5 Habits I Gave Up to Begin Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder

Shannon Ashley

Plus 5 healthy habits I picked up.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0V2Urb_0XkgNIad00Photo by Ann Danilina on Unsplash

Recently, I received an… interesting comment on one of my stories about life with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It was a little bit ironic, even. The reader who said, “It’s so strange that now just being a jerk has a disease attached to it,” closed their commentary by claiming, “I’m sure I will be hated for this.”

The irony of the comment, for me, was that the reader clearly sought negative attention by being something of a jerk themselves. They lumped all of the symptoms of BPD into being a jerk, and declared that it’s not even a mental illness but a choice.

What made the reader need that kind of attention, anyway?

To be honest, this is the kind of compulsion I used to battle in my worst episodes of BPD. We're not the only people who've been known to act out for attention. In fact, I was already planning to write about the habits I gave up to start healing from BPD when this comment caught my attention and reminded me.

To be fair, not every person with borderline has these same habits. And there are plenty of people without BPD who do these things too.

It’s important to recognize, though, the ways we self-sabotage and stunt our own growth.

1. I quit looking for attention.

At the heart of BPD is a desire to be loved. It’s terribly all-consuming. I would sometimes talk a bit more loudly than necessary, or draw negative attention to myself, simply because I wanted to know I wasn’t invisible.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it, attention from other people felt something like a drug to me. Attention made it just a little easier to survive.

To begin my healing, I had to quit looking for some feel good drag from others.

2. I stopped chasing men who didn’t really care about me.

Everyone has heard the phrase, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” For many BPD sufferers, that’s a huge problem. I never witnessed healthy romantic relationships as a child. Practically everything I learned about love came from television or movies. It was, of course, all wrong.

For a long time, I chased guys who were no good for me. And I didn’t disengage when I realized they didn’t truly care about me because I was already fully invested.

I kept thinking that "love" was my lifeline but I wasn’t honest with the fact that my idea of love was toxic and twisted. Once I stopped chasing the wrong guys, I began to heal and reexamine my definition of love.

3. I went on a selfie hiatus.

I’ve written about the benefits of selfies before, so please hear me out. I don’t mean that selfies are inherently bad. They’re not.

It’s just that for some folks battling mental health issues, and for some of us with borderline personality disorder, taking selfies can be excessive and problematic.

It can be difficult to get yourself away from a compulsive need for attention when you’re stuck on taking (and posting) selfies. Healing from BPD really does require you to cool it with seeking approval from other people.

Not only that, but people with BPD typically struggle significantly with their self-esteem. As our symptoms flare up, the last thing we need to do is over analyze our features and appearance.

4. I changed my story and quit feeling sorry for myself.

For the longest time, every story I told myself about my life was a sad one. I told myself that I was worthless and ugly.

Like so many other borderline folks, I had a bad habit of telling myself that everybody rejected me. I didn’t just fear rejection; it was my entire identity.

During the first couple years of motherhood, even though I was doing well with putting my baby first, I still carried my sob stories. I was alone. I was abandoned. I was unlovable.

I had to finally let go of that ugly narrative, because I had grown so comfortable with my pain. Pain was more familiar to me than hope. And I couldn’t heal as long as I let myself stay stuck in that narrative.

5. I quit expecting other people to bring meaning into my life.

By far, one of the worst things about BPD is this chromic emptiness. It’s like a permanent storm cloud above your head or some sort of splinter in your soul that wakes you up at the worst possible moments.

That emptiness has a way of eating up everything and making you believe that you will never really know who you are.

And you try so hard to fill it with different things. Maybe with stuff. But more often, with people.

I had to quit looking to other people and expecting them to give me value. I had stop trying to use them to bring meaning into my life. I had to learn how to see my own value.

But people who wish to heal from trauma, which is a huge part of BPD, can’t only drop their bad habits. They have to pick up new and healthier habits too.

1. I began writing about my struggles instead of stewing over them.

For me, writing has been my real “lifeline.” Not my old definitions of love. And I’m not talking about writing in my journal, or crying out “woe is me.”

Writing for myself and others has made an incredible difference in my mental health. I get to work out some of my demons, and figure out what I really feel, but the fact that I’m not just writing for me forces me to find more distance and clarity.

What do I wish I had known five or ten years ago? What did I really need someone to say? What stories could have changed my entire life?

These are the things I think about when I write. And it’s helped me to finally process my pain. If I didn’t write essays about my life in an effort to help others, I would likely still be stewing over all of my hurt and trauma.

2. I started looking for silver linings.

Again, writing certainly helps. I’ve developed this habit of looking for the good in the worst scenarios, including many of my fears.

These days, I now choose to see adversity and unexpected problems as opportunities for growth and further healing.

It’s not always easy, but it’s not too different from flexing any other creative muscle. Over time, I’ve gotten better at finding silver linings, so even when I face a deep depressive episode, I am eventually able to find my way back to a less biased story. I can now see how my depression always lies and tries to keep me stuck.

3. I met my own needs.

For much of my life, I had this chip on my shoulder about being on my own. It became ingrained in me when I was 18 and my sister went to prison. Our whole family dynamic changed and I found myself increasingly alone.

My mother quit celebrating holidays a few years later when my sister’s children were taken away and sent to live with their paternal grandmother in Missouri. She suddenly started telling me to make my own plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas because she had nothing to celebrate.

I grew very bitter that my mother didn’t seem to think I was family worth keeping. I grew reclusive and resented that I would have to put my own gift under my tree.

As I began to heal, however, I quit whining to myself about being on my own and I started to take pride in meeting my own needs. That was a game changer for me. No more pain over being “forgotten” or alone. Meeting my own needs made me feel strong and much more secure in myself.

4. I stopped reading into every relationship and started to chill out.

There’s this thing that many people do. It’s not just those of us with BPD. People often gravitate to toxic relationships or poison their healthy ones by reading into every little thing.

I’ve learned the hard way that reading into everything somebody says or does is a recipe for disaster. We wind up doing one of two things: we either get led by our fears and worry about everything we over analyze, or we see the person in an unrealistic light.

Seeing only those things you want to see in a relationship is a shortcut to destruction. It’s important to relax enough to be honest not just with them, but with yourself.

Healthy love is chill, yet it doesn’t ignore red flags in favor of a fantasy. But it takes a lot of practice to get there and it’s important to know that old habits do die hard. I have to frequently remind myself to be realistic and relaxed.

5. I leaned into my fear of being alone.

If you’ve ever battled obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), you have most likely heard of exposure therapy. I never really set out to use exposure therapy for myself in my treatment for BPD. It was more like a happy accident brought about by my circumstances as a single mom.

I used to be so frightened to be romantically alone. Although I’ve always been an introvert who likes to work alone, I believed that I couldn’t be happy without a partner.

The idea of dying alone and spending holidays alone horrified me. Like many others with BPD, I sometimes went to extremes to avoid being abandoned. I also looked for extra attention and unfairly tested my lovers.

The only thing that got me past my fear of being alone was to finally lean into my loneliness and learn how to manage it in a healthier way.

It took years, but I finally discovered that I like being alone. There are perks to going at life on your own terms. It’s not that I never feel sad, alone, or abandoned anymore. But now that I’ve faced my fears of loneliness head on, those feelings no longer rule me.

There are nine symptoms of borderline personality disorder. To be diagnosed with BPD, you need to have at least five of the symptoms, and they must be issues that have ailed you for a substantial amount of time.

It’s unfortunate that more people don’t do the research to understand that people with BPD are not jerks. In fact, it’s perfectly possible that you have no idea someone you love has BPD because it isn’t always obvious. Plenty of people mask their symptoms or have been misdiagnosed as simply depressed or bipolar.

The good news is that BPD is treatable, and it actually offers a better prognosis than some other mental illnesses despite the strong stigma. Furthermore, because it’s a “personality disorder,” successful treatment hinges upon changing your mind, habits, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

As a result? You don’t need to suffer from BPD to benefit from educating yourself about the illness. You might be surprised to discover that the personal development and emotional intelligence exercises that help folks with BPD can help you as well.

After all, it’s not about choosing to be (or not be) a jerk, it’s about learning how to heal from your pain and limiting beliefs to cope with your issues in a healthier way.

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Single mama, full-time writer, ex-vangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. I cover real-life issues, like family, parenting, relationships, and spiritual abuse.

Cleveland, TN
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