309 Days Remaining
I know you don't want to read a depressing blog.
That being said, you may also not want to read an “inspirational” blog...a blog that shows the triumph over adversity or lectures you on how to get over your own “issues” or problems, or appears to brag about how the writer managed to get past her issues and is now “SUCH a wonderful person”.
This blog is none of those things, although I am sure it has its share of such moments (oh yes; I can brag about my accomplishments with the best of them!). This blog – if you are just joining us now – is about how I came to recognize that I needed some time off from dating, and how I decided to take that time in the form of a 365-day dating hiatus, or sabbatical. I had hoped that there would be some funny moments; some touching moments; a “yuck” moment here or there; and a few stories of my past dating experiences and what lessons they taught me, and I was certain that I would make mistakes on occasion and have to 'fess up. I want to entertain, to share, to encourage, and to learn.
Fear not, dear readers! For this blog is not turning into the Diagnostic Center for Psychiatric and Chemical Disorders, nor am I playing amateur psychologist. Yes, I was diagnosed with BPD in 2009. Yes, I fought hard to work with the chemical imbalance in my brain and yes (and this is a big, huge, fist-pumping YES!!!!), I have managed to get past it and learned how to deal with it, and no longer meet the criteria for a positive BPD diagnosis. However, one of the hallmarks of BPD is "a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation" and as you may have gathered, this has had a huge effect on my love and dating life. As this blog is about my dating life, the issues I've had with it, and the lessons I hope I've learned and mistakes I hope not to repeat, BPD has played a big part in it. I suppose we could have done a “Tales From the Dating Archives: The Story of BPD” blog post...borderline personality disorder has been there all along, sitting quietly in the background wreaking havoc on the best-intentioned relationships.
|Every date will end in disaster if BPD is along for the ride!|
This being the case, I want to make a few things clear, and then you'll know enough about my experience with BPD to see how it has worked in the background and the minor effects it still has on me (my children sure know all about avoiding me when I'm hormonal – oh boy, does that chemical imbalance know when to strike!). I am sure there will be lots of moments in the future when I will suddenly be fighting off the feelings that tend to rise up in me from time to time.
For those who wondered, yes, technically, I am cured - if one can ever be "cured" of BPD. The best news for me about the disorder was that it is not treated chemically, like BP (bipolar disorder), but instead people with BPD go through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to learn new and better ways of dealing with the problems that BPD can create in their lives. For me, who was worrying about needing to be dependent on medication for the rest of my life, that was great to hear. Another thing about BPD is that people can, in fact, effectively "grow out of" it; as one ages, the chemicals in the brain that cause the disorder change and a person can end up no longer meeting the diagnostic criteria for BPD. As well, a lot of the coping methods used to combat BPD can be learned as a part of maturing.
Inspired and encouraged, I worked very hard during that first year after realizing that there was something really wrong. I read a lot, prayed even more, wrote down everything I felt, and allowed myself the time to feel what I was feeling without letting it take over my life. I learned to accept the emotions and ride through them, rather than let them grasp me tightly and shake up everything I was working on. By the time I managed to get an appointment with an intake counselor for the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group, I had already worked through a lot of my issues and learned new ways to deal with the feelings whenever they threatened to overwhelm me. My meeting with the counselor was great, but after speaking with me, she basically told me that the DBT would not do me any good; that I was "already further along" than she would expect from someone who had completed a full course of DBT. While this was good news (good? That was GREAT news!) I still worried that I would get overconfident and slip up; that my control over the disorder would falter if I gave it even an inch. She reassured me that I could always come back if necessary, but asserted that "the very fact that you are worried about that shows that you're already so aware and in control of what's going on inside you".
She was right. I kept working on it; obviously, my menstrual cycle and the accompanying hormone surges still had a huge impact on my control over my emotions - and that is still an issue - but I managed to get the huge emotional waves beaten into submission, to the point that it is largely unconscious for me now. I have learned many methods of coping with the swells and surges of feeling, and the day I marked my three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth big red X on my calender - marking one year without having lost control of my emotions - was a huge celebration for me. A few months later, I double-checked the criteria on the DSM-IV and realized that I no longer felt "unstable" about my sense of self. I no longer - or not as often - made "frantic attempts to avoid real or imagined abandonment", or had chronic feelings of emptiness, or as much impulsivity in spending or other potentially self-damaging activities.
I didn't meet seven out of the nine criteria anymore, as I had when I first learned of the disorder. In fact, I no longer met even the five out of nine required to make a diagnosis of BPD.
Borderline personality disorder no longer ruled my life. I had gained control. And now, three years out, I have managed to hang on to everything I learned, so that when I have those moments when I feel empty, or want to spend money that I don't have, or have attacks of anxiety or panic, I am able to utilize the tools I have learned to deal with the feelings in a more positive way, to lessen their effect. This fight has been part of my learning and growing, to becoming the best "me" I can be.
And now, back to our story...