Previously I’ve talked about Controversy in Borderline Personality Disorder (starting here). I also said that I’d continue to update them as I stumbled upon more. Well, unsurprisingly I have found more so I’ll be adding to my previous blog series today. So, here are a couple more Controversies and Misconceptions about BPD:
Misconception: You can bring about recovery in a person with a Borderline Personality Disorder through your own actions.
Fact: Personality Disorders are Real Mental Illnesses – and they don’t depend on what anyone else does, or doesn’t do, said, or didn’t say. You can’t cure a personality disorder with love, anger, submission or ultimatums. That’s like trying to hit a puppy by throwing a live bee at it (points if you know where that line is from).
Man, if only this were true. Let a friend or loved one know you have a mental issue, let them wave their hand around your head and Poof! no more personality disorder.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends and family sit down with me, give me advice or tell me to just get over it. Growing up my dad did the latter very often. He invalidated my feels, told me suck it up and get over it. I don’t think he was intentionally trying to be mean, but he clearly wasn’t helping me develop a healthy emotional state. Granted, if I wasn’t predisposed to having such emotionally charged response to things I may not have elicited these response from him so often. They did make me afraid to show my emotions though. Like when my grandmother died, instead of allowing myself to grieve naturally I locked myself away in my closet to cry instead of voicing my hurt. I needed to suck it up and be strong for my brother and sister. Instead of processing my emotions in a situation that actually was very appropriate to be upset, I repressed how I felt because I believed that showing these feelings was bad and wrong.
My parents love me. They love me a lot. Even today my mom continues to send me holistic articles on releasing negative emotions and gaining a calmer state of mind, as if reading an article will help cure me. I know her intentions are good and she just wants me to get better. It’s her way of showing she cares, but it’s almost completely useless and makes me feel guilty for not being able to be better for them.
The point is, no matter how much you care, how guilty you feel, how much you talk about and give advice to someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder, you can’t magically make it go away. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be there when they need you (please don’t abandon us), give your love and support, just understand that it’s not your fault if it isn’t cured.
Controversy: People with BPD can get better if they just try harder.
Fact: Although management of symptoms is possible through a combination of medications, therapy and personal work, they can’t make the disorder disappear altogether. Personality disorders are mental illnesses based on neurological differences for which there is no known cure.
This goes right along with the previously mentioned myth. Sometimes I have doubts, sometimes I’m afraid to give up the familiar feelings, sometimes I fall to hopelessness, but I don’t think anyone really wants to deal with this. If we could get better by willing ourselves into a more normal state, of course we’d do it. Personality disorders are deeply ingrained disorders built up over a lifetime, biological dispositions, and/or a combination of both. They’re characterological, not a choice. They chose us, we didn’t choose them, and we can’t tell them to take a hike whenever we want. Hell, a huge, huge number of those with Borderline Personality Disorder are not diagnosed, will never be diagnosed, and have no idea what they are going through even has a name because they don’t have the help and support they need. How do you fix something that is so much a part of you when you don’t even know there is something to work on. Even when you do, it may take years of therapy and medicinal help and encouragement to learn better coping mechanisms to deal and heal wit BPD. It is not easy to change a lifetime of living in turmoil. I’m trying. I’m trying really damn hard. I think I’m seeing progress, but I have a long ways to go.
Controversy: People with BPD are basically just selfish.
Fact: Personality Disorders have been shown in some studies to be rooted in neurological differences in the way different regions of the brain communicate with each other. This isn’t suggesting that people with PDs shouldn’t be held accountable for their own behaviors – they absolutely should. But it would also be a mistake to regard people who suffer from PDs simply as mentally healthy people who are being selfish.
This one is tricky. Everyone is selfish. Everyone. Even those people that are seemingly altruistic derive a sense of well being from helping others that brings about a feeling that they are doing good. That feeling is for that person. People don’t generally do things that make them feel bad just because someone else needs something. That said, it’s not bad to be selfish, it’s just a byproduct of being human. So yes, someone with BPD can be selfish, but this isn’t our basic nature.
Someone with BPD though, can be very needy. Extremely needy. We often need validation that are feelings are real, that someone loves us, won’t leave us and therefore a lot of attention to ‘prove’ this. We covet this and don’t want to lose it. This isn’t something we set out to do though. We don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Gee, I think I want to monopolize someone else’s mental state, attention, and resources. Selfish powers activate!” Maybe some do, but there are plenty of ‘normal’ people that do this (maybe not the ‘selfish powers activate’ part). It’s not just a product of Borderline Personality Disorder. For the most part I think it’s a fear response. Fear that we will be left, that we aren’t worthy of being loved, that people are lying and trying to use us… an endless list of other things. We need reassurance and it takes a lot of energy to show us that. Unfortunately it’s a part of our nature to need this, feel smothered by it, push it away, fear the loss of it, frantically try to retrieve it, and repeat the cycle endlessly, for as long as someone will let us. So it does appear that we are acting mostly on our own behalf. This doesn’t negate the fact that we do care about the people in our lives, this doesn’t change the fact that we love the people in our lives and want to take care of those around us. That we do have so much to give. We just need to be shown this in return to a degree that many don’t require.
I do want to stress accountability. We are responsible for our own actions. Just because we feel incredibly out of control does not mean it’s ok to Act Out. I know it’s very, very difficult to reign this in sometimes, but we do need to try. Otherwise it just ends up hurting the people around us and acts to push them away.