What is it like to be raised by a borderline mom?

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

This is my journey from pain to healing to leading a happy life. The entire process of healing startet on a literal journey for me. I was on a roadtrip in Australia and later New Zealand with my boyfriend to "find myself". The funny thing is that it doesn´t work that way. You can´t just find yourself. It is not like you go on a hike and look behind a bush and there you are! That would be way too easy. Rather, I began to uncover the pathology of my whole family, triggered by certain events that happened throughout the trip with the necessary space and distance the time overseas provided me with. I started to understand what was going on and how it shaped me. That led me to understanding that the only way to healing and being myself is to unlearn who they taught me to be first. Australia especially is still like home to me, because this is where my journey to myself started. The country has amazing healing energy. This is why I will use pictures of my trip frequently in this bog.

I have to mention, though, that my mom was never diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. What I´m stating here are only assumptions from my side and insight that came through research and therapy. Also, Borderline Personality Disorder exists on a continuum. While some borderlines exhibit severe syptoms and traits others exist on the milder end of the spectrum. My mother, most of the time, lingers in the milder ranges. That said, it might be worthwhile to mention that my therapist called her crazy in our second session.

Christine Ann Lawson writes about four different symptom clusters in her book "Understanding the Borderline Mother" that make up for four different subtypes of moms with BPD. Those are the waif mother, the hermit mother, the queen mother and the witch. My mom happens to be the waif mother. She wasn´t evil or physically abusive. But Gosh was she neglecting and invalidating. Because she was drowning in her own pain of her own upbringing and unfullfilling relationships she passed her legacy on to me. This is what all this is about, isn´t it? Vicious cycles repeating themselves. My mom´s parents were severely abusive to her. She was beaten regularly whenever she came home from school with anything less than an A. No warmth. No safe haven. No emotional support. No growing or evolving. They clipped her wings by telling her on a daily basis how stupid and incapable she was. She believed them. And so did I when I was told exactly the same things.

So what does it look like to have a borderline (waif) mother in real life?

It is the invalidation of your feelings. "Oh come on, don´t be so sensitive! You act like a baby!"

It is the denial of reality. "That never happened!", "I didn´t mean it that way! Why do you have to make such a big deal out of this?"

It is the body shaming. "Oh you should stop eating so much! Look at your waist! Why don´t you go on a diet?" (I have to mention that I never was overweight, she was. So this was probably only projection or her living through me and so her need of me being perfect.)

It is the guilt tripping. "I did everything I could for you! Why are you so ungrateful? I had it so much worse than you!"

It is the parentification. "Sit down with me, I need to talk about my problems. Your dad is treating me badly. My sex life is so unfulfilling. I never have enough money. Your grandparents are so mean to me." (That started when I was around 7 years old.)

It is the threats. "I just want to leave and live all by myself! You and your dad are such a burden!"

It is the neglect. The daily not seeing me, not listening to me, needing me to be okay so she won´t have to attend to my needs. I remember being terrified as a kid whenever my parents took me to some place, anywhere really, that they would just abandon me.

When I had my first heart break at 13 years old and sat on the bathroom floor sobbing, she only looked at me sideways saying "Stop crying! What are you going to do when you are really heart broken after a real break up?"

It is the subtle or sometimes not so subtle rage. The mean words when she was angry. The outbursts that were rare but terrifying. Once she screamed at me and knocked a plastic plate out of my hand which then broke into three pieces, just because I wouldn´t do what she was asking me to right away.

It is the inappropriate showing of emotion and ego centricity. Whenever I was feeling down and she didn´t choose to ignore it, she made it about herself. She started crying and was overwhelmed. So I ended up comforting her instead of her being there for me.

It is the daily need to be rescued, the unwillingness to do anything about her misery and instead expecting everone else to solve her problems for her.

It is her trying to make MY partner side with her against me, using promises, money, guilt and self pitty.

It is her constant fear of abandonment. After I got married she told me how alone she felt now that I am "with someone else" and that she cries every day. It is her clinging to her abusive boyfriend in order to avoid being alone.

I could gone one for pages and pages.

I will take you on that journey with me in the upcoming posts where we´ll discover childhood memories of mine, what it did to me back then, how it affected me as an adult, but most importantly what can be done about it now. Thank you very much for reading!

Hugs to you! Till next time...


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