Hope for recovery from BPD


English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recovery, the one thing everyone with Borderline Personality Disorder wonders if it is actually possible, after all it’s a condition with little useful treatment options and no ‘cure’.

Is recovery possible?

How can someone with BPD achieve it?

Will it last?

These are just some of the questions that I and others with BPD ask ourselves and others all the time and the answers are not straight forward, the possibility of recovery from BPD is as complex and troublesome as the condition itself… but…

There are many stories of people who claim to have recovered from BPD and go on to live ‘normal’ lives. Read Rachel Reiland’s book ‘Get me out of here’,  Merri Lisa Johnson’s ‘Girl in need of a tourniquet’ and Stacy Pershall’s ‘Loud in the house of myself’ for just a few examples of the degrees of recovery achievable. You can also check out Ellie Kerbela’s website Running Scarred and forthcoming book of the same name.

As for me, I guess there is a book in this my journey too, whether it get’s written or published is another matter, but for now I have and will continue to share my journey through this blog.

My current state is one which I would class as recovered (I want to stay positive about it so I’m dropping the ‘remission’ notion as that implies that I will return to my previous state – something I want, hope and am working hard to prevent happening). So, yeah I’m better, better than I was four months ago, better than I was a year ago, better than I have been in as long as I can remember!

How did I reach this point?

Well, it’s not been easy. I have not had the opportunity to get access to much in the way of help, support and/or treatment for my BPD. Heck, the ONLY bit of help I have had has been paying privately for psychotherapy sessions, which while they have been a good place to talk about things have not really (I believe) had much influence on reaching this point.

Mostly it has been down to my own inner strength and determination that I have come to be able to claim I am recovered.

I have read widely about BPD, analysed the condition and how it impacted me deeply.

I studied every detail of each criteria, applied it to my own situations and in doing this learnt to identify what was happening to me, my emotions and what things were triggers and  my own and others actions, reactions and the resulting consequences.

Initially I was able to apply this scientific, analytical approach to how BPD worked  just ‘after’ the event, but eventually I began to do it during events, and now I can even identify the potential situations before an event occurs, at least most of the time.

This alone has been the main route to my recovered state. I have learnt to step in with my rational, wise mind (in DBT terms, even though I have not had any DBT) rather than allowing my emotional mind to take control of events and situations.

Now, while that may sound like quite a simple thing to those who do not have BPD anyone with BPD will clearly recognise how difficult such control would be to achieve when BPD is basically all about you being unable to control, rein in and manage difficult emotions which are experienced at levels greatly amplified from ‘normal’. Intense, powerful, unstable emotions are the underlying characteristic of BPD which lead to the nine criteria for diagnosis and is more clearly recognised in the alternative name for this condition ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder‘.

Controlling your emotions without any help or guidance on how to do this is something BP’s struggle to do at all. We did not gain these skills growing up like other people did, for whatever reason during our childhood (recognised or not at the time or later) our ability to control emotions was hampered, flawed. The skill’s in managing emotions that non-bp’s gained naturally as part of growing up is something we missed out on somehow, whether it be down to our parental situation, environmental conditions, physically or sexually abusive situations or whatever other possible multitudes of factors either singularly or combined that caused this emotional dysregulation, it happened and we cannot change that.

Something is broken and needs fixing – emotion regulation – the key to defeating BPD.

Regulating your emotions is not easy, even non-bp’s cannot manage it all the time. Anyone and everyone can and will ‘fly off the handle’ at some point because emotions are powerful!

What I have achieved, the way I have done it, is not something that will be possible for everyone with BPD, I’m not being patronizing or mean here and I’m sorry if it sounds like I am, I really don’t mean it to be! It is literally about ‘how’ I did it that makes it not possible for everyone, I’m no saying that some people cannot recover, just that they cannot do it this way….

It has been extremely difficult to learn to regulate my emotions and I have done it alone, unaided, which has only made it more difficult. I have more strength than I realised and the skills, intelligence and desire to fight to overcome the emotional dysregulation that was the bane of my life. Not everyone with or without BPD has this capability…

What I am saying is that each of us has different levels of ability and reaching a point of recovery on your own without outside help, support and treatment is something even I did not think I could do by myself – I am lucky that I have managed to do this. Other’s may not be so lucky that they can gain control alone, there are many reasons why this may not be something other BP’s can do, so many factors can hinder the opportunities for doing this.

And even for those who may try to do it alone as I have done life itself can get in the way and prevent you being able to gain the control you are fighting so hard for – but don’t let this get you down, you are not a failure, you just need help and should put your efforts into fighting to get that help which will give you the boost you need to reach recovery. Doing it alone is the hardest way, and yes not everyone will have the choice or opportunity to gain outside help meaning (as it was for me) that doing it alone is your only option and if this is the case then you have to be prepared for working harder than you have ever worked on anything before, because gaining the self-control to recover from BPD alone is the biggest battle you will ever face!

Still it is possible to get there, whether you can do it alone or with help, it can be done, you just have to never give up, never give in and keep on fighting your inner demons – then one day you too will be able to claim you have recovered from BPD.

Then challenge then is to maintain this new state and as such my journey continues…

So, to answer my initial questions –

Is recovery possible? – Yes, but it is a long hard journey and you may not be able to do it alone.

How can someone with BPD achieve it? – With hard work, determination and by actually wanting to achieve it.

Will it last? – I guess that is down to keeping up the fight, never backing down, because control is something that could easily be lost again if you don’t keep on trying!

***

Have you recovered from BPD?

How did you achieve recovery?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below 🙂

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27 comments on “Hope for recovery from BPD

  1. I love this. partly because I have just realised that with a lot of hard work, I too have reached recovery. And that is such a great feeling after being told for so long that it was impossible. The other reason I love it is because I remember reading a post of yours in which you talked about remission and I quietly thought to myself that remission wouldn’t be enough. Let’s call it what it is: Recovery! I like that you have changed words and hope that you celebrate hard your recovery. You deserve it! 🙂
    I also think you’re quite right that not everyone will make recovery. I find that sad, but I know that all of us are very different people, even if we had the same label. But I am convinced that if not recovery, then management of symptoms is possible with the right work and/or support.

    • Thanks Cate, indeed it was only recently that I was querying the extent of my recovery and the fear of possible relapse had me inclined to call my current state remission but I am now comfortable with calling it recovery as I am determined to keep up the hard work to prevent myself slipping back into the ‘old’ ways – whilst being mindful of the fact that there may be things outside my control that could cause it, but should such things occur hopefully I will be able to reach back to the strength I have used now and pull myself back again! and indeed management of symptoms is certainly an achievable medium for those who may need longer/more help to one day reach their own recovery. And many congratulations on your own recovery! 😀

  2. Inner strength, and I believe God too, is the key. I think it is hard for a lot people with mental illnesses to realize that somewhere inside there is strength. I also believe in mind over manner. This has helped me. I was diagnosed Bipolar II about 12 yrs ago. Now thank God, I am showing no signs of it, even without the bipolar meds. So I also know that what you are saying is possible with many mental issues. i’m just so happy to read this as it is such a positive message! Great for you and your determination to find your inner strength and work so hard to to be where you are!!

    • I fully agree on inner strength, I’m not a religious person myself but I respect that for others that it will be an important factor and contribution to reaching a better place for themselves. It is also great to hear that you are recovered from bipolar, and yes I think many mental health issues can be overcome with a similar approach and determination. 🙂

  3. We can all get somewhere with our mental health issues! Others just need to stop setting these super high standards that I’m willing to bet even they can’t meet!

    In my personal opinion, which is the only opinion that should matter, is that I have recovered. I spend most of my time happy or content with life, I have eliminated self harm from my life, I can hold a job, I am in a long term and stable relationship, I have great relationships with friends, I am who I want to be and where I want to be.

    I achieved this recovery by removing the garbage from my life and working my butt off!!!!! Sounds easy but obviously it’s not.

    Another indicator, I feel, that I have made great progress was I had my BPD label taken away by a psychiatrist. On paper I am Borderline Personality TRAITS! I see this as my gradual step down the ladder to a place that is manageable for me.

    Good post 🙂

    • Great to hear how well you are doing, it’s as great to discover we are not alone in recovery as it is when we first find others who share our condition when we are diagnosed 😀

      Hopefully our stories go some way to helping others see there is a light at the end of the tunnel if they really want it and are willing to put in the work to get there!

  4. This post was a beacon in the night. After a year long relapse, I hope I am on my way towards recovery. I know I have great inner strength. You have giver me hope when it was beginning to fade.

    • Thanks Sandra, indeed emotional regulation is such a key element and a skill that requires a lot of work for BP’s to be able to ‘do’. I look forward to your post about it 🙂

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  10. Hi showard,
    After reading your blog, It gave me great comfort to realise and acknowledge that there is hope out there and that recovery is achievable. However, my question is HOW did you do it? I believe I have some of the traits of BPD and would also like to work on these myself without medication or therapy. Could you point me in the right direction on where to start and information I need to know. I do have DBT book and know basics of BPD.
    Your response would be much appreciated.

    Joy x

    • Hi Joy,

      Thank you. How, that’s actually difficult to explain but I really think the main things were learning so much about BPD then applying what I learnt to my own situation so I could see how each of the traits affected me (hence the posts about each trait) having recognised them all then it was learning to see them after an event, then during and eventually being able to see what could happen in a situation before the situation occurred. Alongside all this recognition and identification was learning to understand my emotions and do the same identifying and recognising… I read a lot of books about BPD and DBT, lots of blogs by people like myself with BPD and as you can see a lot of writing about it. Having my therapists to bounce ideas off and to reassure or correct me on things as I was working through it all helped a lot too. Once I had gained the understandings needed learning to control me actions and reactions and do things differently was the next step, because just seeing it wasn’t enough I had to be able to change the way I responded to triggering things, that was the hardest part because it is more natural to just react in the way you are used to. It takes huge strength and courage, and intelligence, to be able to do it alone (or almost alone) as I have done, most people will need a lot more help to reach the point I have because BPD is so invasive and deep rooted it’s like having to become a different person to beat it. I hope this helps a little? Two books I recommend most for helping are this workbook and skills manual for reading to learn about BPD the survival guide and stop walking on eggshells were the most useful to me 🙂
      Sharon x

  11. Thank you for this wise article. Totally agree that recovery is possible from what is called BPD… it is shocking that so many people do not believe full recovery is possible; of course it’s not easy and takes a lot of time, but hope is so important. On my site I write about some things that helped me to recover from abuse/trauma and BPD symptoms. Having realistic hope was one of the most important things for me initially.

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