I wish I came with a manual. I feel like it’s purely unfair that I don’t. Unfair for me because I confuse the hell out of myself, and even more unfair for others who have to deal with me. Borderlines are a complex people. I know this. I know I’m difficult. I know there’s no one set of responses that will work in every scenario…or is there? No, there probably isn’t, at least not for every precise situation or phase. There are a few key things, however, that remain consistently needed and useful at all times. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before.
1. VALIDATION: Borderlines need validated. It doesn’t matter that you think (or know) that our current erratically expressed rage is at an intensity level that is well beyond whatever it was that set it off to begin with. It doesn’t matter that you think we shouldn’t be so upset about this or that, or that we don’t have a reason to be afraid or what have you. That’s where you’re wrong. You have those beliefs from your point of view. You’re forgetting that we live in an entirely different reality, at times, and the reality we are in totally warrants our feelings, behavior, and reactions. We don’t need you to tell us that we shouldn’t feel that way or that we have no reason to, we need you to realize that our reality is different than yours in the moment, and we need you to validate THAT along with its package of emotions and behavior. Validation often times will lessen the intensity of those very feelings because we’ll feel that you hear us and understand.
2. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY: Unfortunately, if you are a loved one of someone with BPD, you will often times be the target of their episodes. It may seem like you are the very reason they are the way they are. The reason for their episodes. The reason they are sad, angry, suicidal, etc. You aren’t. You may have inadvertently triggered something, but being an accidental trigger does not make you responsible for what the trigger brings out. I’m sure it’s not easy to not take it personally, just keep this in mind.
3. KNOW WHEN TO WALK AWAY: This is for two reasons. As a continuation of the above, when you can’t not take it personally, you may just need to walk away. You have to take care of yourself. I advise (request as a borderline) that you do so as lovingly as possible because it’s going to feel like abandonment, but you need to take care of you. You have needs and emotions too. The second reason you may need to know what to walk away, is because there comes a point where your being there during an episode may start to become counterproductive. If the borderline is targeting you, and you are aware of what is happening while the borderline may not be (i.e. that they are in a symptomatic episode not based on the then and there reality), you may need to be the one to walk away and put an end to the interaction before the borderline causes even more destruction. This is a hard one.
4. KNOW WHO YOU’RE DEALING WITH AND ACT ACCORDINGLY: An extension of this may be to set your expectations accordingly. Before you, you see an adult. Possibly even a healthy adult. Healthy meaning no physical ailments. As they say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” If you could remove yourself from the situation, or imagine yourself reading the situation you are in, the dialogue, the actions of the borderline, etc…you may think you were reading about a crazy person, or even a child in the middle of a tantrum. Well don’t forget that you may be dealing with exactly that. You can’t expect adult things from someone who is emotionally just a child, just as you cannot expect “normal” emotional and behavioral responses from someone who is emotionally “not normal”. Its only going to frustrate you if you have these expectations, and its only going to invalidate the borderline which will result in further escalation. Know who you’re dealing with. Think your borderline is acting crazy? Well assume the truth of that belief and respond according. In other words, see #1…and/or #2 and #3. Think your borderline is being childish? You just may be dealing with the “child inside the adult” now. I know for myself, when I let that child part of me out…it needs to be treated as such. There’s something she needs. Treating a child like an adult simply makes no sense. You’d never do that to an actual child, it’s really no different here. When a child is scared, you provide protection or words of protection. Sometimes all it takes is some validating acknowledgement that you see, realize, and understand who your borderline is in that moment. That alone can sometimes be enough to push them through the moment into the more “normal” state of mind that they came from.
These really are just my own thoughts and experiences. I could be “wrong”. This isn’t necessarily intended for all borderlines because maybe it doesn’t apply. It’s definitely part of my manual.