I recently gave a talk about my experience of Borderline Personality Disorder and how I am learning to live with, and manage it. At the end of the talk there was time for questions, one of which I didn’t know how to answer.
I was asked ‘How do I help my daughter. I can’t get through to her, I don’t understand her. How can I help her?’ All I could say was ‘don’t give up’. It felt such an inadequate answer that I feebly repeated it two or three times, hoping that it might gather more gravitas with each repetition – it didn’t.
I have since thought a lot about this question and how I would have answered it, had I not frozen like a rabbit in headlights. I’m not an expert on borderline – but I do know what has or hasn’t helped me. I speak on behalf of BPD sufferers, and these suggestions are by no means exhaustive, so feel free to add comments if there is anything missing.
- Don’t try and be our therapist – be yourself!
- Don’t try and fix us.
- Don’t keep asking what we’re feeling in the moment of crisis – we rarely know ourselves, and we feel inadequate and hopeless when we can’t give you the answers you want.
- When we are calm talk to us about our triggers, and discuss what we might need to try and deal with these differently next time.
- Don’t try and get inside our head. It’s a dark and scary place and we need you by our side.
- Don’t tell us we are overreacting. Our emotions are very real even if you don’t understand them.
- Be consistent and be constant.
- Learn as much as you can about Borderline Personality Disorder.
- By all means be cross and frustrated with us, but if you can wait and tell us after the meltdown, not during, that would be helpful!*
- Be firm and honest with us.*
- Don’t tiptoe around us.
- Carry on the life you need to live – don’t put it on hold waiting for us to get better.*
- Find what help is available in your area. Don’t push us to get help, but talk to us about what you’ve found and let us know that people can lead a functional life with BPD.
- Consider finding a support group for yourself.
* Please be patient when we ask, for the hundredth time in a day, if you still love us: we are terrified of being abandoned and rejected, and we know that BPD is not an easy illness for anyone involved.
Having sufficiently substantiated my original answer it no longer feels quite so feeble to add to the list:
- Don’t give up.
And always hope.