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Parent of a child with BPD

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Parent of a child with BPD

My daughter was recently diagnosed with BPD. I have done some research on the subject and understand that it can be a mixture of genetic pre-disposition and childhood environmental factors. Bad parenting often comes up and one publication even insists that if there has been no bad parenting then BPD cannot be diagnosed. 

She had what I thought was a stable childhood with a traditional home life which seemed to be out of kilter with many of her school and neighbourhood friends who came from broken backgrounds or who suffered abuse. She started changing at the age of 14 with the onset of puberty and was very confused about her sexual identity. She was heterosexual, then lesbian, then bisexual, then heterosexual again, now lesbian. She would have screaming matches with me and could not control her anger. I accepted whatever she was going through and I also accepted that when she reached her mid 20s she wanted to marry someone who was halfway through transitioning.  She is a big personality and can be dominating but then so can I.

I did not find out for years that after locking the house up for the night, she would creep through her window and come back home in the early hours of the morning, so she was always very independent and rebellious towards authority.


When she was 11, I lost my father to cancer. It was the first parental loss in the family and I went into bereavement which must have been hard for the rest of the family. I was a stay at home mum and my husband was a commuter. I withdrew and tried to escape through Warcraft which is a horrible online game that has been described as being as addictive as a drug. Although I could function perfectly okay as a parent, I understand that she may have felt neglected.


When she was  14, she met someone she liked who was a predator and she lost her virginity to him. He was lying about having cancer which I found out about and when I told her she was furious and ended the relationship with him. I did not know that they had become so involved and when I found out about it, both her father and I offered to get him arrested which she refused to let us do.


When she was 17, I had to undergo major surgery and had a total hysterectomy. While I was recovering from surgery, my mother died. I closed her eyes and felt the life go out of her. My daughter was having regular screaming matches with me by this time and finally left home.  The implications of what happened to me at that time were very profound; I was grieving my mother, my reproductive system and my daughter. I got drunk one night and alarmed my family. The next day, I sat them all down, apologised and said that it would never happen again. I don’t drink alcohol normally.  It has never happened again. I guess it was my way of trying to relieve the tension inside me.


When she was 20, I got stalked by an online predator. He threatened my life, took me to court, forced me to sell my home, made my husband and I lose our business, and did his best to try to destroy my marriage and my family.  The impact of his actions were extremely profound and life-changing. However, my daughter had left home by that time and although the family was obviously affected, she had been living independently from us for 2 years.


When she was 27, her marriage dissolved and her partner walked out on her. The family rescued her and she went from not being in my life for three years to living with us for a few days, while we tried to sort out medication for her and paid her rent and got her into a new flat. I tiptoed around her, hugging her often, holding her hand, making sure she was okay and keeping an eye on her all the time until she emerged from her shock.


For four years, we were just family. She told me about active listening and that she had had years of therapy. I learnt to actively listen, let her have her meltdowns, let her externalise and then offer her support. This was hard to do as she often expressed suicidal ideation. However, she seemed to be learning how to control her behaviour patterns and I could see new coping mechanisms emerging. She had some toxic friends she gradually got rid of and we worked together as a family, constantly reassuring her of our love, how beautiful she was, how clever, how sweet, how compassionate – and how a lot of things she was getting stressed over were the things that anyone would get stressed over. She was constantly told she was loved, was an important part of the family and that we did not hate her for her mental health problems.


About a month ago, she came to my home for a meal with her new partner. She said that she had struggled with her mental health that week and often when she had a meltdown I would be called on and she would come to the family home to recuperate. Things seemed to be fine until she asked a question about something and I gave my opinion which she struggled to accept.  She got more and more agitated until she was no longer listening to anyone and she was pacing the room. Because I have researched mental health, I knew that agitation and intense talking was a sign of mental health distress and I tried to use that knowledge to calm her down and bring her back to a sense of herself. She stormed out of the house and accused me of gaslighting her.


Since that time, she has communicated with my husband, her father and has told him that she blames me for ‘getting myself stalked’.  The fact that this stalker is probably the most prolific in the UK and has over 200 victims does not seem to faze her at all.  I am now having to go through a court hearing to get an injunction out on him after being stalked by him for ten years.


I do understand that as a child, the bad years that I went through would have had an impact on the family but I did my very very best to try to keep the home environment as calm as possible and I encouraged family members to talk to me, even though I was affected and withdrawn by it myself.


If this is bad parenting, then of course I am sorry. I have said so several times to my family but I don’t feel I could help parents dying, having surgery or being stalked as something I went out looking for or engineered.

Sometimes our lives DO have a period of intense drama and often it is during those times that we look to our family for support.  I appreciate that my story is dramatic – believe me, I would much much prefer to have no drama in my life! – but those things were a period of time in my life, not an ongoing lifestyle. I am sad that the past four years of normality and rebuilding work has amounted to nothing because she cannot let go of her childhood and I can’t seem to help her to do so, as most of her anguish is directed at me.


Re: Parent of a child with BPD

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Dear @Susannah16 thank you for sharing your story with us, it sounds like you’ve really been through a lot – I’m so sorry for the loss of your parents and for the stalking you experienced. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for you.

Although there can be many contributing factors to BPD, they’re very different for each person and for some people there may not be any obvious ones. As parents, it’s tempting to look to ourselves as the source of our children’s issues, but I think it’s important to be kind to yourself.

You’ve been through so much and even if there were times where you weren’t able to be fully present, all that means is that you’re a human being. It’s obvious how much work you’ve put into trying to support your daughter.

I’m wondering, do you have support for yourself? Would something like a carers support group perhaps be helpful so you can connect with people in a similar situation? Carers4PD and BPD Carers Group are some examples, but there are likely to be many more.

I’m so sorry to hear about the disagreement you and your daughter had recently, it sounds like it was really upsetting for both of you. It can be tough to navigate relationships sometimes, especially as people with BPD may go through extremely painful feelings of rejection or invalidation that can be hard to understand, but that are very real for them.
It sounds like you’ve both worked to repair your relationship in the past when there were problems.
I’m wondering what helped before?