One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is how someone can better help someone they love with borderline or mental illness. So I thought we would talk a little bit about that today, so whether you need help to connect with a loved one, or you yourself have borderline or struggle with rough shit and just wanna know you arent alone and maybe pick up a tip or two, sit tight!
The first thing I’ll say is ask them! I know that it can feel awkward and uncomfortable to ask blunt questions, or to be vulnerable enough to ask a question like this, but it makes a big difference. Before you do, ensure that you are in a grounded place, that you are able to listen without judgement, that you arent thinking about your response, or anything, for that matter, but understanding what you’re about to hear. Make sure that the other person is in a grounded place, isn’t already triggered, is feeling themselves and that they in a place where they are in touch with their ‘wise mind’, or where they are in a place not entirely run by their emotional mind. (Make sense?). Kay cool, so now you know you’re both chill? Go somewhere with privacy or that feels safe for that person, say something like “I’d really like to talk to you more about your experiences and learn how to best help you, ask you some questions, if you feel up for that”. Ask them questions, don’t be afraid, likely they will be glad someone is trying to understand in a validating and loving way. Ask them what its like when they are triggered, if there are any recurring themes in thought patterns. For example, when I’m triggered or in a bad place my brain is really good at convincing me that I am not cared for, that I’m not important, etc. Ask them what helps, if there’s anything they need to hear or any activities that help: walking, cute animal videos, you know.
So now when it comes to talking to someone who is in a difficult headspace dont take it personally, and don’t under estimate how helpful it is to simply validate their struggles and pain. I can not tell you how good it feels for someone to say “well of course you’re feeling greif, you’re going through some really tough shit, but I think you’re doing really well and that you’re really strong”. Remind them of the things they’ve done right. “Hey, you got out of bed, even though you didn’t feel like you coulld AND you went to work, look at you go!” Or “you have made it through x many months! You stood up for yourself, you’re seeing a therapist, you’ve grown so much I’m really proud of you”. And remind them you care and that they’re important to you/others. I dont give a fuck how many times you have told them you love them, or how important they are to you. Tell them again, it costs you nothing and likely they are fighting with their own damn brain to believe they even deserve to exist. Tell. Them. You. Appreciate/see. Them. Got it? Good.
Okay, now more specific things that I find helpful! A while ago when I was in a really rough spot I came up with this system of victories and it helped me SO much. So I got 2 jars, labelled one ‘small victories’ one ‘big victories’. what those are you decide. For small victories (brushing my teeth, eating, getting out of bed, brushing the cat, whatever you decide) I’d put about 5-10 cents in the jar, and big (excersizing, standing up for yourself, going to therapy, meditating, doing your homework, leaving your apartment…you get it) it’d be anywhere from a quarter to a twoonie. At the end of the day I’d tally it all up and put the money in each selective jar and it was a visual reminder that even though I felt like maybe I was failing, or not doing well, fucking everything up I could remember the things I accomplished that went well and feel good about that. Now, I don’t do the coin system currently, but my partner and I have started this little ritual of sharing our days victories with one another and it is really helpful. Its nice to hear the other persons accomplishments, and support them in that, and its nice to share your own. Now some days you’re gunna be like “damn I killed it, nothing but victories today” other days you’ll be like “welp, i didn’t punch anyone at school, and I didn’t wear pjs all day” and thats still fucking amazing. The added bonus is that once you do one, you want to do more. If coins doesn’t work stickers is always a good one too, they ain’t just for kids you know.
An old friend of mine explained to me years ago that in their life they considered themselves as having four or five areas that were really important to them, that when put together and balanced out, made them happiest and most themselves. So, if they were spending too much time studying and not enough with friends they’d be out of whack. For them, I believe they had said school/learning, social, creative, work, gym/moving their body, and rest. When things feel off ask yourself ‘what do I need’, think of maybe those things that might make up your healthy balance, say pie chart stylez. (Yes I said it) When was the last time you saw a good friend? Or moved your body? When was the last time you ate a good home cooked meal with someone you love.
I have plenty more things but I will stop there for now, and just remind you its entirely individual. Its nice to be thought of and asked about, its nice when things are dark to hear people be straight up with me ‘are you safe? Do you want to hurt yourself?” If yes, “either come over, or lets go for a walk.” Or whatever you know? Last lil tip I’ll give is sometimes its nice to have kindof a code with those people. When things are really dark it feels impossible to ask for help. Maybe ask them if a code word or phrase would help? Even a number system: 1. I need company 2. Call me 3. I’m really sad and could use a few heart emojis and you to tell me you love me. 4. All the funny memes please 5. Need cute animal vids. You decide! But it can help to know you have that option for when you’re in a place so dark asking for help feels like climbing everest.
Have any other tips? Feel free to comment what works for you!
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Lastly! I’m going to post weekly here on out. Now I’ve said it I gotta. If you have questions or things you’d really like me to talk about please do reach out. I really like hearing from you all.