How to Be Friends With Someone Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

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This post has come about off the back of a conversation I had with a close friend who had been struggling to know how to react to me at times, or understand why I was behaving in certain ways. I’m so proud of her for having the strength to bring this up with me because it was never going to be an easy conversation, but it was one that had to happen sooner or later.

One of the things she mentioned was she had gone looking for information on how to be friends with someone who has borderline personality disorder (BPD) and didn’t get very far. It seems so obvious, I can’t actually believe I didn’t think to write something like this before, because there is so much I’d like people close to me to know – about the times I hide, the times I ask over and over again if everything is OK, the times I seem angry, the times I seem distant – the most important thing is it’s nothing to do with you. I (occasionally way over)react to everything, even the seemingly inconsequential things. I’m working so hard to get a handle on it all, and I’ve been making huge progress since starting with Therapist 2.0, but there are still times BPD will get the better of me.

Actually, it occurs to me as I write this that while it’s personal to me and my own family and friends, it could equally apply to anyone who is either trying to understand a friend, or trying to explain to a friend what it is they need. In no particular order of preference, here are a few bits I think might help us all:

1. Be honest with me. If I have said or done something to upset you, please let me know. The conversation might not be pleasant, but avoiding it just makes things worse

2. Sometimes I won’t be able to talk to you. It’s nothing personal. It’s just sometimes I feel so awkward and out of place I can’t actually string a sentence together

3. Similarly, sometimes you won’t be able to talk to me because I will frustrate the hell out of you. That’s OK. If you need some space, just tell me. It’s up to me to manage my response to that.

4. If I don’t make eye contact, that’s a pretty strong indicator that I’m not doing well.

5. You are not responsible for making me better. If you can, listening on a bad day would be awesome, but I understand that won’t always be possible. You’re not my therapist!

6. I want to know what’s going on with you – never, ever feel like you can’t talk to me. There are two of us in this relationship.

7. I’m really good at picking up on your moods, good, bad or otherwise. Unfortunately I also have a tendency to assume it’s my fault if there’s something wrong (I’m working on that one, honestly), so if you’re able, talk to me. Chances are I’ll understand.

8. Sometimes my reactions to seemingly minor events will be epic. Nine times out of 10, it’s nothing to do with the actual event but rather what it has triggered in me (I’m working hard on that one too).

Things are changing for me. It feels so, so good to finally be getting some control over BPD, but it’s also a little scary – I have to get used to new ways of managing my behavior, and then you have to get used to me behaving differently. I’ve discovered there are quite a few things that have to happen every day to try and keep myself on the straight and narrow, and that takes a considerable amount of time and effort, both of which leave me flattened on occasion.

You won’t always understand, you won’t always want to, but I honestly believe as long as we keep talking to each other, as long as I keep doing what I now know I have to do, it will be OK.

Follow this journey on Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers.

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11 Truths About My Life With Borderline Personality Disorder

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It’s hard to talk about my borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it’s even more difficult for those close to me to understand. I decided to compile this list of my 11 truths of my BPD that also have been hard for me to recognize until now. These are my 11 truths, and the 11 things I need my loved ones to understand about my BPD.

1. I’m afraid you’ll leave me. 

What if you get tired of me or fed up with my mood swings? Questions and fears about you leaving me are always at the back of my mind, and I need frequent reassurance.

2. When I’m mad at you, I’m more mad at myself.

I hate that I overreact when we argue, and I’m always more mad about that than I am mad at you.

3. I don’t want to hurt you.

Some things I say or do may make it seem like I’m trying to hurt you on purpose, but please know that’s not the case. I love you, and I would never purposefully hurt you.

4. I hate my medication.

Taking it is annoying and the side affects are awful. It makes me feel jittery and unable to focus and I only take it because I know I’d be a partial mess without it.

5. I don’t like being asked ‘why.’

Asking me why I feel a certain way or do certain things isn’t helpful because I don’t know the answer. I know that I have BPD and I know my symptoms, but I don’t know why.

6. I don’t mind my heightened emotions (most of the time).

I like being emotional about the good things. When I’m happy or enjoying something, I am truly happy and wholeheartedly enjoying it. So, I don’t mind that BPD heightens my emotions, except when they’re not good.

7. I scare myself sometimes.

My thoughts race and sometimes get out of control and pretty frightening. It’s hard to admit, but I do scare myself when I think my thoughts might turn into actions.

8. I wish I had a better filter.

I don’t like when my words hurt you, and I don’t like that my BPD makes me brutally honest and unnecessarily brash at times. I wish I had a better filter because I want to say what I mean and say what’s in my head without it coming out in a way that I don’t mean.

9. It’s hard to keep my trust.

I have a hard time letting go of the past and that hurts my ability to trust. It’s hard to gain and keep my trust, but it’s not impossible, and I’m sorry if that makes you work harder to love me.

10. Sometimes I need to be left alone.

It’s not that I want you personally to leave me alone, I just want to be left alone sometimes. I need space and I need you to understand and accept that.

11. I have a hard time thinking rationally.

This is probably the truest of them all. My mind always catastrophizes and goes to the worst case scenario, and I may need help finding the rationale in my life.

It’s important to know these 11 things about me to truly know me and understand my BPD. It was important for me to know these truths about myself so that I also have a better understanding of my BPD. These are my twelve truths, and the parts of my BPD that I need my friends and family to understand.

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To My Future Friends, From a Girl With Borderline Personality Disorder

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I can’t wait to meet you! I’ve been trying really hard to get myself to a place where I’m ready to make new friends, and I can honestly say I’m finally there. I gave up on friendship for the past year because I had some mental stuff to work through, mental stuff that made it difficult for me to make friends and maintain friendships in the past. But don’t let that scare you — I’ll explain what I mean by “mental stuff,” just please have an open mind as I do.

What has plagued my past friendships is my borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD makes it difficult for me to regulate my emotions and comes with a lot of unpleasant symptoms that cause some unsavory actions. Because BPD makes it hard to manage my emotions, it has been hard to manage healthy and stable relationships. My symptoms cause me a lot of grief and torment that I have had to work hard to get a handle on. Just so you have an idea, I’ll describe some of the irrational thoughts and feelings I’ve had in the past.

In past disagreements with friends, I’ve overreacted and taken everything personally, and ultimately ended my friendships. I’ve been known to get too clingy with my friends, because I’m afraid if I’m not, my friends will leave me. I also used to get so excited about new friendships that I would sort of smother my friends with love, which pushed them away. All of this sounds incredibly unpleasant, I know, but now I have the upper hand over my symptoms and actions.

I am not the way I used to be, but I do still have BPD. That will never change, but the way I cope with it has. And my new ability to cope with my illness has made it possible for me to make new friends and keep them. I’m not saying I’m able to effectively cope 100 percent of the time, and I might need some patience and understanding from you at times, but I will try my best to use the coping skills I’ve learned so our friendship doesn’t have to be such hard work.

I choose to see my BPD in a positive way, and I hope you do, too. It gives me the power of empathy and the ability to love fiercely. I am excitable and enthusiastic, and I can be a lot of fun! I still have bad days, but who doesn’t? I cope well, and with your love and friendship, I can get through the hard times. And I will help you and be there for you, too, because I have a great understanding of different kinds of pain. Our friendship will be symbiotic; you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Mine might need some extra scratching every now and then, but I promise it’s nothing you can’t handle.

Our friendship is going to be so great! I am ready and happy to be the best friend possible to you, and I ask the same in return. I am no different than any other friend you have had, except I have BPD, and I promise that I’ve learned not to let my BPD control my friendships. I may have a BPD diagnosis, but I also have a big heart with plenty of room in it for you. Give me a chance, and you’ll see that I control my friendships, and my BPD does not. I am really looking forward to meeting you, and I’m looking forward to our loving and fruitful friendship.

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To the People I've Lost Because of My Borderline Personality Disorder

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The road of my life has been long and filled with soaring ups and devastating downs. Today I realize and acknowledge the impact I had on my own life with borderline personality disorder. I felt like I was never good enough and let myself down daily by not being able to fulfill my own expectations. My mental illness is a blessing and a curse that both enlightens and eats at my soul.

It’s not easy being me and I know it’s not easy being around me. I want to be loved so badly and yet don’t know how to accept myself. I want to be happy and yet I have a voice inside me saying I don’t deserve to be loved. I want to stop my pain but I just don’t know how to do it.

As I continue on this journey without you beside me, I wish I could find the words and the courage to tell you I love you. I wish I could find a way to apologize for the times I let you down but alas, the courage does not come and I am left in my world of self-hatred.

Life is not easy and I know it has not been easy for you to watch me suffer. I know you tried, but you never found the right way to show me you loved me. In the end, either you left or I left before you could.

Some days I think it would be easier to disappear from this world, but I have so much more to learn and give. Each day I am learning more about myself, ways to live with and embrace this medical condition plaguing my mind.

I’m sad as I reflect on our memories and I know you won’t be there to share any more. I cannot change the past, but I’m learning I cannot live there either. I acknowledge I’ve made mistakes and I know I cannot change those. For me to be able to love myself, I must be able to forgive myself even though it’s the most difficult thing I’ve had to do.

As I continue my journey I realize I have reacted or behaved inappropriately at times and damaged relationships I held so dear. I wish I could tell you I did not do so out of malice or hate, but out of a lack of awareness of how deeply my illness controlled me. Please know, this is not an excuse, I am not denying responsibility or the part I played. I know I hurt you with my words and actions and I hate myself for that. I just wish I could turn back time.

There is a person inside of me who is screaming to get out. Screaming to tell you they are still there and to beg you not to leave. I keep hoping that person will emerge victorious over the demons that keep her prisoner. She is a gentle soul who loves deeply, laughs happily and lives life to the fullest.

This journey is a painful one as self-awareness and self-awakening occur, but the light at the end of the tunnel is self-love and happiness, so I will fight on.

There are many things I want to say but none as important as I’m sorry, I love you and I wish you well.

Love,
Belinda

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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Love in the Time of Borderline

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My superpower is that I move through the world without skin.

You can’t tell. My fake skin suit looks very real.

But it’s true. I don’t have skin. I am a bundle of nerves and raw muscle and sinew and blood and wounds.

It’s hard to love someone like this.

There’s a double meaning in that.

It’s hard to love someone who is like this and it’s hard to love someone when you’re like this.

I want to be in love. I have been in love. I tend to love with my whole heart and kind of immediately. It can be off putting.

I remember reading John Irving’s “The 158-Pound Marriage” a long time ago, and while I think describing yourself in quotes from literature is indulgent and gross, I’m going to ask you to indulge me grossly.

“…she is vulnerable for the same reason that she is strong. Whatever she puts her love in, she will trust. She will wait you out, she will put up with you  — forever —if she loves you.”

This is the truest way I know how to tell you about myself. I wish I’d written it. I wish I’d written something better. I haven’t. Yet.

I think this is sometimes a good quality. It doesn’t feel good. Most of the time, it doesn’t feel good. I also think it means I lack solid boundaries and look to others to meet my emotional needs instead of learning how to fulfill them myself.

I have borderline personality disorder. If you don’t know about it, congratulations. It’s hallmarked by unstable relationships, fear of abandonment perceived or real, unstable sense of self, self-harming behaviors, difficulty regulating emotions and suicidal ideation or suicide attempts and well, suicide.

But really, it just feels like I don’t have skin.

Everything is the most.

My deepest, truest, most honest fear is that if I tell you who I am, you will leave me.

Here’s what it feels like to be left: dying.

That’s it really. It feels like I’m dying.

OK fine, I’ll describe it.

I can’t get any air and I can’t move and I can’t feel anything and sometimes I weep in the shower and my body feels like it’s going in all directions and I don’t know if I can sit still and I want to talk to people but I don’t want to talk to people and I want to connect but I can’t and everything feels like I’m being stabbed right into a bundle of nerves and I can’t tolerate the pain for one single second more and I can’t get air and nothing will fix it not words or movies or weather or music or sex or food or drugs or people or…

That is what it feels like to be left.

Wait.

My real deepest, truest, most honest fear is that if I tell you who I am, I will have to feel all of that again.

I cannot weep in the shower again. I cannot contain my body and my sadness and my rage and my loneliness again.

I cannot.

I can not.

I can not.

I want to be in love. I want to be held and meet the person I think is so electric I can’t stand to be away from him and he will feel the same about me and we’ll dance and have a whole night where we just break dishes and scream into the void because it feels good to do that sometimes.

Maybe you think that sounds crazy and maybe it does and maybe that’s the idea of love from the perspective of a person with a mental illness.

Here’s what I also believe love is: horrible jokes you tell each other over and over, telling the truth no matter what, back rubs, dancing in the kitchen in the middle of night, nasty f*cking against walls and on the bed and the kitchen floor and in public if that’s your thing, coming over and tasting this melon to tell me if it’s bad, radical acceptance of every part of this beautiful human in your field of vision, lazy Sunday afternoons listening to Joni Mitchell while it rains.

This is what I want.

And yet.

What if I got it?

How can I enjoy it?

What will I do if it leaves?

What do I do?

I am so tired of being alone and I am so scared of not being alone because I know I am hard to love and it’s inevitable that you will go and I can’t stop thinking of myself weeping in the shower so I keep you at arm’s length.

But that’s not a life.

I go out into the world without my skin. I try again. I hope this time you won’t leave. Or if you do, maybe I am better equipped this time. I take medicine and go to therapy and meditate and stuff so that’s good, right?

I don’t like this.

I want my skin. I want the skin I was born with, but somehow lost along the way.

I want to love you in a way that is fearless.

I want to know that I will be OK. Eventually.

This piece originally appeared on Medium

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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A Love Letter to the Teenager With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Things have been hard lately, I know. You’ve made some questionable decisions that resulted in you being grounded, again. But I’m not writing to reprimand you. I am writing you to let you know I understand, and you are not alone. Like you, I also have borderline personality disorder and was diagnosed when I was your age. I struggled too — with constantly being in trouble and fighting with my friends and parents. I know it’s hard, but you can get through it.

I know it’s annoying that your mom stuck you in therapy once a week, but it’s important that you go, and when you do, you talk. I never wanted to talk to my therapist either, but I’m glad I did because she really helped me learn how to live with my BPD. Give your therapist a chance, and give her suggestions a go, and I promise you will start to feel more in control of your illness.

Relationships have been particularly difficult for you, like they were for me. And like me, your relationships have never been healthy or stable. I want you to know it isn’t and has never been your fault. Your BPD makes it hard for you to control your emotions and your reactions to physical and emotional triggers. And like me, you think everyone around you is always trying to attack or insult you. I want you to know you do not have to attack or insult back; you just have to learn how to interact with others in healthy ways, and your therapist can help you with that.

You thought you were just a bad kid who makes bad choices, but I assure you, that’s not it. You haven’t been in control of yourself because BPD has been controlling you. But you can take back control of your emotions, your relationships and your life. Just don’t give up while you’re trying to figure out how to gain control. You are stronger than you think you are, and you can fight BPD for control of your mind, and you can win.

I know sometimes you feel like it, but you are not a bad person because you have BPD. You are not your illness, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You should be proud of yourself for being so young and fighting a mental illness; that shows how strong you are. Please don’t give up on feeling better, because it is possible. Just remember you are strong, you are not alone and you can do this. Giving up is not an option, but when it feels like the only option, please talk with your parents or your therapist. They will remind you that you can’t give up and give you the encouragement and hope you need to keep going.

Please don’t worry. You are going to be OK. This diagnosis is just another challenge, and you can overcome it, like you have a lot of things so far in your young life. Don’t be afraid of what others think of you; if they shame you for having a mental illness, that shows their true colors and not yours. I want you to remember that BPD is manageable and that you are strong enough to manage it. I want you know BPD is not your life; it is just a small part — a small part you can take control of. Just remember to give your therapy a fair shot, practice what you learn and put it into action. You can do this!

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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