This week I went deep into exploring the present through the past, a process that will happen more and more as I work on my memoir. I have a daunting trunk full of journals to read through. As well as traverse through the many books that shaped my self-directed journey of healing from age 15 to present.
I knew going into this process that it would be heavy and emotionally tumultuous. But I didn’t realize until now how much of my story revolves specifically around the framework of Borderline Personality Disorder. I no longer consider myself mentally ill because I am sane, more than functional, and capable of maintaining healthy relationships. However, I started doing research on BPD after recent conflicts with my partner and I recognized it still influences my behavior when I’m triggered.
Looking at my self through the BPD framework again is both difficult and enlightening. BPD has the worst reputation with providers. It is believed there is only one form of therapy that really works (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). My research ultimately reveals that my unique story of overcoming this particular mental illness with faith, empathy, and my core values (including my commitment to healthy parenting) could be an important voice in our culture’s understanding what is possible for the BPD and other mental health diagnoses.
The best thing I learned in my research is that my parenting exhibited very little BPD behavior. Instead of projecting my neurosis onto my children, I turned it in on myself and my non-parenting relationships. This is not to say I was a perfect parent, but I am immensely grateful to recognize that I did exactly what I set out to do with my kids – prevent my brokenness from breaking them.
On the other hand, the same research led me to recognize that my mom was not only narcissistic, but also borderline. I don’t know why it never occurred to me before, as the inability to regulate her emotions was a core problem in her life. She also tried to use her faith to make herself well, but her faith lacked the psychological tools she needed to change her thinking and resulting behaviors. Which is why the model of my healing as a Radical Mystic is a blend of psychological and spiritual learning and development.
While I have not spent considerable time in therapy, I have read and worked through hundreds of books on psychology and spirituality. I have done my own form of cognitive behavioral therapy, teaching myself to think and feel in new ways through mindfulness and shadow work. While I can’t deny that there is shame in admitting that a mental illness has shaped so much of my life, I feel considerably more pride in what I’ve accomplished. I hope that I can help others see what is possible for themselves and/or their loved ones.