Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Coexisting on the Borderline/Borderline Relationship – I’m BPD, You’re BPD: Friends


Can two people with Borderline Personality Disorder coexist in a relationship successfully? That’s a tricky question. It depends on the type of relationship. Obviously it also depends on the two people with BPD.

Two Types of Relationships:

1.      Friendship

2.      Romantic



*** Really there’s a 3rd type or relationship and that’s Family/Family with BPD (mother/daughter, father/son, brother/sister, etc), but I don’t have experience with this. If anyone would like to relate their experience with Family/Family BPD relationships, I’d love to have a Guest Post. E-mail me or leave me a comment.

Either way I think it’s safe to say that you need to be prepared for an intense emotional drain. We have a hard enough time dealing with our own emotions... throw another Borderlines emotions on top of that and imagine what you get.

I can’t provide a definitive answer for this because my experience is limited and I haven’t lived a full lifetime with all the other Borderlines but I have a reasonably good idea of how these things go.

I’ve had two friends with Borderline Personality Disorder.

One I’ve mentioned before (insert link to low-functioning). She’s like me in that she has anxiety issues and depression, but where I’m high functioning, she’s low. I met her at University and I’m eternally grateful that I did. I’ve had a crush on her at times and she on me, but we never knew back then. For us, having someone that ‘just got it’, the friendship we had, was more important than the potential loss that could come from pushing it further. To this day I love {not in love with her} this woman. I don’t see her very often since I moved but we still talk, just last night actually. Our emotional states were in absolute parallel all of the time. Synced. I knew how she was feeling before she even told me because it was how I was feeling too. Our situations that caused these emotions may have been different but we were still emotionally aligned. We could deal with our problems together without dragging the other down, because we were already there. We could lean on each other in a relatively normal way because when we were together we could talk each other down from the more acting out behaviors we were prone too. Plus our favorite things were wine and horrible, horrible bad b-movies that we could MST3K too so we were easily distractible. We both tended to internalize our emotions too. We were both chronically misunderstood by everyone around us, except each other because we clearly got it. Other than my sister she’s the only person I’ve ever met in person and been very close to that has absolutely understood me. She was pretty much the reason I knew about BPD in the first place and why I knew what I was before I’d been officially diagnosed. You could read hers on her face. I hid behind a mask. We could be there for each other, need each other, with no judgement, no misunderstanding, because we knew, really in our guts and brains KNEW, what the other was going through.  But we didn’t spend all our time crying around each other which I honestly have little patience for. I know this because…


Borderline friend number two was INSANELY INTENSE in her emotional state. She was not actually diagnosed BPD but I could tell. Her level of emo was beyond, and I mean out of this universe, beyond reasonable. For everything. I would see her destroyed again and again over girls that she was dating casually, had just met, or that wanted me instead of her. When we first met and began hanging out I could have fallen in love with her, there was a while where I thought I was but I was still with Evil-Ex and therefore utterly crazy from another angle, and she was with another girl that she knew she couldn’t keep. That’s not the point. The point is, she was completely emotionally extroverted. Every time she thought something was going wrong she would collapse (often literally) into a puddle of devastation and self-loathing. She was either elated, devastated, or devoid of emotion. Middle ground? Never. And I was always there for her. I was there for the puddle of weeping willows, I was the one she called crying at 3 in the morning, I was the one she slept with when she couldn’t stand the world, I was the one she took comfort in. Why were we friends? I’ve mentioned this elsewhere… When things were good, they were VERY good. We partied a lot, had similar creative interests and had wildly fun times. Everything we did was a production of epic proportions and it was the best kind of emotional escape. When things were bad, well, you see where this is going. I began to lose myself with her. Not in her, but my emotional state, what I needed, became secondary. I would do anything for her and she took complete advantage of it, not really on purpose, but she was needy and it was natural for her to take what was offered. I let her. We were friends for years and there was rarely any deviation from this. I had years of tidal waves of external emotion crashing in on me from her, while at the same time I was dealing with Evil-Ex. I was so emotionally overwhelmed that I was constantly at a breaking point. One night she made some incredibly bad decisions, which I knew how to prevent. She refused by help, then tried to come crying to me after 10 months of insanity we’d just extracted her (and therefore us) from. I broke. Completely. All the love I had for her, in an instant was gone. She tried blaming me for something after that, but I wouldn’t have the guilt from what she did. For the first time I saw exactly what she was continually doing to herself, to us, and everyone around her. I had loved her so much, but I couldn’t be her emotional punching bag anymore. This was the beginning of one my heavier dissociative periods.

My abandonment and rejection was so severely triggered. I made a lot of questionable decisions after this. Emotionally I was numb. So I took comfort physically. Leave that to your imagination. Around this time was the beginning of my physical relationship with Friend and the end of my friendship with K and Twiggy. I’ve had people tell me he took advantage of this state. I don’t want to believe it. Especially as he was going through a lot of his own shit. We were a comfort to each other.

I suppose it’s no wonder we became instant  best friends. We latch onto those that are willing to get close to us with a death grip and don’t want to let go. Stick two of us together and you have a vice grip with super glue. 

So I guess in summary, we can either be VERY good for each other or VERY bad. I think this properly meets the black and white thinking cycle.

On the one hand we have someone that understands our emotional highs and lows in a way that most Non Borderlines can’t.  There’s no judgment because we’ve been there so many times ourselves. We have someone that we can need and be needy with and that person understands the level of reassurance we need.

When you have someone that understands you like that, there’s less fear of them finding out and leaving you for it because you know that they wouldn’t want you to do that to them. There’s an emotional safety there because I was never worried about having to hide the bad parts of me, there was nothing for her to ‘find out about’ that ‘wasn’t good enough’ and leave me alone. She was the same way, so it was safe. We both needed someone solid to rely on, even if just to talk, over hundreds of miles apart. Just knowing you’re connected to one person, one person in the whole world, that understands what it’s like to feel the things you feel and accept those feelings without judgment, dear stars it’s beyond price or value to have someone like that.

However, if you’re not both on a similar emotional page, there’s the potential for the trauma of one to override the other person altogether. Our sense of identity isn’t stable enough to support that most of the time. When one of you is so constantly emotionally volatile that you don’t realize how much emotional energy you’re consuming from you both, it becomes a very one sided relationship and no one can maintain that forever. When you have such a hard time balancing and managing your own emotional state, it can be a relief to forget about your own issues for a while and take on someone elses. There’s a safe distance there, but after a while, there’s no pushing off your own emotional state forever and eventually the weight of both Borderline states at once is enough to drive anyone over the edge. And the second you try to step back to deal with your own stuff, if they’re not the type that is willing to help you at the same time, it could register as a rejection or an abandonment and then you have more problems starting to compound. Because we do share so many issues, it’s almost easier to trigger each other into feelings that we’re trying to heal.

If one or the other is lacking in a depth of self-awareness there is the potential for some phenomenal fireworks as the friendship crashes and burns.

And that’s not even touching on what can happen when things take a turn towards the more intimate…


24 comments:

  1. I have a very good friend, we've been friends for 20 years. She lives on the other side of the planet, but we still keep in touch. We have had our ups and downs, but we were very tight during some really tough times. We were pretty codependent on each other for a couple of years there. She was the friend that I showed up at her door at 4 am tripping on acid freaking out that I thought I was autistic lol. We both knew we were "odd" but only recently have we both been diagnosed. We never got physically involved, although we both wanted to at different points. Always too scared to ruin the friendship.

    My brother is another story. Ive said his bpd is worse than mine. Its compounded by his epilepsy and brain trauma. His wife is a big influence in our distance. We finally recently started talking again by phone and facebook. He is medicated but not in therapy, the opposite of me, but I hope he will get get some counseling soon. He has caused a huge rift in my family and I am trying to help heal it. Its not my responsibility, but I worry about his kids. His daughter has aspbergers. He wont let them see my mother, because he has villified her like I did our father for years. Ive come to a place of forgiveness with our parents, a place I hope he can find. He has so much anger and its hard to communicate because he lives in the past.

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  2. Im feeling pretty low functioning today lol. I heard from my friend and I let loose a string of txts. I am so passive aggressive with technology. I cant say what i want to his face because hes a charming bastard.

    I keep trying to end it not very well, but I think I probably did today. Im dissociating a bit right now. It was a bad day to begin with. So i am being bad and getting fuckered up. I should be coping in a more constructive way but Im not gonna beat myself up. Im gonna let myself be whatever because today was my wedding anniversary. My first one as a single gal. Jesus I hated my marriage but sometimes I think "I got divorced for this?" Yeah my friend pays more attention to me than my husband did, but my husband was usually there when I needed him and at least was able to make a fucking commitment to me. Grrr. Whatever. I dont understand people who just tell me I shouldnt be so worried about relationships but try being a bpd divorcee at 35 wondering if any eggs might still be good by the time you get ur shit together and can figure out how to identify a male who isnt a total commitmentphobe. Fuck. I shoulda done more research on how shitty single life was before I got divorced. Oh wait I forgot. I gained fifty pounds in that marriage from unhappiness. That wasnt all me and the bpd.

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    1. You're allowed to have a bad day. You're allowed to take it easy on yourself.

      Lady, listen to me. It's not your fault. It's not a choice who you fall in love with. It's definitely NOT YOUR FAULT that they chose to treat you in ways that was less than you deserved. That is their failing,not yours. Getting out of those relationships and trying to move on to a different place is your choice and you're making it. Getting rid of the destructive influences in your life that make you feel bad about yourself is the best choice you can make. It might feel super shitty right now, but it won't always feel that way. It especially won't feel that way when one day you do meet that person that treats you in a wonderful way that you deserve and you have a real chance at being happy. Today sucks, but tomorrow has a chance to be better. ::hugs:: I wish I could do more for you.

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    2. You have no idea how helpful that is. You have done a lot. Just in the wanting is a lot. But your words brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

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  3. Haven this is beautiful, your connections with people are completely amazing as is your gift for writing emotion onto the page. Seriously. I'm fairly certain I'd easily fall for you. :)
    --chicadina

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    1. Haha, aw thank you chica =) You're super sweet.

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    2. Very tru chica. If there was a like button I would click it.

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  4. Haven, i was the one who asked this question on tumblr. I'm waiting in front of my therapist's room now. I'll come back later after I mulled over this entry's content. I had a big fight with someone who is also diagnosed with bpd. I thought he would understand me, but when even he left...the rejection felt double, no, triple times worse

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    1. Hi there! I was going to respond to you directly when I finished my thoughts on this subject, but I was waiting to finish up the other variations of relationships first. I'm glad you're following me here too! I'm putting a lot of thought to the question.

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  5. I had a friend like your BPD friend #2, and while I don't know to this day if he was actually BPD or not, he was so damn intense, so on and off, that it was exhausting just to be his friend. I finally had to cut him loose when the cons were far outweighing the pros.

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    1. ::nods:: It's so hard. I loved her so much, but her lack of self-awareness was hurting me even more.

      It really sucks when you know you have some great times with that person but ultimately it sucks the life out of you.

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  6. My love has been diagnosed with bpd. i have not. although reading about it has opened my eyes and i have to wonder if many bpd people are more proned to attract to their own kind of fucked up. we have known each other for years and come from very different backgrounds - but both messed up backgrounds. we became romantically involved and felt as though we were soulmates about a year ago. i have been in many serious relationships as an adult but never one that i was more devoted to - this is probably because of our previous childhood friendship. I have kids - 4 kids - and he has a problem developing his relationship with them - which is to be expected. i have used alcohol as my "self prescribed medication" for years to deal with the depression i randomly get and anxiety and to go to a world that is happy - a world where i can be and do anything i ever wanted and have an excuse for it in my guilt ridden soul. he hurts himself physically. i hurt myself by being with people that will hurt me. and habbitual things like smoking/drinking/drugs/drama. I have more control at age 31 because i have been dealing with my own self loathing / self love for a long time. lots of confussion here, i am sure. i jsut want to know if it's ok for me to put my mental issues on hold because i have dealt with it for so long so that i can help him deal with what he is just now discovering - this monster that apparently has a name and that neither of us knew about til we started having major problems - fighting constantly over petty shit that doesn't matter....feelings of not being loved enough by each other - selfish feelings and pain and this empty loss feeling that we can't seem to fix for each other anymore. he is worse. i am psycho on my own level but i deal with it for my kids. i have no idea. but i started looking things up because i know we are both crazy. i can be like him and sympathize with him and love him but sometimes he is so damn selfish that i don't even feel like it's worth it....till the next morning. or hour or fifteen minutes when he finishes his crazy cycle and goes back to being beautiful. this beautiful creature i have never felt so in love with. wow. what do i do?

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    1. I struggle a lot with wanting to help the people I care about more than I need to care for myself.

      Can you put your feelings on hold? Well, you probably can. I doubt it will be very healthy for you. Are either of you in therapy? It often helps to have a 3rd party moderator to really help develop the skills to deal with the emotions and behaviors we've developed.

      If you feel you are able to though, it's okay for you to help him. But please don't ignore yourself. If at any point you feel like it's becoming overwhelming or like you're losing yourself, reevaluate and take some time for you too.

      Ideally I'd try to work on both of you together, with a therapist.

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  7. You cannot underestimate the support from two BPD friends as I have recently, and luckily discovered. I'll love that man forever! BUT the problem is that when triggered his promiscuarity follows. All society sees is me with a man who puts it about though as we know its a reaction, not a deliberate act. He is calming this down and eventually I hope to help him but its early days. How do I tell my family I know what Im doing and Im not a fool?

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  8. Thank u lord for helping me find this site. I feel so much better that there r people just like me. This is the first place I feel like I can belong like I speak the same language. I have recently met someone who is bpd but like u describe soo emotionally draining I mean I am bpd myself but he is worse and the worst part I worry about him, I drop everything and run to the rescue because he wants to kill himself but I no longer want to b around him- he sucks the life out of me and I don't have much to begin with. Its so hard and so not fair . I guess this is how bpd looks like to normal people. Well I guess I get what I deserve for being one.

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  9. I think i have borderline i am not sure, but ive dated some girls with borderline, and it goes bad because i cant stand the shit they're doing and im terribly afraid of entering into a relationship because i feel like staggered into the wall and need to break free.. So it ends up we fight each others for something and then i just quit the relation whatever its with nasty, evil words or just calmly, even if i love the person and then i get sad but then its often too late... Should i just forget my feelings? Are they even real? Its terrible to feel trapped whenever you enter a relation, i with with my whole heart that i could mature and have a normal relationship without this terrible fear of bonding.. Because anytime i wound another like this, i feel so bad

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  10. My ex has bpd and only on researching it did i start wondering about myself...lets just say the cap fits! We both have children from previous relationships and they are our world. So much so that im worried that working it out with my ex would be destructive to the children. My parents have a no nonsense response to mental illness and don't understand. It makes me feel selfish to want to get back with him as they'll tell me it'll be unhealthy for my children.

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  11. You just described me entirely.
    I feel somewhat calmer. Nicer enough to get back to my books.

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  12. Oh sigh...I can make a testimony to 2 borderlines "in love"...its messy...its heaven - and its NEVER in the middle of the two! Our highs were soaring highs and our lows devastational ...It was about a year in and I researched BPD at the urging of someone who recognized the come here/go away pattern. I spent a long time thinking SHE was the problem...except a picture started to take shape for me...suddenly I wasn't just a mood Cancer who was just extremely sensitive - I saw my silent rages - my sometimes outward tantrums...my inability to get a handle on my emotional state - not to mention a host of other ways I saw ME in all this as well. Because she was initially more of an outward expression of rage and turmoil and my desperate attempts to make peace with her so she didn't leave me...I didn't see it. But our pattern became almost predictable. When we would "make up" usually it was because she contacted me...and we would soon after "honeymoon" - oh how good that felt! All the reassurance I would get and the promises she would make. Then a few days later she would begin to pull away - triggering my abandonment/rejection issues - and I would try and stay silent - wait for her return ...but I would obsess and suffer immense pain as I felt she just stopped wanting me or loving me. When I reached my tipping point I would say something to her ...which of course made her mad - and she would lash out at me verbally and would be "done" with me once again. Round and round we went like this for TWO years! Eventually I collapsed in a deep dark breakdown. I couldn't do a darn thing - not even get out of bed! This was the point I sought help in therapy. I dug into myself for the first time in my life. Seeing that I have no emotional skin...knowing that I am not alone out there. I still speak to her in small doses but I am afraid to get close again. I love her deeply but now I am not just afraid of the hurt she could cause me - but I am also afraid of the hurt I could cause her too. She is working on her own issues as well...and to get too close could cause set backs for us...and growth we both desperately need. I do not know if we will ever be lovers again in this life - but I am also beyond grateful to her for coming into mine - shaking me up, making me feel loved more than anyone else has - and yes for abandoning me - because without her - I would not have taken off this mask and begun the healing I so desperately need.

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  13. My mother has Borderline (not diagnosed, but well, it's WAY too obvious to ignore), I have it too. I think I may have a genetic disposition, since there's not just my mother but also many other family members both on my mother's and on my father's side that have BPS.
    My relationship with them? Horrible, especially with my mother. After my parents divorced, I moved with my mother because she forced me to. She always wanted me to be with her, even when I was supposed to go to school (I skipped quite a lot because of that). She drunk, smoked, took pills and so on, and when she did she became EXTREMELY aggressive and impulsive, even more than she already was due to her BPD. She never really hurt me physically, but living with a person that shouts at you without reason, reads your secret diaries, destroys furniture, that's kind of difficult to handle as a child.
    When my mother went to court to deprive my dad of child custody (without any reason again), I was summoned to testify against him - well, that was my chance. I testified, but against HER, and due to that my mother lost child custody right away.
    I moved to my dad and his new wife, who has autism (yup, my dad has strange preferences, he knows that). It's certainly not perfect since my stepmother is driving me crazy (honestly, we're the EXACT opposite of one another), but well... life's a bitch, isn't it? Besides, it's better, and that counts.
    I am 18 now and broke the ties with my family about 6 years ago, the only one I'm still in contact with being my dad. And I'm happy this way, although my BPD will always remind me that I'm related to them. I'm becoming more and more like my mother, I even begin to understand her past actions.
    Hell, I never ever want to have a child. I don't want to make the same mistakes my mother did.

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  14. Can anyone help me? I've been reading your story... I'm a non-BPD woman with a BPD partner who has progress amazingly in therapy for the past year. The problem is we where seperated for a year due to some violence I could not tolerate and his amazing wake-up call at how sick he was and getting personal therapy (because for him group therapy has been horrifigly destructive). Problem is my roomate who is another type of BPD (who's so much more intense then he was). I did not know she had BPD but it has become so clear in the past year. My partner has issues with BPD who are in denial and blaming pple for their problem and emotinal state. Although I literally am like HEAVEN and just love to help out people and I am very understanding I've been walking on eggshells with her from (almost the very begining) at first I thought it the pregnancy and then post-partum but I realized it with by bf's that's she splitting and is Bordeline. Thankfully I won't have to deal with her after this month but at the moment I'm am stuck between a BPD woman who think I'm the Devil and a liar and a bf's who triggered and horrible guilt that I had to go through all this and being for the moment obliged to stay with me to help with the moving is intensifying his internal black and white moment... I want to finish things nicely with my roomate but I don't know how and he's (my bf) is trying to get by being civil even though she's giving either of us the pouting treatement. I haven't been this exhausted since last yr when my bf's was in a grp therapy that obviously did not suit him. It been a long time since he has been this "in crisis bpd himself " and she well I think if she had a gun I would be dead. Any ideas how to handle this apart from the silent treatement?

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    1. All I can think is to get her to talk one on one. Openly and non-judgmentally ask her what is on her mind and try to get her to open up about what is bothering her so you can tackle the problems one at a time. Otherwise they'll fester. Clearly she needs attention.

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  15. Hi Haven --

    I found your website while doing a search on BPD. Your insight has been unbelievably helpful and I can't thank you enough for being brave enough to write all of this and publish it out there for the world to see.

    The person who was my best friend I believe to have BPD (or at least a lot of BPD traits -- she's never self-injured to my knowledge and she's the Quiet, inward type -- she doesn't rage). For no logical reason, after being inseparable friends for nearly 2 years and me holding her up while she was going through a divorce, she promptly decided to throw our friendship away. I was left bewildered and confused.

    Thankfully, as the strain of our inequitable friendship was making me feel unbalanced, I am already seeing a professional. And I have a wonderful husband and 2 amazing little girls.

    My other friends and the therapist all say I should be "happy" that it's over and I should just "move on." However, I have read enough now and been on enough BPD forums to know that abandonment issues are part of the core of this issue (and have always been an issue for my "friend."). I think abandoning her would only make things worse. Perpetuate an already bad cycle, which I know has happened to her with at least 5 other "friends" of hers. I have tried to reach out to her over the past 2 months. I have tried to explain how I feel. To tell her that I don't "know" what's happening in her head, but I do believe I understand her and that I am here still. I've tried -- both when we were friends and even now, when she's pushed (thrown) me away -- to tell her that I believe she's good. She's been so hurt and I wish I could do something -- ANYTHING -- to help her. Just to open her eyes, to get her to acknowledge, to see her get help.

    But she's cut me off. We tried sporadic texting. But she didn't want to talk or get together. Finally we got together last week. It was very superficial. At the end she said, "I really miss you." I miss her, too. She then came 2 days later to collect some things I'd been storing for her at my house. I haven't seen her since. I told her that I still cared about her and that I was still here for her. That I am still her friend. But that I was leaving our friendship in her hands. Continuing to contact her in any way seems to get me nowhere.

    Do you have any advice? My "friend" is an amazing, wonderful person. I don't want to "fix" her or "save" her. I know only she can do that. And I know in a way that she wants to. She's told me before that she believes she's broken. That she lacks good communication skills. That she wants to be different. I would love to see her happy -- even if we aren't friends. Everyone deserves the chance to be happy.

    If you have any words of wisdom, I'd greatly appreciate them.

    Thanks!
    JP

    ps -- I've read "Stop Walking on Eggshells" and also "Co-Dependent No More." I can accept that I'm not perfect, that I have some co-dependent traits (middle child, mother had cancer when I was young, father worked all the time, always tried to please people and always wanted to learn how things worked so I could "fix" them). I accept my responsibility in some of the things that went wrong with our friendship. Alas, I'm a good friend. Caring, empathic, loyal. And the loss of this friendship has made me feel a fool and really rather lost.

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Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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