I want to thank everyone who responded to my previous post and responded with what people SHOULD NOT say to someone who experience BPD and/or extreme emotions. I wanted to create this list because BPD is rarely spoken about positively in comparison to other mental health issues (ie: depression, anxiety). By positively I mean that individuals with BPD are all to often demonized for their experience in ways that other mental health issues are not. I have seen many lists of what to say to someone with depression or anxiety but none about what to say to someone with BPD. This is why I, and many of you, have created the following list.
Many of you without a BPD label will be able to relate to the do’s and don’ts as well but I would like to explain these in the context of the BPD label.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a disorder and way of being that is extremely invalidated. It is very difficult to navigated because who we are is seen as disordered. Not just our mood, our emotions, our thoughts but our entire being.
The overall theme in the above “Things Not to Say” is VALIDATION. We are who we are and sometimes it’s great and sometimes it is not. This is very similar to any other person and in my opinion we really are no different from anyone, and if anything are more in tune with ourselves and not constrained for emotional social norms.
Telling those with a BPD label (or anyone with a mental health issues for that matter) that other people have it worse than they do is to invalidate their experience. Many of us are actually EXTREMELY empathetic (despite what some myths say) and the amount of guilt that can come from such a statement can be all-consuming and destructive. I have also found myself wondering, if everything I have experienced isn’t “the worst” then how will I know what is? This has proven dangerous as I have stayed in horrible situations not know what was good or bad because “other people have it worse”. Worse for me is different from your worse. That’s fair!
I know I have described my rages as toddler tantrums for a lack of other ways to describe my experience as being then just “getting angry”. But, being told to grow up, being called a child, immature etc. again invalidates. It also holds unrealistic ideas of what an adult should behave like and constricts our ability to express ourselves. As I have grown I have come to realize that adults or no better than children and are at time worse because they operate under the guise of adult authority. But, I digress. You will never get anywhere productive with someone with a BPD label by calling them names.
We seem to currently live in a world where feeling any emotion strongly is a bad thing. Having a BPD label usually means you are the type of person that feels every emotion to the extreme. You feel it deep in your core and when you express this, your intensity can overwhelm people and you are labeled as a Drama Queen/King, overly sensitive and an exaggerator. This not only invalidates the person but also can have the person call into question their ability to trust themselves emotionally. If every time you express yourself you are shut down with labels like those listed above, how can you determine appropriate feelings? I know for myself I always knew at least one thing I felt had to be 100% right but with no one supporting me in that I began to assume I was always feeling wrong.
Victim blaming and being told to take more responsibility invalidate and dictate how a person with a BPD label should be acting. In many cases we have been victims of some sort of trauma and were never allowed to grieve or did not know how. This grief and fear can come out in a variety of ways (ie: rage, depression, addiction) and we’ll fall into behaviours that are destructive. For some of us with the BPD label those behaviours are us trying to take responsibility for ourselves and really what it comes down to is we are not taking responsibility in the way others want us to. Many of us work hard to keep ourselves in a good place and when slip ups happens (as they will) we can be condemned and ridiculed for not “holding it together”.
And finally, self harm. Many people with the BPD label self harm in some way. Cutting seems to be the most used so that is what I will address here. Cutting has multiple purposes and especially when it is non-suicidal, cutting serves as a life line. I really do see cutting as a coping mechanism the same way some of you may jog, do yoga or enjoy a bubble bath. Judging someone for cutting, as utilizing a tool to keep themselves going is a devastating experience. You do not have to like the behaviour but understanding it and supporting the person is your best bet to that behaviour being switched to one that is less damaging. Many of us also struggle with our own inner issues around our cutting. I hate my scars and hide them from people so when someone comments on how it’s ugly or stupid I am just shamed into hiding myself and not reach out for help. This particular type of shaming can be extremely destructive because if something where to go wrong (ie: accidentally cut to deep), a person may stay away from others because they are so afraid of someones reaction.
Next: What to say!