David: That's interesting, Melissa. You went through the eating disorder, the self injury, the mental torment, the suicidal behaviors. You said your life was a "living hell." How and when did you develop the will to live?
Melissa Thornton: To be honest, one spring day at Highland, when I had the privilege to go to and from my psychiatrist's appointment unescorted and I noticed the sky was blue and the birds were singing and I felt a teeny-tiny surge of happiness. It was probably my response to one of many antidepressants that had finally begun to work for me. That is, they ruled several out one by one and this one seemed to affect me positively. But, I also think I had some skilled behaviors under my belt by then and attribute my life to both.
David: Here's an audience member comment on her DBT experience:
Willow_1: I just finished a DBT program at McLean hospital. It was wonderful.
Melissa Thornton: That's fantastic. Keep maintaining those skills.
David: Here's the next audience question:
SADnLONELY: One trait of BPD is self-injury. DBT teaches skills to learn other ways instead of self-injury. I am still having the hardest time with this. Did you have this trouble? If so, what did you do to not self-injure?
Melissa Thornton: One DBT skill is to replace the need to feel pain or be self-punitive by swapping a self-injurous item for a painful but harmless item. For me it meant holding a piece of ice in my hand until it melted entirely. This hurts! I also saw my scars stand out from veins turning purple. This made me realize how much I'd hurt myself and mainly others in my life. I simply felt I would not do that again. There are other alternatives: snapping a rubber band against your wrist until you feel calmer, a COLD shower, and painful excercise sessions may work for you.
David: Here are a couple of comments on that subject:
SADnLONELY: I have tried this and the rubber band thing, but it's still not satisfying my need.
SpunkyH: My swapping is cutting my hair. It feels so good to pull it straight up and CUT, but it does me no harm.
David: You are married. You have a 2 year old son. I am wondering about the emotional bonding process with your son. Did you/are you finding that difficult at all?
Melissa Thornton: Wow! At first it was very difficult. I had a very happy pregnancy but when that child was in my arms needing me for everything and I couldn't just say, "hang on I need a nap," I suffered a severe post-partum depression. This was so unexpected by me after so many months of happiness - real happiness! So many family members just jumped in and took Ford's (my son) care into their hands. Well, I guess that left me feeling even worse - useless. But he still heard my voice and knew my smell even though I coudn't breastfeed (meds), and eventually I gained enough self-control to show others I was safe and so was Ford. About 3 months into this parenting business we laughed and sang.
I wasn't always the happiest person. I felt so alone and isolated, but I can say I love to bathe that boy and he gets muddy at any chance! I try to be patient and to forgive myself when he willfully disobeys - don't we all? And he runs to hug me in the mornings or to be picked up and says MAMA - his 1st word. Yes, we're very closely bonded.
David: Are you concerned at all about him picking up on your BPD behaviors? And, if so, how do you handle that?
Melissa Thornton: Yes. In fact, I worry about the fact that there is a genetic link to have a tendency toward (not necessarily to develop) emotional disorders and my illness(es) could well have come through my mother's genes. I use a lot of self-control skills and listen to upbeat music when I'm with him. I haven't cried in front of him except once a few weeks ago. He was very upset and patted my face. My husband got angry at me for showing such emotion in front of him. I saw it as a healthy opportunity - to say Mommy's sad. It's ok to be sad sometimes. I know when you can't find your favorite stuffed animal you are sad and a little lonely. That's ok. I hope you always feel you can trust Daddy and me with your feelings and will share them with us. He's only 2 but I think over time this will sink in and help us all be more emotionally aware.
David: Here are a few more audience comments on what we've been discussing tonight:
nomobody: Aren't tears a normal thing? I mean, everybody hurts, not just people with BPD.
Melissa Thornton: So true.
Browneyes83: Do you know if Borderline personality is hereditary? Can it be passed on to your children?
Melissa Thornton: At this time, I am not aware of any scientific evidence proving that. The propensity to be more emotionally demonstrative and sensitive is proven to be genetically passed in some families. Not every family with emotional individual(s) will find that propensity in their offspring. It is just a theory in my case between my mother and me.
David: A few more comments:
Nyoka75: I worry that my husband will eventually get scared off due to the BPD and that I will be alone with no one to help me when I need it. Do you ever feel that way?
Melissa Thornton: Sure. Borderline Personality Disorder brings on abadonment fear oftentimes.