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Experiences of friendships/relationship with people who have borderline personality disorder?

(65 Posts)
JuicyMouth Wed 05-Oct-16 11:31:37

I have a formerly very close friend in her 30's who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder some years ago during her adulthood. She has been in therapy since then, but I can't say it has had any positive effect on her.

I have known her since we were children, and although she can be extremely nice, friendly and generous, she has always had moments of being 'challenging' (for want of a better word), and has sometimes been quite horrible. This year I decided to distance myself from her after she abruptly cut me off for months, for no comprehensible reason.

A few days ago she reached out to me in an attempt to rekindle our friendship. But I am sceptical after dealing with years of her changing moods and behaviours.

I'm now wondering how others have found people with the same disorder. Just how much of the negative behaviour is the 'real' them, and how much of it is the disorder?

MatildaTheCat Wed 05-Oct-16 11:55:45

I had a friend like this. She cut me off some years ago after falling out with a mutual friend. No explanation or discussion, just nothing. She had been having therapy for years but nothing ever changed,she was extremely self centred and lacking in insight or empathy.

I'm afraid I don't miss her or the drama. I'm sad that she can't seem to have adult relationships and sad that her child is probably having a fairly odd upbringing. If she did contact me now I would wish her well and move swiftly on.

Does it matter how much is her vs the disorder? It is her at the end of the day. We all have boundaries for how we will be treated, or should have. I would like to say, I'm sorry but I can't be friends because sometimes you treat me really badly and that doesn't work for me. In reality I would probably just be very busy.

crayfish Wed 05-Oct-16 12:13:29

My best friend has BPD. She has been having therapy for over a year but still finds it difficult to 'function' (only attends work about 50% of the time etc).

I love her and we have been friends for years but she is very very hard work. Incredibly self involved and very disinterested in anything that's going on in my life - I have a 15 month old and she has seen him twice, never asks after him or about anything going on in my life. I can accept that because I know that she does care really, it's just that she can be very focussed on herself. There is a lot of 'drama' too - druken phonecalls at 2am telling me she's left her partner, I get all involved and then it blows over the next day an I am annoyed I have wasted time and energy supporting her when she doesn't even seem bothered herself. It can be very draining and I have commented to DH that I get very little out of the friendship really, despite how much I give.

The reason we are still friends is that I care about her, she is very funny and we have a lot of history together. She wasn't always like 'this' and I miss who she used to be I guess. I try not to get heavily involved now, which I did in the past, because I felt like I was overinvesting myself and I found it very stressful. It also put a strain on my relationship at one point.

JuicyMouth Wed 05-Oct-16 12:43:06

Thanks Matilda and cray, very similar experiences.

I suppose I only stayed friends with her for the same reasons regarding history together, and I do also care about her. She can be such a nice and funny person, but I agree I have boundaries and I'm not prepared to be picked up and dropped again on a whim!

My friend is the same when it comes to disinterest in my life, and my children. Considering how well we knew each other, she hardly ever saw them. She is a mother herself, and seems to have lots of difficulty in that area too, typically with lots of conflict, nearly all of her own making, that she tries to involve me in.

UbiquityTree Wed 05-Oct-16 13:12:28

I have BPD and hope my input can be helpful.

I am known as a very good friend, but I know I also tend to lose touch with people. Typically that's when I'm in a period of crisis and literally can't. The guilt of not being a good friend compounds the inability to be one, which obviously helps hugely hmm

What do you mean by "has sometimes been quite horrible"? Can you give an example? I don't think this is typical of BPD so may be symptomatic of (a) a comorbid condition such as anxiety (sufferers can lash out during panic attacks) or (b) not actually being a very nice person underneath.

It's also worth remarking that BPD is believed to start in early childhood so it's very likely she has had it all the time you've known her. It also means she's never not had it so it's basically impossible to separate her Self from her BPD.

Another term for BPD is Emotionally Unstable PD. We haven't learned how to understand and manage our emotions and they can overwhelm and frighten us. If you imagine that she's functioning emotionally like a 6- or 7yo - what leeway would you allow a child of that age for processing distressing/frightening/annoying situations?

It's completely up to you whether you continue with this friendship or not. When she's seeking your friendship she genuinely wants it, and you are likely to see all the good ("nice, friendly and generous") features of her personality. Only you can decide whether that's enough compensation for when her behaviour doesn't match up to your expectations.

Elllicam Wed 05-Oct-16 13:19:59

I had a friend with BPD from university who was lovely but similar to what is described here (drama, disinterest in others etc). She eventually cut me off with no explanation for several months and it was very upsetting. She did try to get back in contact a few years later but I didn't want to get involved again.

crayfish Wed 05-Oct-16 13:32:39

Ubiquity that is really interesting thanks for your insight. You are right in terms of my friend, a lot of the time it is like dealing with a child and there's lots of 'have you fallen out with me?' stuff if she doesn't hear from me for a couple of weeks rather than just assume I have been busy. She also take s a long time to process things and this can manifest itself by her 'dragging up' things from a while ago as if she has only just thought about it. Just after my son was born she kept ringing me to talk about/analyse an incident (not a big deal) that had happened four years previously.

My friend is never horrible. In fact, the only person she is horrible to is herself really. I garee that she probably always has had BPD but it has surfaced in a more extreme way in response to some trauma over the past few years. I am lucky she has never 'cut me off' but I have seen her do it to others.

idlewilde Wed 05-Oct-16 13:32:40

Watching this thread with interest as I am wondering if my friend has undiagnosed BPD. She lurches from drama to drama - some not of her own making, but always seems to be involved in one. Everything needs to be about her and she will do anything to be the centre of attention, including getting injured! Life is either amazing - we are so rich, so happy - or terrible - we are broke, really stressed. She drinks far too much and turns into a total nightmare then. Complete control freak and horrible to her family. Totally enabled by her DH, DC, other friends. Its got to a point where I am struggling to stay her friend tbh. Any advice in this situation? (sorry for hijacking thread btw!)

idlewilde Wed 05-Oct-16 13:36:32

And yy to "cutting people off". She has very few friends apart from me. Has gone NC with lots of people since I have known her.

Saltfish Wed 05-Oct-16 13:42:18

I was in a relationship with a woman with bpd. It was the worst 2 and a half years of my life. She did me the biggest favour when she ended things abruptly. She was a bully and no good deed went unpunished. I wasn't the first or last person she treated horribly. It's just who she was. One good thing, I am grateful to her for giving me strength. I am now no longer a doormat. grin

BurningBridges Wed 05-Oct-16 13:43:50

I did decide that my friend wasn't worth the drama and that was hard as (a) I knew she couldn't help it and (b) she was a great laugh most of the time - but she was too needy having one drama after another, as poster up thread said one minute she'd be dying at 2am due to her boyfriend not calling her at the time he said he would and then the next day she'd sat watching Eastenders eating chocolate and if you rang to see how she was she'd say what's your problem?!

She also wanted my children to be involved, so for example we'd all go out for the day and then if the kids didn't eat the "right" food (as in what she decided they should eat) at the restaurant she'd get up and go home. It just wasn't a feasible relationship but she was very charming and funny.

UbiquityTree Wed 05-Oct-16 13:48:58

idle that certainly sounds disordered but those with BPD more often direct their issues inwards so I'm not convinced.

cray: You are right in terms of my friend, a lot of the time it is like dealing with a child and there's lots of 'have you fallen out with me?' stuff if she doesn't hear from me for a couple of weeks rather than just assume I have been busy. She also takes a long time to process things and this can manifest itself by her 'dragging up' things from a while ago as if she has only just thought about it. Just after my son was born she kept ringing me to talk about/analyse an incident (not a big deal) that had happened four years previously.

"As if she has only just thought about it" is right - very likely she has been ruminating on it all that time. The "have you fallen out with me?" is definitely BPD - crippling fear of abandonment and projection/misunderstanding other people's emotional responses. Ironically when someone with BPD cuts you off she probably thinks she's protecting herself from your cutting her off IYSWIM - like when you dump a boyfriend before he dumps you. I can see that that's a lot for you to deal with, and I'm not surprised you're losing patience with it. I can only tell you that she probably isn't trying to be horrible; it almost certainly isn't malice. Not to excuse the end result, just the motivation.

A person with BPD will have a very hazy sense of self. A lot of the impulsive behaviour stems from that uncertainty, and attempting to block out an unpleasant reality. Lots of us live almost entirely in our own heads (I have very little memory of the last few years, like being in a waking coma) and indeed bad episodes can include mania and psychosis. Splitting out real events from imagined can be hard work.

idlewilde Wed 05-Oct-16 13:56:05

Thank you Ubiquity. What you say is ringing a lot of bells with me.

UbiquityTree Wed 05-Oct-16 14:00:50

Bear in mind I am not a psychiatrist, just one person with BPD who has done a normal amount of reading about that disorder since my diagnosis.

It's complicated because most of those with BPD have another condition (75% mood disorder, 75% anxiety disorder, 50% eating disorder, etc) so it's very complicated for us as non-specialists to understand whether a particular behaviour "belongs" to the BPD or to the comorbid condition. I have PTSD and that's probably the cause of my panic attacks, but my coping strategies for dealing with those panic attacks are classic BPD dissociation - if you saw me in that instant, is that a PTSD behaviour or a BPD behaviour?

idlewilde Wed 05-Oct-16 14:12:17

I totally get what you are saying Ubiquity but I am identifying a lot of what you are saying! I don't really want to stop being friends with her as she is (as previous posters have said) great fun, very charming and has a lot of good qualities. I guess I am just looking for coping strategies to deal with the nightmare side of her. Is there such a thing?

UbiquityTree Wed 05-Oct-16 14:16:04

I don't really know what you're asking me.

This page from Mind might give you some tips for dealing with someone's immediate anxieties. Certainly, saying something along the lines of "I'll be here when you're ready" would be a very helpful thing to combat the abandonment worries, without your engaging with the current drama.

KittyandTeal Wed 05-Oct-16 14:20:22

I also have bpd. I think I am considered a good friend, however I have learnt how to be a good friend and follow the rules (I find it hard not to turn any given conversation back to me but I've learnt not to etc)

I used to cut people out, not dramatically just stop contacting them, if I thought they were about to stop being my friend. The sense of abandonment makes me cut people out first. However, I've again learnt not to do this. The only person I've cut out recently (I still speak to her but no longer socialise) is someone who, exactly one month after loosing my dd2, told me she wished I had my life as I was lucky getting all the attention (I was lucky that lots of people came around me and gave me support) which I don think is unreasonable. I did check with my dh that I wasn't over reacting.

Sometimes bpd can do odd things to your thinking, sometimes people are just plain mean. I have learnt how to function in a normal capacity, I often check with my dh as to wether I'm over reacting over something. It's bloody exhausting. Living with bpd and trying to be normal and a good friend is like running a marathon daily. It is so, so exhausting.

However, if someone (my condition or not) is making you miserable then don't put your feelings under someone else's.

crayfish Wed 05-Oct-16 14:23:14

idlewilde, your friend and mine sound very similar. My friend is also incredibly accident-prone, some of this is to do with drunken impulsive behaviour and some (I think) is about getting attention or creating another drama.

There was a recent incident where we were both affected by an identical piece of bad news. It affected me in exactly the same way as her (on a practical basis) but from her it was all 'I think everybody is out to get me' and 'why do bad things always happen to me'. It was as if she couldn't see that it was happening to me too!

What has been interesting here is how many people with BPD are described as generous, charming and funny. This is my friend to a tee. And this is why we are still friends I suppose.

UbiquityTree Wed 05-Oct-16 14:31:52

Living with bpd and trying to be normal and a good friend is like running a marathon daily. It is so, so exhausting.

Yes, indeed. Especially the checking. My poor DH must get pretty fed up with it as well sad and it's hard to work out whether you are doing something nice because you actually want to or because you feel you have to just in case. It feels like I don't deserve friends so I have to be constantly on my guard to protect the friendships, by acts of kindness or gifts or contact. That doesn't always come naturally but I've learned that's what you do. And sometimes I get it wrong and people get weirded out.

However, if someone (my condition or not) is making you miserable then don't put your feelings under someone else's.

Absolutely! If I lose a friendship because I've fucked up, I don't deserve to keep you. It's one of the great sadnesses of my life, but it's my sadness and my issue and mine don't trump yours.

dangerrabbit Wed 05-Oct-16 19:02:36

I had a friend from school who was diagnosed with BPD, however she didn't accept the label. She was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My friend is highly intelligent and was a psychiatrist herself before she became ill. We weren't that close at school, I was quite wary of her because she used to get very close to people then push them away, more so than other teenage girls. After we left uni we lost touch for a while but then got back in touch and I supported her through a difficult time when she lost her job and ended up in hospital for a while. My friend would react strongly to any perceived slight and often speak to me if people who had wronged her. I used to enjoy her company and her analysis of current affairs. Her thinking had clarity and depth of thought and I learnt much from her. Sometimes I found it hard to separate truth from fiction as she seemed worried about secret organisations such as the illuminati but she always had coherent reasons to back her arguments. She was very charismatic but also extremely secretive and was paranoid about people finding out her business. She cut off her family and many other friends so it didn't surprise me when she decided to stop speaking to me, although I was disappointed. If she tried to get in touch with me again I would speak to her, however I don't give much to the relationship emotionally.

alvinp Wed 05-Oct-16 19:42:34

Saltfish - me too. My exw had BPD. It was thought to be a result of childhood trauma and as far as I know she never fully accepted the diagnosis. Very very clever, charming and fun when she had it together, paranoid, accusatory and manipulative when not.

We are on good terms now but I know what I'm dealing with so keep it at arms length. Deep down she is a good person, but hard work. I think if you're a friend it's probably easier, you can maintain some distance, but be aware and read up about it a bit. The big issue in my experience was confusing reality and fantasy, and also not being able to maintain a safe distance - hence going hot and cold. It's a tough one.

KittyandTeal Wed 05-Oct-16 19:49:46

Danger I was also initially diagnosed with rapid cycling bi polar, with strong bpd tendencies. In the end I was rediagnosed. I always felt the bipolar ds didn't quite fit somehow.

My recent psychiatrist gave me the mind bpd info, I read it, got very angry, ranted at dh about how ridiculous it was they thought I had a personality disorder, he did his mmhumm with a slight raised eyebrow which I know is a kind 'they might have a point' look. I reread it and realised it described me perfectly, not my behaviours but how I feel inside, my internal behaviour and feelings.

UbiquityTree Wed 05-Oct-16 19:53:23

Kitty my psychiatrist gave me a list to look at too. I think that's the recommended way to get a pt to accept the dx.

KittyandTeal Wed 05-Oct-16 19:58:06

Alvin I think that I'm similar. Deep down I am a good person but I am bloody hard work. I'd like to think I'm not manipulative and accusationary but for the few people I'm actually close to (my dh only really) I am hard work with my rants about others, my cluelessness about other people and my black and white thinking. My dh is probably the only one who I know doesn't have an alternative agenda. While logically I know I can say that about most of my friends emotionally I didn't think I will ever fully trust anyone ever except my dh (and I then have to rationalise my thinking about him possibly having affairs!)

I've realised recently, as I've become more aware of how other people feel inside, just how sad and lovely bpd is. I'm much better than I was but tbh I see it as a life sentence. It sounds very dramatic and indulgent but I sometimes feel really sorry for myself that I don't get to have a 'normal' life. All because of the actions of 2 men 20 years ago. Fucking bpd.

Sorry, that was another bit of a rant.

KittyandTeal Wed 05-Oct-16 19:59:55

That's really interesting ubiquity. I got that impression, there was lots of 'what do you think?'

It's horrid reading something quite negative that describes you so perfectly. Then I fitted a few of the other personality disorders too, just not enough for a dx

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