Being raised by a parent with Borderline Personality Disorder: Can you heal from the trauma?

If you are reading this article, you probably have a parent with Borderline Personality Disorder(BPD).

Whether they have an official diagnosis about their difficulties with emotional attachment, or they show symptoms of the condition, but remain undiagnosed, living with them is undoubtedly difficult. Thankfully, there are ways you can heal from being raised by someone struggling with their own identity.

According to Mayo Clinic, BPD is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships.

Undeniably, there are parents with BPD who still manage to be empathetic and attentive with their children. However, in most cases, they are capable of causing long-lasting mental health damage through their emotional immaturity. Toxic shame, destructive codependency, and identity confusion are only a few of the things kids raised by parents with BPD go through even beyond their childhood years.

What are the psychological consequences of having a parent with BPD?

Living with a BPD parental figure often means being treated like a child even though you are an adult. The fact that you may have a family of your own, a house, and a decent career means nothing to a parent who still sees and treats you as a 5-year-old. Their controlling nature doesn’t comprehend the reality that you are now a grown-up, and they need to respect that.

On the absolute contrary, they might act like the kid and put you into the position of the parent. Their neediness makes you feel as if you’ve never had a mother or a father to count on because you are always the one who has to be the adult and take care of them.

Either way, a BPD parent would almost always find a reason to guilt-trip you.

They would constantly blame you for things you have no relation to. They would even become aggressive, expressing sudden wrath, possibly triggered by past trauma they are still struggling with. Interestingly, as Psychology Today notes, “at these moments, however unreasonable they are, they always think their rage is justified.”

Since they don’t have the maturity to handle their own emotional issues, they lay all their rage onto you, believing this would take the burden off their shoulders. Eventually, instead of healing from their trauma, they channel the pain they feel into their relationship with you. As a result, they would continually put you through toxic shame, blaming you for their own inability to deal with their emotions.

Meanwhile, their severe fear of abandonment will put you inside a codependency trap with no way out. 

Usually, parents with BPD feel threatened by witnessing their children growing up. Seeing your kid becoming an adult makes you realize you are no longer entitled to make decisions on their behalf. In other words, you no longer have control over the way they choose to live their life. And for someone with a highly controlling nature, this realization is definitely not something a BPD parent is looking forward to.

Whenever you try to separate from them, they would make you regret ever wanting to walk away. Even if you simply want to spend some time with friends away from the house, your toxic parent would act as if you are leaving them behind. They might suddenly become depressed and try to convince you they don’t feel safe being on their own.

In case you somehow manage to establish a romantic relationship with someone, your BPD mother or father would probably do anything in their power to end it. Whenever you want to spend time with your partner, they would accuse you of being selfish and neglecting them. And again, they would perhaps play the victim card, guilt-tripping you for choosing your own happiness instead of theirs as you usually do.

The codependency trap can severely affect the way you perceive other people, resulting in you losing yourself in relationships with abusive partners who demand you to value their needs more than you value yours.

Another emotionally damaging trait of BPD parents is making their children lose their sense of identity. 

Many people with BPD view their kids as an extension of themselves. If you were raised by such a toxic parent, then you are perfectly aware of the identity confusion this may cause.

Every time you have a different opinion, they quickly frame you as an enemy and start treating you as such. Sooner or later, you learn the hard lesson that it would be better if you keep your views to yourself and simply agree with everything they say.

Unfortunately, while this brings you temporary peace, it causes serious long-term issues related to your sense of independence. Because when you’re not allowed to have your own opinion while growing up and developing as a person, you inevitably grapple with who you are as an adult. You may come to a point in your life where you realize that most of the choices you have made were not yours and suffer an identity crisis afterward, struggling to find your place in the world.

But what happens when you decide to stand up for yourself? 

The moment you realize you have had enough emotional abuse coming from one or both of your parents, things take an unusual turn. Although individuals with BPD often act aggressively when they feel they are being threatened, they don’t really enjoy conflicts. In fact, they avoid them like the plague.

Having in mind that such people take everything personally, being confronted about their behavior is certainly not a pleasant experience for them. In these cases, they usually try to flip the script and make you feel responsible for their attitude. They could also become passive-aggressive and try to attack you on a personal level in order to shift the focus from themselves.

In the meantime, when there are other people around, your BPD parent pretends as if everything between you two goes smoothly. They act as if your family comes straight out of a vintage Christmas card. And this grinds your gears because you know how unbearable the reality actually is.

Luckily, healing after growing up with a parent with BPD is possible!

There are far too many cases of children following their parents’ footsteps and making the very same mistakes. However, you can be one of those who learn from these mistakes and make sure they never repeat them. While some people raised by parents with BPD develop the same condition, you can break the cycle and embrace your true self.

You have the power to put an end to all the dysfunctional relationships you had because of the way you have been raised. It is up to you whether you will allow your toxic parent to control every aspect of your life, or you will stand up for yourself and let them know they cannot manipulate you anymore.

Something you should remind yourself in times of doubt is that you are not responsible for the past trauma they are still struggling with. You are not the one to blame for their inability to handle their own emotions. And, most importantly, you are not the one who should save them from their misery. This is something they must do themselves.

So, stop acting like their needs are more valuable than yours and start taking care of your own wellbeing for a change.

Be honest with yourself and find out whether the life you live is a product of your own choices or a result of being raised in a toxic household. In the process, don’t be afraid to unlearn some of the unhealthy behavioral patterns you were forced to practice before.

It will surely be a cathartic experience.

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