My Best Friend Has Borderline Personality Disorder

When I look at this I can't help but be amazed!

When I look at this I can’t help but be amazed!

What do you do when your best friend is near rock bottom and has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and you have Bipolar Type 1 and you’re doing pretty well. At least, when I compare how we’re both doing I’m doing better than she is I’m doing better than she is.

Do I avoid talking about how I’m doing and play down my successes? Do I focus on trying to help her feel better (I don’t think it’s possible to talk a person who is BPD into feeling better.) There are a lot of ways to approach this problem.

I decided to step up to the plate as it were and take a chance on getting more involved and trying to understand her illness more so when we talk I can have a better chance of understanding what’s going on in her head.

We were texting on Facebook yesterday and she wasn’t doing well (as is her normal state). She was especially down because she was ruminating over her wife divorcing her. She couldn’t let go of thinking about it. I know for certain that rumination is one of the worst things anyone can do especially over something like that.

I was reading one of my blog visitors blogs today and she was talking about how stupid her doctor/psych is and how impossible it is to get help from (I’m taking liberties now) someone you don’t respect intellectually. My friend feels that way too. (As do I)

I can’t talk her down. I’m not able to do that. Yes, I can “just be her friend and listen”, but when you’re very depressed you often don’t feel like talking. Anyone agree with that? I do. Texting seems to give her the ability to respond. Maybe because I’m not right there and there is emotional physical distance. I’m not an immediate threat. She can just close her laptop if she doesn’t want to talk.

I’ve decided to dig deep and try to help her and not just listen. That means I have to spend some time learning about her condition and understanding how it’s different from mine. Do I really want to give up my “feel good time” to expose myself to someone who is so very depressed? Yes, she’s my best friend.

The first thing I thought of was that we needed some kind of common ground. I realized that with her on the other side of the country maybe the best way to do that might be a book. I have a book that teaches mindfulness and it occurred to me that this might be something that might work for her to. It turns out we have the same book: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & … Tolerance (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook). As you can see from the title it has a section on mindfulness. Now I haven’t been tremendously successful practicing mindfulness, but it gives us something common to talk about even if it’s just talking about how bad we are at it.

It’s important for me not to abandon my friend. Right now, I’m doing pretty well. It’s a good time to give her a hand to grab on to. She’s been there for me when she’s been down. I don’t know how she’s managed it, but she has.

She read my post on AWE and said her mother says something similar to her. She thought it was a good thing to do. I don’t know that she CAN do it right now. But cognitively, she understands it.

She said something that gave me insight into myself that I’d not thought of before and it’s a big difference between the two of us and may be why I’m more likely to be doing better than she is. She said that when I have problems. I work through them. I’m a problem solver. (My words) I don’t just sit there overwhelmed. As soon as I can I start looking for answers and try to fix myself. I fight back. She can’t do that. She just gets overwhelmed and sits there and talks herself into feeling worse.

She’s right. I do like to problem solve. While I’m dedicated to working to deal with my bipolar, I’m willing to try to help her however I can. And if right now that means just sharing how I’m dealing with my problems, then that’s what I’m going to do. She’s better than I am at reaching through my personal crap to help another.

What have I learned recently that I think can help her? That I need to identify my triggers and when they happen I need to take action and keep them from making things worse. And, look for awe. Be amazed by the love that her dogs look at her with. Watch the sun go down and be in awe of the beauty of it.

I don’t have a medical degree, but I have over 50 years of dealing with bipolar, ADHD, anxiety, and more recently PTSD. I presented with bipolar in my teens but wasn’t diagnosed till after I had all three of my kids. It explained so much.

I love the way the community here reaches out to one another. I appreciate it whenever I hear from any of you. If you have any ideas on how I can help my friend other than just being a good listener (and I try to ask good questions) please let me know. I’d appreciate the input.

Meeting the Triggers with Awe

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do after I encounter a trigger and my bipolar or one of my other difficulties (like anxiety) are “activated” so to speak. I can’t just ignore it.

First I guess I should explain what I mean by a “trigger.” When I say I’ve been “triggered” I mean that something has happened that causes my bipolar to come out of balance or remission and become active, and there is a good possibility that I might become depressed or manic. Just like the other day when my daughter pushed my buttons.

This is the moment I’ve got to be ready for. I can’t just ignore it and hope it doesn’t become a full blown episode. It is so easy to be overcome by bipolar disorder. I must always be vigilant. I have Bipolar Type 1. I experience mixed states and cycle rapidly. I don’t enjoy it when it is running rampant. Sometimes in the past I haven’t wanted to live because it has been so devastating. I will do whatever I have to to avoid that from happening again. I want to live.

I was reading in Psychology Today yesterday in their March/April 2016 issue and I found an article on “awe” called “It’s Not All About You!” by Carlin Flora. The article talks about “rumination—or mulling over worries—is the biggest predictor of depression and anxiety” (52).

Wow is that ever true for me. I waited till my son got home and told him about it, then I blogged about it, then I talked to Kyle about it some more. And of course I thought about it in the in between times. What about you? Have you found that when you ruminate you are in more danger of having an episode? So what to do.

Awe. The article goes on to quote a study that says, “Awe is the opposite of rumination, it clears away inner turmoil with a wave of outer immensity.”

So I decided to do a little experiment. We live near Mount Rainier in Washington State. It’s only an hour to the park entrance from our house. I used to take the kids to the park when they were young all the time for a break from school and so we could have time away and together. Family time.

My experiment consisted of looking for “awe.” It included my son Kyle and my dog Bailey. We drove for 30 minutes to get to beautiful Alder Lake which is on the way to Mount Rainier. We enjoyed the drive and taught the dog to fetch in the lake and swim. She’s never been swimming before. She never hesitated. Then we played fetch with an old black and yellow football we found in the garage the other day. We spent time alone together, away from the normal stresses of daily life. We were gone for 2.5 hours.

I found AWE. It wasn’t hard. It was like it was waiting for me to notice it. I found it in the beauty of nature, laughter and the love of those I was with.

How do I feel now? Honestly, I feel good. I don’t know how long it will last, but for right now, I feel like I’m back in control.

Look for awe in your daily life. Whether it is in the eyes of someone you love or in the colors of an amazing sunset, look for awe. Maybe you’ll find it stopping you from ruminating too.