The People You Leave Behind in Borderline Personality Disorder Recovery


One of the first things you’re told to do when you’re someone with an addiction entering rehab is to cut ties with the people who encourage your unhelpful behavior. These are the people you have formed this special relationship with. People who “get it” and know how to help you through a bad trip. People who encourage you to use again and again because that is entirely the purpose of your relationship. It’s how you bonded and it became the expected dynamic.

The main thing I’ve learned since going into remission for my mental health works along the same lines. It feels like you’ve carried on walking forward slowly but surely, taking each day as it comes. Until, one day, you turn around to check on the people who you have these “special relationships” with and you see them standing where you were what seems like moments before. You don’t want to look down on them or the way they’re behaving because they’re not bad people. They’re just not recovering.

You hear your friends talk about how much they want to hurt themselves, how much they want to die and you can’t relate to that anymore. Do you know the hardest part? You don’t want to. The people you love become people you can’t be around.

So you keep walking forward and away from the person you used to be. It’s not because you don’t love the people who supported you when you needed it. Instead, it’s because you can’t bear to be that person anymore. You can’t even remember how to be that person anymore.

It’s hard.

The only real saving grace is being surrounded by people on the same journey as you. People you meet in group sessions. Peers who are also on the road to recovery. People whose track records would put your old friends to shame.

Yet, when you tell your story they seem just as shocked by it. You inspire them just as much as they inspire you, and it becomes a cycle of pulling each other up by backs of your trousers, keeping on keeping on. You encourage each other into recovery because looking back the way you came just seems so dark and dangerous. You begin to wonder how on earth you used to be that person.

One in 10 people with borderline personality disorder die by suicide. You have more than 10 friends with the diagnosis. It feels like a matter of time until somebody else takes a bow and steps off their mortal coil, becoming yet another number of casualties in a war that seeks to destroy.

You want to help. You want to help those who seem to be drowning under the weight of their disorder, being pulled under by the love/hate dynamic of the drama that seems to revolve around them. You get that too because you used to define yourself by your disorder before you started walking away.

But much like someone with an addiction, sometimes you need to loosen ties with the people who encourage that unhelpful behavior. You understand that. You can’t help them any more than somebody could have helped you when you were still walking by their side, oblivious to any way out of your hellish existence.

So all you can do is get further and further away from the people who used to define you and hold on tightly to the people who pull you and keep you “in recovery.” You hope against all hope, that someday soon, when they’re ready, the people you love and left behind will gradually make their way back to you.

Then, you can walk side by side, once again, into recovery.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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