People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) have a skewed way of thinking.

We see criticism where there is none, we see abandonment when someone doesn’t return our phone calls and, we see despair when really it is just a differentperspective. Although BPD is not classified as a “thought disorder” in my opinion, it should be. People with BPD internalize their skewed visions of themselves and turn their own thoughts against them. My husband used to always say to me, “Every feeling first begins with a thought.” I think this is true.

So, how does one go about learning to change the way they think? For me, it began with the daily practice of gratitude. A friend once commented to me that even though I had lots of money, lots of friends and four beautiful children I was always so unhappy. She could not understand why. My initial reaction was anger. I thought, “How dare you say something like that to me, in complete and utter indignation. But I recalled that after my last overdose and being in the hospital for six months when I gave myself an acquired brain injury that when I was discharged I had to make a decision about whether or not I would go back to smoking. I had been a smoker for almost thirty years. Each day when I woke up I had to recommit to my decision not to go back to smoking. I did that every for three years because that’s how long it took for my cravings to finally go away. I lay in bed after that night following that exchange with her thinking, “I can choose to practice happiness. In the same way I chose to be a non-smoker, I can choose to practice happiness..” After that, every day when I got up I would log on to my Facebook page and post a daily gratitude posting. They were simple and were things we all take for granted like access to clean water, electricity easy access to good food. Gradually I began to see changes in myself. The way I saw the world and the way in which I interacted with the world began to change. I began to feel more centred and more grounded within myself. I began to see the world as a place of immense beauty and bounty as opposed to a battlefield where I was always the loser.

Changing the way you think is not for the faint of heart

Changing the way you think is not easy nor is it for the faint of heart. If you want to have a real BPD recovery, it takes practice and diligence and yes, falling down again and again. The trick is that when you fall down, you have to get back up and start over again.

Learning how to change the way you think so you can enjoy BPD recovery is a skill like any other you have. You did not burst from your mother’s womb knowing how to tie your shoes or eat with a knife and fork. Those are skills you were taught. Most people with BPD experience negative thoughts about themselvesall the time. This learned behaviour has been taught to them by their family and can be unlearned. Over time, those thoughts become knee-jerk reactions to certain stimuli. In order to change those thinking patterns, you must first become aware of them and then make a conscious choice to challenge them and then stop them in their tracks. Life is all about perspective and changing the focus of your vision will help you learn to see things in a different light. My favourite saying is: Introspection brings insight and insight enables change. It’s that simple and that difficult.

In a similar fashion, people with BPD generally have very low self-esteem. Why? Because they were not taught to value themselves when they were children. I use an analogy that if your parents did not have good self-esteem, they could not possibly have taught you how to have it. If your parents did not know how to make pasta, it would have been impossible for them to teach you how to make pasta. But you can learn how to make pasta onyour own.

It takes a conscious effort to change the way you think

Acquiring this skill takes time. It takes a conscious effort especially for the person with BPD. Change is always difficult. Most people would rather bang their head against a wall until their skull has been fractured than change. This is because the behaviour is familiar. They know what to expect when they do it. When you embark on change, it is very frightening because you are embarking on virgin territory. But change is possible. How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one. But the lightbulb has to really want to change. You can do it.