My Struggles Last Week

anigif_original-26269-1449773604-4People with BPD are like people with 3rd degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement. –Marsha Linehan

This is my favorite BPD quote from Marsha Linehan because it expresses so poignantly how I often feel. Everyone likes to show their best side, their highlight reel, and their successes, including myself. I try to share selectively on my blog because I want to promote positivity and growth. But the other side of that is my set-backs. It’s difficult for me to share that side because I don’t like to seem weak. I despise weakness in myself, which is partly why I’m so adamant about my exercise regimen.

For the majority of the past 6 months in therapy, I’ve told myself how great I’m doing, how strong I am, and how God is doing wonderful things in my life, which is all true. But my black and white thinking doesn’t consider the other side of the equation-I will have some bad days, sometimes my emotions will have the upper hand and I will feel out of control. This protuberant concept of my success means that when I falter, I swing to the complete other side of the spectrum.

But I’ll honest, this past week has been difficult for me. In addition to missing out on therapy for 3 weeks (because of the holiday and I forgot to go to my appointment), my boyfriend is out of town for another 2 months. I feel like my family is collapsing around me and all I can do is watch. Someone very close to me is sick with cancer. When my support system is weakened, I feel like I have nothing left to stand on and I will sink into oblivion.

I’ve been fighting the urge to quit my job which was exacerbated by some minor conflicts with some coworkers that most people would forget about in less than a few minutes. But I can’t seem to forget. Being around groups of people causes great anxiety to me oftentimes. I’m worried I’m messing up, they don’t like me, or think I’m not good at my job. Every small interaction has potential to be devastating to my self-worth. It scares me that I’ve had over 10 jobs in the last 5 years. I want to know I can support myself and maintain a long-term job.  But I’m doubting my ability to.

In addition to the workplace, attempting to have a social life, for me, is like trying to grasp a knife that doesn’t have a handle, I will get cut no matter what. I attempt to create a protective bubble around myself to keep strangers out because I don’t trust them. I’m scared that they are already judging me by how I look or stand or breath. I worry they will exploit my weaknesses. I dislike them already because I can’t feel safe around them. I know in my head that people don’t intentionally hurt me, but after a while it feels like a real possibility that everyone’s out to get me. It concerns me how much control others have over my life.

But the downside of my bubble is I’m alone with my thoughts and start to drown in my own sadness and frustration. If I can act pleasant for long enough, I can participate in a human interaction so that my thoughts don’t overtake me yet. I can delay the process and almost forget for a few moments. But as soon as my façade falls away, the waves come crashing on top of me.

One of the most frustrating aspects of my emotional instability is attempting to explain it to people who care about me. When they realize I’m deeply troubled and ask me, “what’s wrong,” I feel like an idiot because I wish I could tell them what happened. If I can’t identify exactly what’s going on, I don’t feel like I have a real reason to be upset. But sometimes I’ll just be wandering through the grocery store and all of a sudden, my mind is swarmed with thoughts of worthlessness, loneliness, and fear.

Sometimes, I re-read my old blog posts and ask myself, “What was I thinking? Why did I sound so self-assured and positive?” I know in my head what’s true, but often times, I live life through my emotions which have their own stories. I need to take my own advice sometimes. I keep trying to turn back to God’s Word and filling my mind with truth. Whether I feel it or not, God is always on my side. Through the darkest valley, my protector and savior walks besides me. And I’m finding the more I turn to the ultimate source of love and comfort, Him and His peace becomes more tangible to me.

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”

James 4:7

 

Six Months Ago

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Each time a new segment of DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) begins, our group gains more members. The largest number of new group members we’ve ever had joined our DBT group therapy last week. As I listened to their fears and doubts about starting DBT, I empathized with their concerns on a personal level. I felt like I was listening to myself on the first night. However, I also could challenge them with my own experiences from the past six months in the DBT program.

When I first began DBT, I attempted to have an open mind, but was also terrified that it would be just as disappointing as the past failed therapies I’ve had. I’ve done Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Biofeedback, Acupuncture, many different medications, was hospitalized four different times, and some helped temporarily, but I found myself exceedingly distressed afterwards realizing nothing provided long-term relief.

After my first night of group therapy, as I was packing up my bag about to leave the room, one of the female doctors asked me how I was feeling. Immediately, I broke down in tears and told her, “I just feel so hopeless. I’ve tried so many things and I just really need this therapy to work or else I don’t know what I’m going to do…” She responded with, “I know it’s hard now, but it takes time for DBT to work. Stick with it.” I left feeling a diminutive sense of hope, surrounded by a cloud of bleakness.

I heard new group members say the same things that I thought the first night of group:

“This is my last hope. I feel like I’ve tried everything. I’m scared to get my hopes up because it this doesn’t work, it’s over.”

“I know this program is supposed to be really effective, but I just know I’m going to be the one person it doesn’t work for.

Six months ago, I believed my destiny was a continuation of my dark childhood, a string of painful moments leading into my adulthood. Once the hopelessness grew to become intolerable, my life would end in my inevitable suicide.

During excruciating moments of darkness, I would write a list of reasons to continue living. Marriage, a career, my family members. But my symptoms of BPD thwarted any reasons to hold off ending my life. My anticipation for marriage crushed by the realization I could never fully trust men or feel secure in any relationships. A career in Social Work annihilated by my inability to support myself financially or handle the pressures of my demands on myself for academic perfection. I believed in the depths of my soul that I was a terrible daughter and sister who would help those around her by leaving the earth.

I believed I would never recover from the PTSD from the military. Daily life would be a constant reminder of my suffering. My anxiety from loud noises, inability to tolerate people standing or walking behind me, nightmares, and tormenting thoughts.

I believed I would never be able to claim control over my actions, I would forever be a slave to my emotions, hurting those closest to me and driving myself deeper into loneliness.

I believed happiness was for others, not someone like me who had BPD.

I believed my relationships would always be constant storms of obsession followed closely by pushing others away.

I believed I would never be able to love myself, or feel like I’m deserving of others’ love.

The above was my truth for years and years. Now, I know those are lies that contradict God’s will for my life. I have proof refuting these lies from the Bible, DBT, and my personal experiences. Now I strive to live my life based on facts backed up by The Word of God. God has made miracles happen in my life through DBT.

As I continue with DBT, my mind opens to a new understanding of myself and the world. I experienced, possibly for the first time, self-love. I discovered a new way of interacting with my boyfriend that didn’t result in constant arguments. I learned about how to simply observe my emotions without acting on them impulsively. The changes came with hard work and many failures, but soon they became more and more automatic that I don’t have to think as much about them.

I’m living a life I never knew I could have. A life with purpose, gratitude, joy, hope and compassion. I still stumble often, but now I can get up and continue forward.

I hardly recognize the way I behaved six months ago. I hope I will say the same thing six months from now because my growth will continue to progress. This is not an attempt to glorify myself. My progress thus far is a direct result of God’s powerful hand in my life through DBT.

I believe that as part of my purpose on this earth is to be a testimony to those suffering with BPD and other mental illnesses of God’s love, hope and joy. I believe God led me to this specific DBT program to meet others fighting a similar fight as myself and to encourage me. This blog is a way I communicate what I’m discovering along the way. If it brings encouragement to anyone at all, I will feel thankful that I could help someone.

Our Father in heaven encourages us to seek him and he will always provide. I’ve been in the darkest pits of loneliness and desolation. Even if I thought I was alone, God was with me and brought me out safely. It’s possible I could not be alive right now. I hope my life can be a testimony to others that God truly saves. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” Psalm 34:18

 

Radical Acceptance

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Last week in group therapy, we learned about radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is accepting reality with your whole mind and heart. It does not mean approval or agreement. It means stopping fighting reality because it’s not how you wanted it to be. My psychologist wisely told me once, “We don’t grieve the life we have, but we grieve the life we wish we had.”

I’ve transformed pain into suffering by refusing to accept facts. Radical acceptance is acknowledging that everything is as it should be. This skill sounds simple, but is probably one of the hardest skills to practice. For me, it becomes much more manageable when I realize that my life is not a random chain of events and I suffer collateral damage. Instead, I have a God who led me to this exact place and he’s knows exactly where I’m going.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” -Philippians 1: 6

Biblical principles have given me much more peace and ease to radical accept.

Radical Acceptance is one of the hardest skills to utilize because we hold on so strongly to the conviction that our life should be different. Especially for those of us who’ve experienced emotional, physical or sexual trauma, this seems impossible. I’ve suffered from all the above, and radical acceptance is the most effective way to move on with your life afterwards.

Radical acceptance is also one of the most freeing and beneficial coping skills we can practice. By accepting what’s in the past happened and won’t change by us wishing it would, we give up an impossible fight. We can’t be hard on ourselves if we have trouble accepting reality, it may take a long time. All we can do is make a commitment to work on accepting reality.

Once we accept reality, it reduces suffering. It increases a sense of freedom. We begin to realize what is in our control and what we can change. It’s difficult to have a successful recovery if we don’t let go of the things of the past we cannot change.

The Serenity prayer beautiful portrays this concept:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

How do we accept reality?

The first step is to become aware that we are questioning or fighting reality. The second step is reminding ourselves that reality is as it is and cannot be changed. The next step is practicing acceptance with our whole self. It takes a lot of faith to believe that our life will turn out okay, especially if it’s been so difficult up to this point. I read Jeremiah 29:11 every day, and I have it written on my room wall. As Christians, we don’t just hope that we’ll come out okay, we have proof in the Bible that God is in control.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

My story of radical acceptance:

My first suicide attempt was when I was in Texas for Advanced Individual Training for the army. I hated being in the army, and the process to get out was almost impossible. I felt like a prisoner. Every morning I woke up and wished I were dead. One hot July day, I decided I couldn’t live like this anymore and I attempted to take my life. I was put in a military hospital in the psychiatric unit.

I have to say, this hospitalization is probably one of the worst experiences of my life, and I doubt any other trials will be worse than this experience. I stayed in this hospital for three months. Every passing day that I didn’t get any news about my release date, I grew more impatient and frustrated. Some of the technicians there didn’t seem to care at all about the patients and were more concerned with leaving at the end of the day. They treated us like prisoners, not patients. I received no counseling or psychological care. They gave us medications, but that was all. There were only three staff members who displayed any concern at all for me.

Every morning, I woke up hating my life in the hospital. Just to get away from all the patients and staff, I would hide in the bathroom and cry. I would spend so much time in the bathroom, I would get in trouble for it. I would sit on the floor, hugging my knees to my chest pounding my head against the wall behind me, hoping to knock myself unconscious or dead. Strangely, these were some of my most peaceful, calming moments because I was finally alone. The bathroom floor was my only sacred place. I couldn’t even get solace in the shower because sometimes, a staff member had to watch me as I showered because I was not stable enough.

I felt like I was treated as sub-human. No one could see my illness because I suffered internally. The staff thought it was all in my head.

I devised multiple plans to escape the ward during outdoors time, but decided getting caught and punished wasn’t worth the risk.

One day, I decided to pray for the first time in about 4 months. I always write my prayers, because I feel like that’s the best way I communicate and God will hear me better. I wrote something like this:

God,

I’ve been living in this hospital for almost 3 months with no end in sight. I’m tired of fighting against being here. If it’s your will for me to be here for another month or another year, I don’t care, I’ll do it. I’m done fighting and I’ll submit to your will. Amen.

I felt a strange calmness after this prayer. I knew it didn’t necessarily change my situation, but at least I had a better attitude about it and told myself that I would stop fighting an impossible fight.

What happened afterwards, I will never forget.

The very next day, I received news that I was getting discharged and could go home. I felt like I had won the lottery a hundred times in that moment. I’ll never forget that feeling of shock, joy, relief, and amazement. This showed me that submitting to God’s plan is better than fighting to make your own plans happen. Allow yourself to be guided.

When I open myself up to God’s plan instead of my plans, it frees me to accept myself and my life as it is. Not only can we accept reality, but find hope and peace in all circumstances.

Grief and Mindfulness

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Some mindfulness masters teach, that you cannot fully begin to meditate until you have wept deeply. I once read a story of a Zen teacher who flirted with meditation for years before he decided to commit. He recalled how he wept openly and often for two years and after he had grieved for many things in his life, only then was he able to sit in silence.

I was sitting outside this morning, enjoying the beautiful day when I began to feel the pull of profound grief and sadness for the life I had uncovered. For the loss, for the pain, for the torture, for the years that I clung to survival as my only way of life. Sad for the years of having no hope, no dreams, no promises made…thinking that whoever came into my life would go. Not by virtue of old age, sickness or played out friendships. But…

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Accepting a New Diagnosis

Beautiful-Spring-Landscape-Iphone-WallpapersAccepting a new diagnosis is a huge challenge. You feel like everything you thought you knew about yourself is being turned upside down. We tend to create a negative, hopeless image of ourselves centered around this label. However, we are NOT our illnesses, whether physical or mental. In fact, God says, “No, in all these things we are more than CONQUERORS through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

I first heard myself described as “Borderline” when I was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. I didn’t even understand what the word meant, but it might as well have been the word “demonic.” I couldn’t believe the hospital staff thought I was psychotic enough that they would label me as “borderline”. I just had some depression and anxiety, not some terrible personality disorder. During my hospital stay, I read some literature on Borderline, and I was frightened at how closely I identified with the people in the books. However, I refused to accept that I could ever have a personality disorder. I was a perfectly healthy young woman facing normal issues.

For a whole year after that hospitalization, I continued to struggle with suicidality, promiscuity, and relationship problems. I self-medicated with alcohol and sex. Whenever a family or friend expressed concern for me, I thought they were scolding me like I was a child. I hated when they confronted me about my behavior because I didn’t want them to know how bad it was getting. I thought they would abandon me entirely if they knew the whole truth.

I entered a cycle for years that involved me engaging in risky behaviors, feeling guilty to the point of being suicidal, then attempting to ameliorate my pain by engaging in the same self-destructive behaviors. Every time I messed up, I told myself I would stop, it wasn’t worth the harm I was putting myself in, and hated the way I felt after. Even after these strong convictions, I still found myself back where I was before. I felt like I had no impulse control whatsoever.

I had no sense of who I was and felt like I was constantly attempting to fill unending holes in my life. After a particularly negative situation that I had told myself I would never allow myself to be in, I came to the realization that something was very wrong. I would constantly be stuck in this deadly cycle if I didn’t figure out what was the reason behind my behaviors.

In a way, rejecting the Borderline diagnosis felt good because I could normalize my behaviors to be how young adults my age behave, so I didn’t have to feel guilty or change my habits. However, I was plummeting to new lows, and I decided to put aside my pride and re-examining the Borderline diagnosis. I turned to the easiest form of information on the subject: the internet. This source had its negatives and positives. Everything I read online sounded like they were describing me. I was sure I had BPD. I knew the next step would be to find a professional who specialized in BPD to formally diagnose me.

Accepting the Borderline diagnosis redefined how I perceived myself. On the positive side, it allowed me to better understand my compulsive, uncontrollable behavior all my life. On the negative side, it shattered my already discombobulated sense of self because I had let it define me: Bethany the Borderline.

One of the hardest things for me to accept in my life was the diagnosis of Borderline Personality disorder. I might as well been told I have terminal cancer, because that’s how I felt. I questioned how much longer I would live until another attempt on my life. I thought for sure that this diagnosis was synonymous with a miserable life cut short by myself.

Out of desperation to find something encouraging about coping with BPD as a Christian, I searched the internet for something to bring me hope. I only found articles portraying people with Borderline as emotionally manipulative and destructive to church bodies. There are forums and support groups for families and friends who suffered trauma from having someone with Borderline in their life.

I hurt deeply because this is what the world thought of people like me. I wasn’t a monster. I was hurting.

Once I accepted the BPD diagnosis and got into a DBT program, I felt like life was beginning to become bearable. At least I was getting the help I’ve needed all these years.

Accepting the BPD diagnosis has been one of the hardest and also most helpful things I’ve done. However, it’s difficult to not let it define you as the core of your being.

Instead of approaching BPD as a whole diagnosis, I broke it down into each symptom and treat them individually. For example, instead of trying to treat BPD, I want to focus on reducing symptoms. One of the first symptoms I worked on were my impulsive, risky behaviors. I set in place plans to stop the behaviors before they began. I stopped drinking as much, I had people on speed-dial to talk me out of any potential bad decisions, I changed my living situation so it was less stressful, I changed jobs, I cut certain people out of my life and spent more time with people who influenced me in a more positive way. I can say with certainty that my impulsive decision making has decreased drastically. It’s a long journey, but I’m taking one step at a time, trusting God to give me strength to fight every day.

I want this post to be a description of my personal experience facing my diagnosis as well as a practical guide to approaching difficult diagnoses such as BPD. Some important points to keep in mind:

  1. Know that you are not alone (approximately 1 in 5 adults suffers from mental illness)
  • Seek out a support group, group therapy, or online community
  1. Learn all you can about your diagnosis from stigma-free resources
  • NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness)
  • Borderline Bravery
  • NAE BPD (National Education Alliance Borderline Personality Disorder)
  • NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health)
  1. Remember you are NOT your diagnosis, it’s just a diagnosis you carry
  2. Whatever you’re feeling right now IS valid, allow yourself to be upset
  • It’s okay to be angry with God, your parents, and the world for a period of time
  1. Build a support system of family and friends
  2. Seek treatment
  • DBT (the best option in my opinion)
  • CBT

It DOES get better. Every morning I thank God for my physical and mental health. Whether I feel good or not, I still speak health and positivity in my life. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” -Philippians 1: 6

Growing up with BPD

Growing up with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) resulted in scarce, jumbled memories of my childhood. Every moment was saturated in intense emotion. Facts, people, and events are difficult to recall. I remember life as how I perceived it as a child, filled with false beliefs, interpretations and assumptions. As a young girl, I was consumed with sadness, rage, and confusion daily. I literally felt like I was up against the entire world by myself. I assumed most teachers disliked me, I believed my peers thought I was weird, and I was convinced that my family’s collective goal was to make me miserable. I lived my life constantly distracted. I buried my head in books when I walked the hallways at school so I wouldn’t have to face my classmates. Books were my gateway to a different person and different life. Most days when I got home from school, I locked myself in my room and cried for hours. I didn’t know why I was crying, but I remember always hoping that someone would come in my room and comfort me. No one ever did, which made me even more upset. Each day, I spent hours pouring my emotions into my journal. I personified my journal and she became my closest confidant and main source of comfort. I kept a collection of over 20 journals in a large box until I realized the pages only contained painful memories and I threw them all away. Each page crinkled from tears, torn from angry pen scribbling, and had unhappy faces drawn on the covers of each notebook.

One of the symptoms of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) I experience is unstable relationships. Many of my unstable relationships stemmed from my concepts of myself and others as “all good” or “all bad,” also known as overvaluing and devaluing. As a child (and even still as an adult), I subconsciously overvalued and devalued people. I had teachers who were angels sent from heaven to be shining lights of perfection. I also had teachers who were terrible monsters, resolute to cause my suffering. My parents were distant god-like figures who were tyrannical, frightening and omniscient. I believed that my bratty, petulant little sister was the source of all my problems. However, my perfect, intelligent older brother could do nothing wrong. Growing up, I held erroneous and damaging beliefs about myself that I conjectured from what I thought was my parents’ and others’ views of me. I convinced myself I was a “bad” child. I never expressed this belief to anyone, so I knew nothing else.

I grew up in a rather strict Christian household. I knew what the Bible said about God’s love for his children and that Jesus died so I would be able to go to heaven. But the idea of a God who loves me despite my imperfections didn’t make sense to me. Either I’m perfect and God loves me, or I’m bad and God hates me. I chose to believe the latter, because I couldn’t understand the former.

A child with Borderline is one of the most fragile human beings, and I was one of them-unbeknownst to my well-meaning parents. I believe there are cases when spanking is necessary and beneficial. However, I’m describing my personal experience, which was very different from my siblings. One of the most distressing experiences in my childhood was my dad spanking me. As a child, I never understood why I was being spanked, and I couldn’t recall what I did wrong. I never asked because I thought I knew the answer. I genuinely believed my parents disliked me and wanted to humiliate and hurt me. I thought that I was a terrible child. I felt humiliated, misunderstood, and neglected from a young age. I held inside a deep hatred for my parents that I never told anyone or expressed for fear of more punishment. I thought it was wrong of me to hate my parents, which is why I thought that God hated me even more.

As an adult, I have stable, loving, and understanding relationships with my parents and my siblings, but it took me years to heal from the pain of feeling hurt and neglected. God is still working in me so I can completely forgive those who unintentionally caused me pain.

Another symptom I experience from an early age was unstable self-image. I remember in elementary school feeling like a different person every week. One week I was the nice, sweet care-free girl, then the sporty, tom-boy, skateboarder, then the quiet, goth girl who only wore black, then the nerdy bookworm, then the flirty girly-girl who wore too much lip gloss. This constant shifting was a source of confusion and frustration for me. I envied my peers who seemed much more self-assured in who they were than I was. As a young adult, my self-image issues have intensified as I face more critical life decisions such as college, relationships and jobs.

Another symptom I struggle with is suicidal thoughts. When I was in fifth grade, I cut for the first time. I reasoned that since I was feeling badly, I should hurt myself. I found that I didn’t feel better afterwards, but I tried a few other times in the future because I was feeling suicidal. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I distinctly remember the first time I ever wrote down in my journal my desire to die. I wouldn’t dare tell anyone about my secret wish, but writing it down was a huge step of admitting it to myself. I thought that no one cared about me anyway, and my life wouldn’t get better so why continue? These thoughts and desires scared me and I didn’t know how to get rid of them. I felt like I was screaming for help, but couldn’t get out a single word. I wanted reassurance from someone that I wasn’t crazy or a terrible person for feeling that way. But I kept everything inside.

When you struggle with mental illness, it’s easy to feel alone. Feeling stuck in your own thoughts, fears, and anxiety, it can seem like a prison you can’t escape from. I’ve been feeling alone and misunderstood since I was a child. However, as an adult, I’ve learned that no matter what I’m going through I’m never truly alone. It helps to know that there are others who feel the same way as I do. I’ve met some amazing, strong, and determined women in my group therapy that inspire me to keep fighting even when I can’t see to the next day. It’s taken many years, but I finally feel like I can ask for help when I’m struggling and see the strength in reaching out. There’s a huge difference between someone who has resources and doesn’t use them, and someone who has resources and uses them. I’ve created a support system around me of people who care deeply about my well-being and want to know how I’m doing. I’m blessed to know that I always have at least one person to turn to when I need it. These wonderful people (you know who you are!) surround me with love, compassion, and acceptance every day. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidality, I encourage you to reach out to someone and you might be surprised by the results.

“Share in each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

 

My Story

sad-girlBorderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is complicated to diagnose because the symptoms are often mimicked in teenagers going through identity crises and rebellious phases. Usually, these problem behaviors and thinking patterns eventually dissipate. I realized I was not going through a rebellious teenager phase when I was in my early twenties and felt like my brain was being controlled by an internal self-destructive monster.

My journey to getting a formal diagnosis of Borderline took 21 years. Throughout my childhood I experienced unstable relationships, chronic feelings of emptiness, unstable self-image, intense emotions, and fear of abandonment. I thought every kid cried themselves to sleep at night. I thought every kid wanted to die sometimes, even if they had no idea why. I thought life was just as miserable for everyone as it was for me.

From a young age, I secluded myself fearing rejection from people. I lacked adequate social skills. At age 13, I became massively depressed from socially isolating myself. I would lie in bed all day, eating Nutella and watching “The Office” episodes on my laptop. I wouldn’t shower for days and I wanted to die. After almost 2 years of this, I decided I wasn’t going to allow depression to ruin my life anymore. I started exercising regularly and was accepted into a performing arts high school as a theater major.

Theater became my way of slowly building social skills with people who had a common interest with me. Acting also served as an outlet to express my intense emotions. My life was starting to get better for the first time in a while. I was starting to make friends and I wasn’t depressed anymore.

Growing up, I was the “goody two shoes” pastor’s daughter who never did anything bad. I was terrified of falling into sin, so I took extreme measures to shelter myself. I refused to talk about or participate in anything “sinful” and refuses to be around people who did. I never did anything impulsive. When I turned 18, everything I did was impulsive. I started sleeping with strangers, driving recklessly, telling off my parents, and developed an eating disorder.

One of my many impulsive decisions that I made as a young adult was to join the army. I joined because I had been acting out for a year or 2 and parents decided not to co-sign my student loans. I believed college was the only thing going for me at that time. I desperately needed financial support to go. When I found out the army would pay for my college, I ignored all precautions and signed an 8 year contract with a recruiter two weeks later.

The army was not a good decision for me. They verbally abuse the soldiers to break down the individual so they can build them up as a unified group. The problem is, they do nothing to build the soldiers up. I suffered through anxiety attacks daily and would have suicidal thoughts upon waking in the morning.

After a suicide attempt I had 5 months into my army training, I was hospitalized in Texas. I received a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, and Borderline symptoms. I remember hearing a psychiatrist use the word “Borderline” to describe me and I immediately reeled. I collapsed into a violent crying tantrum. I yelled, “How dare they even suggest I have Borderline Personality Disorder! That’s so insulting!” My outburst earned me a lonely 24 hours in the isolation room. During my hospital stay, I read a few books on Borderline including I Hate You-Don’t Leave Me, Get Me Out of Here, and The Buddha and The Borderline. Most of it upset me because the people in the books sounded crazy and I was NOT crazy like them. When I was discharged from the hospital and the Army, I immediately had another suicide attempt that landed me back in the hospital. I continued to reject any possibility of BPD.

A year past after my suicide attempt and I continued to behave in self-destructive ways. My severe lack of coping skills under stress shocked me. I couldn’t ignore the truth any longer. There was something else going on. Slowly, the reality that I might have BPD sank in. I felt relief because much of my life began to make sense. I was also heartbroken and felt I was irreversibly broken. I decided to enter into a therapy program specifically designed for people with BPD called Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT). I’ve been in this therapy for about two months, which is where I find myself now. From before I began DBT to now, I’ve grown and learned so much. With this blog, I hope to share practical coping skills to deal with BPD symptoms. In future posts, I will address prevalent symptoms of BPD and how we can cope using both a Dialectical and Biblical approach.

Our Identity in Christ

“As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God.” -Saint Teresa of AvilaMe-and-God

An unstable self-image is one of the 9 major symptoms of living with Borderline Personality Disorder. Despite my years of therapy, I still lacked a solid sense of identity. It was not until I turned to God and His Word for guidance that I found my answers. For me, and many others with Borderline, the quest for identity is consumed with confusion, pain, and sporadic deviations. Growing up, I constantly sought external validation from anyone who would give it to me. I would change myself to whatever the social situation required of me. I would throw myself passionately into new future career goals only to abandon them months later. I questioned everything about myself, morals, sexuality, values, goals, purpose, and religion. Every time I came to a new conclusion about who I was, I was convinced that that’s the way I’ve always been. Soon later, I change my mind again. Living with an unstable sense of self is exhausting.

I would have a new guy every month who occupied the entirety of my feelings and attention. My happiness depended on him. I would change everything about me to align with my new identity and the new man. I would alter my hair, body type, what I ate, the music I listened to, the way I talked, and my values. I didn’t know how to exist without being attached to another person. I felt like I was going to float away.

In a desperate attempt to ameliorate the pain of my toxic relationships, I jumped into even more unhealthy relationships. This caused self-loathing and confusion which made it almost impossible for me to develop an accurate self of myself. I hurt many people along the way as I struggled to fill the gaping hole in my life that only God could fill. I tormented myself for years over my behaviors.

I became convinced God had rejected me. I knew all the verses about God’s unconditional love and how he will never leave me or forsake me. I thought those verses about Christians being “redeemed” and “in God’s image” didn’t apply to people like me. I believed I was a horrible, selfish, disgusting person. My emotions clouded my judgement to the point where nothing anyone said could penetrate my beliefs. I thought, “I feel it, therefore, it is true.” The feelings of worthlessness were so strong that I began to speak them, believe them, and treated myself as such.

I am an evil, stupid, dirty person.

I hurt everyone I get close to.

God is mad at me for all my sins and is punishing me; He likes to watch me suffer for my selfishness.

I reached a powerful realization, my own emotions often led me down the wrong path and I needed to find an outside source to of truth. I need something that won’t change. God’s love, compassion, hope and security is constant because God is constant and doesn’t change. I started to correct these negative thoughts when I looked closer at God’s Word.

I decided to combat these strongholds in my life with the Truth. I started to ask myself, “When a thought surfaces, is it supported or rejected by the Bible?” It will benefit us to hold every single one of our thoughts up to the scrutiny of the Bible. “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) Thoughts can quickly become strongholds in our lives and dictate the way we view ourselves and God. “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23) We must constantly guard what thoughts we allow in our minds. The only way to ensure we know our identity is to not follow any other messages except those from Jesus.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Paul writes in Romans that we should let God transform us. However, how can we allow God to transform us into new people unless we are regularly in the Word, learning it, absorbing it and putting it into practice? One of our most valuable tools as followers of Jesus is the Bible, regardless of what we’re facing. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Life is an eternal journey to find God and our identity. These two quests are not mutually exclusive. Our view of ourselves reflects how we view God. And how we view God affects how we view ourselves.

My Dad wisely told me, “The cross is the ultimate revelation of Christ.  God loves you so much that he died for you.  You are loved and accepted just as you are unconditionally.  This can enable you to come to God for forgiveness when you sin.  On the other hand, you are so sinful and flawed that it took the death of God to redeem you.  This keeps you humble and dependent on God because only he can truly transform you.”

“Your real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” -C.S. Lewis

Books I used for reference to write this blog: ID: The True You by Mark Batterson and the Bible.

Introduction

This post will be an introduction to my Borderline Personality Disorder journey, my faith journey, and will hopefully give those struggling with Borderline or other mental illnesses the knowledge that they aren’t alone.

I felt called by God to write a blog about a disorder that is not very well known and very little understood. Carrying this diagnosis has been a huge struggle for me, as well as those around me. God is beginning to show me how to accept and love myself just how He made me. I have Borderline Personality Disorder. I was diagnosed a couple years ago, and even to this day have a hard time accepting it. The diagnosis shattered my sense of identity, and I’m slowly picking up the pieces. But the main source of comfort I’ve found was in Christ.

It’s difficult to find statistical information about BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) because it often goes undiagnosed. After doing some research, there’s not much helpful information out there about overcoming BPD from a Christian perspective. Buddhism is often practiced when treating BPD because dialectical therapy originated from Buddhist principles. The foundation of “dialectics” is holding opposing ideas, and creating meaning from them (example: holding your thoughts, feelings, and facts at the same time).

I’m attempting to combine these two conflicting entities in my life to make sense of both: my faith and BPD. As an adolescent, I used to choose my faith over any urges. Then, as a young adult, I chose only my urges, rejecting my faith. Now, I’m learning to manage my intense emotions and urges within the context of a healthy relationship with God and those around me.

A little bit about myself, I grew up with a pastor for a father, my mother is a counselor. This gave me a unique perspective on both mental illness and the church as a child. I thought I was immune to mental illness because of my parent’s professions. I thought I would have a relatively easy life with God having my back all the time. When I turned 18, everything changed. I went from “all good” to “all bad.” Something in me just snapped, I was out of control for almost 4 years. I turned away from God and turned toward everything I was always told to stay away from.

I didn’t understand why I gave into every urge I had, but I just knew I couldn’t stop the feelings of emptiness and the destructive behaviors. Growing up knowing right from wrong, I knew what I was doing was very wrong, which made me feel worse. I attempted to console myself with what felt good, which hurled me into a spiral deeper and deeper into darkness.

When I was first diagnosed, I struggled with feeling like an alien. Was I the only one who felt like this? Why did God make me so screwed up? How could He allow this to happen to me? I felt that I might as well have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. You may not believe me, but BPD does not have to be a life sentence of constant suffering, even if it feels that way now.

Everyone’s symptoms manifest in different ways with BPD. To meet criteria for BPD, you must have at least 5 out of 9 symptoms for the diagnosis. BPD is not a lifelong diagnosis; over time you may not meet criteria anymore (thank you Jesus!) I’ve struggled with all of the symptoms of BPD at some point in my life, but the ones most damaging have been impulsive self-destructive behaviors, self-harm/suicidality, fear of abandonment, and unstable relationships.

I’m finally coming out of the thick of the darkness. Now I have enough hope and foresight that I want to do something productive with what I’ve learned these years of living with BPD. I want to share my experiences and give others the hope I have found.

At the moment, I am working through a Dialectal Behavioral Therapy Program. It consists of a weekly individual appointments and a weekly two-hour group therapy. Out of all the therapy I’ve done, this has been the most helpful and practical for me. I’ve started to learn practical skills of managing intense emotions, having stable relationships, and learning to radically accept myself and situations.

I feel it’s important for me to write about this subject because there’s a lot of misunderstanding in the church surrounding mental illness. People struggling with BPD sometimes are believed to be possessed by a demon. They are often discriminated against because they are “toxic,” “unstable,” and “sinful.” This has deterred me from going to church and made me question whether or not I was even a Christian anymore.

I don’t know if many people will even read this, or if it will be helpful to anyone. But my prayer is that at least one person will begin to believe that God didn’t make a mistake when He made them. Call me crazy, but I am starting to understand that BPD can be a blessing. Did you know that people like us feel things at a much deeper level than others? Did you know that all our intense suffering can fuel creativity to express ourselves in unique ways others cannot? When we learn to manage our emotions and thoughts, it’s like having a super power. We have the ability to experience life in an exceptional way. God doesn’t make mistakes, not with me or you. Let’s learn how to create meaning out of the beautiful mess God has placed us in. Next post, I will write about my long journey of being diagnosed and the difficult process of re-defining who God created me to be in context of a personality disorder.