How To Cope With Your New Borderline Diagnosis
Wednesday, May 25 2016 Emily Eveland
Coping with a new borderline diagnosis can be challenging. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to accept your borderline diagnosis and start healing.
If you’re anything like me, you probably left your intake appointment feeling a mix of confusion, resentment, anger, and sadness. In fact, I think most of us go through a grieving process every time we’re presented with a new diagnosis.
But a diagnosis isn’t a death sentence, especially not in the case of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Remember that your symptoms were already present. The only thing that’s changed is the name.
A New Borderline Diagnosis Guide
1. Take a Deep Breath
When I was first diagnosed as borderline, my emotional intensity was through the roof. I hated the therapist who gave me the diagnosis. I hated that I would have to join a dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) program. I hated that I wasn’t normal.
In retrospect, it would have done me a lot of good to take a few deep breaths.
After receiving your borderline diagnosis, give yourself a day or two to practice self-care in whichever form feels best. Take a bubble bath, read, go for a long walk, or bake some cookies. Try repeating the mantra, “I am okay. I am safe. Nothing bad is happening in this moment.”
It’s true. Nothing bad is happening. Your diagnosis is just a name.
2. Educate Yourself on Borderline Personality Disorder
BPD is not a disease, but a name for a cluster of symptoms that typically arise in sensitive people with trauma histories. Knowing this has been extremely helpful for my own process. Understanding the parallels between trauma and BPD can alleviate some of the shame around the latter diagnosis and reiterate that the symptoms are not our fault.
Diagnoses are given to us for insurance purposes and as a way to figure out the best treatment options. You are not your diagnosis. Try replacing the thought, “I am borderline" with “I have been diagnosed with BPD, but it doesn’t define me.”
3. Stay Away from Books and Websites that Perpetuate Borderline Stigma
There’s a lot of harmful information about BPD in the world. People who have had bad experiences with borderlines are often very vocal and tend to make sweeping generalizations about the lot of us. It's not fair and it's not right, but it's our current reality.
As with any illness, people hone in on only the most extreme cases of BPD. Have you ever run a Google image search for a standard skin rash? You're usually met with photos of oozing skin, swollen blisters, and peeling scabs. Obviously, not everyone with hives looks like they just waltzed with a swarm of bees. Similarly, not everyone with borderline personality disorder acts like Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted.
Turn to people who understand and empathize with the diagnosis. A DBT therapist is a good bet, or you can check out one of the many blogs or memoirs written by borderline sufferers.
4. Look into Treatment Options for Borderline
Though the symptoms of BPD aren't your fault, seeking help will, ultimately, be your responsibility. It's a bummer, but it's worth it.
The most popular treatment for BPD is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which is broken into four distinct modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Each module targets specific elements of borderline personality disorder.
If DBT doesn’t feel right, you can check out its cousin, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Those who have acute or prolonged trauma can opt for a trauma-specific therapy, such as somatic experiencing (SE), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), or exposure therapy.
The time it takes to recover depends on both the severity of your symptoms and your dedication to your specific treatment program. I graduated DBT within a year, but some are in the program for two to four years. Everyone is different, so recovery processes naturally vary in length.
5. Have Hope
Have hope to cope with your borderline diagnosis. If you're willing to look at yourself, make some adjustments, and proceed courageously, your life will continue to improve. Trust me.