“It is important to appreciate that once in hell, it is possible to climb out of it. -Marsha Linehan”
We complete this series of pearls from Beyond Borderline with the authors’ experience of close relationships. Some may find these perspectives both challenging and validating. Some may find comfort that it is indeed possible to support healing in relationship.
What has kept me here is the support of my family. Through everything I have put them through, they still stayed and held my hand. I went through intense therapy that felt like a waste of time, but eventually, over a long and tedious process, I began to find answers. I’m not better yet, but I am more stable… Relapse is a part of recovery. It’s hard to believe that’s true when you’re living it, but at the end of the day, if you are still on this earth, you have made progress.
I’m no expert on relationships, but I can tell you that being in one when dealing with BPD is a rollercoaster ride. If my boyfriend complimented me, I took it as sarcasm; if he was rude, I took it as a great personal attack. He is the person closest to me, yet I feel like he’s the enemy…It’s not easy on your partner. Author 7 (p. 54)
Just as somebody with lung cancer can’t search for a relationship to cover up the misery of their disease, I can’t either. Being coddled and cuddled may help soothe the misery in the moment, but it doesn’t resolve things in actuality… With BPD, relationships are complex, messy, and often riddled with projection as well as fear. They are not impossible but surely are challenging. Author 13 (p. 97)
Yes, I did do all those things (prompting others’ hurt, anger, exhaustion), but here’s what you may not know. While I may have made my loved ones’ lives miserable, I definitely did not wake up in the morning and ask myself how I could make everyone’s life miserable today.
After getting help, my family and I now understand we were all playing the blame game. When I said something that someone had said or done hurt or angered me, I was told that I was too sensitive, I was overreacting, I’d misinterpreted what they’d said, I should stop being such a baby, I should suck it up. “Life’s not fair.” “Why are you crying? It’s not that big of a deal.” And I always loved this one: “It wasn’t my intention.”
That it was not their intention (and I totally get that this was true) negated the fact that what happened, or was said, still hurt or affected me in some way. So, therefore, since it wasn’t their intention, or I had misinterpreted what they said or did, my feelings or reactions were unjustified–so, I was wrong, bad, or crazy. This is what caused the chaos: because I didn’t have “normal” reactions to things, they blame me; and because they didn’t understand or validate my feelings or reactions, I blamed them.
We know better now. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. We were both right, and we were both wrong. There was something wrong with me; I had an illness, and we just didn’t understand it or know how to deal with it. When a family member has an illness, be at mental or physical, it affects everyone around them. Therefore, everyone needs help to deal with it, not just the person with the illness. Thankfully, my loved ones did support me. They came to friends and family sessions that my DBT program offered to help educate family members about BPD and DBT. My sister went to the Family Connections program offered by the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder and learned the skills for family members dealing with a loved one with BPD. Our relationships are better than ever. Author 16 (p. 116-117)
This is the 11th and final entry of this series on Pearls from Beyond Borderline. Please explore the rest of the series and the many additional pearls in Beyond Borderline.
To further support NEABPD.org programs, order Beyond Borderline: True Stories of Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder.