Monday, January 12, 2009

Borderline Personality Disorder - No Them, Know Them, Know Thyself

In two of the last blogs I did for BipolarConnect, I brought up the topic of borderline personality disorder. The second piece drew 25 comments, so apparently I struck a chord.

People with borderline manifest symptoms that superficially resemble bipolar, but in an explosive and unpredictable manner that people at Ground Zero describe as something akin to walking on eggshells.

My main point was that it is nonproductive to think of borderline as a separate diagnosis that affects other people. There is no true "us" and "them." Regardless of our diagnosis - or whether we even have one or not - we all have personality issues in abundance. These issues can make our lives hell (as well as for the people around us), plus they pose major obstacles to our recovery.

In the context of bipolar disorder (my diagnosis), it pays to think of ourselves as having bipolar "with other stuff going on."

By understanding borderline, we are in a better position to understand ourselves and make the appropriate course corrections. It's part of the "Know Thyself" philosophy here at "Knowledge is Necessity."

My initial enquiry into borderline began about three years ago, when I joined the board of a state mental health group and immediately encountered a steady progression of people who made my life miserable. For my own emotional safety, I had to resign my position.

When I started connecting the dots, I realized my recent bad experience was no exception. That all my life I had been a regular borderline magnet. My first reaction was I hated these people. I hated their illness, and I wanted nothing more to do with them.

Then I realized that the very thing we hate most tends to be the thing that resides deep inside of us. Jung called it the shadow self. I may not have had borderline, but I was forced to confront my personality issues.

"I am Joseph, your brother," reads a line from the Bible. I'm not quite ready for that, but I'm working on it.

Lots more in future blogs.

Further reading from mcmanweb: Borderline Personality Disorder

"Those who live with individuals with borderline describe the experience as akin to walking on eggs. By contrast, Anne compared her dealings with people to 'walking on shifting boards.' The world is far from a safe place, and the ground beneath her could collapse any second."

Also from mcmanweb: Poisonality

"Distinguishing a bad hair day from a mood episode from a personality disorder meltdown is notoriously difficult. Even Mother Teresa had her off-moments, and no doubt Gandhi had unresolved issues he needed to work through."


Anonymous said...

WHOA. I just clicked through to the article - someone I've had terrible issues with at work recently fits that diagnosis to a T. Everything is about her, paranoid fits and explosions are possible any moment, but sugar sweetness the next is as well. I got as far away from this as I could, as quickly as I could.

I'm with you - compassion is great, but I'm still in shock from some of the abusive behavior I witnessed or experienced, and I'm not quite ready to act as a living saint yet.

I've also used this experience to think about how I might have ended up, briefly, working closely with this person. I grew up shy and pushed around by my family, and learned to try to ignore bad behavior or gently push people off ("I'll think about it" instead of "NO"). And I tend to trust and see the best in people - feel like a sucker for all of that now. For the near future I'll keep more distance and be more wary of those who seem enraged, unpredictable or slightly crazed. Sorry, have to do this to protect myself.

John McManamy said...

Hey, Anonymous. Like you, I grew up shy and was pushed around. Like you, I tend to trust and see the best in people. Like you, I often feel like a sucker. No need to apologize for running away. Understanding and compassion may be fine, but bottom line is we all need to protect ourselves. We are an extremely vulnerable population. Someone else's abusive behavior hurts us a lot worse than others. I can't afford to have racing thoughts as a result of a bad encounter. That will keep me awake and make me a sitting duck for mania. At the very least, I'll be walking around like a sleep-deprived grouch for the next four days. These encounters are also capable of triggering depression in me.

Think of yourself first and don't apologize. At the same time, try to recognize any bad personality traits in yourself. That way, you will have very little to apologize for.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend has bpd, along with other problems. She has been abused her whole life and it is very sad how her family and "friends" have made her worse over the years. I have talked to her doctor (psyc) and even he is out of his element and has a hard time dealing with her or advising me. I found a website (oz)that I was looking for help on and it totally went the other way. I am in deep with this woman and she needs some serious help and love in her life. I am doing everything possible to give her a steady life style to live with and trust me it is not easy but I have seen progress. I recently connected with an old friend last week after twenty years of avoiding him. He was diagnosed bi-polar a few years ago and has lost his family and friends oveer the years. It is something that cannot be ignored. We all need, and what we need most is love and understanding. Not everyone can be normal!

John McManamy said...

Hi, Anonymous. Your 2d-last sentence is to the point - "What we need most is love and understanding."

In a relationship, you need to be receiving this in equal measure to what you give out.

If your girlfriend is capable of saying to you - "Yes, I understand what you are going through." - then yes, your relationship has a chance.

Please keep posting and please keep checking in. Relationships will be a recurring topic here at Knowledge is Necessity, and we can benefit from a good dose of your wisdom and insight.

Anonymous said...

Anxiety, is a fear-based response in which you worry about something bad that could happen. It is often associated with our own internal pressures and concerns, which may or may not be rational, but it typically involves an overestimation of the threat in a given situation.