‘Catching Fleas’… And How To Recover From The ‘Bites’

24 Nov

It’s widely recognised that when you’re in a relationship with someone who either has diagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder, or with someone whom has many of the characteristics of this psychological derangement, that you invariably ‘catch a few fleas‘ yourself.

What exactly do I mean by this?

BPD is all about ‘control‘; the person with BPD must control the environment around them, in order to stem their irrational fear of real, or perceived abandonment, and the simultaneous chronic fear of ‘engulfment’. And ‘control’ to a BPD means control of everything, for example from what time the ‘ex’ may be picking up the kids that day, to your own whereabouts and activities. Yes, ‘controlling’ YOU, the ‘non’ in the relationship is number-one on their list of priorities.

This ‘pressure’, and this pathological scrutiny by your partner will, in the majority of cases, eventually impact insidiously and perversely on your own behaviour. This is especially true if you’re a ‘non-BP‘ in a relatively long-standing relationship with a BPD. When your BPD-partner is absent or ‘missing in action’, whilst you may suspect that he/she may be meeting other prospective partners in a bid to ‘triangulate’, then surely it’s OK to covertly access their email account to see what they’re really up to? In the same vein, surely it’s ‘OK’ to follow them to an impromptu ‘PTA Meeting’ when they suspiciously appear ‘dressed-to-kill’? No, it’s wrong! But if you know where I’m coming from, then the ‘fleas’ have already bitten hard and deep. After all the concept of ‘trust’, especially in a relationship with someone whom has undiagnosed/unacknowledged BPD is like ‘fool’s gold’; it doesn’t exist, and it never really did…

In extreme cases, this triage of seemingly-unending ‘battle’ with your BPD-partner can have an unequivocal impact on your own mental/psychological health and well-being. All-of-a-sudden, almost overnight, you’re the one who appears ‘crazy’, as exhibited by your (often irrational) actions in your desperate and seemingly never-ending attempts to maintain this dysfunctional relationship. But these actions can come with a ‘cost’; a cost to your own health and well-being.

It’s well recognised that ‘non-BP’ partners eventually exhibit signs of stress, anxiety and depression in response to the daily ‘battle’ with their BPD-partners. In severe cases, this can manifest itself as ‘Post-traumatic Stress Disorder‘, or ‘PTSD’. By that point, you will undoubtedly have a severe case of ‘the fleas’, and you’ll probably feel almost ‘bitten to death’ by the constant onslaught of pain and suffering.

It’s important that if, or when that point arrives, you seek professional help; recognise that you have your own psychological issues to address, and prioritise these above and beyond those of your BPD-partner. This is ‘easier said that done’ in many cases, but remember that the cost of not addressing your own issues could be profound; not taking action at this point may mean at one extreme the end of other friendships/relationships, and at the other extreme it could mean the possible loss of your livelihood…

In short: Seek medical advice yourself, and follow it.

Although mental/psychological illness still carries with it a certain ‘stigma’, here in the United Kingdom we have the ‘Equality Act (2010)’. This Act proffers certain ‘protections’ to people with a ‘protected characteristic’ such as a mental illness that qualifies as a ‘disability’; and the Act focuses more on the symptoms of any current or past illness, rather than on the categorical medical ‘diagnosis’ itself. However, to confer protection under the Equality Act, you have to be able to demonstrate (among other things) that the symptoms of your illness would be prevalent without the appropriate medical treatment. This is especially important if your own illness/condition is having a detrimental impact on your work, and the provisions of the Equality Act can help protect your future working livelihood.

Please do not take what I say as ‘gospel’; I am not a lawyer, and any legal references I make come with a ‘health warning’. However the key message I wish to impart is that if you feel like your health and well-being is ‘suffering’ as a ‘non-BP’ in a relationship with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, then acknowledge your own health impairment, seek medical attention immediately, and most importantly follow that advice.

If you fail to recognise, and acknowledge your own health issues that may prevail as a result of the ‘dysfunctional dance’ that characterise your ongoing relationship with a partner suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, then this may well prove to be your own ‘Achilles’ Heel‘; and if you’re unfortunate enough to ‘fall off the dance-floor of life’ in these circumstances, then ‘fleas’ will be the least of your worries. It will be the ‘vultures’ that will now naturally be your next adversaries; and a smattering of ‘flea powder’ will be of no use whatsoever…

Until next time.


4 Responses to “‘Catching Fleas’… And How To Recover From The ‘Bites’”

  1. Suzie Hall November 24, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    Hit the nail on the head. I don’t like admitting that, but as someone who suffers with BPD, I gotta say, you’re right on. And I gotta tell you how much it SUCKS. I have avoided intimate relationships, but I also avoid friends unless I can put them away (like making friends online). I hate the attachment, I hate the fear of abandonment, and I hate when I get mad. I only get mad when I get attached to people. I’m not even close to my family for that very reason. I’m in the US, and I hope that, since this problem has affected all but one of my jobs, I can take advantage of what we have available here so that I can either find meaningful work without the risk of of it happening again. It is very demeaning to have this problem and then lose a job I love because of it. Embarrassing, and not fun at all. Kinda funny, I get along quite well with people I don’t know.

    • Matthew Kelleher November 24, 2012 at 2:25 am #

      Hi Suzie,

      I wish to thank-you sincerely for your honest and frank comments. They mean a great deal, especially in considering the difficulties you personally face.

      I really hope that things work out well for you; and I think very much that they will. The key thing is, you are obviously aware of your condition.

      And ALWAYS remember that ‘everyone is different’, and people with BPD, or any other psychological condition are just as worthy as everyone else on this planet.

      We’re ALL ‘god’s children’ (and that’s coming from an atheist! lol) and we’re all ‘imperfect’. We should accept, and rejoice in the diversity that life presents us with, BPD or not, and I wish you the very best in life, from the bottom of my heart.

      Much love,


  2. Alx July 11, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    Thank you for the very well written, documented and helpful material,

    May i askhow long it took you to recover ? Or at least re start to trust, smile, live almost normally

    It s been almost a year of grief, like if i lost a family member, I get all the concepts, the pictures, the explainations, the hows etc… Yet it seems it does go into my mind as thruth, that every not busy times it haunts me back again and again, have you felt that way in anyway ?

    • Matthew Kelleher July 13, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

      I think Trust is the key issue here, and it takes time to trust again. Everyone is different, and I think people take differing times to heal from the abuse of a Borderline relationship. The more you surround yourself with people whom you either trust already, or you think are trust-worthy, then the quicker you should recover. It’s the old cliché – ‘Once bitten, twice shy’.
      From what you say, it sounds like you may be little ‘stuck’ in the post-traumatic phase of recovering from your relationship? My advice would be to surround yourself, and spend time with good friends. Otherwise, make the effort to make some new friends. Pursue a hobby that no-doubt will have fallen by the wayside, and/or join a social group/circle with common interests such as a reading group, music appreciation group, or whatever your passion is.
      Eventually, and with time, you should learn to trust your own feelings, and trust in other people’s responses and reactions. And once you do, you should be ready to open-up and embrace people in your life again.
      And just remember: Not everyone out there suffers from personality disorders, and there are some genuine, ‘normal’ people.
      And as I always say – Just remember that we’re all with you, every step of the way on your recovery.

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