The struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder for me is the extreme shift in mood without any notice. A borderline can go from feeling inspired and motivated to feeling an emptiness and sadness all in the space of a minute. There is no warning, or if there is a trigger it is to quick to catch. But learning about the illness itself is so important because at least it allows you to try and work out what has happened and what you can do to combat the feeling.
BPD is by far one of the most complex mental health issues, severely under-researched until the past 10-15 years yet is more common than you would think. Due to the complexities, each individuals presentation of the illness itself has lead to BPD becoming one of the worst stigmatised Mental Health illnesses. I know myself there are times when I have been to a doctor or landed in Hospital and I will intentionally leave out that I have BPD because even in the health profession there is an extremely negative stigma around the disease.
This lead patients feeling confused about their own emotions and scared to talk about for fear of rejection from either a loved one or a medical professional. So the patient may go either undiagnosed or incorrectly diagnosed with something like Bipolar Disorder.
So when I think about the tactics I need to deploy to combat BPD, I also have to take into account the co-morbid illnesses that come along with it, like Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety and for me, addiction. You need to have a pretty extensive toolkit in order to wade through all of that if they come together at the same time, but for now we are just going to focus on BPD and what things I have found useful when I know I am not in a good place.
1. Grounding myself - This is basically forcing my brain to come back to the present and in the moment. So I will describe in great detail what I can see, smell, touch and hear. And when I say in great detail I really mean it, the more I push myself to focus on what I am doing, the distress level automatically goes down because I am directing attention away from it.
2. Acknowledge that this will pass - Sometimes as I mentioned, my mood can shift in a minute, and it's important to not let that shift scare me into any self-harming behaviours. I try as hard as I can to tell myself that this is just an emotion and like all emotions, they will come and they will eventually leave.
3. I put it in a box - If I am strong enough at the time, I will tell myself that this is going in a box and getting locked, not forever, just for now until I am in a better place to address it or deal with it depending on what the trigger was.
4. I take a break - I allow myself to switch off if I can. So I take a nap because there is every chance I could wake up feeling calmer. I don't criticise myself for being "lazy", I give myself permission to take a break and I do it without judgement. I try to read at least a couple of pages of my book to steady my thoughts and then try to clear my mind as much as possible.
5. Mindfulness - This is something that I struggled with at first to learn, but I think that is quite normal. We don't live mindfully anymore, we are so consumed with the material world around us, that we don't stop to just be in the moment. I use my Calm App on my phone to do even 5 minutes of deep breathing exercises and like the grounding technique, the brain automatically sends messages to the nervous system to calm down.
Now I will 100% admit that when a full-blown BPD episode crashes with depression and anxiety these 5 things feel impossible. The overwhelming emotions and distress that I feel during those times is truly terrifying and when it is happening all hope of a happy future seems to evaporate in an instant. What I have found though, is if I try to do my tactics when I am not feeling as bad, I can at least try to deploy them when I do feel like it is all too much.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, BPD is so incredibly different and complex in its own way for all sufferers of the condition, so what works for me may not work for someone else. There are many resources on Dialectical Behavioural Therapy where there are a great number of techniques to try, which is the core therapy for BPD. If you work hard during the times that you can, then I believe the really horrible times can be less devastating than if you have no go-to guide whatsoever.
The more I learn and understand my own triggers, the more I can think of ways to either avoid them altogether or work out what to try when they do arise. I think the most insidious part of Borderline Personality Disorder is the extreme shifts in mood that happen in the blink of an eye. I would definitely say that would be my biggest challenge and something I need to work on every day.
Try these 5 tips and try your own. Every BPD sufferer needs a toolbox of their own, my best advice to you is to learn as much as possible as you can about the illness itself and journalling is also very helpful in identifying small things you may miss that trigger a mood change or distress. Good luck with your journey and always remember that you are not alone in your fight.