I'm often asked what helps me so I thought I would share a bit about some of the main things I find helpful.
It's important to note that no two people are the same and what I find helpful might be very different to the sorts of things that help you. I thought I would share some of the things that help me just in case they resonate with you and your experience.
Understanding that I have certain emotional experiences because of what I've been through in life. Acknowledging the intensity of my emotions and the intensity of the distress. Accepting that I'm a person with a set of specific emotional needs.
2. Feeling deserving
I used to think I deserved my suffering. It took me a long time to get to this place where I feel deserving of compassion. I needed a lot of support during this process and it was very painful at times. I still struggle sometimes with being self-critical and self-punishing.
I am currently doing a year long DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) programme. This involves individual sessions and group skills training, as well as phone/text support. I am finding it very helpful.
I take two types of medication and they help me a lot. They help with the intensity of the emotions- both the highs and the lows. I had the debilitating side effect of drowsiness for a few months, then it subsided.
Starting with the mind
I draw, write or do other creative things to 'get my emotions out'. Writing and drawing are like having conversations with myself and it can help me (and others) understand what's happening.
Watching YouTube videos of animals (especially dolphins and whales!) watching animal and nature documentaries, being outside in a forest or green space.
- Validating my emotions
I am finally at the place where I can make an attempt to validate my emotions- to acknowledge that how I feel is real and valid. My emotions can be terrifiying and overwhelming, so this is not easy. I'm not always able to do this, but with the help of my therapist I'm learning.
- Understanding my thoughts
[TW suicide] Just because I am thinking something, it doesn't mean it is true. I might think 'they hate me', when actually that is not the case. Similarly, my suicidal thoughts don't mean I deserve to die, rather they tell me that I'm in a lot of emotional pain right now.
Starting with the senses/body
Being cold makes my emotions (especially sadness and shame) harder to contain. I use heat packs and hot water bottles a lot, and hot showers help too.
Anything with water- from rain sounds in music, swimming, watching ocean animals on YouTube, being in the shower...
I use perfumes, scented shower gels and have essential oils around my room. Smells seem to work on my emotions.
- Stretching / yoga
Yoga has helps me to better respond to my needs and emotions. I do it in classes or from YouTube videos at home. Up until recently I haven't been able to do yoga because I used to feel incredibly sad and I started to cry unstoppably in the classes.
- Pressure / weight
This can be my heat packs weighing down on me, or pillows or heavy blankets on top of me. Soft blankets also work quite well, feeling the touch and warmth. The pressure and weight helps to alleviate the intensity and physical pain of intense emotions.
Social / Community
- Knowing I'm not 'the only one'
Joining Twitter way back in 2014 was the starting point. I was able to see others going through the same things as me. As I started blogging about my experiences (anonymously), people related to my experiences and this was a huge relief.
- Peer Support
I get amazing support via online communities such as the BPD community on Twitter. I also have found a couple friends with BPD who really 'get' what it's like and I get so much friendship and comfort from them.
- Being more open
When I was keeping everything silent, it made my shame grow. Although being open can make me feel exposed, vulnerable and open to stigma and discrimination, it also opens up the possibility of deeper connections with others, support and many other benefits.