Reconnect03Does recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder mean reconnecting with people that had to leave to take care of themselves? In my experience the answer is no. It is important to grieve, let go and move on and to learn from past failed interpersonal dynamics so that they are not repeated in the future. What was then, was then. This is now. There are new people to meet, new relationships to forge and as someone who recovered from BPD, I have my – a found, known, and emotionally mature authentic self to fall back on in the meantime in ways that I didn’t have when I had BPD.

I am asked often, as a Life Coach by loved ones of those with BPD as they grapple with leaving or going no contact,  “What if I end the relationship and then he or she gets help and becomes this wonderful person?” This question can often keep those on the other side of BPD stuck in toxic unhealthy and/or abusive situations that erode their own sense of self. I address this what-if and what it means for non borderlines in my audio program, Breaking Free From The BPD Maze – Recovery
For BPD Loved Ones Perhaps both those who have BPD and those who love or care about them, both need to learn that people sometimes  come into our lives to teach us things and that there is no reason beyond the lessons the painful lessons to remain connected or to be dancing the dance of a toxic relating that is often enmeshed and codependent relating on the part of both the borderline and the non borderline – BPD Loved One.

A person with BPD wrote to me and asked:

“I was just wondering if, when you got cured of BPD, or at least were well on the way to recovery, whether you were able to heal any of the relationships that you had lost because of BPD issues? I have so many of those relationships, people that I miss and wish were back in my life. And if you did, I’d be interested in knowing how you went about doing that. Thanks a lot.”

 


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Let me begin by saying that I am sure that there is no rule about this. I am sure that some people may be able to go back, and or want to go back to past relationships and try again, whether those relationships are with family, friends, or past love interests. This has not been my experience, nor is it a desire of mine anymore. And, for most people, it is not actually a healthy risk. It means that both people, whether ex-partner or friend etc., has to have done the work necessary to heal their own pain and address the ways in which they were damaged in the past. For most people, hurt by someone with Borderline Personality, if they work on healing themselves and have ended a relationship or friendship and even in the case of family members with BPD that one has  choosen to go no contact with, it is not very likely there will be second chances. Sometimes, often actually, for people with  Borderline Personality, there are various stages in the recovery process where others might be willing to take another change, give you another chance, but often these attempts to re-connect take place before enough or full recovery from Borderline Personality has been achieved which leads others to see old anxiety and fear-producing patterns in someone they are giving another chance to.

There was a time, when I would have answered this question differently than I will today. Not only did I have to recover from BPD to understand what I am about to share but I needed a few more years of just living fully-aware of myself and in relationship to myself and in healthier relationships with others to know what my answer to this question is. My answer is, no. I could only heal myself. I could not heal a relationship with anyone who either didn’t want to heal it or couldn’t heal anything because they still need to heal themselves. There is also the reality that even after I recovered from BPD, it didn’t change or take back the damage done and the pain caused and the heartache that I put others through. Sometimes there is just too much damage and pain to overcome.


 

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About six years after I recovered I had a relationship with someone (long story) who had BPD/NPD. I learned a lot. Heck, it may have even been somewhat karma for me. I certainly didn’t fail to notice that and be humbled by that. However, as someone who was a BPD Loved One at that time with in this relationship many years ago now, when I ended it, I went total no contact and never looked back. I refused and would not entertain and future contact from this Ex in my life again. The pain was too great.

The abuse I had to endure, too much. The damage took its toll. I then came to learn, on the other side of BPD, just how much healing and recovery is actually needed to truly move one from a relationship with someone with BPD not yet in recovery or not yet having had enough therapy to be able to make significant changes in how they relate. I have forgiven this person but that doesn’t mean I want to have any contact with them again.

Then I could also site an example from my past with my own family. I walked away from my family in 1990, as I got serious about getting through my process of recovery from BPD myself. With only a few contacts in the last 23 years, I have not looked back. I have forgiven, though not been forgiven by a Borderline Mother still stuck and the same or by a brother manipulated by that Borderline Mother. They don’t even know who I am today. But, it’s fair to say, that for their own reasons and due to their own inability to  work out the past, their own and our shared family past, they are still rigid black and white judgmental thinkers who won’t even consider the possibility I have changed as much as I have and maintained that change and mental health for getting close to 20 years now. I have long since just radically accepted this. I have let it go.

Re-connecting with people that you have hurt due to Borderline Personality is rarely a good idea. It rarely works. I found out, the heard way, that just my recovering and changing alone, huge in and of itself, at the time, wasn’t enough for my family, but nothing ever was enough for them. But, it also wasn’t enough for many people I hurt in the past when I had BPD and I have to respect and accept and honour that because that is the best ammends I can possibly make. When we know better we do better. But when we do better it doesn’t mean we get opportunities (very often, if at all) to have a re-do-it-over-again, and really once I had recovered, changed, moved on and built my life, met new people, had new relationships and friends, I didn’t want to look back really either. I learned this in other ways in the examples I’ll share below:



Of course I share this answer after having tried in a couple of places to re-establish relationship to a family member and a friendship with my first ex-partner.

In the case of the family member, my mother, it became painfully obvious to me that she and I had not had a relationship (certainly not one with any health in it) in my entire life. Okay, well, there I was healed, better, etc. so I thought well, I could try. In my trying it became apparent to me that the reasons why we had never had a relationship had much more to do with her than I. I had changed tons. My mother has not changed much at all. She still has very active BPD. What that meant was that
there still wasn’t any common ground from which to work. In my recovery from BPD, one of the greatest gifts has been to come to understand that with most relationships, like childhood neighbourhoods, you really can’t go back. If you do go back, so much has changed. Life has a way of moving on without you and trying to go back when so much has changed, not the least of which is me and how I relate to others hasn’t worked out for me. I have found too that since I have changed so much, grown so much and have boundaries and a healthy relational style now that truthfully there isn’t a relationship from my past that it would serve me well to try to go back to. I have said my share of “I’m sorry’s” to those that I have hurt. I have written some letters too. But that’s about taking personal responsibility and was done without any desire or expectation to reconnect. Idid not communicate to anyone who had set a firm boundary with me of not wanting to hear from me again.

I am a different person now. I have different wants and needs. Many of the people that I knew when I had BPD were also not well in their own ways. I have found it best, for me, in my life, to move on and to continue to meet and get to know healthier people.

I did reach back one more time with an ex-partner of mine. I had hurt this person a lot and I did feel very sorry about that. I wanted her to know that. I tried to relate to her in the present as the person that I am today. She was not in a place with her own issues that she could really appreciate this or meet me half way. She was still more in the past with who I was and her own issues – fair enough. I have also since realized that my wanting to reach back to say I was sorry was very valuable.

My wanting to reach back to validate her pain and experience was very valuable. Even though I sat and listened to her absent any judgment or defense of myself, I would later realize that my reaching back was not as much for her as I thought it was – it was also for me. I did want her to have the opportunity to tell me how I hurt her and to apologize and try to make ammends. I justdidn’t realize I also was hoping for her to forgive me. I thought I wanted and needed this from her for some reason. I didn’t, at that time, realize that my giving also had some expectations with it. I was giving regardless. But later I would discover I was also wanting. I never really addressed this with my Ex. I just let her have her say a few times, we had a few discussions and then I dealt with my realization later on my own. I had no agenda of wanting to get back together with this Ex. I really wanted to apologize.

But with the level of my awareness at that time aside, there was something deeper that I was unaware that I so wanted – that I  thought, for some reason, I needed. I had no clue at that  time. Only in retrospect do I know what it was I was seeking. I thought I needed her  forgiveness. I wanted her forgiveness. It was not really something that she could give. What this experience taught me was that it was I who really needed to forgive myself.

And this was all I would have control over anyway. I could forgive myself. I couldn’t, nor did I want to try, control who would or would not forgive me. Part of being emotionally healthy and balanced is really appreciating the other person’s feelings and boundaries and respecting them without challenge or without making it about yourself. I also found that moving forward and beginning anew was really the best way to go because then I could be the authentic real healthier me that I had become and create new friendships, connections, and relationships to people that there wasn’t the legacy of my past damage done in the way. It can also be an obstacle that stops those far down the road in their recovery from fully recovering if they are making their recovery dependant upon others “getting it” now when they may well not care anymore. Harsh, I know, but, honest. And when  you deal with what is, you will be much  more successful in coping with it and in not blocking your way forward by wanting to look or go back. That’s just counter-productive for both the people hurt by the person with BPD and for the recovered or recovering person with BPD.

I have since worked on that and been able to forgive myself for those years in my life and for the behaviour, abuse, and pain that I caused both her and myself. Having forgiven myself I feel absolutely no desire or need to have her be a part of my life anymore. She also didn’t feel any need or desire to be a part of my life anymore. That, when you get to full recovery and take personal responsibility and truly understand the ways in which you’ve hurt someone (or several people) is not difficult to accept as long as you are able to work through forgiving yourself. Remember, always. But forgive yourself. I am reminded of this so often in ways that still humble me today when I work with clients going through this process and trying to win back people who they have hurt or reconnect with people be it family or an Ex that is not in a relationship and often they do this way too soon, way before they are changed enough to be consistent and congruent even if they get the chance to be let back into someone’s life.

© A.J. Mahari – January 4, 2013 – Originally written by A.J. Mahari February 22, 2009 – added to a bit January 4, 2013 – All rights reserved.

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Does Recovery From Borderline Personality Disorder Mean Recovering Lost Relationships