Beyond BPD: Why It Doesn’t Define You

On behest of my Girlfriend, I am here once again. This time I have been encouraged to write about what it is like to be with someone who is BPD. For those that dont know BPD stands for Borderline Personality Disorder and it is a complicated mental condition that is thought to affect as many as one in seven of us, according to the book “New Hope For People With Borderline Personality Disorder”. Though I have been with my Girlfriend for nearly nine months, and I have read books and researched BPD, I simply cannot empathise with her. Though I understand the hallmarks of BPD, the tell tale signs, the reactions and thought processes, I am not able to put myself in my Girlfriends shoes. I cannot even come close to imagining the mental anguish that she must have suffered, and be suffering. Its entirely alien to me and the majority of people within society.

BPD as a recognised condition is relatively new, having only been defined in the 1980’s. It is not depression, though it can involve that. It is not bipolar, though it can have elements of that as well. It is not suicidal tendencies, though once again, that can play a part. BPD seems to be a tragic concoction of elements of some of the worst mental conditions that there are. It leaves the sufferer, and those close to them, on a roller coaster of emotions that tend to include more downs that ups. Before I talk to you about my own personal experience, let me attempt to educate you on what BPD involves. The NHS states that BPD is where people are at the border of “neurosis, where a person is mentally distressed but can still tell the difference between their perception and reality” and “psychosis, where a person is unable to tell the difference between their perception and reality, and may experience delusions and hallucinations”, hearing voices is also common. The traits associated with BPD are;
– an intense fear of abandonment, real or imaginary,
– having intense relationships with lots of conflict whereby the other person is all good, or all bad,
– feeling unsure of ones identity and feeling empty,
– engaging in pain management behaviours such as going on spending sprees, having promiscuous sex, abusing drugs and/or alcohol, binge eating, threatening and attempting suicide and engaging in self harm
– being emotionally unstable with frequent and fast mood changes, having uncontrolled and intense anger and fits of rage, and at times having intense sadness as well as irritability
– Paranoia and disassociation, feeling numb.
(traits taken from BPD Central.com)

As you can see, this is a pretty heavy list of attributes. Trying to imagine a life whereby you are subject to these sorts of feelings and emotions is not possible for me. Life would be a tremendous struggle and its not particularly surprising that many BPD sufferers attempt to end their own lives. What is surprising to me is that the figure is so high, the NHS has said that between 60-70% of BPD sufferers will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. That figure is huge. It saddens me to think that this is true, that this is a fact. Life is so unbearable for these people that taking their own life is the best course of action for the large majority of them. I wont go into how people become BPD, or acquire BPD, as that is an extremely complicated topic, and one that should be looked at on a case by case basis. If you are interested in learning more about the condition then I would encourage you to do your own research. If you are not suffering from BPD then its almost certain that somebody you know is suffering. Perhaps they need some help, perhaps they need someone to understand their predicament, perhaps they need someone to stop them when it all gets too much and they are ready to do “something silly” (my girlfriends words).

So I have been with my girlfriend nearly 9 months now. Relationships with BPD sufferers are meant to last a very short length of time indeed, and yet I find myself here, heading towards the time whereby this becomes my longest one. Perhaps this says more about me as a person than anything else. Regardless of this I shall impart my experiences and my thoughts. To say that this relationship has been a roller coaster would be an understatement. There have been times where I have been so infatuated, and so blissfully happy that I felt like running away with her, or moving abroad with her. We spoke of the perfect wedding, of names for our children, we dared to dream. In stark contrast to these feelings were the times when the relationship was down, it was low. Not just the low that you get from forgetting someones birthday but it has plummeted to the depths whereby we were both ready to give up. There was anger in our voices and hatred in our eyes. The love that we had for each other had been ripped from us and replaced with a nihilistic urge to just say “fuck it” to everything and walk away from each other. There would be no looking back, why would there be? These low points were when we were making each others lives a living hell. I must be honest here, I am not the calmest and most understanding of people, I try to be, but I am only human. I have my faults but these seem to be amplified by the relationship and the situation we sometimes find ourselves in. Although my Girlfriends BPD is not the cause of all our troubles, lord knows I have made my share of mistakes, I do believe that it is a hugely significant factor.

I dont think my Girlfriend will mind me saying this but recently there have been far more downs than ups. These last few months I dont think we have gone more than two days without arguing. She has threatened to break up with me on at least three separate occasions, and I have contemplated doing the same to her once or twice. In what shouldnt be taken as too serious an analogy, I see my relationship as similar to a story I have heard about a son or daughter that visits their parent who is suffering from a mental condition, I think it was Alzeimers. Every week they would go and visit their parent, and the parent would have no recollection of who this person was. They had no idea that that was their son or daughter. There was no love, no comfort, they seemed strangers in one anothers company. Every week the son or daughter would come and talk to them, tell them stories, look after them, bring them gifts, and every week it appeared to be the same. The parent wouldnt have known if they were being visited or not. When asked why the son or daughter came every week, they replied that, now and then, sometimes for only a few seconds, they would look into their parents eyes and they would see a spark. A flicker of joy and recognition. The person they know and love is still there, somewhere, deep down inside. That was why they came, for those moments. As I said, this analogy shouldnt be taken too literally, but I feel a similar way to the child visiting their parent. Among the arguments, the fits of anger and rage, the distrust, the paranoia, the mood swings, the knowledge that she feels that she is utterly useless, amongst all that I try to see the light. The memory of the fantastic times we have had, the knowledge that she loves me unquestionably and the hope that one day she will get over this, she will be happy and “normal”. I honestly believe she can overcome this.

I must try to understand. I must try to be patient and supportive. There have been times when it has all been a bit too much for me. Whereby I am fed up of being used as a punchbag (not literally), where I think to myself that I would be better and happier on my own. I would be lying if I said these thoughts never crossed my mind. Its hard being in a relationship with someone you love and they suffer from BPD, but I can assure you it is nowhere near as hard as being in a relationship with someone you love and you are suffering from BPD. My girlfriend is not a burden, her BPD is. Our relationship is a molehill compared to the mountain of a struggle she has to go through to try to overcome her condition. We have shed may tears together, and I would be lying if I didnt say that I am quite emotional right now.

My Girlfriend just came home.
I read this to her and we both cried.
I am done.

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UPDATE

It is coming to the end of May 2014, and things have changed. This post may not be as relevant as it once was due to the fact my girlfriend and I are no longer together.
I shant divulge too much information as that is between her and I.
All I shall say is that, unfortunately, we are not on great terms. Some very hurtful things have been said and it is doubtful whether we shall even continue to talk.

Our relationship should in no way be used as a “perfect example” of being with a person who has BPD. There is nothing inevitable, there is nothing pre-determined, and by no means are all BPD relationships set to end in hurt and failure.

I wish everyone who visits this page the best of luck for the future. I hope your scenarios produce more beneficial outcomes than mine has.

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22 thoughts on “Beyond BPD: Why It Doesn’t Define You

  1. Wow… wonderful article…. my wife of 7yrs (nearly 8 yrs ) Suffers with BPD.. at first she was diagnosed as Bi-polar type 2… she had a massive break down 1 yr after we were married ( we don’t know what the exact stresser was it could have been a number of things) but for 6yrs now WE have been dealing with this condition… as with all BPD sufferers ( and their parteners) there are massive ups and downs but you both deal with these as they come and go… This condition and it’s plus or minus points is very hard to understand and I too will NEVER understand it fully.. but I am trying.. for the sake of my Beautiful and wonderful wife…… just to add we both from different countries and to add to major stress we have both gone through Visa processes in both our countries (USA & UK) we have a 3 yr old who we both dearly love… and I was away from them for 1 yr whilst sorting my US Visa …But we WILL get through this… and I know with the great therapy and DBT sessions (DBT = Dialetical Behaviour Therapy… which I’m assured is the best therapy for BPD sufferers)… my wife should be able to recover little by little… I’m patient.. I can wait.. All you can do in the meantime is be understanding and give unconditional love to your loved one…

  2. I have BPD and that’s one if the most wonderful “story’s” of love, trying & understanding I’ve ever read!

    It’s such a hard thing for the person who has BPD to understand, let alone there partner to try and understand.
    It’s awesome that you are tho & I wish you both the best of luck ❤️

    It give me hope, as all my partners have ended up beating me because of my mental health. Not many people have ever tried to understand me. They know nothing about the condition and just put my behaviour down to me & get angry with me.
    It’s a really hard thing to deal with but I live for my daughter now & not myself & that’s keeping me going. It’s been years since I have tried to kill myself but I do still burn myself but to me that’s better as it’s safe, I won’t die & I can hide it.

    Anyway brillent insight & words from something loving someone with BPD

    Thank you ☺️

  3. Hello everyone:

    I never knew the term BPD or even knew what Borderline Personality Disorder meant until I lived with someone who was diagnosed with that condition. We lived together for eight months and by the end of it I was ready to end my life. I noticed that there was a definite pattern in our relationship. It would be fine for a while, then something would happen to upset her and she would go into the punitive parent role where she began to chastise me for my behavior. It would start with ‘corrective’ emails and continue to the point where she would find it difficult to use her manners with me. I also noticed that I would lose it every two weeks because she could not show me love. I would blow up and she would start to cry. After her tears she would be what I call, ‘soft’ for about two days. During this time we would be very close to each other, but after day one or two, she reverted back to her angry self.

    I don’t know much about this topic, but what I realize is that whatever happened in her life in the formative years played a big part in creating the condition for which the title BPD addresses. I really don’t believe anyone is born with BPD, I think they have been conditioned through life events and they learn to cope with the losses in a way that can be very hurtful to themselves and others. . This becomes evident when you get into a close relationship with someone who has BPD.

    Is there hope for someone with BPD? I believe there is, but I think it takes a long time to unravel and work through all of the hurts. My girlfriend was deeply hurt in the early years of her life. I really believe that the only one who could heal her of this condition is God himself. I hope those who suffer with this condition and those who are their partners reach something that is missing in most of our lives: peace.

  4. My brother’s don’t understand my BPD. I even printed off stuff for them to look at. “Just say to yourself, I’m not going to allow myself to feel like this”. If only it was that simple.
    I am so scared of my life and future.

  5. Hello,
    I am ‘the girlfriend’ in the article, I would like to offer help and advice if anyone needs it.
    I am a hypocrite in that I wasn’t sure if I wanted this article published as I felt like it was terrifying to be ‘outted’ since I do..did keep the BPD secret, but in reading the comments I am so glad that Paddy shared our story. Young love.

    Things I find most concerning in my case are the mood swings, the paranoia, and the general fear to the future yet understanding the dynamics of how we think and react is actually quite easy to grasp, but maintaining the patience to accept the behaviour is the problem we face the most.

    If anyone has any questions concerning their own illness, a possible diagnosis (as I was left years to find get mine), advice or even a rant (as we do love a good one) feel free to contact me.

    Graham2109 – Your comment was quite concerning ,if you’d like any help in talking to your brothers or even understanding the BPD itself gimmie a shout, the internet is full of negative stigma and propaganda towards us, as long as we understand ourselves then we can help others too. Just please don’t read all that you see.

    As BPD’s we are no lower than anyone else. “So lucky to have a bf like you” these kind of comments are what push us down. We deserve the best as does anyone else, ANY good relationship has ups and downs, this one a bit more so. We are lucky to have each other. He is not a prize for me as your partners are not a prize for you. My BPD doesn’t weaken me, and it shouldn’t weaken you. The strength to even trust anyone enough with your heart is something you should congratulate yourselves on. We are fighters and lovers and we know whats best for us.
    BPD doesn’t have to run your life. You are not your illness, and it is not your fault.
    We are beautiful and interesting, we see what others don’t and feel love stronger than anyone can even fathom.

    All my Love

    Jetta

    1. Thank you Jetta. One brother in particular gets very angry with me. He doesn’t understand that it is something that I can easily pull myself out of.
      I have and a rough friendship with one person as I get very easily upset when he says something I don’t like. At the moment I am having confusing thoughts about cutting him out my life by most of the time we have lots of laughs. My brothers only hear me say the negative things what my friend does and they tell me to get rid of him. I told them that other people can have the same impact on my because of my BPD – and they have.

  6. I took the plunge and met the friend yesterday who upset me greatly three or four weeks ago. I was thinking about cutting him out my life. It felt strange and I felt numb. It went better than I thought, but I am still confused as to what to do. I know we will have a falling out again down the line and I will be full of anxiety, pain and suicidal again. I am still distressed now over it all. In my friends head it has all been sorted, but not for me.

  7. Have been looking for any support systems for those living with someone with BPD. my husband of 10 years displays all the characteristics of the condition, although will prob never have a diagnosis as he will not seek external or medical advice. I have researched the condiotion, and also thru my job support on an informal basis 2 people who have the diagnosis, and the partner of one of them regularly speaks to me. Things are calm and good at the moment, but i never now when the swith will be triggered. His behaviour can be scary and at times terrifying; at other times he doesn’t want me out of his sight as he thinks i am leaving. (we all have to visit elderly mum’s, eat or go to the loo sometimes!) This morning I had to struggle to get up for work as he wouldn’t leave go of holding me, at the same time muttering threats; “don’t you f..ing move) then got up and made me tea and sandwiches as tho everything was normal. i have enquired at the local mind centre about support for family/friends, but they have nothing available. Any suggestions?

    1. As I have said to many people, I am not an expert on this, I cannot say what is good, what is bad, what will work and what will not. What I am able to say is that without your husband making moves to tackle his (suspected) BPD, you are going to struggle. There are coping methods that books and doctors can advise but it is better to get to the route of the problem, rather than continually try and cope with the problem.
      I feel that, unfortunately for you, the ball is in your husbands court.

      1. Thanks Paddy; he has raging toothache at the moment but won’t go to the dentists ; “what can THEY do”. I have known him since we were 12 (now 55) and despite a 20 year gap when we lost touch completely, he acknowledges that i am the one person who can come anywhere close to understanding the effects of his upbringing that will always colour his mental state. Again; at present things calm and rational! Thankfully i am relatively stable and resilient and he does know that i will never give up on him.
        Find your posts on myriad subjects inspirational, thanks for giving me a glimmer of hope that there are people who see cleraly. Ish.

  8. There is no need to thank me for anything.
    I really hope you and your husband persist and continue to love one another.
    All the best for the future, and thank you for reading, and commenting on, my work.

  9. Hi Paddy, Just wanted to say your article made me cry it is so good.

    I have been diagnosed with BPD and the daily, no hourly, struggles my boyfriend and I have had from BPD ‘episodes’ pushed us so far apart. Every argument we have is replayed in both of our heads internally trying to work out why he sticks around and why I keep reacting to the smallest things.

    I switch within minutes from literally believing he is the least understanding, selfish person I’ve ever met to the most wonderful person for putting up with me. I never know how or when I am going to be triggered by something, I’m like a child that has to feel completely secure in the environment otherwise I am terrified I will be hurt by him and put my defences up. Its horrendous to live with for both people in the relationship.

    If I hadn’t been diagnosed it would be even more confusing and possibly damaging as I might go through life making the same mistakes over and over and not knowing it is me with the problem, not the people I meet.

    So thank you for writing this, and sharing painful experiences with the world, because I know it will help lots of people. It is truly beautiful and has given me hope (which is the best feeling to have).

    Lisa

    1. Once again I have to say you don’t need to thank me.
      If anything, thank my GF. She told me to write it, and she allowed me to put in online for the world to see.

      Your comments are very kind Lisa, and I am glad you found the piece so moving. I was crying as I was writing it so I am quite pleased that readers experience that same emotion in a way.

      All the best for the future, to both you and your BF. It is not going to be easy, but at least you are both aware of that now.

      Love

  10. Paddy,
    Im reading this after making the extremely difficult decision to break up with my girlfriend. I work in Mental health and suspected it she has BPD for a very long time, but love makes you push those pervasive thoughts to the side I guess. Without getting into too much detail, I felt very constrained in the relationship whilst feeling so loved by this woman who, for the first time in my life, made me feel absolutely loved.
    We broke up 3 days ago and I still cant get over the emotions. I still love her but couldn’t deal with the constant arguing and maneuvering through an emotional minefield. Being a student, not completely out of the closet and a full time graduate student, I felt as though the pressures she added was only making me feel like I was on an emotional roller coaster that wouldn’t end. I loved her and still do, but I had to look out for myself.
    I believe we just met at the wrong time andI hope my ex can find it in her heart to forgive me. Thank you for this article, it gave such perspective for me.
    best wishes.

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