I have BPD. I won’t harp on about it but I’m a textbook case. To summarise the past 10 years, they’ve been a rollercoaster. Mostly in a bad way. Losing a child, then having another with a dodgy character with whom I stayed engaged to for 5 ugly years. After finding the strength to leave, I began a long and tricky descent into hopelessness. Always moving, always working, always busy, always up for anything. I was an overacheiver at all I took on but got bored quickly and never stuck to anything. I worked in every industry you can think of, excelled in all, but quickly moved on. I changed cities and boyfriends as often as I changed career choices and could complete flip moral values entirely to suit my mood, yet nothing ever satisfied me. Who was I? Who knew! What would I do next? Who could guess?
December 2013, 2 days after my 28th birthday I landed myself in hospital with a suicide attempt. Hitting rock bottom was not the beginning of my awakening but it brought about it a sense of urgency. Act now, or lose everything.
I spent January and much of February as a complete shut in, traumatised by my brother in law’s little brother being murdered only days before I had to have an operation which would save my life but leave me infertile. It was rough. My boyfriend and I were in a bad place in our relationship and my mental state was not helping in the least. I quit my job and couldn’t leave the house without having panic attacks or breakdowns. I so desperately wished I could afford a therapist but financially I had painted myself into a corner.
Until one day, when I decided that this just would not do.
I had to take responsibility for my mental health. I had to get a hold of myself. I finally realised what so many people had been trying to show me all along – the answer was with me. The only person who was going to help me, was me. Not a doctor, not my family, not even my soulmate. I had to figure it out on my own. No excuses, no drugs, no guilt trips or beating around the bush – the ability lay in me alone and it was about time I worked on figuring it out. But how?
Well first, I shot off a few emails to the local department of mental health and laid it all out there, my whole sordid past and why doctors don’t really like me but “I promise this time will be different.” I asked if they could perhaps just give me some advice. I googled my condition and treatment options in my area and discovered the grim truth; Doctors do not want to treat us, we are their worst nightmare. Again, I won’t harp on about it, but google BPD and you’ll find more horror stories telling you never date a Borderline than you will find support groups and treatment. Until very recently it was largely seen as untreatable and 99% of the doctors I have encountered still feel this way. Oh well therapy, I didn’t really like you either.
(I’m still waiting to hear from them btw). Out of the blue an article pops up on my facebook newsfeed about Vipassana meditation, an ancient buddhist practice. Now, I had read in one of my many forum lurks that the most effective treatment to date has been put together by a psychologist named Marsha Linehan PhD, herself BPD afflicted. It’s called DBT and it was inspired by buddhism.
Growing up in a strict christian household, buddhism was always a taboo subject. Regardless, having enjoyed concepts such as Rhonda Byrne’s Secret and Eckhart Tolle’s New Earth and meeting a fair few friendly buddhists I’ve always been drawn to their philosophy. I took a scientific approach and experimented with these ideas and I found them to be very powerful tool. Once I realised how effective the Law of Attraction was in my life, and how I’d been inadvertently attracting the negative circumstances in my life by failing to control my thoughts. As a result, visualisation and focusing on the positive began a change in my life which at the time felt magnanimous but I now realise was just the beginning of my awakening.
When I learned about the ego and how it had been automatically running the show without checking with me first, I began to realise just how much power I held over my circumstance and how I needed to figure out how to access it before my emotions took over my life and possibly even ended it prematurely. Thus began my appetite for learning about how to control my emotions and take charge of my life.
So when the Vipassana article popped up, meaning “to see life as it really is,” I was intrigued. According to the website: “Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art Of Living. This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation.” (http://www.dhamma.org/en/about/vipassana)
Vipassana centres are situated all over the globe, where ten day courses are held, free of charge. They rely only on donations from students who have completed a course and endevour to remain free from commercialism. When you enrol, you are given accomodation and for the duration of the course. This is no peaceful retreat though, this is an intensive meditation boot camp, which sees participants rising daily at 4am for all day meditation sittings. Oh, and did I mention the vow of silence? That’s right, no talking, no hand signals, no eye contact for 10 days!
Perhaps I forgot to mention that I am a chatterbox, motormouth, loose-lipped yakkity yakker on my best days. Challenge accepted!! I did a little reasearch and found out that there’s a beautiful Vipassana centre in Worcester, Cape Town, on the other side of the country I live in. I enrolled for April but got put on the waiting list, so now I am booked for June. I will be catching a bus for 23 hours there and back on my own, I won’t know a soul and I won’t be able to contact my family until the end of the course. No contact between my partner or my son for 2 weeks will be the most difficult part, the part that’s had me almost cancel quite a few times. Regardless, I am committed.
I look back 3 months at the petrified agorophobe I was, lurking in online support groups, convinced I’d be nothing but a housewife forever, fearful of my future, my thoughts and myself – helpless. In the last 3 months I have read countless articles and books on Vipassana, meditation and the science of minfulness and may I say; Mind = blown! From a purely scientific point of view, mindfulness meditation is at the forefront of alternative treatment for mental health disorders. It can be more accurate that the surgeons scalpel to accurately pinpoint issues and address them in a unique but powerful way and it all comes down to something as simple as observing your breath.
Mindfulness meditation, simply put, has been one of the great discoveries of my life. With as little as 20 minutes a day, mindfulness practice over a short space of time will actually rewire your brain and create new neural pathways in a way that can be charted on an MRI. in her intoduction for “Rewire you Brain for Love” Dr Marsha Lucas explains that contrary to until recently the widely held beliefs that the brain couldn’t regenerate new cells once it had reached maturity at 25 years, scientists now know that the brain can produce new neurons and pathways, for your entire lives. This is known as neuroplasticity.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. So armed with Prof Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman’s “Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding Peace in a frantic world” I have been practicing my various guided meditations while trying to research as much into the topic as I can. I have felt an immense change already and cannot wait to find out what more I will learn about myself on my trip to Worcester. Just to be at the point of wanting to and being capable of going is an acheivement in itself and I cannot wait to share the rest of my journey as it unfolds!
Food for thought: If you could programme your brain for anything, like a computer which would run only the way you instructed to, what would you programme you brain to do?