How to Be Friends With Someone Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder

20/06/2016 11:07 | Updated 20 June 2016

Borderline personality disorder is a monumental pain to live with, both for those of us diagnosed, and those trying to support us. The diagnostic criteria are absolutely huge, and if you were to sit 10 people with borderline in the same room, chances are symptoms would manifest differently for all of them. We can be delightful, engaging, calm and compassionate one minute, and then for reasons which may seem completely inconsequential or even invisible to an onlooker, we can flip in seconds to the exact opposite. Borderline is all about extremes, and this can make us challenging to be around.

Understanding what's going on is crucial to getting a handle on it, for us and for those around us. In no particular order of preference, here are a few things I would like people to know:

  • Be honest with me. If I have said or done something to upset you, please let me know. The conversation might not be pleasant, but avoiding it just makes things worse
  • Sometimes I won't be able to talk to you. It's nothing personal, it's just that sometimes I feel so awkward and out of place that I can't actually string a sentence together
  • Similarly, sometimes you won't be able to talk to me because I will frustrate the hell out of you. That's ok. If you need some space, just tell me. It's up to me to manage my response to that
  • If I don't make eye contact, that's a pretty strong indicator that I'm not doing well
  • You are not responsible for making me better. If you can, listening on a bad day would be awesome, but I understand that won't always be possible. You're not my therapist!
  • I want to know what's going on with you - never, ever feel like you can't talk to me. There are two of us in this relationship
  • I'm really good at picking up on your moods, good, bad, or otherwise. Unfortunately I also have a tendency to assume it's my fault if there's something wrong (I'm working on that one, honestly), so if you're able, talk to me. Chances are I'll understand
  • Sometimes my reactions to seemingly minor events will be epic. Nine times out of ten, it's nothing to do with the actual event, but rather what it has triggered in me (I'm working hard on that one too)

For me, finally getting a diagnosis, while horrifying, was also a relief because it meant I knew what I was dealing with. It meant I could learn more about why I think and act as I do, and how this has impacted on my life over the years (clue - a lot). It has also made it possible to access the right treatment, and start to gain control over symptoms.

Part of that gaining control has meant having to have some really difficult conversations with people - my husband, my family, my friends, even my employer. Borderline is so hard to understand, even for those of us living with it, so I can only imagine how challenging it must be at times to be on the outside looking in. There have been times when my behaviour has been way out of line, and while borderline may be a reason, it's not an excuse. It's my responsibility to learn as much about it as I can, and then do as much as I can to keep symptoms under control. So far this has taken the form of long term psychotherapy, medication under supervision of a psychiatrist, and more recently, compassion focussed therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy. I know more about my triggers and how I'm likely to react when I encounter them, but despite this, I also need to be willing to admit to the times when I'm struggling to keep things under control, and seek extra help as and when necessary.

I don't have many close friends, but those I do I really, really value, and they've gotten me through some incredibly tough times. It's so hard to admit to some of the crappy and occasionally full on crazy thoughts that borderline makes me think, and I really struggle at times with the impact this has on those around me, but as I'm writing this, I'm noticing a running theme. Talking. It makes all the difference. As often as I can, I'll tell you what's going on. Will you tell me?

*This post was inspired by the wonderful people in my life who were brave enough to have the difficult conversations. I'd be lost without you*