As a person with more than her fair share of mental health problems, I find it really difficult to maintain relationships, mainly friendships (I don’t trust people enough for any other kind!).
I always put this down to perhaps I’m a horrible person. I seem to go through friends like nobodies business and always blame myself when the friendship falls apart.
Since my diagnosis with Borderline Personality Disorder (or Emotional Dysregulation Disorder, whatever you want to call it), researching the illness and the way other sufferers perceive the world has helped me realise that I’m not entirely to blame and it is my point of view of things that is askew. Most importantly I realised I am not a bad person, I just feel and deal with things differently from most of my “mainstream” friends.
A while ago I wrote about the “Marmite effect“. The Marmite effect to me is the black and white thinking pattern that people with BPD show. People with BPD have no, or very little grey area. This means they either like something, or they hate something. I call this the Marmite effect, because you either love Marmite or you hate it. There is no middle ground. You can read more about the theory and the development of black and white thinking here.
Because of the black and white thinking patterns, people with BPD find it very difficult to integrate both the “good” and “bad” sides of their personalities. They can either see themselves as “all good“, or “all bad“, there is no in between. Unfortunately this thinking pattern applies to other people too.
From a BPD point of view, I find that sometimes friendships are WONDERFUL. I mean, I trust the person with my life, love them with every part of my being and would walk on hot coal for them.
Then something happens. Something turns. My friend might (unknowingly) do (or not do) or say something that triggers me. It could be meant in a completely harmless way, but then I get it into my head that they hate me, because in my world, they can only love or hate me, there is no in between. In this situation I withdraw. The problem most people with BPD are aware of is the fear of abandonment. If I withdraw, I’m doing the rejecting before I’m rejected and that gives me control over the situation.
It can also work another way. A friend could do something on purpose to upset me.
Recently, a friend told me that they need emotional distance from me because of my behaviour. Again, my perception says that they must hate me, as from my point of view there is no in between, there is no grey area. To ensure I didn’t get hurt, I completely cut her off. The fact that I thought she hates me, turned to anger that she didn’t understand my situation, I don’t have BPD on purpose, I don’t act this way on purpose and mostly I am quite a “quiet” borderline, I very rarely have external tantrums.
The hardest thing for me with the idolising and demonising, is the memories associated with that person. For example, a few years ago I was in a good relationship with a man. At the time I idolised him and thought he could do no wrong. When I found out he was cheating and left me, it all turned around. I hated him (and still do) more than anyone else in the world. All the happy memories turned into bad ones. Because I demonised him, I hate even the memories that should be perceived as good, but because he is labelled as bad, all of the memories bad. I feel like I lost eight years, because I can’t look back at any of those times and be happy because he is there and he is bad.
I wonder how I got to this place. I remember my friendships from when I was a little girl and they were all like this. Very intense because of my emotions, easily switching between idolising and demonising.
My conclusion from this is that although I’m not “normal” compared to my friends, this suffering is “normal” for a borderline, so therefore I’m not alone in feel this.
Interpersonal dysregulation is common. However, we must remember that we aren’t bad or unlikable people. It is important to recognise that relationships are similar to emotions, they can rollercoaster up or down and move quickly between the good and the bad. It is widely agreed that people with BPD feel emotions more intensely than others, so if we compare this to relationships, it is no surprise they are so intense for us.
I wonder if I will be able to maintain relationships in the future now I’m starting to understand my diagnosis. I hope I will, but I also want friends who understand how difficult it is for me too.
Love Sailor xox
Some interesting further reading on BPD relationships…..
Why BPD relationships are so complicated – BPD central
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I don’t think I have BPD, but I can understand the concept of leaving a relationship before I am abandoned or hurt. And also the demonizing, especially over small things that may be meaningless to others, but trigger enormous fears in myself.
It’s really good to see you are working with your diagnosis, and understanding what ‘normal’ is for you. This gives me hope. Thankyou. ♡♥♡
And that painting is just beautiful!
Thank you Elyn! You give me a lot of hope too 🙂
I love this post (and not just because you chose my caption!). I think you hit a lot of nails on the head and I have a HUGE amount of hope that you are going to learn to live with your diagnosis and your lovely brain. Hugs xx
Onwards and upwards just seemed to fit and give a positive message! I think I’m learning to live with it, it’s just always going to be a fight to contain it. xox
I want my brother to understand how difficult it is for me. It seems we’re either really close or completely cut off because of the way I reacted to something he did or said.
I think my family understand me better than they did. I haven’t told them the diagnosis yet, but they accept that I’m a bit kooky and have strange ideas about things sometimes! Borderline is probably less understood by people who don’t have it. I wonder if we are percieved as drama queens. xox
My emotions are more intense than “normal” people’s, too. It’s one reason I sometimes suspect I might have borderline personality disorder. Also, sometimes if I feel hurt by a friend, I will start thinking that they were just not very good people overall. I see the world in degrees of gray, though, not black and white. That’s one reason I might not have borderline personality disorder. But when I think about myself, I think in terms of black and white–either I’m all good or all bad.
I’m the same way. I’m very black and white with myself but not with the world or others. Though on rare occasions, I am, but that’s understandable for anyone… Oh see! There I go… 😉
I always feel really bad when I start to think of people as bad, but now when I find myself doing it I think “that’s the borderline playing up again” and wait for it to pass. Thats kind of what all this emotional regulation is about really isn’t it? Checking yourself and waiting for it to pass.
I realised the only bits of the world I see in grey is when it comes down to my nursing. It is still pretty black and white but with nursing I can problem solve better. xoxox
This is also a great post for the likes of me, or other people living around someone with BPD, or another mental “illness”… The triggers are such an important factor, and the process of not taking a mood change personal, which I am still working on when it comes to my wife who lives with bipolar II. Thanks, Le Sailor.
The triggers are the worst. It can be something so small and minute that others might miss it, but the feeling it evokes can be the same as when it first happened.
Onwards, upwards – Good choice. Very nice.
Thanks 🙂 xox
The art is beautiful! I wish you well on this bumpy road. xx
Thank you!! xox
In contrast to what you talk about, and the general consensus in response, and the general mass of humanity, I think (I need some kind of anticlimactic, big surprise noise for when I talk about yet another way I completely disprove all theories of life and the world at large), I tend not to see anything in black or white. I understand what you mean, and how this has to be beyond difficult for you. . .
In fact, I understand how difficult it must be for you even more when I think about it in contrast to my own views on others, on situations, and on myself. I can literally see every angle, and being able to see all the angles, I can’t speak in absolutes. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have very strong opinions (that’s funny, ask my mom and anyone who has known me for more than five minutes about that some time), but I find it impossible to condemn anyone because of that ability. Even myself, whom I judge most harshly of all. 🙂
It’s like my reply to Angel – I realised today I can see in black and white when it comes to nursing, but I think that comes down to the way I was trained to see every eventuality. It seems I wasn’t trained that way with emotions and every day life, but that must mean there is hope I can re-learn and apply some of my nursing to “real life”
I think you’ve hit on something very wise that could help you out a lot in your life with that last thought. I think that your incredible capacity for empathy could be another important tool as well.
That is something I’d like to write about in the future, how the empathy can be a useful tool if you get the other emotions regulated. I honestly think this disorder is what makes me a good nurse. It also makes me a bit of a wonky human, but I want to prove to others with BPD that there can be a use for it and not to give up!! xox
Good for you!
Oy. Yes, I can relate…. as a person in a relationship with someone struggling with BDP. Wait, it gets better… as I struggle with my own mental health issues (Depression and PTSD among others). It’s quite the ride.
How many times I got the ” “Why would a healthy, normal person take the abuse? There must be something very wrong with you.” So hard for both of us.