*The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and communicated without reference to supporting documentation. The writer also recognizes that BPD is a disorder that affects both males and females, and uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias. Breakaway MHE Disclaimer
In my experience learning about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), while simultaneously re-learning how to live in my body and with my emotions, I have developed some unique ways of envisioning the BPD experience as it happens moment-to-moment. My envisioning is that people are continuously presented with “doorways” in their everyday lives, meaning that we can “step into” certain types of life experiences with ourselves (and with others) depending on how much we know about ourselves and how to live in our bodies. In other words, our life experience is in many ways determined by how much we know about matters of health and wellness, and in particular how much we know about mental health as it applies to us.
Any person who is actually living with a BPD diagnosis knows how frequently and easily he can find himself in “hellish” circumstances, especially as pertains to relational and emotional experiences. It is as though at any moment you can find yourself reacting internally or externally to various stimuli (e.g., random thoughts, memories, words overheard, words received in conversation, media sources, etc.), meaning that the recurrent reality of life becomes one of navigating many “steep and deep” emotional challenges. And whenever the emotional challenges cannot be navigated well, there is a good chance of entering a “doorway to hell.”
To elaborate further on what “doorways to hell” means, it is to find yourself reeling in emotional struggle, expressing the emotional struggle in ways that others find noxious and offensive (e.g., yelling, physical aggression, controlling behavior, manipulating behavior, substance abusing, self-abusing, etc.) and that are ineffective (i.e., not helping to reach goals and make a life worth living), experiencing the natural consequences of offending others and making unwise decisions (e.g., rejection, abandonment, punishment, health problems, financial problems, etc.), and then picking up the pieces from all the various messes that were made.
Without getting trained to know when these “doorways to hell” appear and how to sidestep them, a person with BPD ends up walking through them again and again. In many instances, even one more time going through this kind of misery becomes one too many, and so thoughts of suicide start to enter the imagination. Although please note, just to be clear, I am not at all advocating that suicide is the answer because emotional struggle repeatedly turns into “hellish” life experiences. I am simply saying that it is completely understandable that ANY HUMAN would not want to go through this level of pain and misery, only to go through it again and again (and again) without any hope of living differently.
So how can a person with BPD know when “doorways to hell” have appeared? The answer is that the doors appear when a challenging emotion (or set of emotions) arises in the body. In order to NOT walk through the door and experience all the related heartache, drama, and life wreckage, a set of skills is required to effectively diffuse the emotion, adjust unhealthy thinking, and make a wise choice (i.e., choose a different door, one that doesn’t lead to some sort of hellish life experience). Another way to verbalize this would be to say that instead of walking through any of the available “doorways to hell,” the person instead chooses to walk “the middle path” of awareness, enlightenment, and wisdom.
To walk “the middle path” instead of entering the “doorways of hell” involves learning some basics about mindfulness, emotion regulation, and emotional validation, as well as identifying and adjusting irrational thoughts as they are commonly experienced by humans (**not just by those with BPD**). My experience has informed me to having a willingness to sit with uncomfortable emotions until they pass can greatly reduce the chances of walking through any of these doorway to inevitable pain and misery. Learning what it means to sit with emotions “mindfully” takes this ability one step further, and then studying/practicing different forms meditation enhances this capacity further yet.
This ability to sidestep the “doorways to hell” has always been inside of you to develop, but most likely you were not made aware how to take advantage of it. The good news is that you can begin empowering yourself right now. Learn and practice, learn and practice. Then after a short while, you will start to see that you have more power inside of you than you ever realized. You will feel the satisfaction of having some control over your life and how it unfolds. You can never control everything, but knowing that you don’t have to repeatedly enter into unnecessary misery and drama, and that relationships can be satisfying and goals can be reached, is absolutely priceless.
You will also realize how limited most people are in their understanding of mental health, especially as pertains to serious conditions like Borderline Personality Disorder. I would, in fact, say it is absolutely vital to fully realize and accept that many of the closest people in your life will inadvertently/unintentionally “push you through the doorways to hell” simply because they are so mental health ignorant (they don’t know what to do or say that is helpful, and so they do the opposite). They probably don’t want to hurt and debilitate you, but they don’t have the skills to avoid it.
If you have BPD, please do not underestimate the importance of getting highly trained/skilled in helping yourself. You can do this, and you will do this, because in your heart of hearts you know that your life depends on it. You may have others in your life who are willing to learn about mental health, but this still doesn’t mean that you won’t need to depend on yourself in many situations where others can’t be available because of their own life stress.