Borderline Personality Disorder and Abuse…


Recently, there has been a lot of controversy about whether those with BPD abuse or not.  I can only speak from experience.  I am not a doctor, however I am quite sure my mother had borderline personality disorder, she fits all the critieria.  Through her I learned how to cope in a negative way, how to hate myself, how to degrade myself, how to be my own worst enemy.  My mother was an acting out Borderline.  She physically, emotionally, verbally DID abuse me.  ME.  Those with BPD usually pick one target and I was it.  Do not get me wrong, today my mother and I are closer, many of her symptoms manifest differently, she is QUIET. I believe all her lashing out just failed her and she just became depressed. Looking back I know she didn’t want to HURT me, I know she knew no other way of coping with the pain she was feeling inside, her own “CORE WOUND OF ABANDONEMENT.” But, the abuse did take place.  I can remember being a child as young as 7 or 8 standing on a chair calling my father at work to hurry and get home because Mommy was acting “CRAZY.”  I sometimes explain it as living with a dry alcoholic, I never really knew when the lashing would begin.  It could be over anything.  If my room wasn’t cleaned properly, if my brother’s room wasn’t cleaned properly, if I didn’t wear the clothes she wanted me to wear.  One memory resonates with me and will forever.  It is the day of my Grandfather’s funeral in Italy.  Of course she is in a lot of pain.  She wants me to wear black and white striped pants.  At 9 years old, I didn’t think it was appropriate to wear anything but black,  the beating begins.  She pulls my hair, I had long gorgeous hair which would be pulled almost every day.  She slaps me all over, her eyes are absolutely in frenzy, she grabs an object, I can’t remember what but starts hitting me with it.  I am so weakened , crying in the corner as she beats me while a house full of people see this.  But, I dont give in until she tells me if you don’t wear the pants your Grandfather will come and haunt you.  I was terrified.  I put on the black and white pants barely able to even walk and go to the mass.  At the mass, I am not feeling well, I walk over to her and say something, the next thing I knew I was being rushed to the hospital, I had fainted.  I believe it was from the stress that I’d endured.  She is in the emergency room with me looks at me and says, “You see, you ruined your Grandfather’s funeral.” GUILT.

At about 10, I went to a friend’s house from school, her mom greeted me. “Hi, is JoAnne home?”
This petite lady let me in, an older version of JoAnne.  “You must be Fia,” she practically sang. “It’s so nice to meet you, JoAnne tells me how smart you are.”  Smart?  Was this little angel complimenting me?  I was confused.  JoAnne came in and we sat and did something fifth grade girls do.  Her mom couldn’t stop catering to us.  Snacks, soda, whatever we wanted, POOF, it would be there.  I was confused.  Where was the screaming, the crying, the incessant cleaning.  The dirty looks saying “Get her out of here.”  Why was this woman so soft?  Why wasn’t she emabrrassing JoAnne in front of me?  I thought all mothers were like mine and this woman disproved me.  I was furious.  I never went back to JoAnnes house again.
So, it must be me.  I wished I was more like JoAnne.  I wished alot of things and for some reason actually believed they’d come true.  At night, I’d lay in the dark and cry.  I would never wipe my tears, for some reason I thought my mother would see them in the morning, I hoped she’d see them, she never did.  So, I’d go about my business every day hoping it would change.  I couldn’t remember a day when I hadn’t got hit.

At 11, 12 the physical abuse continued but that I could handle, harder to  handle was never being told I love you, never being hugged,  never being praised.  Sometimes, I used to love when the telephone rang, or someone came over, it meant I was free for a little.  I would sit at the top of the stairs  listening and she would be a whole different person. DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE. She would talk about me positively, tell the people downstairs what a good student I was.  I was totally confused.  I thought she HATED me.  In reality, she hated herself.  I remember being 7 or 8 and watching The Incredible Hulk, I would think to myself that is like mommy, one minute sweet David Banner, the next the big green monster.  She had names for me.  From as far back as I can remember she would call me a prostitute, a whore, imagine a child of 8 a whore.  I didn’t even know what it meant.  She also had a fixation on my legs, telling me they were crooked.  It took me up until I was 30 to wear shorts or a dress, they weren’t crooked, she had a distorted perception and I believed it.  From a young age I also believed I had ruined her life, it was what I was told, still somewhat believe it, I could take the beatings, I could take the not being hugged but when someone is crying because YOU have ruined their  life it creates a lifetime of overwhelming guilt.  At 12, 13 I used to pray to GOD to please take me so my mother wouldn’t be so hurt.  So, what am I saying?  I do believe this with BPD CAN be abusive to others, but it is only recently that I have understood her, understood why she acted the way she did and forgiven her.  There are still a lot of problems, we do not speak a lot, but we are actually closer I believe.  She is different, toady she lays on the couch all day watching t.v, and I honestly dont know what is worse, Depressed Mom or Raging Mom. I cannot hold onto the anger , how can I be angry at someone who was in so much pain?  I do however feel GUILTY for not helping her, but how could I, neither she nor I knew anyting was wrong.  So, do ALL those with BPD abuse? Yes.  Some themselves some others, it’s all we know.  As I said, my mother is DIFFERENT. As you get older, through maturity or just because your old coping mechanisms fail,  symptoms start to go away or manifest in a   different way  (unless you get treatment, which she never has), there are times when the big green monster comes out, but usually she is David Banner and I am thankful she does not seem to be in as much pain…

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14 Responses

  1. I cannot imagine a household so messed up and violent as yours growing up. It is unfortunate that you had to get treated like this by your mentally messed up mother. If she isn’t getting treated nowadays, I hope she does get the help she needs. If she does not show these mood swings anymore a doctor may only notice the depression issue, but hopefully she will get diagnosed with this BPD that you speak of so she can get the correct treatment she needs. How could your father let this happen to you growing up?

    • My father was my salvation, when I called he came, she calmed down, thank you for your empathy, I hold no grudges, for I know what it’s like to be in pain and not know how to handle it. I don’t act out, I am more of a quiet borderline, hurting myself, but still the pain was there for her and it is here for me. I’m not in any way justifying her actions, I don’t think she knew how to get help, my parents were both Italian immigrants, all I can say is I understand….

  2. I was abused… not as harshly as you. But I’m an “acting in” borderline… a self-abuser. My father may have had BPD or something similar. I speak in the past tense because he isn’t as severe anymore… although still messed up for certain! I get angry because it sickens me how people think it’s OK to hurt other people. I know that sometimes the abusers are sick, but I’m sick too, and I try not to hurt others.

    • I understand that you do not hurt others, as I try not to as well. But, I think it’s important to realize that this was HIS coping mechanism, different from yours. Have you forgiven him? He may very well feel guilt, I believe my mother does. Trust me it is so much more liberating to forgive than carry around anger. I’m sure you are getting help for your self harming, time to break the legacy….

  3. Thanks for sharing. I come from a whole family of borderlines. Three of which are in total denial. Both my grandmother and my aunt were abusive to their partners, physically and emotionally. I didnt know that it was possible to be in a household without fighting. Everyone was in conflict in my world. Not all the time. Definitely it was directed at men, and at each other – one sister attacked all of us. My grandmother was wrapped up in some major dramas.

    I hear your pain. I can understand the guilt card and the blame card. I’ve done it to my own daughter – not on purpose, yet really personalizing everything that she does. and in turn blaming her – even at a young age. I’m getting help for my parenting. I’m doing the best I can. I know I am abusive. I don’t mean to be. I need validation for my parenting. Being a parent is scary and can be very isolating. This probably perpetuated the symptoms.
    I’m glad that you are sharing. I’m sorry that you were exposed to so much torture. I’m sorry no one stood up for you. Did your Dad not get it?
    I know what its like to go to other people’s houses and feel much more at home. I used to escape to anyone else’s reality because it was better than mine.I always wished I was someone else and if I could just become that person, perhaps I’d be happy.

    Funny how we all cope differently? I know that Jekyll and Hyde routine. My Mom did it, my grandmother, my aunt, my Dad…Holy shit A whole bunch of masked fakers.
    I grieve for my own child and my own inner child. There is no way a child deserves to be treated in such a way. Bless you for forgiveness Bless you for moving on. I admire your work and integrity!

    Thank you for sharing. I am doing my best to create a different home for my daughter…and this gives me more motivation. You didn’t deserve such treatment – none of us do.

    Bless all of us to heal in our own time.

    • Your daughter will be proud of you for getting help to get better. If Ii had one wish it would be that my mother was happier. Believe it or not I love her more than anything in this world, except my Dad of course. I think you’re very brave as well. My father was very hard working, his escape was work. Also, they were Italian immigrants, and this parenting “screaming and hitting” was kind of accepted in Italy. Being an immigrant, leaving her whole family behind definitely added to her stress. An old man who used to live near us in the Bronx when we first came here, found her crying with 2 kids on a park bench every day because of her loneliness. His family quickly befriended her. I have vague recollection of this, only pictures of that old man who took my mother in as part of his family. This story breaks my heart. I did not write this to make my mother seem evil. Believe me, she is a good woman, like you, just unable to cope. Try as I have she has refused any help for herself, instead worries about only me, I’ve become her focus in a different way. This also breaks my heart for I feel her life has been unfulfilled and I can do nothing. God Bless you for getting help and much love and peace to you.

  4. I want to thank you for having the courage to write this. As I read, I had tears streaming down my face. You helped me realise some things about my own past that have niggled at me but never truly been pulled into the light.

    I want to thank you most of all for this line, in particular, “I could take the not being hugged but when someone is crying because YOU have ruined their life it creates a lifetime of overwhelming guilt.” This is something that I struggle with all the time. I can take so much, but knowing that my mother’s illness (in my case, not BPD – she has a severe anxiety disorder and depression) is worse because of me, because of who I am; that she had to reject my child self for her own sanity; that’s a terrible burden I’ve lived with for years.

    So yes, just, thank you.

    • How is it worse because of you? Sounds like your blaming yourself for your mothers condition therefore holding onto the legacy. No. Your mother has an illness, not because of you, I dont know your circumstances, but that would be like saying my mother’s condition was my fault. Would you agree? Peace

      • Hmm. Food for thought there.

        No, I wouldn’t agree that you’re to blame for your mother’s condition.

        I’m not to blame for my mother’s, either; but I did have a role in the escalation of it. It was an unwitting role, and it was definitely unintentional, but I did impact very strongly on her. I don’t think I’m taking on unjustified guilt, because I know I need to own that my behaviour was difficult; but I’ll give it some more thought. I don’t want to own guilt that isn’t mine, either!

        Thanks for the food for thought, I’ll be mulling over this over the next few days.

      • I don’t really know your circumastances, but if you are talking about ruining your mothers life as a child, then I have to disagree. That is what I was told as a child, sometimes even as an adult. I ruined noone’s life, everyone is responsible for thier own happiness, regardless of what others around you are doing or feeling (I’m speaking of adults). For my mother or your mother to say that we ruined thier lives was to me a projection of how they felt THEY had ruined their lives not us. It was their illness. Again, I can only speak from my experience but this is what I believe about my circumstances, love to hear more about you:)

  5. Hi again!

    I agree with you that everyone’s responsible for their own happiness. I’ve never been outright told that I ruined my mother’s life, but I do have to own that my actions have influenced her. She chose what to do with them, but it was a direct result of my behaviours.

    That said, adults are very much responsible for their own choices and happiness. You’re nowhere near to blame for your mother’s unhappiness, and I’m glad that you’ve been able to work on being able to see that!

    I do apologise if I’m not making much sense! I know what I’m trying to say, but at the moment, my mind is a little like jelly.

    • No your making sense , I’m only trying to understand your circumstances, because you have all this guilt, which I’m not sure is justified? You cannot control people’s actions and reactions, only your own actions and reactions. It is a lesson I have had to learn in a very hard way. Guilt has taken up alot of my life, alot and I happen to think it is the worst human feeling there is, and I would love to see you free yourself from it. If I can help in anyway please let me know…..

      • Oh, that’s good, I re-read it and wasn’t sure. Was serious about the jelly-mind. I’ve been inserting wrong words all over the place – I told someone I was happy for them to “create” me if I was wrong about an assumption I’d made. I meant correct, of course, but boy was she confused for a bit!

        I know the only person I can control is me, although if I’m honest, I have to admit I still struggle with “I am not responsible for anyone else’s thoughts or feelings”, which is a bit silly. I can accept that I can’t control them, and yet I’m responsible for how they feel… lol. I do have a lot of guilt that isn’t justified, yes; and I think sometimes I go out of my way to tell myself it’s justified. Twelve months of DBT and I still haven’t learnt to let go of the guilt!

        That’s okay, though. It’s taken a lot more than twelve months for me to amass it, it’s going to take a long time to de-construct it, too, and that’s okay.

        Thank you for your offer of assistance, if I do think of anything I’ll let you know! 🙂

      • I know it has taken a lifetime to create so therefore will take longer to deconstruct. Good luck to you. Peace

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