Five Helpful Ways to Communicate With Your Family at Thanksgiving When You Are In Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

If you’ve been in residential care for Borderline Personality Disorder and are on the road to wellness, Thanksgiving could be the perfect time to talk with your loved ones about what you’ve learned and about where you’d like to go from here. As long as you speak about your struggles and your recovery openly and honestly, it should be a positive healing experience for everyone involved.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a festive occasion for everyone. It gives people a chance to reconnect with loved ones who’ve drifted away or who they’ve been unable to see for quite some time. It provides a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the ties that bind parents, grandparents, siblings, and extended families together through good times and bad.

If you’re heading off to a Thanksgiving gathering, your family is joining you for special festivities at your facility, or you’ve recently completed a residential stay, this could be an excellent opportunity to reconnect with your loved ones. Inevitably, discussion of your progress in treatment may also come up. Does the thought of discussing your BPD with family and friends over the holidays make you feel nervous or uncertain? If so, here are ways you can initiate conversations that are helpful and informative for everyone involved:

#1 Be an Accurate Source of Information About a Condition That Is Unfamiliar to Most People

Before you get too deeply into how exactly Borderline Personality Disorder has affected you, it’s a great idea to introduce the condition to your audience first.

When you tell someone you’ve suffered from depression or have an anxiety disorder, they will have a pretty good idea of what you mean. Even among personality disorders, the names of the conditions are often self-explanatory (i.e., antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder).

But the Borderline Personality Disorder label reveals little about what the condition actually is. Unless they’ve had experiences with someone else who’s had the disorder, your loved ones are unlikely to know much about BPD or about how it manifests in the real world.

In a sense, this is to your advantage because they will likely be all ears when you start explaining the specifics of the condition. They won’t have any preconceived notions or myths that affect their willingness to listen or interfere with their ability to understand truly. As you calmly and matter-of-factly tell them about what BPD is and what it isn’t, they will be impressed by your knowledge and appreciate your willingness to share it.

#2 Try To Put Your Past Behavior in Context

Borderline Personality Disorder is a pervasive condition that will affect every area of your life. The unstable emotions and unpredictable behaviors it can cause will impact your relationships, interfere with your career performance, damage your self-esteem and self-image, and hinder your ability to care for yourself and manage your daily responsibilities.

When you begin care, mental health professionals will explain your BPD and help you see for yourself how it has affected you and those around you. As you gain clarity, you’ll begin to understand some of the characteristics and behaviors you’ve displayed. That understanding will enable your efforts to change your life for the better.

Those who’ve been negatively impacted by your behavior in the past may be especially interested to know why you’ve done some of the things you’ve done. In the spirit of the holiday season, they may be ready to accept your attempts to make amends for some of your past actions if you’ve done anything you feel a need to make up for.

#3 Encourage Questions

When dealing with a family member who’s been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, many people think the best approach is to avoid the subject altogether. They may do that because they think talking about it will make their loved ones with mental health issues feel uncomfortable. Or, they may avoid the topic because it makes them feel uncomfortable.

Either way, a refusal to address the BPD at all will turn it into the proverbial ‘elephant in the room.’ It will distort the social environment and leave everyone feeling at least a little ill at ease.

Avoiding the subject is not really in anyone’s best interests, which is why you should let everyone know you’re ready to face your diagnosis and past history head-on. Let them know they can ask any question they’d like, and you’ll be happy to answer as long as it doesn’t touch on something that is private or too personal.

When you’re open to discussing your BPD, with no or few limits, it can help remove the stigma from the disorder and from mental health issues in general. That can be beneficial for everyone, as it will defuse any tension that might be in the air when you first arrive at your Thanksgiving feast.

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#4 Talk About What You’ve Learned and About Your Hopes for the Future

Your communications with your loved ones about your BPD don’t have to bring everyone down. They don’t have to evoke pity or leave everyone silent because they’re overcome with sadness thinking about everything you’ve experienced.

Try to focus on what you’ve learned in treatment and how it’s helping you change your life. You can speak about all the progress you’ve made and on how the insights you’ve gained in residential care are leading you in a more positive direction.

First and foremost, professional help for borderline personality disorder (and any co-occurring conditions) is designed for empowerment. Your therapists will help you increase your self-comprehension and assist you in developing your coping skills as you strive to regain control over your future. Your recovery regimen and the results they’ve produced are good news, and your loved ones will be delighted to hear all about the progress you’ve been making.

#5 Establish Boundaries for Your Own Self-Protection

You should be open and honest with your loved ones about your Borderline Personality Disorder. However, that doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything or answer every question they might have. You’re entitled to your privacy and should not feel obligated to discuss anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, or exposed.

You aren’t, for example, required to reveal painful and highly personal secrets about your past. Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder often have a history of exposure to severe abuse or neglect, which may be linked to family situations. The people you meet at Thanksgiving gatherings might have relationships with your abusers, and that may be something to consider when deciding how much information you’re willing to disclose.

You may or may not want to talk about those issues with loved ones that you trust. That is entirely up to you. But if you do decide to disclose the truth about your history, the best time is during private moments, away from others who might overhear.

If your holiday conversations with loved ones start inching into uncomfortable territory, you should gently steer the conversation back in a direction that makes you feel more at ease and in control. By doing this, you’ll be preserving your boundaries in a way that is entirely appropriate given the circumstances.

Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Can Bring a Happy Homecoming

Borderline Personality Disorder is a challenging condition for those who have it. It is also challenging for those who love them. As long as it remains undiagnosed or untreated, it will continue to distort behavior and damage relationships, creating despair and disappointment where there should be tolerance and understanding.

Once your BPD has been accurately diagnosed and treatment has begun, the outlook for everyone should brighten considerably. Despair will be replaced by hope, as your prospects for wellness will be dramatically altered. Your commitment to your residential or outpatient treatment program for BDP will open new doors for you, for which your loved ones will be eternally grateful.

From your family’s perspective, seeing you in such good shape and clearly on the mend will add an extra element of joy to your shared Thanksgiving celebration.