Last night I sat in the opening session of a workshop I am hosting in my office this weekend by BPD Global, a family advocacy organization for loved ones with borderline personality disorder (BPD). As a specialist in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), the most empirically supported treatment for BPD, since 2004, I bear witness to so many individuals and families sharing their stories, the words of their lives, the shame that they carry, the paralyzing fear and despair, their hope nearly extinguished from the cruelty and lack of compassion they have met with in this world, their daily struggle to simply survive, let alone thrive, with the idea that they could move past their suffering seeming like a mirage that is just an illusion. “It seems so hopeless” was the refrain; “Is there hope?” they ask. Listening and joining with them in their experience I feel tears gathering behind my eyes and my legs and hands literally begin to shake. I am enraged with them at the disregard, abuse, and callous dismissal they have received and I long to somehow enable them to see that there absolutely, 100% is hope.
But who am I? How do I know? Am I just another professional they cannot trust, offering hollow consolation, while they remain in their own hell? Or perhaps I am just an unqualified quack who will further deplete their bank account and pretend to understand when I am nothing more than a really skilled showman.Who am I? I am Dr. Angela Klein. I am a clinical psychologist with a rigorous research training, a curriculum vitae of randomized trials, international publications and presentations, and expertise in highly specialized approaches to some of the most difficult presentations of emotional and behavioral disorders—BPD, self-harm, suicidality, chronic depression, bipolar disorder, pervasive anxiety disorders, and life-threatening eating disorders. I am an author with ideas for novels but so far one book, on the mindful eating program I have developed, building on the foundation of leaders in the field (“Mindful Eating from the Dialectical Perspective: Research and Application”). I am a therapist and guide, directing my own practice, available to my clients every day when they need me, supporting them and teaching them skills through our collaboration in individual sessions, group skills training, and coaching. And I am a testament to the reality that there is hope. That you can not only overcome whatever your suffering is but you can thrive. You can find joy and peace.
My life has been a relentless progression of moving through pain. I was born premature. My dad teases me that it was the only time I ever showed up early. My tiny fists clenched, I was a fighter from the beginning, against all odds. I was hospitalized for pneumonia at age 4, in an oxygen tent, with nurses that would beat my back without first waking me up in the middle of the night to break up the mucus. On my 15th birthday I found myself in a hospital again, my intake assessment for anorexia nervosa. After two and a half years, my weight plateaued, still underweight, my doctor literally fired me. He said he couldn’t help me anymore and good luck. So I had to figure out my own way out of the darkness. And I decided this was unacceptable. That I would develop an approach that would actually help. And I did. And I do not give up. On myself or anyone else. Others can push me away. That is their choice. But if they only let me in, my commitment is unwavering. And my story doesn’t end with my anorexia. That is only the beginning.
I offer you this. My message of hope. A path out of your suffering and self-destruction. It is possible. I have put it to the test in scientific paradigms and in my own life, every single day, and I have witnessed profound transformations time after time with those who have had the bravery to persist through the pain. This is what I do and who I am. It really is possible. I assure you. 100%.