So, after my last entry, I signed up for a course through the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder called Family Connections. Basically, it is a class for relatives, friends, and loved ones of people with BPD. Today was the first class, and it was pretty interesting.
I’ve been to support groups before; they aren’t new to me. I go to one for my step-down group, and I try to get over to DBSA when I’m not working on that night. But the support groups I’ve been a part of were for the people who had mental disorders. I knew there were groups for family and friends before, but hadn’t ever been part of one. But after having gone, I can see how helpful they can end up being for those supporting people with psychological issues.
For BPD, while there were a lot of stories about children, spouses, and friends, they all had some things in common; at times it seemed like we were quoting out of the DSM criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder. There was a lot of frustration, a lot of wondering what we could do to try and help our loved ones – not fix them, because that’s not something we can do. Like I remember learning in treatment, we can’t change other people, only ourselves; trying to change others is just a recipe for disaster.
Seeing as how it was our first session, much of the time was taken up telling short versions of our stories and reasons for being there. But at the end, we did get to cover some things, and I think, most importantly, we covered some very good advice for those supporting people with BPD. First, as support personnel (shorthand for family, friends, or loved ones), we should always try to take the things our loved ones say in the most benign way possible. A lot of the time, what they are saying isn’t about us; it’s a reflection of what’s going on in their heads. Taking things too personally just ends up in a messy situation. Second, there isn’t one absolute truth; while a loved one might, in a moment of anger, says he or she hates you, we know that in the long run they love us – the hatred being voiced may be true at that second, but not overall. Third, we are all doing the best we can in the moment; never assume that our loved ones are trying to scare us off, drive us away, or manipulate us – they’re just trying to deal with life the best way they know how. If we can help them with that, then we should do so. Finally, we can always do better. Nobody’s perfect, and every time we interact with our loved ones is a chance to do things better than we have before.
There’s a lot of things I hope to learn at this class, and I hope that my own experience with mental illness can help the people there who haven’t had the exposure to treatment that I have. I know that there are tons of things I can learn from them, because they have had so much more experience with BPD, and had to deal with it for much longer. I also hope that what I learn from this class can help me to be a better friend – and possibly more – for Calla, and others I know with BPD.