Stop Walking on Eggshells

When someone in your life has borderline or narcissistic personality disorder

The Roller Coaster Ride of Loving Someone with BPD

My borderline girlfriend just came home. I read this to her and we both cried.

This guest blog is from blogger Paddy Vipond. His blog  Rambling Thoughts (which, as the title suggests, is not just about BPD) is at http://troubleandsqueak.wordpress.com/. Please keep in mind that like in all my guest posts, these are his opinions and may or may not reflect on my own. I like to publish a variety of views.

On behest of my girlfriend of nine months, I am writing about what it is like to be with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It is a complicated mental condition that is thought to affect as many as one in seven of us, according to the book New Hope For People With Borderline Personality Disorder.

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Although I have read books and researched BPD, I cannot even come close to imagining the mental anguish that my girlfriend must have suffered and be suffering. Its entirely alien to me and most people.

BPD as a recognised condition is relatively new, having only been defined in the 1980′s. It is not depression, though it can involve that. It is not bipolar, though it can have elements of that as well. It is not suicidal tendencies, though once again, that can play a part. BPD seems to be a tragic concoction of elements of some of the worst mental conditions. It leaves the sufferer, and those close to them, on a roller coaster of emotions that tend to include more downs than ups.

Before I talk to you about my own personal experience, let me attempt to educate you on what BPD involves. The traits associated with BPD are (taken from BPD Central.com)

  • An intense fear of abandonment, real or imaginary
  • Having intense relationships with lots of conflict whereby the other person is all good, or all bad
  • Feeling unsure of one's identity and feeling empty
  • Engaging in pain management behaviours such as going on spending sprees, having promiscuous sex, abusing drugs and/or alcohol, binge eating, threatening and attempting suicide, and engaging in self harm
  • Being emotionally unstable with frequent and fast mood changes
  • Having uncontrolled and intense anger and fits of rage, and at times having intense sadness as well as irritability
  • Paranoia and disassociation, feeling numb

As you can see, this is a pretty heavy list of attributes. Trying to imagine a life whereby you are subject to these sorts of feelings and emotions is not possible for me. Life would be a tremendous struggle. It's not particularly surprising that the NHS has said that between 60-70% of people diagnosed with BPD will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. That figure is huge. It saddens me that life is so unbearable for these people that taking their own life seems the best course.

If you are not suffering from BPD, then somebody you know you know may be suffering. Perhaps they need some help; perhaps they need someone to understand their predicament, perhaps they need someone to stop them when it all gets too much and (in my girlfriend's words) they are ready to do “something silly.”

Relationships with BPD sufferers often last a very short length of time indeed, and yet I find myself here, heading towards the time whereby this becomes my longest one. Perhaps this says more about me as a person than anything else.

Regardless of this, I shall impart my experiences and my thoughts. To say that this relationship has been a roller coaster would be an understatement. There have been times where I have been so infatuated and so blissfully happy that I felt like running away or moving abroad with her. We spoke of the perfect wedding, of names for our children--we dared to dream.

In stark contrast to these feelings were the times when the relationship was down--not just the low that you get from forgetting someone's birthday. There are times it has plummeted to the depths whereby we were both ready to give up. There was anger in our voices and hatred in our eyes. Our love had ripped from us and replaced with a nihilistic urge to just say “screw it” to everything and walk away. There would be no looking back. Why would there be?

These low points are when we are making each other's lives a living hell. I must be honest here, I am not the calmest and most understanding of people, I try to be, but I am only human. I have my faults.  But these seem to be amplified by the relationship and the situations we find ourselves in. Although my girlfriend's BPD is not the cause of all our troubles---Lord knows I have made my share of mistakes--I do believe it is a hugely significant factor.

I don't think my girlfriend will mind me saying this, but recently there have been far more downs than ups. These last few months I don't think we have gone more than two days without arguing. She has threatened to break up with me at least three times, and I have contemplated doing the same to her once or twice.

In what shouldn't be taken as too serious an analogy, I see my relationship as similar to a story I have heard about a person whose parent has dementia. Sometimes they look into their parent's eyes and they see a spark. A flicker of joy and recognition. The person they know and love is still there, somewhere, deep down inside. Those moments are what the person longs for.

Sometimes among the arguments, the fits of anger and rage, the distrust, the paranoia, the mood swings, it seems like my girlfriend is a completely different person. I find myself asking, "Where has the girl I fell in love with gone? Throughout the bad phases I see a flicker of the old her. The person I remember months ago. The person I fell for.

I know sometimes she feels utterly useless. But I try to see the light. The memory of the fantastic times we have had; the knowledge that she loves me unquestionably and the hope that one day she will get over this and be happy and “normal.” I honestly believe she can overcome this.

I feel I must try to understand. I must try to be patient and supportive. But there have been times when it has all been a bit too much for me, when I am fed up of being used as a punchbag (not literally), where I think to myself that I would be better and happier on my own. I would be lying if I said these thoughts never crossed my mind.

It's hard being in a relationship with someone who suffers from BPD. But it is nowhere near as hard as being the one with BPD. My girlfriend is not a burden, her BPD is. Our relationship is a molehill compared to the mountain of a struggle she has to go through to try to overcome her condition. We have shed may tears together, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I am quite emotional right now. 

My girlfriend just came home. I read this to her and we both cried.

Randi Kreger is the co-author of Stop Walking on Eggshells.

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