Twisters and Roller
Living With Borderline Personality Disorder Part
- Debra L. Kaplan,
MA, LAC, LISAC
As previously explored in part 1 of this two article series, Twisters and Rollercoasters; Living with Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD is classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a psychological disorder. Further BPD is characterized by the presence of two or more of the following criteria: frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment; a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation; identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self; impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., substance abuse, spending, sex, reckless driving, binge eating); recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior; affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days); chronic feelings of emptiness; inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights) and transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
No doubt the recurring bouts of emotional dysregulation wreck havoc in the life of a borderline disordered individual. Along with the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster comes the struggle and confusion about ones identity. An individual with BPD struggles with a persistently unstable self-image and like a house of mirrors, ones identity is rendered illusive, distorted and warped by a seemingly endless maze of curved, convex or concave mirrors that seemingly reflect confusing images of ones sense of self.
Is there a way out of this maze and insanity? The answer is yes and the path begins with a gradual acknowledgement of the problem and the willingness to accept ones own self. But, you ask, what happens when one does not acknowledge the presence of a problem and therefore, is in denial? Clearly this undermines all progress toward positive change.
One of my favorite lines with reference to denial was delivered by the young hero, Ricky Fitts, in American Beauty: “Never underestimate the power of denial,” Ricky stated explaining how he could own and display an abundance of material items purchased “only” with the meager income of a waiter all the while living under the vigilant and oppressive rule of a homophobic and domineering ex-marine father. In this cinematic example, Ricky’s father’s denial regarding his son existed due to the father’s need to shield himself from his worst fears about his son’s perceived sexuality and by association, about his own. An individual’s need to shield themselves from unacknowledged and overwhelming feelings exists until such time when one is psychologically ready to see themselves as they really are and not who they want to be.
Support for an individual’s attempts at breaking through denial is imperative for enduring progress to occur. The presence of a mental illness and psychological distress does not mean one is a bad person; or that he/she is defective. In this case, BPD does not mean he/she is a bad person. They did nothing to deserve it, much like a very young child does nothing to deserve the onset of childhood diabetes. But the individual is now living this reality of rollercoaster emotions, unstable relationships, addictions, and feelings of emptiness. The cold harsh fact is that there is a pattern of self-defeating behaviors and unstable self-worth that is not likely to change unless that person does his/her own changing.
As is with all physical or emotional distress there is a moment in time when the “status quo” is no longer acceptable. The chaos or unmanageability of a situation begins to point toward asking for help and taking action. Perhaps the adage—being brought to ones knees applies here. An ensuing adjustment period in which one comes to terms with a new reality may not be immediate, but that new perspective might arrive with a sobering blow through the denial or with the quiet realization that a life is eroding beyond ones grasp. Arriving at a place of self acceptance can be realized perhaps only as a result of small, at times, imperceptible steps. In recovery speak it is progress, not perfection that guides us.
When we are living a life that no longer results in satisfying outcomes despite our greatest efforts, then it is time to look inward and ask the hard questions. “What am I doing that is no longer working and what am I prepared to do about it?” Truthfully, until that moment of self introspection and committed motivation, there is little if any enduring change that will occur. But, the path out of the House of Mirrors and away from the emotional rollercoaster is worth the price of admission toward your new life.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Debra L. Kaplan, MA, LAC, LISAC, is a licensed therapist in Tucson, Arizona. She integrates authentic power and spirituality into her work and teachings for the healing of Posttraumatic Stress and co-occurring addictions. You can email Debra at Deb886@comcast.net