“They’re all assholes. People with Borderline Personality Disorder are all nasty, manipulative, self-centered jerks that are only out to hurt the people that care for them.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people affected by loved ones or past loved ones with BPD express this kind of sentiment. I’m active in a lot of BPD forums and communities. Some places I try to stay out of are the forums arranged for those affected by those of us with BPD but not experiencing BPD themselves; families of, friends of, and loved ones of people with BPD.
I also try to read blogs written by others with BPD, but they can be incredibly triggering for me so I often have to stop shortly after I begin. Hell, even writing my own blog can be intensely triggering for me, but I persevere. Then every once in a while I stumble upon the blog of a parent of a child with BPD. These often create the greatest sadness in me.
It wounds my heart to read. I understand where all of this hostility comes from. It's sad though.
I’m at a point in my healing and awareness where I can look back and understand the misery, frustration, sadness, and hurt I’ve caused in my younger years. I can understand how horribly I acted and how my parents and siblings must have felt as a response to my actions. I also know how I felt. How alone and misunderstood I felt. When I read some of these blogs and hear seemingly rational statements such as, “I try explaining to my BPD daughter that life has choices and consequences. You need to make better choices, act responsibly, and things will be better for you. But she just won’t act responsibly and I’m fed up. It’s time that she understands we are not abandoning her, just asking her to take responsibility for herself. We can’t do everything for her forever; she must learn to do it on her own…“ I cringe. I understand, but I cringe. My heart aches for the frustration the parents must be feeling. But my heart breaks for how I know those daughters and sons will experience those kinds of sentiments.
Even the most well-intentioned, well-reasoned parents can unintentionally wound their children. Especially when they’re as hypersensitive as a child (even an adult child) with BPD. I read things like that, cognitively I understand their point of view, but I also have a greater understanding of the fact that they really just don’t get it. They’re clueless. They interpret all those actions as manipulative, self-serving acts, to get attention and avoid responsibility willfully… as if we enjoy acting and feeling like this. There’s a fundamental break in the ability to understand that how someone with BPD perceives reality is sharply, often harshly, different from how someone without BPD perceives that same reality.
That isn’t a justification for our disruptive and destructive behavior. But it really and truly is not what most people presume it is through their non-disordered thinking. I can see the frustration in these parents. I can understand it. However I also understand that while they may have poured so much time and energy into “helping” their child with BPD, they probably weren’t using the kinds of tools that work most effectively, or effectively at all. Often what people think is “helpful advice” and a “proper attitude towards maturity” feels like a slap to the face and a bath of icy rejection to someone with BPD.
People don’t understand that there seems to be a neurological component to the way we think and behave. People often refuse to see their own part in the environment that contributed to the hypersensitivity we experience. This doesn’t mean it’s all their fault. This doesn’t’ mean we shouldn’t take responsibility for ourselves. Only that what creates and contributes to BPD is not simple, and cannot be expected to heal simply either.
There’s no common language. There’s no common sense of perception. Which often ends in a common pain shared by all.
There’s such a harsh judgment that we’re unfeeling, uncaring, only out for ourselves… it’s so hard to hear. Especially when it’s so untrue. I absolutely understand where these sentiments come from. But I also know that we are capable of great caring.
This is especially pronounced in forums where we support each other. We, who understand what each other are experiencing and going through. It’s so obvious the extent to which we can care when we’re shown a similar amount of understanding and compassion.
I know this isn’t true of everyone with BPD. But it is something that I have seen A LOT of. Something that I don’t think many other people without BPD take the time to find out.
I’m not talking about just reinforcing behaviors (because reinforcing fears and behaviors is not what we need and we often know it). I mean supporting each other through difficult times and reminding each other of techniques from DBT or therapy that we should be practicing. Reminding each other that we’re not alone. That we’re not unheard. It’s often quite intense. Quite sad. Often tragic. Because you see how extreme the struggles are, but also how desperately many of us are trying to get through it in ways that aren’t destructive.
Other people with BPD are uniquely attuned to one another because we absolutely understand the pain others are going through. That doesn’t mean we’re always able to help each other. We’re all dealing with our own pain, surviving our own lives, and healing our own wounds. So we’re not necessarily great for being there all of the time one on one. When you travel the forums and have many people to discuss your issues with, there’s more chances to find helpful support. Support from people that do understand. This is probably one of the reasons DBT uses group therapy. It’s important to know you’re not alone. It’s important to understand there are others struggling the way you do. There are other people that understand.
When you walk through the world feeling so alone, and misunderstood, something as simple as understanding, a nonjudgmental ear, is invaluable.
It’s important for us to find support. It’s why I think therapy for those of us with BPD is so necessary. I also think it’s also important for families and loved ones to seek counseling as well. For as much love, and energy, as I know my family tried to put into me, they weren’t equipped to deal with me in a way I could be receptive to. But they didn’t give up. Now, in hindsight, that’s one of the greatest gifts I know I gained. For as hurt, frustrated, and angry as they were they never gave up (even if they did occasionally need a break). I think it might have been easier on all of us if they knew some DBT skills to help us communicate more effectively as well. I imagine they would have felt better knowing what was wrong with me to begin with (I wasn’t diagnosed until after I moved out).
It’s obvious how BPD affects us. It’s equally obvious to anyone who has had a loved one diagnosed with BPD how we affect them too. It's important we all get the healing and understanding we need from each other. Relationships take two. I think in order to maneuver in a world together, everyone involved should consider making an effort to work together… not just place the responsibility on the shoulders of one or the other. It's helpful for everyone involved to learn the tools necessary to aid in healing ourselves and the pain we can cause one another.