By Angela Theresa
There are several tough things about having borderline personality disorder(BPD). The daily swings in moods, emotions and identity is certainly no cakewalk. I find for me, the worst part about having BPD is the constant struggle to maintain stable friendships and relationships.
I only found out I had BPD about three years ago, and since then, especially concerning friendship, it has been a steep learning curve. I’ve loved and lost so many friends, and I’ve had to relearn how to be a good friend, how to beat the borderline inside me who tries to warp friendship into something it’s not meant to be — therapy. I’m sure the story is the same for many people out there trying to recover from BPD and form lasting friendships.
Two things prompted me to write the list below about BPD and friendship. First, it truly hit me that borderlines view the world in a completely different light than neurotypicals do, and it’s important that our friends have an inkling of what’s going on as they watch our brains go haywire from the outside. Secondly, an event transpired a few nights ago that prompted me to write today, and it also leads me to my first point.
1. My worst fear is abandonment.
I was in a group chat with three of my closest friends an evening or two ago. We’ve been friends for about two years, were roommates in college, have shared mental health crises — the works. I even travelled to Europe with one of them. And yet, when all three vehemently promised they would remain my friend, would not suddenly stop being my friend and truly thought of me as one of their favorite people, I was genuinely shocked and moved.
BPD makes it nearly impossible to believe anyone could ever want to stay in my life. Trust is incredibly hard, even with assurances as wonderful as my friends have given me. To anyone reading, know that borderlines go day to day expecting those they love to leave them, and understand this is often the baseline where their emotional reactions are coming from.
2. I need constant validation.
Considering those with BPD have a generally irrational and constant fear of abandonment by loved ones, it may come as no surprise that many of us require a constant stream of validation that our loved ones don’t hate us, aren’t going to leave us, aren’t mad at us, aren’t annoyed by us, etc.
While it probably isn’t healthy to validate 24/7, I believe the best thing you can do for a borderline friend is send them an unsolicited text everyone once in a while to tell them you love them or are thinking about them. Knowing I am in my friend’s thoughts and matter to them, without asking for validation in the first place, is literally the best thing in the world.
3. I question every interaction I have and action I take.
Because I fear abandonment, I also fear doing something wrong. And because the symptoms of BPD include rapid, uncontrolled swings in mood and emotions, there is a very likely chance that at any given point in the day, I could say or act in a way that is hurtful (recovery is an ongoing process to help control these changes in emotion).
The issue is, I don’t always recognize if I have acted incorrectly. So I overanalyze every interaction for potential flaws in fear that I said or did something wrong. No one is more critical of me than myself.
4. My emotions hinge on tiny, mostly irrational moments. Be patient.
If someone doesn’t text me back the moment after I text them, it feels like the end of the world because I assume the only answer is that I’ve somehow said something wrong or annoyed them.
Other times, if someone cancels plans, I spiral into a depression because I planned my entire day around seeing that person. I may or may not assume that person hates me.
When I see a picture on Facebook of a friend hanging out with someone else, I get a pang in my gut because that friend is hanging out with other friends, and so they obviously must not love me.
Borderline is not rational most of the time, and neither are the emotions attached to it. As mentioned above, I view the world in a very different way. My world is all or nothing, black and white, soaring or spiral. Be gentle with me but also keep me in line by reminding me you are allowed to have your own life apart from me.
5. Boundaries are hard-learned and important.
Borderline personality disorder, despite the stigma, is not inherently toxic or abusive. Borderlines can be loving, supportive and kind. I am one of them. From a cursory reading of the above, however, it’s easy to see how BPD friendships can cross boundaries into the realm of toxicity.
It may not be for everyone, but I find myself asking my friends consistently, “Is this OK?”
Is it OK for me to talk about certain topics, to text at certain times of day, to ask for validation in a certain manner? As a borderline, boundaries can be easily blurred in the search for validation and in desperate attempts to avoid abandonment. Establishing checks with your friends to ensure those boundaries are still in place can mean the difference between saving or losing a friendship.
6. I love you intensely.
Borderlines are truly all or nothing. If I love you, I love you completely, with all of my being. If you are loved by a borderline, then you are loved by someone who would do anything for you.
This love can be unhealthy is left unchecked and painful if abandonment occurs. I would fly around the world in a second for my friends (I’ve been known to spontaneously travel days just to see people). I would probably take a bullet for my friends. You can be left thinking you love the people in your life more than they could ever love you, and this can lead to some toxic power dynamics in relationships.
However, I think this love is the most beautiful thing about being borderline. I think borderline love is one of the strongest loves on the planet. If you are my friend, I am loyal to you. You are beautiful to me. You accomplishments are poetry. I think you’re fucking amazing. And you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
To anyone who is a friend to someone with borderline personality disorder, thank you for being there.