My distress checklist for Carers, Partners, Family and Friends
(adapted from Beyond Blue’s safety plan app “Beyond Now”).
Being in a relationship with someone who has BPD is hard. It requires a lot of thinking on your feet. A lot of open communication and forgiveness on both sides.
I frequently get angry at my husband when he says or does something that is triggering for me. It takes a lot of trial and error to work out those triggers. It takes understanding that “silly triggers” such as him “slamming the microwave door” can send me into the flight, fight or freeze mode.
In these situations, my husband and I use this framework to know what to do next. I have also sent this framework to several loved ones so they too are knowledgeable in helping someone in distress.
Have a conversation when the person is in a good space to work out the answers to the following questions. These will become your entry points into diverting someone’s attention away from their distress to something important to them.
What is meaningful to your life?
These are my meaningful roles and activities. These will vary for every human being!
- My marriage
- Caring for lily
- My church community and friends
- Relationship with God
- Being an Aunty
- Making mental health changes for others
- Helping others
Do you get stuck for words?
Don’t know how to say something without “making things worse”. Get the person to write down a list of words/ affirmations they like to hear when they are unwell. Remember it is better to try to support someone than leaving them alone when they are not safe.
- Phrases I want you to say to me when I am unwell…
- You are doing well
- What strategy could you use to help you?
- I understand this is really hard
- I’m sorry you are having such a hard time
- You mean a lot to people
- What can I do to help you?
- Who do you want me to call?
- I can see that we need help, I am going to call for emergency services ok?
- I am really proud of how far you’ve come
- What helped you last time you felt like this?
Things I DO NOT want you to say to me…
In contrast, make a list of things to avoid saying to the person. These will be different for everyone. But in general, avoid the WHY questions in the heat of the moment. Maybe later when the person reclaims safety and feels like talking about it, then you can go further into the whys.
· why are you feeling like this,
· what’s wrong,
· what’s triggered you
· What’s happened
· You have so much to be thankful for
· It’s all in the past
· It’s all in your head
· (asking lots of questions)
Make a list of simple coping strategies together. For example, when I am becoming distressed my husband recommends a couple of these in combination e.g. patting lily and listening to Angus and Julia Stone.
- Breathing 5 in 5 out
- Have a shower
- Roll on the foam roller
- Listen to Christian music for calming
- Listen to Alt J, Mumford and sons, Angus and Julia stone
- Hug and pat lily
- Jewellery making
- Drawing and painting
- Exercise indoors
- Watch dog videos
- Watch videos of my nieces
- Ice cream
- Hot chocolate
- Sit in the sun outside
- Tidy my beads
- Throw the ball with lily
- Look on Pinterest for jewellery ideas
- Tidy closet
- Put some washing on
- Add items to ETSY
If for some reason the person can not be at home. Make a list of coping strategies that involve places and the outdoors you could do together or alone.
- Walk to the op shop
- Drive to the Salvation Army and op shop
- Walk to the creek and sit by my tree
- Mindfulness walk
- Mindfulness photography
- Walk the dog around the creek
- Collect feathers
- Go to the local coffee shop.
- Practice stretches in a quiet space
- Sit on the ground and deep breath
- Do a mindfulness practice with pacific app
- Go to RSPCA and pat the dogs
- Go to the library
These are a couple of ideas. I’d love to know what conversation frameworks you use