A Note to My Friends About My Borderline Personality Disorder

Dearest friend,

So you’re reading this because you know someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and things can get tough sometimes in the relationship. You might be feeling worn out, frustrated, used and hopeless to the idea that things will ever be OK again. I want you to know that it’s not your fault I’m struggling and that things are tough. You might not believe me when I say that because I can switch from singing your praises and big displays of affection to being angry, hurt and untrusting. I might even blame you for the way I’m feeling. But I promise you: it’s not you.

This extreme black and white thinking is common in people with BPD. For people who haven’t been through dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), it can be hard to appropriately handle these intense mood swings. Before I went through DBT, I destroyed my fair share of relationships. I would jump from friend to friend, latching on and then cutting them off. Some people with BPD deal with severe abandonment issues. I’ll come up with frantic and desperate ways to keep you by my side. This can often influence the way I interact with you, my friend. Even if my words push you away, I’m desperately hoping you’ll fight to stay with me. I’m hoping you’ll not leave me in my time of suffering.

It’s also possible that we were triggered by something you said or did. It can bring us back to a time in our lives when we didn’t feel safe. Our bodies might go into crisis, or fight or flight mode. Borderline can be caused, in part, by childhood trauma, or other forms of trauma, and we can develop PTSD from it. Just like a soldier can be triggered by a car backfiring and sent into a flashback. I can revert to old, learned behaviors that I developed in my past when my mind perceives a threat. This can cause identity disturbances, giving me an unstable sense of self or self-image. Sometimes it even causes me to change my mannerisms, giving people with BPD the nickname “chameleons.” 

These unstable senses of self can lead to reckless behaviors.

As someone with BPD, I’ve also acted out drastic and dangerous behaviors. I myself have attempted suicide a number of times and struggled with self-harm for years. Friends of people with BPD often experience burnout from the stress and worry, and it can be hard on both me and the other person. Dr. Marsha Linehan, the developer of DBT, compares having BPD to having third degree burns over 90 percent of our bodies. Thankfully, with medication, DBT and/or other professional help, these behaviors can be curbed and managed. This process can be very long and hard for people with BPD, so be sure you love us extra loud on the rough days.

Thanks for reading,

Your Resident Borderline

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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 Thinkstock photo via Valeriy_Katrevich

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