I was officially diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) when I was 19 years old. My mom and doctors had a pretty good hunch the signs weren’t just “typical teenage behavior” the closer I got to 18, but it wasn’t until I began seeing a psychiatrist on my own at the age of 19 that I was officially diagnosed.
In junction with my BPD, I’m also diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Fast forward five years and here I am. I’m a mother to a 3-year-old boy, and I’ve spent the past three years trying to get parenting “right” in spite of my BPD tendencies. Between my impulsive spending habits, anger that seems to stem from some dark place deep inside and the black and white thinking I can’t seem to get under control, it’s been the most challenging and emotionally trying three years of my life so far. I spent a lot of time researching how to successfully parent while living with BPD. Much to my dismay, the majority of the articles and pages I’ve found were not supportive of parents who live with BPD. Instead, I found numerous websites and articles devoted to support of the children damaged by a parent with BPD, articles that warned others about the abuse a child with a parent with BPD is likely to experience and tips on how to ensure a child is safe emotionally and physically while being parented by someone living with BPD.
This got me thinking: If I could say anything as a parent who lives with BPD, what would I say?
These five things are what I came up with:
1. I love my son.
And not in the sense of BPD-typical black and white thinking where one day I love him and the next I can’t feel it. The one thing that is consistent, no matter what, is that I love my son more than I ever thought was possible. Even on my bad days, he is the one light I can find in all the dark.
2. I’ve learned to manage my anger.
In spite of my issues with anger, I’ve never abused my son physically or verbally. I used to be a very explosively angry person, irrationally so. It is a daily battle to keep my temper in check, but I’m living proof that a parent who lives with BPD can successfully manage their anger. I’ve found that giving myself a “parental time out” when I feel close to just losing it has helped immensely.
3. My ability to be a good mother isn’t defined by my diagnosis.
In spite of the articles I’ve read that basically say children of parents with BPD are doomed to be miserable and damaged, I’m determined to prove I can and will be a good mother to my son. I work ten times harder to get being a mother “right” because of my BPD. My son means the world to men and I refuse to let the stereotypical idea of mom with BPD influence who I am as a parent.
4. I know parenting with BPD is hard.
I don’t need to be reminded that things are going to be harder for me as a parent because I live with BPD. I’ve had several people say to me, “You do understand things aren’t going to get easier, right? It’s always going to be harder for you.” Yes, I do understand that. I also understand that fighting harder every day to manage my impulses, anger, self-destructive thoughts and black and white thinking is worth it. My son is worth it.
5. We’re going to be OK.
My son is going to always have a roof over his head, food to eat, clothes to wear and a mom who loves him. We have our good days, and we have our days where handling my “issues” is more difficult, but I know in my heart we will be OK. I’m not alone in my battle to raise my son while managing my BPD. I have an amazing support system, and I have the determination to beat the stigma that revolves around being a parent with BPD.