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14 Things 'Quiet' Borderlines Say That Are Code For 'I Need Help'

When you live with “quiet” borderline personality disorder (BPD), oftentimes you’re used to “acting in” — counter to the “acting out” people have come to associate with BPD. Because of the inward nature of quiet BPD, it might be that much harder for you to come right out and tell someone, “I need help.” Someone with quiet BPD might resort to using “code words” or phrases to indicate they are struggling to the people in their lives — without having to say it out loud.

While it’s important for us to talk about the code words people use, it’s also important to acknowledge that hoping others will read our minds isn’t the best way to get our needs met. Direct communication is the best way to talk to your loved ones if you need help — even if that means setting up an agreed-upon “code word” your loved one is “in on” so they know when you need help. 

If you are struggling with direct communication yourself, you’re not alone. The Mighty spoke to BPD expert Dr. April Foreman about how to get your needs met directly, and she gave three helpful tips. Read about them here.

To find out the “code words” people with quiet BPD say when they really mean, “I need help,” we asked our BPD community to share what they say to loved ones in times of need. 

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I don’t feel good.”

“I tell my close friends, ‘I don’t feel OK.’ They usually know I don’t mean physically, but mentally and keep an eye out on me. I used to hate it, but given the fact that I attempted suicide with no recollection, I kind of need it.” — Erin C.

“’I don’t feel well.’ To many, that would be interpreted as a simple physical health thing. But if I say it, it means I’m really not doing well…” — Rachel L.

“’I’m feeling a bit rubbish today.’ I find it hard to express anything to other people, and often greatly downplay it when I do. If it gets to the point that I’ll admit it in even a vague way, it means I’m really struggling.” — Kelly B.

2. “I’m tired.”

“’I’m tired.’ I always say I’m tired when things start getting rough.” — Melanie M.

3. “I’m OK.”

“’I’m doing OK, getting there,’ usually means I am not doing OK. Getting there basically means I’m still fighting but am seriously overwhelmed at the moment and struggling really badly.” — Billie P.

“When I say, ‘I’m alright.’” — Christopher O.

4. “I love you.”

“When I feel particularly bad, I text my mom or my friends randomly, ‘I love you.’ Just that, and they usually know that means I’m beating myself up again and not to take it personally.” — Allison M.

5. “I feel lost.”

“’I feel lost’ or ‘I’m not feeling quite right’ are usually things I say when I need help.” — Samantha P.

6. “I had a rough night.”

“’I had a rough night’ usually means I had a bad (to very severe) anxiety attack the previous night, and I’m now exhausted, highly sensitive and reactive, and generally not in a state to take much new information in, or be able to focus on anything important. ‘Today’ is not the day to throw anything stressful or spontaneous into my lap.” — Sarah M.

7. “I need some time off.”

“I say something like, ‘I need some time off,’ and withdraw myself completely. Stay in my apartment, have a hard time making contact to the outside world. Literally can’t go outside on my own. I need the world to stop on these days, or at least quit the daily life.” — Lara T.

8. “I want to be alone right now.”

“’I want to be alone’ is my code for sinking depression and self-harm.” — Laura D.

9. “I can’t do this anymore.”

“’I need a break’ or ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ means I’m getting close to my breaking point and I just need a break from everything in my life before I get pushed over the edge and completely lose it.” — Alecia F.

10. “I have a headache.”

“’I’ve just got a headache.’ My husband knows if I’m acting out of character and I say that, then I’m having a switch up.” — Shay K.

11. “My head is busy.”

“When I’m not doing well, I usually describe it as ‘my head is busy’ which usually then also makes me tired. So some people know if I’m mentally busy and it’s exhausting me to keep an eye as I’ll need help after a while if it doesn’t calm down.” — Sam R.

12. “We should talk soon.”

“It’s so hard to even let anyone know I struggle with mental health. And to develop a close and trustworthy enough relationship with someone that I could establish any sort of code with is not an easy or common task. With QBPD, my actions always speak louder than my words. I do have one person that has been in my life for a decade, and we only just now sort of have a system. It’s just me texting her saying, ‘We should talk soon,’ even if we just talked yesterday.” — Jenna G.

13. “I’m having a ‘down day.’”

“’I’m having a down day.’ It usually means I’m crying for no reason or I need to be on my own.” — Lisa M.

14. [Designated safe word]

“I have set up a safe word: ‘Lighthouse.’ It means I need help, but can’t express why or I’m in dangerous territory emotionally. I picked something that isn’t going to come up in casual conversation, and one that even when I lose words, I can just send them a photo of a lighthouse and they know.” —  Bee M.

Unsplash photo via Gift Habeshaw

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