Borderline and Serenity in the Midst of Chaos

June 24, 2014 Becky Oberg

My apartment complex has become infested with bedbugs and roaches, so the landlord has moved us to a small hotel in northern Indianapolis. The move has been chaotic--some of my neighbors have left altogether, some have been threatened with arrest for panhandling or smoking, and getting to medical appointments relies on a superb knowledge of the bus schedule. Yet I'm holding up well thanks to Alcoholic's Anonymous (AA) and therapy. It is possible to have serenity in the midst of chaos.

Serenity is Accepting What you can not Change

The first part of the Serenity Prayer is "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." This is vital to recovery, whether it is from borderline personality disorder (BPD) or substance abuse. We must accept the things we can not change.

For example, I can't control my neighbors' behavior. While it annoys me, like when one of them used a racial slur to refer to me, I can't change it. I can, however, choose how to manage the situation. I'll be honest, when my neighbor used that slur I felt like punching her or using a slur to describe her. But how would that help me? How would resorting to a negative coping skill change the situation? Either way what was said was said. But one way would send me to jail or the psych ward. I removed myself from the situation and let staff handle it. And although hurt and annoyed, I soon returned to my calm state. This wouldn't have happened if I escalated the situation.

My Mind Magnifies what I Focus On

Chaos hits everyone, including people with borderline personality disorder. Here is one way to find serenity in the midst of chaos even with BPD.Today in AA we read that our serenity is inversely proportional to our expectations. Our mind magnifies what we choose to focus on. If we focus on the positive, we are in the Healthy Adult mode of operation and we will feel positive. If we focus on the negative, a negative mode kicks in--Demanding Parent being my dominant one--and we soon resort to negative coping skills.

I could choose to focus on the chaos that is unfolding around me. But how would that help me cope with my BPD? What good would it do me? Instead, I choose to focus on taking one day at a time, hour by hour, minute by minute. Breathe in, breathe deeply, breathe out.

I choose to focus on the positive, such as I'm not in the hospital because they had no place else to put me (under Indiana law, a person with a mental illness who has no place to live is considered a danger to self--in fact, I spent three extra months in the state hospital because I had nowhere to live). I have money to spend and food to eat. I have Internet access and can relax by playing video games. Most of the rest of the world is not so fortunate.

When there is no Peace

I think the people who tell us to think positive in the midst of mental illness are only half-right. When we are on medication and in treatment, it is important to focus on how we feel. We must pay attention to our symptoms. While medication can be a tremendous boost, it's not the answer to everything. Our attitude plays as large a part in our recovery as fixing a chemical imbalance.

To determine if it's a medication issue or an attitude issue, we must ask ourselves, "What is upsetting me? What is stealing my peace?" If we come up with a tangible answer, such as we're upset because our dog died, we then need to ask "Is there anything I can do about this situation?" If there is, we need to do it. If there isn't, then we need to ask, "What can I do to make this situation more bearable?"

Once a chemical imbalance is corrected, we're about as serene as we make up our minds to be.

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APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2014, June 24). Borderline and Serenity in the Midst of Chaos, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 20 from

Author: Becky Oberg

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