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BPD mom driving me nuts


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I just found this place tonight, and it looked nifty (and needed, at this point) so I thought I'd say hi.

I'll be 29 on Easter, and have been in therapy for three years largely dealing with the effects of an emotionally and verbally abusive mother, whom my therapist and I have decided is borderline. Case in point; usually she's 1,000 miles away. She's visiting (unfortunately, my parents bought a house out here in SoCal and will move here eventually) and I was dumb enough to accept her invitation to lunch. Toward the end, it degenrated into, "Why don't you want to spend time with us?" and "Why are you so angry with me?" We moved to a bench outside the restaurant in full view of all the people coming and going. I gave her a few reasons, and she said, "Well, go ahead and blame me. Go on." She kept egging me on, "Tell me why you're angry. Tell me," and saying stuff like, "You can't be angry forever. It isn't healthy. Go ahead and let it out. Yell at me. Hit me."

And she literally started shoving me and telling me to hit her. All this time I've hardly said anything and I've never raised my voice. Then it's, "Go ahead and tell me you hate me." So I do, because it's true. She says some more stuff about her own rotten childhood, and how I need to take responsibility for my own decisions and go out and live life and make mistakes (none of which she's done.) She asks what I'd do if her and my dad disowned me; I said I'd be fine, which is the truth. And then it's, "We did a lot of nice things for you. You had things I didn't when I was a kid. I worked a horrible job that caused my depression and used that money to send you to Europe, and you've never said thank you." (Hmm, possibly because all her "gifts" are booby-trapped?) Then she says, "I don't like the way you've treated me, but I won't give up on you." Finally I get up and say, "I have to go to work. Leave me alone," and she grabs at me but I go off toward my car.

She comes charging after me and gets between me and the car, which is scary as heck. She says more stuff and keeps hugging me, which I hate; I can't stand being touched by her. She tried to wipe away my tears and I pulled away. And it was always, "I'm not going to give up on you," and more awful hugs, and more telling me to tell her I hate her and that being angry with her isn't good for me. And the only way to get her to go away and let me go to work is to submit.

And if that isn't "Frantic fears of abandonment," I don't know what is. All that took a torturous hour and a half outside the darn restaurant in front of people trying not to look. She does have her own therapist, and she's taking meds, likely for depression because she thinks that's the only thing wrong with her. I don't know if she's ever been to a real psychiatrist.

The kicker is she calls me the next morning to tell me all the things she thought of at 3am, and gets me to admit that it was my own bad financial decisions that meant I had to move back home after college (which it was, but my parents made me feel like crap enough about money anyways) and that it was only hurting me not to see my grandparents (her parents, whom I refuse to see because of their own problems) and didn't it make me happy to make them happy when they came out to visit? (No; it nearly made me sick worrying about them and trying to make everything for that visit perfect.) And yes she made a big deal about when I messed up the carpet, but it was HER house, and she hated having me there because I was always grumpy (yeah, because I lost my apartment, my cats that she wouldn't allow in the house, and my dignity and had to commute 20 miles to a crappy retail job.) And she just wanted me to think about all these things and treat her the way I'd want to be treated. Funny, I want to be treated like a rational adult. She's entirely incapable of treating me like that.

Then she calls again today and says, "You know, I really appreciate having talked to you. I didn't want to spend time with your grandparents, but then I thought 'treat them the way you'd want to be treated' and we went out and actually had fun, and I'm proud of myself because I talked back to your grandpa." And, "We should just make a time to talk this stuff out so it doesn't keep coming up, and when we go to dinner on Saturday with your dad we won't talk about it. And tell me when you want to talk about something." (Dude, I'm not the one who keeps bringing it up, and I"m sure as hell not going to purposely call her and bring this stuff up; this is not a woman I want any kind of "advice" from.)

So, here's the case of the kid parenting the parent; no rational adult shoves her kid and tells the kid to hit her, and later quotes the Golden Rule at her. Sheesh. My friend called this kind of stuff "scripted." She keeps spitting out all these cliches, which makes me think that goes with the lack of identity idea in the borderline symptoms; she has no real self-identity, so she's clinging to societal "rules" and cliches for living her life. The end result is that not a bit of it feels genuine, especially the hugs.

I went to the library and grabbed a couple Borderline books; and right there, the DSM IV criteria blazed on the page, and a good six of them described my mother. So at this point, I'm at a stage where it's a relief to finally realize that yes, she really is mentally ill, which means I can explain it to people, and there's no chance of reasoning with her unless it's on the level of a five-year-old, but it's also freaky to realize how BPD works and what she's been doing to me ever since I was little. And at this point, I don't like her, I don't want to be around her at all and it's definitely bad for me to have her around, but I don't know how to get her away from me if she's determined to "never give up." I just got an MA in writing and have applied for PhD's and am waiting for answers. I really want the in-state school, but then the one in Texas sounds grand just to put some distance between me and my parents. But then, I know that distance won't necessarily fix anything. I moved a thousand miles away from them, and while I've gotten a lot of help and improved myself a lot, there's a lot that still needs work that running won't solve.

It's taken me a long time to really get it into my head that yes, she really is ill, and I got stuck with a terrible childhood and a crappy mom, and I'm never going to have the mother figure I wanted and needed. Tuesday proved it, which is about the only good thing that came out of that day. And it was hard to make the distinction between "something's wrong with me" and "something's wrong with her." My first therapy session, I told him that I had a Beaver Cleaver family. I thought I did. Middle-class white suburbia, family vacations and all that. Boy was I wrong. Until he actually said, "that sounds abusive," I seriously never would have thought that.

I suppose I do have a question; I've seen a few places that mention how borderline mothers divide their children into the "all good" and the "all bad," but what happens when she only has one kid? I'm guessing she played me against my dad, who is totally passive and a workaholic, and she did complain about him often enough. He had an abusive childhood, but he is entirely logical and businesslike, and he's never raised his voice, and I've never heard him swear. Not even a "damn." And he gives her everything; it's a perfect symbiotic relationship, when she desperately needs someone to love her no matter what and he needs someone to take care of and provide for.

Anyway. Thanks for listening. Writing this out is, I think, one of the neuroses I got from my parents; the need to rationalize everything and to have proof because I don't trust my own opinions, (that is, when I was allowed to have them. :P )

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Wow- what an emotional roller coaster for you. Thanks for sharing your story with us! I am glad you have an explanation for why your mother behaves the way she does- hopefully that will continue to help you when you repeat in your mind that she's the one who is behaving abnormally/inappropriately, not you.

I will take a stab at your question below based on my clinical experience: I have worked with a few mothers diagnosed with borderline personality disorder who had only 1 child. Their classification/categorization of their relationship with this child depended on the day and what was going on with the mother. In other words, their child was either "the best son/daughter a mother could ever want, and totally perfect" or "the worst, most disrespectful, ungrateful child on the planet." So, it's not that the child is put into a all good or all bad category and remains there; but the child is rating differently across time. It's this changeability that is so very confusing to the people that are on the receiving end of the borderline person's comments, behavior, etc.

While this explanation certainly doesn't excuse your mother's behavior, hopefully it can help explain it a bit.

I suppose I do have a question; I've seen a few places that mention how borderline mothers divide their children into the "all good" and the "all bad," but what happens when she only has one kid?

:P )

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  • 2 months later...

I am 29 years old as well but I am the mother. I have younger children 4 and 5 but can potentially see that story in my future if I don't monitor my behaviour carefully. I can't speak for anyone else but myself and these are my opinions take what you want from them. A mothers job is to help a child to grow into a responsible healthy adult. Yes mothers make mistakes we yell when we shouldn't children do drive us nuts but as a mother you should be big enough to apologize to the child when you have made a mistake. I am guilty of freaking out to my children in public. I have yelled and even threw my kids bike in a dumpster. That was the last time it has happened I took a step back apologized and have written a plan of what to do when these feelings come over me. That was a year ago and it hasn't happened since. I am also teaching my children to be proactive. They have been told to walk away and leave the room because they are so young they call their dad. Your mom was wrong totally 100% wrong. Next time just cut it off and walk away don't feed her by staying. If she blocks your car take a cab or bus, walk or run away. Ask the waitress to let you sit in the back breakroom anything just get out of the situation and don't feed her by interacting with her when she is doing this. Don't let it get you bitter and angry because that negatively affects you and punishes you. You have a right to be angry because the action was wrong but please don't hold on to that anger.

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  • 6 months later...

oh dear. i can see the other side of this argument. i am myself in recovery for BPD and at times i exhibit many of the same traits you describe here. i can sympathise with you, but am wondering what sort of help your mother is getting? my parents and sister went to hell and back with my BPD and since i have started getting proper help, (not just the usual being stuffed with pills and left to rot help that characterises BPD treatment in the UK), they say that i am much easier to live with and the paranoia, panic and "bullying" (i used to nag people to give me reassurance if i didn't get it) have lessened. My father tells me i am now bearable to be around, whereas before he didn't want to know me.

finding people that understand BPD really helped me. When my assigned Psychiatrists and nurses weren't there for me, a friend who goes to my church and works in a different hospital treating BPDs took it upon herself to counsel me regularly and advised me on how to help myself.

There IS hope for people like your mother, but it isn't always easy to find. I wish you success.

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Hi All

My ex's mother is borderline - he was/is the 'bad child' in her eyes. He was so emotionally engulfed by his mother when he was a child that his only method of protection against her was to shut down. Sadly in close interpersonal adult relationships he also shuts down, intimacy and engulfment are his greatest fears.

It is terrible what effects having a bpd parent can cause a person. I had to let my ex go because even though he is back in therapy, I think he has a long long way to go before he could 'open' up within an intimate relationship. I too have my own issues to face, mainly co-dependency by 'choosing' emotionally unavailable men, albeit a very good one in the last instance.

I'm now concentrating on my own recovery but I did want to mention a book I have read called 'Understanding the Borderline Mother' by Christina Lawson. Its an expensive book but well worth the cost. In it she explains about 4 different types of borderline mothers - The Waif (victim, poor me), The Hermit, The Queen and The Witch - bpd's can swing between all four roles but they usually have an archetype. My ex's mother is a Witch, the cruelest of the four. Reading about it helped me to understand why my ex is the way he is and not to take his shutting me out so personally. I would definitely recommend it if you are ready to learn more about the workings of a bpd mother and also the effects it can have on her children in adulthood.

I am also a member of another forum called Out of the Fog which is especially for people in relationship to or getting over a relationship to someone with BPD or other PD's. The 'unchosen' section is for people who had no choice in the matter, where the bpd'er is a parent or relative. There are some very experienced members and administrators. This site is dedicated to helping people who have suffered as a result of being connected to someone with BPD. Here is the link to the page http://outofthefogsite.com/CommonBehaviors/MaternalChildAbuse.html

Be sure to check out the support forum. Good luck, Nelly

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