BPD and Manipulation

We all know that borderlines have a reputation for being manipulative. It’s a pretty pervasive (and inaccurate) stereotype. There’s a lot to be said about it, but I don’t want this post to get too lengthy. So I’m just going to address a couple of things.

I have heard and read people say that borderlines will use suicide threats to get attention or to get what they want. For example, if they can’t get their therapist to talk to them or if a significant other talks about breaking up with them, a person with BPD might say they want to kill themselves. This is viewed as manipulative, as a tactic for getting our way.

I can’t speak for all borderlines, but that has NEVER been the case for me. What actually happens is that a situation that might not seem extreme to someone else truly does make me want to kill myself. I can remember a time several years ago when I got into an argument with my boyfriend at the time. I ended up crying and my ex-boyfriend refused to discuss the subject anymore because he thought I was upset over something stupid. Being told that I was upset over nothing caused me to escalate further. Then he said he didn’t want to be around me until I was over my crying fit. I wanted to know if he still loved me and if he forgave me. He told me those were ridiculous questions and left the apartment. His leaving while angry at me and the fact that he wouldn’t say that he loved me and forgave me sent me over the edge. While he was gone I became increasingly anxious and could not calm myself down. I was terrified of being abandoned, I hated myself for screwing everything up, I hated him for not understanding me and refusing to reassure me, and I felt completely hopeless about ever getting better. I wanted my life to be over. I was suicidal.

Of course when I texted my ex boyfriend and said I wanted to die, he said he didn’t want to talk to me and that I was just trying to get out of the situation.

I think that people just don’t understand that people with BPD truly feel things at an overwhelming intensity much of the time. If someone gets irritated at us and we burst into tears, we’re not crying to get out of accepting responsibility for our actions or to get the other person to feel sorry for us. We’re crying out of intense guilt or fear of the other person hating us or self-loathing or anger at ourselves for screwing up again.

I think part of the reason for the misunderstanding is that non-borderlines see us having big reactions to what they have decided are not big situations and they assume we have manipulative intentions. People aren’t always very good at understanding the functions of behavior. But when a kid has what we consider to be an overreaction to something, do we automatically think the kid is attempting to manipulate us? No. We just think they’re being a kid.

Sometimes, of course, kids are trying to play a situation. There’s a difference between a child throwing a tantrum when they don’t get a candy bar because they know their parent will eventually give in, and a kid crying because they are afraid of thunderstorms. Kids get upset over things that most adults don’t. Children cry more than adults; they are afraid more than adults. We might think they overreact or freak out over silly things, but we don’t think that makes them manipulative.

I don’t mean to infantilize those with borderline personality disorder, but the principle is kind of the same. Maybe the things that upset a person with BPD are trivial to non-borderlines. Maybe our reactions seem out of proportion. That doesn’t have to equal manipulation and wicked intentions. I’m not crazy about the idea of someone being dismissive of things that are important to me and cause me pain, but it’s better than being treated like I’m manipulative.

Again, I can’t speak for all borderlines. I’m sure some people with BPD are manipulative  at times. But I don’t think the stereotype is deserved.


Is What I’m Saying Important?

So I blog and tweet about borderline personality disorder and major depressive disorder. I’ve made a few YouTube videos and been on that radio show I’ve posted about. I’m not speaking to a large audience, but I am speaking.

Some days I feel kind of like a tool about it. Why should anyone listen to what I have to say? My experience is not important. My suffering is insignificant on a large scale and not any more meaningful than anyone else’s. My situation isn’t especially interesting and I’m not full of wisdom. It feels self-involved to write and talk about myself this way.

Mostly, though, I think that’s negative self-talk. I think that comes from some of my core beliefs about myself–that I have nothing important to say, that talking about myself makes me bad and selfish, that people don’t want to and shouldn’t listen to me. And probably a little of it comes from society.

I don’t write/tweet/make videos about my experiences with mental health issues because I want people to feel sorry for me. I don’t expect people to change the way they behave because I have BPD (of course consideration and support is appreciated and my expectations differ slightly for those closest to me).

I’m talking about it for a few different reasons. For one thing, I like consuming content by people with borderline personality disorder and figured other people with BPD probably do too. For another thing, I sincerely want to help people. If I can be a source of comfort for someone who feels completely alone or someone who is experiencing that resounding borderline emptiness, I want to be. I know what that feels like and I hate to think of other people, even strangers, feeling that way. So if something I write helps someone else, I’m thrilled.

I also share in order to educate people. I’m not out to change the minds of people who think mental illness is a choice; that idea is way too overwhelming to me. I don’t expect people to learn every symptom of BPD and have a deep understanding of it. People don’t have room in their heads or their hearts to know and care deeply about every condition, disorder, illness, disease, etc. But it would be nice to let people know that BPD is a thing and that it doesn’t equal crazy/manipulative/having no conscience/etc. There’s a lot about BPD and mental illness in general that people just don’t know. There are things about the mental health care system that people don’t know that I think they should be aware of. I do think that there are people out there who are interested in knowing what it’s like and learning more about it. And even if people aren’t–the more we talk about mental illness like it’s a real and valid part of the human experience, the less stigmatized it will be. The more people hear about it and are exposed to it, the more they will accept it.

So is what I’m saying important? Not in a grand sense, but in a way, it is meaningful. It’s not special that I am the one saying it, but it does need to be said.

I Was On the Radio!

Yesterday I was honored to be on a radio show called Moments of Clarity. It is hosted by Tiffany Werner, LMCH on WTAN radio in Florida. Moments of Clarity is a show promoting awareness of mental health and ending the stigma surrounding mental heath issues. I had the chance to talk about borderline personality disorder on the radio which was really exciting.

I thought I couldn’t listen to Moments of Clarity before since it’s on live radio when I’m at work, but I learned yesterday that the show can be streamed online after the fact. I’m looking forward to streaming the show from now on and listening to past episodes.

Anyway, here is a link to the show’s page. Check it out if you get a chance, and if you listen to the one I was on, let me know what you think.




Speaking Up is Hard 

I’ve been kind of quiet lately. That’s partly because I’ve been distracted by work. But mostly I’ve been wondering whether I’m doing any good by talking/writing/sharing about my experience with mental illness. I’m afraid that what I’m really doing is giving those who believe bad things about mental illness (especially BPD) more reason to believe those things. 

For example, if a person believes that people with BPD are overly-sensitive babies who need to toughen up and I write about how I burst into tears and spent hours hating myself because I broke the yolks when I tried making eggs over easy–is that going to help my case? It seems like it will just reinforce their opinion. 

And if I talk about how it can be rough to switch mess because of withdrawals and new side effects, won’t that give those anti-meds people more ammunition? 

So that was the sort of thing I was worrying about. I don’t want to perpetuate negative beliefs or stigma. However, I’ve been thinking about it a lot and for now I care more about other people with mental illness than I care about naysayers (for lack of a better term). I want to help and support other people going through this stuff and encourage them to share and reach out on any way they can. I’m not going to let judgmental or ignorant people silence me. 

Maria Bamford

My best friend sent me a track today from Maria Bamford’s album Ask Me About My New God. My friend sent it to me via Spotify, but here’s part of it on youtube.

Unfortunately this cuts off what I think is the best part, but I couldn’t find a longer clip. Bamford goes on to point out that people don’t get help because of stigma and that 7,000 veterans commit suicide each year. She says, “You’d think they’d die over there. But they come home and die.” Then through exaggerated fake laughter she says, “I figured it must be funny since no one seems to be taking it very seriously.” (I’m paraphrasing here).

So after listening to that I read a little about Maria Bamford and it turns out she is pretty public about her personal struggle with mental illness. She also uses her comedy to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness. She has been on The Nerdist podcast as well as The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast. She has a live album called Unwanted Thoughts Synrome which is on youtube. Bamford has also done some voice work on Word Girl, Adventure Time, and CatDog.

Here is a link to an article about her that I enjoyed, and another cool youtube video. Yay for stigma fighters!!!