Unhappy Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, which often means families are reunited. This is suppose to be a happy occasion. But for those with borderline personality disorder, it can bring back mixed emotions and repressed memories. I re-posted the article below as a reminder of what it’s like to grow up in a borderline family. It’s like something out of a bad soap opera. Some, like Skye, have chosen to acknowledge their past in order to make sense of their disorder. Others, like Andrea, live in denial. Despite the abuse, infidelity, the violation of boundaries and hints of alcoholism, BPs like Andrea, remember their family life with fondness. They use terms of endearment when they speak about family members. But somewhere in the back of their mind are disturbing memories. If nothing else, this stark contrast reminds us how two people, with relatively similar backgrounds, can deal with their pasts in entirely different ways.

Bear in mind, Andrea was a product of sexual abuse. Skye was not. While both of them share the BPD thread, the trauma that ignited their condition are two different beasts. Both of them came from chaotic families where the parents frequently fought in front of the kids. But Skye’s BPD was shaped mostly by emotional abuse and emotional neglect. Could it be that Andrea’s trauma was worse and therefore more difficult to accept? More difficult to treat? It reminds us that not all BPs are created equal. BPD is a disease that is shaped by the trauma that created it.

While Skye was not shy about confronting her mother about her abuse. Andrea found it difficult, because she feared it would unravel her family. She feared her family would abandon her. The one time she confronted her mother, it ended with her mother getting upset and accusing everyone of ganging up on her. When BPs confront their abuser, it rarely ends well. It usually ends with denial or the abuser accuses the abused of being crazy. Which is why most BPs give up this endeavor. And so many BPs are left with unresolved feelings of anger and sadness. Instead they bring these troubled emotions into their relationships.

Loved ones then become emotional punching bags for the BP to work out their past hostility. Small infractions are punished with wildly vindictive acts and a disproportionate amount of rage. Gross accusations and vicious insults are hurled at loved ones for minor slip-ups. A tiny argument can easily escalate into an ugly war. Leaving the partner of the BP to wonder what they did to deserve such animosity. They did nothing, other than choosing to love someone who is emotionally damaged. In time, this abuse will affect the partner’s emotional well-being, leaving him/her scarred for life.

It should be noted that BPs are selective abusers. They only abuse those closest to them. To strangers and acquaintances, they may seem like the most charming and sweetest person they’ve ever met. And they might very well be. BPs are complicated people. They are both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At times, it is hard to tell who is the real borderline. The fact may be that a borderline is a little bit of both. Being abused by a borderline is a lonely experience, because no one else may know the suffering you have gone through. The emotional push and pull and the never ending mind games are abuses that are exclusive to those who are unfortunate enough to love an untreated BP.

Not even their own family, may be aware of the abuse doled out by a BP. And if they do, they may be in denial or just choose to look the other way. Other people’s emotional trauma (caused by their loved one) is not a concern for most BP families. They have enough problems of their own. Compassion is not a key trait amongst these families. A BP in denial comes from a family in denial. Families of BPs often try to silence their critics. They demonize and belittle those who would point out the error of their ways. But instead of discrediting their detractors, they only highlight the level of denial that keeps dysfunctional people dysfunctional. Instead of healing the family from within, they choose to attack outsiders who know too much.

But there is a bit of irony here. A BP leaves the family to escape the horrors of his/her past. They look for intimate relationships to start fresh and to create a new family. But they only end up repeating dysfunctional and abusive patterns they have learned from their family.

Instead of punishing the family that abused them, BPs end up punishing an unwitting passerby. Someone who didn’t realize what he/she was getting into. This person will become just another casualty of war. A BP like Andrea, will refuse to accept responsibility for her disorder and the harm she has caused others. She will just simply move onto the next victim. In her mind, she is always the victim but never the abuser. She couldn’t be more wrong. All abusers were once victims. In real life, there are no bad guys or good guys. There are only tragedies that lead to more tragedies. Until we all acknowledge this, the cycle of abuse will go on.

2 Responses to “Unhappy Thanksgiving”

  1. skyeee said

    This makes me quite terrified. I do this. I turn minor things into huge blowouts. I have the capability to acknowledge it, yet do not grasp the power to prevent it. I think to myself, “thankfully I’m young, thankfully I see it,” but I feel like that’s not enough. I know I won’t be completely treated overnight…but I worry. I worry it’ll be 10 years later and then my husband decides, “Screw this ! This is crazy !” and leaves…it’s, not lack of a better word, frightening.

    • savorydish said

      Whew, I’m just glad you’re ok. You had me worried there. Having the capability to acknowledge it is a huge step. It’s what gives you the potential to someday be able to prevent it. You’re right, it won’t be overnight. But the fact that you are aware of this is also a good sign. It means you’re in it for the long haul. I can’t speak for your husband. But if my ex had had this type of commitment, we would still be together. Partners of BPs are rarely looking for perfection. They just want to know that you know and appreciate how hard it is for them. They also want to know you’re sincerely trying and you seem like you are.

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