Don’t give up

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
  • 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.

Who do I think I am?

Yours Truly

The fruit of passion or rage

I cannot tell.

Or, perhaps, indifference.

Held in the body, but not the heart,

Bound by duty:

An oddly cold embrace.

Then, the shedding of misfortune –


Tearing only at the flesh.

And scars alone bear witness

To what was born.

A life. A distant memory, if that.


I have never liked the programme Who Do You Think You Are, so last night when I was flicking through the TV guide with the remote, I was hoping my wife would not notice that it was due to show in less than ten minutes. She did notice, however, and when I shimmied back up the list we discovered that it was Julie Walters and I agreed to give it a go.

I have watched a few minutes of the programme here and there, and the whole concept of discovering ones great-great-grandmother feels entirely pointless to me: I don’t even know who my biological father is, and given that my birth mother died a few years ago in her early-fifties I will never be able to find out who he is.

The idea of getting emotional about great-aunt Frida’s fiancé who died on a jungle expedition seems ludicrous to me. Because there is no history for me to delve into and explore, I therefore find it hard to sympathise with someone who has a long, clear lineage, much less someone who has the desire to do so. Perhaps I am bitter; I certainly have my issues when it comes to familial matters, but I simply don’t understand because I cannot relate in the slightest.

That said, it was an interesting programme from a purely historical point of view (and it was great to see a bit more of Julie Watlers, aka Mrs. Weasley) and perhaps that is the point of the show, who knows. However, the plot thickens…

During one of the advert breaks, I thought about a letter I had sent, earlier in the day, to someone I haven’t seen for about 4 years. I sent a letter with a copy of my my book, and it suddenly occurred to me that she won’t recognise my name on the book. I am now Barker, and that is not who I was. For the split second that this thought crossed my mind and for the first time ever the name ‘Barker’ felt vaguely foreign to me. I had the most fleeting image of being stripped of who I used to be and replaced with who I am now – as I said, I have issues!

I am the same me I have always been. Hopefully a little wiser, a little more stable and aware than I used to be, but the essence of who I am has not changed. I chose the surname of my wife as a name I could belong to; a name I was welcome to share and be a part of. My identity is, I believe, intact – I just struggle sometimes to feel rooted in who I really am.

In an attempt to nip in the bud the world’s shortest identity crisis, I asked myself who I was. As I came up with a mental list, the temptation to disparage each of these points was hard to resist – but resist I did. I am all of these things regardless of whether I do them well or not. I don’t have to be anything special in order to be special to those who love me.

I have worked hard to put down my own roots, and finding ones place in the world is, for all I know, an ongoing quest. Who do I think I am? In the grand scheme of ancestral trees I have no idea, but in the here and now of what and who I have in my life, I am:

  • a wife
  • a dog mum
  • a sister
  • an aunt
  • a cousin
  • a friend
  • an author
  • a poet
  • a reasonably good cook

I am someone who loves and is loved. I have people in my life that have chosen to be there, and stay there. I also have two adorable dogs that have no choice who they live with, but I’m pretty certain they love me too!