“Stay close to people who feel like sunlight.”
“That’s when I realized what a true friend was. Someone who would always love you — the imperfect you — the confused you — the wrong you. Because that is what people are supposed to do.”
Making a real friend when you have borderline personality disorder (BPD) is hard. Keeping friends is even harder. Finding someone who will sit with you in your darkness but still push you to keep going is the hardest. Once or twice in a lifetime (if you’re lucky), you’ll find someone who literally refuses to give up on you — the imperfect you; the irritable and emotional you; the manic and depressed you. Hold onto these people. Thank them for being there. Love them with the intensity that is one of the beautiful attributes of BPD. Treat them with compassion and above all, appreciate all the sacrifices they make for you. Because being friends with someone with BPD is a no-holds-barred, walking-on-eggshells, emotion-fueled, long days and even longer nights kind of a relationship. And I’m not saying those of us with BPD cannot be good friends by any means, but I think we can agree that maintaining healthy friendships is a common struggle among us. That’s why it’s so important to understand how special those once-in-a-lifetime friends truly are.
About eight months ago, I met a wonderful, funny, lovely person who is full of light. We quickly became friends, and I have gradually allowed myself to trust and to be vulnerable with someone again. From day one, she has refused to give up on me and refused to let me give up on myself. Through the death of my grandmother, two surgeries, losing my job and psychosis, she has stood by my side. Because of so many negative experiences with people whom I thought were my friends in the past, I believed I was unworthy and incapable of having healthy friendships. Well, now I know that is simply not true. We are worthy of good friends who love and support us, and we are capable of being good friends. We just must work a little harder at it. Friendships are complicated. Friendships with Borderlines are extra complicated, but they are not impossible.
I am reminded daily of how blessed I am to call her my friend. Are there hard days and days we really aren’t connecting? Yes. For sure, yes. No friendship is perfect, but I believe our friendship is healthy. She sets boundaries, and I diligently try to respect them. I have learned over the years that maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial to maintaining healthy friendships. She’s patient. She listens, and she has never made me feel like my illness defines me. Friendships are difficult at times and there are ups and downs, like in any relationship, but communication and love produce hope. I had given up believing that I could be a good friend and in an instant, she disproved that belief by repeatedly telling me I am an important part of her life, that I am like a sister to her, and I am a good person and a great friend. And you know what? It makes me try even harder and heal a little more. I was broken from hurtful actions and words from past friendships, but now I am slowly but surely gaining confidence in myself and my ability to love again.
Inevitably, there will be difficult days ahead. As our lives evolve and other relationships change the dynamics of our friendship, I already know I will struggle. Even when the change is positive, we all know and understand that those of us with BPD do not do well with change. But I won’t give up. I will be happy for her. I will be there for her, and I will celebrate with her even if it takes me longer to work through things. And I am hopeful she will patiently wait and do the same for me. Because now I know I can be a good friend and there are amazing people who make getting up tomorrow and fighting for recovery easier. We are so worth it, and we are valuable people to count as friends.
Do not settle for anything less than a friend who fights alongside you — who doesn’t disappear when you’re facing problems and who loves you when you can’t love yourself. I know I won’t ever again.