Monday, November 28, 2011

What is Closure of a Relationship

Closure seems like a **buzz word** but it's something that I feel and I know others would like to feel closure as well. Whether the closure relates to an estrangement with a family member, end of a romantic relationship, or any other relationship that has come to an end, closure is a goal for peace of mind and being able to live in the here-and-now.

Sometimes a relationship ends with no loose ends and no unanswered questions-- you simply move on and the relationship is final. Other relationships are not so cleanly ended. For example, in the situation with my mother and Dad, they are my parents and ending a relationship with a parent is not so simple or clean. Add in the manipulations, confusion, guilt-trips, brain-washing, and abuse that comes along with a mentally ill parent (ie: personality disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) with my mother or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) with my Dad) and finding closure is even more convoluted.

So, do you need to have closure? Not in order to move on, no. You can move on with life in a positive, healthy, productive, and happy manner without closure-- meaning, questions may still be left unanswered but you remove yourself from the abuse, negativity, unhappiness, and more in order to improve your life, find happiness, and have peace.

However, without closure, you may still have that little voice in the back of your head wondering what the person is up to, why did the person treat you this way / that way, when (if ever) will they change so that a mutually beneficial / healthy relationship is possible, or you may play out what happened in the past over and over in your head. In other words, although you may not have found closure, proceeding through life in a direction away from the relationship that ended occurs but you still think of that person and have questions floating around in your mind about them, the past with them, or 'what ifs'. 

During the first part of the estrangement / no contact / break-up, you may be angry, sad, pensive, or empty. As time goes on, you will find strength in being able to see the whole picture. When you are in a relationship, you are too closely entwined in what is happening to see the entire perspective. I like to explain 'relationship perspective' this way: when you are in a relationship, it's like your nose is pressed up against a huge painting so all you see is what is directly in front of your eyes. The dynamics of the relationship are so much more but all you can see is what your nose is pressed up against. As you take a step away from the relationship (aka: the painting on the wall), you will see more and more of the painting. The further you step away and as more time passes, the more you can see the entire picture surrounding the relationship. You will suddenly start to see things the way others from the outside see. The perspective changes: you see details you didn't see before, insignificant things become less and less important, and significant things become more pronounced.

As time passes and your perspective changes, you start to see more and more clearly what happened to you:
  • In one respect, this clarity could cause greater pain initially as how you were treated and what transpired in the past becomes more evident. But this is necessary in order to move on-- if you were operating under false assumptions about the relationship, these truths that become apparent will help to guide you to strength and conviction of how you are going to conduct your life. Therapy will help during this time, as well as talking to a close confidant who can provide validation, support, and a listening ear. 
  • In another respect, the clearer perspective can immediately give you the boost you need to find closure in the relationship. Truth is power. Being truthful with yourself and your past will give you the power to move forward through life and away from your painful past.
Once I was away from my parents and was able to reflect on what happened, writing certainly helped to bring everything out into the forefront. Starting from as early as I could remember, I wrote everything down from my perspective and memory. Additionally, talking with those who were involved in my life during the abuse by my parents was validating and freeing. Lastly, I researched and read and researched and read some more. The more I wrote, talked, researched, and read, the more I understood. The more I understood, the more I accepted what happened to me. The more I accepted what happened to me, the more closure I gained. At this point, I am not looking back, and I am at peace with where I am in my life relative to the estrangements with my parents.

Don't get me wrong. I went through 5 year cycles of estrangement with my BDP mother from when I was a child up until the last estrangement in 2004. I gave her second and third and fourth chances-- so closure of the relationship didn't happen until this last estrangement which had a great deal of experiences as the foundation. And in regard to my Dad, we had a precarious relationship since his 2nd marriage 30 years ago. So with both relationships, the end wasn't a quick and immediate occurrence-- and closure didn't happen quickly.

During each estrangement with my mother, I analyzed, soul searched, and dissected how we got to that point. So with each estrangement, more and more knowledge of my mother was acquired which ultimately gave me the strength to find closure with the last and final estrangement. With my Dad, I also analyzed, soul searched, and dissected our relationship and his narcissistic behavior-- and the final straw was how he was treating my newborn baby, my husband, and me. Closure with him was easier as his behavior was increasingly intense rather than Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde like my mother. My Dad was consistently self absorbed and malignantly narcissistic.

Formal steps for finding closure are as follows, however, remember that each and every one of us comes from unique sets of circumstances (abuse, family situations, personalities, etc) that these are simply a guideline:

  1. Grieve the loss of your relationship and allow yourself to feel the pain of  the estrangement / no contact / break-up. Don’t avoid the hurt by distracting yourself from the reality because you can’t heal and move on until you’ve grieved.
  2. Refrain from contacting the estranged. No contact means just that-- no contact. No contact means no contact on the phone, text, via social networking, spying online, emailing. Contacting the person will not change how you got to where you are in the relationship. Recovering from the grief is a difficult process that takes patience. Contacting your estranged may temporarily alleviate the pain, but contact is simply postponing the inevitable.
  3. Spend time alone to reflect on the relationship's positive and the negative aspects. Be honest with yourself and don’t solely focus on the affirmative components of the relationship because you love / miss the person. 
  4. Alter your perspective to include a positive outcome. Think about all that you’ve learned through the painful process and recognize that the agony will subside as you move on and look forward to what’s ahead in your life.
Former therapist, grief counselor and life coach Susan Elliott suggests: "Don't mistake grief for love. It's normal and natural to grieve any loss...even if the relationship was the worst in the world. Don't let your grief cause you to second guess your feelings. Part of the grief process is ‘review and relinquishment’ where it is necessary to process through the relationship. Unfortunately this review comes in the form of having the (estranged) on your mind constantly. It's a 'working through' and it doesn't mean you're not going to get over it, or that you still love the (estranged). It means your mind is doing the work it needs to do to process through it and get over it."

So as time goes on and you can intellectualize exactly the abuse you went through, how awful the treatment was from your parent(s) / family member / estranged... but you still miss having a mother to celebrate on Mother's Day or you wish for a loving and warm relationship with a parent or you may think you should consider giving the person a second chance since life is so short and you believe in forgiveness. Has closure been achieved? Not in my opinion. The missing and the wishing wouldn't be a part of your thought process if closure has been **officially** achieved. Acceptance has been achieved as you are proceeding through life with the understanding that the estrangement / no contact is in effect-- but closure hasn't occurred as thought patterns are swaying toward wanting to spend time or reconcile with the person.

In many ways, an estrangement of a parent or close family member is essentially like grieving the death of that parent / family member. In order to successfully work through the grief of a parent’s death, individuals need to be open to dealing with their emotions completely, to express them honestly, and discuss them with someone who can provide support. Only through this process will a person be able to resolve his or her grief which also applies to parental estrangement.

Closure happens when you can finally put the past to rest and not look back. Closure happens when you are content with the here-and-now.  Closure happens when you can be at peace with what happened and move on directly into the future confidently. May you find the closure you are seeking.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Is Spanking or Whipping Child Abuse?

With the recent flurry of media attention from the video gone viral by the daughter (Hillary Adams) of a Texas court judge (Judge William Adams), a lot of discussion has been taking place about whether the judge went above and beyond simple discipline of his child. For those of you who haven't seen the video, you can watch it here: Texas Judge Whips Daughter 

When I watched this video, I was out of breath with sweating palms and shaking hands. My heart was racing. I cannot believe that these parents treated their precious child with so much anger and venom. With all of the vulgarities and insults, this was not only an example of physical abuse but verbal abuse.

The parents' approach was not in a loving manner but in a controlling, angry, and out of control manner. The abuse seemed to never end. The father kept coming back for more-- and then the mother came into the room saying that the girl should take it like a woman. What a poor statement on the mother's behalf. And then the mother took the belt and whipped the girl one time- otherwise known as 'kicking the dog while its down'.

Anyway, this is FAR from a spanking. The judge was beating her on the front, back, sides, where-ever. And he kept coming back for more, yelling profanities the entire time:
  • "I'll spank your f___ing face" "
  • Get on your f___ing stomach" "
  • Get on your G_d d__n stomach" 
  • "I'll beat you into submission" 
  • "You don't deserve to be in this f___ing house" 
  • "I should just keep beating you and beating you, that's how upset I am" 
  • "If you raise your f___ing voice one little bit to me or your mother ... or  look at me f__ing wrong I will wear your f___ing a__ out with this belt." 
  • "You caused this with your dis-f__ing-obidence" 
My word! This is verbal abuse and so disheartening. Why are these parents (more so her father) talking so vulgarly to their daughter? Would they want her talking to them that way? What type of leadership are they illustrating to her? 

In regard to discipline, I have several points: 
  1. The child should be spoken to in a calm and collect manner. 
  2. The child should be told what he / she did incorrectly and what he / she should have done instead. 
  3. The child should be allowed to express why he / she did what he / she did. 
  4. The discipline that follows should be progressive. For the first incidence, the repercussion is _____  (time out, restriction, removal of item). For the second incidence, the repercussion should be more harsh (longer time out, longer restriction, longer period of removal of item). The third incidence (three strikes you're out) should be long term or permanent loss of privilege.
  5. The discipline should be administered in a controlled and loving manner. If a parent is angry, the parent should walk away, take a breather, and then continue to address the incident. 
  6. The discipline should never be the parent taking their frustrations out on their child. 
  7. The child should know that he / she is loved and thus in a safe and secure environment-- not with a parent that is out-of-control. If the parent is out-of-control, trust is lost between parent and child; therefore, discipline is less effective.
  8. The parent should lead by example. If the parent has a tantrum (like this judge in the video), what is the child learning? 
In this video, the girl apparently: (1) didn't use the computer strictly for school as instructed and (2) downloaded items that should have been downloaded from a pay-site. If the judge wanted to use a controlled spanking after he spoke with her about the two infractions, she should have known ahead of time that the repercussion is ________ number of spankings for each infraction. The discipline would have been calmly executed. After the spankings, the father should have lovingly spoken to her about what to correctly do next time-- reiterating that the computer is just used for school and no downloading of any kind. If this was the 2nd or 3rd infraction, progressive discipline should be administered.

I feel the more effective discipline, however, is restriction from use of computer as well as going online to pay for the downloads legally. Since she is 16 y/o and able to reason and discuss what is acceptable behavior as well as what is legal use of the Internet, talking to her in depth about these issues is valuable not only short-term but long-term. What did she learn about legally downloading items online by getting whipped and hearing profanities screamed at her? Additionally, having her research digital piracy, penalties for digital piracy, and other legal aspects of online usage related to her infraction would be greatly beneficial.

Another point is that the discipline should have a clear beginning and a clear ending. This judge did not have a clear ending with the whipping discipline. Therefore, in the case of a spanking, the beginning should take place after the initial talk about what she did incorrectly. The spanking then should take place with a countdown. Once the spanking is finished, a discussion of what needs to be improved should follow. This would conclude the discipline session. In the case of time outs or restrictions, again, there is a talk prior to the discipline. Thereafter, the time out or restriction follows. Once the time out or restriction ends, a follow-up discussion takes place regarding future expectations. 

The definition of physical abuse is abuse involving contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm.. This judge is illustrating abusive behavior due as he is clearly intimidating her by cowering over her, whipping her front / back / sides, picking her up off of the floor by the arm and pulling her back onto the bed, getting into her face, and more. He also intended to cause injury as he was using a belt (the biggest one he could find as he stated at the beginning), whipped her all over her front even when she wouldn't turn around for her bottom to be spanked, and kept beating her even after her cries for him to stop. He also caused physical suffering by continually coming back into the room for more as well as continuing to beat her when she refused to flip over onto her stomach.

He does not appear to want to improve her behavior but take out his rage on her, verbally and physically. Whipping her up and down the front of her body-- as well as chasing her around her bed-- is not teaching her anything about what she did wrong or how to correct it. What his behavior is simply doing is teaching her not to respect him. And with parenting, respect is of utmost importance. 

The mother is culpable as well. She did nothing to stop the father from taking out his temper tantrum on the daughter. She actually aided and abetted, adding in commentary to further wound the child mentally. The father shows that he is a control freak, and the mother further solidifies this stance by demanding the girl to be a submissive woman. My heart cried out to see a mother take this position-- and to compound the incident worse by taking the belt and whipping her daughter one time. That whipping was almost like kicking the dog one more time 'just because'... kicking the dog when it's down. Very sad state of affairs. I feel for this adult child of this abusive man (and mother-- who didn't have the courage, care, or insight to stop her raging husband). 

Bottom-line, we should love our children, lead by example, and solve issues with careful and controlled discipline. We are bestowed the greatest responsibility in the world, and we should take that responsibility and treat it with respect. We are the parents, and we should lead the way to a happy, secure, loving world. Flying of the handle uncontrollably and treating your child with such venom is not a way that child learn effectively. In fact, that type of treatment wounds the child, damages their sense of self, and hurts the child to the core. 

So is spanking or whipping a form of child abuse? If the spanking is used in a manner that is loving and respectful, then for SOME children, this MAY be an acceptable and productive way to discipline. Spanking is legal. But is spanking the right thing to do? There is a FINE LINE between spanking and physically abusing. Remember: physical abuse is abuse involving contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm. Spanking in any case would be intimidating to a child, cause injury by bruising, and cause physical suffering by the mere act itself.

I have worked with children in all sorts of capacities, and I have always had to use discipline procedures that involve time outs and restrictions. I have never been able to use spankings- nor would I. I cannot imagine spanking, physically striking, or whipping a child.... period. And with all of the decades of dealing with children, I have been successful with children of all types using time outs and restrictions. The main key is consistency and progressive. I have had no problem getting compliance from large groups of kids by communicating expectations, having consistent repercussions for misbehavior, and follow-up with areas to improve. 

We tell our kids to keep their hands to themselves, not to hit, and to be nice. Shouldn't parents do the same? And if the school systems, day-cares, and other child care organizations don't spank, why is spanking alright for the parent to do? I say, let's treat our children with love-- as much love as possible. And let's give them the attention they need-- namely positive attention that let's them know we see what they're doing and care. And I believe you will get the best out of each and every one of them. As far as this judge, I pray he doesn't get re-elected. He presides over child abuse / custody cases and doesn't illustrate clear judgment about these topics as illustrated by this damaging video.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Autoimmune Disease and Borderline Personality Link

After the post about Overreactions to Illness and Hysteria with Borderline Personality, I have received many emails and comments about how their Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) mothers have auto-immune diseases. Specifically, one reader wrote,  "I find it interesting that your mother was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, as my mother is also (she is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis). Although I know there is nothing that can be done to prevent an autoimmune disorder, I can't help but wonder why so many BPD individuals are diagnosed with them. A friend's BPD sister was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder as well. Now, this could be pure coincidence, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts on this topic or knew of any related research."

After this email, I thought researching this correlation further (BPD correlating with autoimmune diseases) would be interesting and revealing. And it sure was!
  1. Individuals who have BPD or any of the other Axis II Cluster B's (BPD, NPD, ASPD, HPD) often suffer from autoimmune illness due to the stress and elevated cortisol levels which  induce a cascade of autoimmune issues. 
  2. Autoimmune-related inflammation may exacerbate BPD symptoms or vice versa.
  3. Present data demonstrate a clinically significant, longitudinal correlation between fluctuating antithyroid antibody titers and symptoms of BPD psychopathology.
Further, keep in mind that BPD is also associated with less healthy lifestyle choices (e.g., smoking, alcohol use, lack of regular exercise) which can cause a myriad of health challenges, problems, and diseases.  With this article, however, we are focused on the connection between BPD and autoimmune disease specifically.

First off,  BPD can have a major impact on physical health. BPD individuals often endure chronic medical conditions and pain disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and back pain (Psyche Solve). Additionally, individuals who have BPD or any of the other Axis II Cluster B's (BPD, NPD, ASPD, HPD) often suffer from autoimmune illness due to the stress and elevated cortisol levels which  induce a cascade of autoimmune issues. In normal circumstances, cortisol keeps the immune system in homeostasis, preventing inflammation from going out of control. In many patients with autoimmune diseases, this cortisol response and the cascade of brain hormones that stimulates its release are impaired, so there is no shutoff valve to end inflammation when it is no longer needed. In other patients, the cortisol response may be intact but immune cells are resistant to the anti-inflammatory effects of cortisol due to abnormalities in the cortisol receptor. In both circumstances, inflammation goes on unchecked without the dampening effect of the body own cortisol (American Autoimmune).

Next, in the book, "Sometimes I Act Crazy: Living with Borderline Personality Disorder" by Jerold J. Kreisman M.D. and Hal Stras, the authors draw a connection between autoimmune disorders and BPD. The following is an excerpt: Some researchers have investigated the connection of BPD to autoimmune disorders, in which the body has a kind of allergic reaction to itself and produces antibodies to its own organs. One example, rheumatoid arthritis, is associated with an unusually high prevalence of BPD. One study followed a woman with fluctuating BPD symptoms over a period of nine months while measuring her antithyroid antibodies. These investigators discovered significantly lower levels of the antibodies during periods when her depression and psychosis ratings were low, and higher levels when her symptoms increased. This finding suggests that autoimmune-related inflammation may exacerbate BPD symptoms or vice versa.

The following abstract is focused on the same issue, that BPD and autoimmune disease are correlated. And the conclusion is that a relationship between thyroid hormones / autoimmunity and BPD exists. Before reading, understand that antithyroid antibodies are antibodies directed against the thyroid gland (a gland which produces thyroid hormones). Antithyroid antibodies can be associated with inflammation of the thyroid gland and affect its function. Testing for antithyroid antibodies in the blood is useful in the diagnosis of some thyroid and other disorders including: Hashimoto thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid disease), Graves disease (overactivity of the thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactivity of the thyroid), thyroid cancer, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune hemolytic anemia and Sjogren syndrome. Now to that abstract... deep breath and read on:

Circulating thyroid autoantibodies are more prevalent in patients with mood disorders than in the general population, but longitudinal clinical data that establish a relationship between thyroid antibody status and the course of any psychiatric syndrome have been lacking. In addition, scant attention has been paid to thyroid hormones and autoimmunity in borderline personality disorder (BPD). We report a case of a patient with classic BPD whose fluctuating mood and, especially, psychotic symptoms-rated using a double-blind method-were directly linked to antithyroglobulin antibody titers serially determined over an inpatient period of 275 d. Significantly lower psychosis and depression ratings were seen during a 4-wk period of relatively low antithyroid antibody titers, during blinded treatment with carbamazepine, than were observed during two high autoantibody epochs. The significant positive correlations between nurse- and patient-rated depression and thyroid autoantibodies over the entire period of inpatient study were similar to those also observed between urinary free cortisol levels and depression; the positive correlation between antithyroglubulin antibody titers and psychotic symptoms was stronger (r = +0.544; p < 0.002). Although this patient had biochemical indices of primary hypothyroidism, she showed only marginal improvement to triiodothyronine (T3) and no apparent clinical response to sustained levorotatory thyroxine (T4) administration; neither were antithyroid antibody titers significantly associated with changes in T3, free T4, or thyroid-stimulating hormone concentrations. She clinically deteriorated during a 50-d fluoxetine trial. The present data demonstrate a clinically significant, longitudinal correlation between fluctuating antithyroid antibody titers and symptoms of borderline psychopathology in our patient. It will be of interest to determine the prevalence, pathophysiologic mechanisms, and treatment implications of this putative autoimmune- BPD link.

Another interesting observation is that medical conditions which cause organic behavioral function may result in a clinical picture that mimics to some degree BPD. Hormonal dysfunction over a long period, or brain dysfunction (e.g. the encephalopathy caused by lyme disease) can result in identity disturbance and mood lability, as can many other chronic medical conditions such as Lupus. These conditions may isolate the patient socially and emotionally, and/or cause limbic damage to the brain. However, this is not BPD which results, but rather a reaction to the isolating circumstances caused by a medical condition and the possibly coincident struggles of the patient to control his or her mood given damage to the brain's limbic system (Wikipedia).

So, with the reports coming from Kreisman and Stras as well as scientific exploration into the correlation between autoimmune diseases and BPD, we may be closer to finding out if indeed a direct link exists. At this point, the assumption seems pretty strong that a link does exist-- and solid research has already been conducted and concluded in regard to bipolar and autoimmune diseases. With BPD gaining more attention, more studies will be conducted. I will be very interested to see the results. A link exists as high levels of stress have been proven to trigger autoimmune diseases; however, does the reverse apply? Does an autoimmune disease bring about BPD?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to Forgive an Abusive Parent

How do you forgive your abusive parent / parents? Well first off, what exactly is forgiveness? I have always pondered the definition as well as if I have actually forgiven my parents. "To forgive" seems like it's as difficult to define as "to love." 

I am not angry with my parents. I don't want any ill-will or negativity between them and me. I don't want revenge or wish them any harm. In fact, I simply want peace for me and my family. I am not a fighter, and I stray away from conflict. I dislike tit-for-tat and will not engage in that type of behavior. 

All along, I have never blamed my parents for anything that I am responsible for-- which includes my life and who I am. I am the master of my own destiny, and although my upbringing was tough, I believe my experiences made me who I am today. I learned as a young girl that I am the only one who is responsible for me. I learned that I am the only one with whom I can depend. I learned very young that I have to be strong and take care of myself. Thus, I grew into a strong and independent person. 

Although my parents engaged in all types of manipulative, guilt-trip, emotionally abusive, and confusing behaviors with my brother and me, I always knew that they were in the wrong-- that we were just children and not responsible for our parents' reckless and careless actions. After being caught in the middle of my parents destructive divorce (my childhood), they each remarried into ready-made families before my brother and I were able to adjust from the split of our own family unit. Parental Alienation continued, battles in court ensued, and the emotional fall-out continued. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I accepted how my parents were, clearly cognizant that neither was **right** And into my adulthood, my parents were flippant with their relationships with my brother and me. So my brother and I went in and out of estrangements with our parents. 

I always searched for my part in the relationship's challenges-- as every relationship takes two. I would analyze and dig deeply to assess my accountability in the estrangements. And time and time again, I was never angry or resentful or even bitter-- always sad that broken relationships surrounded my family. I also wished that our family could be a happy family that shared in successes and supported during failures. But most importantly, I always accepted that these were the cards that I was dealt, and I would manage them to the best of my abilities. When I was a single woman, I could handle the dysfunction and toxicity to a degree and then I would have to back away. But with the entry of a husband and then a daughter, the tolerance for the disruptive, harmful, hurtful, and terribly confusing behavior had to stop. No more cycles in and out ... no more endless nights analyzing why this and that happened... no more walking on egg-shells. 

So, have I forgiven?

From a dictionary stand point, forgiveness is:
  • letting go of the need for revenge and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentments
  • excusing for a fault or offense-- to pardon.
  • renouncing anger against. 
I never felt the need for revenge nor have I been angry. I have felt hurt and astonished by they behaviors. I never felt the need to disparage my mother the way she's done to me since my childhood. I have not been bitter or held resentments to my mother or Dad. I also realize that they are who they are-- that they act the way they do, not because of me, but because of who they are. They treat others the way they treat me-- so I do pardon them for how they act. I don't like how I was treated nor accepted being treated poorly but I understand that they are both personality disordered. I definately will not accept my husband or child being treated poorly like how I was treated; therefore, I protect both from the 'known dangers.'

From a psychological perspective, forgiveness involves the affective, behavioral and cognitive systems of the forgiver, how one feels about the offender, behaves toward her and thinks about her. Forgiveness is letting go of the negative feelings and the emotional consequences of the hurt, namely the bitterness and resentment. The negative behavior toward the perpetrator is replaced with positive behavior. The choice is not to retaliate but to respond in a loving way and giving up the right to hurt back. The  negative thoughts regarding the offender are changed as the intellectual decision to forgive is made and the good and bad aspects of the perpetrator are integrated. The Forgiveness Web

How do I feel about my mother and Dad? Again, I am not bitter or resentful. I am not hurt by them at this point. By removing myself from the Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde cycles of my mother as well as the narcissistic behaviors of my Dad, I have removed myself and my husband from repeatedly getting hurt, insulted, manipulated, and involved in the dysfunction & toxicity. I have never felt the need to hurt back which is evidenced by my walking away rather than fighting time-and-time again.

I love this definition of forgiveness: to forgive is to give up all hope for a better past: 
  1. If you are locked in regret over the past, you have less available to your life now.
  2. If you don't forgive, you are prejudging your future because you are on-guard, defended and, helpless from residual bitterness which influences your capacity for happiness because you haven't resolved something from your past.
I love that definition and it's counterparts. I have always had a rich and abundant life-- from as far back as I can remember, I have had a positive and cheery outlook on life and what is ahead. I have not had regrets, especially with my parents. I tried to manage, understand, tolerate, and move forward. And I have not been on-guard, defended, or helpless because of my past-- in fact, my experiences have been the opposite as I became empowered due to what I experienced in the past. I knew I had to be able to be self sufficient, and I shot out into the world at 18-years old and never looked back. I went to college, excelled in academics, went out into the corporate world, and succeeded as a single woman, living independently. I didn't look back until I was almost 30 years old, which is when I started to think about what brought me to where I was at that point.

I believe that forgiveness is a fresh start and clears a new view. The view is that an 'awful thing' happened and hurt; however,  that incident(s) will not take over life. I have the ability to love my mother when she was around (not bringing up previous estrangements or conflicts with her) but then handle the estrangement knowing that she went into another Mr. Hyde cycle. Don't get me wrong-- going into another estrangement wasn't a **happy** occurrence. Going into an estrangement was the feeling of sadness and loss again-- but also the feeling of a huge weight off my shoulders as the walking on eggshells can be very stifling. As far as my Dad, I tried to comprehend and understand his selfishness and the behaviors surrounding it; however, the weight that was lifted when I didn't have to endure being invisible or his condescending comments was freeing. The choice of a fresh start with clear new view is always available rather than bitterness and revenge. People who have forgiven have visible power, strength, and courage. Rather than eye-for-an-eye, they heal.

Part of forgiveness is not blaming for suffering. The 'awful thing' happened and the response is to move forward.  Move forward with openness and trust without blaming for suffering. Give very little power to people who are cruel. Forgiving means power is taken back and declaring your own life. 

Sure I wish things were better-- and sure I wish that I had happy, peaceful, and mutually beneficial relationships with my parents; however, I don't have the ability to have a happy, peaceful, or mutually beneficial relationship with them. The specific BPD woman marries a specific BPD man: hermit with a huntsman (protector), queen seeks a king (attracts attention and is a narcissist), witch seeks a fisherman (is dominated and controlled), and the waif marries a frog-prince (rescuer). The common denominator in the various types of men who marry BPD's is their tendency to reinforce the pathological dynamics between the mother and child (Lawson pp 178 -179). Therefore, understanding my Dad's relationship with my BPD mother (and even my step-father's relationship with my BPD mother) was essential to understanding my own experience-- and also essential in my understanding why I can't have a mutually beneficial relationship with them.

There's clear evidence that if people apologize, it's easier to forgive. Forgiveness, though, is not limited by that-- and I have gotten apologies from my mother at various times during my life; however, she overwhelmingly points the finger at my brother and me. She either doesn't comprehend or realize the repercussions from her actions-- or she has rationalized and justified her actions-- or she has convinced herself by telling the same lie over and over. Even if the person utters no conciliatory words and suffers no consequence, forgiveness can still occur because forgiveness is always for you. 

I don't need my mother or Dad to apologize-- I would like them to recognize and acknowledge their actions but apologizing for them would actually seem insincere since their narcissism is so encompassing that the apology would most likely be self-serving. You forgive by remembering what happened and you commit yourself to it never happening again-- thus the reason why I have walked away after 4 decades of trying to have relationships with them. 

Forgiveness does not mean condoning the action or that you have to reconcile with or like the person who did it. Declaring, "This was such a heinous act, I sever my relationship with them" which doesn't mean seeking justice. Forgiveness means that you don't take what happened as just personal, that you see it as a part of the bigger, ongoing human experience of hurt, resolution, conflict and negotiation. I realize that I happened to be born to this mother, a mother whom I don't like her actions or like her. I don't seek justice but I don't condone her behaviors. I also was born to a man who left when I was months old. I forgive him for letting me be adopted by another man, but I am not reconciled with him. And the man who adopted me is highly narcissistic with behaviors that are very self-serving; however, I don't condone the behaviors and don't want to subject myself or husband or child to his hurtful and bewildering actions.

Parents are the people we look to nurture us and keep us safe. When a parent abuses a child,  the  impact is life-long. Adult victims of abuse may have trouble trusting or suffer post-traumatic stress. For some, forgiving abusive parents may be a needed step to recovery. Be patient as forgiveness may take time until you are ready to forgive abusive parents. Take the time you need to work through your issues and don't revisit old arguments as going over the same issues may not help the situation.

Forgiveness the key to living "better, not bitter." While you are weak or while you are still suffering from the effect of the 'awful thing' done to you, forgiveness is challenging. Even if forgiveness is possible, it's still challenging. Take the time to heal wounds, eliminate of the negative consequences, and become more powerful-- then forgiveness will become much easier.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Overreactions to Illness and Hysteria with Borderline Personality

Borderline Personality Disordered (BPD) individuals may display dramatic or hysterical behavior as well as overreact to illness and accidents. These behaviors leave family members "sucked in and emotionally depleted" (Lawson, p 15).  Although all BPD's are prone to hysterical reactions when stressed, the Hermit BPD feels particularly threatened by illness. She is intolerant of discomfort, inconvenience, and pain. She may moan and groan, scream and cry primarily out of fear, not pain. When frightened, she becomes hostile. Her exaggerated responses confuse those who care for her. Family members may be unable to distinguish minor injuries from major emergencies (Lawson, p 93). Additionally, the BPD Waif may suffer from chronic or recurrent illnesses with frequent medical visits (Lawson, p 64).

Each of these statements above depicts very clearly my BPD mother and her ever expanding list of illnesses and ailments and her dramatic and hysterical reactions to them. To be fair, she has been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease in 1995. However, besides my mother, I know many people with her type of autoimmune disease, and my mother is the only one who is as crippled mentally and physically as she. She has claimed to be effected by a host of diseases, conditions, and illnesses in addition to the autoimmune disease; however, most of them have never come to fruition. She scours the Internet and the PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) in order to self-diagnose herself. Then she dreams up these horrible possibilities which she then communicates to family and friends. As Lawson mentioned, family members have a challenging time distinguishing between fabricated, minor, and major health claims.

Recently the reports have gotten more and more dramatic per emails that my brother has forwarded to me from my mother. Just this year, she has claimed to be losing her kidneys and may need a kidney transplant (even went so far as to ask my brother if he would donate one of his), claimed to have polymyositis (widespread inflammation, loss of, and weakness of the muscles which she stated would ultimately effect her heart and be terminal), and claimed to have heart disease. Each of these claims did not get diagnosed after tests by her doctors. She has always been the victim-- whether she's the victim of something one of her friends did to her or something that one of her family did to her (ie: me, her sister, my brother, her father) or with these medical issues.

In regard to her health, she always had a weak fortitude since as far back as I can remember. She has always been tired and rarely physically active. She smoked a lot, never exercised, and was always sedentary. But above all-- she was always fatigued. Additionally, she has displayed the inability to handle discomfort, inconvenience, or pain. She would tell me stories of the dentist, gynecologist, and other medical visits from her childhood to present that were uncomfortable, inconvenient, or painful. And now, through experiences of my own with the same procedures, I have not felt the same. In fact, each of the experiences has been built up with anxiety due to what she had said, and then to my surprise, the experience was pleasant and comfortable.

In regard to her health, she had strange ailments pop up through the years such as 2nd degree burns at the beach in 1976 and toe nails falling off in the 1980's. Then starting at the end of the 1980's, she started to gain weight and hurt when moving. By the early 1990's she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  By 1995, she had surgery (hysterectomy). 

While she was in the hospital, she had fits of extreme hysteria. Her behavior was completely erratic, wild, and, well, crazy. She would say one thing, scream another, cry & plead, and was out of control. "Borderlines are prone to hysterical reactions. She is intolerant of discomfort, inconvenience, and pain. She may moan and groan, scream and cry primarily out of fear, not pain. When frightened, she becomes hostile. Her exaggerated responses confuse those who care for her" p 93 Lawson. I definitely didn't know what to do. I was confused and looked to my step-father for guidance. He seemed as bewildered as I was.

When she first came out of surgery, she asked for and looked to her friend for comfort. She rejected my affection, including holding my hand, having me caress her, and merely sitting next to her. I was ignored and eye-contact was avoided. I was puzzled as to what I had done to deserve this treatment. And then when it came to the evening, although I was supposed to stay the night in the room, she asked her friend to stay. I gathered my things and began to leave with my step-father. That's when the hysteria peaked. 

She went completely hysterical with yelling, screaming, and crying. I truly didn't know what to do as she was irrational and seemingly psychotic. My step-father had her friend and myself step out of the room so he could talk with her. We could hear her screaming, bawling, and freaking-out at him. Her behavior was bizarre. When he emerged from the room, he advised me to leave with him and for my mother's friend to stay.  I was still completely baffled as to why she was pushing me away but upset that I was leaving. My step-father was equally confused as we spoke about it on our way out to our cars. "Overreaction to pain or illness is a consequence of the inability to sooth or comfort herself. When she feels vulnerable, she is incapable of containing anxiety" p 93 Lawson.

I had observed this type of behavior when I was a child. When she had sun-burn at  the beach, I found her crawling on the floor, hysterical and yelling at my father (1976). When she went to the hospital when I was in high-school (1983), she was irrational and confusing: requesting one thing then scolding you for doing that, insisting she meant something else. The worst was the incident in 1995 mentioned above, but her behavior in 1999 was equally as scarring to me (mentioned below). Her hysteria was not limited to illnesses / ailments. A few examples are when she went hysterical when my Dad went on business trips (throughout the 1970's), went ballistic in the house (tearing it apart with my Dad ultimately restraining her on the living room floor- mid-70's), and threw herself down (hysterically crying) on the door-step of a family's home that I was babysitting (my Dad was awarded custody at the time- early 80's).

Now back to the mid-90's: I was very frustrated with my mother during the years of finding a diagnosis, as well as after the autoimmune disease diagnosis (1995). She wasn't doing anything to help her cause. Equally dysfunctional is the BPD completely neglecting her health as my mother did during these years (Lawson, p 64). My mother remained sedentary. She ate terribly. Although she had claimed to have stopped smoking, she was sneaking cigarettes whenever she could. She was very negative and not finding the positive in life. I would try to motivate her to exercise-- walk, stretch, get out-- but my ideas were always greeted with excuses. During this time, she would actually avoid going to the doctor and dentist. She was skipping follow-up treatments and taking herself off of her medications. She completely neglected her health.

She wielded the guilt-trip weapon during this time too. I was offered a position at a company across the country from where we both resided. She was dramatic, firm, and clear when she stated, "You wouldn't think of moving away when your mother is this sick... would you?" I ended up not taking the job. Ironically, we ended up estranged shortly after that due to  a package I recieved in the mail from my Dad that she went bonkers over: Here We Go Again 

By May of 1999, my brother and I decided to break the silence between our mother and us. We called her on Mother's Day. She carried on as if nothing ever happened. In July 1999, she ended up in the hospital for a pulmonary embolism. The condition was truly serious, and she wanted to see my brother. So I flew him down, got him from the airport, and had him stay with me. My mother wanted him to spend the night in the hospital with her, but he didn't feel comfortable with that. I don't blame him (it had been 9 years since they had seen each other and only a few months into the reconciliation). 

My mother, again, exhibited inappropriate and aggressive behavior while she was in the hospital. Keep in mind that this was the first time that my brother, mother, and me were all together in the same room in almost FIFTEEN years. My mother was acting like Mr. Hyde. I don't know what got into her, but there she was in the hospital bed, being very boisterous, pushy, and rotten. She became angered with my brother for not staying at her bedside day and night. She ranted that she didn't leave her mother's side when she was in the hospital- so she expected the same treatment. She was so angered with my brother that they ended up estranged again shortly after she was out of the hospital. Additionally, a topic that was never brought up in the past that she brought up out-of-the-blue was that I have a different father than my brother. She kept emphasizing that my brother "is ONLY" my half brother. Her behavior was not only dramatic but also inappropriate and out-of-place and with purpose. But what was that purpose? More about this period of time: In Through the Out Door

In regard to overreacting to illnesses: since her diagnosis of an autoimmune disease in 1995, my mother has claimed to have Rheumatoid Arthritis (inflammation of joints / tissues), Cushing's Disease (pituitary gland releases too much adrenocorticotropic hormone), Hashimoto's Disease (thyroid gland inflammation), Raynaud's Syndrome (vasospastic disorder causing discoloration of the fingers / toes), Sjogren's Syndrome (immune cells attack and destroy the exocrine glands that produce tears / saliva), chronic heart failure, polymyositis (weakness and/or loss of muscle mass in the proximal musculature, particularly in the shoulder and pelvic girdle), bladder dysfunction (went through an extensive battery of tests), kidney failure, heart failure, and more. Again, I have to stress that she DOES have an autoimmune disease; however, these other claims are above and beyond the autoimmune disease diagnosis and haven't been diagnosed by her doctors although she claims to be suffering from each. 

"Sucked-in and emotionally depleted" is how Lawson described the family of a BPD who overreacts and is dramatic with illness and accidents. Indeed, caring for a BPD mother who is ill yet lashes out and is purposefully hurtful and rejecting is challenging: on one hand, you feel sympathy and empathy, and then on the other hand, you feel the need to protect yourself from the abuse. The irrational behavior is incomprehensible, and the bizarre and hysterical behavior is frightening. All the way around, being a child of a BPD mother who exhibits these behaviors is terribly confusing, perplexing, and disorienting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Borderline Mother's Perspective | The Other Side of the Equation

The perspective of my blog has always been from my point-of-view: my experience with my personality disordered parents, namely my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) mother. I have written at length what I feel like or how I have perceived the actions of my mother compared to academic studies and more. 

After contemplating the subject for my next entry as well as being truly touched by a comment that a BPD /  new mother of a 15 month old baby left me, I started pondering the other side of the BPD equation: the BPD mother's perspective along with the struggles and successes of daily life.

Two sides to every story exist, so why not explore the other side of BPD. I emailed a contact that I have through Facebook who runs a page called Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder I asked her if she would like to provide a piece on what BPD feels like. Here is what this mother of 3 wrote about a typical meal at a restaurant with her kids: 

my most vivid description of what it feels like in a day of BPD

panic is always there. frustration as well. I expect too much from people, I think. 

my girls are good kids. really great kids. I am lucky, and yet I still find their flaws and get upset. 

I don't want them to act like that in public. their voices are too loud. they are too excited. they are too.....what? happy? why am I getting upset that they are overjoyed to be having dinner at IHop with me? 

I dont know but it doesn't change the fact that I am now frustrated and panicky. 

breathe, I think. Holly, just breathe. remember your girls are amazing little beings that are so much more well behaved than most. breathe. oh fudge, she's laughing too loud again. darn it. chew with your mouth closed! I think, fudge! how hard is that?

I have to get out of here. I have to get them out of here and back home where no one can see their misbehavior. where no one can judge me. where no one can look at me. 

I know what they are thinking. she's too young to have 3 kids. I bet they arent even with one guy. they probably all have different dads. whore. worthless whore. can't she control them? pathetic. what a horrible mother. why do they let people like her have kids? sick. get me out of here I am screaming in my head. 

trying to keep that fake smile on my face. trying to at least let the girls have a good time. hurry please, I say to my youngest. hurry. you need to eat. we are waiting on you. oh my gosh, we are leaving now so better finish your FOOD! 

oh fudge, Holly, calm down. you're being ridiculous. please calm down. fudge, here come the tears. I didn't mean to raise my voice. I didn't mean to. I AM a horrible mother. oh shoot, I can't do this. this was a stupid idea. what have I done? we have to leave. please hurry. please eat faster. fudge, I'm going to have a panic attack. fudge fudge fudge. shoot, I'm not smiling. 

just get everyone to the car, Holly. you'll be safe there. no one can see you there. it's too dark out. go go go - now go! please! 

darn it, I ruined it again. why am I like this? fudge, Holly, get out of your head and pay attention to the freaking road. darn it. just calm down. breathe breathe breathe. turn the music up, then you won't be able to hear them and when you can't answer their questions, they can't get upset, right? 

shhhh. it's fine Holly. you're fine. it's ok. right? you're fine. just listen to the music. oh thank goodness, Led Zeppelin. yes, listen to that. I think I might be sinking. throw me a line if I read you the time....yes, just sing along Holly. ok. ok. I can do this. I can do this. ok. it's going to be ok. it will be. it has to be. please let it be. fudge.

Here is a bit about the struggles with marriage & BPD: 

I have recently had a set back though. where as I have been able to pull myself from the situation and evaluate my emotions and thoughts and decipher which ones are only my BPD and which ones are true and valid ones, recently it has been getting rougher to do. I am beginning to question myself again. wondering if I am truly "seeing" the full picture. or am I only convincing myself that the BPD thoughts and feel ARE the valid ones?

the blurred lines have been running through my head for the last couple weeks and with them comes doubts on many other decisions that I have made. questions such as "am i feeling this way mainly because of the holidays?" (which are always a time of general upset for me) and "why am I suddenly doubting when I was so proud and sure before?" "is it time for therapy again?" "what about medication?"

to be completely honest, these worries come from upsets currently going on in my marriage. I refuse to go into detail about any of this, but my husband and I are at a point where it seems like neither one of us are satisfied with the "solutions" that the other has come up with. I feel that I am reverting back to the norm of being the one who is wrong in the relationship. I have almost always been the one at fault. this is 100% honesty. most of our marital problems have come from the way I process life, due to BPD and other factors. I have been very lucky to have a husband who is very accepting, very calm, and helps when he can.

so what is the problem? it boils down to this. I believe that in the current situation we are both somewhat at fault, and I feel that he is not willing to negotiate. I feel that he says he will (possibly to shut me up for the time being, but that could very possibly be a BPD thought), but never actually follows through with the negotiations. so now I am doubting even those feelings. am I being my over-dramatic self when I feel this way? or am I validated? I can't give an honest answer.

The final writing explores the ability to function on a daily basis: 

it shakes my whole being to think that something I was so sure of can be so suddenly put into question. by my own head. so who needs the therapy? me? us as a couple? him? all of the above? none of the above? and if we do need therapy how can I convince him that it is not a shot at his masculinity to seek therapy? (I believe a lot of men are brought up to feel that problems should be kept within the family) ugh. maybe I have not come as far as i made myself believe I had.

ready go. ready go. motivate motivate motivate! come on Holly, the house needs cleaned. you need to finish washing all the bedding at least. yeah what a brilliant idea that was to do. grr. do "normal" people feel this fatigued? ever? I just want to sleep. all day, all night. nope, can't do that. 3 little girls depend on you. 

did I cook dinner yet? fudge. what time is it? I know they just ate some strawberries....yeah, nice try Holly. that doesn't count as dinner. fudge. ok, you can do this. it's just dinner and laundry, right? why does it have to be this hard? 

when is my husband coming back? what day is it? ok, he will be here tomorrow. wait, he will be here TOMORROW! fudge, I have to clean this house up. I swear I just did this, like, yesterday. or was it the day before? or longer? darn it. 

wow, I suck at life. when do people get to start enjoying this crap? or do normal people enjoy it already? fudge. oh well. frozen pizzas, I guess. it is Friday, right? no big deal....I'm a freaking failure. who am I kidding? they all see it. I know it. fudge.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Silent Treatment by Borderline Mothers

The silent treatment is a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which contempt, disapproval and displeasure are displayed through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence. Additionally, the silent treatment is the cold shoulder, complete silence, distance, feigned apathy, and being ignoring. The goal of the  punishment is to make the victim feel unimportant, not valued, and not cared about. As a form of non-physical punishment and control, the abuser believes if she doesn't physically harm then she is not an abuser; however, the silent treatment IS emotional abuse. The silent treatment is a form of erasing someone from the abuser's existence without the benefit of closure or a good bye or a chance at reconciliation.

The Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) mother may rage when angry, but many times she may use silent treatments. The BPD mother uses the silent treatment to torture the child(ren) that she professes to love.  The silent treatment is a very narcissistic example of the lack of emotional regulation of the BPD. The silent treatment is control, and a safe means for them to avoid any  'uncomfortable' topics, issues in the relationship, or issues within herself; therefore, the silence is an abdication of personal responsibility. 

Kimberly Roth, the author of Surviving a Borderline Parent, encountered many children of borderline parents who said they felt crazy growing up. "They experienced a lot of inconsistencies—an action or statement that earned praise one day would touch off a three-day, stony silent treatment the next—as well as sudden outbursts and overreactions." So they never learn to trust their own judgment or feelings. The most important element to recovery, she says, is to accept that you're not crazy and that "it wasn't me."

Throughout my life, my BPD mother has used the silent treatment as well as other ways of ignoring me as a way of 'punishing' me. Starting as a small child, she would lock herself in her room for up to days at a time. She would not speak to my brother and me unless absolutely necessary. Thankfully we had my Dad with which to communicate and to care for us. She continued this pattern into my adulthood-- with the worst episodes when I lived with her as a teenager. The pain and shame and feeling of isolation was overwhelming. I tried to reach out to others during this highly emotionally abusive time (my step-father, my friend, my friend's mother) but was only subjected to my mother's retaliation.

As a teenager, I was banished to the basement for 90 days, only allowed to leave to perform house and yard work. During this time, my mother wouldn't speak to me. I was completely ignored and isolated as I wasn't allowed to use the phone. I tried to appeal to my step-father's common sense, but in the midst of telling my point-of-view, my mother arrived in the basement and told him not to speak to me. She called me a bitch, and they both left. So, not only did I not have her speaking to me, but she prohibited my step-father from speaking to me as well as my ability to talk on the phone to others.  

She also used notes to communicate during these silent treatment times. She wouldn't talk to me for a long period of time. Then she would start leaving notes for me around the house. Each note would get further and further off-base from the issue-- very bizarre writings. The notes would truly make me sick to my stomach as her illness was clearly apparent in these surreal and bizarre writings. Those outbursts and over-reactions that Roth referred to above were very apparent in these notes. More about this period of time: Run Forrest Run

When I went off to college, she became enraged because I didn't come home one weekend to see her. I tried to talk to her about the situation but she repeatedly hung-up on me. Instead, she used letter writing to communicate. She wouldn't talk to me on the phone (silent treatment), but she would send letter after letter-- each letter getting further and further from the truth and the issue.  She eventually wrote that she didn't want me home for Thanksgiving ... then Christmas... and then ultimately she put my possessions on the street. I never responded to the letters; however, the letters got so upsetting to my then boyfriend that he confronted her about her fabricated and distorted views. More about this period of time: Out of the Nest

By the time the information technology age arrived, her methods shifted from letter writing to emails. She wouldn't call me or my then fiance (now husband) back on the phone (silent treatment) but she would fire off a series of emails to anyone that she had an email address. Her lack of emotional regulation was very apparent as she fired off inappropriate and delusional emails to my work colleagues, collegiate colleagues, future in-laws, friends, and more. More about this period of time: Little Women 

Regardless if she gave me the silent treatment, left notes laying around the house, mailed me letters, or sent me emails, my mother has been incapable of honestly and openly discussing the issues at hand. The issues root to her fear of abandonment and rejection as well as her hypersensitivity to the topic of my Dad, her divorce from my Dad, and those she feels have hurt her. She has chosen time and time again to alienate herself from those around her by estranging herself from her daughter (me), her son, her sister, her father, and countless others. Rather than working through challenges, she claims the victim stance and retreats. And with the retreating, she comes ruthless with her words on paper.  

So, my mother's silent treatment was not merely the absence of speaking. She added the element of note writing, letter writing, and sending emails as a form of control. With these methods she was able to refuse to communicate until she was ready to stop punishing-- and then she was able to one-sidely present her compoundingly and exponentially distorted, convoluted, and fabricated point of view. She was vicious with her words-- and still is as my brother is still in communication with her and received some very scathing and ruthless emails and texts from her. When she disagrees with him, she will not speak to him on the phone, but she will send him texts with harsh profanity (telling him to "f*&k off" repeatedly for example) and telling him how horrible he is.

Her silent treatment has always made me feel not valued by her... unimportant to her ... and easily discarded. The fact that she can stop communicating with me so quickly and flip to denigrating me is amazing and tragic. She sings my praises for years to completely change her tune in a matter of seconds-- her over-reaction leading to estrangement, the ultimate form of silent treatment. And her outbursts switch from notes / letters / emails TO me ... to notes / letters / emails ABOUT me. My mother, with her silent treatments and estrangements, has left no ability to have closure-- ever-- with any of our issues through the years. Even after a silent treatment or estrangement ended, nothing that transpired ever was discussed.

For those of you suffering from the silent treatment, please do not internalize the abuse. Remember that the silent treatment is passive aggressive and by no means resolves any of the extenuating issues. Remember also that you are worthy of being recognized, acknowledged, respected, and dignified with a response. And remember that you are not crazy ... and that it's not you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Daughters of Madness | Adolescence, Young Adulthood, Adulthood

Continuing from my discussion about Daughters of Madness: Infants, Early Childhood, Middle Childhood, the last sections of Susan Nathiel's book covers adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood. 

Adolescence: The adolescence section covers how very controlling mothers search through daughters' possessions in a violent and intrusive way (p 85). Specifically, personality-disordered mothers undermine privacy and do so in a demeaning way -- and my mother was no exception. And after the violation of trust, she would make the situation out to be my fault. Equally confusing, which this section also covers, is the silent treatment. My mother used the silent treatment often which led to her leaving crazy notes around the house. Once she was over her anger and rage, the incident would never be spoken of again. As one of the women cited in the book stated, "I could never figure out what I could have done wrong. I was a straight A student. I tried my best at everything. I never knew what she was thinking was so bad about me" (p 86).

Further, the adolescence section covers how the personality-disordered mother makes dating difficult, seemingly on purpose (p 86). My mother was very inappropriate around boys who arrived to take me on a date. She would flirt, strut, and wear revealing clothes. She batted her eye lashes and engage in inappropriate conversation. All of this was an attempt to be "cool." Nathiel further explores the mother in public, which experiences can be embarrassing and shameful. My mother attracted attention by being inappropriate. One episode particularly stands out: we were  dining at a very fine dining restaurant with a large group of people. I didn't know any of the people, and my mother only knew one. During dinner, which was very formal and filled with dining etiquette, my mother spoke loudly and fully about her hysterectomy. I remember feeling very embarrassed and wanting to crawl under the table and hide. Horrified dinner guests stared back at my mother as she continued to tell the gruesome and gross tale.

An evaluation of the Borderline in regard to Emotional Intelligence: The Borderline and Emotional Intelligence

Young Adulthood: Predominately through my adolescence, I set my sights to get through high-school so I could leave for college on my own-- to break free. Nathiel (p 114) tells of Pat who also "got out of there as soon as I could." I kept telling myself that if I could survive those high-school years, I would be out on my own and taking care of myself-- no more confusion, manipulations, fear, anxiety, and craziness.

Although I made it out of the mess, I felt terrible leaving my brother behind. I stayed in touch (coming home for weekends) but an estrangement instigated by my mother shortly ensued. With my brother still in high-school, I managed to stay close and in-touch with him during the weekends. On p 123, one of the interviewed stated that she felt really guilty about leaving her younger sister alone with her parents. Although we were free, we still didn't find that happiness and peace knowing that our sister / brother was left in the midst of the craziness. And my brother ended up homeless shortly after as my mother kicked him out.

Nathiel also discusses resilience through this period, which I definately found solace in my running, writing, and music. Many of the people Nathiel interviewed also had similar tactics to survive these years (p 114 - 118). Young adulthood features going out into the world-- and the need to create boundaries. Nathiel talks about the establishment of appropriate boundaries, and with my mother, once we repaired our relationship after a 5 year estrangement, my mother began to press those boundaries. 

Regardless, I didn't let anything stop me. I was a business woman, single and on-my-own, and enjoying all facets of life. My mother would say how she would have loved to experience how I was living but she had to raise two kids at my age. She would attempt to make me feel badly when I planned a trip away with friends-- always stressing the fact that she had to raise kids. A reminder from my childhood: my mother told my brother and me that if she had a chance to do life again, she wouldn't have kids. So, these words continue to resonate, even into young adulthood.

Another point that Nathiel makes is that the young adult goes as far and as fast as they can, without looking back (p 124). I completely understand this statement as I lived this. I went out into the world, full gusto, and became the independent person. I didn't rely on anyone but myself, and I didn't look back. I actually didn't start to analyze my childhood / adolescence / young adulthood until my 30's when I was in the midst of another estrangement brought on by my mother. I was completely confused at this point, debating where I could claim responsibility and where my mother was responsible. I would discuss and analyze with my dear friends until the wee-hours of the morning. No matter how I assessed the situation, being rejected by my mother was not an easy situation to rationalize. 

Adulthood: Into adulthood, I had a relationship with my mother but a very superficial and not authentic. Nathiel expresses that by this point, "someone with so many layers of nonverbal and verbal memory, and so much early instability and deficit, can come to integrate all of this into some coherent whole sense of self without having a good therapist at some point" (p 139). My saving grace, my huge fortune in life, was my friends who opened their ears and hearts to me. I spent countless hours discussing with my friends about my relationship (or lack thereof) with my mother. I also bought book after book after book, reading to try to understand my mother and to figure out what I could do to have a healthy and happy relationship with her. 

We had been in and out of estrangements from my childhood up to this point of adulthood. Nathiel talks about cutting off contact. She states that no-contact is powerful and establishes a feeling of adult equality. If the parent is powerful enough to reject and wound the child, the child grown up may need to retaliate, powerfully, when she is strong enough (p 143). Interestingly, the estrangements with my mother have been started by her. Her fear of abandonment and rejection result in a self-fulfilling prophecy with her cutting ties with me then claiming to be the victim (primary characteristic of BPD). Nathiel has some poignant observations about no-contact in this same section, mainly regarding boundaries and stopping chaotic situations that the parent has pulled the adult child into. 

Some powerful passages are contained in this section regarding elderly mothers and mothers as grandmothers. The one that really struck me was when one of the interviewed was by her mother's deathbed. She couldn't hug her but was able to say that she was happy her mother isn't suffering anymore. The strength that this daughter exhibited is amazing. Another powerful passage is where one of the interviewed talked about having a child and with that child she realized all the things her own mentally ill mother had missed. I can totally relate. She continues by saying, "I never felt sorry for myself, and I never saw how much I missed. But I saw how much she missed as a mother-- she never made that kind of connection to me at all. It was overwhelming" (p 161). These are very profound statements that I have felt reverberate through my experiences being a mother. 

After-thoughts & More: The book closes with some after-thoughts, what do we need to learn, and an appendix of the interviewed biographies. The after-thoughts wrap the book up nicely, noting that many of the mothers are unwilling to change-- which I feel is the case with my mother. She not only doesn't want to change but she doesn't want to talk about any of it and doesn't want to claim responsibility.  She would rather continue the facade of being the victim. Additionally powerful is the discussion of violations of trust. The crux of my issues with my mother at this point are trust. I cannot trust her-- she has attacked and rejected me repeatedly through my entire life. She is a known danger that I cannot trust around my daughter. And I also don't want my husband or myself further hurt by her. As many of the interviewed stated, the worst part of being a "daughter of madness" is not having a mother. I can say that is true for me too. And in regard to the best part of being a "daughter of madness" is having resilience. 

Overall, this book was very insightful, rich with interviews of daughters of madness. The sections were effectively woven together and synthesized into a powerful narrative that speaks for daughters of mentally ill mothers. I learned a great deal of how emotional abuse and experiences while we are infants effects us into adulthood. I also appreciate how our experiences with our mentally ill mothers mirror each other-- just as if our mothers had a physical ailment that manifested itself with the same symptoms, our mother's mental illness manifest themselves with similar symptoms. Daughters of madness have this common bond. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Estranged Parent | Illness, Death, Funeral

I have been estranged from my mother for over 7 years. We had been through cycles in and out of estrangement through my entire life; however, this estrangement is final. She has broken my trust and done things to me that only a person who has no respect for me would. And in all honesty, no one has ever treated me with such disregard, denigration, destruction, and damage... and this person is my mother

At any rate, she has been sick for quite some time with an auto-immune disease which is treated with very toxic drugs. She has had complications through the years about which my brother has informed me, including the possibility of kidney loss and need for transplant. So, here is the first situation of contemplation: how to handle the possible call, asking me to donate a kidney. She already put my brother on the spot, and being the son who wants to stay in good standing to receive monetary assistance, he said he'd give her his kidney. He laughed about it when he told me. 

If push came to shove that the kidney transplant is necessary for her to live, and my brother's is not a match-- she may come knocking on my door since she and I have the same rare blood type. What a predicament that would be. I am not heartless but I am also not wanting to eliminate the ability to ever help my husband, daughter, or aunt who are actively in my life, unconditionally and whole-heartedly daily. Additionally, if she cannot give of herself to me on a daily basis, why should I have to give to her in this manner?

Another issue that my brother has asked me several times is if I would go to my mother's death bed ... and if I would attend her funeral. As far as the death bed, why would we communicate when she's at death's door when we haven't during the days of life? If she doesn't have the desire or gumption to see me now, why when death is closing in? All she has done in the last 7 years is talk poorly about me and create alliances to destroy relationships around me. She has not had good intentions in the past or presently-- so would those intentions on her death bed be pure. I don't think so. I believe a healthy serving of guilt would be served as she has adeptly inflicted since I was a child.

And as far as her funeral: if we don't speak to each other here and now, appearing at her funeral is not appropriate or valid. I can honor her as my mother in my own way, on my own time, and at her grave-site at a later date. I know this all sounds very morbid, but I have been asked this scenario many times and have had to analyze my feelings and plan-of-action. Abusers still manage to put the victims in the middle of such painful situations, which they didn't bring upon themselves, and force the victims to deal with them and their trail of wreckage even after their deaths.

In the book "Mean Mothers" by Peg Streep, one of the most powerful moments in the book is when Streep gets the call from her brother that her mother is dying (page 31), the comment from him that he thought she might want to come see her, and the decision Streep makes. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what decision Streep would make. Ultimately, Streep's decision and her feelings about her decision mirror what I concluded to do. Powerful passages that, as Streep says, "testifies to what can happen when a mother can't love her daughter in the way she needs to be loved" (page 33).

Those with healthy and loving relationships with their parents don't understand and can't fathom the depth of this situation (sick parent, parent on death-bed, parent's funeral) but what these folks don't know is the extent of the past with an abusive, pathological, and narcissistic parent. And most importantly, I have already said goodbye to my mother.

I had an epiphany when my child was born-- I had a sudden realization and comprehension of the essence and meaning behind my mother and my estrangement. Life was not a **game** anymore (my parents were always playing life and relationships like games. Head games of guilt and shame were primary tactics with strategy of manipulation). Also, we had passed through some major life events without each other: my wedding, my pregnancy, and now the birth of my child. This situation between my mother and me is profound... profoundly dead. After my child was born and I passed a cemetery, a rush of emotion flowed through me. That last piece of the puzzle has been put into place and now I can see the whole picture. I mourned the loss of my mother but I knew that what has happened in the past is precisely what makes a future impossible. So with this epiphany and with the acceptance of the death of our relationship, how and why could / would I engage in any of the aforementioned situations? I am not bitter. I am not angry. I am actually at peace with my past, present, and future.

Researching advice from the general public to someone in my situation (estranged parent on death-bed), resoundingly the public is in favor of making amends and communicating. With this research, I have no idea if this public has ever been through abusive parents-- and would they have the same point-of-view if they had. Further research revealed a study by Reverend Renee Pittelli of people’s opinions and attitudes about attending the funerals of estranged relatives. She did not refer to the deceased as “abusers”, only “estranged relatives”, so many of the respondents did not consider themselves to be abuse victims. They simply were not on speaking terms with whoever had passed away, or would pass in the future, although the assumption of abuse was the case. Possibly if the survey specified “abusers”, most of the respondents would have been even more adamant in their refusal to commemorate their deaths. The respondents were both men and women, and ranged in age from their twenties to their seventies. They came from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, locations, and religions. The results revealed that only 8% would go to the funeral as going would be the "right thing to do", culturally correct, or reflective of how they were raised. WOW! 8%

As sad as this subject may be, this situation didn't happen overnight. This situation is a collection of events from birth to present that created the dynamic (or lack thereof). Just because this person is your parent doesn't give him / her the right to own your feelings, decisions, or life. And if you are estranged from you parent, I am pretty certain you would actually like to have a loving, healthy, respectful, and mutually beneficial relationship. So at the end, if you have been estranged, a reason or many reasons are at the root of the no-contact. And these reasons don't dissipate simply because that person is sick, dying, or has a funeral. Whatever your decision may be, the decision is a deeply personal one.