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A key word that you will see:

Fragmentation: a mental process where a person becomes intensely emotionally focused on one aspect of themselves, such as “I am angry” or “no one loves me,” to the point where all thoughts, feelings and behavior demonstrate this emotional state, in which, the person does not or is unable to take into account the reality of their environment, others or themselves and their resources. This is a term that my therapist and I use and is on the continuum of dissociation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Growing up with a mother with a borderline personality disorder!!

If you are a parent with borderline personality disorder or any other type of mental illness, do not run away and I hope you don’t take this personally or become defensive because this is not my intent. I want to tell you what I experienced. Part of the damage is because my mother does not take responsibility for anything and everything is someone else’s fault. She doesn’t have any insight, does not think anything is wrong with her, has never had any treatment and still treats me in the same manner. Also, I did not have any sort of counter balance with her. If you are reading this, it probably means that you do have insight and have some way of counter balancing when you slip. When reading this please be gentle with yourself. Even with my having had a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, my therapist told me that I would make a good mother.

Over the last couple of weeks, besides what has been going on in my blog, therapy has been extremely difficult as I am having a flood of auditory, visual and body memories related to the things that my mother used to say to me. My therapist is trying to get me to see that it doesn’t make sense because she has a borderline personality disorder (BPD). It only makes sense in the context that she was severly borderline.

Yes, my mother has a severe borderline personality disorder which I don’t really want to look at. I am defending and trying everything I can to look at something else, but her voice and what she said has been so loud in my head. My therapist assigned a Wordle to put those thoughts down on paper and I put over 100 phrases. I posted it, but you can’t read it because it is too small. You have to click on the picture to get a larger view. But, I don’t want anyone doing that until I’ve explained some of what a borderline personality disorder is and how I experienced it. This is going to be at least a two part series.

There are four books I recommend which are on the Amazon recommendation list on the widget in the right sidebar. They are I Hate You-Don't Leave Me, Stop Walking on Eggshells, Understanding the Borderline Mother and Surviving a Borderline Parent. Almost all of the clinical information will be coming from these books. Stop Walking on Eggshells has a workbook also their subtitle is Taking You Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder.

For me, the sexual abuse was horrendous and I am still working though it, but it was not the most damaging part of my abuse. It actually has its roots in my mother’s BPD and her ambivalence in not wanting me. Actually, neither of my parents wanted me and seemed to hate each other along with my father’s father not wanting me and blaming my mother on the pregnancy. Yes, they were married because of her being pregnant with me. She was never treated for her BPD and will deny that she needs therapy as a result she still does some of the same things to me as when I was a child.

In the Introduction to Surviving a Borderline Parent, it explains some of what a child might go through.
“As a child, did you feel like you fell short, disappointing a parent, stepparent, or caretaker because you weren’t good enough, didn’t do enough, or just weren’t able to please, no matter how hard you tried? Did you feel responsible for your parent’s happiness and guilty if you felt happy yourself? Did you feel damned if you did and damned if you didn’t, that whatever you did or said was the wrong thing (and boy would you pay for it)? Were you accused of things you hadn’t done? Did you feel manipulated at times? Feel appreciated one minute and attacked the next? Thought you must be ‘crazy’ because a parent’s actions or reactions didn’t make any sense? Question your own intuition, judgment, or memory, believing you must have missed or misinterpreted something? Did you feel on guard all the time, that life with you parent was never predictable?

You weren’t crazy. Not then, and not now, though it may still feel that way. What felt crazy-making to you may well have been being parented by someone who had traits of borderline personality disorder.

No one chooses their parents and, as young children, once you’re brought into this world, you’re not in a position to opt out of your relationship with them In fact, you desperately need them-to provide food and shelter, to prompt you to learn, to model ways to interact in society, to nurture you, to show you affection, and to provide unconditional love. A parent with BPD, however, may not have been able to consistently provide all of these things to you, through no fault of deficit of yours. They may not have received that kind of care themselves. It may seem ironic, but your parent may actually have consciously or unconsciously reinforced you as the caretaker to meet his or her needs, to be the nurturer and provider of emotional support, even though you were a child.”


A couple of years ago when I first read this opening, I was quite shocked to see that someone put into words everything I experienced. Even, today as I write it, I still feel as if those words were meant directly for me. Also, I was definitely the "adult" and caretaker of my mother feeling the need to protect her, defend her and calm her down. (This is a really difficult post for me to write...I just want to go away, but it is also reinforcing that she really was borderline)

The following is a table taken from Understanding the Borderline Mother.

Variations in Maternal Functioning

The Ideal Mother versus The Borderline Mother

  1. Comforts her child versus Confuses her child.

  2. Apologized for inappropriate behavior versus Does not apologize or remember inappropriate behavior.

  3. Takes care of herself versus Expects to be taken care of.

  4. Encourages independence in her children versus Punishes or discourages independence.

  5. Is proud of her children's accomplishments versus Envies, ignores, or demeans her children's accomplishments.

  6. Builds her children's self-esteem versus Destroys, denigrates, or undermines self-esteem.

  7. Responds to her children's changing needs versus Expects children to respond to her needs.

  8. Calms and comforts her children versus Frightens and upsets her children.

  9. Disciplines with logical and natural consequences verses Disciplines inconsistently or punitively.

  10. Expects that her children will be loved by others versus Feels left out, jealous or resentful if the child is loved by someone else.

  11. Never threatens abandonment versus Uses threats of abandonment (or actual abandonment) to punish the child.

  12. Believes in her children's basic goodness versus Does not believe in her children's basic goodness.

  13. Trusts her children versus Does not trust her children.

Okay, it is my turn to address each one of these the best I can in terms of my relationship with my mother...does anyone else want to volunteer for this please...oh, this is a blog not an interactive class. *sigh* I guess, I make the first comments, huh?

  1. Comfort was always confusing to me because even to this day I do not think of her as a comforting person to go to. I would end up being yelled at, teased, comforting her, discounted or completely ignored. I quickly learned that she was not a person to go to.

  2. Apologies are definitely not one of my mother's strong points. I actually cannot ever remember her apologizing to me. And, when "confronted" she would deny having done anything or saying anything wrong.

  3. Taking care of herself is something that she did not do very well and I often, as I stated above, took care of her. My family tells a story of my getting angry at my grandmother for yelling at my mother. I kicked my grandmother and told her to be nice to her. I was only three.

  4. Independence was a fine line because sometimes she wanted me to be more independent than I was prepared for or was age appropriate and, other times, I was too stupid to do it myself. At the age of 6, I walked halfway down the block to a major street past the 7-11, which was robbed numerous times, past the gun shop across one small street to purchase bread at the little bread store in the neighborhood.

  5. Being proud is one thing that I'm actually unsure of because I know that she has said that she was proud of my accomplishments at school. I graduated with highest honors from high school and with honors from college and was given an big deal award from our faculty, but there was something in it that always felt like I was an extension of her so she was proud of herself and not necessarily me. I don't know if that makes sense to you. My therapist understands though. I've experience envy, ignoring and demeaning behavior toward me especially in relationship to my marriage, but I won't get into it. It would be a whole post in itself.

  6. What self-esteem can occur when you are constantly being told you are stupid, evil, can't do anything and are teased and taunted at every opportunity.

  7. Needs are something I don't think she ever saw in me. She has always said that she never had to worry about me. Even when I was admitted for my first psychiatric hospitalization she told me, "that I've always had a good head on my shoulders and have made good decisions." So, does that mean that I didn't need anyone because I had decided to hospitalize myself? What part of psychiatric hospitalization do people not get?

  8. Well, I already wrote about calms and comforts. When I was a kid, I hit my head on a sharp edge of a coffee table and a family member saw it and I was calm and so was she. But, when my mother saw it she became hysterical and had to be calmed down and then I burst into tears because she scared me. I ended up needing stitches, but she was outside with a nurse who calmed her down while a family member held my hand and calmed me. Normally, I'm the one who can most immediately calm her down.

  9. Discipline is something that was rather confusing because it never made sense when I would get into trouble or not. I could do exactly the same thing or say the same thing in the same circumstances and be ignored or it would blow up into this huge thing with her yelling at me and hitting me. It was like walking on eggshells all the time or a minefield, never knowing what was going to be set off and the mines kept moving. This was both with my mother and step-father. I received it from both sides.

  10. Expects that others would love me. Uh, no not my experience because I was told that I was unlovable, evil, bad and that no one wanted me, liked me or loved me. "Feels left out, jealous or resentful if the child is loved by someone else." I do remember thinking in some circumstances that she was jealous or resentful of the attention I received versus her from certain individuals. Then, she would become extremely hostile and passive-aggressive toward me.

  11. Abandonment, well my life started out with that, but as I became older it was threatened. She would tell me that she was going to just leave me somewhere or to kill me.

  12. My goodness was obviously not a thing she believed with all the stuff that she did and said that constantly told me that I was evil and bad. I don't think I can get into that now...too difficult. Although the Wordle would give you an idea of what it has been like. It is on the side bar entitled, "Mommy Says!"

  13. I really don't want to think or write about my mother trusting me or not.

So, that was difficult and that is a glimpse into what growing up with a borderline mother. No solid attachment anywhere or predictability. Please, unless you think you might be triggered, read the Wordle to gain a better perspective of the types of things that were said to me. I have left out quite a bit of information that would identify me much of which is the teasing and taunting phrases and family stuff. But, you will get a good enough picture.

Well, I am exhausted after doing this post and dealing with this in therapy. I think the most tiring part is that I am fighting the process. So enough for now, if I feel up to it, I'll do another part of it for tomorrow's post; otherwise, my old journal entries will have to do. Oh, don't forget to check out my Amazon book recommendations also. (hee-hee. I get paid if you purchase the books via my link or even if you click on it. Shhhh).

22 comments:

Anonymous Drifter said...

A mother-daughter relationship is so important in a person's life. I'm so sorry you have to go through this on top of everything else you had to endure.

Angela said...

Reading that gives me a pain inside. Not because I grew up with a BPD mother, but because I am one myself. The only thing is, and this might sound like denial to you, I am not like that to my son. I read your wordle, and there are a few things that I have said to him.. like I've said he's being too dramatic at times but that's got nothing to do with me punishing him or anything, he just is kind of a dramatic kid. I also would sometimes say "how many times do i have to tell you". I know it's hard for him to be my son, and that alone makes me hate myself. I am different than your mother though, because sometimes even though I get so angry that horrible words could come out of my mouth, I do hold back. I would never tell my son to die, or that I do not wish to have had him. I would never tell him he is unloved. I encourage him daily and let him know how proud I am of his accomplishments. I used to get very angry at small stuff and sometimes go on a tyrade, but I am better with that now. I am better at not getting so angry, and I am trying to be more understanding. I don't degrade him or make fun of him or anything of the sort. Reason being that I don't want him to grow up and be like me. His father committed suicide in 2006, but I have not had the heart to tell him it was suicide. He's only 8. Anyway, I don't know why I'm rambling in your comment box, when all I had meant to say to you is that I am sorry for what you are going through. I feel your pain, but from a different aspect. Maybe your mother lives in denial about her BPD, but I don't. I accept what I am and I deal with it everyday. It is a constant struggle. Anyway, I love your website and I'll definitely be back. I have always wanted to start a blog sort of like this, but never had the guts to do it.

austin said...

I kind of had to blink a few times on the part about my mother trusting me. Hmmm.... I wonder what that part means. Trust how, to do what, with what? Whatever it means it makes my heart fall.

Their behavior is sometimes so subtle that we don't know damage is done until years upon years later when we suddenly realize we were tricked into thinking life was normal back then.

Austin

Untreatable said...

My father was never diagnosed, for he did not think anything was wrong, but there is a very high chance that he would have met the BPD criteria and manged to pass it on to both of his children. I am still in the middle of trying to figure out the BPD father and my dad for the different messages between the two occupy both extremes of the spectrum. One of the greatest fears that I have is that this is going to be passed down to my own child so I am overly aware of how and what I say to him plus make sure I am extremely supportive. At times it seems to be really forced but I can deal with that as long as he knows that I love him and will always be there when he needs me.

Clueless said...

@drifter. Thank you, but everything goes back to my mother being sick...everything including her inability to protect and ignore.

@angela. Your comment does not sound like denial talking at all. I sounds truthful and as a result, I added a paragraph at the very beginning of the post. Thank you for making me aware...I was so spent after writing it, I was not thinking clearly.

@austin. You mean it wasn't normal? The trust one confused me and disturbed me at the same time. I have therapy soon, so I'll bring it up.

@untreatable. You seem like a good father. You are also so self-aware that you probably catch yourself when you slip and take action when you realize it. If only, I would have felt loved, accepted, comforted and could here her say that she made mistakes with me...that would make all the difference in the world. I also added a beginning paragraph to address parents who have been diagnosed with BPD.

Angela said...

I hope I didn't make it seem as though I was offended or getting defensive, lol. But thank you for that.

My biggest thing is, that even though your mother suffers from this illness, how could she possibly felt that it's ok to say things like that to anyone let alone her own child?

It's too bad she never acknlowledged it and tried to get some help.

Mike Golch said...

My Mom might of had a personality disoder. she difinatly sufferd from depression. Her Mom my Grandma did have one. the trick is to admit to your self that there is a problem and take care of it.
there is more I want to say but I cannot.it pains me so. gotta go and deal with the feelings I haveing. just starting to talk about this has caused a floodgate of tears. Hugs and Blessings-mike golch said that

thestranger said...

I had a partner who may have been borderline and it was a very tough experience even as a grown man. I have a lot of respect for those that have it who can be introspective about it and take responsibility. My childhood memories are a little hazy, though. I know I wasn't treated well but I have a hard time looking back and recognizing if anybody had any mental illnesses... they certainly had unhealthy behaviors. Its bad when children get put in adult situations.

April_optimist said...

Well, that pretty much describes my mother! She was so insecure and unhappy that she used to accuse me of breaking up her marriage and used to tell me I was crazy, the world would find out and I should kill myself before they did. The only good thing about it was that she was so extreme that I knew from the time I was 7 that she was messed up and I'd better look elsewhere for a role model and for acceptance. (((Hugs))) that you went through all this with your mother.

Clueless said...

@angela. No you did not sound offended, but you reminded me that some might and that I wanted to make sure people didn't "beat" themselves up over it. My mother is really sick and does not see that anything is wrong with her. Although she is only in her early 60's, she will probably never seek treatment. The worse part is that I will never be able to talk to her about this stuff with her or have any type of acknowledgement.

@Mike. Big hugs and blessings of comfort to you. This is a tough post to write and to read.

@thestranger. Being in a romantic relationship is probably the next toughest thing. I admire those who stick it out. My husband has stuck by my side when my borderline symptoms were causing problems. Thank God that he was seeing my therapist to assist and understand me.

@april.Thank you for the hugs. I'm sorry for what you went through also. Part of what made it tougher is that I am an only child, but I thank God that he gave me a good set of brains to get rewarded in school. ((April))

jumpinginpuddles said...

our mum was a paranoiud bi polar, her cruelty was terrible, we feel for what you also went through having unstable mother

Clueless said...

JIP. It is so difficult trying to come to terms with how she treated me...I just shut down.

Tamara said...

clueless,

I read this post this morning and was so blown away at how much it sounded like my mother that I couldn't even leave a comment. I had to email the post to my sister and my husband and re-read it myself. My T told me a long time ago that she suspected my mom was BPD and now I KNOW she is right. This truly helped me understand in a way that books I have read could not. You did a beautiful job with you summary and relating it to your own experience. I thank you so much because I feel like I can breathe with the realization that my mom was really mentally ill and didn't just hate me because it was worthless.

I am so sorry that you had to go through this. Oh for a way to take all of our pain away and make us all instantly healed and whole!

I will purchase the books from your site so that I can learn more and you deserve the $'s for the work you put into not only this post but your entire blog.

Thank you.

(((((Hugs)))))
Tamara

Clueless said...

@Tamara. Thanks. I'm sending you an email.

Patches said...

When we started to read this post we got way overwhelmed. We still aren't sure why. We were unable to read most of it, but we just wanted to say you deserved better, and to offer our support.

Clueless said...

Hi Patches,

Thank you for trying to read it. It was difficult for me too and it is triggering a lot of people whether they are a parent or had parents who were ill.

Take care,
Clueless

more to life than my childhood. said...

I can empathise with you.
My mother is an undiagnosed BPD sufferer. She is certain nothing is wrong with her, its just that I am evil and she is wonderful.
For many years I was deeply unhappy,and struggled with life, but I didnt realise how much until I got a dog.(I had sworn never to have children). I found out I did not know how to praise or give affection.If she came to me all happy, I didnt give her cuddles, and play with her. I would assume she wanted something, like food, water or a walk. No living thing would possibly want a cuddle from me.It never even entered my head that it may - thats parents for you.They distort your core beliefs into something quite damaging. Luckily I ended up in therapy, and I myself was diagnosed with BPD. Hard work, many tears, and challenging behavior has led me to be a happier, more confident and affectionate person.
I wish you strength and luck in your journey.
May you find contentment.

Clueless said...

@more to life than my childhood. Yes, there is more to life than that and I am grateful. Thank you for telling me a little about yourself and reading the blog. I feel sad that raising a dog was difficult, but happy that you received treatment. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

Patricia Singleton said...

Wow!!! You could be describing my dad instead of my mom. A nephew in the past year asked me if I thought my dad was bipolar. I told him I didn't know anything about bipolar and its symptoms. So much of what you have written here describes my dad. You have given me a lot to think about. Thanks. Growing up in a dysfunctional family really does hurt.

Clueless said...

Hi Patricia,

I'm glad that this helped. Sometimes, bipolar disorder is misdiagnose as borderline personality disorder and vice-versa.It is a controversial psychiatric aspect.

People with borderline personality disorder often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. They have difficulty with attachments, abandonment issues, moods can quickly change from over idealization to devaluation, black and white thinking, highly sensitive to rejection (which can even include distress if a husband works extra hours), without the other person they may have feelings of being lost and perhaps worthless. Suicide threats and attempts may occur. They also
exhibit other impulsive behaviors, such as excessive spending, binge eating and risky sex.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting all this. When I read the description of a borderline mother, I thought- that could be my mother. It is only 3 years ago I hit the bottom with a massive depression, always having known that something was wrong, but not what. I did well at school- only good thing about me, and have always worked hard too, but always felt so alone and didn´t know how to deal with my feelings which led me into the arms of all the wrong men, even another really bad BPD. I have 3 children today and being alone and pregnant with the last one, I couldn´t keep it up anymore. I went to the doctor who sent me to a psychologist. I remember how scared I was. I thought- this is judgement day! She will see I am completely worthless and tell me there is nothing to do about the kinds like me. Of course that didn´t happen. Instead she told me- I think your mother has BPD and everything started to make sense and I am improving, but phew- dealing with emotions and not "caving in" is really difficult and being a good mother at the same time, because I am afraid to be cruel to them and therefore say yes when I should say no. Its a balance, not black an white, but it is difficult to learn and keep up as an adult. It is nice to know that other people struggle with the same things as I. I hope the best for all of us. It really helps to know that you struggle with the same feelings of being crazy and evil. Thanks again for doing this blog. All the best.

Clueless said...

I'm really glad that you found this post helpful. All of what you wrote I can definitely relate to. Once, I figured out that my mother was BPD that which did not make sense finally did including my issues. Best of luck to you and your journey.

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