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. This is going to be at least a two part series.
There are four books I recommend some are for those with BPD, some with parents with BPD and some with living with loved ones who are BPD. 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.
The Ideal Mother versus The Borderline Mother
- Comforts her child versus Confuses her child.
- Apologized for inappropriate behavior versus Does not apologize or remember inappropriate behavior.
- Takes care of herself versus Expects to be taken care of.
- Encourages independence in her children versus Punishes or discourages independence.
- Is proud of her children's accomplishments versus Envies, ignores, or demeans her children's accomplishments.
- Builds her children's self-esteem versus Destroys, denigrates, or undermines self-esteem.
- Responds to her children's changing needs versus Expects children to respond to her needs.
- Calms and comforts her children versus Frightens and upsets her children.
- Disciplines with logical and natural consequences verses Disciplines inconsistently or punitively.
- Expects that her children will be loved by others versus Feels left out, jealous or resentful if the child is loved by someone else.
- Never threatens abandonment versus Uses threats of abandonment (or actual abandonment) to punish the child.
- Believes in her children's basic goodness versus Does not believe in her children's basic goodness.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!"
- 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. 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, next week.