Do You Have a Borderline Parent?

Do you feel like you can never make a decision? Do you think that you can’t handle things yourself? Do you believe you’re flawed, unworthy? Does the thought of loving yourself sound ridiculous, vain, selfish? Do you anticipate that life just isn’t going to be good, no matter what you do? Do you find yourself defending those who mistreat you? Are you always blaming and shaming yourself for things that aren’t a big deal? Does criticism send you into a tailspin from which you find it difficult to recover? Do you undersell your abilities and accomplishments to the point where you miss out on opportunities? Do you mistrust your own feelings and work hard not to let them show? Are you constantly trying to earn/re-earn approval, respect, love, and acceptance? Keep reading…

Is it possible you have a Borderline Parent? Maybe you do and you don’t even know. The thing is, if your parent is a Borderline you may be living a life that’s not your own; one of fear, shame, guilt and doubt. How can you tell if your parent is a Borderline? Well, first of all, see if any of the following sound familiar to you…

A person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) exhibits an extreme inability to regulate or control emotions, marked impulsivity, instability of interpersonal relationships, and a tremendous fear of abandonment. Approximately 2% of Americans, predominantly women, have BPD, which translates to about 6 million people nationwide. Having a parent (mother or father) with BPD can be devastating to your self-worth and seriously hamper your ability to live your adult life to the fullest.

Maybe you’re starting to think that this could be why your childhood was so miserable and your adulthood isn’t going so well either. In their outstanding book, Surviving a Borderline Parent, Kimberlee Roth and Freda B. Friedman, Ph.D., LCSW, describe the nine diagnostic criteria for BPD in the following way:
1. Frantic attempts to prevent feelings of actual or perceived abandonment or rejection.
2. Patterns of relationships that are intense and unstable; repeated tendencies to shift between extremes of loving and hating another person.
3. Difficulty describing the self, interests, or aspirations; frequent shifts in self-perception.
4. Impulsive, often reckless, self-harming behaviors in areas such as substance abuse, binge eating, overspending, promiscuous sex, reckless driving, shoplifting.
5. Repeated suicide attempts or threats, or self-injuring behaviors.
6. Frequent mood swings and intense emotional reactions, irritability or anxiety of changing duration-anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
7. Ongoing or frequent feeling of being hollow, empty or fake.
8. Either underexpressed or overexpressed feelings of anger, seen in frequent displays of temper, rage, recurrent physical fights, or extreme sarcasm or withdrawal.
9. Brief extreme periods of mistrust, paranoia, or feelings of unreality (numbness, disconnection).
It’s very very important to note that, after reading these descriptions, people have a tendency to wonder if they might be a Borderline themselves. Keep in mind that the aforementioned traits are examples of extreme exaggerations of normal human behavior. While you may have been exposed to these behaviors throughout your childhood (and you may even exhibit them to a lesser extent), that does not mean you’re a Borderline. The difference is that a Borderline consistently demonstrates these extreme and volatile behaviors.

If your parent is a Borderline, you likely had a childhood full of extreme highs and debilitating lows. You were probably praised and showered with affection one minute, and then belittled, sabotaged (or even beaten) the next. You tried to always be perfect so that your parent didn’t get mad. You kept your needs and feelings secret, so that they wouldn’t be picked apart or mocked. You learned to read your parents moods and would act accordingly, as best you could. Only, it didn’t always work, did it? You became hypervigilant-to no avail. You couldn’t ever really pacify, please, accommodate your Borderline parent enough. The rules to the game were always changing, and only your parent knew what they were. Worst of all, nobody helped you. Nobody dared to interfere. You were trapped in a crazy-making hall of mirrors, with no one to point you toward the exit.

How in the world were you supposed to learn appropriate life lessons in that kind of environment? You couldn’t possibly have a “childhood.” High school turned out to be a nightmarish Petri dish where your negative (read: false) self-image was allowed to fester and grow. You were unwittingly enacting the role your parent assigned to you. You were told that you were: stupid, lazy, ugly, unlovable, a disappointment. Being yourself wasn’t even an option that was open to discussion. Yet, for some reason, you felt sorry for your Borderline parent. You tried to help them and understand them when no one else would. They could always lure you back into their deadly embrace if you started to wander. Any attempts you made to grow up and grow apart were met with scorn and ridicule or worse still, threats of suicide.

Somehow, you have survived and made it to this very moment. I applaud you. I am thrilled for you as only a fellow survivor can be. Welcome to your future. If you’re trying to heal the lingering wounds of a battlefield childhood, please come see us at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando. Our Counselors and Life Coaches can help you to separate out who you really are meant to be. At the very least, I highly recommend that you read, Surviving a Borderline Parent by Kimberlee Roth and Freda B. Friedman, Ph.D., LCSW. The information in this book is so thoroughly and thoughtfully presented, you will feel like you have finally found someone who understands your past, present and future. However, once you start reading it, I’m sure you’ll want someone to talk to about everything that’s happened. Call us. 407-355-7378. -Kim

Kim