From as early as I can remember, my mother was always rotating between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She would be so dark, mean, and uncaring around my brother and me, but when someone came to the house, (((( poof )))), she was as smiley, friendly, and happy as could be. When I got older, she was terribly and embarrassingly flirty with my male friends. She would strut with her tight jeans and high heels around them, making her eyes really big & batting her eye lashes. She would laugh this completely fake laugh and talk about topics inappropriate with a child. She acted inappropriately around my girlfriends as well, using vulgar language, engaging in talk of the opposite sex and alcohol, and acting like one of their 'friends'. “The borderline mother’s need for attention is so out of control and pathetic that it is frightening. Others are embarrassed for her. The Queen’s behavior elicits embarrassment about her need for recognition, attention, and control” p 255 Lawson. She got that recognition, attention, and control for sure. She had most of my friends snowed, thinking that my mother was this super cool, super awesome mother. But no one truly knew the extent of my mother's pathology.
I tried reaching out to a friend and her mother after a rather traumatic incident with my mother when I was a child. After I told my story to my friend and her mother, the mother called my mother ... and then my mother went ballistic. First of all, what happened was documented in Run Forrest Run but in a nutshell my mother didn't believe what I told her about some inheritance money. She demanded that I go downstairs, yelled at me that she is glad that my last name is Smith, and pushed me to the top of the stairs. She continued to push me as I went down the stairs, yelling that she didn't want to see my face. "The voices of children are easily silenced by the fear of not being believed. The borderline's children feel like prisoners of a secret war. Children of borderlines know that their mother can make people vanish. They have seen her cut people to shreds with words, shatter reputations of those who betray, and stab them in the heart with false accusations. They know the feeling of sinking into nothingness by soul-wrenching verbal attacks" p 125 Lawson.
To compound how my mother made me feel, when I told my friend and her mother, the situation with my mother only got worse. After my friend's mother called my mother, my mother went into a fit of rage calling me a liar and coming down on me even harder. I was grounded, now allowed to speak on the phone, and was basically cut-off from the outside world. I reached out for help only to have the help turn into a very worse situation.
I also had reached out to my step-father for help. One day I managed to catch him downstairs where I was grounded, and I pulled him aside. I tried to appeal to his sense of reality concerning how my mother was treating me, how bizarre her behavior was, and to help me. During this time, my mother appeared. She told my step-father that I am a "bitch" and that I was trying to manipulate him. She cut the conversation off and demanded him to leave the room. I felt completely alone and helpless in this dungeon of verbal and emotional abuse. Again, I reached out and was unable to get some help that I needed.
So, what could have my friend, my friend's mother, and my step-father had done to help me? They each could have been an enlightened witness. I never had an actual enlightened witness to help validate my experiences and guide me through these troubled times with my mother, but I never thought what my mother did was 'my fault'. From the time I was a small child, my thinking always remained that my mother has issues and that the trouble was her responsibility. I always had a goal to make it through to get to college and on my own.
I turned to writing in my notebook, religion, and running. I became a long-distance runner as those miles were my only freedom. As high school came to an end, I carried these stories of my childhood with me and went off to college. My life was such a whirlwind with trying to make it on my own working three + jobs at a time, going to college full time, and running. Eventually the challenges that my dysfunctional family presented in the past and present needed to be discussed. I had many wonderful friends to which I would tell little bits and pieces of my life. I was even very fortunate to have close friends who would sit and listen to me for hours as I tried to piece together the convoluted pieces of my past, trying to synthesize them into some sort of understanding in the present.
Not always did I find that people were open to hearing about my mother-- Bree is one of those people. Bree and I worked together. She was diagnosed with Lupus around the time my mother was, so I introduced the two of them. I never told Bree much about my past with my mother, but I told her a little during times of estrangement (my mother went through 5 year cycles until 2004 where we have remained estranged). Her point of view was that my mother couldn't be that bad because she had a tough mother too. Her opinion was to suck it up and accept my mother as she's the only mother I have.
Now, I was under the guise that when you're in a relationship with a BPD, the relationship is so very convoluted and complex that to understand the dynamics, the outsider must know all the history, stories, and interactions to fully comprehend the dynamics (that is, until I met others with BPD mother and boy oh boy, we totally understand each other with very little words!). Easily, a listener could take one instance out of context and assume the story is petty without hearing what led up to the instance. Many times I didn't even bother to talk about an occurance if someone didn't know the previous history. Peg Streep, in the book Mean Mothers, describes how Diane doesn't feel good talking about her mother because she's afraid people will think she's exaggerating. I completely understand this point, have felt the same way, and empathize with Diane. Streep continues with how "complaining makes me sound crazy or worse".So, with the case of Bree, she never got the full picture of what transpired between my mother and me through the decades.
In the long run, Bree took my mother's side during the last estrangement. My mother tried to enlist as many of my friends, colleagues, and family members as she could against me, her target of rage (Understanding the Borderline Mother: Enlisting Allies Against Her Target of Rage). She wasn't successful except with Bree, which I didn't know that they had always had a strange alliance behind my back. Bree took her side in a very sneaky and devious way, trying to fish information out of my friends and me to report to my mother-- until one of my friends caught on and the gig was up.
"Others may believe the BPD's allegations of mistreatment because of the intensity of emotion. Misinformation is calculated and constructed in order to destroy the victim's reputation. Those who do not know the true situation may not notice inconsistencies in the BPD's story. It is difficult to verify the truth because the intensity of the emotion dissuades others from asking details" Lawson (p, 141). I believe Bree believes the allegations because of the calculated and constructed nature of the misinformation as well as she never knew the background of my mother and my relationship dating back to my childhood. Plus, I think Bree's belief in what my mother was purporting was self-motivated as well, as Bree needed to save her own reputation.
Having freed myself of the toxicity and dysfunction of my BPD mother and NPD father, I was not at all disturbed by the loss of a drug addicted, ex-coworker who aligned herself with my mother. I have many readers who tell me about how their BPD mother tries to turn friends and family against them. My reaction is so be it... you can't politic, trying to campaign to keep people voting for you. If they chose to believe something, that is their choice. Life is too short to worry about who believes who. I have freed and will continue to free myself from those who are negative and drag me down... and Bree was one of those people. I am completely blessed to have so many wonderful people surrounding and supporting me.
Regardless if you are a child, reaching out to an adult for validation or help ... or if you are an adult, trying to synthesize your past into a usable narrative... not having the listener hear you or understand you can be quiet frightening if you are a child and frustrating if you are an adult. As a child, an enlightened witness certainly is a perfect scenario as this person provides an outlet for the child to speak to and an outlet for the child to find validation. As an adult, having a person to trust and confide in provides an incredible place to take some weight off of your shoulders. A good friend who understands is worth more than anything. I pray each of you that needs someone to hear you.. And if you need someone to bounce a story or two off of, you can always email me.
Understanding the Borderline Mother by Christine Ann Lawson
Mean Mothers by Peg Streep