Borderline Personality Disorder

A Musical About Borderline Personality Disorder

Rehearsing scenes from “Borderline,” a musical: Cecilia Dintino is an actual clinical psychologist; Jill Powell, an actress with borderline personality disorder, is one of her patients.

Therapist and Patient Share a Theater of Hurt

It was not easily recognizable as therapy, these two women screaming at each other, their faces inches apart, during a rehearsal in a basement space in Greenwich Village.

The patient, a blond woman with spiky hair and spiky heels: Jill Powell, 49, an actress who had fallen on hard times. The other woman, more reserved in dress and demeanor, was Cecilia Dintino, 56, a clinical psychologist.

But this particular scene had a twist; Ms. Dintino is an actual psychologist and Ms. Powell is one of her actual patients.

The therapist and the patient were rehearsing a show called “Borderline,” which features the two women playing themselves and dealing with Ms. Powell’s lifelong struggle with borderline personality disorder.

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One Comment

  • Jill Powell

    After all was said and done and the show “Borderline the musical” (my real life story) gave its last performance, this thing called “Therapeutic Theatre” was not exactly therapeutic for me. Now if Therapetic Theatre is defined by one doing what they love most, then perhaps it was therapeutic in that aspect. In the theatre I am home. On the stage is where I move most comfortably. And… Who doesn’t feel happy when doing what they love? As for furthering my therapeutic experience for my Borderline Personality Disorder?
    Sorry to say, that would be a big fat No. Nada. Niente.

    After months of driving 3 hours each way for months to meet with Dr. Robert Landy(whom I felt an incredible level of trust and comfort) The script that was produced after reliving my life to him, was not comprehensive enough. In many ways it was terrific and others it was so far from the story we were trying to tell. The writer Dr. Landy, who happens to HEAD the Drama Therapy department at NYU, wrote a script that leaned far too much in the direction of sexuality and gender fluidity,
    I’m guessing he thought it would bring a level of sensual heat to the show and he enjoyed writing about it. However, that was another play. Perhaps one of gender fluidity and sexuality/sensuality exploration as a woman approached 50 and is all alone for 9 months. But what it was NOT ABOUT WAS a play that used my life, my story to hopefully further an awareness of Borderline Personality Disorder.
    1.) Yes I am a Lesbian. So what?
    I’m 49 years old and in my early talks (meetings) with Robert, I did share, with him facts about part a time that I took for emotional healing. I spent approximately 7 months alone. Deep in the Catskill mountains in silence. I put myself on a scheduling do paperwork, hard labor (55 acres and 4 huge buildings) that had been ruined. It was my former summer camp to empower girls, through the arts. (Ya know, the “Wounded Healer” thing) I was actually great with those kids and never felt better when I was helping someone. This was a business that I created and made SUPER successful even with BPD. It was awesome! But then I got into a relationship that was very unhealthy for me. Very invalidating and she was profoundly jealous of my ability to connect with the kids and be silly and goofy and deep and meaningful. She consistently tried to snuff out my bright light that the kids so adored. Anyway, that’s where I was when I went through a Zen-ish time alone on my 55 acres. In foreclosure now though.

    I shared, in our early talks, the exploration of my sensual self as part of my daily schedule. It was wonderful to learn and take ownership in one’s own body and what it can feel. I shared that with Robert as well as all of the not so exciting parts of my daily rituals that helped me heal. This time of sensual enjoyment btw, is also known as a middle aged woman’s rite of passage!!!

    This particular piece stretched out into a song and a dance with my therapist and my singing a lyric like one gem dr. Landy wrote, “My manhood is like s tree in the forest”, all the while doing a Tango with my therapist, was incorrect, innappropriate and flat out, had nothing to do with being Bordeline. Furthermore would have confused the crap out of the audience and so…… THE BORDERLINE SPOKE UP! Well it did not go over well and there was a bit of a pissing contest if you will. His writing and My story. My truth.

    The audience would not have a clear view into the life of BPD which fits into 90 minutes. i wanted them to have an educational aha experience that was, YES, entertaining but with truth and meaning and value as to no longer be mystified as to the enormous internal experiences of living with this horrifically terrifying disorder that no one will talk about!!!

    The heightened levels of emotion that are real. The hyper-sensitivity at which we feel emotion. As if your skin has all been burned off and if the wind hits you the wrong way your hurt is so intense that if the validation does not come to heal where that painful wind blew or you were unable to access the skill you needed to shield and calm the burn, you feel as if you cannot possibly live life as it is. That’s what leads to the suicide ideation and attempts. Most Borderlines are quite intelligent and have heightened aware eases (often called the sixth sense) and you notice EVERYTHING! like 50 highways in your head and you are tracking a time car on each highway all at the same time. Everything, no matter how small a gesture or how many things are happening at once. A mis use of a word and how it floods your every cell as if you have marbles jumping in your veins.

    So YES, I insisted that we make cuts and get rewrites to bring the story back to BPD and my truth, my mission. It’s the entire reason I did the damn play! Nobody talks or admits that they have BPD. So I decided I WOULD!
    It needs research money, more people MUST BE TRAINED IN Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. In the public health system not one person out there is equipped to treat us. The stigma is horrific and will remain that way until more people come out. Famous ones too ( and there are plenty).

    As for this thing called “Therspeutic Theatre”? It was my experience that my therapist grew exponentially and the powers that be in the Drama Therapy program at NYU did as well. They for one, learned more that what you read in text books about a life with BPD. That’s right. In case you read too fast…. A LIFE WITH BPD. And they were not exactly taking care. In my opinion they were quite wreck less. They finally realized this when I had a set back and was lonely and vulnerable and went to stay with a girl I had been seeing for a few weeks. I ended up in the hospital and they were going to call off the play. I begged then no. They then realized, oh wow, our actor whose real story this is and is being told in real time as she lives it, is ask a REAL FUCKING BORDERLINE. Holy crap. Thanks to Maria the other dept. head, was removed enough to have some sensitivity. We went forward and then my Nana died. I left for 3 days, came back and the script was it with no option of replacement. Robert Landy the writer, like me and everyone else, has an ego and it won the chips.

    Once we piecemealed the script together as best we could we were back at it and while rehearsing we all were on our beam! Making it happen. Robert however was not there.

    We began getting excited and when the night’so rehearsals came to an end, our director, my therapist, stage management team and the pianist all left with excitement in their step. Off to their home, perhaps to sliver or family, a nice meal maybe, all the while knowing they had s job to go to the next day, perhaps a salary even. Whatever it was for each, I know as sure as I have 10 toes, that the basic needs that human lived must have for survival, were in place. Mine were not and there wasn’t even a nod or wink or God forbid (the card carrying Atheist that I am) a gesture to say” Ya gonna be ok tonight”? Not that they could or would do anything about it. Cecilia would give be a huge hug. A hug that was filled with all of the unspoken and had deep sorrow for me through the guise of “You are going to make it throught this Jill”. You are a survivor and you always do”. She was right and I did but somehow I felt disrespected, used by the powers that be at NYU. I left every single night of rehearsals hiding my tears deep in my throat until they were all gone. I didn’t always know where I was going. I couldn’t drive 3 hours to the Catskills and it wax winter and I couldn’t afford the oil to heat the house. I slept in my car until it was too cold and ate at Starbucks because for some reason it’s easier for friends to give you gifts like “Starbucks cards” rather than money. My meds cost over $1100 per month and I was over on my Social Security Max my roughly $200 to be eligible for Medicaid or food assistance. I held my head high,cleaned myself up in hotel bathrooms (The Ace has an excellent one) and whipped my act together and showed up like a superstar. I gave the 300% every day. I never once phoned it in. Not who I am.

    As for crossing boundaries with my therapist? Because there have been some articles regarding that subject. NEVER!! Dr Cecilia Dintino has excellent boundaries and I never ever crossed them. I have never met her child, though we share likened stories (as is part of the DBT Method) I am NOT a friend on her Facebook, Linkedin or any other Social Site. I don’t know where she lives and have never met her family or friends. We have NEVER socialized outside of ther office. Dr. Cecilia Dintino is a real pro and truly cares about her patients. The way in which she taught me DBT was brilliant and thoughtful and took into account how I (Jill) take in information. No two people are alike and no two Borderlines are alike. Dr. Cecilia Dintino is a kind and caring individual. She’s real and there is zero hierarchy.
    She does not sit in her chair and ask questions, then while answering the questions, nod her head and write. She actually can look you dead in the eye and dialogue.
    She (not any other psychologist), DBT and myself are what keep me alive.

    I also know more than anything that she wanted this process of doing the show to better my BPD but it did not. It simply gave me a purpose for a while because I love to act. It also gave me a schedule to adhere to(that part was good) but I will always be Borderline. Perhaps less symptomatic at times but I will grow old (very old hopefully) and when I die of natural causes (as did my Nana) I will still be Borderline.

    I know for sure that NYU has a whole hell of a lot of work to do as far a Drama Therapy and this thing they are calling “Therapeutic Theatre”. Perhaps they should better use both Drama therapy and Therapeutic Theatre into forms of training for future therapists instead of actual ways to treat patient. Certainly those with BPD. You have to “go there” to know what it’s like. That’s really good acting that has truly done in the trenches research. How can you ask someone to do something that you cannot do yourself? We are so much smarter than that.

    One last thing. I did a lecture on being Borderline with one of Dr. Robert Land’s classes. The students were eating it up. They could not get enough and they wanted more. Their questions were fantastic and I could give them hard core real life examples of how one can go from zero to two thousand in a half of a second when invalitaded or triggered in a super painful way. I was able to explain where the DBT skill known as “Observe and Describe” can serve a person with BPD or Emotion Regulation issues. I was also able to give an example of how sometimes it all happens so fast and the massive amounts of Cortizol are released into your body that one cannot access the skills. It’s as if your computer screen has gone nuts and all of your folders are jumping like fleas and you are trying desperately to click onto that ONE FILE! Why? That’s the one that has the skills in it. The so called Protocol. But you can’t get there. THATS WHERE MY DR. Dintino has come in. She has called me back and helped me get to the skill. Kinda like nitroglycerin for heart patients. Now I own those skills.

    Dr. Robert Landy promised me that he would get written feedback from the lecture I gave to his class. I thought it would be essential In helping me put together a promotional packet to do lectures at other universities. But next time for pay. I never received a word.

    I tried to reach out on Facebook to some of the student, not as s friend request but simply for written feedback of my lecture and I didn’t get one response but instead got rheamed about student’s ethical code.

    I have not heard from anyone but Cecilia since November and I have been profoundly sad and depressed. I feel it completely irresponsible on the part of NYU TO NOT EVEN CHECK IN TO SAY ” hey girl, what’s up. Miss Ya” even if it’s a lie.

    So instead I fight like a warrior each to find meaning and purpose and make sense of it all. DBT is my best friend but I have a sadness that is so powerfully deep that their are days I feel as if I won’t get through. I do though because I am determined but damn it would sure be nice to know that they gave an ounce. I get through the day and can’t wait till sleep.

    I’m sad their agenda was NOT for the cause to create an understanding, compassion and awareness of BPD as I had believed.

    Also, I made a real impact on those students and have nothing to show for it.
    It only takes a few recommendations from “Esteemed Professors” to help move along a person’s journey.
    It takes so little really, when you think about it. But most people only care for a person who is hurting when they are forced to look at them in their eyes. Even then some hearts can stay cold. Not mine


    It just really sucks quite honestly.
    I am however grateful for Corey Kilgohan for the article in the Times although both Cecilia and Robert were pushing their agenda of “Therapeutic Theatre” so hard that I couldn’t get s word in. I got up because Cecilia kept cutting me off and paced and unfortunately Corey took that as “manic energy” which actually is not me at all. That was me using my skills as to not cut Cecilia off as she so rudely did me, and say what I really wanted to say which I now have. I hope you who have read this do.
    Thanks for your time, Jill Powell
    Twitter @Jill Powell BPD

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