Borderline Personality Disorder – From Hell to Recovery

I once believed suicide was my only option. I had developed belief systems in my childhood that I was unaware of until i was 26 years old. These beliefs were strong and complex, many to do with how I viewed myself and how I viewed other people. Suicide first became an option for me when I was only 12 years old. My Dad’s brother took his life and that changed the course of my life forever. I still remember the phone call from my Dad and him telling me what my favourite uncle had done to himself. I was horrified and confused.

At 15 I was diagnosed with Depression, my home life was always chaotic and I wore a lot of adult responsiblities that a child should not. I was put on anti depressants but not given any form of therapy. It was at this time my Nana was diagnosed with terminal cancer. That played a big part in my depression. When I was 16 my Mum, sister and I went to be with her in the final months of her life. A week before she died, my Mum’s brother committed suicide, a few days after he had died my sister, aunty and I discovered his body. The same week as this happened, a girl at my school also took her own life.

Upon returning to school that year I found it quite impossible to concentrate and dropped out a month before my sixth form year was up. The year after I decided to get a certificate in Make Up Artistry. In August of that year, my tutor commited suicide. His death hit me really hard as I was still in complete shock from finding my uncle the year before. It was all too much for me to stay, so I left my course without finishing it. I spent a lot of time drinking during the day to block out my emotional pain.

At age 18 I found myself in a relationship that was never really what I thought it was, I was dropped from a great height by a guy who was my superior at work. I found it impossible to escape from my intense emotional pain and that was when I first attempted suicide. It was also when I started to self harm, my self harm would go on to last for the next decade of my life.

I don’t remember much from this attempt. I know I woke up in a white hospital gown covered in black stuff. It was the charcoal I had been made to drink on my arrival the night before. Upon waking I was told by a nurse that I had been a very silly girl. I saw a psychiatrist later on that day and was released without much of a fuss. Looking back now I wasn’t treated with respect or compassion by the hospital staff. I was simply another statistic.

My second attempt on my life was at 19 years old, and my third at 20 years old after my Dad commited suicide. I remember nothing of these attempts whatsoever. I only know that they happened because I have the hospital paperwork to prove it.

A diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was given to me when I was 19 years old, although I was never treated for it or told what it was. At the time it seemed unimportant to me, even though my life was complete chaos I didn’t think it had anything to do with the problems I had.

When I was 25, the year before I started looking into my BPD diagnosis I had made a pact with myself. If my life was no better on my 30th birthday then was the end of the road for me.

Although I entered into DBT treatment when I was 26, it took me two and a half years to get to a place where I could understand how the therapy could help me. I had been through so much trauma besides the many suicides in my life, including sexual abuse by my Dad, that it felt like I would take one step forward and five back. I was dealing with my depression the only way I knew how to, with drugs. In heindsight those addictions only made things worse and allowed the fog to stay, thick and heavy.

At age 26 I began to look into what Borderline Personality Disorder was, the symptoms set off alarm bells in my head. All of a sudden, who I was and the turmoil that was my life all made sense to me. Even though I was still wanting to give up, there was a part of me that was furiously fighting for my recovery and treatment.

I went to see my GP and asked to be refered to the public mental health system, I had spent years in and out of it already and didn’t have much faith in it. My GP explained that they had different treatment options available now so I decided to give it one last try. I saw one therapist for about 6 months and didn’t progress much at all, then I moved house and everything changed. I had moved into a different area of Auckland which meant I was no longer able to see my current therapist. I was assigned a new one and to this day I am thankful to her for saving my life.

She knew about Borderline Personality Disorder and trauma and she knew what the treatment for it was. I started a therapy called Dialectical Behavioural Therapy also known as DBT. In a nutshell, it is designed to help the patient undo the years worth of damage that had been done to them in their early years/life. I saw my therapist weekly, sometimes twice weekly and I also attended a DBT skills group. The group ran for 6 months at a time and I completed it twice. I did attempt the group two times previously but because DBT is very hard to grasp, I only lasted a few weeks and then dropped out.

By the time I had completed the DBT group for the second time around I was 28 and a half years old and in a new relationship. I had only had two previously because I was always too mentally ill to cope with one. This time was different. I was no longer using hard drugs, my mental state had become less fragmented and less fragile, the fog was slowly starting to lift. I had also stopped self harming a week before i met my then boyfriend, now husband. To this day, I am almost 4 and a half years free from self injury. I still struggled a lot throughout that year as my youngest brother tried to end his life three times. I worried for his life daily. Thankfully he is not in that same place now.

My 30th birthday was a strange day, I remember driving home from the shops and it hit me, I thought to myself, this is what i would have missed today. I heard the birds chirping and felt the sun shining on my face through the car window. I felt alive. It overwhelmed me and I started to cry. Happy tears though, I was grateful to be alive. 

At age 31 I was married to the most amazing, patient and kind man I could have ever hoped to have met. Marriage is something I never thought possible for my life. Up until meeting him a week before my 28th birthday, I didn’t make plans for my life, I was simply waiting to die.

Today I am 32 and am still in treatment, still using my DBT skills. I still live with depression and BPD, but I am no longer an addict, I am no longer controlled by my illness. Although I am still a work in progress I have made a commitment to life, I will deal with whatever life has to offer me because I know I can get through anything. I am commited to ending the shame and stigma that surrounds mental illness.

My goal for the future is to one day be strong enough to give my voice publicly for all those who suffer in silence. Mental illness is not a choice, and often someone who has a mental illness has been through trauma. This is especially true for those who are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Education is the key to understand mental illness. If you or someone you know is suffering the best thing you can do is be there to support them.

Help is real, hope is real, and recovery is possible. Fight for yourself and your life because you are so very worth it.

(Main image provided by author, Amy Evans, and used here with permission.)


About the Author: Amy Evans

My animals have played a big part in my recovery, having two hungry cats and six chickens gives you pretty good reasons to get out of bed even on the days you’d rather not. I continue to see my therapist fortnightly and work through my trauma but it no longer cripples me like it once did.

Through the last 6 years of my recovery, I have gained a great insight into the human spirit, I choose to see the good in people, I choose to see their strength. My world once black and white is now seen through coloured eyes. Eyes of compassion, hope, empathy, love, laughter and most important of all, life. My life.

31 Comments

Amy Evans

Thank you so much for reading and connecting with this. There is hope, it’s hard work but it is so worth it to be able to live free from past abuse and live in healing. My journey continues and I am still in therapy today but I’m happy to be able to keep processing and moving forward. I believe you are capable of recovery, we all are💜I wish you all the best on your journey.

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Denni

Thank you for sharing Amy! Even though I don’t know you, I am so proud of you for moving forward and all you’ve achieved. I was delighted to read you’ve met someone special, are thankful for the beauty in life around you and of your intention to not give up, but to help others in need.
Well Done!! You are an amazing woman!

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survivor

Thanks so much for sharing this, I am 18 and was diagnosed with BPD 2 years ago. I have been through one year of DBT and multiple other therapies… I improved so much but I am starting to relapse and just signed up to enter a new level of DBT so I am very freaked out about it! I have been self harm free for almost a year and I was last hospitalized 11 months ago. (I also have a history of suicide attempts and am diagnosed with 4 other mental illnesses.) I’ve come lightyears from my former life but sometimes I’m so close to the edge of hell I’m afraid I will fall in. Your story gives me hope. I WILL go out there and fight for my life; I WILL live to be 30! thanks so much!!!

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Andrea

Thank you for this article. You are very brave to have shared the very intimate details of your life. My son was just diagnosed with BPD and after learning about it I realized that that he was me 30 years ago. I recognize the symptoms in me, and my Mother. My brother also committed suicide at 20. I believe that there is also a genetic factor involved. I feel guilty for passing this onto my son, but know that it is something I had no control over. Just as I know that I had no control over him having the same eyes as mine. He has just started medications and see a big improvement, counselling to begin in the new year. Thank you again for sharing. One day at a time.

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Tessa

I’m so happy that you’ve found a therapist and a course of treatment that works for you. I wish you much health and happiness. Thank you for sharing your story. The beautiful thing about life is that we are the authors of our own future. I commend you for having the self-awareness to know that you can change your life for the better and find happiness in spite of your diagnosis and struggles.

My daughter has type 2 bipolar disorder. Though she was very medication compliant, she refused therapy. This past summer after several really bad episodes she finally began her search for a therapist and she found an amazing one1 Though she’s only been seeing her for the past 5 months, the change I see in my daughter is amazing. She’s so much more communicative about her feelings and is generally a much happier person. Though she knows she will always struggle with mental illness, she’s gaining tools to win over it, just like you are.

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rachie ross

Thank you. My daughter has bpd and she is now 22,but she also got lupus at 17, shes in a hard patch with bpd this week and it’s so painful to watch. Thanks for the hope xx

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Alex

Wow… This made me cry. Thank you so much for this. I am 23 years old and two days ago I was diagnosed with bpd. For as long as I can remember I have struggled and I have hope that I will be a survivor and move forward.. this article made me smile because there are days I feel I will always be alone and nobody will understand.. But I am wrong and I will make it to see 30.. I won’t leave this earth without putting up a fight…. ❤️

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Charlie

So inspiring, made me really grateful to my life. Thanks for sharing, it’s brilliant that you can voice your story so confidently.

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Jennifer

Your story is an inspiration. I am a practicing DBT clinician and plan to print your story to share with my DBT group members. Keep up the hard work! You should be so proud of yourself, your family, your accomplishments, and the life of wellness you’ve built for yourself. All the best to you!

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Amy E

Jennifer, that is great to hear. Thank you so much for your kind words and for seeing value in my story. My therapist is going to see if i can speak to a DBT group that is in my area. It’s nerve wracking but it’s where i need to be to help who i used to be. I have so much faith in the people you are teaching and DBT. Thank you for being a part of someone’s new life 🙂

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Liesl

Amy, thank you so much for sharing your story publicly. I’ve been through DBT classes myself (which I completed over 3 years ago) and am also in recovery from addictions. I’ve recently hit a rough patch and reading your story was exactly what I needed! I’m so glad to hear that you are sharing your story personally with others in DBT. The isolation of BPD is unbearable, even though (ironically) it seemed it was my only viable solution for years. I’m so glad to find your story. Bless you!

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Amy Evans

You got this! You’ve already gone through DBT, so keep going through it. Keep using your skills and giving yourself forgiveness in moments you can’t use skills. I’m still keeping on keeping on and using them every single day. All the best for your recovery💜

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Julie

Please accept my heartfelt sympathy and endless gratitude for sharing your horrific story. Few would be able to express themselves so eloquently, sharing such intimate details of their life. You are truly blessed with a gift for writing ( and so much more).

Amy, please practice your public speaking, maybe take a course in it if you can. You have so much to offer. Your writing is clear and direct, a short paper with oceans full of knowledge and information.
I can’t imagine the countless number of people you have already helped! Millions more need to hear your story, not only those who are suffering, but their loved ones and families also; as well as medical personnel, regardless of their field of expertise.

Thank you again for your inspiration and your candor. May God keep you strong.

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Amy E

Julie, thank you so much for all your support. Over the years i have seen many health professionals that have failed me and i wasn’t always aware of it. I really do hope that my story inspires people to seek help or look at how they can help someone else.

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Suzanne Brown

Thank you so much for your encouraging testimony. I have worked with several women suffering from Boarderline Personality Disorder and so far I have seen very little success in helping them. Thank you for showing me that it is possible to recover from this. God bless you.

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Amy E

Thanks for taking the time to read my story Suzanne. I too have much hope for every person suffering from BPD and i hold them in my heart daily.

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betsy

you have had a very difficult life and have bravely steered your recovery. i wish you much happiness in the future!

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Ripa

Thank you for sharing, awareness can help many. Mental illness is difficult to dead with as it is, and when you have the shame and stigma to go with it, sometimes death feels like a blessing…. Your a strong woman, keep it up….x

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Amy E

Thank you Ripa, I am now the person i wanted to meet so desperately back in 2007. I really didn’t believe recovery was possible. I wish you all the best with your journey and thank you so much for reading and taking the time to send words of support.

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Amelia

Amy. You are an inspiration to so many others, both individuals and family members, who struggle with this battle every day. God bless.

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Amy E

Thank you Amelia for your kind words of support, and for taking time to read my story.

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Dolores

Dear Amy, huge and heartfelt congratulations on turning your life around. You are a real inspiration and should definitely speak out to let others hear your positive story.

Have you thought about contacting TED.com? They have a lot of truly inspirational speakers and a very wide audience via their podcasts, and I’m sure you could bring hope and light to SO MANY people out there who are struggling with BPD, depression and suicide.

Congratulations and God bless you.

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Amy E

Dolores, thank you so much for your words. TED? Eeek! I am a huge fan of TED talks, they continue to inspire my recovery. I really hope that one day i could be on that stage, and maybe i need to start practicing some public speaking. The thought of that still terrifies me but ultimately i know it’s where i’d love to end up. Thank you for your suggestion and words of encouragement!

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Abi

You have been through such a lot and worked so hard to get to where you are today. I’m so happy for you that you have at last found some peace. I guess for all of us with BPD the struggles are lifelong, and that using DBT skills every day are the best solution to keep ourselves stable. Never give up XXXX

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Amy E

Thank you for your kind words Abi, you are so correct when you say BPD is a lifelong struggle, and i have found that when i use DBT, i do suffer much less. I wish you well on your journey, if i can get through this, i know you can too. Much love to you.

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Elizabeth

Thank you for sharing your story of hope in this post. I’m happy for you about your progress! Your goal of speaking for those who suffer in silence is wonderful; you will add so much light to many lives. God bless you.

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Amy E

Thank you Elizabeth for your kind words of encouragement and support, it means a lot to me to know that even one person has read my story and sees value in the struggles i’ve been through.

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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