peer support

An Open Letter From those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder:

Dear Friends, Family Members, Lovers, Ex-lovers, Coworkers, Children, and others of those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder,

You may be frustrated, feeling helpless, and ready to give up. It’s not your fault. You are not the cause of our suffering. You may find that difficult to believe, since we may lash out at you, switch from being loving and kind to non-trusting and cruel on a dime, and we may even straight up blame you. But it’s not your fault. You deserve to understand more about this condition and what we wish we could say but may not be ready.

It is possible that something that you said or did “triggered” us. A trigger is something that sets off in our minds a past traumatic event or causes us to have distressing thoughts. While you can attempt to be sensitive with the things you say and do, that’s not always possible, and it’s not always clear why something sets off a trigger.

The mind is very complex. A certain song, sound, smell, or words can quickly fire off neurological connections that bring us back to a place where we didn’t feel safe, and we might respond in the now with a similar reaction (think of military persons who fight in combat — a simple backfiring of a car can send them into flashbacks. This is known as PTSD, and it happens to a lot of us, too.)

But please know that at the very same time that we are pushing you away with our words or behavior, we also desperately hope that you will not leave us or abandon us in our time of despair and desperation.

This extreme, black or white thinking and experience of totally opposite desires is known as a dialectic. Early on in our diagnosis and before really digging in deep with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), we don’t have the proper tools to tell you this or ask for your support in healthy ways.

We may do very dramatic things, such as harming ourselves in some way (or threatening to do so), going to the hospital, or something similar. While these cries for help should be taken seriously, we understand that you may experience “burn out” from worrying about us and the repeated behavior.

Please trust that, with professional help, and despite what you may have heard or come to believe, we CAN and DO get better.

These episodes can get farther and fewer between, and we can experience long periods of stability and regulation of our emotions. Sometimes the best thing to do, if you can muster up the strength in all of your frustration and hurt, is to grab us, hug us, and tell us that you love us, care, and are not leaving.

One of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder is an intense fear of being abandoned, and we therefore (often unconsciously) sometimes behave in extreme, frantic ways to avoid this from happening. Even our perception that abandonment is imminent can cause us to become frantic.

Another thing that you may find confusing is our apparent inability to maintain relationships. We may jump from one friend to another, going from loving and idolizing them to despising them - deleting them from our cell phones and unfriending them on Facebook. We may avoid you, not answer calls, and decline invitations to be around you — and other times, all we want to do is be around you.
This is called splitting, and it’s part of the disorder. Sometimes we take a preemptive strike by disowning people before they can reject or abandon us. We’re not saying it’s “right.” We can work through this destructive pattern and learn how to be healthier in the context of relationships. It just doesn’t come naturally to us. It will take time and a lot of effort.

It’s difficult, after all, to relate to others properly when you don’t have a solid understanding of yourself and who you are, apart from everyone else around you.

In Borderline Personality Disorder, many of us experience identity disturbance issues. We may take on the attributes of those around us, never really knowing who WE are. You remember in high school those kids who went from liking rock music to pop to goth, all to fit in with a group - dressing like them, styling their hair like them, using the same mannerisms? It’s as if we haven’t outgrown that.
Sometimes we even take on the mannerisms of other people (we are one way at work, another at home, another at church), which is part of how we’ve gotten our nickname of “chameleons.” Sure, people act differently at home and at work, but you might not recognize us by the way we behave at work versus at home. It’s that extreme.

For some of us, we had childhoods during which, unfortunately, we had parents or caregivers who could quickly switch from loving and normal to abusive. We had to behave in ways that would please the caregiver at any given moment in order to stay safe and survive. We haven’t outgrown this.
Because of all of this pain, we often experience feelings of emptiness. We can’t imagine how helpless you must feel to witness this. Perhaps you have tried so many things to ease the pain, but nothing has worked. Again - this is NOT your fault.

The best thing we can do during these times is remind ourselves that “this too shall pass” and practice DBT skills - especially self-soothing - things that helps us to feel a little better despite the numbness. Boredom is often dangerous for us, as it can lead to the feelings of emptiness. It’s smart for us to stay busy and distract ourselves when boredom starts to come on.

On the other side of the coin, we may have outburst of anger that can be scary. It’s important that we stay safe and not hurt you or ourselves. This is just another manifestation of BPD.

We are highly emotionally sensitive and have extreme difficulty regulating/modulating our emotions. Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of DBT, likens us to 3rd degree emotional burn victims.

Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, we can learn how to regulate our emotions so that we do not become out of control. We can learn how to stop sabotaging our lives and circumstances…and we can learn to behave in ways that are less hurtful and frightening to you.

Another thing you may have noticed is that spaced out look on our faces. This is called dissociation. Our brains literally disconnect, and our thoughts go somewhere else, as our brains are trying to protect us from additional emotional trauma. We can learn grounding exercises and apply our skills to help during these episodes, and they may become less frequent as we get better.
But, what about you?

If you have decided to tap into your strength and stand by your loved one with BPD, you probably need support too. Here are some ideas:
Remind yourself that the person’s behavior isn’t your fault
Tap into your compassion for the person’s suffering while understanding that their behavior is probably an intense reaction to that suffering
Do things to take care of YOU. On the resources page of this blog, there is a wealth of information on books, workbooks, CDs, movies, etc. for you to understand this disorder and take care of yourself. Be sure to check it out!
In addition to learning more about BPD and how to self-care around it, be sure to do things that you enjoy and that soothe you, such as getting out for a walk, seeing a funny movie, eating a good meal, taking a warm bath — whatever you like to do to care for yourself and feel comforted.
Ask questions. There is a lot of misconception out there about BPD.
Remember that your words, love, and support go a long way in helping your loved one to heal, even if the results are not immediately evident

Not all of the situations I described apply to all people with Borderline Personality Disorder. One must only have 5 symptoms out of 9 to qualify for a diagnosis, and the combinations of those 5-9 are seemingly endless. This post is just to give you an idea of the typical suffering and thoughts those of us with BPD have.

This is my second year in DBT. A year ago, I could not have written this letter, but it represents much of what was in my heart but could not yet be realized or expressed.

My hope is that you will gain new insight into your loved one’s condition and grow in compassion and understand for both your loved one AND yourself, as this is not an easy road.

I can tell you, from personal experience, that working on this illness through DBT is worth the fight. Hope can be returned. A normal life can be had. You can see glimpses and more and more of who that person really is over time, if you don’t give up. I wish you peace.

Thank you for reading.

—  The author of this letter has since RECOVERED from Borderline Personality Disorder and no longer meets the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. She now teaches the DBT skills that helped change her life over at DBT Path where you can take online Dialectical Behavior Therapy Classes from anywhere in the world. Co-facilitated with a licensed therapist. You can read Debbie’s books at healingfrombpd
Free mental safe houses open in New York City

New York (CNN)A new program is taking an innovative approach to helping New York adults with mental health issues and those who may be on the brink of a psychiatric crisis.

Parachute NYC, a federally funded project more than two years in the making, has created respite centers where guests can check in and talk through their concerns and fears with staff members who have their own experiences with the mental health system.

The centers are a “soft landing,” community-based alternative to emergency hospitalization, according to Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access, the organization that runs Parachute NYC.

“There are a lot of people stuck in hospitals who really don’t need to be there,” he told CNN. “Our centers give them temporary relief from whatever they may be going through.”

The facilities, which opened in 2013, are located in four boroughs and have apartment-style common rooms and bedrooms. The idea is to create a free, comfortable and supportive space for adults anticipating or experiencing emotional crisis.

A safe place to get help

People seeking help come in voluntarily. They can talk to trained staff members and can stay for up to 10 nights if they’d like to. The doors are never locked. There are no needles or medications. Fresh cooked meals are available, and staff members assess guests’ levels of need. Medical attention can be recommended if a staff member deems it necessary, but no medical services are offered on site.

The hope is that those who come to the respite centers develop recovery and relapse-prevention skills, and avoid being hospitalized by talking with peers who can relate to them. “In most systems of care, these comforts have been overlooked,” said Alysia Pascaris, deputy CEO of Community Access.

Adults come in voluntarily, talk to trained staff members, and can stay for up to 10 nights.

Without facilities like this, many adults have no other option but to check in to a hospital, Coe said. Parachute NYC also offers phone counseling and has a mobile treatment center.

Facilities where people can walk in and receive treatment for mental health issues, or crisis diversion centers, are not unique to New York, Coe said.

But Parachute NYC’s approach is different in that its staffers have firsthand experiences in using mental health services, he explained. “Most have been taken by the police or EMS in an ambulance to a hospital,” he said.“So the ‘lived experience’ we talk about is more than just going to counseling a few times.”

“We made an effort to hire staff who 'have been there’ and understand what it’s like being a client,” Pascaris said, adding that staffers often have histories of homelessness, substance use, and involvement with the criminal justice system.

Coe said that unlike Parachute NYC centers, many other centers around the country are set up for clinical intervention, and use “medication heavily to achieve stabilization.”

By Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, CNN


Edit: Katathymia has informed us that there’s unfortunately restrictive criteria to use these facilities. Those criteria are:

“In Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx

18-65 years old

experiencing a psychosis-related crisis 

Voluntarily seeks or accepts services

Medically stable and does not have a medical condition that requires treatment in an acute medical setting 

Stably housed (not street or shelter homeless and can return to their current place or residence upon conclusion of the Respite stay)

Is not at imminent risk to themselves or others such that he/she requires a higher or different level of care

Does not have a diagnosis of dementia, or organic brain disorder

Resident of borough in which the Respite is located”

I’m extremely happy to see more resources stemming from peer support and as an alternative to hospitalization become available, however, unfortunately some of these criteria exclude some of the most vulnerable people experiencing psychosis.

Calming masterpost:

crisis/urgent support lines and sites

relaxation/anxiety relief

the quiet place project

music and sounds

comfort food

advice and tips

videos and movies

distractions etc


Calming songs, playlists and instrumentals:

Calming/distracting Websites

Crafts and activities, easy and fun DYI projects

What to do when:

Meditation and breathing

Simple things

Make Something!

Other Nice Things

Calming/Relaxing Music:

  • Soft Piano: x, x, x, x, x
  • The Sound of Waves: x
  • The Sound of a Storm + Waves: x

“For my dissertation, I’m studying the experiences of LGBT students in Catholic school settings.”
“Have you found anything interesting?”
“Well, I’ve only interviewed four students so far. But the students I’ve talked to say that their peers are generally very supportive, and seem to identify more with the pastoral side of the religion than the dogmatic side.”
“You know… accepting others, tending the flock.”

On feeling like you have no right to call yourself disabled

Anonymous asked realsocialskills:

I have depression and OCD and I keep feeling like I don’t have the right to consider myself disabled or seek accomodation because they’re mental illnesses. How do I shake that feeling?

realsocialskills said: I think that it might help to realize that self-doubt is normal for people with disabilities. I think most of us feel that way, regardless of what kind of disability we have.  The reason this is important to understand is that often, when we feel doubt, it can feel like evidence that there’s a *reason* to feel that kind of doubt. But it it isn’t. Most people with disabilities feel that way. I don’t think this actually has much to do with your particular conditions being mental illnesses.  Categories don’t matter, except for some practical reasons like access to services and making it easier to find other people who get it. What matters is what your needs are. If you need accommodations in order to function well, it’s important to seek them out. Spending a lot of mental energy agonizing over whether or not you deserve them is not going to do you or anyone any good. I think part of the reason a lot of us feel this way is that we never really see descriptions of disabled folks who resemble us, but we see a LOT of descriptions of disability that don’t match us at all. Think about what the media’s like. It’s full of people who bravely overcame their disabilities. It’s also full of stories like “the doctors said my baby would never walk, but we didn’t listen to those doctors and now she’s an honor student!”. It’s also full of smutty stories about people who didn’t overcome their impairments suffering and dying and being mysterious unpeople. Or as having super powers, or as having a disability kind of like an accessory, without it affecting their life in any significant way. None of these descriptions match what people with disabilities are actually like, but they are *the only ones we ever see*. And even beyond what the media says, most people without disabilities have no idea how wrong these descriptions are. It’s jarring.  When your actual experience with disability bears little resemblance to what everyone around you thinks disability is like, it’s easy to feel like a fraud. One thing that helps with that is seeking out other people with disabilities similar to yours who think of disability in a matter-of-fact way, and work on trying to live well with your kind of disability. When you talk to people who get it, it makes it a lot easier to realize that what you are experiencing is real. So, for you, it would probably be really helpful to find more people with depression and OCD to talk to, and more authors with depression and OCD to read. Also, be careful about exposing yourself to people who yell a lot about fake disabled people or appropriation. Those people are wrong, but what they say hits insecure disabled folks really hard. If you’re not confident about yourself, you can get hurt really badly by that ideology. Do any of y'all have suggestions either of good resources for depression/OCD community, or other ways of coping with feeling like you don’t have the right to consider yourself disabled?
Will your psychiatrist be prescribing you MDMA?
The use of MDMA-assisted therapy for mental illnesses, particularly PTSD, is inching it's way towards approval by the Federal Drug Administration in the United States. An earlier, relatively small ...

But why use MDMA in therapy? Apparently, this is not because sweating in dark basements while gyrating deliriously to deafening bass is useful exposure therapy for people with PTSD. At this point, the reason the MDMA might be effective (if it is) remains purely conjecture. Although, if you’ve ever been in a sweaty club around lots of people on ecstasy (obviously not you, yourself), then you might have had the pleasure of getting hugged by a really sweaty high person. They might have even told you how much they love you. MDMA can, potentially, make people feel very positive about those around them. And what has research shown is one of the biggest predictors for developing PTSD and success with recovering from it through therapy? The sufferer’s perception of social support… Social support might be the actual active ingredient in this treatment.

jaime_king: Dear Tay- Tomorrow is your birthday and I will be in the air. This picture I took of you brings back the fondest of memories. It captures all of your beauty that I know, that the world knows, in one photograph. You have the uncanny ability to just get straight into the Soul’s of us all in one shot. With your music, you grab the hearts of countless hearts & don’t let go. As my sister, with your irresistible enthusiasm, un-f*cking unbeatable passion and true honesty, feels like home. We have changed the perception of female friendships because somehow, in this crazy world where women want to hurt each other, we have a thoughtful group of friends where we have chosen to love each other through it all, and support our peers along the way & with open arms you bring this to life. Intimately and sincerely, I love you, I am profoundly proud of you, your Light is a rare and brilliant gift. Happy Birthday!!! (Your always sensitive, expository and teary eyed friend;) xo Jaime @taylorswift

Your human frailty is not a regrettable fault to be treated by proper self-care so you can get your nose back to the grindstone. Sickness, disability, and unproductivity are not anomalies to be weeded out; they are moments that occur in every life, offering a common ground on which we might come together.


In this context, rhetoric about self-care can mask silencing and policing: Deal with your problems yourself, please, so no one else has to.


Rather than pathologizing illness and self-destructiveness as disorders to be cured for efficiency’s sake, we could reimagine self-care as a way of listening into them for new values and possibilities.


Above all, they fear that if they start to chip away at the impenetrable walls separating them emotionally from friends and spouses and dividing off their lives into distinct compartments, they’ll lose their sense of who they are— and with it, their wives and children, casualties to the chrysalis shed in a healing rebirth long desired and equally feared.


The terror of stepping into the unknown, into whatever space might lie beyond the mosaic of denial and defensiveness that has come to seem synonymous with their selves.


As they themselves have so eloquently explained, they’ve spent their lives since the abuse wearing masks, fending off intimacy for fear of discovery, or adapting chameleon-like to the desires and expectations of those around them, at the cost of their happiness.


Caring for myself now as an adult, it feels like a freedom and a privilege to know what’s good for me and to choose it. On the other hand, because I learned as a child that care not only has strings attached but also barbed wire and sometimes electrified fences, being vulnerable and intimate with others can feel precarious, even hazardous. Sometimes I am incapable of responding to kindness; other times I can’t even accept it.

What is easy and familiar is isolation. Like many survivors, I can isolate myself while engaging in the stereotypes of self-care. I may look brave or even enlightened as I take up yoga or running, write glowing reviews of books on self-acceptance, and channel my emotions into elaborate art projects and self-revealing blog posts. This form of self-care can feel less like liberation and more like solitary confinement. Sometimes what I actually need is someone to show up at my house with take-out, sit there while I pick at my food, stay with me until I’m falling asleep sitting up on the couch, and then send me to bed and tuck the blankets around me. Occasionally that happens without my asking. And sometimes I have to bravely reach out and alert someone that I need to talk, or cry, or most of all just not be alone. There are times when not insisting on taking care of myself is the most radical form of self-care I can practice.


I recently learned that we only flee, attack, or play dead after social engagement has failed. Our first instinct under stress or threat is to seek solidarity or comfort with others. If this succeeds, our panic systems disengage and we can return to other functions like play or invention. Knowing that our nervous system responds so powerfully to the presence of others, it becomes clear that self-care and reciprocal care cannot be separated.

The importance of prioritizing reciprocal care becomes even clearer when we understand that our stresses and traumas are a common plight and not individual pathologies. As human animals, we are living in environments that cause emotional and physiological incoherence. While we may not be able to eradicate the systems that imprison us immediately, we stand a far better chance if we don’t get tricked into thinking our struggles or the solutions to them are individual. The more ways we find to act in honesty with each other, whether in sorrow or in excitement, the stronger and more resilient we become—individually and collectively.


Of the many things I’ve believed about who I am, one has been constant: There is something wrong with me, and I need to fix it. Only then will I be able to live properly—to develop my talents, be helpful to others, and most of all, be worthy of love. It is my responsibility to fix myself so I am not draining to others. Lurking in the dark shallows of my consciousness, only to surface unexpectedly, this belief has shaped my identity and my approach to self-care.


In this society, we cultivate personality traits that maximize productivity. We learn to control our desires and limit our needs; we are praised for being self-sufficient and showing endurance. Be a good worker; stay focused; keep your emotions in check; go the extra mile; no pain, no gain. To balance the draining effects of this discipline, the marketplace offers us consumer self-indulgence.


The control-based approach to self-care functions on the same model as an immune system: we police our boundaries, striving to maintain purity. When we find something undesirable in ourselves, we surround the threat and mount an attack. The self-indulgent approach functions the way an opiate does, soothing our pain and alleviating symptoms. The first approach relies on a strict definition of what is self and what is alien, and the second on correctly judging when it’s necessary to give up the self in order to preserve it. Both modes have us chasing an ever-receding horizon.

There is a third approach. Similar to both alchemy and digestion–slow processes of incorporating and transforming one substance into another–it demands patience and fluidity. When your sense of self isn’t fixed in one form–one age, one body size, one mood, one level of physical strength–you can work with seemingly toxic influences, slowly dissolving and redistributing them until they become something entirely new: you. The biggest difference between this form of self-care and the more common ones is that you don’t know who you will become at the end of the experiment.


This wasn’t a union strike, but an insurrection. My body had only one demand: Give up. You must love this, exactly as it is. This imperfect, damaged body that may never fully recover. The dull pain in your abdomen. Your own fear and loneliness. After a few heartbeats of alarm I began to rethink my situation. What could there be to love here? Even as I asked the question, grief soaked the edges of my vision.

Care had been a blank abstraction, like a code word for another form of work: what the factory farmer does for the caged chicken. Now it appeared filled with a sort of dark brilliance, like a glass vessel with something dangerous boiling in it. This was not the still point of serenity some yoga teachers promised I’d find at my core. This was something dynamic and unstable; intensely personal yet connective. The pain that had been searing my muscles and viscera didn’t abate, but it began to separate into distinct notes that formed a chord. The frustration I’d been nursing against my uncooperative body didn’t disappear; it intensified, rather, into rage—but rage directed outwards, protectively.

I’d experienced the most important shift of my life. I’d stopped siding with the enemy.


Self as Other: Reflections on Self-Care

(Thanks, Leah Harris for reference to this zine in From Self Care to Collective Caring.)


U.S. Army Captain Robert Bacon leading a patrol in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. 1964.

Col. Bobby Bacon, then a captain, was featured on the June 12, 1964 cover of LIFE magazine. The photo, taken by Larry Burrows, shows Bacon leading a group of South Vietnamese soldiers through rice fields in the Mekong Delta. Bacon served two tours of duty in Vietnam. Among his decorations are the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with two valor devices. Bacon was stationed at Fort Jackson from 1976 through 1983.

He graduated West Point with a bachelor’s of science in communications in 1956, and was a classmate of Norman Schwarzkopf. He is now retired and living in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

©Larry Burrows: Vietnam photos
©Susanne Kappler: Current photo

**The soldier in the 6th photo is not Capt. Robert Bacon. When I find his name, I’ll add it. The source where I found the photos identified him as Capt. Bacon. Thank you for the correction @remythejester!

Due to an overwhelming amount of messages in our inbox asking for personalized support, I have decided to offer individualized coaching sessions. These sessions are intended to help those who: have BPD, know someone who has BPD, and/or who would like to learn more about DBT/BPD.

My Qualifications:

  • DBT Graduate
  • DBT Certified 
  • Trained in peer counseling
  • Trained in crisis management
  • Trained in suicide prevention
  • Trained in psychological first-aid
  • Trained in active listening
  • Currently a psychology student


ONE: For $5, you’ll have one 30-MINUTE individual coaching session with me. During this session, we will do one of the following:

  • A.) Teach you the basics of any DBT-skill listed here.
  • B.) Offer several personalized skills suggestions and peer-support for any situation you may currently be facing.
  • C.) Answer any questions you may have about BPD or DBT and hold a discussion with you about what you can do as an individual to support yourself or a loved one.

TWO: For $10, you’ll have one 60-MINUTE individual coaching session with me. During this session, we will:

  • Run through a mindfulness activity with you and teach you any DBT-skill listed here.
  • Provide continued support on occasion. You will be able to contact me personally at any point in the future with general questions.

THREE: For $20, you’ll have TWO 60-MINUTE individual coaching sessions with me. During these sessions, we will:

  • Run through a mindfulness activity with you and teach you any DBT-skill listed here.
  • Answer any questions you may have about BPD or DBT and hold a discussion with you about what you can do as an individual to support yourself or a loved one.
  • Provide continued support on occasion. You will be able to contact me personally at any point in the future with general questions.

FOUR: For $30, you’ll have THREE 60-MINUTE individual coaching sessions with me. During these sessions, we will:

  • Go over the basics of the Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, and Interpersonal Effectiveness DBT modules.
  • Answer any questions you may have about BPD or DBT and hold a discussion with you about what you can do as an individual to support yourself or a loved one.
  • Provide continued support on occasion. You will be able to contact me personally at any point in the future with general questions.


Email me (Julia) at and tell me which option you’d interested in. From there we will schedule your sessions, discuss further communication methods, arrange payment, and begin!

Note: I’d greatly appreciate it if you could reblog this in order to reach more people. This will help us reach out to more people, and in turn, raise awareness of BPD and the treatment that can be provided.