Growing up with a borderline mother I had to treat myself as if I were a borderline by default, or by proxy (however you want to look at it) in adulthood. There is one very clear, definitive line, that separates me from my mother though; and that is my self-awareness. At the age of nineteen, I began my process of healing and treated myself as if I were a full-blown, diagnosable, borderline. I can not tell you if, at nineteen, I would have fit the criteria for the diagnosis, but I am pretty sure I could have. Not every child raised by a borderline is destined to succumb to the same fate as our caregivers but we do pick up habits, as that is how we were raised. The goal of every borderline child is to wipe the slate clean, to erase what we were taught as children, and to learn new, healthy ways of thinking and responding to the world around us.
To understand ourselves we first must understand the issue. What does it mean to have borderline personality disorder? What happened to our caregivers that caused the disorder?
The NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) describes borderline personality disorder as, “.. a serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning”. The NIH continues on to explain, “Some people with BPD also have high rates of co-occurring mental disorders, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders, along with substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal thinking and behaviors, and suicide”.
Over the years I have done a lot of soul searching regarding my definition of BPD (borderline personality disorder). My journey was two-fold. First, being able to understand my mother in order to forgive her to overcome my own anger and bitterness; and secondly, to better understand myself and how to approach my own warped way of thinking. My final conclusion at the age of nineteen was to approach my thinking like an alcoholic at their first AA meeting. I had to first admit I had a problem in terms of how I was raised and how I responded to the world around me. I picked up a lot of bad habits, inappropriate ways of dealing with negative mental stimulation; negative coping skills.
- Objectively understanding our caregivers
Ironically, or by grace, I was working in a psychiatric hospital at the same time I was diving so deeply into myself. What my experience in the hospital taught me is to look at my mother as objectively as I saw the patients I worked with. I held no judgments in regards to the BPD patients that came through our doors. This alone was the hardest mountain I had to climb in my journey of forgiveness; to distance myself from my own anger in order to understand why my mother was the way that she was. While being my hardest obstacle to overcome it was also the most crucial. Forgiveness was not free, it came at a cost, and the price I paid was to let go of my own definition of vengeance. By holding onto my anger I felt I was judge and executioner doling out punishment as I saw fit. The punishment I felt she deserved for the years of abuse I felt subjected to. But, this line of thinking is just one example of the warped mindset I needed to overcome.
- Rethinking BPD abstractly
In the last decade, I feel I have come to understand BPD so intimately that I have gained my freedom back; released from the bondage of my own anger. My final conclusions are this. BPD is on a dissociative spectrum, meaning childhood trauma causes the core self to split. There are different levels of severity. On one end of the spectrum, there is DID (dissociative identity disorder formerly known as multiple personality disorder) where the core self splits into completely new personalities. Borderlines do not split to such severity, they split emotionally.
Think of a cubby with say, 6 cubby holes. Each cubby space represents an emotion. When a borderline is excited or happy about something they put the emotion of happiness into the anger cubby and vice versa. There is an underdeveloped understanding of emotional regulation which can lead to cognitive dissonance.
One thing I found helpful in my own journey was to start from scratch as an emotional infant and then to raise myself up with appropriate emotional responses and regulation. I had a very close friend and mentor at the time that helped me through the process and guided me; it is not something one should venture at alone.
- BPD children and future relationships
Despite the amount of work I have put into myself to grow and overcome my own mental illnesses, I still have a long way to go. I don’t think I will ever truly let go of my mother.
Most women seek out men that subconsciously remind them of their fathers but the men in my life have closely resembled my mother. I am thirty-two years old and I am at a point in my life where I am tired of healing from my childhood. I’m tired of surviving people, tired of the judgment that I feel comes after another failed, abusive relationship. How I feel people look at me is in fact how I see myself, that I don’t learn. I should know better by now and as a result, I bring it on myself.
What can any of us do in situations like these? I am not alone, I know that. I am not the only person in the world that seeks out abusive relationships because I feel that is all I deserve on a subconscious level because that is all I have known my entire life. There are thousands, millions, of women just like me in this exact situation. So, what do I do? What CAN any of us do?
We can continue to fight. Fight our own understanding of love, heal our broken minds that facilitate the victim mentality. Stop trying to control volatile situations by holding on to misplaced hope and making excuses for those that hurt us. We can not change other people all we can do is look inward and change ourselves, heal our own broken spirits.
I have been blinded for a very long time. Just recently I have had the veil removed from in front of my eyes and when I look around me I see what healthy relationships look like. There is mutual respect and love. Consideration and honesty; communication versus screaming and emotional turmoil. Many of us see relationships like these as a revelation, taboo. But they are not out of the norm, they ARE the norm and the way we live is what is taboo.
I want more out of life than I was raised to expect. I don’t want to just accept my fate and find my peace with it, I do not and will not live this way forever. THAT is what any of us can do. Strive for more; more peace, mental health, and love. At the end of our lives when we look back we will have no regrets as long as we put our entire selves into the process of growth and healing. I, personally, want to be at peace with my efforts on my deathbed and in life.