Personal Stories

Therapeutic Alliance

As I found myself in yet another job debacle; the question screamed in my mind, “God, what is wrong with me?” I lost my cool again. I was told that my actions were inappropriate and bizarre. I wasn’t fired that time; but was encouraged to take extended leave. 

I immediately called my primary care physician. “Did you mouth off again?” she asked. Maybe you have a mood disorder, she added.  She referred me to three psychiatrists. I dialed each number with desperation, yet hope. As each psychiatrist returned my call, I struggled, between sobs, to ask for help. One psychiatrist stood out, and I made the appointment with him. I immediately felt his concern and compassion. That soothed me and finally stopped my sobbing. It turned out that he would become both my psychiatrist and my psychotherapist. 

The building of the therapeutic alliance with my therapist was not instantaneous. Although the initial phone call was soothing and encouraging, I found my therapist cold, distant and formal. And, I can imagine that my struggle with an eating disorder, over-exercising and cutting were frustrating to him. I also threatened to quit every other session, skipped sessions and refused to speak during some sessions. In the beginning, it was tumultuous and chaotic. He stood by me, though, and we moved past the acute challenges of those behaviors.

I shared about the shame I felt of having hundreds of one night stands. I never felt judged. He never lectured me. He listened with compassion, empathy and understanding. Ah, the understanding—to be cared for and understood for the first time is an indescribable feeling. I felt high and alive. I could share anything with him—secrets I had hidden for my entire life. It was truly liberating. A weight was lifted from me. I was healing as a result of this relationship—this alliance. 

I am 54 years old and I struggled with the intense pain and chaos of borderline personality disorder for decades. I felt suicidal. My only relief was found in self-harm. I felt that I was too old to heal. I felt despair and hopeless.

Today I feel hope. I am healing. I want to live a fulfilling and giving life. I want to continue therapy so I can continue to grow, heal and recover. I am grateful that my therapist is part of my life. We stuck by each other through many ups and downs. It was worth the work.

If you are living in the hell of BPD, don’t give up. There is help and hope. Keep searching until you find a therapist with whom you can build an alliance. It is freeing and healing beyond your wildest hopes and dreams.


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