I’ve changed the tagline of the blog. Up till now, it has read ‘Trying to make sense of life with borderline personality disorder and occasional depression, one post at time’. Now, it reads ‘Finding my way out of borderline personality disorder and depression, one post at a time’. I changed it because I feel there’s a really important distinction between the two, and it has come about off the back of the work I’ve been doing with Therapist 2.0*.
That distinction? I no longer believe that bpd and depression are something I will have to live with for the rest of my life. I have a way out, one that gives me a future. Do you know what? Just for the craic I’m going to go ahead and say it again. I no longer believe that bpd and depression are something I will have to live with for the rest of my life!
Over the last few months, we’ve talked a lot about compassion and self compassion, what it means, what it entails, how to put it into practice. Slowly but surely, the concepts have been sinking in, almost without me realising it. I’m starting to get to grips with the fact that the events that set me off now are not because of a chemical imbalance that can be fixed with medication (although I hasten to add the drugs certainly help), but rather from a lifetime of my brain trying to protect me. Situations that bring me close to whatever it was caused the trauma for my younger self activate my threat system, and I go straight to my standard coping mechanisms – avoid, run away, distract, self sabotage, self harm. What I’m coming to understand is that as long as I continue with these mechanisms, the underlying problem(s) will stay there. What’s more, the longer I ignore it, the more dramatic these coping mechanisms will become, as I’ve already seen over the last few years. A couple of drinks are no longer enough. A couple of emergency meds are no longer enough. A couple of cuts are no longer enough. And so the cycle continues and escalates, and will continue to escalate until I get to the root cause.
I had a session this morning, and we talked about whether or not I actually need to remember the detail of what these long ago incidents were (I’m still struggling with the word trauma, it seems so dramatic). It may be that mastering self compassion will be enough, that difficult situations won’t send me running for the old ways out. But then again, that alone may not be enough, and if it’s not, she will help me to go back and figure out what happened, process it, and move on.
It sounds so simple. Find the memory, work through it, and on we go. I guess in practice it won’t be quite that clear cut. Part of me hopes that getting to grips fully with self compassion will be enough, but honestly, a bigger part of me just wants to know. What was it? What happened? How have I come to spend almost my entire life believing I’m not good enough, at anything? Why has it come about that I have to be the one to make things better? Or that I assume a simple disagreement spells the end of the relationship with whomever I happen to have had the disagreement? Why do I feel such shame? Such guilt?
I realise this is a fairly seismic shift in thinking and in direction. I realise I run the risk of really pissing a lot of people off by saying that I believe I have a way out, that this isn’t a chemical imbalance, that it’s not a permanent part of me. But the relief that this understanding brings me is absolutely huge. I was wrong. I believed what I was told, what I read. I never thought to question it, partly because I just wasn’t able to, and partly because I will rarely question an authority figure. That’s all changing though, and I’m ok with being wrong. I’m actually quite relieved at being wrong, because it means bpd isn’t a life sentence. It’s a set of symptoms, each one indicative of a coping strategy gone awry. I’m going to fix it. **
*Someone asked me today why I haven’t mentioned how things are going with DBT. There’s a very simple answer – DBT is only part of what I’m doing with Therapist 2.0. Her main way of working is compassion focused therapy, and she draws on elements of DBT as needed.
**I’m painfully aware that these revelations may be a source of frustration and anger to a lot of people, not least because the therapy that’s helping me so much is inaccessible to the vast majority. I hope that seeing me work through this offers some glimpse of a better future to anyone still waiting for treatment. I’m also beyond grateful to you all, because without your financial support this progress just wouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t be that way, no one should be denied treatment on the grounds of cost, but that’s the reality we’re currently living with. I will never, ever be able to adequately express how much I appreciate what you’ve done for me x