I had a conversation with my lovely friend Y last night. She was worried about her BPD diagnosis, and she said to me that she fits the criteria and that she didn’t understand why I am so against the diagnosis of BPD/EUPD.
Because I love her, and I want her (and you all) to understand, I am going to try and explain further.
-I have a problem with one of the descriptive words of BPD/EUPD – the PERSONALITY part. I don’t believe for a second that life experiences can alter your personality, or that anyone is born with a flawed personality, like the diagnosis seems to suggest. It essentially says to women, “Hey, guess what, because your personality is disordered, you are to blame for every bad thing that has happened to you,”. That isn’t unlike a certain psychopathic ex boyfriend I once had- he told me the same thing a lot. I think it is cruel for a psychiatrist to tell someone that, because they psych in question is now taking the part of my abusive ex and telling you you are to blame. In reality, you are not. BAD PEOPLE did this to you. They have hurt you and damaged you- BUT they have NOT damaged your personality, just your REACTIONS to other people and to the way they behave.
Let me explain the difference between PERSONALITY and REACTIONS. Your personality is, to me at least, what makes you YOU. It is responsible for whether you like the colour green or blue best. It is responsible for that wrench in your stomach when you have to see a friend in pain. It dictates what music you enjoy, what art pleases you best, how outgoing or shy or funny you are. It is, I think, a constant. Personally speaking, I have been told I’m warm, funny and friendly by people I know and people I have only just met. I love the colours red, black and silver. Sunsets are my favourite time of the day. I love really cold autumn mornings. I like laughing at twists of words and stupid animals. I enjoy sitting with good friends, maybe not saying anything, but just chilling and watching a film or something. That, to me, is WHO I AM. My PERSONALITY.
It is SO MUCH MORE than your reactions.
REACTIONS are how you are trained by your life to react to things that happen to you. For example, I had an abusive ex-boyfriend. He raped me. He called me worthless. He made me feel about a centimetre tall. So, when someone speaks or acts in the same way as he did, I become wary, hyper-vigilant, frightened and angry. Angry because he still has the power to affect me this way.
So imagine that as a small child, I was often ill, and I wasn’t able to join in with making friends and having fun with other children. Imagine I was homeschooled maybe, trapped in the house without the companionship of other children. Perhaps I just happened to live a life where my parents were so busy working that I barely ever saw them, and as a result had a stream of nannies. Wouldn’t that make you ‘frantically avoid abandonment, whether real or imagined’, in your everyday relationships as an adult? That is A REACTION to your past. It is because you never learned to trust, and you were so betrayed by the people who were supposed to teach you that. If you were sick, IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. How could you expect to learn to trust when you were trapped indoors? Now you have grown up, how can you be expected to trust anyone? You were never sure of it as a child.
The good news about that side of things, I think is that REACTIONS are LEARNED BEHAVIOUR. We learned, as small children, that trust didn’t exist, so we learned to rely on ourselves. That small child inside still wants to trust. He or She is aching for a simple trust-based relationship, and He or She can still have that. You learned not to trust, so you can unlearn that.
I think another problem here is that now, you have been hurt so many times, you feel like a creature without skin- a little stripped rabbit, bloodied and naked and frightened. You feel desperate and snappy because it HURTS so much to trust. I think that also, people are born like this- not snappy and frightened, but with the ability to FEEL emotion really intensely. I know I feel love, hate, fear, joy, nervousness etc much much more strongly than a lot of my friends. I get worried about things they don’t, because they grew their fur more thickly than I did. They don’t contend with the same damage as I do because they are not exposed to emotion with naked raw skin.
The next part of this is this: how do you learn to trust again with such a hurtful past and such raw skin?
It isn’t easy, I assure you, but I will try and find out more to add to my own insights.
I have decided that I over-think my relationships. I try too hard to second guess because I want to please the other person so badly. This is probably true for other people diagnosed with EUPD/BPD. My current line of thought on the matter is this: DON’T! Give yourself a break. Other people are probably not thinking about what you just said in the same way that you are. They are probably not even concerned with it! Take a step back, mentally, and take some deep breaths. Tell yourself that other people actually like you. Let yourself just accept the comment or conversation for what it is, and try not to shred it apart looking for the hint that the other person is using you or is going to hurt you. Most people in the world are good, and want to form a relationship with you based on trust. If they get it a little wrong sometimes, it is because they are human, like you. If they are worth trusting, they will see that too, and they will most likely let you know when they have slipped up. The healing part of learning that someone is worth trusting is so fantastic- it’s how I have re-built my relationship with my parents when the ex tried to destroy it. I won, and I trusted. It isn’t easy, and I still have issues, but you can do it too.
Start small. Tell a person you want to trust a small, true thing about you. See if they react well. They probably will. Try again, maybe when you feel ready, with something a little bigger. Build it up that way.
Another thing to bear in mind is the way you have been CONDITIONED to react, whether it was by someone abusive or by a lonely past. You are most likely going to try and cling on to affection in any form, regardless of whether it hurts you. That isn’t trust, nor is it affection. It is damaging you all over again. Something I have done is sit myself down and taken a long, hard look at how it would feel to be abandoned by various people I love in my life. I have gone through in my head the pain that this would involve, and then I have taken myself back out of that dark place, and I have thought of several reasons that this would never happen.
-The people I am close to love me for me. They don’t care about my flaws. They will be there until the end of time. I would literally have to kill puppies to get them to hate me, and I bet even then a couple would stick around and ask me why I did it. This is true for other people too. Trust me. Ask them.
-If, for some reason, someone I am close to abandons me, I have to think about it rationally. Why would they abandon me? It is NOT because I am the most wicked and horrible person around. Maybe they have their own problems to deal with, and they are being selfish. Maybe they have trust issues of their own. Most importantly, though, do you really want to cling onto someone who WOULD just drop you and leave you alone? Where is the trust there? They are not worth it if they didn’t trust you enough to hold onto you. You, and your loves and hates and sense of humour. Your appreciations, your film choices, your hairstyle. Why drop this unique person and wander off? It’s callous, and it doesn’t deserve a second of your time.
These are jumbled thoughts, but I hope they help you, Y, and anyone else given this stupid diagnosis. I do not believe for an instant your personality is flawed. I believe your reactions to the outside world are damaged, but that this damage can be repaired by giving yourself a chance to trust.
I’m right here if you want to ask me more. Hopefully I explained myself clearly.