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.

26 Comments

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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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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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.

Reply

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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