For those of you who ask about books! A lot of these are ones I’ve read and liked, and many others are ones on my reading list. Buddha & the Borderline is probably my favorite mental health-related memoir.
Sometimes I think that people see people with BPD as the root of all evil. That’s not true. It is true that when I am emotionally stressed and not thinking logically, I can’t be responsive to people in appropriate ways. But there is a double standard here. People with other mental illnesses aren’t seen as lacking empathy, but having certain developmental deficits.
Take Asperger’s syndrome, for example. People with that disorder appear not to understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others’ feelings. But we don’t ascribe this to lacking a conscious. Instead, we say they have genetically-related structural abnormalities in several regions of the brain—the exact same thing we could say about BPD!
We don’t see BPD as an illness and it looks like we’re doing it on purpose because sometimes we appear so functional and in control. The intense emotions that make us seem so self absorbed occur in the context of a close relationships, and, for us, close relationships are the equivalent of standing in a burning building.
how can I explain my bpd in a way my boyfriend will understand
The best way to do it, in my opinion, is to show him resources written by other folks with BPD. A lot of “resources” I’ve found are not actually designed to accurately explain BPD, but rather to stigmatize it.
There’s so much here on Tumblr from the BPD community. I’d start by pinpointing which symptoms you want to explain to him, since everyone’s BPD is different. If you search my archive you may find something you relate to.
Here are some concise ways to explain different aspects of BPD.
Mood swings and emotional reactivity:
–feeling like you have no emotional skin so you’re always raw and vulnerable
–going from depression to anxiety to paranoia to rage to total emptiness to being perfectly okay in a span of a few hours (or even less time) which leaves you exhausted
–walking a tightrope trying to balance your emotions but the tiniest thing can push you over the edge
–that feeling when you look at yourself in the mirror and feel like the person looking back at you isn’t really you
–when you look at a very familiar word and it just doesn’t seem right
–feeling like your mind and body are separate (out-of-body experience)
–feeling like you’re not a real person but rather an empty shell
–feeling like the world isn’t real
–feeling like you can’t feel anything ever again
–feeling like you don’t really care if you were to die
–feeling like life is empty and meaningless
Idealization and devaluation
–”imprinting” (becoming emotionally dependent on someone and believing they’re literally the best person in the world)
–splitting (suddenly switching from idealization to anger/hatred/or just not really caring about your relationship with that person)
–the shift from idealization to devaluation can be caused by the tiniest things you probably wouldn’t even notice (like how quickly someone responds to us, tone of voice, etc)
–as such, we analyze every single social cue and tend to interpret everything as evidence you hate us
–we can switch between the two extremes back and forth
These are just a few examples. Definitely focus on what you want your boyfriend to know about your BPD. Remember that BPD is treatable: several types of therapy (chiefly DBT) are designed to treat BPD. BPD is not a choice; BPD sufferers are actively suffering, and often we struggle with self-loathing, especially if we lose control and lash out or do something impulsive. People with BPD can be highly self-aware, dedicated to treatment, and genuinely compassionate people (I don’t even know why “low empathy” is a diagnostic criterion in the DSM V). Most importantly, Fatal Attraction is complete and utter bullshit.
If you want good character portrayals of BPD they are kind of hard to find. I feel that Tiffany from Silver Linings Playbook is an excellent representation (probably the most well-known one that isn’t horribly stigmatizing). I found that in the Marvel comics, the female clone of Wolverine (known as Laura Kinney or X-23) is a powerfully good representation of BPD though she isn’t confirmed to have it. Welcome to Me, which is supposedly about a woman with BPD who goes off her meds, is wildly inaccurate. I’ve got a whole list of movies I need to see that have characters who have BPD traits, but right now I’ll just offer my input on the ones I’ve seen.
I’ve read two great memoirs on BPD: Loud in the House of Myself by Stacy Pershall and The Buddha and the Borderline by Kiera Van Gelder. (side note: I actually got to hear Stacy Pershall speak at an Active Minds conference and she’s got the most hilarious sense of self-deprecating humor.) However, these books do contain triggering material and you may want to read them first before deciding to recommend them. You may also feel that your BPD is different from the authors’ BPD.
As I mentioned, it’s totally up to you what you want to share with your boyfriend. What do you feel he will need to understand in order to be in a relationship with you? He may be someone who learns more from reading than watching a movie, so you may want to work together to figure out the best way to help him understand. BPD is so complex but you CAN have a healthy relationship; helping him understand is the first step.