Breaking Borderline

How to rewire your brain and fix your life

Using Mindfulness to Tolerate a Terrible Breakup

Breaking up is hard to do—and even harder for borderlines.

Well, hello there. This seems to be as good a place as any to launch this blog. Perfect, actually.

I’m a recently diagnosed borderline, and last night – yes, last night – my fiancé of two years finally had enough of my “I hate you, don’t leave me” routine, and he broke off our engagement, ending our relationship. He went to a hotel last night, ignored my texts and calls. This morning, he moved himself and his daughter out of the home we’ve shared with our respective children, a dog and two cats for nearly two years. It's a familiar place for me. His words to me could have come from any number of exes, because it isn't them, it's me.

Because this situation is a perfect storm of abandonment/rejection borderline triggers for me, I’m cracking into the usual chaotic patterns associated with the disorder – a disorder with biological and environmental roots that makes it very difficult for people like me to regulate our extreme emotional overreactions. We are the insufferable self-destroyers. Black holes of neediness. The beauties and charmers who find you, romance you, capture you, only to harass you, hurt you, push you away, pull you back, push you away, pull you back, over and over, until you have no choice but to leave, which is the last thing we actually want from you.

I haven’t had a thing to eat or drink all day; it’s going on 1 p.m. and the caffeine withdrawal headache is tiptoeing up my neck like a line of ants. I can’t eat; the knots of terror are too big, seizing up just there, over my solar plexus. I am a brittle bunny, watching a wiry wolf loping my way. Dread, dread. Fight or flight. Do or die. When everyone else just break up, we borderlines...break, and break down. Right this instant, as I write this, I’m consumed with the idea of him, eaten up with the urge to find him, call him, text him, convince him, pester him, plague him, beg him to come back, prove to him I’m “worthy.”

But thanks to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which I've only just begun, I haven't done any of those things, today. I have not given in to the destructive impulses of this most painful of breakups, for the first time in my life. This, for me, is monumental. The pain, emotions and impulses are there, broiling me to ashes in the chalice of old pain. The feelings haven’t changed. But the actions have. I'm making better and more thoughtful choices.

That, friends, is the key to the success of DBT – a treatement created by Dr. Marsha Linehan and rooted in Buddhist mindfulness techniques, that is said to not only treat but very often to cure borderline personality disorder.

The old me would have called in sick to work, cut up the ex’s clothes with rusty scissors, drunk cheap wine, listened to Ana Gabriel's boleros all day, felt sorry for myself, and cried a mascara river all the way across town to his workplace where I likely would have confronted him among his staff.

But the new me, the me that realizes I have a problem, has new skills. Not a lot of them. I’m only a few sessions into the DBT. But it’s working, thanks to a little stack of cards I now carry in my wallet, with emotional tolerance skills printed on them. I take them out and read them all day long.

RADICAL ACCEPTANCE, reads one of the cards. I focus on it. Force myself to believe it. He is gone. I accept it. I let it be. I believe him. I let him, and I let God take it from here.

I flip the card over. Freedom from suffering requires acceptance from deep within of what is.

I have only just begun this journey, and this blog is going to chronicle the whole trip from full-blown borderline to recovery. I’ve had triumphs today. No, they are not monumental golden medals of greatness, just the simple fact that I've carried on a seemingly normal life in spite of being dumped by my fiance: I got up on time today; I went to work; I registered my son for school; I did not allow myself to think about suicide. Most of all, I haven't hounded the ex. I've let him go.

I hope you will continue on this journey with me. It took many years for me to get a proper diagnosis, for me to realize, holy smokes, it’s not everybody else messing up my life; it’s me.

Alisa Valdes is a bestselling author, recovering journalist and budding acronym enthusiast undergoing DBT to cure her BPD.

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