What’s the Point of a Diary Card?

As someone with BPD, I find it difficult to gauge where my emotions have been over the course of a week, day, or sometimes even in the past 5 minutes.  Diary cards are just spreadsheets designed to help us keep track of these emotions in a tangible way.  They can be found in numerous formats, from a simple google search.  I draw my own on a sheet of graph paper.

Typically, each card is a full 9×11 sheet of paper with space to document one week’s worth of emotional variance.  On the X-axis are days of the week.  On the Y-axis are various emotions that you are prone to, as well as maladaptive urges/actions that you would like to cease.

My card includes the following emotions:

Joy, fear, anger, guilt, passion, sadness, disgust, interest, hope, and hopelessness.

It also includes the following urges:

Avoidance, isolation, drug use, and suicide.

It is important to customize the card in such a way that it applies to you, specifically.  There are likely other emotions to better describe what you personally go through on a daily basis, and I’m sure you have dysfunctional urges which differ from what I’ve listed.

Furthermore, my card contains a space to quickly recap the day, so that when I look back I am able to identify what outside forces my emotional variances were caused by.

The intention is to fill out the card on a daily basis, usually at the end of the day, before bed.  All you need to do is mark down the extreme high point of each emotion that day, on a scale of 1 to 5.  Same process for the urges, along with an indication of whether or not you engaged in the action associated with the urge.

Although I am undeniably a highly emotional person, my comfort zone lies in logic and data.  Having access to accurate records of my emotional dysregulation in the past, helps me in several ways.  It helps me to identify my emotions, which had always been a struggle to say the least.  It allows me to determine what triggers me.  Diary cards also give me visual evidence of my increasing ability to endure every day life.

Diary cards are considered to be an essential component of DBT.  I have to say that there is definite truth to that.  They make your personal recovery much easier.  They give you verifiable evidence of your improvement over time, helping to validate the process.  They are certainly beneficial in the recovery process and if you aren’t using one, you should get on it today.

 

Cameron.

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B.P.D. As I See It.

Borderline is a mental disorder mostly comprised of cognitive distortions and emotional dysregulation.  Like any mental illness, it manifests differently in each case.  This is a short description of how it has presented itself in my life.

For me it means hopelessness. As far back as I remember, I had felt as if I had no purpose in life.  Firstly, I’ve never been able to believe in a ‘higher power’, so I couldn’t get indoctrinated into any faith-based purpose.  Secondly, I’ve never had realistic long term goals.  Fantasies, perhaps, but nothing realistic ever appealed to me, or inspired me.  Third, my self respect had always been minimal.  I’ve been a constant disgrace to myself.  Going back to my first year of high school, death has been the only thing I’ve looked forward to.  Suicidal thoughts have been persistent and compelling for the majority of my life.  I could never justify staying alive.

BPD means lack of commitment.  In my 12 years of being a ‘working’ member of society, I’ve quit or been fired from approximately 25 different companies.  I have a great ability to do work when I’m in the mood and have always been an asset to my employers, but it is so easy for me to lose interest and give up.  Similarly, I’ve enrolled in and begun 4 very different post secondary programs to further my education and employment opportunities.  I dropped out of each one, deciding it wasn’t for me or wasn’t worth the trouble.  Besides these failures, I’ve moved away from ‘home’ 3 times in the past 5 years, and returned each time within a year.  I don’t ever seem to realize what’s necessary to be self-dependent and my attempts have always failed.  When it comes to relationships, I have a constant nagging that I should get out now, which strengthens by the day – no matter how healthy or positive the relationship might be.  I don’t feel worthy of anybody’s love or attention and therefore avoid, and lose touch with everyone I would like to get close to.

BPD also means psychosis.  I tend to believe wholeheartedly in fallacies developed in my own mind.  For one, I’d always see myself as the center of attention.  Everyone was always watching me, talking about me, judging me.  Next, I believed that my depression/anxiety was contagious, in a way.  Any situation was made unbearable for everyone involved, simply by my presence.  I also thought my personal issues were alien, that nobody else would be able to relate or even empathize.  I had so many surreal notions and expectations, that it would have been impossible to ever be happy.

Finally, BPD to me means black & white thinking.  A few examples.  If someone offends me, then I think they are malicious.  If I lose one job in a particular trade, then I’ll never make it in that business.  If my life seems to be in a rut, then I may as well just kill myself.  I never succeed.  I always fuck up.  These thoughts are toxic, continuous, and leave no room for debate because my opinions are so absolute.

I’m sure your borderline means something very different to you, but there are probably some similarities as well.

I’ve gotten a lot better with the majority of these issues over the past year.  They still torment my thoughts from time to time, but I am learning to control them.  If I continue with my treatment, I believe that these will become distant memories.  I hope you can believe, too.

Cameron.

D.B.T. Simply Explained.

All DBT really is, is a collection of acronyms to memorize.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a simple system designed to learn how to cope with and eventually recover from BPD.

When I first heard of DBT in 2013, I was told that it is was ‘gold standard’ treatment for BPD sufferers, and boasted a very high success rate.  This immediately made me skeptical.  My assumptions could be broken up into two polar-opposite theories.  I thought that based on the way that I had generally felt on a day to day basis, it would have to be something rather extreme and intensive to truly work so well.  I worried that it would be too hard.

On the other hand, I thought that it would be like every other therapy, which I hadn’t found any relief from.  I figured that the people who stated DBT had changed their lives weren’t experiencing the same level of pain as I was, that it wouldn’t apply to me, or that the statistics were skewed.  Either way, it appeared too good to be true.

Now that I have experienced and learned about DBT first hand, I happen to think that not only does it apply to me and other BPD sufferers, but could help nearly every person on Earth who learns about it.

All DBT really is, is a collection of acronyms to memorize.  Each acronym is a short list of different skills that can be used to cope with every day life.  I feel as if 90% or more of these skills are naturally learned by the general public effortlessly – they are common sense.  People with BPD just have some sort of issue where we don’t gain these skills organically.  A few examples of skills you will practice in DBT include taking a step back, minding your physical healthbeing fair to yourself, and being non-judgmental.  As I said, it is very simple, but eventually you will realize that these skills are crucial to a life worth living.

What DBT does is break these various skills up, into easy to remember acronyms, which are categorized by their function.  Then they are further divided into groups that blanket a few acronyms together as they all have similar goals associated with them.  These groups are distress tolerance, emotion regulation, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness.  If these sound like areas that you have room to improve in, DBT will be an excellent starting point.

All you need in order to begin DBT, is the desire to improve yourself, and a determination to practice the skills every day.  Keep in mind, it is not a cure for DBT, but it is an excellent starting point that will give you a foundation to be capable of recovery.

It has my recommendation.  Please begin your own research if you are willing to, and if you can find a way to take a class on it like I did, I really hope you decide to try it out.

Good luck.

Introductions.

This is just my introduction.

My name is Cameron.  As it stands, I am a 27 year old white male living in Southern Ontario.  I have a younger brother, and two healthy parents.  I grew up in the ‘burbs and enjoyed a relatively uncomplicated upbringing.  I am physically fit and of normal intelligence.  I have never experienced any palpably catastrophic, life-shattering traumas.  To many, my life may appear to be rigged for success.

I also suffer from a condition known as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  From the age of 15, my life has essentially been a continued series of directionless, rash, and emotional decisions.  Nothing I chose to do was ever based on personal values or reason, rather, I would only choose to do whatever seemed enticing in ‘the heat of the moment’.

I am not writing this because I am cured, and wish to proclaim my success story.  Quite the opposite.  At this juncture, I am a mere two months removed from what was objectively one of several low points in my life.  The key difference from past events being that I believe recovery is possible.  Many BPD sufferers will relate to me having a certain level of ambivalence towards any treatments, and a willfulness keeping me from ever fully engaging in them.  Right now, for the first time in my life, I can honestly say I am committed to ‘giving it the old college try’.

The primary tool I am currently employing in my effort for recovery is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).  I have had the benefit of taking a professionally conducted crash course over the past few months, to learn about what the hell DBT is.  I’d heard for years that it was the ‘gold standard’ treatment for people suffering from BPD, but had never taken the time to do my own research on the subject.  It was just a blip on the radar of all the seemingly endless advice that doctors, friends, and family members would give me.  I think ultimately it was the apparent success of some of my peers within this class (who had been using DBT for significant amounts of time) that convinced me to give it a chance.  I believed that they had struggled through life, as I had, and were finally winning the battle over their own minds.

This is just my introduction.  I tried to keep this post short, because I could have gone on significantly longer regarding several topics which I decided to glide over.  This blog, I hope, will become a new tool for me to utilize in my recovery.  My other hope being that it will somehow help aid in somebody else’s.

This blog will consist of personal anecdotes, self-reflection, practical advice, and whatever else I believe might be beneficial for myself and others in our journey towards a life worth living.

 

Cameron.