How DBT saves lives and how to accept the label borderline. I stumbled upon this interview with Stacy Pershall, a woman recovered from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The interview itself is fascinating and can be found here. She has also written a memoir entitled: Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl. Here are some highlights from the interview:
Stacy on the label Borderline Personality Disorder:
When I first heard of BPD, it was in a magazine article given to me by a college roommate. That was back in the early ’90s, and the article said BPD couldn’t be cured, so I either had to resign myself to being crazy forever or dismiss the diagnosis as a way of marginalizing women who refused to be meek and subservient.
My initial reservations about the diagnosis, with which I continued to struggle until I found DBT and, therefore, hope, centered around the question of whether you could diagnose any strange, artistic, outspoken girl with the disorder. I had a lot of legitimate anger over growing up marginalized, and I had a hard time separating that anger from the maladaptive rages that derailed my life for so many years.
Meeting my DBT therapist and reading Marsha Linehan’s work helped me make peace with the diagnosis and to see it as valid. When I read the DSM criteria and realized I was nine for nine, I had to admit there was some truth there. It really was like seeing an outline of my life. By that point, I wanted so desperately to get better, to build a life not punctuated by constant bingeing and purging and starving and suicide attempts, that I was willing to call my illness whatever I had to call it to get treatment.
As for what borderline means to me today, it is an accurate description of a disorder from which I feel mostly recovered. I encourage anyone who feels the diagnostic criteria ring true to pursue an official diagnosis and seek out the treatment for which they qualify.
Stacy on relationships as triggers (a study by Dr. Paul Links showed that relationship events are the #1 most important trigger for borderlines):
Relationships were my primary triggers. I wanted so desperately to be loved, validated and saved from my loneliness that I latched onto a string of partners who showed intense initial interest, and I promptly scared them off with the depth of my neediness.
I also had a propensity for seeking out emotionally abusive or withholding lovers. Relationship after relationship ended in emotional flameouts and trips to the emergency room for overdoses. When I entered DBT, I realized this was something I had in common with most of the other women in my treatment program, and I was able to let go of some of the shame I felt about it. Learning that this particular brand of self-destruction was a hallmark of my disorder gave me hope that I could use my DBT skills to avoid forming unhealthy attachments in the future.
Stacy on DBT (and mood stabilizers):
It’s a totally different world! Life before DBT seemed hopeless, and now it seems exciting and full of possibility. I trust myself to navigate the storms of day-to-day existence. Thanks to the DBT distress tolerance and emotion regulation skills, I even weathered a breakup without a suicide attempt, and know that if I ever see my ex again I can hold my head up and feel no shame or guilt over my behavior. I’m really proud of that.
The mood stabilizer Lamictal has also been a godsend. My moods now swing between happy and sad, not ECSTATIC and SUICIDAL. Needless to say, I’m a fan.