Gestalt Humanist Psychotherapist
When they asked me to write for The Borderline Project about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I realized that my opinion as a psychotherapist regarding this specific topic turned out to be mixed up with my own reality of being the mother of a person with this condition. That’s why, along with my professional opinion, I want to express myself as a mother, with the collateral damage that living with a person who has BPD means.
Putting aside the medical perspective for a moment, I would like to recommend a more holistic approach, considering paths outside of the purely clinical. I say this due to issues we had during our journey; we were distracted from other possibilities by medical terms and labels, and thereby missed remedies that might have been found closer to home. It also made us lose sight of the fact that each “illness” has its own characteristics and history that depends on the human being that is living it. When we lose sight of the individuality of each personal life experience, we lose sight of the human being that’s right in front of you, which also happens to be a very important healing area to work with. In other words, living the borderline experience, experiencing it, being affected as a mother and being lost as a family regarding the decisions and recommendations of experts that labelled my daughter with a non-specific/mistaken mental illness that was treated with medicine that led to an addiction. In the mist of despair, for a long time, we put ourselves in the doctors’ hands, until my daughter became a diagnosed entity, losing her identity as a human being.
This taught me the hard way that having a much more complete, real and human perception means so much more than having a diagnosis, illness or disorder.
That being said, my contribution in this reflection is based on my empirical knowledge, my own experience and perception, emphasizing what I’ve lived as a mother, because this is ahead of my opinion as a psychotherapist. In fact, these experiences have defined and influenced me in many ways, as a person and as a professional. But most of all, they have helped me in the type of psychotherapy I give, because it’s a different approach that focuses on each human’s very own experiences more than in general diagnosis criteria, behaviour patterns or the illness/disorder itself. It focuses on the person’s individuality and own identity, which makes them, be who they are , before labelling them as a sick person, observing them from a human point of view, and focusing in the emotional/affective part of each person. For me, it’s not just a mental problem, it’s a dysfunctional way of living and interacting with the environment because of the instability of the emotional imbalance in which the person is immersed and because of all this, it also affects the loved ones that surround us, As such, my contribution is divided as follows:
Borderline Personality Disorder is hard to diagnose because most of its pathologies are characterized by instability in the relationships, impulsivity, mood swings, irritability, erratic behaviours, depression, etc. and these are also common symptoms of other disorders. That’s why it’s extremely important that, though you’re not a doctor or psychiatrist, you must do some research and inform yourself about what diagnosis means and implies, and how the prescribed medicines work and their possible side effects. In other words, don’t just blindly trust in what the doctors say and pay extra attention to not perpetuating labels and diagnostics that can turn the person into something they’re not.
It’s crucial to take care of BPD by means of psychotherapy. In my experience, preferably by a humanist approach, focused on the person, and letting them work, not only in an intellectual way, but the affective part too, where the person can no longer evade the psychological and emotional pain (this is very common), raise awareness of what is happening to them, explore and express their thoughts, emotions and feelings in order to understand the confusion, fear, despair, distress, and then accepting their emotions, without judging them and find what they need. After all, the only one who knows about a person is the person itself.
FOR THE ONE’S WHO LIVE WITH THIS CONDITION
You are not alone. Look for your pairs. Attend a support group. Approach people who can keep you company. Take therapy. Express your feelings. Don’t evade yourself. Your reality, as painful as it can be is all you have!
Ironically, denying it will increase your anxiety and this could become a chronic and dysfunctional anguish. You cannot live outside your reality, as much as you may try. It’s lying to yourself.
Take responsibility, don’t allow anyone else be in charge of your life. And always remember, you are more, much more than your BPD.
FOR EACH MEMBER OF THE FAMILY
As a family member, you need help too. Look for it. You are not as unbreakable as you think, so don’t abandon yourself because of your loved one. You can’t help much if you’re confused and unbalanced. Don’t lose yourself!
FOR THOSE WHO ARE MOTHERS
As a mother, it doesn’t matter how much you love or try, you can’t control it and I think that narrating my experience will speak for itself.
After realizing that no matter what I did, the LAST DECISION in my daughter’s life WAS NOT IN MY HANDS, I entered that white and cold room in the psychiatric ward, approached my daughter who was laying in that horrible bed with restraints, caressed her just-shaved head and I said to her:
“You know I love you, don’t you? I want you to know that I’ve learned I have to respect you in spite of what I feel and that’s why I’m telling you… if you decide to die, it’s your choice and I will respect it, but please… stay with us”.
And as I swallowed my tears, I ripped my heart out of my chest.