Guest Post: Living with Someone with a Personality Disorder

Living with Someone with a Personality Disorder
Photo: justin-follis-450674.jpg from Unsplash 182 Archive

Thank you, Millie Jane, for this guest post. Millie shows compassion for her boyfriend who lives with a personality disorder. Too often those with personality disorders are vilified by family, friends, and even mental health professionals.

Millie is UK-based. I’m curious as to how the UK and the US differ in treating personality disorders.

Under US law, insurers don’t have to offer those with personality disorders parity (equal coverage) for their mental health care. California’s parity law covers these serious mental illnesses (SMI) and severe emotional disturbances (SED) of a child: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorders, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, pervasive developmental disorder or autism, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa. People living with personality disorders do not get parity treatment, which is an unjust travesty leading to unnecessary harm.

Living with Someone with a Personality Disorder

Author: Millie Jane

Does having a personality disorder ruin your chances of having a long, happy relationship? The answer is no, you just have to be in a relationship with the right person. I’m writing from the position of that other person. My boyfriend has both Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), but that doesn’t mean I’m not the happiest I’ve ever been in a relationship. Sure, it has more challenges than perhaps the “ordinary” (note the quotation marks – there’s no such thing as an ordinary relationship), but I’ve always been the sort of person who can tough out a challenge, which means I get to reap the rewards. His personality disorders are a part of my boyfriend, but not all of him. And the good times definitely outweigh the difficult ones.

Disclosure: I am not a qualified mental health specialist by any means; I simply wish to share my own experiences and advice in the hope that I may be able to help someone in a similar position.

Manifestations of Personality Disorders

A fantastic thing to do when you’re in contact with somebody who has a personality disorder is to do your research. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’re most likely already doing exactly that. There are many aspects to personality disorders and of course each case is unique, so for the purpose of this post I’ve chosen a select few features of BPD and ASPD that I feel are the big players when it comes to relationships, and some of my experiences with these.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Abandonment Issues

When someone is afraid that you’re going to leave them, it makes it difficult to have confidence in a relationship. I think it’s easy for people to get ‘put-off’ by this kind of insecure behaviour (especially early on), and the requirement of almost-constant reassurance can be tiring. This fear of abandonment can also surface in the form of the person suffering with the personality disorder threatening to leave you over what you perceive to be small things. How can you feel secure in a relationship if this keeps arising? The answer is just persistence and understanding. These ’threats’ are just a form of fear expression, to prevent you from leaving first – which is what BPD sufferers see as inevitable at some point down the line.


This is a touchy subject and the hardest to navigate. It’s incredibly difficult to see someone you love hurt themselves, and a lot of people can’t handle this. If you search online for what to do in this kind of situation, it’s most likely going to tell you to call an ambulance or the police so that the person can be detained in some way to prevent them causing further harm. People suffering from personality disorders find the intervention of strangers exceedingly stressful and, through experience, I’ve found that this isn’t always the best course of action. Don’t get me wrong, if you do not feel equipped to deal with these situations by yourself, you must seek outside help, especially if you feel in danger. There have been times when I’ve resorted to calling an ambulance, as I was unable to calm my boyfriend down and the cuts to his wrists were too severe for me to patch up and required medical attention.

The ability to foresee self-harm is key. If you see an episode arising, being able to hide dangerous objects and helping them take their emotions out another way can prevent self-harm. The most important thing is to remain calm. People with BPD take out emotions on themselves, and they will likely worsen if they have to deal with your emotions as well. Assess the situation. Is the item they are using to do damage going to hurt you if you intervene? If it’s an object such as a knife, do not put yourself in danger by attempting to take this off them. Try to resist from threatening to leave, as the abandonment issues will enhance an episode. Talking in a firm but caring voice, such as that of a parent, can help. Be understanding, don’t tell them what they’re feeling is wrong, highlight positive things and comfort them. I’ve had times when my boyfriend has broken down and ended up laying on the bathroom floor, and I’ve taken a pillow and blanket to him and laid down holding him until he was ready to get up and have me bandage his wounds. Every situation is different, but just knowing to remain calm and supportive is the most important thing. Every day I rub his scars with bio oil, and this kind of acknowledgement and acceptance really helps build trust so that he’s more likely to listen to me during an episode. After an episode, the person usually regrets it and feels ashamed, and so it’s important not to emphasise how it affected you and make them feel worse.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)


You may have heard the saying that all anger stems from fear. I feel as though this is a good phrase to remember in heated situations with someone who has a personality disorder. Often, they may get angry over things you wouldn’t expect them to. Try to ask yourself what the anger could stem from, what are they afraid of? For example, fear of abandonment often surfaces in anger. If you remain calm, speak in a soothing voice, and do not mirror the anger, you can often dissect the issue together and overcome it.

Disregard toward Others

This is probably the biggest issue when it comes to being in a relationship with somebody who has a personality disorder. The important thing to remember is that disregard toward your feelings does not mean they don’t care about you, it’s just an intrinsic part of their disorder. When you’ve been awake all night because of an episode, and then have to work all day and get home to a filthy kitchen, it can be tough. When you try to talk about how you’re feeling, they may emphasise their own issues and value them above yours. This can often seem selfish and be frustrating, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want the best for you, their disorder is just causing them to overlook how you might be feeling. I’ve found the key to this is to step away and take a moment for yourself. Do yoga, have a bubble bath, read a book in a different room. When you feel the moment is right, you have to calmly and maturely talk through what is going on and help the other person see what you’re feeling. Communication is key, and letting the other person know that you understand and don’t blame them can help improve things between you.

Psychiatric Help

Being aware of the manifestations of personality disorders can greatly improve your relationship, but the person suffering still needs to get the right medical help. Unfortunately, too many of us know the struggle of dealing with mental health services. The funding simply isn’t there, and people with mental health problems are largely overlooked as these issues aren’t visible. As if it weren’t difficult enough to seek help in the first place, not receiving the care you need can be incredibly discouraging and cause feelings of hopelessness. If you’re trying to help someone facing this, you need to encourage them to be persistent and not give up. Help is out there, it’s just not always easy to find.

Getting the right diagnosis is the first step, but the aftercare is also key. My boyfriend spent years of being passed back and forth between various mental health services, to no avail. None of the NHS services would prescribe him the medication he’s on now (anti-psychotics) as they felt they were too severe. After many different cycles of the wrong medication, he finally forked out to see a very expensive and distinguished psychiatrist, who after just one hour changed his medication, which has in turn changed his life. Not everyone can afford this, I understand, but there are many specialists out there with fair rates, and it’s worth the spending in exchange for a full life. Many psychiatrists will allow a free session if you’re looking around to find the ‘right fit’, as it’s important the person with the disorder has a doctor they feel comfortable with. Also, if you spend more for a psychiatrist to get that initial correct diagnosis and prescription, you can then change to a less expensive psychologist or counsellor for regular sessions.

Personality disorders are often misunderstood, and people (even some doctors) avoid them because they don’t want to take on the ‘hassle’ of it. The disorder does not define the person and with the right help, compassion and understanding, these people can live a full life with love and success.

Author: Millie Jane

I do not whisper. I ROAR.

I do not whisper. I ROAR.

Motherhood transformed me. My identity changed. Now it changes again. I have constantly reinvented myself over my lifetime.

As a pre-med biochemistry major at UCLA, I was miserable and suicidal. Then I studied part-time at a community college, biding time to find my direction. Finding a niche as a legal studies major at UC Berkeley, I tried to reconcile my inner turmoil with very high professional aspirations.

First I worked as a legal assistant, then went to graduate school, earned a master’s in psychology and became a psychotherapist, only to crash and burn. Recovering from that breakdown, I re-entered the workforce as a temporary file clerk in the commercial real estate industry where I had ten years of success.

Trying to balance work with motherhood, I failed miserably, and ended up hospitalized in a psychiatric unit with rapid cycling and mixed symptoms of bipolar disorder. After months of partial hospitalization, I became a reluctant stay-at-home mother on disability.

What does an overeducated and reluctant stay-at-home mother with a recurring sense of calling (or a manic and delusional symptom of bipolar disorder, depending on one’s perspective) do with her mind? Why attend seminary, of course, which I did on two separate occasions and on two separate occasions had to quit due to symptoms.

Here I am writing my story again. To what end? To reinvent myself once again – not as someone who is ill, but as someone who fights and loves and writes and has hope that new chapters of her life lie ahead.

I have a voice that must be heard. I have a message to share and share it I do. I am not just my son’s mother. I am not my diagnosis. I am able. I am able to affect change. I wield power. I am a mover and a shaker. I do not whisper. I ROAR.

Multicultural Mental Health Facts #MHM

Multicultural Mental Health Facts 1. Mental Health Facts MULTICULTURAL Prevalence of Adult Mental Illness by Race 16.3% 19.3% 18.6% 13.9% 28.3% Hispanic adults living with a mental health condition. White adults living with a mental health condition. Black adults living with a mental health condition. Asian adults living with a mental health condition. AI/AN* adults living with a mental health condition. Follow Us! Ways to Get Help Talk with your doctor Visit Learn more about mental illness Connect with other individuals and families LGBTQ Community Use of Mental Health Services among Adults (2008-2012) Fact: Mental health affects everyone regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. 1 in every 5 adults in America experience a mental illness. Nearly 1 in 25 (10 million) adults in America live with a serious mental illness. One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by the age of 24. 11.3% 21.5% 6.6% 10.3% 16.3% 15.1% 4.4% 5.3% 5.5% 9.2% Hispanic White Black Asian AI/AN* Male Female *American Indian/Alaska Native Critical Issues Faced by Multicultural Communities Less access to treatment Less likely to receive treatment Poorer quality of care Higher levels of stigma Culturally insensitive health care system Racism, bias, homophobia or discrimination in treatment settings Language barriers Lower rates of health insurance *American Indian/Alaska Native LGBTQ individuals are 2 or more times more likely as straight individuals to have a mental health condition. 11% of transgender individuals reported being denied care by mental health clinics due to bias or discrimination. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. 2X 2-3X 11% 1 This document cites statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health., the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, New Evidence Regarding Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mental Health and Injustice at every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

Featured Blogger: Kitt O’Malley – Art by Rob Goldstein

Thank you, Robert Goldstein, for featuring me on Art by Rob Goldstein as his November featured blogger. The original interview is posted at: Here I reprint it.

This month’s featured blogger is writer and Mental Health Advocate Kitt O’Malley. In this interview we talk about internalized stigma, learning to accept and taking up the challenge of advocating for change.

Thank you for accepting my invitation Kitt, it’s an honor to have you as November’s featured blogger on Art by Rob Goldstein

Tell the reader a little about where you are from and how that shaped your worldview.

As a child, I moved back and forth overseas (living five years in Saudi Arabia) and between the East and West Coasts. As an adult, I moved back and forth from Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, with one year in Eugene, Oregon and a couple of years in the Mojave Desert.

Moving often throughout my life has both positively and negatively affected me. I’m flexible, for I’ve lived in different cultures and subcultures. I’ve lived most of my life feeling like an outsider. Though, now, as a mature adult raising an adolescent, I see that everyone – no matter what culture, race, age, socioeconomic status, belief system, or diagnosis – has more in common than not. We all have the same basic needs – food, shelter, health (physical and mental), and love (a basic need of mammals to thrive).

What kind of psychotherapy did you practice?

I was educated in psychodynamic and family systems theory, with a sociopolitical slant. New College of California was a left-wing school – appropriate for someone planning on practicing in the Bay Area (well, at least San Francisco, Berkeley, or Oakland). To prepare for licensure, everyone must understand the basics about the major theories and modalities, so after graduation, I crash-studied other “types” of psychotherapy.

While in graduate school, I worked as an administrator at a battered women’s shelter. All staff members took shifts backing up our crisis line volunteers, and doing intake. My field placement involved doing play therapy with severely emotionally disturbed elementary and middle school-aged (latency aged) children. Working with children excited me. Object relations theory, or attachment theory, informed my work.

After graduation, I specialized in working with severely emotionally disturbed adolescents. I took additional training in sand tray therapy, similar in many ways to play therapy, as it is nonverbal. Sand tray therapy has its roots in Jungian theory. I worked for a residential facility which used a moral development model built upon the directors’ studies under Lawrence Kohlberg at Harvard.

To help my clients, I did whatever worked. Employed at non-profit agencies with multi-disciplinary treatment and education teams, I had the advantage of other professionals’ knowledge and training. I’m a huge believer in a multidisciplinary approach. The private practice model isolates and confuses individuals and families. As a mother, I can tell you first hand that I find coordinating my own son’s care (and my care) frustrating, to say the least.

As a child or adolescent’s psychotherapist, I worked with the parents and the child. On top of individual, family, and group psychotherapy, I did case management and coordinated care. Working with pregnant and parenting teens as a case manager and counselor, I coordinated care and, frankly, nagged young women to finish high school and get the job skills and/or university education that would enable them to rise above poverty.

The last position I had in the field was as a psychotherapist at a day treatment program for severely emotionally disturbed adolescents. The program heavily used behavioral modification techniques. My observation was that heavy use of such techniques taught the young men how to work the system. They were trained for a lifetime of external control. Insight is necessary for change.

I left the profession after an attempted rape by one of my adolescent male day treatment clients. Unfortunately, my position there started immediately after I lost a friend from high school to AIDs. The combination of both traumas threw me into a deep depression at the age of thirty. I have not practiced psychotherapy since then.

Does your knowledge in the field help or hinder the management of your illness?

At first, it hindered it. When I was first diagnosed bipolar type II at thirty-nine, I thought that I had a serious progressive mental illness. I had not realized the extent to which I had internalized stigma against bipolar disorder, as opposed to depression. The clients that I had worked with were so ill that they required residential or day treatment. All of the sudden, I thought of myself as not fit to be a mother. I put my son in daycare and returned to work, only to eventually fall apart and require hospitalization and partial hospitalization.

When you think of encounters with stigma, which stands out as the worst?

My own internalized stigma stands out. I thought my son better off without me. We stopped trying to have a second child. That’s some heavy stigma. My first psychiatrist, who was a woman, reassured me that I could have another child, just on different medication. We decided, though, that one was enough.

What prompted you to start a blog?

My father-in-law suffered sepsis while traveling. My husband and his siblings immediately joined his parents at the hospital. The incident, having someone I love on the precipice of death, triggered hypomania. I channeled my hypomanic energy and anxiety into writing. I simply had to. Many people prayed for my father-in-law’s healing. He is still with us today. For that I am grateful.

What specific kinds of skills do you think mental health advocates need to bring to their blog?

Self-care. The ability to see blogging for what it is and for what it is not. Not to expect writing to be a cure, even if it can be therapeutic. To realize that you may not get positive feedback for what you write. Realize that it may trigger symptoms. Be discerning as to whom you follow and to whom you listen. My best online mental health blogging friends have recommended that I see my mental health professional team when I appear to be symptomatic.

Medication has helped me to maintain stability. I am pro-science and pro-medication. My interest in the field of medicine preceded my interest in mental health. For those stable on medication, stay on your medication. Be skeptical of claims to “cure” mental illness. Vet sources. I like to rely on sources such as the National Institute of Mental Health.

As a mental health advocate, what kind of policy changes do you want to see?

Multi-disciplinary treatment teams. Housing. Changes to privacy laws so family and friends can participate in treatment. Better health and medication coverage.

Is there anything you regret about the decision to go public with bi-polar illness?

For myself, no. For family members, perhaps. But, I’ve always been open. Just my personality.

What is the one thing people can do right now to combat stigma against people with mental illnesses.

Treat others kindly.

What is the question you would ask yourself as an interviewer and how would you answer it?

I have no clue. As I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, perhaps it would be: How do you deal with exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed? For which, I do not have an adequate answer. Figuring it out as I go…

Thank you Kitt!

NAMIWalks, Conferences, and Fatigue

This summer I’ve been recuperating from caring for my parents, going to the BlogHer16 women’s blogging conference, and training for NAMI In Our Own Voice.

A writer is a writer before, as well as after, publication. Southern California Writers' Conference

This upcoming weekend, I’m attending the Southern California Writers’ Conference, about which I’m understandably worried for I find conferences exhausting and am a bit anxious that I will be out of my depth there.

Conferences can be exhausting and overwhelming for anyone, whether or not they live with mental illness. The social interaction of conferences and trainings overstimulate me, trigger hypomania, and exhaust me, requiring rest to recuperate.


The following weekend I’m walking 5K for NAMI Orange County. Please support me and team STIGMA SMASHERS for NAMIWalks Orange County 2016. NAMI Orange County’s programs have helped me live well with bipolar disorder.


NAMI Peer-to-Peer introduced me to the concept of mental health recovery and gave me HOPE. I volunteer as a Provider Education presenter and just trained to become an In Our Own Voice public speaker to share my story of mental health recovery.

NAMIWalks provides NAMI Orange County with 1/3 of their operating budget, enabling them to offer free mental health educational programs, meetings and support groups.

 join team stigma smashers

NAMIWalks Orange County

Saturday, October 1st
Check in: 9:00 AM
Start time: 10:30 AM
William R. Mason Park
18712 University Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

Thank you for your support!