When the emails finally stop coming, when the notes on your car disappear, when the phone finally stops ringing, and any necessary restraining orders are in place, what happens next?
I've been NC for nearly four years now. I speak from the experience of being a child of a uBPD/uNPD marriage, so your situation may be different. However, I think these tips can help anyone who's returning from Oz and trying to re-adjust to life on Earth.
1) When the BPD relationship goes away, don't expect YOUR habits of reacting to go away.
Eliminating the harsh, difficult-to-navigate relationship with the BPD will bring a lot of relief to your heart. However, all of us as nons developed habits to allow us to cope in these relationships. These include, but are not limited to:
a) being hyper-sensitive to other people's moods
c) apologizing all the time
d) tiptoeing around others (being afraid to offend others, not voicing our own opinions, changing opinions so that others
will like us, etc.)
e) continuing habits that they ingrained in you ("the cabinets should be organized this way." "Why do you make your
bed that way?" )
f) feeling bored without all the drama that a BPD relationship causes
All of these habits can be conquered, but it will take time, therapy, and practice to do so. You will fail a time or two, and that is completely normal. Just don't expect them to go away simply because the abuser is out of the picture.
2) Perfectionism does not equal "normal"
Now that we have the freedom to pursue healthy relationships, it's only natural that we will want to avoid unhealthy patterns at all costs.
However, we must resist the temptation to fit everything into the mold of what we perceive as "normal." Homes, friendships, relationships, and families cannot fit into the idealized pictures we have in our heads. After being away from "Earth" and in "OZ" for so long, we may be a bit disillusioned when we discover that Earth is not paradise.
For example, my uBPD was my mom, so therefore I try to be a "perfect mom" so that I won't continue in the BPD family tradition. "If the house isn't magazine-perfect, or the clothes not ironed, or the baby not totally happy, then I MUST be just like my mom." That's a lie, but it's still easy to believe.
The truth is that all people--even the non-crazy ones---are imperfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and we will too. In our pursuit of a normal, healthy life, we must not worship perfection. As we return from Oz, we must be gentle to ourselves as we re-adjust to Earth's gravity.
3) Be prepared for "The Nag"
Being in a relationship with a BPD can put you under a pile of negative comments. Both my momster and the other BPD in my life (an ex-friend) had a particular gift for words. They knew exactly what to say that would hurt. LONG after they were gone, as I went about my daily (imperfect) life, every time I would fail, I would hear this little voice pop up and say,
"See, you didn't return that girl's phone call, you really are a lousy friend."
"Your husband isn't home YET? I told you he would leave you someday."
"Oh god, have you not lost that baby weight yet? Your husband's eyes will start roving."
"You're just like your mother--see? Your daughter's crying and you can't make her stop. She won't even eat right."
These awful words do not disappear with the person. I envisioned a witch (with a long, warty nose) who would follow me around and wag her finger at me, telling me all the things I was doing wrong. I named her "The Nag," and I've come to understand that she can stay with me long after uBPD momster and ex-friend have hit the highway. Again, just like #2, I have to understand that no one is perfect,and I am not perfect, even if my uBPD's expected me to be.
We must learn to recognize the lies, and consistently counter these lies with truth. That means saying positive, affirming things to yourself when these lies come at you like flaming arrows. Yes, it feels hokey at first, but as nons, we're often not used to believing positive things about ourselves. We have to start somewhere.
"My husband has not left, he's just at a meeting, and he'll be home soon."
"All kids cry sometimes, and all kids have foods they don't like. That doesn't make me a bad mom."
If you can't turn the lies into truth, at least write them down, and ask yourself, "Would I say this to another person?"
4) Expect others to not understand, and have a plan.
Pastors, neighbors, well-meaning relatives, and perfect strangers may be dragged into your life by the BPD. After hearing his/her sob story, these innocent bystanders will all be more than happy to give you their opinion on your choices. They can spend endless amounts of time and energy trying to persuade you to re-establish contact. After being controlled by the BPD for so long, the words from the others can deeply hurt, and make you doubt your own decisions and sanity.
"But she's your mom. You can't cut her out of your life."
"I saw her, she wasn't that bad."
"Why don't you consider the good times too?"
"Well, there's two sides to every story....." (with the implication that part of it must be YOUR fault as well.)
"The Bible says honor your father and mother."
"I think she might commit suicide if you don't talk to her."
Any suicide threats need to be taken to 911, not to YOU.
As the Non, you must remember that BPD's can present different sides of themselves to different people. DO NOT, under any circumstances, allow someone else's perception of the BPD to influence your decision. They may see a completely different person than the one YOU see.
For your own sanity, document everything. Write down memories in a journal, record conversations if possible, and give yourself the gift of TRUSTING your own perceptions.
If a friend or family member is persistent (and therefore harmful) in their attempts to reconcile the two of you, you should consider going no-contact, or extremely limited contact, with that person as well.
5) Have plans for holidays, family occasions, etc.
The one good thing about holidays is that they typically don't change. smiley Christmas doesn't sneak up on us. Thanksgiving is always in November. Religions that follow the lunar calendar know at least year in advance when they'll be facing a potential family-get-together.
That gives you plenty of time to plan. What will you do? Who will you see? Who will you not see? Who will be attending? Where will we go? And the most important question why are you doing all these things?
It's all-to-easy to subject yourself to unnecessary stress, or even break NC, because:
"It's Yom Kippur, we're suppossed to forgive each other, right?"
"Let's have a little Christmas spirit!"
"This is the way we've done it every year---how dare you make us change it around YOUR needs?"
Family traditions are great, but in BPD-enmeshed families, they're often a dysfunctional dance on eggshells. Take the time to seriously evaluate if you will participate, why you want to participate, and what the consequences will be.
Every year since going NC with my mother, every Thanksgiving has been a no-holds-barred "Get Taylor to talk to her mom" pseudo-therapy session. I finally decided that holidays were suppossed to be celebrated in joy, not obligation and guilt. I decided to spend holiday with my friends and immediate family, and was amazed by the peace I felt.
6) Allow yourself to grieve.
Even though the BPD is gone, the pain and the memories can pop up at the most random places. Just like grieving a death, so many things can trigger memories of your relationship. Processing through this pain allows you to heal. Stuffing or denying the pain also denies you the opportunity to heal, just like ignoring a broken bone. Expecting the pain can make the experience less of a shock to your system.
The first Christmas I spent at my husband's house, I noticed how his mom had made displays of all the awards he had earned in high school and college. There were photos and notes about his accomplishments, and smiling pictures of my husband with his family.
I sat on the bed and wept like a child. I knew that there was no house anywhere on the planet where my accomplishments would be treasured like that, except as a source of narcissistic supply.
At the time, I allowed myself to think, "Aw, maybe I'm grieving because I should be with my BPD." No, that's not true. Grief is a response to a loss, not an indicator that you did the wrong thing. Grief should be looked on as a natural part of this process. Experience it, learn from it, and continue to grow. But do not allow the grief to carry you back into the relationship.
7) Understand that you WILL second-guess yourself....
....but that is NOT a reason to break NC.
Distance from the BPD is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it allows us the freedom to think our own thoughts, feel our own feelings, and live our own lives. On the other hand, without the constant reminder of the BPD's presence, it also allows us to forget many of the reasons why we went NC in the first place. Good memories of our time together with the BPD can bubble up to the surface. We can find ourselves wondering if we were intolerably cruel to the BPD, if we were bad children/lovers/friends, or if we were, in fact, the crazy ones.
This is where the journaling in step 4 becomes invaluable. Whenever you start wondering "Should I re-establish contact?" the first thing you need to do is re-read your records of why you went NC to begin with.
Has anything changed? Has the BPD admitted that she has a problem and needs help? Will the relationship be any different, or will the BPD simply use your period of NC as further evidence that you did, in fact, abandon her/act disloyal/break her trust, yadda yadda yadda....?
I was very fortunate. I went NC before I knew anything about BPD, so I was totally navigating in the blind. About every three months (especially when I was pregnant) I would long for my mom with such a deep intensity that it was physically painful.
By the Grace of God, right as I was about to re-establish contact, my mother would pick that exact time to do something stupid. I'd get 5 messages on my voice mail that ranged from friendly (like nothing ever happened) to psychotic--in the space of two hours. I'd get re-engaging phone calls from family members saying that, "Something is wrong with your mom, she needs you right away." No, she doesn't. She just called me chewing me out. She's fine.
This happened five separate times. My husband used to say, "Hey, you're due for another family crisis, it's been 3 months since the last one." :smiley
You will doubt yourself. Count on it. Heck, if it helps, write it on your calendar two months from now: "You'll probably wonder if you should break NC. Don't."
8 ) Take care of yourself.
In her book "Understanding the Borderline Mother," Lawson shares that survivors of concentration camps would shower regularly, even though they knew there was a chance they could die that day. The survivors later said that they could tell who had given up hope, by whether or not that person showered. Lawson goes on to urge people that have survived a relationship with a borderline to "bathe themselves in goodness and light," by taking care of their bodies, minds, and spirits.
My friend found this piece as a post on BPD Family: Facing the Facts. The tid-bits of wisdom and guidance that Taylor provides are spot-on, insightful, and has advice that each one of us BPD survivors (or others estranged from family members) can extract. Hope you enjoyed!