I will begin by saying I suffer from BPD, PTSD, and have dissociation. I have a hard time coping with this but I do. I want to help people who are suffering like me so here is how I cope in hopes that it will help others.
When it comes to dissociation, I can usually feel myself starting to dissociate. This is the best time to implement 5-4-3-2-1, which is where you look for things around you like 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and then 1 thing you can do for yourself. You can also do this with shapes, for example, 5 squares, 4 rectangles, 3 circles, and so on. This will help you to stay in the present moment and stay grounded.
Now, when it comes to my BPD I have some difficulty with emotion regulation. I occasionally have a hard time naming my emotions, which is something I am trying to work on. What we do know is that emotions are important but it is what we do with them that matters. Our emotions motivate us and communicate things to others through our facial expressions, or communicate things to us such as something is about to happen. We need to take time to understand our emotions while at the same time trying not to dissociate, we need to stay present to understand our current emotion. There are hundreds of different ways to try to describe one emotion which makes it so hard to know exactly how you feel about a certain thing.
The first thing I try to do is name my emotion, such as sadness, and rate the emotion’s intensity. Then I try to figure out why I feel the way I feel, and what made me feel that way. Then I ask myself what wasI feeling in my body, then I go over in my head what I felt like doing or saying, how did I hold myself did I shy away or look bored or uninterested, followed by what I said or did, and then I think of after effects which is the worst part because sometimes this leads me to think of other emotions like shame or guilt for doing things or saying things I shouldn’t and then the whole things starts again. But it is still a work in progress, and I am learning to acknowledge and accept this.
You can challenge emotions by doing the opposite action, which sounds easy but it is actually hard. You begin by doing something you are afraid of over and over, for example I have a fear of birds so I have a bird at my place, and I talk to it now but I never used to do that even. So over and over again I would approach the bird’s cage, something I was afraid of, but because the bird was in a cage I had control over this situation.
I am also a believer in the DBT skill ABC PLEASE which is accumulate positives build mastery so do something you are good at while challenge I get yourself, coping ahead with difficult situations. For example, I knew when the anniversary of something was going to happen, so I arranged a stay at Safe Beds so I could have support around the situation on that day, and I worked out a plan on how to cope before that day even arrived. This helped me to remain in the present on that day so I didn’t dissociate as bad or as often as I otherwise may have. It is hard having BPD and dissociation together, but we are strong and get through it. There is hope.
Before I began implementing skills, life looked a lot different. I was constantly being visited by Mobile Crisis Rapid Response, police, ambulance. And all the 9-1-1 calls were happening all too frequently. My day usually included a trip to the hospital, but not anymore. Now that I’m implementing skills and not just being able to recite them, I feel a whole lot better about myself. Sure, I still have bad days, but I am learning to ride the wave. I now have a job and feel I am putting some purpose back into my life whereas 9 months ago I wouldn’t have been able to say that life has purpose—it was something I could not even have imagined. Life is not easy and I struggle still, but I have support, and I now know that, and I know I am not alone and that there is hope.