Friday, July 27, 2012

Special Announcement

As I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post I have a little announcement. I’m going to be taking on a bit of a long term project inspired by my wonderful adventures in blogging. Many, many, many of you have written to me and let me know how you’ve related to my posts and the things I bring up to talk about. You’ve also told me that I bring something to you in my words and experiences that you haven’t received before from other sources. You know me, I’m all about raising awareness and trying to bring a greater understanding to Borderline Personality Disorder.

During my time blogging here a fair few of you have suggested an interesting idea to me. I think now might be an excellent time to take you up on that idea.

In the upcoming months I’m going to be compiling, editing, reorganizing, hacking, and chopping up my posts and new material in order to organize them into an official published work.

I’m going to write a book!

I’ve never written a book before so I can only imagine this is going to be a major project and I have a lot to do, but you’ve all inspired me so much with your words, your encouragement, your sympathy, and your courage, that I think I could really contribute something from my own adventures with Borderline Personality Disorder and the knowledge and research I’ve compiled along the way.

Now here’s where I need your help (and feel free to leave me comments anonymously).  I need to know which topics are most important to you.

Which topics have I written about that you relate to the most?

Which posts have provided you insight or information that you didn’t know before, but wish you had?

Which posts have had the greatest impact on you?

Which posts do you think are the most important for people struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder (or our loved ones) to know about in order to understand this disorder and help ourselves heal?

There’s no limit. Let me know all your thoughts. If you can’t remember a specific post, just give me a reminder of what I discussed. I’ll figure it out.

From the get go it’s been my goal to get as much useful information on BPD in one place as I can possibly find. I want something that is easy, accessible, and touches on the topics that are most important to you. So let me know. This book is about all of us.

Thank you in advance. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

BPD acting “Normal” and Manipulation

“You know you’re borderline when you’ve spent so much time acting normal, other’s say ‘you’re cured’ so you show them you’re not." [1]

This is me. This is the plight of the Quiet Borderline. This is why it’s so hard for us to ask for help, and to get help, because so often when we do finally attempt to shed that mask, people look at us and say… But you’re so normal, I think you’re fine.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve run into this. xRoommate told me she didn’t think I was Borderline. Current Roommate (who is also a Psych major) has told me she would never guess I was Borderline. I think this is a two part problem.

1.      The stigma surrounding BPD focuses so strongly on the angry, volatile, aggressive, explosive cases of BPD, that it’s become stereotyped to the exclusion of evidence to the contrary.

a.       I find this funny because only criteria 8 in the DSM specifically mentions: inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights) . That’s one criteria. One. Growing up there would be zero doubt, zero, that this was an incredibly huge problem for me. It wasn’t until the last few years that I’ve turned more inward and the expression of my volatile anger has come under control. Note: That doesn’t mean I don’t still get enraged and furious at the drop of a hat, I’ve just learned to control the outward expression of it. Regardless, that’s only 1 criteria of 9 in the DSM and by all accounts you only need 5 criteria that significantly disrupt your life to qualify as Borderline.

2.      I wear a mask. Constantly.

To the outside world I do not rage. I do not show how quickly my moods can change. I hold it inside until I’m alone and can let the façade slip. “Acting normal”, not letting people see my emotional instability, not letting people see things that would make them question whether I have it together, is vitally important. I learned growing up and from the abusive relationships that I’ve been in, that anything “abnormal” mentally and emotionally is something to be ashamed of and can be used against me to humiliate me and alienate me from the people I need in my life. How can someone love you if you’re broken? So I hide it.

Until it’s too much to hold inside. Until I’ve finally, finally reached a point where I need to reach out for help. When I’m literally dizzy and shaking from the anxiety, depression, rage, and pain I’m feeling and can’t keep going on my own anymore. When I finally cede that I need to try, I hear… But you seem so normal. You’ll be fine.

Invalidation. Of course I seem normal, because that’s all I’ve let you see! You don’t see what’s happening inside because I’m positive you won’t be able to deal with it and won’t like me anymore. Not to mention I feel guilty bringing my problems to you even this one time, let alone all the times when things feel like they’re too much for me to handle, so I bury them so you won’t be burdened with how much I’m hurting. Of course you don’t see all that is inside of me.

Breaking point. This is when I’ve hit mine. This is when I need something, anything to relieve the pain. Something that I can control when everything else seems so out of my hands. I can’t control the pain that is bombarding me from the inside, but I can control the pain I inflict from the outside. That’s often when I would reach for a knife to create some form of control. And a bottle to take myself out of my own head to boot.

Appearing “normal” is like the bottle cap on a carbonated soda that’s been shaken violently and kicked down a flight of stairs. It looks fine from the outside, but when it’s finally cracked even a tiny bit…. Explosion.

I’ve definitely had thoughts of, “You don’t believe me? Then I’ll just have to show you how serious I am.” Because it’s my last fucking resort. If I’ve asked for help, and been turned away because you don’t believe me, than what choice do I have but to give you proof?

Then there are other times when having help rejected has pushed me past the point of caring. I don’t care whether you believe me or not. No one will help, so I have to help myself. Unfortunately the only ways I know to make myself feel better are maladaptive and destructive and you can’t always hide that, so people still manage to see.

This is where I believe a lot of the Borderline “manipulativeness” comes into play.  It’s not manipulation in a pre-mediated trying to get you to do something that you don’t want to do while making you believe it was your own idea, sort of way. It’s acting in a way that is destructive and extreme because it’s the only way we know how to cope, but is also pretty impossible for you to ignore, thereby we obtain what we needed as well: attention and help.

So why don’t you just let go of the mask and people will believe you? Because then the rest of my life will be even more dysfunctional, and I’ll lose the people I care about and need in my life… or so I believe. Remember I can’t internalize why someone would want me in their life if I’m not perfect and have too many problems. I have to protect myself, and keeping people away from the vulnerable sides of me is the only way I know how to do that. My mind runs away in a maelstrom of anxious ruminations, of every possible way my life would be affected and how things could go wrong if I let my mask slip. The accumulation of those outcomes seems overwhelmingly worse than the idea of showing people what we hold inside.

There’s also this; once you’ve worn a mask for so long, it becomes difficult to take off. Especially when you’re not always sure who you are some days, what does taking off that mask even mean? The mask isn’t a pre-molded construct. It’s an adaptation to the world around you to help you maneuver and function in a society that seems so different from how you feel. When do those adaptations become an actual part of you and when do those adaptations remain things that are separate?

When I was angry and volatile, people told me to act differently, to act “normal”. By “normal” I mean in a socially acceptable way, because there really is no normal. So I do, at least when the situation calls for it. But what people really mean is stop being so emotional, stop expressing how you feel, stop showing that you’re in pain. So I do. Changing how I appear doesn’t actually stop how I feel.  It looks like it does though, so people say, “You’re cured! Look it worked! You just had to change how you acted and things would get better!” Except it doesn’t. It just invalidates how I feel, tells me that who I am is bad, and shuts down my ability to get help when I need it because now no one believes that I need help at all. All that’s left is to Act Out to show that no, in fact it hasn’t worked. I’ve just been backed into an emotional corner and shoved my heart in a drawer to make you more comfortable.

Happy now? I’m not.

I never wanted to wear this mask. It’s something I’ve felt forced into. I don’t even notice it half the time. Trying to take it off is like trying to tear off the scab on a wound that hasn’t fully healed. A band-aid on a bullet wound. It doesn’t come off easily yet it doesn’t heal what it’s covering over. It’s the product of years of trying to adapt. Don’t expect it to part from our skin quickly, or easily. It’s a product of the protection we’ve had to develop. I know people get frustrated because they think it should be easy for us to “just be yourself”. But when you’ve had a lifetime of being told that “being yourself” isn’t acceptable, a lifetime of conditioning doesn’t change overnight. 

Tomorrow I have an announcement for something that could potentially be quite exciting! Stay tuned. I need your suggestions. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Do Borderlines Mean What They Say?

Since I'm wrapping up my series on Lying I wanted to bring this up as well. Is it possible to say something you mean honestly and truthfully, and then have that change later? Of course.

A reader recently asked me if her borderline friend ever genuinely meant the things he said to her. This got me thinking. It’s quite possible her Borderline friend means everything he says… at the moment in time that he says it. However most decisions and expressions of sentiment are dependent on how we are feeling at the time. Something can be an absolute significant truth in one moment, and then lose its importance in another moment if emotional circumstances change.
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When you’re wrapped up in the glow of affection for someone as they are sitting cuddled up next to you, it can seem like the world is whole and you would do anything to keep it such a warm and wonderful place. The person next to you is all that matters and making them happy or doing things that make them feel good can be your absolute priority. The rest of the world be damned.

I feel like this a lot. Especially if I’ve had a particularly strong bonding time with someone. I would do absolutely anything for them; 1. Because I genuinely care about them and want them to be happy, but also 2. Because I want them to be happy because of something I did for them, for them to associate me with things that make them happy. I recognize that I think this way now, I haven’t always. I think this is the unconscious motivator for people in general (true altruism doesn’t exist, sorry), but I think the feelings are amplified with BPD.

However, when they’ve gone or are not in my immediate presence it can be hard for me to hold onto that intense sentiment, if I can hold onto it at all. Cognitively I remember and do still care, but it’s difficult for me to still feel attached or like I mean anything to the other person so the importance of what was previously said also becomes a little emotionally muddy. I know this is tied to my object constancy issues. I hate it. I really hate it. It’s not that I want to lose those sentiments. I just don’t know how to hold onto that feeling of love and warmth when I feel like I’m not a part of that persons world.

I can also be something of a flake for entirely different reasons. Mainly my emotional state can get pretty damn shitty. I’ll cancel plans and not be able to do things I’ve said I would because I can’t deal with being around people. Yes, even people I adore. I can get so anxious, or so depressed, that they idea of having other people see me like that is just unbearable. Especially if I’m having a body conscious day and I feel like a hideous monster on top of being depressed and anxious, I feel like a social pariah ready to infect those around me with my foul mood. It’s just not possible to always hold it in, put on a grin, and waltz my way through a day where I feel like the weight of the world is dragging me down. This has nothing to do with the other person, it’s all about my moods being bad, and to top it off, I usually feel guilty for having to cancel.

And then there are the times when I am sharing deep emotional sentiments with people. I admit that there have been times when I would say things and try to change what I wanted (actually live up to the things I was saying) to make someone else happy. Despite the fact that I was not okay with their decision, I wanted to support them because I think that’s what a good friend is supposed to do. I know I can be a pretty selfish creature. I don’t want to be but I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be different though, so I do try to act in ways, better myself in ways, that I think are more honorable. Like supporting the desires of others even when those desires are hurtful to me. It’s hard though. It’s hard to change. Sometimes I mess up.

Here’s a story of Ex-BPD friend, Riot, GF, and myself. GF and myself had hooked up and gone on a few dates. I ended up going back to Boring-Ex and stopped seeing GF, but remained friends. About a month later Riot decided she wanted to hook up with GF. GF is a pretty fun, sexual creature that doesn’t read much into sex other than a good time. Riot puts all the meaning of the world into each sexual encounter. I was still very attracted to GF and liked her, but I was in a relationship with someone else, so when Riot asked me if she could pursue her, I was very conflicted. I didn’t like the idea at all but I was in a relationship with someone else and I felt like I’d be sort of cheating on him to tell her I wasn’t okay with it. I also valued Riots happiness more than anything so that trumped how I felt and I gave her the okay despite not feeling good about it. They had one weekend date and that was it. GF told Riot she wasn’t interested in her in that way, in fact, she was still very into me. But I made the choice and I tried extraordinarily hard to not upset Riot. Even though I still wanted to be friends with GF and she wanted to be involved in my life as well. Except every time GF would tell Riot she only wanted to be friends and not be involved with her in “that way” Riot fell more and more in love. So even the brief friendly conversations I had with GF felt like a betrayal of my friendship to Riot. I absolutely meant what I said to Riot, that her friendship and her happiness was more important to me, but every time I talked to GF I missed her and missed the freedom to even have a friendship with a woman I enjoyed. I would talk to GF and she made me feel like the world was a better place. Even then I always, always, always maintained my distance. Until Riot started asking me to come around, knowing full well that GF still liked me, and tried forcing interactions with us. In almost every instance I cancelled or backed out because I knew my own will power wasn’t great around GF and I didn’t want to put myself in a position to hurt Riot. Then one day about a month after my break up with Boring-Ex and subsequent trip to the Psych-ER, Riot threw a party and invited us both. I was cooking and decorating for the party so of course I was going to be there. A couple of my other girlfriends were there too so I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I wasn’t going to drink, I was going to busy myself with my girlfriends and the party and not get involved too much with GF. Until Boring-Ex showed up. The guy that just had an explosive break up with me and sent me to the Psych ER showed up to a party he had no real friends at, and proceeded to ignore me. I told Riot if he would talk to me and be civil I could be okay, but he didn’t. My anxiety started spinning me out of control, my girlfriends ended up having to leave, and I just started drinking, drinking, drinking. Vodka. Straight. I was in a pretty bad state, trying to keep myself together. Riot told me I could go inside if I wanted, but then ran off to play beer pong or something. I didn’t want to be alone. That wasn’t going to help. And there was GF. She was kind and sweet and held my hand and we went for a walk around the block to help me clear my head and let me vent. Before I knew it she kissed me, and Riot in her jealousy and suspicion (which I guess was justified at that moment) walked around the corner just as I was telling GF we couldn’t do that. Riot dissolved. I dissolved. GF left. Riot kept accusing me of wanting to be with her, telling me that I never meant what I said, telling me she couldn’t trust me. Maybe she couldn’t. But it was true that I didn’t want to be with GF. I didn’t want to hurt Riot. I had two other girlfriends at the time, I just made a mistake in the moment. I’m not sure what I wanted. But it  certainly wasn’t to betray the trust of a friend I cared so much for. In certain moments I wished things were different with me and GF, but in that moment when she kissed me I wasn’t thinking about Riot, I wasn’t thinking about Boring-Ex, I wasn’t thinking at all… All I knew was that I was being held by someone that cared about me and wanted to take away some of my pain which was more than anyone else was trying to do. I just needed to not be in so much pain.

How I felt with GF in the moment was so strong that it took me a minute to regain my ability to make decisions. Then not 2 minutes later with Riot I would have given up all women forever to prove that I never meant to hurt her and that her accusations were false. I meant everything I said, but in such an emotionally charged situation what I want changed with who I was with.  

I’m not saying it justifies how I acted, but it wasn’t my intent to not keep my word.

Maybe that’s why it can be so difficult to understand if we mean what we say. Because what we want to be true ABOUT ourselves is often in conflict with what we want FOR ourselves. I absolutely want to be the kind of friend that always puts others in front of myself, but it’s just not always possible for me. I doubt it’s possible for anyone. Especially when you have so many conflicting, tumultuous emotions whipping through your mind until your ability to think and make appropriate decisions goes utterly numb and all that’s left is trying to stop the feeling of hurt.

And it doesn’t have to be something so emotionally sad or negative either. My whole life I always said I would never be one of those girls that took their tops off for attention Mardi Gras style or whatever, then after talking to another friend I started stripping on an impulsive whim to help me pay the bills when I was unemployed. I absolutely meant that I would never do such a thing for years and years, and then I changed my mind on an impulse. Like most things in human nature, people change as they grow, as their situations change and they are forced to adapt. With BPD it seems like we are "forced" to adapt much more often, especially when we have a flexible sense of self. 

For me, it’s often like the previous events in my life have little to no attachment to the current moment. My life doesn’t always feel like a continuum, more like a series of episodes on some dramatic television show. Sometimes the next scene picks up where the last one lets off, other times there’s a commercial break that has absolutely nothing to do with what I just did. It makes it difficult to apply significance to things done earlier in the series when I’m swept up in the brilliance of some new shiny piece of stimuli. I change and I adapt more rapidly to situations I’m in because I don’t feel as strong of a connection to earlier events. It’s not that I don’t want to give them more significance, but it tends to be that the things directly in front of me and in my presence have a stronger connection because I know they’re real. It’s hard for me to remember what’s real and what’s not when it comes to emotional bonds when there’s no tangible proof of them. I have to keep reminding myself. It’s a conscious effort. I try really hard to be consistent, with how I act and what I say, but it’s not always easy because I don’t perceive attachments in a linear fashion
 It’s like gravity, the closer something or someone is, the stronger it’s pull. The closer someone is the stronger I mean what I say. The further away they get, I still mean what I’ve said, but the weaker the intensity of the force maintaining that perception becomes. If I happen to get swept up in the gravitational pull of a different closer object, it feels natural to be pulled along in that orbit for a time. Until I manage to achieve an emotional escape velocity and go soaring back to where I probably should be.

Oh metaphors. It’s a rambling kind of day today I guess. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Emotional Language and Communication with Borderline Personality Disorder

Today I want to discuss something important that a lot of people with Borderline Personality Disorder lack: Communication skills. Mine happen to be pretty darn good (Well, now), but I think I’m something of an anomaly because I also happen to be an academic genius which puts me in a unique position to be able to put my thoughts into words. Even then, I didn’t always used to be able to communicate so well, and it’s still not always easy for me. For us.  

 It can be difficult to talk to us. It can be even more difficult getting us to talk about what it is we need and what is bothering us. Sometimes it seems like no matter how clearly a person with BPD explains their feelings those around us don’t understand what we mean. Similarly, things others say to us often seem to be wildly misinterpreted by the person with BPD, distorted into something you never intended and everyone ends up defending themselves against something they never realized they were saying. And that’s best case scenario if we are able to accurately describe what we’re saying. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case so it seems like there’s always a perpetual miscommunication with someone with BPD.

What you hear is not always what we mean. What you say is not always what we hear. 

The reason for this is simple, and frustrating. 1. We’re so used to being dismissed as overemotional that it’s instinctive to expect that we’ll be invalidated. 2. We don’t always know what we need.  We don’t always know what is bothering us. We can’t always identify what it is we’re feeling. All we know is that something feels bad, but it’s not always possible to identify the source of that feeling. It’s not always clear what is causing it. All we know is that it FEELS like there’s a problem, anxiety, something gripping our hearts and shoving it up into our throat. How do you express something that you can’t accurately process? Let alone put it into words.

It’s extremely frustrating to know you feel bad but not know how to express it properly or how to fix it. We learn to adapt in different ways because of this. For me, I learned to control my environment. This lead to an extraordinary amount of anxiety if anything deviated from the structure I needed to “stabilize” my environment. People with BPD can become demanding, control, lash out in meanness from their own frustration, or get so frustrated that they give up altogether and move on to someone or something else. Sometimes we just stop asking at all and accept that we will always feel perpetually misunderstood and different, outsiders set aside from everyone else. Or we learn to adapt in other ways to get our needs met through projection, mirroring, sex, impulsive behaviors, things that pull others close to us in relationships.

What’s more. Often people with Borderline Personality Disorder lack the emotional language to express what it is they are feeling. [1] Even if we know what it is we’re experiencing someone with BPD may lack the eloquence to accurately portray that to someone else. As cliché as it may seem, I think this is why a lot of depressed people write poetry and create art. It’s often easier to convey how it is we feel through pictures and music than to describe a concept in a way that will allow others to understand. Keeping in mind that often people with BPD don’t understand what it is their feeling. If you’ve ever experienced depersonalization or derealization, it’s a really heady feeling. I had no idea what it was that was going on with me to make me feel like I was floating outside of my own head. It sounds crazy! It took a lot of internet searching and finding a therapist who specialized in this sort of thing before it was confirmed for me that I had a dissociative disorder. Now try explaining this experience to someone who has never experienced it themselves and also has no clue that this state of being exists.

It’s often very difficult to communicate because people with BPD perceive and feel in a way that is different than most people do. How we feel doesn’t necessarily make sense to people without BPD. I remember getting extremely frustrated, extremely tired, and ultimately extremely angry when I would try to explain what I was going through only to have the other person try to rationalize it in their own way or blow off what I was saying as me getting worked up over nothing. It’s not nothing. You may not understand it, but our feelings are valid because we are experiencing them, and telling us that it’s in our head or that things aren’t as bad as they seem and walking away, just leaves us feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and alone. If this happens often enough, we shut down. At least I do. I quit going to people for help. I quit trying. And after a while the idea of asking for help stopped occurring to me at all. It feels like no one will understand because no one listens. Or they won’t understand because their normalized experience is so different than ours that they simply can’t feel what we feel. It’s difficult.

When we’re lead by our emotions, the things we think we need may not actually be the best thing for us either. We’re often so sensitive and highly emotional that our communication can be misleading. Not intentionally but when our emotions are SO extreme and SO changeable what we need can be as extreme and changeable as the emotions that accompany them. What we think we need in the moment may not be what will really ease our anxiety.  What we actually need is often left unexpressed. If you have a partner or loved one with BPD it’s important to pay attention to what triggers them, and what brings about periods of calm in their life. Look for the things left unexpressed.

If we go back a long ways to when I started talking about Schema Therapy there are 5 core emotional needs for all human beings. Early Maladaptive Schemas and coping mechanisms result from unmet core emotional needs in childhood or early adolescence and continue on into adulthood. They’re basic and general but a good place to begin.

            1.      Secure attachments to others (includes safety, stability, nurturance and acceptance)
2.      Autonomy, competence, and sense of identity
3.      Freedom to express valid needs and emotions
4.      Spontaneity and play
5.      Realistic limits and self-control

So keep your eyes open and try to figure out what it is that is at the core of the problem, regardless of what is being said. Above all, be patient. Validate the other person’s feelings. And don’t give up. It’s important to develop a relationship of trust. It can also be very helpful to develop a common vocabulary to help one another communicate effectively and develop the skill necessary for effective communication.  [2] It takes time to develop emotional language when you haven’t previously had it. But it is possible. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lying and Borderline Personality Disorder - Part 5 - Gaslighting

As promised, there’s one last issue in this Series of Lies that I wanted to address. That’s Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is the practice of systematically convincing an individual that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false.

The first question I usually come up with is where the hell did that name come from. So here you go:

Gaslight is a classic suspense thriller set in nineteenth-century London. In the movie, Paula (Ingrid Bergman) marries the villainous Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), not realizing that he is the one who murdered her aunt and is now searching for her missing jewels.

To cover up his treachery, he tries to persuade Paula that she is going mad, so he can search the attic for the jewels without her interference. He plants missing objects on her person in order to make her believe that she has no recollection of reality. He tries to isolate her, not allowing her to have visitors or to leave the house. However, she uncovers the truth when she notices the dimming of the gaslight.

When this technique is used on someone, at first they might be frustrated that they’re being told their memory or perceptions don’t match reality. However, after a while, after the manipulation is repeated over and over, the person beings to believe the gaslighter. That person may actually believe that they are imagining things, has some kind of mental illness, or has a faulty memory. When someone doubts their own perception of reality, the gaslighter is able to control that person; and in extreme cases they can become completely dependent on the gaslighter for the "truth".

Some examples of this include:

  • -         A family member steals something from you then tries to convince you that it belongs to them, that you misplaced it, or that you gave it as a gift.
    -         A person acts threateningly and then accuses you of abuse when you react in self-defense. My Evil-Ex used to do this all the time. In addition, he’d try to shame me for standing up for myself as well.
    -         A spouse tries to persuade you that you said or did something that you know is inaccurate. 

Gaslighting is something that has been given a lot of attention to some other “Cluster B” Personality Disorders like Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Anti-Social Personality Disorder (think Sociopaths and Psychopaths).  It can happen with Borderline Personality Disorder as well. I don’t usually bring the other personality disorders into it, but in this case I think it’s important. Gaslighting is awful and can reek havoc on the psyche of the person it’s directed towards. However, the motivations of why someone would use gaslighting techniques can be very different. I’m not saying any of it is right, but with BPD gaslighting is often unintentional, whereas with NPD or ASPD it’s quite intentional and meant to purposely manipulate and discredit the victim.

Gaslighting isn’t something I do. It’s something my narcissistic Evil-Ex tried to use on more occasions than I care to remember though. It usually something subtle, especially at first. Questioning if you remembered something right or simply denying that certain events occurred or that certain things were said. They may deny your perceptions, memory and very sanity, even if you know differently. It’s so insidious because it’s not always a grand story, but something small and often a little obscure. Maybe you did hear something wrong, maybe that thing didn’t happen quite the way I thought it did…. Simple as that.

If you’ve ever been told something that’s upsetting you is, “all in your mind”, or that what you experienced never actually happened, you’ve been gaslighted. If you’ve ever asked yourself, am I insane? Am I losing my mind or my memory? After someone has told you how events happened that seem radically different than you remember, than you may be on the receiving end of a gaslighting attack. My Evil-Ex would often use my stress levels or my lack of sleep to encourage that maybe I was just so tired I didn’t remember straight or I was so stressed out that I was overreacting to something that didn’t really happen how I remembered it.

Gaslighting is often begun as an attempt to hide circumstances or truths that a person doesn’t want brought to light. Actually trying to drive the partner insane isn’t the goal, though it can feel like that’s what they’re doing. Regardless, this is a deeply manipulative type of lie that is incredibly hurtful to anyone on the receiving end of it.

Remember my BPD friend #2 that I’m no longer friends with? The thing that ended our friendship was when she tried convincing me that I was a bad friend because of things she did. Forget that I knew how to diffuse the situation before it started. Forget that the other person offered to leave. Forget that I offered to take care of it before things got out of hand. She turned down every offer of assistance so that she could throw herself into a situation that neither one of us were emotionally capable of dealing with. By the end of the night I had fallen into one of my worst dissociate breaks. After 2 years (particularly the last 10 months) of trying to keep her from emotionally imploding, and her continually pushing my limits, I broke. I offered over and over to help her prevent the situation we both knew would come. It did. I looked out for her through it all until finally at the end of the night I couldn’t deal with it anymore. Literally I dissociated and felt like I was floating above my own head. She accused me of being a bad friend because I couldn’t be sympathetic. Tried to convince me that it was my fault that she was deteriorating emotionally when she needed comfort. Made me apologize as she drove us home…. And that was it. I could see in her eyes that she believed she was the victim there, but she was taking it out on me. She honestly believed that she hadn’t done anything wrong, that her actions shouldn’t have affected me, and was instinctually reaching to any reason to shift the blame from herself. I saw that. I could understand it. But it didn’t make it right. It still hurt like hell. And it was absolutely too much for me to deal with. I’ve made a HELL of a lot of mistakes in my life. Big, explosive, atom bomb sized mistakes, but where I try to make up for those mistakes in ways that are grossly over compensatory, she blamed everyone else and refused to take any responsibility for the situation. She absolutely believed the things she said, absolutely believed that I was treating her poorly by not taking responsibility for her actions and emotions. She was the victim.

For someone with BPD the motivation is usually the same as it is for other kinds of lies; to self-protect. It’s a very maladaptive way of coping with a situation where they may be at fault, which in turn could lead to rejection. The unconscious motivation is usually something like; if I’m not at fault, if they’re at fault, they can’t be mad at me, they won’t leave me, because it’s not something I did, it’s something they did.

Gaslighting can be intentional and it can be unintentional. In the case of my ex-BPD friend, her actions were unintentional. She actually believed the lies herself and was lashing out in perceived self-defense so she wouldn’t be at fault. Same thing with dissociation. If a Borderline is dissociating at the time, the reality they remember may actually be different than what you remember it to be and how they are gaslighting may actually be how they perceived the situation, be their truth, as seen through their emotional filter. Now, my Evil-Ex on the other hand, well he’s a different story altogether. He actually enjoyed making people think they were crazy and figuring out ways to get away with the things he was doing. He would do anything to make himself look good, especially if it made him look better than you. If he could get away with something it would boost his ego and “prove” his cunning, and therefore his superiority, which was an illusion he desperately needed to maintain. That’s the difference between BPD and NPD though. Borderlines actually feel like the victim. Narcissists try to make you theirs.

Regardless, it doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end. It doesn’t make it right. I do believe it’s important to understand the perception of the other person and especially their motivations, but don’t allow yourself to be taken in. Just because they can run circles around you in an argument or conversation doesn’t mean their right; just clever. Trying to convince them that what they’re saying is false, especially if they believe it, is going to be absolutely futile. You need to wait until emotions have calmed down a little and then approach the subject from a calm place. It’s important to validate their feelings (even if you don’t agree with them; Remember, validation does not mean you agree, just that you acknowledge that what they are feeling is real), but explain that you are not perceiving the situation in the same way. It’s also important to remember that you are not actually crazy, it’s not your fault, and you’re not to blame for this kind of behavior. 
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