Tag Archives: borderline personality disorder

The #1 Little Piece Of Information NOT To Share With Your Child

It was a feminist literature class. On the contemporary reading list was The Joy Luck Club. A book chock full of mother/daughter relationships.

The assignment?

An interview with your mother.

The questions we were required to ask were predictable. How did you meet my father? Why did you choose marriage at that time in your life? What was your life like before kids? How far did you take your education? What did you learn from your mother about parenting?

What was your reaction when you heard you were pregnant with me?

“Defeat.”

Huh? Did I hear her right? Did she really say defeat?

Uh. Yes.

She did.

I knew I didn’t really want to hear any more. A glutton for punishment, I asked her to explain.

“Well. When I married your father I knew I wanted to go to college. He wanted to start a family right away. So I made a deal with him. We would have sex one night in the month of March. He could pick the night. If I got pregnant, fine. We’d start having kids. If not, I could start school.”

Oh.

“I was looking through college catalogs and I felt a little sick to my stomach. Then I realized I was a few days late for my period. I knew your father had won. So I threw the catalogs in the trash and here you are.”

A consolation prize?

“You know. I never wanted to be a mother. But that’s what was expected of me. So I did it.”

Four times. What were you thinking?

“You kids kept me from getting my degree for 10 years. But, I eventually got it. So I guess it all worked out, right?”

Uh. No.

It didn’t.

Your response explains a lot. It explains the heavy sighs. The crabby days. How we always seemed in your way. Why we all scurried every time you came home. Your nightly vodka tonics. How some days you could barely look at us.

But it didn’t work out.

Not for me, anyway.

And when you completely forgot my birthday this year? No card. No phone call.

At least now.

I know why.

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The Duplicity Dance With One Mother And One Daughter

duplicity

\doo-PLIS-i-tee, dyoo-\ , noun;

 1.Deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech; also, an instance of deliberate deceptiveness; double-dealing.

 2.The quality or state of being twofold or double.

I didn’t really, truly begin to see my mother until I was an adult. In my childhood and in my teens, I was cast by her spell. My mother suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. But I was only able to name it just recently. In the past she was “weird,” “mean,” “an abuser,” “fake,” and “crazy.”

My parents are known for meeting someone and adopting them into their fold. They are “the best friend I’ve ever known,” “the kindest neighbor I’ve ever had,” “the sweetest person I’ve ever met.” That is, until the first mis-step. And then that person tumbles into a dark abyss. One day you’re the kindest neighbor. The next day you’re the spinster. On and on it goes. The best employee, the crook. The beautiful friend from church, the cripple.

My mother put me on a pedestal. According to her, I was the perfect baby. The perfect child. I was a young adult when my mother came back from a therapy session and she said, “My therapist says I put you on a pedestal and I need to take you off.” I remember the huge relief I felt just her saying that. My feelings validated. But it was also in that moment that I began to stand up for myself. Pull away from her control.

In that moment, I scrambled off that tower as fast as I could. In her eyes, I came tumbling down.

It was the beginning of the end for us.

My parents had followed me to where I lived. Nevermind that they had aging parents back in our home state. I was Golden Girl. I would “fix” my mother. When I tumbled from the pedestal they packed up and moved away. After they left, people in our small town would ask about my parents. How are they? Oh, they are just the sweetest people. I just love your Mom. She has such a wonderful sense of humor.

Sweetest people? Wonderful sense of humor? I didn’t see it. What I saw behind closed doors, within the comfort of their home was unkindness, selfishness and biting sarcasm. Behind closed doors she criticized others, made fun of weaknesses. What were these people seeing that I didn’t?

Duplicity. My mother is a master.

I recently saw an episode of House where the case involved a woman who was able to understand feelings but wasn’t able to experience them. She had perfected the art of lying and lacked a conscience. A clinical psychopath. At one point she deliberately upsets one of the doctors on her case. After the personal attack, the doctor appears to be on the verge of tears. The patient asks, gleefully, if she’s going to cry. She wants to see it happen because she hasn’t mastered that emotion yet.

Now I’m not so cruel as to call my mother clinically psychotic. But I saw my mother in that episode. Appearing the wildly successful career woman with the perfect husband, the perfect life.  Behind closed doors? A life that is distorted and phony.

I was recently looking through some photo albums with my children. The pictures of my father with them depicted playfulness, warm hugs and cuddles, belly laughs. With my mother they are forced. She holds them as infants at uncomfortable angles, out away from her body, stiff, with a pained expression as if she can’t wait for the moment to end. She will ask  me to take a picture of her with her grandchildren. To prepare for the pose she will stand a few feet away from them and then you’ll see this flash of recognition, as if suddenly she remembers to lean in, get close.

In the beginning of our marriage my husband would explain to me that my mother was sick. That it was just like any other disease. That I should be more understanding and not take it personally.  But then the behind-closed-doors-meanness crept into his world.

It started with snide remarks, and rolling of the eyes when he’d state an opinion and then moved to direct comments like, “I raised my daughter for better than this!” while appraising our first apartment together during our humble-beginning-years. He no longer tells me to stop taking her comments personally. He no longer talks about her “illness.” Instead, we have established limits for the amount of time we spend with them and never allow the children to be alone with her.

Like a magician, now you see her – now you don’t. She wears one face for some, a different face for others. And I have moved through a range of emotion, acceptance levels and tolerance. I straddle between guilt and anger. Guilt because it’s my mother. I feel like we’re supposed to be close. But when I try to be close she pulls a stunt that brings on anger and I push away. Even my role with her has become a dance with duplicity.

I envy my friends with warm, loving relationships with their mothers. I struggle to recognize destructive behaviour in myself so as not to repeat it with my own daughter. And I wrestle often with feelings of guilt and anger over a lost childhood and lost relationships. Dancing amidst all of the feelings I push myself to let go of destructive memories and people I can’t control.

My life now is about creating a new dance. A pure and joyful, playful, dance with my own children. Thank goodness I can both understand and experience every emotion. Even the negative ones. I am so grateful that I am not crippled by a disease that keeps me from experiencing intimate, loving relationships – filled with good and bad.

Even when I am experiencing loss and longing it means that I am capable of understanding and feeling.

And for that I feel so very, very lucky.  

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Running from the Scary Mommy

A blog I love, Scary Mommy, is having a Scary Mommy writing contest and it intrigued me. I’m always looking for ideas on what to write about and truth be told, I needed inspiration for another post. I’ve known about the topic for 3 days now but have struggled with whether to participate or not. Because, you see, I’ve spent my entire stint at motherhood avoiding just that – The Scary Mommy.

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I was raised by a Scary Mommy. And I’m terrified of becoming her. My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This disorder has been pooh-poohed by some in the psychiatry field. But take it from one who has lived it – it exists. I recently read a book about BPD and it lists signs that your loved one may have it. I cried when I finished. It described my mother to a tee. I no longer felt crazy anymore.

You see one thing BPD’s are really good at is hiding it from others. Some people would comment how wonderful my mother was and I’d have to keep my face from revealing my confusion. I’ve learned to smile and nod. Others, who were subjected to her whims, would wonder if I’m as rude, as careless with people’s feelings, too. Childhood friends would talk about us as the ideal family and my sister and I thought they were nuts. They had no idea what went on behind closed doors.

 The Scary Mommy I know pulls you by your hair. Tells you you’re worthless. Criticizes your clothes, your friends, your figure, the books you read. They favor one child over the other making you feel guilty when you’re on top, eager to step over your siblings in order to please her when you’re in the doghouse.

Scary Mommys blame everyone else for their problems. Leaving you to pick up the pieces. Make things better. You become the fixer. You learn the term ‘co-dependant’ at too young an age.

Scary Mommys sometimes drink too much, punch holes in walls, break window panes, take medications. Sleep for days.

Scary Mommys wallow in dark, negative places. Or relish tragedy and drama. They turn other people’s pain into their own. They have few friends. The friends they do have rarely last. One day they’re ‘the sweet lady who lives next door’, the next day they’re ‘the spinster.’

I don’t want to be that mommy. I want laughter to spill over in all situations. I don’t want my children to test the waters every morning when they wake up to see what mood I’m in. I want my children to be children while they’re children. I don’t want miniature adults running around fixing, care taking, re-building.

I’m so scared of becoming a scary mommy I’m constantly doubting myself. I check in with my “barometers” (husband, therapist, sister, friends) constantly to make sure I’m making good choices. When I stumble and glimpse hints of a scary mommy in the mirror I panic. I go overboard. I spoil. Become permissive. Defend my child when I shouldn’t.

But I am a scary mommy. No matter how hard I try not to be. We all do it. It can’t be avoided. No matter how idyllic our childhood was. But in my reality I feel I’m Scary Mommy more often than most.

I struggle to make peace with my scary side. Forgive myself. Learn from it. Move on.

But it is so hard. So very, very hard.

And I struggle. And I try. I try hard every day to leave scary mommy in the shadows where she belongs.

And most days I never see her.

Thank God.

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The Dad He Used To Be

When I got the idea for this post I tore the house apart to find a particular picture of me and my dad. It’s a favorite of mine. I was about 18 years old, walking down the street, holding hands with my dad and my grandfather. My two favorite men in my life at the time. I couldn’t find it. So I said, well, I’ll just find another one. And then I realized. There ISN’T another one. My dad is still alive. I’m in my 40’s and I don’t have another picture of him and me.

Now I believe that every family is dysfunctional. What distinguishes us from other families is the degree of dysfunction. Ours has its fair share. My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder. She is high functioning. When we were kids, friends would tell us how much they admired our family. My sister and I would look at each other like they were nuts! Seriously? You’d enjoy not being spoken to for days? Being pulled around by your hair? Getting in trouble for leaving 2 kernels of corn in the sink? Testing the “waters” every morning to gauge the mood? Doing everything in your power to make sure Mom was happy? Because we all know — if Mom ain’t happy then nobody is happy. That was never more true than in our house.

When I was young my dad was good at diffusing the “situations.”  He’d say, “She’ll get over it.” He’d calm her down – sometimes. And if that didn’t work  he’d take us out of the house for awhile. As a result, we were able to develop a relationship with him. He’d take us fishing. To baseball games. I learned about songs he liked. Heard  stories about him growing up. When we moved out of the house things began to change.

I guess because he no longer had his daughters as a distraction he began falling under my mom’s spell. Things that angered her now angered him. The whole cycle of putting someone on a pedestal, worshipping everything about them and then tearing them down and throwing them in the dog house – he follows now, too. My mother, ever so impressed with titles, would brag about their neighbor “the Supreme Court Judge.” (Before you start guessing who – not the Federal Supreme Court,  the State Supreme Court) Anyway, then she was telling me a story about the Spinster next door and I said, “Wait. I know about the Supreme Court Judge neighbor but who is the Spinster?” And she said, “The Supreme Court Judge IS the Spinster. But she’s not really a Supreme Court Judge anymore. She’s retired.”

I envy my friends who have lunch with their dads. Talk to them on the phone without someone listening in. When my parents lived closer any time I’d stop in to see my dad at the coffee house he ran he’d hurry and call my mom to join us. Oh, I could do things alone with my mom. But I couldn’t with my dad anymore. She’d get so jealous. She’d accuse us of loving him more than her. And to survive her wrath my dad gives in to her demons. I once asked him whatever happened to the man who used to say “She’ll get over it?” He rolled his eyes and said, “That’s minimizing her feelings.”

I read in a self help book on BPD that spouses and children often take on the traits of their partner/parent and can become BPD themselves. My sister and I ran in the other direction as fast as we could. We constantly check in with each other, a barometer of sorts, assuring ourselves that we’re making sane choices with our husbands and children.

I miss my dad. But I’ve come to realize I miss the dad he used to be. Or at least, the one I thought he was.

(I still can’t find that picture. But I promise, if I do, I’ll post it with this entry.)

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