Tag Archive for: Road to Recovery
Here’s another highlight to our questionnaire on recovery, from an Kate. If you haven’t filled it out yet, please join in on the conversation and share your story about recovery here. Thanks!
What does recovery mean to you?
Currently, I meet to 3-4 of the criteria and have so for the last year. I also have a few close friendships and am a full-time college student. However, as much as this technically means I am recovering, I personally do not feel that this is all it means. To me, I will always be in the process of recovering as relapses and symptoms can appear even after years of remission.
I think it is more that I consistently make improvements and do my best to stay as highly functioning as is possible for me.
I am already so much healthier and happier than I was 9 years ago when I was first diagnosed but I still have days where I feel my struggle will never end. If I remember that getting better is personal though and that I just have to my best, I feel I will continue to make drastic improvements.
What has been your key to getting from remission to recovery?:
I think the key to my improvements are self-awareness and acceptance. In the past 9 years I have gotten to a point where I can monitor my mood swings, my reactions and my suicide reactions to where I can take steps to regulate and distress before the mood swings get out of hand. I still struggle but I am getting better at being aware of where I am so that I can function longer. I also realize that this is my condition and my recovery process therefore I cannot compare myself to other people. I am doing my best for me even if it is not the same as another individual with BPD who is recovering.
I reach out to friends, take walks, and write to keep stable as well as keeping somewhat of a structured schedule. With these outlets, I have found that I stay stable for a much longer period and can get through even the most distressing times more effectively.
Was there a specific point in your life that you knew you had “recovered?”
I knew I was getting healthier when I was able to set boundaries and keep them. I also got to the point where my life became more than my illness and I started last year really working to have healthier relationships and to believe in myself. I can usually catch myself right when the suicidal feelings start and get myself safe before something happens. I can also tell when I am starting to get angry and I will take deep breaths and a few moments to calm down so as not to escalate the situation. It is the little but significant moments like these that let me know I am getting stronger and that I am recovering.
What are some of the characteristics or traits you had to incorporate in your life to maintain recovery?
I had to decrease my negative self-talk and accept that where I was at was ok. I had to rewire my brain to replace the negative things I was told growing up that I had learned to believe were true. I also had to get to the point that I realized I am capable of living a successful and functioning life. I don’t have to be what others expect or say I will be. I also had to learn that it is ok and healthy to ask for help and to reach out. As mentioned above, I also strive to stay aware of my moods and where I am at, keeping grounded as needed to regain stability. I practice DBT on a daily basis and apply the skills as needed. I seek feedback from friends and my therapist for ways I still need to improve. I give myself breaks and time to calm down and I am finally learning to relax a little. this helps my mind and body to regroup. Most of all, I continuously remind myself that I can be successful and that it is in my power and ability to reach my goals.
I am not my past or my pain or my condition and I do not have to let these things define me.
What are some myths or misconceptions about recovery?:
Myth 1: Recovery means I am free of symptoms and won’t relapse anymore. Myth 2: Recovery means I shouldn’t make mistakes, lose my temper, or have mood swings. Myth 3: If you are functioning and stable, you shouldn’t need therapy or medication anymore. Myth 4: I have to be like other people who have recovered.
The truth is recovery does not mean that we will never struggle with symptoms or fall backwards, it means that we now have the tools and techniques to stay stable longer and to participate in society without our BPD interfering all the time. We are better able to manage our emotions and cope with distress without always relying on others to take care of us or needing to depend on past coping skills like self-harm. We may always need medication and/or therapy at times but we now have other skills like DBT to help us function.
Last of all, Just as BPD is highly unique and individual to each person, so is recovery. As long as we are continuously improving and not at the same place as when first diagnosed, I believe we are on the road to recovery.
Here’s another highlight to our questionnaire on recovery, from an anonymous contributor. If you haven’t filled it out yet, please join in on the conversation and share your story about recovery here. Thanks!
What does recovery mean to you?
I think recovery should be about progress, stability, and not acting out. I actually don’t have five criteria, but that hasn’t been my situation for two whole years. I can understand the reason that mental health practitioners would have this definition, but I’m not sure it’s very helpful for consumers as a gauge.
I’m much healthier now than I was a year ago. Even if a BPD person still has five criteria, what if they started with nine? What happens if they still have five criteria, but they are less intense? What if they’ve gone from being repeatedly hospitalized being able to call a therapist instead, being able to hold a part-time job, and being able to maintain a few somewhat close friendships?
I think there should be something between “remission” and full-blown BPD that consumers can strive for, and this is mainly finding tangible evidence that the BPD person is becoming more able to cope than they were before.
What has been your key to getting from remission to recovery?
Well, as I stated above, I’m really not in either by the classic definition. However, the DBT study that I took part was a huge step in helping me to understand that change is possible and that I can choose how I want to live. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in general is very powerful and it helped me when my therapist would point out measurable results. Also, I have renewed my faith and sought support from family and friends.
All of these things help me make smart choices and stay more aware of the internal feelings that sometimes used to cause me to act without thinking.
Was there a specific point in your life that you knew you had “recovered?” What was that moment like?
No. I’m currently rebelling against the definition that says that some people in the world are totally healthy and some people are mentally broken or diseased. Everyone I have come into contact with in my life has some degree of neurosis, and I think that all people should be in a constant state of self-examination and striving to be more healthy. There are no perfectly healthy people, and I feel blessed that having BPD caused me to start my journey of self-examination earlier in life.
However, I can feel that I’m recovering. For example, three months ago, just as my DBT study ended, my life partner left me for another woman. As any normal person would be, I was devastated. However, I survived it, and, in many cases, I acted with wisdom and grace. I believe that the DBT therapy was what helped me to seek ways to behave with integrity even in life’s most difficult circumstances.
Frankly, the moment that all of this happened, I looked a mess, and I felt a mess a lot of the time, but I was able to forgive myself because I understood that everyone is a mess when they are going through the breakup of a serious partnership. Before DBT, I’m not sure I would have been so forgiving of myself.
Forgiving myself helped me consider better coping strategies and I absolutely know that I made better choices than I would have if I had never made efforts toward recovery.
What are some of the characteristics or traits you had to incorporate in your life to maintain recovery?
I engage in a lot of positive self talk because I know that it’s my invalidating thinking that keeps me feeling down. I think about my week in terms of building mastery and building in pleasurable activities. I make sure I have structure in my week, especially now that I’m single.
It’s really important for me to have internal rules that help me behave in ways that allow me to feel good about myself, so I make sure that I keep my house clean, do my laundry, and eat well. I try to exercise and make healthy food/lifestyle choices. When I make choices that I think are unhealthy or unproductive, I analyze them. I think, “why did I drink so much last night? What am I going to do differently in the future to help me be smarter surrounding that choice.”
Also, I work hard on building community, maintaining friendships, and being social. I give myself some down time, but I make sure that I’m doing social things throughout the week, calling people I want to keep in my life, being there for my friends as much as they are there for me, and finding ways to give to others.
Additionally, I forgive myself for having intense feelings. Diary cards are great, so I keep a log of my moods. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be the type of person who doesn’t have mood swings, so I’m learning to accept them and ride them like I’m surfing waves. Finally, I have a spiritual life now. I find that praying, meditating, and going to spiritual practice (for me it’s church, but I really think people should be able to find a practice that works for them, and that might be synagogue, a pagan group, AA, a meditation group, or something else) centers me, helps me stay in contact with other people who are trying to improve themselves and the world, and gives me new avenues for positive self talk.
What are some myths or misconceptions about recovery?
I think people think that recovery is about feeling different or feeling like a different kind of person, and I don’t think that’s always true. For me, recovery has mostly been about acting differently.
I still feel empty, have incredibly intense emotions, and lack that ever elusive “stable identity” everyone keeps going on about, but I act differently. When I feel overwhelmed by sadness, I pray, call a friend, or take a nap or shower. I don’t [self-injure]. If I think about killing myself, I don’t spend an hour planning it out. Instead, I try to figure out why I’m feeling that way, and, again, I call a friend, take a nap, do something to stop the ideation. In fact, I believe I will always keep the 50 things to do instead of self-harm at my desk.
Accepting rejection is hard, and interpersonal relationships are always going to be a struggle for me. I still get very angry sometimes, but I’m learning to wait before I react. I think that’s maybe 75% of my battle. Because my emotions are so intense, I just have to wait longer/calm them down and consider my own interpretations before I respond.
I feel like recovery is more about finding “hacks” that help us deal with having a certain kind of mind than changing who we are inside.
I guess, I think it’s a little like how people on the autism spectrum don’t see themselves as “neurotypical” (whatever that actually means). My brain is a little different than other people’s brains. I don’t resent that. I feel like it’s good in some ways. But, recovery is about fitting in, getting accepted, being “normal” enough to benefit from friends, responsibility, and love in the world. DBT has helped me do those things, and the benefits are enormous!
Do you think the journey to recovery could be taught to others? Why or why not?
Yes, absolutely! I think DBT is ingenious! It really worked for me, and I think it can work for other people. Other therapies are working too, and, while I think DBT should be a component of ALL BPD therapy, I don’t think it should be the only component. We can benefit from body work, EMDR, medication, and new therapies.
But, one thing is for sure, We CAN get better! I’m going to say that again: We can recover.
It’s been proven, and I feel like I’m living proof. I want everyone to know that they don’t have to stay stuck and can find real solutions to the problems they experience.
The other thing that helped me was seeing that I’m not alone. So many truly amazing and wonderful people have this condition. Thanks for allowing me to answer these questions! I look forward to reading your book and continuing to dialogue and learn more from other borderline people.
The questionnaire that I posted about last week has come on its own and your responses overwhelm me (in a good way!). I just want to thank you for participating and if you haven’t just yet, please feel free to tell your own story about your journey to recovery. I’m highlighting a few of the responses here on the blog, of course with their permission. I hope you learn as much as I have after reading their responses. More posts to come!
Our first feature comes from Ryan. You can check out his page here.
Amanda: What has been your key to getting from remission to recovery?
Ryan: To me, the most important thing is being an active participant in my own progress to the fullest extent, and embracing solutions rather than excuses. There is no magic wand and no therapist that is going to cure me, I have to do the hard work every day, set goals and accomplish them, for all of my health wants & needs to come to fruition, because the truth is, at the end of the day and for the rest of my life, I am the only one who is guaranteed to be there for me 100%. Self-respect, smart work, and reward for a job well done are key.
A: What are some of the characteristics or traits you had to incorporate in your life to maintain recovery?
R: The following are essential to my daily life, in maintaining & furthering my journey to recovery:
- Forgiveness of self & others for events in the past that haunt me — meaning that I can start with a “clean sheet” and take back the power that was once lost.
- Insight, Self-Growth, & Self-Respect — meaning that I make it a habit of reflection to see what kinds of decisions I make that need to be changed, and then working hard on making those changes so that my relationships with myself and others become more trusting & fulfilling.
- Physical & Mental exercise on a daily basis — this means using the brain & body muscles that you have and pushing them to their limits so they become stronger and more useful, in turn giving me more tools when I need them. Boxing has been a wonderful way to maintain this activity.
A: What are some myths or misconceptions about recovery?
R: One of the biggest myths that I overcame was thinking that the urges to to harmful things were who I am and that if I didn’t act on them that I was living a lie and not being my true self. That is incorrect. I have learned an accepted that all people have urges to do destructive things, but it is not our urges that define us, it is our choices. Our behaviour as people is who we really our, not the thoughts and desires. Once you believe and accept this, you will have a sense of calm & freedom not felt before.
A: Do you think the journey to recovery could be taught to others?
R: Absolutely, the journey could be taught to anyone, if done in a way that they can understand, relate to, and believe, while taking on the task at hand and creating/accomplishing goals for themselves that are successful. Each person is entirely different and must be treated that way, but they must understand and believe that they have things in common with others and that inspiration can go a long way in fueling the fires of motivation in daily life, seeing that even and most importantly, they are their biggest role model, and the things they have already accomplished can be used as learning tools for new goals.
R: Recovery is a process that will be grueling and very stressful at times, enough to make you wonder if it is worth it, but if you take the strength & knowledge that you attain through your essential hard & smart work, the possibilities are endless. It’s up to you, the goals must be set and completed, and you must believe and have self-respect, but when you’re starting out on your journey it’s important to remember that one day at a time, even one second at a time, is okay and needed. Everyone that has a goal or has reached heights that you may think are too great for you has started from the very beginning, with nothing, and worked their way up. I’m continuing on this successful journey, and I believe you can and will too.