Recently I got into a bit of a fight on twitter after someone claimed that people with BPD are narcisstic and can’t form attachments, of course there was uproar. I can admit that SOME people with BPD can be abusive and perhaps narcisstic but that’s a small portion, like not all people with schizophrenia are violent. Most of the people I know with BPD are kind and loving and just want to help and be helped.
Now BPD, I’ve been told, uses the term borderline as we can display symptoms of other disorders. For example I’m borderline OCD which means I have symptoms of the disorder but not enough to be officially diagnosed with it. The disorder also can have co-occuring disorders such as depression and anxiety. If you have BPD the chances are you have another diagnosis linked with it. Everyone with BPD is different based on their life experience, personalities, co-occuring disorders and their symptoms. This means that a SMALL number of those of us with BPD can have NPD or narcissistic traits but not all of us.
Though, to outsiders our symptoms can be mistaken for narcissism. For example threats of self harm or suicide could be seen as manipulative but we don’t have the intention to manipulate, its an unhealthy way of expressing how we feel (doesn’t make this behavior okay and its important to get professional help at this stage.) I understand why some people might tar us with the same brush as those with NPD but the difference is our inner world. We do things with other reasons and feel differently to those with narcissism.
For example we engage in risky behaviours because we feel manic or impulsive, not because we don’t care about the consequences of our behavior. We often do, but the urge or emotion is so strong we need to perform these acts for the feeling to stop and will probably later, when we’ve calmed down, come to regret it.
For some time I was questioning whether or not I was a narcissist. I have a family member who’s narcissistic and abusive so I figured, having someone like that in my blood, there’s a chance I could be too. I would question basically everything I did, am I playing the victim? Am I being emotionally manipulative? and on the questions would go until I realized that someone narcissistic probably wouldn’t care so much about being a narcissist. I’ve never consciously tried to manipulate someone. Maybe my behaviour could seem like I was but it would never be my intention. I would just be overshadowed by rage and anxious desperation.
The person I fought with on twitter mentioned that they seem to be dropped by those with BPD quickly and freely, she thought that people with BPD couldn’t get attached because of this and that’s just not true. If anything those of us with BPD can get attached too fast too much. If I met someone online I would immediately want them to be my friend and get low if I didn’t hear from them again. I have a bit of a rocky relationship history with therapists. I would get along with them and feel really positive about them the first few weeks but then they would say something I didn’t like or push me to go where I didn’t want to and I would switch to hating them and feel unsafe seeing them as they might make me talk about or bring up emotions I couldn’t deal with.
This happened a couple of weeks back and I took a break from seeing my therapist last week but knew I would have to face her again if I wanted the most out of the treatment. I saw her today and felt really on edge and defensive the whole time. I think this can happen with a lot of BPD sufferers and their therapists. It seemed to happen often with this lady on twitter and her BPD clients. Probably because she saw and spoke about those of us with BPD in a very negative and ignorant way. Granted we probably shouldn’t “ditch” or “drop” people so quickly and I can understand why it may seem we don’t care but we do care a lot, too much and we often don’t know how to express ourselves in a healthy manner, even with therapists, so we push away or leave people fast as not to be hurt or have our trust broken again, its self preservation not indifference despite appearances.
I’m aware that people with BPD can have very high standards as with narcissism but the difference is that we also hold ourselves to that high standard as well. When someone hurts us or makes a mistake it can be very difficult for us to see past their wrongs and forgive them but it also goes vice versa, if we make a mistake we can feel terrible about it, like we’re bad people and undeserving of love. Whereas with a narcissist they believe they are superior and can do no wrong while everyone else can’t meet their standards.
Now let’s address the manipulative behaviors that both conditions can display. People with BPD tend to overdo the chameleon effect where we basically take on other people’s body language and views, I understand how this can be taken as manipulative but unlike those with narcissism, we don’t do it to make people like us so we can use them for our own gain, people with BPD don’t really have a strong sense of self or identity so when we’re around certain types of people we can “try on” their identities, we don’t do this intentionally though.
Personally, I hate when this happens and I’m very selective of who I spend most of my time with as, some people, I really don’t want to become; I hang out with people I feel good and safe around, people with traits I admire and don’t mind taking on. With BPD its an automatic thing, whether to get a sense of identity or to survive. The mirroring and changes in behavior depending on where we are and who we’re with are not intentional, we often hate saying and doing things just to fit in but the overwhelming fear of rejection and abandonment as well as the lack of identity can mean we genuinely believe in what we’re saying and doing, at least until we leave those people and that environment or become aware of our disorder. Since being diagnosed I’m hyper aware of my behaviour with different people, its not easy to change it though as its pretty much automatic now and I still don’t have a strong understanding of who I am, I’m trying though.
I could probably go on but this post is already one of my longest yet so I think I’ll leave it there now but please keep in mind that people with BPD are all different, this is just my story and others might have different views because we are more than our diagnosis. What I will say though is that, from what I learned, both BPD and NPD can be the result of trauma and fear of abandonment, we just deal with it differently so I can’t help but have some empathy for those with NPD and hope that they can get treatment and recover even though it’s difficult. Take care ❤
Photography by: Unknown