I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I was treated for BPD. I recovered from BPD. One thing has remained a constant throughout all the years of my life and all of my healing – I am the adult-child of a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Notwithstanding that I am now by virtue of recovering from BPD, no longer a borderline or no longer borderline, and that I am now living my life as any other non borderline, my mother remains as borderline as ever.
My mother has not ever acknowledged her “issues”. My mother has not ever sought treatment. In fact, my father (deceased) was also borderline – he never sought treatment either. What this meant for me early on in my life must have been but mere writing on the wall it would have been so obvious to the onlooker with knowledge – I was destined via genetics and/or environment – the double whammy – to end being diagnosed with BPD. I was diagnosed with BPD at the age of 19, in 1976.
What this meant for me as a child was emotionally devastating. Ironic as hell now really, at this point in my life that I have come to realize that there is some grief to feel and process even now. I think that as I face this head on as I am currently, it is ironic because I was always in pain over the loss that was the reality that my mother and I never bonded. I have in many ways and at many levels grieved this loss in many different ways.
In the past I had therapists who told me that “mother work” was the usually the last work that many get through. I have gotten through a ton of it. Oddly enough I sure did leave it until the end in my recovery from BPD too. I held out as long as I could. I had always taken this approach in my life that my mother just wasn’t important. Years ago in therapy, that misconception and actual protection on my part was shattered. What was most important about my borderline mother in my life however, wasn’t her, it was the enduring emotional absence of her in what was her otherwise physical and hateful presence in my life.
I have worked my way through all of my childhood issues that go back to my mother – yet, still, there is grief. This grief is the grief of an adult-child of a borderline mother – not the grief of a borderline who is still emotionally a child in search of a mother. I let go and grieved and laid down that a long time ago now. I have processed the incredible pain of the grief and sadness of not really ever having had the mother I wished I’d had, I wished she would have been, or the mother I so needed. I am a healthy adult who is in the process of letting go of any false hope about any resolution that I’d so hoped my mother and I could one day process together.
My mother and I not only didn’t bond but we’ve never had any measure of a relationship. We co-existed (barely) in the same house for the first 17 years of my life. But, living in the same house does not a relationship make. Well, we co-existed if you count her sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abusing me and my screaming and raging at her in my late childhood and early teens co-existing that is.
There was always some level of degree of pain about this reality in my life but in the past when I had BPD and when I was as emotionally unhealthy as she was, back when the battle royal was my fair also I was too busy living it all to really get to the bottom of all of the sad. When I had BPD I was way too angry to get to the sad.
Of course, throughout all the therapy I had on the journey of my recovery from BPD there was tons of work and focus and yelling and crying and suffering and journalling about my mother. There were millions of attempts on my part over the years to talk to her, to get through to her, to help her - God, I so wanted to rescue her. All attempts were not only in vain they took their own emotional toll on me. They were accruing really. I wasn’t paying enough attention.
Perhaps even though I had dealt with so much about my mother and my childhood in therapy and in recovering from BPD the reason that I hadn’t been as aware as I wished I’d been about the toll that this “pseudo-relationship” or shadow-relationship was taking on me and was actually accruing within me was because I was so wrapped up in the shame of my survivor guilt.
You know, for me to recover from BPD, and to have stuck with therapy through all that that demanded and took, I had to walk away from my family. This was merely the beginning of the ending. Endings sometimes take more time than we wish they would. But when in the middle of our process with an ending, it is just that, our own process. We can only have insight into what we are able to grieve, I’ve come to learn. That means, we can only know what we are willing to let go of. Yes, we can only really come to an awareness and acceptance of what we are willing to surrender to – no matter how much it hurts. What blocks awareness often when change is needed is focusing on trying to control something rather than just letting it go. It is the sad sullen slow surrender to what needs to be let go of that is the increasing awareness of unfolding personal enlightenment.
Recent life events have for some reason, of late, given me this blessed kind of radical acceptance of who my mother is and always was. I have for years had compassion for her. I have for years, since I recovered from BPD in the mid-1990′s let go of so much to do with all that I suffered in large part to the failings of my mother. Of course to recover from BPD I had to make the painful and gut-wrenching (at the time) distinction between learning to take personal responsibility and letting go of blaming my mother along with being practical about what affected what when I was a child under her “care”.
I think what has put in me touch with this latest round of grief about my mother is my recent decision that despite very little contact over very many years now, I have to again strengthen a boundary, I had partially relaxed in the years since my father died. I had given it enough time. Nothing has changed. In the few times we’ve even talked each time was like she could easily have picked the tiny scab remaining around my healed wounds if I let her.
You see even though I have recovered form BPD that certainly does not make me super-human. Nope. Just human. Therefore, in my humanity, imperfect as the next non borderline so to speak, there is still this tiny scab where I wish there was a fortress to be honest.
Though I don’t think I would be being me if I didn’t still have a tiny scab. I think I may have that tiny scab for the rest of my life.
Is it somewhat devastating, as in, painfully sad, that I now realize that there won’t be any closure on such a toxic past with my mother? Yes. But I can easily cope with that. Yes, easily. It hurts. But then so do many things in life over which we just don’t have any control right? I have resolved as much as one can without the benefit of the other party being willing and able to meet one half way in mutual resolution. However my whole life experience with my mother is one of what Bradshaw calls “broken mutuality” anyway and the sad truth is that since she is not in therapy, nothing will change and the legacy of this broken mutuality is now mine, and mine alone, to grieve.
I feel like I have finally turned the corner on my survivor guilt. I am no longer going to hold onto that feeling of guilt because I recovered and my mother is the same as she always was. That’s about personal choices and personal responsibility. I stepped up to the plate of what was my devastated borderline life in the past and I changed that. I took personal responsibility. I made a choice to get better. My mother hasn’t been able to make either of those choices. Perhaps she is, like so many other borderline mothers, a victim of her generation and its mind-set?
My mother is 83. In her day if you had a piece of your mind left at all you wouldn’t go to a psychiatrist. That would be like admitting you wanted an all-expense paid trip to the nearest nut-house. I get that. But in all these years since self-help and the reality that getting help is a good thing, is okay, in fact is something to be celebrated – well, no shift in her way of thinking, no keeping up with the times there at all.
There it is – the really sad in all that’s been sad in my life. It was also really sad that my father didn’t get help and that we didn’t have any closure before he died. What can you do?
I know what I can do. I can take care of myself. I can grieve and keep moving on. I can let go. I can accept that for the reasons I was born into the family that I was, there was purpose. Oh the pain, yes the torment – not fun. But the most important thing for me now is to always remember from where, what and who I came. To know that I made a choice that cost me even having a family let alone any family support. That choice was to INDIVIDUATE – a word that spelled BETRAYAL to my borderline parents who projected out their own betrayal of me onto me and had their borderline script read that it was me, A.J., getting well, taking care of myself, moving on and finding purpose and meaning my life, that was somehow an intolerable betrayal of and to them.
The thing about the toxic reality of relating borderline style is that individuation isn’t allowed. Individuation to the career borderline, to the person with BPD who just won’t get help or who just can’t acknowledge their “issues” equals and is perceived as full-scale abandonment. It’s no-win really.
What they couldn’t tolerate, what they wouldn’t support, and what they didn’t have the emotional and perhaps even intellectual tools to understand was that I was no longer willing to be the wasteland garbage pain container of their unregulated, untreated, and un-controlled borderline toxic dysfunction. I always had (even in my own borderline years) a strong sense that I was born to be my own person for whatever reason God sent me to this earth despite all the crazy-making evidence of my parent’s borderline smear campaign to the contrary – I was not born into this world to be them, or to be like them, or to continue their abusive toxic borderline way of life. I was born to create change. I was born to learn. I was born to meet the promise, potential, and purpose that God had long-ago known I would find a way to step up to the plate of – way before I had a clue what any of that could and would mean in my own life.
I wonder, when many an adult-child of beloved parents, after having lost both to death, feels likely understandably like an orphan, (as I’ve had friends describe – not something I can relate to actually) if I won’t just end up feeling freer. I have felt freer since my father died. I think I will feel even freer when my mother passes on – not that I wish that on her – that’s not my business. I am letting her go now, on my terms, in my own way, in the way that I have to for my own well-being. As to when God calls her home, well, hey that’s not up to me for sure.
I was orphaned before I was 2 years old – emotionally. I was the child that existed to carry the toxic and projected emotions of 2 borderline parents that couldn’t tolerate themselves let alone what they felt. I abdicated that role almost 20 years ago now. So much of what life is about – is choice.
Oh yeah, the grief is everywhere right now. That’s okay. It’s just so very sad. It is what is. We often can’t control the cards that we are dealt in the hand of life but we can take responsibility for playing them to the best of our emotional and intellectual ability in a paradoxically balanced and healthy way.
I have learned through my recovery from BPD, ironically enough, how to surrender to that which I cannot control and how to be at peace with that.
© A.J. Mahari July 6, 2008 – All rights reserved.
I will be blogging more here about my experience throughout my life so far on one side or the other of Borderline Personality Disorder so please check back for much more.
A.J. Mahari is a Life Coach who, specializes in working with those with BPD and non borderlines. A.J. has a unique perspective from both sides of BPD. She brings her passion to help those on either side of BPD who are in search of understanding and are in pursuit of peace and happiness. A.J. has 8 years experience as a life coach and has worked with hundreds of clients from all over the world.
I am writing my memoir about my recovery from BPD and you can check on the progress of it and keep informed about its up-coming availability at ajmahari.ca