5 Reasons BPD Can Make It Hard to Maintain Relationships
I am someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD). And, personally, this affects every aspect of my life — my education, my personal care, my behavior and most notably, my relationships with others. I am lucky enough to have a couple of close friends who stick by me and understand. But in my life, I have had friendships and relationships that have come and gone because of how hard I find it is to maintain them with my BPD. Here are a few reasons why I find it hard:
1. I come on too strong.
Oftentimes, when meeting new people, I’ll immediately treat them like they’re close friends. This is because I am unable to gauge the level of attachment I have with this person, which often results in me being perceived as “overbearing.” I form attachments quickly and have a hard time letting them go. A relationship that may seem small or insignificant (a teacher, a colleague, even the barista at the local coffee shop) means a lot to me.
2. I can be incredibly impulsive.
Living with BPD means that sometimes I do impulsive or reckless things. As you may imagine, this can be difficult to the people around me to deal with. Drug use and self-harm are things I’ve dealt with that have stemmed from my impulsivity. If the people I’m around don’t understand this is a symptom of my illness, it often drives them away or alienates them. The people who have stuck by me through my impulsive behavior have come to understand that it is a symptom — and they know I don’t do it to harm them.
3. I can be dependent.
Depending on how I am feeling, I can be incredibly dependent on others to fulfill my emotional needs. Instead of being able to validate myself, I rely on others to reassure me I am “enough.” If I don’t feel like I am valid in the eyes of others, I feel I’m not valid within myself. This can be emotionally taxing on the people around me, especially my friends and family, as I put myself down to get a reassurance of my worth.
4. I take things personally.
Because of my BPD, I am hypersensitive of other people’s emotions. I can notice any change in tone, speech or body language and often take it personally. For example if someone I’m close with looks frustrated, I automatically assume I’ve aggravated them, regardless of the situation. Usually, once I am told I am not the cause, I can reflect on my thought pattern and acknowledge that while valid, it is irrational to believe I am the cause of all negative emotions in people’s lives.
5. I am afraid I will be abandoned.
Like many with BPD, my illness stemmed from childhood trauma. Therefore, I am constantly afraid the people around me will leave me. If I perceive someone is becoming distant, I will become more involved with the person to stop the anticipated abandonment — whether it is true or unfounded.
Borderline personality disorder is by no means a one-size-fits-all diagnosis and not everyone with BPD will identify with everything I’ve said. This is just my experience of how BPD affects my interpersonal relationships. I’ve found that having BPD can have positive impacts on my relationships as well. I am more empathetic towards others and I am therefore more sensitive to their needs and issues. This has made me a better friend and partner. I struggle with my relationships to others on a day-to-day basis, but through therapy and personal reflection I am learning to manage my symptoms. I have understanding people around me who realize that my thoughts and behaviors are at times uncontrollable, but that I am committed to working on them and taking responsibility for my actions.
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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.