Living with borderline personality disorder can be extremely lonely.
Between the stigma, the lack of public knowledge about the disorder, and the associated behaviors – including what’s known as “splitting” on even the closest people in one’s life – BPD can feel isolating.
Though the concept of “mental health days” seems to be growing in popularity, it’s important to recognize that some people require more than the occasional day off every couple of months. With BPD, I never know what to expect; I don’t know what my energy level and moods are going to look like, what’s going to trigger me, or what impulses I’m going to experience each day. Sometimes I wake up in a panic. Sometimes I wake up with optimism and confidence, but a small, upsetting event or too much time spent reading the news leaves me spiraling into a depressive episode. Sometimes I wake up in pain for reasons I don’t even understand.
There’s a reason BPD is sometimes called emotional regulation disorder. When I experience an emotion, it hits me like a tidal wave, and it becomes increasingly difficult – sometimes impossible – to see past it. Sometimes BPD manifests in physical symptoms, even putting me in the emergency room, and that tends to be the only time people take my mental illness seriously.
I know my close friends mean it when they offer their support, but I also know loving someone with borderline personality disorder can be overwhelming – to say the least. It’s one thing to have a meltdown every couple of months, but it’s entirely different to live with a disorder as unpredictable and intense as BPD. To avoid “burdening” those around me, I tend to bottle these feelings, fearful of “overreacting” or pushing people away. I know most people won’t really understand, and I don’t want to bother my friends with my third crying spell this week.
How do you explain to someone the burning feeling of emptiness in your stomach, swimming through your veins, breaking you down from the inside? How do you explain the lack of emotional permanence or the effort it takes to overcome the constant fear that everyone you know and love wishes you were dead? How do you explain that, despite the positive people and events in my life, I spend most of my time fighting the urge to self-destruct or disappear?
Most days, I can’t even really explain it to myself.
With the help of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and medication, I’m learning what works for me. I’m learning skills to more confidently navigate the days I feel most alone and to accept that this disorder makes me unique but not unloveable. I’m learning that not everyone will care to understand the battles taking place in my head each day, but some people will, and those people are worth the risk of rejection or isolation. I try to remind myself that no matter how lonely BPD makes me feel, I am never really alone.
If you know someone with borderline personality disorder, please try to keep in mind the emotional roller coaster they may ride every day, even if you can’t see it. If that person seems dramatic or attention-seeking, understand they are responding the way anyone experiencing pain, moods, and impulses of this intensity would respond. If that person tends to keep things to themselves, consider reaching out to them anyway. Sometimes simple validation and reassurance is more helpful than you could imagine. Caring for someone with BPD can be intense, but the extra effort can also save a life.