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To the Friend Who Left After My Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis, I Finally Understand

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Dear former friend,

Even though it’s been four years since we last spoke, I can still recall the day you left my life like it was yesterday. It was a fairly warm Friday afternoon in December. After an exceptionally turbulent week, you insisted on accompanying me to my therapy session after work that day. My treatment team just started exploring a possible borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnosis, and you’d set some fairly stern boundaries (which I ignored completely).

My hour-long therapy session felt like it lasted forever. Even though you said some very awful things, I never dreamed our departure from my therapist’s office that day was our forever goodbye. Yet, looking back, it all makes perfect sense.

At the time, I didn’t understand why you left at my lowest point. In my mind, it made no sense for someone who, up until the point of my diagnosis, had been nothing but supportive, kind, and loving. I (falsely) assumed you simply decided to walk out because of the diagnosis itself and the stigma attached to it. After four years of therapy and growth, however, I think I finally understand why you left that day and haven’t talked to me since.

Four years ago, I didn’t realize how my frantic efforts to cling to you were the very thing that pushed you away. I knew our friendship was already on the rocks that fall, yet I continued to reach out and test your limits. At the time, I didn’t see it as manipulative, and I definitely didn’t see the situation from your perspective. Instead, I focused on the void I felt without you and the fear that consumed me as I felt you slip away.

I also didn’t realize how exhausting it is to constantly fight fires inside someone else’s mind. I was too consumed in my own pain and sadness to realize how many nights you spent worrying about me, concerned for my safety. I completely neglected to consider your needs, and I know that, looking back, I didn’t give nearly as much as you did in those final months of our friendship.

Most of all, though, I didn’t realize I was the only person who could save myself, but I do now. There was a time when I considered myself a victim of circumstance, and my own learned helplessness convinced me I needed other people to save me every time I started drowning. I told myself I needed you, and I tried my hardest to make you see that, too.

Yet, over the past four years, I’ve learned I was the person who simultaneously held the key to my freedom and kept myself a prisoner inside my own mind. I’ve collected an entire toolbox of skills I now use to pull myself out of the water when the tidal waves pull me under.

While I do have supportive, loving people in my life, I now understand where their support must end and my own responsibility should begin. After all, how can I expect anyone else to dive into the water after me if I’m not even willing to swim at all?

When you left, I thought you were simply basing your decision off of the harmful stigma attached to the BPD label. But, now that I’m well removed from that time in my life and in a very different place, I can see how my behaviors and reactions pushed you to the point where you had no choice but to leave.

You may never read this, but if you do, I want you to know I finally understand, and I’m sorry. You never deserved any of the pain I put you through, and you had every right to walk away. Even though we haven’t spoken in four years, I still think about you often. I hope life has treated you well since we last spoke, and I wish you nothing but the best.

Most of all, though, I hope you know just how much you helped me during that lowest point, even though you never got to see the fruits of your labor. So, thank you for all you did, including the day you left. I finally understand, and I appreciate every bit of it.

Your former “borderline” friend

Unsplash image by Paul Green

Originally published: December 9, 2021
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