Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Guest Post: Borderline Family Dynamics Up Close

Today's guest post is by Lin. The writer recounts her own experience growing up in a family with issues that lead to Borderline Personality Disorder 

I was born into a highly dysfunctional family, consisting of my parents, my very domineering and generally narcissistic grandmother, and my alcoholic uncle. My parents both had physical and mental health issues and, in hindsight, I can clearly see that my mother had untreated Borderline Personality Disorder.

After my mother had 7 miscarriages and one stillbirth, they had been told that they couldn't have children. Therefore, they had planned their future without children. When I came along it was a shock; they both overjoyed to have me and also shaken that they suddenly had a new responsibility that they never thought they would have. Because I was an at risk pregnancy, I was born 8 weeks early by cesarean and, due to my mother's unstable mental health, she was unable to see me for 6 weeks. Instead I was kept in hospital while they stabilized me and I only had contact with the staff and, on his occasional visits, with my father.

From the outset I was the perfect baby. I seldom cried or asked for attention and was usually compliant. I talked and walked at an early age and was reading by the time I was 3. My earliest memory is of being that age and in my pushchair. I had a pacifier in my mouth and saw my mother walking towards my father and myself.

I remember the fear and shame of her possibly seeing me using it and I quickly hid it under a blanket. I already had learned not to upset her and felt that I was bad. I learned to hide what I did and felt.

My mother sexually abused me from the earliest age I can remember until I was 16 years old. I am sure my father was aware of it because he had a separate bed in the same room that my mother and I shared. She made me pray to God afterwards and ask for forgiveness for making her do it. She told me if I told anyone she would leave me. The abuse was the only form of physical touch I had—she never hugged me or told me she loved me or was affectionate in any way. Instead, she would buy me anything I wanted. Toys every Sunday, sugary foods in a large quantity every Thursday. I just had to ask and I would get it. All the while the abuse continued every night. I learned sexual abuse meant my mother would stay with me and I learned to equate material possessions and food with love.

I was told we were family and didn't need strangers. Strangers were the enemy. This meant I was not allowed to have friends. I was never allowed out without a parent; I was dropped off at school and picked up every lunchtime and at the end of the day in order to minimize my interaction with others. My father did have a sister but my mother forbade him from seeing her. During the times my mother was in hospital, he would take me to visit her always, saying "Don't tell anyone."

My father would often do bizarre things, such as once telling me we were going to play a game with my mother and pretend that he had been mugged on the way home from work. I thought this was a great game and having secrets with my father made me feel close to him. I learned to lie for attention.

My mother would either be very weak or overbearingly strong—sometimes both at the same time. She ruled me with a rod of iron—I always had to be perfect or I would be told I was nothing to her and then physically beaten. At the same time she appeared incredibly weak. I remember a 4 year old child once swore at her and she cried like a baby. I despised her weakness and sensed she did too, so I learned to make her angry instead at these times so we would both feel better. I learned how to manipulate her as she had manipulated me.

My mother would have frequent psychotic episodes [She was diagnosed with episodes of psychotic depression]. Either me or my father would force anti-psychotics into her mouth. She would hear voices stating we were trying to kill her and fight back. The first time I witnessed that was late at night when I was 6 years old. I ran to the corner of the bedroom in terror while my father held her down as she lashed out at him. Once she was calm my father told me I could join her in bed again. I shook my head, terrified to go near her. My father turned out the lights and went to bed himself, leaving me sitting in the corner of our bedroom all night, alone. I learned that I could be abandoned without comfort from those closest to me at any time.

By the time I was 12 I had learned to give back what they gave to me. They had taught me well. I became better at constant manipulation and control than they were. My father developed congestive heart failure and became physically weak. I would fight with him constantly to make him fight back and be strong again. My mother's mental health was worsening and she blamed my father’s lack of care now that he was ill. I learned to agree with her about how bad he was and thus make her feel stronger.

My father eventually took his own life on my 13th birthday, leaving me alone with my mother. My mother became totally dependent on me. The same spoiling behaviors I had learned would continue for the next 5 years. I would attempt to strengthen her when she was weak and weaken her when she was strong. I did not understand why I was doing this, behaving in a purely instinctual way in order to provide what we both needed. Even though we fought constantly, I was still being sexually abused by her and given whatever material things I wanted. During psychotic episodes, my mother would sob and state that her baby had been replaced at birth by a changeling of the Devil. As a Devil's spawn, I was going to murder her just as I had murdered my father. I believed I was evil and hated myself.

By the time I was 18, I had been in psychotherapy for several years. It had been arranged for me after I had told other children at school that my father had died a year before he actually had. I hated him for not stopping my mother and wanted him dead—the worst punishment I could think of. I became more aware of my motivations and becoming aware that I had a choice as to how I reacted. I moved away from home, only visiting my mother sporadically. She never ever forgave me for choosing strangers over her. Our relationship continued to be very difficult, with me despising her weakness and trying to make her strong, and her despising my new found strength and trying to make me weak. I cut her off entirely when I was 20 and she took her own life a month later. I still struggle with the guilt and self-blame for both my parents suicides.

This is all that I learned and why I have Borderline Personality Disorder.