Living with a borderline

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Living with borderline… or in my case, living with a friend who suffers from the personality disorder called borderline. It is useful to first clarify what borderline exactly means. Many people may have heard of borderline. Many people also know what it means. But do they also know what it is like to live with someone who suffers from this disorder?

What is borderline?

As I indicated above, it is a personality disorder. This manifests itself in extreme mood swings and unpredictable behavior, low self-esteem and poor ability to maintain relationships. On the one hand they make themselves very dependent and on the other hand they are very repulsive. And this can change at any time.

The extreme behavior can also lead to dangerous situations. They use alcohol and drugs to numb the feeling and they can completely trust complete strangers (and completely distrust people close to them).

There is no cure for borderline. There is no pill that can take away all those fears, anger, distrust and insecurities. It can be learned to deal with it through various forms of therapy and medication. It will never go away. It is a daily struggle.

Borderline develops through traumatic experiences. It does not mean that everyone who has such experience also develops borderline. People with an unsafe, detached childhood, traumatic experiences such as abuse, both physically and/or mentally, and who are also very sensitive (this may be genetically determined) have a greater chance of developing borderline.

It is said that 2 percent of the population suffers from this disorder. Doesn’t sound impressive, but this is a number of approximately 320,000 people in the Netherlands alone.

Dealing with borderlines…

After all, this is what this article is about and I would like to immediately mention that these are my own experiences. So it is true that there are people who read this and have different opinions, ways or comments.

We already knew each other from school and really started hanging out when we met again at the Lowlands festival. She was very spontaneous and impulsive. Just like me, she loved a party, a beer and watching all kinds of bands. Once the bands were done, we had a nice party in the 24-hour tent and had a drink together at the tent. So it was a very successful Lowlands edition for me and not long afterwards (actually immediately afterwards) we were dating. Within 2 weeks we were already talking about backpacking in Asia and went to Thailand for 4 weeks. So it all happened very quickly and impulsively, even for me. I thought this was all good.

What is wrong?

At some point I started to notice that something wasn’t quite right. This was mainly when going out, so when alcohol was involved. For example, dirty looks when I talked to other girls. Often girls I had been friends with for a long time and was therefore not interested in. The worst part was when I started talking to my ex-girlfriend (with whom I am still good friends). Usually not much was said about this on the evening itself and everything was cheerful and drunk, but when we walked home the mood changed one hundred and eighty degrees and I felt the wind from my front. I was called all kinds of names and accused of things I understood and knew nothing about. Some examples: bastard, dirty rapist and things like fuck off and I don’t need you anymore, I’m walking home (and that was a 20 km walk in the winter).

This went on for a while until I received an email explaining what was wrong with her. And what had happened to make it this way. She had already been in therapy for some time and she also had to do therapy internally in a psychotherapeutic institution within a few months. She emailed this because she didn’t dare say it. Because she was afraid to explain this. She was ashamed of this. I had to read this email a few times because I didn’t know what I was reading. Unbelievable what that girl had already been through!

So, and then you know…

What are you doing then? I’ve often thought that and I still think that sometimes. And then I also regularly thought: Do I really want all of this? I hadn’t really experienced much until then. I grew up protected with a stable home base in a village with the same friends since my youth. Everything came very easily to me. Why would I bring on myself so much misery?

But it was still two sides. If she was good, then everything was really good. Then the whole world would shine! Then there were tons of options and things to do seemed endless!

I cared (and care) about her a lot and I wanted to help her. I wanted (and want) to be there for her. We went to Thailand together and had a great time. Until the last week that is. The moment we would be back in the Netherlands, her recording would start. In her good moments she knew what she was doing it for. In her bad moments she was very anxious. We would then be separated for 2 weeks each time, with only a weekend together and then not together for another 2 weeks. She was sure that I would cheat during that time and that I would leave her.

How did I deal with it then?

First of all, I didn’t leave her. I didn’t cheat either. I had endless patience. I always listened to her. But even for me it was enough sometimes. Then we would have a big argument and things would fly across the room or she would hurt me or herself. Sometimes it just went too far. Then she was a little child who didn’t get her way and was angry at the whole world (but actually very scared). Eventually, when I had calmed down and we started talking again, the sensible adult in my girlfriend emerged again and with whom it could be resolved.

What I have discovered is that I cannot understand her. I don’t know what she feels and I can’t understand what she feels. This is quite a confrontational sensation. I fought against this for a long time, but I finally gave in.

Some tips from my own experience (when the borderline is feeling bad):

Remember that anger is not directed at you (although it may seem that way)

“You can’t do anything”, “I hate you”. She is angry because she feels misunderstood. When the borderline feels bad, she takes out her powerlessness about her feelings and past experiences on you. You are not the culprit but the people who hurt her in any way.

To provoke

A borderline is good at provoking anger and arguments. At that moment she wants confirmation that you no longer care about her, for example, so that her fear of being abandoned is confirmed. Don’t go along with this, ignore it and try to find out what she really feels by talking calmly (usually fear). This allows her to express her real emotions and get out of the negative behavior.

Stay positive towards her

Borderlines are good at negative thinking: “I’m stupid”, “I can’t/don’t dare to do that”, “I don’t want to do that”. Keep repeating that she can do it, give her a (nice) push. Turn her negative view around and turn it into something positive.

Signaling

Try to figure out when the mood changes and what causes it. Example: “You are sitting on the terrace talking to a group and suddenly they become silent.” At the moment she is already thinking about everything and having negative thoughts. This could be due to a certain topic being talked about that gives her a bad memory or because you talk too long about that beautiful woman who walked past. Make sure she gets a distraction or, if possible, take her aside and ask her something. there is.

Fear of abandonment

Many borderlines suffer (extremely) from the fear of abandonment. She needs to hear that you are staying with her more often than a “normal” girl.

Attention

Borderlines need and demand a lot of attention, often in the wrong way. This is because they often lacked this in their youth and/or in the wrong way. Try to identify negative attention demands and turn them into positive attention. Try to encourage positive attention. (just like with children).

Her therapy has taught her many things. In my opinion, the most important thing is that she should reflect on her feelings. This makes her understand better and better what she feels and why. After the internal admission, she saw a psychologist every week and took medication for a while to suppress the most extreme fears. This allowed her to fight the negative feelings better. And lately she’s been winning more than she’s losing. Without medication!

We have been together for four years now and we have been traveling through South-East Asia for 6 months now and things are going great…