Buddha & The Borderline: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Buddhism, & Online Dating

Accepting a psychiatric diagnosis is like a religious conversion. It's an adjustment in cosmology, with all its accompanying high priests, sacred texts, and stories of religion. And I am, for better or worse, an instant convert.

All you want is love and belonging, and your very existence depends on it. But when you get it, you have no existence except that love; there’s still no you.

An inner ease spreads inside me. Such is the power of acceptance and understanding from other people, the power of validation

But when I look at myself squarely, it’s not just that I have a few difficulties or unresolved issues. Unlike those lucky people for whom therapy or medication delivers them back to themselves, I’ve been suffering from something that was unnamable for most of my life. Yes, I’ve had periods of relative stability, but the whole concept of “recovery” brings up some painful questions. What do I recover? With drug addiction, you hear that you can recover and reclaim your former self, the person you were before you started using. With other psychiatric illnesses, getting rid of symptoms means you’re more or less back to “yourself.” But what if you simply don’t have a solid self to return to—if the way you are is seen as basically broken? And what if you can’t conceive of “normal” or “healthy” because pain and loneliness are all you remember? “You were such a happy child,” my mother says. But I don’t remember that. So what do I recover?

Connection gives us our life, yet it also threatens to take it from us.

DBT's catchphrase of developing a life worth living means you're not just surviving; rather, you have good reasons for living. I'm also getting better at keeping another dialectic in mind: On the one hand, the disorder decimates all relationships and social functions, so you're basically wandering in the wasteland of your own failure, and yet you have to keep walking through it, gathering the small bits of life that can eventually go into creating a life worth living. To be in the desolate badlands while envisioning the lush tropics without being totally triggered again isn't easy, especially when life seems so effortless for everyone else.

Great. I hate you; don’t leave me. That’s exactly what I feel with Bennet most of the time. Though more precisely it’s “I hate you, why don’t you leave your fucking ex-girlfriend?

he wants to know what will give me hope again. It’s the first time anyone has asked me that. “If I have hope, I’m only going to get crushed again,” I say tearfully. “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” he asks. “Love,” I say without a second’s hesitation. “But that’s the biggest setup of all.

I don’t know what I have,” the woman says flatly, tugging her sleeves down. “I don’t care what it’s called. I just want to stop feeling this way.

I may have no emotional skin and come undone at the smallest interpersonal upset, but I’d make a great bullfighter or firefighter—anything that gets my adrenaline going and focuses me on a physical target. The motorcycle is all of that and more. When I’m on the bike, it feels like a door opens in my chest and the world rushes in, pure, fresh, and sparkling with clarity. It forces me to approach fear with total awareness and to pull reason mind into the moment of intense reactions.

I’m not interested in Bob Marley telling me to ‘lively up’ myself. The only music that satisfies me is Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor’s voice crying through industrial rhytms. In the August evenings, I lie on my bed with earphones, letting his laments roll through me like unrepentant thunderstorms. I envy the courage that carries his voice into the world. He doesn’t berate himself for pain and anger; he howls. And this delights me, even though I feel ashamed when my own rage comes to the surface. My anger doesn’t signify courage; it’s just more confirmation that I’m bad.

I'm so good at beginnings, but in the end I always seem to destroy everything, including myself.

I need them to be aware and present with me in the midst of the storm, not just tell me what to do.

Ironically, the word “borderline” has become the most perfect expression of my experience— the experience of being in two places at once: disordered and perfect.

I've grown up with an ethic, call it a part, that insists I hide my pain at all costs. As I talk, I feel this pain leaking out—not just the core symptom of BPD, but all the years of being blamed or ignored for my condition, and all the years I've blamed others for how I am. It's the pain of being told I was too needy even as could never get the help I needed.

I’ve read that, for some borderlines, the flip side of abandonment fear is the fear of engulfment. It’s another one of those “screwed if you do, screwed if you don’t” situations. All you want is love and belonging, and your very existence depends on it. But when you get it, you have no existence except that love; there’s still no you.

often feel like I’m regressing. He doesn’t turn the radio down like I ask him to, so I decide that means he doesn’t care about me and I spend the rest of the day strangled and stupefied by the emotions from just this one slight. I’ll

So at family gatherings… I try to stick to the acceptable script. Indeed, I discover that the less I say, the happier everyone seems to be with me. I sometimes wonder if I wouldn’t have been better off as a paraplegic or afflicted by some tragic form of cancer. The invisibility and periodicity of my disorder, along with how often I border on normalcy, allows them to evade my need for their understanding. And because our most enduring family heirloom is avoidance and denial of pain and suffering, I don’t need much prompting to shut myself down in their presence.

Thirty seconds of pure awareness is a long time, especially after a lifetime of escaping yourself at all costs.

We do not deserve to be trapped in hell. It isnt our fault.

We need this help from the outside because we don't know how to to do this for ourselves. We start with a deep deficit—a chasm really—when it comes to understanding and being tolerant of ourselves, and that's even before we go forth to do battle with the rest of the world. As soon as someone judges, criticizes, dismisses, or ignores, the cycle of pain and reactivity ramps up, compounded by shame, remorse, and rejection. The act of validation, simply saying, 'I can see things from your perspective,' can short-circuit that emotional detour.

wonder: How much of what I feel as neglect has been fueled by the force of my constant need? How much can any person hold another who is perpetually falling?