The Dark and the Light

About a Friend – the Dark Behind the Smile

When I found out what he suffered from, I didn’t fully understand it. I had an understanding of depression from knowing other people with it but, as you’d expect, they were all different.

I did look up some bits about his condition but, for the most part, I just asked him or read his posts about it. That said, I did have to look up Borderline Personality Disorder as I’d never heard of it before.

“Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder of mood and how a person interacts with others. It’s the most commonly recognised personality disorder. In general, someone with a personality disorder will differ significantly from an average person in terms of how he or she thinks, perceives, feels or relates to others.” This is from the NHS website. It’s a neat little definition but doesn’t tell me much about Lex (Alex). There’s a lot more to every person than just a diagnosis and invisible illnesses like this don’t just fit into a diagnosis box for us to understand.

About Our Friendship

Lex and I have always had a good relationship. He was one of my best friends through Uni and has remained one while a lot of close friends came and went. We’re into similar books, games and movies, listen to a lot of the same music, share a lot of opinions and so much more. That’s a recipe for a great friendship, right? I would say so, and I reached the point years ago where I knew I wanted Lex to be a life-long friend. Not having him there would create a dark hole.

So, I guess, the question is, has his condition altered our friendship in any way? Well, learning the guy you consider to be a brother suffers from incurable depression is a disheartening piece of news that makes you question a lot. I questioned how good a friend I was since I didn’t notice someone so close to me was hiding a living hell. Yes, he masked it very well, but still – it made me question.

The Diagnosis

Learning, after, that he actually had BPD was partly a relief and also confusing. I was relieved because it meant the doctors (hopefully) had more of a clue with how to manage his illness and confusing because I thought I understood his depression but a personality disorder didn’t make sense to me. Dark thoughts aside, his personality seemed fine – it was his mental state and emotions that were fluctuating.

There are simple things that I hadn’t taken for granted but thought would be the same that had taken a drastic u-turn. Being happy is such a simple idea to me and, whilst people get sad and angry and all sorts of different emotions, I wondered if he would ever be happy again. Would it take its toll for him to want to end it all? These kinds of questions have frightened me. I could give him all sorts of encouragement and tell him good things about himself, but part of his condition is that he his mind won’t let him believe or feel it. Tricky, but I accepted the challenge for my friend.

Friends For the Dark Times

Most people have friends who call on them when they’re needed and this was no different. It was a sad challenge to undertake but I’d always have said yes to helping him. Not always knowing how to help when I desperately want to is gut-wrenching and makes you feel helpless. He told me that some of his friends ignored or abandoned him, probably because he required ‘more work’ than their other friends; this made me feel worse for him.

For me, learning that someone is in trouble is an instant “are you okay?” or “hope are you?” message, not brushing it under the rug and pretending it’s not there. I was angry with them for leaving him to it but I understood that some people don’t know what to do or how to react, so I made sure to tell him and, hopefully, ease his loss. If someone is hiding in their home and not coming out, you may automatically think they want to be alone, but they may actually be feeling unwanted and need someone to tell them they’re definitely wanted.

Overall, I do feel something has changed but not much has actually changed; only my perception has. Our friendship is the same but how we deal with life has changed. We still share the same interests, we still get on the same as normal and still trust each other the same. What’s changed is knowing he has a dark passenger, knowing he feels things differently. Little things that I’ve noticed have changed but he’s still the same person. The main thing is that he has to deal with a hard hand dealt by life. We all have our demons, but his have a lot of teeth and mean business. Having such a close friend who struggles with depression and BPD is hard at times but it’s a matter of whether you let them go or stay loyal.

It’s a dark challenge in life but the friendship is still light.

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Ara Bell

A returning guest poster, Ara is a young author who lives in Dorset with her partner.  She works for a large corporation by day and writes in her spare time.  Previous to that, however, she worked as a carer for people with mental health problems and dementia for 4 years.  Originally from Essex, she moved to Wolverhampton for university, where she studied English and Creative Writing.  That was also where she met Alex and began supporting him with his mental health struggles as he battled with his depression, anxiety and eventually with his self-harm and Borderline Personality Disorder.  Find more of her work here!

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

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