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Author Topic: 12. Surviving a Borderline Parent - Kim Roth, Freda B. Friedman, PhD.  (Read 23091 times)
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« on: January 06, 2008, 06:31:45 PM »

Surviving a Borderline Parent
Author: Freda B. Friedman, PhD and Kimberlee Roth
Publisher: New Harbinger Publications; 1 edition (November 2003)
Paperback: 200 pages
ISBN-10: 1572243287
ISBN-13: 978-1572243286

Book Description
This is the first step by step guide for adult children of parents with Borderline Personality Disorder. It teaches them how to overcome the devastating effects of growing up with a parent who suffers from BPD.

Discover specific coping strategies for dealing with issues common to children of borderline parents: low self-esteem, lack of trust, guilt, and hypersensitivity.
This book gives you the validation you probably never had, and gives solid, practical ways to overcome the effects of growing up with a BPD parent.

Learn what psychological criteria are necessary for a BPD diagnosis and identify the specific characteristics your parent presents. Make the major decision whether to confront your parent about his or her condition.

About the Author
Freda Freidman, Ph.D., LCSW, is in private practice in Chicago, Illinois. For the past twenty years, her primary clinical focus has been with borderline personality disorder, providing treatment, education, support and consultation to people suffering from the disorder, their families and health care professionals working with them. She is on the board of several professional health care organizations and has developed BPD programs in New York and Chicago. assist their readers in understanding their parents.
Kimberlee Roth is a freelance health writer and journalist. She has written about borderline personality disorder and topics related to physical and emotional well being for numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Chicago Tribune.

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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2008, 06:34:59 PM »

Authors Comments

Excerpt provided for bpdfamily.com by Kimberlee Roth, co-author.

Excerpt from Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to heal childhood wounds and build trust, boundaries, and self-esteem

As a child, did you feel like you fell short, disappointing a parent, stepparent, or caretaker because you weren't good enough, didn't do enough, or just weren't able to please, no matter how hard you tried? Did you feel responsible for your parent's happiness and guilty if you felt happy yourself? Did you feel darned if you did and darned if you didn't, that whatever you did or said was the wrong thing (and boy would you pay for it)? Were you accused of things you hadn't done? Did you feel manipulated at times? Feel appreciated one minute and attacked the next? Thought you must be ìcrazyî because a parent's actions or reactions didn't make any sense? Question your own intuition, judgment, or memory, believing you must have missed or misinterpreted something? Did you feel on guard all the time, that life with your parent was never predictable?

You weren't crazy. Not then, and not now, though it may still feel that way. What felt crazy-making to you may well have been being parented by someone who had traits of borderline personality disorder.

Though relatively common, borderline personality disorder is often overlooked or misdiagnosed by therapists and clinicians and denied by those who suffer from it. It's a confusing, complex disorder that's extremely difficult for all involved: for the person with BPD, for the clinicians trying to understand and help their client, and perhaps most of all, for the children who have to endure its unpredictable effects.

No one chooses their parents and, as young children, once you're brought into this world, you're not in a position to opt out of your relationship with them. In fact, you desperately need them--to provide food and shelter, to prompt you to learn, to model ways to interact in society, to nurture you, to show you affection, and to provide unconditional love. A parent with BPD, however, may not have been able to consistently provide all of these things to you, through no fault or deficit of yours. They may not have received that kind of care themselves. It may seem ironic, but your parent may actually have consciously or unconsciously reinforced you as the caretaker to meet his or her needs, to be the nurturer and provider of emotional support, even though you were a young child.

Does This Sound Familiar?

Which of the following match your experience with a parent or other caretaker growing up?

Your parent teased you, often cruelly, about physical attributes, mental abilities, intelligence, habits, or other personal characteristics.

You remember sequences of events and conversations differently than your parent.

Your parent confided in you, perhaps with inappropriate details, and expected you to keep his secret or to side with her.

You were treated like a little adult instead of a child, expected to consistently assume responsibilities parents should, such as emotionally comforting or reassuring your parent, frequently cooking, cleaning, caring or siblings, and other responsibilities.

Your feelings were discounted, denied, criticized, or ignored.

You weren't permitted to express strong emotions, particularly anger.

You didn't receive much physical or emotional affection--hugs, kisses, or being told you were loved.

You were held to extremely high, often unattainable standards, and those standards shifted so you had a hard time knowing what was expected of you.

You were given mixed messages about your appearance or your behavior.

You weren't encouraged to explore, experiment, or develop your own opinions.

Your privacy and/or your belongings weren't respected.

While growing up, did you feel:

•   scared?

•   confused?

•   angry?

•   guilty?

•   responsible?

•   far older than your age and your peers?

•   listless?

•   invisible?

•   unlovable?

Now as an adult, do you

- find yourself in abusive, unfulfilling, or unhealthy relationships?

- feel unable to trust others and let your guard down?

- expect the worst from others--family, friends, and strangers?

- feel responsible for others' moods, feelings, and actions?

- put others' needs ahead of your own?

- have a hard time knowing what you want?

- tend not to trust your own feelings and reactions?

- feel uneasy with success or have difficulty simply enjoying life?

- get highly anxious in social settings or new situations?

- fear taking risks, especially where relationships are concerned?

- hold yourself to standards nearing perfection?

- feel worthless, hopeless, or depressed?

If you relate to many of these experiences, chances are you may have been raised by a parent with BPD or BPD-like traits. Chances are also good that the effects are still with you, in subtle, and likely fundamental, ways. They probably have affected and continue to affect who you are, as well as your relationships with others--how you choose and who you choose to spend time with, to befriend, to partner with, to love.

A New Reality

This isn't another book focused on family dysfunction or about terrible mothers (though BPD is diagnosed in women three times as often as men, for a variety of reasons we'll cover shortly). It's not about blame or wallowing either--you are all molded by so much more than a dysfunctional past, and you must ultimately take responsibility for creating the life you want. Certainly, it's important to acknowledge and identify the effects of BPD on your life. It's equally important to realize that it neither dictates who you are nor fixes your destiny.    
Kim Roth
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2008, 06:44:36 PM »

Hi. I'm a full-time, freelance health writer and several years ago was working on a story about BPD for the Chicago Tribune. I was fortunate to come across a therapist who specialized in the disorder, who agreed to be interviewed for the article. Freda Friedman, PhD, immediately struck me as extremely knowledgeable, passionate and compassionate. I was also fortunate to speak to a woman whose husband likely had BPD. She talked about how it affected her and her kids. I researched further, looking for a book on that topic so that I could hopefully interview the author for my article. But, as I quickly learned, there was no book on the market about the impact of being raised by a parent with BPD.

So I spent a weekend feverishly working on a proposal and sample chapters for prospective publishers. Randi Kreger, author of Stop Walking on Eggshells, who I'd also interviewed for the article, graciously and generously lent her support--and promptly introduced me to her agent! A publisher expressed interest early on and recommended partnering with a therapist. I immediately got back in touch with Dr. Friedman, who loved the idea and agreed to co-author the book with me.

Surviving a Borderline Parent was my first book, and I had little appreciation then for how much time and energy it would require. (Probably a good thing that I didn't know, looking back!) Thankfully, many, many people contributed in countless ways. Dozens of "adult kids" of parents with BPD shared their stories with me--in person and by phone and email. Dr. Friedman drafted several sections of the book, talked me through many others and then read each and every chapter more times than I'm sure she cares to recall. She, Randi and others added extremely valuable insights and anecdotes throughout the entire process, which took about a year. As I wrote in the acknowledgements, plenty of names are missing from the cover of the book--it really was one of those projects that took a village.


This website is designed to support, not to replace, the relationship between patient and their physician.
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2008, 10:46:57 AM »

Thank you for joining us here and for all the energy and work you put into the book. 

I am a stepmother of a child whose mother has BPD characteristics.  Is there anything in the book that might help those of us who love a child experiencing this now?  At what age would reading your book be appropriate for a young adult?

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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2008, 06:45:22 AM »

Subscribing to this thread, and I have this book and will read it again.

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« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2008, 10:16:38 PM »

Dear KIM I am really very happy tosee you here. Be in happiness and keep others in happiness. GOD has created this planet humankind out of love and pleasure. So why should we be unhappy? Discover the cause.

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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2008, 08:59:55 AM »

salt wrote:

I am a stepmother of a child whose mother has BPD characteristics.  Is there anything in the book that might help those of us who love a child experiencing this now?  At what age would reading your book be appropriate for a young adult?

Hi salt,

There's a lot in the book that might help you and your partner, and others in similar situations. I'd especially recommend the first section of the book, The Past, which talks about BPD and how BPD in a parent can affect a child. The second section, The Present, would be my next recommendation because it focuses on the effects and overcoming them (e.g. anger, guilt).

Your question about age-appropriateness is a good one, and to be honest, it depends on a few things, including the child's maturity level and reading/comprehension level. A 12-year-old, for example, might be able to "read" the book easily, but understanding the concepts and applying them might be a different story. I guess I'd say to take a look at the book yourself and consider your stepchild's capacity. The other issue is that not all young adults are ready to hear that a parent they love has a mental illness, and you might run into some loyalty issues, among others, if you suggest s/he read the book. If it were me, I'd read the book myself, share it with my partner, and then slowly and gently introduce some of the ideas in the book--most importantly the coping tools and techniques in the second and third (The Future) sections--to the child through conversation. I hope that answers your questions. Good luck. 

This website is designed to support, not to replace, the relationship between patient and their physician.
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« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2008, 01:23:01 PM »

Thank you, Kim.  Yes, you have answered my questions. 
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« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2008, 03:15:53 PM »

I started reading the book two days ago, and honestly, it was like a punch in the gut.  Granted, it was a NEEDED punch, a useful punch, but I ended up taking a long nap after I read the first four chapters.

For the last 5 months, I've explored different ways uBPD mom/uNPD dad affected me, sifted through tons of memories about my family, and re-filed many memories under "That's what a BPD/NPD does, not what a normal mom/dad does."

This book peeled back even more layers, and showed me many other subtle ways that BPD had affected me.  For example, I knew that I was missing a large chunk of my childhood memories, but this book was the first to suggest a reason why. I simply checked out, and escaped into books. I DID have a rich fantasy life, and went on to major in Creative Writing (much to the chagrin of my BPD/NPD family, who insisted that I become a doctor or lawyer).  What do I really remember? Stories.  I read hundreds and hundreds of books, and even won awards for having the best literature background of any student at my school.  I remember my pink room. (I wanted red, but noo... .) I remember music. I remember how much I wanted to play guitar. I remember writing my first poems. 

It also brought to light new behaviors in my mom that I hadn't realized were caused by BPD. (Specifically, the loss of memory, and blaming the kids for the results of that.  I remember mom locking her keys in the car at my graduation party, and swearing up and down that dad had locked them in there just to get back at her.)

It's going to take months for me to get through all this material, because every step feels like walking slowly on hot coals, instead of on eggshells.   :'( 

But I know that over time, my heart and my wounds will heal, and the sting will lessen.

Ms. Roth, I wanted to let you know that there is currently no book available for children of Narcissist-Borderline Couples.  There are separate books available for children of each disorder, but nothing yet (that I've been able to find) addressing the needs of children raised in this particular fantasy-land family.  I wrote to Joan Lachkar, the author of "The Narcissist-Borderline Couple," and she recommended your book, and "Children of the Self-Absorbed." 

Thank you for a wonderful book,

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« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2009, 09:23:35 PM »


Thank you for writing this wonderful book. It was the first book I read about BPD. Along with Understanding the Borderline Mother, I believe your book is a must-read for any child of a BPD parent.
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« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2009, 11:55:46 AM »

WOW! Talk about a lightbulb moment! I second Tryingtogetby's motion for a book for children of BPD and NPD parents. My father is uNPD and I'm beginning to understand that my Mom is very likely uBPD.

Just reading the excerpt you posted from your book set of all kinds of alarms in my mind. I saw myself and my siblings there.

I never have had any clue that my parents were NPD/BPD. So why was I looking in here anyway, right. Well that's because I went and married a high functioning, invisible BPD over 20 years ago.

I only realized he was BPD about 2 years ago and a T confirmed that it is true. BPDH does NOT believe it and I stopped trying to shove it down his throught long ago. Now I just work on ME.

The family dynamic with BPD/NPD is really quite amazing. I know that I became codependant because of my parents. I also now understand why I could date my H for 4 years and still marry him after all the abnormal behaviors he was displaying back then. To me, they didn't seem abnormal because, guess what, that's the kind of stuff I grew up watching all my life. It's like a trap almost.

And now, my brother is folloing in our parents steps in good form. He is both BPD & NPD. I believe Dad was BPD & NPD and that Mom was BPD/OCD.

I now have OCD tendencies and my sister has OCD tendencies as well. Not debilitating but they are present.

These disorders are really like a "curse" to the entire family.

I have much to learn & understand now that I'm realizing this about my parents. Thank you for writing this book. I can't wait to read it.

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« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2009, 11:22:49 AM »


This book opened up many closed childhood memories, and Im so happy to address them and get rid of them, and KNOW it was not ME. Thanks so much for this book. Ill read it again and again.

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« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2009, 03:04:24 AM »

Kim: Thank you for this book. Your book was handed to me by my counsellor one day and wow did the lightbulbs go off. Thank you for the validation, the answers I'd searched for so long and the chance to see the reality for what is and work on that.
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« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2010, 08:14:34 PM »

I definitely have survived a borderline mother  although I believe my siblings have pain that they are not yet willing to acknowledge or share with me... .This is difficult for me... .I want a loving family and having an extended family is important to me.  Hopefully this book will continue to give me ideas to help me. Kind regards, ellejayswan Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2012, 01:08:16 AM »

This book is changing my life- I read it recently and felt understood.  It helped me explore more and I found this site.  This book is helping me make sense of things.  It tells of things that I thought nobody knew about and has been very validating!

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« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2012, 01:20:59 PM »

Good to read all the above - this book was recently recommended to me and I've been debating whether to get it or not.  Guess it's officially been added to my list now. 

Thanks for your insight! Being cool (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2012, 04:15:13 PM »

Absolutely fantastic book! I'm about 6 months out of r/s with UBPDexgf, figured it out only AFTER the r/s ended. Thank the universe for my T, who has helped me slowly wake up to this truth. My T has encouraged me to focus on healing from parental BPD. I now get it that my alcoholic ma is uBPD (and alcoholic fa is uNPD).

This book really helped me focus on the healing part of the solution, with some very good examples of how BPD can play out in a parent. No doubt in my mind anymore, partially thanks to this book.

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« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2012, 10:17:09 PM »

This is an amazing book. It makes sense out of things that don't make sense. It lists specific traits you might see in someone with BPD, feelings you probably had because of that person etc. It's on my must-read for anyone wanting to know more about BPD and what parenting with BPD can do.

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« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2013, 10:00:29 AM »

This was the first book I read after someone mentioned to me that my mom may have BPD.

I found it EXTREMELY validating and liberating because I felt like it was written specifically for me. I could relate to nearly everything in the book, and the exercises were helpful.

That said, it took me several months to finish the book due to the emotional havoc of discovering that she would most likely never change, and having to re-live unsettling experiences.

The book helped me understand my mom, understand myself, grow, and heal. I would definitely recommend it.
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