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.

Failed them again

It was supposed to be family movie night. I would come home from work, we’d snuggle on the couch, drink some hot cocoa, and watch Cars 3. But I got to work and all plans left my mind. While I focused on the mountains of paperwork and hours of analysis and data entry, my husband went to the Thanksgiving event at the kids school. While I struggled to help my team balance work and make realistic goals to avoid unnecessary stress, my husband helped the kids with their homework, encouraging them as they continue to learn. And as the work day came to a close, I stayed. Forgetting movie night, I sat at work to try to get stuff done. I felt so far behind and wanted a chance to catch up. Until an hour before bedtime when my husband called and asked “aren’t you coming home?” “Yeah, just finishing up a couple more items.” “What about the movie? The kids have been watching for you to come home so we can start.”

I failed my family. I prioritized wrong and missed a chance to snuggle my kids. I got home and they were so sad because it was too late to watch the movie. I apologized, they wandered off to play a little before bed but still with these sad faces. A couple minutes later I heard giggles. Went to see what cheered them up so fast. They were playing with Daddy. My husband to the rescue, again.

I love that they are so close to their Daddy, and that my husband is always there for them. But I feel like such a failure as a mother. Tonight I felt that terribly. I still do. How can my work become so important that I lose sight of spending time with the kids? Will I ever have a chance to prove I can be there for them? Or will Daddy always be the one they need?

I stand for my team

I report to two managers. I have learned what goes to who and how to work with both, but something has set off one of them recently. I have some guesses as to what, but what doesn’t matter, not when you’re coming after my team. She has begun telling me off for how I manage certain things that are technically under the other managers responsibilities, who is perfectly fine with how I’m running things. She’s pissed that she can’t control this aspect and it shows. She has begun demanding I start writing up my employees for things they have not done wrong. Most of the time I can protect them from that and they have no idea how I am standing up for them when they can’t see it. But occasionally I can’t, she finds (or forces) a way around me.

Yesterday one of my employees compared us to the angel/demon on the shoulders. That technically we say the same things, but it is so drastically different in approach that it feels like those two separate entities. This breaks my heart. No one should feel torn like this at work, work is stressful enough on its own. I want to merge the gap, but how do I do that without losing some of that “angel” side I feel they deserve?

When we have differing opinions she demands that I look at it from a “business standpoint.” That it isn’t her showing a lack of empathy, it’s her watching out for the business because she has to. Well I call bullshit on that! Want to look from a “business standpoint?” Fine, let’s do that.

There are numerous studies on the cost of employee turnover, a good starting point if you’re interested is here. Not only does it have strong explanations, but also links to multiple other studies and articles. In general it is estimated that for each employee lost the company is paying 1.5 to 2 times their annual salary to replace them. So let’s throw out a random number and say your entry level employee is making $12 per hour. Annual salary is $24,960 so the cost to lose and replace that employee will cost $37,440 to $49,950.

So here is one of numerous examples over the last few weeks. An employee is running in at the last minute and clocking in a few minutes late because she had to spend her lunch break getting her mother to the doctor. I am aware, and mention to try to get in a bit earlier and call if you’re going to be late, but that I understand that things sometimes make that hard. I don’t tell little miss “business standpoint” cause it’s none of her goddamn business. Someone else in the office complains and she pulls me aside to say it’s “embarrassing” to have someone else bring it to her attention and that I need to issue a written warning. I mention that the employee technically is on time, but I understand the perception issue and will speak to her. I will not issue a written warning as this has not been an issue in the past and in fact you had just complimented this exact employee on her timeliness. “Well I was looking at a different period of time. This is not acceptable to this business!”

So the following morning I chat with said employee and explain that there are perception issues that can cause concern if coming in at the last minute, and beyond that it is also more stressful for you as well. Try to get in about 10min early as often as possible to have that extra time to settle in and not feel or look hurried. She says that makes a lot of sense, and that she was told we would be “having this chat” but that it made a lot more sense than the previous afternoons conversation. What? Yeah, bitch face had pulled the employee aside after speaking with me the day before and told her that “if you can’t remember to come on time, you can’t continue to work here.”

So let me get this straight. A temporary timeliness issue in order to get your mom to the doctor is worth costing the company tens of thousands of dollars so you can show off your “business standpoint?” And this is one of numerous instances over the course of the last few weeks. I can only imagine what she’s saying to my other manager to see if she can get him to write me up while we’re at it. I only wonder if he will stand for me as much as I do for my team.

Misconceptions about Borderline Personality Disorder 

My last post mentioned the fact of constant misconceptions of people with Borderline Personality Disorder. I mentioned a number of articles, but I want to speak to one in general that was extremely upsetting to me. This article appears on Forbes, a site I love to check out for business topics. It hits so many common misconceptions of BPD. And it is one of the first things Google recommends when you’re trying to research Borderline Personality Disorder in an office environment or leadership role.

Here’s part 1 of the article https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2016/03/26/bullies-borderline-bosses-and-narcissists-how-to-survive-then-thrive-part-1/#5bf52b127c9b

Here’s part 2 of the article https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2016/04/02/bullies-borderline-bosses-and-narcissists-how-to-thrive/2/#390559bc18fd 

Want to know the truth of BPD in the office? Here we go….


Misconception #1 – “we’re all a little bit borderline” 

Wait, what? No, it doesn’t work that way. This is actually stated in both parts of the article, so let me clear this up. According to the National Allince on Mental Illness (NAMI), to be diagnosed with BPD you must have at least 5 of the following 9 symptoms:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid being abandoned by friends and family.
  • Unstable personal relationships that alternate between idealization—“I’m so in love!”—and devaluation—“I hate her.” This is also sometimes known as “splitting.”
  • Distorted and unstable self-image, which affects moods, values, opinions, goals and relationships.
  • Impulsive behaviors that can have dangerous outcomes, such as excessive spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse or reckless driving.
  • Suicidal and self-harming behavior.
  • Periods of intense depressed mood, irritability or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days.
  • Chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness.
  • Inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable anger—often followed by shame and guilt.
  • Dissociative feelings—disconnecting from your thoughts or sense of identity, or “out of body” type of feelings—and stress-related paranoid thoughts. Severe cases of stress can also lead to brief psychotic episodes.

– See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Borderline-Personality-Disorder#sthash.4eN5Me3a.dpuf

If you do not have at least 5 of these symptoms, you are not Borderline, not even a little. If you have some of these symptoms and they are of concern, then you may want to speak with your doctor or therapist about the possibility of a different mental illness. If you have none of them but have extreme moods during difficult times, then guess what, you’re human and alive. Congratulations. 

Misconception #2 – Categorizing people with BPD

Comaford actually pulls these 4 categories from the book “Understanding the Borderline Mother” by Christine Lawson. I have not read the book so cannot speak to it. But the Forbes article describes the same categories. The Waif, the Hermit, the Queen/King, and the Witch/Warlock. 

Yes, I took the quiz at the end, no I do not fit a single category. Everyone has their own path, their own personality, there own knowledge and experience, and therefore their own reaction to mental illness. My borderline is not the same as yours. People with any form of mental illness, or even physical illness for that matter, do not fit into a nice little category. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Misconception #3 – “true borderlines are not capable of deep long-term relationships and cannot be present during intense emotion”

That is a direct quote from the article. The entire sentence is wrong on so many levels. First, I am a person WITH borderline, not a “borderline”. My diagnosis doesn’t define me. Second, eliminate the word “true”. As established earlier, you either do or do not have BPD, there is no middle ground.

Third, why are relationships being completely ruled out here? I have been married for 10 years. I have had my best friend in my life for 29 years. I am close to both of my children, neither of whom notice my mental illness. Does that mean I’m not “true borderline” despite having 8 of the 9 symptoms listed above?

Fourth, yes someone with BPD can be present during intense emotion. In fact our whole brain is essentially intense emotion. So not even sure what that means.

Misconception #4 – Narcissism and BPD are the same thing

This is the most common misconception I hear. So let me set this straight. According to the Mayo Clinic, most experts diagnos Narcissistic Personality Disorder using the DSM-5 which lists the following qualities:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20025568

Now compare this to the diagnostic list above for BPD and tell me how many traits match between the two…I’ll give you a hint, the answer is 0. 

Misconception #5 – A “borderline” is just someone to be dealt with

Having BPD does not magically make me an issue in your life that must be dealt with. I can understand where this comes from as BPD is difficult to diagnose and treat. It can therefore become more visible and disruptive than some other disorders. However this is changing. The American Psychology Association discusses how the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has gone a long way to helping people with BPD seek treatment, and stick with treatment. More and more people are succeeding because they have worked hard to stay high functioning despite their illness.

http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar04/treatment.aspx

I have spoken to the concept of “dealing” with a boss with BPD before as that has always been the most common search term that brings people to this blog. But the fact is there are so many people with Borderline getting treatment. There are so many whom you would never know have this diagnosis. And you are not just “dealing” with them. They are your friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and you enjoy time with them having no idea the daily internal battle of their mind.


I hope this article cleared up some of the misconceptions. I also ask that you please share this article. When someone with BPD does a google search similar to mine, I want what they see to be truth and hope, not Forbes articles spreading lies and confusion.

I have spent a great deal of time crying because I “can’t” be successful because of statements like those above. To anyone out there who has shed those same tears, I want you to know you are not alone, you are not hopeless, you are not just someone to be dealt with. You are an amazing human being who is incredibly strong as you have to fight your own brain every day. You are treatable, and have every chance to be successful. You can have stable relationships and good jobs. You are worth that success and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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.

Coping with BPD – Work

 I was training a new hire once and half way through his shift I asked how he was liking the job so far, to which he responded “Honestly, I’m just glad you’re not crazy like my last boss.” I laughed and said “Maybe I am and I’m just better at hiding it”. His response “no, you don’t understand, she had something called Borderline Personality Disorder. She was crazy, and really difficult to work for.” 

I realized 2 things that day. First, that I’ll never tell my team or manager my diagnosis. And second, that it is not about the diagnosis, it’s about how you work through it. He worked for me for nearly two years and never thought of me as crazy, or unstable, or difficult to work for. When he left it was because he had to move out of state for personal reasons, and he admitted that if ever returning he would love to work for me again. I had the same disorder as his past manager, so why was the experience under me so different for him?

One thing I’ve learned is that everyone has something they are trying to overcome at work. It’s different for everyone, but we all have something. As an employee I’ve learned to not let it get me down, but fight through. I’m honestly a stubborn bitch and refuse to let any disorder dictate how I live my life. Sometimes being a bitch is good. 

As a manager I remember this and look to help my team overcome whatever it is that they are fighting. My disorder does not make me a bad manager, but instead allows me to better understand their struggles. When an employee is struggling with a task I look for the underlying cause and adapt. Maybe I’m using the wrong teaching method, maybe they need to learn a different task first, maybe it’s just not the right timing. I look for that and help them to overcome. 

Personally I find it harder to be a good employee than a good manager when it comes to BPD. I can adjust to help others far easier than I can adjust to help myself. I can get highly emotional when my boss and I meet seperatly and it’s something he really just does not understand. This fact has held me back from multiple promotions and that does nothing but increase the stress and frustration that comes with my BPD.

But when things get tough I remind myself of the “key to staffing” that I once learned at a seminar. It’s about putting the right person in the right position. Everyone is the right person, but that does not mean it is the right position. If my BPD is getting in the way of a future position it is not because I am wrong for it, it is because it is wrong for me. My BPD is frustrating and stressful and makes me feel crazy, but it also makes me think fast, plan more long term, and better understand others struggles. So I will focus on my strengths and work positions that fit me.

Here are some little tips to get through the tough days. I hope these help as you fight to find your fit.

  1. Take breaks. Do not skip them and “power through”, it will aggravate your symptoms, and cause you to loose focus.
  2. Meditate. I meditate during my lunch break cause there’s no way in hell I’m waking up early enough in the morning to do so before work. But find the schedule that works for you and just be sure to fit it in.
  3. Wear items that make you feel confident. Maybe it’s heals, or a tie, or your favorite necklace. Whatever it is, make sure it’s ready to be worn on your roughest days to give you that extra boost.
  4. Schedule an extra therapy appointment during more triggering seasons. I recently started doing this and it has been very effective at helping me not get all the way to my breaking point.
  5. Remove” work at the end of the day. Find a symbolic way to remove work so you can set it aside when you get home. For me it’s removing my makeup. I put on my “managers mask” each morning as a mental task of making me feel strong and prepared for the day to come. I take it off each evening allowing the stress of the day and the tasks yet to be accomplished to wipe away with it so I can focus on the natural joy of my family and my home.