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Archive for March 19th, 2012

I’ve been reading a book this week called Stop Walking on Eggshells about “tak[ing] your life back when someone you care about has Borderline Personality Disorder.”  Before you ask, no – the person in my life I am struggling with has not officially been diagnosed with this disorder, but the general idea behind reading this book was to help me learn how to make healthier boundaries in my relationships with my family.  I hate self-help books, so I thought I would condense the few useful facts I gleaned from this book and save you the effort of wading through 260 pages of why your feelings are valid, using I-statements, actively listening, etc.

What is BPD?

According to the DMS-TR (2004), it is “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by 5 or more of the following:”

1. Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment

2. Unstable relationships alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation (you are their savior, or you are a traitor)

3. Unstable self-image or sense of self

4. Impulsivity in at least 2 areas (like spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, etc.)

5. Recurrent suicidal behavior or threats

6. Mood instability

7. Chronic feelings of emptiness

8. Inappropriate rage

9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

What’s the bad news?

According to the DMS, about 8-10% of all people with BPD commit suicide.  This does not include those who engage in risky behaviors that lead to death, like drunk driving.  BPD’s can be skillful at convincing you that if you don’t do whatever they want, you are being selfish and uncaring.  If you set boundaries, you should be prepared for the BPD to act out and make “countermoves” to test those boundaries.  Some people with BPD may cope with feeling out of control by giving up their power in some form.  They may join the military or a cult and seek to have other people make their choices.

Common misconceptions?

-It’s my responsibility to solve this person’s problems, and if I don’t, no one else will.

-If you really love someone, you should take their abuse because you are better able to absorb pain than they are.  

-This person can’t help being sick, so I should not hold them accountable for their behavior.

Coping mechanisms for dealing with someone with BPD?

-Minimize any visible reaction.  Don’t let them get a rise out of you, or they may repeat that behavior.

-Focus on the fact that you can’t control what other people choose to think or how they perceive reality.

-Stop “sponging” up the BPD’s rage or pain and start reflecting it back to them.  It’s not your angst.

-Set boundaries (which I will address in the next installment).

What is the biggest thing I’ve learned?

There is a section in the book on not withdrawing, and I was brought to my knees when I read this passage: “There is nothing wrong with leaving if you feel attacked.  In fact, there are times when it’s a good thing to do….The damage comes from remaining passive and silent, absorbing the other person’s criticism while your sense of personal power and self-esteem deteriorate,” (emphasis mine).  How many times have I sat through a phone call while this person raged and made me feel like shit, thinking that I could take what they were dishing out, but that they could not handle it if I hung up?

This post has been a downer, but soon I’ll be putting up a post about setting boundaries, so get ready to make some changes.

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