3 Reasons to Stop Avoiding Painful Feelings


We often avoid painful feelings because… well because they are unpleasant. We numb them with substances or distract with activities or mindlessly scroll through social media. Distracting can help us get through tough times, but as a long-term problem-solving tactic, it’s pretty useless.


Why Avoiding the Pain Doesn’t Work

Research shows that stuffing and suppressing emotions actually doesn’t work to alleviate them. Instead, it leads to more problems.

Emotions that get locked away end up becoming stronger and more persistent. You know when someone tells you to stop thinking about something, and instead of stopping you’re thinking about it MORE? It’s like that. The more we ignore painful emotions, the more they are going to try and cut in to get your attention.


The 3 Main Reasons Painful Feelings are Valuable

This leads me to the main point of this article: why do my painful emotions keep cutting in when I’m trying to avoid them so much? What’s the benefit of experiencing the pain when I know it is going to hurt so badly?

Unpleasant feelings supply you with important data; vital information that you need to make effective decisions.

When you put your hand on a hot stove, the physical pain lets you know that your body is being damaged and leads you to pull your hand away, never touching the hot stove again. Without that vital information, the body would not respond to avoid further damage. The same goes for emotional pain. It lets you know when something needs attention, and motivates you to take specific action.

Even without intending to, our emotions communicate to others. Painful emotions can affect those around us as well as ourselves.

Emotional responses are so automatic that our facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice can reflect an emotion even without communication in words. For example, defensiveness and insecurity can quickly register on your face and send a message to the people around you to back off. If you are trying to make friends, this can become a nuisance. By building emotions of confidence and openness you can communicate in a way that will draw people TOWARDS you instead of away from you.

Painful emotions are your body’s way of helping you survive.

As human beings, we require human connection, and painful emotions like loneliness can spur us to take action and reach out to loved ones. Sometimes, we are in situations where we need to escape or defend ourselves. Anger and fear can contribute to taking action to protect or seek shelter. Ignoring or avoiding emotional responses can quite literally put us in danger or keep us from human interaction.


Instead of continuing to mindlessly go through life ignoring or actively avoiding painful feelings, take some time each day to pay attention to what they are communicating to you.

A Tough Day in Recovery

When All You Could Do was Make It Through

What a day. Seemed like things began bombarding me and my recovery goals from the moment I woke up. A few times throughout the day I thought to myself, “Why not just quit today; why not just lay down and give up? This is too hard. I’m not capable of handling this.” Then it spread into, “LIFE is too hard. I’m not capable of handling ANYTHING, let alone this day. I can’t survive as an adult; I can’t even keep my head above water. Everything is falling apart because I can’t handle basic tasks.”

Then it spread into, “LIFE is too hard. I’m not capable of handling ANYTHING, let alone this day. I can’t survive as an adult; I can’t even keep my head above water. Everything is falling apart because I can’t handle basic tasks.”


After a while I would catch myself, and for a moment I would breathe and see the bigger picture, that hard days happen and difficulties in relationships happen and everyday hassles happen. I’m okay, and everything is okay, and there’s peace.

But on days like today, you find the peace and instantly something else comes in like a rocket and blows you away again. You’re left tumbling and trying to gain a foothold somewhere. You get your balance and here comes another one.


It’s been like that all day long today, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping tomorrow is a little easier and I handle it a little better.

More than anything I’m just thankful today is over and that I got through it without destroying myself or anything else in my life. Sure, things happened and consequences happened and things aren’t perfect. But I made it through, and I know how I can do better tomorrow. I learned some things today that will help me in the future. And I wouldn’t have learned those things or been motivated to search for them had I not been in the predicaments I experienced on this crazy day.

I made it through, and I know how I can do better tomorrow.

When BPD Leads to Rejection and Abandonment

How we push people away when we have BPD

THE BRUTAL TRUTH

When you fear abandonment by the people you love, you start to see abandonment everywhere. To avoid being rejected, you push them away before they can hurt you. The result? No one can abandon you, because there IS no one.

Then the loneliness hits. You may or may not realize what just happened. But the end is the same. They leave and your worst fears are realized. Abandonment. Rejection.

BUT WAIT…

Borderline Personality Disorder can make relationships confusing.

I’ll be the first one to admit dropping someone like a hot potato at the first sign of potential rejection. Before mastering the DBT skills, I saw everyone as a threat to my fragile heart. If I cared about them in the slightest, they had the power to hurt me and I simply could not afford that most of the time.

Sometimes I actually managed to convince myself I didn’t need anyone. HA!

That wasn’t me talking. That was the BPD.

THE REAL ME WAS YEARNING FOR CONNECTION!!!

The real me loved people. Inside I cared about everyone; I was desperate for friends and relationships.

Furthermore, the real me knew I couldn’t survive for long like this. I needed people but I watched myself pushing them further and further away each day. Maybe they were rejecting me, abandoning me…maybe they weren’t. Maybe it was just me. Who could I trust? I couldn’t even trust myself.

HOW I STOPPED THE REJECTION CYCLE:

One of the things DBT skills taught me is that if I had thoughts telling me “no one cares” and “they’ll just leave you anyways,” there was a good chance my brain wasn’t telling me everything.

After I had that down, I started learning how to look at the facts to tell if abandonment or rejection was actually happening to me, so I wouldn’t leave good relationships based on an assumption. I learned how to tell the difference between feeling rejected and being rejected.

Ultimately, the skills taught me how to deal with actual rejection AND to heal from it. And they helped me make lasting relationships and deep connections with others, as well as myself.

THE CONCLUSION

Rejection, abandonment, and loneliness may be a way of life for you if you have Borderline Personality. And it may feel safer that way, from your experience. But that way of life will also keep you imprisoned and cut off from the true desires within you for connection.

If you don’t know where to start, that’s ok! I didn’t either. That’s what this page is for. Learn more about the DBT skills, recovery, and resources to help you break free. Surviving alone doesn’t need to be your only option.



32 Intentions For My 32nd Birthday

The baby face may have fooled you but I actually turned 32 years old today! So to celebrate my birthday, I thought I’d share some of the intentions I’ve set for myself based on who I am and who I am becoming.

As many of you know, I am diagnosed with some severe mental illnesses. I didn’t expect to survive this long; I fully intended to end my own life.

But with recovery, those intentions have changed dramatically. The difference is night and day. I share these intentions with you to give you hope that if your intentions have been to end your life because of your suffering, things can change. Life can be worth living again.

While I am 32 years old, I intend to:

  1. Be authentically myself, with no apologies
  2. Stand up for what I believe in
  3. Speak kind words to myself
  4. Complain about absolutely nothing
  5. Take more time off for fun and games
  6. Be patient with myself when I’m struggling
  7. Smile more, worry less
  8. Strengthen relationships with genuine people
  9. End relationships that threaten my peace
  10. Appreciate what I have more than what I don’t
  11. Practice gratitude on a daily basis
  12. Feed my body and my soul
  13. Be mindful of others and of myself
  14. Stop making excuses for keeping old habits
  15. Dedicate the time and effort needed to make new habits
  16. Challenge myself with new lessons
  17. Forgive myself for the past
  18. Love myself for who I am today
  19. Be gentle to my body
  20. Dance like nobody’s watching
  21. Sing like no one is listening
  22. Carry myself with confidence
  23. Take ownership for my actions
  24. Keep the bigger picture in mind
  25. Strengthen my boundaries and protect my well-being
  26. Spend more time outside in my bare feet
  27. Live out my inner truth
  28. Celebrate and contribute to the success of others
  29. Say no with strength and conviction
  30. Make no excuses for meeting my needs
  31. Prioritize those who truly value me
  32. Continue my growth with grace

No matter your age, no matter your struggles, it is NEVER too late to make new intentions for yourself and your future.

Send us a contact form to learn more about how you can apply intentions like these to your life!

Finding Treatment that Works for BPD

FINDING TREATMENT THAT WORKS FOR BPD

Before addressing the obstacles we may face DURING the treatment process, we must take a hard look at the difficulties of even finding treatment options.  Those of you who have been through multiple therapeutic attempts will know firsthand the devastating lack of valid treatment options for Borderline Personality Disorder.

If you are versed in the world of BPD, you know most suggestions include Dialectical Behavior Therapy, antidepressant medications, antipsychotics, talk therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, etc.  Often, studies suggest a combination of two or more of these treatments.  If you research the treatment choices online, you can usually find an abundance of doctors, therapists, counselors, social workers, and behavioral analysts who can provide you with “answers.”  You’ve probably heard most of them.  How do we sift through them all?

People with BPD struggle to remain with one therapist or treatment approach for an extended amount of time.  Therefore, the importance of finding a doctor/therapist who “clicks” with the patient is going to increase the chances that the patient remains in treatment.  The right one will be someone who can accept the client UNCONDITIONALLY, and work with him/her even in situation of distress.  The more knowledge of and experience with Borderline clients the better.  Just as important is finding someone who supports the theory that BP is a medical, neurological dysfunction of the brain.  A combination of medical treatment and therapy will give you the best chances for success.  Ideally therapeutic treatment will include group therapy as well as individual sessions.

Your treatment team should be up-to-date on the latest research concerning your mental illness.  New studies are coming out all the time with game-changing information on best treatment approaches both medical and therapeutic.  Even Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a relatively new treatment that your team should be following as reports come out about it effectiveness.

Keep an eye out for counselors that include keywords in their treatment descriptions, such as mindfulness and emotion regulation.  Also search for treatment options under different names for your disorder or other related disorders, e.g. Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Emotional Dysregulation Disorder, and others.

The context of acceptance and stability while reinforcing positive behavior changes requires people who can be flexible with their clients, patient in the midst of emotional turmoil, slow progress or even backsliding, and must be willing to approach the many comorbid disorders we find in people with BPD, such as ADHD, Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Also, don’t be afraid to try some new approaches like personal and family coaching!  Many people don’t realize this is an option when seeking professional help for someone with Borderline, but it can offer the flexibility and extra attention needed to clients who have time constraints or find it difficult to leave home for appointments.

BPD treatment is a long road, but it’s a road that will take you in the right direction, towards health and joy and positive relationships.  Once you start to see these positive changes in your life, you won’t regret the hard work it took to find the help that fits your specific needs.

5 Areas of Instability in Borderline Personality

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by instability in a number of areas, mainly an instability in mood and relationships. But there are many other areas of life that are thrown off-balance for the BPD sufferer, including one’s self-identity, decisions, and perception of the world.

Much confusion comes from a lack of consistency in feelings and thoughts…

Our self-identity develops from consistent traits over time. But for the person with Borderline Personality Disorder, moods are never reliable. With a constantly shifting emotional state, it’s difficult to determine what you like or dislike, what makes you happy or what makes you sad. Depending on your momentary mood, one situation may excite you and then the next day that very same situation will overwhelm you.

The same goes for people. One day you may love everything about your partner. Then your mood changes, maybe due to something extremely minor, and all of a sudden your partner becomes the enemy. You begin to doubt your feelings, and you begin to doubt your very self. Soon, you view yourself as the enemy; someone you can’t trust or depend upon to do anything right.

Some days you aren’t sure if you are the “crazy” one, or if the whole world is damaged beyond repair. You get so tired of trying to figure out that you just want to quit thinking altogether.

This back and forth, fearing yourself, fearing the world around you…this is the instability that leaves the BPD sufferer teetering on the edge of exhaustion and hopelessness.

Balance is the answer to instability.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, the recommended treatment approach for BPD, relies on a concept of balance instead of extreme ideas of good/bad, happy/sad, black/white. Instead of high and low moods, it works on stabilizing moods. Instead of seeing people or the world as good or bad, it teaches us to separate people and things from our emotions in order to view them in a balanced light.

DBT skills help the person with Borderline Personality to repair instability not by ignoring the extreme emotions that cause imbalance, but by approaching them and bringing them into balance with purposeful effort. It applies those skills to relationships, to self-perception, and to behavior.

By identifying instability and imbalance, and then using the skills to synthesize extreme thoughts and moods, we can begin to maintain our view of our selves and of others in a way that provides us a more stable ground to walk on.