As a mom who suffers from borderline personality disorder, I was disheartened when searching on Google under BPD parenting. What I was able to find in my search was page after page of negative information, and misguided opinions masquerading as facts. Articles, blog posts, even excerpts from the student journal of psychology. I felt that what I found were skillfully placed yet loosely based “facts”. These “facts” seamed to explain how children of mothers with BPD were somehow damaged by default. Apparently children become disadvantaged and troubled youth simply by being the children of a mother diagnosed with BPD. Finding such negative resources I was angry, saddened, disappointing and well beyond frustrated.
Among the online resources I found while searching parenting with BPD, there was one site that stood out. I will be honest it’s not the first time I found on this site a negatively constructed article on life with people having BPD. The most common site was one called of all things BPDfamily….for shame on them! Articles such as “How a mother with borderline personality disorder affects her kids”, or “Are the children of a BPD parent likely to suffer emotional abuse”? When it comes to parenting, and the affects of parents on children I feel like its really a mixed bag of variables. I could write articles all day about ways different parents will make mistakes that will alter a child’s life. A family is defined as; ”a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not”. They can be adopted, blood related, single parent, homosexual partners, heterosexual partners, close nit or separated To single out a group affected by one particular disorder, and focus so much on the negativity involved seems criminal.
I really don’t like to be negative but under the circumstances, with the over abundance of outright slander, I feel I must be direct. Not only was I outraged due to the implications made on mothers having BPD, but also on the fact that newly diagnosed women, men, and couples will search what the diagnosis of BPD means to them and their lives, only to find articles such as these. Such an abundance of negatively constructed information may well change the course of their lives from what it could otherwise be. Decisions such as; being involved in a relationship, getting married, having a family, even living life at all could be negatively impacted. To me this type of information floating about is just unacceptable and highly discriminatory. And worse yet these articles and papers appeared to be passing purely hypothetical information off as ipso facto information.
Well folks I have four children and I have BPD. Here are some facts; I am not perfect, I do not have all the answers, and I have and will make mistakes. Here are some other facts; all of the the facts I just mentioned apply to all mothers. Does BPD create unique challenges in being a mother? Absolutely it does! Other things that could create challenges in parenting could be a mom who is; a first time mom, a perfectionist, single, employed full time, suffering from a handicap, etc. No matter who you are or what your life entails there can be issues or challenges you cannot change or plan for, and yet you can still have a full and successful life. BPD is also absolutely one of those things that can be turned around and navigated successfully.
Some of the main challenges we absolutely face as BPD parents are;
Emotional Dysregulation - Rapid change in mood often without an ability to control the emotion associated with them. This can be difficult in parenting as children do get cues from their environment so it can affect the way children relate to parents, other peers and their own feelings. How do we combat this as parents? In using skills such as dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT, we learn to recognize emotional outburst, to find more effective ways to deal with and express our emotions. We talk openly about areas where we have trouble as our children get older; we are honest about the fact that some of the ways we deal with things are not alright.
Black and White Thinking - The all or nothing thinking suffered by those of us having BPD can certainly present challenges in parenting. Children are not all good or all bad and it is our job to be sure to remind ourselves of this. The things they do can be more than just right or wrong, there are areas in between. From schoolwork to grades, thoughts or decisions our children will have a range of experiences and outcomes. Our job is to accept that these experiences and differing outcomes are a normal part of development not necessarily right or wrong. However it is still our job to apply appropriate and fitting reactions, boundaries, and even consequences where appropriate.
It also means we have to be able understand and accept that areas where our children struggle in life is not a direct result of you as a parent. Recognizing that when you do make a mistake it does not mean you are and always will be an absolute failure.
BPD Rages - In a reference from About.com on Borderline Personality Disorder anger and rages are explained here; “Intense, inappropriate anger is one of the most troubling symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is so intense that it is often referred to as “borderline rage.” While anger is a key feature of BPD, very little is known about why people with BPD experience anger differently than other people or even how this experience is different.”
This is a difficult area in parenting and thankfully there are ways to overcome it. By again learning DBT skills and learning how to regulate our own emotions, Using skiils like acting opposite to a currecnt emotion. We can also learn how to use positive means to appropriately deal with anger and difficult emotions. An excellent reference on dealing with anger please check out this great article by Healing from BPD ; Appropriately experiencing and letting go of anger
Impulse Control - Arguably, this could be one of the most destructive aspects of BPD , and certainly presents real areas of difficulty, and potential danger in our lives as well as those of our children. In dealing with these particular issues I feel that those of us having BPD would greatly benefit from an acceptance that there needs to be limits in certain areas of our lives. As with any issues knowing where healthy boundaries need to be placed, and learning to enforce them are skills we absolutely need. Some of the prominent areas of known impulsiveness suffered by those having BPD are;
- Reckless handling of finances
- Reckless Driving
- Promiscuous sex
- Verbal abuse of others
- Threatening to harm selves or others
- Being involved in physical altercations
Obviously these behaviors are not beneficial for anyone trying to raise children, and learning how to control our impulses or avoid people and locations that may cause difficulty in controlling them would be the best option.
Self Image - Suffering from a negative self image or low low self-esteem is said to be a hallmark issue for those suffering with BPD. Learning how to have a positive view and love for ourselves is important. Whether its issues of worth, the way we look, ourselves, or the areas where we contribute in life the views we have on these subjects tend to be negative.
In reality we are usually so much more than the person we see, and the way we believe we are perceived by others. These perceptions and views can most definitely be passed on, and adopted by our children. Once adopted and applied in their own lives this particular behavior can become a huge hindrance. For this one we have to take the time to learn the positive things about ourselves, and learn to accept even to apply them. It is my hope that by learning to exercise the ability to view ourselves positively, we will not only improve the lives of our children but our own lives as well.
Areas where we can excel as parents with BPD;
The simple fact that we are here says we know how to overcome the most difficult of challenges. Our children are seeing us struggle, and work through difficult situations all the time. This gives us the opportunity, done correctly, to teach our children by example that they too can overcome difficult obstacles.
By explaining what we struggle with, admitting areas where we make mistakes, and areas where we have acted inappropriately in a situation. In doing this we teach our children to accept that they will make mistakes, and that it’s ok to recognize them. It also helps them to see that they can learn from and change them as well.
Compassion and empathy is another area where those having BPD can excel. We can use our deep emotional reservoirs to share our feelings of compassion and empathy with our children, giving them a rare and important ability to realize the world through others eyes. Many BPD sufferers are active in activism against social injustices, animal rescue, and are often involved in speaking for those who often can’t speak for themselves.
Art and creativity are a strong ability often seen in those having BPD. Sharing our love of creativity through; music, painting, drawing, sculpting and writing are among the many areas we are vividly able to express ourselves. This unique ability can most defiantly be a special and useful gift to our children. Imparting on our children a love for art, and other such open forms of creative expression can go a long way in positive development.
At the end of the day the fact is that we do have an obligation to educate ourselves, just as anyone does on how to deal with our areas of difficulty. And fortunately there are resources out there that can help you; from psychiatrists and counselors, to books and informational websites, even free or low cost groups and family classes. You can be the best parent you can be, there are options, an enjoyable and successful life is always possible.
Please understand while I do have BPD, I am not all people with BPD. My suggestions, observations and advice are not going to be a blanket statement. All parents are going to struggle with how to be the best parent. All parents are going to have personal obstacles to overcome, both voluntary and involuntary. Those of us who know what we are dealing with each have the same opportunity, the same ability to find education or educate ourselves. In taking the opportunity in educating, and learning about ourselves we then have the ability to be the best parents, regardless of our specific challenges. Parents having BPD are no exception, and just like everyone else we have strengths and understanding others simply don’t have. We may not have chosen BPD but we have a choice to learn about it, to take control of our lives in spite of it, and to be the best people, the best parents possible.