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The People You Leave Behind in Borderline Personality Disorder Recovery

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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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How to Be a Friend to Someone Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder

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I believe borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a misnomer; it’s a bad name. I feel it’s an inaccurate description of something that’s closer to massive insecurity in relationships.

I struggle with my borderline personality disorder traits. I’m just now coming to recognize them and understand how they cause me to act and how they shape the way I see the world. When I see the world through that perspective, the world becomes very unsafe in the sense that I don’t trust people, or I’m expecting them to fail me or hurt me. Once this is happening, I push boundaries to see if these things will happen. It’s pretty easy to see how this often ends up.

People with borderline personality disorder aren’t “insane,” they’re just people who can have a hard time trusting themselves and others. We are wired in a way that can make stable friendships difficult, because we often test friends. We are wired in a way that can make keeping a job hard, because you have to maintain healthy relationships. It can make dating a strange process, because we may not know how to trust without oversharing, we may not know how to connect in a healthy way, so it can be easier to trust someone fully or not at all. “Kind of” trusting someone is a weird concept to me, so I push boundaries to see what happens.

If you have a friend with borderline personality disorder, be patient with them. They may be struggling inside just with day-to-day life. Set boundaries, because they may push them and keep resetting them as needed. Don’t give into someone’s impulsive needs, because if you do you aren’t helping them. If they hate you for doing that, that’s OK. Some people with BPD may seek validation, so they might keep doing a behavior you may not like because it can allow them to feel more secure. And they often do it until you ask them to stop, and they may get mad at you, and that’s OK. Please, if you have a friend with BPD, set boundaries and be clear with them. I’ve found people with BPD don’t tend to do well with ambiguity; we can tend to see life in yes or no, black and white, OK or not. Understanding life in-between those lines can be hard for us, so help your friend out. Let them know what is and is not OK for your friendship.

Living with borderline personality disorder can be a struggle. I evaluate friendships daily, and I make quick decisions about people. I’m working so hard daily not to do these things; I’m working so hard daily to be a good friend and a good student.

If you have a friend with borderline personality disorder, be patient, set boundaries, maintain those boundaries, and if they act out, don’t take it personally. Your friend is likely very insecure and doesn’t know how to feel secure. Allow them to feel that, and don’t try to fix their problems.

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The Cost of Having Borderline Personality Disorder

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When I talk about the cost of being borderline, I don’t mean metaphorically; I mean, “How much does it cost to have borderline personality disorder (BPD)?” Often when discussing mental illness we talk about how emotions affect a person or their family and friends, but rarely is money discussed when it comes to being mentally ill.

At the moment I’m struggling with my mental illness so badly that I’m unable to keep a job. The reality of this means I’m not in receipt of a decent living income. I live month to month with money, which can be difficult for the average person never mind someone with a mental illness like BPD.

My impulsivity regularly causes me to spend money I don’t have on things I don’t need. It doesn’t feel that way in the moment. I often feel like I have to buy these things to ensure my happiness. This is not an uncommon reality. Many people with BPD struggle with compulsive spending. Not only this, but they may have a range of costly addictions from alcohol and drugs to food. There are also extra costs associated with these addictions you may not realize. For example, food addiction may cause health problems or a need to buy better fitting clothes. These addictions can mean having to spend money on private treatments because, depending on where you live, your government may not cover it.

Often self-destructive coping mechanisms like binge-spending can be triggered by emotional pain. Someone who is usually frugal with money may max out a credit card after an argument with a loved one. Even though we might be aware of the fact that it is going to have a negative impact on us in the long term, it is difficult for us to get past the comfort it provides in the moment.

BPD itself may require treatments and medications that the government doesn’t always cover. At the moment, although I’m not working, I’m still paying for one-on-one therapy, which the NHS doesn’t cover for me. People like me often have to rely on charities to help with treatment because the NHS can’t keep up with the demand for our treatments. It also can be quite expensive having to attend these appointments with little income. It is costly running a car so having to rely on alternatives is a necessity. It can also be daunting to use public transport. For example, because of anxiety, I often have to rely on expensive taxis to get me to appointments, which is difficult to afford on a low income.

One symptom of BPD, according to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), can be to have an unstable sense of self. This, for me, often means almost changing my style completely on a regular basis. This means new clothes, new shoes, new accessories, new makeup, new hairstyles. This all costs money, and depending on what style I choose can end up being pricey. It also means new hobbies. I’m constantly flitting from one hobby to another. Some are free and easy to do, such as meditation, but then there are things such as candle making, which can end up being quite expensive.

The biggest cost, though, is someone’s life. According to LiveScience, a human life is worth approximately $5 million. One in 10 people with BPD die by suicide, so when your loved one with BPD asks for help, please listen.

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

Follow this journey on Moon Wink.

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Inside My Mind During a 45-Minute Therapy Session

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The waiting room is small with simple chairs and a plant I think might be fake. I sit there, waiting, nervous for the next 45 minutes. I don’t know why I’m nervous; I do this every week. But without fail, every week I am nervous.

The second hand on my watch keeps ticking. It’s 6:14 p.m. One more minute and she’ll come and get me. Just 60 more seconds. One more minute. Finally the clock strikes 6:15, and all my senses are heightened. Do I hear the creak of the door as she opens it, or is that my imagination? Is the scent of the hand soap from her bathroom really that strong, or am I just overthinking it? Is my heart actually pounding so hard I hear it, or is that just a sound from the next room over?

The door opens. She pokes her head out and tells me to come in. Sometimes it’s awkward because there may be others waiting as well, but it’s OK. I walk into the room and throw my coat on the floor because I’m just so classy. I plug my phone into the outlet next to the big chair, and with a sigh, I finally sit down. I proceed to complain about how terrible public transportation is — that the subway was delayed and I panicked thinking I’d be late. She chuckles. She asks me how I am. I say something like, “delightful” or “wonderful” because how else am I supposed to answer such a big question?

Then we get into the important stuff. The reason I’m there. It’s hard — digging so deep into your mind that even you aren’t sure who you’re talking about. I stare at the floor. Usually I stare at this treasure chest kind of thing that sits next to my chair. It has elephants on it, and I used to stare at a specific elephant, one with its trunk way up in the air. A few weeks ago she got rid of that treasure chest. I don’t know why, but now instead of the elephant I’ve come to know, I stare at the fading carpet. After all, looking people straight in the eye while discussing these kinds of things just makes it all even more real.

Every few minutes I look at my watch. I think I do it secretly, pretending to play with the ponytail holder that sits on my wrist. But really I’m checking how much time we have left. It’s 6:30. OK, I still have a good half hour. But then slowly but surely, the clock creeps closer and closer to the time I dread — 7:00 p.m. At 6:55 she starts to wrap things up. She knows it’s hard for me to leave, so we don’t wait until the last second to end things. She eases towards the edge of her chair and says something like, “This is a much larger conversation, and we’ll have to continue talking about it next week. Same time?” Those words make my heart drop. It means I have to go back out into the real world — one where I pretend my emotions do not exist.

My whole body feels heavy. My legs feel glued to the floor, and the pounding of my heart is so loud that I just want to scream at it and tell it to shut up so I can pay attention to what I’m doing. At this point she is standing next to me, telling me to have a good night and to get home safely. But I can’t move. I try, but I can’t. I cover my face and keep repeating, out loud, “Get up. You need to go now. Don’t do this.” I stand up slowly. I know I need to go. Staying there will not only reinforce the dependence I have on her, but it also may hinder our relationship because it would be pushing boundaries, as I have done so often in the past. Walking to the door feels like a chore, even though it’s pretty much right next to me.

Before I leave I look at her and she says, “Take care of yourself.” Then I walk out. I don’t go straight back to the subway. I go to her bathroom first. I stare at myself in the mirror, at the girl who just went through an emotionally draining 45 minutes. My whole chest has broken out in a rash because that happens when I’m anxious. I wash my face then wash my hands and smell the soap that reminds me so much of this office.

This office. My safe haven. My therapy.

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I Am More Than Just Borderline Personality Disorder

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I am a living, breathing human being.

I am a person, a person who feels emotions deeply.

I am a fighter: an overcomer. I face my borderline personality disorder day in and day out.

I am a Christian, and fighting a mental disorder doesn’t make me less of one.

I’m just trying to get myself through this thing called life, one day at a time.

I live with depression and anxiety.

Every morning I have to push myself out of bed. Some mornings harder than others. I cry myself to sleep, praying, “God, where are you?”

Fear has become my best friend. I live in fear of not being good enough. I live in fear that people will walk away. I ask this question every day: If people really knew me, the broken parts of me, would they still love me? Would they choose to still stick around?

“Angie I can’t be your friend anymore.” These words, they break me. These words are words I’ve heard so often, and yet I would rather hear these words and hurt and feel than for people to all of a sudden just stop talking to me, ignoring me as though I never existed.

I would rather feel the hurt of the words than be given the silent treatment, than to all of a sudden be treated as though I am not human.

What’s it like to live day by day with my disorders?

Let me tell you, it’s not easy, but it’s these disorders that make me want to help a world of people who are like me.

I know what it’s like to walk in the foot steps of someone with a mental disorder.

I know what it’s like to be treated like just another statistic.

Yet there is something beautiful about living with these mental illnesses. There is something beautiful about feeling emotions so deeply.

Because I live with BPD, I am able to love those around me so deeply, and I believe that is a beautiful thing.

And yes, there are times I hurt those closest to me, but that is when grace comes in and shows me there is beauty in the breakdown.

There is beauty in the person I was created to be, there is beauty in the person God intends for me to be. I am more than just my BPD, and that right there, is a beautiful thing.

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What You Can’t See About Living With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Having a personality disorder isn’t like a lot of other conditions. It isn’t a visible illness. There is no way to look at someone and see they have struggled with a constant fight inside their own head. Having a mental illness is frustrating and discouraging for the person with the illness, much less the people around them who love them.

There are so many things you cannot see about living with borderline personality disorder. You cannot see the fight that rages internally, the constant search for who I am. The constant fear of being abandoned. The fight against the compulsion to spend recklessly in the highs, the fight to not harm myself in my lows or to numb the pain with drugs or alcohol.

There is a part of me that every time I become attached to someone, I’m wondering when they’re going to get tired of the rages, the breakdowns, the constant overwhelming sorrow. When will they walk away? When will they grow frustrated and give up?

Even with the friendships that have stood the test of time and the fight against myself, I still live in fear I will be too much. That the sheer intensity of how I respond to everything in my life.

Other people cannot see not just the war inside my head, but they also can’t see when I’m happy. When everything feels like it’s perfect. When I love so deeply that person becomes a part of my soul. Not just lovers, but also friends. It’s part of why I cling so desperately to those friends who have stood by me at my worst.

What people cannot see is that for a person with borderline personality disorder, every day is a battlefield in our heads, a war against ourselves, our illness, and living. We fight for every inch we can give ourselves, and it is exhausting.

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