Healthy Body, Healthy Emotions

I’m a huge fan of exercise. Don’t get me wrong – I’m as lazy as the next person, but gee it helps.

My BPD had two close friends called Anxiety and Depression (it’s very common for BPD suffers to have comorbid mood disorders.)

When the behavioural symptoms of my BPD finally packed their bags and I dropped them at the train station, unfortunately the two insidious cousins remained behind (shuffling their feet and whistling shiftily.)

These days, exercise is one of the strategies I use to keep my unruly house guests in check. The benefits are multi-faceted. Firstly, I expend my excess adrenalin that could otherwise feed the anxiety. (I like to think of Anxiety lying on the floor, exhausted, wearing running shorts and hilarious sweat-bands and whimpering “I’m sure I should be worried about XYZ, but my glutes hurt too much.”)

I also get the benefit of improved mood for Depression (who generally just pokes her tongue out at me childishly but does leave me alone for a while.)

The point is, when dealing with BPD, anxiety or depression (or the hilarious frat party that is all three at once), I learnt that I needed a multi-layered approach. Exercise is one bit. The other bits are diet, medication and psychotherapy. It’s certainly a challenge, and the wheels frequently come off…but it works.

Leelee x

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Radical acceptance…how do you DO that?

I love Marsha Linehan’s work for a lot of reasons, but mostly for this.
Radical acceptance…..radical acceptance…radical acceptance
Even mulling over the phrase and sounding it out slowly à la Sesame Street barely helps at first. It’s very Zen and, indeed, a radical concept but, once you’ve got it…wow.

Stumbling through life, banging into walls and getting in a complete mess is often where most of us are before we accept our diagnosis. This is the worst place, I reckon. This is where the most damage can happen – to you and those around you.

So, we accept there is a problem and take our first hesitant step on the pathway to recovery. Scary, scary moment. Possibly deserving of a large, shiny medal and many bunches of flowers.

So, Linehan’s concept of Radical Acceptance is the balm that encourages us to keep inching forward despite having to face the utter chaos that our lives have become. It’s being able to say “yes, I really need to work on that”, and “ooh, that’s not so good is it? Better fix that,” and not be crushed by the enormity of the task.

We accept ourselves as we are while committing to change.
And…we never, ever lose sight of the courage, resilience, grace and determination it takes to do that.

That’s another medal, I reckon. Or, at the very least, a massive box of choccies…

Leelee x

Guilt and the Blinded Penitent

That sounds a bit like a fable, doesn’t it? Well, let’s start it that way.

Let’s say….a woman was walking down a long road. It was very rocky and uneven and lined with thick, scrubby trees that plucked at her clothing and scratched her bare skin. She was alone and friendless – she had been turned out of her home because she had done something thoughtless and cruel. She hadn’t meant to – but certain circumstances had caused her to behave in a way that was most unlike herself.

As she walked, she wept and sorrowed and wrung her hands. “I am a terrible person”, she thought, “I deserve to be punished. I will keep walking this long and thorny road, despite my pain and discomfort until I reach atonement.”

And so she kept walking, with nothing but a cloak on her back and a small bundle of food for her journey.
And Guilt walked beside her. The woman was glad of her companion at first, for it was a lonely road. But, as they walked, Guilt whispered incessantly in her ear, reminding her of the terrible thing she had done and the people she had hurt.

The woman cried harder and tore her hair and wrung her hands some more as Guilt kept whispering to her. Finally, the pain of what she had done was too great and, in desperation, she put out her own eyes so she could never again see the monster she had become…

You can see where this is going, can’t you? Often, it’s not just the battle with our own emotional pain that’s so hard, it’s realising the effect it’s had on others. Worse still, it can reach the point where you’ve driven others so far away that your abiding terror of abandonment is neatly fulfilled.

The problem with being consumed by guilt and shame is that it blinds and deafens us to opportunities to be the loving person we know we are.

You may be walking a lonely road with only the clothes on your back and a small bundle of resources, but there are always people who don’t even have that. This is not to diminish the pain and suffering that you have known, not at all. It’s just another way of celebrating your strength, of who you really are.

There’s always someone who needs you.

Leelee x

The fragility of others

When I realised that, as a person with BPD, my suffering went hand in hand with the ‘good bits’ I talked about earlier, two things happened.

Firstly, I knew, with incredible clarity, that it was over. The terrible battle, that endless contest with myself had ceased. I was no longer at war with the parts of me that were so very frightening because I had looked them in the eye and taken responsibility for them. My reward was the ownership of the parts of me that I love – my compassion, my empathy, my courage.

So, the second thing that happened was that people began appearing in my life who needed those things, and I was so ready to give them.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved and cared for animals. I rescued, nurtured, protected and soothed away anger that was born out of fear.

And now, finally, I see the fragility of others. Other grown up humans who are often suffering, just like me. They are normal, everyday people who may not have a mental illness but, at times, their pain and exquisite fragility is just like mine.
And often, because of my heightened sensitivity to emotional pain, I see it before someone without my history might and I can help. Being able to do this is indescribably wonderful.

To recover from BPD, to come through the other side, it’s not enough to simply manage and control the illness. There has to be a sense of joy and pride in embracing it. A proud ownership of your difference and the potential you have to use it.

Leelee x

Suicide

I don’t mean to be blunt, but it’s not worth it. Truly. And not just because of all that stuff about ‘everything changing’ and ‘things always get better’, although that’s also true.

In reality, a serious suicide attempt is messy, painful, humiliating, frightening and devoid of any possible shred of grace or dignity.

The last thing I want to be is harsh – because well I remember accepting that hopelessness, that sense of quietly and sadly giving up and realising that, even if you wanted to keep trying, you’ve just got nothing left. Worst of all, wondering if anyone would even notice.

It breaks my heart to remember myself that way and it’s even worse to think that there are others out there at that very same point.

What you must consider is that, if you decide to destroy yourself, your body, your mind, your soul, whatever – some part of you, will most likely fight to live. That’s what happened to me. Also, even after my body recovered, I was left with the heart breaking knowledge that, at that moment, no part of me cared enough to stand between myself and annihilation. I was just lucky. But, truly, the marks of such self-cruelty will never really fade.

Here’s where you just have to take yourself out of your own hands because you’re not safe there. If you’re in this place then your mind probably isn’t functioning properly and you must tell someone.

You are too precious to lose. This will become clear to you as time goes on. In the meantime, try and reel your mind in and away from the thoughts of darkness stretching interminably ahead of you. Take one minute at a time, breathe, pick up the phone. Please.

Leelee x

Personal Values

This is so very important. I almost feel the need to capitalise it, but that always seems like shouting. So, I’ll just reiterate; this is very important.

Having a clearly defined set of personal values may seem par for the course for most. However, for the Borderline who is constantly looking for a stable footing on the shifting sands of their identity, the development of these values can be a life changing experience.

In both Dialectic Behavioural Therapy and Acceptance/Commitment Therapy, this is an area that is emphasised.

I have found that developing my own personal set of values has given me a framework to hold onto when things get emotionally messy.
For example, “I really feel like speaking angrily to this person because I feel upset by something they’ve done.”
Here my personal value is:
Always treat other living things with respect.
So, if I need to say something politely assertive, I’ll say it, but no verbal cruelty allowed – that would be letting myself down.

Heavens to BETSY, it feels good when you stick to your values! It’s almost worth finding challenging situations so that you can consistently morally triumph….but not quite, because that would be…insane.

Leelee x

The good bits of BPD

Yup. You read that right. BPD has good bits. Now, don’t just go rushing around willy-nilly proclaiming the side benefits of having a personality disorder or everyone will want one.

Seriously though, all levity aside, it makes sense, doesn’t it?
It’s all through life and history – those who have known pain have the most empathy and are instinctively compassionate; those who give the most are often those with the least to give.

It’s okay to be sensitive and emotional, it’s part of who we are. What’s not okay is to lose control of those same emotions that inspire us to feel for others and lash out and hurt others or ourselves.

This is doable. I promise.

Leelee x