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3 Things You Shouldn't Say to Someone With BPD

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1. “Not everything is about you.”

Are they trying to say we’re selfish? That we’re always thinking about ourselves and don’t care about other people?

Nothing could be further from the truth. We often care too much about other people and too little about ourselves. But those words can be really triggering.

Because for many of us, everything is about us. But it’s not because we have big egos. It’s because we are full of self-loathing.

My wife is moody and says she’s just tired. But surely she’s moody because I’ve done something wrong. She could be lying, maybe she’s not tired and maybe she’s angry at me. What if she leaves me?

My friend doesn’t text me back immediately. I can see she’s read my message. Later she replies and said she was out at an event. But maybe that’s not true, maybe she was actually sick of me and couldn’t bear to reply straight away. What if she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore?

You can tell me it’s not about me until you’re blue in the face. I won’t believe you, because I lack belief in myself. Many of us with BPD don’t like ourselves, so why should anyone else? We may be insecure and always on the lookout for evidence showing that people are mad at us and are going to leave us. And that terrifies us.

2. “Are you doing that for attention?”

I’ve been a pretty chronic attention-seeker in the past. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But some people with BPD aren’t like that. It’s a label that has stuck, but not everyone falls into this category. We are all different.

Even with people like myself who have done bad things for attention, please try and see it from our side. Realize how bad we must feel to feel the only way we can ask for love is to engage in attention-seeking behavior. When I was feeling suicidal, I hurt myself and told someone. I wasn’t trying to be manipulative. I just wanted someone to understand how desperate I was feeling.

It’s also very unlikely that we are doing things solely for attention. Many of us hurt ourselves because we think we are bad and need to be punished. We tell you how bad we feel because we need help. We don’t know what else to do.

3. “You don’t look like you have a personality disorder.”

Ok, so maybe you know someone with BPD who goes out and gets drunk and takes drugs all the time and maybe I seem nothing like that. But just because I don’t have that particular trait doesn’t mean I don’t have BPD. You need to have at least five of nine symptoms to be diagnosed. Which means a large number of potential combinations.

So I don’t show impulsive behavior and I have a good sense of who I am as a person, both things that other people with BPD sometimes struggle with. But I’ve had all the others. I have self-harmed and had suicidal thoughts. I’ve done bad things to try and prevent abandonment. I’ve had paranoid thinking and felt things weren’t real. My emotions can change rapidly and I can get angry if I think people don’t care about me. I’ve had unstable relationships and I can feel chronically empty at times.

You also don’t know what’s going on in my head. I may be smiling but how do you know that my head isn’t full of all-consuming thoughts of self-loathing, of doing bad things to myself or of thinking people don’t care about me? So please think before telling me I don’t seem “destructive enough” to have BPD.

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Thinkstock photo via MistakeAnn.

Originally published: August 2, 2017
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