I had a chance to interview a woman who was diagnosed with both borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. In this excerpt she realizes the work necessary for her to achieve a sense of progress and recovery.
Click on the play button below to listen:
It’s helpful to talk about how scary it is when you first get [the diagnosis] and then it’s helpful to say okay, what do you do, what are the concrete things you do to soothe and stuff — that’s what DBT and group are about… but what do you say to someone who just got the diagnosis?
I know it’s terrifying but don’t deny it.
There are those people who want to come to a Meetup or a group therapy and seem to want to wallow in their pain. And they seem to want to compare their pain to one another and they seem to not want to change. There are other people who won’t even admit to having the disorder. They just say, nope, there’s nothing wrong with me and they continue to drink, continue to blow up, continue to fight with people and get into a depression and put their problems on their family and have their family and friends constantly having to come to the rescue. And then standing on their own two feet and fucking up again and doing all those things — all of those things are driven by this.
It’s not a joke. It’s not going to go away. You can’t just pick yourself up by your bootstraps. You need to take it seriously and need to pay attention to it. And it requires a great deal of work and requires massive changes in your life.
I mean I stopped drinking. I was drinking between a six pack and a twelve pack — not every night but maybe every other night. And it wasn’t getting me drunk and I was doing it in my own house, to the point of blindness… and then getting very little sleep.
And then, I just stopped drinking. I had to walk away from friendships that were over a decade old of people I used to drink and drug with — that’s what we’d do. They were the only people I knew. I had to cut them. I just couldn’t do it. And of course it’s difficult to hear that — they didn’t want to hear it and I didn’t want to have to say it but I couldn’t be around that. I just can’t go to a bar, guys, because I can’t deal with that anymore. I want to get healthy.
And I have to take medication that’s supposed to make my hair fall out and make me fat — for the bipolar — and I was like, that’s not going to happen to me. I’m going to get in shape. I’m going to lose weight because the medicine is going to try and force my body to stop processing and those things are not going to happen to me. I have to be on the medication because I tell you what — that roller coaster ride I was on? I can’t do that anymore. I can’t do that to myself, I can’t do that to my family members and friends. And I don’t want to be in that place anymore.
So, for somebody new who just gets this diagnosis needs to take it very seriously. They need to try it. That was the biggest thing. My friend Cath, whose brother killed himself said, “Just try it. If you don’t believe this diagnosis, write it out, get a big piece of butcher’s paper and just write it out.”
Well I didn’t have butcher’s paper so I went to Pearl Pain and got the shortest roll they had, about 15 feet long and I didn’t think I was going to need it all but I started writing and by the end of it, the 15 feet were rolled out. And it was everything. When I stood back and read that, I could see the pattern. Like it was obvious to me: highs and lows and fights and firing and losing a job and changing careers and shopping sprees, all of these things — really tumultuous relationships, suicide attempts — for years and years and years. Since I was a child — my first suicide attempt was when I was eleven.
And it was only when you look at it in front of you and then you realize, okay, maybe it’s undeniable that there’s something amiss here.
And then try the treatment. It doesn’t have to be medication — the medication certainly helps. And I have bipolar, so for me it is completely controlling the bipolar and you know, the borderline, it’s something that has to be dealt with with long term treatment, it just is. You have to rewire your head and not always react in an emotional state of mind with the slightest amount of stimulus.
But try it. Give it six months. Follow the rules and be a good little girl or boy for six months… and if you really, truly don’t see and improvement then, well, fuck them. They were wrong and then go back to your life.
But don’t live in denial about this.
And now that life is clearer — because I’ve tried it. I’ve tried the steps an things are better, life is getting better slowly but surely. And I don’t want to mess that up. I’m not going to throw that away over a bottle of beer or a line of cocaine or deciding suddenly that I’m well enough to stop my medication or any of those things.
This is too precious for me because all I wanted to do was self destruct before and run away from my feelings. Now I tried it. I wrote it all out, I saw the patterns, I tried it and life is better. And there’s a lot of stigma and a lot of doctors who say we won’t ever get better and there’s a lot of misinformation for family members out there where it’s like, “doom and gloom.”
I saw a website out there that said, “Always have a plan B because they always will revert to this behavior and abuse you and like, all of this nightmarish crap, no wonder we have this feeling that we’ll never get any better. But I can tell you, you will if you do the work. If you admit it, embrace it, and get patient with yourself — it’s not going to happen overnight. And take it one breath at a time, you will get better. And it does get easier. But you have to admit it and you have to do the work.