Borderline Personality Disorder,  Boundaries

Burnout, Compassion Fatigue and why non-BPDs lack compassion for borderlines

Emotional Burnout

Do non-BPDs have enough compassion for people with Borderline Personality Disorder? A few months ago, Dr. Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD,’s BPD guide, posted a message entitled “Have Compassion” in which she said: “Many times each week I receive reader comments, forum posts, and personal emails that are incredibly hateful toward people with BPD. I do understand that many people have been hurt by individuals with BPD, and that usually these comments are written from a place of pain and anger. But, I am often shocked by the level of vitriol in these comments.” She went on to implore non-BPDs to have compassion for those suffering from BPD saying: “People with BPD deserve your compassion. I am not saying that people with BPD do not behave in ways that are hurtful, nor that they should not have to accept responsibility for these actions (and, by the way, you may not realize it, but they usually do, after the fact, and with a deep sense of shame, guilt, and remorse).”

In January, Randi Kreger, the author of “Stop Walking on Eggshells” and “The Essential Family Guide to BPD”, responded to this message on her “Stop Walking on Eggshells” blog. She responded: “Yes, Family Members Are Compassionate! In fact, family members (FM) of people with BPD are some of the most compassionate people out there. Those who know about BPD are aware their BPD FM didn’t ask for the disorder.”

I have been thinking about both of these posts for months. I have noticed that when non-BPDs “wash up on the shores of the ATSTP list” they are generally NOT compassionate. I also have found that just telling them that their borderline loved ones “deserve their compassion” does not work. There has to be a period of learning, skills application and understanding the mechanics of the disorder before they begin to develop compassion for their loved ones with BPD. So, I asked myself: why?

When reading The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (a book about how “normal” people behave in evil ways), I stumbled onto two concepts that I believe explain why non-BPDs do not have compassion for their borderlines at the beginning. These concepts are: Emotional Burnout and Compassion Fatigue.

Emotional Burnout

Burnout (or emotional burnout) is characterized by three basic building blocks. Those are (with an explanation of each with respect to non-BPDs):

Emotional Exhaustion – the emotional intensity of the interactions with a borderline are exhausting. As I indicate in “When Hope is Not Enough” the emotional tolerance of someone with BPD is set far lower than a person without BPD. Therefore, emotional crises are much more likely to occur. I know from experience with my family members that have emotional regulation issues, I get very tired when there’s an EDM (emotionally dysregulated moment). Some of these “moments” can last a while, thirty minutes or longer, and it’s very difficult for me to have compassion when I am emotionally exhausted.

Cynicism – unfortunately, because the emotional tolerance of a person with BPD is set so low, I have found that many non-BPDs are quite cynical about the reactions of a borderline to “trivial” things. Often, non-BPDs express that their borderlines are “freaking out” over “nothing” or that the borderlines are just inherently evil (in fact, my post about “demonic possession and BPD” is one of the most popular and most commented upon on this blog). BPD is often thought to be a “character flaw” or a case of the borderline just “behaving badly”. These attitudes lead to more cynicism on the part of the non-BPDs. Additionally, the non-BPD’s compassion is often conditional. It seems to be a case of “I’ll have compassion for you when you start to behave better (or go into treatment or get out of the fantasy world you’re living in)”. This leads to more cynicism, because the borderline is not “keeping up their end of the bargain.”

Inefficacy – I have written about learned helplessness on this blog before. I feel that the non-BPDs try to control that over which they have no control. This leads to inefficacy (and learned helplessness). The idea that nothing they try has any effect on the situation.

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Fatigue is a condition that generally health care professionals (such as nurses) or charity donors develop when they have just “seen too much pain and suffering” to extend their compassion. I think with respect to non-BPDs, it begins to develop when (through cynicism) the non-BPD begins to feel that the borderline is “crying wolf” too many times (i.e. they are getting “overly upset” about things that are “trivial” and that the intensity of the reactions are “too much” for the situation as the non-BPD sees it). Non-BPDs then begin to withdrawal their compassion. I once had a therapist tell me and my wife that we couldn’t continue to “live at the intensity level that we were living at.” I believe that because of “psychic equivalence” (when the borderline gets into “feelings = facts” mode, or that their mind actually reflects the environment, even when it is misaligned with how the non-BPD sees things), the non-BPD develops more and more cynicism about the behavior of the borderline, gets emotionally exhausted by the frequent emotional crises and gets discouraged when all that they’ve been taught to do (boundaries, tough love, behavioral contracts, talking sense to the borderline, etc.) don’t have any effect, the non-BPD develops compassion fatigue and begins to feel that the borderline is just “dramatic” or a “lost cause”. Interestingly, compassion fatigue is also referred to as secondary traumatic stress disorder, which seems to apply to the situation with non-BPDs.

So, do non-BPDs have enough compassion for borderlines? At the beginning, before they begin to behave effectively and before they adjust their attitudes about BPD, I’d have to say “no”. However, emotional burnout and compassion fatigue CAN be combated. How? I’ll cover that in a subsequent post.


  • ibbrainer

    I believe that this hits the mark. Nons are very compassionate, sometimes for many years, but this begins over time to take a severe emotional toll, especially when, as noted above, the tools and techniques recommended by therapists do not seem to have an impact and progress is not only evident but often the condition is worsening not improving.

    This situation is exacerbated by nons often never being given the true diagnosis for their loved ones (due to the current state of the health care industry’s view of this disorder), so not only are nons not getting valid input, they do not even have the right information in order to seek out proper tools.

    To top all that off, some therapists go further and blame the nons for the BP’s issues – this situation in its entirety is guaranteed to produce frustration and anger.

    Imagine if this happened with your loved one with a severe illness – wouldn’t the feelings and results be very similar? In fact – they often are (see fibromyalgia, lupus, and other less-understood disorders). The only difference between that and BPD is that BPD causes severe emotional dysregulation that leads to very poor behavior, so its much more difficult to anyone to understand it (medical and lay people alike). So blaming the patient and their families is like blaming someone for getting sick – it is not their fault, and many are dealing with it as best they know how while simultaneously begging for answers from the medical community and not getting them.

  • ibbrainer

    I meant to say “progress is not only not evident” (or should have said – “no progress is evident”

  • Nichelle

    Here’s the problem with this article. The author says “I know from experience with my family members that have emotional regulation issues, I get very tired when there’s an EDM (emotionally dysregulated moment). Some of these “moments” can last a while, thirty minutes or longer, and it’s very difficult for me to have compassion when I am emotionally exhausted.” That’s nowhere near the length or viciousness of acting out that children and mates of more severe BPDs witness. A BPD can bounce you off a wall, scream at you while beating you until welts appear, throw you out of the house and then calmly and convincingly tell your family you assaulted them and ran away. That’s one of my memories. How appropriate is it to ask me to have compassion for someone who has done this to their own child?

  • Nichelle

    One last thing, I think it’s wrongheaded to try to elicit compassion from nons. I think it’s more appropriate to work hard at eliciting it from professional caregivers. No one would seriously tell an abuse victim to try to understand her man or his woman and have compassion. There’s an understanding that certain behaviors are so destructive that severing the relationship is the healthiest thing for the victim to do. Being family is not some life sentence where no matter what the spouse or parent does you must dig deep and find compassion.

  • Bon Dobbs

    Was your “BPD” actually diagnosed with BPD? My family members have been and have been to DBT. The behavior you describe can certainly be an indication of BPD (or other disorders), yet it is the description of a case that happened to you and can’t necessarily be generalized to every person with BPD. As for compassion, I believe that all people, BPD or not, are deserving on compassion, but maybe that’s just me.

  • Nichelle

    So, given the opportunity to respond to ibbrainer and myself you’ve dismissed the reality of all the abuse they can and do dish out, the therapists who blame the victims (nons), and still support the unrealistic expectation that family victims of people with BPD should be compassionate? That’s fine in theory but how does that serve the non? You may not know since you aren’t actually a doctor and this is all just your opinion, correct? This is quoted from your other site, “I am NOT a doctor or mental health professional. Each of the posts in this blog are based on my personal experiences and research about Borderline Personality Disorder. Please do not take any advice provided as professional or medical advice. If you have BPD or are in a relationship with someone with BPD, I encourage you to seek professional mental health help.”
    As for your comment that “The behavior you describe can certainly be an indication of BPD (or other disorders), yet it is the description of a case that happened to you and can’t necessarily be generalized to every person with BPD.” The doctor you quoted for this article, Kristalyn Salters Pedneault PhD, has said about BPD that “the diagnosis is associated with an increased risk of violence. Impulsive behavior, which includes physical aggression, is one of the diagnostic criteria for BPD (although someone can meet criteria for the disorder without demonstrating this symptom).” So I am most certainly NOT off the mark in mentioning the propensity for violence. It’s common enough to be one of the criteria for diagnosis.

  • dan

    “”As for compassion, I believe that all people, BPD or not, are deserving on compassion, but maybe that’s just me.””

    Mr. Dobbs, I was considering buying your book but reading this line made me decide against it. This sounds like a line my BPD ex girlfriend would say. You are implying that the person you are responding to is not compassionate and you will probably reply by saying that you were not implying that. But read what you wrote. I am talking specifically of the line “but maybe that’s just me” It sounds childish and I think I have maybe heard that exact phrase from my ex girlfriend before.

    I only want to let you know how you came across, maybe you did not realize. I do respect you for writing the book and for having this website and doing what you can to help others.

    You are right that BPD’s deserve compassion but it can be so hard. I tried and tried everything I could for two years to make my relationship work. I was always there, always supportive, but I was always accused and not appreciated. I was loved one second and hated the next. All the classic symptoms. It hurts so much especially when you think you have made some progress and grown closer, and then all of a sudden you are back to square one and you feel like that person does not even know you. They can be so hurtful and nasty and I felt like my heart was closed off to that person bit by bit and I couldn’t help it. I compare it to trying to help a hurt snake or badger and you just want to help but they viciously attack you. How much can you keep trying?

    I am apart from my girlfriend now. We have broken up and gotten back together many times before. I don’t know if it’s possible to ever make it work that is why I ended it but I really did love her and it is hard to let go.

    Thanks for your work.

  • Bon Dobbs

    Actually, this whole line of discussion has been a bit perplexing to me. I don’t condone abuse or excuse it in any way. The article to which you’ve responded specifically tries to explain why there’s a lack of compassion within nons – and why that lack of compassion is NORMAL. The post was written in response to Dr. Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD’s assertion that nons SHOULD have compassion for people with BPD. I say: “I also have found that just telling them that their borderline loved ones “deserve their compassion” does not work.” So, perhaps my statement, that all people deserve compassion (BPD or not)” was misguided in trying to do the very thing that I have found through experience that is misguided. I also was responding to Randi Kreger’s blog post that non’s have a lot of compassion for BPD’s, which I have not found to be the case. I was thinking, in my statement, about my daughter with BPD, who, without compassion from those who love her (including my wife, her therapist, her siblings and myself) would have been much less likely to have recovered as effectively as she has. Her story is something of a miracle and I found that I couldn’t change her behavior (some of it abusive toward herself and others) directly. Instead, only by changing my approach to her has had an effect. My work is to explain, not to excuse. I certainly don’t mean to sound “preachy” which I probably did sound in those statements. Anyway, as for the ad hominem attack on me not being a therapist or professional, that is true, I am not a professional or a therapist. I am an amateur in the true sense of the word. I love to see people grow change and feel better in their lives and in their relationships. I have met hundreds of people with BPD and thousands of their family members. I have seen many relationships improve. That being said, leaving is a valid option, especially if you have been abused.

  • Carmen

    Well I am at a loss. I am a highly compassionate person. I do massage therapy for a living and take care of my 89 year old mother. My BPD ex partner has left me for the second time in two years. The first time was to have a 4 month affair with their boss and now because I don’t give them any freedom, etc. The first time around the verbal abuse was rampant and extremely hurtful. I was ridiculed about my body, way of dressing, my massage career, my friends, my life and every little possible thing. The BPD didn’t want me to eat certain foods, or wear certain clothes, or see certain people, or eat unless they ate as the noise bothered them. Had to brush my teeth 20 times a day so I wouldn’t have bad breath. God forbid their sensitive nose would smell something unappealing and accuse me. A host of things I tried to make sense of to no avail. The second time around my cautious walk back into the relationship was met with apathy, indifference, and then they began the cycle of withholding sex, physical touch and emotional intimacy. I closed down from it and began to lose all compassion and empathy. I set up some boundaries that they couldn’t handle and I was accused of being controlling and abusive. My BPD ex still wants to be friends but text me from a bar saying they were hanging out with a few ex lovers. I refuse to answer and we have no contact. I am empty of any good feelings towards them and I struggle with my wanting be more compassionate. How can I feel anything good at this point. Should I be to blame? How is there hope? The BPD does not want treatment of any kind.

  • Bon Dobbs


    Sounds as if you’ve been through the wringer with your BPD ex partner. Sometimes it’s best to move on. It’s hard to have compassion for someone when you’re burnt out and emotionally in turmoil. Heal yourself first.


  • katie

    @ Carmen:

    To me it sounds as if your expartner was so abusive not mainly because he was bpd, but because he was a sexist asshole.

    Also what makes me really sad is that people really always think all borderliners are the same. They are not. My best friend does have bpd and I’ve never met anyone else in my entire life who was so supportive and lovely. Actually she is the first friend I ever had not to be abusive towards me.

  • Cindie

    I hate BPD’s….they always wreck other people’s lives on top of their own, and then go about their merry fucking way!

  • Bon Dobbs

    I understand why you feel that way as I have seen a lot of heartache when it comes to BPD. Yet, there is an effective way to interact with people with BPD.

  • Cheri

    I have to agree with Cindi on this. My mother has BPD. It took over 30 years, several different judges, community mental health, and the sheriff’s department to force her into taking her meds and therapy. I would like to think I have compassion for her, and I have been able to forgive her for much of the evil that she inflicted on me and my siblings as children. However, when she finally drops dead someday the tears that I shed will not be of compassion or sadness as I have already morned her but of relief from this horrible disease that has destroyed my family and robbed me of my childhood.

  • Lea

    In order for a person who has BPD to make progress with the much needed help of a therapist, they need to make profound shifts involving self acceptance and forgiveness (for themselves and in many cases their significant others from a young age). There is no other way to recover. This takes the right supports and a lot of courage. You gain insight and compassion for yourself and others. So when I read many comments from people who have been severely hurt by someone with BPD I understand why they would contract and become small, and feel the need to defend themselves through anger and hate. And it makes me feel empathy, but also sad.

  • robert


    I feel that if i leave my bpd wife she will commit suicide. i feel trapped in a relationship that i feel will never improve. It’s been 7 years of constant bickering. SHe is unable to see her faults, unable to accept that her behavior causes other problems and consequently, it looks as though the problem comes from me.

    What do i do?

  • Bon Dobbs

    That’s a hard place to be. I’ve been there, but it’s been a while. Did you read my book? Also, you can join my Google Groups ATSTP support group. It can do a world of good in helping you do what you need to do.

  • robert

    Yes it is a very hard place to be in, especially when all you hear or feel is it is your fault.
    I have read your book.

    How do i deal with this constant criticism? Should i ignore and pretend that i don’t feel anything?
    I will join the support group!

  • Andre

    Interesting looking at your thoughts as I look for a new way to approach dealings with my uBPD sister. At least, I think she’s uBPD due to privacy laws, but I suspect I’m mistaken – she has, after all, been hospitalized 3 times and has criminally assaulted one therapist and criminally harassed another, so perhaps I’m one of the few who don’t know her whole story

    Which is what I find the major barrier in any dealings at all with BPDs, undiagnosed or otherwise. Nobody knows the whole story. My late ’70s-early ’80s parents probably know more about her story than anyone else (the mistake of “listening to the content”, as I think you put it somewhere) having listened to her rage on for up to ten hours a day, on upwards of forty phone calls and personal visits in that day, and yet the story still changes, much of it bearing no resemblance to anything told to, or by anyone else in her life – friends, other family members, coworkers. Some of them are in inefficacy, others in compassion fatigue, and a couple of others in emotional burnout.

    So when you say “I stumbled onto two concepts that I believe explain why non-BPDs do not have compassion for their borderlines at the beginning.”, I have no idea what you’re talking about. The very first time someone who is with a BPD has that “aha” moment – realizes that there’s something not quite right with the sufferer – the compassion reflex kicks in, and depending on conditions, that compassion goes on and on until terrible emotional hurt occurs or compassion burnout…. and then we go away for a little while, until we respond again.

    I remember that “aha” moment very well with my sister some 8 years ago. The implications took a long time to sink in, but the compassion was there from the very moment she slandered the neighbour she has just praised not fifteen seconds before. My shock was obvious, an I believe now that my sister was clear that some boundary had been breached, but she continued to confide in me, so I believe she felt no judgment.

    But over time, that has worn away. My parents are not themselves – both with strokes and other litanies of old age, they are scarcely capable of setting boundaries, which is a lower-order method of dealing with BPDs than you are talking about. One sister has cut off contact – not surprising since, as a single mother of two young children, and four years the junior and lacking the confidence of the elder, she felt herself often under threat, especially when the rifle was brought to the house for an unknown purpose. Of course, this younger sister recognized the symptoms four years earlier than the rest of us, but felt it would be a betrayal if she told the rest of the family – and you know whose request that was….

    Another sister across the country survives the intermittent contact, as do friends and relatives, and it looks like they all do that by setting their own boundaries. And now I’m all worn out and have set my own boundaries earlier this year. So now from the sufferer’s point of view, her isolation is complete. Her family indeed has betrayed her. Probably so have her friends. I see some of them could be characterized as having little, if not none, compassion for their borderline, but that’s a function of a decade of caring, not the initial reaction.

    Some borderlines are more capable than others. Having dealt extensively with one other friend for 25 years who suffers from bipolar disorder and delusions, I’m not exactly incapable. Yet I have no more desire to continue the relationship, especially when it looks like I’m going to be the one carrying the “anger” can for her now that my father is ill and in his dotage. Resolving the past issues that led to the illness may well involve me, but I know they also involve a lot more people than me. I’m I going to carry the burden of caring when her triggers include so many other people in her life that are limiting or eliminating their contact with her? I have no hope that my caring will be enough, and nobody can give me any assurance that it will be so.

    So I look at your solution to ignore the content, invite the context, and check out what it’s like inside the heads of BPD sufferers with considerable dismay. My parents certainly are unable to implement it – they cannot even deal with their own emotions around her stories. My youngest sister can’t. Should I? Why? For the best part of seven years I entered into her mind as far as I was able, and recognized a few horrible places, but to go further? Why? She’s very intelligent, and has been round the maze many times and found all the places where the cheese is hidden.

    As you point out elsewhere, regulating my own emotions may make the BPD sufferer think that I’m not placing enough importance on what the sufferer is telling me. It’s one of my coping mechanisms, and I know it looks like emotional detachment. Well, if they don’t get their anchor in reality from me, or from anyone else they talk to, then where do they get it from? How do they come to realize that what they perceive as threats really aren’t? how do they come to realise that my youngest sister is scared of her violence, not the other way around? How will she come to accept that everybody in [my city] is actually NOT on the payroll of the mental health team and beholden to a Mental Health Director who has actually never met her?

    I’m sorry, perhaps you say something in your new book that I should read, but when I read WHINE a couple of years ago, it didn’t stay on my shelves for some reason. I like your stand on emotional dysregulation, but if you think 30 minutes is a real bender, I don’t think you’re up on how utterly and violently abusive and manipulative BPD can be. For some I’m hopeful of a cure. For others, I despair of a long violent life before an utterly pointless end.

  • Harry

    For the agony inflicted on the victims of BPD (sufferers?) I know your pain, and the compassion we have given far exceeds a lifetime of compassion for any normal human. I will remain bitter at my wife for the rest of my life. I am sick of working on things just to get crapped on daily and told that everything I try at is worthless and insignificant. To you BPDs that keep your significant other up all night fighting before a test or a presentation. F*** you. I hate you all. If you step foot in my life and I find out you have BPD…. Youre gone. I will not allow this drama in my life anymore. I used to be a loving man, but now I know the true meaning of the word HATE and all of my hate is directed at you people with BPD. If every adult is supposed to be judged by their actions, than people with BPD are included in this category. If I constantly ridiculed my wife, I would expect her to leave me. Instead I get the ridicule, and I never tell her what is on my mind for a fear of a neverending fight. I am at the point where I don’t care anymore if she wants a battle, and I will win by getting a divorce. She can have everything, I just want my life back. For you BPD sufferers that think I am insensitive, try looking at how u treat your significant other and you will see the true meaning of the word insensitivity. Those with BPD give all their positive feelings to aquaintances, where those truly close get nothing but scrutiny and negativity. If anyone treats their significant other badly, they deserve to lose them. If any commitment youve made is going to interfere with your happiness for the rest of your life…. IT IS OK TO END IT!!!

  • bubba nonuthin

    What about sociopaths (antisocial personality disorder)? Should women (since most sociopaths are men, borderlines are women) who have been involved with sociopaths find compassion for them equal to what is being asked of their female borderline counterparts? Or is this just something available for females? If so, that is the problem…that damaged females can pull out the victim card, enter therapy, and ask all to see her as a victim. Yet sociopaths are just sent to prison mostly. Both of these personality disorder carry unknown amounts of violence, and the non can never know if that tendency will ever be materialized, for the socipath or the borderline. I doubt the boyfriend of Jody Arias (BPD female) thought she would ever get so enraged to shoot him in the forehead, stab him over 20 times, and slit his throat so deeply he was nearly decapitated.

    I think the real issue is that society still has, of yet, to see women equal to men in such things, and NOT want to “stroke the “victim turned victimizer” (ALL victimizers originate as victims themselves in early life, men and women) as an individual to have soft gushy feelings for.

  • Henderson

    This definitely applies to me. One of the causes of burnout and fatigue is that a lot of the rage and vitriol-the emotional dysregulation-is aimed at ME. And a lot of us feel that eventually we start turning into the monsters they make us out to be. I have more or less decided that even I can become more “effective” it isn’t worth it. I’ll be forever in a caretaker role, will not only get no credit for it but will be regularly abused, denigrated and raged at, blamed for nearly everything including her rage attacks, and generally have my mental health and well being undermined. And for what? A relationship is meant to create an environment for both partners to thrive. Can anyone seriously claim that thriving is possible with a BP? Surviving, sure. Maybe “doing ok,” having a good week, an unexpectedly nice holiday and so forth. Until the other shoe drops.

  • Zaphryn

    Bon Dobbs. Thanks for seeing us with BPD as people and being worthy of compassion. It means the world for someone like me (with BPD) to come across a site that actually wants to help and make a difference. Someone who believes in us, especially since it can be so hard for us to believe in ourselves. You have no idea. Especially when there is so much hate expressed towards this particular diagnosis, and I suppose for good reason.

    I think many here have experienced some really tough cases.. possibly BPDs with NPD as well, or perhaps even AsPD. I think it’s important for people to realize people with BPD are not all the same, and that it is a spectrum, just like autism. A lot of us have great empathy, strong feelings of guilt and remorse, a ton of self-awareness and a whole lot of frustration. It’s tough being trapped in a mind that acts against all logic and ignores your inner voice going “no! don’t!” but it does it anyway. I’d like to believe not all of us are out of reach and have a chance at getting better. Thanks for spreading that hope, Bon.

    Btw, ever thought of making a Facebook group for non’s?

  • erindippity

    I have suffered from BPD for years and so have my family and friends. You’re all correct. We are toxic monsters who don’t deserve to live on this Earth. But the only reason I haven’t gone is that I feel it’s a copout. I feel like I should have to suffer at least for a little while in the way I’ve made others suffer. No friends, no family, no music, no outings, movies, TV, nice food, alcohol, drugs. Am in this phase at present.

    I’ve sequestered myself in this way because I feel that it’s the only way to face the music and have some real consequences. I say this not to be melodramatic but the most decent thing I can think of to do is plan carefully from here, tie up loose ends, make a will and quietly check out of life. It’s been a gradual process, not impulsively suicidal like I have been in the past. I’ve just come to a rational conclusion after a lot of thought that it’s always going to be a case of me infecting everything and everyone with my toxic poison and always, despite good intentions, making the world a worse place.

    I have been doing some refugee/marriage equality activism for a few years but even there, I ruin and corrupt things with misplaced anger, righteousness and personal attacks. I’ve been an O-neg blood donor for years, yet every time I go to the blood bank I behave like a rude, entitled bitch. I can’t seem to help turning any good thing I do to try and atone.

    My current dilemma is finding a way to give some kind of kind closure to my parents, like making up a story about needing to change my name and disappear. They are pretty messed up people but they love me (god knows why) and they’ve done their best. They have been through the wringer and deserve what time they have left in peace with my two successful, decent, stable twin brothers, who I have a feeling would be secretly thrilled. I look at the four of them often and sometimes feel that somehow it’s how it was always meant to be.

    I am explicitly asking not for pity, sympathy, attention or to be talked out of this. I have sound political and practical views on rational suicide, a la Philip Nitschke.

    The point of this post is, I want people to know that BPDs do have self-reflection, empathy and regard for others.

    I know what I’ve done to others, what I deserve and I will do what needs to be done (as one commenter mentioned.

    Love to you all and sincere apologies to all those who have been hurt by borderlines. Xx

  • Smebdy

    Sigh. I am tired of hearing non bpds talk about how exhausting it is in such a hateful way. I understand it is exhausting but you don’t seem to realise that exhaustion is exemplified by 10 for bpds. Everyday is torture-you have no stability and you don’t know why. You cry all the time and you dont know why. Those outbursts you ‘deal’ with-well we have about 100 more in our own heads we never show- oh and yeah we aren’t trying to purposefully ruin your life. Just FYI. I’m so sick of the stigma.

  • Sitsnotknowingwhattodo

    How can I keep going when one day she implicates me and everyone else when she says “there just isn’t enough love to go around” and then the next she tells me everything that is wrong with everyone I hold dear. I just can’t hear it any more. She is trying to make me choose. I want to jump in a lake. This is my sister.

  • Sheri E Kaip

    I can see that hatred and anger is not okay towards the BPD, but it is understandable as they can cause so much damage and exhaustion but somehow always find a way to make it someone else’s fault.
    I am finding, with my 17 year old BPD daughter, she always finds a way to twist things and play the victim, getting people to feel sorry for her. And no matter how much understanding and compassion you give … IT IS NEVER ENOUGH!!!! She will be angry one moment for doing or saying something, and then angry the next because I stopped doing the exact same thing. It is tiring walking on eggshells all the time… and one slip up on my part, real or perceived, then the finger is pointed at me and I am to blame, by her and by whomener else she has managed to manipulate into beleiving her twisted way of seeing things.
    So who I truly think does not receive the help, support or compassion is the family of those with BPD

  • ClusterBSurvivor

    As someone raised in a “Cluster B Family” (a combo of BPD/NPD/Anti-Social), just had a few thoughts. To be clear, all of the following points are my opinion only based on my personal experiences. Also, when I say “PD’s”, I mean Cluster B specifically, since that’s what I’ve experienced.

    1) For those saying that we “shouldn’t” say someone has such and such unless they’ve been officially diagnosed, I would disagree in this case. Considering that Cluster B’s, by their very nature, are unlikely to seek/engage in treatment, and therefore more likely to remain undiagnosed for long periods (maybe indefinitely), then the non must make her/his best judgment about what is going on in order to know how to protect themselves in the interim. If they wait for an official diagnosis, they might never get out.

    2) RE: having compassion for people with Cluster B PD’s – one thing that’s really helped me recover is remembering that I don’t “owe” a feeling to anyone, be it compassion or otherwise, PD or not. Just in my personal experience, requests for compassion/understanding/forgiveness from PD’s are usually just another ploy to shift blame to the non (it’s not my fault for hurting you, it’s your fault for not forgiving/understanding me, etc), while giving them a heaping dose of more attention and drama in the meantime. I have to remind myself often that whether or not I forgive someone is none of their business, and as such I’m under no pressure or obligation to explain what I feel or why I feel that way, unless I want to. For what it’s worth, this has helped me stay more grounded when interacting with my family.

    3) Also, I disagree with the claim that the PD “doesn’t know” they’re hurting someone, that it’s an “accident,” or they just “can’t help it.” If this were true, then they would abuse all people in their life equally, including their boss, people at church/temple, fellow PTA members, friends, co-workers, etc. But they usually are fine with those “external” types, and reserve the abuse for those closest to them. This proves they DO know it’s inappropriate, and they CAN control it (if/when there’s enough in it for them.) Also, as a recovering BPD (diagnosed) myself, I’ve experienced those explosive emotions first-hand, and I know how overwhelming they can be. But I also know first-hand that there is ALWAYS an alternative to abusing other people. If someone is seriously telling you they’re so out of control that they “can’t help” harming others, then they need inpatient treatment immediately until it’s professionally determined that they no longer pose a threat to others. Otherwise, it’s just an excuse.

    My thoughts go out to everyone trying to get their heads around the insanity of living with Cluster B’s. At 36, I recently started reducing contact w/my family and setting hard boundaries (if they’re rude on the phone, I say “you’re being rude so I’m hanging up now” and CLICK. If it’s in person, I say “you’re being rude so I’m leaving now, good-bye” and walk away, etc.) This is the only method I’ve found that gets through to them.

  • burnedout

    After 18 years of dealing with my ex-wife, who was diagnosed with BPD in 2011, my compassion is all but gone. I have from marked disdain to what I’d describe as utter indifference at this point. Without going into the laundry list of blood-chilling detail in regards to her treatment of myself and her family, I will say that she embraced the diagnosis at first. She now denies it. She hates anyone who implies it. She has lost custody of 2 of her 3 children (two are mine). She ruined two marriages by the time she was 35. She cannot hold a job or be any less than an hour late for anything. No one in her family will speak to her. To her, THEY are crazy. She feigns love and empathy because she understands these are things that people are supposed to display, not because she truly feels it. And conversely resents anyone she feels displays actual compassion.
    This broke my heart for years, and while it is freeing to just not care about her any longer, I worry about how this will affect her children in years to come. My heart goes out to anyone dealing with a BPD loved one.

  • Broken

    I recently split from my BPD girlfriend. Couldn’t take any more hurt, manipulation and lying. I am in absolute turmoil, I can’t think straight because of all the lies and twisting of the truth. My heart is broken and I am emotionally destroyed. The anger I feel is beyond reason. Can anyone on advise on how to recover after a year of this constant abuse. I feel like I’m going insane.

  • Sas

    Late to the party here, but i don’t think the lack of compassion has to do with cynicism. I think the cynicism and the compassion fatigue both stem from being repeatedly hurt and that hurt repeatedly going unacknowledged and unredressed . Of course we develop a hard shell. We are in pain. Also, in my case i had to withdraw and harden because otherwise i was the only one who ever felt guilty, and i was never forgiven either, only ever confronted with more things to feel guilty about. If everyone needs compassion, where is the compassion for the nons?

  • Amy Cox

    I think this is our greatest fear, as someone with BPD. Even people who develop immense compassion for us and learn how to use skills to be with us can burn out. Sometimes it takes years and suddenly you’re living with a completely different person. In a regular relationship, once you get to truly know someone, that’s often what you can generally expect. There are fewer surprises. When you have BPD, even the kindest person who loves you the most can burn out and leave at any time. You can’t predict it based on who the person is or the qualities of their character. The only thing it feels you can do is not burn them out in the first place. This, however, leads to obsessive thoughts and feelings of guilt and fear over every little thing we do, because we see it as one big balancing act or equation. Every time we’re “bad” or “borderline” we degrade the relationship and chip away at it, and when we’re “good”, we “earn” and “deserve” love. We obsess over whether or not this crisis is “justified”, and our inability to be vulnerable and ask for help leads to emotions bottling up until they explode, or passive aggressiveness and manipulation to try and get the person to help without putting ourselves at risk, which justs burns them out even more. It’s an exhausting, vicious, and demoralizing cycle. I’ve made such progress in preventing burnout by controlling reactions and behaviors, relying on myself, asking for help honestly, and communicating calmly. Yes, things are so much better now, but as soon as I hit an extended rough patch, I begin to drown in the fear of being “too much”, which overrides my ability to use skills and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The only comfort I have found is accepting that anyone can leave me at any time and trying to let go of the notion that I can’t survive it. I can use all the skills in the world, I can be the most recovered borderline who is incredibly self-aware and living a vibrant, successful life, and still, I am more work than everyone else. There will always be easier, happier relationships than me. I try my hardest to make it manageable to love me, but if history tells me anything, being abandoned will happen again and again as long as I am alive.

  • Bill

    I completely agree. There is a disconnect between the BPD person and the non-BPD person. The BPD person has a completely different way of thinking. They will completely drain a non-BPD person of all their compassion and empathy. The BPD person has not developed emotionally. They have a need and desire to be taken care of and have no respect for boundaries. Most often times the BPD person behaves on the level of a child. Nobody wants a adult child for a spouse. The BPD will wreak havoc in the unknowing and unspecting non-BPD persons life. They will drag you down to their level and nothing will ever be good enough no matter how hard you try. They will try and trigger you to interact with them in any way possible. They are master manipulators. It’s almost impossible to converse and rationalize with a BPD person. From my experience they operate for their own benefit. They will reel you in and get you hooked with feel good and they will soon self destruct.

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