That is the worst idea you have had

When your therapist of 3 years, the women who has seen you through panic attacks, self harm, suicidal ideation, and lord knows what else says “that is the worst idea you have had.” You should probably listen 😬

So what was this terrible idea? I went off my meds. That may not seem like much, but remember all the lovely things mentioned in the first sentence? That was during a period of time I spent months arguing with her that I didn’t need medication. Followed by a month of trying to stabilize on my new medications, some of that time spent in a psych hospital. She helped me understand that I need meds, helped me find a good psychiatrist after I had had so many bad ones in the past, she helped keep me safe from myself while I worked to find the right blend, and she helped me understand that the meds bring me to a baseline where I can then work on my self care to become healthy and stable beyond that point.

Recently someone at the office started telling everyone that I don’t care about things. Suddenly rumors where flying around that I am heartless, that I don’t care about my work or my team. This started spreading out of control until someone started trying to tell others I should be fired so they can have someone that actually cares. As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder I’d never been told I don’t care. I’m told I care too much, I care when I shouldn’t, I am too emotional, that I need to shut it off. My whole world shifted as I began to hear these strange rumors and I panicked.

I knew the “issue” was that I was stable, and that I wear an emotional mask on top of that. I also knew that I wasn’t going to lower that mask, so the only way to show emotions through it was to stop being stable. So for the next two weeks I cut my antidepressant and mood stabilizer dosages in half. When I didn’t end up completely crazy after that I just stopped taking them altogether. I went against my better judgement. I went against the advice I give others to never adjust your meds without first speaking to your doctor. I went against the advice I give myself, to talk over decisions I know are probably wrong with my therapist before doing stupid things. I panicked, so I ignored everything but the rumors at the office and I screwed myself up worse.

So at last Monday’s appointment we discussed the issues I’m going through right now, and eventually got to the dreaded question:

“How are your meds working?”

“I’m not taking them.”

Pause… “When did you last see your Psychiatrist?”

“About 3 or 4 months ago?”

“So she doesn’t know you stopped taking them?”

“No.”

“How long have you been off your meds?”

“A week, I was on half dose for 2 weeks before that.”

Pause…. “Why?”

“They were making me stable so people thought I didn’t care. I needed stronger emotions at work or everyone would hate me!”

Longer pause (probably an effort to regain the peace she had found while meditating that morning before I had come in and ruined it) “That… that is the worst idea you have had.”

“They want to fire me!”

“You can’t just stop your meds.”

“I can’t be stable right now, they hate me at work!”

“Do you hear yourself?”

“Yes. But I don’t care. I need my job.”

“You are more important than just a job. You need to be stable for you and your husband and your kids. You need to be on your meds.”

So I’m back on my meds. I’m feeling better, more clear, more calm. But I still have moments of desperate desire to be off them. To let my crazy take control. I don’t know where this desire is coming from exactly, I don’t think it is just from work though that was certainly a catalyst. But something in me says I shouldn’t be stable. And this is a new fight for me, one I don’t know how to face.

When I was young and refused to acknowledge depression as a medical condition, or that I had anything more than seasonal depression, I would refuse meds or go off of them because I shouldn’t need them. I’ve fought that battle and moved beyond it. I’ve learned to ignore the occasional thoughts my brain throws at me trying to convince me of that lie. But this is a new lie. My mind says the meds are working, and they’re needed, but that I should stop anyway. I recognize the truth of my illness and my treatment, and something is telling me not to be treated. To let the symptoms take over. I don’t know what that is. I don’t know how to fight it. Have any of you fought that before? The idea that you can be stable but shouldn’t?

My boss has Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 2

Every month the amount of people coming to the blog to find out how to deal with their BPD boss grows. For every one of you coming here to try to find out how to deal with someone that has BPD I want to hug you! Part of that may be my overly sensitive emotions and tendency towards inappropriate relationships, but more so it’s because I can see you’re going through a difficult time with someone you’re stuck with all day. That is an extremely difficult thing to deal with.

Something I mention in my first post about this topic is that you can’t change the person. That if it gets too bad then maybe look for a new job. Which is entirely unfair. I can hear the “that’s ridiculous!” and “That’s unfair!” and “Why should I be the one to change?!” screams coming through as I read my own words. And to these I respond, “yes” and “it is” and “you shouldn’t”. So why then do I leave that advice there?

The fact is we can’t control other people. We can only control ourselves. I’m not saying that the tough manager shouldn’t be held responsible. Everyone should be held responsible for their actions. But you can’t control your boss any more than I can control you. So then the question may come up of why their manager isn’t doing something about it. Maybe you can’t control them, but certainly their boss can hold them responsible, right? To which I argue, who says they’re not?

I recently fired someone, and ya know what? It took over a year. In a large corporation an HR department needs strong documentation of what the issue is, how it effects the team, how it effects the business, and proof that the employee has been made aware and given all necessary tools to change. If that can be proven and the changes have not been made, then the person can be let go. I was stuck in a situation where the employee did not work in the same office as me and I had to rely on others to provide feedback. If they didn’t then I had nothing to go off of. I needed proof that the employee was not improving despite the additional discussions, warnings, and trainings she had received. There were people who wondered why I wasn’t doing anything, but refused to provide feedback at the same time. I was doing site visits, asking for feedback, documenting everything possible. I was assigning training classes, following up, and more. I was stuck with a system that needed people to speak to me and people that refused to speak.

The manager of your BPD manager might be doing things that you aren’t aware of. Maybe they’re tying to document and people aren’t speaking up. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they’re in process providing new trainings and looking to see if it helps. We don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors. We can’t assume.

So along with taking ownership of your actions, make sure to document things and speak to your bosses boss when needed. Do so tactfully and in detail. Don’t speak on mental illness, that will make things far messier. Instead speak on specific examples of things that took place. It may take time to see improvement, but that doesn’t mean that the person isn’t being held responsible for their actions.

Here’s some examples of how to provide feedback:

Instead of “She just doesn’t understand boundaries” say “I stated last week that I am uncomfortable with her hugging, and yet she has continued to hug me.” Notice how the first statement is vague and could mean she walked past you too close for all we know. That will barely get a reaction from the big boss. The second statement, however, is an ethics violation and potentially sexual harassment. The person you report that to has to immediately follow up with some form of action.

Instead of “She has a bad temper” say “She began yelling at me in front of the team yesterday. I felt embarrassed and struggled to focus on my work the rest of the day.” The first statement could be her temper or your thin skin, no way for an outside party to know. The second statement is clearly her reacting poorly to a situation in a way that negatively impacted your work and employee moral. The first statement makes a manger want to say “work it out” while the second is likely to prompt a verbal warning if it’s the first documented offense or written warning if it’s been documented before.

Sometimes this still won’t make things change. I don’t know why, I’m not there. And it may still come to a point where you have to leave because the environment isn’t getting better. I get that. I’ve been there. I had a boss that had extremely high turnover and had a way of making her boss believe that it was because she had developed them for great things, when everyone who worked for her knew it’s because we’re all trying to get away from her. I attempted to provide feedback, my manager knew I might so never had anything in email. It was my word against hers and hers always won. I tried to switch teams and was told that I needed to learn how to work with others, and would not be allowed to work for anyone else. Meanwhile this boss was treating me and many others horribly. I left the company. They lost my skills and experience because of her. I was not the first, nor will I be the last. Last I heard from a previous coworker, her relationship with her boss doesn’t seem to be quite the same. She’s not on such a high pedestal, she’s not getting to run her team however she wants anymore, and her work is being more closely monitored. Enough people provided enough similar, and constructive, feedback that it’s finally being looked into. But not until after I had to get out.

Also keep in mind the potential for your boss to change. I recently called an employee “sweetie”. A habit of mine outside the office that accidentally slipped at the office. He reported it to my boss who mentioned it to me. Not only am I being more careful what I say to him, I am more careful what I say in general. I need to change to ensure my team feels comfortable at work. Whether the change is before or after an employee leaves, it is possible.

I’m wishing you all the best in your career! Please remember that things can get better and less stressful even if it requires tough choices to be made.

Questions about your boss with BPD?

From day one the most common search term for this site has been “my boss has borderline personality disorder.” That hasn’t changed. In fact it’s become even more frequent. I spoke on this once before, but am not sure it actually answers anything you want to know. If you are coming to this blog trying to figure out how to work with a boss who may have BPD please feel free to post a question in the comments section. I will do my best to answer.

Advice from my husband

Me: What do you do when I’m batshit crazy. More than usual I mean. Like if someone said “my spouse is batshit crazy, any advice?” What advice would you give them?

Hubby: If you love them it doesn’t matter. That said, hiding is a great option!

Me: Lol, I mean like you love them and want to help them fight the depression and lack of confidence. You bring me coffee for example to show love, but what do you do that maybe I don’t see?

Hubby: I try to give you space, and try to be understanding at the same time. I try not to feed your insecurities and yeah I like to bring you stuff. It helps a lot when someone knows you care. Oh! And humor! Forgot that one. It’s hard to laugh and be sad at the same time.

My boss has Borderline Personality Disorder

The most common search term that brings people to my page is some variation of “my boss has borderline”. If that is what brought you here, this post is for you.

I don’t know what exactly brought you to search this, maybe curiosity, maybe struggles working with your boss, maybe seeking advice, maybe one of 10thousand other reasons. I’m going to do my best to give a good overview for everyone, but please feel free to post questions or comments if there is something I missed.

First, what is Borderline? There are plenty of medical explanations online so I won’t bore you with those. Best way for me to explain it is to say it’s like having an emotional paper cut in your brain. You know how you get a papercut on your finger at it’s so tiny? Then you put on hand sanitizer and holy crap that hurts! And it’s strange how something so tiny and common can hurt so bad. That is BPD. Every emotion is extreme to the point of terrible pain. Something so small can have a huge impact. Every emotion you have, a person with BPD has far stronger. And this isn’t now and again, it is 24/7, it doesn’t stop, ever.

So how do you deal with someone who has borderline, and has such an impact on your life like a manager does? Best advice I can give is to remember that everyone has something that makes work more difficult. Maybe a physical condition, maybe a mental condition, maybe family issues, maybe a learning style that is difficult to accommodate, there are so many things that can impact the way someone works. We all have something. Be patient with that persons something just as you want others to be patient with your something.

Something that is typically a question friends and family ask, but that can also apply to coworkers, is “how can I encourage them to get help?” And the answer is, you can’t. Treatment is a personal choice that cannot be forced by someone else. And BPD messes with the brain when it comes to relationships. So for many of us, having someone push for us to get treatment translates to something like “they hate me, I should give up”. Inaccurate, I know, but that’s mental illness for you. Welcome to my world.

Worst case scenario. You tried being patient, you’ve tried working things out, your exhausted and your work is less productive and less enjoyable from the stress. What do you do? Get a new job. It sucks to be put in that position, yes. But a company cannot fire on the basis of mental illness, so unless your boss quits or transfers, it’s up to you to find a team you fit better. And if you were doing really well at being patient and understanding then chances are you can transfer internally rather than moving companies if that is what you want. Also, most HR departments will do an exit interview. When asked why you left, explain that it is because of a wrong fit with your managers work style. It’s honest and helps them to consider that. If this happens frequently than the company may look at that manager to see if maybe they should be moved to a different position to avoid this in the future. But again, don’t mention mental illness. This opens up the company for a potential discrimination lawsuit, therefore making it more difficult to look into possible changes in position for that manager.

I hope this helps at least a little bit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, I am open to helping you understand this from the point of view of a Borderline as best as I can.

Update: I go into a little more detail in a second post. Please remember that you can always ask questions, and there should be the option to post them here anonymously.

I suck at therapy

Therapist- “So how have you been doing?”

Me- “good”

Translation- EVERYTHING SUCKS BUT I MUST HIDE IT!

___________________

Therapist- “how’s work going?”

Me- “it’s fine. Better I think. I mean it’s stressful, but that’s just because there’s a lot going on. That’s not my anxiety or anything, it’s just a busy time. It’s fine.”

Translation- Yeah, my anxiety is going nuts.

__________________

Therapist- “have you been making time for self care?”

Me- “yeah, it’s just not working.”

Translation- I half assed some meditation and gave up.

__________________

Clearly I’m not doing this right, luckily she knows me well enough to move these coversations to the truth. But I’ve decided to start bringing my DBT or CBT worksheets back to therapy in hopes of externalizing my shit better. So which would you recommend I start with? Have you done worksheets from DBT or CBT?

 

When better is worse

This is why I hate meds. It takes so long to figure out if anything is even working. Not just the time for it to kick in, that’s expected, and the psych always warns you of that waiting game. Not even the addition of the time waiting for side effects to clear, I know my body well enough to expect that too. No I’m talking about the waiting game to see if better really is better. That’s what I’m struggling with right now.

Once the side effects went down I started feeling better, then last week I started feeling worse. At least I think it’s worse. When I hit a rough depression I think the deadness inside is the worst, and desperately want to feel again. But when my emotions take a turn to anger, anxiety, and just plain overwhelming, I long for the depression that shuts it all off. 

Currently I am having more panic attacks, and my anger is hitting hard. My emotions are easier to trigger and harder to control. My sleep and my dreams are out of whack. But on the plus, I am able to more successfully meditate right now so that helps a lot to keep me going. 

I’ve faced this so many times before with med changes that need further tweaking so am quick to blame that. But I also have a lot of stress triggers from actual life right now. So is it life or meds? I can’t tell. How do you even tell the difference? I’m honestly asking, and all advice is welcome! 

I’m stuck right now in a cycle of being on top of the world and then completely hating myself. My self esteem is all over the place. I can snap from joy to anger and back in just minutes. I can panic at the drop of a hat. I don’t want to tell the psych and get overmedicated, but I don’t want to ignore it if it’s not just factors of life. I wish my therapy appointment was before my psychiatrist appointment. I’m so confused.

Coping with BPD – relationships

One of the most common things I hear when it comes to being close to someone with BPD is the need to “walk on eggshells”. And it’s something I’ve heard from my own husband, though thankfully not for a while. We’ve been married for 10 years and I would hate to think he feels he couldn’t be honest with me. So here are some tips I have for coping with your borderline personality disorder in a way that allows close and honest loving relationships. Things that help remove eggshells and build a better bond. I’m not perfect at this by any means, and my husband and I still have our struggles, but we are also still desperately in love and stronger in our relationship than ever before.

  1. Be honest about your disorder, and focus on the medical aspects when explaining it. My husband finally began to understand after he was diagnosed with diabetes. They’re not the same obviously, but he is an extraordinarily healthy man who has diabetes purely because of his genetics. No matter how much he excersises or how perfect his diet is, he will always require medication. The same is true of me, no matter how much therapy I have, or how much I meditate, I will likely always need some form of mood stabilizer and antidepressant. 
  2. Invite your significant other to therapy. My therapist is more than happy to have my husband there so we can chat together. She asks me to invite him any time I’m going through changes in my disorder, especially if she fears I’m not being fully honest with him. However, do NOT see the same therapist separately. Paranoia can be part of BPD, so when you and your SO talk to a therapist, do it together. Remain in the same room together the whole time, otherwise you will likely become very agitated trying to figure out what he’s “saying behind your back”. If your SO wants to see a therapist on his own, have yours recommend a colleague for him. 
  3. Good days are for hanging out! Yes I have bad days where I curl up in bed and don’t leave or participate in life. Yes I become freakishly angry sometimes and start nasty arguments. Yes I have times where I cry uncontrollably. But I also have good days, and on those days we cherish our time together. We play board games, and watch sitcoms, and have loud sex. There will always be ups and downs, make the ups count!
  4. Let your significant other lean on you sometimes. Being married to me can be exhausting. There are many times my husband has to push down his emotions and let me lean on him. So when I’m feeling better I make it a point to see how he’s doing emotionally. And when his stress shows up, I am there. I give him extra time to sleep, I put on his favorite movie, I listen while he vents. Just because he does not have borderline does not mean he doesn’t struggle with his own emotions. I need to always be aware of that.
  5. Don’t weigh your emotions against those of your SO. This is something I struggled with a lot. “Oh, you think it’s hard on you?!?! How do you think I feel?!!!!” All that does is drive a wedge between us, so I worked really hard to stop doing it. I remind myself that one persons pain does not lower that of another’s. If your leg is broken, does that mean my stubbed toe won’t hurt? Of course it will hurt, of course I’m gonna yell some curse words at my toe. Just because it’s not as bad doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

The best piece of advice I ever heard about marriage in general is that it is not 50/50 but rather 100/100. You don’t give half way and expect the other to match it. Give your all because you love him and want to. Sometimes my all sucks, it’s small because of my disorder, but I still give all that I can. I expect nothing in return and therefore am able to truly cherish all that he gives.

The one thing I haven’t been able to figure out yet is how to not assume he hates me. While he shows me love consistently, I know my disorder is difficult on him, and simultaneously my disorder tells me how unlovable I am. When we argue I have a habit of yelling “why do you hate me?” When I’m crying I ask “do you hate me now?” And I have to stop doing this and find ways to remind myself of his love no matter how my brain lies. I hope to make real progress on this through my therapy this year. 

What other tips are there? What have you found useful in your relationships? Whether you have BPD or not, relationships are hard, so add some tips in the comments!