Resolution, Not Conflict

The guide to problem-solving.

Mother's Day Dread

If your mom had a borderline personality, Mother's Day can be difficult.

I am a psychologist who specializes in relationship counseling, helping couples to overcome their marriage problems and parents to deal with the challenges of child-rearing.  Alas, some families dismally fail at providing a safe and supportive environment for family members.  Those with abusive dads or borderline (also often abusive) moms are particularly frightening and damaging for children.

The following comments are from the many that have been posted by PT readers in response to my earlier articles When Your  Mother Has A Borderline Personality and also More Info For Adult Children of Borderline Moms.  

I have selected these specific comments in anticipation of Mother's Day this coming weekend.  However all of the comments to these articles, one after the next after the next, are enlightening. Thank you all so very much for writing in, sharing your stories, and supporting each other.

Submitted by Adult Child of BPD Mom on April 25, 2013 

Being an adult 53 yr old daughter of a violent tempered, raging, BPD mother, Mother's Day is always one of dread! I cannot believe how on spot this article is. I have two children, and although I enjoy them on this day, it is always overshadowed by the uncertainty of my mother's reaction to the day. Of course, it is all about her.

Last Mother's Day, one of my sisters and myself wanted to do something special for not just our mother, but my sister's mother in law, her sister, and ourselves, by having a very nice Mother's Day brunch at my sister's home. Our Dad and a sister had recently passed, and things were a bit strained, my sister arranged a beautiful get together. I brought nice gifts for my Mother, as well as fresh flowers, although I could NOT bring myself to by a card. Yes, as usual, I stood in the card dept. wishing for something suitable, but Hallmark doesn't do reality cards.

My mom stated she would take the flowers to my Dad's unmarked grave.  When I told her we would write a check to have my Dad's headstone ordered, she became enraged. Not at the offer of money, but at the offer to spend money on my Dad, when SHE was having a hard time. Which she is not, not financially stressed. She was jealous, over my dead Dad.

Trying to explain that Dad deserved to have a grave marker, and money was not an issue, just added fuel to her fire. In front of extended family, she became as crazy as I have seen her, normally saving these rages for immediate family.  She was not embarrassed at all to express how uncaring and ungrateful we were as children in front of others.

Begging her to stop berating us, and to just enjoy the day, I retreated to the bathroom, where she chased me. I was in fear that she was going to get physical as I slammed the door, I uttered a not so nice expletive. "F#@* You", which she unfortunately heard. So all of the years of abuse, physical and verbal are now NOTHING compared to the fact that I used the F word to her on Mother's Day.

Of course, the Martyr loved it. She has since ruined our relationships with other family members, as they think we sabotaged our Mother with some sadistic Mother's Day plan. Why anyone would even imagine we would do such a thing?

Anyway, My mother told me how ugly I am, which I am nothing of the sort, and attacked me personally until I took my child and left. The worst Mother's Day ever. I haven't spoken with her since. Having no legal grounds to even pay for our Dad's headstone, mom refused to sign papers giving us the right to do so. She held our dead Dad's body hostage, out of spite, for 14 months after his death, not allowing us to mark his resting place.

The cemetery placed a generic free marker, which stated it had been placed as a complimentary marker. This embarrassment must have sparked her to order the marker, finally giving my dad the respect he deserves. Even after years of this terrorism by mother, not recognizing my birthday with even a call, physical abuse which required surgery to correct, I still feel guilt by not speaking to her over the past year. Why can I not just get over it?

Submitted by Anonymous on April 25, 2013 

Oh dear! I had one doozie of a Mother's Day years ago, and I would be willing to bet that almost everyone else who has ever posted on this site has too. Somehow Mother's Day seems to set off Narcissistic Personality Disorder Females Who Have Given Birth, like no other day. My son, knowing my background, but not really knowing my mother, who disowned me when he was 5, teases me by calling to wish me a Happy Hallmark Day.

Birthdays can be bad too: my mother once refused to speak to my father for three months because he had the temerity to give her the wrong shape of diamond pendant for her birthday. Another time he gave her the wrong sort of birthday card and wasn't forgiven for several months over that one either.

Anyway, I would be thrilled if a moratorium was declared on Females Who Have Given Birth Day, just in order to give some of us who need it a much needed break. Of course, that's not likely to happen anytime soon; the day is just too big a money-maker for retailers.

And by the way CONGRATULATIONS for not speaking to your very own Narcissistic Female Who Gave Birth To You for a year!!! The first year is definitely the hardest. Keep up the good work, and never allow yourself to forget that she inflicted injuries that required surgery. If she were not your mother, would you be willing to get within 100 yards of her?

You and your children deserve a safe, happy life. If your other family members have not managed to figure out that your mother is not well-meaning, and is in fact dangerous, they are probably too stupid to bother with anyway.

Hug the people who love you, tell them you love them and stay the hell away from your dangerous mother!

Submitted by Susan Heitler, Ph.D. on April 25, 2013 

Last week I heard a talk on the biological reasons for how difficult it is to diminish fear reactions from childhood, especially if they began at a young age and if there were repeated terrifying moments from the same stimulus.

I can't explain the brain chemistry, but I can assure you that the fear many daughters and sons of bpd moms still feel in the precence of their mother is real and, at least according to that researcher, relatively unlikely to diminish.

The bottom line is that, as the comment from anonymous above says, if you want to stop feeling fearful you are likely to have to end contact with the stimulus. Absence does not always make the heart grow fonder, but it can keep it safer.

Thanks so much to both Adult Child of BPD and to Anonymous for sharing with us.

drh

Thank you

Submitted by Mother's Day Dread on May 7, 2013 - 8:50am.

Thank you for your reply and for making this forum available to those of us who suffer from the abuse of the BPD Mother. Realizing my childhood is classic among those who were raised by mothers with this disorder, I don't feel so abnormal. I still feel guilt, having to resort to divorcing my mother, when those with BPD fear abandonment. Unfortunately, I feel I have no other solution to dealing with the raging abuse, as she refuses to get therapy, a deal breaker for a future relationship.

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mothers day
Dr. H. and her beloved mom.
Psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D. is pictured here with her mother who was loving, gracious and beloved and who is sorely missed by all her adult children.

Dr. Heitler, with three of her adult children, have created an interactive website PowerOfTwoMarriage.com where couples can learn the skills for sustaining loving and beloved relationships.

 

Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.

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