Borderline Personality Disorder is a complex concept on its own, but having it as a disorder is a whole other whirlwind. It’s called a personality disorder, but is mainly related to behaviour, and that is confusing on it’s own.
If there is an individual in your life with this disorder, they will need your understanding to feel less alone, and accompanied through the battles. If they are explaining and expressing their emotions to you, but you aren’t registering it, it’s a conflict. It will push them further away and their trust will plummet.
You may be involved with someone who is practically obsessed with you one minute, and the next, is dreadful, angry and possibly mean. It’s a switch. You may be confused and not know how to react, nor fully understand why they are behaving in that way.
You know they have a mental illness called Borderline Personality Disorder, you may know the main components, but you just can’t seem to grasp an understanding. The moment you think you’ve got it down, something changes and you’ve lost touch with your personal definition.
How can I understand Borderline Personality Disorder?
Research. No one ever learns anything unless they do the leg work. Look into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), read the BPD criteria for diagnosis, look at various resources listing the emotional and behavioral components, and refer to personal experiences of individuals.
It will be a lot to take in and understand all at once, so take this process slowly. Understand that, as people, we cannot comprehend information immediately upon reading it. This is a complex disorder that will never be the same for two individuals. Though it is important to research the psychology and the methods of diagnosis, it is also important to refer to that individual in your life.
Listening. Listening will be a good portion of your research in understanding. It is one thing to refer to legitimate documents that state the normalities and common grounds for BPD diagnosed, but to hear the experience from someone who struggles with it will trigger your compassion and comprehensibility. When you hear it from a person instead of reading it off a screen or paper, you can relate better. You will be able to hear their twists, turns, triggers, emotional states and their wishes for the future.
When you listen to them, try to take mental or physical notes for yourself. If you are together, observe behaviours and reactions, and study the limits. You may notice that their fear of abandonment is stronger than their dissociation, or that their self harming urges arise when being let down.
Reflection. Take time for yourself to absorb. Sit and think through situations, keeping in mind the legitimacy of BPD, but the individual case as well. Try to sort through better ways to respond, or offer them healthier coping strategies that you can do together. Also try to make associations with things you’ve read that align with things they’ve said.
Question yourself. How would I feel if I had BPD? What would I like to hear? How can I be more present and compassionate?
Think of their disorder as an orange. Every orange appears to be the same on the outside; a thick skin, with the same ol’ colour and bumpy texture. But whenever you cut into an orange, you can see the individuality. The segments are different sizes, the skin thickness, ripeness and smell varies, as well as cell placement. No two oranges are the same, though they appear to be. If you don’t examine that individual orange, you will never see it as an individual. It will always just be another orange in the basket.
Acceptance. Though you can’t come to acceptance with someone having BPD as simply as you could with accepting that there’s rain on a Saturday afternoon, you must try to get to that state. Acceptance is complicated, and humanity sometimes does not accept injustices or negative outcomes, but this is one that cannot be changed without recovery.
If this person is important in your life, you must persist in understanding and keep up with their rollercoaster, without becoming their therapist (the disorder will latch onto that support and spiral out). Take everyday as it comes and offer the best you can to being an understanding partner. Encourage recovery, but do not demean them for their disorder.
Expect that things may not go the way you or they have planned. Accept the swings and complexity of BPD, and help them fight it. Accept Borderline Personality Disorder as a fact of life and a constant struggle that can be fought.
Understanding. Come to a place where they feel understood by you. Without experiencing it, it is impossible to understand what this disorder truly is. Constantly strive to understand, even if you never will completely.
The best thing you can do for them is be there, be open to listening and learning.
A post revealing how to understand your own disorder is coming soon.