***Disclaimer: My mother has never been formally diagnosed
with Borderline Personality Disorder, but my 30 years of experience with my
mother, along with my own research on diagnostic qualifications, as well
talking to many mental health professionals, has led me to the conclusion that
my mother more-than-likely suffers from BPD, more specifically, HIGH
This does not mean that she is a bad person, nor is anyone with BPD. This is also not a blanket statement for all people with BPD, because it’s a highly complex personality disorder with (sometimes, but not always) both biological and psychological roots. I am merely speaking from my own experience with my mother as a way to help those who might be struggling the same way. ***
My mother has been described in many words: complicated, damaged, kind, co-dependent, demanding, moody, and the list goes on and go. She used to joke that she identified with the song Bitch by Meredith Books because it described her so well. And we all know the fucking catchy chorus to that damn song: “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother…”. You know the song I’m talking about. But have you ever actually listened to the rest of the song?
“Yesterday I cried
Must have been relieved to see
The softer side
I can understand how you’d be so confused
I don’t envy you
I’m a little bit of everything
All rolled into one
So take me as I am
This may mean
You’ll have to be a stronger man
Rest assured that
When I start to make you nervous
And I’m going to extremes
Tomorrow I will change
And today won’t mean a thing”
Reading through the comments, I came across a lot of people who mentioned bi-polar (the two are very easily confused, and it’s often hard to tease the symptoms and cycles apart), but it’s clear to me as an adult, and to others apparently, that this is not normal behavior.
Now I want to take the time and define what’s called not normal, or “abnormal” behavior in clinical terms, as there is often a negative connotation about what abnormal behavior is, which I define as so: behavior that deviates from the social norm, that is maladaptive , and causes distress to either the sufferer and/OR the people around them. In order for someone to be labelled “abnormal” clinically, you have to meet all of those criteria. The lyrics above scream abnormal behavior. Essentially, in a nutshell, she’s saying that she goes from one extreme to the other within a day, and you just have to deal with it.
Like, what the actual fuck? And I mean, no hate to Ms. Brooks, but nah bitch. Yes, I just went Basic White Bitch (BWB), and no, goths are apparently not immune.
So before we deep dive, I want to make a couple of things clear: 1) I love my mother, but she is mentally ill and has never had anyone in her personal life hold her accountable. She also does not know how to set healthy boundaries, either professionally or personally, which ends up affecting the lives of people around her, and because of her illness, can not understand why other people find that frustrating. I feel like I am the only one in her life that has the leverage to make her change her behavior, and that is a huge burden to have to bare.
People with BPD do not have a sense of self-identity and put their identities into others. They also have an intense fear of real or perceived abandonment; perceived abandonment could mean them blowing up over you picking up the wrong meal for dinner or not thanking them for making dinner, or for picking up the dishes after you finish dinner. If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. But for them, IT IS VERY REAL.
2) My mother had a very traumatic childhood, and a very traumatic first marriage to my biological father, who I have previously written about. BPD often (but not always) stems from extreme trauma during childhood. Out of respect for her and those around her, I will not dive deep into her trauma because it is not my story to tell, I will simply give examples of experiences I remember having with my mother, or things she has openly shared with other people.
It started with little things that I thought were flattering at first, but quickly started to feel weird, and then, hurtful. As a teenager, I lived with my mom in a small town in Canada, and her husband at the time worked offshore. If I wanted to spend the night at a friend’s house, it could ONLY be when he was around. Otherwise, she NEEDED me. I remember one time when I was about 18-19, my mom had friends coming in from out of town, and I was supposed to go to a friend’s house for the weekend. The friend ended up cancelling on me, and in front of everyone, screamed about how she wanted me to be gone that weekend. But when I had friends over, she wanted to be perceived as the cool mom, and HAD to have my friends on Facebook (back in its infancy).
When we got older, as I started to date and eventually found my husband, her children were required to be with her on Christmas morning because she was always alone as a child on Christmas. There was no bending of the rules unless it was on her terms, like the year she and her husband just HAD TO have Christmas at 5 am to get ready for their afternoon flight later on that day, and when I said no, she threatened to cancel Christmas indefinitely, telling me how ungrateful I was because she’d do it for me (even though I had never, nor would I ever unless it was extenuating circumstances).
Her moods would swing back and forth, sometimes within the
hour. You would go from being a piece of shit in her way, to the best thing she’d
ever done, especially when it came to her addiction.
Because she paid for my car insurance at the time, she thought she held leverage over everything I did. When she was drunk and wanted more wine, she’d tell me to go get it. When I said I didn’t want to feed her habit, she’d say things like, “Emily, I’m going through a hard time right now. DON’T MAKE MY LIFE HARDER” or “I’m just using it to sleep! I JUST WANT TO SLEEP!”. And there was always an underlying threat of withholding signs of love and affection if I didn’t just do what she wanted.
Then, the only thing she had left was my phone bill, which she insisted on paying for until I get out of college, which could be never (truthfully), and when I told her that I no longer wanted to be on her phone plan, she told me that if she was dying on the street, I wouldn’t be called because I was so ungrateful.
For a long time, my mom was doing okay, because she had a job and she was happy, but as the job began falling apart, so did she. When she lost her job, she did okay for a while, but the cracks started to show through. She progressively worse and worse until Mother’s Day of this year. I won’t go into the specifics of what happened, but verbal abuse occurred and when I later confronted her about needing space, she went back to her old tune of “ungrateful daughter”.
People always ask why women go back to husband that abuse them; it’s the same reason I keep reaching for a relationship with my mother: the hope that one day they will get better if you stay, that you’ll be the reason they change, but I can’t hold onto that hope anymore. I am her daughter, not her therapist; it’s my job to support her change, not make the changes for her. I can’t fix her, she has to want to fix herself.
I haven’t given up hope, but I am also currently not on speaking terms with her. I cannot, in good conscience, keep enabling that shitty, abusive behavior. I see the effect it has on the people around her currently, the effects it had on others over the years, and the compounded trauma that she’s added to my life can never be undone; it can be forgiven, but never forgotten, but today is not that day.
Today I strive for a better understanding of BPD and how it effects others who have loved ones with it. I also strive to understand BPD for the sufferer, because I now have an understanding of how it is to have BPD after living with it under the same roof for so long. I want with every fiber of my being to have the relationship that other daughters have with their mothers, but I now know that that is not a possibility for me, and it makes me sad, but it’s ultimately okay. Today, I choose courage over comfort.
Thank you for listening.