At the very core of interpersonal relationships is the struggle of living with Borderline Personality Disorder are relationships. One of the key factors in diagnosing BPD is having unstable, tumultuous relationships with others. Those of us with Borderline seem incapable of conducting ourselves properly in a relationship, according to the world standard definition of “properly”. We love you one minute and hate you the next. We need you in our lives desperately and cling to you with neediness and overwhelming demands on your time and attention. The next minute we kick you to the curb and out of our life. This atmosphere of chaos that we create with our BPD symptoms does not allow us to foster healthy relationships, nor does it lend itself to a conducive place for long-term relationships.
Because we think mostly in terms of all black or all white and we are missing the grey area that exists in our brain, this makes us wired for failure or so it seems. The first thing that a person diagnosed with BPD has to work on is how to conduct themselves properly in a relationship. Easier said than done.
The burden of our existence is emotionally driven. We are such intense people. The slightest stare from you or seeming neglect of an unanswered text message or phone call or something said in a way that we take offense to, can send us over the edge into a tirade of anger and hostility towards you. Untethered from medication or therapy and not having skills to utilize when first diagnosed, I find that most people with BPD have basically kicked out and or destroyed most of the core relationships around them. For a young BPD, this could be the severing of relationships with parents and siblings, best friends, therapists, teachers, all the people needed to support and help during the formative years for BPDs teens and twenties. Left to their own devices and without knowledge and education of how to maneuver within a relationship properly, they have cut off the very hand that feeds them.
If I had a quarter for every BPD that I have encountered in their early teens and twenties, who are living out of their car, cannot hold or maintain a job, have cut themselves off from family and friends by destroying relationships, I'd be a rich person! When you speak with these people at this stage of life, in this state of what I call living on an island of BPD, they are empty, broken, most of them drug and/or alcohol addicted and doing severe things like selling themselves for sex or money or putting themselves in very risky situations that could be life threatening. They truly do not understand what they have done or how they got there. The belief is, in the minds of the BPD at that stage, that everyone else is wrong and they are right. When you talk to them, they feel abused, misunderstood, maligned, abandoned, and even though this might have been very well brought on by their own doing, it is not that way in their mind.
Believe me when I say, in their mind, they are the victim and this was done to them. It could well be that many people have gone out of their way to try to fix the person with BPD or save them from themselves. Parents have tried every trick in the book that would work for a normal teenager and yet the handbook does not work with a Borderline child. For a parent, unfortunately, trying to “fix” the child with BPD does not work. In frustration and lacking hope, family and friends will throw their hands up in despair saying that they have tried everything.
How do we bridge the gap of education and misunderstanding when it comes to the symptoms of the BPD? This is the question. If you have ever encountered or been on the receiving end of a Borderline’s wrath, during a black moment rage attack, then you understand the severity of what we are up against while in an episode. Borderlines, during a rage attack, have the propensity to kill a person. It gets that bad. Understand this importance especially if drugs or alcohol fuels the BPD. I am not trying to scare people, but we must first face the demon. Those are the rough facts of living with a Borderline person.
When a Borderline is white, it is better, however we are clingy, needy, very hard to please, can't get enough of your attention and by the way, our opinion is always right! We will worship you and put you on a pedestal. You are capable of doing no wrong and must remain perfect in our eyes. One slip of that perfection and we turn on you with our wrath. Did I mention that our jealousy is like none that you have ever experienced? There is a desperation in the jealousy that we have toward anything or anyone that takes your time and attention away from us. That particular thing or person will become the object of our hatred. We will go to extreme measures to try to separate you from whatever it is that is taking you away from us.
Again, you must understand that I am speaking about a young person with Borderline. They may be misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, with no therapy, and no proper psychiatric medication to help with the symptoms. I am also speaking to the family members and friends who have little to no understanding of what Borderline Personality Disorder is and how to cope with the symptoms that the person with BPD is displaying.
Therefore, let's go there, ready? A family member, friend, spouse or significant other who cares about this person with BPD must initiate getting them help. Why does the onus fall on you first? Because, as a person with BPD, I have walked this journey for so long, and the fact is that we may refuse to accept the diagnosis. I know many people living with full-blown BPD who refuse to accept their diagnosis. The question remains, do you want this person in your life? Are you willing to help them? Do you have the resources, the stamina, and the ability to work with this person? It is such a commitment you can equate it to caretaking a child with a disability or one that is mentally handicapped. The road is not easy, it’s not short, and it does not end. If you want to help this person, again it will fall on you to take and execute the first steps.
I just want to add a sideline here. I have friends with children that have BPD and the parents and the child live in complete and total denial as to the existence of the disorder. I have witnessed their lives to be a complete mess of constant upheaval and chaos. They have learned to exist within this tornado of symptoms and deny their very existence at the same time. It is one of the most disturbing things I have seen. I hope it’s not your choice. God forbid that the BPD has a child of their own at a young age. Be prepared to raise their child, if the Borderline refuses treatment. Be prepared not to have a life of your own whatsoever, and to be on constant alert as to what the BPD will do next. The child of the young BPD, in this example, is tossed and tumbled through a tumultuous road to include abandonment issues, emotional abuse, and sometimes even physical abuse. It is heartbreaking and it happens a lot simply because people choose to live in a state of denial with regard to mental illness. Unfortunately, this has become a nationwide epidemic for all mental issues.
Hopeful time! The first thing for you as the, let's call you helpmate, of the person with BPD, to do is find a therapist or licensed counselor who has Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) training. Notice I said licensed and I am not talking about a therapist who has some or little knowledge of BPD. We need somebody who specifically trained, who understands Borderline. Your family church pastor or regular therapist is not who I am talking about.
Secondly, if you have stumbled upon this website, I know you are in search of education and help with this topic. Good for you! Educate yourself as much as possible as to the symptoms of BPD. There are many good books out there to help you with your search. We have a list compiled on our Website www.searchingforgrey.com/resources. Our campaign is to Empathize, Educate and Advocate for people with mental illness and specifically BPD. You have to take on this responsibility because when the symptoms rear their ugly heads, you will need to know how to respond accordingly. What you think is correct and right does not work in the land of BPD. So learn what does.
Next, is to seek out a psychiatrist. I didn't say a family doctor or regular doctor, but rather a psychiatrist who has experience in medicating people with BPD. The difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist is that the psychiatrist can prescribe drugs. Testing is crucial for your loved one to find out if there are any co-occurring disorders along with the BPD. We have stated this before on our website and in my book Searching For Grey, that there is no one particular medication in the psychiatric realm, that will work with BPD. The trick is to medicate the symptoms. The psychiatrist, who is used to working with BPD patients, will know this and prescribe accordingly. I highly recommend trying to find someone who is also conservative with prescriptions and their approach. The anti-psychotic drugs are very hard to handle in the brain and body. This has been my personal experience. Then if you have to withdraw off them, it is a hell of its own. Start small as to dosages with all medication, the lowest dose possible, and the least addictive. Also, try to minimize the amount of psychiatric drugs taken. I have heard of people with BPD being on 16 to 20 medications at one given time. This is totally unnecessary. It is abusive to the mentally ill. We are not looking to create zombies, or homeless psychotics living on the street. If you hear the anger in my voice, it is there for a reason. I have seen people with BPD treated like science experiments. I have experienced it myself. Please proceed with caution in regards to psychiatric medication. One last word on this, it is also wise to have someone monitor the giving of the medication to the BPD. We are notorious for messing with our meds.
Once tested, the question is whether the person is willing to accept their diagnosis. If not, have an intervention of family and loved ones that care for the BPD. Find a safe environment, in a private place, and make it perfectly clear that all involved must remain calm and soft-spoken at all times during the intervention. This in spite of displays of symptoms the Borderline might express such as rage, foul language, screaming, maybe even throwing things. Be prepared for it to come out. The object is to try to get the person with BPD to comply with the treatment plan. Remember this is a brain disorder. The person with the disorder may not understand or want to accept the diagnosis or restrictions it will entail. What you want to do as a loved one is reiterate that you are there for them and willing to help get them into a better place and as symptom-free as possible.
Unfortunately, this may have to happen a couple of times. When the BPD is confronted with this information and boundaries are being set in terms of their behavior, they may go into a total state of acting out. This could include anything from running away, taking an overdose of drugs or self-harming... The list is endless.
I want to bring to mind the famous singer Amy Winehouse a known Borderline. There is a great movie out, which is a documentary of her life that will bring much education and shed light on this topic. Watch it. When they confronted her during her intervention, came the song, “Rehab”. If you remember the song, her response to people who loved her, that were trying to make her go to rehab, was ”no, no, no.” This went on all the way to even worse abuse of drugs and alcohol, along with self-harming, isolation and her ultimate death.
This is why I am so passionate about this whole matter. You, as the loved one of a BPD, must understand that you are not up against depression or OCD. I want to state again, that people with BPD have a 400% higher rate of suicide than the general population. This is serious business.
Another therapy, which is helpful, is group therapy for people with BPD. It can be very helpful and cathartic for someone with BPD to go into a group setting and learn the Dialectical Behavioral Training. The reason this works so well, is that those with BPD get to meet others just like us. They think like us and it soothes us to know that there are others like us out there. I went through 2 years of group therapy and found it extremely helpful. The therapist that you find, who is licensed and trained in DBT therapy, should have knowledge and access to group sessions as well.
Now, as you read all this and ask yourself the question why? Why is it worth so much care, sacrifice and maintenance, to have a relationship with someone with BPD? Let me try to answer this the best way I can. We are human beings, just like you, traversing this planet in the journey of life, yet unfortunately we have been handicapped with a disorder that we did not ask for and we would never wish on our worst enemy. Most of us will never live to see our full potential realized. We may commit suicide, overdose, or end up homeless and incapacitated by just trying to exist. We need help. We need you. Although we will push you away, the truth of the matter is that we can't live without you. We don't mean to push you away and we are always sorry when we do. Without you and your help, we may not make it.
When we are good, and we are getting help, taking our meds, and learning how to cope with our symptoms, we are some of the most empathetic and engaging people you will ever meet. We love without limits, we are very loyal, we're actually pretty smart and we are very charismatic. You might find us somewhat peculiar or eccentric, but we will enrich your life with colors and vibrancy from the extreme way we view things. BPDs are very creative. When we are good, we are a lot of fun to be around and have an awesome sense of humor. Because of our empathic ways, we will be able to sense hurt in others in a way that you have never seen before. We feel what other people feel in ways that you can't. Because of that reason, we make great friends. We will hurt with you, love with you and laugh with you in ways that other people cannot because our emotions are what we live by.
I am very blessed that my husband and daughter chose to give me a chance and help me. The fact that my husband did not leave me for all these years, through hell and back, speaks to him as a person, but it also speaks to the depth of relationship you will be able to form with somebody with BPD. The love and friendship that my daughter and I have is one in a million. Because of love and forgiveness, through Christ, we have been able to move through with forgiveness of the past when I was at my worst. Now, with boundaries firmly in place and knowledge of the disorder I live with, my daughter and I share an unbreakable bond of friendship and understanding. There are so many reasons to give us a chance. I will pray for you to do so.
Love and belief, XO Alice