Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Week
This week is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Awareness Week, and I have to say that for me personally, it’s been pretty tough.
About a year ago, I split from my partner of 9 years. Although things had been tense between us for some time, the breakup seemed to come out of nowhere.
A few years earlier, he had been diagnosed with BPD and had begun therapy. Like many people with BPD, he had a difficult childhood and many complex issues and experiences to work through. I noticed him becoming steadily unhappier and angrier as time went on. I attributed it to the therapy being tough for him, compounded by the stress of my chronic illness and the financial strain my inability to work put on our lives.
Looking back, I think the problems were a reflection of the fact that I had come down from the pedestal. People with BPD often think and feel extremes, including idealising their partner. He no longer saw me as the perfect and ideal woman he had in our relationship’s early stages. I knew from observing his behaviour in friendships that once he had checked out on someone, there was no way that person was ever coming back.
And that’s where I landed. He told me that he had wanted to break things off for a couple of years but had no money or place to go. So he stayed and became progressively more unhappy.
I won’t go into the details of the breakup, but it all happened quickly. First, I was surprised by how little I missed him. Second, I soon noticed a significant stress reduction, and my health improved.
Although I don’t miss him, the betrayal still stings. I find myself questioning if any of it was real. I devoted nine years of my life to someone I expected to grow old with, and now I wonder if it was all calculated from the beginning. I doubt my judgement. I doubt my intelligence. I question my sanity.
When something bothers me or occupies my attention, I start researching. I immerse myself in the subject and absorb as much information as possible. When he was diagnosed, I immediately researched the condition and how to best be a supportive partner. I then set myself the task of trying to do everything right, to help him to feel happy in himself and to get his life back on track. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and probably would never be enough.
Some days it helps to remember that his actions were driven by the illness and were not entirely under his control. Some days. On other days I just feel angry, used and stupid.
This past year, I’ve put a lot of time and energy into working on some things about myself that led me to be vulnerable to that sort of relationship. My natural tendency is to please people, avoid confrontation and put my needs last. So it’s been a year of finding out what makes me happy and doing those things just for me. And knowing that there’s nothing wrong with putting my own feelings first.
It has been a hard lesson to learn but worthwhile, and I guess I can thank my ex for teaching me that. Despite feeling hurt, I try to think of him with compassion. BPD is a complex condition – the behaviours express genuine pain. Despite all the collateral damage, he does not deserve to live with pain like that. Nobody does.
Specialist services are available for people living with BPD, their families, partners and ex-partners.