Until recently, Borderline Personality Disorder was widely misunderstood, misdiagnosed and rarely spoken about. The friends and families in relationship to people with BPD often suffered in silence, especially the children. At present, there is a treatment developed by Marsha Linehan called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). While I am so grateful for the help that is available to individuals with BPD, I feel it is important that we continue to validate the experience of those in relationship to them and offer support. The content of this page is written from the lens of a child whose mother suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. I write this, not only for myself, but for all children living with a parent who is out of control as a result of addiction or mental illness. For those who continue to suffer, may you find your voice and your light amid the darkness.
Feed Me Your Affection
Feed me your affection in the form of square salty crackers with a cheesy after taste and an orange hue.
Feed it to me in the form of caramel filled balls dipped in chocolate or a bag of movie popcorn.
In the queso and tortilla chips on the table or at the Sears candy counter.
Feed it to me as Christmas mashed potatoes and Yorkshire pudding, holiday fudge shaped like Texas or gooey pecan bread that I can’t get enough of.
Don’t feed it in the form of stale cigarette smoke, the alcohol on your breath, or hours of TV.
Not in the form of careless words or a fly swatter to my back. Don’t feed me in the form of shame or rage or fear.
Don’t feed me sleepless nights and stomach aches or anxiety attacks.
Please don’t feed me your depression or your illness.
Don’t feed me your affection in the form of false promises and manipulation, suffocating hugs and reckless driving. Your screaming and yelling do not sustain me.
I watch you feed yourself and it makes me want to starve.
Send Me A Savior
Oprah had my mom's attention every weekday at 4pm. This powerful woman, who seemed to rise out of nowhere with the message that anything was possible, became my beacon of hope as day after day she brought healing and change to ordinary lives. To me, she felt like the closest thing to God and I desperately needed God or Oprah's help. I spent many moments as a child hiding on my hands and knees begging God to let me die. It was one of the many secrets I held, I wanted out through death or a savior but either way I couldn't stand living with my mother anymore. Years passed and Oprah never did come to the door with a vision board outlining her plan to adopt me and God didn't take my life. I kept my secret and my family's secrets for years until I moved away to college and the silence started to eat away at me like rust on a car.
It was evident, based on our library of self help books, that my mother knew something was wrong. I remember her many therapists and the different medications but nothing seemed to stick and in fact she seemed to get worse year after year. Her emotions were completely unregulated and we were at her mercy. I heard whispers from members of my family that she might have Borderline Personality Disorder but no one was willing to say it out loud or do anything about it. In my twenties, having moved over 1000 miles away to New York City, I was beyond weary of her on again/off again relationship to her illness. The last straw was when she called me after trying AA for a week. She had decided it wasn't for her and that she could manage on her own. I could have written the script on this one but the hope always overshadowed what I knew in my heart to be true. She wasn't going to get better and this time, somehow I knew it. I was done. I hung up the phone and almost 14 years later, I haven't spoken to her since.
A few yearsafter ending my relationship to my mother, I still believed that Oprah could somehow save me. I wrote a letter to her show asking them to do a story on Borderline parents. I was desperate for someone to start a conversation about this disorder and its effect on families. BPD was still widely misunderstood and my childhood felt like a bad dream that no one would believe. I was looking for validation and for an advocate but as it turned out, O magazine had already done a small piece on BPD. They wrote me a nice letter explaining that because of this, they weren't planning to do a show on it anytime soon. I was deflated and felt so stupid and naive for believing that Oprah or anyone at her show would see my letter and find it important enough to rally the cause. It was then that I realized I was never going to be "saved" from my mother and I had better get started saving myself.
Running No More
I learned the art of running, from my mom. She ran from places, relationships, bad memories, boredom, debt, creditors, careers, reality and always the darkness that crept into each new home. If we weren't moving into a new house or apartment then there was a cosmetic overhaul to our current one, which in my teenage years often involved gold or black spray paint. As long as the environment, person, job, or credit card was new, it seemed to offer the necessary distraction to whatever she was running from. When I was old enough, I began running. I ran to different places and different countries while running from one relationship to the next, severing ties with friends along the way. To be honest, I didn't know how to grow or cultivate a connection that I could sustain in the first place, either friend or lover. Each time I ran, I submerged the pain and loss of the relationships I left behind. As much as I thought pretending I didn't care was lessening my load, I was unknowingly carrying the baggage of my past with me and it was getting really heavy.
Somehow at 26, I ended up running to the East Village of New York City where I felt welcome for the first time in my life. The energy, the alternative vibe, and the anonymity were exactly what I needed to rest for a while. The first time the man, who is now my husband came to my East Village apartment, he looked around and said it looked like a gypsy lived there. There was nothing on the walls and there were no personal objects sitting around, in fact, there was no reflection of me in that apartment. He was right, in some ways I was living like a gypsy, careful not to settle down or into anything. Thankfully he didn't seem threatened by my nomadic tendencies. As our relationship deepened, he recognized that underneath I was longing for stability and with his help we made that little apartment a home.
The more comfortable and stable I felt in that apartment however, the more disruption I felt inside myself. I didn't have the usual distractions that moving provided. Instead of focusing on adjusting to a new city, a new home or connecting the phone and cable after a move, I had to learn to connect to myself. The lack of distraction forced me to confront the trauma and pain of my childhood. Consequently, I mindfully ended my relationship with each of my parents. I can say several years later, due to lot of good therapy and an amazing support system, the journey through the pain, the memories and the feelings I unearthed in order to connect to myself, was worth it.
My husband and I now have two amazing boys and together the love they reflect back in my face is so bright at times it's blinding. As I walked through the city 14 years later thinking about our impending move to South Carolina, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the East Village. It was a place I could call home while I established a home within myself. I recognized that for the first time in my life I wasn't running away from but running toward something and bringing my little family with me.
Copyright © 2015 by Ashley Torrent