Today I want to share with you the background and insights of one amazing person I have come to know, Paul Sokol. He has been openly sharing his struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder on social media and I was one of the followers.
Paul, originally from Sarasota, Florida, attended University of Central Florida where he earned a B.A. and M.A. in electrical engineering. One of the fascinating facts of Paul’s career is that he never worked in the field that he studied. Unable to land a job without prior experience in electrical engineering, Paul fell back on his business experience that he accumulated while attending university.
“Life as an entrepreneur is very emotionally fragile. We learn on the job, fail, try to mourn as little as possible, get up and try again. It can get lonely. When we also struggle with mental health we can hit a brick wall. We don’t have people in the office that we can tell, ‘ Hey, I’m having a bad day.’ ”
At work there were occasions when there was a difference of opinion and Paul was short on patience and made sharp comments which led to setbacks or being fired.
“I didn’t understand the relationship piece. About a year ago I had a full blown mental breakdown and I was going to kill myself. My partner, Brina, had me carted away and I spent the night in a psych ward. After that it really took a great deal of effort on her part to get me properly evaluated. That’s when I learned that, surprise, I had Borderline Personality Disorder. “
“When that happened everything sort of fell into place. A lot of my behaviors and reactions made sense. My identity and how fluid it could be, and how it was based on how other people around me were feeling.”
“I began Dialectic Behavior Therapy. It provided me with the tools to deal with the day to day. I was also put on medication, Lexipro, which is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Borderline is not so much medication based, as it is head based. I am in the process of weaning myself off of Lexipro.”
“Mindfulness interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation are the tools I learned through Dialectic Behavior Therapy. Everyone can benefit from these skills, not just people with personality disorders.”
“A person suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder ignores their own emotions. They will make other people responsible for them. Or they may try to ignore or deny real or perceived abandonment. The act of mitigating the emotions involved with this, actually can worsen the situation.”
There is also a pattern of intense and unstable relationships. It involves a distorted self image and sense of self. It can be fluid from moment to moment. Impulsive and harming behaviors which can include thoughts of threats to harm oneself. The average rate of attempted suicide in the general population is 1 in a thousand. For borderline it’s 1 in 10.”
“One wants to escape the feeling at any cost. From minute to minute I can identify with different things. There is also chronic feelings of emptiness.”
“My default is to get angry. There is difficulty in trusting. Even Brina has to remind me, ‘Hey, I’m on your side.’ There are feelings of disassociation or feelings of unreality.”
“I feel a great debt of gratitude to my therapist, my psychiatrist I feel blessed for my family and the outpouring of support from the community.
This year has seen me make significant improvements. The good news is that B.P.D. can go into remission with the proper treatment.”
“One of the greatest aids in helping me with understanding myself was reading the book, I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me. It delves into the different pathologies and therapies – Dialectic Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, EMBR, Protocol Based Identity. “
“B.P.D. usually presents in early adulthood, when the pressures and responsibilities increase exponentially. After graduation trying to get a job, there is a massive shift to prove yourself.”
“It takes a very strong and committed person to stay with someone who is suffering from untreated B.P.D. We test them and take advantage of their weaknesses. We do this because of our issues with abandonment.”
“Brina has stayed with me I think because she sees that I have integrity and a strong sense of right and wrong and being accountable to the world. And she knows that deep down, I really do care.”
Borderline marriages commonly dissolve. Not from hate but from pain. “Humans can experience more than one emotion at any single moment. I only learned that recently. Before, everything was black or white, and I went with the stronger emotion. A very handy tool I have to deal with this is an Emotion Wheel. When I feel a strong emotion, I take out the wheel to see just where it falls on the wheel. If I am angry, what type of anger is it?
Disappointment, bitter or let down? “
“Affirmations is another indispensable skill. When I want to enunciate an affirmation I do it in second person and use my name. Hearing your name makes a person listen and pay attention. I can say, “Paul, you did a great job’ or ‘Paul, you have integrity’ and repeat it three times. I have a book of Possibilities. Each day I choose a possibility for that day. Yesterday, I chose the possibility of productivity. I said, ‘Paul, you are in charge of the way you feel today and you are the possibility of productivity. It was a reasonably productive day. All we have is today. Time really works differently than most people believe. You create yourself in the future which causes you to show up as you are now, which then generates the results you have from your past. That is why it is so helpful to choose your possibility at the start of the day.”
“My father, a deeply spiritual person, taught me a self affirmation: ‘Every day in every way I’m getting better and better’. Have the courage to love yourself 10% more than you think you deserve. We are our biggest critics.”
Paul keeps track of his daily accomplishments. At a glance he is able to see how much of what he wanted to do, he actually did. This has an added dimension. If Paul sees that he is failing to keep up with a major portion of his self expectations it is a predictor of a breakdown in the near future. The data doesn’t lie.
We are creatures of habit. There are daily, weekly, monthly,quarterly and yearly habits. If we fail in a yearly habit, such as paying taxes, the consequences are much more severe than if we fail in a daily habit such as brushing one’s teeth. One activity can trigger the next. Walk the dog in the morning. Upon return you feed the cats, then you take your meds. Each step leads into the next. Breaking that ongoing chain of triggers can lead to a malfunction in one’s day. Paul believes if he is not working at maximum individual efficiency he will not be working at maximum professional efficiency.
Going off medication is something that Paul believes is a possibility for him. As far as he sees, it just gives him a longer fuse. But therapies have helped him deal with his emotions. He has to check in with his psychiatrist in a few months to see if all is well, but if not, he is ready to go back on Lexipro
Paul has something exquisitely wise to tell those people who are questioning whether they need help. “Go out and get yourself evaluated. People will sometimes say they don’t have the money for a psychiatrist, psychologist, medications and don’t get the help they need. Paul is emphatic – Don’t use that as an excuse! Borrow the money, put it on credit card, work it out. It doesn’t get any better without help. The worse case scenario is that the person will die and maybe take others with them. In the end that will be their legacy.
Hope to Paul is being clear about what you want even though you are uncertain about how it will play out. One needs to learn to be with the unknown. Have a dream and hold on to it. When things don’t look great, dig out that dream and focus on how many lives you can help and improve.
If someone is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder Paul feels that they should definitely read I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me. For those that live with someone with BPD the bible for survival is Stop Walking on Eggshells. It provides the tools of how to live with them and transform the relationship. How to set boundaries, which is a must for people with BPD and give examples of what to do in various circumstances.
People can contact Paul on Facebook.com/Under the Hair or through LinkedIn- Paul Sokol or for business PaulSokol.me.
Paul is planning to check in with us in a few months and we will hear how things are progressing with deleting the Lexipro. We will be waiting for his latest update in the Life and Accomplishments of Paul Sokol.