How to Survive Borderline Personality Disorder

Imagine the ground being pulled out from under your feet with no notice or indication at all. You would feel frightened, unsure of yourself and others, and constantly wondering if your life will ever be stable again. Instability is status quo for those with Borderline Personality Disorder and this causes them to be frequently misunderstood. An individual’s personality does not completely cement until they are in their early to mid-twenties, but BPD can be a lifelong struggle.

What is BPD?

Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental illness marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning.  The majority of Borderlines are female.  BPD is marked by significant relationship issues and severe black and white thinking.   Most individuals with BPD have suffered significant trauma in their back ground. This condition leads to significant emotional confusion for the family and friends of the individual with BPD.   Borderlines often have co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, eating disorders, or depression.  They also may struggle with suicidal tendencies.

Common Symptoms

Borderlines have significant shifts in mood.  Their behaviors are extreme.  Listed below are some symptoms of BPD.

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment;

  • A pattern of intense and unstable relationships, relationships swing from extreme closeness to distance;

  • Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self;

  • Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating;

  • Suicidal thoughts or self-harm tendencies;

  • Extreme mood swings ranging from a few hours to a few days;

  • Chronic feelings of emptiness;

  • Inappropriate outburst of anger or emotion;

  • Having stress-related paranoid thoughts;

  • Having severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality;

  • Extreme fear of abandonment.

Effective Treatment

Borderline personality disorder does not have a cure, but with treatment there can be improved quality of life.  Medication should not be the main course of treatment for BPD.  It can be used for outlying symptoms such as depression or anxiety.  The most beneficial treatment is talk therapy either as an individual or in a group format.  

If there is concern that a loved one or friend with BPD may be suicidal it is important to get them help immediately.  The first action is to call either 911 or call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  Be sure to not leave a suicidal person alone.  Even if you are not absolutely sure they are suicidal it is best to call the hotline for support.

Family Impact

Borderlines can create havoc in the family system.  Their actions and words can be very confusing and hurtful.  The children of borderlines can often feel captive. They feel they cannot win since one minute their mother may be yelling at them for what she sees as abandonment to the next minute trying to tell them not to be angry with her and to not leave.  It is hard for a child or a spouse to wrap their mind around the inconsistency of a borderline.  They behave in fashions that are illogical at times.  It is hard to understand why a parent or spouse would treat their loved ones this way.

If You Have BPD

If you find yourself dealing with your own BPD diagnosis, there are several things you can do to improve your quality of life.

  • Reach out to your doctor about treatment options and stick to them.

  • Try and maintain a consistent life schedule including meals and sleep.

  • Take part in stress relieving activities such as exercise.

  • Set realistic goals for yourself and break down large tasks into small tasks.

  • Reach out to your support system and express which events may trigger symptoms.

  • It is important to stay educated on your condition,

  • Commit to healthy living including abstinence from illegal drugs and alcohol.

Patience and Grace

It is also important to be patient with yourself on progress.  It is slow, but can be steady with commitment to treatment.  Most people are unwilling to give themselves grace when they are struggling through treatment.  It is important to remember that God forgives everything we do and gives us grace each and every day.

Listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (NLT) 

God forgives us and He would want us to forgive ourselves.  

How to Thrive and Survive BPD

Tackling BPD can often seem insurmountable for both the diagnosed and their love ones. Loved ones often feel trapped or helpless.  Here are 4 key components that will help you both thrive and survive BPD:

  1. Emotional support, patience, and encouragement.  In time Borderlines can improve.  
  2. Education! It is crucially important to learn about the disorder you’re facing and valuable for your loved ones to have empathy and understanding for what you are going through.
  3. Grace. It bears repeating. Let’s give and receive grace.  It is hard for everyone involved and the overwhelming emotion that is present, roles through like a hurricane and grace may calm the storm for a period of time.
  4. Pursuing a therapist to work through issues of having a loved one with BPD is also a positive decision.  This will allow the loved one to develop coping skills and other skills to bring as much consistency and calm to a household.  If the diagnosed signs off for a loved one to speak with their therapist it is possible to discover groups or other ways to help support the borderline client.

Some days the diagnosed and their loved ones may just want to walk away from the situation.  It can be an emotional firestorm.  It is crucial to lean on treatment skills, each other and their spiritual focus. Knowing the truth will give you a firm foundation to stand on, even when the BPD roller coaster is making life unstable.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Further Education: