Please Note: The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and are communicated without reference to supporting documentation in most cases. Other inspiration and influence for the writing came through consultation with other mental health professionals but the writer “Peter Quintano” is also fully qualified in DBT making him qualified to talk about the things discussed in this article.
How can you possibly compare mental health struggles like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) to skateboarding, you ask? The comparison works because in skateboarding there is a need to develop a particular set of skills and a specialized type of balance so as to make the board do what you want. Likewise while learning to overcome Borderline Personality Disorder, there is a need to learn certain skills that work to regulate affected brain regions (emotional and rational thinking areas), manage thoughts, and negotiate interactions so that problems can get solved and life be enjoyed. Both sets of learning (skateboarding and overcoming BPD) require consistent and dedicated practice to develop expertise sufficient to get results.
Years ago when I first learned to skateboard, I recall being privileged with access to mutual coaching between several friends. We went out each and every day, hopped on our boards, learned new tricks, gave each other tips, cheered each other on, and never seemed to run out of a desire to keep progressing. Even when we got hurt, the passion and motivation to keep learning remained.
It was a fun time and I feel thankful to maintain even a little bit of this skill 25 years later. The point of writing this article, however, and the thing that really stands out to me at this time of my life, is that a person who has developed BPD has very likely never had the privilege of consistently available mentorship from others… mentorship from those who could properly lead and guide in the regulation of emotions, knowing when you are making errors, and how to make corrections and think rationally when needed. My skating buddies were my skating mentors back in the day; if not for them I probably would have given up on the learning process.
When you are first learning to ride a skateboard, it can be very difficult because you are finding your centre of balance and learning to use certain muscles to make it all work. Sometimes you are too much to the right; sometimes too much to the left; and sometimes your speed isn’t right for a particular terrain, and so you fall. Placement of feet on the board likewise becomes a challenge… too far apart, too close together, etc. Then progressing to learn how to jump and flip the board becomes a whole new set of challenges.
The interesting thing to note here is that skills and capabilities developed on a skateboard are cumulative, in that you begin with finding your balance, then making small moves, and then you move on to other things, one thing at a time. The same is true for overcoming BPD… an essential starting point is to learn the regulation of emotions… in other words, learning to keep your emotional balance. Only then can you move on to many other important things.
When you start to achieve emotional balance through learned skills such as mindfulness, it becomes possible to do more advanced things with your brain (observing and adjusting thoughts, for instance). My hope is that this short article can become a useful analogy for you. If you can learn to do other things and acquire other skills in your life, such as riding a skateboard, then you can learn to master your emotions and conquer Borderline Personality DisorderYour work in mindfulness in fact sets the ideal conditions for flexibility in perception and making wise judgements. It takes time, repetition, and patience to set these conditions; but time, repetition, and patience are necessary for advancement in many things, including becoming comfortable riding a skateboard.
The more I rode my skateboard, the more conditioned my brain and body became for staying balanced. The more conditioned I became riding the board, the more I could do in the way of tricks. But it wasn’t just that: a very important part of my learning was seeing the example of other skaters and talking with them about the movements. With BPD, a person can make the advancements he or she needs as long as he or she has access to the right information and mentoring, plus a firm resolve to succeed.
My hope is that this short article can become a useful analogy for you. If you can learn to do other things and acquire other skills in your life, such as riding a skateboard, then you can learn to master your emotions and conquer Borderline Personality Disorder. Once you set yourself on the path to recovery and have access to consultation from others to make adjustments to your condition (such as with a therapist) you can make it to a better place in your life.
I remember thinking it would be impossible to do an “Ollie” on my skateboard… being able to jump off the ground and keep the board on my feet… but lo and behold it became possible, even second nature after a time. Many other things became possible as well. And that is perhaps the most important ingredient of all in overcoming BPD… BELIEF. Please know that you are capable!
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