Imralu wrote:A friend of mine has been going through a really rough patch with her mental health. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and that more or less convinced her that she's not ever going to get better than she currently is and I think that sent her into a depressive spiral. She seemed to latch onto the idea that that's going to fuck her kids up and ... I found out a few weeks ago that she's attempted suicide three times since then. (Which is a surefire way to fuck your kids up, but, like, yeah, mental illness.)
Borderline describes unstable emotions, but it doesn't necessarily end the ability to reason, even if it makes it harder to listen to reason - thinking like "nothing I do could harm my kids more than suicide would" can be a really useful anchor, so I'd try to make sure (as tactfully and non-confrontationally as possible) that she knows it. Particularly because her husband moving on is really bad for her in the short-term - she may fall into thinking "oh look, they're a happy family, I'm not needed, I'm just getting in the way".
Unfortunately, suicide is a very common outcome for people with BPD. Wikipedia says it's about 10%. I guess the fact she's tried to kill herself three times may be positive in a way - it indicates that she probably doesn't actually mean it (once can be a miscalculation or 'bad' luck of some kind, but continuing to fail indicates you're not really trying). Though I obviously wouldn't point that out to her, lest she take it as a challenge. [AIUI, people with BPD often use real or alleged suicide attempts to manipulate the sympathies of people around them].
The good news, though, is that apparently 50% of people with BPD get better as they get older, so it's not a "this is how you are forever" thing at all (at least, not in intensity, even if certain traits are likely to remain).
After the third time, her husband couldn't cope and sent her back to America to be with her family for a bit. I found out about all of this because she cancelled plans with me to see a movie and I was like "Why?" and she explained the above. "Oh, yeah, forget about the movie, wow! Stay strong!" So, she went back to America and then, once she was there, her husband told her he wants a divorce ... and that he already has a new girlfriend. Like, I can understand someone saying "I'm not strong enough to deal with you, sorry!" but that just feels like twisting the knife and I'm struggling to comprehend it with what I know of the two of them.
I'd remember that you never know what goes on between a couple; you don't know how she's behaved toward him (or how he's perceived her as behaving toward him). It's all very well wanting to stick by your partner when they're unwell; but sometimes the things people say when they're unwell can, or can seem to, reveal more substantial issues in how they think about you that aren't just illness. Particularly since we're talking about borderline here, which is noted for its harmful, unstable and generally frightening behaviour in interpersonal relationships. And it's a hard one to separate from personality (hence it being a personality disorder): if you discover that someone you thought you loved has been lying to you and manipulating you throughout your entire relationship, it's not easy to say 'oh, that's just an illness, I still love them despite how horribly they're treating me'. It's not like depression or something in that regard where the's a clear distinction between them and their disease - more like, say, psychopathy (if you discovered you'd always been married to a cat-torturing psychopath, would you still support them? Some would, sure, but most wouldn't). More generally, it's hard to care for someone whose disease is acting unhealthily to force you to care for them - the care you give is both the treatment and the cause of the disease. In extreme cases, you can get to situations where the healthiest response for both parties is to cut off the relationship that's feeding the instability.
Interestingly though, his behaviour here, if it is really as she's described it, seems pretty borderline itself: discovering the woman you love is flawed, and instantly cutting her off, seems like classic splitting. I wonder whether she describes it like that because she's projecting how she would act, or whether she found a partner with similar traits to her (they do often gravitate toward other unstable people).
More importantly, though: there are children involved. If he's concerned that she's a physical threat to their children, encouraging her to leave the country and changing the locks while she's away might be exactly what he'd do. Even just the threat of her killing herself and that traumatising them can be a powerful motivation.
Or, of course, maybe he's been cheating on her all along and this is a great excuse. (although of course fantasising that he's been cheating on her would be something she'd be likely to do anyway, given her condition).
Like, rather than sending her back to her family (by the way, her father used to throw her into walls) and asking for a divorce, like, maybe she needs some fucking psychiatric help, which she hasn't been getting here!?! So anyway, she's racing back to Germany to find a place to live and get a job and she's got a lawyer here and she doesn't want to not be able to see her kids again (attempted suicides notwithstanding). She won't be able to take them back to America because of the shared-custody thing, so she'll have to go from being a mentally ill housewife to a functioning adult in Germany, hopefully keeping shared custody of her kids. That's a big hill to climb and I know that she's willing to try but I don't know if she's strong enough. Hopefully as the mother of two little German kids (who are freaking adorable, btw), she will have the right to stay here and access all the great socialism here if she needs it, even after she's divorced.
Well, on the one hand all that stress may be particularly destructive. On the other hand, having to deal with immediate practical problems by herself could actually be helpful in keeping her out of destructive patterns. I guess one positive with BPD is that since it focuses on relationships, once her relationship is over, she just has to deal with the pain of being alone, rather than having to avoid those destructive relationship patterns, which is probably harder.
So, where I come into it is that she'll be staying with me for I don't know how long. She'll be back on Sunday and although her name is on the house with her husband's and she has a right to live there, she doesn't know how to face going back there at least before she sleeps her jetlag off and sees her lawyer on Monday. She doesn't have many friends here after a falling out with a mutual friend of ours a couple of years ago (both of their mental health issues clashed and they both more or less treated each other the way they objected to the other one treating them) and because I'm Switzerland and stayed friends with both, it seems like I'm her best friend in this city, which feels like a lot of responsibility. So yeah, aside from all the feelings that I'm having about all of this stuff that's gone on in her, between her and her husband and everything, which is shocking enough, I'm also pretty apprehensive about buckets of chaos coming to stay in my bedroom. On Monday, one of my flatmates is moving out and another one moving in, there's no spare key and I have to go to work and, yeah, just stress about all of that stuff all happening at the same time. I'm also worried what will happen if she has nowhere to stay but with me and doesn't get somewhere quickly. Like, obviously I don't want to share my bedroom with her long term (I'm really questioning whether I want anyone really close to me in my life, even in a romantic way, let-alone a roommate* ... I like shutting myself behind my door) but I'm also worried about the destabilising effect it could have in my sharehouse ... not that there is any stability ... I mean, we still don't even have a contract for the apartment, which is weird.
On the positive side, sometimes not being able to retreat behind your door can be a good thing - painful, but healthy. On the other hand, it's really important you don't fall into a pattern where your problems and hers reinforce each other. Naturally you're going to be comforting her, but you need to make sure you don't become her replacement care-giver and let her repeat the same patterns of behaviour with you. And that she doesn't encourage your problems to lead you to do so.
One thing I might suggest: in terms of what you're comfortable with in terms of living together, it may be best to try to convey those rules (and two people sharing one room will have to have some rules!) early on - because if she pisses you off and you react by explaining that you don't like her doing such-and-such, she may interpret that as rejection or as punishment. Ground rules (or ground guidelines) are better than having to deal with things in the heat of the moment.
Not that I'm a professional or anything. Just a combination of experience and common sense there.
And even more importantly: get a bloody contract! Seriously, I'm sure things are better in Germany than here, but anywhere you are, if you don't have a written contract, you're in an unstable situation that you really don't need right now.
So, basically, after weathering the storm of my own life for the last few years, things are much calmer now ... my boat is a bit leakier than most but I'm doing fine, but I just have this funny feeling that a big wave is rearing up. Or maybe that's anxiety, lolololololol. Who knows?
It's good that you're aware that this may be a difficult time in advance. It may also, of course, be positive - her BPD may not be that bad, or may just not be directed at you, in which case you may just have aquired an understanding friend in a position to support you closely. And remember, the fact that you've been through that dark time and you feel you've managed to get things under control - and at the very least are more attuned to and able to analyse your own feelings than before - means that you're better equipped now than you were to deal with difficult situations like this.
KathTheDragon wrote: jal wrote:
linguoboy wrote:before I crack it over your head.
It should be "on" your head. "Over my head" there's just thin air.
That'd be "above my head". "Over" here means "spread across", more or less.
Considering the context that came up in, that was obviously a joke.
I'd actually wanted to say the same thing as Kath (and am glad she indepently analysed it the same way I did), but didn't, because I thought people would accuse me of not realising it was a joke...