Two years ago, I wrote this post about making a romantic relationship with someone diagnosed with BPD work. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with BPD and since then I have learnt a lot about how it has effected my relationships with people throughout my life. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is relationships. You can find out all about it here. Healthy relationships are incredibly important for everyone’s mental health. Unfortunately, Borderline Personality Disorder can make relationships very difficult.
I have lost a lot of friends over the years, me and my therapist have wondered if this is due to my mental illness. It might well be. Some people are uncomfortable with how open I am about my mental health. Others have been scared of the unpredictability of my emotions and behaviour. My mood can go from sad to angry to happy in a matter of minutes. It is not easy for people to be around. I understand that. However, friends and partners can walk away from it while it is my every day reality.
I’ve discussed ‘splitting‘ on here before and it is an aspect of BPD that can put a lot of strain on all types of relationships. I experience it with friends more than anything. When someone is kind to me, it feels amazing. When I perceive someone doing something to hurt me, it is crushing. It physically hurts and stays with me. A small lie or being left out feels like a huge betrayal which cannot be forgotten or forgiven. People make mistakes, we are human, there is an irrational part of me that cannot accept this. Expecting people to be all good/all bad ensures that relationships will fail.
I grow attached to friends very quickly. With friendships, I often end up caring too much and wanting to spend a lot of time with people. More than most people do. I put myself out for people, I talk to them a lot, I want to be there for them through everything. I forget that they have lives outside of me and our friendship. But, all it takes is a couple of ignored messages and I get convinced that the person hates me. At this point, I start pushing them away. Why? Because it’s much easier than having someone you love walk away from you.
“Research shows that people with BPD are more likely to expect others to behave badly toward them than people who do not have the disorder.” My fears of abandonment and crippling insecurities are not easy to cope with in relationships. I get paranoid and jealous and terrified that this person I love is going to leave. All of these emotions are very intense and often result in behaviours that I am not proud of. I lack the ability to be fully aware of what is going on around me all the time. I make assumptions about situations and am quick to react.
It’s complicated having relationships with others when the one with myself is so messed up. Most days, I struggle to identify who I am as a person. When entering into any kind of relationship, it starts by getting to know the other person. Letting someone know me is hard because I do not know me. Likes, dislikes, character, passions… on a bad day, I cannot answer any of these. Answers I do give are likely to change day by day. People have called me a ‘mystery’ before because they just cannot work out who I am. Well don’t worry, I haven’t worked it out yet either!
This has all been very depressing, hasn’t it? My experiences with relationships are mostly bad which is horrible to admit. However, there are people in my life who have stuck with me, who have appreciated how intense I can be, who have pulled me up from crises. Even though BPD makes relationships incredibly difficult to maintain, it does not make it impossible.
Working through the struggles with the right treatment can put you on the path to having stable and meaningful relationships. MBT is currently teaching me a lot about improving my relationships with others. It is hard work and a long process but it will hopefully lead to a point where I can have stable and healthy relationships with others. This is so important because our connections with other people can make the world of difference to our mental health.