I think my relative may have Borderline Personality Disorder; now what?
Discovering Borderline Personality Disorder
- Growing up, were you constantly walking on eggshells?
- Did your parent force you to parent her at a young age?
- Did your sibling try to invade your friendships, get you into trouble, and take up all of your parents' energy?
- Do you get accused of being a bad, selfish person whenever you act in your own interest and not your relative's?
- Do you hide strange or abusive behavior from your own spouse or children?
- Does your family "gang up" on you?
- Did you have a lot of problems on special occasions, with a relative who ruined weddings, graduations, and holidays with emotional fits?
Your relative may have borderline personality disorder (BPD). Since borderline disorder is not well known, many come across it almost by accident and have an "aha" moment when they recognize the patterns fit the mysterious and hurtful behaviors they have seen in a parent, sibling, in law, or other relative. Sometimes a friend or acquaintance hears family stories and suggests BPD might be the cause. Some find it through the magic of an Internet search, using search phrases like "raging mother," "mom tells me she hates me," or "manipulative, mean sister." Commonly, an adult child or sibling enters therapy to cope with a difficult relationship and the therapist says, "Your relative's behaviors sound like BPD."
Such a simple statement, but it can recast the experiences of a lifetime. Coming to BPDFamily and reading the stories of other adult children of BPD parents, siblings of people with BPD, or in-laws you may have feelings of being overwhelmed by the similarities and flooded with strong feeling, perhaps relief or even anger or fear. Our Reactions Are Okay
Common reactions, accounting for the relief, are:
- I am not alone.
- You could be writing about MY mother, father, sister, brother, in-law, etc.
- I am not imagining this.
- Maybe I'm not such a horrible, selfish person after all.
- There is someone who will understand.
A member writes about first coming upon FtF/BPDFamily.com and reading other members' stories, she felt:
Relief. I was so deep in FOG [fear, obligation, and guilt) that I didn't know up from down, who I was, or what I wanted. I thought I was crazy and did not trust my own memory. Reading others' experiences made me feel validated. I did not have the courage to post for a very long time, but I kept a little document with sentences copied from these boards, whether it was a wonderful piece advice, an experience that closely mirrored my own, or an astute observation. I would read it over in times of stress and sadness to remind me that I am not a bad person, nor am I crazy, and that there are others out there struggling with these same issues.
You may also have feelings of guilt for allowing your mind to travel down this path about your relative, who may feel very sure there is nothing wrong with him/her and the problem is all to do with you. Other reactions may stem from fear or guilt:
- I should not be talking about my relative.
- My relative has had a very hard life, and I am here complaining. I am a bad person.
- My relative will know I am thinking these thoughts. My relative always knows what I'm thinking.
- I am betraying my relative.
- I am bad or evil for asking these questions.
- I will be punished.
- I am afraid of how my relative will act. My relative has stalked me or been violent in the past.
- My relative will injure him or herself.
- My relative will sense that I am researching BPD.
- Now I am just like all those other bad people who have hurt my relative.
- My relative will rage at me.
- My relative will turn my family against me.
These fear and guilt reactions are summarized well by one member:
I lurked for a long time before doing anything other than simply reading what others had to say. When I finally posted, I felt horrible guilt and anxiety for "betraying" my mother and making a big deal over "nothing." I soon came to realize that these feelings were ones my mother had conditioned me to have, for her benefit, not mine, and got over the anxiety. But it was hard to post at first and I'd spend hours afterward questioning the advisability of doing such a thing and vowing I'd never post again. Obviously, that's a vow I didn't keep.
You may also feel depressed, as floodgates of feeling and memory open or as you take in the information about BPD, some of which is pretty difficult to take. You may feel angry that the medical system, the child welfare system, and your own family didn't identify these problems and help more when you were young and vulnerable.
All of these reactions are normal.Where Do We Go from Here?
Now what? The good news is that as an adult, you have far more options, power, resources, and opportunity to make changes. And at FtF, you've come to a safe place where you will receive support for your situation.
One member writes:
From FtF, Iâ€™d received the first validation IN MY LIFE for my thoughts and feelings around my mother and possible BPD. I felt a great sense of community because here, at last, were others whoâ€™d shared similar experiences and who responded non-judgementally.
We have provided Lessons, in a panel along the right side of the screen under "Coping When a Family Member Has BPD
," to help you sort out your experiences and work on improving your life going forward.Other Guidelines for Posting on This Board
Family relationships are core relationships, and they tend to get played out over and over throughout our lives. Work on this board is aimed at breaking destructive patterns and building constructive ones
. To that end, this board is not for complaining about other members (such as those in chosen relationships) or groups (such as parents of estranged children). Our issues are with the choices our own parents and other relatives made. It's tempting to replay history when we see what looks like others making the same choices, but we're not in a position to judge the choices of other members or groups, and if their stories are upsetting, there's no need to read them.
Remember that each board here has a purpose and a platform--a way of moving forward. On Coping, it's the Survivors' Guide ---> Please look at step #6:I can respect my shame and anger as a consequence of my abuse, but shall try not to turn it against myself or others.
Our anger is real, and justified, and it's something we need to work through in order to heal. It's also ours, and personal, and our responsibility to use productively. Redirecting it to other members here, in our lives, on the internet, or in the news doesn't help with healing. Threads venting about other members, groups, or situations in the media may be locked, moved, or removed if they fall outside our guidelines.