Dear Dr. Darcy:
We are 3 college juniors writing this question as we have a problem with our very close friend and we don’t know where to turn. Our friend is prone to bouts of depression. What’s worse is that when she gets like this, she sometimes threatens suicide and or she will cut herself. The biggest problem is that she seems to bring on a lot of her own problems. She can’t seem to go for an extended period of time with calm in her life. It’s like she needs the highs and lows, and the way she gets them is by randomly saying and doing things that sort of provoke the people in her life. We all know not to bring up any controversial topics when she’s had a few drinks in her because she has a short temper and will fly off the handle. In general, we sort of walk on eggshells around her, never knowing what reaction we’ll get. Last night she told one of us that she was having suicidal thoughts again and today one of us had lunch with her and there were fresh cuts on her arm. Again, we’re afraid to try and help her because she’s so prone to freaking out. Can you please help us?!
Your friend is a train wreck and she needs real, professional, help. She is far beyond the I need to talk to my friends level of help. And while I applaud your loyalty and desire to help her, I can’t help but question why you would keep her in your life, and what your choice to keep her in your life implies about you (the collective You).
She sounds like what we call a budding borderline and honey, that’s not a term anyone wants used to describe them. It essentially describes a pattern of relationships that involves endless drama, threats of self-harm and suicidal ideation. Technically, if your friend is in her late teens/early 20’s, she’d qualify for the actual diagnosis (borderline personality disorder [BPD]), but since a certain level of drama is normal among college students, I always hesitate to slap someone with that label until they are out of school, as life tends to mellow people once they get in the real world.
First things first: You need to take any threats of self-harm seriously. I mean life or death seriously. She needs to be told (in a calm moment) that the next time she tells you guys that she’s feeling suicidal, you will call 911. Second of all, you three cannot keep this secret any longer. You must tell her parents. People who are borderline or budding borderlines manipulate the people in their lives and make them feel like they have to walk on eggshells around them. That’s why you find yourself afraid to advocate for her. She’s a fucking mess, ladies, and she’s beyond your collective skill set. Tell her parents what you’ve told me. In fact, email them the link to this post so that they can see what you’re dealing with and how seriously this needs to be taken. Maybe she comes from a privileged family who can afford to send her to a DBT program for the summer. DBT is the only type of training/therapy that works with someone with borderline personality disorder and right now she’s still young enough to have a good chance of changing. I’ll link to a great facility at the end of the post.
Now for you three: You have to ask yourselves why you’d be attracted to someone like this i.e., not repelled by her dysfunctional behaviors. I’m a shrink, ladies, and I’d be running for the hills if someone in my personal life had BPD (family members aside, as one can’t pick one’s family). Why do you feel that you deserve to have this level of drama in your life? What need does she fill in you? Figure that out, find a new way of filling that need and you might learn the lessons that you need to learn so as not to wind up in an intimate relationship with someone who has BPD. And let me tell you: If you think having a friend with BPD is high-maintenance, try dating someone with it. That’s a joke.
Link to DBT Program: SilverHillHospital.org
Writers’ Stats: All female, all lesbian.