Borderline Personality Disorder Diary Entry #10

I’m on my third book about BPD since getting my diagnosis back in late March. It’s not as many as I’d like to have under my belt by this time, but, you know, there have been quite a few other things occupying my time, unfortunately…

Anyway, I’ve been dog-earing and highlighting (thanks, my beloved Kindle) passages I think would be good to share. Where appropriate for length or clarity lacking context of the rest of the book, I’ve paraphrased as close to the original meaning as possible. So here’s what I have so far (get ready — this post’s a long one):

I Hate You — Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality*

  • The rate of completed suicide among folks with BPD is about 10%, which is “almost a thousand times the rate seen in the general population.”
  • “As many as 75% of [people with BPD] have a history of self-mutilation, and the vast majority of those have made at least one suicide attempt…[Self-mutilation is] more closely connected to BPD than any other psychiatric malady.”
  • “If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, [the journey for people with BPD] through the healing process begins with a single limp. Change is a monumental struggle for [people with BPD], much more difficult than others because of the unique features of the disorder.”

Loving Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder**

  • “I ask my [BPD] clients to make me the keeper of the hope and to look to me for hope. If you genuinely feel such hope, you can do the same for your loved one.”
  • “Around 75% of people with BPD attempt suicide during their lives. Unfortunately, 8–10% of them complete suicide, and the more criteria a person meets for BPD, the higher the suicide risk.”
  • “…People who suffer from emotional dysregulation [such as those with BPD] are really at the mercy of their highly tuned emotional system all the time. Emotional dysregulation can feel like drinking a cup of boiling coffee that everyone else insists is just lukewarm. Where you might feel a twinge of irritation, an emotionally dysregulated person feels instant rage. Where you feel a flush of attraction to someone, the person with BPD may feel irresistible desire…It may not surprise you to know that emotional dysregulation is the primary area of dysregulation for people with BPD. In fact, the other four types of dysregulation either result from the fast, extreme emotions of the person with BPD or are an attempt to get relief or avoid the emotions.”
  • [Regarding loss of a sense of self, or self-dysregulation, which is one of the criteria for BPD]: “People with BPD often don’t have a sense of what they like, what their values are, or who they are…It’s like trying to read a road sign in the middle of a hurricane. The road sign is spinning and spinning. You know it is a road sign, but you don’t know what it says. People with BPD know that there are values and preferences, but they can’t read them because of the emotions that are interfering. Because they can’t grasp who they are, they feel lost and empty.”
  • “New research evidence is beginning to suggest that what we have always thought of as heightened sensitivity in those with BPD is actually a higher emotional baseline. This would mean that if most people’s basic emotional state is 20 on a 0-to 100-point scale, the person with BPD is always at an 80. It would mean your loved one may be in a constant state of emotional arousal and therefore is primed to have emotional responses to anything, great or small. A situation that would cause others to go from 20 to 30 on a 0- to 100-point scale makes your loved one go from 80 to 90.”
  • “To some extent emotional reactivity is a result of expecting the worst. People with [BPD] are used to being rejected. They’re used to making lots of mistakes.”
  • “Several researchers in BPD believe that people with BPD are actually better at reading other people’s emotions than the rest of us, especially anger.”
  • “…Your loved one [with BPD] is not a terrible person, as much as he or she may have a pattern of some pretty terrible behavior. It’s not that your partner or family member wants to create chaos or make anyone miserable. It’s that your loved one can’t do the right thing, get along with others, or make the choices that seem so plainly correct to everyone else — because he or she doesn’t know how. That may seem awfully hard to grasp…Wasn’t your loved one born with the same instincts and the same opportunities to learn how to navigate the world as the rest of us? As difficult as it is to believe, the answer is no. People with BPD were born with an invisible, innate difference that profoundly changed the landscape for them when they were growing up. When you understand this difference, their enigmatic behavior suddenly becomes remarkably clear.”

Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder: Relieve Your Suffering Using the Core Skill of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

  • “You [a person with BPD] may have noticed that you are very sensitive to others’ emotions, that when they are anxious, you get all jittery; when they are sad, you get sad; and so on. It might also bother you or seem confusing that others apparently don’t pick up on your emotions. And other people might find it unsettling that you can detect what they are feeling even before they do…In fact, research shows that people with BPD consistently identify others’ emotions sooner than do people without BPD.”
  • “The amygdala…processes emotional information…In people who have BPD, the amygdala is very active, almost too active, so the emotional responses that arise tend to be big.”
  • Because the amygdala in people with BPD is hyperactive, and because the amygdala also “plays an important role in the making of memories,” regular bad experiences that “normal” (my word) people can learn or move on from become intolerable and can create long-term suffering for people with BPD.
  • “Most researchers consider BPD to be roughly 60% genetic and 40% environmental.”
  • [On the physical effects of BPD]: “Cortisol is a chemical released during stress that helps to break down carbohydrates and proteins in order to increase the supply of glucose and oxygen in your muscles, the heart, and the brain. However, when you have a lot of stress over a long period of time [like with BPD], a high level of cortisol leads to an increase in blood pressure and an increase in sugar levels, which in turn leads to unhealthy fat…It also leads to thinning of your bones, and suppresses immune-system response and causes your body to age faster. [It] also damages and reduces the number of cells in your hippocampus [your brain’s primary memory center].”

*Of the three books I’ve read so far, this is my least favorite. It acknowledges that calling people who suffer from BPD “the borderline(s)” is problematic, but continues to do so anyway. It also shows the cultural age of its authors, by, for example, calling out technology and digital communication as being a social ill that affects people with BPD. Additionally, some of the scientific research mentioned goes against the much more credible work of Marsha M. Linehan, who created DBT (the predominant treatment for people with BPD) and who is probably the most respected BPD scholar, period. Overall, I think it’s an OK read, but definitely not the first I’d recommend, especially as someone’s first book on BPD.

**Of the three books I’ve read so far, this one is my absolute favorite. It’s by an author who is an active therapist for people with BPD, and has been for many years. More importantly, I think, is the fact that the author has worked directly with Marsha M. Linehan, who, as mentioned above, is the founder of DBT — the treatment for BPD — and probably the most important living scholar of BPD. Long story short, this book’s author is highly credible, and their writing is very sympathetic. I had moments of great clarity and pain while reading it, because for the first time in my life, I felt like someone finally understood me.