“I had a girlfriend with borderline personality disorder – she was a nightmare! Ruined my life. I would avoid someone with BPD at all costs…”
“People with BPD can’t be in stable relationships. All they do is lie, cheat and do shitty things for attention.”
“Why would you even be with someone who was borderline? They’re crazy, you’re an idiot!”
The above comments are real, found from places online where borderline personality disorder has been a talking point. It’s no secret that BPD is one of the less favourable mental illnesses – after all, the most recent representation of the condition in the media was the character of Dr Abel Gideon in Hannibal and the bloke killed his wife and her family. It’s very easy to label someone with BPD as an unstable psychopath who will destroy you and everything you love, especially given the negativity spread by the media and the scorned online.
The generalisation of BPD sufferers in relationships is one created by former loved ones, friends and even family who have been hurt by their actions. Whether it is infidelity, jealousy, extreme actions linked to intense emotions or just behaviour that can’t be explained rationally, there is enough there to put anyone off being with someone who might be lovely, but also just so happens to have the disorder. It’s very common to hear about the bad relationships, but sadly quite rare to hear about the good, loving ones.
Because the simple (and admittedly, quite scary) fact is that no-one will love you quite like someone with BPD can love you. How do I know this? Because I have borderline personality disorder, and I’m here to tell you that being borderline didn’t stop me finding stability or love. In fact, it was going through the journey from meeting the love of my life through to diagnosis and how we learned to live with it together that made me and my husband as strong as we are now.
Before I met my husband, I would say I fitted the criteria of being ‘mad in love’ quite well. I was only diagnosed with BPD 18 months ago, but like most of those with the disorder I was displaying symptoms a very long time before then. Whenever I fell for someone, it wasn’t just a crush or a passing fancy, but a deep, obsessive longing that was almost unbearable. The first boy I ‘fell in love’ with rejected me, so I spent a whole day outside his house drawing declarations of love and hate all over the pavement. Did I mention I was only 11 years old at this point? I was adamant I could make him love me, and only gave up months later because my affections switched over to someone else.
I had been in three long term relationships before my husband and I met. The longest one was over three years with someone who was very nearly the one for me. When I first met him, when we started at my old university, something clicked very quickly for me when we became friends and started chatting. One drunken snogging session with him ended the relationship I was in at the time with a rather horrible ex (of whom I really hated but was stuck living with…) and left me free to see this guy. We officially became a couple in November 2009 and I was over the moon. I was totally besotted with him, I put him so high on a pedestal he should have got vertigo.
There were bumps throughout our whole relationship, mostly due to my insecurities at feeling like I loved him way more than he could ever love me. I felt suffocated sometimes at just how much I loved him, and yet I looked in the mirror and saw nothing he could love back. I was constantly afraid that he would leave me because he could do so much better. My mental health took a dive even though I tried to fight it, and eventually I had a breakdown and began regularly self-harming. Near the end of our relationship as things got worse between us and my behaviour became more and more extreme, I took an overdose of tablets. There was no going back for us after that, and we split in January 2013. I had fallen out of love with being in love with him, and I felt like he wasn’t all that bothered. I might have been wrong, but it didn’t feel that way to me.
After we split, I fell into a fling with another friend of mine. It was this particular short affair that made me realise after the fact that I was borderline, because of all the behaviours I displayed in the few months we were involved with each other. This guy was a drug to me, he gave me a high that I had never known. When we kissed, I would be so overwhelmed that I would almost pass out. When he said he loved me, I believed him because I loved him too. It was an addiction for sure, because I was addicted to being with him. I was crazy about him. He made me feel alive, he brought out the worst in me and I loved him for it. He literally could have done anything he wanted to me and I’d have gladly taken it. There was nothing in this world I wanted more than him, and when he ended it, there was nothing more I wanted than to die.
I’ve never had to go cold turkey from anything before – well, aside from shows I love when I’m done bingeing them online – but if I had to imagine what heroin withdrawal was like, I felt that this was it. I cried nonstop, I couldn’t eat or sleep, I drank A LOT. I returned to self harming and fantasised daily about ways to kill myself. I thought about going to his house and sitting outside, just waiting for a glimpse of him, and yet when I did see him all it did was hurt. I felt like I died every time I saw him. It made me feel sick, instead of that dizzying light feeling I used to feel when we kissed.
Despite ending it, he kept the idea of us one day becoming a couple in front of my face. I don’t know if that was simply to stop me from doing something stupid – he was very aware of my unbalanced ways – or if he meant it. But for months after we last slept together, he kept me just close enough to stay under my skin. I was still in a deep depression. One day in May 2013, I went out of the house for something other than work, and met the man who today is my husband. He made me see that the situation with my ex fling was destructive and damaging, and even when we were a couple, he allowed me space to deal with my feelings in my own time.
And soon I felt myself falling in love with him, but very slowly, naturally, how I imagine that love is meant to feel. I didn’t feel that overwhelming burning feeling that I had felt with every other boyfriend before him. We went out on dates, we spent time together, and despite the rough early months after I lost my mother and my mental health once again took a dive, he stood by me and I loved him all the same for it. For the first time, I realised I could love someone without giving them everything I had, partly because there was nothing more that I could give. I was dealing with grief, sorrow, abandonment and so many other things, the pot was empty so to speak. More importantly, I realised that in love, it’s not a case of not being able to live without someone – you know you could live without them, but you just wouldn’t want to. And I didn’t want a life without him if I could help it.
He proposed after only being together for five months. A few people disapproved, especially as I was displaying very erratic behaviour such as getting blind drunk at Christmas to hide the pain I felt at spending the day without my mom. I had also had to leave my job due to the manager harassing me, which put more pressure on us. The following year was almost unbearable as I continued to act irrationally and some days I was downright spiteful to him – I did many things that I’m ashamed of. My drinking became a big problem, once again I was cutting myself and most days I wanted to die.
The days that followed one particular event saw him accompanying me to the doctor, where he said to me that either I got help for whatever was going on in my head, or he was gone. He loved me, but he couldn’t keep hurting himself by staying with me and watching me destroy myself out of inner turmoil. I agreed, because I did really love him and I didn’t want a life without him. One psychiatrist appointment later, and I had a diagnosis. Borderline personality disorder. And suddenly everything fell into place for us. I wasn’t a bad person for the things I did or thought, the root cause of my unbalanced thoughts were a disorder I developed from a childhood rife with traumatic events. It made sense. I made sense. Finally we had something to work with.
It was a difficult journey for the both of us. There were times where he wanted to give up and I can understand why. He has so much more patience than I do, because I can’t cope with myself most of the time but it’s in my head and makes sense to me. I don’t know how it must be for him, but he still loves me as much as he did when we met. And that’s all I could ever want.
Last November, we got married. I made a speech and told both our families that he had made me the person I am today simply by loving me and believing in me. He made me want to be better than what I had been given to deal with. I meant every word. To our friends, we’re one of the strongest couples around – there is simply nothing we can’t face together because we’ve battled through much worse.
So you see, although BPD can be troublesome to live with, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker in any relationship. The way I see it? If you have BPD and you truly love the person you’re with – and they love you – you should want to be the best you can be. BPD is a shit disorder, there are very few bonuses to it. But love? Bonuses everywhere. Yes, you will fight, there will be hard times and you will do each other’s heads in, but that is what love is meant to be. A relationship cannot be perfect. Putting someone up above you like a god is not only unrealistic, it is damaging.
If you fall in love with someone who has BPD, don’t work against them. Work with them. It isn’t about changing them, or making them better. You can’t fix them. You can’t make it go away. There will be times where you have to be a bastard to help them recognise their more negative behaviours, but in time they will thank you for it. I don’t know if you’ve been in many relationships, but you should know that all relationships are difficult. Having a BPD partner is a different challenge, but love is love. And it’s pretty awesome.
– Claire @MouthAndSpoons
(You can read more about my life with BPD over on my blog All Mouth, No Spoons)