So to start with, again I’d like to make it clear that this journal is just that – a journal.
As with my previous entries, I’m here to share what’s true for me and my recovery, not to provide medical advice. Just a girl sharing her thoughts into the void in the hope that it rings true for, or even helps, someone else navigate the complex world of BPD recovery.
I’d also like to discuss what BPD recovery really means in my eyes, as I know it’s a hard concept to get our heads around or land on a consistent opinion about.
So, what does recovery from BPD look like? In this journal entry, I’ll tell you a bit about what BPD recovery looks like for me and how I’m currently managing it, what changes I’ve made to support my recovery, and some other general ramblings. I hope someone finds it helpful!
Is it possible to recover from BPD?
I find this a complex topic, as I would say that I am in recovery from borderline personality disorder (BPD) but I don’t know that I’ll ever say I’m recovered. I think recovery is an ongoing, active process that we have to work at and stick with. And from someone who knows – that’s hard to accept. But it’s that work that will create new pathways, patterns, feelings, and progress in our lives.
Plus, what do we really mean when we say recovered? I feel like since my diagnosis I have slowly learned how to structure my life in a way that isn’t causing me ongoing harm and I’ve picked up a huge catalogue of skills to help me manage my extreme or overwhelming emotions without harming myself in one way or another. But, there’s a lot of work that goes into maintaining that and not, you know, saying fuck it and giving it all up when the urge strikes.
Practice makes perfect, right? And recovery is relearning everything that we’ve had drilled into us since we were kids. It’s going to take a long-term commitment on our part to unpick, unpack, reframe and even just acknowledge all of that.
But, to answer the question, I absolutely believe BPD recovery is not just possible, but actually really likely for a lot of us if we take the right steps and find the right support. We might not notice the impact our commitment to recovery has on a day-in-day-out basis, but that doesn’t mean progress isn’t happening.
What does recovery from BPD look like?
The simple answer to this question is that recovery from BPD looks different for everyone. We’ve got to remember that borderline personality disorder has so many different combinations of symptoms and traits that you can’t just throw a one-size-fits-all glove to its recovery.
Recovery is often going to look different for people in different chapters of their own journey, too. For example, when I was out 5 nights a week, abusing alcohol and regularly harming myself during extreme emotional breakdowns, my recovery looked like getting me to safety. Knocking everything down to ground zero to restructure the very basics of my survival. Getting rid of alcohol, abusive relationships, and toxic environments. Moving home to my parents’ house. Seeing a psychiatrist.
In my current chapter, I’m almost 18 months dry, and currently starting to work through the specifics of some complex trauma that made it feel so impossible for me to socialise without alcohol, with the guidance and support of my therapist. There was a reason booze was a coping mechanism for me, so the last year or so has been about unpacking that and getting used to being safe – which feels almost harder.
It also means actively sticking to keeping those things that were impacting my sense of safety at a distance, even when emotions are high or guilt/shame complexes kick in.
Sometime soon, I imagine my recovery will look like rebuilding my interpersonal skills in new, nurturing relationships. (At least, that’s what my therapist thinks – my inner fear is still very much objecting!) All jokes aside, a big part of my BPD recovery is going to be about finding and holding that sense of safety within myself when I’m around others without harmful coping techniques. Vulnerability, yikes.
Moving on, here are some specific changes I’ve made from my ‘non-recovery’ self to my recovering self, that really pin down what recovery looks like for me.
Freedom from alcohol
As I might have mentioned once or twice, I had to give up alcohol. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this was the fucking game-changer for my recovery. Moderation never worked for me, and I would never have gotten to the place I am now if I still had alcohol in my life.
I now have a fridge stocked full of alcohol-free goodies and iced coffee galore, but more importantly, an actual sense of dignity and self-respect.
That’s not to say it’s been easy. As many of my lovely friends from the online alcohol-free community can confirm, it’s unfortunately not always a one-and-done decision with alcohol. It’s a choice you have to make every day to stick to your recovery. But boy will you feel the benefit of it. One day at a time.
Developing DBT skills
DBT has taught me pretty much everything I’ve learned about how to manage the specifics of BPD on a daily basis, including things like how to self-soothe. My therapist is great, open-minded, and well-informed about a number of approaches to recovery. And the skills training has been incredible too. If you can get access to a community DBT team, I really recommend it.
Again though, I don’t see DBT as a one-and-done to ‘fix’ us. This therapy at its core is a skills training course, it’s something I’ve thrown myself into studying and putting into practice as much as possible. Learning the skills is currently one part of my recovery, but in 6 months or so the next chapter will be me carrying those skills forward and repeating, rehearsing, and using them even when emotions are high. Sounds easy, right?
No more self-harm
So I don’t want to go into too much detail on this post, because we’re here to celebrate recovery right? But a very important part of the first, and ongoing, stages of my recovery has been getting rid of self-harm completely – in fact, my 2022 vision board literally had ‘Quit self-harming for good‘ as its number one goal. I know, I’m cool.
But, as my I Am Sober tracker tells me, I’m currently 5 months and 5 days self-harm free, which makes me pretty emotional. If you’re living with BPD, you’ll know that this part is probably the hardest. Even wanting to stop hurting yourself is probably going to take a whole lot of strength. But you’ve fucking got this.
I will say, this part is probably the most effective when working with a therapist, but the ongoing work is where you have the power in your recovery. Congratulate yourself for every decision you make to empower and nurture yourself. Find ways to break the narrative that you ever deserved anything less.
As I mentioned, I’m just starting to work through some key areas of complex trauma from different parts of my life. This part of recovery is hard. Starting it has shined a light on how I only really just stopped re-traumatizing myself, which is a harsh mirror to face. But, it’s a healing mirror. I don’t need the coping mechanisms that I used to protect me in the past anymore.
I’ve tried some different therapies/courses/counsellors over the years, and stuff is coming up at this point in my recovery that I’ve never had the foundation of safety to face before. Now I have that sense of safety and some real emotional regulation skills developing, I can revisit things with the support of my therapist, gain some perspective, and most importantly, learn to notice when old, trauma-based emotions are surfacing in the now – and what to do when that happens.
As I discussed in my Living With BPD Journal Prompts guide, journaling has been an incredible tool for helping me rediscover myself and start making progress in the right direction with my BPD recovery.
For one, my DBT course requires me to keep a mood diary tracking my daily emotions, urges to hurt myself, urges to drink, any skills I use, etc. Combining that with my daily to-do lists, affirmations, goals, gratitude, creative writing, and anything else I fancy, has given me a daily recovery ritual.
As one look at my blog tells you, I live for journaling. And that has only had the chance to develop since my recovery began. It’s a judgment-free space to share what I’m feeling and what I’ve got going on, and to just brain-dump when I’m really feeling it. It’s also a great place to work on mindfulness and putting labels on what I can feel in my body, which can really help when the ????!!!! of BPD kicks in.
Last, but by no means least, being in active recovery has meant that I have the capacity to start and develop my career.
If you’re here freaking out, wondering ‘Will I ever recover enough to work?’ then friend, I have been there. I remember being sat in my parents’ back garden talking to the nurse from the home-based treatment team, saying that I was terrified I would never be stable enough to provide for myself.
But now, I’ve started my career in content marketing, I’m renting a 2-bedroom house by myself and I’ve been promoted to manager at work within a year. I’m continuing to develop my life in that professional sense and using the therapy skills I’ve learned to navigate any overwhelm that has naturally come with that. It’s an ongoing process, but it’s completely possible. I wish I could show this version of me to myself back when I was with the home treatment team and feeling completely hopeless.
Again, recovery isn’t about being fixed or recovered, it’s about building a life worth living, and I’ve found passion and purpose to be a huge part of that. I’ve managed to find a perfect remote company that allows me to work full-time from home, giving me time to attend therapy, take frequent mindful breaks and look after myself if I’m having a heavy day. For me, this has been a huge support to my recovery, particularly while I’m still working on rebuilding my self-esteem.
Building a “Life Worth Living”
Remember, how recovery looks for other people won’t necessarily be how it looks for you. Building a life worth living will mean something different to everyone. What are your values? What are your interests? What brings you joy? Getting in touch with these things and giving myself permission to live by them has been a turning point in my recovery.
Journaling can also really help with this. Read my Ultimate Guide To Mental Health Journaling today to learn more.