How do you manage Borderline Personality Disorder and a thriving relationship?
On this week’s Feature Friday we are showcasing a REAL-ationship that knows this battle well. Today we have another guest author sharing her story with mental illness and relationships. It’s our pleasure to introduce Tahnee Rae and share her story.
In today’s feature, Tahnee’s opening up about her experience, diagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder and managing her diagnosis, while maintaining her strong relationship. She’s also sharing her tips and effective tools for both roles in the relationship and encouraging others to step forward and own their diagnosis.
At The Relationship Project, we are firm believers in exposing the underbellies of all relationships and we have a soft spot for mental illness and relationships as, you all know, we too battle this challenge.
We’re thrilled and honoured to be sharing more stories, just like Tahnee’s, techniques and tools to help others out there, just like us.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
Hey everyone I’m Tahnee Rae!
I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder a short while ago after bouncing around labels for over a year and a half. My boyfriend Jordan and I have been together just shy of 3 years. Together, we have learned how to cope with my mental illness and accept it as a part of our lives.
Between appointments, diagnosis’s and medications, it goes without saying that throughout these years we’ve experienced our ups and downs. At first, it all seemed really scary but, being in a healthy, supportive relationship has helped me more than anything else. Here is the story of our journey and how we have fought and continue to fight this battle.
*Borderline Personality Disorder: (BPD)Also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder, is a long-term pattern of abnormal behaviour characterized by unstable relationships with other people, unstable sense of self, and unstable emotions. There is often an extreme fear of abandonment, frequent dangerous behaviour, a feeling of emptiness, and self-harm. The features of BPD include unusually intense sensitivity in relationships with others, difficulty regulating emotions, and impulsivity. Other symptoms may include feeling unsure of one’s personal identity, morals, and values; having paranoid thoughts when feeling stressed; dissociation and depersonalization; and, in moderate to severe cases, stress-induced breaks with reality or psychotic episodes.
ordan and I first met when we were 7 and 8 years old in a small town outside of Edmonton. “He was a punk, she did ballet. What more can I say?” Needless to say, I have been crushing on him for 17 years.
Throughout those years, Jordan and I kept in touch.
Finally, it was April 2014, when Jordan started showing a more serious interest in me and we started spending a lot of time with one another. Also, during this time, I hit one of my lowest points in my battle with depression. Jordan inevitably began to grow more aware of my illness and before we knew it, we were in it together.
When I say that we’re in it together, I mean it. We became a team. (Being in a relationship is like playing 2 vs 2 in Mario Party and if you don’t work together you BOTH lose and neither of you gets coins!)
As cliché as it sounds, Jordan saved me. At the time of my lowest point, I was too afraid to communicate with my family and friends. I was too stubborn about getting help and didn’t want to trust anyone.
What led me to trusting Jordan is that he listened.
He asked questions, he invested himself in helping me get through difficult times and he accepted me for who I am. Accepting that mental illness was present in our relationship was one of the most important steps we took.
Mental illness can be toxic to relationships if it is ignored. The thing is, mental illness is REAL.
It’s not a joke, it’s not a myth and in some cases, it may not be going anywhere for a really long time. Acknowledging that it is present can have a huge positive impact on your relationship, it did for us.
Though I have experienced many different symptoms of many mental illnesses, and acknowledging it was the first step, my toughest battle has been with anxiety.
One thing that stands out for me as a struggle in this relationship is communication, which is a HUGE factor in any relationship, but specifically one where anxiety is present.
Here are some communication tools we have learned in therapy and throughout our relationship that we have found to be effective, specifically when dealing with anxiety.
1. Communicate a plan before going in to public together.
Plan some ideas of what can be done if one of you feels anxious.
Sometimes, people with anxiety may forget the things we need to calm down when we start feeling anxious. Communicating your needs with your partner can be very helpful when in social situations.
For example: Sometimes I find going outside for air, going to my car or drinking a glass of water helps me through these awkward, anxious situations. When my boyfriend senses that I’m starting to feel anxious, he doesn’t hesitate to encourage me to try any of these strategies.
2. Communicate when you are going out without one another.
If you are dating someone with anxiety, it’s important to remember that they worry more frequently than others.
Though it may seem excessive, shooting a text or calling every once and a while just to check in can really put an anxious mind at ease. If you’re anything like me, your mind wanders and can make up super unrealistic scenarios. A simple text reading, “Hi babe just leaving the grocery store!” could potentially crush a unrealistic scenario going on inside an anxious mind.
3. Communicate your process and celebrate your progress.
Talk to your partner about your appointments with your doctor, therapist, etc. Share the progress you made in your appointments and celebrate it by acknowledging it!
Reaching a milestone in a battle with mental illness can be huge. Finding answers can sometimes be a special moment. Celebrate these proud moments together and allow the experience to bring you closer.
4. Communicate how you’re feeling.
What I mean by that is…
If your someone like me, who experiences panic or anxiety attacks, it’s important to communicate with your partner how you’re feeling mentally AND physically before, during and after these episodes.
The best advice I’ve ever received was, “You can’t calm yourself down mentally until you’ve calmed yourself down physically.” Once you recognize how your body feels physically, you can work together to find ways that work for you to calm your body.
For example: When I am about to have what I like to call a “PANIC EXPLOSION”, I notice that my body tenses up. To release the tension in my body, I need some sort of pressure. Pressure can be anything like a tight hug or even just squeezing a hand. (Jordan is really helpful in this area.)
When your body is calm, acknowledge your state of mind.
Are your thoughts racing?
Are you worried about something?
Try different ways to calm your mind, recognize what works best for you and share it with your partner.
For example: When I start becoming anxious, I notice my mind races. I have found that concentrating on something simple minded works best for me. So, I colour or watch My Little Pony. Haha!
Though I have many suggestions on how to cope with mental illness in relationships, it goes without saying that my relationship has plenty of room for growth. Just like me, my relationship is constantly changing and is far from perfect.
What I can be sure of, is that our relationship has made so much progress and we are living proof that it does get better. Listen to each other, support one another and most importantly, work as a team.
There you have it, our Feature Friday spotlighting one story on relationships and mental illness. Our biggest take aways from Tahnee’s brave story are:
To own your illness–that’s half the battle.
Lean on your teammate–they will be there to support you.
Communicate effectively your needs and emotional management–as Tahnee so perfectly said, “Duh…Right?”
Thank you, Tahnee, for being so vulnerable, real and honest in sharing your story. You are not alone in these struggles and we are so honoured to be sharing your story and providing the platform for these REALationships to be showcased. You both are the heroes of your stories and relationship together. We commend the courage it takes to share this with us and the social media world.
Cheers to imperfect relationships, and not only surviving mental illness, but thriving with it!
There’s never a dull moment with Tahnee Rae! She’s an enthusiastic, energetic, creative 25 year old with the heart of a child. Tahnee adores her job working in childcare, is currently enrolled in Early Childhood Education and hopes to continue working in the field for years to come. She’s a firm believer in owning your story, has a love for the arts, and has danced competitively for years. Keep up with her on Instagram @wontahn to see what she’s into next!
Edited By: Taylor Aller