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.

37 Comments

anita chopra

Thank you so much Amy. It brings so much hope. Would like to know what made you resolve to get better? That’s the most important thing to “make up your mind” to get better. What helped. I am a mother of a child with BPD. She is only 13 yrs old, in therapy and medication. I also have a pet dog. .I am there for my child in every possible way I can think of. In your opinion what are the best 2 things I can do to help her.

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Amy Evans

Hi Anita, I’m going to be honest with you. My mother was the source of a lot of my pain. She was invalidating, judgemental of everything I did and all around us. She didn’t show me support at all, she made fun of my sexuality. She exposed me to people who weren’t safe because she didn’t understand safety herself. What I needed was for her to stop us seeing our father. I needed her to believe me. I needed her to sit with me and tell me that what I’m feeling is valid, it’s ok to be sad and angry. I needed her to role model healthy relationships. I needed her to model emotion regulation instead of her using alcohol to numb things. I needed her to go to therapy so she would understand how hurt she was and how she was hurting us.

She told me when I was 18 that I had to seek therapy or I wouldn’t be able to continue living with her. So I did, but it didn’t last. I was at the end of a drug addiction and found Debbie Corso online because I decided to finally see what BPD was. It was at that point I decided I could do it too.
So a mixture of things really. Ultimately hampered by not having my mothers support.

I have met so many people in real life and online whose parents were responsible for their diagnosis. Whether it be physical abuse, or any other type, also heavy invalidation. I don’t say this to say it’s all your fault. I’ve told all of this to my own mother and she still brushes it off. I really hope you’re open to looking at things, maybe within yourself, if not then in your environment. There’s so many reasons your child is suffering and she has little responsibility at 13 for changing any of it.

I really do wish you the best on your journey with her. Dbt is the path forward, but half the work is the relationship with the person or persons who have caused this for her.

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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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Sparrow

Oh my God.. I’m 55 and just relizing that I may have BPD. My life does not work AT ALL! I am all alone after leaving abusers and homeless trying to survive living in a van that I cant get fitted out because nobody will help me I’m d f**ked up. I ant get help because I have a dog (my hope) and hat makes it hard to do anthing because I have to care for him. I don’t know what to do.

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Amy Evans

I’m so sorry you’re in this situation now. It’s not your fault, until we know what’s happening for us or what’s happened to us, there’s little we can do than just keep living how we have been all these years. I would say to reach out to any and all
community organisations who may be able to help with your living situation. I know that your dog is probably your life line but you may want to consider rehoming them in order to save yourself. I don’t say that to be cruel or heartless. I know your dog is probably the last thing you have and the last thing you want to lose, however if it’s holding you back from getting a safe place, this is literally a trauma response. But perhaps in the thick of it it’s not possible for you, and I totally get that too. If you’re able to I would suggest doing dbt via the workbook, they’re available online for about $30. Sessions are usually upwards of $200. So doing it on your own with online support could be a way for you to get treatment for without seeing a psychologist if you can’t afford to.

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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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Charlotte Victoria

Hey Amy. I needed to see this tonight. I got my diagnosis when I was 23, I’m 28 next month. Sometimes I feel like I’m never moving forward, the water is too murky when looking back- trying to see how far I have came. Wondering if I’ll ever get better. Heal. Seeing your post tonight, the way you describe the simple joy in being alive, I cried. You’ve truly reached me with your words. Thank you x

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Amy Evans

Hi Charlotte, you got this! BPD is a long road with its twists and turns all being individual to us. As of a couple of years ago since writing this article I no longer meet enough criteria for the diagnosis. So I know it’s possible for you too. I acknowledge it’s a lot of hard emotional work, but if you can stick with it, it will ultimately change your life. You can do this, I fully believe in you❤️

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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.

Reply

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Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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