“It is important to appreciate that once in hell, it is possible to climb out of it. -Marsha Linehan”

Our DBT Skills Groups often end with each member sharing a pearl from that session. These pearls are new insights, shared wisdom, improved skills, renewed commitment toward acceptance/change, or acknowledging of hard-earned progress. There are many, many such pearls in Beyond Borderline: True Stories of Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, edited by John Gunderson and Perry Hoffman.

Brandon Marshall, New York Giants wide receiver, sets the tone for Beyond Borderline when he describes how treatment for this disorder resulted in his transformation, “My eyes opened up to allow me to be my better self–a different person. I understood what I was feeling. I learned to validate those feelings and those of others. I also learned to talk about those feelings.”

Twenty-four stories of recovery are shared in Beyond Borderline. Each full of pearls. Alan Fruzzetti calls them “essential stories, to be read and digested by anyone with BPD, anyone who has a loved with BPD, and any professionals who work with people with BPD.”

I hope you too will go to the source and digest the inspired stories in Beyond Borderline. That is the intent of this blog and those to come. Using excerpts from these twenty-four stories of recovery, we’ll start with hearing about the experience of having BPD. Future blogs will present the experience of getting the diagnosis of BPD, the role of DBT in recovery, as well as advice for those with BPD, their loved ones, and their treatment team.


Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Borderline personality disorder or BPD is a diagnosis that applies to individuals who experience pervasive difficulty regulating their emotion which severely compromises their daily functioning. They may self harm or even attempt to kill themselves to gain relief from their misery. Marsha Linehan has proposed a more accurate and descriptive name for this diagnosis, “emotion dysregulation disorder.” Linehan describes this disorder in terms of emotional, cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal and self dysregulation.


Here is how BPD is described in Beyond Borderline by those who experience it.

What does it mean to be borderline?

What can we learn from a borderline? Borderlines are people too. They experience the world in an amplified way. Borderlines like me have ups and downs that are just a little more extreme than the ordinary person. They live from chaos to chaos and do not understand what it’s like to go through life without constant pain and sorrow. Author 24 (p. 168)

I recently read an article about a girl with multiple sclerosis who runs races and collapses in pain at the end of every race. My every day is a race and at the end of every day, I collapse on my bed, in so much agony, and I never want to get through any other day. But I do. I have to. That’s what living with borderline personality disorder feels like. It feels like an endless fight. It feels like I’ve been treading stormy waters for days, and I’m getting so tired, but no one is around to throw me a life raft, because no one wants to be around me. Author 4 (p. 30)

The next entry of this series on Pearls from Beyond Borderline will continue with more perspectives on the experience of BPD.

To further support NEABPD.org programs, order Borderline: True Stories of Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder