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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

I've found people who know how it feels!

Since making my bpd orchid Twitter (tweet me @bpdorchid !), I've had a tremendous amount of support and enjoyment from the warm feeling of solidarity with others. It has been a joy to connect with others who have experience of the things I have been through and am going through. It can feel so frighteningly lonely to have bpd that it's a pleasure every time I relate to something someone has written on Twitter. 

I follow people who tweet about Borderline Personality Disorder, and those who tweet about Bipolar and other mental health problems, and people who are 'recovery warriors', or experts or just kind-hearted people who are in the Twitter community wanting to reach out. I feel over-awed to have almost 520 followers now. I didn't think that in my wildest dreams I would have had that many followers! 

Thank you to all follow me. I hope you have felt solidarity and the warmth of that feeling of 'I am not alone'. Twitter has helped me in spiky moments of panic and emotional isolation: when I have wanted to cry out 'help' and scream into the midst for someone who understands. 

It has been on Twitter where I have found a community of people who know exactly how I feel: they trust that I am not 'dramatic', or just making things up. In short, they 'get it'. I am thankful to the makers of Twitter and to the lively, kind bunch of people who frequent Twitter.It would be wonderful if even more people suffering with the confusion or the loneliness that can come with bpd had looked at my page and found some comfort. I hope for 2015 that my Twitter can grow and bloom with me and with the community of lovely others out there.Thank you everyone. 

Friday, 26 December 2014

My eating disorder: telling someone important

Over four years ago now, I let someone into my private life, namely the mental health problem I was struggling with most at that time in my life: an eating disorder of sorts.

I was very scared to tell him about my secret struggle; I felt as though it was a huge risk because I worried he would be 'freaked out' and back off from me. I was more worried that he would rebuke me not for the eating disorder, but for the fact that I had shared such a taboo topic with him.

Turns out, it was a wonderful decision to tell him, and I was glad I was brave enough to, although I can remember the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach and the jolts which my heart was taking. It made us closer, and I have felt ever since the powerful healing presence of having someone stable in my life who is unwaveringly supportive of me.

This person has been instrumental in getting my mental health problems, including what would years after my 'confession' to him be diagnosed as borderline personality disorder. One of the fears which drives bpd so ferociously is what is known in the DSM and other books as 'fear of abandonment'.

I will be ever-grateful to this person and my hope is that if he ever needs the support he gave to me, I hope I can give it back in the same amount and level of usefulness that he gave unconditionally to me.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

BPD quote

“And I can’t be running back and forth forever between grief and high delight.” – J. D. Salinger

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Triggers: One spark to start a blaze

**TW applies**

I'm going to write a very personal post about one of my biggest triggers- the sorts of interpersonal moments which are more often that not a spark for an emotional episode. **TW** In the past, these emotional episodes have been explosive, involved suicidal ideation and self-harm ideation and self-harm. At the moment, I have calmed these emotional episodes down and they are much less destructive. This is thanks to the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Diary and the new way of experiencing and relating to my emotions the book has given me. 

My biggest trigger is when someone close to me says something to me that I interpret as 'i am not a good person'. Also, if someone tells me that I hurt their feelings or weren't able to give them what I want it can trigger me to feel utterly useless and terrible. I 'split' and see myself as 'all-bad' and take on this one comment or conversation as my self-definition or defining factor of my life, who I am and who I will always be. 

**TW** It is frightening: I start to feel 'bad' and think of ways to punish myself, with eating disorders or self-harm. My new job has helped me to feel useful, good about myself and my personal qualities, as I put them into action in my everyday life and feel as though I am contributing to others in a (hopefully) meaningful way. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

When I fell into a black hole: types of therapies that pulled me out

**trigger warning, depression and eating disorders, so please avoid if you might be vulnerable to these topics**

I started seeing a CBT therapist who specialised in eating disorders when I had- for want of a simpler word- a breakdown in 2010. I had to stop what I was doing in my life at that time for 9 months and a GP told me I had major depression. 

For of those 4 months, I was rarely (if ever) left unattended in the house, didn't go outside on my own and didn't see any of my friends or even talk to them on the phone. I slept most of the day, and inside I was 'dead'. I didn't feel any happiness for 4 months, I don't think I even laughed, I had no life, I was completely in a black hole. 

There were no mood swings or positive emotions at all during that time. It was a period of constant depression, utterly and completely, through and through, and I can say with all my heart that it was the most terrifying and lonely period of my life. I don't want to go through a period like that ever again, but I am glad I have been there, because it has given me insight, empathy and (I hope) compassion. I've not seen people, the world, or myself in the same way since. 

It's been almost four years since I was in that state and I've not been in that state since. I hope to God I never will be again, there is no way to describe it other than feeling dead. 

In the year or so leading up to that dark period I've just described, I was gradually becoming more and more obsessed with food. Food and hunger became a way of controlling I don't want to write about it, because it could be a whole new blog in itself and coping (or not coping at all...) with my feelings with food has been calmed for a surprisingly vast majority of the last three years of my life. 

I haven't completed this yet, but it's tbc soon...

(image from

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


In categorically speaking, I write about the diagnostic criteria for, and symptoms of, bpd. One of the nine (five or more of these nine is the DSM benchmark for bpd diagnosis) is 'transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms'. 

I'm not going to talk about 'severe dissociative symptoms' today. I don't know if i'm qualified to talk about them really, I think I used to have this a fair bit as a teenager, but I don't I have it these days. What I am familiar with however, is the first half of that criterion: 'transient, stress-related paranoid ideation'. 

Thankfully, however, I only have these frightening paranoid thoughts infrequently. I'm also pretty sure that for me the thoughts happen when I am in a stressful time, such as having a lot of deadlines. 

Apparently paranoid thoughts are really quite common in the general population, and I would bet good many that most people have them, but not many people mention it !

 Mind describes three key features of paranoid thoughts, and says that if you have paranoia, you may: 

  • fear that something bad will happen
  • think that other people or external causes are responsible
  • have beliefs that are exaggerated or unfounded.
I'm a bit afraid to talk about what sorts of paranoid thoughts I've had before, because I fear others and society in general are  likely to cast judgement on my character and competency, and feel doubt as to whether I can pursue my career path, bringing up a family, be a member of the community. 

It is very scary to feel that some thoughts you have inside your mind might mean that others would doubt your competency and capabilities. I've only ever told two people close to me and some professionals I've seen.  I wouldn't want my employer to know about my diagnosis of bpd, because I don't think there is enough widespread understanding that having a mental illness and being competent in your career are not mutually exclusive entities. 

**trigger warning, this description of paranoid thoughts might be difficult for some people to read, although it's not very detailed**

So...let me tell you about the paranoid ideation I get from time to time, luckily quite sporadically. It's very hard for me to talk about, so please go easy on me! There are some themes of paranoid thoughts that I have:

They usually involve intrusive thoughts that someone is going to break in and attack me, or that I am going to be injured.

These sorts of mental experiences are very confusing, make me feel vulnerable when they happen, and they make me feel very ashamed. I know that there is 'no shame' (#noshame), but I do feel very ashamed of these thoughts. 

I would like to understand more about where paranoid thoughts develop from and why they happen. There must be a reason behind them.... I will post more when I've given it some more thought.

I've had paranoid ideation number 3 since I was about ten, so I think for me this goes back a long way. 

I hope someone can relate to my experiences with paranoid thoughts and how I feel about their sporadic presence in my life. More than that, I wonder if people can connect with the fear that others and society would judge you for having paranoid thoughts? 

compassion - insight – relating 

DBT: The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Diary

Five weeks ago, I walked into Foyles and browsed its reams of shelves. Five hours later (!), I walked out with a book and the sense of new project burgeoning. The book, as I've discussed on Twitter with a lot of people, was The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary by Matthew McKay, PH.D and Jeffrey C. Wood, Psy.D, and you can recognise it by its A5 size and pale green cover.

I've also chatted about this book in my post there cannot be a crisis my schedule is already full. The book's tagline is 'monitoring your emotional regulation day by day' and that's what I've found that it does very simply. The Diary is a companion to the more in-depth Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, and there is also a very similar book in the same series for people with Bipolar, Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook Disorder for Bipolar Disorder, which is distinguishable by its pale blue colour. DBT for Bipolar is being used by some professionals as a therapy for Bipolar, but it's not as widely known or accepted as a treatment for Bipolar as it is for bpd (see DBT#1: An Intro).

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary fantastically contains a whole year's worth of tables in which to record your use of skills and your mood. The record pages look like this:

Displaying photo 1.JPGDisplaying photo 2.JPG
The table is separated into the four core skills, and there is a space for notes about the specifics of what happened, what the scenario was, or what you did, for example. There is a space also at the bottom of each day to give a rating for your 'overall mood for the day'.

This rating system irked me a lot when I got the book; it doesn't formally make space for the fact that a person can be in the morning a 9 and in the evening a 1. Seeing that rating system also brought back my deep-seated infuriation with a psychiatrist who I saw about my up-down moods, and who I didn't particularly like. 

Understandably, she asked me to plot my mood from 1-10 on a graph. But she only wanted to plot it as an average for the whole day, and I tried to explain to her that the graph would not be an accurate representation of my moods and it was going to end up as 5 everyday, because on most of my days at that time in my life I switched between a 9 and 1, 8 and 2, or, if it was less extreme, between  7 and 4.  

So what I do, if I've noticed two drastically different moods within one day, I record both numbers. 

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary establishes 30 skills, and although DBT is empirically studied, it could be said to be more of an art than a science, and DBT skills do vary in name and number between books, programmes and practitioners. I think its flexibility and scope is part of the beauty of it. 

So, The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary has 52 weeks of tables to keep a diary for a whole year- because DBT is something you practice and gain over time, it can't just be learnt in a day, week or a month, it takes a commitment to practising it and 'living' it in tandem with your life, emotional experience and in relationships with others and your self. 

The book also dedicates the first 50 out of 157 pages to what the skills are and how you can approach them. It does this in a really clear language, using examples I identify with, and the layout is uncluttered and systematic I tend to turn to this book when I'm approaching, or 'in', some sort of emotional distress or approaching a potentially triggering situation, and the last thing I need is a tangled this book perfectly fits the bill for me. 

I'm on Week 5 of using this book, and I feel like it's giving me a safety net I can hold out for myself, that I didn't have before. Before, I felt a lot more unsafe and like if I was in emotional distress that I couldn't cope....this is teaching me otherwise. 

**Trigger warning briefly for the next small paragraph**

In the past Five Weeks that I've been using this book I've scratched myself when i was upset with myself twice, but I haven't hurt myself in any ways that leave marks, which I have most definitely done in the past. 

I do feel  a bit like a kid with a sticker chart and homework planner, having to fill out this record book, and I can feel a bit silly. But, if I'm honest, doing this makes me feel like I am teaching myself what I didn't learn to do when I was a child: regulate, contain and cope with my emotions. 

I really hope this post is useful to someone out there. I know quite a lot of people that I've talked to on Twitter and #bpdchat (something which I will do a post about soon) use this book. I think it's the book which is used in DBT Path, the online programme by Debbie Corso. 

compassion - insight relating

BPD: Like riding a wild horse

It struck me that the way bpd feels could be explained to others through the idea of wild horses.

Something happens which wouldn't provoke such a reaction in others, and next thing I know, my emotions are careering away with me and just clinging on for dear life.

I've had an exhilarating physical experience of this, riding beautiful horses on a wide beach. A fairly average noise sounded, and my horse reacted intensely. He bolted, leaping into the waves, galloping bullet-like, the wind lashing me breathlessly and I was just clinging onto his mane for dear life!

Going through my life inside my body and mind is a bit like riding a powerful horse on a beach.

And I don't think the comparison stops there; I'm afraid to say that this elaborate metaphor unfolds...

Everyone around the horse is terrified.

In fact the horse is as terrified of itself and it is of the surroundings!

The horse is nervous of others, although what I wants and needs is to go to somewhere safe, which is a stable (pun not coincidental).

People around the horse, including its rider, have lost trust in it. The horse has shown people that it's unpredictable, volatile, untrustworthy, dangerous. People not treat the horse differently because they have seen its potential and its volatility.

Back in the stable, the horse is utterly exhausted; worn out, it's also ashamed, because the people have reprimanded it for its startling behaviour.


I know this is a bit of an ornate metaphor, but I think it conveys how it feels to live with bpd, emotional instability/impulsiveness and related emotional issues. Can anyone relate, or do you want to add or change the metaphor for yourself?

compassion - insight relating

Monday, 11 August 2014

BPD in Wide Sargasso Sea

I've got a post brewing about Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. It's one of my favourite novels, it's beautiful and clever in so many ways, I adore it. It's also really interesting with regard to bpd and emotional distress 

I won't write the post now, but I will give you a couple of quotations from the novel for now:

  • I have been too unhappy, I thought, it cannot last, being so unhappy, it would kill you.
  • There is no looking glass here and I don’t know what I am like now. I remember watching myself brush my hair and how my eyes looked back at me. The girl I saw was myself yet not quite myself. Long ago when I was a child and very lonely I tried to kiss her. But the glass was between us — hard, cold and misted over with my breath. Now they have taken everything away. What am I doing in this place and who am I?
  • And if the razor grass cut my legs and arms I would think ‘It’s better than people.’ Black ants or red ones, tall nests swarming with white ants, rain that soaked me to the skin – once I saw a snake. All better than people.Better. Better, better than people."

moving on from distress, moving forwards with acceptance

**trigger warning, discussion of things likelt to be triggering or upsetting, which some people may be emotionally vulnerable to, do not read if you feel vulnerable**

When I think about the amount and the intensity of destruction that my emotions have caused, it shakes me to the core. When I think about the ways I've coped with my emotions when I felt so utterly distressed, the ways I've communicated my unbearable feelings of sadness, the ways I acted out my desperate emotions, it makes me feel sick. I can't believe that was me. But it was. I have to accept that that was me. 

The girl who was hiding things so she could hurt herself if 'things got too much', the girl three years ago who cried whenever someone tried to make her eat, the girl whose GP sent her to A&E, the girl who laid on the floor of A&E yelling when the nurse told me to go home, the girl who felt so filled with despair that she thought she would explode. That girl was me.

I look forwards from these terrible experiences. I don't feel sorry for myself. Well, sometimes I do, and sometimes I cry about it, sometimes I look at myself in disbelief and think: 'who am I?' Who did this happy girl turn into just now? I don't feel like myself when I am overcome by my emotions. But it's me, it's me and I need to accept that. 

I am hopeful that things are getting better. I am reacting in a better way to my emotions now and learning to tolerate them. Emotional episodes still happen and they happen when I encounter the situations which are likely to set me off. 

I have to remember that those things that I did, those ways I acted, were not because I wanted to be hateful and cause chaos, but because I didn't know how to cope with my emotions in a different way. 

But I'm learning a different way, and part of learning that new way is accepting the things I've done and ways I've behaved. And the impact that's had on others. Which is the most difficult thing for me to deal with. The guilt I feel for the distress and stress I caused others feels similar in proportion to the emotional distress I felt in the first place. 

I need to accept those things I did. I need to accept that my emotions and behaviour impacted on other people's lives. The times I hurt myself and other people were deeply hurt and distressed by what I did to myself, because those people care about me. Before I deal with the guilt, I must accept what I did was real, that it was me, it was me who felt that way, and not deny it to myself and that those emotions have been inside me (and sometimes still are). 

That behaviour is something I did, and has been, and can still be, part of my life. It doesn't mean that I can't behave in other ways, but nevertheless, I need to accept that I had, and still do have, the potential to feel and behave in distressing ways. 

But I'm moving forwards-- and moving towards an acceptance of the past. 

compassion - insight relating

DBT: An introduction

I'm mentioned this three letter word along with the other little three letter word. DBT stands for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. It was devised by Dr Marsha Linehan, who I think of as a goddess of bpd. The photo of her below shows a woman who looks like she means business: and, I can tell you, she certainly does. 

image from

With Marsha Linehan's DBT there is no messing, and after some practise there is no more being messed around by your overwhelming, destructive emotions. She appears to be like that teacher we all had, that one who was extremely wise and knowledgeable, strict in a kind way, with a sense of humour that was as sharp as it was unexpected. In short, can you tell I've got a lot of affection for Marsha Linehan. I can't wait for the film  Marsha: A Life Worth Living to be released. 

This upcoming film will tell her story, and you can read a bit about her life in an article by the New York Times and in my post here. To be brief, she suffered from debilitating emotional instability, mood swings, impulsiveness and suicidal crises, and was diagnosed with bpd; she spent harrowing years confined in a rather terrifying outmoded psychiatric hospital. She is now the regarded by most as the leading expert on bpd and invented DBT. There are many people, including the much-mentioned Debbie Corso, who can vouch for the fact that DBT has made a life worth living. In short, I love Marsha!

So what is DBT? 

Well, it's very tricky to explain, so I hope I can do a vaguely okay job at explaining it. There are lots of good websites which might act as great introductions, such as Mind's explanation of DBT and The Linehan Institute website. The way I found out what it was was not by reading about it, but by directly doing what are called the skills. It was only after I'd tried out the skills, that I started to understand the concept behind DBT. 

Namely that of dialectics/dialectical. I've studied some philosophy before, and I gather that there is a dusty late Eighteenth Century philosopher called Hegel who had Hegel's Theory of Dialectics. Hegel liked use dialectical thinking as way of thinking about the world and himself. 

Put extremely simply and in ordinary everyday terms, dialectical thinking means the synthesis of two opposing forces of very similar strength. In other words, dialectical thinking is the merging two opposite ideas together and integrating them into some sort of compromise or blend.

image from

I will give you my understanding of this with a example of a scenario which regularly happens in my life!  I'm at the supermarket check-out with a load of food I'm going to cook for a group of friends of tonight. I'm about to pay for it all and as I reach into my bag, I can't find my purse and oh no -- I've left it on the kitchen table....

Force one: There's a huge queue behind me, I'm so embarrassed. I'm so stressed out, I have a lump in my throat and I could to cry, not just a few tears, but like full-on sob! I could fall on the floor, my life is too much to deal with. In fact, I feel like this is the last straw and I might cancel not only the meal for my friends, but all social invitations for the rest of the week. I hate myself so much I'm going to do some destructive, counter-productive things alone tonight to punish myself for being so stupid.

Force two:  I could make the best of what's happened. Right, it's a bit embarrassing because there's a bit of a queue behind me. Well, they will just have to be patient! I will go back to my house, find my purse and come back. I will politely asked the cashier if I can please leave the bags and pick them up when I return with my purse. I can walk back calmly and without a fuss, bringing my purse. When I get home with my shopping I will  cook for my friends and carry on as normal.

Synthesis/Compromise: I'm really tired, but I've arranged to cook for my friends, and I know I want to do that because it will be enjoyable- and just because I can be a scatter-brain doesn't mean I can't cook for my friends. I'm tired....but I can simplify things. I will just do the simpler version of the recipe, and leave out all that fancy stuff, so I can have a relaxing shower before my friends come over. 

image from

So, as you can see, a central concept of DBT is the dialectical, which is basically the integration, the hald-and-half, the best-of-both-worlds, the fifty shades of grey, the middle-ground, the happy-medium. 

Now, if you're like me, and I expect a lot of people who struggle with bpd or similar problems with intense emotions and impulsiveness, you might find yourself gravitating towards the all-or-nothing. That's not where we're aiming for in DBT.

A good way of understanding DBT, in my opinion, is from the centre outwards-- starting with what I think of as one of the central skills, if not the central skill and the skill from which many others originate. The skill, and if you do DBT you will be familiar with it, is called Wise Mind. 

Wise Mind in action looks pretty much like the synthesis/compromise of force 1 and force 2 at the supermarket check-out when I forgot my purse, when I managed to find a middle-ground after wanting to have both an emotional meltdown, as well as wanting to stay stable and cook for my friends. 

Wise Mind is the integration of what in DBT called 'Emotional Mind' and 'Reasonable (or Rational) Mind'. Like this:

image from

You might be looking at this and thinking....what! Looks sensible (and indeed it does), but how on earth could I possibly do that when I am feeling desperate, impulsive, overwhelm and like I'm drowning in my own strangulating, drowning emotions!!!

...And that's why DBT includes many skills. Too many to describe now...but do look out for my upcoming posts about DBT and its repertoire of skills. They have proven really effective in my life in slowing down my impulses, calming my storms of emotion, softening polarised emotions of joy and sadness and making me consider others myself, others and situations in less polarised lights. 

As a result, the drops and swerves in the emotional rollercoaster of my life have become slower, softer and less steep. I still have a long way to go, and I can't always tap into the DBT skills when I need to. I need a lot more practice with it. But i've started and that's the hardest part. And with DBT my life is less like this:

and a bit more like this:

And in a couple of years, when I've learnt more, practised more and replaced old ways of relating, coping, expressing and feeling with new and improved ones, I hope I will feel more like this:

Hehehe! I think I'm on the right track, so if I keep going, let's see how it goes over time. 

Do you have comments about this post, about DBT or Wise Mind? Or anything else for that matter? Do feel free to use the comments section below or tweet @bpd_orchid . 

compassion - insight relating

Sunday, 10 August 2014

BPD Quotes

Just going to scribble down a few quotes from books and wot not, writers of novels and other creative writings, rather than books specifically 'about' bpd. 

Hope you enjoy discovering these quotes, if you've not stumbled across them before. You never know, you might find something which expresses how it feels to you, which can be quite liberating. 

These are quotes which describe states of mind that could be associated with bpd, and sometime soon I will post quotes which might be inspiring/giving hope. 

  • 'The Mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven' - Paradise Lost, John Milton

  • 'I wish you could live in my brain for a week. It is washed with the most violent waves of emotion…And you think it all fixed and settled. -Virginia Woolf in a letter to Vita Sackville-West 

  • “Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I'm not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you've felt that way.” ― Charles Bukowski

  • 'It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative — which ever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.' - Sylvia Plath

  • 'I must be a mermaid [...] I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.' - Anais Nin 

  • 'I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then.' - Alice In Wonderland,  Lewis Carrol 

  • 'And I can’t be running back and forth forever between grief and high delight.' – J. D. Salinger

  • 'Watching the red and yellow flowers in the sun thinking of nothing, it was as if a door opened and I was somewhere else, something else. Not myself any longer.'  - Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

  • 'And suddenly she was immensely calm and indifferent to anything that had ever happened or could possibly happen to her. It was like that. Just when in another moment your brain would burst, it was always like that.' - After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, Jean Rhys

More to come, all in good time...

Do you have any for me to add? Let me know if you do, you can tweet me @bpd_orchid, or use the comments section.