Monday, October 4, 2010

Hope for the Borderline

Photo: Louise Brooks

I have been spending my mornings researching my "Borderline Personality Disorder." I have spent my afternoons napping, my head reeling from the information I am trying to focus on. I use the term research loosely as it seems my brain is a sieve for facts to strain through like water. The Mayo Clinic's website lists the symptoms of BPD as:

  • Impulsive and risky behavior...
  • Strong emotions that wax and wane frequently
  • Inappropriate anger, sometimes escalating into physical confrontations
  • Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Fear of being alone
The words above are rather benign compared to my own experience translated into countless horror stories of public meltdowns and private torment. BPD is one of the last in a trio of major mental illnesses for me to accept and begin to overcome. This one, above the others, has been the most elusive for treatment and the most crippling. Over the years, it has progressively become more out of control; by that I mean that it takes less to set off one of the symptomatic episodes. I have become more impulsive in spite of my efforts to control myself in the face of confrontation or stress. I have narrowly missed being arrested more times than I can recall due to an emotional outburst- usually rage over some real or imagined injustice. Living with the disorder has been a source of great humiliation and pain.

A month ago I began seeing a therapist that specializes in the treatment of  patients with BPD. For years such a therapist has been unheard of because of the special nature of the disorder and the way it causes the sufferer to interact with people. Typically, we just don't get along. I feel blessed. It took me six years and a lot of wrong turns to find her. This is partly due to the illness itself, which fights for survival and partly due to poor State mental health resources.

We have embarked on a year long course of treatment that involves looking at and gently dismantling,  the various dysfunctional coping skills, referred to in this therapy as Schemas or "modes," that I find myself operating from. Like a record needle stuck in a groove, I keep playing over and over tunes with names like: Abandoned Child, Punishing Parent, Detached Protector, Angry Child and the occasional, Healthy Adult.

These modes are the way I see the world, the way I interact with it. Stress, too much and a certain kind of it, will trigger an episode. If things are running according to plan, smoothly with no glitches then I am the sweetest, most capable and helpful woman you will meet. This means no schedule changes, or changes of any kind, really. If you are kind to me and considerate, I return the favor. Cross me, in the least, and its, "OFF with your HEAD!"

I am amazed at how ingrained the Schemas are. Even now, it all seems like a load of crap that I just need to get over; but this is what I have told myself for years and it has gotten me nowhere. I am blown away by how exhausted I am after an hour of therapy or reading about it, or writing about it. But, here I am. I'm still, here. I have hope that all that fight in me will prove to be my best asset after all.

For more on Schema Therapy:

Be Well,

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