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Thread: Dealing With Bi-Polar/Borderline Friends

  1. #1
    Patron Saint Of Smileys Array Gloriana's Avatar
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    Aug 2009

    Default Dealing With Bi-Polar/Borderline Friends

    I won't mind if this thread doesn't get many responses, just curious if anyone else here has dealt with someone who has these disorders.

    I have a friend that I've known since I was thirteen, really she is the oldest friend I have. Thing is, more and more I just don't consider her a real friend and more and more I'm wanting to pull away and cut ties. It hurts me to think about it, there is a long history there, but her behavior has become intolerable for me.

    This has been a progressive fracture, happening slowly over many years. She moved away when we were both about eighteen years old. When I look back, she showed signs of Bi-Polar and Borderline Personality Disorder from the time we first met, but it just wasn't yet as pronounced as it became later. She always 'changed' into whomever she hung out with. When she was with me, she dressed like me, acted like me, etc. When she was with her other friends, she dressed and acted like them. This was literally like someone changing costumes for a different role, something I've come to understand is common to BPD sufferers.

    I've tried very hard to understand her and leave room for her disorders, knowing a lot of the nasty, hurtful things she does are beyond her control in so many ways. I've tried to be supportive and sympathetic but it is truly a one sided relationship. If she does anything 'for' me, it's not done in some selfless way as much as she seems to think of it like this 'insurance' system that I am obligated to. She keeps lists in her head of everything she's ever done for me and yanks these things out if ever I say that I'm hurt by something she did. She also uses it like a bargaining chip to say "You have to stay with me because I did these things".

    Recently, she has pretty much Facebook stalked me. I think she thinks whenever I post something on there, it means I am doing so from home. Once I posted from my boyfriend's place, then came home later that night to find a message on my answering machine "Funny you're not picking up since I just saw you posted on Facebook". She also seems to take me posting replies to any other friend besides her like it is a personal affront to her (since, in her words, "You've known me the longest").

    In the past, I have gone no contact with her after she started calling all the time saying she was going to commit suicide. After a particularly horrible one of these, I was no contact with her for about two years, then she called out of the blue asking what happened to me. I was telling her it wasn't a good idea to get back into a relationship but over the course of five phone calls she apologized, owned that she was in 'a bad place', and agreed to respect the boundaries I laid down. Now? She has gone back to pushing them, disrespecting them, ignoring them, and being manipulative.

    My mother is also making this harder. I live with her at the moment and she considers this girl to be a member of our extended family. My mother herself is a narcissist and the two of them sort of 'feed' each other, if that makes sense. My friend calls her on her phone talking all about how she's got all these ailments (a new one every week that requires 'emergency' phone calls) and my mother gets to talk all about how she herself is so put upon. My Mom hasn't said as much directly, but whenever I bring up my thoughts of cutting ties with this girl again, my mother pretty much reacts like I am a traitor and a selfish person.

    And then I get to wondering if I am. The most toxic thing about them is they both have a knack for 'reeling' people in by temporarily showing all this concern and attention until they've 'caught' that person again, then they go back to ignoring them, devaluing them, and using them. I have to deal with my mother because I live with her and that's an issue unto itself. This friend (I keep using that term loosely in my head) is a different story though.

    I guess I'm wussing out cutting off because I know this girl's parents are going to probably message me with name calling (they've done it before) and my own mother will probably continue to take her calls. My boyfriend keeps telling me I have nothing to apologize for, and logically I know this. Emotionally though, I am so used to being the 'guilty party' it is hard to think of telling this girl "No more". Especially since I know she will turn the guilt screws on me about how she was 'there' for me back in the day.

    She really was too, she was the only friend I had who fought for me and kicked ass to help me defend myself from bullies and the like. That was such a long time ago but it still stands out to me. It makes it really hard to think of cutting her off for good but this relationship doesn't even feel like a relationship anymore. I feel very cold toward her and very unfeeling, which is not pleasant but I've found there is no other way to be with someone who behaves the way she does. Everything is an emergency to her and she constantly demands drama and pity, constantly demands emotional attention that she can never get enough of. She gets really nasty and uses anything personal I share with her if she doesn't.

    I feel awful because I don't think she is a bad person at heart. I know she is a very hurt person who wants assurance of being loved without knowing how to get there. I understand she wishes she had a solid identity but cannot get there either. It hurts me to see how much she truly does suffer. It's just not enough for a relationship though, I wish it was but it's not.

    I went on really long here, obviously it's one of those things I have very few people to vent to about with the exception of my boyfriend. I just wondered if any of you have done the cutting off and relate to how hard it is. Wondered if anyone is in the same position or has been in the past?
    "Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get, but if you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you...amazing things will happen" --Conan O'Brien

  2. #2
    Senior Member Array ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    May 2007


    Stopped reading at "boyfriend."

    [spolier] <--see why we need these?
    Just kidding.
    I've come across lots of people like that in my life, some in person, some over the internet. (Luckily, none at this particular site.) I've cut a few people like that out, especially recently, because I'm at some point, no one's benefiting anymore. You're right--you don't have a friendship. She's using use like a drug, obsessing about your validation and attention, and as soon as you threaten to remove that drug, she gives you a corrective TSST! and you fall for it. What's more, your mom does it too.

    There's nothing wrong with cutting people like that out, in my opinion. It's not really harmful (not any more harmful than denying an addict his drug) and has a potential to help the situation. The stuff she did for you in the past is great, and it's great that you're able to honor it. But that doesn't give her carte blanch to violate all your boundaries and stress you out. A relationship isn't like a bank account that you accumulate credit and then make withdrawals. If anything, I think that really sullies all the nice stuff she's done by converting it into a mere deposit that can later be redeemed. It makes it seem like her intentions were really selfish, rather than altruistic. That cheapens the good deed tremendously, and moreover, it must put pressure on you by forcing you to try and preserve her reputation in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    All in all, this is not fair to you, and you are getting guilted and manipulated into staying. A good friend doesn't do that. A good friend is honest and fair. The analysis doesn't have to be much deeper than that. She might have been a good friend, but people change, and until she really gets her feelings and behaviors under control, she'll never be able to be a good friend. So why put yourself under all this stress? It doesn't help you and it doesn't help her. Next!

  3. #3
    Emerging Array Tallulah's Avatar
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    Feb 2008


    I have had many friends who were either borderline, bipolar, or both. I hang in there for a long time, feeling bad that they can't keep people in their lives because of their illness, but ultimately get worn down by the emotional roller coaster they take me on. I sympathize, and having experienced mental illness myself (depression, anxiety), I tend to try to put myself in their shoes. Ultimately, though, it's their behavior that drives me away and makes me realize that my own sanity and peace has to be my priority. I can't invite drama into my life.

    I think in many cases, people like your friend have temporary, transient friendships. They have an expiration date, and then the person finds someone else that takes pity on them. Then that person cuts them off, and they find someone else. Rarely is that pattern actually broken or any progress made.
    Something Witty

  4. #4
    meinmeinmein! Array mmhmm's Avatar
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    Jul 2010


    i've had people like that in my life. snip snip.

    “when one burns one's bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.”
    - dylan thomas
    every normal man must be tempted, at times,
    to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag,
    and begin slitting throats.
    h.l. mencken

  5. #5
    Pose! Array Salt n' pepper's Avatar
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    Apr 2009


    My younger sister is bipolar.
    And maybe I'd feel differently if she wasn't blood, but I feel a great sense of responsibility towards her now. Even more than before. Because she's more vulnerable and it's not her fault. She wears me out, and I can get mad and even feel hurt by some of the things she says or does. But at the end of the day, I feel like I need to protect her. If I won't put up with her, who will, and then she's really in trouble.

  6. #6
    Dreaming the life Array onemoretime's Avatar
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    Jun 2009


    I'm sorry to hear that there are so many toxic influences in your life. It must be very difficult trying to maintain a healthy sense of self in that sort of environment.

  7. #7
    .~ *aĉa virino* ~. Array Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
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    I lived with a person for a year who later I realized probably would be diagnosed with BPD -- both by her own comments and the comments of friends of mine (one a pharmacologist) who met her. She was the nicest person when we met, and we got along fine before we moved in together... but living with her became a nightmare. She seemed to have no sense of self and also expected me to become her best friend and closest sister. Any space I put in our relationship was taken as the most horrible slight, and then I'd start getting a lot of passive-aggressive behavior that would eventually blow up into a three-hour argument that would leave me drained -- i realized eventually I wasn't dealing with a reasonable person.

    I did come home once in the winter to change and go back out to a Christmas party at a formal restaurant; she was acting weird, grabbed a basket of laundry, and ducked out without really letting me get a good look at her. I went upstairs to change and found blood all over the sink, on the mirror, and the walls around the sink which I had to clean up in order to get ready. Meanwhile, I tried to call her and she wouldn't answer her phone -- and even though I went to my party, I spent the time worrying about her. I had no idea if she was even still alive somewhere. She never did respond to my various messages I left; I finally got a hold of her Saturday night, when I tried again, and she answered as if nothing was wrong; she just camped out at her brother's and had no understanding why I was upset or what she had done. (Later she told me she had just gashed herself on a few spots on her body; but obviously she hadn't picked any place where it would actually kill her. She had found herself in thrall to someone who everyone else had advised her to cut our of her life, someone half her age, but couldn't ever seem to say "no" to; and this person had gotten mad at her and said the most nastiest things possible that afternoon, so she tried to self-harm.)

    Things just disintegrated for the next six months, with her having a lot of crazy wishful thinking (that if she ran miles a day while eating nothing but grapefruit, she'd look like Kate Moss despite being big-boned, and she would literally run miles and miles a day without eating things; or that jumping into the river in January with no one else around was healthy for her; she often claimed she felt physically powerful and invulernable; just crazy stuff), and as soon as the lease ended I was out of there.

    I think my biggest problem was that for awhile I kept thinking she wasn't crazy and that if I was just reasonable, she'd be reasonable. I had to go around the cycle a few times to realize there was no possibility of negotiating a palatable relationship; she was battier than a bedbug. Even then, I really wanted to help her and be there for her; I felt that, since I understood what was happening, I was someone who might be able to make a difference; but her psychosis was far beyond my ability to cope with, especially in a situation where I had to live with her, depend on her for rent money and utilities, etc. I realized in the end I had tried to take on far more responsibility than I could reasonably handle.

    Her psychosis also had the effect of making me doubt myself and my own observations and reasoning. I was too open to her own sense of reality, until I finally accepted she was way off-kilter. That was the thing with her: She had this crazy, skewed view of the world, expected far more in a relationship than was reasonable for that level of relationship, and read a lot of negativity into people's actions that is really just part of the typical space that occurs in the act of living. Everything was a slight; and thus everything made me (or whoever) a "bad person" who hated her, if she didn't get what she wanted. For a while, I had to question myself and whether any of that was true; but in the end, I realized she was the one being unreasonable.

    Honestly, with people into a psychosis that deep, it's typically beyond the ability of the average person to be their therapist and support network. It tends to just screw up the person trying to help. They need someone who has been trained in how specifically to interact with them, so that they can potentially make headway.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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