Mothering & Borderline Personality Disorder.
What happens when you mix mental health issues and parenting?
Hello! My name is Leanora and I’m a 30-year-old single mother to a 6-year-old. I’m pretty much your average mum I wing it every bloody day… don’t we all?! Some days it comes so naturally and some days it’s the hardest thing in the world to even drag myself out of my bed and brush my teeth let alone look after another human. You see I have a mental health illness known as borderline personality disorder. This can affect my moods severely but not only my moods it has a direct impact on relationships I form both romantically and platonically.
Borderline personality disorder has a range of symptoms and rather than share them all I thought it would be easier to discuss the ones I deal with that can affect my life dramatically.
The most common is black and white thinking. So I like you or I don’t, or in my mind you like me or you don’t, if people are having an “off” day even though logically I know we all have them I will obsess for hours over what I may have done to make that person hate me. I have actually done this with my child. One day I told them off, it was required, they were behaving awfully on purpose, and I told them off for it. They went to their bedroom crying, and for the rest of the day I couldn’t eat or stop throwing up because I believed they now hated me, no longer wanted to live with me and I spent the entirety of my day asking my child if they loved me. Asking a 5-year-old for validation. That’s a reality that I live with.
The constant need for validation and attention. But this can impact my child in a completely different way. People with BPD often have what is known as a “Favourite Person” more often than not this is never the person that has BPDs child. Which can often lead to children as they grow and become aware, having a sense of neglect or not feeling loved. My favourite person for nearly 8 years was my ex.
My ex had been abusive and violent towards me and was the father to the child I longed for. The favourite person becomes a fixation, quite often an unhealthy obsession. Even though I knew they were not treating me well or how I deserved I doted upon them but to extremes. I needed contact with them 24-7, I needed to know where they were, I didn’t want them to leave me ever, I was dependant and completely and utterly obsessed with them.
Luckily I have and still do read about BPD and was well aware of the fact my child may feel unloved or less compared to other people so I made sure to the best of my ability I did not at any point ignore my child. I noticed on some occasions I would be sat on my phone for hours without even talking to my child, the guilt and disgust I felt for putting anyone else before my child made me spend more time with them, bed times became ours, bath times too, making sure I have 10 minutes in a morning to have a conversation and listen to what they have to say. It seems strange writing that down, I have to actively remember to do these things. You may read this and find it so strange or you may read it and relate. But imagine always wanting a child and then realising all the things you thought are natural, you have to remember to do. It breaks my heart on the regular.
Another symptom of my BPD is impulsive behaviour. Luckily, I have managed this and can now internalise the impulses purely because I worried that if anyone else knew about them or witnessed them maybe I wouldn’t be allowed to keep my child. This has been assured to me would not have been the case but when I get an idea in my head I obsess. An example of my impulsive behaviour would be touching electric hot plate that had a pan of boiling water on it to see just how hot it was. In case you are wondering… really fucking hot, I don’t recommend it!
Parenting and trying to get your child to eat a healthy balanced diet is pretty hard when you constantly detest your appearance too. Food has been a key source of control my whole life, and so I have now taken it a step further and can find myself obsessing about my child’s food. When I was pregnant and when they arrived l didn’t even think about anything other than breast feeding, it did not enter my mind that it might not happen (black and white thinking). I would breast feed. They would be breastfed. Done. My milk dried up on day 3 post-partum when for most people it comes in. Ouch! What do you mean I’m going to have formula feed my child? I cried every time I fed them for around the first four weeks of their life. The decision was out of my control and it was a decision to do with food which meant I went completely into control over drive with my food and lost 2 stone in around 6 weeks. I obsessed over weaning and they could only have food that was home made and nothing from a packet. I’m learning that it is everything in moderation now. Especially as they are at school which actually has been a blessing, they wanted school dinners, their happiness comes first, and I have learnt to control less.
My mood swings can be horrendous, and out of nowhere. For example, this morning, I was fine, woke up in an ok mood, tired but ok. The dog was sick on the floor and small one shouted up to tell me, I went offfffffff! About how I was getting the school uniform ready, myself ready, getting the school bag ready, trying to have a wee and brush my teeth and what did they want me to do about it right this second. The worst thing is, I would have probably reacted the same if I wasn’t told, why didn’t you tell me? How long has it been there? It would have taken me two minutes to come and sort it you should have said! For this I have started meditating and counting to 10 (yeah I know it sounds daft but honestly give it go) it helps me to process the situation before reacting to it. This morning for some reason the ability to behave in that manner had deserted me. I was disappointed and have spend my day feeling like an awful mother.
We hugged it out.
All these points above I try and remind myself that everyone can feel them at times. We all have mood swings, we can all obsess over people, but for me and my brain its intensified. I used to take medication, for me it wasn’t right I found I spent life on level, with no highs and lows. Yeah the lows are awful but the highs are magical and make me feel super human. I participated in talking therapy last year and this has worked wonders and I can now see my dips on their way and can let loved ones know so I have support and can manage with my child a little easier.
I would love to think that over the years of living the best ones have been with my little one, they made me realise that I’ve got this.
They made me see the strange beauty in feeling intensely.
They have actually made me realise that I can be a mother and have mental health issues and the two as difficult as they can be together are getting on ok.
We are ok.