So I read a lot of guest blogs on the healing from BPD website (which I highly recommend as they explain how and what they did to recover from/gain remission from BPD) – and a blog of a recovered BPD diagnosed lady on wordpress who wrote: ”Learning about how you have developed the condition means you can fight the causes (which may be ongoing) at the same time as fighting the symptoms”. I recommend both of these sites.
Most of the individuals have explained that part of their recovery involved self analysis, not only of the ways BPD was affecting their life but also the causes of BPD in their particular individual case. I guess it is healing because you are able to understand it is not your fault and can develop more self-compassion.
Of course, I know the main causes of my BPD by now in my head. I am just gonna get it down on paper to analyse and use the biosocial model from my DBT skills training handouts and worksheets book.
So first it says: Emotional vulnerability is biological. This may well be the case for me as my mum was under particular stress when she was pregnant with me (my dad was violent towards her ever since they got married). I have studied in psychology how the mothers stress levels can affect stress modulation in a developing foetus so that might also be what happened to me.
Secondly, it says: Impulsivity also has a biological basis. Again, could well apply to me, I have struggled with impulsive behaviour and still do to some extent.
Then it goes onto the social environment aspect:
‘An Invalidating social environment can make it very hard to regulate emotions’.
An invalidating environment doesn’t seem to understand your emotions (yep!). It tells you your emotions are invalid, weird, wrong or bad. I had so many instances of this which are now coming back to me. Whenever I was upset about something I have been told by my mum that ‘it’s not a big deal’, ‘why are you making it a big deal’, ‘it doesn’t matter’. In fact these phrases are still sometimes heard today even though I voice my feelings in a straight forward tone, I am still met by ‘why are you making it a big deal’, as if by saying that my mum can magically make the confrontation go away or brush my feelings off. The only difference is now as an adult and through therapy, I know my feelings are valid and important, whether she tries to brush them off or not.
If I was afraid as a child usually after having been up watching a scary movie with my mum (which I really shouldn’t have been allowed to sit up and watch anyway) I would be told things like ‘there’s nothing to be scared of, go back to bed’ or ‘nothings going to happen’ ‘dont’ be a scaredy cat’. None of these phrases helped me. I also have a particular memory of my dad laughing at me when I was really upset about something as a child and crying. I had to go over that one in therapy.
It often ignores your emotional reactions and does nothing to help you. Sadly, this is true too. I cried once due to insomnia and the stress of it, and my mum said nothing to comfort me. When I asked her why she hadn’t even said anything she looked at me blankly and said ‘what can I do’. All I had needed were some words of empathy or understanding (validation). If I can recall this as an adult I can imagine as a child being ignored also.
People who invalidate are OFTEN DOING THE BEST THEY CAN.
They may not know how to validate or how important it is to validate. I think this may be the case, culturally there is not much emphasis on emotional development of children, the importance of validation. My dad is mentally ill, so he obviously could not do this for me (still cannot). My mother grew up as an orphan so it may well be because no one had ever validated her.
They may be under high stress or time pressure, or they may have too few resources themselves. Yes, living in a domestic violence home is highly stressful, maybe that’s why she could never see the importance of it. She may have been trying to reduce all other stressors in her life including those of my emotional needs just to cope with living in the house we were living in. I also think she had few/no resources to help her do this. Her family lived in a different city so she didn’t get much help with us.
An ineffective social environment is a big problem when you want to learn how to regulate emotions and actions.
(Well yes, I was never taught anything related to this so struggled through life doing whatever worked no matter the consequences in the end).
Your environment may reinforce out of control emotions and actions. This is SO true for me that I feel good just by writing it down. Whenever I would be angry up to the point I was raging and smashing my room up or breaking the next thing I could see would be when I would get attention. That would be when everyone would truly stop and realise I was upset and shouldn’t be ignored. I still wouldn’t get a resolution, but I would get the attention and understanding that I was being serious. No wonder I continued doing it, because in that environment it worked!
If people give in when you get out of control, it will be hard for you to be in control. An example that comes to mind is how strict my parents were with letting me go out even just to see friends that lived on the same road! I felt like a literal prisoner trapped in a toxic environment. When we moved to London, my mum would still be strict with my going out, it was still not as often as I liked (maybe once a month) for a 16 year old who wasn’t exactly planning on going out until 2am getting wasted, this was so frustrating to me, I decided to simply rebel. I argued and would leave to go out everyday, completely disregarding her rules. That was finally when she gave in, and it was because I had decided to go ahead and do whatever I wanted anyway.
If others command you to change, but don’t coach you on how to do this, it will be hard to keep on trying to change. This hits home because they did want me to change, they wanted me to stop going out so late, she wanted me to not drink, she wanted me to stop seeing a particular bf I had at the time so much. I was the ‘out of control girl’, wearing clothes she didn’t like, going out to parties she didn’t like. I was screaming and the ‘black sheep’ of the family. But at no stage, did either parent ever think to ask me what’s truly going on, get me counselling, get me therapy, have me see a Dr, get books or ask others if they could get insight into why I was behaving the way I was behaving. Nothing. Even until today. That hurts and also makes me angry (a kind of residual anger), as it’s easy to tell someone to change but as a parent they should have taken it upon themselves to really find out what was going on and as a child I have the right for my parents to look up mental health and be involved in my recovery. I still don’t have that. I have vowed to myself that if I become a parent, I will keep learning about emotional validation and use the skills and strategies to validate. I will also consider their mental health as they grow and play an active role in educating them and supporting them with this.
It’s the TRANSACTIONS that count between the person and the social environment.
Funnily enough, I am understanding this more in recovery. As I’ve used DBT skills to react differently to situations, I am getting different (positive) responses as a result. This transaction then teaches me that I can get a desired response in a healthy way. And so I use them again, or try a new skill in the future, and so it goes on… I think the key one to remember here is;
‘The person reciprocates and influences his/her environment’. This is the window that I have to use my skills, to try out a new response to positively influence my environment and create a new outcome in the environment. The social environment will then reciprocate differently than it did in the past and I will be influenced differently and grow as a result. This is the part I need to think about most. ‘What response do I want to go with in this situation and what out come will it give me?’.
Well, that was pretty insightful. My childhood environment fit all the criteria of an invalidating and unhelpful environment and it seems to me that it’s no wonder I used to act the way I did. It’s no wonder I developed BPD. It wasn’t all me. In fact as a child most of it wasn’t me at all. I didn’t have the maturity to choose my responses and I was meant to be coached on how to do deal with my emotions and how to respond effectively. I should have been validated and accepted as an emotional and sensitive child, and I wasn’t. I have long since accepted this in myself and I do not see it as a negative, infact I think it’s beautiful to be sensitive in a world that is so harsh. I love that I am one of those people as most sensitive people I have met I have been drawn to and appreciated.
I can also see how this means BPD isn’t a death sentence. It’s mainly due to environmental factors and upbringing which means, once you change the environment and learn how to respond to it appropriately, you can change the outcomes and essentially change the direction of your life. I guess that’s the core of DBT, allowing you to change your responses in your window of time in the social transaction. I may not be able to stop problems happening in the environment, or difficult people saying difficult things, but I can choose how I respond which will then in turn change my environment to my favour. I almost kind of feel a sense of gratitude to my BPD, it was simply my way of coping with the hands I’d been dealt. It was a survival strategy even though it seemed like a self destruction mission at the time, even the suicide attempts were only my brains way of trying to rid myself of the pain I was experiencing at that time. It was never really about death, it was a warped way of helping myself feel better. That includes self harm, sexual promiscuity, drinking, drugs. It was all a way to numb the pain of what I was going through and help myself. All I’ve been doing now is swapping A for a much more positive B when I am going through difficulties.
I am going to be learning more about DBT skills today and practicing a mindfulness exercise on being non-judgemental. I also have big plans which I’ll be writing about after I’ve talked about it with my psychologist.
Watch. this. space., world.