There is considerable stigma and a prevalent attitude among many professionals, let alone people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), that BPD is intractable and cannot be recovered from. The truth is, however, Borderline Personality Disorder does not, by any means, have to be a life sentence of pain and suffering.
There are many theories as to the cause of BPD that are being forwarded by professionals. There is even an on-going debate about what BPD should really be called. There is this energy invested in all of the theories, all of the ideas about what this mental illness challenge is called or should be called to the point that the related distractions for those with BPD may in fact be blocking their chances for recovery.
Being forwarded more and more is the idea that BPD is a "brain disorder". That it is all-biological. There is no conclusive evidence of this. Professionals who forward this theory/cause/argument have essentially no conclusive proof. Do you feel like waiting for them to figure it out? Do you feel like putting off your future or prolonging your suffering right now until they figure it out, assuming that they really ever can or will in any conclusively proven way? Are you willing to mortgage your mental health to the notion that there will some day be a magical cure-all pill?
I was even given this rather lame answer, in 1987, when I asked a psychiatrist I was seeing if and when I would ever get better. His response to me was, that I would get better, "when we find the better pill".
I wasn’t on any psychiatric medication. What pill was going to be better than no pill? What sense could this possibly make? I never went back to see him again. I did not believe his conclusion. I refused to. My refusal to just accept the careless and negative words of a less than stellar psychiatrist made all the difference in the world to my journey and process and made my recovery possible. If I had of believed that psychiatrist my life could have been doomed to the pain and suffering of the active throes of BPD.
I certainly wasn’t going to be limited by his negative and perhaps self-serving beliefs. I didn’t accept his response to my question. I found a way to continue to believe in possibility and to have hope despite all odds and despite how lost I was. I worked hard. I held out hope for my own recovery. I had skilled professional help. I recovered despite some professionals on my journey who sought to have me believe as they believed. I refused to accept their limiting negative and either incompetent or burned out belief that recovery from BPD was not possible. I moved on and found therapists who supported my belief, encouraged my belief, and worked with me from the shared belief that recovery from BPD was possible.
Do some people with BPD benefit from taking certain prescribed medications? Likely, yes. If you are currently on medication your doctor has prescribed please do not make any changes without consulting him or her first. But taking prescribed medication to help with some symptoms is far from a cure-all.
The brain is a very complex thing. The brain is not just affected by our genetic code or our biology. The brain is also very much affected by emotional trauma – at the heart of which is often abuse and/or the core wound of abandonment in those who go on to be diagnosed with BPD. The brain is affected by what a human being experiences and/or perceives in his or her environment. The brain is affected by lack of nurture. It is affected by lack of secure attachment.
Traditional psychotherapy – talk therapy – in and through the various modalities it is offered, can and does address issues that are "brain-deep".
BPD is referred to as a personality disorder. In my past experience with BPD I came to know it as a relational disorder. I do not believe there can or will ever be a pill that can control or change a person’s thoughts or feelings or ways of relating. I do not believe this is just a matter of biology at all. There likely is a neurological component to BPD but as I know since I have recovered from BPD it is not something that can’t be overcome.
Ironically enough a mental health system that focuses on the polarized, more often than not, negative thinking patterns of those with BPD, itself exhibits these very same tendencies when it (and not all professionals fit this mold) makes the claim that borderlines cannot recover. Could this be a case of a systemic-borderline-like-thinking? What ramifications does this cast upon the stigma and resultant disservice being done to many with BPD when they do seek treatment?
What each and every person with BPD must know right now is that they can get better. You can change your suffering, at the very least, into manageable pain. You can make progress. You can get on and then stay on the road to recovery. To whatever degree you can navigate your way through the intrapsychic narcissistic injury of what I refer to as "the core wound of abandonment" is the degree to which you can create healthy change in your life. It is the degree to which those with BPD can find and re-claim the lost authentic self.
Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder hinges upon this quest for the lost authentic self. The gateway to the finding of this self is the dissociated from inner child.
Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder is possible and can be achieved. It takes a lot of hard work in therapy with a therapist who believes that you can get better. It takes accepting and exercising personal responsibility for yourself, your feelings, your thoughts, you actions and your behaviour, without excuse. Recovery from BPD also requires gut-wrenching honesty with yourself.
Borderline Personality Disorder is not some "brain disorder" that leaves you, the borderline, helpless in its grips and doomed to a lifetime of pills in the quest for the magical combination or magical cure-all pill. The reality is that you are your own best chance for recovery. Your choices are much more powerful tools on your journey and in your process than any pill could ever hope to be.
In order to get on the road to recovery those with BPD must learn how to make the choice to open up to the vulnerability of learning and to lay down the closed relational style of constant vigilant protection.
You cannot learn and protect at the same time. If you have BPD, you have a choices to make. Among those choices also is the choice to believe in your ability to find your way to recovery.
Recovery from BPD is not possible at all unless and until the borderline opens up to risking holding and accepting the belief in this possibility. What you think is what you will experience.
What do you believe? What will you choose in your own life?
copyright © A.J. Mahari, April 11, 2008