When you live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), “recovery” can sometimes feel like an unattainable goal — especially if the yardstick you are using to measure your progress is just an absence of symptoms. But the reality is, recovery is usually an ongoing process, and often is more about learning to deal with symptoms rather than make them disappear completely.
We wanted to know how people with borderline personality disorder knew they were recovering, so we asked members of our Mighty community who live with BPD to share one “little” sign that let them know they were in recovery.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “A sign I’m feeling better is when something goes wrong and I just think, Ah well, not the end of the world. Then I just keep going. I don’t get emotional or feel defeated, feel like my day is over or that I’m fundamentally a failure. I deal with the problem or I don’t mind that it can’t be dealt with and I get on with my day. Every time this happens, I’ll notice later on I was able to cope better with things going wrong that day. I always wonder if this is what it’s like for people without BPD or other mental health disorders and I don’t feel so guilty for not getting much done, because I fill my time with reacting and having to recover from being upset or angry or just overwhelmed. If I didn’t have to go through those things, my life would be a lot more straightforward, but I wouldn’t be me, and it means I really appreciate a good day when I have one.” — Chloebear B.
2. “I manage to deal with relationship issues without going to the default of suicide and wanting to harm myself because people aren’t acting how I want or expect them to.” — Catherine H.
3. “When I am able to control my abandonment issues. I am able to not constantly be in contact with someone. I am able to rationalize that they will be there tomorrow and I don’t panic when I’m not around them.” — Daisy A.
4. “I completed a six week DBT course this summer. Ever since I finished, I don’t think about suicide every day. I don’t want to drink or harm myself at the first inkling of something going wrong. My daily mood chart has been a straight line for over a month. I’m finally seeing the sun behind the clouds. It’s like a can breathe for the first time, or [am] putting on glasses I didn’t know I needed. I can honestly say life is good now, and I’ve never been able to say that before.” — Helen R.
5. “Whenever I stop myself from self-harm, even if I’m having a very bad day. To consciously be able to stop myself from cutting makes me feel proud, even if it is one time in five.” — Darla C.
6. “I am able to use the tools I have learned in situations that would normally trigger an ‘episode.’ I can recognize the emotion I feel and instead of acting on that emotion, I can think more logically and clearly. It doesn’t happen every time, but I definitely am improving a little more every day. I’m responding in ways that are ‘abnormal’ for me and that’s a huge accomplishment for me personally.” — Tiffany R.
7. “When I was recovering, one sign was taking a shower. Even on the days I could go out, the thought of getting up half an hour earlier to shower as opposed to throwing some clothes on was overwhelming!” — Ruth T.
8. “A sign I am recovering is that I don’t always believe what I think anymore. I am capable of sorting out my thoughts, feelings and facts now and behave accordingly and responsibly which eliminates 80 percent of the drama I used to deal with in my life. But it’s not always easy because as we all know, us borderlines feel intensely and are impulsive, but recovery is possible!” — Suzy B.
9. “Not shutting [out] people I love. Not running away when I love someone, and might get hurt. Not having an anxiety attack because someone doesn’t answer me in an hour. Socializing, having more than one friend and not pushing too much when it’s time to let go because of fear of separation/abandonment. Knowing when to do self-care instead of bottling up my emotions and doing self-destructive behaviors.” — Camille R.
10. “Every day is still a battle when you have BPD. But a little sign I am coping better is that I go more than one day without passive and active thoughts of suicide. That’s a big thing. I would think of it multiple times a day to the point that I had to lie in bed and cry because I just wanted to think about nothing. Now I feel like I’ve gone weeks without thinking about it and I can say I’m very proud of myself.” — Tracy M.
11. “When I’m feeling clearer in my mind and I don’t feel so weighed down, I know I’m recovering. And in that process, I can eat without stressing and my daily headaches go away. I always need to be careful of possible things that can make my head go haywire, so I tend to stay away from stressful things.” — Brittany N.
12. “I know [when] on some days, the paranoid thoughts, which are inevitable, are becoming manageable. When a friend is ‘out of sight’ for too long, I take a breath before I block their contacts and have a meltdown, and I make that call. I ask, ‘My brain tells me you hate me. Do you hate me?’ That’s a sign to check in with reality and that’s a victory.” — Meghadeepa M.
13. “Waking up in the morning to my alarm clock, not hitting snooze and getting up [instead] because I didn’t feel so physically and emotionally exhausted. I felt like I had a reason to wake up instead of staying asleep and dreaming.” — Destiny K.
14. “When I don’t worry as much about whether or not someone replied to a message. When I can focus on other things that make me happy. The worry is still there, but it isn’t the first thing on my mind. I like those days. They’re rare, but it’s such a relief.” — Katherine C.
15. “I don’t react to every little thing anymore, or at least not as extreme. It’s relieving not to feel guilty about my behavior all the time or obsess if I was ‘wrong’ or mean.” — Destiney B.
16. “Being able to stop and take a deep breath before I say something when I’m upset. It’s great to feel myself starting to balance out, instead of my mouth always getting me into trouble.” — Katheryn W.
17. “I start to become much more tolerant of others… less critical and more understanding of their needs. I give them much more space and don’t panic if a while goes by that I don’t hear from them. I see the gray, not just black and white.” — Diane M.
18. “I’m know when I’m acting irrational in a relationship. I actually know how I should behave even when I relapse, but now I manage to curb the most destructing habits and relationships are smoother.” — Kitty Y.
19. “[When] I can go a whole day without intense fear or anger, I feel I am recovering.” — Steven L.
20. “When I hear myself think, You’re upset and that’s OK. But this feeling will go away. Let’s just sit with it and see what happens.” — Hema J.