Writer: Katherine Lopez
When you know someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it is very important that you know a few things about that person’s illness and some of the things he or she doesn’t want to hear during the holidays.
Borderline is not the same for everyone, and if it is co-morbid with another mental illness, it is likely that our behavior will affect people differently, especially during this overly happy time.
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be a “Grinch” during this season? Well, it could be that you are either trying too much or not trying at all.
For me personally, these questions can be very triggering:
1. Where is your Christmas spirit?
My Christmas spirit is there, but sometimes it is very hard to find it. It is difficult for me to look happy and joyful when my mind is trying to stay on the right path to recovery and I am still getting used to enjoy small things again.
Christmas is all about appearances, how to behave in parties, how the house is decorated, how big the Christmas tree is, and how much weight I’ve lost to fit in the perfect dress for the occasion. Maybe this is not what other people think, but that is the first thing that comes to my mind when Christmas is approaching.
Another thing that clouds my Christmas spirit is shopping. Overspending has been a huge problem for me and some of the people I have met who share my condition. For people like me, going out for gifts is all about self-control and not necessarily as fun as people might think it is. After Christmas shopping there can be a lot of regret for not buying the “perfect gift” for a loved one or for buying unnecessary things. So, yes, we have Christmas spirit, but it may not be the one people are used to seeing.
2. What will you wear for the party?
Even though BPD is not always treated with pills, many of us have co-morbid disorders, in my case bipolar disorder. Being social has never been my strength, and my bipolar meds have the common side effect of weight gain, so when people ask me what I will wear to any party I’m invited to, most of the time I will just skip it. It’s hard enough to think I have to socialize, to add a worry about how I will look to others when I get there. Even though people tell me I look good, I just never manage to see that when I look at myself in the mirror.
3. Are you allowed to drink?
When I started my treatment, doctors thought it was obvious for me that I could not drink; for me it wasn’t. My family has a love for drinking that became normal to me. I had always equated weekends, parties, vacations, and holidays with drinking.
Alcohol is a depressive. People lose inhibitions while drinking, which may make anyone with a mental health condition more vulnerable to engage in risky behavior. In the past, I was reckless and irresponsible enough to let myself or my friends drive under the effects of drugs or alcohol. I had to quit alcohol completely, and it took me an inpatient hospitalization to get clean and on my feet again. So please, if you know about the condition, don’t ask.
4. What do you want for Christmas?
If you are not ready to actually listen and act on it, don’t ask. Most of the time, material things will fulfill a short-term need and what I really want is more complex than going shopping and choosing colors or sizes. I want understanding, empathy, a shoulder to cry on, a silent ear, non-judgmental advice.
I want a day when I can choose what I want to do without thinking that someone is going to be hurt because I did not visit or I had nothing to give them. I want to spend the day with anyone I want or just by myself. I want to have at least a few minutes of quietness in my head. I want to be able to not think ahead. I want to live, just live.
5. What is your New Year’s resolution?
Resolutions are very optimistic and in most cases unreal for me. They usually have to do with sacrifice (weight-loss, quit smoking or drinking, make more money, exercise, etc.). I battle every day with small things like waking up, bathing, and dragging myself to work, so don’t expect me to answer that question right away (if I answer it). This would add a lot of weight to my to-do list and will raise my anxiety levels to the point where I’ve been trying to recover from. In the past, I’ve made so many resolutions that I can’t remember, and they were as silly as writing on my journal every day, to harder things like accepting myself. None of them have been reached or done entirely, and it makes me feel like a failure to myself and others. So, my New Year’s resolution is, none.
It is not easy to identify triggers, but if you do, talk about them.