Just been told by my boyfriend that he thinks I have BPD. What now?
May 26, 2014 7:22 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend sat me down tonight and suggested I might have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). He is going to stay at a friends house now since our interactions cause him so much stress. We have been together 5 1/2 years, living together for half of that, a time we both agree has been frustrating and has left us with deep unmet needs. I want to hear him out but I feel confused as this assessment blindsided me.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's last year and since being on thyroid medication I feel (and act) a lot clearer. Now reading just a little about BPD online it does seem plausible that I could have some elements of this disorder. I do feel things very deeply, have a hard time controlling crying, and can get very emotional. I have been told by my previous partner that he felt he was walking on eggshells around me. My boss recently said that my thinking tends to be black and white. I have a history of drug abuse in my teen years, and poor relationship choices in my twenties, but is that a mental illness rearing it's head or just immature life choices?

I'm a working professional in my 30's who has had an interesting career and decent work relationships and am hesitant to be labelled with a holistic problem. My boyfriend is very particular in his own way, with some very fastidious and anxious behaviors, and also thinks his brother has a different personality disorder. This makes me wonder if it's him who also has some work to do in negotiating different personality types.

I am not sure where to begin with this assessment of me. I am nervous about reading about a disorder online and convincing myself I have it. I am nervous about going to a psychiatrist who could want to put me on meds when I might not even have a real issue, just an incompatible partner. I am nervous that my boyfriend will feel forced to stay with me through this so I am not abandoned, although I think he is pretty much ready to leave. I am also not in my home country as I moved here to be with him and have built little support network.

I guess my question is where should I start with this new information, and I'd also like to hear experiences about being diagnosed or misdiagnosed with BPD. You can also email me at humantreatments@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am nervous about going to a psychiatrist who could want to put me on meds when I might not even have a real issue, just an incompatible partner.

Trust in a trained professional to diagnose your situation before throwing a fistful of pills at you. If the first one you go to doesn't appear to be doing that, find another.
posted by Etrigan at 7:25 AM on May 26, 2014 [23 favorites]

You haven't been diagnosed.

You're in a relationship with someone who has apparently decided to address unmet needs in a way that absolves him of any responsibility. I don't mean this as an accusation of him, but as a statement of reality. He may feel it was the only way to motivate you to find help, for instance.

Can you ask him if that's what he really wants? To motivate you to find help? Focus on keeping the dialogue constructive – you also seem to want help, so hopefully, his feedback can give you actual behaviors he has dealt with in person, rather than a depersonalized armchair diagnosis. You are a person, not a list of characteristics. (The danger of lists of characteristics is that we all can fit many of them, which is why we generally only task licensed professionals with the heavy responsibility that comes with attributing one.)

In any case, that's how you need to approach this. If you feel you need help, and it sounds like some would be a plus for you, then look around for a good therapist. DO NOT assume any personality disorders whatsoever. That's not really how therapy works anyway. You can make great strides without ever knowing your diagnosis; likewise, you could well have a diagnosis for one thing, for insurance purposes, when you really have another. Again, the focus is on what you, as an individual, want, need, and are willing to change.

FWIW, I say this as someone who was armchair diagnosed as psychotic, codependent, schizophrenic, and psychopathic by her mother growing up. A mother who never sent me to therapy, in spite of her dire pronouncements. I am none of those things, in case it needed stated.
posted by fraula at 7:39 AM on May 26, 2014 [22 favorites]

You might have some borderline traits, I really couldn't say from a few paragraphs of text on a website. Remember personality disorders exist on a continuum - the traits associated with them only coalesce into a "disorder" when they start to interfere with your life. If on reading the DSM borderline traits you feel they might apply to you and that you might benefit from learning some strategies to manage their negative effects, then yeah, definitely visit a psychiatrist. If they're half decent you won't just be sent packing with a prescription.

However - that's all tangential to the situation with your boyfriend. He thinks you have BPD - well, so what? Is he saying that's too much for him and he wants the relationship to end, or is he saying that he wants to disengage a little, or is he saying that just needs a break and then wants to help support your emotional needs? I think that's the aspect of this situation you need clarity on.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:48 AM on May 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

You both have unmet needs, you moved to a foreign country to be with him, he's having trouble dealing with your personality quirks, and his way of dealing with this is to tell you he thinks you have BPD? By all means, seek a therapist, but.. I'd be very leery of a partner who decided to armchair diagnose me with a mental illness because his needs weren't being met and we were having trouble living together. That may well just be a sign that you are not compatible.

Many mental illness checklists have markers that apply to a good percentage of the population. No one but a trained professional can truly decide if you have any one of them, no matter how "textbook" a person may appear. Nevertheless, if you are in a bad place (and this sounds like a bad place to me), therapy can help most people get past the bad place, or give them coping skills. Best of luck.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 7:49 AM on May 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

I am nervous about going to a psychiatrist who could want to put me on meds when I might not even have a real issue

This is not how psychiatry works, and even if it did you could say no, walk out, and find someone else.

You can also find a therapist and start there, and let them refer you to a psychiatrist if they think you need additional assessment or medication.

I'm highly skeptical that your boyfriend is right, but there is clearly *something* going on (whether it's you, him, or both) and a trained professional is exactly who you should seek out to get some clarity on the situation.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:57 AM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a chapter in Girl, Interrupted where the author talks about her diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and comments that many of the symptoms sound a lot like pretty standard behavior among younger people: "It's what they call people whose lifestyles bother them."

I can't and won't debate the existence of BPD, but I have noticed that in recent years it's become a trendy armchair diagnosis. Someone's impulsive, moody, or needy: must be BPD, amirite? And I think too often, people assume that a diagnosis, especially of a personality disorder, is like a stamp that reads "permanently fucked up," and use it as an excuse to avoid attempting to actually work on the behavior that's causing problems. It's easier to say "you have BPD, go get that fixed while I wait here" or "you have BPD so I'm dumping you" than to say "you're doing X and Y and Z when I need A and B and C instead, and here's what I think we could do together to help our relationship get to a healthier spot, what do you think?"

I'm assuming your boyfriend brought up BPD because he thinks a diagnosis/explanation will help somehow. Not necessarily. It pins all the blame on you, it doesn't identify what either of you could do better, and it's not even medically accurate as far as either of you know.

You're in a different country with almost no support network? Of course you're unhappy and having a difficult time handling it. You've been having trouble in your relationship for a long time now? Something needs fixing. Individual therapy for you, and couples counseling for you both, are really good ideas right now, and it doesn't matter who has what diagnosis - or any diagnosis, for that matter.

Your skepticism is well-founded, and I share it. But I do think therapy could help you through this tough spot.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:14 AM on May 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

I do feel things very deeply, have a hard time controlling crying, and can get very emotional. I have been told by my previous partner that he felt he was walking on eggshells around me.

Regardless of diagnosis, regardless of boyfriends, regardless of anything else, I really, really think your quality of life can likely be improved with therapy, specifically CBT. All of the above could have been said of me at one time and though I told myself that I was just a person who felt deeply, the truth was, I often felt like my emotions were running the show. Now, when I get upset, I have the tools to step back and make choices about my reactions, rather than just lashing out irrationally. It's an incredibly empowering feeling. Life doesn't have to be this way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:14 AM on May 26, 2014 [31 favorites]

I'm a working professional in my 30's who has had an interesting career and decent work relationships and am hesitant to be labelled with a holistic problem. My boyfriend is very particular in his own way, with some very fastidious and anxious behaviors, and also thinks his brother has a different personality disorder. This makes me wonder if it's him who also has some work to do in negotiating different personality types.

Your instincts to be cautious here are good ones and will serve you well. "Controlling crying"? It's the folks who control their crying effectively who generally have trouble later on in life. A good, FREQUENT cry isn't a problem, and shouldn't be a problem for a good life partner, unless it truly is getting in the way of your other activities. Even in that extreme case, the route I suggest below may be of help.

Since it sounds like you are in general negotiating your life without too much trouble, my first thought for you would be to check out some local meditation groups. Meditation can help you get some distance from the thoughts that can trigger overwhelming emotions. I suspect it may help you with "black and white thinking," which can be the result of underlying low-level fear pushing you into too-hasty decisions. I speak from experience. :-) If the black and white thinking were that much of an issue at your job, though, you wouldn't have that job at all. Please keep that in mind.

If you go the Buddhist route with meditation (you don't have to), that path will also help you to see that emotional suffering and pain are the lot of humanity, not just people who (often solely in the blinkered, uninformed opinions of others) need to be labelled.

A good meditation teacher, trusted friend, or "talking" style therapist is important, especially if you meditate and find troublesome emotions surfacing frequently. Some communities have peer-led sharing groups that can be helpful too. And you can always come back to Ask MeFi and post more questions. I am continually impressed by the compassion, insight, and patience shown by many who frequently answer questions here.

If all else fails and you find yourself struggling to stay afloat in caring for yourself, by all means, seek out more help from the mental health community. It doesn't sound to me like you're there yet, though, and you may well never be there even if you did nothing different. But since these aspects of your life are troubling you now, it might be time to try something new.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:31 AM on May 26, 2014

I want to jump in because you mention you have Hashimotos. My mom and sister both have if. As you've noticed, having your thyroid out of balance can cause many of the same symptoms of anxiety and depression. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the behavior that is leading your bf to an armchair diagnoses could be directly or indirectly related to the Hashimotos.

I am always a bit leary with armchair diagnosis. OTOH, a psychiatrist is not going to prescribe pills to you w/o a clear diagnosis that would benefit from such pills.
posted by Librarygeek at 8:32 AM on May 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

BPD isn't the term preferred now, it's usually referred to as a specific combination of personality disorders. Medication is rarely used for personality disorders in any case. You would see a psychiatrist for several sessions, maybe do some tests (questionnaire type things) and then discuss a diagnosis. It's not a case of walk in and here's a checklist. The goal of the psychiatrist would be to help you have a healthier happier life, not to 'fix' you.

Either way, things sounds a bit messy and difficult right now and you don't know if it's you or your relationship, or your thyroid, or moving etc. Getting a professional to help you look at the patterns from outside could be really helpful. Depending on where you are, you can try getting a recommendation from friends, or looking at expat-targeting magazines (they often have ads for clinics that work with expats so you don't have the cultural differences to explain as well) or hit Dr Google for recommendations. Make a shortlist and be go ask them how it would work, see if you feel comfortable with the psychiatrist and if not, try the next.

You could have a mild form of personality disorder. It could be depression, it could be your thyroid and a bad relationship match. It's not something that can be determined without lots more information by someone with experience.

We've been through the diagnosis stuff for family members, and we did not expect one final diagnosis but when it came up at last, it was a "oh yeah, that makes sense" click because none of the other diagnosis had really explained the behaviour of response to treatments. This one did, and it helped in figuring out what treatments were more likely to help, and what medication was pointless. The diagnosis wasn't as useful as the relationship with the therapist - it doesn't fix things. It helps you find others in the same boat and figure out what helped and didn't and give you a sense of possible futures.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:43 AM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your boyfriend has not diagnosed you. If he's not a licensed psychiatrist, then he has no business diagnosing people with disorders; if he is, being in a relationship with you removes the objectivity required to give you an accurate diagnosis. So get that out of the way.

This is Ask Metafilter, so of course you've been referred to therapy. And that's fine. You may or may not need it, and it may benefit you generally to see a therapist. If you want to continue your relationship with this man, I would suggest the two of you go to couples' therapy. The therapist will be able to refer one or both of you to appropriate counseling for any issues you possess as individuals, as well as help you figure out if it is a relationship that you want to continue. If he's not willing to go, I would suggest he's not serious about the relationship and making it work.
posted by graymouser at 8:44 AM on May 26, 2014

Many mental illness checklists have markers that apply to a good percentage of the population.

Quoted for truth.

In the world of human relationships, there is more hope for the so-called borderline than for the guy who diagnoses his girlfriend.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:57 AM on May 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Thyroid conditions cause mood swings and emotional fragility sometimes.

Living in a foreign country is hard.

Relationships are hard.

It's a very very good idea to take responsibility for your actions and reactions. We can always work on ourselves, gain more self-control and grace when tensions are high, become ever more mature and understanding.

Dumping non-supportive and undermining situations and assholes from our lives is a good way to affirm we want better lives and better quality relationships.

Support yourself by getting a real support system going where you are living now - thyroid meds, therapy, better friendships - do the work. See if that doesn't help.

IMHE, BPD features an aspect of severe and malicious manipulation of others, this is why people with BPD are so toxic. They must work to undermine everyone and everything around them on a pathological level in ever more desperate efforts to maintain control, such that no one else's wellbeing matters compared to the pain of the BPD sufferer.

You sound like someone in an incompatible relationship, and the person you are in that relationship with sounds like he needs an excuse to not be the "bad guy." People can be incompatible and break-up when they can't resolve differences, and nobody has to be the "bad guy." So, your guy sounds immature and overwhelmed by what's going on between the two of you, but no, he's not a mental health professional so you don't have to take his bullshit on board.

Anyway, as I first stated, you have a diagnosed thyroid disorder, thyroid issues are notorious for causing emotional instability - get yourself to a medical doctor STAT if you think you have been extra emotionally unstable lately, it sounds like your thyroid meds may need adjusting.

If your guy was supportive, he'd talk to you about adjusting your Hashimoto meds before arm-chair diagnosing you BPD. I think you're right, I think this is his way of starting to break up with you. I think this is likely for the best.

Focus on yourself and get to a doctor regarding your thyroid disorder and any meds you are taking (or should be taking.)

It would be nice if your BF steps up and supports you in this, but don't count on him. Start building a more stable support system outside of this relationship, including changing how you support yourself. It seems changes are coming and it is wise to prepare.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 8:57 AM on May 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

[This is a reply from an anonymous commenter.]
Boyfriend here. In the time OP and I have been together, we have, largely based on general AskMe recommendations, attempted the following:
- Both gone to individual counseling
- Gone to couple’s counseling together
- Performed the exercises in John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
- Read books on anger management, including When Anger Hurts

All have been helpful, but we still seem to have deep problems together.

I explained to OP that I am certainly not a licensed professional and that it is not my place to make a diagnosis, judgment, or assumption.

What I did say is that, during our time together, I have seen many behaviors and heard descriptions of OP’s feelings that align with what I understand of the BPD continuum.

These behaviors and dynamics, whatever their cause, have resulted in a lot of damage and pain.

I also said that I certainly bring my share of issues to the relationship and so that anything I say should be taken with a big grain of salt. I think it’s also very likely, as folks have said above, that our problems may be situational.

I care deeply about OP and want to help. For the sake of my own mental health, I said that I need something in the relationship to change, whether it’s, yes, disengaging a little, breaking up, or maybe taking steps to evaluate this (or additional steps) to address our problems.

I read this comment to OP, who felt it added helpful information to the thread.

This is her post, so this will be my last comment here.
posted by cortex at 10:07 AM on May 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

I have a good friend who has been diagnosed borderline, so I think improvement is definitely possible, but one of the big things is that there is no pill that they just put you on because they think you're bordelrine. Personality disorders aren't like mood disorders. The big thing that helps with personality disorders tends to be extended therapy. You know what else extended therapy helps? Ways of thinking and behaving that may not rise to the level of classical personality disorders but are still having a marked negative impact on your life. Essentially the big thing a lot of people need is help with developing coping behaviors for pain or anxiety that are more compatible with their everyday lives. There are some specific therapeutic techniques that are, last I heard, more used for borderline than other things, but it's, again, not something where they just give you a pill and expect you to be better.

There is, however, I think also some crossover with depression and bipolar, and I do think sometimes medications for those things are helpful, but in particular if most of your life now seems pretty stable, this could just be a matter of having some bad habits when coping with pain and anxiety, which would stand to reason would impact your partner more than anyone else. There's nothing wrong with feeling things very deeply, but you also have to be able to exhibit healthy behaviors even while feeling things very deeply, and however stereotypical the response, this is exactly the sort of thing therapy is good at.
posted by Sequence at 10:54 AM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Amateur diagnosis + of BPD + known thyroid condition = "lol, whatever".

At least with regards to the "do you specifically have that condition" question. That being said, I'd also say it's probably true that something is going on that needs dealing with. Speaking to the thyroid issue itself -- my experience with these matters is that even a relatively short period of uncontrolled thyroid trouble can really mess you up physically in a way that contributes to the development of counterproductive thought patterns, that treatment of the physical side of it alone takes time, and that once this is done you are still left with the task of picking through the mental habits that came from a time when you were running on utterly unreliable hardware.

I spent about a year in therapy after something like 6-8 months of poorly treated hypothyroidism, and one of the first things my therapist pointed out to me is that it can be clinically indistinguishable from moderate or even severe depression. Similarly, the other end can also look like various psychiatric conditions. If you've got Hashimoto's and are bouncing back and forth between those states... well, you can figure. And the thing, also, with the overlap between physical and mental illness is that "looks like" is awfully close to "being", when it's a matter of what your internal experience has been over this time.

So, do you have BPD specifically? Meh. I'd approach that question with skepticism. Do you have a problem? Well, if your boyfriend is telling you that he thinks you've got BPD, I'd say you're guaranteed to have at least one problem and that going to a therapist to work out what exactly it is is probably called for.
posted by sparktinker at 12:01 PM on May 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

I care deeply about OP and want to help. For the sake of my own mental health, I said that I need something in the relationship to change, whether it’s, yes, disengaging a little, breaking up, or maybe taking steps to evaluate this (or additional steps) to address our problems.

Neither your diagnosis nor this vague "something needs to change" statement is helpful boyfriend man. You need to state to her what your goals are and decide what needs to change exactly to improve the relationship. I'm sure the couples counselor you went to told you that. It seems to me like you want to break up with her but can't pull the trigger and instead want her to either magically change or leave you. Take some time, figure it out for yourself and make a decision that respects her feelings as well as your own.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:14 PM on May 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

What your boyfriend did is extremely offensive and foolish. I don't see how he can even make a suggestion like this to you with any seriousness unless he's an experienced therapist who has spent years closely observing people and in particular closely observing people with and with out BPD. If you have problems in your life and in your relationship then see a therapist and if she sees such a pattern then you can work with that. As of now, I think your boyfriend has unnecessarily got you worked up over nothing. Probably in an attempt to blame you for your relationship problems by making it all about you and all the problems in your life.
posted by Blitz at 12:37 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Having had some friends who have BPD, who are functionally in remission, I have to say that it's dangerous to label someone with the diagnosis unless they're a professional. Even then, sometimes, if you are a pain in the ass patient, you will get the label. I think it is far more treatable than people think, and typically a lot of manipulation is ascribed to the syndrome is actually the result of the BPD raw emotions/wounds rather than malice. I am concerned that your boyfriend is controlling enough to threadsit here. I'm not saying he doesn't have some reason to be concerned, but it raises red flags for me.
posted by Issithe at 12:58 PM on May 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

I find it pretty disrespectful and pretty unhelpful for someone to diagnose you. In a relationship, it's a lot more useful to focus on behavior, not labeling. If you want to change your behavior or address your emotional status, a good therapist could be very helpful.
posted by theora55 at 1:16 PM on May 26, 2014

I found it concerning when you said you recently started treatment for a thyroid condition and feel clearer and better than you have in ages.

And THEN he says he thinks you have a problem like BPD.

Big. Red. Flag.

It sounds like he wants to end it and can't see why or how he could have role in things that aren't right in the relationship, ESPECIALLY given that followup from him. Yikes. He doesn't want to be the "bad guy" and break up. He wants it to be because you have "issues" that it didn't work out. That's his entire followup.

I'd get your own place, keep your job, and start making new friends. and get some therapy (just talk, psychiatrist is for meds). It'll be good to have one as you navigate this change in your life.

If you need permission to end this now, I give it to you. Take care of yourself, as you have been, and will continue to do.
posted by sio42 at 1:19 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think it is wrong of your boyfriend to suggest that you might be struggling with borderline personality disorder. If he were the one posing the question here that he suspected you of being borderline, or an alcoholic or something like that a lot of the answers would be telling him to dump you. I've noticed that people often answer the Ask MeFi relationship questions with righteous wrath based on their own frustrating relationships... It's okay for him to try to figure out why the relationship is not as good as you both want and to share his ideas about it with you.

It could be worth examining the idea that you might be borderline, or you might have some borderline traits. Why not examine the idea with a professional who can properly diagnose it if you think there might be something in his suggestion?

It's different if you think he is accusing you of having borderline personality as opposed to suggesting it as a possible reason for on-going patterns in your relationship. If you don't think he is making the suggestion out of spite, look into it. If you think he is saying to wound or to absolve himself of responsibility then ignore it.

It's also worth investigating if he has some borderline traits himself since borderline and narcissistic personality disorder often pair off together as they can be attracted by the intensity!

It's not the end of the world if you are borderline. It means that you now have a new approach to try in your lifelong search for happiness. While not all borderline people can get insight enough to improve life patterns that cause them problems, a great many do and some even spontaneously get a great deal of improvement around the age of thirty or so when maturity helps give them perspective about their feelings.

Hang in there. You are a work in progress and your willingness to explore all the possibilities is very good for your prognosis!
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:20 PM on May 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

This is her post, so this will be my last comment here.

Uhh.... should you even be posting in the first place? AFAIK ask-mefi isn't the place for a "he said, she said" smackdown. I comment here all the time and this is the first I've seen it. We're just strangers on the internet, and not arbitrators of your fight.

OP even if we were capable, there is not enough information to say whether you have something or not. Your bf could be dumping it on you, he could be on a "Everyone's got a personality disorder!!" binge, you could be overly emotional, you could have BPD, or the truth is some messy thing in between.

But I see two issues at play here: 1) your relationship isn't working, and 2) its been suggested you have BPD.

For problem #1 and especially because your bf posted here when you posted anonymously (drama llama alert!) it sounds kinda dysfunctional so maybe you just need to let this one go. Maybe both of you are afraid to be on your own but if it's not working and you're not happy then what are you holding on to? Sometimes good people just can't get along. Too much button-pushing, despite everyone's best intentions. You've tried therapy so he says... what else is there?

For problem #2, you may or may not have this disorder or any other disorder on the internet. Everyone has shades of humanity's worst traits: anger, selfishness and emotional irrationality. We've all got it! When is it "a problem"? You get help if your life isn't working. You know this because you have anger problems, or all your relationships are superficial or you don't have any relationships at all. Or you have trouble with the law, or you self-harm. That is, more than one person reflects back to you that y'all got issues.

So if I were you, before I rushed back (again) to a therapist, I would just ask myself: is my life working for me? Be super duper honest about that. Do you have the quality of relationships you want? Are you able to more-or-less cope with and manage your emotions? Do you get ragey for no real reason? Stuff like that.

Ask your friends or family back home for some reference.

PS. I find it really really weird that the bf came in here & posted after you'd posted anonymously. You get to debounce your feelings about this any way you like without him interfering and trying to influence ask-mefi's collective opinion. Yes you ok'd the post, and it 'adds information' but this is your thread. He doesn't get a say in you sorting out your stuff here, or to tell you what additional information you should be adding. You get your own completely separate point of view. That's your right. I just read bf's post like: "help me make her change so we can be happy" and trying to control your narrative which is so out of line I don't even know where to begin.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:28 PM on May 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm going to give your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt and assume that he's trying to make sense of things. It would have been so much better if he'd said that _______, ________, and ________ are affecting him deeply and he doesn't know how to solve the problems in the relationship. But people rarely do exactly the right thing in such a situation.

My mother-in-law has several of the traits/behaviors that are in the long BPD list. Her psychiatrist and mine have both said that a label is useful only if it leads to better treatment -- as is the case with other diagnoses like depression. She was extremely anxious, quite depressed and emotionally very sensitive, and she protected herself from emotional pain by doing some things that made her almost impossible to be around. Her doctor treated the anxiety and depression. Her therapist helped her with Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy and methods of coping with emotions. The "diagnosis" didn't come into it at all. It was all about how she was feeling and what she was experiencing -- and helping her understand the effect that she had on others.

All depressed people are not alike; generalize anxiety disorder shows up differently in different people. If you have emotional issues that get in the way of relationships, you can get help in addressing those.
posted by wryly at 1:35 PM on May 26, 2014

Dear OP, I think that well-meaning people can suggest to us that we might have certain problems. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. I am mentally ill. So is someone close to me. That your ex-boyfriend mentioned the "walking on eggshells" thing and that your boss has mentioned your black-and-white thinking suggests some independent evidence that you might have quirky inner workings. At least, that's how I tend to think of it.

Nobody's yelling for you to be mad at your boss or your ex-boyfriend. Of course your current beau can't diagnose you. We are all clear about that.

But that three different individuals are having or had some concerns or difficulties might mean there's more than thyroid stuff going on. There's just not enough info to go on. It's up to you to decide whether to investigate further (also, b&w thinking and the eggshell thing are not limited to bpd, I promise you).

Maybe you just need more support, to figure out where to find community, etc. Living in a foreign country is hard. I am chatty. The foreigners I used to live among are not. My anxiety and other problems became more pronounced because I didn't have the friends I needed.

Sounds like you are both trying really hard to take care of yourselves. That's not as easy as it should be, dammit. Best of luck to both of you.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've noticed that people often answer the Ask MeFi relationship questions with righteous wrath based on their own frustrating relationships. If he were the one posing the question here that he suspected you of being borderline, or an alcoholic or something like that a lot of the answers would be telling him to dump you.

I have to agree. There's some good advice upthread, and what sounds like a few bringing their own baggage to the table.

OK, so I was involved with someone with BPD. Real BPD, as in diagnosed by a leading specialist. As in, after having been diagnosed and medicated and therapied for bipolar and basic depression and other things and none seemed to work or fit very much...we looked at the description and it was as vijjorlath said it was a "oh yeah, that makes sense" click. And then I got them to read a book, this one I think and they (not expecting much) were absolutely floored. They went on and on about how they never felt anyone really understood them but the author understood them 100% without having met them. Better than any friend or mental health professional. And we did stuff that we were advised to do in therapy and via book and it succeeded (until it didn't).

Anyhow...I ALSO was involved with someone who had rage/control/anger-management issues. I was no angel to be sure, but that was their thing and they convinced me that I was worthless and probably a sociopath or worse, and made me feel like a kicked dog until I went to a therapist and told him what an awful person I was and probably needed heavy medication and wasn't fit for a relationship that I was sabotaging anyway. I told him everything from my partner's POV, using their words and...they laughed a little and said "You're not that bad. You didn't XYZ, you just ABC. Your partner needs to get some perspective. They don't have a right to make you feel this bad just because you ABC."

So....I've been where your bf says he is. And I've been where some commenters are saying you are. And you are where I was when I was thinking "maybe I'm one of THEM" and being afraid to go to a professional and have it confirmed.

And all I can add is that you shouldn't be at all afraid to go see someone, and just spill it all. Try to book in for 2 hours if you want and they're willing. Tell them your bf's version of things and how it's come to this point, and then your version, your thoughts, your feelings. They might say, yes, you are or are close to BPD that you could benefit from ________ and ____. They might say that, and that your bf is also a bit of a dick. They might just say you're not all that bad, need a little work, but your bf isn't owning up to his problems nearly enough and he needs to change or you need to leave.

Also, moving to another state (let alone another country) far from your support network and no friends to call your own, having to build that up from the ground is a HUGE stress-bucket that the person you moved for can't fully understand. And the stress on you can become stress on him in an insidious mess. Unfortunately, the only solution for that is a lot of time and work from you to form bonds with people independent of your bf. Are you trying this? Is your bf 100% supportive of this, or nominally supportive but chipping away at your efforts?

It's no substitute for therapy and you shouldn't diagnose yourself (nor should your bf). But you can probably either quickly find a BPD memoir book or website or message board and read what it's like from the POV of a person with BPD. And ask yourself, is that me all over for most of my life? Or is that kind of me, maybe a lot when I was young (we all were) but not so much now and not for a long time.

Sorry, that's all I've got.
posted by pup socket at 3:33 PM on May 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

I do feel things very deeply, have a hard time controlling crying, and can get very emotional. I have been told by my previous partner that he felt he was walking on eggshells around me. My boss recently said that my thinking tends to be black and white.

Well, you join the self-congratulatory outrage of most posters here and decide that you can ignore your boyfriend because he dared to suggest these things I quoted above might be a mental health issue, or you can honestly look at those things. Do you want to have uncontrollable crying fits? Do you want to make others walk on eggshells? Do you want to have black and white thinking that is obviously having an impact on your career?

Regardless of any specific diagnosis, does any of that sound good to you? Talk to someone, for yourself if not for your relationship.
posted by spaltavian at 3:50 PM on May 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

So basically, I think it'd be great if most people who might arguably suffer BPD behaviour, had some DBT style therapy for it, because BPD-like traits lead to a really unhappy life, for the sufferer.

First, be suspicious of people who want to disclaim their part of the problem.

A major flag that this is not a severe issue for you, if it even is an issue:
You're willing to consider you might have it. Seriously, that's already a really good starting step, because most people with severe BPD wouldn't accept something that would be blow to their ego, things can be other peoples fault, but accepting that about themselves - nothing is grey, everything is black and white, and it would hurt, too, much.
(By the way, I read some of the sequel by the author of Girl, Interrupted, and I have to say - I wouldn't want to have a close personal relationship with the author? Not diagnosing, but, ummm... yeah. And given that was entirely her own slant on everything?).

Things you should consider before rejecting it out of hand:
You can be very functional in your everyday life. In fact, in everything but your close, personal relationships. A single BPD sufferer kind of looks like someone who doesn't have it. It's a disorder of how you relate to someone.
Usually people come up with this 'coping mechanism' from growing up in an abusive environment, but I've also seen it from people who were chronically ill - a child being subjected to painful medical treatments and isolation by loving parents, feels similar on an emotional level to being abused.

It's all about pain, it's a response to pain, and treating it as a valid emotion to trigger in others. Being, acting, very, very, very raw.

This will sound callous, but if you've never threatened or actually hurt yourself, in order to manipulate someone, or on a more basic level, make someone else prove that they really care for you (because, if someone freaks out at the thought of you hurting yourself, they must care right?), then in my eyes, I don't think you'd have much of an issue with BPD.
If you have - Oh. I really feel for you. Get someone to help you make it hurt less.

I would be wary about the boyfriend though. People often use BPD as a shorthand for 'undefined crazy', when it's actually very, very defined, and super freaking predictable. Guys telling girls in relationships they're 'crazy', in order to disclaim responsibility for their own dysfunction, is also pretty freaking stereotypical.
posted by Elysum at 4:05 PM on May 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Rather than heading straight to a psychiatrist, why not head to a therapist or other mental health professional who is able to evaluate and diagnose you, but who does NOT prescribe medication? That might help you get some of the answers you're looking for without the fear of being put on medication for a misdiagnosis.

It also might be worth checking out support groups (in person or online) for Hashimoto's to see what others have to say about problems with mental health/mood disorders. I went to Wikipedia and the symptoms depression, mania, and panic immediately jumped out at me. A combination of those could certainly cause emotional volatility and a "walking on eggshells" feeling in others. Have you tried therapy since you've been on meds for Hashimoto's? Have you noticed any change in how things have gone?
posted by epj at 4:29 PM on May 26, 2014

I think you should get help on your own. It sounds like the turmoil you are in has many compounded, inter-related moving parts. The complexity of your current situation sounds overwhelming and seems like it's making it hard for you to feel stable and secure enough to puzzle out a workable What Next? Your boyfriend, if his participation here is any indication, has demonstrated that he is not able - for whatever reason - to be helpful to you in disentangling your problems or help you move towards the clarity and security you need to figure out how best to navigate all that is happening.

So yes. Get help. Not because you have a personality disorder and need to confirm, rule out or treat it. Leave that out entirely - no need to do a professionals work for them. You know you will have found a good professional when you can talk about what's going on with you in a way that makes you feel clearer, less alone, less afraid, less overwhelmed. Get help because you are in deep distress and are not in a situation where you can fix this by yourself. You are not with a person who can - for whatever reason - help you. If you were you would have done it already.

All you need to do is keep doing what you are doing - pay attention to your own emotional ebbs and flows, pay attention to your behavior, keep chipping away at the heath issues, listen to the feedback of others but take it lightly when the information comes from someone who has any investment in what that information means. Keep working on connecting the dots between you in the past and you in the present. Just do it with someone safe, experienced and, above all, neutral.
posted by space_cookie at 6:58 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bear in mind my point of view, which is: I'm currently dealing - and have been for the last three years - with someone 1) who is a relative, therefore is not going to be removed from my life, 2) is very obviously, to literally everyone who knows it but him, dealing with an undiagnosed mental health issue, and 3) am at the end of my patience and energy in trying to get him some help in this train wreck that everyone can see but him. It's (finally?) recently progressed to the point of hospitalization, and there's finally a tiny ray of hope that reality might get through to him.

Since you're actually asking, instead of just denying, you know there's a possibility that there's something going on, whether he's right about the specifics or not.

My thoughts:
1) It took guts for him to tell you this, especially after you've been together so long, and most especially if you're someone that makes people feel as if they're walking on eggshells around you.
2) Chances are, no one else is telling you for the exact same reason.
3) He cares about you enough that he felt he *had* to do something drastic to get you to acknowledge it - move out.
4) He cares enough about his own well-being that made the choice to remove himself from a situation that wasn't healthy for him.

My advice?
Listen and seek help. For you, alone, and if you're both wanting to see if the relationship is savable, for both of you.

Granted, he may well have issues of his own. That doesn't mean you don't. I have no clue one way or another, but by your own words, his concern is potentially valid.

The absolute biggest challenge in solving mental health issues is acknowledging there is an issue in the first place, because help can only come afterwards.

Good luck.
posted by stormyteal at 11:53 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm essentially very concerned you will deal with what is primarily a medical issue compounded with what are situational issues (Thyroid Symptoms + New Country + A Failing Primary Relationship) as a mental health issue.

Again, it is always good to work on yourself to gain more maturity.

It's not so helpful to ignore the obvious in lieu of a new suggested drama proposed by someone with an obvious agenda (thanks for that update, BF. The incompatibility between you and OP as you live together is intolerable - got it!)

Seek practical solutions on all fronts.

You are not giving yourself enough credit, instead, you are deferring to the opinion of someone actively seeking to disengage with you. A/K/A, someone with an agenda.

You can always revisit this idea of a mental health diagnosis once you sort through other, known, issues.

We all need to keep working on ourselves. Don't leap down a rabbit hole that is currently not in your best interests until the obvious and practical exacerbating possible causes for current difficulties are addressed.

That's just logic.
posted by jbenben at 12:29 AM on May 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Consider that you and your boyfriend are breaking up. That's okay, he's allowed to leave. He doesn't even need a real reason, other than, "I don't want to be in this relationship anymore."

So, if you believe that you may have a mental illness, then take yourself off to a medical professional who can evaluate you for it. You don't have to do anything that person says, including take medication.

I think it's sort of shitty that your BF specifically mentioned a diagnosis, instead of telling you that your behaviors are problematic, but I forgive him his clumsiness because he honestly thought he might be helping.

Don't take it to heart, you might just be a very sensitive and emotional person. If so, you need to be aware that this exhausts people, and it diminishes your chances for relationships because a lot of us don't like the drama.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:43 AM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

OP--since you have gone to counseling individually and with your partner, did any of the counselors you saw suggest that you might have BP or suggested you consult with a psychiatrist?

I'd be very wary of an armchair diagnosis from someone who has one foot out the door of your relationship already. Frankly, if you both want the relationship to work, you both need to work on improving it. Even if you do have BPD, that doesn't mean every issue in the relationship is your fault.
posted by inertia at 12:01 PM on May 27, 2014

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