One of my best friends in the world, someone I would do anything for, asked me to write an article about being her friend. More specifically, she asked me to write an article about being friends with someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Since I can count on one hand the number of friendships I have that I can rely on so completely, it has taken me a few days to get started; do I compare this friendship to my acquaintanceships with more neurotypical people, or with the rest of my chosen family, who are fighting their own invisible battles with mental illness?
Really, though, what are the differences? Well, unpredictable mood changes can be a big part of it; from laughing and joking, to angry, through sad and back to happy could happen between a starter a main course. Other days the cycle could take a week or more – anger, apparent overreaction, radio silence, depression. Sometimes it is tough to keep up. A moment’s uncontrolled chemistry has cut me once or twice – sometimes deeply.
Beyond the randomness of the emotions, I’ve seen how deep and loud they can be. Everything they feel seems turned up to 11 somehow. The smallest imagined reaction can ignite a hurt many times greater in magnitude than the slight seems to warrant.
Then on other days, it can pass like nothing, but this can mean it’s forgotten, or that some evil spirit has locked it away to use against your friend at the worst possible moment; when the emotional chemistry is just right for the absolute worst reaction.
Either way, this could come at a time when you need some empathy. This could come at any time, really. Almost as unpredictable as the mood swings are the reactions. It could be something, nothing, or something that will come back to bite your friend later.
Motivation is another battle that Collies fight constantly. Be it the result of extreme over-thinking, or of having developed unhealthy routines that help them get from the alarm clock to bedtime, your friend will struggle to find their “get up and go.” This could be from work, socialising, exercise, completing that project that was so important to them yesterday. It’s painful to watch, as you see them not achieving all the things they could; and all the things they want to do. Nevertheless, on these days, those things just won’t happen. At least, they won’t happen without the kind of gigantic effort that can drain a person utterly.
So what should you do about it? Well, it’s not your job to make it go away; it’s not your job to make things happen. Neither is it your job to coax your friend into reacting the way you would react. It might not be your job to do anything at all. Just be there. Talk in concretes while your Collie friend’s evil spirit is whispering hateful absolutes. That thing they said wasn’t great, maybe, but people will get over it. That guy might not be into them, but that doesn’t mean no guy ever will be.
Just be there. Let the waves hit you and recede where lesser friends are eroded away to nothing. Be the cliffs that stand constant. This can be hard. Some days, the chemistry is against them. Those days can be hurtful, neglectful, or just plain sad. I hate to say it, but it’s true.
I have mixed feelings about Marilyn Monroe as a role model, but I think this famous quote represents the experience of Collies and their closest friends rather well:
People with BPD suffer some of the worst worsts that you’re likely to come across in your friendship circle. That said, I’ve never known people who love more honestly or fully than people who weather those battles. That’s your reward. Weather the storms and in return, and you’ll get to keep the truest, most genuine friend you’ll ever have.
 For those of you not in the know, a “Collie” is a person with borderline personality disorder. Border Collie. Get it?
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