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The impacts of being raised by a Borderline mother.

The impacts of being raised by a Borderline mother. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

“Only the never-ending work of mourning can help us from lapsing into the illusion that we have found the parent we once urgently needed—empathic and open, understanding and understandable, honest and available, helpful and loving, feeling, transparent, clear, without unintelligible contradictions. Such a parent was never ours, for a mother can react empathically only to the extent that she has become free of her own childhood; when she denies the vicissitudes of her early life, she wears invisible chains.” ― Alice Miller, Ph.D.

Today is Mother’s Day.

Already, the day may feel hard and strange for you because of the reality that COVID has rendered across the collective landscape of our lives.

The impacts of being raised by a Borderline mother. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

The impacts of being raised by a Borderline mother.

But if you, like so many people, have a strained, estranged, brittle, broken, or otherwise painful relationship with your mother, this day may feel doubly hard this year.

If you’ve been following my work for any time, you may know I often write about the impacts of being raised by a personality-disordered father figure.

But what if your mother was the one with a personality disorder?

What might the impacts be on you if your mom was the unstable, chaotic, unreliable parent?

What if your mom was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder or evidenced many of the traits (if not formally diagnosed)?

To add a wider lens to the circumstances that may contribute to complex relational trauma, to feel seen and validated if this – being raised by a Borderline mother – is one of the primary reasons that makes Mother’s Day so hard for you this year and every year, please join me as I unpack this experience and explore the impacts it may have had on you. 

(And, PS, keep reading until the end of the post for a list of other posts and resources if Mother’s Day feels hard for you this year.)

Do you come from a childhood trauma background?

Take this 5-minute quiz to find out (and more importantly, what to do about it if you do.)

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

“It was a sort of love few other people could understand. It was total and it was overwhelming and it could be cruel.” ― Cassandra Clare

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the bedrock clinical manual of the mental health field). 

If you’re interested in reading the full criterion of the disorder, you can do so here.

But, essentially, BPD is a mental health condition characterized by emotional lability (an inability to regulate one’s emotions), an unstable sense of self, challenges forming and sustaining relationships, and a tendency towards erratic, often self-harming, behaviors and impulses.

And, it’s worth noting, BPD is relatively common. 

It’s estimated that 1.6% of the adult U.S. population has BPD, but that number may be as high as 5.9% and of those diagnosed, nearly 75% are women.

Given these statistics and given what I’ve seen in a decade of doing this work, it’s far more common for patients to present with BPD mothers than fathers with BPD.

But, that’s not to say that men are immune from this personality disorder; it’s just statistically more common for a woman and, by extension, mothers, to have this diagnosis.

So while I’m writing from a female/mother reference point today, if your father was diagnosed with BPD, simply substitute those pronouns across this article as you read. 

What causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

“A child can experience her feelings only when there is somebody there who accepts her fully, understands her, and supports her. If that person is missing, if the child must risk losing the mother’s love of her substitute in order to feel, then she will repress emotions.” ― Alice Miller, Ph.D.

BPD is, in my clinical opinion, a trauma disorder. 

More specifically, a relational trauma disorder.

What do I mean by this?

Overwhelmingly, research suggests that BPD patients have a history of childhood trauma.

As we know, childhood trauma can manifest in a wide variety of ways depending on the context of the circumstances, the individual who endured it, and the resulting help and support (or lack thereof) that individual received in the years ensuing the adverse early beginnings.

Sometimes, this trauma can manifest into a constellation of symptoms and responses that align with the criterion of BPD. 

And when it does, it can have big impacts on the children of the sufferer.

However, it’s at this point in the article that I want to say something I feel personally very strongly about: this article is not meant to demonize mothers who have BPD traits or who have been formally diagnosed with BPD. 

This article is meant to explore, not to cast stones.

It’s meant to evoke curiosity, not to chastise.

Always and in all circumstances, I strive to hold a compassionate lens and to ask the question: “And what would have led someone to behave and be in this way?”

I would invite us all to think about BPD in this way and to imagine that, at some level, that individual diagnosed or evidencing BPD probably experienced relational trauma in their lives and from that place their responses (maladaptive as they might be) spring and stem.

AND yet, also very important, you can have compassion for someone with these traits and this diagnosis, and you can still have been hugely and detrimentally impacted by their behaviors and feel anger, sorrow, and despair alongside that compassion.

It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

And to the point of how a child may have been impacted by being raised by a borderline mother, please read on.

What are the impacts of being raised by a Borderline mother?

“There is no growth without real feeling. Children not loved for who they are do not learn how to love themselves. Their growth is an exercise in pleasing others, not in expanding through experience. As adults, they must learn to nurture their own lost child.” ― Marion Woodman, Ph.D.

Our primary wish as infants is to feel safe and secure in our attachment with our parents. 

That kind of security is earned through consistently good-enough, warm, attentive, caring and appropriate contact.

However, as I’ve mentioned, those with BPD struggle with emotional lability (an inability to regulate one’s emotions), an unstable sense of self, challenges forming and sustaining relationships, and a tendency towards erratic, often self-harming, behaviors and impulses.

Because of this, it can make it difficult (if not impossible) for mothers with BPD to consistently show up and demonstrate good-enough, warm, attentive, caring and appropriate responses toward their child. 

That’s not to say that the BPD mother doesn’t want to show up for her child in these ways.

It just may feel impossible to her at times given her limited capacities.

This, sadly, can lead to confusion and mixed relational experiences for the infant and the child that they become.

Confusing, mixed relational experiences with one or both of the primary caregivers can manifest into a wide variety of impacts for a child raised by a borderline mother.

For instance, a child raised in these conditions can possibly develop anxious or avoidant attachment behaviors as they struggle to understand “which mom” may be waiting for them when they get off the school bus.

A child exposed to variable degrees of parental warmth and affection may experience anxiety and depression as they grow, appropriate emotional responses to a chaotic and challenging home environment.

A child steeped in an environment where this kind of chaotic relationship is modeled may struggle, as they grow into a teen and young adult, to understand what’s healthy and functional in a romantic relationship versus what’s unhealthy and dysfunctional.

A child raised in this emotionally immature environment may even develop a kind of codependent, enmeshed relationship with their borderline mother, struggling with lifelong poor boundaries that compromise their well-being and worth.

And, importantly, a child raised by a mother with BPD may be at increased risk for developing BPD or Borderline traits themselves given what was modeled and given their own subsequent relational trauma experiences.

How do I help myself if I was raised by a Borderline mother?

“Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery and emotional acceptance of the truth in the individual and unique history of our childhood.” ― Alice Miller, Ph.D.

First, always, we want to see things more plainly for what they are versus what we wish they would be. 

We want clarity of vision to be able to really understand what our situation is.

To that end, psychoeducation and awareness of what BPD actually is can help you begin to understand if your mother potentially demonstrated some or many of these traits.

When you know what you’re working with, you begin to know more clearly what options are available to you.  

Next, we want to ask, given what I know about this person, given what I know about my mother, what’s the likelihood that I can have a close relationship with them?

If they’re willing to work on themselves and their relationship with you – great! 

We know that Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is an evidence-based form of clinical treatment shown to have great success in treating BPD.

And (I truly believe this!) if someone is willing to do the work required by DBT and long-term relational therapy work, a diagnosis of BPD does not have to be fixed and static.

It is absolutely possible to heal, to grow, and to become a more emotionally stable and healthy individual even with a BPD diagnosis in the past.

There is, therefore, a possibility that even if your mother had or has BPD traits, if she’s willing to do the work, she can show up in a different way for you.

However, this does require willingness and a deep commitment to doing so. 

If, however, your mother is not willing to work on herself or on her relationship with you, we likely need to explore how you can set the boundaries you need to in order to take care of yourself while still being in contact with her.

And/or we may need to help you evaluate if taking more distance, if not fully stepping away from the relationship is what you need for your own mental health.

We also want to help you process your significant pain, frustration and grief that you didn’t and may not ever be able to have the kind of mother that you wanted and needed and still want and need. (Yes, you do get to grieve this.)

We want to help you seek out and befriend other mother figures in your life so that you can have reparative experiences that show you that secure, safe, healthy and consistent attachment is possible.

And, in time, we want to help you become your own “good-enough” inner mother, the internalized source of comfort, warmth, stability, compassion and caregiving that every child longs for.

Wrapping up…

“I know people heal by being able to tell the story – the whole story.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.

I want to remind you of something I deeply believe: No matter where we’re starting from, change is possible. 

No matter what your early childhood experiences were like, it’s possible to live a healthy, thriving adult life filled with secure, healthy relationships. 

But this does require confronting your personal history, grieving and processing it, making sense of it, and learning new, more functional behaviors and worldviews as you progress with your life. 

If you were raised by a BPD mother, it doesn’t predetermine you for a lifetime of unfulfilling relationships or being diagnosed with BPD yourself.

You can have a healthy, functional, thriving adult life no matter where you come from if you do your own work to make that possible.

I’d love to support you in this so if you would personally like support around this and you live in California or Florida, please feel free to reach out to me directly to explore therapy together.

Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.

And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.

Warmly, Annie


Additional Supports If Mother’s Day Feels Hard:


“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ― Mary Oliver

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  1. Donna says

    Anne I am the mother and the daughter who has healed and recovered from broken parenting. Unfortunately my daughter doesn’t understand and has abandoned me. Please if you can speak to both sides as we begin a new generation of very blessed people. Not perfect but we have healed so much of the attachment wound. Formed boundaries along a new heart. My daughter cannot yet open the door to experience the miracle of what good enough psychotherapy can do along with neurofeedback. I literally had to go back and rewire my brain by letting love in and integrating my history. My childhood was full of dissociation as an unconscious manner of living. I hope to be able to explain this some day. I am sad as its been 5 years now without any contact. Theres a great price to pay sometimes. I hope its not forever. Thanks for your writings, for the honesty.
    Sincerely Donna

    • Annie says

      Donna, please pardon my delayed response. I am so sorry that you are dealing with this with your daughter. But it sounds like you’ve done (and are doing) wonderful work to support yourself and make sense of your childhood experience, and I respect that so much. I’m sorry that your experience has been so challenging, but I hope this article made you feel a little less alone and a little more validated and seen. Thank you for taking the time to share so openly. I’m sending you a big digital hug and all my best. Warmly, Annie

  2. Robin says

    At the age of 44, I have acknowledged that I am a survivor of child abuse, severe emotional and psychological abuse and neglect throughout my entire childhood and into adulthood by my parents, siblings, other family members, classmates and teachers. I was in denial for a long time. I have been ashamed my entire life. I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of lying. I’m tired of covering up. You have helped me so much. Thank you. I work on my recovery every day. And I’m going to keep going. I just wanted to share my truth with you.

    • Annie says

      Robin, I’m so sorry for my delayed response to your message. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot in life and it also sounds, too, like you’re taking care of yourself and holding the boundaries that will best serve you. I’m so proud of you for working on your recovery each day. It says to me that you’re doing wonderful healing work and really showing up for yourself. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m rooting for you. Warmly, Annie

  3. Kristen says

    I am a survivor of childhood trauma due to a likely BPD mother. At 34, after I was verbally abused again for sharing how her cruel words made me felt, I hung up the phone and channeled my energy into healing myself instead of healing her. The past 2 years in estrangement with both my parents has been a difficult journey, paved with tears and grief. With the support of my therapist, I am working to spend time with my inner child, that little blue girl, in a quest to feel worthy and wholehearted. It is easy to feel isolated in this journey, that despite the professional achievements, the house, the seemingly perfect front from the outside looking in… few seem to understand the deep pain that courses through my heart on a daily basis. This pandemic has made that even harder. I found your words last night as I cried, longing for the parents I wish I had. And I’m not sure I have ever read words that have so fully captured my experience – my struggles, the invisible scars, the complex feelings of both grief, anger, and longing. Thank you for sharing you vulnerability and wisdom through this blog. And for making me feel a little less alone in my journey. <3

    • Annie says

      Kristen, thank you so much for your beautiful and honest comment. I’m so proud of you for setting the boundaries you need to heal. I know it is a challenging journey, but your commitment to healing is really truly inspiring. And I’m honored that my words could feel even a little bit validating. Thank you for taking the time to share. I’m wishing you all my best. Warmly, Annie

    • Kristine says

      I feel exactly the same way. You are not alone. Your post describes me, only difference is today is the first day a therapist has ever suggested my mother may be BPD. I feel sad and alone. I keep feeling like I’m making progress and now it just feels like I’m that boy whistling in the dark. The invisible scars, longing for something I never had, that I deserve, desperately want, and most likely will never be able to get… It’s a lot to digest. Your post gives me hope. Thank you.

      • Annie says

        Hi Kristine, you’re so welcome! I’m happy this post could provide even a little hope and clarity. I know this journey can feel isolating and painful, but I’m so proud of you for continuing to do the personal healing work. I hope that you’re giving yourself a lot of compassion and grace as you navigate this path. Please take such good care of yourself, you’re absolutely not alone in this. Warmly, Annie

  4. Lilly says

    I have almost no loving memories of my mother from childhood and she was a stay at home mother until I was 7 or 8. After reading about BPD I feel I finally have an explanation for all those silent treatments she would give us kids for mild infractions that every kid is guilty of. Except she would freeze us out and not talk to us for a week and sometimes for two. After a difficult period that involved me being my brother’s sole-caretaker while undergoing treatment for his stage 4 cancer because my mother tried to make his illness all about her and he moved in with me and realizing that I didn’t even have my mother to lean on during this time for emotional support even though I was doing all the heavy lifting so to speak. Things came to a head after my brother passed and I finally cut all ties with her. The guilt is real but I endured her drama my entire childhood and I have had enough. I will take a little guilt if that means no more drama.

    • Annie says

      Lilly, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your brother. And I trust that you’re holding the boundaries that you need and want to in order to support yourself. I’m sending you my very best and really appreciate your open and honest share on this thread. Warmly, Annie

  5. Diane says

    This resonated with me so much. I am 28 still living at home with my BPD mother and I have a one year old son and another on the way. I have been completely codependent on her my whole life and I struggle to find my independence from her to this day. She guilt trips & manipulates me every chance she gets, basically tore me down my whole life to the point that I feel completely helpless without her and yet I cannot stand her. I struggle to find the confidence to leave or do better for myself because the feelings of being worthless and helpless without her are so deeply ingrained in me. I wish I had the strength to just cut her off completely and finally begin living a life of fulfillment and joy.

    • Annie says

      Hi Diane, Gosh, it’s such a hard position you’re in: the vulnerability of young motherhood and being dependent on the very person you would otherwise want to hold better boundaries and take space from. I hope that you’re giving yourself a lot of compassion and grace and that some part of you knows and trusts that when you’re able and ready to part ways, you will. And in the meantime, give your precious baby an extra snuggle and soak up that baby cuddle medicine. Warmly, Annie

  6. Donna says

    My husbands mother was severely BPD. It has taken me years to understand why he cannot be intimate in any way other than sex and even that is cold.
    After reading this, I believe that it was her that created his distant, unloving, cold personality.
    I have been stuck in this roller coaster abuse from him for 30 years. I realize that it is him and his unfortunate upbringing that is to blame and not my fault.

    • Annie says

      Donna, It breaks my heart to hear that you’ve been stuck on that roller coaster for 30 years. Being raised by a parent figure with BPD or having BPD traits can make it difficult for the parent to consistently show up for the child, and the effects this has on the individual is in no way a reflection of you. I’m glad to hear my writing resonated with you, and helped you come to that realization. Sending you all my care.
      Warmly, Annie

  7. Noémi says

    Dear Annie,

    My great difficulty at this time is the pain of knowing how much my mother hurts because I don’t keep in touch with her. I don’t want her pain to be the price of my healing, and I so wish that there was a different way to protect myself. Isn’t there? We live in different countries, so our contact is just by phone, but each conversation is either painful or utterly exhausting because I am the one managing her emotions. I have come a long way healing and seeing the unadorned truth, however she is entirely oblivious of this fact, so she has no idea why I am being distant. I am afraid to tell her as I fear it may destabilize her. I am stuck. (And my deep gratitude for offering so much support through your blog!)

    • Annie says

      Hi Noémi, I appreciate your vulnerability and honesty in this comment. Thank you for being open and sharing about your mom. I really understand personally and professionally how sad and exhausting it can feel to have that kind of experience with someone, even in limited amounts and ways. I wonder: have you thought about exploring my course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries? http://www.hardfamiliesgoodboundaries.com. It is custom-made for individuals like you struggling with this exact issue. I wonder if it could be a source of support to you right now as you think through how to be in a relationship with her in a way that honors yourself. Warmly, Annie

    • Sam M. says

      Hi, Noémi- I resonate so deeply with your comment. This is exactly how I feel in my relationship with my mother, and the double bind is excruciating. Sending love and strength.

      • Annie says

        Hi Sam,

        Thank you for taking the time to comment, share and offer support to Noémi. I’m continually impressed by the support and empathy this community shows one another and I truly hope this is a space that provides comfort.

        In addition to the course I mentioned to Noémi, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, I’d like to invite both of you to my forthcoming Relational Trauma Recovery School where I could support you as you work toward a positive future. In the meantime, please know I’m sending my very best.

        Warmly, Annie

  8. Just Me says

    To all of you who read these insights, please know that you are not powerless, you are not unworthy, and you are deserving of more decency that your disordered parents refused to show you. Please keep searching formthose shreds of love from teachers, friends, and all others,, because these few occasional ounces of love and compassion will sustain you. These are your lifelines. Do not succumb to the abuse. Tell anyone who will listen to your pain. To those who deny your reality or experiences, understand that wrapping their heads around your kinds of such unbelievable experiences at the hands of people with unchecked disorders is even more difficult and challenging than it is for you to make sense of why your own family abused you. They probably mean well, those unbelievers, but just can’t handle trying to turn their brains against their beliefs and into thinking of such horrors by anyone’s parents. Intensive, long term therapy with the right provider can do so very much for you, regardless of what your able or unable to do with your life thereafter. But find someone who you feel is the right provider, and abandon those who don’t demonstrate they’re on your side. Go to therapy, and pour yourself out while you’re there. Catharsis is helpful.

    For me, life has lots of ups and downs, and I am sure it will always be full of challenges to overcome. I haven’t given up, and I hope none of you do either. After these 46 years with my undiagnosed mother and my undiagnosed father, I know it isn’t always easy. But you can endure. In fact, you are more likely to be able to endure tyan anyone else could hope to be. Those people who abused you did this one seemingly small favor to you, even if you didn’t know they did. You are a survivor with unparalleled ability to endure despite the hardships,,

    For those who don’t know what living with disordered parents is really like, I offer you some of my personal experiences..

    To begin, imagine your mother uses abandonment to hurt you not once,, but more than 10 times, beginning when you were in your teens and continuing into your late 40s. She uses frivolous litigation that win her 2 evictions against you, too, but none for non payment of rent.

    Imqgjne hearing her tell your therapist and you that you are an unwanted, difficult child, but, really, you were never difficult like she should’ve meant by difficult (in actuality, you were a pretty good kid and a good student who earned mostly As and some Bs, academic awards, service awards, and more).

    Later in life, have her tell you she hopes you starve to death, and, then, some 6 long months after letting you do without the resources she previously provided, have her look you in the eyes while she complains about what you said to her in response to her stated hope, only to then follow with the assertion that she never said to you what you know she did.

    Imagine being demanded to serve her every directive, all her expectations, and to labor endlessly for her, but to be denied any and all consideration for your efforts while she refuses to offer and refuses to provide any payment to you for your extensive labor. Imagine hearing how you’re crazy when saying that suits her purposes and then hearing her deny it whenever you have had occasion to share it.

    Imagine having her violate every single boundary you need or want, to endure her invasions of your privacy, to threaten you with abandonment in order to coerce you into conforming to her control. Imagine being forever branded her no-good child while her favoritism is demonstrated lifelong for your sibling, who she branded and treated more favorably as her golden one.

    Imagine hearing her talk to you like you are the most disgusting and unworthy thing in her world, and all the while, she never sounds remotely like this when she speaks to your cherished sibling, so much so that hearing her talk to your sibling is like hearing an entirely different person than the one who is your parent.

    Realize that you can do no right by her, and see that she considers how your sibling(the golden one) does no wrong oin reality he does nothing at all–not for her anyway, and certainly not for you]. You can’t do enough for her but your sibling shouldn’t be asked or expected to serve her or her needs. Only you get tcharged with these tasks.

    Try being the target of her rages or the target she turns you into when her spouse has not treated her as she thinks he should.

    Try being refused any and all autonomy, while being expected to be self-sufficient. Try enduring pathological generosity, only to have her turn it into her unfulfilled and engendered expectations or and your indebtedness to her for what gifts she insisted on giving you.

    Try having her punch your buttons while expecting you should not react negatively to her assuage, which she likewise expects you to take more of anytime she wishes.

    Try being objectified and discarded like month old newspapers. Try being refused any personal space for your belongings while living in her home. Or, try to imagine having her sneakily go through all of them just to intrude into your life.

    Try listening to her tell you what she knows you want, though she’s no where close to accurately describing you or what you want. Try being subjected to her secret abuses, while she convinces all onlookers that she is a righteous, good Christian woman. Try being ridiculed by her for being a sick and disgusting homosexual, while she ignores knowing it, she denigrates others for it, and she pretends that you’re a closeted heterosexual.

    Try to please her but be denied every time.

    Try to survive her, and try to survive her narcissistic spouse, who is your other abuser and your abusive father. By the way, he hates you, too, but you’ve known that your whole life. Try hearing him tell you that you are a nobody, when you’re the same somebody he can’t question enough about his business operations, from where you had just returned, while he was away.

    Try knowing he poisoned two of your companion animals with antifreeze that he sneaked to them night after night. Try pretending your mother wasn’t aware of it, too. Do try too to ignore that your having told her so was immediately dismissed like you were mad for saying it.

    Try having your dream for a return to college in your early 30s be about their need to be the parents of another degree earner–not the parents of a degree holder who had the promised time to get the degree he wanted, the one that they both knew would take 2 to 3 more years to receive, the one to which they agreed to help you achieve.

    Try living on a meager $100 per week if she feels like giving it to you, while treating you as if you don’t deserve it. Try having her shop around for the cheapest provider of root canals, while you become nearly septic with the systemic infection that your abscess has become in the meantime. Try having her stop paying for your psychiatric care, or deciding you should do without your antidepressants 2 months after having begun the treatment.

    Imagine having her refuse to pay for more than two sessions of those entire 10 years of twice weekly therapy, when you’ve become so dysfunctional you don’t want to live as a teenager or young adult (thank God for truly good, benevolent people who don’t let this stop them from seeing and helping you).

    Imagine having to walk away from her abusiveness and then have her show back up just so she can abuse you more at a later time.

    Try hearing countless numbers of people who unknowingly invalidate your experiences in favor of their needs to believe the false images of your mother and father are those real people with whom you lived, the same ones who successfully and pervasively project images of their righteousness, decency and goodness to the masses, and whom are so well disgusied, the monsters they really are to you, are never detected by those masses. This also means you are persistently not believed when you talk about their real nature.

    Try hearing a judge say she knows your father to be an always honest, upright man, while she presides over your eviction from your so-called home, and meanwhile who ignores altogether how you’ve just indisputably proven your father is plainly dishonest by showing her prima facie evidence of how he unlawfully possesses and regularly and unlawfully uses a handicapped parking tag, which does not belong to him.

    Imagine being abandoned and subjected to the fright of real homelessness while being without any means of survival except for the incredible kindnesses of friends who’ll gladly take you in and support you for a time.

    This is what my life with two disordered parents has been. This is what my life has been with two parents, both high functioning, both undiagnosed and without insight, but both demonstrating the criteria for personality disorders so ridiculously well they might as well be textbook examples of borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

    We are not our pain or sorrow or the traumas we endured. We are so much more. Don’t let people like this ruin you. You can be the light you need, even if no one else manages to see how their darkness has taken so much from you. Strike the match and light your own light. You can blind them with your brightness, and you can still be a beacon for all the world, too. You owe it to yourself. They can’t give you what you need, even if they wanted to. Only you can give yourself that. And, guess what, you have it, and you always have. They just kept you from seeing it there in all their darkness.

    • Annie says

      Thank you for sharing your story and vulnerability so generously. I imagine what you shared will help others feel less alone in their own healing journeys. I’m sending you all my very best. Warmly, Annie

      • Michelle says

        My name is Michelle I am 16 and I have a mom whose been diagnosed with maniac depression and being bipolar ( Bipolar disorder gets commonly confused with BPD) and she has many signs of BPD.Throughout my whole life I’ve been a people pleaser and tried being perfect which ends up affecting my relationships with family members. Especially when your parents are divorced and it’s like flip flopping from going against one parent to another all because you want to please both. I don’t know what to do and I’ve always felt a lot of pressure to talk to my mom and confront her although people don’t understand when I do she makes my situación extremely hard to where I just give in to her and become a people pleaser again. I don’t know what to do honestly. But thank you for sharing this page it helped a little.

        • Annie says

          Hi Michelle, thank you for your openness and honesty in sharing your story. I’m so pleased to hear that this post felt helpful to you. I can imagine that pressure can feel overwhelming at times. Please know that you’re not alone in this at all! Take such good care of yourself. Warmly, Annie.

  9. Olaf says

    do you have some words of advice for a husband whose wife has undiagnosed highly functional BPD and they are together raising a son now 12 years old?
    She will probably never go to therapy (medical family, thinks psychology is “mumbo jumbo”…) and because she is otherwise a really good person I have decided to not leave.
    Our son understands that something is not OK with his mom and two of us have a good communication about this.
    How can I do as much as I can to shield him from negative effects?

    • Annie says

      Hi Olaf,

      Thank you for your comment. Co-parenting with a partner who may not be open to working on their mental health can feel frustrating and isolating. First, I would urge you to care for yourself and reach out for support if needed. Practicing self-care and asking for help can be such a powerful example of bravery through vulnerability for your son. I would also urge you to keep up the great communication that you have with your son, you are creating a safe space for him.

      Additionally, it may be helpful for you and your son to seek out therapy. It sounds like your partner can’t or won’t, but if you and your son are able to attend therapy individually, that could be a tremendous support as well. If you live here in California, myself and my talented team of clinicians at my center – Evergreen Counseling – can be of support to you.

      Warmly, Annie

      • Maureen says

        Annie – thank you so much for your wonderful article on BDP. My husband’s ex-wife is a classic BPD (waif & queen) and their 10 year-old daughter exhibits the typical traits of kids raised by BPD mothers. Whereas she’s a polite little girl she’s also completely enmeshed with the BPD mother, lacks any form of emotional empathy as a result of her mother successful attempts to alienate her from her father and me, is now starting to lie at mother’s request…and the list goes on). She went through therapy when she was 6-7 but it did not have a long term effect unfortunately (she would say nothing the whole session and the therapist dropped her).

        She’s with us 25% of time and we do our utmost best to be kind, to parent her, provide her educational opportunities so she can have a chance to a good future. I even paid for tutoring for her but the mother forbade her to study so I stopped.

        I am done with it and want to find a way to detach from this situation. My husband is terrified at the idea that I would no longer organize play dates, vacations, etc and feels that I would abandon him (which is not what I want to do, I love my marriage).

        Could you, perhaps, suggest any books/resources for step-parents that deal with kids from previous marriages where the mother is a BPD? I am looking for the right thing to do while being able to focus on my own family life.

        Thank you very much,

        • Annie says

          Hi Maureen,

          Thanks for sharing your story with us, I’m so pleased that my article resonated with you! It sounds like a tough spot for everyone involved. I’d like to suggest seeking some support for your family as you navigate co-parenting. Family therapy can sometimes be more comfortable than individual therapy for young kids and at 10, your step-daughter may be more receptive than she was at 6 or 7. If this isn’t a possibility, couples counseling may give you and your husband the tools to support each other through this time in your lives. I’m sending your whole family my very best.

          Warmly, Annie

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