Introduction to This Blog Series
I was 27 years old when I entered into the realization that there was something wrong with me and one of the original diagnosis was Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD.
I say something wrong with me because I was just not able to manage my life on my own and somehow knew there was something wrong with my mind.
Back then, not a lot was known about this horribly stigmatized disorder because BPD patients were considered impossible to treat or wrongly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
Along with BPD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS) were also added to my diagnostic mix.
ADHD was quickly debunked and over the past two decades most professionals leaned towards my having PTSD or a Dissociative Disorder – but something about these disorders never seemed to fit.
Add menopause to the mix and the confusion became even more confusing.
Here are past blogs I’ve written about my struggles with anxiety and what felt like PTSD or DDNOS:
- Managing Anxiety -The Space of No Mind
- Managing Anxiety and the Mind of Choice
- Anxiety – The Antithesis of Personal Connection
- Anxiety & Cannabidiol (CBD) & Exercise
- Trauma, Flashbacks and Dissociative Disorders
- AM I: In a Panic Attack or Trauma Response or Dissociation or Menopause? How Do I Tell The Difference?
As well, I have a history of alcohol addiction.
On February 17th, 2020 I began living an alcohol-free life.
My Struggles With Alcohol Can be Read in These Blogs:
- Mystic Order – Reiki Level IIIA – 21 Day Cleanse – A Miracle Has Happened
- Spiritual Discipline – My Alcohol Addiction – My Story Now
- Personal Development – Cutting the Ties That Bind – Saying Goodbye to Alcohol
- Is Too Much a Choice or Addiction?
- Personal Development – A Wild Woman’s Journey With Drinking and Hedonism While Walking the Spiritual Path
- Personal Development – A Wild Woman’s Slow Transformation Towards Her Best Self
- OYNB – One Year No Beer – This Wild Woman’s Successful Journey of the 28 Day Challenge and Beyond!
- Personal Development – A Wild Woman Walking the Spiritual Path – A Wild Woman Redefined? Absolutely!
- Personal Development – Living Alcohol Free – Musings During Day 78
- Just For Today – I Will Do My Work Honestly
- Just For Today – I Will Do My Work Honestly
- Personal Development – Living An Alcohol Free Life – Year One
At 52 years old, and after a thorough assessment by a seasoned psychiatrist – I was finally properly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.
This blog series called Owning and Unraveling Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder is my way of processing and understanding these complex personality disorders and how they manifest, interfere with and enhance my life.
And, as it has been said to me from friends who have family members with Borderline Personality Disorder, perhaps I can help dispel misconceptions and stigmas associated with these mental illnesses.
As well, perhaps I can shed some light and more personal information on what living with Histrionic Personality Disorder is like, for those who are also walking this path.
Scrambled Egg Thoughts
This week my therapeutic journey has been focusing on the authentic self and mindfulness.
Authentic self is something I’ve been searching for, for as far back as I can remember.
In my early twenties, I remember searching out ways to get to know who I am, and find where I fit into this world – to bring myself peace.
During those times, I tried many different practices to find peace like Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
I also studied and practiced Healing Touch.
I felt lost in this vortex of the world, unable to find my way.
All because I thought I had childhood trauma.
Which, I had.
But it was something else that happened to bring me this level of distress, of struggling to live in the world.
As a child, I developed maladaptive ways of getting my needs met that was supported by genetics and being born a sensitive child.
This is what makes BPD and HPD so stigmatic – because I developed it.
It was how I adapted to the world around me to get my needs met – based on my genetics, environment and sensitive predisposition (Biosocial Theory).
More specifically, I amplified my behaviors to get my needs met.
So far, this if my understanding of how I developed BPD, according to what my therapist is explaining to me that aligns with the explanation of how BPD happens in Borderline Personality for Dummies by Charles H. Elliott and Laura L. Smith.
My therapist has lots of experience working with those with BPD, as she worked in public mental health & addictions for over 20 years.
She is now in private practice.
That is all I’m going to say on the causes of BPD, for right now, as I still have lots to learn.
I haven’t asked my therapist much about HPD, as her focus is on BPD.
My gut tells me that HPD develops much the same as BPD – as a way to gets my needs met.
Activity – Authentic Self – Creating a Symbolic Representation
I’m working on a fun exercise as part of an eight-week women’s empowerment group I am a part of.
Each woman in the group is on a healing journey of trauma.
Facilitated by therapists (one is my therapist), this group encourages women supporting women – nurturing support rather than competition – building trust.
This week’s session was on connecting to our authentic self.
I laughed as I have this entire blog dedicated to living an authentic life, as I’m so desperate to do so.
I started my blog when I moved overseas in 2015 as a way to remember this new adventure and to have a voice in this new found freedom.
For me, it was so much easier giving myself permission to be myself in a country nobody knew me.
I felt free.
Now back in Canada, I struggle to feel that freedom.
But, not so much – as I see who and how I want to be – it is connecting to that part of me – that wise part – and being able to remain there for more than a few minutes at a time.
But, I am digressing.
Back to the fun activity.
I’ve outlined the activity itself and I answer the questions.
Maybe you could try the questions.
This is fun!
An Animal Symbol
- If you could be an animal, what would you choose to be? (Chances are your choice says something about your Authentic Self.)
- Write a description of the animal’s special characteristics and habits.
- What qualities do you find most appealing about this animal?
- How would you, in this animal form, spend a typical day?
- What do you like and dislike about being this animal?
Spirit of the Eagle
- If you could be an animal, what would you choose to be?
I am a Bald Eagle.
The below picture has significant meaning for me.
This is one photo in a series I managed to capture as an eagle flew over me while kayaking the waters around Quadra Island, British Columbia.
Is it a double exposure or is it Spirit of this Bald Eagle?
An Interesting Side Story
When I was 27 years old and entered into treatment, there were regular group sessions at the 28-day program I was attending.
During group, the therapist asked us what animal we would like to be.
Most chose a cat or a dog.
When it was my turn, I said I wanted to be a tiger and hear me roar!
I bought a tiger pin soon after that, and I still have to this day.
2. Write a description of the animal’s special characteristics and habits.
Bald Eagles are solitary birds who mate for life.
They are majestic yet mighty.
Wise warriors who earn their place at the top of the food chain.
When someone sees an eagle – you can’t help but stop and be in awe of their beauty and strength.
Yet, it is something they do not see in themselves – as they are who they are.
They fly the highest above all others – to gain a broader perspective – yet can see the salmon in the waters – eagles can see the detail in such a broad view.
Bald Eagles are known as “sea eagles”, as they prefer to live by the water.
So do I, prefer to live by the water.
Bald Eagles prefer to eat fish, so do I.
3. What qualities do you find most appealing about this animal?
There is a solitary mystery, a regal quality about this bird I find very compelling.
When an eagle is flying above me, I feel like I’ve been given a special gift from the Gods.
A message that all is going to be okay.
4. How would you, in this animal form, spend a typical day?
I would spend the day flying.
Soaring high above the world.
Playing in the wind.
Swooping through the clouds.
Then I would perch on the tallest tree, joining my life-mate and watch the world go by.
5. What do you like and dislike about being this animal?
I like that the Bald Eagle is the largest bird in North America.
I like their contrasting black and white colors.
I like how I can always recognize an eagle in the air.
Their wing span length and straight wing formation is unmistakable, as they soar high above.
I dislike that Bald Eagles eat mammals like cats and small dogs, for obvious reasons.
I dislike that Bald Eagles take food from other birds of prey to feed themselves.
While sitting with the psychiatrist as she assessed me for these psychiatric diagnoses – a bald eagle flew past the window.
I exclaimed out load, “An eagle!”
The psychiatrist asked what that meant for me.
I told her I was exactly where I am meant to be.
The eagle is confirming I am on the my way.
I showed her the tattoo on my arm – a Phoenix rising up from a Restorative Circle. The Phoenix’s head is an Indigenous Bald Eagle, its body a mighty hummingbird – rising up from two Bald Eagle feathers – one feather is traditional, the other is Indigenous.
Mindfulness to Observe Body Sensation
This is one of many, “one small step towards Stephanie’s healing” strategies that feels as challenging as landing on the moon.
For decades, my body went into what felt like fight, flight or freeze that I assumed was a flashback because the feelings of fear or anger were so intense.
I would then become more anxious as I would wonder what the hell happened to me that would cause such a horrible reaction – what was it that I could not remember that my body is trying to tell me?
I start to spiral in fear.
I become fixated on trying to figure out the cause of this intense fear in my body.
And scared to death at the same time.
What would be revealed?
Now, I have to stop trying to figure out the “why” when my body feels an intense emotion.
I have to step back and ride it out.
I have to ride out the waves of intense emotion.
While not analyzing the intense emotion, or judge it and label it “good or bad”.
Yup, this is gonna take some kickass mental training!
Because, alongside this, the next step is being able to recognize behavior patterns that bring about such strong emotional dysregulation, and catch it before the dysregulation happens.
Chain Analysis helps to do this.
This Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) technique helps to understand behavior in a step-by-step way.
These are a few steps to Chain Analysis:
- Describe Problem Behavior
- Describe Prompting Event
- Describe Specific Vulnerability Factors
- Describe the Chain of Events
- Describe the Consequences
- Describe a Skilled Behavior
- Describe a Prevention Strategy
- Describe any Repair
I am just starting to read about this technique and write out an example to review with my therapist.
She recommends I start with a very simple behavior rather than a more challenging dissociative behavior first.
Makes total sense.
Interestingly enough, the big behaviors like dissociation are the easiest to remember.
The smaller, more innocuous behaviors sometimes feel more challenging to identify.
Maybe this is the very nature of BPD and HPD -and why big behaviors were developed because small behaviors went unnoticed and why I find it hard to recognize the less dramatic ones?
Wait – don’t analyze.
Final Egg and Eagle Thoughts
I can see a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
I am so very grateful I have a few years of listening to meditation instructors Tamara Levitt and Jeff Warren on Calm under my belt.
I’ve been listening for almost two years on how to be in my body and then observe what is going on.
I am FAR from a place of being able to be in my body for long stretches of time, let alone just observe the emotions going on inside and not judge it or analyse it.
But every time I do observe the sensations in my body, no matter for how long or for how little, I strengthen my concentration muscle.
I can feel this improvement as a result of my daily micro-mini steps of practicing meditation and mindfulness.
This simple practice is hard.
And, just like running and kayaking, I can’t imagine my life without the practice of meditation and mindfulness.
As I wrap up this weeks musings on my diagnoses, I am beginning to feel the positive effects of attending a woman’s group.
I can see the bigger picture (or at least I think I can) of why being able to observe and not judge when my body feels an intense emotion is important.
I can also see how Chain Analysis will help.
As well, I see the benefits of a weekly session with my therapist.
I am learning to build trust and grow from her years of experience working with those with BPD.
The good news is that we are working hard, at a pace I can handle, so I do not have to go to therapy forever.
I will learn the tools needed to manage and live with BPD and HPD.
I will rise.
I am a Soaring Eagle.
Feature Image – Shirley Trottier, Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada
Owning and Unraveling Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder
- Forget Everything I’ve Said – I’ve Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder – Introduction to Symptoms & Causes
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – Today’s Ramble on Identity & Calm & CBD & THC
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – Scrambled Egg Thoughts & Soaring Eagles
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – The World is Hard Work
- Borderline Personality Disorder – Emotions Borderline Style & Seeing Is Believing
- Borderline Personality Disorder – Intentional Interventions & Ah-Ha Moments
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – Anger & Lettin’ Loose & How BPD Am I?
- Borderline Personality Disorder – Mindfulness & Releasing Repressed Grief
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – The Stigma & Non-Social Acceptance
- Borderline Personality Disorder – Practicing Non-Judgement & Finding Synthesis Between Opposites
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – The Start of EMDR – Creating New Pathways to Calm
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – The Pros and Cons of Medical THC & CBD
- Histrionic Personality Disorder – This One’s Hard To Process – Gonna Be Baby Steps
- Borderline Personality Disorder & HistrionicPersonality Disorder – In Need of A Reset
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – Owning The Chaos – It Has Made My Life Interesting
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – Anxious – Ambivalent (Preoccupied) Attachment Style
- Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder – Everyday Noticing Of What It Is Like Living With BPD & HPD