On my previous entry, How To Communicate For BPD, I gave tips for people with BPD to communicate to their support system effectively. This blog entry will discuss on how the support system can better communicate to people with BPD. Hold on, because this maybe one hell of a ride.
Tell us how much you care about us. You would be amazed by how much this simple, yet obvious, message can do for someone with BPD. Many of us have a hard time believing that people care about us when we haven’t seen or talked to them in a while. We tend to think that if we don’t hear from people, that means they don’t care. Or if we hear from them when they have a favour to ask, they’re only talking to us, because they want something, and they don’t care about us at all.
Second, ask us how we’re doing! Many folks with BPD internalize a lot of fear and shame about ourselves. Because we fear rejection so strongly, it can be really difficult to risk being vulnerable. So it’s often easier to keep things inside. No risk = no possibility of rejection. And, no risk = incredibly lonely + reinforcing our fear and shame.
When delivering difficult information, cushion it with support and empathy. I’m sure you’ve used a compliment sandwich at least once in your life. Why not use it with your loved ones who have BPD? When you’re telling us something that you know will be difficult to hear, spend some time thinking of how you could curb our fears so we are better equipped to take in the information.
Also, use non-judgmental words to describe our behaviours. If you’ve ever read anything about BPD, you’ve probably heard of people who are “abusive, manipulative or crazy,” and actions that are “bad, wrong or inappropriate.” People with BPD can absolutely be abusive, just as people without it can be. And, many many people with BPD are not abusive, although our behaviours might still be unskillful, unkind or ineffective. Of course, if you are in an abusive situation, do whatever you need to do to stay safe and get out of the situation. In situations that are difficult but not abusive, language can make a big difference in how folks with BPD think about ourselves and react to your feedback.
As well, be sensitive to our triggers, especially around rejection and abandonment. Everyone has different triggers, and the only way to learn them is to ask and observe. But two really common triggers for folks with BPD are rejection and abandonment. Here are some situations you might not have thought of when your loved ones with BPD often feel rejected or abandoned:
- You turn down an invitation to hang out
- You are going out with friends and didn’t invite us to come along
- You have a new friend or romantic interest in your life and don’t have as much time to spend with us
- You cancel our plans
- You say no to a favour
- You tell us you need some space, particularly if you don’t explain why — *if you can explain why, using the grilled cheese sandwich method, that would be really helpful too*
- You forget to reply to a message, or take a long time to respond
I am by no means suggesting that you should avoid doing these things to make us feel better. In fact, please don’t do that — that would only reinforce our belief that you only care about us if you do what we want. What I am saying is that each of these situations presents an opportunity for you to think about how your loved ones might feel triggered, and spend a few minutes reassuring us that we are not being rejected or abandoned.
Finally, and most importantly, validate, validate, validate! If you take nothing else from this random-stringing-together-of-what-I-hope-are-helpful words, please remember this. Humans need validation. Humans with BPD especially need validation because we have experienced a lot of invalidation in our lives.
Well, I hope these tips helps you communicate with your love ones who has borderline personality disorders. This plus my previous entry can help with the relationships between the mentally ill and non mentally ill. Having a support system is important when having mental health issues. That’s why communication is key in order to sustain a stable relationship between two parties. It’s hard, but not impossible, when you adult one day at a time.