chelsey is 25 years old, lives in nsw and identifies as a person living with BPD.
What was your experience of receiving a diagnosis of BPD?
Absolutely positive. I had never heard of BPD before. As I was reading all about BPD, it was as if I was reading a book all about myself. It took some time to get diagnosed and there was reluctance at first due to lack of understanding of BPD. I felt as though my life has just begun, all through a diagnosis.
What would you like people newly experienced with BPD to know?
Don't be afraid. Do your research and try to absorb all the possible accurate information about this disorder. For me this made me feel more in control. Find yourself a good support system and start DBT if you can.
What did clinicians and mental health professionals do well to support you?
They validated my experiences and provided me a safe place to process trauma. My brain was explained to me. I learnt how to thank my brain for keeping me safe for years before I become unwell. I learnt how to understand my body more and I am able to observe so much more within situations, so I can de-escalate emotions or remove myself completely if I feel unsafe.
What could clinicians and mental health professionals have done better to help you?
Be less expensive (private services) and more readily available (public services). Treatments could be made more accessible for all people. Not having access to private evidence-based treatment due to financial difficulties was a very negative experience for me and this affected my wellbeing and ability to begin recovering and healing.
What kind of psychological treatments worked well for you?
CBT and DBT. Being able to understand the brain, your emotions and your natural reaction to things is helpful. It also allows you to identify what areas you need to build skills in. These therapies allow you to see that growth is real and it can happen for anyone.
What other things have supported you to live well?
My dog and my horses. My dog’s love for life made me see the beauty that life has to offer and gave me an understanding of mindfulness. Our walks only focus on what is happening at that time and no other thoughts enter my mind. I can't help but smile and feel pure joy just pouring out of me when I am with her. My horses have also been therapeutic for me, I just enjoy being around them, touching them and their smell. The feeling of being able to ride an animal with its own mind and be able to communicate without speaking is incredible. My horses love me for me.
Do you have any tips or tricks for managing distress or strong emotions you would like to share?
I write down really distressing thoughts and feelings as I find once I write it down, my brain forgets, as I’ve put it somewhere "safe". I also really like to go and ground myself to the Earth. Barefoot walking along the beach and on the grass, sitting in a park and observing all the nature noises and smells. Nature can bring me "back down to Earth”.
What advice would you give to friends/family supporting someone with a diagnosis of BPD?
Be patient and do your research. I am very lucky to have a supportive and long-term partner, but it’s not perfect. He provides me with a safe place to open up, and he really listens. He validates me which I think is key. I know it can be difficult but please allow those safe places for us. I struggle to communicate and make sense of things at times and having someone there to help guide me in being able to voice my thoughts is critical to my healing.
What are a few things you thought you might not have been able to do but you did anyway?!
I can now go to the grocery store alone. I have joined a gym and I love it. I've been able to be in a relationship during difficult times. I started riding my horses again and got a dog. I’ve excelled in my dream career. I've chosen to stop medication as that works for me. I have been able to socialise and develop strong friendships. I have been able to set healthy boundaries successfully and recover existing relationships. I have finally been able to LIVE and BE MYSELF!