Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) individual possesses an intense fear of abandonment that interferes with many aspects of his / her life. The fear often acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy as they cling to others, are very needy, feel helpless, and become overly involved and immediately attached. When the fear of abandonment becomes overwhelming, he/she will often push others out of his / her life as if trying to avoid abandonment. The cycle most often continues as the BPD will then try everything to get people back in his / her life and once again becomes clingy, needy, and helpless. The fact that people often do leave the BPD only ‘proves’ to support the distorted belief that he/she is insignificant, worthless, and unloved. At this point in the cycle, the BPD may exhibit intense and sudden anger, directed both at self and others, as well as difficulty controlling destructive behaviours.
The borderline mother may display dramatic or hysterical behaviours, overreaction to illness and accidents, and dramatic displays of rage or withdrawl. Borderlines can self-destruct as a result of fear of abandonment and often use emotional blackmail to control others. Children of BPD mothers often struggle with feelings of shame, anxiety, and guilt. My mother has exhibited all of the above, and as I result I have struggled with anxiety and guilt.
Distinctively I remember several times my BPD mother became uncontrollably hysterical in the hospital when I was to leave from visiting. I also remember when my Dad would go on business trips, my mother would become hysterical begging him not to leave her. She also has overreacted to her illnesses through the last two decades, creating a terminal illness situation where she is in dire straits. Yes, she is ill, but not so ill that she can’t dust her thimble collection which she had me come over to take care of! And through the years, the mention of my Dad has always thrown her over the edge– he’s been the catalyst of her rage since their separation in 1979. And although the separation and subsequent divorce was between her and my Dad, I have been the recipient of her rage in regard to him. Even the smallest mention of him can send her into a fit of rage. She wields guilt with skilful agility, and she is able to skillfully manipulate your emotions to suit her needs at the time.
My mother and I have been estranged off and on in 5 year cycles for most of my life. During ‘good’ times, her BPD symptoms consisted of inappropriate social behaviour, bouts of depression, impulsive behaviours (shopaholic, over-eating, hoarding, self-medicating), and unstable patterns of social relationships. During the 1999 – 2004 period, her dysfunctional and critical behaviours were not aimed at me, and therefore, we floated along in a relationship.
I had the opportunity to ask my mother why she became so enraged with the fact that my Dad sent me a box of dishes in 1996– to the point where she called me a ‘bitch’ and hung up the phone on me and we didn’t talk for almost 4 years. She explained that she wanted to be assured that I could live life without her. She said it was a test. Hmmmmm…
As a side note, I had been living on my own since 1985 (11 years at this point). I don’t know why she would feel compelled to see if I could manage without her when I have proven I could live as a single woman for over a decade. If she was wondering if I could emotionally handle living without her, we had already gone that route when I was estranged from her in the 70′s and then 80′s for periods of time. Her explanation was rather bizarre (there’s that word again!) BUT gave me reassurance for what I already knew– my mother was the driving force behind the explosions of rage, her turn from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde, and the estrangements.
The estrangement in the 1980′s ended after several years when my mother showed up unannounced at my job. I was flabbergasted when I looked up to see her standing there– and I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I had made it on my own through college, I secured three jobs, I saved up and purchased a car, and I had my own place that I paid for on my own. I was out on my own and doing well, and I didn’t feel comfortable letting her back into my life. I gave her a chance to speak her mind, sitting in my car after I got off of work. She said that she wanted to start repairing our relationship, explained that she got “help”, and promised she wouldn’t do what she did to me again (she became enraged that I came in town from college for a 24-hour period and didn’t see her, stating that I don’t love her. She asked me not to come home for Thanksgiving & Christmas and put all of my possessions on the street. I had exams and couldn’t pick up my possessions so I had to send friends). I decided to let her back into my life after the talk in the car, and our relationship was okay for a period of time.
Prior to our current estrangement, my mother and I were getting along. We visited with each other at least two times a month, I was helping her to get her house organized & cleaned (including her illustrious thimble collection), and we talked on the phone often sharing life experiences. If my mother had remained stable as described, I could tolerate her quirks and maintain contact. I never thought I had an authentic relationship with her, however, as I had to walk on eggshells around her regarding my Dad, my childhood, and any discussions related to either.
My current estrangement started mid-way through 2004 when she didn’t agree with what my then fiance (now husband) and I were discussing in regard to our wedding. We didn’t have any wedding plans; in fact, we hadn’t even started doing any planning) In my opinion, the estrangement with my mother didn’t occur because she blew up about the wedding– the estrangement occurred because of:
a complete loss of trust originating from her campaign of denigration (horrible criticisms, lies, exaggerations, and manipulations) against me and how she distorted and manipulated the facts of what happened If she simply expressed her disagreement with my wedding in a controlled and thoughtful manner, the estrangement may not have happened AT THAT POINT. Now don’t get me wrong– the estrangement would have happened as it’s happened about every 5 years. SOMETHING would have set off her fuse and caused a blow-up to which she would overreact. But the actual conflict, disagreeing with what I had to say about my wedding, wasn’t the cause of the estrangement. The estrangement was caused by all of my mother’s behaviour THEREAFTER that got worse and worse and more bizarre as days when by. After only 24 hours, my mother had already started talking poorly and spreading lies about me & the situation to whomever she could email. Loving and supportive mothers do not treat their children in this manner.
And therein lies the root of the Borderline’s tragic personality– what drives the Borderline’s personality is their real or imagined fear of rejection and / or abandonment. Clearly her cycles of depression, manic, and psychotic phases of BPD are evident through her patterns of estranged relationships: myself, her father, her sister, my brother, her three husbands, circles of friends discarded. So, with the wedding being an event where she perceived a potential abandonment, she flipped the situation to where she claims I rejected her… or as she puts it, I ‘kicked’ her ‘out’ of the wedding.
More specifically, Borderlines have such a fear of abandonment that they set up a situation to be rejected. Someone with BPD can turn a on a dime, seemingly out-of-the blue, around the time that they feel threatened by rejection or abandonment. Along with a huge blow-up that is irrational and not based on reality, the BPD starts a campaign of denigration to turn friends and family against her target of rage (me in this case).
Despite how nonsensical this sounds to you the reader, this behaviour is part and parcel of the BPD personality. The BPD is essentially beating the target of rage (me) to the punch by starting a situation that ultimately must end in an estrangement, and in the process attempts to gather the target of rage’s (my) friends and family as allies in order to confirm that it’s not his / her fault. This crazy transformation accompanied by the campaign of denigration is usually too much for the target of rage (me) to handle; thus the target of rage (me) retreats and the BPD’s fears of abandonment come to fruition by all fault of his /her own. The result is an estrangement with the BPD pleading she /he is the victim. The target of rage (me) who went from being idealized to devalued almost instantaneously, is left stunned and puzzled in regard to the transformation.
Even in the absence of my wedding, another situation would have certainly presented itself where my mother would have flipped her lid, and the idealization of me would have instantaneously changed to devaluation. This pattern has presented itself in the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s, and 2000′s when my mother would flip her lid about petty or minuscule things ending with an estrangement.
Another point is that the incident that initiates the conflict is not what causes the estrangement. What causes the estrangement is my mother’s behaviour that progressively gets worse and worse thereafter: anger, venom, hatred, manipulations, gossip, and lies. Trust is damaged time and time again– until the trust is completely lost. This present estrangement, unlike the other 3, is permanent. The tragic cycle of the BPD: fear of abandonment and rejection resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This post was written by Gretel Ella author of the blog The Queen and King (http://thequeenandking.blogspot.com), so do please check her out if you get a chance.