*TRIGGER WARNING FOR INFO AS FOLLOWS*
To begin, Jordan and I decided to write a post on her diagnosis and mental struggle of living with borderline personality disorder. This first half was written from her point-of-view; the person living with this illness. The second half was written by me, on how to love someone with BPD — side effects and all….
I’ll never forget that day. I’ll never forget the instant denial I felt or the anger towards my therapist for even thinking that I could even have that. Borderline personality disorder? You must be joking. “A personality disorder?” I yelped at her, “But I’m not schizophrenic or anything. That doesn’t make sense.” I already knew I had major depression and PTSD, and now to be told this? I already had so much on my plate, I didn’t need this too. So I just causally blew it off, that lady had to be wrong.
But the proof was right in front of me, every single symptom pointed in my direction.
I actually didn’t accept this diagnosis until I was 20 years old. I guess I just got tired of constantly running from my truths.
“Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as : ‘a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships. People with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days.’” (Found on the NIMH.)
Seems simple, right? …. Absolutely not.
My anger, my sadness, and any emotion in general is really is heightened more than usual.
If I’m angry, then I’m angry. When I get angry, it feels like you’re putting a Mento in a coke bottle. Fizzles for a second, and then BOOM. When I’m angry, I know that 80% of the time, it’s over something stupid, but no matter how much therapy I have or whatever coping skills I’m told to use, I can’t help it. Sometimes when I get angry, it can be over the most minuscule thing and my brain can’t always differentiate that. Majority of the time, it takes hours for me to get over something so frivolous that made me mad. This is probably one of the hardest things for me.
If I’m depressed, sadness comes and literally feels like my chest is being crushed. Loneliness comes and pushes such a weight on my chest that I usually just sleep because I can’t handle staying awake with that pressure on me.
For about 7 years of my life, I would cut myself, and I attempted suicide more times than I can count on two hands. This is another huge part of BPD; bad coping mechanisms and suicidal idealization. I was abandoned by my biological mother, raped and molested by a family member for 7 years of my life, and abused physically, emotionally, and mentally by another. My life hasn’t been easy and my illness made it harder to cope with these tragedies. By hurting myself, chain-smoking, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in my room alone, I was able to numb a lot of the things I was feeling without knowing I was making it worse. I am now 4 years clean from self harm.
- You’re so sensitive.
- I feel like I’m walking on eggshells with you.
- Wow, you really can’t take a joke. You need to lighten up.
To love someone with a mental illness is sometimes to love a bunch of different “someone’s,” all at once. For me, I have severe anxiety (social and generalized) and mild OCD. For my wife, she has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and major depression.
To love someone with BPD, it’s important to be knowledgeable. It’s so important to research signs, effects, etc. of this illness because it’s VERY vital that you realize that sometimes, control is out of question. Now, I am not saying you should excuse anything — physical abuse, verbal, etc. It’s not about excusing, but about knowing what to do and how to help deescalate.
For me, I started researching borderline personality disorder when Jordan first told me she was diagnosed. I learned that deescalation isn’t easy and is NOT always a matter of what *I* can do, but about what NOT to do. For example, instead of fighting back, simply apologizing and eliminating myself from the conversation has saved a ton of trouble — for her and for me. It’s important to not fight back. There is no winning when there was no precursor.
When Jordan has an “episode,” I always put myself in her shoes. If I’m getting one side of it, imagine how her head feels? Yes, people with BPD tend to hit where it hurts (figuratively, not physically) and know exactly what to say to piss you off. But, all I do is sit there and imagine how it feels to think these things — it’s like torturing yourself every single day with terrible thoughts and no escape.
BPD has a suicide rate of at minimum of 10%. That could be 1 in 10 people. That could’ve been my wife. My wife could’ve been a victim to this monster. I would’ve never met the love of my life because of an incurable illness living in her brain.
Jordan has attempted suicide more times than I can count. This doesn’t make her crazy. This doesn’t make her a psycho. This is a reminder how much a suffering this one illness puts our loved ones through.
Aforementioned, I would never say to excuse the actions of someone with a mental illness. But it is VERY important to know how to differentiate an episode versus an attitude. I repeat, there is a VERY prominent and necessary difference and if you plan on loving someone, love them for who they are — not for who you want them to be. It’s very vital to learn how to cope with the backlash of an episode and with simply watching your favorite person suffer from the inside with no help. It’s so, so important to know and to learn — and to surely never give up.
Signs of BPD or signs of an episode, as per told by PSYCOM:
- “Having an unstable or dysfunctional self-image or a distorted sense of self.
- Feelings of isolation, boredom and emptiness.
- Difficulty feeling empathy for others
- A history of unstable relationships that can change drastically from intense love and idealization to intense hate.
- A persistent fear of abandonment and rejection, including extreme emotional reactions to real and even perceived abandonment.
- Intense, highly changeable moods that can last for several days or for just a few hours.
- Strong feelings of anxiety, worry and depression.
- Impulsive, risky, self-destructive and dangerous behaviors.
- Unstable career plans, goals and aspirations.”
BPD people experience “too many” feelings on the regular. They are tortured by themselves with no escape, and sometimes, that comes with a backlash at the person they’re closest to. A mountain becomes a molehill faster than you’d expect. Imagine being in pain and never being able to rid yourself of it. Imagine medication only masking it and making you into a vegetable. Imagine feeling this pain, by yourself, with only therapies and not one cure. You’d be angry, too — and it’s so okay for them to be angry. Accept that and remind them — it’s okay.
Leaving someone with BPD should never be your first option. It’s so important to LEARN somebody BEFORE you love them. It’s so important to learn EVERY ounce of a person; friend OR significant other. Do not love someone if you plan to leave them for an incurable “flaw.” Loving someone ALSO means learning them. It means learning their quirks AND flaws.
BPD also comes with some bright positives! It comes with someone who loves so damn deeply — a person who definitely cares more than the average person. It comes with someone who learns you faster than you learn them, and who listens to every word you say.
Here’s a couple of tips on how to deal with BPD, as an outsider:
- learn to differentiate an episode from an attitude. If an episode is starting, it’s important to build your esteem and exterior to know that this person talking, is NOT your loved one speaking or thinking.
- Remind them that it’s OKAY to NOT be okay.
- Learn their love language. If they like words, talk them through it. If they like touch, hug it out.
- Apologize first — regardless. When they come out of an episode, they always remember what they said and always feel extremely guilty (which comes from feeling too much at all times.) If you apologize and end it there, it helps deescalate their current mindset. It helps them come out of it.
- Remove yourself from a room and let them be isolated for a few moments (or hours — for Jordan, she sometimes needs a few hours by herself to come out of it.) I don’t mean to leave a house, but a room. This forces them to not spew backlash and instead, learn and stop. Keep an eye on them.
- Be sympathetic. What they’re saying is only a sliver of what they’re feeling.
- RESEARCH THE ILLNESS AND LEARN. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER IN THIS SCENARIO ESPECIALLY. Learning about this on my own has helped my wife cope tremendously. My understanding is better than others and for that, she knows she’s never, ever in this alone.
- Be a faucet, not a drain. Encourage them to continue doing hobbies and things they love, constantly and daily! Encourage them to follow their hearts and to not give up. Guide them to finding proper stress-management.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for taking the time to learn about Jordan and a bit deeper into what we deal with on a daily basis, together. This is a huge part of who we have become as a whole and who Jordan has become on her own. I truly could not be any prouder than I am of her; she’s conquered more demons than the average human. She’s a special person and I will never hold her illness against her. I hope everyone has a deep understanding for their own partner’s flaws and quirks — mental illnesses and all. Take time to learn your person, from the inside out.
Keep smiling. Yes, you got this. 💛 The Jacques 🌻