Hello, all! This is another mini-episode with just one question, but boy is it a good one. If you didn’t catch the last episode, I am doing a series of short episodes while I crank out the finishing touches on my online course, Kick Anxiety’s Ass.
Hi, Dr. Duff,
I recently found your podcasts and am so grateful for the work you do. Thank you.
For background – I am in my mid40s and a mom to two small children, 5 & 2. Almost a year ago, I was diagnosed as BPD after I was hospitalized for trying to commit suicide. At that time, I had been working with a psychiatrist for my depression and anxiety. I also have dermotiliomania and tear my skin off when anxious or upset, something I’ve been doing since I was about 15. I also tried committing suicide a couple times in 7th grade but made it out. After the death of Kate Spade, I was despondent because I realized I may be facing a life time battle. So again, I was suicidal but my partner talked me down.
My main issue is I am not confident I can get a handle on my BPD so that I won’t traumatize my children and see suicide as a way to protect them from me. I am seeing a therapist and still seeing my psychiatrist. Do you have any recommendations on what I can do to stop seeing my partner as my hero or enemy? Because he bears the brunt of much of my BPD, and I’m terrified he will leave me.
Thank you for listening. I’m really not that crazy. I have a good job and am otherwise a functional adult. I wanted to know how borderlines parent and what I can do be a better borderline parent. I practice yoga daily, try to meditate daily and exercise regularly. Thanks again.
Well first off – I’m glad you’re still around and kudos for you for doing the work and going to therapy and your psychiatrist despite not being fully confident in the process. That’s huge. With any mental health issues that cause strong fluctuations in mood or clarity, it’s important to establish consistency, especially with your care. So that’s really good. There are sort of a few different questions in here, so I’ll try to tackle them one at a time.
In terms of not seeing your partner as the hero or the enemy – that’s a tough one. One of the most common things that happens in borderline is to have that pattern of idolizing someone and then being completely done with them or resentful of them. I tend to call it a “boom and bust” relationship pattern. The ones closest to you that you have the strongest feelings for will often be the ones this applies to. However, you’ve been together this long. It’s important to realize that neither of you fell in love with the other’s mental illness or lack thereof. You fell in love with each other because there was something about one another that you enjoyed and appreciated. At this point, he understands your fluctuations and he understands his own difficulties within the context of the relationship. It’s just something that you guys have to work with. He needs to learn to not take things personally and you need to remember that you don’t always feel the way that you do in the moment once some time has gone by. Focus on the good aspects of your relationship and the strength that has been built by going through some crazy shit together. Are there mutual activities that you enjoy? Are there values that you share? Work on cherishing and amplifying those rather than trying to fix one another.
Now to the question of your children and raising them appropriately – I suggest you look up some influencers on instagram, youtube etc. that have borderline and have children. I can think of one off the top of my head – selfloveclubb – she has borderline and is totally open about her struggles, but you see her with her kid and there’s just the most love in the world. She recognizes her limitations and has a support network in place if she is ever not able to fully provide for his needs, but her little one only knows that his mom loves him so so much. In fact, I think there are a lot of positives to being raised by a mother with mental illness, as long as that mental illness does not cause you to be neglectful etc. You can understand that there’s real shit in life that goes beyond all of the stuff you see on tv or on the internet. You are also in a unique position to help them understand their own mental health, whether or not they struggle with it. Because you’ve done so much of the work on your own and you have your own lived experiences.
Again, just like with your partner, sometimes it’s not the most helpful to focus directly on what you consider to be the problem, but instead amplify the positive aspects. Is this a lifelong journey? Yeah. It definitely can be. But there are so many people that live wonderful lives and are able to make a positive impact on the world and/or raise children that they are proud of with the same set of difficulties. You can do it to. Keep getting the help you need, keep trying to be consistent where you can, and try to have some grace with yourself when you feel like you’ve been off, so that you can get back on track even quicker.