A Mother’s Story

My name is Sarah, and I live in New Jersey.  My daughter, K, has BPD.  K was always extremely sensitive as a child, but I figured it was her personality, and didn't really think much more than that.  

In her freshman year of high school, she had her appendix removed after going undiagnosed for about 4 weeks prior, and many doctor and ER visits.  The day she got home from the hospital, she had a psychotic reaction where she became increasingly paranoid.  She didn't know her last name and wasn't rational.   

K was hysterically screaming that someone was going to take her away from me. I finally called 911, which made the situation worse because she thought the police and paramedics were going to take her away from me.  We went back to the ER and finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, but in actuality was about 3 hours, K slowly started calming down.  I insisted she stay overnight -a few tests were run, but were all normal.  The doctors attributed the psychosis to withdrawal from Morphine.  The weeks following the surgery, K deteriorated.

I begged K’s pediatrician to help me get her into a child psychiatrist about a week before Christmas 2010.   She was not formally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder until October 2014 after a multitude of doctor, psychiatrist and therapist visits.

When I initially found out about it, I was afraid.  I had been told that I should hope that she didn't have BPD.  She was 9/9 symptoms of the DSM criteria list.  As soon as I read them, there was no doubt in my mind.  I couldn't believe that all those years of therapy with multiple therapists and psychiatrists that no one ever mentioned BPD.  I was worried about treatment options, and her future.

At first, accepting the diagnosis was very difficult.  I felt like a failure.  I had guilt because I felt as though it was my fault, and was so sad.  It was a very difficult 8-10 months or so.  

Since then, my perception of BPD has changed. I have seen the progress my daughter has made since her initial diagnosis, and I feel so much more hopeful.  She no longer cuts or says she ""feels like she is rotting from the inside out"" or ""she wants to die, but doesn't want to hurt me so she doesn't kill herself.""  I no longer worry every single day about walking through the door and finding her dead.  I know longer worry about waking up in the middle of the night to my child screaming of nightmares for weeks and when I wake her up she's horrified.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), along with having some structure like a job, and some medication were most helpful in her recovery.  K still struggles with many things, shame, daily life skills, spending, anxiety, relationships, and negativity; however, skills enable her to work through them. I have educated myself about BPD (and continue to do so) to support her.

Today, I feel so fortunate to have met some amazing people who have connected me to different resources, including Family Connections, which has changed my life.  I've learned so much over the past 1-1/2 years that has in turn made me a much better person.  I have been given a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in my daughter's life.  I, in turn, want to help other families the same way all these special people have empowered me.

I would like to tell other parents who have a child with BPD that there is so much hope.  It’s so important for family members to educate themselves to make life a little easier for their loved one.  Search for a DBT or treatment provider that you are comfortable with and someone that will include you in the treatment plan.

BPD has actually brought K and I closer together.  I couldn't have imagined that we could have been closer, but we are.  I have been extremely involved in K’s treatment.  I attend all psychiatrist visits with k for 1st time, and as much as she is comfortable with after that.  If there is ever an issue with a treatment provider, I always go with her to act as a support and help when needed.  I attended her first DBT appointment and had weekly communication with her therapist for the first 8+ months.

The least helpful thing in K’s recovery was the lack of insurance coverage for treatment and social support.  There is so much stigma associated with BPD, from psychiatrists, judgmental family members, friends, and ordinary people.  

Many mental health professionals misunderstand the pain that the individuals with BPD feel.  They don’t understand that everything we say and do can affect our loved ones so badly.  Words can be very invalidating to someone with BPD.  Most people could not survive a day in the life of someone with BPD.  These people are survivors!

I look at K’s illness as a gift that I have been given.  I always loved my daughter with all my heart even though there were many, many excruciatingly painful moments.  I now am able to appreciate the beautiful, creative, kind-hearted person she is more thoroughly and embrace the extraordinary person that she is.  I know it is still a daily struggle for her, and admire the courage and strength she has.  

K is an incredible person with so many wonderful qualities.  She is extremely loving artistic, creative, helpful, kind, giving, funny, hard-working, and dedicated.  I only wish she could see how beautiful inside and out she is.  Every day I look into her eyes, I see the unsurmountable beautiful person that she is.

I want to tell everyone who will listen about K and her BPD.  K is very open about her diagnosis.  I think it is important to further educate people and bring more awareness to BPD.  BPD is not an illness to be feared.  Maybe someday, we'll be fortunate enough to have DBT in schools, therefore teaching skills to all children that can only enrich their lives.   Change can happen if we keep trying!