Is it possible to treat BPD differently?

I’ve often wondered if it is possible to self-treat BPD, perhaps with the help of a good book or some initial counseling from a therapist.

As a whole, BPD treatment isn’t cheap. I’ve been involuntarily committed to pysch wards twice, saw a therapist every week for two and half years (now just once yearly for meds), and still take medication every day. Those pharmacy copays add up to a ton of cash, making BPD a rather profitable “industry” (used loosely) for those that resell anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers. What if I was less fortunate or out of work? How on earth would I pay for treatment? I’m 32 now and can’t get a rider on my parents’ insurance policy. Therefore, I’m solely responsible for my own treatment. Could I rely on self treatment for BPD if times get tough financially?

I was killing time the other day on YouTube.com, watching some life coaching gurus, specifically Tony Robbins. There’s no doubt that he’s effective for some people, and much of his material is available free thanks to the internet if you know where to look. Is Tony Robbins, however, up to the challenge of treating someone with BPD, or is he better suited to “normal” people experiencing a rough patch in their life? Could I really watch enough Tony Robbins on Youtube to tame my BPD, effectively reducing – or eliminating completely – my need for occasional therapy and constant meds? Somehow I’m not sure Tony Robbins could coach me out of BPD, unless I was actually working with him one on one for months, which would cost an extraordinary amount of money.

What about alternative religions? This weekend I watched a show called “30 Days” that was on FX (USA) at 2 AM in the morning. The show profiles people who set aside a month of their life to live in new environments that are sometimes the polar opposite of their own. The show I watched followed a guy who wanted to live on a Navajo reservation for a month, to get better idea of how Native Americans live. Along the way, he was introduced to several Navajo religious customs and ceremonies. He ultimately concluded that [paraphrased] “the Navajo are definitely in tune to something else…more deeply rooted in the Earth”. This is probably true, but could a sweat lodge ceremony involving vomiting and immense loss of water from the body really purge the BPD demons inside me?

What about living as a Buddhist priest? Sometimes I think part of my BPD is due to American society, it’s rapid pace, social pressures, and expectations. Maybe holing up in a monastery somewhere in parts unknown and meditating every day might cure my BPD, putting me in touch with my inner self? Would a life composed of constant prayer, manual labor, and introspection do the trick? Could I really live without the help of Effexor, Welbutrin, Zyprexa, and Clonezpam? Being off any one of these medications for more than 3 days is extremely uncomfortable, let alone going cold turkey from all of them at once.

To be clear, I’m not trying be to snide about different lifestyles, or cynical about religions that are very holistic and productive for both the individuals involved and society at large. When was the last time a Buddhist priest made a shady deal on Wall Street, or a Navajo medicine man over-medicated his patients in order to get a kickback from a big pharmaceutical company? In reality this has probably NEVER happened, and that’s why these religions, in many ways, are the most purest forms of living a productive, healthy, and psychologically sound earthly existence.

I do think, though, that the line gets drawn at mental illness. I’m more than just “bummed out” over a girl breaking up with me; “down in the dumps” because life has taken a difficult turn; or “has a hot temper” when things don’t go as planned. My mind – as far as I can tell – doesn’t always operate correctly, meaning there might be something chemically wrong with my brain, in addition to environmental factors (upbringing, family, etc.) that are conducive to creating BPD.

There’s a reason Psychiatrists go to medical school for years and must obtain terminal degrees as both a medical doctor and psychologist: treating mental illness is NOT for mainstream religion or self-help gurus. BPD takes a certain measure of skill to treat. In many cases, psychiatrists fresh out of residency won’t treat people with BPD, simply because BPD patients are known to be cantankerous, manipulative, and difficult. The fact that some psychiatrists refuse to treat BPD patients surely means that self help, alternative religions, or other radical life changes would not “cut the mustard” when it comes to being efficacious against the evil nature of BPD and its comorbid conditions. Even Dr. Marsha Linehan’s DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) strikes out against the worst cases of BPD.

Conclusion: if there’s a panacea for BPD, we’re still waiting for it. Until then, take all steps necessary to get better, even if it means going to therapy AND taking psychotropic medications. So far, these measures are the best weapons we have against a formidable enemy like BPD.