Medication for Borderline Personality Disorder…do we need drugs? Is BPD a physical condition? Are our brains chemically out of balance?
I really don’t believe there is a fixed answer to these questions as BPD has very diverse symptoms and it´s very unique to each individual.
However, I would like to share my experience with medication or any thing I have swallowed hoping it would help. For a long time (over 15 years) I have been on and off different treatments, with different doctors and specialists, from the family physician, to neurologists, to psychiatrists, to all imaginable psychologists. From antidepressants, to antipsychotics, to lithium, clonazepam (and all the other “…pams”), to risperidone, to sedatives, to muscle relaxants, to lyrica (any of these ring a bell?); to alternative oils and scents, to over the counter relaxing pills, to Bach flower drops, to homeopathy, to grandma remedies, and even to shaman preparations and some holy water sips in case an exorcism was really the thing I needed.
All of these true. Funny, right? But I was desperate to feel better.
It is only now that I realize medication does work for me as part of an integral approach to my condition.
Drugs + therapy + regular exercising + healthy diet + solid network of friends and family + good sleep + mindfulness + a bunch of things I try every day is the combo that has allowed me to finally feel better and functional.
So, based on my experience I believe this is what you should consider:
Medication does not heal BPD
This first statement is a bit of a party pooper, huh? But it´s true. In reality nothing fully heals BPD…but wait, this is not a life sentence! There are a bunch of resources that help us cope with our overwhelming emotions, intense reactions and many of the unpleasant things we often have to face. All of these tools will make facing each crisis and evil thought easier until we become expert surfers! BPD crises will never fully disappear, but with the right integral treatment they will happen less often and when they come up we´ll be able to address them faster, more effectively and hopefully with less broken glass at home or a couple of smaller bruises. Maybe, one day, no bruises or scratches at all!
That being said, medication will help you address some of the horrible symptoms: depression, anxiety, psychosis, insomnia and more. With a clearer and quieter mind, or a mind that is not always thinking about hurting yourself, you will have more time and strength to focus on positive stuff and other ways to pursue your personal improvement.
Unfortunately most of these drugs have considerable side effects. Ingesting chemicals that directly impact our brains is no small matter. Most of these substances are controlled and need to be carefully administered. Some of the most common side effects are nausea, weight gain, shivers, sleepiness, and most probably gastritis, colitis or any kind of digestive irritation since these treatments usually come in combos or cocktails that require multiple pills more than once a day.
There are many ways to help counterbalance these effects. Having a healthy but yummy diet will help keep you feel satisfied without eating more than you should, and working out will also help you assimilate the substances better. But most importantly, always speak to your specialist about how you feel and make a list of pros and cons.
We are guinea pigs
It turns out that in the boom of the technological era the medical advances on mental health are far and few in between. Therefore, if you are about to get medication your physician will have to run a -not always brief –trial and error process in order to find what chemical works best for you and in what dosage. You´ll maybe change medications several times and increase or decrease the amount of pills until the right prescription is found. Breathe and hang in there.
It´s not all about medication
Medication is only one of the many resources we can use to help us feel better. Physiological therapy, mindfulness and working out are few examples of other things that can help you. Take a look at our tips to find out more and explore all the alternatives and options until you find your ideal combo.
We all have been on the stage of feeling ashamed and weird about having to take medication. Feeling officially “crazy” (whatever that means). But mental illness is a real thing. BPD is a real condition although we don´t get fever or have phlegm or infections. It´s not our fault, it does not make us worse people, it is natural and it is a pretty part of us. So, if you were diagnosed with diabetes or any other disease, would you think twice about taking your medication?
Unfortunately the cost of mental health care is rarely accessible. Research from international organizations say the expenses can be similar to the cost of cancer care. It can be quite frustrating when the money is scarce, but in all honesty, make your treatment (with medication or not) a priority. Your health comes first. And we unfortunately know that sometimes in BPD an accurate treatment can be life or death. One in ten people diagnosed with BPD die by suicide because it can truly become too much. You know, I know. Many of us have been there.
The advice is to seek alternatives with your social security services, contact local organizations focused on mental health, seek generic medicinal options to the often more expensive pharmaceutical brand , talk to your employer if you feel comfortable, reach out to your family and friends and also, consider some other resources that can help you cope with shitty times.
BPD is neither a headache nor a tummy ache. It cannot be healed with an aspirin you take in the afternoon and then forget about it. Treatments are long. If you are a candidate to take medication, most physicians will advise taking drugs for a considerable period of time and daily. Unfortunately you won’t be able to see the effects of the drugs right away either. These substances work directly with our brains and take some time to settle in and fully start helping. I know it sucks, especially because most of the time you have agreed to take drugs it’s because the help is quite urgent. But be strong. The results will come and you´ll feel better.
Commitment and negotiation
Taking into consideration all of the above, you can see taking medication is a challenge, right? It does require a deep personal commitment. Feeling at our best with BPD is unfortunately a task that is not super easy to accomplish but it’s not impossible! We are worthy of living a happy life. Doing what it takes is up to us, and if medication helps you, embrace it.
However, as much as it is important to do as experts advise, be willing to negotiate with your doctor. In order to guarantee that you will follow through the treatment you need to help draw a realistic path for yourself. For example, if you have issues with self-image (so many of us do), talk to your specialist about your concerns of weight gain. Also, most medications cannot be mixed with alcohol. Maybe it would be great if we didn’t drink at all, but in reality we know that sometimes that can feel like an imposed limitation. I love my gin & tonic but I am aware that getting tipsy or drunk might not be the best idea. My solution, order a drink and sip it sloooooooowly through the night. That allows me to reduce my cravings without drinking too much.
Of course the physician who prescribes your medication knows best, but it’s always enriching to share experiences on what positive or negative impact certain drugs have had on you with other people that have gone through the same. Supporting each other and sharing always helps!
Nowadays I feel I have finally found the right psychiatrist, the right medication, the right dosage and the right commitment to myself. I will do what it takes to help me live a more balanced life.
If you are on medication or are about to start a treatment, best of luck! I hope it works for you and you can soon feel like the superhero that you are!