May 10, 2024, 06:24AM

Tips on Navigating “Your BPD Person”

We aren’t always terrifying or complicated.

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Last week in Honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and Borderline Personality (BPD) Month, I wrote about what’s like to live with BPD. I received some feedback. A few thoughtful people asked how they could best communicate and interact with their loved one who has a BPD diagnosis, so I figured I’d focus on the topic this week.

First, thank you for caring about how to communicate with and understand those of us who struggle with an emotional dysregulation disorder. It’s not always easy to walk around with your emotional volume stuck on 10 all the time. Those of us dedicated to managing our mental health spend our lives in therapy trying to learn to manage a rusty can of WD40 for that broken volume button on behalf of our friends and loved ones. We're fortunate when intelligent, emotionally stable, loving people are willing to manage the relationship, versus when people (emotionally immature cowards) abandon us, which is our biggest fear.

Here are some tips:

—Remember the stigma and the bias when it comes to BPD. When you seek to read more about BPD, keep in mind that for the duration of time, the condition has been the battering ram for all of psychology, leading to bullying, shame, misinformation and reluctance to seek much-needed treatment. When you read articles, you’ll see the negativity that’s the result of this bias and find few of the positive attributes of those of us with this diagnosis. I can’t stand victim narratives and consider myself a survivor and not a victim, but it's simply reality that I’ve experienced some terrible and hurtful situations related to a lack of willingness to understand BPD and perpetuate this stigma.

—Keep in mind that, like it or not, you have a large amount of power in the relationship with “your BPD person” because you hold the ability to manage reactions better than we do. We’re broken little kids in a lot of ways and communications are vital—BPD has insecurity as one of its key components. If you care about this person you might have a heavier load when it comes to timely responses, active listening, and validation because unfortunately we’re not the same as most people in your life. We already feel like a burden and are self-isolating and taking other measures; whether or not your “BPD person” is in therapy is a key factor to consider, as you are never their therapist.

—It’s okay to set boundaries as long as you communicate them. In addition to not being our therapists, you’re also not our emotional support animal. We can be assholes and we hate feeling clingy, and as much as we might be in a constant “anxious attachment” state that makes us feel a need for reassurance, if you’re a good communicator, simply say something like, “I’m busy today but let’s get together this weekend.”

—I can’t speak for everyone with BPD, as there’s a large spectrum of behaviors with this disorder; probably revolving around how much treatment has been given or accepted. Besides, unpredictability is the most predictable thing about someone with BPD. But I’d say that the amount of time we can spend regretting something we said or did is immeasurable. We ruminate for hours or days on a moment when we let our carefully-constructed guards down. Patience, understanding and forgiveness are big parts of navigating a relationship with your BPD friend or loved one.

We didn’t ask to be this way any more than a person born with diabetes. It’s not a choice. Are we responsible for monitoring our mental health in the same way? Absolutely. It’s not always an easy task, and it’s easier on some days than others. Just like in every other relationship in your life with someone you care about, you learn to navigate interactions with a person and read them like a map, choosing how to steer the ship based on which way the wind is blowing. If you decided the juice is worth the squeeze and it’s a cool ship with a perpetual sunset view, there will be storms and you adjust the sails, but that's just how oceans work.


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