You Must ACCEPT to IMPROVE: A BPD Recovery Story

signs behind a fence that read don't give up you are not alone, you matter

I remember my name being called. Dr. Cliff was ready to see me.

He was on rotation in the mental health clinic. And I thought, how will I explain my feelings in 15 minutes? I’ve spent the last 28 years trying to figure out who I am, and I still don’t know.

Not just that, but what the hell am I doing in the mental health clinic? There’s nothing wrong with my mental health. This is how normal people act, isn’t it?

I hoped, and I prayed I could get the words out, that I could explain what was going through my head, the emotions that I constantly felt, the crazy things that I’d done, the risks I’d taken.

Thankfully, I was talking to someone who understood.

Let me take a step back.

I’d spent most of my life acting on my impulses, and I chalked most of the crazy things I’d done down to just being my personality. That’s who I am, is what I’d tell myself.

I would quickly fly off the handle and have crazy, wild-eyed ideas about what to do for work.

I had many hobbies and few friends because I could never hold down a relationship.

I could never stay at a job for too long. I either got bored, fell out with someone, or lost my passion for it completely.

The one person I’d felt closest to in my life—let’s just say I abandoned her, not the other way around. I thought I’d do it first so she couldn’t hurt me.

When that relationship broke up, it felt like there was no other reason to exist. I made multiple attempts to take my life, and I really had no idea why I felt this way.

I hit the self-destruct button. I did everything in my power to hurt and harm myself. Not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well. I think it’s called self-sabotage.

I’d had a successful tech career. I had some money, I had a nice car and a nice place to live and yet I was so depressed, I was so down, and I had no idea why.

I woke up feeling bad; I went to sleep feeling bad. The things I did during the day made me feel even worse. I never felt like I had control.

I remember one day my mother asking me, “Sean, do you think maybe you’re suffering from depression?” I just dismissed it. I don’t get depressed; that’s not who I am.

And yet, deep down, I knew she was right.

Little did I know at the time that it wasn’t just depression; the depression really was a symptom of something else.

I’d read about Borderline Personality Disorder before, but it was more of a passing glance than a study. And I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And that’s where I left it.

It wasn’t until later that I rethought it and said, “Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like me. I have those impulses. I have difficulty dealing with my emotions. I don’t want to be abandoned. I can’t hold down a job. I have loads of hobbies. I’ve done things that have intentionally harmed me and others around me. I’ve caused so much destruction.”

Yeah, but there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not one of those people.

And that’s when it dawned on me. You call it an epiphany.

 

Other people don’t act like I do. In my group of friends, I was always going to extremes, pushing the boundaries, trying to find the next fix, the next high. When everyone else was going to bed, I was just getting started.

By this stage, I’d left my flat in Dublin, my successful job, and all that other stuff and moved home to be with my parents in Waterford. I felt like I was at rock bottom.

But one day, I left my room, came downstairs, and saw my mother watching television. I said, “Mam, I have something to tell you. I’ve been reading up about something called Borderline Personality Disorder, and I think it describes me really well.”

She said, “Sean, that’s really weird. I was reading about it, too, and I think I agree.”

 

Enter Dr. Cliff.

I poured out my feelings, all the words inside my head. He asked the right questions at the right time.

Finally, I finished what I said by saying, “I think I’m borderline.”

Dr. Cliff looked over his clipboard and said, “That’s interesting.”

He left the room for a moment and told me later he had consulted with the consultant psychiatrist, and based on what I’d said, both of them tended to agree.

But he didn’t leave it there. He said, “Sean, there’s hope, there’s help.”

He described what I now know as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). Finally, I thought – A rung on the ladder.

 

It took a while to start, but what had I been missing out on all these years?

Finally, I was able to learn new ways of living, skills that could help me manage my emotions, cope with distress, communicate properly, be an easier person to be around, ask for things in a way that didn’t cause offence, explain how I feel, all of the things I was missing.

DBT changed how I look at life, helped me experience things I never thought possible, and actually made me live a life worth living. Yeah, sure, that’s a cliche, but it’s true.

I’d found my baseline, borderline, didn’t have to dictate to me what I did or how I felt.

 

The title of this post is You Must Accept to Improve.

Accept and Improve are both acronyms taught as part of skills training in DBT.

They’re just examples of things you use to help you tolerate your emotions and feelings.

You learn to live with purpose and mindfulness, which are connected to your feelings.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been reborn. I’m glad to be the person I am, but now I can tolerate who I am, and I’d like to think I’m much more tolerable to be around.

So, for anyone reading this post, anyone who resonates with it in even the slightest bit, there’s hope.

The first step is to reach out and talk to someone. Don’t keep it to yourself.

If you have any inkling that any of what I’m saying sounds similar or if you feel the same way, please reach out and get help.

It will make such a difference.

 

 

About the Author

Sean is 35 and lives in Donegal, Ireland, with his beautiful wife. He works as a consultant and runs his own website related to mental health and wellness. You can also check out his Facebook group here.

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