How BPD Changed Our Lives – Parenting a Child with Borderline Personality Disorder
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How BPD Changed Her Life – My Daughter’s Battle With Borderline Personality Disorder
My daughter has Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as BPD. Parenting a child with Borderline Personality Disorder has been a challenge, especially when that child is an adult. But the joys that have come along with that challenge are undeniable.
If you have experienced family members with personality disorders, then you know your parenting behaviors have to change, no matter what age your child is. Mental illness has had a significant effect on the parent child relationship with my daughter. Parents everywhere wish they had the answers to why mental illness happens and how treatment and support can make a difference to mothers, fathers, and children. I believe many of the answers to this question can be found in open communication. It has been incredibly important to me to be open with my daughter about our positive and negative emotions. We work hard at sharing in her childhood experiences and my experience in parenting a child with Borderline Personality Disorder.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Before we can talk about parenting a child with Borderline Personality Disorder (even an adult one), we must define BPD. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes BPD as an illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships. People with Borderline Personality Disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days. You can read more from NIMH HERE.
Before I felt comfortable talking about my daughter in this kind of public forum, I wanted her to give her the opportunity to share her thoughts and experiences. I asked her to write a guest post for me about her life with BPD, so without further ado, I shall turn you over to her!
How can the stigma of mental health be broken? Well, by talking about it, of course! My name is Lexi Ekema, and I graduated from Western Michigan University in 2017 with a degree in Psychology, so it came as a shock to me when I was diagnosed with something I had never heard of before. It goes back to tenth grade when I had gone from joking around one moment and then the next second biting my friend’s head off.
Once I had calmed down, she asked if I had Bipolar disorder because my mood can change so fast. I remember thinking that I didn’t always react like a regular person would, and maybe there was a chance I had Bipolar disorder. Later that day, I brought this thought to my mom, who mentioned that she had struggled with depression and anxiety and even took medication for it. I was shocked; I never realized that someone could take medication for something happening in their brain.
She’s Off To College
Years went by, and I went off to college. A lot of people talk about how college was an amazing time in their life and that they would love to go back to it. That is not me. Although I loved being out on my “own” and setting my own rules, I still felt lonely and lost a lot of the time.
During my third year of college, I remember having a particularly rough day. My friend had changed plans on me last minute, and we didn’t end up going to get dinner that night like we planned. That sent me into a dark spiral, and the next thing I knew, I was looking for the sharpest thing I could find. I ended up settling on a razor blade and began digging into my wrist. As soon as I had lifted the blade back up, I was so confused. I had no idea why I had done it.
I remember hearing about “Emo” kids growing up. You know the kids that dress all in black and “cut themselves?” They were the outsiders, the kids that no one understood. I was baffled, wondering if that made me Emo. I did not like it and swore I would stop, but I couldn’t, though. Once I had started, I couldn’t stop. About a week later, I found myself in counseling for a one-time session. I did NOT want to be there and was embarrassed, mostly because mental health does have such a stigma.
A Very Successful Young Woman
I made it through college and graduated the next year with a double major. I got married that summer, and things were going great. But I still thought that there was more going on than I thought. I ended up seeing a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Clinical Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. My Psychiatrist prescribed an antipsychotic medication as well as two others to help with my depression and anxiety.
This was when my research began. I had never heard of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and did not know what it was. With my research, I found that it is a mix between a mood disorder and personality disorder. Professionals are still unsure what causes it, and the famous nature versus nurture debate plays a role. During my research, I finally felt understood. The characteristics that define this disorder made so much sense, and I ended up relating to all the different bullet points that accompany this disorder.
The Nine Characteristics of BPD
Nine characteristics make up this disorder. Thanks to google and the website helpguide.org I was able to find them helpfully listed and explained.
BPD Point #1 – Fear of Abandonment
The first point is a fear of abandonment. This means you will do anything to keep from feeling abandoned. I see this in me when I get into an argument with my husband, and he ends up walking away. I immediately feel abandoned and rejected and will go for any sharp object I can find to self-harm.
BPD Point #2 – Unstable Relationships
Point number two is having unstable relationships. I have some very close friends in my life, but it was not always like that. I have cut so many people out of my life for making me angry or making me feel rejected or abandoned. So instead of keeping them in my life with the risk of this happening again, I just stopped talking to them completely. This is clearly not healthy because people will make mistakes. I have an agreement with my closest friends to talk through this with me if I ever feel the need to cut them out.
BPD Point #3 – Unclear or Shifting Self-Image
Point number three has to do with self-image. Most of the time, you have a very unstable self-image. Sometimes I love myself; other times, I hate myself so much I can’t even stand to look in a mirror without breaking it. It makes it hard when I have days that I feel motivated to lose weight or better myself in some other way because most likely, the next day, I will feel that I am such a waste of space and nobody would love me anyway, so why bother to better myself.
BPD Point #4 – Impulsive, self-destructive behaviors
And with that, I move on to point number 4: Behaving in reckless and self-destructive behavior. For about a year, I found myself with a very small gambling addiction (this also can be blamed on the antipsychotic medication I was taking at the time, but that’s another story.) I was buying scratch-off ticket after scratch-off ticket and taking the time out of my day to go to the closest casino. This is not good for anyone’s wallet, but it was also not great for my relationship with my husband, who watched me spend our well-earned money on stupid things when we did not have the extra cash to be spending. This has since resolved itself months ago, and I haven’t been to a casino in many months.
Last summer, I also managed to take in eight additional cats on top of the nine that I already own. This left us with a very cramped living space (the additional eight cats have now found homes).
BPD Point #5 – Self-Harm
Point five has already been mentioned because it’s self-harming. I will struggle with this behavior forever. I have coping mechanisms and grounding techniques with the help of my therapist to get me through the tough feelings.
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BPD Point #6 – Extreme emotional swings
Extreme emotional feelings come with self-harm, and this is point number six. My therapist once mentioned to me that BPD is, in fact, like bipolar disorder because not only does it come with mood swings, but instead of having those swings last days to weeks, mine could last minutes. I could go from being so deeply depressed to having manic behavior the next second. And sometimes, those feelings are so intense that the only way you can distract yourself is by cutting or burning yourself.
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BPD Point #7 – Chronic feelings of emptiness
Number seven would be having feelings of emptiness that you try to fill in every imaginable way. When I find that I’m sitting watching T.V., I feel like I’m wasting space and that I need to be doing something. Whatever I am doing in that exact moment I feel defines me. Being bored is a terrible feeling to have with BPD. If I’m bored, I feel like I am just an empty shell of a person who needs to find something to fill the time and space I take up. I also feel that this point ties into point number eight, which is explosive anger.
BPD Point #8 – Explosive anger
I have found myself threatening people, punching clocks, and spilling hamster food all over my fiance’s apartment because I was mad at him for some reason. And yes, he still married me. I get so angry I don’t know how to handle myself, and all I can think to do is something that is most likely self-destructive.
BPD Point #9 – Feeling suspicious or out of touch with reality
We have come to the last point: Feeling out of touch with reality and having the thought that maybe you don’t really exist or the person next to you is an illusion you are making up in your mind. It is scary, but you get through it. I sometimes dissociate so intensely that someone will be talking next to me, and I’m three worlds away, and it takes a lot to bring me back to the present. I’ve had people physically turn my head to face them or clap their hands in front of me to bring me back.
It’s sort of an out-of-body experience, like when you write the same word so many times, and it doesn’t look like a word anymore. It’s like that, but with your body and mind. I know your disorders don’t define you, but what if everything in your day is somehow related to that disorder. It can be tiring, so tiring that I have wished for death. There are days that I have debated suicide, but I will keep using that anonymous telephone line and the help of all my friends and family to get me through to the next day because my life is worth living, even throughout the hard parts.
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Parenting A Child With Borderline Personality Disorder
As you can imagine, dealing with all of this information and learning about parenting a child with BPD has had a profound effect on not just Lexi’s life, but also affects my life as her mother. That mention of counseling in the first portion of Lexi’s story is what brought me to a therapist for the very first time. We sat together in that room, our emotions on our sleeves, two very broken women, feeling overwhelmed with the future that lay before us. Neither Lexi nor I had any idea what would happen from that moment forward. We knew we needed help and we prayed that we would find it, starting with that first appointment.
A major question that has plagued me since Lexi’s diagnosis has been “is it my fault my daughter has Borderline Personality Disorder?” The simple answer is no. Could I have helped her learn to deal with it earlier? Most likely, yes. Parenting a child with Borderline Personality Disorder is like parenting any other mental health disorder. There are tools that help. One of my mantras since Lexi’s diagnosis has been, “I did the best I knew how to do with the tools that I had at the time.” This statement, repeated over and over when I’m feeling blue is so importing for emotion regulation. I work hard to tap into my “logic brain” to remind myself that this diagnosis is not my fault and that Lexi is her own person with her own emotions and her own responsibilities for learning how to handle the BPD symptoms.
I will be telling my story in another post very soon so stay tuned!
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