If I said sharing your life with someone who lives with personality disorder was easy, it would be a lie.
If I said sharing your life with someone who lives with personality disorder was hard, that also wouldn’t be the truth.
Sharing your life with anyone can be difficult at times. Personality disorder can just bring some extra challenges to the table.
I have lived with my husband for five and a half years. I have loved him for much longer.
There have been times that have been incredibly difficult. Like the times during episodes (that’s the word he chose for the times when he loses all control of his emotions and the condition is in charge) when he’d threaten suicide or the times he loses all ability to be rational because his brain wants to keep the argument going, even if that means flipping from one side of the argument to another.
The first I saw of the episodes was a couple of years into the relationship. We hadn’t been living together too long, maybe five or six months. It’s been a while, so I can’t remember exactly how they transpired, but it was usually when we were with our usual group of friends and he felt like his opinions or knowledge of something wasn’t being listened to. Anger and rage would take over so he could remove himself from the situation and the episode would start.
Then, after some unsuccessful attempts from me to try and assure him his opinions were just as valid as anyone else’s, the anger would transform into shame. Feeling that I was ashamed of him or of his actions. More attempts to reassure him and to try and convince him to come home. Not because I was ashamed that this was happening in public. Not in the least. And I have said this to him recently because the subject has come up again, albeit in a different way. My attempts to get him home whilst an episode is taking place is not because I’m ashamed that it is happening in public, not in the least. I couldn’t care any less about what those around might be thinking. Let they who are without their own mental fragility cast the first stone!
No, my reason for wanting to get him home is because that is the one place I know is truly safe for him. If he wants to rage, then he can. If he wants to cry, then he can. If he wants to argue, then he can. Whatever he wants to do, he can. But he is safe.
My one real job in all of this, whilst his brain is doing whatever it wants, my only goal at that time is to keep him safe.
It’s hard. I wont lie. Or more accurately, it’s exhausting. For both of us. The episodes can last hours. But they pass, eventually. And then we can rest. Talk some things through. Inevitably, his brain has been holding onto something for a while, that it hasn’t let him feel able to talk about. Maybe something I’ve said or done, or something else from an outside source. And it will get thrown into the episode, and it’s something that needs to get unpacked and talked about afterwards. Either in the immediate aftermath or perhaps the next day when he’s had a chance to rest and sleep.
Each time is a learning opportunity. Usually because the methods you’ve tried to defuse a previous episode didn’t work this time. So you’re trying something different or new.
After multiple episodes over a year or so, stumbling across information about personality disorder and asking for help from our GP, my husband had an episode that unexpectedly pulled his manager from work into the mix. A couple of things came out of that. A cloud and silver lining sort of scenario.
Work sent him to see a psychotherapist, to try and work out what was happening. After a few sessions, including one with me there, the specialist diagnosed personality disorder, which was confirmed by a clinical psychologist at the Leeds NHS Trust. The cloud here was that, because of a secondary symptom of his – dissociative amnesia – he wasn’t allowed to continue in his role at work. A safety-critical role (think mixing operating heavy machinery and dealing with the public). A job he enjoyed immensely.
That has been difficult for him. But he gets up every day, puts on his uniform and goes to work in the replacement role he was able to find within the company. And I know how hard that is for him, but he does it.
A few years back, I was lucky enough to be able to go to the PD Network’s Cygnus course. A seven-week course for carers of those with personality disorder. That helped me understand so much about why what happens does. It can’t answer everything, but it certainly filled in many holes and blank spots.
It can’t make you understand what is happening when your loved one’s personality disorder is running rampant. Unless you have it yourself, I don’t think you ever could. However, it does help you understand more about why it’s happening and helps you find ways to help them survive, not just through the episodes, but some of the regular daily problems they face too. Things we can just brush off and move on.
Then there’s Andromeda: the support group co-facilitated by the Network and Carers Leeds. A group where we can meet (on Zoom just now, though in normal times in person) and just talk about whats been happening in our lives and help each other through it. Sharing ideas or stories with people who understand what happens, without having to explain the condition.
They have both given me opportunities and skills to process my part of life living with personality disorder.
It’s not easy sharing your life with someone who lives with personality disorder. The hard times might be a bit more challenging, but the good times aren’t any less good or fun or happy. Our relationship is definitely stronger in spite of, and maybe a little bit because of, everything we’ve encountered together.
I know he always thinks the next time is going to be the time he says or does something that pushes me too far and I’ll walk away. I’ve always told him that I can’t promise that we’ll always be together, because no one knows what the future will bring. What I can promise him is that should that ever happen, it will never be because of personality disorder.
I love him and personality disorder wont ever change that.