When you live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), sometimes traditional coping techniques simply don’t work in the way you want them to. If you are facing thing like emotional instability and fear of abandonment — possibly in addition to trying to explain your experience to others who don’t understand — it can be hard to cope.
We know how difficult living with BPD can be for individuals affected, so we asked members of our mental health community who live with BPD to share one unexpected coping technique they use.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “I watch horror movies! Hear me out: my head is just a slew of erratic emotions, so I need to occupy myself with something intense. Horror movies are very intense, and a big distraction, with the end of the movie being a huge sigh of relief from that intensity. It’s a feeling of relief I almost never get any other way. I suppose you could get the same feeling from action films if horror isn’t your thing.” — Morticia A.
2. “Boxing (hitting a heavy bag) has greatly helped with the rage. Lets me get it all out without being destructive.” — Liz T.
3. “It’s silly, but selfies. I struggle a lot with a lack of identity, and even though I really don’t like having my picture taken and feel very awkward taking my own, going through them every once in a while gives me a more realistic and definitive sense of my self and my appearance than what’s in my head, which is too nebulous to make sense of.” — Sissi C.
4. “Humor. When life goes wrong in ridiculous ways all at once, sometimes searching for a way to laugh at something I find upsetting or overwhelming takes away its power over me. Sometimes all you can do is laugh and keep going! It can be a good way to defuse unproductive arguments as well.” — Amy C.
5. “Cleaning. Not even deep cleaning, just small things like a load of laundry or a few dishes. Hard as it is to get myself to do it, it picks me up from a low and slows me down from a high.” — Baylie E.
6. “Cold shower with your clothes on. Sounds [silly] but helps when the emotions are intense and you are having destructive urges. The cold water helps ground the body into reality. The point of having the clothes on is not only to elongate the feeling, but distract after the shower is over. You need to get into warm clothes and such and by the time you have done that, the urge has diminished, if not completely gone.” — Izzy C.
7. “Write lists. I will sit and write lists of everything I have to do, everything that I’ve done, things I would like to buy, ideas I would like to try out, etc., etc. The more things I can fit into a list, the busier and more distracted my mind is. It’s also very grounding and forces me to think about something else and think about myself.” — Kayleigh M.
8. “Isolation. It might sound unhealthy but sometimes a little (or a lot) of seclusion is more than comforting, it’s a necessity. Like solo hiking, or going to a quiet library and reading an entire book, or a long drive that takes all day, or even just locking yourself in your room and watching ‘Game of Thrones or ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ all day. Resets the batteries. It’s like my soul is taking a deep breathe and exhaling slowly, so when I go back to the world and people, it’s not as impossible to respond to life with rational, logical reactions.” — Destiney B.
9. “To be honest, doing a kind deed really helps me.. Especially if it’s for someone who can’t do anything for me in return. I don’t know why… but something about doing a kind deed calms me down.” — Maha D.
10. “You know, there are a lot of unexpected things BPD does to a person’s mind, so there are a lot of unexpected things I do when I’m in those intense moments. My favorite one is going on impulse runs. I’ll just go and run in whichever direction my mind wants me to and I’ll keep going until I finally feel the relief from within and walk all the way back home while doing mindfulness exercises. Nothing helps release the negative energy more than that for me.” — Sami S.
11. “Writing down my opinions, dreams and thoughts during my highs, and reading them during my lows. As hard as it is I have to remember the lows don’t last too long and it’s just something I have to deal with and can’t change. Knowing how strong it has and will make me and remembering who I truly am always helps.” — Nyle O.
12. “Dance it out. I know people know it as a ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ thing but I have been doing it most of my life.” — Kristi T.
13. “Writing poetry. It’s the only way I can get out what I’m feeling/going through and it helps me clarify exactly what’s going on.” — Victoria S.
14. “I have a hair elastic on my wrist and I snap it — it helps me focus back into reality when I’m feeling out of it.” — Amanda R.
15. “I go into my room and make it as dark as I can get it and lay down with my animals and listen to silence. Darkness has always had a very calming affect on me and silence is very soothing.” — TJ G.
16. “I constantly find myself tapping my fingers, like thumb to pointer then thumb to middle thumb to ring thumb to pinky and then back the other way. It helps me stay focused. It’s also a good way to warm your hands up in the winter lol.” — James S.
17. “Writing letters to people I never intend to send. That way I say all the things on my mind uncensored without causing conflict.” — Anastasia A.
18. “I watch cute animal videos and cat gifs… anything that’ll make me smile and say, ‘Aww.’” — Emma H.
19. “If I’m triggered or upset, instead of blowing up and doing something impulsive, I try to separate myself from the issue and wait to deal with the situation for about 20, 30 minutes or even an hour. That way I can actually think before I act. My emotions control my behavior, waiting helps me calm down and think of alternative solutions instead of blowing up and causing a mess like I usually do.” — Erica M.
20. “Strange as it may seem, I put on pro wrestling.” — Travis M.