As I prepare to lead my first Family Connections class, I will share some personal anecdotes about being the daughter of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I hope that these anecdotes validate some of your experiences as a loved one of someone with BPD.
The most distressing part about growing up with a mom with Borderline Personality Disorder was knowing that her behaviors were not “normal,” and also not having the tools to protect myself from her splitting, mood instability, anger attacks, and other painful symptoms of BPD.
I remember watching soap operas with an avid interest in the most disturbed characters, looking for validation of my experiences, looking for answers and ideas on what to do. I just wanted someone to tell me that my mom screaming at me because I didn’t make my bed was not okay. Thankfully, I never believed that her dissatisfaction with her life and with me was reasonable, and I chose to never take her very seriously.
The real confusion came from the fact that my mom is very high functioning, and has a wonderful nurturing and supportive side to her as well. She also reserves her “dark” side for the closest, most intimate people in her life – me, my dad, my brother, and our maid, who has worked in the family since I was born.
My aunts and uncles know that she has a “difficult” personality, but might not see the full picture. Curiously, my mom has a full circle of friends who adore her and cherish her friendship. What an interesting disorder.
Putting a Name to BPD
Many of us with a BPD parent will share stories of when we found out that “that” had a name. As Kimberlee Roth and Freda Friedman, authors of Surviving a Borderline Parent, put it, “Adult children are frequently relieved to the point of tears upon reading a detailed description of the disorder for the first time. It gives their confusing and contradictory childhood experience a name, an explanation, and, most importantly, validation.”
I will have to say that God has interesting ways of answering prayers. After years of asking for wisdom to better deal with my mom, life brought me to Clearview Treatment Programs. This was my first position in the psychological treatment industry, and Clearview happens to be one of the few programs in the country that specializes in Borderline Personality Disorder treatment. What are the odds!
My mom is doing a lot better these days, partly because of her age (BPD symptoms ease with age) and probably because she is seeing a therapist for the first time in 58 years!
Having been through Family Connections myself, I can say that the experience proved to be invaluable in better understanding my mother and gaining acceptance of our relationship. I look forward to hearing the stories of other families who have struggled with BPD, helping them learn ways to cope, and providing them support. I welcome you to share your experience with Family Connections — or a family member with Borderline Personality Disorder — below.
Contributed anonymously by one of the instructors of the free 12-week Family Connections course that begins Sept. 7 at Clearview Women’s Center for Borderline Personality Disorder in Venice Beach, California. Family Connections is an evidence-based course developed by the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD) to provide support and education to families living with BPD.