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Skills we were never taught
A 3 Minute Lesson
on Ending Conflict
Communication Skills-
Don't Be Invalidating
Listen with Empathy -
A Powerful Life Skill
Setting Boundaries
and Setting Limits
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Author Topic: Don't know how to do boundaries and also a relationship with my child  (Read 394 times)
Fewer than 3 Posts
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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Child
Relationship status: married
Posts: 1

« on: November 21, 2022, 06:48:34 PM »

My 21 yo had never shown signs of emotional deregulation - her older sister struggled with MH issues, and she was the stable, easy-going child. She had to put up with a lot from her sister and observing it. She's in college - has never liked it - and about to graduate. She received a concussion about two years ago, and it's been hell since. She shows signs of BPD when she never has before.

She blames me for many things, calls me names (NEVER did this), swears, threatens harm, demands I come to her campus right that minute to take her to the hospital for headaches, ulcers etc. even if it's midnight and even if she could drive herself or Uber. It's not once or twice, but probably 25 times. Once, when I took a trip, she demanded that I get back on the plane that night and take her to the hospital, if I really cared about her. Obviously, I didn't.

She texts drunk rants about how horrible we are regularly. I have turned off my phone because the calls and texts were awful. The next day, she often calls like nothing happened, and tell us how she aced an exam.  It's strange and unnerving, but I never want to bring up the prior incident because it might fire it up again.

Her dad and I have made mistakes. I've owned up to some and regrets I had. I've said I'm sorry and tell her I love her and want our relationship to be better. We might even talk on the phone a few times a week or go to lunch and things seem normal. But then'll she'll bring up the past incidents again and say - well , you never acknowledged so how could it be smoothed over.

She'll tell me things I said or things she said that absolutely did not happen. (Ex: I said I have avoided calling because I'm afraid because it seems to go bad. She told me today that I said she was scary.) She wants apologies for the things I didn't say because she firmly believes I did. If I say, okay, I'm sorry if it came across like that, it doesn't help. She's like - yeah, that was F%&* up. Validating feelings is never enough. I have to admit I did her wrong, even if I have no idea what she's talking about. I feel crazy at times because I don't even understand what she's so mad about, but I can't say that or she says I must not care if I don't know.

For me, this whole thing is harder because she was my stable kid. Life with her sister was challenging, and I did check in with her, offered therapy, apologized that it took so much from us, etc. and she always said it was okay. And she seemed to be.

Today she's said she will not come to Thanksgiving. That was a shock. I don't know if she really won't, but she says she's just going to stay at her house on campus alone. I think she's painted herself in a corner and she's stubborn, so I think there's a good chance she won't come, but will then call us constantly while we are with family.

My husband - her dad - is fed up. He thinks this is just nuts. We've paid for school, given her a car, taken care of her in every way, done a lot of fun things together. She called him a few days ago to tell him she was missing an ice scraper in her car and he gave her ideas on what else she could do and it was a fine conversation. That happens regularly. Now two days later, she informs us that she's not coming home for Thanksgiving because we don't acknowledge the things we've done. I thought we were just trying to move on.

Her dad won't put up with crappy treatment, which is probably more healthy, but also avoidant. He's hurt, but also thinks it's terrible how she treats us and is not willing to cater to this.

Me on the other hand take the abuse, try to make her happy, do walk on eggshells all while realizing in the moment that all I'm doing is fueling this behavior by not drawing boundaries. And yet, she's my college kid. How do you create distance when they are still kind of a kid.

I've had boundary problems all of my life. I'm getting healthier with therapy, and I don't want to go backwards. It's been hard work. But then I have this relationship that challenges me and makes me feel so guilty.

I don't defend myself anymore or try to argue my side, but she demands that I apologize for things that either I didn't do or I don't think were wrong. If I don't, she hangs up and then texts that I'm a horrible parent, she doesn't want to see me etc. Then when I don't call her in response to all of this, I'm ignoring her and not trying. Help!! I'm baffled.

Our objective is to better understand the struggles our child faces and to learn the skills to improve our relationship and provide a supportive environment and also improve on our own emotional responses, attitudes and effectiveness as a family leaders
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Posts: 506

« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2022, 04:23:10 AM »

Hi SoVeryConfused
I think every parent of a bpd child - no matter how old the child is - has a right to feel very confused! In your post you highlight quite a few of the reasons why we have a right to feel this way.

One great example you mention is after a big emotional outburst in which you have been called for everything under the sun - the next day, it's all chatty and okay. We get blamed for things we either haven't said or done, or what we have said or done gets twisted out of all proportion.

It is interesting that this has started since the concussion. It sounds as though there is some alcohol use happening too.

You are certainly under the pump with the sorts of demands that are being made and the abuse. When I got to the following part of your post I felt quite a lot of relief:

I don't defend myself anymore or try to argue my side, but she demands that I apologize for things that either I didn't do or I don't think were wrong.

You have really begun to use some of the things that people talk about here eg 'Don't JADE' (judge, argue, defend, explain). It is so hard not to jump in with a reality check when all this weird stuff is being thrown at you - but if you do, it seems to just add fuel to the fire.

You mention that you are being asked to apologise - in fact dd is insisting upon it. You have already done all the apologising you need to do probably.

I wonder if the next step is to let go of feeling guilty: you didn't cause this, you cant cure it, you can't control it. (the 3 C mantra). Yes you were tied up with the needs of your other daughter - but that also was something that was handed to you to deal with.

We do the best we can at any given moment in time. None of us make the right decisions all the time - but every person who has goodwill in their hearts, tries to do the best they can.

We can get worn down by the accusations, abuse and demands and lose sight of all that we have done and given to our children who are not well and make heavy demands on all aspects of our energy.

Your question is about boundaries - the most difficult thing in relation to bpd. I have not been very good at boundaries, mainly because my dd just never kept the boundary, so it seemed pointless to keep straining to put them up. Someone here said they saw a boundary as what was necessary to keep yourself well and safe. This was fantastic way of looking at things for me!

I started to 'let go' of trying to 'contain' my dd and framed things in terms of my needs.

I wonder if you think about the types of demands your dd makes and how you can simply respond to each of them. Use very few words, use 'I' statements, and when that is thrown back at you (see you don't give a sh**t about me, this proves it), have a simple response ready, again 'I' statements if possible.

I have found this has helped my situation quite a bit. At the back of my mind are the words of a paediatric psychiatrist my dd saw when she was about 14 or so. He said 'Often with bpd normal behaviour management methods don't work.)

I was relieved to hear him say this as it had been my experience, but everyone else was telling me to use those methods.

Seeing a 'boundary' as something essential to my health and wellbeing was a breakthrough for me (thank you to whoever posted this), but I think 'letting go', not JADEing, greystone rock (letting the abuse fly past me) have all worked together to increase my ability to say 'No I can't do that'.

Of course the screaming can start, the endless demanding etc and I can now just repeat 'I can't do that'.

Thank you for the post. I am always grateful that people are prepared to share here.

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Gender: Female
What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Posts: 6

« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2022, 10:47:46 PM »

Wondering if there's a connection between her head injury and her sudden change in her behavior.  Mood swings can be a symptom of a traumatic brain injury.  Here's a link that lists behavioral changes:
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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Other
Relationship status: Married
Posts: 513

« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2022, 07:11:17 AM »

hi SoVeryConfused,
Thank you for coming here and for posting.  I can read *feel* your frustration with your college-aged daughter.

My own marriage counselor suggested that chasing an adult child is akin to falling in quicksand.  What sort of quicksand are you in?  You said she's in college, so kind of still a "kid."  However, is she really independent, like what happens if you don't take her to the hospital as she demands?  Does she find a roommate or uber to do it?  Her sister?  a partner?

Secondly, what struck me about your post is that you want to be less codependent.  I thought "get a puppy" - it needs you, and you can 100% focus your attention on it and honestly say to your daughter that you don't have time for her, you have to take care of the puppy!  All kidding aside...taking the first step to say 'no' is hard, it really is.  Especially if your loved one is diagnosed with BPD or you suspect they have BPD.

Perhaps it will work this way with you as it did with me and my husband:  you can slowly set small boundaries, detach, try to have a nice holiday without her and actually do it!  Make a goal, for example, to go on a date with your husband, do something interesting or fun, and don't check your phone for several hours.  Work your way up to not checking your phone for an entire day.  It might be like quitting crack is all I'm saying, maybe you need to take baby steps..  then, there's always my puppy idea...
 Virtual hug (click to insert in post)

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Gender: Female
What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Sibling
Relationship status: Married
Posts: 870

« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2022, 06:56:49 PM »

I’m seconding what pkfrompa pointed out about the head injury. Here’s some info about the behavioral changes that can occur:

Depending on what part or parts of a person’s brain are injured, the individual may experience significant behavioral and emotional changes. The frontal lobe, for example, helps govern personality and impulsivity. If damaged, there might be no “braking mechanism” for self-control. A person may find he cannot control his anger or aggression.
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