Today’s post is the first in a series of three blogs about Julie’s daughter and borderline personality disorder. Parts 2 and 3 will run Thursday and Friday.
by: Julie Beem
You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline…” Madonna
We’ve been at this whole trauma/attachment gig for a really long time. Coming home to us at 19 months from an overseas orphanage, our daughter turned 18 in September. Her issues, caused by severe neglect and malnutrition, and likely abuse, have made for huge developmental, neurological, emotional challenges. We’ve had therapists diagnose her with everything (except schizophrenia and bipolar) with some saying “not quite RAD” and some saying “so much more than RAD” – whatever those diagnoses mean?!?! She has healed a great deal in the 16+ years we’ve been working at this and trying all types of trauma, attachment and neurological interventions.
So when a neuropsych pointed out on his evaluation that he saw “emerging” borderline personality disorder, I questioned whether instead he didn’t just see “resolving” RAD, since we’d been told by several attachment/trauma professionals that unhealed attachment problems get diagnosed as personality disorders (borderline, anti-social, narcissistic). But a recent article made me really examine what I was seeing as my daughter is becoming a young adult, and I realize that the most frustrating, lingering issues (the ones I find the hardest to live with and to help her address) are the ones that fit a borderline personality disorder diagnosis, not the ones that look like developmental delay. Symptoms such as:
Fear of abandonment. Oh yeah that’s huge for her – she can’t even use the restroom at a store without shooting out the door like her hair’s on fire calling for me when she’s through. She is sure I’m going to leave her. It’s also hard for her when I travel for work, and she’s pinpointed the anxiety to her belief that I’m either going to die in an airplane crash or decide not to come back because I like where I’ve traveled to better than being with her.
Splitting. The article describes this as “black and white” or dichotomous thinking”. Wow- this one nails her too. She views herself as the best or worst at everything – and judges the rest of the world the same way. No gray areas for her. I’m still working on not letting this symptom trigger me. She often talks negative about others in very bigoted ways. This drives me crazy because it’s such the antithesis of the way I feel, and my husband feels, and the values we’ve hoped to teach our children. I have to remind myself that this is a manifestation of her issues (even though I do call her on it nearly every time – we call it “stinkin’ thinkin’”). I think it’s so triggering for me because society assumes that people learn bigotry, racism, negative opinions about others from their parents. She also has very rigid religious beliefs. I was told recently that she “must have gotten those ideas from your church”. Well…no…our church family does not preach it that way – it is her own black and white thinking taken to the extreme.
Anger. Unexpected rages, or inappropriate anger, have been the symptom of my daughter’s issues that causes us the most concern. In her earlier, more physical, days we were sure she was going to severely injure or kill someone.But as she matures her anger response is more verbal. Yet…it is still explosive and “over the top” compared to what triggered it. Even the slightest disappointment or criticism triggers fear and shame…and anger.