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Borderline Personality Disorder and Buddhism (III)

Borderline Personality Disorder and Buddhism (III) September 26, 2008

Part three in a series. Parts One and Two.

Some notes on a Buddhist ‘treatment’ / meditation, but first Some blogs about Borderline Personality Disorder by borderlines, in no particular order:

(many thanks to those who helped gave suggestions – feel free to add more in the comments)

Untreatable’s Blog: great articles on aspects of BPD. This from the one on rage:

“Never get in an argument with someone with pure BPD as you will never win and they will never admit that you are right. By admitting they were wrong puts their whole self image out of whack which they can not allow happen as their entire life is based off of certain perspectives that they have created and one dent in the armor may lead to the whole mirage to crumble.”

Deja-blue: the life of a person in the throws of BPD. As she says, it is “a tale of survival.”

Mulligrubs: Powerful prose on the grip of – and winning over – BPD.

“… I love a challenge unfortunately I have not found healthy ways to challenge myself, instead I sabotage myself so that I can experience the powerful feeling of rising once again from the ashes, putting my life back together. I use these somewhat self imposed challenges to distract me from true healing… Maybe that is the issue, realizing the difference between creating conflict and surmounting challenges.” (from here)

Borderlineblog: the diary of a male with BPD. As he says, “BPD is a very painful and serious condition which I wish I never had, but as long as I have to deal with it, I might as well try and provide useful information and experiences to others.”

Borderlineblogger: another diary, this of a woman with BPD. Recently she was prescribed DBT. She writes:

“DBT is apparently the hot new thing in psychotherapy and is an intensive outpatient program for people with Borderline Personality Disorder. It sounds really good, and like it would be incredibly beneficial, but it’s also really scary. One of the programs Dr. Teitel suggested is five days a week for six months!

I really do want to get better and stop hurting myself, self sabotaging, and making life hard for everyone around me… but I’m so accustomed to my bad habits that I think it would be very hard to give them up.” (here)

Borderlinesavvy: A woman in her 40s having recovered (mostly) from BPD, still blogging about things that come up. Recently she wrote:

“I have been called “a poster child of DBT.” … So how do I get myself out of the victim mentality, the defeated mentality, the pessimistic mentality? … All I know to do is to try to change my thinking, go ahead and take another step forward, and hope that I will see results.” (here)

BPD and Me: as she writes: “A late 20’s female suffering from mental illness and making others suffer with her.” She seems to be inactive since being diagnosed this February.

Borderline Personality Inside and Out: Another blog of A.J. Mahari; HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. The only criticism I’ve ever heard toward A.J. is that she pushes her books/services too much – but hey, she is devoting herself to helping others/education and like the rest of us, needs to pay the bills. She is highly knowledgeable, highly objective, deep, thoughtful, and comprehensive. I’ll be writing about/citing some of her work in the future.

Life on the Borderline: A woman working through the DBT treatment; very helpfully describing her emotions – also highly recommended. Some excerpts from recent posts that caught my eye:

When I’m emotional, any relationship skills that I have are quickly tossed aside and are replaced with frustration, anger, sadness, disappointment, fear… any of those strong emotions that swell up inside. As a result, I’m either too emotional to think clearly or express myself in a productive way…. (here)

One of the distinguishing characteristics of BPD is how fast we cycle through emotions. One moment, or one day, we can feel frustrated and unloved, and the next moment, we can feel exuberant and full of love. It’s scary sometimes even to me how quickly I can go from mood to mood, from fear to confidence, from anger to adoration, from sadness to joy…. There are so many negative experiences and myths running amok around my head sometimes. Ok… most of the time. I expect things to go wrong. I expect people not to care about me, or remember me, or do something nice for me. There are so many myths I hold onto as gospel. And unlearning them is a sucky, long, and laborious process. But it’s lesson I need to keep working on. And I will. (here)

Living with BPD: The journal of a “high-functioning” borderline, one of those considered “invisible” because they can be very successful in society and only show their darker side to those closest to them. As she writes,

“I have a Masters degree in Counseling and Human Services, and I plan on continuing on eventually for my Ph.D. or M.D. I am intelligent and strong. And yet I have this very dark side to my personality. I am a highly functioning individual with borderline personality disorder, but to those who are closest to me (my husband), the reality of my life isn’t as functional as it appears.” (here)

She also lucidly documents the recovery phase, the trials and tribulations, and her thoughts on some of the articles written about borderlines. A very good read.

I’m sure that just scratches the surface, but it should be enough to get anyone curious started to see that they are not alone. One of the possibly ‘good’ things about borderline is the similarity of the symptoms. When you read about others either it ‘clicks’ and you say “wow, I didn’t know others were going through the exact same thing” or it doesn’t, in which case you – or your loved one -probably don’t have BPD.

Realizing that you’re not alone, that this disorder isn’t YOU, is important. Breaking the identification is a powerful step in getting distance from the emotions and being able to ‘watch’ them when they arise, rather than being gripped by them uncontrolably. In (general) Buddhist meditation this is all we do: center ourselves on our breath or a candle or other stable image and let emotions, thoughts, sensations, etc just arise and fall away. Inevitably our mind gets caught up in them (even after 8 years of meditation I can get carried away again and again). Just accept it and gently move the mind/awareness back to the breath/object. The process just repeats itself:

  1. focus –>
  2. mind gets ‘hooked‘ by certain thoughts/emotions/etc –>
  3. you notice and gently bring it back –>
  4. focus….

Eventually the thoughts and so on simple arise and fall away. None is interesting enough to grab ahold of us. We see that we are not our minds.

That idea may be difficult for a person with BPD. I know it didn’t make sense to me when I was severely depressed at age 18. At the time I needed drugs (standard antidepressants) and good therapy to get the clarity needed to begin healing. Likewise for many with BPD, proper drugs and/or therapy (DBT) will be essential for getting out of the darkest phases.

Another thing that I experienced (as a very depressed 18 yr old) was difficulty finding a good therapist. A.J. Mahari describes similar problems in dealing with her BPD, and I’ve heard it time and again from others. Many therapists/family counselors aren’t up to date on DBT or other recent research and still operate on dated stories of the “manipulative, unstable, untreatable borderline.” Don’t be afraid to shop around – seek an expert.

Even once stabilized, however, there is work to do. That is when the above meditation can be practiced. Here too it is important to get a teacher, someone you can check in with about your meditation, someone to guide you. At some point things will start ‘coming up’ – insights mainly but also feelings, good and bad. Much of this will be on the ‘psychological’ level, which is still very important to be dealt with. But then some will be on a spiritual level, direct realizations that will permanently alter your relationship with the world.

This is part 3 of a series. Click here for part 4 and part 5.

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