As I have progressed on my mental health journey I am become increasingly aware of the importance of communication. This is far from an area I’ve mastered, and it is something I am continuously working on. As with many of my blog posts, I am writing about it to better this in order to share my insights with the BPD community and my loved ones, but am also writing to clarify things more for myself. I am in no way an expert and still have a lot of my own shit to get together.
Though communication is of course a delicate area in most people’s lives, this is especially true with BPD. I’ve always been highly analytical and I’m realising now that this has been my BPD at play my entire life. I’ll read into tone, word choice and basically find something passive agressive in anything said to me whenever I’m in a bad place. I think it’s a defense mechanism; it’s hardwired into my brain to be on guard.
So imagine how quickly things must snowball when a conversation turns hostile. About a week ago this happened between me and a close friend, George. I’d had a really shitty week; suicidal ideation, splitting, a lot of whiskey, backflipping between bingeing and starving myself. George had made the decision to take the side of someone who had hurt and abandoned me after refusing to discuss my perspective on the issue. Abandonment is a particularly nasty trigger for me and, as it turns out, so is feeling like I’m being stigmatised or misunderstood about my mental health issues by the people in my life. Ever since my mental health took a nosedive I’ve felt so incredibly alone and like a complete pariah.
I try to approach things directly and objectively these days on the recommendation of my psychologist. It’s really hard not to become overly emotional in these situations and I don’t manage it as often as I’d like, such is our curse*. One word back to me which is laced with aggression or invalidates my perspective and that hastily duct taped exterior falls apart pretty rapidly.
I’m trying not to write another bummer, so I want to focus on some of the things that we can do as Borderlines to get through these situations. Again, I don’t have all of the answers, in fact my lack of social success lately shows I in fact have very few answers. Regardless, here are some things that I have discussed with my partner as strategies to attempt with friends when things seem to be spiraling.
Keep it concise:
Ever texted someone a long message, explaining everything that’s wrong, only to have a miniscule part of it addressed, probably in a defensive manner? Start by figuring out what the most important information is that you need to get across. Take my George situation for example, I was stressed and wanted to articulate exactly how I was feeling. I rambled a bit and probably overloaded the guy. At the core of the issue I was feeling isolated, abandoned. Had I just opened with asking if we could chat sometime I could have eased us into a productive conversation and helped to relieve some of my socially anxious, no one wants to see me ever again feelings.
Don’t push your point of view:
I tried not to do this too much but I know I slipped up. It’s also something George did continuously and it really pissed me off. Explain how you feel and why, but don’t present opinions as fact. For those of us with BPD having someone completely invalidate your perspective can make us implode. That overwhelming feeling that we don’t know what’s real or not being taken seriously will make us either shut down or lash out. Normies generally won’t have this same reaction, but it still just makes people really defensive. Besides, it’s just not productive.
Take your time:
Another one I’m guilty of failing at. Take your time before you reply, read it over, make sure it’s level headed, edit it down. I’ll reply immediately and say everything I feel or lash out. Again, not productive, makes the other person defensive and it only really makes people believe all the terrible shit that’s said about us Borderlines.
Own your shit (but not too much):
This one I feel is kind of a double edged sword, I’ve been noticing sometimes makes people uncomfortable when I say “Yeah, I know I fucked up but I’m not the only one” but it’s important to get that across. Owning your shit is tough and a lot of people don’t know how to deal with it. I honestly believe that as Borderlines we can be rational, but we’re also not the only one at fault in any given situation. So don’t let anyone heap it all on you, which leads me to…
Know when to talk away
This might be the hardest. I haven’t spoken to Geroge since he sent a really nasty message and I told him it was out of line and I just can’t deal right now. Neither has he made any effort to contact me. I’d like to hope he’s just trying to give me the space I implied I needed but I feel like this is another one biting the dust. Some people just don’t know how to support us and aren’t willing to learn. Let them go, walk away. Maybe they’ll come back one day, a bit wiser, more mature, more capable. But until then I’m not putting myself through any more pain trying to explain that I’m not the monster they think I am.
*Fun fact: did you know Borderline Personality Disorder is also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder?