My husband came home from work yesterday looking completely defeated. The dinner I made in the crock pot was a complete flop, so as we ate jalapeño poppers at the table while our kids played in another room I asked about his lunch date with his mother.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch…”
Turns out my mother-in-law had two motives for lunch: the first was to try to convince my husband to take some steps towards being “better prepared” to dealing with the kids and also to suggest things about my instability, the second was to give him a list of family addresses and birthdays because he needs to stop being petty and actually care about his family apparently. He said he “shut Mom down” a few times in regards to me.
This isn’t the first time this has happened lately with my in-laws, and it’s really starting to cause me to think that everyone would be better off if my husband and I were not together. I know, though, that thought isn’t really the case…but that also means that there’s some hurt that I need to express regarding how I feel my in-laws see me now.
Here’s a list of how I feel my in-laws see me as a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder and why these are not fair or correct to assume:
1) I am not a threat to my children or an unfit parent because I’m a Borderline.
My in-laws made comments that maybe we need to consider having the girls stay with grandparents or my husband and the girls go stay with his mom while I “work through shit.” There have also been comments about how the instability and my behaviors may put the kids in unsafe situations.
Here’s the thing, though: most of my hatred is on myself, not my kids.
I don’t often give myself compliments, but I am a damn good parent. I make sure my children feel loved, safe, and happy. When they have meltdowns or get angry, we try to talk and work through them. I’ve actually started doing some mindfulness and grounding techniques with my oldest child who also has strong emotions. I work, I take care of the house, I give as much as I can to my kids. Being Borderline doesn’t mean I’m evil or going to hurt; I actually think that being Borderline makes me a more passionate and compassionate parent.
2) My diagnosis doesn’t mean I’m going to spend the rest of my life in and out of psychiatric hospitals.
I’ve had three inpatient stays since September for suicide plans/extreme self harm. Most of this has been because of medication as we try to find the right cocktail and battle insurance to pay for them. My husband’s mother implied that this would probably be a lifelong issue, but he defended me. I hope that Dialectical Behavior Therapy (I started two weeks ago) will help me work through many of my struggles. I am not saying I will never need to go back to the hospital, but I don’t think I will need to continue to go so frequently with urgency for my safety.
3) I don’t avoid you because I hate you; I do it because I hate being hurt.
I’m the worst at calling people or even sending email updates. I have a few select people I talk to on a regular basis and that’s it. I fail, I know this… but it’s not that I intentionally avoid people because I want to be alone. In fact, I had always hoped to have a better relationship with my husband’s two sisters because I’ve always wanted a sister.
My husband’s sisters words and actions early in our relationship caused a lot of pain, though, so eventually I stopped trying.
He’s not close with them either, so I felt it was the norm for my in-laws to perhaps be standoffish and judgmental. Then, my husband’s parents, who were kind to me, started acting very strange after my miscarriage. I find myself constantly worrying about what his family will say or do now, so to try to avoid hating myself even more, I just don’t try to talk to them… which means also not putting the effort into things like mailing birthday cards. My husband supposedly needs to try harder with his family, but I don’t think they realize that it’s mostly been me trying to put that effort. Now that I feel like they think I’m a monster, I don’t want to put the effort in… it’s too hurtful to care about people and have them not care back.
4) Just because I’m a Borderline doesn’t mean my husband is the victim or flawless.
There have been several messages and emails that have gone around among my in-laws (often with me included) that talk about “what he’s going through” and “how hard this must be for you.” It may not be the intent to make me feel like the problem here, but it definitely comes across that way. He gets pampered and cared for while I get passive agressive cards and texts about how I need to “suck it up” or “put on your big girl panties.” My husband is a wonderful man, but he’s also got his own share of struggles, so I don’t feel that’s fair to put all the blame on me. It takes two to tango and our marriage counselor reminds us constantly that we are one unit, in this together.
5) Empathy is not listing all of your issues and saying that you “understand” me because of them.
One of my husband’s sisters always has this way of making every situation turn into how horrible her life is. I mention being tired, she has insomnia. I share my diagnosis of Borderline and that I’m starting DBT and she suddenly shares that she had an eating disorder and a history of sexual abuse and she’s done more than one type of behavior therapy.
I’ve always been bothered by this and always felt incredibly horrible for complaining after the fact when she shoves how lucky I am in my face. I recently started reading “I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)” by Brené Brown and my feelings are starting to make lots of sense. Trying to be sympathetic and actually feeling empathy are two completely different things; one-upping people actually makes their shame increase and does the opposite than the intent. Real empathy involves much more, including being willing to admit you don’t know exactly how the person feels and just taking time to listen.
6) I didn’t just wake up one day with BPD. You’ve just been spared from my extreme emotions and impulsive word vomit because I was too afraid to open up to you.
Sometimes I get so angry, so hurt that I want to throw things, break myself, and scream. Last night was one of those nights, but it’s over and I’m trying to let go. There’s no point in staying miserable when I can do so many other things. Writing is one way I process and understand myself better. Maybe with time I can patch things up with my in-laws, but for now my husband has agreed to be a hermit with me and we will just focus our attention on better things, like our daughters. Being Borderline doesn’t make me a monster, it makes me exactly who I am and how I am meant to be. I’m doing the best I can, and will continue to try to do better.
Receiving a diagnosis like BPD is hard on its own, but when you add the reactions of family members, it makes the label so much more painful. I hope that most people don’t suffer the same negative reactions that I’ve experienced, but the internet tells me that these responses are far too common. Hopefully in time we can all work towards making BPD less stigmatized and more widely accepted.