Please Note: The ideas contained in this FAQ 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.
When living with a mental illness like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a common scenario includes a struggling person making many futile attempts to feel better. This is especially true when the person doesn’t even know that he has BPD. Ongoing struggles with anxiety symptoms, depressed mood, anger and relational problems can seem ever present no matter what a person does to try and make corrections. Turning to medications, substances of all kinds, chemical releasing activities (eg., exercising, eating, sex), or overindulging on escape and distraction activities (eg., sleeping, working, television) are all very common. The unfortunate reality eventually discovered is that “interventions” tried quite often do not result in lasting contentment and symptom relief. It’s like the emotional suffering is just sitting there, waiting to inflict itself upon you shortly after you are done with your “interventions”.
The Best Medicine For Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
A typical long term outcome for a person on the “intervention path” is not feeling better, problems not getting solved, even more life problems and stresses being created, and feelings of hopelessness setting in. In my own life experience, I recall getting hooked on anxiety medications, being hyper-focused on exercise, work, and schoolwork, sometimes sleeping as much as possible to escape to cloud nine, and at other times doing “things” I am not yet prepared to express in a blog post. Even though I benefitted from temporary symptom relief using my “interventions”, my struggle with intense emotions, reactivity, relational difficulties, anxiety and depressed moods persisted as relentlessly as ever. And every time my emotions would get the best of me, every time I would react to the pain, I would inch closer and closer to destroying my life as I knew it (ruining relationships and opportunities). The truth is that my “interventions” weren’t actually helping me get to the core of my issues, but instead just masking the pain and adding to my overall suffering rather than reducing it. I was growing more and more anxious and depressed, more and more hopeless.
After many years of struggle, I was lucky enough to find someone I could trust and relate with, and who was equipped with the right sort of knowledge to get me to the core of my issues. Strange that this lucky interaction came after years of studying psychology and after I had become a therapist myself! I was a dedicated/high achieving student in psychology believe it or not, but even so I didn’t realize that I met the criteria for male borderline personality disorder. But getting a diagnosis, for me, was the best time of my life… I was finally on my way to getting off the fruitless “intervention path” and actually getting equipped with the tools, skills, and understandings that would alter my entire life experience for the better.
And so it was that I finally learned the most important lesson about mental health and BPD. That being… It isn’t the commonly attempted interventions and temporary fixes that save a life and help a person get better, rather it’s getting to know yourself; it’s understanding the nature of disorder and how it applies to you; it’s understanding the world that you live in and how it has influenced your development and your overall struggle. Said another way, the key to getting well lies in sorting out the accurate from the inaccurate assumptions, ideas, and beliefs about yourself and mental health, and then finally learning how to live with yourself and the world as it is (completely, utterly, and relentlessly imperfect). If you don’t learn how to make these distinctions and put things in their proper perspective, it wouldn’t matter how many doctors or therapists you saw, how many pills you took, how many books you read, or however many other interventions you might attempt, there would be no lasting contentment, getting settled, or functioning better in essential life areas.
Sadly, so many of us go through our development, or better yet our entire lives, completely misinformed about emotional wellness, how to achieve this sort of wellbeing in our relationships and for ourselves, and how to pass it on to our children. The misinformation eventually reaches a climax when a person starts breaking out in disorder and then heads down the “intervention path” seeking the advice of many others that likely remain misinformed themselves (yes, even professionals). It’s actually a great way to continue feeling horrible about yourself… when professionals are giving you all they got and you remain stuck. But it is the unbelievable truth that continues to act as your stumbling block, whether you know it or not. The unbelievable truth, in the opinion of this writer at least, being that the world you live in does not make, has not made, and will in all likelihood never make, mental health and brain development a priority.
If you are struggling with mental health problems (especially BPD) your brain development has likely been highjacked by a number of issues, although perhaps more than anything else, parents not knowing how to be parents or having sufficient availability and understanding to do the job properly. Especially in the case of parents having children that are more naturally sensitive and emotional, it is essential to know how to guide and teach these children about their emotions. Even so, it is common for parents to believe that brain and emotional health are things that tend to take care of themselves, so why in the world would they ever learn anything new or invest more time?
The best medicine for BPD is therefore getting the right kinds of understanding that are based in reality. The best medicine includes only giving the world as much credit as it deserves for your brain development and current understanding of mental health, which in many cases is very little as there is very little understanding and functioning is often impaired. Firmly grasping this kind of understanding leads you exactly where you need to be and asking the right kinds of questions, such as “what was missed in my emotional development and how can I make up for it after the fact?”. Asking a therapist trained in treating borderline personality disorder these kinds of questions will set in motion an improvement to your situation. Eventually will come the time that you begin letting go of so many fruitless and futile “interventions” that do not solve your underlying problem, and in their place will come real solutions that actually work to settle your mind and body.
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