Living with a mental health condition can be difficult, even when your not the one with it.
My fiancee has borderline personality disorder, living with her means living with that personality disorder too. Unlike other mental health conditions like depression, BPD isn’t yet a commonly known disorder, it rarely get any mainstream attention and there just isn’t much information on it, I think that’s because BPD is so complex it can be difficult to understand.
There are a handful of incredibly useful websites out there such as:
If you’ve never heard the term BPD before, let me explain what the disorder is: it’s a mental illness that centers on the inability to manage emotions effectively, also known as EUPD (Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder). The disorder impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes a pattern of unstable intense relationships, distorted self-image, extreme emotions and mood swings, some researchers say this is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain as well as brain underdevelopment – these factors combined can make life extremely difficult, a shocking 8 out of 10 people with BPD commit suicide.
BPD is too often misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder, as they display similarities such as the intense mood swings and ‘highs and lows’, BPD doesn’t always need a ‘trigger’, the mood swings can happen at any moment for absolutely no reason. People with BPD will often develop depression and/or anxiety.
Steph got diagnosed in spring 2016 (2 and a half years into our relationship) as much as we have always had a great relationship, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, a lot of this being down to the immense bad moods that neither of us could understand, one minute we could be laughing and having a great day, then suddenly there are tears. I tried to pin point what the ‘triggers’ were but there wasn’t always an explanation or reason and Steph always felt like something was wrong with her. She often wasn’t depressed, she was in a good place in her life, with her job, family but she wasn’t happy in herself and we both got concerned, that’s when she decided to book a doctors appointment, suddenly everything started to make sense.
As soon as we got back from the doctors I did as much research as I could to understand BPD so I could support Steph as much as I can. To people outside our friends and family I’m aware it looks like we have a very ‘clingy’ relationship, we rarely do anything apart, most of this is down to the fact a same sex relationship is very different to a heterosexual, we are like best friends as well as partners but alongside that BPD is known to ‘destroy relationships’, being in a relationship with someone with BPD has its challenges and it times I have been pushed to my limits but I am prepared to push back, BPD needs to be challenged, you can’t let it control a situation, if Steph is having a ‘down day’ and feeling really crappy about herself or her appearance and her favourite word acting ‘dramatic’, I will do all I can to pull her out of that mood, tell her she is a beautiful person, make her laugh, put a Disney movie on, just smother her with kisses and cuddles, by doing this I can help alter that mood and hopefully stop her in that moment feeling so negative about herself.
After speaking with the doctor, researching online and just the experiences within our relationship it is clear the best thing for BPD is support, patience and understanding. That doesn’t just have to be from a partner, it can be from a parent, a friend, a co-worker who can spot that you’re feeling a bit crappy today and can help put a smile back on your face. I used get frustrated and confused when she reacted badly to something tiny, I’d think and sometimes even say “it’s not a big deal”, but I get it now, for her it is a big deal, something small and insignificant to me could feel like the end of the world to her, I’m no expert and we’re both still learning about this disorder but since her diagnosis she has blossomed, we both recognize when there could be a ‘down mood’ coming and avoid things that could cause a problem for her and got rid of as much negativity as we can – our relationship is the best it has ever been and I’m so proud of her for tackling her demons and facing this head on, I know she struggles and I will never fully understand how she feels but with love and support we will never let BPD break us.
I hope overtime BPD will be more widely recognized by medical professions, the media and society in general so that help and support can be given to those who need it and ultimately those suicide rates can start to go down.