BPD, Guilt and Shame

Recently I’ve been feeling remorseful, my brain has a habit of reminding me of past mistakes when things are going well, like I don’t deserve good things because of what I’ve done in the past. It could even be a small mistake but my brain will catastrophize it, telling me I’m not worthy or I’m just too stupid, causing feelings of guilt to escalate to shame. I was reading an article that describes how those with BPD can experience chronic shame leading to self harming behaviours. I remember doing DBT and talking about my unhealthy levels of guilt that would lead me to punish myself in various ways. I think a lot of us can be too hard on ourselves when we’ve faced abuse, bullying, invalidation and/or mental illness, unfortunately all these things can lead to one another.

Even if you haven’t been abused you could experience shame for having a mental illness especially when you have one that’s highly stigmatised like BPD. These days I’m hesitant to mention my disorder in case others misjudge me because of it. We can also blame ourselves for struggling with mental health. All in all I find that guilt/shame and mental illness go hand in hand. For example chronic shame as a result of being bullied can result in anxiety/depression and then you may feel more guilt as you experience these illnesses and feel there is something inherently wrong with you.

So what is Guilt and shame?

Guilt is the feeling you experience when you’ve done something wrong and need to put it right. Shame is the feeling of distress as the result of doing something others deem wrong, the feeling of shame can cause a sense of worthlessness if not dealt with properly. Like when I was being bullied I started feeling ashamed of myself and felt there was something wrong with me. Of course being bullied isn’t just a one time thing so it’s not something you can brush off, therefore my feelings of shame became so chronic I decided I was worthless and unlovable. Guilt can turn into shame if what you did wrong isn’t fixed or forgiven by yourself or others. I struggle with forgiving myself for mistakes so my pangs of guilt quickly turn to shame, thus leading to self harm. I hope that explanation makes sense.

Why we feel guilt and shame

Guilt is a good indicator of our values, if we do something that is against what we believe, for example, lying or being mean to others then we can feel remorse. Shame is a more painful emotion because while guilt says “I made a mistake” shame says “I am a mistake”. Guilt allows us to learn and grow but shame can make us feel like we’re bad and can’t be changed so it’s counterproductive to guilt.

Shame can make us want to retreat and give up while guilt allows room for forgiveness and hope. That being said shame can be used to change an unacceptable behaviour, you see it a lot when famous people get “exposed” on social media. It can make our society a better place by calling out and changing unwanted behaviour. However what behaviour is and is not acceptable can be subjective and can differ from person to person or groups of people. When you feel ashamed you have to consider “do I feel ashamed because I don’t meet the standards of others or because I don’t meet my OWN values?”. Its up to you which is most important to you and whether or not you want to change.

How guilt and shame relate to BPD

BPD can cause highly emotional and impulsive behaviours like, we may say things in anger or overspend enough to lose a lot of money. When we’re calmed we realise what we’ve done wrong and feel guilt which will be heightened with the disorder. This feeling can also lead to shame as we tend to split and over generalise our behaviours as all bad or all good. When we experience guilt after making a mistake we can quickly turn to thinking we’re bad people and unworthy of good things.

Since we’re so sensitive and emotional people it can be very invalidating of our feelings and experiences. We may be told that we’re “over reacting” or “too sensitive and need to lighten/toughen up” we could also be made fun of or shamed for our emotional reactions. For example, my first panic attack was in front of a class and since then I couldn’t do speeches for class because I would always see or hear people mocking me for having a panic attack. These things can lead to feeling ashamed of our thoughts and emotions thus leading us to internalise our experiences and punish ourselves for not being “normal” enough.

How to cope with guilt and shame using DBT

I know I’ve been preaching more and more about DBT lately but I do think it genuinely helps and, besides, writing down what I know in real life context helps me remember them. So, here are some examples of how DBT can help you deal with guilt and shame.

Check the facts: When you check the facts you clearly state the facts of the situation and see if your emotion fits the facts. This means you don’t twist the situation based on your own interpretation. For example your significant other comes home late from work, you may think they’re having an affair and this makes you feel angry so you explode at them. Now, your feelings are valid but often it’s our interpretation of an event that makes us feel this way however thoughts and opinions are not facts. The fact of the situation is simply that your SO came home late and there could be a multitude of reasons for that like they had to work overtime or the traffic was bad. Checking the facts can help you evaluate the best course of action to handle the situation.

An example of guilt that fits the facts is that you made a mistake that’s hurt someone. In this case you’d use problem solving. If your guilt does not fit the facts then you can use opposite action.

Shame that fits the facts is when you’ll be rejected by others if a part of your personality or behaviour is made public. Another is that you’ve behaved in a way that goes against your true values, usually to fit in with a particular group.

Problem solving— For guilt that fits the facts you can use problem solving skills to make amends. Problem solving entails brainstorming all the ways of handling a situation to get a desired outcome, you then weigh up the pros and cons of the solutions and troubleshoot which ones will help best. For example if you made a genuine mistake that has hurt someone, apologising and admitting what you did was wrong to that person can help both parties move forward. However the risk to this solution is that the other person may not forgive you and then you’ll have to evaluate where you went wrong and try to do better in the future.

For shame that fits the facts it really depends on your situation. If you’re with a group of people that don’t accept a part of you or make you behave in ways that go against your core beliefs then finding a way to leave that group could be the best option. Try meeting new people that are a better fit to your values or, if leaving the group is too difficult, try using interpersonal skills to communicate yourself clearly and be more assertive with your boundaries.

Opposite Action– for guilt that does not fit the facts, for example you feel guilty for something that is out of your control (I.e. Someone’s manipulation or abuse) then you need to practise opposite action which is where you look at what your emotion wants you to do but you do the exact opposite to that. For example if feeling guilty makes you want to self harm then instead you practise self-compassion or if you feel the need to apologise for something that isn’t your fault then use the skill FAST which has an emphasis on self respect and not apologising.

On the other end of the spectrum sometimes you may turn your guilt into anger and deflect blame onto the other person and not take responsibility for your actions by manipulating or lashing out, this behaviour can lead to more guilt and anger. Opposite action for this can be being gentle with yourself and the other parties involved, taking responsibility without shaming/hurting yourself or those around you.

I’d say the same applies for shame that isn’t justified like something you feel is shameful isn’t actually shameful to those around you and others accept you as you are. As I mentioned before with guilt, shame can also turn into anger or bullying where you project what you’re ashamed of onto others. What I mean by this is, a girl spread a rumour about me being a lesbian around the school and she got nearly everyone to pay attention to me and my flaws like anger problems when this girl herself was violent and a lesbian.

She knew others would shame her so she projected her shame onto me and got everyone to shame me instead of her. If you feel tempted to do something like this a good opposite action would be to practise Radical Acceptance where you learn to accept yourself completely flaws and all. However you may be the type of person to hide away and isolate yourself when you feel ashamed, opposite action for this would be admitting what your ashamed of to people you trust and letting yourself connect with others and be honest about yourself.

Thank you for reading, if you liked this post then I suggest reading bpd, jealousy and envy which this post is based off of or check out the links below! thanks again.

Love,

NI2M ♥️

Related Resources:

https://www.verywellmind.com/bpd-and-shame-425474

16 ‘Habits’ of People Dealing With ‘Borderline Guilt’

Guilt Vs. Shame | Understanding Emotions: What is the difference between Guilt and Shame?

Apply Opposite Action to Guilt & Shame

Coping With Christmas Using DBT Skills

Now don’t get me wrong I love Christmas; the music, the decorations, the feeling of the world being happier than usual but, as great as I think the holidays are, there are problems that many of us face during these times; especially those of us with mental illness, since problems everyone faces on the holidays can be exacerbated by our symptoms. I once had a panic attack on Christmas day because I was so worried people wouldn’t like the gifts I bought them. I recently listened to a podcast about using DBT to help cope with the holidays and thought I’d share what I learned as well as some of my own ideas.

Societal Pressures

It’s in the songs and adverts, the push to make this the season to be jolly, the pressure to be happy and have a perfect day with the family. While it is a nice notion, encouraging people to be nicer and happier, it doesn’t consider the realities of life. Mental illness doesn’t decide to take the day off because its Christmas. If you have depression or anxiety the pressure to be normal for family and trying to be happy can just make you feel worse about being sad or scared on the holiday.

When you feel “bad” especially when everyone else seems to be cheerful it can be tempting to push away your emotions and lose patience with yourself for not feeling how you think you should be. I recently wrote about Self validation which is a key part in the treatment of bpd, I do think its useful for anyone as well. A good way of self validating with DBT is to observe your emotions using mindfulness. This allows you to attend to these feelings without judgement or making yourself feel worse by trying to fight them off. After observing you can describe your emotion, how it feels in your body,what triggered that emotion and what that emotion made you want to do. For example, I was home alone and heard a noise this made me feel scared/afraid that someone was in the house. I had butterflies in my stomach as well as a fast heart beat and tense muscles. This fear made me want to hide in my room. I find this skill useful as it encourages me to bring more awareness to how I’m feeling and how that affects me so I can validate my experience.

Above was an example given to me in the dbt worksheet for observing and describing emotions. Here are some worksheets I found online to help you;

https://dbtselfhelp.weebly.com/letting-go-of-emotional-suffering.html

If you find that your emotions get too overwhelming the distress tolerance skills can be useful. STOP, which stands for Stop Take a step back Observe the situation Proceed mindfully, is good for when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands and can be used anywhere at any time so if you feel yourself about to react to a situation remember to STOP. TIPP (Temperature Intense exercise Paced breathing Paired muscle relaxation) can help you calm your emotion mind by changing your body chemistry, It may need more time and a way get away from the situation unlike STOP but is just as useful. Safe place visualization can be useful if you can’t physically leave the situation but need an escape.

Some handouts for each distress tolerance skill I mentioned:

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/SafePlace.pdf

http://edencounseling.com/resources/dbt_distress_tolerance_group_3_handouts.pdf

https://www.theroottherapynyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/distress-tolerance-2.pdf

Family issues

As I mentioned before, Christmas is a time that you’re expected to be together with family and be merry with them. However this isn’t always the case for a lot of us with mental illness, family is the root of our trauma so being around them in a place where the trauma likely happened (childhood home or an extended family’s house) can be triggering. Even if you didn’t experience trauma with your family sometimes they can ask you pressing questions, criticise you or start a row all are things you’d rather not deal with especially on Christmas.

So how can you keep your cool when your dysfunctional/ triggering family are surrounding you? There is a skill in DBT called Cope Ahead which is where you sit down and go through in your mind the possible scenarios that may distress and plan how you will cope with them.

For example you may have an aunt who asks a lot of questions about your life and criticisizes/scrutunises you and your responses. This makes you feel judged or like you can’t do anything right. You know you will have to face her on christmas day so you write down possible coping strategies for when the situation arises. You may use distress tolerance skills, plan to excuse yourself from the conversation asap or, if you have to put up with it, think about your accomplishments and practice positive affirmations to make yourself feel better. Once you have decided what will help you best, visualize yourself in that situation again but imagine coping more effectively and feeling like you did well despite the struggles. Below is the step by step method for Cope Ahead from https://bayareadbtcc.com/cope-ahead-part-1/

How to Cope Ahead: 5 Steps

Cope Ahead involves five steps.

1. Describe the problem situation (and check the facts). Are you in your wise mind when you’re looking at this situation? Are you keeping a neutral distance? Name the emotions and actions that you anticipate you will feel that interfere with you responding effectively. For example, will you feel angry if someone criticizes you at work, or panicked if a friend is late for dinner?

2. Decide what skills to use. Which skills do you want to use in the situation? Get specific. Does taking a timeout work if you’re coping ahead with anger? Do you want to distract yourself with another activity when you feel like engaging in an addictive behavior? Or call a friend, or go for a run? Get creative about what exactly you will do to cope.

3. Imagine. Now that you know the situation and the skills, imagine the situation in your mind as vividly as possible. Be sure to picture yourself actually in the situation, not watching it. Imagine it happening in the present, not the past. Bring details to mind: Where are you? Who is around you? What are you thinking or feeling?

4. Rehearse coping in your mind. Once you’re in the situation, practice coping effectively. Picture what you will do. What are your actions and thoughts? What will you say and how will you say it? If you anticipate a potential new problem arising, imagine coping with that as well. Rehearse coping with the things you are really scared of.

5. Practice relaxing after rehearsing. Finally, go easy on yourself after your rehearsal. Doing this kind of mental imagining of a hard situation is stressful on your psyche and body. Relax after you’ve run through all the steps! Stretch, take some deep breaths, or do whatever feels relaxing to you.

When dealing with anyone, even difficult family members, interpersonal effectiveness skills can be very helpful. FAST is good for maintaining self respect while resolving conflict, it stands for Fair (no)Apologies Stick to values and (be) Truthful. GIVE is good for helping you communicate in a way that settles the other person down in a disagreement in order to keep the relationship if it’s of importance to you. GIVE stands for Gentle Interested Validate and Easy manner. Below is an article providing more details of each skill:

https://www.sunrisertc.com/interpersonal-effectiveness/

Loneliness

Sometimes you may not even have friends or family to celebrate with, you may be on your own. While loneliness more commonly affects the elderly it can be found in nearly all age groups. No matter the reason for being alone on Christmas day it can be hard not to feel low with all the push for families and friends to get together and be merry. In Dbt there is a skill called ACCEPTS one of the Cs in this analogy is Contribute, if you are spending Christmas alone and have time on your hands you could contribute to the community by volunteering yourself for things like helping in a soup kitchen or being a listener on a helpline for people who are facing similar problems to you, not only can this help you fill up the time but you can also use it as an opportunity to connect with new people with similar problems/interests to you.

If you don’t feel that volunteering is for you and you would rather stay in on Christmas that’s okay too. There is another skill called Accumulating positive events, this skill encourages you to plan ahead to do things that you enjoy and make you feel better. You may use this skill to plan how you could spend your Christmas in a way that’s positive for you, you may want to have a movie marathon, spend the day cozying up with a good book or whatever floats your boat.

Tolerate Distress with A-C-C-E-P-T-S

https://www.sunrisertc.com/abc-please-skills/

Loss & Grief

Whether you’ve lost a loved one through falling out, a break up or them passing away, Christmas can be a difficult time without that person there to celebrate with. Although approaches to healing are different for each type of loss, you still grieve the loss of that person or relationship. Depending on your situation you may use different skills, if you’re grieving a break up with a partner it can be tempting to reach out to them during the holiday season, this however may not be good for you or them, a good skill in this case would be opposite action. Opposite action is where you deem the action the emotion is tempting you to do as unhealthy or ineffective, in order to quell the emotion you do the exact opposite of what that emotion is telling you to do. In the case of a break up, you may feel sad or jealous causing you to want to reach out to them or stalk their social media, while Christmas can be a time of goodwill and forgotten trespasses, if you know that reconnecting with your ex could cause some problems for you then here are some opposite action ideas for you:

  • Focus on spending time with others you love and care about
  • Avoid communication platforms such as text or social media, block/unfollow if you need to.
  • Practice gratitude for gifts, people and other things in your life that don’t involve your ex
  • Radically accept what has happened and try to let go of that person
  • Go out and do things to build your confidence like go to a Christmas party or try something new.

When you’ve had a fall out with a friend or family member what skill you use could depend on your situation as mentioned before Christmas can be a time where people reconnect and if your fall out wasn’t anything too major you may want to reconcile in the spirit of christmas. Before deciding what action to take its best to Check the facts and consider some of the following: Do you value the relationship? Why did you fall out? Is it better for you to make up or be apart from each other?

Depending on the facts and your answers you can either use problem solving skills or opposite action. If you feel that trying to fix the situation is right then here are some ideas to problem solve:

  1. Reach out to the person and apologise if you were in the wrong
  2. Use interpersonal effectiveness skills to communicate respectfully

If you feel that reconciliation isn’t an option or you tried problem solving and it didn’t work out how you’d hoped then it may be best to use opposite action to cope with the hurt. Opposite action ideas for fall outs are pretty much the same as what you’d use after a break up: celebrate the good things you have instead of dwelling on what you’ve lost, allow yourself to have fun and build new connections, etc.

Losing someone you love through death can be harder to deal with as there is not even a chance to see or hear from them again and you may not have closure. Grief is normal and trying to suppress it especially at a time you feel that persons absence the most can end up hurting you more. Practicing radical acceptance can help at these times, this means not denying the fact that this person is gone and accepting your feelings of sadness anger or guilt. It doesn’t mean you think that this reality is good without them but it’s about understanding that this is your current reality and it feels like crap instead of pushing away the facts and how you feel about them it can be tempting to pretend that you’re okay and everything’s fine for friends and family on Christmas but not accepting and allowing yourself time to grieve can hurt you and your loved ones more. Some ideas on how to grieve during the holidays are: Visiting their grave, leaving an empty chair at the dinner table, lighting a candle in their memory or talking to others about good memories you shared with your deceased loved one.

Money

It’s no secret that Christmas can be quite a commercial holiday, pretty much as soon as Halloween is over, adverts for gifts and deals start popping up everywhere. If you’re like me, an impulsive overspender, managing your money can be even harder when you feel the pressure to buy gifts for everyone you know as well as “treat” yourself. A useful DBT skill for this can be Wise Mind, this skill requires you to access a part of your mind that is a balance between emotional and rational. Emotion mind is more impulsive and causes you to act based on how you’re feeling which can lead to problems such as overspending. Whereas Rational mind is based on logic and a lack of emotion, an extreme on both sides is not helpful, on the one hand you want to show you care but you don’t want “overdo” your gifts to the point its detrimental to your bank account. Wise mind is the balance of both sides or “the middle path” as its sometimes called, connecting to your wise mind can help you make gift decisions that benefit those you’re buying for while also looking after yourself.

Making Mindful Money Decisions From Your Wise Mind

Thank you for reading, I hope this post helps you if you are struggling with loneliness this Christmas on twitter there will be #joinin which is a hashtag you can use to connect with others over the Internet who are also lonely on christmas. @mhcrisisangels are hosting a “Christmas sanctuary” which is a group chat on twitter for those struggling with their mental health to gain support through Christmas. If you find yourself in crisis the samaritans phone lines are open 24/7 as well as @crisistextline which provide numbers from USA, Canada and the UK which you can text if you need help.

https://www.crisistextline.org/

https://www.samaritans.org/

https://mobile.twitter.com/mhcrisisangels?lang=en

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/uk-42477266

Why We Need Self-Validation

Everyone needs validation to feel understood and accepted, as someone with BPD, I find that I may need/ seek it more than others. There is a theory that the disorder may be caused by an invalidating environment. This means that, those with BPD, may have grown up having their feelings and thoughts disregarded by family members or close friends. The thing about emotional invalidation is, it doesn’t make the feeling go away, in fact it can cause more distress in someone and amplify their “difficult” emotions.

For me, I most need validation when something really makes me scared or angry but no one else seems to be reacting or notice. I always worry that I’m just “being moody” or that I’m “over reacting.” This fear that people will judge me for my feelings often causes me to internalize my emotions and try to fight them off within. However this usually makes me feel frustrated with, ashamed or even scared of my own emotions thus leading to things like self harm. Because of our intense emotions and mood swings people with BPD often face invalidation, others may have good intentions when they tell us to “look on the bright side” “others have it worse” or “you’re just overreacting” but this can make us feel like our pain is being trivialized or that what we’re experiencing is being denied as reality thus creating a vicious cycle of needing validation and then not getting it

I think this can affect anyone, not just those with BPD, if you grew up in an invalidating environment you may have low self esteem and feel a strong urge to seek reassurance from outside sources that how you feel is acceptable and valid. These outside sources may include friends, family members, therapists or people on the internet but what happens when those sources fail to validate you? I’ve found that no one can truly understand your experience without being you, so you may not get the reaction you’d hoped for as, some people, can be very compassionate and understanding while others may scorn you and make you feel worse for feeling or thinking a certain way. Being around those who invalidate your thoughts, feelings and experiences can cause a sense of loneliness and mistrust in yourself and your emotions which is why self- validation is so important and is actually a key skill taught in DBT.

validation

What Is Self validation?

Self validation is the ability to accept your internal experiences such as your thoughts and feelings; this doesn’t necessarily mean the thought or feeling is justified though. For example you feel guilty over something you can’t control, you can accept that you feel guilty but not believe you actually are guilty because what happened was out of your control.

Ways to self validate:

Mindfulness of emotions– The core skill in Dialectical behaviour therapy is mindfulness, its taught as the best way to manage “out of control” emotions and reduce emotional suffering. With  Mindfulness of emotions you learn to observe how you’re feeling, describe that feeling by naming it and decide the best way to react with it. This practice teaches us to let our emotions be as they are, without trying to fight them but accepting them to quell emotional distress.

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/MindfulnessEmotions.pdf

EFT– A friend of mine taught me an exercise in EFT tapping. Which is where you tap certain parts of your body, such as your temple and heart, with two fingers while saying things like “I feel angry” “this is okay” “my anger is valid” “thank you, anger”

Affirmations– Much like EFT tapping I’ve started learning self validating affirmations for when i find myself conflicted with feelings and thoughts. These affirmations are phrases you repeat to yourself to help improve your mental state in a situation. Affirmations such as “I am Enough” “I Matter and so do my feelings” “My feelings are valid” or any phrases you know that can help you feel better.

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Self Compassion–  You’ve probably been told to “talk to yourself as you would a good friend” and that’s pretty much the gist of self compassion, as I mentioned before only YOU can truly understand your own experiences so its good to be able to be as understanding to yourself as you’d want someone else to be.

Workheets– While doing research for this post I found a “self validation” manual with information and worksheets on validation for yourself and others. Its a free printable so here’s  the link; https://dbtselfhelp.weebly.com/self-validation-skills.html

Other Helpful Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/pieces-mind/201407/self-validation

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-emotional-validation-425336

The Importance of Validation in BPD Treatment

How to Give Yourself the Validation You Crave

Thank you for reading this post, I hope you found it useful, feel free to let me know what you think or share your own story by commenting on this post or tweeting me on twitter @Addict2L

Thanks again,

NI2M ❤

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 🙂

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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

Hope Of Recovery?

I’ve heard people refer to BPD as a “dead end diagnosis” that its not treatable or even a mental illness. I’ve also had people tell me that’s bullshit and recovery from BPD is possible. It’s hard to handle these conflicting POVs especially when they come from mental health professionals. BPD is a controversial topic in psychology, some psychiatrists/psychologists believe that people with BPD don’t have empathy while others believe they do. It’s pretty much the same in all round psychology, when I studied it in college, there was always a case for a theory but also a case against it so it all boils down to the professional’s personal perspective.

Now, I can’t speak for everyone with the disorder as we’re still individuals so we may or may not believe in recovery, taking medication or that the diagnosis is a real one. Again, it really depends on who you ask. Mental illness is a personal battle that we fight in whatever way works best for us. I believe that we can research and theorize about the human mind all we want but not everyone can fit the label or box that we tend to get put in with a diagnosis. This is my story so far but don’t think you have to feel the way I did or do the things I did because you’re an individual, much more than your diagnosis.

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Personally, I was relieved to have the diagnosis of BPD as it meant I finally had an explanation for what’s wrong with me. This was before I realized how negatively stigmatized the disorder is and how invalidating people can be because you have BPD. I once had a psychiatrist ask if I attempted suicide for attention, when I brought it up with the crisis team (which I’ll talk about in another post) they just said its the diagnosis and unfortunately even professionals are going to be dicks about it (ok that wasn’t their exact words but you get the gist). I mean, how can professionals talk down to and about their clients because of something they are supposed to understand but clearly don’t?

I’ve been lucky compared to most though, I managed to get access to neurofeedback therapy and I’m now doing DBT therapy thanks to my supportive parents. I know not everyone with mental illness has such a supportive family. In fact,even now, mental illness is still met with ignorance from friends, family and professionals so, how the hell are we supposed to recover from BPD when met with such stigma? When we’re told by professionals that what we’re experiencing is a stupid diagnosis and there is no hope of recovery?

tumblr_n49jkd8fYm1tz8okxo1_500Can I recover from it? to be honest I’m not sure I could ever recover completely but I have been learning to manage it through DBT and my mental state has improved after roughly 6 months of neurofeedback therapy and the right medication. Things aren’t perfect by any means. I’ve definitely not fully recovered but things are better than they were last year. I’m better at processing things and calming myself down when things get bad. Doing my own reading about it and connecting with others who have BPD online has been a sort of self help/ peer support therapy for me.

The diagnosis can be isolating and lonely when you think that no one understands how you feel and people IRL can make you feel worse because of misconceptions they have about the disorder. So meeting people experiencing similar issues can be really uplifting. Honestly I think if it wasn’t for this blog or the people I’ve met on twitter I would still be so incredibly lonely and ashamed. But reading about others’ experience gives me hope and a reason to fight despite people telling me there is no hope for people like me.

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As I said before, your journey is a personal one so if you can find a way to recover from the disorder completely, that’s awesome. If not and you’re just managing to get through each day that’s okay, I’m still learning too so I don’t want to preach a certain way of life like its the cure-all.. The best I can do is encourage you to try different things and not give up on yourself even if others try to shame you or say you’re hopeless. Only you can decide what works best for you and recovery looks different for everyone.

TW: This next part contains reference to suicidal ideation and self  harm

For example, recently I had a terrible interview that left me wanting to die and cut myself.  It was hard battling that storm of self hatred and rage and I ended up snapping a hairband on my skin. This may not seem that much of a change to you, you may even consider this a relapse but considering that I’d been dealing with the urge to self harm on and off for weeks and at that point gave in to temptation, that’s pretty good for me. Even in crisis I resisted the urge to the point I couldn’t take anymore but instead of grabbing something sharp I went for the hairband which caused significantly less damage while also satisfying the urge. It may not be as good as not self harming at all or going for a run instead but it is an improvement for me 🙂

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Thanks for reading and do feel free to let me know your experience with BPD ❤

 

Recommended Reading:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd/treatment-and-support/#.XJ0YB_ZFzIU

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/both-sides-the-couch/201309/borderline-personality-disorder-the-power-recovery

https://bpdtransformation.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/how-did-i-recover-from-borderline-personality-disorder/

http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/borderline-personality-disorder-vol7/borderline-personality-disorder

https://themighty.com/2017/04/my-journey-borderline-personality-disorder-treatment-and-recovery/

 

REJECTION WITH BPD

I’ve lost count how many jobs I applied for and times I got rejected before I finally got a really good job. It was a temporary contract though so now I’m back on the market looking for a new job. After my previous success I had high hopes for the next application I made, only to get rejected again. I found it hard to cope after that, I felt like my world had been rocked but I didn’t really pay attention to those feelings until my most recent job application.

I’d wanted to do some prep before the interview but when I tried to research and prepare my answers thoughts such as “this is pointless” “I’m not good enough” and “what’s the point in trying if they’re just going to reject me” started invading my mind. I got really upset and abandoned the mission. I struggled to understand why I was suddenly so depressed when just a month ago I was so hopeful and happy to get a new job. Then after my latest interview it hit me. Rejection.

I hadn’t realised until then just how much my BPD still affects me. The reason I was so hopeful back in January was because of my previous success but then I got rejected and that affected my mood.

You see, people with BPD try so hard to be accepted, to avoid rejection from people as well as abandonment. I knew that application rejections happen all the time to everyone but that didn’t stop the hurt. Feeling like I wasn’t good enough or disliked. It was worse when the interviewers would reject me without giving a reason or feedback, so I didn’t know what I did wrong and how I could fix it to be accepted next time.

The job applications, interviews and rejections were a long, disappointing, depressing process. I imagine it would be rough for a “normal” person but everything seems X10 worse when you have BPD. I’m happy I had at least that one successful time though, it has helped me feel more optimistic that someone somewhere will like and accept me. It just feels like finding a needle in a haystack and the harder and longer I have to look the more hopeless and frustrated I get.

Every rejection feels like a slap in the face, even though I know it can’t be personal and questions start swarming my headspace “why didn’t they like me?” “Why do I even bother trying?” “What did I do wrong?” “Why do they hate me?” And on it goes. The other side to how I would react to rejection was blaming “the powers that be” in the company, I remember getting rejected after a trial shift and thinking “that shift leader was a bitch, she probably talked shit about me to the managers” even though she would have been reprimanded for doing something like that so she probably didn’t. I still held a grudge against that poor girl for months.

The first company I ever applied for also rejected me after a trial shift, not long after that they ended up being shut down and I celebrated like “that’s what you get for rejecting me, assholes” as if they rejected me because of some personal vendetta they had against me. I used to take job rejection way too personally so how have I managed to not crumble from all this rejection?

Well, firstly, I’ve been trying to change my concept of rejection, instead of thinking “I wasn’t right for the job” I try thinking “Maybe the job wasn’t right for me”. Thinking this way has helped heal the hurt I felt after being rejected so many times. I also use my free time to plan and do other things I enjoy so I don’t get too bored or isolated. I’ve been going to groups at my local wellbeing centre as well as attending DBT sessions weekly and doing voluntary work on Saturdays. I’d like to start doing more soon to prepare me for paid work again as, when I worked as a Christmas temp, the time and the energy required was overwhelming considering it was my first paid job. Recently I’ve come to accept that I may not be ready for paid work and I should stop pushing myself so hard for a while. For now I think I need to focus on my recovery and hopefully I’ll be able to work in the future.

Read how Val Prozorova overcame anger and fear of rejection while dealing with BPD:

https://themighty.com/2017/06/bpd-borderline-personality-disorder-rejection/

and check out Recovery Mum’s videos on BPD and Rejection:

More videos to show some love:

COPING IN A BPD CRISIS

TW: The contents of this post may trigger so please read with care

Last Friday I was in the hospital, dissociating badly, I was only partly aware of where I was and what was happening. I was very detached from reality and wrapped up in my thoughts of death and self harm. It had been a long time coming, you may remember in my previous post (A crazy life update) that I was experiencing a lot of stress for some time, not to mention that march is a tough month for me anyway as referred to in my post “the curse of march”so it was kind of inevitable really. I spoke to a lovely member of the mental health team that night who referred me to the crisis team, they visited my home on Saturday and discussed getting me an assessment for a care coordinator (which would be great) as well as a review with the psychiatrist about my medication.

That being said, although this crisis was expected I didn’t know how to stop it so instead I kept spiraling down and descending into derealization. On sundays there is a #bpdchat on twitter that I like to take part in when I can. This week I asked what people do to help themselves in a bpd crisis here are some of the responses, I’m @Addict2L btw if you want to follow me 😉

 

Just recently (yesterday in fact)I was heading for another bpd/pts meltdown, I found it hard to engage in therapy as I was so distracted by my emotions that were exhausting me, all I wanted to do was go home and cry myself to sleep as something had triggered me that morning, I wanted to self harm and started having thoughts about dying or acting out violently, I was basically a mess. When I got home though I decided to log my mood in a mental health app called Pacifica, it suggested a meditaton for me so I went to my Self-Soothe box and lit a scented candle, wrapped myself in a scarf and played the meditation. I wasn’t a 100% okay by the end of those few minutes but I didn’t feel as overwhelmed as before and I was able to keep myself safe that day.

A self-soothe box is another idea I got from twitter, its basically a box of stuff that can help you feel comforted and calm you down in a crisis. Mine is made out of a really nice gift box and inside is…

  • A Puzzle & Coloring book
  • Coloring pencils in a fluffy pencil case
  • A small soft toy
  • Scented candle with holder
  • a big scarf I use as a comfort blanket
  • Leaflets with information from MIND on how to deal with stress, anger and loneliness
  • A number for my local SAMARITANS
  • A book of positive mantras
  • Hand lotion/cream
  • A handout from DBT about “Riding the wave”

I do suggest making one yourself as it helps me feel more prepared for a crisis and safer when a crisis comes, yours may be totally different from mine, its just whatever helps/comforts you.

Thanks for reading and please do check out everyone’s twitter (@017kat @LadyAngrr @tothehospital) these people and so many others have been very helpful, remember that the #bpdchat is on every sunday 9pm UK time/ 4pm US time. Hope to see you there sometime and here’s a useful website for more ideas on coping with bpd: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd/self-care-for-bpd/#.XIFU-PZFxlY

and this post on supplies to pack in case you need to check in to hospital: http://wtfisbpd.tumblr.com/post/96439585776/bpd-crisis-kit

Hope you found this helpful,

NI2M ❤