Road to Recovery

Borderline Personality Disorder, Recovery and Me in 2013

Road to Recovery

Road to Recovery

October was the last time I posted here, and my stats sure show an understandably huge decline in readership – why come here if there is nothing new to read after all. A double-edged sword…

I miss the camaraderie of conversing with my fellow bloggers and keeping up with how everyone is getting on but at the same time that I do not ‘need’ my blog and reading others as a crutch to help me cope with what is still a very busy, emotional and challenging life is a clear indication of how much better I am now than I was.

That said, this may end up being a post of more than one part, as I don’t want to bore you senseless droning on for hours, but I do have a lot to cover in this long overdue update. I’m going to start with the most important topic (blog wise) BPD after all it was writing about living with Borderline Personality Disorder that really caused my blog to take off and draw people in so for my readers knowing how much this effects me now is certainly the most important thing they are interested in – for hope, inspiration and encouragement that they too can recover, so here goes…

Me and BPD, Then.

I’m going to start with a very brief summary of my BPD (for anyone who may not have read my many posts on the topic), then get on to the update…

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2010 after many years of suffering recurrent bouts of what had wrongly been labelled previously as depression, I always knew it was ‘more’ than ‘just depression’ (no insult intended) but didn’t know what, so as much as the diagnosis came like a slap in the face, it was at the same time a welcome relief. Finally knowing why you are so different is a weight off one’s shoulders and gives you something, some way, to understand what is wrong with you and how you can (hopefully) get better. I read a lot and sought help, which was not forthcoming, and gradually grew to understand my condition. Eventually I went private to get a psychotherapist, as the NHS had me languishing on waiting lists that never produced anything to help me and I started writing about BPD.

When I began writing about BPD for my blog I was still very, very unwell. I was suffering every one of the nine DSM IV criteria for diagnosis, some severely (mainly in the self-harm aspects). Here are those criteria again:

A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationshipsself-image and affects, as well as marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5 (in laymen terms – fearing being abandoned or rejected or being alone)
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation. (difficulty in making and maintaining relationships)
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self. (having an unstable sense of identity, such as thinking differently about yourself depending on who you are with)
  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sexeating disordersbinge eatingsubstance abusereckless driving). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5 (taking risks or doing things without thinking about the consequences)
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behaviorsuch as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself. (suicide attempts, self-harm)
  6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days). (having emotions that are up and down for example, feeling confident one day and feeling despair another)
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
  8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
  9. Transient, stress related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms (sometimes believing in things that are not real or true (called delusions) or seeing or hearing things that are not really there (called hallucinations).)
It is a requirement of DSM-IV that a diagnosis of any specific personality disorder also satisfies a set of general personality disorder criteria.
source: DSM IV

Even now looking at that list is a scary prospect, to have five of those criteria to meet diagnosis requirements sounds like hell, but to be experiencing all nine, well hell is not scary enough really…

For those interested you can read about how I felt each of the nine criteria affected me at the time via the links to individual posts on each of the criteria at the end of my ‘What is Borderline Personality Disorder?’ post from 2011. Suffice to say, I was deeply affected by each and every one of the criteria and it had a profound affect on my ability to maintain any semblance of a normal life, I was very, very unwell.

Me and BPD, Now.

Recovery from BPD is not an easy journey, periods of remission from certain criteria followed by recurrence are far more likely than complete recovery, but I now truly believe full recovery is possible.

Why? Because I continue to suffer with what Marsha Linehan termed ‘Unrelenting crisis’

“Unrelenting Crisis – The tendency for people with BPD to experience an enormous number of extremely stressful events. You might have noticed this yourself. You might feel like the crises in your life never let up. They just keep coming, one after the other, with no break for you to recuperate or prepare yourself to deal with the next tragedy”

source: The Borderline Personality Survival Guide

That is exactly how life continues to be for me, one tragedy, stressful event followed by another with no break, no rest, no peace. Yet this intensely triggering  pattern of events is not triggering a relapse the way it used to. In some ways it’s like I have become accustomed to this way of life. Yeah it gets me down many times I’ve cried myself to sleep, even recently, because it just feels like life has it in for me, but the difference now is I’m not resorting to the BPD pattern of coping behaviours, I just get plain old depressed and continue to deal with what is happening as best as I can. The horrible bit is that pretty much all of the things that happen are things I have no control over and nothing I do personally can alleviate the situation, I just have to wait for it to be sorted out in some other way. I’m sure I’m not alone in hating not being in control over things that are happening to and around you, nothing worse than being unable to make something better yourself!?

Of course, I can’t predict the future, and it could be that one day something will happen that will trigger the BPD again, but given what I’ve been going through lately it would have to be something majorly huge to be enough to make me snap, like the death of a very close loved one, or betrayal by someone that close that it feels like death, and even then I doubt it would really knock me back enough to cause all nine criteria to flare up again.

So, the nine criteria… how do they fit in with my life now at the end of 2013?

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. – I think deep down there may always be a small part that feels people will always leave me eventually, but is that not in some ways a normal thought? after all, we all die at some point and is that itself not leaving behind people we care about (although not by choice)? But I no longer worry about this on a superficial, or BPD level that causes me to panic and try everything and anything to keep hold of someone, or push them away before they can leave me. I accept that life is about transitions, sometimes we need to let go of things and people, abandon them, in order to move forward, this does not have to be a tragedy, in fact it can often be for the best, making way for something  better to happen.

2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation. – Over the past year I have let go of a number of damaging or potentially damaging and toxic relationships. I’ve never had a large amount of close friendships and many of the ones I did have were ones that actually encouraged the less savoury aspects of my own behaviours. Now what I am left with is less friends but the relationships are stable, realistic and healthy. As for romantic relationships, well there is a new guy in my life and what we have has been built up gradually,  before we took that next step to being ‘official’ instead of diving in head first with some idealised view. In fact, he has been so keen to understand me and my BPD that (even though it is painful for us both at times) he has been reading my blog and is certainly reading this (Hi babe, love you :*) This approach to a building a relationship is new for me, and I know that the caution and consideration taken to build firm foundations will contribute to a successful long-lasting relationship built with love, trust, honesty and openness unparalleled to anything I have experienced before :)

3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self. – There have been no dramatic changes of image which were common to me in the past, and while a hint of what I call ‘Bad Sharon’ still surfaces when I dance (she loves the attention of drooling guys, I just love to dance) I no longer ‘act-up’ when I’m out. The real, quieter, calmer me is now what everyone sees, for some this is a disappointment but for most they recognise that the wilder version they used to see was one of the remaining parts of my BPD mask and they are happy for me, seeing me settled and happier is much nicer than the party girl that used to be up to naughtiness every time I went out. Career wise, I’m not happy, there are issues at work I can’t go into and another job change is inevitable for various reasons, but not BPD related. Of course I don’t think I will find that long term career I hope for unless it involves writing and as a result I may not stay in a job long-term because I’ll eventually get bored again, but it’s only because I know what I really want now, what I have always wanted career wise, but achieving it is not so easy. I will keep working on it though, one day I will reach my true potential and get a job I love…

4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging – This year I have finally overcome the remaining two self-harm behaviours that were holding me back from full recovery, sexual promiscuity and substance abuse. I have my guy to thank for giving me a reason to want to stop both and I am so grateful that in wanting to prove to him and myself that I was ‘better than that’ and show him I was capable of being able to be faithful and ready to embark on a relationship, I finally defeated these demons. The best feeling of all is knowing that I am ending the year free of those burdens, and happily with my sweet baboo because I beat them.

5. Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, threats or self-injuring behaviour such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself. – I can’t even remember the last time I self-harmed in this way, it was that long ago, 2012 I’m sure and suicidal behaviour has been as long if not longer!

6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days). – Well, my emotions are still like a light switch but understandable so with the battles I am constantly facing, I’ll be happily plodding through a day and then something will happen to make me burst into tears and feel despair. The difference now is that I deal with the emotion, I accept the emotion, allow it time to be released and then handle the situation rather than letting the emotion rule. The initial thought maybe a snap decision, but rather than act on the intense emotion that triggers that reaction I may voice the desire to just ‘walk out’ or whatever, but having a rant about how I feel in that moment gives me time to process the consequences of acting and instead come up with a better action plan.

7. Chronic feelings of emptiness – There’s not really much to say here except I’ve not had these feelings for some time, boredom yeah, mainly related to career aspects but that’s about it.

8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights). – Anger, other than internalised was never really an issue for me. I’ve found I am better at outwardly expressing anger in a reasonable manner now, instead of turning it in on myself, but without physically taking it out on others either – I rant, I rant a lot, it helps me clear the emotion from within me without having any negative consequences on others (besides maybe doing a few heads in on facebook where most of my rants occur lol)

9. Transient, stress related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms (sometimes believing in things that are not real or true (called delusions) or seeing or hearing things that are not really there (called hallucinations).) – Paranoia and delusions again were one of the lesser symptoms for me, personally I think everyone has a degree of paranoia when they have lived through bad experiences. I think it’s more of ‘expecting the worst and anything better is a bonus’ more than paranoia, like a rational fear based on prior knowledge.

And so, the nine criteria, all accounted for, none still having more than a tickle of effect on my life, probably to the degree that any normal, non-bpd person would experience at times. After all most of the criteria are just things that are experienced on a more intense, pervasive level when you have BPD, nearly everyone will experience some of the criteria to more or less a degree at some point in their lives. Like them I would no longer qualify for a diagnosis of BPD, and with continued effort on my part (and the support of my therapist at difficult times to reassure and prompt me if I am struggling to keep my wise-mind in focus) I hope and expect never to meet the criteria for diagnosis again.

Part 2 of this post ‘2013 my year in review’ coming soon will cover the more general aspects of my life, an insight into the ‘unrelenting crises’ I have continued to face that make my recovery from BPD all the more of an accomplishment because they could so easily have made it an impossible journey…

For now I leave you with my one biggest wish for the future – to continue living a happy, BPD free life. And I hope that all my fellow BPD readers will one day achieve this too.

Love and Blessings to you all, and a Happy New Year xxx

16 comments on “Borderline Personality Disorder, Recovery and Me in 2013

  1. You are an inspiration and a rare beacon of hope in the dark BPD world… Thank you. Wishing you every success for this year.

  2. Hi Sharon. Thanks for posting. i just have a little something to share, so here it goes.

    “There is nothing worse than being unable to make things better yourself”. “Nothing I do personally can alleviate the situation”.

    Since 99.9% of stuff that happens is out of our control, and we understand and accept this as part of life, then, upon this acceptance, we are now offered a gift. Given the gift of having been born “human”, we now and at all times, and every time are offered options… choices…a choice. With being human, happily and thankfully, all of us contain the power to control our brains. Right here we’re given the option, the choice to either control our brains (emotions and actions) or have our brains control us. Choice A or choice B.
    While we cannot “personally alleviate the situation”, may I once again suggest that we can and are completely able to alleviate our suffering. which is what humans do. We suffer. Especially we personality disordered individuals, who have a particularly difficult time…suffering.
    It doesn’t only SEEM like anything and everything isn’t right, because lots and lots of things AREN’T right. So how does one react when one is feeling angry, out of control and helpless? Here’s where we can allow ourselves the human privilege, yes privilege, a birth right if you will, to feel. Feel, not think. Feel the injustices, the ignorance the crap that spews out at us, the lies told to us, the hunger the fear the sadness and the despair. Life is so difficult. Now is the time. Now is your time to redirect. Now is your right to a middle ground, to peace. No excitement, no high or low. Just plain old peace. It’s there if we can see it. It’s here if we can feel it.
    Now…beautiful opportunity to breath in and smile, yes curl the corners of your mouth up and smile to all this, all the pain and confusion that we humans create. Now is the time for love to take over. This is what I’m trying to do. This is what I am doing now. I am beginning to take control of my own happiness. A power surge of endorphins flows through my body when I try and practice taking what’s my right to take, my control of my happiness. I don’t fight anymore…nothing to fight against accept myself. I’m done harming myself. I’m done.
    As I see it. All of us who have had less than perfect childhoods, may have and may still be experiencing some form of BPD or other related personality disorders and are struggling just to feel “normal”. Please practice acceptance and understanding, compassion and forgiveness. Train yourselves to actually live the life you were given. There’s so much beauty around us and inside of us. Let’s take it all in and let all the rest go. Breathe.
    All my best,

    • Thanks Linda, Indeed we do have the power to control how we feel, hard as that may be for those of us with BPD the power is there all the same. Acceptance is one of the things that has helped in my recovery. I accept the feelings and emotions that wash over me in these times of trouble, allow them the space to be processed then let them go and refuel myself with light and happiness to be able to continue on despite and in spite of all the things I cannot change :)

  3. Pingback: 2013 My Year in Review | Day in the life of a Busy Gal...

  4. A personality disorder is a type of mental illness and to be diagnosed particular criteria must be met. With personality disorders, the symptoms have usually been present for a long time. These symptoms have an overall negative affect on the sufferer’s life.

    • I had suffered the symptoms for many, many years before being diagnosed. I’m glad to finally be in a position where I can say I don’t meet the criteria any more :)

      • Hi have recently been diagnosed although bit late now as I have lost the love of my life as I have been a nightmare throughout the 6 year relationship. He can’t do it anymore . Can I get him back ?
        Your info and honesty is fab
        Lots of love

      • Hi Gina, you can try, but if he is splitting there is a chance he may react badly to any contact. It’s down to how much of him pushing and pulling you can cope with really. Only you can decide if he is worth the heartache of trying to keep hold of or not x

  5. What a wonderful accomplishment to be able to cross off all those “symptoms” like that–as if you’ve managed to complete a very difficult & lengthy “to-do” list.

    Keep doing what brought you here; what allowed you to get rid of those very painful & self-defeating ways of “coping” w/the hazards of life & using your wise mind more often than not.

    Congrats on your progress & thanks for sharing it w/us. Hearing uplifting stories of success are a great deterrent to hopelessness when it just seems too hard to manage the emotional turmoil.

    Breathe. Accept. Distract. Calm. Soothe. Sometimes I even have to use my unconventional means of making it through a really awful time when no DBT skills seem to work–remind myself that I have been through this before & I can do it again w/out my former “coping techniques” of suicide attempts or hurting myself & then lock myself in my closet to just white knuckle it until the emotions recede (& usually after I’ve cried myself to sleep).

    This way I haven’t hurt myself or others (with my words or rash behaviors).

    Just finished a week at Mayo Clinic in Arizona trying to get pain relief from neuropathic pain in both hands & arms (have had it for 4 years now w/little relief even after surgery on both hands; numerous pain “blocks” by injection w/steroids; pain patches & pills that either gave me severe side effects such as hives or extreme sedation & even bleeding from the nose & bruising)…

    So been taking pain medication that basically keeps me out of the Emergency Room but doesn’t allow me to have a life. Next step is a 3 – week Mayo Clinic Pain Program in Minnesota where you spend 8 hours a day basically learning DBT skills for handling chronic & severe pain. Works for emotional pain so it will probably be effective for physical pain, as well. Hoping it will…

    Oh–here I’ve gone off on another rambling tangent! Sorry & congrats again.

    Happy New Year everyone~Suzanne

    • I think I was unclear. I meant to say I lock myself in the closet WITHOUT HURTING MYSELF OR OTHERS & then just white knuckle it!!

      Time for me to try to get some sleep. ..

    • Thanks Suzanne :)
      It does feel wonderful to have crossed off all those symptoms, the best completed ‘to do’ list ever! :D
      Yes, I intend to keep up the ‘good’ coping mechanisms and wise mind. I’m especially proud of how much I have achieved as I have not had any DBT or much in the way of support at all (although my therapist has been great, even she says it was me that has done all the hard work on my own!)
      Good luck with the pain treatment and the Mayo clinic, hope it proves helpful :)
      Happy New Year to you too xx

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