Latest update: March 6th, 2012
In Chronicles of May 20, a woman wrote of her mental and emotional torment in her relationship with an abusive spouse whose behavior, she believed, was chad written in response to an earlier column that had addressed the subject of BPD.) The letter below offers a different perspective on the disorder as another reader lets us in on her struggle with a troubled loved one.
I am someone who has a loved one with borderline personality disorder. When BPD first appeared in full force, I thought my loved one would outgrow or “get over it,” but no such thing happened. I consulted with many different mental health professionals before the behavior was finally diagnosed as BPD.
The first thing I did after researching BPD on the Internet was to pick up a copy of Walking on Eggshells (the book recommended by a reader in this column) at my local Barnes and Noble. Though it gave me some insight into the disorder, its approach, as I learned, is completely contrary to what can actually be of help.
The book describes the symptoms of BPD pretty accurately but advises a tough love approach, and nothing could be worse for a BPD than “tough love.” I found this out first hand. Upon further research, I found a support group under the name of TARA (located in Manhattan) that completely enlightened me.
I discovered two very important facts about BPD: 1) It is definitely a neurobiological disorder, in that the nervous system in a person with BPD is extremely sensitive. It is almost as if people with BPD have two layers of skin, as opposed to the normal seven, thereby causing them to feel both physical and emotional sensations much more acutely than other people. Therefore, if the environment surrounding a person with BPD is in any way chaotic or dysfunctional, the BPD disorder will become apparent very soon.
2) Though it often feels that way, a person with this disorder is not doing things on purpose, Though the person afflicted with BPD does not mean to act the way he or she does, any slight change, rejection or difficulty can put the BPD person in a foul mood. These mood swings are not to be confused with bipolar disorder; persons with BPD never reach the highs that bipolars do, only the lows.
The treatment for a person with BPD involves a dual strategy. The first is for the family to really understand what is going on. The person with BPD feels tremendous guilt, shame and fear and does not know how to cope. They often hurt themselves, engage in reckless behavior and have episodes of deep depression.
The course at TARA is very rigorous, but at the same time very enlightening, and it explains the disorder in great detail. BPD afflicts many families; attendees consisted of social workers, doctors and other professionals with loved ones who have BPD. They, as I, were at their wits end and had come to seek support and assistance. We were taught different ways of dealing with our loved ones – far more effective than tough love – that could potentially begin to alter some of the BPD’s irrational thinking.
The second aspect of the recommended approach is to encourage the person with BPD to get specialized therapy called DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) that very simply teaches a BPD person how to cope. It helps them set realistic goals and find a balance between the all black or all white world that they live in.
The DBT therapy, developed by Marsha M. Linehan, PhD (an expert in BPD), has been proven to be the most successful therapy for BPD as it deals with the present and not the past. Staying in the past is yet another manifestation of the disorder; BPDs remain stuck in the past, often feeling abandoned and left out while everyone around them is moving on.
I learned a great deal in the support group, which while not perfect is very helpful. I am still trying to convince my loved one to attend DBT therapy, and I hope he will in the near future.
A supporting spouse
You sound like a most remarkable person who, in addition to being a dedicated and loving wife, has been blessed with amazing stamina and levelheadedness.
Though sufferers of this malady may not display identical symptoms, the one thing they ought to have in common is a strong and stable support system. Your spouse is most fortunate to have you – a true helpmate in every sense of the word – in his life.
Thank you for sharing your personal experience for the benefit of our readers.
May Hashem continue to keep you strong and imbue your loved one with serenity of mind and heart.
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
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