What does living with BPD look like for you?
Most of the time, people explain BPD as having a massive fear of abandonment and this creates unstable relationships – most people think manipulative tendencies, sometimes violent outbursts etc. For some, this might be the case, but when I was looking into BPD, it seemed so demonised, like because of how it was portrayed, especially in the media and the stigma behind ‘personality disorders’ that if you had it, you were instantly labelled a bad person. And it simply isn’t true.
The easiest way to explain having BPD is like having an exposed nerve – for most people who don’t have this exposed nerve, if something brushes up against them, it doesn’t hurt, it’s a minor sensation – they acknowledge it and move on. For someone who has BPD, that’s not the case – everything, every emotion, the good the bad and the ugly is felt at 1000x the amount of others.
When you feel so deeply, it’s hard to manage those emotions and each person struggles in their own way.
Speaking from my own experience only, it’s like seeing everything as black or white, there is no grey, it’s either +1000 or -1000, no in-between. For me, rather than the ‘explosive anger’ that I find typically goes alongside an explanation of BPD, I turn those feelings inwards, and this can lead to self-destructive behaviours like self-harm, self-sabotage and those really gross feelings of inadequacy.
It’s taken me a while to accept myself and my diagnosis, and to come to terms with what it means. To be honest though, when I was diagnosed, all I felt was relief and VALIDATION.
Once I knew what I was working with, I began to learn more about BPD, what it is, and what I can do to grow and learn to live a happy, healthy life in my own way, living as Graeson, the person who puts her all into her family, who will definitely help the little old lady in the street, who will hold the door open for someone to come through after them, who actively works every day to help people who have their own complex mental health issues and who also just happens to have BPD.
How have you learned to cope?
It took me a really long time to reach out for help, and unfortunately my story is very similar to many other people with BPD, where I had to fight for the right diagnosis and really advocate for my own treatment above and beyond what someone should have to. Understanding that this was traumatic in itself, I set along my own recovery journey (Yes! Just because I’m a Recovery Coach, doesn’t mean that I’m not on my own Recovery Journey!) Now. I need to really mention that what works for one doesn’t work for others, but this is what I have found has been successful for me.
I connected with a Psychologist for regular treatment who has experience and knowledge about BPD. This was super important to me, because I wanted someone to help me create actionable change. I’m also about to enter DBT or Dialectical Behaviour Therapy which has been known to be useful in learning to manage the symptoms of BPD and it’s associated behaviours.
My ethos has been to take every treatment option available to me – seize every opportunity to learn more about what it means to have BPD and how to manage it to not only improve my life and coping skills, but everyone else’s too.
I created a safety plan in case things get too rough. Just because I work in mental health doesn’t mean I’m immune to having a mental health crisis and I need to know that my friends, family and support network know what to do if I’m not okay.
On that, BUILD SUPPORT NETWORKS. Humans aren’t solitary creatures; we need social connection to be happy. Surround yourself with people you trust and push you to be better and live better. Set boundaries and respect them, both for yourself and others too.
Find hobbies and make them easy. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I AM A CRAZY PLANT LADY – seriously, I have like 200+ plants (yes, my house has amazing air quality 😉) but sometimes, even caring for them can be difficult, so I’ve automated a lot of stuff within my home to make sure that upkeep isn’t overwhelming – you’d be surprised what some $30 smart plugs can do!
I also cross stitch (grandma alert I know) but if you look hard enough, you can find some really cool designs online. I’m a horror movie buff so I love stitching anything spooky or horror-related (but if you know my nanna then I am ONLY using my power of cross stitch for flowers and stuff 😉) BUT when I’m burned out, need a break or just need to get through something, I curl up in bed with my cross stitch and a true crime podcast and stitch away.
I always recommend small, portable hobbies for my clients, because I’ve found a lot of success with sitting there, resting and recuperating, but also having something visual to remind you that you’ve done something, so you can avoid those guilty thoughts of ‘I should be doing something’.
Be kind to yourself, and if you feel comfortable, share your story.
This is something that I’m still working on. Sometimes we forget that we need to be kind to ourselves and that we can let up on the negative internal dialogue. It’s okay to celebrate small successes, they always lead to bigger ones. Speaking out and being vocal about having a mental illness like BPD has been one of the scariest, but most freeing things of my life.
Educating people about what BPD is and what it actually means outside of a textbook has been an overall positive experience. The right people will want to hear you out and support you. We all go through so many experiences that sharing them and the insight you’ve gained in order to help others has been one of the hardest but most cathartic things I’ve done in a long time – This is why I decided to become a Recovery Coach and why I think lived experience is such an important part of what we do here at One Good* Day.
If you could change one thing about people’s perceptions/stigma surrounding BPD, what would it be?
Borderline is a diagnosis, it’s not the person. Let me say it again for people in the back – BORDERLINE IS A DIAGNOSIS, IT’S NOT THE PERSON.
That’s why I love this year’s BPD Awareness Week theme of ‘See The Person’ because behind every diagnosis is a person who is working to make themselves better, and sometimes that can be a really difficult thing, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
For anyone else out there who may be struggling, what’s the best piece of advice you can give?
Research, research, research!!! Most places you look will only give a really rough overview of what BPD is, not how to live with it. Read books, visit specialised websites, seek out peer support networks, check social media – be a sponge. The more you know, the more you’re able to identify, implement and act. It’s a long road and not always easy, and you’re going to hit roadblocks, but it is worth it, I PROMISE!
Good* places to reach out to:
- SANE Australia
- Sane is an awesome resource for support if you have complex mental health issues or know someone that does. Their anonymous forums are fantastic and they have just launched a new guided service for one on one counselling as well!
- Australian BPD Foundation
- The Australian BPD Foundation is great for info about BPD, including supports, resources and diagnostic info. You can also be linked to your state-specific BPD organisation from here.
- A Victoria-based organisation specialising in personality disorders and complex trauma. Good for information about BPD and treatment options if you’re in Victoria.
- Project Air
- Project Air is a research centre specialising in personality disorders based at the University of Wollongong. It has some great resources and info around BPD, Personality Disorders and Complex Trauma.