A Step-Son With Borderline Personality Disorder

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Rants and Raves
Tags: , , ,

Some of you know my husband has mild borderline personality disorder and is being treated for it. It’s part of the reason why he used to drink. It was a form of self-medication. When that “medication” was taken away, the real issues were exposed, and we were able to get him treatment for the underlying issues that were causing his emotional problems.

I’m not going to lie. Living with someone who has borderline personality disorder is a challenge. It takes patience, a solid sense of one’s self and self-worth, unconditional love and, above all else, understanding. When my husband was diagnosed he mentioned that he thought his son might have it. I shrugged it off. I wasn’t living with my step-son at the time and figured that it really wasn’t an issue. I did bring it up to his mother, who insisted there was no way her son had the condition. Again, someone PLEASE kick me in the ass for listening to her.

My step-son has been living with us for about two weeks now and, low and behold, is showing classic symptoms of borderline personality disorder. A part of me wants to ram my head into a wall. A part of me feels so bad for my step-son, because I know that this is a difficult condition he will have to live with. The important thing is, he will now get the help he needs.

Nothing pisses me off more than a mother who does not recognize that her child has a problem — or rather, refuses to recognize the problem because it would inconvenience her. My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was five. It wasn’t easy for me to accept, but I want what is best for my children and I wasn’t going to live in denial, forcing him to suffer just because I wanted my life to be easier. It is so important for children to get the help they need at a young age, because if they don’t, they suffer for it when they are adults. I have seen this first-hand.

Is it going to be hell living in a home with two people who have this condition? I’m not going to lie. Yes, at times it will be. Does that mean we can’t manage it? No. We’ll manage just fine. My husband is getting the help he needs and my step-son will get the help he needs as well. It’s just unfortunate that his mother never did anything about his behavior problems. Or maybe she wasn’t even around enough to notice. I don’t know.

So, on the bright side of things, some therapist somewhere will be able to buy a summer home with the money we will be spending on individual therapy for my step-son and family therapy so we can all learn to cope with the condition.

On a serious note, if you know someone who suffers from borderline personality disorder, whether it be a child or an adult, please PLEASE make sure they get the help they need. This condition isn’t something that goes away and it isn’t something people can just “cope” with. It takes intense therapy to manage it and a lot of family support. If you live in the Chicago area, message me. I can refer you to some great therapists who are the best in the field when it comes to this condition.

  1. K says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have been in searching trying to understand my boyfriend’s emotional behavior. The problem is, he seems to be borderline but not the traditional definitions of borderline. His situation seems a lot milder, but very little is posted about mild conditions (which isn’t easy either!) Can you describe your husband’s condition a little? My bf does not cut, have impulses of spending or drinking too much or is suicidal, but seems to have a lot of the other characteristics. He is in treatment, but I’m not sure the therapist knows everything since I’m not sure he tells her. Also, symptoms are probably worse when in a romantic relationship because that is when the greatest fear of abandonment surfaces.

    Thank you.

    • princessjd says:

      Hi K,

      Each case of Borderline Personality Disorder can manifest itself differently, so don’t assume that your boyfriend does or does not have it just because his individual case may or may not meet the “textbook definition” (if there is one) of a Borderline’s behaviors. First, it would be much easier for me to tell you what to look for if I know how long you’ve been in the relationship with him. If it’s just a few months, things might not be so bad. However, if your boyfriend does indeed have BPD, those symptoms will begin to rear their ugly head more and more as you are taken off of the pedestal that he initially put you on and does indeed find out that you are (God forbid) only human.

      Since I’m not sure how long you have been in your relationship or what things are happening to make you consider that your boyfriend might have BPD, there only a few flags I can help you look out for.

      1. Irrational anger, rage and blame. This may only surface for a moment or for a few hours. Over time it may turn into days. For example, you say something completely innocent, your boyfriend takes it out of context and handles it as if you had just attacked his personal being and then lashes out at you by pointing out all of the flaws you may have ever had, do have or may ever have in the future (and flaws that don’t even exist).

      2. Paranoia. Does your BF always worry that you are going to cheat on him, leave him, abandon him, etc? People with BPD usually have abandonment issues to one degree or another. He may tell you that he hates you and wants you to leave when he is in one of his “moods” but trust me, he doesn’t. He’ll come back around when he “swings” the other way and he’ll profusely apologize for acting the way he did. Unfortunately, the cycle will repeat itself (and will repeat itself often) until he is on medication to help. And no matter what any psychotherapist may tell you, there ARE medications that can help people with BPD. My husband is on them. He is still difficult but it is nowhere near like it used to be.

      3. Addictive personality. Now, it’s important to understand that an addiction doesn’t have to be an addiction to alcohol or shopping. It can be an addition to video games, porn, etc. Look closely for signs of any addiction.

      4. The “Push Pull” Cycle. This happens when your BF tells you that he can’t live without you, how much you mean to him, how you have made his life so much better, etc. Then the push cycle occurs and you are to blame for everything wrong in his life and you are the sole reason for all of his anger, pain etc.

      My husband doesn’t cut. He was an alcoholic but he stopped drinking about 18 months ago. But yes, you are right, when you are in a romantic relationship with a BPD the symptoms are worse. And not just because the abandonment issues surface. It is also because you are now the closest person to this individual and, as such, you become the scapegoat for everything wrong in their lives. He might lash out at others on occasion, but it will usually be at you. At least that is how my experience has been.

      Again, some cases can be milder while others are more severe. I can’t really diagnose your BF because I do not have a degree and I’ve never met him, but I can tell you what I recognize as far as BPD behaviors go.

      You have to be very careful with therapists. Some are worth their weight in gold. Others have seemingly gotten their license to practice out of a crackerjack box. The wrong therapist can actually do more harm than good. If this therapist isn’t familiar with BPD then he or she isn’t capable of handling your boyfriend’s issues if he does have the condition and this therapist definitely isn’t qualified to diagnose him. You need to have him seen by a psychiatrist for a diagnosis. There is a BIG difference between therapists and psychiatrists. If your BF has BPD he will need both. Not just one or the other.

      You should also ask your boyfriend if you can sit in on a meeting with him and his therapist so you can voice your concerns. If your bf’s therapist doesn’t want your input, it’s time to find a new one.

      Once you get your BF into a psychiatrist, the doctor can diagnose him and provide medications that will help curb (not stop) some of the behaviors of BPD. Mood stabilizers can and do help. So do some anti-psychotic prescriptions.

      I’m going to tell you right now, there is no “quick fix” for this. You may go through 10 or 12 crappy therapists before you find one who actually knows what they are doing. The same thing for psychiatrists. I highly suggest you find out what the policies are at the office you go to for your bf’s psychiatric care. A smaller office or an office with only one doctor is always better than being a number in a huge service. Make sure that you can reach a live human being when an emergency or issue arises and make sure that the receptionist is the person who is ALSO the doc’s secretary. Otherwise you end up calling a receptionist about a prescription refill, leave a message with the secretary who may or may not get back to you and three days later still not have the refill you need. Trust me, I’ve been there. A qualified doctor with his or her own small practice is best.

      Once you do find a good therapist and a good psychiatrist, the battle is just beginning. Your BF has to find the medication that works best for him, and that is basically a trial and error approach that could take months. Not to mention, it can be more than a month before your BF will even begin to experience the benefits of some medications that are prescribed.

      What I can tell you for certain is this — do not do this to yourself unless you truly love this man. If you love him, stand by him and hang on because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Learn how to deal with his behaviors and never lose sight of who you are. Buy the book Walking on Eggshells. If you have an iPhone or a Droid, download the Kindle app. The book can be purchased from the Amazon Kindle store. Trust me, I don’t make a penny off this book I just recommend it a lot because it provided me with a lot of help during times I needed it most. Get the right doctor and therapist, because without it, he’s not going to get better and will actually get worse over time. You are going to have a dual role if you choose to stay by this man. You will be his significant other and his lover, but you will also be a caregiver to some degree as well.

      If you don’t love him and he does have BPD, it’s time to move on. Staying in a relationship with someone who you do not love will only provide you with a living hell if that someone has BPD. You have to love him if you are going to be able to be understanding enough and patient enough to endure some of the things you will have to deal with.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. I hope I helped a little.

  2. Melissa Cressey says:

    How do you not want to run away? I struggle with this every day. I am a step-parent (however we are not married) to a 16 y/o BPD male. I have been in his life for 6 years. I just cant seem to cope…looking for serious advice here because it just seems so much easier to bail and not have to deal with it anymore, but I love my partner and I know its not anyone’s fault.

    • princessjd says:

      This post was written a while back. Since then I have realized there are two types of people. Those who want help and want to change and those who do not. My step-son never intended to change. Ebentually it became a “it’s me or it’s him” scenario because i just couldnt put the other kids through his crap anymore. We all agreed my step-son needs to stay away until he wants help and wants to change. As he is right now, he is too toxic to everyone else. You may want to do the same. Offer help if he wants it, and tough love if he doesn’t.

      • Melissa Cressey says:

        Thank you so so much for responding. My step-son has recently complete six weeks at McLean 3East boys treatment center and it is touch and go by day. Before he left he was homicidal, suicidal, and verbally abusive. I have a 8 y/o daughter who is starting to catch on and I am terrified as to how this will affect her life

        When I was growing up my brother was severely bi-polar and it was incredibly difficult for me. He ruined holidays, destroyed my parent’s relationship, and became an alcoholic (he is 38 now and still is). I can’t help but put up a defense mechanism and want to retreat. I know that my partner (who is so good with my step son after all of the training he received from McLean) didn’t ask for this, nor did my step-son. Since this started I have been put on anti-anxiety and depression meds. I don’t want to leave, but I am really struggling to stay…

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