When I first was diagnosed with BPD I felt a sense of relief. For years I had felt that I had two ways of coping with life. One part of me that wanted to thrive, be successful and be perfect at everything I attempted, and another part that was self-sabotaging and ruthlessly destructive. This part hated everything of my being. To be honest I thought this was ‘normal’, and that everyone had the same perception of themselves as me.
So it’s not surprising that after my diagnosis of BPD I felt a weight lifted from me, as another was slowly uncovering the darkness that I carefully hid. I became hopeful that there was an explanation for the way I thought and interpreted my self and the world. As so many emotions clouded my mind and I searched for a way to express myself.
As I have never been great with words, I looked to dance as a way of finding meaning amongst the chaos. In the past, I had been involved in running a disco for adults with disabilities this involved dancing with consumers and encouraging them to express themselves.
So it was totally amazing to discover a song titled “Borderline”! And I decided to dance it out. One night, I dressed in my favourite bird jacket and rocked out some pretty weird moves.
I danced like I was expressing myself for the first time. I could feel my body, mind and emotions connecting as if it was the first time they had said hello to each other.
In the past I had danced in a way that I guess was socially desirable, composed and perfectionistic, portraying a false happiness of what the outside world wanted to see.
But this dance was different, it told a story of how I was willing to let my inside emotions be exposed with self-acceptance, a kind and open attitude. I was finally starting to process some difficult emotions and allowing myself the freedom and opportunity to express my inside confusion to the world.
After making the dance, I showed my friends with BPD, who immediately wanted to start a group dance together and make their own self-expressive videos. I am hopeful that they will continue to do so and that I can learn some expressive moves from them. In the meantime, I have joined a group “dance for expressing emotions” which I am so excited to start. I really encourage everyone that struggles to put words to their emotions to find other occupations that allow self-discovery and expression.
If you are a clinician, the references by Barton (2011) is very insightful in how to create a safe and trusting dance group for people with severe mental illness and the value of dancing with others. If you have not considered dance as a way of helping people express emotions nonverbally, I strongly encourage you to have a look and even try it for yourself!
I’ll probably regret it, but enjoy the video I hope it makes you laugh 😀
Barton, E. (2011). Movement and Mindfulness: A Formative Evaluation of a Dance/Movement and Yoga Therapy Program with Participants Experiencing Severe Mental Illness. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 33(2), 157-181.
Want to support OT for BPD in continuing advocating for those with severe mental illness? Please check out my Jewellery Store