person with borderline personality disorder mother
borderline disorder rages
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Replies to Family Member Letter about Rages

Person With Borderline Personality Disorder and Cyclothymia

Hi. I read your letter and felt compelled to reply as I understand your situation and can see it from both your and your husband's point of view. I used to be a severe borderline myself, but I stumbled across a wonderfully talented therapist who has helped me learn how to help myself, and I no longer fit the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. But let me back up a bit... 

I grew up with an extremely borderline mother who had the worst rages I have ever seen. These rages were almost always directed at me. Of course, I really had no choice but to stay in the home, especially since my father let me down and refused to even acknowledge the abuse (which was severe) to the Department of Human Services. But I did finally find a loophole in the system that I went through in order to get out of the home. You, on the other hand, DO have the option of leaving, and that is what I would suggest you do if staying there is really putting you at risk like you say it is. You cannot watch out for your husband's safety for the rest of your life. You need to have good enough boundaries to say to him "hey, you need to get some serious therapy, and you have 6 months in which to have made some sort of significant improvement that is evident to me in your behavior, and if you do not make ANY improvement in that amount of time, that's it, I'm out of here for good, and I'm not coming back."

I cut off contact with my mother for 8 months, and now she has changed her behavior towards me. Yes, borderline personality disorder can be a genetic disorder, which I believe it is mostly in my case, but any borderline can learn to live around his/her disorder, I am living proof of that. 

I have a 50 year old therapist who specializes in treating BPD, so he has treated a lot of borderlines, and he told my mother that he would place me in the top few borderlines he has treated as far as the severity of the illness goes...and yet I managed to work through it. "WORK" being the key word. It is very hard work, but it can be done. Your husband needs to find a therapist who: 1) actually likes borderlines (not their behavior, but likes them as people), and 2) has a good track record in treating borderlines. He needs to get busy and start searching for one that meets those criteria.

The second thing you need to do is to remember that you cannot "fix" your husband. That is his job, and only he is able to carry it out. Neither can he "fix" you. Getting a "fix me" attitude can be a very dangerous thing for both of you. And remember, IF he does change his behavior and make it into recovery, it will not solve all of your problems in your personal life OR in your marriage. You must work on your own problems while he is working on his. Do not rely on him to tell you how much you are worth. Personally, I rely on God for my self-image. That is a very healthy way to view myself. If you do not believe in God, then believe what you know deep down to be true about yourself. I mean WAY deep down, so far down that it's been hidden from you for so long that you no longer know it is there.

Now, if you want some advice on how to deal with his rages and perhaps diffuse many of them, here is my advice, which often worked for me during my rages: When he blows up at you, calmly and empathetically tell him something like "I can see that you are hurting and I want to help you. You do not need to lash out at me in order for me to see that you are hurting, you need only to tell me that you are in pain and why. I cannot read minds, so how am I to know that you are hurting if you do not tell me so yourself?" Oftentimes if you will point out the reason behind the anger, it will diffuse that anger. 

Also, let me tell you something that my therapist shared with me. Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning there is always at least one emotion lying beneath that anger...these are called primary emotions. There are only six of these emotions that can lie beneath anger, and one or more of these emotions is ALWAYS beneath anger. The six emotions are: hurt, fear, frustration, embarrassment, guilt, and shame. It will help you and your husband if you will both memorize these primary emotions and learn to identify which one or ones are beneath each outburst of anger. It will also help your husband if he can go into therapy and tell his therapist which emotion(s) caused his most recent outburst. That's all I have to say to you ("all"...hehe...it's kind of long, sorry). I wish you luck and will be praying for both of you. Take care.

Permission by Anonymous



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