We want to be there for our friends. After all, what are friends for? But sometimes, it can be difficult to understand, let alone recognize, when others are struggling with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Their symptoms may not make sense to you, and there is no one-size-fits-all guide that describes what signs to look for if you think someone you care about is struggling.
It may be equally as difficult for those who struggle with BPD to explain to a friend what it is that they need in the midst of their struggles. Because even on “good days,” finding the right words to express emotions and thoughts can be a challenge. That is why we asked members of our Mighty mental health community who struggle with borderline personality disorder to share why their friends might not notice they are struggling.
By opening up the dialogue about borderline personality disorder, we can avoid attributing the symptoms of a mental illness to someone’s character and continue to help those struggling feel supported and understood.
Here is what they had to say:
1. “I don’t want to be a burden, so I internalize everything. A fake exterior can hide a crumbling interior.” — Lettie H.
2. “I try not to be an inconvenience to them. I’m already convinced because of my BPD that they hate being around me. So they aren’t going to notice I’m struggling with it because the symptoms make me distance myself from them.” — Kara R.
3. “[My friends don’t know] because after years of dealing with BPD, you get really good at pretending things are OK. You struggle in silence and try not to let others know your struggle so you don’t feel like you are a burden or an inconvenience. So many people don’t even realize there is anything wrong because I can hide it so well.” — Charity B.
4. “I mask my pain with gregarious humor and an outgoing personality, when in fact, it takes everything I have to be that way for even a couple hours.” — Jennifer R.
5. “Despite outward confidence, I have no idea who I am. Struggling with internal pressures can look like a normal day in paradise, but it’s actually the hottest day in hell.” — Mark H.
6. “Social media is a reason that applies to all mental illness. We’re only presented with great achievements, fun times and smiling faces. Maybe if more people spoke out about their issues, there wouldn’t be as many people feeling so alone.” — Georgia G.
7. “I don’t want [my friends] to know how scared I am of doing or saying something wrong and losing them. If they knew how scared I am of being abandoned then they might decide to leave anyway.” — Riana K.
8. “They don’t know to look for the signs that you’re getting bad because it’s not a downhill train track that they travel. They take for granted the stability [I] know to be ‘baseline’ and hardly, if ever, experience.” — Danae M.
9. “I could be having what I call ‘a roller coaster day,’ full of anxiety and thoughts that keep weighing me down, but once I’m at work, with my friends or as soon as people start making me laugh or smile, my mood shoots up super fast, like a switch, even if I’ve been struggling with intrusive thoughts or just struggling the entire day. My mood changes at a flip of a switch, so how can I expect my friends to understand the smallest things impact me so much when the mood shift is almost too fast to catch?” — Mia C.
10. “I don’t have any close friends. I put up walls to keep myself safe so any friends on the outside wouldn’t notice because I don’t let them in. It’s like there are rules for friendship that I don’t understand or seem to be in a different language — it’s like I’m pretending to be a part of life.” — Maree M.
11. “I keep an upbeat personality so people don’t get bored of me or get sick of me being sick. So when I struggle, I keep the same smile and don’t let people notice. I just don’t want to be a trouble for them.” — Abby A.
12. “Because I’m always so put together. I notice I tend to fill my schedule to the brim as a way to ignore the things I need to process. My sadness or anxiety just comes off as stress then.” — Emme J.
13. “Unlike some other diagnoses, the effects may not necessarily be seen on the surface and they’re really not apparent. [I think] much more effort is required to identify that someone is struggling — either by paying attention to one’s actions or speech. People are simply more likely to care about something they can see compared to something they cannot.” — Mario M.
14. “When I’m going through a period of numbness, it can appear to others that I’m doing well, since I’m not randomly crying! The numbness is just as awful as the overwhelming ups and downs, although from the outside I look like all is great!” — Morticia A.
15. “The few friends I do have tend to just think I’m complaining or negative all of the time. So I’ve learned to put on a happy face and sort of disassociate myself a bit. But I pay for it later with a freak out.” — Kasey C.
16. “I lie. Something will be building in my mind for weeks, but I’ll find any excuse I cannot tell someone because I assume they will think it’s silly. They won’t ever know until it reaches breaking point, and even then, I lie about why I’m breaking.” — Mel K.
17. “I keep my symptoms to myself as much as I can without totally isolating. I have very few who I call or ask for help when I’m struggling or during my episodes because I know I can lash out and I have lost a lot of friends because they don’t understand and don’t care. I am ‘sick’ a lot and most don’t have a clue of my struggles, but it is too difficult to explain and not many truly want to understand and accept my struggles.” — Jessica S.
18. “They don’t notice because they don’t want to. It’s ugly and scary and too much for them to deal with. So they build a fantasy in their head that everything will be OK, and I let them because I don’t have the energy to try anymore.” — Robi K.
19. “I deal with the pain by keeping a very busy schedule, doing what I love and spending time with people I enjoy being around. Even though I might be struggling, it’s hidden by things that would cause people to believe life couldn’t be better. In reality, it might be the total opposite of that, with everything on the verge of falling apart.” — Miranda T.
20. “I have an irrational fear of being annoying or a burden, and in turn, I drive my friends away. I often won’t tell them I’m struggling or how bad things are for me because I’m so scared that it could cause them to leave.” — Jeanine B.
21. “I’m a ‘quiet’ BPD person. All my pain is directed internally, and because I know how to function well, despite the pain and war going on inside, no one can tell until I erupt. But I also have little to no friends near me. So it’s easier to hide when no one is close enough to you, besides your partner.” — Haley F.
22. “I’m really good at disappearing into myself. But I usually can only do it for so long before I crack open and everything comes out at once. I feel like an emotional drain.” — Emily M.
23. “When they hurt my feelings I have to pretend like it wasn’t a big deal to me even though I want to crawl in a hole and hide.” — Malissa C.
24. “I play it off. I can be so happy one second and pissed off the next and I just make it seem like I’m playing around… but very few know differently.” — Cassheina P.
25. “When my BPD flares up, I become overly nice to my friends. I do more elaborate gestures to make sure they know I care about them to convince them to stay. They may think I’m just being nice, but really I’m scared they hate me.” — Evita R.
26. “I hibernate instead of showing how I feel. My self-worth comes from what others think, so I can’t let them think I’m a mess.” — Libby P.
27. “Because I never know if my problems are real or not. After being met with disbelief my whole life, I’ve learned to shut up.” — Autumn R.
28. “I only have a few close friends that understand me. I’m guessing other people can only deal with me in short bursts, except my saint of a husband.” — Kerri M.
Can you relate?
Via The Mighty