*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
How do so many people in modern society get to the point of being so unwell in their mental health? This has been my ongoing curiosity and interest since I started developing this blog in 2014. Along the way, I have become increasingly interested in the meaning of the word “love” and when it is being genuinely enacted versus being misconstrued or misrepresented. The word “love” seems to be tossed around so casually that it can mean whatever people want it to mean in any circumstance, and hence, the presumed benefits of “love” may, in fact, remain largely elusive. It seems as though we often believe that we “get it” when we talk about “love,” but if that were truly the case then why would so many people who claim to give and receive “love” remain so mentally unwell?
If you can’t already tell, I am not at all convinced that a large majority of people have been properly introduced to “love” as a wholly beneficial action word in their lives. Coming from a materialistic part of the world, my perception is that most people associate “love” with the giving and receiving of material things, meaning that several other useful applications of the word might get devalued, ignored, or abandoned. When it comes to the practice of self-care for the purpose of improving mental health, and especially for improving conditions like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), it is very important to get extremely precise about the word “love” and what applications of the word are needed for the best possible outcome.
This article aims to highlight and reinforce certain types of self-care, also known as self-love, that a person suffering from BPD would benefit from if maintained. More blatantly, I am inclined to suggest that ongoing acts of self-care are indispensable, even non-negotiable, if there is to be lasting improvement in mental health. Those who don’t suffer from BPD might also want to consider the self-care suggestions in this article, since the differences between people on the continuum of mental health and mental illness are often only a matter of small degrees.
Please note: While I offer these self-care suggestions, I realize that everyone benefits differently from different approaches. I also admit that I continue to work on revising and maintaining my own self-care routine. Not to mention, different people have different life situations and variable access to free time and opportunities. The point of the article isn’t to devalue other approaches or circumstances, but rather to emphasize the importance of consistency in self-care and otherwise how to think about self-care when you have BPD.
One of the most important categories of self-care in my experience (and as a person who knows BPD intimately) is self-reflection. In other words, what practices are you doing to promote self-awareness, with the ultimate goal being to take care of (take responsibility for) your emotional states and all related thought forms? In other words, what is being done to “turn on the lights” of the mind and body so you can see what’s happening when it’s happening and make adjustments? This ability does not develop spontaneously after reaching a certain age. Nor does it become possible after consuming a certain substance, or after reading a article like this one. It becomes possible only after self-awareness practices (such as mindful meditation) are instituted on a regular basis.
In my years of working through Borderline Personality Disorder, I have also found value in regular exposure to empowering subliminal messaging through audio technologies. I believe this is important because there can be so much “background noise” in the form of unhealthy conditioned mental programming that incessantly adds to the mental health challenge. For instance, if you come from a background of being exposed to ongoing unhealthy or irrational types of thought and suggestion, then chances are very good that much of your automatic/habitual (and unconscious) thought processes follows this pattern too. This strategy requires lots of repetition, but it is as easy as listening to relaxing sounds while you do other things.
Of course, no self-care routine is complete without including some sort of physical movement (also known as exercise) and nutritional consideration. I am not a doctor and can’t offer medical advice, but what I can tell you is that the body/mind system is governed by a web of biochemistry, and that we have the power to influence this biochemistry through the decisions we make. Regular aerobic and resistance exercise, even in small amounts, can benefit the mind/body system as a whole and contribute to a person’s capacity for building other strengths. Adjusting diet to include foods that enrich the mind/body system with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients likewise contributes to big picture of your health – a good start may be as simple as consuming less processed junk and preparing more fresh foods.
The last thing I will briefly discuss in regards to potentially important self-care activities for persons suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder is medication. While I am not one to focus on medication as a form of treatment for mental illness, I do acknowledge the sometimes essential neurochemical assistance it can offer. Depending on the individual seeking assistance and the level of impairment being experienced, the right medication can tone down symptoms (e.g., racing mind, elevated anxiety, depressed mood) such that the benefits of non-medical approaches can be maximized. Indeed, sometimes without including medication in the larger treatment plan it can be near-impossible to benefit from the services of a therapist. That being said, remaining cautious and assertive while in consultation with your prescribing doctor about the number of medications being taken and dosages is also an important aspect of self-care.
In closing, I will once more reiterate that self-care is a highly unique component of mental health, but also that it is helpful to look at it through the lens of “love” and the meaning of the word. To be “loving” in instances of mental illness requires precision in understanding what is needed to make improvements and then following this understanding up with focused/dedicated action. From a therapeutic point of view, it is very frustrating to hear people speaking of “love” when, in fact, they are abandoning themselves as a result of their mental health ignorance or misunderstanding of “love” in the context of mental illness. If you give up your self-care for any reason when you have BPD, it does not qualify as an expression of “love.”