While getting any mental illness diagnosis can feel scary, getting a borderline personality disorder diagnosis (BPD) can be especially daunting. There’s a lot of misinformation and unfair representation of BPD, and it can make you feel like the diagnosis is hopeless. But there is hope for people living with BPD.
It’s important to remember that dialectical behavior therapy, a common way to treat BPD, wasn’t developed until the late 1980s. This means a lot of information about BPD online is outdated, and people living with the disorder need to speak out and redefine what it can mean to have BPD.
For people newly diagnosed, we asked our mental health community to share one “survival tip” they’ve learned on their BPD journey.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Read about BPD — mainly symptoms and articles by others who have BPD. Understanding the disorder and how it affects you can help a lot. Also look into Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT was designed to help those with BPD, suicidal ideation, self harm… or if you can’t get into an actual therapist for it, there are plenty of things online to help you learn skills yourself! It has already helped me greatly in just the three months I’ve been in it.” — Rachel H.
2. “Figure out what BPD is for you. People forget that everything exists on a spectrum, including BPD, and often articles and books portray the “worst” of cases. You are still an individual person, and BPD will present itself in you in its own way. You are still your own person, and you will make it through!” — Brenna B.
3. “Think through all your decisions relationship-wise. I made a lot of quick decisions and lost a lot of good friends. Also, people don’t hate you if they don’t answer right away. They also have lives!” — Gabrielle L.
4. “Don’t be afraid, embrace it and learn from it. After I was diagnosed is when I really started to grow as a person. I knew why my past was the way it was and finally understood my actions.” — Jodie J.
5. “Get a notebook or a sketchbook you can use to keep your mind busy. It helps to redirect your attention and focus on something else. This has been something that has helped me many times.” — Rayelyn N.
6. “Don’t hide your illness. Share it with people you love, and help them understand what BPD is to you because it can be so freeing.” — Christine H.
7. “It’s not your fault. It explains you; it doesn’t define you. You can do anything and be any way you want.” — Lilith G.
8. “Read about BPD, but don’t focus too much on the diagnosis and let it consume you. I really beat myself up about it for a week or so telling myself I was selfish and manipulative, and that’s not true. I’m kind and compassionate. I can be those things at times, so it’s important to be aware,but remember it is the disorder taking ahold of you — not you yourself. You are not a hopeless case, I promise you that! I am living proof!” — Kristen K.
9. “Get your family to learn about borderline personality disorders and ask them to learn about it so they can understand what it is and why you behave/react to things the way you do. My biggest challenge is trying to get my family to understand how the BPD affects me and my behavior.” — Pam M.
10. “Relax. You will be scared, but it’s not the end of the world. Don’t be afraid to open up to your family and friends. Build up a great support system. Everything will be OK. You’re OK.” — Julissa S.
11. “Don’t let it define who you are. It does not control you… You got this. Don’t let the emotional river drown you. Always keep your head above the water.” — Destiny B.
12. “Keep in mind BPD is different for everyone because I don’t have problems with self-appreciation/low self-esteem as some may or may not. I like to say I have all the personalities, but doesn’t everyone express their selves in different ways throughout their life? That’s what it means to be human, and we are all human.” — Philip M.
13. “My ‘survival tip’ goes across the board for all mental illnesses. You are not your illness. Your diagnosis is merely the label for the cluster of symptoms you experience. You are still you, and although it may seem like you don’t exist in your body, you do. If people try and assume you are a terrible person from the label of diagnosis, they are the ones who need help to understand. Prove them wrong, and do what helps you.” — Chloe S.
14. “Find a friend you really trust who isn’t scared of talking about suicide, will check in on you regularly, just listen… and send you reminders that they care, they want you alive and that you matter in their life.” — Jason S.
15. “I learned how to differentiate the state of mind in which I was thinking. Is this rational, is this emotional am I using my wise mind?” — Mackenzie C.
16. “Don’t listen to anyone – even professionals – who tell you there is no recovery from this. There is life after a diagnosis of BPD.” — Rachel L.
17. “Learn as much as you can about it, and also create your own safe space. On a bad day the safe space can save you. If you can, surround yourself with people you know will be there for you.” — Sparkles M.
18. “Find the strength in others who have BPD. It’s hard to understand and cope with, so finding others who have done so makes things easier to handle.” — Christina C.
19. “Read about it on blogs. It makes you feel a thousand times less alone and reminds you the feelings won’t stay forever. It also helps you understand what to expect.” — Aislinn G.
20. “There are two things that have helped me the most when it comes to my BPD. One is a DBT skill called “check the facts” when in distress or experiencing extreme anxiety… take a second to understand what you’re feeling and why. First identify your emotion. Then, see if that emotion is justified by checking the facts surrounding the emotion. (It goes into much further detail), but this skill has helped me enormously when anxious thoughts are involved. Also, hearing others stories about people’s struggles have helped me. Knowing I’m not alone, other people feel this way too! I read a book called “Beyond Borderline: True Stories of Recovery From Borderline Personality Disorder” and it gave me more hope than anything.” — Ilana C.
21. “Writing became my best friend. I could get my thoughts and ideas out of my head for some time. It makes it a little less overwhelming sometimes.” — Marybeth R.
22. “This is just a name to what you’ve been experiencing. You’re still you. You’re still allowed to feel how you do. It’s not wrong. You’re still human.” — Diana A.