Thursday, May 28, 2009

Enlightened Witness

The child of a BPD parent can be greatly helped by what Swiss Psychoanalyst, Alice Miller calls an Enlightened Witness. An Enlightened Witness is a person in whom the child can confide, or whom the child perceives as knowing what is going on. The Enlightened Witness lets the child know that what is happening to them, the way they are being treated, is not fair. The Enlightened Witness lets the child know that it is not them who has the problem but the parent. Often times we are mystified and wonder, "Is it me or is it them?" The Enlightened Witness says to the child, "It's them." The child is relieved to know that he/she doesn't deserve and isn't causing what is going on. The enlightened witnesses understanding and validation can help a child preserve the child's sanity and soul (Markham's Behavioral Health).

Did you have an Enlightened Witness? If so, who was it? How did this person help you during the challenging times? If an Enlightened Witness existed in my childhood situation:
  • Father: he could have and would have been; however, my Dad lost credibility in my eyes when the divorce was initiated as he went through my mother's things behind her back, talked poorly about my mother in ways that seemed to be brainwashing and manipulative, and exhibited behavior of the scorned lover. He seemed to be doing all he could to get back at my mother for having an adulterous affair with his friend and ruining his family life. All of this was obvious to me even at only 12 years of age. Ultimately I didn't trust what he said, as I didn't trust what my mother said either. I have spend years trying to sort out who was telling the truth during that nasty divorce. SO, even if his enlightenment were in fact true, the support that could have been healthy was tainted by this own dysfunction.
  • Family friend: my parents also had a friend who sided with my Dad during my parent's vicious divorce. During the divorce proceedings, she testified against my mother about how she treated my brother and me as she was witness to our household for many years. She definitely could have been an Enlightened Witness; however, she came across as someone who would say anything to help my Dad's cause... so she was tainted as well. She had no hesitation when talking poorly about my mother, but her intense and angry position seemed forced and thus not sincere. Additionally, she was a drug and alcohol addict, which further discredited her stance. She died from a lethal mixture of prescription drugs and alcohol shortly after my parent's divorce was initiated.
  • Grandmother: my paternal grandmother did help to answer questions I had about my mother BUT she didn't offer up any REAL enlightenment or support. She was very careful about what she said and did, trying not to trash talk her. She was the grandparent that I would ask, "I am not like my mother, right!?"... "I am not going to turn out to be like my mother, am I??" And she would always hug me and say, "Oh honey, no dear, you are you. You are nothing like your mother". This was perhaps the only things ever really said about my mother by her but those simple words DID indeed help me to keep believing in myself and to keep myself separate from my mother.
  • Aunt: around 13 years of age, I was visiting my Aunt and asked her some point-blank questions about my mother, but I don't remember the information she offered. I know that she confirmed some of my observations as well as some of the information I had heard in the past about my mother. Since she lived across the country and we didn't communicate on a daily basis, we didn't foster the Enlightened Witness relationship. I am sure, however, that if she did live closer where we saw each other more often, she would have been a tremendous positive impact on my life.
So what about ADULT children who haven't had the blessing of an Enlightened Witness? The Enlightened Witness doesn't only let you know that 'it's not you, it's him / her', the Enlightened Witness VALIDATES the experience. Without that validation, which the self-absorbed parent won't give, the child and / or the adult child is left to search, question, and wonder about the origin and perpetuation of negative experiences.

I have searched for decades for this validation. Neither of my parents would talk about my childhood-- my mother wouldn't because she said it's inconsequential to whom you are as an adult and my father wouldn't because he doesn't want to remember. So, as an adult child of a confusing, abusive, and neglectful upbringing, without the Enlightened Witness and the accompanying validation, years of deep soul searching and digging for answers is the possible result.

Thank goodness for books like Christine Ann Lawson's... thank goodness for those who are also searching and reach out to contribute their stories which aid in validation of your own... thank goodness for blogs, comment boards, and groups pertaining to the topics. Even though I may not have had an Enlightened Witness during the formative years of life, I certainly have plenty of validation, support, and love at this stage in my life. I hope you are able to find that as well... and I hope that this blog provides validation, support, and love to those who are searching or need to communicate with someone who has been through the same type of situation.

May your life be enlightened, validated, and happy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Antisocial Personality Disorder | Letter to my Brother

The following is part of the letter I sent to my brother in jail about his mental disposition.This letter is in addition to my previous post: Adult Child in Crisis with Personality Disorder Parents and is a detailed synopsis of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), including the disorder's origination, how the disease manifests itself before the age of 15, diagnosis criteria, and complications from the disorder. He stated that the entire description fit him and that he would take the letter to a psychiatrist as soon as possible to help with the diagnosis. The following is part of the letter:

I completely understand where you are coming from—feeling like you are mentally tapped. I do think that you can do something about it though. I have been researching and researching for the last 9 months about what could be the cause behind your troubles, and I think that I may have insight to what has been troubling you all of these years. Before I tell you the ‘name’ of it, I want you to read about it. I found a disorder that originates from:
  1. Being subjected to verbal, physical or sexual abuse during childhood
  2. Having an unstable or chaotic family life during childhood
  3. Loss of parents through death or divorce during childhood
  4. Absence of parental discipline.
  5. Removal from the home.
  6. Erratic, inconsistent discipline.
  7. Being “rescued” each time the person is in trouble and never having to suffer the consequences of his own behavior.
  8. Maternal deprivation and lack of an appropriate “attachment”.
I think that you meet pretty much all 8 of these origination factors… you were subjected to verbal abuse, our family life was very unstable and chaotic starting when you were 10 years old, you lost parents through divorce, the parental discipline was lax at Dad’s house, you were removed from the home at a young age, you have been ‘rescued’ by Dad quite a few times through the years (financially, not emotionally), and I think that the attachment with our mother was not effective due to her mental disposition (unavailable emotionally through large periods of our childhood).

Now, the disorder is also characterized by kids having conduct disorder before the age of 15 years old. In your case, how angry you would get at times: recall when you broke my finger, busted the bathroom door down, busted down Dad’s door to his bedroom, and jumped out of a moving car. These are just a few.

A diagnosis for this order is made if 3 or more of the following are met. I think that you have more than 3 of the 7. What are your thoughts?
  1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
  2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying
  3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  4. Irritability and aggressiveness
  5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
  7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another
Complications from this disorder include:
  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety
  3. Aggression or violence
  4. Suicidal behavior
  5. Reckless behavior
  6. Alcohol or substance abuse
  7. Incarceration
  8. Relationship difficulties
  9. Social isolation
  10. School and work problems
  11. Strained relationships with health care providers
Again, I think you have many of these complications as well. And treating simply a complication, such as depression or anxiety, is not treating the actual disorder from where the complication is originating. The complication is simply a symptom of the over-riding disorder. And that’s why the Prozac or whatever hasn’t been really ‘helping’ you, as a symptom / complication is merely being treated (ie: one has the flu, but only takes an antihistamine. Well, the runny nose may be gone BUT the flu is still there). The disorder needs to be treated, not just the depression / anxiety or whatnot.

So, overall, I think this disorder may be what has complicated your life for so long. How the disorder originates (8 points), how the disorder manifests itself before the age of 15, the diagnosis criteria (7 points), and the complications of the disorder (11 points) seem pretty spot-on for what you have been going through for decades. What are your thoughts?

One may have a very small back problem at birth—maybe a back problem that would never even is a big deal. But when the individual is around 10 years old, a bunch of stuff happens to aggravate that back problem, causing it to become more pronounced. And as life goes on, the back problem becomes more of a focus. This back with a disorder, left unattended, can affect one’s life negatively with pain, complications, and challenges. However, once the back problem is attended to by a professional, one is able to lead a pain-free, less complicated, and less challenging life. So, even though the mind is something people can’t see on the outside, just like the back, the mind can lead to troubles if problems are left unattended.

Well, I hope this helps. I think that if you are able to have a proper evaluation and diagnosis, that you will be able to deal with what is really going on with you. I think that you have been spiraling in a messy tornado, not actually ever dealing with the core issue. The facts surrounding your life are just results of what is really going on in your head… meaning, you can’t just go hold down a job long-term because not holding down a job long-term is a result of how your brain is misleading you. You lie because of how your brain is misleading you. You have been doing the things you do because of how your brain is leading you… and until you have this straightened out, the other factors continue the way they have been in the past. As one of my favorite quotes says, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten”. So, change the fundamental way your brain is working.

I hope you don’t feel as if I am over-stepping my boundaries here… but I am so worried about you, and I have spent countless hours (since last July 2008) trying to find out how to help you. I have always believed in you… I will always believe in you. I think you are a good person, I think you mean well, and I think that you have been deeply troubled since you were a little boy. I wish I could wave a magic wand and erase all of the troubles swirling around in your head… but this is something you have to make a big commitment and conscious effort to do yourself. Your brain is just that—YOURS. And until you want to make yourself happy, in control of your own life, and peaceful, there’s no one else that can take you there. You are the pilot of your own destiny.

The stuff that happened to you as a child and teenager are in the past. Let it go. Free yourself. The things that happened in your 20’s are in the past—same with your 30’s. What you DO have is what is ahead. And what is ahead is what you make of it. You can make it happy… or you can make it not happy. Yes, you have some things that are tough with finances—but a TON of people have that too. You have to decide to manage your life because it’s your life to manage. You have to decide that you are worth it. Not because I want you to… or because your fiance wants you to… or because your kids want you to… you have to decide to manage your life because YOU want to.

Changing the way you think is hard work. But you can do it. You have to make a conscious effort every day to redirect the path of your thinking. And with a psychiatrist as a tool to help, you will be able to conqueror the demons in your head and lead the life that you want. You said you are sorry in your letter—well the best way to say your sorry is to make a change and show you mean it. Like I said, I believe in you: YOU, your soul, you as a person, you as my brother, you as my friend, and you as one of the people I love the very most in the whole wide world. And I want you to love yourself that much. You’re going to have to dig deep.

Well, I hope all this helped. I will be happy to write to you about any of this. I only want the best for you—and I want you to lead the life that makes you happy, complete, and fulfilled. And obviously you haven’t been leading that life. I don’t know what else I can do other than offer my emotional support, as well as the information that I have researched and studied for the past 9 months. Please take this information in the light it’s presented and know that I love you with all of my heart. The disorder’s name is Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Adult Child in Crisis with Personality Disorder Parents

How can two highly self-absorbed parents with personality disorders who raised two children with such dysfunction, carelessness, and disregard be expected to effectively help their adult son who is now in critical and desperate need? The answer is simple. They can't. And it's very intriguing how they chose to help him. Let me tell you about it.

First, let me catch up those of you who are just jumping into my blog at this point:
  • Understanding My Borderline Mother: my mother has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individuals sense of self-identity. Additionally, the BPD suffers from a disorder of emotion regulation with unstable pattern of social relationships and impulsive behaviors.
  • My Dad, the Narcissistic King: my Dad is the prototypical narcissist (NPD), which is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. The NPD is described as turning inward for gratification (self-centered) rather than depending on others and as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, and prestige.
Now back to my brother-- he is in a very bad spot in his life. He has progressively gotten worse and worse over the years, with challenges starting when he was just a child. My parents recognized his behavior problems but didn't do much about it other than telling him what he should and shouldn't do. So, he didn't get any therapy, medical treatment, or professional behavior modification.

When my parents' divorce hit when he was around 10 years old, the problems grew worse, and by the time he was a teenager, he was out of control. He was a delinquent, using drugs & alcohol, skipping school, and getting into all sorts of trouble. Again, my parents didn't get him consistent medical treatment with a psychiatrist, but he did have two stints in drug & alcohol rehab.The places he went were simply insurance sucking shams, if you ask me. He was still getting drugs while in these places. Plus he made new contacts for when he got out, getting him into further trouble.

By the time he was an adult at 18 years old, he was a high school drop-out with no place to live. He entered the Navy but went AWOL after taking pre-paid salary with him (he was on subs which pay the salary prior to going out to sea). He followed a band for years, meeting a girl & having several kids. They got in trouble for welfare fraud somewhere along the way but got married and seemed to do well for a short period. That's until he lost his job and got a divorce.

Pretty much since then he hasn't had a steady job, and he's been living off of the kindness of other people-- which has been the last SEVEN years. He has been severely depressed and unmotivated. He has no life plan, can't hold down a job, and lies about everything. He hasn't been able to keep up with his financial obligations (namely child support) which has landed him in jail twice. He just got out from a 3 month stay, and he's the worst I have ever seen him.

Within the last two years or so, my brother has been crying on the phone to me as he wants to know why he does the things he does: lies to everyone about practically everything, clinically depressed, can't hold down a job, has no life plan, doesn't adhere to societal standards, and is so impulsive. Our conversations typically went down the path of how our childhood was so tough, how he didn't have a good bond with his mother & how his father basically pushed him aside for his new wife, and how understanding & accepting the past will help him to move to the future. BUT, as time went on and he kept digging a bigger & bigger hole, and he started talking suicide, I started to seek more answers.

I went to my Lawson book and started reading about the 'all bad' child and the 'lost child'. Then, I started thinking about my mother being BPD and my Dad being NPD and the effects that could have on a child genetically (my birth father is different than my brother's). Then, I started thinking about how he was as a child; how he was so bored all the time, how he needed extra stimulation to peak his interest, how he was so angry. Then a light bulb went off, and I thought of the Sociopath Personality. I plugged the name into Google. As I scrolled down and found the DSM-IV Definition of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), I found a list of diagnostic criteria that matches my brother's symptoms perfectly. I went on to further research APD and the more I read, the more I knew I found something very important.

Now, how could it be that my mother is BPD, my Dad NPD, AND my brother is APD!?!? Am I proving that my entire family that I grew up with has personality disorders? How could this be? Well, I went to research more, and lo & behold, I found out something that truly was the icing on the cake-- all three of the personality disorders are the same type. All three personality disorders are DRAMATIC and ERRATIC. Finding this out was an eye opener, as the disorders are all linked, and they all stem from the same root: Cluster B Personality Disorders are evidenced by dramatic, erratic behaviors and include Histrionic, Narcissistic, Antisocial and Borderline Personality Disorders. WOW!

At this point, I knew I needed to talk to my brother about my findings so that he can get a professional diagnosis and therapy. BUT right around this time is when he had a court hearing (he has them every 6 months for child support arrearage payments) and he ended up going to jail for not keeping current with his financial obligations. While he was in jail, I wrote him a detail synopsis of APD, including the disorder's origination, how the disease manifests itself before the age of 15, diagnosis criteria, and complications from the disorder. He said that the entire description fit him and that he would take the letter to a psychiatrist as soon as possible to help with his diagnosis: Antisocial Personality Disorder: Letter to my Brother

Since then, he has finished his 3 months in jail, and my mother who hasn't seen him but twice in twenty years went up to meet him getting out of jail. In the past, my brother has depended on my Dad for support (both financially and emotionally however limited it may have been) but since my Dad is now 'over it' and 'tapped', my brother decided to lean on his mother. I warned him about the repercussions of this decision, but he thinks he can't manage life on his own and decided to use her.

My mother, on the other hand, is using him just the same. And when these two personalities get together, the results are tumultuous. Anyway, I believe my mother is not up there to help out my brother in the purest sense. I think she has ulterior motives, one of which is to meet her grandchildren for the 1st time (three are teens, one is younger). She went up there under the pretense of helping my brother but where the heck has she been for the last TEN years (they spoke during 1999 briefly), or the TEN years prior to that? I find it rather disturbing that she thinks she can waltz back into his life after the neglect and carelessness exhibited in the past TWENTY YEARS. And the further disturbing part is that my brother is allowing this to happen because he can't manage life on his own.

Now, what BOTH parents are failing to recognize is that my brother's troubles are NOT because he doesn't have a job or that he can't adhere to his court ordered financial obligations. THESE ARE SYMPTOMS of the overlying problem. He has a MENTAL ILLNESS-- and until that is properly diagnosed and managed, he will continue to not be a productive member of our society. My brother will continue to lie, con, land in jail, not hold down a job, and be depressed.

At the end of 2008, I asked my Dad to go up to see my brother when my brother was claiming he was going to kill himself. I told my Dad that the situation was dire and that my brother needs serious help-- fast. My Dad's solution was a several day trip where he took the grandchildren out shopping, bought my brother some fancy shoes, and made a list for my brother to accomplish. AHEM. If a list was all my brother needed to snap his life into some semblance of order, DON'T YOU THINK HE WOULD HAVE DONE THIS A LONG TIME AGO!?

Now it's 2009, my brother is getting out of jail and my mother is there to pick him up from the clink. HER solution is to get him on disability so he won't owe the child support and to help him get a job. AGAIN, they just DO NOT GET IT. He CLEARLY is mentally ill. Just talk to him ONE TIME and you can hear how depressed he is and how illogical & dysfunctional is thinking is. BUT forget about even talking with him: LOOK AT HIS LIFE. Simply looking at the facts surrounding his life, and you will distinctively see all of the toxic mess, poor decisions he's made, and the dysfunction. The man has not held down a steady job in SEVEN YEARS. He is tens of thousands of dollars behind in arrearages with the court system. He lied about paying his rent, the electric bill, and more. He lost his fiance due to taking advantage of her and lying to her. Getting him on disability is not going to take care of what got him into this mess in the first place. Getting him a job during the week that my mother is visiting is not going to take care of the underlying problem of why he hasn't worked steadily in seven years-- he will simply quit the job as soon as my mother leaves.

What is very interesting is if you look at the decisions that my parents have made in order to 'help' my brother:
  • My Dad (who is a self absorbed narcissist and all about the country club life & appearances) had the approach of a short visit, spending money, and making a list. He couldn't give of himself, and he did what he know how to do best-- give money not himself.
  • My BPD mother, on the other hand, is consumed with her own personal health. "... all borderlines are prone to hysterical reactions and feel particularly threatened by illness. Family members may be unable to distinguish minor injuries from major emergencies. The overreaction to pain or illness is a consequence of the inability to sooth and comfort herself. The all-good child often comforts, serving the role of parentified child" (Lawson). She has had declining health for the last decade and doesn't take care of herself (overweight, doesn't exercise, eats poorly)-- and she uses her health as a way of getting sympathy and attention, as well as to justify not working, staying reclusive at home, and not taking care of herself. So, her approach with my brother is focused on his physical health and getting him disability which AGAIN doesn't handle the overlying problem-- mental illness.
Each parent's solution mirrors their own dysfunction: my Dad with selfishness, money, and quick fixes, and my mother with focusing on physical health. Another ironic point is that my mother is educated in psychology and youth counseling-- rhetorically speaking, why isn't she seeing what my brother really needs? And if she does see it, why isn't she doing something about it?

So at this point, I am sitting back highly frustrated: (1) knowing what possibly could be my brother's challenge (APD) and (2) KNOWING what he needs more than anything else in the whole world is intense, thorough, and long term psychiatric help. Without it, he will continue to con people, try to find free rides, lie, be depressed, and not have a life plan. I am VERY scared of the outcome if he doesn't get help as he's talking suicide to me again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Borderline Personality Disorder | How it feels to be COB, SOB, POB

The following is another piece about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) that I thought I'd share-- which a friend of mine (whose mother is also BPD) shared with me. I thought many excellent points are examined in the piece, as well as effective definitions related. My commentary is in purple:

Borderlines: How it Feels to be a COB, SOB, or POB by Miriam Adahan

For those who have never heard the term, it is difficult to describe Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in a few sentences—but we will make an attempt in this article. COBs (Children of Borderlines), SOBs (Spouses/Siblings of Borderlines) and POBs (Parents of Borderlines) have a very hard time living with BPDs, and we will try to give some pointers for those who are in this very difficult situation.

When I read this first paragraph, I started reflecting on this blog, and this disproportionate amount of time I've spent on the topic of BPD in comparison to NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). I pondered whether:
  1. the relationship I have had with my mother has been more complex than my Dad's in general
  2. if the disproportionate attention is due to the respective personality disorder (BPD v NPD)
  3. if the fact that I am a daughter (women vs men and the types of relationships)
  4. if I just know my mother better as I have spent more time with her than my Dad
I after giving it intense consideration, I do believe I have spent more time on BPD due to it's complexities, convoluted nature, confusing elements, and inconsistencies in how behavior is exhibited. So, as this author starts out, BPD is difficult to describe just in a simple, straight forward definition-- think of how difficult it is to describe as a victim of a BPD parent, with YEARS of complex, convoluted, confusing, and inconsistent occurrences!

Suffice it to say that Borderlines are aggressive, envious, self-confident, narcissistic, demanding, temperamental and seductive. In order to be constantly at the center of everyone's attention, they take on a variety of roles, such as helpless victim, raging tyrant or saintly psychic. They are also pathological liars. Borderline children, even at the age of six or seven, will threaten to call the police with made-up stories of abuse in order to terrify their parents. Borderlines never see faults in themselves; their victims, who feel alone and despised, are always to blame.

Oh my goodness, this paragraph is exactly to the point with describing my BPD mother. This definition is a very effective definition and truly encompasses my mother and her many facets, as well as all BPD's out there.

Currently my BPD mother's role is acting as the crusader, bounding into my brother's life after only seeing him two times in the last twenty years. He is currently going through a very difficult time in his life, which is the perfect time for my mother to weasel herself back into his life. She excommunicates people during good times and is the crusader / rescuer during bad times. She loves drama and getting herself right in the middle of it.

I guarantee that the situation with my brother will result as the last two have: 1989 he walked away from her after a tumultuous decade of emotional & mental abuse and didn't see her again until 1999; then in 1999 she was upset with him after just reuniting and they didn't talk again for another ten years. Now in 2009, I believe he will not do as she is demanding, and she will say some hurtful and inappropriate things (as she always ends up doing), and they won't talk again for another ten years. She again will play the victim and blame my brother. A vicious cycle that I wish my brother would not to participate.

Borderlines turn their homes into hot-beds of intrigue by turning family members against each other, excommunicating and exiling those who don't submit to their demands and training their "loyalists" to spy on or harm the target of their intense hatred. Suspicious and untrusting, they explode with accusations of betrayal and abandonment over the most innocent act, like hanging a towel in the wrong place or splashing a few drops of water on the floor after washing the hands. The degree of drama which they stir up keeps others in a state of constant anxiety, since it is impossible to know what will trigger the next violent blow-up.

My gosh-- this is this DEAD ON! The description here of the "exploding with accusations of betrayal and abandonment over the most innocent act" is completely and utterly my mother since I was a small child. For example, when I was a teenager, she blew up on me over a stain on the wall near her bedroom that looked like coffee (I lived downstairs and didn't drink coffee). We are currently estranged because she blew up on me in 2004 about my desire not to have my 'fathers' all at my wedding-- that I would rather have two ceremonies. As a result, she screamed she was out of the wedding many times but then proceeds to tell everyone that I kicked her out. From there she tried to get a group together (as this author coined "loyalists") to 'crash' my wedding. She has also tried to enlist friends, colleagues, and family members as "loyalists" against me.

So as a result of me not submitting to her demands about my own wedding, she chooses not to have a relationship with me BUT tells everyone that I kicked her out of the wedding (a wedding that wasn't even in the planning stages) and a stream of other horrible things (for example: my step-father has always treated me like his own daughter and THIS is what he gets in return).

Our numerous other estrangements followed the same pattern-- I am the perfect daughter, the best thing that ever happened to her, she is so proud of me-- then-- she blows up as her demands aren't met to her satisfaction (typically something stemming from my Dad), she acts as the victim and demonizes me, she tries to turn other people against me, and she spreads horrible rumors about me.

In between these explosions, Borderlines can seem perfectly normal, gracious and loving. Victims feel confused, wondering how Borderlines can be so warm and devoted to those who worship them as paragons of perfection, while treating them with vicious scorn. Those who even hint at some wrongdoing on their part, including therapists or rabbis, are met with lies, denial or threats to destroy them professionally.

Another paragraph that hits the nail on the head! My mother has gone after professionals, as the author mentions, having one of my elementary school teachers fired and the Dean of a university removed as examples. She will go after people with a vengeance and unyielding energy-- energy that she typically doesn't have for happy or fun things.

Also, my mother does have that normal, gracious, and somewhat loving side to her, which makes you confused as heck when she Dr. Jekyll / Mr Hydes it on you. When she all of the sudden flips on you, where you go from being the apple of her eye to being her worst enemy, it's quite shocking and bewildering. She's singing your praises one day, and literally the next she's telling everyone how horrible you are.

Borderlines hold a kind oft hypnotic sway over others. Family members are often unusually devoted, thinking about them 24/7. The consequences of not pleasing them can be enormous as they may prevent you from seeing your own children or grandchildren, may make sure that no employer will ever hire you, may bar you from attending family events or demonize you to such an extent that you begin to believe that you truly are evil or insane.

I am so blessed that I have had a solid sense of self since a young child that has been my strength through my parents divorce, remarriages, verbal / mental / emotional abuse, estrangements, and more. Without this solid sense of self, belief in goodness, knowing that things will get better, and that I am the only one who is responsible for me, I have maintained believing in myself that I am not "evil or insane" like this paragraph suggests.

I can easily see how other children would not come out of the BPD relationship unscathed however. Now, I am not suggesting I am not unscathed, as I am: I have battled anxiety. I have searched for validation for years. I have attempted to get my parents approval for decades. I have yearned for that parental unconditional love my entire life. BUT I knew I was 'normal' and I knew I had my head screwed on straight. I just didn't understand the depth and breadth of each parent's personality disorder until the last half decade. I understood they were damaging, selfish, and careless, but the all encompassing effects of the personality disorders weren't fully understood.

Because Borderlines can be so generous and loving, family members are happy for the good times and pride themselves on bearing the bad ones by numbing themselves emotionally. But this numbness comes at a price; they become addicted to the adrenaline rush that accompanies a violent episode. It is similar to the scary "thrill" of being in a speeding race car or a roller coaster.

Oh yes, I totally understand what is being said here. I remember that feeling during the times when my parents had outbursts, pushing each other & knocking the door down-- and then I called the police. I remember that feeling when my mother hit my brother and knocked his tooth out during an altercation-- and then my brother and I took off on bikes to our neighbor's house. I remember that feeling when my mother drilled my brother and me while we sat on the floor and innocently-- and we had to listen to her berate our father and question our intentions. I remember that feeling when my mother threw herself down on the front porch of my babysitting job, bawling her eyes out and begging for me to come back and live with her-- and I had to call my Dad and the police to have her removed.

These weren't "thrills" BUT I remember thinking that the adrenaline rush was not a good thing for my body... that all the stress at such a young age would have repercussions... and that my ability to deep six these events and move on would only mean that dealing with the feelings would re-emerge in the future (which they didn't re-emerge; I just lost respect for my parents).

I, to this day, have my heart hit the floor when my mother starts one of her Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde. My heart immediately starts to race, I become out of breath, and I shake. I can't handle the confrontation-- the abrupt change in demeanor and the evil that is emitted. I've had anxiety issues as a result of all the intense stress as a child. I also battled insomnia. I also have had a hard time dealing with being put on the stop without being defensive. So, as an adult, I do see the results of post traumatic stress disorder.

Having lived with unpredictability and instability, victims do not know what it means to be tranquil, loved or stable. Being with nice, normal people seems boring. Tranquility feels somehow abnormal or phony.

In my case, this is not true. And I thank God for that. I am truly blessed and thankful for the "nice, normal people" in my life. I relish the "tranquility" and appreciate the predictable and stable life I lead.

Source- Miriam Adahan: Borderlines: How it Feels to be a COB, SOB, or POB

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Estranged from Mother on Mother's Day

I was googling 'estranged from mother on Mother's Day' to see what folks had to say about this topic, and I stumbled upon this poem that was posted on Grieving Mother's Day

My mother taught me
More than the teachers ever did.

My mother loved me

More than all my lovers ever could.

My mother showed me

How to be happy all the time.

And my mother

Taught me about Jesus.

What is ironic about this piece is that not one aspect of this poem applies to the mother I have. The only part that could possibly apply to my mother is the first two lines as she placed a lot of credence on education and she did work with me closely as a young child (preschool and younger) so that I excelled entering into the school system in kindergarten.

Otherwise, if she loves me more than all my lovers could, she didn't and doesn't show it. She bashes me to those who will listen. She lies about me when she can. She manipulates facts about me and twists the truth. She paints me in the worst light possible and spreads horrible stories about me. She tries to recruit my friends, husband's family, and my colleagues into her bashing by instigating email campaigns against me. These actions are NOT in any sense indicative of a person who loves you-- much less a mother who has unconditional love for her child. She has behaved like this since I was a child. At least now, I am removed from the abuse.

My mother DEFINITELY did not show me 'how to be happy all the time'. I DID... it's actually part of my nature. My mother has been a negative, glass half empty, and unhappy person since I was first cognizant of her personality. She was frequently heard saying, "Life's a bitch and then you die" and "If it's not one thing, it's another"... and she was rarely happy-go-lucky and carefree. Everything is an effort. Everything is a big-deal. Everything is a pain in the rear for her. I remember thinking how she could take even the most wonderful and magical thing like a trip to Disney World and make it miserable for herself. I knew I didn't think that way, and I never wanted to be like her-- since I was a young, young girl.

Last, my mother completely did NOT 'teach me about Jesus'. She said that she had religion forced on her so she decided to allow my brother and me to discover and decide about religion on our own-- POOR decision in my experience and opinion. She didn't guide us, lead us, or teach us in any way, shape, or form about religion. The closest thing we got to religion was attending kindergarten at the Presbyterian church up the street. I recall my brother asking what the place was, and my mother answering that we were in God's house. And then my brother asked to meet him. My mother said that he wasn't home at that time. I also wondered what the books where on the back of all the chairs but didn't dare to ask in fear of sounding stupid (I was around 5 years of age).

On this Mother's Day, I will focus on the wonderful, nurturing, and happy women in my life on Mother's Day. The women that taught me about life, loved me fully & deeply, and showed me sheer happiness. Whether my aunt, sister in law, friends, or colleagues, the women are honored in my eyes for all they do for their children and all they contribute to the world. I have so many women in my life to be grateful about that my negative and confusing mother is not a second thought.

Additionally, I focus immensely on my daughter... this little magical being in my life that made me a mother, the one who makes my life a heartwarming and endearing life to live, and the one who fills my heart with so much happiness I could burst. She is the light of my life and gives me SO MUCH to be thankful about.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Borderline Personality Disorder | When Mom's an Emotional Terrorist

The following is a piece I just stumbled upon and found it so poignant, I thought I had to share it. My commentary is in blue throughout the piece:

Mother's Day and Borderline Personality Disorder: When Mom's an Emotional Terrorist

Terrorism had a face on September 11, 2001. It is also known as "9/11". The despicable act knows no boundaries. It is one-sided. It is disguised on its omnipotent goals. It is devoid of empathy and awareness of human feelings. It uses threats and suicide as its weapons. It is spurred by feelings of vindictiveness and vengefulness. For the terrorists, their actions are legitimate, justifiable and a response to an injustice. The terrorists become obsessed with a self-serving plan based on their distorted reality.

My commentary: the beginning segment's definition of terrorism so closely correlates with the definition of BPD it's incredible. Even though my mother and I have been estranged for 5 years now, she is still exhibiting no boundaries, is one sided, is devoid of empathy, and has taken actions that are completely self-serving based on her distorted reality. For example:
  • She is fostering a relationship with my half-sister who is the daughter of my mother's 1st of 3 husbands- the husband she divorced in 1968- under the guise of bashing me.
  • She promised to financially help my brother who is in dire straits after being estranged from him for ten years but then backing down and blaming it on my step-father.
  • She struck up a relationship with one of my professional colleagues and communicating a mess of hog-wash to her.
The Emotional Terrorist Defined

Hollywood film makers portrayed the Emotional terrorist character in many of its movies including "Mommie Dearest, Body Heat, Fatal Attraction, Sophie's Choice, Single White Female, Basic Instinct, Black Widow, and All About Eve".

History gave us Hitler and Osama Bin Laden as terrorist epitomes.

Erin Pizzy, referring to her work with women, explained the working definition of an emotional terrorist in the article "Working with Violent Women". An emotional terrorist seeks to achieve a destructive goal to her family member and carry out actions without boundaries. These violent-prone actions are seen as legitimate grievances. The real or imagined legitimacy turns into an obsession.

My commentary: interesting statement about seeking "to achieve a destructive goal to her family member and carry out actions without boundaries". My mother has exhibited this time & time again with my family-- almost systematically going after members of the family methodically, all with the guise that she is the victim. Additionally, she is very pushy-- without boundaries-- and when one reacts to her intrusive behavior, she retreats as if she's been personally attacked or rejected. And although she's the one that retreats, she tells everyone that she's been abandoned. Plainly, her behavior is very detrimental by outright lashing out & attacking as well as intensely pushing herself on others-- leaving a path of destruction in her wake.

The emotional terrorist has "unresolved tendencies from a problematic childhood'. The powerful, overwhelming outrage is a mirror to their childhood's painful memories. Thinking of themselves as victims, the emotional terrorist recreates their violent-prone past into their relationships. The emotional terrorist recognizes only her pain and thus becomes insensitive to the feelings of other family members.

The above definition puts a face to many personality disorders including borderline personality disorder (BPD). indicated that mental health resources showed 75% of those with BPD are women. The undetected statistics of men fall under the category of narcissism.

Mother's Day for Children of Borderlines

Many children of borderlines dread Mother's Day. The thought of having their mother feel special, important and loved makes them sick. They sift through Mother's Day cards in a store. They look for a card with nothing mushy written on it. Sometimes, a plain "Happy Mother's Day" print is what they would pick. They knew that their mother's response will always be "What do I have to be happy about?" Greeting card companies should start making plain cards for a specific market niche for children with emotional terrorist moms.

My commentary: the statement, "The thought of having their mother feel special, important and loved makes them sick" is intensely true for me. I have felt this-- I so wanted a loving relationship with my mother when I was younger. Once I became a young adult and she continually lashed out in inappropriate, vicious, and confusing ways, I was sickened by her actions and certainly sickened to honor her in a sentimental and touching fashion. The feeling of betraying myself, the one that she's treated so carelessly and flippantly through the years, makes me sickened more than anything. Additionally, the story of the girl that gets her heart ripped out is so reminiscent of myself with my mother-- the continual disappointment, the walking on eggshells, the agony of not being able to do anything right, and the GUILT.

On another note, on times when I have been sentimental with her, I have been met with rejection. For example:
  • As a child holding her hand in the movie theater, she pulled her hand away asking me what I was doing.
  • When telling her that I love her, she responds with, "Saying I love you should only be spoken if you REALLY mean it and shouldn't be said all the time". After that saying I love you was few and far between.
  • If ever I wanted a hug or kiss I would have to go to her... but I was always left with an empty feeling and one-sided .
Many daughters have managed to stop sending cards to their borderline mothers. Instead, they pick up the phone to call them with a simple greeting "Hi. How are you?"

Many children of an emotional terrorist feel confused when greeting their mother on Mother's Day. They notice their mother getting sweet and superficially thankful while obviously becoming uncomfortable. It occurs to them that Emotional terrorists like to behave like normal mothers. They know the stereotypical mother from watching them on TV. But, their expressions seem artificial and phony. The truth is they do not enjoy motherhood.

A real-life Mother's Day incident occurred with a borderline mother with 6 children. The children gave an array of gifts to their Borderline mother in bed early in the morning. A bouquet of flowers, personalized cards, hand-crafted gifts, coffee and breakfast in bed were offered by the family. The borderline mother, stunned by the surprise, gave an emotionless "Thank you but now look at the crumbs on my bed. The coffee is not even hot. Do you really know what I have to go through to raise awful kids like you? No one ever helps me around the house. I am like a glorified maid." Then, she bursts into tears of how her hard work as a mother is only appreciated on special occasions. She expects them on a daily basis. She draws out a list from her memory of how the children have ripped her heart out. The list amazingly covered a span of several years. Later that day, she drove the children to her in-laws telling the kids she deserves time by herself on Mother's Day.

Flowers, cards, gifts and calls you give a borderline mother are never good enough. The common statement after giving it to them is "Thank you but..." Some have sent Mother's Day cards to their borderline mothers only to receive photocopies of their own cards a few years down the road. Borderlines must constantly accumulate evidences of their good parenting skills.

The over-sentimental fanfares on Mother's Day elicit anger feelings from children of borderlines. As they struggle to keep their head above the water, their borderline mother throws a boulder to keep them beneath the water. Every child of a Borderline has this fantasy of sitting down their mother and telling her "Look here. This is what you have done. Look at me. I am broken because of you." The children of Borderlines have no voice.

My commentary: SO TRUE: "Every child of a Borderline has this fantasy of sitting down their mother and telling her, 'Look here. This is what you have done. Look at me. I am broken because of you.' The children of Borderlines have no voice." The only voice I have with my mother is silence and estrangement. She tends to misconstrue, manipulate, and hear what she wants to hear when I have tried to communicate-- and she doesn't allow my feelings to be felt or expressed (ie: what happened during my childhood, what happened during my parents' nasty divorce, what occurred to spur off our previous estrangements). I am not allowed my viewpoints of my childhood, she reiterates over & over about what a wonderful childhood I had, and she thinks that childhood has no bearing on who you are or how you function as an adult. In other words, communication has been a dead-end with her.

Even if I told her 'Look here. This is what you have done. Look at me. I am broken because of you' she would say I am making that up, that I am wrong, and that I am exaggerating. Saying nothing and being estranged is the healthiest option all the way around; however, if she could REALLY understand and see what she's done, I would LOVE to say my peace with her. But that's not going to happen-- she is not based in reality, as, like this piece says, "For the terrorists, their actions are legitimate, justifiable and a response to an injustice".


On Mother's Day, we are programmed to celebrate and appreciate motherhood. Many grown daughters and sons of Borderline mothers have opted for closure, limited or no contact. They live at arms length from their emotional terrorist mothers. Otherwise, Mother's Day is another episode of the endless drama. The drama includes the Borderline mother fighting with their Dad all the time, wailing hysterically, door banging and things breaking.

A facade of normalcy is displayed to the outside world. But in reality, these children live in self-contained prison camps. While a traditional greeting card will say "My mother , you are a guiding light" for children of borderlines their mother is like a "guard tower spot light in a prison". You cannot escape.

The beautiful personifications of motherhood for children of borderlines are imagined. The sad reality is children have no legal rights for even the Department of Social Services (DSS) will take no action until there is broken skin. The judges of the family courts continue to give visitation rights for the law must protect the parental rights of mothers. What about the broken spirits and shattered dreams of the victims?

Mother's Day seems to be a life sentence for children of Borderline mothers until they find a way to navigate to the spiritual side of their sufferings.

My commentary: "Mother's Day seems to be a life sentence for children of Borderline mothers until they find a way to navigate to the spiritual side of their sufferings"... and this is so true. Validation, self acceptance, and freedom from guilt are necessary. Getting away (and STAYING AWAY) from the threat of the terrorist and her weapons is vital. Terrorists don't change...