In the peaceful town of Missoula, MT, I always felt a little out of place. Amidst my penchant for capturing the town’s breathtaking landscapes with my camera and diving deep into the intellectual realm of video games, there was always a part of me that felt amiss. About three years ago, the missing puzzle piece was revealed — I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Up until that point, I’d been attending what I humorously dubbed “regular therapy,” navigating through different therapists and clinics for almost six years. At times, I would drift away, engrossed in a captivating video game storyline or a photography project. But a constant remained: my therapy sessions. Until one day, my then-therapist mentioned I’d need to shift to a specialized clinic for intensive therapy focusing on BPD, a term unfamiliar to me until that moment.

The revelation was overwhelming. While I could strategize a video game’s toughest levels or perfectly frame a photograph, comprehending my own emotional tapestry seemed like a Herculean task. I remember shedding tears during our last session, struggling to articulate my avalanche of emotions.

However, my introduction to dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) turned out to be a silver lining. Immersing myself in this therapeutic technique, I gradually found solace and began understanding my emotions better. These newfound strategies not only helped me grapple with my feelings but also paved the way for a more content life amidst its inherent chaos.

Reflecting on this mental odyssey, I realized some key takeaways:

Embrace Your Diagnosis: It’s a Guide to Your History

In the tranquil corridors of my therapist’s office, an old familiar sting returned when I felt that I was being moved due to my stagnancy. Memories of my school years in Missoula swarmed back, where I often felt like the ‘misfit’ amidst transient friendships. The fear of being replaced by someone “better” or “cooler” often overwhelmed me, leading to confrontations with close friends.

An intense high school romance further exacerbated these insecurities. Believing her to be “the one,” I often prioritized her needs over mine, despite the evident toll it took on my well-being. The breakup, although inevitable, left a void, amplifying my fears of abandonment.

But as I delved into the intricacies of my BPD diagnosis, things started to fall into place. It was akin to unlocking an intricate video game level, making sense of all the challenges I faced earlier. The diagnosis shed light on my intense emotions, my fears of being left alone, and the frequent feelings of emptiness.

Much like the satisfaction I felt when capturing the perfect sunset over Missoula or finishing a particularly challenging game, understanding my BPD brought relief. It provided answers to the numerous questions I had about my behavior and emotions, guiding me towards a path of better self-understanding and growth.

Discovering the Right Path Takes Its Own Time

During my usual therapy sessions, I frequently felt trapped, as if I were stuck in a never-ending loop. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried, I’d revert to the same destructive patterns, constantly questioning why transformation eluded me.

It became evident that my primary requirement was understanding how to navigate complex emotions, a proficiency I honed through DBT. At the outset, I was somewhat skeptical about this therapeutic approach. However, as time unfolded, the significance of daily mindfulness began to overshadow the habit of suppressing emotions until they erupted uncontrollably.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT combines cognitive-behavioral approaches with mindfulness strategies. With help from a therapist, it focuses on teaching skills in four main areas:

  • Mindfulness: Improves the ability to accept and be present in the current moment.
  • Distress Tolerance: Helps tolerate and survive crises without making situations worse.
  • Emotion Regulation: Offers strategies to manage and change intense emotions.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: Teaches techniques for assertiveness, listening, and dealing with conflicts.

Yet another valuable tactic involves “fact-checking,” wherein I dissect a situation to discern factual information from emotional perceptions. On instances where my worldview becomes polarized, or I grapple with distinguishing reality from perception, this method offers a semblance of tranquility and clarity. By urging me to evaluate my emotional state, scrutinize my environment, and approach situations from diverse perspectives, this practice, albeit daunting initially, has ushered in transformative shifts in my life.

Of course this was just the beginning.

The Quest for Mental Well-being Is Perpetual

Even after identifying a compatible therapeutic modality, managing my mental health remains a relentless endeavor. There have been moments of introspection where I’ve ruminated on the sheer magnitude of this undertaking — comprehending profound sensations of despair, probing their origins, and tackling the dread of alienating loved ones due to my emotional intensity. Navigating criticism, especially when labeled as “domineering” or “harmful,” is no easy feat.

Yet, intertwined with these challenges lies the potential to combat the prevailing stigma associated with BPD. Recognizing the detrimental impact of such stereotypes, particularly when one’s identity is reduced to mere symptoms, is crucial. Notwithstanding the daily hurdles, capitulating isn’t an option. I possess the power to reshape perceptions surrounding this condition and champion my own mental welfare.

To my fellow BPD warriors, remember, solitude is a myth; reaching out is always an option. Journey at your own pace, refraining from hastening the healing process. Always bear in mind: Every stride, irrespective of its size, contributes to the broader journey.

Jeremy Patterson, a passionate student at the University of Montana in Missoula, is ardently pursuing a degree in Computer Science. With an innate knack for algorithms and coding, he thrives in understanding the nuances of technology and innovation. However, Jeremy’s interests aren’t solely academic. In his leisure hours, he delves into the world of video games, where he conquers virtual realms and strategizes complex missions, reflecting his analytical prowess. Photography is another avenue where Jeremy’s creativity shines. Capturing the scenic beauty of Missoula, he often juxtaposes nature’s tranquility with the high-paced digital realm he encounters in his studies. His photographic portfolio showcases a blend of landscapes, candid shots, and conceptual imagery, revealing a keen eye for detail.