Having Borderline Personality Disorder can be very depressing and stressful at times. It can be very hard to see a loved one like that. When I’m having an extremely difficult time managing my emotions and people offer solutions to “make me feel better”, all it does is make me feel totally invalidated – like I’m not good enough, I’m not doing well enough – despite using all the resources available to me, with my brain the way it functions, and circumstances at that time. If there is a lot going on at the time, it can be very overwhelming for me, and I am not capable of feeling as well as others at their baseline emotionally, as quickly as they are. Invalidating me at these times makes me really angry, defensive, inadequate, anxious, panicky and depressed – all at the same time – ten times worse than others would feel.
What I need at those times is validation of my feelings, and of my efforts to manage them to the best of my ability. People without Borderline Personality Disorder can understand only to a point.
People think that Borderlines have no empathy. Actually, it’s the exact opposite – we have too much empathy. We feel others’ emotions so intensely that we actually take on their emotions as well as our own. That’s what makes us so overwhelmed, and we don’t know how to react. It appears to not make any sense at all to someone else. Think of a computer whose circuits have overloaded from too much information that crashes.
Sometimes, it’ll seem like we’re overreacting to something very trivial. Usually, there’s a lot more to it and the minor incident is just the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. Sometimes we’re not even aware of what’s causing our outbursts. If you think it’s hard witnessing it, imagine what it’s like experiencing it – thinking “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stop feeling like this?” It can be terrifying to the BPD sufferer.
The part of our brains that controls emotions is extremely active compared to “normal” people, and the part that stops the behaviour once it’s started doesn’t work. We have to constantly monitor our thoughts and emotions 24/7 every single day of our lives. It’s absolutely exhausting! After our “episodes” we’re drained.
BPD cannot be cured. The symptoms can be controlled with medication. Borderlines need therapy. The most effective therapy for BPD is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy or DBT. Through DBT, we learn how to manage our emotions so that they don’t take over our lives anymore.
What should you do when someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is having trouble coping with their emotions? If they are taking medication and/or are in treatment, know that they are doing everything they can possibly do to help themselves feel better. Ask them if there’s anything you can do for them. If they say no, believe them. They know themselves a lot better than you do. The more you practice this, the more it’ll improve. Just don’t expect them to do it at the pace you want them to. They’ll get better at whatever pace they do. Take care of yourself so you’ll be able to cope with us as we process our feelings. It might take a while, but it’ll be worth it. We are the most compassionate, empathetic people you could ever know. We love so fully. Please find it in your heart to love us back.