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

DISSOCIATION

Trigger Warning: This post discusses traumatic experiences

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, the information provided is based on my lived experience of bpd and online research. If there is any misinformation on the matters discussed (flashbacks, DID, PTSD etc) then don’t hesitate to let me know. Thank you 🙂

I started working on this blog post a while back but found this to be a topic that was quite complex for me and I couldn’t quite articulate my experience with it. I’ll try my best now though as I feel dissociation is very important to talk about as it can have a detrimental affect on your life and its not very understood . I believe I started dissociating in childhood, there is a lot I don’t remember about that time, only bits and pieces but even they are hazy. You see I had quite a traumatic childhood that I won’t go into detail about now but it greatly affected the rest of my life.

dissociation

I find myself getting frustrated as I can get severely triggered by something but not remember why I’m triggered by it. For example when I’m with my dad I feel constantly on edge like I can’t please him but have to try and keep him happy so, when he starts getting angry, I panic and try to fix the situation (even if its something out of my control). I don’t remember my dad being abusive, at least not consciously, I do remember him yelling at me once and hitting my sister a couple of times but my reaction to him now does make me wonder if more happened that I blocked from my memory…

When I get angry myself I sometimes forget what I did soon after, my mother told me I once tried to stab my cousin with a fork in rage but I don’t remember that. I believe these blocks in my memory is the result of dissociative amnesia which is where your brain blanks out traumatic experiences to protect you from the distress of it or it can protect you from your own emotions which, in my case, was rage. In high school I started experiencing a form of dissociation called derealization,where you become detached from reality and everything around you doesn’t feel quite real, I’d describe it as feeling like you’re in a dream instead of real life. School was an extremely stressful time for me so I think my brain started trying to soften the impact of that environment by making it seem unreal.

Hannah Daisy

A third type is depersonalization which is much like derealization but it means experiencing a detachment from yourself, your feelings and such. I sometimes feel unreal or that my body isn’t mine. You may also feel numb or like you’re observing yourself from outside your body. This usually happens when extreme feelings of panic, rage or depression arise. It’s most likely why people with depression can find themselves feeling numb, the brain tries to protect you from emotional harm by detaching from your feelings and body.

Dissociation is something the brain does for protection however, ironically, it can have a negative impact on you and your life. Recently I took on a job that was very unfair and overwhelming. On the first day I found myself dissociating so I wouldn’t have a panic attack, problem is when I dissociate I tend to lose concentration more and function slower. My head feels fuzzy, everything doesn’t look or feel real, I’m detached from my body and emotions but can’t seem to get grounded. I quit that job now, I only worked two days but it felt longer and I still haven’t managed to come back to reality, this past week feels like a blur and I highly doubt I’m going to remember much when I finally do get grounded but I don’t think I really want to remember this time anyway. So thanks dissociation for making my life both easier and harder.

Dissociation and Identity

image (1)

Dissociation may not just effect your, thoughts, emotions and environment, it can also impact your sense of self. Dissociative Identity Disorder is where someone experiences switching between different identities, they dissociate from themselves and don’t usually remember what happened while another identity (alter) has taken over. They may speak with a different voice, have different personalities and even memories. This type of dissociation is called identity alteration and people who experience this likely suffered abuse and severe trauma so their brain creates these alters so they don’t have to experience so much pain.

With BPD you may also experience dissociation through your identity but in a different way. This other type of identity dissociation is called identity confusion, with this type you may not have a clear sense of who you are and how you think or behave can change depending on your mood or your environment. You may struggle to define what your sexuality is, what you’re interested in, how you feel about religion and politics or what career you want. Your stance on things can change easily as well as your interests and ambitions, you may find yourself “trying on” different identities to see what fits or have a strong case of the chameleon effect. I’ve struggled with this identity confusion pretty much all my life to the point I relied on other people to define me.

Dissociation and memory

As I mentioned before, with dissociative amnesia, dissociation can affect your memories and your experience of them. Someone with PTSD can experience dissociative flashbacks which is where the person feels that they are experiencing a past traumatic event in their present. Usually a flashback is in response to a trigger (something that reminds you of a traumatic event) and causes you to mentally relive that event and respond as if it were currently happening, completely dissociating from the present reality and experiencing the past all over again.

Lonely sad red-haired girl at field

Another type that affects your memory is called dissociative fugue, also known as fugue state. This type entails a person temporarily forgetting important details of their life and who they are, this fugue state can cause someone to impulsively travel or even take on a new identity. I’m finding this one difficult to explain so below is a snippet of an article where someone explains their experience with dissociative fugue;

The first episode took place when I was 13, after months of fearing my Maths teacher. She had a habit of getting right up in your face when she told you off, and was known for dishing out brutal punishments if you didn’t do your homework.

One day, I’d forgotten to hand in my mobile phone at the school office, which was a strict rule – if we were caught with our phones in class, even if they were just in our bags, we’d get a massive telling-off.

During a maths lesson, I opened my bag as she walked past – and my phone was inside. When she spotted it, I knew I was in for it. I got hauled to the front of the class, and yelled at. It was so intense, I could feel her breath. Flecks of saliva landed on my face as she shouted. It was horrible.

She told me to hand my phone into the office right that minute – so off I went, feeling cold with fear. After I handed it in, I couldn’t face going back to the classroom – I was too scared of her.

What happened next is part of a memory that isn’t too clear, but I do recall feeling that I had to get out of the reality I was in, because it was filled with so much fear. I simply ‘switched off’, and I don’t remember much after that feeling.

I do know what I did immediately after deciding I wasn’t going to deal with my life – I simply walked out of my school. There is then a gap in my memory – I know now that I was missing for around 6 hours.

When I came back to reality, I was sat in a field down the road from my school. It was pitch black, and there were cars zooming past directly behind me.

Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2017/03/26/what-is-fugue-state-how-i-ended-up-forgetting-my-life-and-taking-on-a-new-one-6535260/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

Related resources;

https://www.gulfbend.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=55734&cn=109 – Flashbacks, Dissociative reactions

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/dissociation-and-dissociative-disorders/#.Xch7ITNKjIV

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9789-dissociative-amnesia

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2017/07/complex-ptsd-dissociation-and-reclaiming-lost-memories

http://www.hannahdaisy.com/2018/04/dissociation-explained-in-short-story.html

About Dissociation

Thank you for reading, feel free to let me know what you think by either commenting on this post or tweeting me @Addict2L 🙂

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 🙂

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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:

DBT DIARY: MINDFULNESS

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy and its mainly used to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. I honestly don’t have a complete understanding of the therapy and its relation to BPD but I’m learning more as I go to each therapy session. My therapy is split into parts; Distress Tolerance, Emotional regulation and interpersonal skills. I did distress tolerance in group therapy (which I believed I made a couple of posts about somewhere lol) but I didn’t find group therapy to be helpful so I went on a waiting list for individual therapy instead. After a few months of waiting I was at the top of the list and able to start the therapy in the new year. So far I have had 3 DBT sessions once a week and here’s my experience of the first two which were focused on Emotional Regulation.

In my first session of DBT, my therapist introduced Mindfulness to me. Well I already had an awareness of mindfulness, even practised while at work but in the new year I stopped. One of the good habits I probably should have made a new years resolution to do everyday but even out of work I still couldn’t (or wouldn’t!) Find the time to be mindful.

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In the waiting room I was reading the first chapter of STRONGER THAN BPD and the author talks about the essentialness of mindfulness in DBT and emotional regulation. My therapist and I spoke about my feelings of unhealthy guilt, anger/resentment and even panic, how mindfulness can help me hit that pause button before I act on those feelings and when I have a memory of something bad or imagine a devastating future scenario I can use mindfulness to bring me back to the present and remember that those things are not happening right now.

We also discussed WISE mind which balances out the emotional and reasonable parts of the brain. She gave me an example; if you were to buy a house and buy it simply because you loved it, you would be acting from emotional mind or if you bought it because it meets your needs but you don’t have good feelings about it you would be acting solely with reasonable mind. Balancing out emotion with reason is acting from the wise mind which everybody has and it could be considered intuition which you can become more attuned to through mindfulness/meditation.

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Other systems like this I have come across are Parent, Adult, Child and Id, ego, superego. All of them have roughly the same premise.

Soon after my session I had to start putting wise mind to the test as after it I was hungry and recently comfort eating has been a thing for me so I wanted food from a little café I like and they had loads of sweet treats that I wanted, causing feelings of delight and excitement but reason told me that a lot of these foods would probably increase my stomach problems.

After a lot of thinking I went for a dairy free banana and coconut muffin, a plain croissant and a smoothie which was much healthier than the alternative I felt like getting which was a choc chip muffin (and various others) and hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows; while I did really want those things I knew it would cause more IBS symptoms for me and make me put on more weight than I have already both of which would make me even more emotionally upset but the option I went for was just as good taste wise, for my bank account and my body.

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My second session, we continued the mindfulness work. This time looking at the concept of Observe, Describe, Participate. The three steps of mindfulness. Observe being you just letting yourself notice the things around you or the sensations you feel without labelling them or judging them. Describe is where you put names and labels to what you are seeing or experiencing while keeping an open mind and Participate is where you get involved in what’s going on effectively and being fully present.

For me mindfulness, especially with breathing techniques, has been hard, I feel forced to do it which leads to me getting frustrated and impatient with the process. I tried doing some mindfulness to overcome emotional distress recently but it didn’t go too well, I ended up thinking it was stupid and I couldn’t get through even 5minutes of meditation. I’m thinking of looking into more movement based mindfulness instead of formal sit down types. It might be easier for me and my hyperactive self.

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I suggest to you and to myself to start practicing mindfulness when you’re feeling decently calm already, it may seem pointless as you need it more for emotional distress but I’ve found those times hard to do mindfulness. So I think it’s best to practice when you don’t need it at first so you can build up and practice the skills easier until it becomes pretty much your first response to stress or it may make you less easily stressed but I’ll have to keep practicing to really feel the benefits.

Thanks for reading this post, sorry it was so long but hope its helped you somehow 🙂

NI2M ❤