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February 21, 2019 60 mins

In an intensely personal episode, Fatherly Podcast host Joshua David Stein speaks with his co-host, Jason Gay, and founder and president of Treatment and Research Advancements for Borderline Personality Disorder (TARA4BPD), Valerie Porr, about his struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder and his attempts to get help while trying to insulate his children from some of his worst behaviors. A remarkably honest look at what it takes to be a good dad while struggling with mental health issues, this episode speaks to the importance of looking for help and taking it.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hello, and welcome to the Fatherly Podcast. I'm your host,
Joshua David Stunn. Today's episode focuses on mental health, which
is a little bit outside of what we normally talk
about on the Fatherly Podcast and honestly what we talked
about on Fatherly, But forty four million Americans suffer mental
health issues and I'm one of them. And many of

(00:27):
those people are parents, and I'm one of those two
having a mental health issue or struggling with mental health,
or however you want to say. It really affects family life.
It affects your kids, it affects your spouse. Not only
is there a co relation between mental health issues and
substance abuse and addiction, but also just behaviorally day to

(00:49):
day how you are in front of your family, whether
you suffer from mood swings or suicidal ideation or um
anger or sadness or depression. You know, kids are like
sponges and they really pick that stuff up. I've struggled
a lot to deal with my mental health issues and
dealing with them, and I wanted to bring in a

(01:10):
woman named Valerie Poor, who is an expert um and
mental health, to have an honest and kind of difficult,
but I think important conversation about some of those challenges.
Stay tuned, Welcome ter of Fatherly Podcast. I hope you'll

(01:33):
enjoy this show. I'm your host, Joshua david Stein, joined
by my ever loyal, ever wonderful co host Jason gay Hi. Jason,
Joshua remain loyal. UM. Well, today's episode sounds like it's
gonna be laughing and happy, but it's really going to

(01:53):
be dark and emotional. UM. It's about mental health. It's
about arenting with mental health. UM. I don't think I've
talked about it on Fatherly, but I UM. I have
borderline personality disorder, which has been difficult for my family.

(02:18):
And our guest is Valerie poor An m a UM,
founder of Tara for BPD, which she founded in and
author of Overcoming BPD, A Guide for Families. UM. I
think generally bp D, borderline personality disorder and mental health

(02:40):
in general is like a soup of UM acronyms, and
what's BPD, what's DBT? What's any of this stuff? UM?
Valerie and Jason. I hope that we can come to
a better understanding of those things, especially for our listeners,
but also in like real world terms. Uh, obviously it's

(03:02):
tough apparent with mental health issues. But I haven't found
that much literature or help on how to be a dad. Correct. Yeah,
practically nothing out there, and what is out there is
incredibly stigmatized. Yeah. So I think the first thing you

(03:24):
you have to figure out is what hell is ordline
personality disorder? What is it? Well, what the hell is
borderline personality? That's my question. Okay, So the answer is, um,
go to the science. So twenty five years ago when
I started this, they were lost in trying to figure
out what it was all about. They didn't know if

(03:45):
it was a form of schizophrenia, they didn't know, you know,
if it was the walking well, and they began studying
various obvious aspects of the disorder, which were many people
who have the disorder were incredibly impulsive. Um, after a
period of time they kind of figured out the whole
impulsivity cycle and they continued, I'm turning about. Neurobiologists continued

(04:09):
to look at what this was all about. So in
order to explain this, you have to understand that it
was like a morass. Nobody really knew what it was,
and they just could describe behaviors. Marshall Inahan came up
with a quote theory of what borderline was. And her theory. Remember,

(04:29):
a theory is not a fact, the theory of somebody's idea.
Your theory, my theory, your theory, okay. But her theory
was taken as if it was etcht in stone. And
she said that borderline was people who had um um
lived in an invalidating environment. They weren't suited to their environment,

(04:50):
and uh, it was sort of a mismatch and they
were invalidated by their environment and that caused this disorder.
Their emotions were not recognized in childhood and therefore they
developed these symptoms so to speak. Genetic. No, she did
not say genetics. That is the point. Okay, you're on
it already. She did not say genetic. She did not

(05:13):
say genetic at all. And it's point seven four percent
genetic from studies twenty years ago in un Norway or Sweden.
That men's name is Torgussen, and there have been other
studies on the genetic loading of BPD. The first thing
we do with our families is we make them fill
out of family tree chart. And you could see that

(05:34):
this one was alcoholic and this one was depressed, and
this one was said, and this one was negative. And
the person gets all of these traits all at once.
It's sort of like a critical mass. But it is
definitely inherited. Not only is it inherited, but we we
have a helpline. And um Boris presented a my intern

(05:56):
Boris was sitting here. He presented a poster with me
at the American College of North like a pharmacology. On
a study we did on autism. We found out one
out of four people with borderline have a relative with
autism or Aspergers. It's absolutely something that has a heredity basis. Well,

(06:16):
I feel like as a dad, on one level, that's
great because it's like not my fault, but as a dad,
it's terrifying because you could have your children could have it. Yeah, Joshua,
in your instance, how did this start to manifest itself?
And how do you feel that you've waited a very
long time to look for a diagnosis. Um you know,

(06:39):
I think I've been struggling for years with like like
mood swings and aggression. Sure, and like anger is like
a big part of my issue. But having kids definitely
made me see how my actions were affecting other people.

(07:02):
Having kids made you see that. It was like if
I was just as a couple when before we had kids,
I think I was suffering from BPG. Yeah, but when
you have but you create patterns to deal with and
they're not healthy patterns. But we had created patterns as
a couple, I would get really angry, I would get

(07:23):
really sad, and then we would like, we would work
it out. But once you have kids, you kind of
have to start dealing with your ship and seeing how
it affects it. I I relate to that myself. Sure, absolutely,
that's a kind of incredible news for me. It gives

(07:44):
you a way into treatment that I've never heard anybody
really talk about well, because one of the difficulties about
borderline personalities sort of which if you give me a
few minutes to explain the biology, you would see what
I'm talking about is that they are basically miswired, and

(08:07):
so they do not realize cause an effect. So they
don't realize that when they go off and go into
a rage or into a decline or not talking or whatever,
avoiding whatever behavior they're doing on the turn of a dime,
like very quickly that the other person has affected and

(08:28):
so not realizing that person bees behavior changed because of
what I did. It's very hard to get in there
and do treatment when there isn't the the connection in
the brain that says, oh what did I do so? Uh.
Part of the problem that we have with families is
they see their loved one is suffering and they do

(08:50):
not know how to get them into treatment. And if
they get them into treatment, which the way that DBT
has changed, um, even though they're in treatment, UM, they're
not in treatment voluntarily. They don't know why they're in treatment.
I think the best thing to do is to talk
about what do we know today about borline personality disorder?

(09:14):
Not what you read on the end today. They're not
they're not manipulative, they're not um angry, they're not trying
to trip you up. They're not evil, they're not bad.
What do we know so? UM? What we know is
we have to go back to Charles darwin evolution. We
have to think about hunter gatherers running around on the

(09:38):
selva in the jungle. What kept the hunter gatherer alive? Well,
the more acutely aware you were of your surroundings so
that you could detect danger, the more chance you had
to survive. So VPD makes up six five nine percent
of the American population. I think that's like eighteen million people.

(09:59):
That's a are the people with a disorder? Why do
they have this inherited disorder? So what makes a good
hunter gatherer? Well, the first thing is in your brain.
You receive stimuli from the outer of the world through
a part of your brain that's called the amygdala, it's
dead center and your brain. And a cow, a monkey, um,

(10:24):
a lizard, a fish, um, a a turtle, they all
have this primary system in their brain. You would call
it a fight or flight system. And this is a
system that responds to danger. Well, just you're not scientists.
What do you think are people with borderline more less
or normally responsive to danger? I would say I respond

(10:48):
to everything like it's danger. That's right, because your brain
is wired to be hunted gatherer when primitive man, that's right.
That's where you are. So when you go into school
and and you're in school in the first grade and
everybody's moving around and all the kids are doing and
twitching and blah blah blah, you're getting all of this

(11:10):
stuff in and you can't filter it out because your
brain is wired to respond to danger in the moment.
Now that's all well and good if you could figure
out what the danger is. But now there's a circuit
in your brain. So the first thing is that you
have a thoundus that picks up the sensory impressions, goes
into your amygdala, classifies it, and then it moves up

(11:33):
to be figured out what did I just experience. Well,
with borderline, what we have clear cut evidence is everything
you see, you see negatively. So if I if I
come in late, I came in late to screw you up.
If I came in early, I came in early to
screw you up. If I come in on time, that

(11:53):
you say, well didn't you realize I need five minutes
to set up and something? No win, So you have
a negative buya. Everything that's going on is going to
have a negative outcome. It's all about you. She did
it to me on purpose. He came late to find
a chair. Why did she bring these people? So everything
becomes a complicated thing of negative bias. Why did you

(12:14):
bring these people? I mean, I'm happy to see you
to educate them? She has bodyguards, negative bias, self referential behavior.
So if it's raining. It's not raining on New York.
It's raining on you to spoil your podcast. Colloquially, is
this what we call like a you know, persecution complex?

(12:34):
You it looks like paranoia, so it's negative bias, it's
self referential. And then when you walk in a room,
you search the faces to see who's rejecting you. And
you do this all automatically with no control in your body,
because this is like nature, it just happens. So, um,

(12:57):
this is like the same experience I had, So Jason
tist to like fully answer your question, like, um, a
year and a half ago, I Um, I tried to
commit a suicide and the way my wife stopped it.
I'm sorry, No, it's perfectly to be expected trauma. The

(13:20):
way she stopped she had again, at least my son
talk talked me down. What did he say to you?
He didn't know I was in my bedroom. He said
he wanted to talk to me. You wanted to see me. Then,
when you talk about like seeing how you affect other

(13:43):
people and the something has to change, can I ask
you what was the trigger that made you want to
commit suicide? What had happened? I was fighting with my
wife we've been fighting for a long time time. We
had been together for about nine years at the time,

(14:04):
and had partially because I had PPT. We had a
really really difficult relationship. I think she said I took
as a criticism, which is correct. What am I explaining?
So I only say that because it's hard to talk about,
but I also think it's like important. Absolutely, that's what happened.

(14:24):
I commend you for talking about this, for sure, and
I hope everybody that's sitting in this room realizes that
his physical appearance, his body, everything changed when he started
to talk about that. It was a complete shift in effect.
But I can shift back into regular effect now. That
was very good. But the point being, if I was

(14:46):
your wife and I saw that happen to you, how
would I respond? Yeah, Well, what I wanted to say
is when you're talking about these three things that you
just laid forth. So after I that happened and I
gotta diagnosis from my therapist, I went and I read
the description of BPD, and, like what you're saying now,

(15:07):
it was so eerie to read characteristics list of characteristics
that like described what I had been going through for years.
You know, it was like with no explanation, no, and yeah,
and I know it's not me. I'm not This is
when I struggle with now, like I'm not just bp D,

(15:27):
I'm more than this disorder and I bear responsibility for
my actions that come from the disorder. Like it's still
meets still my karma's still the consequence and yet to
see this like shadow self of like here are so
many things you struggle with written down that someone else

(15:48):
has seen as a pattern and like people like you
Valerie study was so um, it's like liberating in some way.
It was it felt like it must have felt like
some sort of epiphany or something that did anyone explain
the new biology to you? Okay? What is missing from

(16:11):
the field is a fact that when you have these
characteristics which are not in your control, you must realize
that they're not in your control. When you feel criticized,
it doesn't matter whether you had the jury in and
they say, well was he criticized wasn't he? The point
is that's how you felt, and for you, that's what

(16:33):
is a fact, what you felt at that moment. So
at that moment, when you're feeling all of this, you
have no way of knowing that there's an alternative viewpoint
or that you could change that those thoughts um. The
other person at the same time is side by side
with you and has an experience, and they say past

(16:56):
the butter, which is an example I used in my book.
You're at the dentity when you say pass the butter,
and the person is suddenly blown up and yelling and upset,
and you don't know why because they heard you don't
want me to eat. You think I'm too fat, You're
taking the food away from me. I'm not the maid.
Why don't you ask him? So on, So the communication
between two people who are close to one another breaks

(17:20):
down because you're here and they're there. I referred as
emotional color blindness. So you're seeing redness seeing green, and
they don't know you're color blind, and you're arguing over
what the color is, but nobody knows you're color blind,
and you don't know you're color blind, so it's a
no win. What I discovered since two thousand and thirteen

(17:42):
from a group of borderlines. I run a group once
a month, and what I discovered was that on top
of this negative bias, self referential um um rejection seeking,
is that all of this funnels down into a feeling
of shame. I am a bad person. I did something wrong.

(18:03):
I deserve this. This is I am bad and evil
And if you knew me, you would know how bad
I am, and you wouldn't want to know me. And
that was when my whole concept of borderline changed, because
I realized that they are walking around It's not just
the incident in the moment. It's this sack of pain

(18:24):
that they carry around about every single thing in their life.
So for example, if you're sitting in the bed and
your feeling suicidal and your son comes in and he
talks to you, and you see what happened, Now you
have shame, like oh, I said, and my son and
he's not gonna want to be with me. It's like
a rolling ball that keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,

(18:45):
and it's daily and it's there all the time. It's
responsible for addiction, it's responsible for rages. And in studying shame,
I sort of found an answer to all of this,
which almost every behavior and bore a line comes back
to a sense of shame. I'm a bad person. Okay,

(19:06):
we're gonna take a necessary break to hear from our
sponsors and and we'll be back with Valerie Poor after that.

(19:33):
I feel like at this point for a number of reasons.
I mean, I do think thanks to a lot thanks
to DBT and thanks to my own like spiritual practice
and just working on it, I'm in a good place
with my kids. My marriage is done, but there are
other factors and and we have a good relationship and

(19:56):
you know, but yeah, if anyone is looking on tinder
um or bumble or hinge or um classified just kidding um,
but this will dog me or this will be part

(20:20):
of my parenting for the rest of my life, independent
of the fact that my kids, because it is largely
you know, genetic and nature, they might as well suffer
from BPD. But it's but I also can't ask a
five and seven year old to understand that, like, hey,

(20:40):
daddy is just really angry some you know, like how
do you talk to it? And I don't want to
just to briefly just interject. You also use the acronym DBT,
which I don't believe we have clarified here because we've
talked about BBT in the field. We talk about three

(21:01):
letter treatments. The person here, could you clarify what does yes? Okay,
well what DBT stands for dialectic behavior therapy. Got it.
So for example, in the moment he walks in a
room and somebody says, past the butter, he's already up there,

(21:22):
his sympathetics going. We want to engage his paris sympathetic,
which would slow down his heartbeat and calming down. We
don't know how because we're just a wife or a
mother or whatever, or a friend or a kid, yeah,
or a kid, and um, you see all this agitated behavior,
and this behavior could last for three minutes. So that's

(21:43):
that's the other side of it, because you could walk
in and say hi there, and all of a sudden
he comes back into like the person you know, and
you understand. The other people say, where did that crazy
person go? Was just screaming at me? Okay? So DBT
is dialectic behavior therapy, and the magic were there is

(22:04):
dialectic because when you have a thought, when you get
these feelings and it turns into a thought and you
feel I'm being rejected, they don't like me whatever. At
that moment, that feeling is experienced as a fact. You
feel it as it's etched in stone and is how
I feel. I had an incredible experience the other day

(22:28):
with a kid in my DBT group, the group of
people with borderline, and his mother is in my class,
so I knew the story from the mother. So the
boy tells me this story of he's he's a young
man who went to medical school, graduated from medical school,

(22:48):
and was doing a residency and for some reason got
thrown out of the residency programs. Now, let's think in
our mind. You went through four years of college, you
went four years of medical school, you're now in residency,
and now they threw you out. What in hell is
going on? So he's from a religious Jewish family and
he's home with his family now in a religious Jewish family.

(23:11):
The sun becoming a doctor is he's now walking on water.
He's attained the Okay, so he's walking on water. Only
he got fired, and he got fired from one place. Well,
he could have had a lousy pause. It could have
been something you could apply to another place. But no,
this kid is flattened. He will never be a doctor.

(23:32):
He's a complete loser. The shame has rolled over him
like a tank. Okay, Well, now cut to the moment
of where this interaction happens. He's with his mother. It's
over the New Year's holiday, and the mother was sitting
with him filling out an application for some job. What
kind of job it is, certainly not being a doctor?

(23:53):
And the kid so, now you say, what emotions was
he feeling when the doctor is filling out in a
job thing for you know, a sweeper in a hospital
or a taxi driver or you know, shame, nothing but shame,
nothing but enormous shame. But the mother was not very

(24:13):
cooperative in my class and hasn't brought in yet. Oh,
you have to fill it out. You need a job,
you have to work after that. And so what emotion
is now coming up? Like a volcano? No, not anger,
the anger, secondary showy shames coming up and he doesn't
want to do it, and he can't do it, and
he walks away, and the mother saying, oh, but you

(24:33):
have to do it, you have to do it. So
he tells me this story, which I've already heard from
the mother. So I say, you know, what were you
feeling at this time? How did you deal with it? So,
going to back to what is DBT, he recites every
DBT skill that you're supposed to use, to bring down
your emotions, to figure out what your emotion is, your

(24:56):
distressed tolerance skills, your U distress tolerance, your emotional regulation skills,
interpersonal effectiveness. He's got it all down and he's telling
me everything he's doing. But I'm looking at this kid
and he hasn't got a clue about why this all happened.
That's you have. That's like, um, a critique of DBT. No,

(25:21):
that's an observation, an observation dc abervation. Of course, I
see what's happening. He realizes his emotions are up there,
he realizes they're out of think and he just wants
to bring them down, but he has no clue to
what started this cycle. Yes, to answer your question Jason,

(25:43):
in some like very neutral way as well, like DVT,
Dialectic behavior therapy is like a group of skills, like
very just practical strategies. They're just that. They're like there's
a ton of acronyms. Some of them don't make that
much sense, but it's like, dear man, your man is
the best one. You go ahead, what we get to that?

(26:05):
But what you're saying, the strategies without an understanding of
the they work, they work to bring it down in
the moment, but you still don't understand your core. You
don't understand what happened and why your emotions went like that,
and you feel that's a recipe for failure. Yeah, because
over time, how do you know how to prevent you know,

(26:28):
the idea is not just too when I'm up here
shaking like a weave, I should breathe or do something.
The question is why did I react like that? Because
if all you're involved with is this, I gotta keep
me calm, I gonna bring me down, you are completely
vulnerable to interactions with people because you don't know what happened.

(26:48):
So he could have said to his mom, mom, do
you know when you talk to me about getting a job,
it makes me feel like a complete failure. It makes
me very uncomfortable. So I'm gonna go take a walk
and I'll talk to you later because this is making
me feel very upset. That might have given him some
power over himself. Yeah, DBT is like extremely um, I

(27:11):
would say from like experiencing it and being in the class,
like very external Yes, like look, we're not going to
be concerned with their root causes or any of that.
It's like here's how you talk to someone for a
request when you want to when you want to say
no to their request. Okay, Now you're in a disregulated state.
Here is distressed tolerance. So you have you avoid that state.

(27:33):
And that's where the acronyms come in, because supposedly you're
supposed to think of all these things when you're not disregulated,
practice them, and then use them when you do get disregulated.
Can you tell me what dear man is now? A
dear man is a complicated one to subscribe, express up
your confident reinforces an acronym. Yeah. No, the acronyms are insane.

(27:55):
And if I have to like level one major like
criticism against DBT, it's like for isn't all the acronyms
make no sense? Because half the time she uses like
the letter like the third letter in for the first
thing in the acronym. It's like that. It's not like
improved that acronyms work. One of them is improved the
moment and one of the eyes I think it's improved.
It's just like in give fast, get fast, get fast,

(28:20):
that whole phrase is an acronym. Okay. So the bottom
line is the skill is wonderful. Okay, I'm up there,
I'm banging against the ceiling. How do I bring myself down? Okay?
The bottom line is I have to live in the world.
My kid is going to come in and say, Daddy,
take me to the baseball game, and I'm gonna have
to say no. The kid's face is gonna fall, and

(28:41):
I'm going to feel I'm a failure as a father
and blah blah blah, and I'm going to go into
the whole cycle and I'm not gonna know why. So
the point is that, dear man, because I know Marsha's
so well, and I know how she came about with this.
If Marsha's treatment is based on Marsha's sense of having
DBT and controlling herself in the moment, it's this but

(29:04):
he's but it's it's completely within composing you said. So,
I asked this young man, well, why were you doing this?
And why were you doing this? He had the correct
answer for every single skill. But now, in six months
or a year, what is going to happen to those
skills if he hasn't made the connection to what started

(29:28):
this whole thing in the first place. And that's what
I teach. I want them to see that there are
other people and that the other people had an effect
on you and you couldn't cope with it. So you
went into all your dear man or your DBT skills,
but you didn't connect to what was the trigger. I
like a good metaphor, and what you're describing to me

(29:50):
sounds like DBT is kind of like a strategy to
stabilize the house. But you're talking about getting down into
the foundation, to the core of what I'm talking about.
Why did else? Why did the fire starts? So it's
DBT is like after the fact I'm interested in when
they're sitting at the Dentner table. That's why I said,
have your wife called me. We do run a class

(30:12):
that can improve your relationship even if you're divorced, because
it teaches her to understand that you don't cause this behavior,
that it's an automatic thing, and that she can bring
it down in two minutes if she knows what to
say when she understands what's happening. What's happening is you
are in the bloody jungle. You just heard this huge sound.

(30:35):
You think that there's a big bore coming at you,
and you don't have your other people around you to
slave the boar and you're sitting there and you're gonna
be eaten up and killed and what are you gonna do?
And you're feeling powerless and you're feeling like why did
I come out by myself? And all of this is
happening and it's automatic and you have no control over it.
How would you describe um borderline personality disorder like to

(31:01):
my kids who have seen me in disregulated states? What
a wonderful question. I think that, um, you have to
explain a little bit about how brains work, and that
daddy gets angry very quickly sometimes and he misunderstands what's
going on. And sometimes you could help me by saying

(31:22):
there's a magic word that comes from mentalization based treatment.
When the person is going up, it's because they feel threatened.
This starts out with the amingdala and a sense of threat.
When they feel this high sense of threat, how do
you bring down the threat? Well, if you walk in
a room and you think I'm here and I'm angry

(31:44):
with you and I'm going to do something bad to you,
You're immediately going to go like this. You're up, ready,
ready for fight. A fight, and I say, wow, looks
like you think I'm upset with you. But at the
same time, I have a pain in my stomach and
I'm making a face because my stomach hurts and has
nothing to do with you. It's not my intention word

(32:04):
intention to upset you. When you say it's not my intention,
it's like you put a pin in the balloon and
the person comes down. As easy as that, just the
understanding of what is going on and what language would
bring it down actually works. However, the problem is that

(32:29):
DBT is taught as if it's global and you're knowing
it will alleviate these problems. But my feeling is that
your problems are into personal that means to people, and
so the other person should know something about what you're
experiencing so that they don't get oh my god, there

(32:50):
he goes again. He's gonna yell at me and we're
gonna have a fight. Well, especially with kids, I feel
because like they don't know they internalize all these warped
lessons based on disregulate my disregulated behavior. Your behavior is
not disregulated. Okay, disregulated is a judgment. Your behavior is intense,

(33:11):
your behavior is extreme, but disregulated means there's some level
where it's perfect. Okay. So that's very important because Lennan
said there's emotional disregulation. It's not emotional, it's emotion regulation disorder.
They can't regulate. Okay with BBT BBD going to botch

(33:32):
this continuously, so advance and are the reactions uh DoD they?
Did they change? Sort of? Do they get more acute
dependent on the relationship for example, like you know, you know,
spousal relationship or you know a boss relationship or somebody
you're seeing more regulated versus you know, I think of

(33:52):
a person at the airport, Yeah, having road rage or
airport rade to that kind of thing. Can I just
say one thing about that, because from my experience, my
VPD symptoms were like primarily just with my wife, Like
in this room, I'm like with Andrew, my boss, with everyone,
I'm cool. I My friendships have always been a little volatile,

(34:15):
But really where it got so intense was a relationship
was with my wife and not even that much with
my kids. I mean, my kids see it as a
um outgrowth sort of of being in a bad way
with with my wife. Okay, So it was that specific
relationship which is the most intense. The answer to that is, firstly,

(34:39):
VPD shows up the most with the people you're the
closest to. So I call it the way to syndrome.
You walk down the street with your loved one, you
sort of a bit of the worst husband of the
whole planet earth. No one is as horrible as you are.
You're just disgusting, You're horrible. Blah blah blah. We get
to the rest aurant, Oh why do we to set

(35:00):
the table near the near the window? And I call
it the way to sense. That's what it's like. And
you say, wait a minute, what has happened? When did
that person go? Because you were just up there and Hi,
I'd like to I've lived with this, I've seen this.
It's just it's maddening. It's completely maddening. Okay, So that's
that's one aspect of it. Um. I think that what

(35:25):
you're getting at with your children is that you need
to find a way to explain to your children that
you misinterpret things and that, um, you don't do it
on purpose, and it's not their fault. The most important
thing with children is that they not inculcate the idea

(35:48):
that they created the behavior. But what I have heard
from people who have a parent with borderline is they
grow up with a sense of insecurity of like any
and it's the stability of the moment will go egg Yes,
that's a horrible book with a wonderful title. Um, I

(36:09):
don't know the book. I'm sorry, I just had eggshells.
I'm walking on eggshells. It's a book with no science
and it demonizes I envy that title. It's the best
title because you are walking on eggshells, because at any moment,
you could say anything. We'll be back after a word

(36:33):
from our sponsors. I had never thought about shame in

(36:57):
my adult life. I mean, I'm a screwed up person.
I've made a lot of mistakes, I do nutty things,
but shame is not something I walk around with in
my daily life. So I had a class with all Things.
Twenty one borderline showed up that night. Never had that
many again. And I showed the neurobiology slides and there

(37:18):
was one slide where they could see. They call it
ecological momentary assessment. So they take a person with borderline
and or a normal person follow him around all day,
what did you feel? How many times did you feel happy?
And they had this chart and blah blah blah, and
there was shame and discussed, and so that route through

(37:38):
the course of the day. Yes, so borderlines had the
numbers were high, and the normal people the numbers were lower,
and the normal people did not have shame and disgust.
So I'm looking at this. I've shown it a zillion
times to families and the whole class stopped me and
they said that slide is wrong. I'll never forget it.
What do you mean that slide is wrong? Shame should

(37:59):
be the highest one? I said, what do you mean?
I was like a dope, like, what do you mean?
Shame should be the highest one? And they started to
describe the feeling of shame. And I sat there like
the village idiot. I didn't know truly what they were
talking about. And and Boris has been with me a year.
We have articles all over the artist office, were studying everything.

(38:22):
We had not looked up shame and never heard people
discussing at a conference. It was like, so we started
researching shame. We put a survey up on the internet,
can you describe your shame feelings? So we have about
hundred somewhere around there different responses from people with borderline
describing how they feel when they feel shame. And I'm

(38:46):
stuck with this because I've sent it out to this man, Pennybacker,
and he studies language and he's analyzed language, and we
don't know what to do with the terms. We wanted
to get it out there so that your wife would
recognize when you're feeling shame when you say buzzwords abc D.
But it was so profound. I still don't know quite

(39:08):
how to present it to publish it because I had
no idea that people with borderline lived in so much shame.
Shame is internal, Guilt is external. Shame is I am bad.
Guilt is I did something bad. Guilt is pro social.
I can apologize. I can send you flowers, I can

(39:30):
send you tickets to Hamilton's, I can take you out
to dinner. But shame is I am bad? And you
are going to reject me because why would you want
to be with someone so bad? So two things, and
does this resonate with you? Yeah? But I think the
way that it resonates with me And something that was
like very when I found out that it was a

(39:51):
term change my life is the idea of splitting, you know,
splitting is when it's like, when things are bad, they'll
always be bad. When things are good, it will always
be good. There's no middle ground or black and white thinking,
which I think affects a fair number of folks with borderline. Well.
They describe it as a symptom. I have questions as
to how it's interpreted, but go ahead. But for me, UM,

(40:13):
the distillation of things into a solid statement that every
time I got into an argument with my wife, everything
was going to be terrible forever, total despair. Any time
that things were going well, I totally shut off anything
that was negative. UM. And the way that it relates
to shame is that if I felt bad about myself,

(40:35):
there was no understanding of the impermanence of that mood
or that this is something that's happening now but maybe
later I won't feel bad about myself. Is just like
I am bad. You know. There was no subtlety. UM.
It's it's very profound topic because UM, the research that's

(40:58):
been done on it is sparse and different places. It's
not a unified thing. I was just said a three
day conference in Boston on a new treatment of PTSD
that dealt a lot with shame. Guilt is pro social.
You can get past guilt. Everybody feels guilt, you make amends.
But shame is within the person and it is it's

(41:21):
why people get PTSD. They have tremendous shame about something
that happened to them. But borderlines are in a perpetual
state of shame. And most of the time when you
ask how does borderline manifest itself, there's two points that
come up to that. One is borderline manifest itself by
the person can act as if he's okay when the

(41:42):
stress level is not too high. So if we're not
stressing you, you're the greatest guy. Was pleasure to meet you,
We had a lovely jet, so on and so forth.
If I'm talking to him about his marriage, his performance
in bed, how we're going to raise the kids, are
we going to buy a house or not, And these
things are stressful, everything's going to come out and he

(42:03):
can't hold it back and kind of even be the
littlest things like we're going to be late to the airport.
We're gonna because I just, yeah, I don't hear we're
gonna be late to the airport. As a statement of fact,
I hear it is like you are always someone who's
like late to the airport. Why can't you be on time?
You spoil every event. Everything gets screwed up because of

(42:24):
you and in your circumstance. Do you feel that it
was sort of like briefly episodic, like it was, you know,
here in a minute and gone in a minute, or
could it last for longer periods? My way of interpreting
the world was kind of fuck up. Yeah, But um

(42:44):
so that was like a constant thing. But when it
flared up, but it flared like and I know you
don't like saying this regulation, but when I would go
into these rages and start repeating myself and have like
ticks and like, you know, like that that was episodic.
But obviously that was so hard on the relationship that

(43:06):
the relationship got worse and worse and worse, and I
spiraled and spiraled and spiral, you know, like it it
ramped up in how often I was getting in the states,
and um and then as my partner reacted to something
that was clearly so difficult because I had no idea
what's going on, then I would get even more worked up.

(43:26):
So it's like a pretty I think the term is
vicious cycle. I think the cliche tse here is vicious.
I wanna bring us back to a little bit of
the parenting father laying here, and I still like, I
feel we've got some great advice about talking to your kids.
And first of all, Joshua, I don't wan mean to
suck up to you all the time, but this is
exceptionally brave of you to talk about this in those

(43:48):
kind of forum, and I am sure there this is
the kind of thing that not just the people who
regularly listen to this, but are going to share this
among people and people will talk about this. But let's
get some idea about talking to children about this, because
I think that is probably one of the most consequential
things you can do. The The point is is that

(44:09):
if you are four or three, or seven or nine
or twelve, and you're living in a state of this
stability and then there's rage, then there's despair. There's rage despair.
It's not bipolar in any way. It's just these shifts
in mood and so you develop inside you this state

(44:30):
of walking on eggshells of what am I going to
say or do that's going to set it off? You
have no idea that there's an internal mechanism that's going on.
It could be the noise of a truck. It could be, um,
the fact that you wanted um, you know, steak for
dinner and you've got chicken. Uh. It could be that

(44:51):
your wife is late and you're sure she's having an affair.
I mean, it could be any one of a billion
things that have no real importance. The question is it's
a perceptual disorder in a language disorder, and the closer
you are to the person, the more this is going
to set you off. So you go and you're there,

(45:14):
You're triggered, and you're up there. Well, you've now upset
the apple cart, and the whole dinner table is like
stressed out. How do you realize that I've just done
it again? How do I bring it down? Well, firstly,
at some point or other, depending on the age of
the children, maybe we have to figure out some way
to do a little booklet for you that explains this

(45:38):
Daddy has changes in in mood and it's not about you.
You didn't do anything wrong. It wasn't your fault. It's
my problem. And you have to just do this a
zillion times. You have to do it every time it
happens with the statement, it's not your fault, you didn't
cause this, this is me and I'm really sorry I
spoiled dinner. So this has to be with an acknowledgement

(46:05):
from both sides of the relationship that you're going to
do this, and both of you are going to reinforce
this with the children because you and your wife to
say that Daddy is not doing this against you because
of you, that this is not your problem, you didn't
cause this. When we had this girl give a talk

(46:25):
at her and she talked about her mother having BPD
and her mother getting into these insane, crazy situations, she
thought they were all her fault. And then the other
side of it is she felt her job was to
keep her mother calm her. She took on the responsibility
of I have to keep my mother calm at five,

(46:48):
at six, at seven, at eight, because she knew if
the mother went off, everything went off. Sometimes there wasn't
a different adult there to calm it down. So firstly,
I think you you have to talk about um. You know,
people's brains, this is how you react to things. And
when things happen to Daddy, I go up higher than

(47:09):
other people. You're not disregulated. Don't use that word because
it's it's judging yourself. It's extreme, and it's scary. If
you're sitting there and all of a sudden, somebody says
something and you're up here, it's terrifying. You've lost control
of your inner self. It's scary. How do you bring
it back down? And at the point when you lose control,

(47:29):
so you have the amigdul, it goes to the singulate
and then that cycle that that circuit turns off the
thinking part of your brain with decision making goes so
within that two seconds of response, your ability to think
has left you and until you bring it down, it

(47:50):
won't come back. Well, how do you bring it down? Well,
there's a book you might want to read called Compassion
Focus Therapy. Well you have to do is breathe in
within one minute seven to nine and take breaths with
I don't think seven to nine regulates your heartbeat. Yeah,

(48:12):
I mean I think for me, it's like I get
in those extreme states and then my kids see it,
and then how do I explain it or what do
I say? And it is really helpful. It's rare that
they do something that sets me off. In fact, that's
why now that I'm separated, it's like there's very we
don't have these instances very much, but it's like until
they get older, Okay, um, we're gonna have to have

(48:36):
you back. But the but the idea that m they
see that extreme state, and I do, and I have
been trying to talk to them about it. I don't
say that I have borderline. I don't think they're old
enough to really understand that. But I do see a
time when they're going to if they do find out
about it and they're like, oh, it's genetic, I'll be

(48:57):
very I'm nervous to explained to them back three spaces. Okay,
so you're separated from your wife and you're not having
these big issues with your children because your children aren't
triggering you the way your wife did. How do your
children interpret that? Well, that's about it for the Fatherly Podcast. No,

(49:22):
but I know what you're getting at. Getting it. You're
driving at the idea that the children and the wife
would become resentful because she would think the children would
internalize that she's the one making daddy Matt what Yeah, No,
I mean he sees it. In other words, when the
wife is not there to trigger you, you can stay calm.

(49:45):
Oh but we but okay, I just want to be
clear about this that, uh, we have a very good relationship.
Like we spend a lot of time together. It's not
like every time I'm we have a very I don't
know you still love yes, Okay, don't be ashamed, that's okay,
I'm not. But we're like a house with two families,

(50:08):
is what I call it. That's who we are. You're
like a family. We're like an empty house with a
broken heart. No, we're a family with two houses. Uh.
This is very very for me. I work with couples
and I have couples in my class. And um, when

(50:30):
you have your DBT program, you have a section called
radical acceptance. That's the section I'm on now, okay, well,
smile willing hands, Yeah, smile willing hands is action, that's
end result. Where what is it that you're radically accepting?
Radical acceptance is I'm in a marriage where I love

(50:51):
my husband very much and he loves me and he
loves his children, but he gets triggered by things, and
when he's triggered, he's incapable of being a reciprocal partner
to me, can I live with that? And speaking from
your wife's point of view, yeah, I can't answer that question.

(51:12):
That's the question. So we work with families with partners
to talk about what that sense of reciprocity means and
can you get it sometimes in that all the time,
and can you live with it? Sure? Because that's a
hard ask. And I have to be kidid. I recognize
elements to myself and my relationship with my wife and

(51:35):
my family, you know, and getting agitated and triggered by
you know, very benign things. And it is a hard
ask to ask of loved ones to not just you know,
recognize your you know, your triggers, but to modify their
behavior because they know of triggers. I mean, it's like
asking someone to never go above the speed limit. It's

(51:56):
just it's hard. It's hard. You can't get a successory
even about that speed limit. It's like, hey, don't try
to go the speed limit because of your car is
fucked up, So don't even try, right, Because it's not
like this is my experience. It's like I'm asking you too.
I don't want to say walk on eggshells, but I'm
asking you to do these actions around me with understanding

(52:17):
that any reasonable person would be able to deal with
these things. But I do another thing, which is I'm
kind of a maverick in this field because I'm asking
the families to learn what it is that sets you
off and to understand that when you said I'd like
to have a roast beef for dinner and you come

(52:39):
home in this chicken, that if the wife doesn't say,
the reason this chicken is because blah blah blah blah
blah blah, and I didn't forget that you asked about
roast beef. At the same time, I'm going to have
roast beef tomorrow night, so can you put up with
the chicken for tonight? Now, people do not go through
all of that daily life this level of explanation. They say,

(53:00):
don't be such an asshole. But this level of explanation
in daily life would take away the sense of intention
of she's out carmy, and therefore you might start to
go up because you would feel like I wasn't heard,
and then when the explanation comes, you can bring it down.

(53:20):
It's called noticing what triggers will come and dealing with
them in the moment as they show up with with
an armorarium of tools that can bring down the triggers.
But the point is you can't expect a borderline to
deal with borderline feelings and emotions in an atmosphere where

(53:41):
there's no adjustment from the world around you. You need
some help. You can't do this all by yourself. It's
also hard to ask somebody in it if you just
had a big reaction. I was going to say, you
can deal with it when you're alone. Yeah, but who
wants to just be alone? You need a little dopamine

(54:02):
from other people. That's what YouTube videos are for. But
why is it difficult? And this supplies to parenting, to like,
why is it hard for to modify behavior with the
people that were closest too. I think of like, Okay,
you have professional relationships, you have bosses, you have colleagues,
and you're like, this guy is not very funny, so

(54:23):
I'm going to joke around with this person, or I
know there's a third rail topic with the boss that
I'm never going to bring up, and I can modify
my behavior that way. You can do that kind of
sleep walking around. But how is it so hard with
the people you're the closest to and care the most
about you say it's hard with the people your closest
because their opinion of you and their judgment of you

(54:46):
is very important. At the same time, a person with borderline,
if the boss doesn't say hello to them, they feel
they're going to be fired. Doesn't they go in quit?
You feel that sometimes? Yes, okay, they go in and
quit because the boss didn't say hello. The idea that
the boss didn't say hello because his car broke down.

(55:07):
The boss didn't say hello because his wife served them
with divorce papers, because he just opened the envelope and
he's fired, He's transferred to another office. He has to
let go of eight people. The company is in the red,
the company is not doing what it's supposed to do.
Fifty different things could have happened. But when the borderline
sees the boss not saying hello, it means the boss
doesn't like me, he hates me, he's gonna fire me.

(55:28):
I might as well quit before he doesn't. So you know,
I use these funny examples, but they're absolutely serious examples.
The thing is that a dialectic let's go back to
the term DBT, dialectic behavior therapy and dialectic is the
ability to keep two thoughts, two contradictory thoughts in your

(55:50):
mind at the same time, and the definition of borderline
is an inability to do that. So it's as if
when your mind goes into black, it's black. When your
mind goes into white, it's white. You know, Okay, I
I stood her up. I didn't come show up to
the movies on time. I was late and we missed
the movie. At the same time, whenever she's sick, I'm

(56:12):
there with flowers and candy, and when I take care
of the kids and I do whatever happens. And that's
where shame comes in. So part of what we're doing
in the office, which is driving me crazy, is trying
to figure out when does shame come because shame is
a totally negative emotion. It's an aversive emotion with no

(56:33):
hope of positive coming in. And part of dealing with
borderline is how do you change shame to either guilt,
which is tolerable, or bringing it down. We don't know
yet how to do that. And from my point of view,
being older and being at this a long while, I know,
really the very cutting edge of the new biology of

(56:55):
this disorder and the family members would come to my
class and the people with bp D learned this because
I feel you need to know this about yourself. The
thing I want to know is where does shame come from?
Where is it happening in the brain, what part does
it play at, what age does it come in, and
why doesn't it develop into guilt where you can cope

(57:16):
with it because nobody is all bad. The other side
I do want to say is you're very charming, very well.
But just wait, I'm very You're very charming. I'm just
looking at you. We just all met you. You have
a lovely smile, You're very charming. I can see your
your your you have good intentions, and you're not a monster.

(57:38):
So when you're with your wife, there's twenty five wonderful
things about you, and she finds positive things. The same
with your children. What you don't want to have is
an atmosphere of total tension where everybody is waiting for
when is daddy going to go off from? What are
we gonna do when it happens? And that's the problem
I think of why you have me here is how

(58:00):
do you cope with that? So I think that somehow
or other you have to really say that he's having
one of his emotions that I'm going to go in
the bedroom till I calm down. So it's not your fault,
and you guys, you know, play with your game. I'll
be back. That would be one way to do it,

(58:21):
but that you you have to get it out in
the open and talk about it, because basically, it's not
your fault. And if you think it's your fault and
you approach your children that way, it sets up what
you want to do. Is I think, based on hearing
people who have had moreline parents, is this terrible fear

(58:43):
that whatever I do is going to create this mood
swing and that he's gonna be mad at me, or
he's gonna yell, or he's gonna be mad at mommy,
and it'll be all my fault. Because children can't figure
out what's their fault. But then you're looking at are
young children. That's why I asked how old your children were.
As you get older, it gets more complicated. You know,

(59:07):
I can never do enough for they're always mad at me,
blah blah blah. So it's it's the area in the
field that is the least researched. Well, I have to
say it's a shame now. But as my therapist likes
to say, our time is I hope you've learned something.
Let's just take a pause here though, and just sort of,

(59:28):
you know, recognize what we've talked about here. And again
I said it before, but I commend you, Joshua for
talking about this and being candid with your personal you know,
pain and and vy vulnerability. You know, it's it's it's
an aspect of all of us that we seldom share

(59:49):
in public. And I think it's incredibly therapeutic to hear
your opinion and your expert opinion about all these things.
So I hope it helps. Yeah. This episode was produced
by Anthony Roman and me Joshua david Stein, engineered by
Jesse Schultz at I Heart. Thank you to Andrew Berman,

(01:00:11):
our executive producer, and Jason Gay my co host, Valerie
Poor my guest. Make sure you subscribe to the Fatherly
podcast on the I Heart Radio app or wherever you
listen to podcasts, and act you next week

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