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A Ring, a Rose, and a Fire Helmet

A Ring, A Rose, and A Fire Helmet

Mike and I have a unique connection that is deeply rooted in our shared passion for the fire service. It was here that our paths first crossed, and since then, our journey has been intertwined with the flames that we have fought together. Our story is one of love, commitment, and an unwavering dedication to serving others.

Our initial encounter took place within the fire service, where we both found ourselves drawn to the call of duty. It was in this demanding and challenging environment that our bond began to form. As we faced the dangers and uncertainties of fighting fires, we discovered a shared sense of purpose and mutual respect for each other's skills and bravery.

Over time, our relationship grew and deepened, culminating in a momentous event - our engagement. It was a testament to our unwavering commitment to not only each other but also to the fire service that had brought us together. With our hearts united, we embarked on a journey that would see us serve side by side for over two decades.

While Mike pursued a career in the fire service, I took a slightly different path. Volunteering my time, I found my calling in the realm of Information Technology, or as some would say, "geek-speak." Despite our different vocations, our love for the fire service remained a constant thread that bound us together.

Throughout our years of service, we have faced numerous challenges, but none more daunting than the deployment to hurricanes as part of the Jefferson County Swift Water Rescue Team from Lou. These natural disasters tested our mettle and demanded our utmost dedication. It was during these trying times that our commitment to each other and the fire service shone brightest.

As we reflect on our journey, we realize that our love for each other and the fire service are inseparable. It is a love that has fueled our dedication and inspired us to push through the toughest of times. Together, we have shared the triumphs, the sacrifices, and the camaraderie that comes with serving as firefighters.

Mike and I are bound by our shared experiences in the fire service. We had met, gotten engaged, and served together for over 20 years, forming an unbreakable bond grounded in love and a commitment to serving others. Our paths have taken different routes within the fire service, but our passion remains the same. Hurricanes, deployments, and challenges have only strengthened our resolve. We are united in our love for each other and the fire service, forever intertwined in a journey of selflessness and bravery.

It seemed that I had made quite an impression on someone special. At Green River Officers School, he proposed to me. It was a moment I will never forget, as it was unlike any other engagement I had ever heard of.

As it turned out, he was supposed to raffle off a fire helmet to one lucky person. However, he secretly rigged the drawing so that my name would be chosen. It was a clever and unexpected surprise that left me overjoyed. I couldn't believe my luck when they called out my name as the winner.

Amid my excitement, I failed to notice the commotion around me. Everyone was shouting, "Rigged, rigged!" But in my blissful state, all I could hear was my heart pounding with happiness. The fact that he had gone to such lengths to make our engagement unique and memorable meant the world to me.

You see, on that special day, not only did I receive a ring and a beautiful rose, but I was also gifted with a fire helmet. Yes, you heard that right, a fire helmet! It seemed that my fiancé had planned something quite extraordinary for our engagement.

Looking back, I realize that I am probably the only girl to ever receive a ring, a rose, and a fire helmet as part of her engagement. It was a moment that truly reflected the love and creativity of my fiancé. It was a testament to the unique bond we shared, one that would carry us through a lifetime of adventures and surprises.

The day my fiancé proposed to me at Fire Officer's School will forever hold a special place in my heart. The combination of a ring, a rose, and a fire helmet made it an engagement like no other. And even though the drawing was rigged, the love and thoughtfulness behind the gesture were genuine. I am grateful to have found someone who would go to such great lengths to make me feel cherished and loved.

I am sharing my story because, at a glance, it may seem like a fairy tale. However, I want to be honest and acknowledge that our relationship has not always been picture-perfect. The main reason behind this is my lifelong battle with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and the additional burden of insomnia and four other comorbid illnesses. In this book, I will shed light on my journey, the challenges I have faced, and how I continue to navigate through life with these conditions.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex mental disorder that affects my emotional regulation, self-image, and interpersonal relationships. It is characterized by intense mood swings, unstable self-esteem, impulsive behaviors, and turbulent relationships. Living with BPD is an exhausting and emotionally taxing experience, and the constant emotional turmoil often affects every aspect of one's life.

In addition to BPD, insomnia has been a constant companion in my life. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to chronic sleep deprivation. The combination of BPD and insomnia can create a vicious cycle, as the lack of quality sleep further exacerbates the emotional instability and impulsive tendencies associated with BPD.

On top of BPD and insomnia, I have also been diagnosed with four other comorbid illnesses. Comorbidity refers to the presence of multiple medical conditions simultaneously. Each of these illnesses adds its layer of complexity to my daily life, impacting my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. While the specifics of these comorbid illnesses may vary, they all contribute to the challenges I face in my journey.

Living with BPD, insomnia, and comorbid illnesses is a constant struggle, but it doesn't define me. Despite the difficulties, I have learned to manage my conditions and find ways to lead a fulfilling life. It requires a multifaceted approach, including therapy, medication, self-care practices, and a strong support network. Understanding my triggers, developing coping mechanisms, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been crucial in my ongoing journey toward stability and well-being.

My life may not fit the mold of a fairy tale, but it is a story of resilience, strength, and growth. Borderline Personality Disorder, insomnia, and comorbid illnesses have presented unique challenges throughout my life, but they have also shaped me into who I am today. By sharing my experience, I hope to shed light on the reality of living with these conditions, raising awareness, and promoting empathy and understanding. Together, we can strive for a world where mental health is prioritized, and no one feels alone in their struggles.

My interest in psychology began because of my daily struggles and desire to live a "normal" life. I yearned for a life free from the burdens that weighed me down, and I believed that understanding the intricacies of the human mind would pave the way for me. Little did I know, embarking on this journey would challenge my entire perception of normality.

However, before we proceed, I must make one thing clear: if you are looking for a book that promises a quick fix or a return to what society deems as "normal," then you have come to the wrong place. The purpose of this book is to empower and guide you towards taking control of your thinking, not conforming to societal expectations.

The road to personal growth and evolution is not an easy one. It requires a great deal of effort and perseverance. I speak from personal experience, having struggled with my diagnosis for the past 30 years. There were times when I despised the person I saw in the mirror, and waking up each day felt like an insurmountable challenge.

But it was through these struggles that I began to delve deeper into the realm of psychology. I sought answers to the questions that haunted me, exploring the intricacies of the human mind and the power it holds over our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through my studies and personal growth, I discovered that psychology offered not only an understanding of myself but also a path toward healing and self-acceptance.

This book aims to share the knowledge and insights I have gained throughout my journey. It is not a manual for achieving a "normal" life, for such a concept is subjective and ever-changing. Instead, it is a guide that will help you navigate the complexities of your mind, enabling you to take control and shape your thoughts in a way that empowers you.

I invite you to embark on this journey of self-discovery with an open mind and a willingness to put in the work. The path may be challenging and at times painful, but it is through these experiences that we grow and evolve. Together, let us explore the depths of psychology and learn how to harness the power of our thoughts to create a life that is uniquely ours.

There are over 700 psychological theories that have been developed to understand and address various mental health issues. As someone who has participated in counseling for more than three decades, I have had the opportunity to experience some of these theories firsthand.

Throughout my journey, I have engaged in different therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), anger management, psychotherapy, Schema Therapy, and many others. Each of these therapies aimed to provide relief from my cognitive patterns and emotional struggles.

CBT, for instance, focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns to promote positive behavioral changes. It helped me develop healthier coping mechanisms and reshape my thinking patterns.

DBT, on the other hand, combines elements of CBT with mindfulness techniques to help individuals regulate their emotions and improve interpersonal relationships. This therapy was particularly helpful in enhancing my emotional regulation skills and fostering self-acceptance.

Anger management therapy provided me with techniques to manage and express anger more healthily and constructively. It helped me understand the underlying causes of my anger and provided me with effective tools to cope with it.

Psychotherapy, a broad term encompassing various therapeutic approaches, allowed me to explore and address deeper emotional issues. Through regular sessions with a trained therapist, I was able to gain insights into my behaviors, emotions, and relationships, leading to personal growth and self-discovery.

Schema Therapy focuses on identifying and changing deeply ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior that often stem from early life experiences. This therapy helped me challenge and modify my maladaptive schemas, leading to a more positive self-image and healthier relationships.

While these are just a few examples of the therapies I have experienced, it is important to note that each person's journey in counseling is unique. The effectiveness of a particular therapy may vary depending on individual circumstances and needs. It is essential to work with a qualified mental health professional who can tailor the therapeutic approach to suit one's specific goals and challenges.

My decades-long experience as a participant in counseling has exposed me to various psychological theories and therapeutic approaches. Each therapy I have engaged in has contributed in its way to my personal growth and well-being. It is through this exploration and experimentation that I have been able to find relief from my negative thinking patterns and improve my overall mental health.

In our journey through life, we often find ourselves reflecting on the past, sometimes dwelling on memories that bring us pain or regret. However, it is important to recognize that constantly delving into our past can be counterproductive and hinder our personal growth. Mindfulness helped me to stay grounded in the present moment and enabled me to live a more fulfilling and balanced life.

When I constantly ruminate on past events, I become trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts and emotions. It is natural to wonder what could have been different or to feel remorseful about past mistakes. However, dwelling on the past prevents me from fully experiencing the present and finding joy in the here and now. Moreover, the more energy we invest in trying to change the unchangeable, the more likely we are to experience feelings of sadness, frustration, and regret.

Mindfulness offers an alternative approach to dealing with our thoughts and emotions. By practicing mindfulness, I learned to embrace the present moment without judgment. It involves directing my attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions I am experiencing right now, rather than getting caught up in the past or worrying about the future.

When I focus on the present, I allow myself to fully engage with my surroundings and experiences. Whether it is savoring the taste of a delicious meal, appreciating the beauty of nature, or engaging in a meaningful conversation, being present allows me to derive more satisfaction from these moments. By cultivating mindfulness, I can enhance my overall well-being and create a sense of inner peace.

While it can be tempting to constantly analyze and dwell on the past, doing so only hinders our ability to live a fulfilling and balanced life. By embracing mindfulness and focusing on the present moment, we can free ourselves from the limitations of the past and find contentment in the here and now.

One aspect of this book that we will discuss is the idea that people cannot make you feel anything. Similarly, events cannot make you feel anything either. It is a common misconception that others have the power to control our emotions. However, the truth is that our emotions are a result of our thoughts and perceptions.

For instance, when someone does something that might anger us, it is not their action that directly causes our anger. Instead, it is our interpretation and thoughts about their action that lead to our emotional response. We choose to be mad because of the thoughts we have about what they have done.

The same principle applies to events. If we hold certain beliefs or opinions about a particular situation, it will greatly influence how we feel about it. Take death and funerals as an example. If we perceive death and funerals as horrible and devastating, then it is likely that we will be upset by every death or at every funeral we attend. Our emotions are not determined by the events themselves, but rather by the thoughts and interpretations we have about them.

Understanding this concept can be empowering. It means that we have control over our own emotions and reactions. We can choose how we perceive and interpret situations, and consequently, how we feel about them. By recognizing that our emotions are not dictated by external factors, we can take ownership of our feelings and work towards cultivating a more positive and resilient mindset.

People and events do not have the power to make us feel anything. Our emotions are a product of our thoughts and interpretations. By being aware of this, we can shift our focus from external factors to our internal mindset, allowing us to have greater control over our emotional well-being.

In this document, I will delve into my personal experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and the challenges I faced in finding effective treatment. While I usually don't share my past with others, I believe it is important to offer insights that could potentially help diagnosed individuals with BPD or assist therapists in treating their clients. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that recounting these memories can be emotionally taxing, akin to picking a scab and reopening old wounds. The following account aims to shed light on the years spent grappling with BPD and the search for viable treatment options.

Reflecting on my journey with BPD, I recall the profound impact it had on my life. The constant emotional turmoil, the feeling of emptiness, and the inability to regulate my emotions created an immense burden. Each day felt like navigating a minefield, with unexpected triggers setting off intense emotional reactions. These experiences often left me feeling isolated and misunderstood, as BPD is still widely stigmatized and misunderstood by society.

Finding effective treatment for BPD proved to be an arduous and frustrating process. The sheer complexity of the disorder, coupled with its comorbidity with other mental health conditions, posed significant challenges. Numerous therapeutic approaches and medications were explored, but it often felt like an uphill battle. The trial-and-error nature of treatment options, coupled with the unique needs of each individual, further complicated the process.

Sharing my memories of battling Borderline Personality Disorder is a challenging but necessary endeavor. By offering a glimpse into the struggles faced and the journey to find viable treatment options, I intend to assist diagnosed individuals with BPD and provide valuable insights to therapists. While recounting these memories may hurt, the potential to help others outweighs the emotional toll.

In this book, I aim to shed light on my journey with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and provide valuable insights for both patients and therapists alike. Through sharing my past experiences and discussing the impact they had on my mind's development, I hope to offer a deeper understanding of this complex condition. Furthermore, I will delve into the various treatments I have undergone over 30+ years, exploring their effectiveness and the challenges they presented. From medication and therapy models to hospitalizations and even spiritual interventions, each aspect of my journey has played a significant role in shaping my life with BPD.

I provide a semi-detailed account of my past, exploring the moments and experiences that I believe contributed to the development of my Borderline Personality Disorder. By delving into my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, readers will gain insight into the factors that shaped my emotional landscape and influenced the manifestation of BPD.

I also embark on a comprehensive exploration of the various treatments I have undergone throughout my journey with BPD. Medication is considered a cornerstone in managing mental health conditions and will be discussed. Additionally, I will delve into the realm of therapy models, discussing the approaches I have experienced, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychotherapy, mindfulness, and REBT. By providing insights into these treatments, I aim to offer readers a broader understanding of their potential benefits and limitations.

Hospitalizations have been an integral part of my journey with BPD, and in this chapter, I will discuss their impact and significance. By sharing my experiences within the hospital setting, I hope to shed light on the challenges faced by individuals with BPD during these periods of intensive care. I will explore the benefits, drawbacks, and lessons learned from my encounters with hospitalization, providing both patients and therapists with valuable insights into this aspect of treatment.

I also delve into the role of spiritual interventions in my journey with BPD.  I discuss the positive and negative outcomes of my experiences. While not a traditional treatment modality, spiritual practices have played a significant role in my personal growth and emotional well-being. By sharing my experiences with spiritual interventions, I hope to encourage readers to explore the potential benefits of incorporating spirituality into their own lives, alongside more conventional treatment approaches.

My goal is to inform and educate readers about the multifaceted nature of Borderline Personality Disorder. By sharing my personal experiences, including my past, the treatments I have undergone, and the role of spirituality, I hope to offer valuable insights to both patients and therapists. It is my sincere hope that this journey through my 30+ years of living with a BPD diagnosis will foster understanding, compassion, and empowerment for all those affected by this challenging condition.

I have exhibited the following behaviors:

  • I have had a fear of abandonment and an unstable self-image which I believe started as young as from birth until age three.
  • I have had intense relationships where I would idolize a person one moment and then believe that person was horrible the next.
  • I have exhibited impulse problems with gambling, reckless driving, and self-medicating.
  • I have cut myself since I was 14 and attempted suicide multiple times.
  • My emotional instability over the years included fits of rage, anxiety, and fear with very little control over my emotions.
  • I had periods of disassociation that caused me to lose track of time and forget events.
  • I also had feelings of emptiness. I was always searching for the one item or idea that would make everything normal.  Sometimes this was a form of drugs, psychotherapy, cutting on myself, or volunteering for an organization to try and prove to me that I have worth.  No matter what I accomplished, I had a feeling of emptiness.

I want to provide insight into the experiences that led to a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It is important to note that the intention here is not to boast about the number of symptoms, but rather to establish a foundation for understanding. The journey towards this diagnosis involved several years of undergoing various treatments, with minimal to no improvement.

For those who may find themselves deeply immersed in therapy without experiencing any progress, I hope to offer a glimmer of hope. It can be disheartening and frustrating when efforts seem to yield no results, but it is crucial to remember that there is always potential for positive change.

My journey of managing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) symptoms through the adoption of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Emotional Intelligence (EI), and mindfulness helped me shift from narrow, unhealthy thinking to broader and more rational thoughts that I effectively use to manage my symptoms.

Narrow, unhealthy thinking patterns often contribute to the exacerbation of BPD symptoms. These patterns can involve black-and-white thinking, catastrophizing, personalization, and emotional reasoning. Recognizing and challenging these distorted thoughts is a crucial step toward managing BPD symptoms.

REBT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on identifying and changing irrational beliefs and thoughts. It encourages individuals to challenge their negative thinking patterns and replace them with more realistic and rational thoughts. By applying REBT skills, I can gain more control over my emotions and behaviors.

Emotional Intelligence plays a vital role in managing my BPD symptoms. It involves understanding and managing my emotions, as well as empathizing with others. By developing emotional awareness, self-regulation, and effective communication skills, I can cultivate healthier relationships and cope with emotional challenges more effectively.

Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present and non-judgmental, can be a powerful tool in managing my symptoms. By embracing mindfulness techniques, I learn to observe my thoughts and emotions without judgment, reduce impulsive reactions, and cultivate a sense of inner calm and acceptance.

By embracing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Emotional Intelligence (EI), and mindfulness, individuals with BPD can effectively manage their symptoms and lead a more fulfilling life. The process involves challenging narrow, unhealthy thinking patterns and replacing them with broader and more rational thoughts. Finding a therapist who practiced REBT and EI significantly enhanced my journey toward symptom management. With dedication and the right tools, I regained control over my life and experienced improved emotional well-being.