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


  1. Wow, this was so helpful. Thank you! My mother shares many of the same characteristics. I have recently estranged myself from her, because she is so disrespectful and emotionally abusive to me. Though I think she has currently outlawed me, so it's hard to say whose decision this is. I struggle sometimes, since my mom does have those periods of being very charming and loving. My family members still carry on with her. I just have to remember that I do not deserve the abuse, and I am not responsible for her behavior. And it is much safer for me, emotionally, not to be in relationship with her. The relationship can never be authentic or intimate anyway, since she does not even recognize me as a separate human being with my own feelings, opinions, interests and needs.

    Anyhow, thank you for this great article and your comments! This has really helped me!

  2. i have BPD but i dont have all the traits as above as a kid i think my mam and dad really strugled to birng me up properly yer your not suppose to be disgnised till your in your teens but i was quite a hard child coming upit was hard for me to good article keep up the good work

  3. Thanks Kevin! I wish you all the happiness, peace, and prosperity. Hugs!

  4. Having someone with BPD is something I've been dealing with, too. www.fragmentedpersonality.com

  5. Thank you so much for the reference, Courtney. I will certainly read. All my best to you.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I have had bpd for several years now and the article describes my symptoms perfectly. I wanted to share a website that talks about coping with bpd symptoms: http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-tdp. It has some great information so I recommend people with bpd check it out.

  7. Thank you for sharing this- those descriptions were very helpful, and unfortunately, right on target. Courtney- I am in the same boat as you. It seems that BPD mothers can single one child out over the others- that seems to be the case with me over my other siblings, and other family members can be blind to the abuse and how it affects you personally. It is a hard choice...I know what you are saying.
    Gretel, thank you again for sharing.

  8. I grapple with anxiety as well. I was also hyperthyroid for well over half my life until I had a total thyroidectomy, so that helped a lot. Physical activity is also good with managing anxiety-walking for example if the weather is conducive.
    I'm fortunate I don't have the other symptoms of PTSD: Nightmares, flashbacks, depression etc. I also just learned something interesting: Not all kids have nightmares.
    Wow. Who knew?!
    Thanks. Excellent article and commentary.