BPD & Relationships: Understanding What Goes On In Our Minds.
I have been delaying writing this post because of how I have been feeling about writing on BPD lately. I have been struggling to formulate my thoughts particularly on my experiences as that is the basis of all my writing on BPD; it really has been a struggle to have to relive some traumatic experiences I thought I had dealt with especially those related to my past relationships. Before I get into what this article is all about, I would like to give a brief definition of BPD and the signs & symptoms to ensure that this post will make sense to people who are not familiar with BPD.
Like many other mental illnesses, researchers don’t fully understand the origins of BPD. Some studies suggest that there is a genetic component, meaning the disorder can be hereditary. Hostile family environments, childhood abuse, and neglect, and separation from caregivers can also increase the risk. Some research indicates BPD can emerge when parts of the brain that help regulate emotions and aggressive impulses are not functioning well. I established in my therapy sessions that the main contributing factor for my BPD was 'separation from my caregiver' this is due to being raised by a single mother who still needed to work right after I was born. I missed out on a lot of things that most toddlers receive from an early age from their parents such as affection, communication, and attention to my needs. One thing my therapist mentioned to me was how as a toddler we cry for things we need such as food, affection from our caregivers, and communication to mention a few, and we tend to see these things manifest in adulthood as BPD sufferers.
I personally struggle with communicating how I really feel with those close to me as I have an intense fear of abandonment. The constant thought when I have to communicate how I really feel is that the person I am speaking to will take it the wrong way (there's a history of being misunderstood) and probably not want to hang out/communicate with me anymore. The problem with this is that I tend to avoid confrontations or communicating how I really feel and these bottled up emotions tend to manifest themselves when I am inebriated, and they're never pleasant when they come out. This resulted in some friendships ending with people I considered my day ones and also affected my romantic relationships with guys. My last two relationships were riddled with an intense fear of abandonment and paranoia that would go unacknowledged as my partners did not know how to support someone with BPD. That seemed to be a recurring theme in my life; going with my feelings not being acknowledged or validated which is one of the reasons why I struggle with opening up.
Communication is one of the things that seems to be a factor in my relationships because I have a fear of communicating how I really feel and getting close to people only for them to leave (my Mom's death intensified my fear of abandonment). During my outbursts, I wish someone would have understood the various ways in which they could support me without aggravating the situation which seems to be the problem for loved ones with BPD. Most do not know how to notice when it is an 'episode' and instead of defusing the situation, make it worse by also arguing. When a loved one with BPD becomes reactive, we may insult you or make unfair accusations. The natural response is to become defensive and to match the person you're in conflict with. You have to remind yourself that we BPD sufferers sometimes struggle to place ourselves in a different person’s perspective. We may struggle to gauge what is a minor issue and what is a major one, and we may interpret your defensiveness as not being valued. (Please take note of 'may' as this does not apply to all BPD sufferers, some 'symptoms' present themselves differently to others) Instead, when we become reactive, take the time to listen without pointing out the flaws in our argument. ALSO, PLEASE try not to take it personally.
Psycom says that if we point out something you could improve or have done wrong, acknowledge our point, apologize, and suggest a way you can improve on the matter in the future. If we feel like we're being heard, the crisis is less likely to escalate. However, if the conflict rises to the level where we are throwing a full-on tantrum, it’s best to walk away and resume the conversation when we are calmer. Often this is the problem we face as sufferers because of the difficulty of trying to articulate what is really going on with you, people misunderstand your reactions and this leads to situations like the ones mentioned above. As BPD sufferers, we all have different coping mechanisms for stress and crisis. I often isolate myself and hardly see anyone, I will also make plans and end up flaking on them simply because I over think how the encounter will be like mixed with social anxiety this results in a mess with my emotions which is why I resort to isolating. This leads to guilt and fear; because I now fear that my friends/loved ones won't have time for me and in the end, abandon me.
Do you have a loved one that suffers from BPD and if so, how do you assist them when they're in crisis??