I think I’m more likely to use my masters degree in a social work or rehab setting than as strictly as a private personal therapist. That said, though, I’ve come up with some thoughts about borderline personality disorder based on all my research about it, people I’ve known with it, and traits in myself.
First of all, the label is really useless. As evidenced by the fictional portrayal on “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” knowing that one has been given the label can cause despair…especially if you go online and research it. Everything you read about it says it’s supposedly so incurable.
I disagree. Maybe I’m overly naive because I never met enough of the criteria to be officially diagnosed with it, but I had a couple traits. And what I have to say is that it’s a battle with yourself, definitely. But it’s one that I believe can be won if you put in consistent effort.
You have to be willing to examine yourself and your behavior. That can be painful, especially if you unintentionally hurt people. Here’s what I do know for sure about that: hurt people hurt people. Scratch the surface of someone who’s angry and difficult to be around and there’s almost always some kind of trauma.
That doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to that behavior in someone else. If it’s destructive to you, know that they’re the only ones who can fix themselves. If you’re a “fixer” or “problem solver” type like I am, well, I see a lot of pain in your future until you can get some distance. You can’t and shouldn’t try to fix anyone else, especially at the expense of yourself.
At the same time, though, that doesn’t mean the person who’s been labeled “borderline” or has the behaviors is unfixable. It’s just an inside job that only the person can do for themselves.
The place to start is learning to moderate your emotional reactions. I know that when you’re coming from a place of intense pain, the idea that you can control that feeling sounds laughable. But it’s true, and with a combination of meditation and journaling and specific Dialectical Behavioral Therapy exercises, you can reduce the intensity of your experiences.
I know a lot of people with these issues feel that being told they can change their reactions is a failure to be truly accepted as they are. But it’s actually the opposite because it’s a form of self-love to realize that the approval you’re so desperately seeking is within you. The one who’s in pain has to accept themselves. Once they do, they realize that the intensity of their emotions is not who they are as a person.
But the thing is that you can’t make anybody change until they’re ready, and I believe that’s what is at the root of why borderline and other personality disorders are said to be untreatable. People have to want treatment. You have to be willing to give up the extreme highs if you also want to stop experiencing the extreme lows. That doesn’t mean things will become boring. But I know that some of the borderline people I’ve known did indeed think stability would be boring.
The other thing you have to do if you really want to heal from these issues is to stop being afraid to face pain. Particularly for people who have faced significant pain or trauma, they often fear that all suffering will feel as bad as their worst moments. That’s usually not true. But even to the extent that it might be, when you’re facing it with the goal of eliminating it, it’s a more controlled environment. The pain has a purpose and is shorter-lived.
Sadly I don’t think there’s any way to get better without being willing to face your pain and without the willingness to give up the extreme highs. I know the extreme highs can feel really good. That heightened state of passion and euphoria feels like a drug. But like any drug, you have to come down. You can’t seek a constant high.
Everything in nature seeks balance. That’s why if you have extremely high feelings of euphoria, you’ll also have to have devastating lows to balance it out. The pendulum always swings back.
But when you seek balance and seek calm, you don’t get as far from center. That doesn’t mean you don’t ever have moments of either happiness or sadness. Just that when you have one, you don’t have to brace for the extreme backlash to follow.
I believe that nearly everyone is fixable. The question is, do they really want to do what it takes to be fixed?