasons in when I joined the fandom so there were school nights spent having Merlin Marathons to catch up and, while I waited for the fourth and fifth seasons, I’d watch sneak peeks of the new episodes, watch and read fan-made content and get as much memorabilia as I could. Even though it was cancelled years ago I still come up with my own fan stories, own everything I bought for it and even still dream about the show!

Its fair to say that although my obsessions with Evanescence, Merlin and spirituality have died down they are still a part of what makes me who I am. Not all of my obsessions have continued this way though, like I mentioned with the sims, I can be really into something for a while until I exhaust myself day and night with it and lose interest. I think this has a lot to do with ‘all or nothing’ thinking where we either really care about something or have no interest in it at all. When we do care about something we can be incredibly passionate and go overboard with our interest as we struggle to regulate our intense emotions. When obsessed with something like a hobby it can consume our minds and lives so much that it feels like our identity as well.

I hadn’t realized, until I did research for this post, that as BPD sufferers we can become obsessive over thoughts and memories. I always put this down to having a bit of OCD or an overly analytical mind but it’s actually a BPD thing. Where if something particularly distressing happens I will overthink, analyze and obsess about it until my brain seems to finally let go. For example, when I fall out with friends I obsessively think and write about what happened from multiple angles, picking apart the event, what they said as well as what I said. How they made me feel and how I imagine I made them feel. Its basically like beating a dead horse but my brain can’t seem to let go until I’ve exhausted all realms of possibilities or it gets distracted for a while.

49701229_292516441613826_2510385308090143063_n

There are also obsessions with a crush/romantic partner we can have but I don’t really have experience in that department. I guess my brain just feels safer attaching itself to fiction and things rather than real life people but if you have any experience with BPD obsessions romantic or otherwise then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Thank you for reading, take care ❤

BPD and Obsessions

When BPD Makes You Obsessed With Trying New and Interesting Hobbies

13 ‘Obsessive’ Things People With Borderline Personality Disorder Do

BPD AND THE STRUGGLE TO DISAGREE

I hate disagreeing with people, it brings up intense anxiety and panic in me, especially if I like the person and want them to like me. It’s always been hard for me to comprehend how people can disagree on things and still have a good relationship. I’ve always thought of disagreements as a way of damaging a relationship. The only time I feel able to openly disagree with someone is if I’m really angry and believe I’m right then I tend to get destructive and withdraw from the relationship as I suddenly despise the person and want nothing to do with them. I think this is called ‘splitting’ which I’ll probably write a full post about another time.

With more awareness of my problems with emotional regulation and lack of interpersonal skills, I’ve been consciously trying to remain calm when disagreeing with someone. It’s not easy though as my value of being true to my beliefs conflicts with the disorder’s desire to be loved and accepted by all. I want to be honest and stand up for what I believe in but I also want to just agree with the person so they won’t hate me. As, for me, disagreements turn to hatred fast. I try to remember that not everyone thinks this way and its okay to disagree. It’s all about finding a balance of validating the other person’s feelings while also validating your own and that’s been a difficult balance to find.

BPD-Splitting-copy-2@2x

When someone disagrees with me, it feels like an attack and fight or flight kicks in where I either panic, backtrack what I said and apologize (even if I have nothing to apologize for) or get so aggressively angry and defensive that I push the person away and cut them off completely. Because why would I want to be associated with someone I disagree with? and vice versa. I couldn’t see why someone would want to associate with me if we didn’t see eye to eye on everything. If I was in a relationship with someone I thought we’d have to be an exact reflection of each other and want the same things otherwise we couldn’t stay together. I just didn’t see how it could work. I’d do whatever the other person wanted me to and act how I think I should because I didn’t want to upset them in any way.

This people pleasing tendency often leads me to feel bitter and resentful, like I bend over backwards for these people and they don’t treat me the same in return (because everyone is different and shows love in different ways). Inevitably the other person would do or say something that would push me over the edge and I would snap. It would come out of nowhere for the other party involved but for me it would have been building up over time and I just couldn’t take the pressure anymore. The term “treading on eggshells” is used a lot by people when describing their relationship with someone with BPD which I can understand but, at least for me, it would go the other way too. I felt I had to be so careful in everything I said and did so people wouldn’t get angry with me.

I hate when people are angry with me it makes me feel like I did something wrong and with BPD making a mistake and being a bad person are the same thing. Only bad people do bad things and it can be hard for us to comprehend that those who love us can say nasty things when angry. As far as we’re concerned they hate us because why would they say those things unless they hate us? It goes the other way around for me too. I once got into a fight with my mum and I told her I wished she was dead because I was so angry I thought I hated her at the time. When we both calmed down and I apologized I didn’t understand how she could still love me and forgive me after I said something so awful because doesn’t that make ME awful?

In conflict, especially with BPD, it can be hard to accept other perspectives in a situation because of ‘black and white’ thinking. You’re either wrong or right, good or bad, when I try to see another POV I get really distressed because if the other person makes a valid point does that make everything I believe wrong and them right? No, because the world is rarely black and white but shades of grey 😉 sometimes we don’t want to listen or validate the other person’s argument as it can feel like a betrayal to our own values and community. Like with extreme feminism/anti feminism or religion, we can develop an “us or them” mentality “you’re either with us or against us” no in-between or middle ground because the community can shun you for not completely agreeing with or obeying/believing them. It’s why I don’t really get involved in politics or label myself with any religion as it feels very much like having to pick a side and close myself off to other perspectives

Anyway, recently I had a DBT session about interpersonal effectiveness and I realized its not the fact we disagree that’s the problem, it’s the way we disagree with each-other that’s the issue. I see it a lot, especially online, when people disagree with each-other and they yell, treat each-other with aggression and no respect. Insults and swear words are thrown around which gets neither party anywhere. Its fair that, when someone calls you a “piece of shit” for not sharing their views , you want to fight back and defend yourself but you can’t fight fire with fire. My therapist taught me a DBT skill called GIVE which I think even those without BPD could do with learning.

7b532a6abbf9a8a2dc766715515772aa

G stands for GENTLE- Treat the other person with kindness and respect (I know this can be hard especially if you consider their actions and statements to be immoral but they’re more likely to listen to you if you don’t attack them)

INTERESTED- act interested in what the other person is saying by making eye contact, keeping your attention on what the other person is saying without interrupting them. Nod from time to time as they talk to show you’re listening.

VALIDATE- What the other person has said and how they’re feeling by saying things like “I see this is important to you” or “I understand that you’re angry” try to understand where they’re coming from and work from there. This is NOT the same as agreeing with the other person but showing compassion for them is more likely to calm them down and get them to listen to you rather than shouting or insulting them.

EASY MANNER- Notice your body language, voice and choice of words; make sure you are not shutting the other person out by crossing your arms, raising your voice or belittling them. You can smile and use humor (if appropriate) to ease the tension as well.

Related Resources:

https://www.phumlanikango.com/mental-health/2018/7/31/bpd-relationships-understanding-what-goes-on-in-our-minds

‘Don’t Disagree or They’ll Hate You’: My Guide to Friendship With BPD

How I’ve Learned to Manage Conflict in Life With Borderline Personality Disorder

Mental health and Medication

There’s some debate across the mental health community whether or not we should take meds to treat our mental illness. I personally take (quite a lot) of medication. I must admit I myself had some reservations about taking medication to treat my issues, like what if I end up being on them all my life? What if I will forever rely on them to keep me well? and “what would other people think”. I was once on this meditation app where you could talk to others and I briefly mentioned being on sleeping pills (for insomnia and depression) to which he told me that’s bad and I shouldn’t be on them.

My neurofeedback therapist would promise me a recovery miracle and that I could ween myself off meds, before leaving me for another project. We live in a world where taking medication for physical illness is considered necessary but meds for mental illness is shameful and I don’t think it should be. When I studied psychology in college we discussed the topic of taking medication for things like depression, both the benefits and the risk, we were encouraged to try and take a balanced point of view in essays. So, while I do take medication and don’t feel ashamed of it, I will try to tell you all I know about meds both the good and the bad.

image

MY MEDICATION STORY

I first started taking medication in 2015/16 as I had severe depression to the point I felt stuck in life and that I may be better off dead. I was in college at the time and it was my final year so the pressure was on with coursework, exams, university applications and other responsibilities. Because of all this work and pressure I felt I didn’t have time for therapy or the time to properly take care of my mental health. So, after scrawling “I NEED FUCKING MEDS” as well as other angry writings on my bedroom wall, I went to the doctor to talk about the possibility of getting medication for my depression. After a long few months where I felt hopeful that things were looking up, the suicidality came back to the point I was fantasizing about suicide during lessons. I eventually quit college.

Quitting college took some pressure off of me and I started seeing a counsellor but after experiencing a traumatic event my mental health declined again and it was decided my issues were too severe for the type of counselling I was getting. So I was left with nothing but an increased dose of Fluoxetine and some melatonin to help me sleep. During the summer of 2016  I ended up in the hospital psych ward and  was prescribed 25mg of lamotrigine which is traditionally used to treat bipolar but can help with BPD mood swings.

original-11385-1443626238-3

Haejin Park

 

For the next year I was in and out of A&E with suicidal thoughts but didn’t get admitted again. When my dad saw just how bad my mental health was he got me to see a private therapist who treated me with neurofeedback which helped a lot but I was still struggling with insomnia and PMS problems. For the insomnia I was originally prescribed melatonin but we found it wasn’t strong enough so it was replaced with mirtazapine. This is a sleeping pill as well as an antidepressant that has worked wonders in getting me to sleep at night where I used to really struggle before. Nonetheless a few weeks before my red visitor came along I would experience more emotional instability, fragility and suicidal tendencies that not even all my meds could help with so about two months ago I was put on the pill. Now my period actually starts near the right time and I don’t experience such severe PMS for so long now which is awesome.

I’d say that fluoxetine has helped me more with my anxiety and OCD symptoms rather than depression. Before fluoxetine I would obsess about being clean, smelling nice, germs and what other people thought of me but with fluoxetine that’s calmed down. With lamotrigine my mood swings are less frantic and more stable. You’d definitely notice a difference in my behavior if I forgot to take it. The downside though is that it has given me more weird, vivid dreams at night. Like I said, Mirtazapine has really helped  improve my sleep pattern. However a side effect of it is increased appetite so I’ve rapidly gained weight while I’ve been taking it, but for me that was a good thing as I was very underweight, I do need to get my appetite under control though.

tumblr_n0fcivNPub1rpu8e5o1_500

THE BENEFITS

If your mental illness is mainly chemical or hormone based, meds can really help. For example the Pill can be good at regulating hormones during PMS while antidepressants/anxiety meds can help increase the brain’s intake of serotonin.

Medication can help stabilize your brain enough so that you can handle therapy. My psychology teacher once said that medication works well with therapy as you may be too emotionally unbalanced for the treatment to really work, but medication can help you find that balance. Lamotrogine helped me in this case.

It’s a good alternative if you can’t afford, don’t have access to, or just don’t have the time for therapy. As I mentioned before, I started taking meds because I didn’t think I had the time for therapy. Medication can take up to 2 weeks to take effect but its quicker and easier to take a pill as you rush off to work or school than have to take time away from those things for therapy.

DyV9gM9X0AEzzn1

THE DOWNFALLS

There can be side effects that make your problems worse; lamotrigine can give me weird dreams/nightmares and fluoxetine can make depressive symptoms, such as suicidal or self harm thoughts, worse in young people. Other mental health medications can be addictive too and anti-psychotics, which are mainly used to treat schizophrenia, can cause problems such as tremors.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all treatment, finding which type of medication and which dose works best for you is a pain. You may suffer side effects or no effects at all which can be incredibly frustrating. It’s not a quick fix either as, like I mentioned earlier, medication can take up to two weeks or longer to really change anything.

Admitting you may need medication can feel like admitting defeat to your demons as there is so much shame around the concept and the “just get over it” “think positively” attitude can hurt us more than medication will as we’re taught to power through our problems instead of address them which can make people less likely to go to therapy anyway.

Medication doesn’t deal with the cause of your mental health problems, only the symptoms. Unless your problems with mental health are solely based on chemicals and hormones, the problem will not be dealt with by medication. If your mental illness is the result of trauma or negative thought patterns its best to get therapy to help process and truly recover. I am attending DBT and teaching myself CBT as well as taking medication, the combination of the two is helping.

mental-health-quote-hp-62-3

MY THOUGHTS and ADVICE

Now I’m not saying that you should go on medication. I don’t know you or your life so meds may not even be right for you and that’s okay but only you can decide that for yourself. You know how it feels to be you, live in your mind and body so only you will know what’s right for them. I would like to give you some advice if you are considering taking medication.

RESEARCH what your doctor wants to prescribe you, really look at the leaflet provided as well as online. It can be good to get other people’s personal experience with the meds as well.

Keep in touch with your GP/psychiatrist. When you’re first put on medication your doctor should book you in for a review in about two weeks to check on you and how the medication is affecting you, please attend these reviews. If they were prescribed to you by a psychiatrist they should do the same but it may take several months to get a review from them. If you start experiencing problems/side effects then please consult with either of them ASAP.

GET ADVICE- if your  GP hasn’t mentioned meds to you but you think it could be useful then be sure to bring it up with them and get their advice. If you have access to a psychologist then you could get their input too.

IN SUMMARY

For those of you who don’t have mental illnesses or don’t need to take medication I’m going to use an analogy to explain what taking meds for mental illness is like for me. My mum once described MH meds as a safety cushion or blanket that softens your landing when you fall, so when your mental health goes down hill, it doesn’t go down as hard or fast as it would without medication. I would also describe my meds as armbands or a life jacket keeping me afloat in the ocean of life as I learn to swim without drowning or getting overwhelmed. I hope that makes sense to you and if you read all the way through to this bit thank you! I know this blog post was rather long so thanks for sticking with me. If you have any questions or thoughts on mental health and medication then please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thanks for reading ❤

More about MH and Meds:

https://www.headmeds.org.uk/

32 Things About Taking Medication for Mental Illness People Don’t Talk About

MEDICATION IS THE NEW MENTAL ASYLUM

Mental Health Medication – Why So Much Stigma?

https://byrslf.co/why-i-refuse-to-take-medication-for-mental-health-c66e38f4d5f3

I tried to come off my mental health medication and failed – here’s how I accepted that it’s OK

Musical inspiration:

Medicate By Gabbie Hanna (TheGabbieshow)

 

 

Coping With Nightmares

It’s all well and good people telling you that all you need to do to feel mentally better is “sleep better” “get a good night sleep” etc. But when you suffer from insomnia and nightmares, that sleep can be a lot harder to get. I don’t struggle so much with getting to sleep thanks to mirtazapine but staying asleep has been an issue recently. Nearly every night this past week or so I’ve been waking up in the night from nightmares. Some about demons and ghosts, others based on my life, things that have or could happen.

My therapist tells me I shouldn’t think of these realistic nightmares as nightmares but more of my brain trying to process what I’ve been through and what it could mean for my future, which I understand but when you wake up at three in the morning with your heart racing, terrified of your worst fears haunting you in your sleep I can’t help but consider that a nightmare.

I guess its because of my focus being on therapy and recovery that’s resurfacing past trauma and anxiety. I just have to take it as my brain trying to make sense of things but it doesn’t stop them distressing me. Settling down and getting back to sleep after waking up from a nightmare can be hard so here are my tips and ideas on how to cope and calm down after a nightmare;

  • Deep breaths– There are different breathing techniques you can try such as 7-11 and square breathing or there are guided breathing exercises you can find online such as this one below.

Image result for guided breathing gif

  • Get out of bed/leave the room– when suffering from nightmares your safe haven of your bedroom and bed can seem fear inducing so I suggest taking a time out away from your room, perhaps go to the bathroom and wash your face to ground yourself.
  • Self care/self soothing– I have a self soothe box full of things to comfort me from soft scarves to scented candles. If nightmares are a regular occurrence for you I suggest keeping things you find comforting in your room and near your bed so you can access them easily when in post-nightmare anxiety. You could also make yourself a warm drink and watch/read something that cheers you up.
  • Write down your nightmare– This may seem terrifying but often dreams and nightmares could be our brain telling us something that we don’t address in daily life, so getting it out on paper can not only be releasing but can help you analyze what could be causing them. If you don’t feel comfortable having your nightmares recorded then you can destroy the paper afterwards.
  • Talk to someone– Especially if your nightmares are related to past trauma, its good to talk about what’s bothering you to someone you trust; this can be a friend, family member, therapist or if you don’t feel you can talk about it with someone you know and need help with the distress urgently I suggest getting in touch with a mental health crisis/helpline such as Samaritans.
  • Getting back to sleep– as I said before getting back to sleep after a nightmare can be hard so once you feel safer/calmer you could try listening to a meditation/ calming music or try a muscle relaxation exercise to help you settle back in bed to sleep.

I hope these tips help you and please feel free to let me know if you have any ideas of your own that have worked for you 🙂 thanks for reading, take care ❤

More to read on Trauma and Nightmares;

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-trauma-can-affect-your-dreams

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/when-trauma-follows-you-into-your-nightmares-0708144

https://karinsieger.com/cope-with-nightmares/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201311/five-steps-conquering-nightmares

BPD, Jealousy and Envy

I believe we all get jealous at some stage of our lives.  I used to quite a lot.  It used to be so bad at times I could feel it eating away at me and I would develop a strong dislike for someone, but not understanding why. Since starting my medication and neurofeedback therapy, I’ve felt it less often and intense. I still get envious though.  I find what triggers it is someone getting more attention or affection than me eg someone I perceive as being more liked/popular than me. It’s a hard thing to admit and I hate feeling this way but the green eyed monster can be powerful.

When I was attached to someone, this could be my mum or a friend, I would feel very possessive of them. If they had other people around who could fill my shoes, I would fear them leaving me as I tend to see myself as “second best” or the “backup plan”. I truly believed that a friend or family member would leave me as soon as they found someone better. It took me years to accept my mum’s best friend.  Before then I saw her as the enemy, the one taking my mum’s love and attention away from me, the one who my mum would leave me for. As crazy as this appears, this type of thinking makes sense when given my family history.

13704176_1019025018216638_638775516_n

I never really did anything about it though. When the green eyed monster came, I would feel ashamed for not just being happy for the people I loved and I would suppress the feeling. However this envy/jealousy would grow into resentment and bitterness because I didn’t properly address the emotions at the first stage. Thus leading to tension in my relationships with others and paranoid thinking which can morph into serious trust issues and destroy relationships.

I’m more socially isolated at the moment so I don’t experience jealousy as such but more envy.  Social media is a big trigger for this envy. When I think someone is doing better than me with content, followers or praise I find that pit of irrational hatred for the person I see as doing better than me. Like I said, I would see them as competition and I would feel bitterness for myself and life. Why can’t I be as well liked as they are? Why does their site look better than mine? Why isn’t my writing as good as theirs? etc. Then shame would kick in. Why can’t I just be happy for them? Why do I have to be so negative? Why can’t I just be grateful? I have decided to try and understand jealousy/envy instead of pushing it away like I usually do…
jealous love quotes love quotes love jealous quotes

The difference between envy and jealousy:

Envy vs. Jealousy. The main difference between envy and jealousy is that envy is the emotion of coveting what someone else has, while jealousy is the emotion related to fear that something you have will be taken away by someone else.

Quote from: https://www.diffen.com/difference/Envy_vs_Jealousy

so, to summarize, Jealousy relates to personal relationships (romantic, familial and friendly) whereas envy relates to more materialistic things and can be felt towards a complete stranger.

Why do we get jealous or envious?

In DBT emotional regulation, one of the first things we learn is that each emotion has a function, even the ones we deem bad. Each one is there to motivate us to do something either negative or positive. Its not the emotion that’s necessarily bad its the actions we choose to take because of them. For example, Jealousy can motivate us to do better than our third party competition in order to keep the one we cherish and impress them. A negative action to take with Jealousy is to become possessive of a loved one, controlling or clingy to make sure the one you love can’t leave.

Envy can motivate us to push ourselves a bit more so we can do just as well as the person we’re envious of and achieve that success we crave. However this feeling can lead to things like bullying, where you try to tear down the person you deem more successful and happy to make them feel as bad as you. So you see, if we take these emotions and not judge them we can use them to become better friends, partners or family members and achieve more than we thought possible.

38875036_288430361751853_4710511974662799360_n

Artwork by: Unknown

Jealousy and Envy in BPD

Jealousy and envy seem to be more of a problem in those of us with BPD. The jealousy probably stems from our insecurity and fear of abandonment. A blogger (linked below) said that envy in BPD could be due to our chronic sense of emptiness, causing the desire to have what others have that make them happy so that we may know happiness. It could also boil down to the fact that we can feel more intensely than others, which can lead to problematic behaviors when those feelings (i.e jealousy or envy) are not managed properly.

How to combat jealousy and envy (in a healthy way)

Another thing we learn in DBT emotional regulation is Opposite Action where we can choose to calm ourselves by acting the opposite way to how we’re feeling. You observe the emotion, what its motivating you to do and, if the action is deemed ineffective, we can use Opposite Action to neutralize the emotions.

For (a real life) example I was talking to someone via text and they stopped replying. I assumed I said something wrong or that they didn’t like me so I felt anxious and afraid. Because of this I was tempted to keep texting them until they answered, apologize or get angry to grab their attention. I knew that would be wrong so instead I cried while eating cake until I felt sick.

Now, in hindsight, once I checked that my actions would be ineffective or make things worse I could have practiced opposite action which would have been to show self compassion by challenging my assumptions of the worst “they hate me” and practicing self care instead of making myself ill.

tumblr_ngm09qlBaJ1rxqu94o7_640

Image from: comic “working with envy” by Colleen Butters

Here are some OPPOSITE ACTION ideas for envy/jealousy:

  1. Count your blessings “name them one by one, count your blessings don’t you spoil the fun” (sorry, just whenever I came across that phase the song I was taught in school comes to mind lol)
  2. Challenge thoughts instead of acting on them. For example (on social media) think something like “is their life really that perfect? They could just be showing me what they want me to see and not the “ugly” parts of their life”
  3. Appreciate/ be kind to yourself. If you feel envious/ jealous it may be because you’re insecure and have low self esteem. So, take some time to appreciate that you’re doing your best and make a list (or ask a loved one to) of all your achievements and positive qualities.
  4. ACKNOWLEDGE, COMMUNICATE, RESOLVE– demonstrated in the “dealing with jealousy” video linked below. These three steps are more personal for myself as, like I mentioned before, I deal with jealousy by suppressing, withdrawing and leaving the situation unresolved because of the shame I have around the emotion. So this would be a very good Opposite Action for me.
  5. Think about the other person– People with BPD can be so empathetic, I find it hard not to cry when I see someone else cry or be sick when someone else has been. I’m very good at feeling others’ pain even when I don’t want to, I imagine this is the same for a lot of us, being so emotionally sensitive. If we find it easy to feel the pain of others, then we can learn to feel people’s pleasure too by putting ourselves in the shoes of the person we envy. I believe an article linked below mentions MUDITA which is sympathetic joy. I personally would much rather be able to experience people’s joy more than their pain, so I’d like to give this a practice 🙂

Thanks so much for reading and feel free to let me know your experiences with envy/jealousy. Have you been the jealous/envious one before? Have you ever been on the receiving end of jealousy/envy? How do you handle these feelings when they arise?

Take care ❤

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201103/envy-the-emotion-kept-secret

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/turning-straw-gold/201207/transforming-envy-joy

https://www.borderlineblog.com/envy-envy-and-more-envy.php

https://www.my-borderline-personality-disorder.com/2018/10/bpd-trauma-and-jealousy.html

Narcissism Vs BPD

Recently I got into a bit of a fight on twitter after someone claimed that people with BPD are narcisstic and can’t form attachments, of course there was uproar. I can admit that SOME people with BPD can be abusive and perhaps narcisstic but that’s a small portion, like not all people with schizophrenia are violent. Most of the people I know with BPD are kind and loving and just want to help and be helped.

Now BPD, I’ve been told, uses the term borderline as we can display symptoms of other disorders. For example I’m borderline OCD which means I have symptoms of the disorder but not enough to be officially diagnosed with it. The disorder also can have co-occuring disorders such as depression and anxiety. If you have BPD the chances are you have another diagnosis linked with it. Everyone with BPD is different based on their life experience, personalities, co-occuring disorders and their symptoms. This means that a SMALL number of those of us with BPD can have NPD or narcissistic traits but not all of us.

enterate-todo-sobre-el-trastorno-de-la-personalidad-dependiente-1de78

Though, to outsiders our symptoms can be mistaken for narcissism. For example threats of self harm or suicide could be seen as manipulative but we don’t have the intention to manipulate, its an unhealthy way of expressing how we feel (doesn’t make this behavior okay and its important to get professional help at this stage.) I understand why some people might tar us with the same brush as those with NPD but the difference is our inner world. We do things with other reasons and feel differently to those with narcissism.

For example we engage in risky behaviours because we feel manic or impulsive, not because we don’t care about the consequences of our behavior. We often do, but the urge or emotion is so strong we need to perform these acts for the feeling to stop and will probably later, when we’ve calmed down, come to regret it.

For some time I was questioning whether or not I was a narcissist. I have a family member who’s narcissistic and abusive so I figured, having someone like that in my blood, there’s a chance I could be too. I would question basically everything I did, am I playing the victim? Am I being emotionally manipulative? and on the questions would go until I realized that someone narcissistic probably wouldn’t care so much about being a narcissist. I’ve never consciously tried to manipulate someone. Maybe my behaviour could seem like I was but it would never be my intention. I would just be overshadowed by rage and anxious desperation.

Skills+for+Working+with+Clients+with+Borderline+Personality+Disorder+(Client’s+perspective)

The person I fought with on twitter mentioned that they seem to be dropped by those with BPD quickly and freely, she thought that people with BPD couldn’t get attached because of this and that’s just not true. If anything those of us with BPD can get attached too fast too much. If I met someone online I would immediately want them to be my friend and get low if I didn’t hear from them again. I have a bit of a rocky relationship history with therapists. I would get along with them and feel really positive about them the first few weeks but then they would say something I didn’t like or push me to go where I didn’t want to and I would switch to hating them and feel unsafe seeing them as they might make me talk about or bring up emotions I couldn’t deal with.

This happened a couple of weeks back and I took a break from seeing my therapist last week but knew I would have to face her again if I wanted the most out of the treatment. I saw her today and felt really on edge and defensive the whole time. I think this can happen with a lot of BPD sufferers and their therapists. It seemed to happen often with this lady on twitter and her BPD clients. Probably because she saw and spoke about those of us with BPD in a very negative and ignorant way. Granted we probably shouldn’t “ditch” or “drop” people so quickly and I can understand why it may seem we don’t care but we do care a lot, too much and we often don’t know how to express ourselves in a healthy manner, even with therapists, so we push away or leave people fast as not to be hurt or have our trust broken again, its self preservation not indifference despite appearances.

79836827-ill-woman-hearing-voices-in-her-head

I’m aware that people with BPD can have very high standards as with narcissism but the difference is that we also hold ourselves to that high standard as well. When someone hurts us or makes a mistake it can be very difficult for us to see past their wrongs and forgive them but it also goes vice versa, if we make a mistake we can feel terrible about it, like we’re bad people and undeserving of love. Whereas with a narcissist they believe they are superior and can do no wrong while everyone else can’t meet their standards.

Now let’s address the manipulative behaviors that both conditions can display. People with BPD tend to overdo the chameleon effect where we basically take on other people’s body language and views, I understand how this can be taken as manipulative but unlike those with narcissism, we don’t do it to make people like us so we can use them for our own gain, people with BPD don’t really have a strong sense of self or identity so when we’re around certain types of people we can “try on” their identities, we don’t do this intentionally though.

Personally, I hate when this happens and I’m very selective of who I spend most of my time with as, some people, I really don’t want to become; I hang out with people I feel good and safe around, people with traits I admire and don’t mind taking on. With BPD its an automatic thing, whether to get a sense of identity or to survive. The mirroring and changes in behavior depending on where we are and who we’re with are not intentional, we often hate saying and doing things just to fit in but the overwhelming fear of rejection and abandonment as well as the lack of identity can mean we genuinely believe in what we’re saying and doing, at least until we leave those people and that environment or become aware of our disorder. Since being diagnosed I’m hyper aware of my behaviour with different people, its not easy to change it though as its pretty much automatic now and I still don’t have a strong understanding of who I am, I’m trying though.

shutterstock_645580585

I could probably go on but this post is already one of my longest yet so I think I’ll leave it there now but please keep in mind that people with BPD are all different, this is just my story and others might have different views because we are more than our diagnosis. What I will say though is that, from what I learned, both BPD and NPD can be the result of trauma and fear of abandonment, we just deal with it differently so I can’t help but have some empathy for those with NPD and hope that they can get treatment and recover even though it’s difficult. Take care ❤

Recommended Reading:

https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/blog/understanding-bpd-emotional-manipulation-techniques-and-how-treatment-can-help/

https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-differences-between-abusers-with-narcissistic-personality-disorder-vs-borderline-personality-disorder/

https://www.verywellmind.com/narcissistic-personality-disorder-425426

https://www.clearviewwomenscenter.com/blog/bpd-npd/

Photography by: Unknown