This Life: My coping strategy

If you have met someone labelled with a borderline personality disorder they may have been in crisis at the time. Perhaps they were scared, agitated, hurting themselves or threatening to do so. I have this diagnosis alongside depression and a history of anorexia. I don’t think a typical BPD exists but we all experience frequent crises that undermine our mental stability.

My own crises relate to my accommodation and my recovery. They can also be through overreacting to everyday events or relationship issues. My sensitive nature leads me to being easily hurt if I have a misunderstanding with a friend. I feel paranoid about what I may have said and the way the other person acts towards me can trigger a crisis.

Keeping a flat is a challenge for me and when home equipment doesn’t work it starts a spiral of negative thinking. If a washing machine doesn’t complete its cycle I imagine having to buy a new one, not being able to wash clothes and getting into debt because of the costs.

Whether I can access the internet daily also affects the way I cope. While in themselves these seem small concerns, they can feel like the final straw and shift me from coping to losing my balance.

I also used to contribute to my own crises. When not suicidal I couldn’t cope with life being average and felt I should be in a life or death situation. I would take overdoses only to wait four hours (the time before medics take a blood test), and then call an ambulance. Turmoil felt preferable to emptiness. In the past I’d have a full blown crisis if I gained weight or if self-harm wasn’t working for me.

Through working with my community psychiatric nurse I am now able to moderate my reactions and not imagine the worst outcome every time. I am more resilient than I used to be and have insight. I write a diary for our sessions and we talk about whether there is a genuine need to worry and how I can challenge myself when I start feeling everything is overwhelming and start acting self-destructively.

We talk about how everyone else copes with difficulties in life. When faced with a problem I take my time and think about what my CPN would say if I told her and what she would suggest. Now I don’t need to create crises as I realise life is hard enough for all of us.

My two support workers help normalise my thoughts and together we resolve practical issues speedily so they don’t have time to build into massive worries. The support workers’ positivity, common sense, enthusiasm and listening skills enable me to live for now and see daily living problems as not a threat.

Social workers should take the sources of crisis seriously and look at building coping strategies. Support for borderline personality disorder needs to be at an enhanced level and over a long period of time, dealing with the way we respond to the world. CC

Alex Williams is a volunteer and mental health services user

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