Borderline Between What and What?

Girl Interrupted was one of my favorite movies for a long time, probably right up until I had my very own experience with hospitalization. I still enjoy it, but I don’t watch it as much anymore.

I’ve also never read the book, but I’d really like to give it a whirl.

I really don’t know a thing about Borderline Personality Disorder except that I explored it very briefly to consider if I might have it, probably around 10 years ago. When I didn’t really relate to many of the symptoms, I dropped it and forgot about it.

I’ve met a handful of people with BPD now, and a couple with comorbid Bipolar Disorder diagnoses. These people have always brought up something familiar to me, but I could never put my finger on what. It roused something very close to me, but not myself. Last week I finally figured out what it was.

A friend of mine took the time to describe her experience with someone close to her with Borderline Personality Disorder last week. What she said left me like a deer in the headlights, because her experiences sounded similar to some that I’ve had as well.

The singular person in my past who has hurt me the most, who constantly manipulated and abused me, well she described him to a T and she’s never met him. I always knew there was some kind of issue there, something lurking within him, something he couldn’t seem to control, but I had no idea what it was.

Now I do.

As a note, I don’t want to suggest that all people with BPD are abusive or manipulative because that simply isn’t true. Unfortunately that is just the nature of my own experience.

I feel stuck a little bit, because I find there is this very thin line.

Even though I have bipolar disorder, I need the people in my life to hold me accountable for my actions. I realize that I have done some pretty terrible things in the past, but to say, “Oh it was just mania,” or, “Oh, it was just bipolar disorder,” feels like it discredits my actions as a human being. All actions, even those that I take when I am feeling well. It is true that I have trouble controlling myself at times, but I’d like to believe that I’ve come far enough to be able to recognize those times and seek immediate help when they occur. Unfortunately, that doesn’t erase the things I have already done, but I’d like to think that it will at least help curb future instances.

So how about when the abuse I received was from someone with Borderline Personality Disorder? He was having an extremely difficult time, I know that, I was there. But how accountable can I hold him? How much of it was actions he couldn’t really control?

I waited as long as I could for him to make an attempt to get help, to work on change… but he didn’t. I don’t feel guilty anymore for ending our friendship because it was ludicrous to allow him to hurt me over and over and over again, and I know now that nothing I could have done would have helped him, he needed to want to help himself.

My sympathy has been gone for a very long time now.

But this week part of me feels some resurgent pang of sympathy, even though I was the victim. Is that crazy? I can directly relate to the difficult internal struggle of mental illness, but don’t think that will make me shrug off the iron coat of pain he built for me.

12 responses to “Borderline Between What and What?

  1. I think your feelings of sympathy are a sign of your own growth. At the same time you can still hold him accountable for his actions. And as you did do remove yourself from the situation. Both things are a sign of your own internal strenth.

  2. It sounds so familiar to me, too. I don’t know what to make of my two ex’s that hurt me. I’ve speculated for a long time about this. Both were similar in nature, but there is something missing between the two.

    With Beck, it was like a switch. He had always been helpful, supportive, and attentive to me. I’d like to say it was gradual, but it wasn’t. He moved from his parents house to an apartment in my neighboring town. Maybe it was my proximity to him that made me more aware of what was really going on. But, he changed. All of a sudden, he started treating people like they were disposable. Nothing seemed to hold any meaning to him anymore. He discarded long time friends in favor of newer ones. He tricked friends into giving him money and blew it on the most stupid junk. And one day, he completely shut me out.

    He strung me along for several more months before finally breaking up with me. He didn’t emotionally or physically abuse me at that time. It wasn’t until later when he’d sucker me back into some obscure relationship that he would do that. But, it still didn’t feel deliberate for some reason. It felt like this constant back and forth between loving me and detesting me. He manipulated me and used me. Although, I have evidence to the contrary. My husband was on the other end of that the entire time it was going down.

    Avi gradually started abusing me. It wasn’t until it was already in full swing and had caused serious damage before I realized it. At first, I was a goddess. Slowly, but surely, I was a piece of garbage that he put up with and I was supposed to be lucky for that much. It was a constant downhill slope where I was always manipulated. It’s still amazing to me how bad I let it get. He had me believing that no man on the Earth could ever love me because I was unlovable. I was a bad person and there was no redemption. He had to hit me because I got out of line. He had to hit me again because I fought back. And if I wasn’t careful, he’d leave me all by myself.

    Can you make heads or tails of these situations?

    I’m glad that you can still feel sympathy. All I can feel is sickness, rage, and the desperate need for revenge.

    • It’s almost impossible, really, to be able to guess why people do what they do. I was really close friends with the person in my post (above) for 7 or 8 years before having to sever our friendship and there were times where I felt like I knew him better than I even knew myself. Really that is the only way I could even begin to claim that I have any clue to what might’ve contributed to the way things ended. For the most part, he is an extremely likeable person (or was, I don’t know anything about him now), but in private situations things were often very different.

      Some guys are just assholes. And by my experience, many of them are. I have no insight that helps me understand the sexual assault traumas I have been through, and I guess that’s where the difference is for me. I guess it is much more realistic for me to be able to feel some amount of sympathy for someone I was best friends with for 8 years, but for every other situation -many instances that were worse but singular in nature, I too feel an overwhelming amount of sickness and rage. I’d say those feelings are the number one reason I began seeing a therapist again recently.

      Revenge, though, I don’t allow myself. I had a rather intense revenge themed mixed episode once (but that’s a story for another day) so for the sake of avoiding any sort of illegal activity I can’t let my mind wander to that place!

      Have you spent much time working with a therapist about this? Like I said, I just started but I am curious if anything has really been helpful at all. I really hope so, anyway.

      • Actually, none. I know, maybe I should be talking to someone about it all. But honestly, I don’t see what good it will do for me. It will heal in time, and scar over. Still, a scar is a scar.

  3. Unfortunately I’ve found for myself that in the process of healing at some point I must reach forgiveness in order to move on. In my x-wifes case that took 10 years of hard work and therapy. But the goodness out of it is that I think I would recognize an unhealthy potential partner before I got involved.

    • Two excellent points, and I feel like I have one hell of a time forgiving anyone who has hurt me badly. Kudos to you for persistently working on it, that’s definitely inspirational to me.

      Also the idea of being able to recognize unhealthy potential partners seems like both a blessing and a curse! That seems like an incredibly useful tool though, thy ought to teach that one in schools! I’ve seen a lot of people in my life dating the same sort of people over and over again, crazy considering it never seems to work out with any of them. In my own situation I don’t know if it was just dumb luck that made me break the cycle or what, but I did come up with a plan at one point to date someone who is the opposite of the people I normally date. Somehow I ended up with someone sweet, patient, and kind… so go figure.

  4. There you are! Healing and learning to find healthy partners. It really works. Go figure. I’m so glad for you.

  5. Pingback: Girl, Interrupted « bi[polar] curious

  6. I dated a girl with BPD and depression, and I have to agree, she was extremely manipulative, as well as emotionally and sexually abusive. But I’ve met other people with BPD who were absolutely wonderful, some of the kindest people I know. I think it really just depends on the person, and how willing to change/aware they are of their behavior.

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