Why Honest Friendships Are Vital in BPD

by Sarah Myles

I was with a very close friend, and we had been chatting away happily for a couple of hours. I just finished sharing an anecdote about binging on a bucket of chocolate cake and custard when my friend looked me in the eye and stated “I always worry about you when you comfort eat, because it usually means you’re getting manic.”

I stopped in my tracks and thought for a moment. “Yes, you’re right. It does…”

She then listed specific clues she had picked up during our conversations that evening. “Not sleeping, comfort eating, snapping at people, not being able to concentrate…they’re some of your warning signs.”

I was quite taken aback. First of all, how amazing to have a friend like that! Not only had she actually been listening carefully to me that evening, but she had listened over the years and become familiar with my disorder and how it affects me, specifically. Secondly, she didn’t hesitate to point out to me that she could see a crisis looming on the horizon, without judging me in any way.

My emotional response was mixed. On the one hand, I was disappointed in myself not to have owned the fact that I was becoming manic. I had to admit to myself that I had actually noted the warning signs building over the previous few days, but had wilfully turned a blind eye. In admitting that, I also had to admit that I couldn’t explain why, which amounts to a loss of control on my part. Loss of control comes with the mania, but it is the thing which makes me most uncomfortable with myself and therefore, I don’t want to deal with it. But, what’s strange is that, though I loathe losing control, purposefully avoiding taking action to prevent a manic spiral is like purposefully giving up control. In my current disordered, dysregulated state, I cannot make sense of that.

On the other hand, I was reassured. I found comfort in the fact that, even when I purposefully refuse to look at my symptoms, the people close to me will not let me get away with it. This is precisely the kind of friendship that is vital for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. People that will point out, without judgement, that I am ignoring clear warning signs, and that that is not acceptable. People that expect me to take responsibility for my disorder and recovery.“You know you’re becoming manic, don’t you? What are you going to do about it?” The beauty of that is, it forces me to get back in the driver’s seat, with support.

I may sometimes come off the tight rope into either low mood or mania, and that’s to be expected. But my loved ones will make me get back on it, whether I like it or not, and that’s something to be incredibly grateful for.

Comments

I've tried this. And admittedly, it does work when the Non gently expresses genuine concern and worry for an up-and-coming turn for the worse. What increased conflict in my relationship was when I (the Non) had seen the warning signs, but tried to tap into the friend's happier side in an attempt to pull her out of it. Not a sympathetic move, I confess. However, I grew wary of telling her how she felt, or, in place of telling, asking how she felt. Because often, she'd bottle it all up and not let it out. I found a few successes in noticing her unresponsiveness, telling her that I felt something was wrong, and that I understood her need under these circumstances to occasionally ignore me. This, of course, was my eventual undoing; my dignity cannot tolerate being ignored by someone I love . . . if they seem to be specifically ignoring -me- whilst having fun with strangers.
I have to tread on carefully here. If I dare tell my BPD friend I'm noticing mania creeping in, even in the kindest way, they always react in a hostile way. There is almost an enjoyment of the mania (which worsens).
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