One of the causes of stigma is that people don’t know how to respond to those who have mental illness. They fear how the person with mental illness might respond to them. As a result their social life is severely affected, particularly when inappropriate behaviour starts coming into play.

If the church is to be a safe spiritual home for people with BPD, it’s essential to become informed about the disorder. Having a grasp of what makes them the way they are will go a long way to helping them do well and respond to ministry. Understanding will help us give them the kind of love and care Jesus has modeled for us.

Probably the most prominent part of BPD is emotional dysregulation. Through life challenges and trauma, often occurring in childhood, people with BPD have developed a very strong sensitivity. This often results in uncontrollable anger that can include feelings of hurt, disappointment, sadness and hatred. If not understood, a person displaying such anger or other emotions might be considered bad or evil and be treated that way.

But such emotions are not an indication of the person’s character. Uncontrollable emotion is usually triggered by something said or done causing pain that’s rooted deep in his past. The behavior is not intentional. It can’t be helped.

Don’t judge a person with BPD by the emotions he shows. No matter how scary he may sound, it’s not likely an indication of who he truly is at all. On the inside he could very well be gentle, kind and loving.

Although my condition is improving, I did go through a difficult period with frequent uncontrollable anger. In many cases I wasn’t even aware of it. People started fearing me and stopped talking to me. I lost friends.

But I had always thought of myself – and been thought of – as a giving person. I led a godly life with compassion for those who, like me, suffered from mental illness. In multiple ways – big and small – I gave support. Even while I went through periods of intense anger and pain, I continued writing devotionals, sending them out to a long list of individuals every week. The writings comforted and encouraged my readers, reminding them of God’s love. As I wrote, I myself was blessed as well. I was reminded that God still loves me.

So here I was, scaring people with my angry outbursts and at the same time showing love and compassion to those who were suffering. The anger I showed was not the real me. It was only behaviour people saw on the outside. Unfortunately, that’s what I was judged by.

The anger was an emotional response by a very sensitive person – a response to things said and done that triggered pain left from a traumatic childhood.

 

Responding to Anger

What could be done when someone starts yelling and screaming – perhaps even sounding like she might attack you?

Unless there’s a true danger of attack (not  likely), a caring response would be to stay with the person, treating her as you would another hurting person. Be kind. Keep respect. As the anger starts to subside:

  • Give her some space, maybe bringing her to a quiet place.
  • Ask her if she’d like you to stay with her.
  • Offer a glass of water.

When she has settled down:

  • Ask if she would like to talk:
  • What caused the anger?
  • Was it something that was said?
  • Did she misinterpret something?
  • Spend some time praying about what happened. Bring it to God.
  • A hug would be good.

When I have trouble with my emotions I would appreciate such care and understanding. Although my anger might be alarming, it would help a lot to have a kind person come alongside after the crisis is over. I would hope that I would be remembered for who I am on the inside and that respect for me will stay intact.

 

To go to the first post of the series click here http://marjabergen.com/archives/a-plea-to-the-church-living-with-borderling

For all posts in this series on BPD for Churches please click here.