The Edge of Manda, Recovering from Borderline Personality Disorder

Hard Work

Date Posted: 08/27/2010

I'm tired today.

The reason is I have a new job. Finally, a real job.

So far, so good. I like it, but it has been hard. The hard part is the transition, new places and people and all the overwhelming emotions and anxiety that go with it.

I'm working had everyday to overcome myself and be who I really am inside.

That's tiring, but I know it will be worth it.

If there's one thing I've learned about life, its this: sometimes it sucks. But during those hard times, all you have to do is survive. And better times are always around the corner.

I'm Not Dead Yet

Date Posted: 07/23/2010

Haven't had much time lately for keeping up with this outlet, but I'm squeezing in a few minutes tonight. I'm alive, somehow I'm alive, and I feel like I shouldn't be. With all I've been through in the past few months, with the fact that I'm unemployed and somewhat homeless, trying to find my place in the world when I can't even find a substaintial job in this economy...I should be at rock bottom, right?

But I'm not, and I don't know why. The only thing I can think of is those little coping strategies that lurk in the back of my brain and creep up when things get back. Like when I spend the day applying for 50 jobs (and no that's not an exaggeration - I kept track the other day) and I get so tired and frustrated and feeling that the world is so unfair when I have worked so hard and given so much...and at the end of it I just cry and want to give up, and this little piece of me tells me to slow down, take a break, have a nap or go for a drive, and let my body calm down until I can handle it again.

Or when I couple the job situation with the fact that I don't know where I am going to be living in a few weeks, let alone sleeping next week and the urge creeps into me to just hurt myself, to just scratch up that perfect smooth skin on my arms, and I think back to that red marker I keep in my purse to simulate the activity so I don't really do it.

I dont know. I may fall apart here very soon. And there have been some bad times when I didn't feel like I could go on. But after I calmed down I did. I'm not dead yet, and that means something, right?

Dissociated

Date Posted: 06/24/2010

I feel horrible about not updating lately. Not too horrible, because my life has been hell the past few weeks. Just a few of the things that have happened: huge fights in my family, I interviewed for a job and did not get it, I became very discourage on my job search, someone close to me is having a very hard time, I have major issues with my living situation, I met up with someone from my past who I do not get along with and who makes me very angry to be around, and on top of I had my period dammit!!!

Most of this past week or so, I have been pretty dissociative. That aspect of BPD used to scare me - I thought I was going crazy or having a complete breakdown when it would happen. But after being diagnosed and learning about it I have come to accept it as a part of who I am. This has been so dynamic for me - to learn that sometimes my emotions just sort of "shut down" because I can't handle them anymore. My body and mind take a break from it all, because it just can't handle anymore.

And every once and a while, that's ok. I know now that I am not going to lose myself, or go crazy. Its just a temporary break.

And actually, it kind of made me feel better. Knowing that I was sort of "checked out" for a while allowed me to function at about 98% normal for this week. I was pretty quiet and zoned most of the time, and I barely ate, but I went to work every day and made it through the day. I managed to answer the phone when the job rejection call came. I managed to speak civilly to the person I cannot stand (and actually came out feeling better knowing that thought we will never be friends and least I am not full of hate anymore) And I made it through the lonely nights at home even when they were really hard.

Don't get me wrong, dissociation sucks and I will be glad to come to the day when I never experience it again. It sucks because in the middle of this episode I went to a dear family member's graduation and I barely even felt like I was there. I know it should have been wonderful to see all my distant family that I never get to see, and celebrate with them, but I was just floating around the party scraping up small talk. I would have liked to have been my normal self at that party. But with all that had happened, I couldn't. But someday, I know I will...

My Athletic Life (and Reaping its Benefits)

Date Posted: 06/02/2010

I'm a self-confessed "stress-pot". It's not an easy admission to make, simply because I hate being stressed. And knowing I stress over little things, stresses me out more.

Without exercise, I'd be locked at home, brimming with stress and depression. I know because I've been there when injured. It's something you only notice if exercise is a central part of your being.

Most people I know who workout regularly say that they use exercise to manage their stress--as well as to look better, be healthier and all the rest.

It seems that if exercise isn't a part of your life, you might be at a disadvantage when it comes to daily stressful situations. By starting to exercise, you can learn to stress less.

That may not be the case for everyone and there are other ways to cope with stress, but for me, exercise is the most natural, effective and cheap coping mechanism. Exercise and stress are closely related.

How Does Exercise Relieve Stress?

If you don't have a very active lifestyle, and often feel strangled by stress and depression, you may want to take note.

Here are the main ways exercise and stress are connected:

Body Systems

When stressed, each of your body systems (cardiovascular, nervous, respiratory, muscular etc.) need to interact efficiently for you to respond well. Exercise helps your body systems practice interacting with each other, in a healthy way. This directly leads to a better overall response to stress.

Endorphins

These are your natural pain killers that give you a "high". Although more research is needed, there's no doubt that long periods of moderate to high intensity exercise, does have a happy affect on your emotions.

Fight or Flight

This is your natural reaction to any stressful situation. The problem is that much of today's stress doesn't require either physical fighting or running. But your body still provides the chemicals for it, which can be harmful if they remain. The best and most logical way to clear the chemicals, is to actually do some exercise.

Rhythm and Flow

Some exercise, like running and cycling, lets you get into a rhythm. That rhythmic flow of a repeat action relaxes your mind. It's a bit like focusing on nothing and everything at the same time. It's your time. Just make sure you keep an eye on where you're going!

Socialize

Any sport or exercise with friends, gives you the chance to socialise, that you may not normally get. "Having a laugh" with friends is more than just fun. It gives you a chance to share your problems, and know that someone is there if you need them.

Better Sleep

Lack of sleep often leads to a vicious cycle. You become more stressed and anxious during the day, which means it's even harder to sleep at night. Exercise not only helps break that cycle, but can lead to a positive cycle instead. When you sleep well, you'll have more energy in the day and be more productive.

Organize your Life

Stress is often caused by a lack of organisation and planning, whether it's in your work life or home life. Following a workout plan, where you set yourself goals and ultimately have a sense of achievement, will help you transfer those skills to the rest of your life.

Stress Busting Exercises

When it comes down to it, any exercise is better than none. Don't worry about which exercise is the best for others, focus on yourself and what you enjoy.

If you're not sure, then try different things out. Use the buttons on the top left of this page to find something you enjoy.

Here are some more tips to exercise and stress less:

Mix up your exercise. It depends on your goals (burn fat, get fitter, build muscle etc.), but including a mix of, for example, aerobic, interval and circuit exercises will benefit you the most overall, when dealing with stress.

Adapt your exercise to your type of stress. If you tend to feel out of control, try rhythmic exercise (as described above - running, swimming, cycling etc.) and some yoga or pilates to focus your energy. If you tend to feel angry and aggressive, try combat exercise like martial arts or boxing.

Make the first move. I know it's hard when you're stressed out, depressed and don't feel like moving a muscle. The problem is, things will just feel worse if you don't. So, however small it is, make that first move. It could literally be putting on your exercise shoes and going for a walk. Build from there.

Take it easy. If you're just getting started with exercise, go slow. If you have any concerns, see your health professional first. There's no point jumping in head first if you pick up an injury.

Final Word

Now you know the many connections between exercise and stress. The facts are hard to ignore, try doing some exercise today and see if it makes a difference.

If you know anyone who always seems to be stressed or short-tempered, let them know about exercise and stress. You can't force anyone to do anything, but you can point them in the right direction.

"Autobiography in Five Short Chapters"

Date Posted: 05/27/2010

Found this great poem while reading at work today. I could ramble on about what it means to me in my own journey of discovery, or what it could mean to you, but I think it speaks for itself...

------------------
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit ... but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

The Failures and the Victories

Date Posted: 05/25/2010

I had a bad episode this past weekend. I won't go into all the details, because its so complicated. But suffice it to say a lot of little triggers came together to set me off and I was also treated badly by my family, so I briefly lost control.

When this happens now - when my emotions take control and I lose conscious control of myself - my mind automatically seeks a way to "distract, relax, cope." The method I chose to use this time was to listen to meditations on my ipod (some I've downloaded and others I recorded myself out of my DBT book). However, my ipod was dead and I had no way to do this, and this exacerbated the problem. When I did finally get my ipod going, I listened to this one and it calmed me down.

Then I focused on coping - I used several coping thoughts from my book. I practiced radical acceptance - I accepted the fact that people were treating me bad without hurting or judging them, just accepted it so I could move on. I went to work that same day, feeling terrible, but went. I avoided situations that would make the problem worse, even though it meant leaving home for the rest of the weekend. And though I have been sad in spirit for days now, I got up Monday morning and went back to my own life.

In life we have failures, and I may always have the problem of losing physiological control and having my emotions hurt me all over. But we have victories too. And the choices I made were the victories.

I still hurt. But I'm not frantic and angry anymore - I've relaxed enough to begin the coping process. And I'm carrying on. So fitting that the other night on a rerun of "Sex and the City" this quote from Carrie - after she tried being a model and fell on the catwalk during a fashion show - caught my attention:

"When people fall down in real life, they get right back up and keep walking"

Where in the hell am I? And where did my normal self go???

Date Posted: 05/10/2010

So I have been in a weird mood for the past week.

It started last week when the last computer in the house that worked stopped working. Now I have two that will not get online, so I have to go to my work or the library to get all my work done. And I have a lot of work and it is stressing me out. On top of my day job, I am looking for a new job and applying for at least a dozen a week and getting nowhere - its a lot of work getting together nice resumes and cover letters - or spend 5 hours filling out an online application - and pisses me off when I don't even get a simple confirmation from them.

I am thinking about taking a job 8 hours away and that is scary! I have tried that before and failed at it. My therapist and I have discussed both the failures and my possible future moving away at great ends. I have lots of coping stragagies worked out that I can use to get me through it, and I think its possible. But right now I'm in a tizzy and can't even see how anything would work out ok.

On top of that, I'm having one of the worse episodes of PMDD I've ever had. I have been in a state of derealization for the past three days, and have started to have such overwheming anger. I literally almost threw my cell phone and the ground and smashed it to pieces the other day, because I was so frustrated with the crappy service I get. I'm having pain and bloating and am so irritable I cannot stand it. I feel like hurting myself for the first time in months. Going off prozac is not helping this either...I have been I was down to 1.6 mg of prozac a day, and was doing fine with every step down from the 20 mg,but once I went off it completely I got headaches and kind of freaked out. So I went back on the small dose for now, at least to get through this period.

This entry is pretty disjointed and random, but that's how I feel right now. I'm using all my stragegies to get through this - distracting myself, trying to relax, doing things to take the place of self-injury (is it odd that summer is coming and I've found that waxing is a great substitute for SI?) But those things are just getting me through, I still feel like my brain is in a fog and not functioning normally.

The only thing that really is helping is knowing this is just temporary, and that in a few days, once my period starts, I will be back to normal. I will probably check in with you all then.

Chosing Happiness = Choosing the Journey

Date Posted: 05/03/2010

I love it when my favorite TV shows deal with mental health, and one of my favorite shows right now is Mercy. For those of you who haven't seen it, it focuses on Veronica, a nurse who served in Iraq and is now home dealing with PTSD. In last week's episode, they talked a lot about choosing to be happy. Her ex, who served with her, said he chooses every day to move on and to be happy. Her response?

"You just choose? Must be nice!"

I had always heard of the concept of "choosing" to be happy, and for a long time I believed it was purely that simple: that making the choice resulted in instant happiness. And my response was the same as Veronica's. I envied those who could just choose, and knew I'd never be one of those people.

But I was misguided. Choosing happiness is not a choice that instantly makes you happy. I know now that choosing to by happy is a long and winding road, a series of developments and a whole hell of a lot of practice.

Choosing happiness should more accurately be called "choosing the process" or "choosing the journey." Because when you make the choice, happiness does not just instantly "turn on" in your mind or body. Usually, when you make the choice, it is the beginning of your path to recovery. You've decided to be happy, but happiness does not occur just because you choose it. One you choose it, you have to learn the skills and processes to create happiness in your life. This can take weeks, months, even years.

Once you choose recovery (which is, let's face it,almost analogous to happiness) you have to reprogram yourself and change the habits and behaviors that make you sad. We've adapted to our condition and a lifecycle that perpetuates unhappiness. People with BPD and depression and other mental illnesses are addicts - we're addicted to our self-destructive behaviors and the unhealthy ways we cope like alcohol or self-injury or binging, etc. (and understandably so - they're the only things that bring small temporary comfort in our world with no other comfort, so why wouldn't we be addicted to them?) But with a lot of hard work, we can abandon those addictions and find new ones to take their place. We can become "addicted" to using positive coping strategies such as "Distract, Relax, And Cope" (see entry "Emergency Coping Plan") or Self-Affirmation (See entry "Thoughts from my Little Notebook"). These don't come naturally to us: we have to learn them.

But once you learn them and practice them, you find they bring small amounts of comfort. They sooth you the way a glass of liquor or a cut arm once soothed you. So little by little, these behaviors take over. Recovery happens and eventfully - though it may take a long time - happiness creeps in. It creeps in because by choosing recovery, you've chosen happiness.

For me, the day I chose to finally seek a diagnosis and get treated was the day I chose happiness. There was no happiness in my life that day; I was as far down as a person could be. The happiness came later. But without that first choice, it never would have happened.

And I sit here now, typing on my computer and looking out the window into a world full of beauty, beauty and life that I missed for so long, when I thought choosing happiness was next to impossible.

What You Mean to Me

Date Posted: 04/26/2010

I am so thankful for the people who read this blog.

Whether you follow my posts or have just dropped by once to read a single entry, I am blessed by you being here.

You give me a reason for living, an ear to listen to my voice. Through my hardest times and my beginning and continuing the journey through recovery, someone out there has been listening to me.

But even more important to me are some of the responses I've gotten to my stories here. I've been able to listen to other people vent about their life with BPD. I've heard from people who are searching for answers and guidance and beginning their own recovery. I FINALLY know that my own suffering has not been in vain, because people here have found strength and hope in my story. I can't honestly say that this has made it all worthwhile, like the cliche says, but its makes me feel worthwhile and somewhat whole. to know that my life reaches out across the world and touches others lives.

So, as I sit here and tell you how much you mean to me, it literally brings a tear to my eye as I feel so blessed to have shared my progress here, and will continue to do so.

So, you mean the WORLD to me!!!

And again, thank you for reading!

Read my Story. Sign your Name. Make a Difference.

Date Posted: 04/22/2010

My journey of recovery from BPD was so close to not happening.

For years I suffered from the disorder and though I suspected I had it, I had no health insurance so no access to mental health services. At one point I began seeing a counselor at a family center, but the cost - even on the reduced fee scale - was such a burden on my finances I had to stop. At one point, when severely depressed and self-injuring, my sister took me to a crisis center and all I got was the runaround - a list of people who I needed to call...and when I called them I was simply referred to another person, who referred me somewhere else, and so on.

I suffered due to stigma as well. Not so much the stigma against mental illness - I knew I was sick and embraced that. I talked about it with my closest friends and family and although they did not know what to do to help me, they loved me through it. Yet I feared going to a doctor or counselor and saying "I think I have Borderline Personality Disorder." I thought for sure he/she would brush me off as a crazy person self-diagnosing by googling my symptoms or reading Wikipedia (I did both of those things, but also consulted a copy of the DSM-IV). In a way, that fear held me back from diagnosis and treatment.

My recovery began almost by accident, and almost did not happen at all. It actually began during a period of very good mental health. I was happy and stable when I developed a (painful!) kidney stone and went into the emergency room. Because I didn't have insurance, I asked the ER if they had some form of financial assistance. They got me the paperwork to apply for Medicaid, and though it a was taxing and very confusing process, I eventually was placed on a low-income County Health Plan.

Several months later, when I took a nosedive, I called the number of the Community Mental Health program listed in the book of covered services I got from the health plan. After a phone assessment (they assessed me for Bipolar because at the time I suspected I might have that), I was told I was not eligible for services under the plan, and was referred to two other counseling centers for help. I contacted both of those agencies; one told me they did not have a program for my possible condition (bipolar) and the cost at the other one was more than I could afford. I resigned myself to the inevitable: I would probably die from this disease.

Then something wonderful happened. I received a call from a counselor at Community Mental Health Center who had further reviewed my file and found that I was also on the Adult Benefits Waiver program, which entitled me to free services at center. (to this day, I have never received anything stating that I have this program or what it includes. I also don't know whether or not I am actually on Medicaid...the entire program is so confusing and unorganized). I set up an intake interview with this counselor and met with her a few days later. My recovery was about to begin.

That's a long story with one simple point: Though mental illness is more accepted and understood in our world today, access to recovery and services is still difficult and sometimes impossible for some suffering from it.

Which is why today I want to share the petition from "The Walk For Depression" They are attempting to gather signatures from 1 million people to push congress for more acceptance, more research, more services and better access to help.

Obviously, I support this 100%. As of today they have less than 2,000 signatures. In August several volunteers will walk 850 miles to gather more signatures and support. I have added my name to the list and hope that, after reading my story or living your own, you will sign too.

Sign here: http://www.walktowashington.org/sign-the-petition


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