Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a personality disorder that is often accompanied by depression, is considered the incurable cancer of mental health, at least in its moderate to severe forms. However, I recently read a book that showed there may be more hope for successful treatment than is generally believed.
In case you’re unacquainted with BPD, the major characteristics are:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
- Unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
- Intense episodes of depression, irritability, or anxiety (usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
When you mention Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as BPD, to a mental health professional, you can almost see them mentally making the sign of a cross. Some mental health professionals refuse to even attempt treatment, partly because people with BPD can be skilled at manipulation. One family therapist told me that he’d seen patients with BPD divide a ward in 24 hours and have the staff at each other’s throats.
I’ve had some personal experience with a woman with severe BPD, second-hand, through a male relative. During their divorce, this man’s wife attacked him with a letter opener, and while I was living with him, she threatened to burn our house down. Just a tad scary.
Through a therapist friend of mine, I heard of another therapist whose BPD patient burned her (the therapist’s) garage down. Presumably the patient felt abandoned because the therapist went on vacation.
So, given my knowledge about the disorder, it was with a healthy amount of skepticism that I started leafing through, “Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder.” To the best of my knowledge, mild BPD can be successfully treated, but a patient whose BPD was moderate to severe was just too resistant to treatment to make any progress towards recovery.
Of course, I’m always hoping to find positive information about any form of mental illness, so I bought the book, took it home and read it in less than two days. It was just that riveting, and ultimately, inspiring.
Rachel Reiland’s account of the diagnosis and treatment of her Borderline Personality Disorder is painfully honest, eye-opening and ultilmately inspiring. Through four years of intensive psychotherapy and several hospitalizations she came to understand and recognize the demons that drove her BPD behavior, and ultimately banish them.
While her story is uplifting and provides hope for recovery from BPD, there are some mitigating factors to keep in mind. As she herself cautions in the epilogue, “This book will undoubtedly resonate with those who have faced mental illness in themselves or in a loved one, but this is just one woman’s story. I am unique, as are my circumstances, family and psychiatrist.”
Rachel was fortunate that she had a supportive husband and a talented and dedicated psychiatrist. She also had a capacity for self-analysis and was fiercely motivated to recover from BPD. In essence, the stars aligned perfectly for her recovery. But I find that, even taking that into account, I look at the possibility of recovery from BPD in a much more hopeful light since reading her story. Anyone who needs some inspiration in their fight with BPD, or who wants to learn more about the disorder from the “inside” will find it well worth reading.
Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified: An Essential Guide for Understanding and Living with BPD
Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care about Has Borderline Personality Disorder