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To Those Who Love Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

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I’m not trying to be oversensitive.

For me, one of the hardest things about having borderline personality disorder (BPD) is how intensely the actions of other people affect me. I can go from feeling on top of the world to totally hopeless based on something that someone has said to me, even if it’s just because they had a bad day or were making a joke. Having BPD means you have an unstable sense of self, and in my experience this is why what others say to me has such a profound impact on my mood. People who are respectful of my boundaries and apologetic if they offend me, even if they never meant to, make me feel validated and loved. I don’t always expect people to know what will trigger me or read my mind (as I appreciate that my mind doesn’t work the way other people’s do), but nothing is more appreciated than a friend, partner or family member who listens when you explain something has triggered you and avoids repeating the same comments when possible.

I am not trying to hurt you.

It can be really difficult watching someone you love hurt themselves, through self-harm, self-sabotage or other dangerous behavior. Obviously these behaviors have an impact on their loved ones. However, I don’t do those things to hurt people around me, I do them to hurt myself and because in that moment I lack the perspective to think outside of the urge to do so. I know I am lucky to have many people who love and care about me, however, sometimes if I have a particularly bad mood swing or an overwhelming trigger occurs, I lose rationality. That doesn’t mean I love the people in my life any less. All it means is I have a personality disorder that is difficult to control, and sometimes I have lapses in judgment.

I do love you and I want to let you love me.

Sometimes, one of the hardest things about having BPD is the fear of rejection and abandonment. This fear can become so intense that you end up pushing people away preemptively to stop them from being able to do this for you. For me this is often the case in romantic relationships. If I have a partner who is reassuring and makes me feel secure, I will often feel the need to push them away out of fear that it is too good to be true and they will abandon me eventually. If I have a partner who doesn’t make me feel secure I will have bouts of extreme anger and behave in a way that other people may deem obsessive. This is because I feel everything very intensely, including love, which can be a stressful emotion for a borderline. Love for us tends to be an intense form of attachment, where the person is our favorite person and our relationship with them is the centre of our universe. However, if you are in a relationship with someone with BPD, know we are trying our best.

Please have useful strategies in place for when I am in crisis or overwhelmed.

My ex-boyfriend used to practice deescalation if I was experiencing an intense low mood or a bout of anger. This means the other person keeping level-headed and being a calming presence even if the person with BPD is accusatory, confrontational or unreasonable. This was hugely helpful for me as it allowed me to calm down much more quickly in arguments or times of distress, then allowing me to apologize for my behavior or have a calm conversation.

I also find that during a crisis it is much more useful to validate the emotions of someone with BPD, even if they seem alien or even irrational to you. Nothing makes me more distressed than feeling like someone is judging or dismissing my intense emotions. It can be very difficult to ride a wave of an extreme negative emotion, but having someone there who reassures that you are allowed to feel that way is extremely comforting and beneficial.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Originally published: April 13, 2020
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