My Friend Has BPD: Our Journey Together

Hi, my name is Catee. My best friend Annabelle and I met at acting camp right before sixth grade. We talked casually then, but we screamed with joy when we saw each other on the first day of middle school. We were so glad to have one person we knew. And that’s how our friendship began.

But things were not plain sailing; in fact, our friendship was rocky, to say the least. Annabelle would often say things that crushed my self-esteem to pieces, like calling me fat or crybaby. One small, stupid thing I said could get her mad at me for weeks. Sometimes I just wanted to get away from her.

When we went to separate high schools, our friendship grew. We talked weekly, sharing the details of our lives. But, being honest, I disapproved of what Annabelle was doing at the time. She went from boy to boy to see what each of them could give her. She cheated on them, then acted like it was no big deal. She was drinking and taking medicine she didn’t need. I didn’t know what to make of it all at the time.

It wasn’t until our junior year that I found out what was happening. Annabelle and I were on the phone, and she consoled me after my first breakup. I was complaining about things my boyfriend had done and his excuses for how he treated me. He had depression and when he went off his meds, he would stop being kind to me.

“What a crock,” Annabelle said. “I have BPD and I still don’t act that way.” “Wait, what? BPD? What’s that?” Annabelle told me about her symptoms—how she had trouble with stable relationships, how she always looked over her shoulder to see if there was someone better for her or someone better than her, how she cut herself to deal with pain and to punish herself. When one thing went wrong, it felt like the world would end.

Sadly Annabelle got worse in the next couple of years. She called me several times, having self-harmed feeling worthless because of one small failure. Then I remember her turning point. Right before college, she met a guy, and for the first time, she opened up and told him what she needed. She’s been with him now for over a year and a half. She hasn’t cut herself in months. Her self-loathing episodes are less frequent, mostly when she’s exhausted or not feeling well. In all, she’s more stable.

My Friend Has BPD: Our Journey Together

It can be hard to be friends with Annabelle. She can be explosive and even hostile, and my temper’s not so great either. If I have a criticism or an issue with something, I have to find an extremely delicate way to put it. But it’s worth it. I can tell her about anything and everything, and even if I might not like her advice, I know it’s what she thinks is best for me.

She has the classic fear of abandonment common in BPD, but it’s made our friendship stronger. Annabelle deeply appreciates everyone who stood by her. She’s incredibly loyal, and sometimes she’s been the only person to really stand up for me. Annabelle has never used her illness as an excuse for her behaviour. She consistently strives to be a better friend, girlfriend, daughter and person. She constantly pushes through her diagnosis to get to who she wants to be.

If you have a friend with BPD, you might wonder, “Where do I go from here?” Here’s my answer. Stick by your friend, even when it’s hard. People with BPD are afraid of losing you; if you want to be a good friend, don’t justify that fear. Remind your friend that she is a good person. That everyone makes mistakes, and one small error doesn’t ruin your life. Tell them how you feel— a gentle, objective opinion might help their viewpoint. And get them help if they’re being self-destructive; they may hate you for it at the moment, but they need it more than you realize.

Finally, listen to them as this is the most important thing. You don’t need a psychology degree or a big guidebook. Try to understand where they’re coming from and what’s happening to them. Listening with your mind and heart can get your friend to open up and tell you what they need. They don’t need therapy from you; they need love. Don’t treat BPD like a character flaw. Treat it like the illness it is. Some may see Annabelle as a crazy person or just a bitch. But she’s just a person who needs a little help sometimes. And she’s more than that. She is my best friend.

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