What I Learned From My Best Friend Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder
My bestie and I have been in each other’s lives for 14 years now. I adore her and love her no matter what. I always have and always will. We have definitely been through some turbulent times. For starters, I have several mental illnesses of my own, including major depressive disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. My best friend deals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and other co-morbid disorders. We relate deeply to one another through our experiences with mental illness. We also share the same type of humor. She has been there through the toughest parts of my life, and the happiest. Our connection runs deep. At times though, that connection was not enough to stop our challenges from driving us apart.
Part of the issue was my own misunderstanding. I did not fully understand BPD, I wasn’t even aware it existed. Ignorance may be bliss in some situations, but in this one, it was detrimental to our relationship. I took behaviors that were a result of her illness personally. I often felt attacked and even fearful at times, like I had to walk on eggshells with what I said. To make matters worse, I had an outrageously low self-esteem and was not addressing my own issues. I didn’t think my feelings were valid, and I cared much more about her feelings than my own. Little did I know, this made our relationship more challenging.
What my best friend needed from me was understanding. She needed me to see past the behaviors and acknowledge that the real version of her was always there. BPD, from what I have observed, is like a mask a person wears to prevent themselves from feeling vulnerable. My best friend often hid from me, for fear of being wounded. She also pushed me away, having deemed herself unworthy of love. Once again, I took this to heart. More than once, my lack of knowledge about her struggles made us distant when I had to remove myself entirely for a period of time to recover from the hurt I felt.
We had several fallouts, some worse than others. However, after a year of not speaking to one another, she sent me a letter apologizing. She didn’t expect me to rekindle the friendship. She didn’t make excuses. She just sent a genuine apology and well wishes. I cried tears of happiness and relief. I was determined to ensure our friendship would survive this time around.
Instead of accepting certain behaviors she exhibited, I kindly expressed how they made me feel. I asked her what I could do to be helpful while respecting myself, too. I admitted I couldn’t fathom what she was enduring, but I’d try my hardest to learn as much as I could. I became proactive in educating myself about her disorder. I believe she behaves a certain way because it’s how she copes. It’s how she learned to get through the hardships that come with life, and much of it was a result of past traumas.
A valuable lesson I learned is that respecting myself enough to say when I feel hurt is truly helpful to both of us. She respects me for being honest, and even finds that it helps her adjust her reactions. It helps me too, because I feel more comfortable in the relationship with boundaries. Like any relationship, there needs to be balance.
Loving someone with any kind of mental illness can be emotionally taxing, whether it be knowing they’re in pain and struggling, or because you feel personally hurt by behaviors. Remember that open communication keeps both people in the relationship happy and healthy; and remember that you must put your needs first. A house will crumble on an unsound foundation, so you’re more equipped to bear weight if you protect your house before others. People with BPD absolutely deserve love, despite what their brain may tell them, and I will continue to let my friend know she is, indeed, incredibly loved.
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Thinkstock photo via william87