Personality Disorders Community

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bordergirl: What is a good description of dissociating?

Melissa Thornton: That's a good question. Dissociation generally refers to the separation (perceived by the person experiencing this) of their mind and body. It is a form of psychoses. It is a loss of the ability to be in touch with reality. Doctors working with abuse victims often say it is a coping mechanism in that the mind cannot handle the reality - molestation, beating, etc. Therefore, the mind goes elsewhere and does not feel current pain/humiliation. Is this helpful? Obviously, I didn't remember the abuse - however, I was suicidal and was cutting my wrists yet I felt no pain at all and it seemed as if this was happening to someone else.

lostsoul19: Melissa, why, specifically, did you want to die?

Melissa Thornton: I did not feel worthwhile at all. I felt I was a failure at work and too unhappy to be a good spouse much less future mother. My mother had suicided (clinical depression plagued her for more than 5 years). That was 5 years before my problems began. I did not know that someone did not die if they were diagnosed as mentally ill. That made it hard for me to avoid the "lie" that "everyone would be better off without me."

David: So, are you saying that you believed that having a mental illness was really like getting a death sentence?

Melissa Thornton: You took those words right out of my mouth. I was so uninformed and confused by multiple diagnoses with the eating disorder invisible to me - I was in denial and pain constantly.

David: One of the signs of Borderline Personality Disorder is inappropriate,intense anger or difficulty controlling anger. Did you experience that and could you describe that for us?

Melissa Thornton: Yes, my poor spouse experienced that! I threw things and had crying and screaming jags that lasted hours at home. At work, I snapped at co-workers which was very unlike my normally optimistic and encouraging personality ( so others have said)!

David: Were you aware of these things as being inappropriate and you just couldn't help yourself or were you unaware?

Melissa Thornton: I was aware much later. When I calmed down, often with my husband's encouraging, unflagging love leading me to that point emotionally. I would became so regretful and self-punitive that the cycle of depression and suicidality would begin again.

David: Here are a few more audience questions on what we've discussed so far:

skier4444: How can you be married? One of my biggest problems with having BPD is that I can't have any relationships - I've never had one.

Melissa Thornton: I understand that and know it must be painful. I understand that one of the hallmarks of BPD is instability in relationships or inability to remain in one. I was hospitalized long-term once diagnosed. There, I saw many long-term singles, divorcees, and divorces in progress. I suppose I was more mentally healthy when I married at 20.

missnic: Also, I have met someone and he is real kind, caring, and sweet, yet I feel like pushing him away, but I feel I don't want him away. I feel scared, why? How do I tell him I have BPD?

Melissa Thornton: This sounds like a complex issue for discussion with a mental health professional. Have you read "I Hate You, Don't Leave Me?" That describes the relationship 'push/pull but don't abandon me' feelings pretty thoroughly.

David: Here are a couple of audience comments, then I want to talk about your recovery.

abyss: I am in a relationship with a man I totally love or hate. Relationships are always painful for me. I want to die when I feel that pain. I feel so uncontrollable in relationships.

missnic: I have met people in my life who don't know I have BPD and I'm afraid to tell them in case they freak out and leave me.

SpunkyH: I have the same relationship problem. I functioned well until about 42 - been married to the same man and he is so good to me. I think the reason he is able to be supportive is because he knows how I was before the BPD showed itself.

SADnLONELY: I know how you feel, abyss.

David: Your BPD symptoms started in 1990. What year did you check yourself into Highland Hospital for inpatient treatment and what prompted that?

Melissa Thornton: It was 1991, actually. By April of 1992, my psychiatrist (I'd been locally hospitalized for the physical ravages of anorexia at first) recommended and made it a condition of her continuing as my psychiatrist that I enter either Highland Hospital or New York Hospital, Cornell, after a near-fatal overdose.

David: And what happened while you were at Highland?

Melissa Thornton: That was a miracle. I learned, slowly but surely, the main skills used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), developed by Marsha Linehan, a Seattle based psychologist. However, DBT had not been used in an inpatient setting until 1991. My good fortune! I entered this therapy which has clinically been proven to reduce self-harm over time.