One of my favorite R&B songs is, “Teach Me how to Love” by Musiq Soulchild (I think he’s a rapper now, but whatever). It's still shocking to realize that, this song came out when I was 18 years old; and I remember belting it out in my dorm room like the tone-deaf ostrich I was. I recall thinking how romantic this was. That this man was willing and open to learning how to treat his woman, not only right by societal standards, but right by her definition. Isn’t this what any person wants? Entering the therapeutic field effectively ruined this, and many other songs for me. I’ve always been way too analytical, but now that I “knew stuff”, my analysis of things that used to bring me joy, went into overdrive. For this song, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) comes to mind.
Borderline Personality disorder is, in my personal opinion (this is my official disclaimer that there is no peer reviewed science behind this), one of the most underdiagnosed disorders in mental health. A simple way to understand people with this disorder is to think of them as “pull/push” people. Basically, they are the “needy” people that do things that push people away. An example of this would be a friend that demands that you prove your friendship to them by speaking to them daily, be it via text or calling. Failure to meet this demand is proof to them that you don’t value them and as such, they no longer wish to be friends. However, if you apologize, they will accept the friendship again, but still impose the same demand and the cycle continues again. While this may seem like an extreme case, many people can think back to several relationship in their life, be it platonic, familial or even of an intimate nature, where this behavior was displayed in some degree on a consistent basis. It’s draining, and what usually happens is, the recipients of this behavior get tired and end up leaving the relationship, permanently.
I believe that this particular disorder is so under-diagnosed because as a society, we can be so dismissive of the symptoms. Whether it’s because we call that person “extra” or we accept the behavior as part of who they are, with no requirement or acknowledgement of the issue (which is called enabling). BPD usually stems from some childhood trauma, surrounding actual and/or perceived abandonment of the primary caregiver. As such the child grows into an adult that is very desirous of love and meaningful connection but has a very difficult time appropriately showing it and/or setting appropriate expectations regarding receiving it. There is no “cure” for this disorder, in that, like many other mental health disorders it will never actually go away. The goal of treatment it to help the individual mange it. BPD often comes with rapid and unexplained mood swings, depression and anxiety. The individual might appear to be “fine” on instance and become enraged over a perceived slight. Many times, the person that this anger is directed towards, is clueless as to the initial cause of it, or even if they know the cause, believe that the reaction is disproportionate. The issue, as mentioned before is perceived misunderstanding and/or abandonment.
I’m sure several of you have heard of the “self-fulfilling prophecy”. This occurs when a person believes something will occur and subconsciously acts in a way to ensure that the believed outcome does occur. An example is two people walk into a party, one believes that everyone will like them (person A) and the other believes that no one will (person B). Person A is very engaging trough the party, smiles and tries to seem approachable. As such, they are perceived as friendly and appears to be well liked. Person B is very distant and avoids speaking to people. Ad such, people find them off putting. Both are able to reaffirm their original belief of the party, but neither is consciously aware of how their belief shaped their behavior and eventually the outcome. People living with BPD are like this. They will test the bounds of their various relationships as a means of proving that they will once again be abandoned or misunderstood. This often comes off in the form of both subtle and blatant manipulation, which of course, can be frustration for the person n the receiving end.
The truth is, dealing with a person living with BPD is going to be difficult, and the less professional help they have received, the more difficult it will be to maintain positive relationships. A great deal of patience and understanding is required. Though they tend to get a relatively “bad wrap” due to some of the behavioral symptoms of the disorder, they truly are loving people that want to be loved. So how does this tie into that R&B song I was talking about earlier? I basically diagnosed the man in the song with high functioning BPD. He recognizes that there is a serious issue and explains why he is acting the way he is (this doesn’t excuse the behavior), but at the same time, he is asking for help and for his partner to basically meet him half way. I will try to love you in spite of all the incorrect ways I was taught love was…………but you have to teach me.