Disclaimer: Still not a psychologist, just a messed up human being
I get so damn frustrated. I try to approach my issues head on, I engage in dialogues with people letting them know how I feel and try to remain as objective as possible. When I’m scared that won’t work I try to keep everything in and I can’t, the feelings flood me and it seeps out, sometimes in anger, usually in frantic sobbing or indulging in bad habits. In either case I am often met with confusion. I’m overreacting or starting drama.
I don’t feel like I’m being taken seriously, I’ve had it suggested to me by numerous people I used to love that I should simply be able to switch off, like it’s just that fucking easy. A diagnosis isn’t a cure. There isn’t a quick fix for people like me.
On this blog I’ve spoken a lot about the times it hasn’t worked. When I’ve had a friend who has bailed or someone has said something harmful. It must be pretty easy to imagine that I’m surrounded by people who I’m in constant conflict with. Despite the often negative tone of this blog, I have friends who I’ve grown so much closer to since being more open about my mental health issues to them. We’ve bonded over shared insecurities or they’ve reached out to me to offer support.
I think having these polarising experiences has left me with some insight. I know which behaviours support me and which ones make everything burn.
So what can you do if you have someone in your life with BPD? Granted, we can absolutely say things that are frustrating, maybe things that don’t make any sense to you. But if you’ve decided that you value having this person in your life there are some things you can do to make things easier for both yourself and your BPD loved one. Again, I am not a psychologist nor do I have any relevant training, this is meant as an informal guide and a reflection on my own experiences.
This sounds like a no brainer but it’s important. As someone who has BPD it can be really invalidating when I feel like my perspective isn’t being heard. If you are having a dialogue with someone who has BPD, give them time to explain how they are feeling and why. Don’t tell them they are being ‘rude’ or ‘unfair’ for expressing thoughts which are symptomatic of their illness. This helps us feel that our opinions are being valued rather than dismissed.
I’ve noticed that people can be scared to ask questions regarding mental health issues. While telling us that our thoughts or feelings are wrong isn’t likely to be helpful, you can ask us questions to help us unpack our responses to situations. This shouldn’t be limited to when we’re having a breakdown. Some of the most productive conversations I’ve had since becoming ill have occurred when friends or family have taken the time to get to know a little bit more about BPD and my mental health experiences. Ask them about anything that confuses you, ask about how you can support them. Be respectful and you have nothing to fear.
Call us on our bullshit
Invalidation is a potential risk here, but as long as you can voice your opinion without telling someone else theirs is crap it shouldn’t be an issue… oddly enough this ability is a rarity from what I’ve seen. Tell me if you disagree, I need that when I feel like the whole world is against me, but there’s no need to be a dick about it.
Yes, we can be frustrating as fuck to be around. This much has been made abundantly clear to me. Snapping won’t help anything, it will only make it worse. I have had a number of disagreements with friends which have been exacerbated by people lashing out. It (at least for me) immediately starts a spiral of fear. Fear that you hate me. Fear that you’ll abandon me. If you need some space let us know that, but be kind about it.
This might be the most important one. Please do not overstate your willingness to support someone with BPD if you do not intend to follow through. Recently I had a friend tell me that they didn’t think they could support me with my mental health issues but they’d still like to spend time with me. We went out for a nice dinner and didn’t talk about anything messy. While it’s upsetting to hear that someone wants that distance from you, it is so much better than feeding us false promises. I have a lot more respect for someone who can admit they can’t be there for me than people who feel like they need to fix me but ditch the second they realise mental illnesses aren’t a walk in the park.
I could definitely make a flask game out of how many insincere offers of support I’ve received. “I’d never abandon you”. Gone. “Let’s talk tomorrow!” Silence. “I’m always happy to listen.” Ghosted. When your entire self-worth hinges on the opinions of others and the people in your life repeatedly let you down… I can’t even put into words how worthless this makes me feel.
Take a good, honest look at your capabilities and don’t misrepresent yourself. Don’t make us your project. Don’t say you can be there for us if you’re not up for it. If things change and you find yourself no longer able to support your BPD loved one apologise, explain yourself and make sure they are safe; leaving an emotionally vulnerable person in a state of confusion and despair is irresponsible.
It is so rare that someone initiates a conversation with me. I remember a time last year when I actually started crying at work because a friend sent me a message asking me about how the inspection of the apartment we’d purchased had gone. No, I am not over exaggerating, I ducked into a storeroom for a few minutes so no one would see. Someone remembered something about my life and was interested in knowing more; I was in such a bad place that this very notion seemed surreal. Knowing that someone is actually thinking about me is sometimes so alien and so desperately needed, it honestly makes my day when this happens. If you have a Borderline in your life just ask how they’re going, send them a YouTube video of an odd couple of animal friends, anything! Something so simple can mean so much to people like me and it can be a good way of helping if you don’t want to get involved in anything too emotionally fueled.