Telling a parent you have BPD?

Posted , 5 users are following.

Hi everyone,

I've been suspecting BPD for a very long time and was recently 'officially' diagnosed with it. It kind of feels amazing and terrible at the same time - at least now I can relate to symptoms and know that they are not my fault.

However, I really want to tell my mum about it. She's not been very supportive in the past with mental illness (I've had severe anxiety and depression for over ten years) and wouldn't understand. However, I want to tell her because I know I have had angry outbursts at her before and I want to basically apologize.

The thing is, my psychiatrist said I didn't develop properly as a kid due to domestic goings on, partly because of my mum. So I almost feel it's her fault, for not doing anything about my abusive step-father. 

I just don't know how to go ahead explaining this to her without her thinking I am blaming her or feeling sorry for myself. If anyone has any good resources, that'd be great!

Also, I don't live with her anymore, I am 29 and live in Leicester, she lives in North Wales. If I try and talk to her irl about things then she seems to just change the subject so I feel an informative email might be best. Then she can call me and ask any questions she might have.

Any advice is welcomed! And nice to meet you all, I hope you're doing well!

- Matt

1 like, 7 replies

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7 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi, hope you don't mind me asking but what were your symptoms that led to a BPD diagnosis? I only ask as your situation sounds quite similar to mine. I too had a disturbed childhood where I was basically scared and on edge from my earliest memories. Hence, the overwhelming anxiety and mood swings that seem to have become part of my personality. I can't talk to my mother or father either as they do not want to accept or even try to understand why I have problems. As a result, I don't seek as much help as maybe I should.

    I think an email to your mum is the best way to go. That way you can say all that needs to be said without arguments or subject changes! Then it's up to her to respond how she sees fit. Hopefully she will read it over a few times and give what you have said proper thought rather than just reacting.

    Good luck and let us know how you get on. 😊

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    • Posted


      Basically I've been horribly over-emotional my whole life - the smallest things could send me over the edge into a breakdown or angry rage. I had a lot of attachment issues and would be manipulative to partners in order to make them stay with me. I like to think I have those things under control thanks to medication but they are still scary aspects of myself. 

      It is only recently that I started disassociating and hallucinating almost daily so I was diagnosed when I went to the GP with those symptoms, she referred me to a crisis team then and there. 

      Seeking help is hard and I have avoided it for so long, convinced that I just had a sh*tty personality. I hope that at least people on these forums can help you. 

      And I hope she understands, part of me doesn't want to tell her at all but I kind of think she needs to know as family gatherings can be pretty awkward. 

      Thanks for your response <3 >

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  • Posted

    Hi Matt, Do you really have to tell her? Seriously...

    I'm speaking from experience here, though not about BPD. I got diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder when I was in my mid-40s. They said probable Asperger's, but difficult to be accurate as I'd been living with it and trying to "act normal" for so long, it was a bit difficult to unpick the whole story.

    Anyway, I had a large dyspraxia component, which I realised accounted for all kinds of problems I'd had as a child. The main one was that I couldn't write properly. And still can't. I'm not remotely dyslexic, I was hyperlexic, could read fluently at three and was found to have adult reading ability at age seven (a fairly common Asperger's symptom). But I couldn't actually write till I was about nine. Even now, I'll do anything to avoid people seeing my handwriting, though I managed to teach myself to touch-type when I was about your age. When writing, my hand won't do what my brain wants it to do, it seizes up after a few minutes, I write wrong words and my writing wanders all over the page and generally looks like that of a recovering stroke victim. When I was at school in the 1940s and 50s, no one had heard of this and there was no text processing. (They hadn't even heard of dyslexia so the poor kids who couldn't read got beaten and ridiculed.) So you can imagine how a child with adult reading ability and an IQ of 145 who couldn't pass exams was looked on. My teachers and my mother all assumed it was "wouldn't" rather than "couldn't" and I was constantly punished at school and at home.

    When I got my diagnosis, I thought my mother would be interested and told her about it - especially the handwriting problems, though without in any way blaming her for all the beatings I'd got for it. After all, that was normal in working-class families in my generation, particularly the ones that wanted their kids to move up the social ladder and out of poverty. In her eyes (and my adult eyes too) she'd been doing the best she could for me.

    That was one big mistake! She nearly went ballistic. I thought she was going to start hitting me all over again. She raged at me for ages: "No, you wouldn't write, it wasn't that you couldn't! You did it to defy me!" And so on and so forth. So... that one was never mentioned again.

    I'm far too old now to feel resentful or self-pitying about any of this. Things happen, don't they? (OK, I rephrased that to get it past the moderator!) But just bear in mind that your mum is not necessarily going to be overjoyed to hear your news. And in any case, you must have been showing signs of BPD as a child or at least a teen and did she try to get anything done about it then? That particular sleeping dog might be better left to lie.

    I'm glad to hear that you've moved on from the family home. That's a sign of maturity and being able to cope with life. By all means share your diagnosis with your mother if you feel it will help you, but don't pin too much hope on the outcome and bear in mind that it won't necessarily improve your relationship with her.

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  • Posted

    Hi neonpossum,

    First, congrats on your diagnosis, and how you are handling it. You do sound like a really great guy, open minded and kind. And your motivation for wanting to tell your mother about your diagnosis is really good as well, wanting to apologize for your outbursts of temper when you were younger.

    So really, good on you.

    Borderline personality disorder is one of the most difficult diagnoses. I am thinking it might be far past what your mother could understand. Even if she did some reading on the net, she would be hard put to understand it. And maybe she wouldn't be able to accept that it is partly an inherited trait, and partly due to abuse. She maybe wouldn't want to know that what happened in her home was abuse.

    Of course it was, neonpossum. I feel sorry that you had to deal with your stepfather.

    I am thinking two things now. One, I am thinking that you can't change the past, you can only change the future. Maybe that's where you could aim your efforts at finding an understanding with your mother. Maybe regard the efforts you make in dealing with your condition and calming yourself and being happy as a way of apologizing. Of making up for your outbursts. Although, I think you have nothing to apologize for, nothing to make up, you were a teenager!! It's normal. Of course I don't know what happened.

    The second thing I am thinking is because of a friend. He is an alcoholic, and just starting on the path of recovering. He has ADD, PTSD and maybe a bit of bipolar. He was abused by both his parents, and I see in him both an anger and a need for love from older women. I perceive him as letting the women in his life make too many demands on him, because he is needy for their love. And concurrently there is anger in him towards these older women.

    I guess I am wondering if this is the case with you. You got angry at your mother in your teens and you feel a need to make up for it. You want something from her, affection, love, understanding? But she also subjected you to a bad situation when you were young - she put you in the power of an abusive stepfather. You had reasons for your anger. But you don't ask her to apologize. You think of apologizing to her.

    Neonpossum, I am really really conscious that I don't know you well, I don't know your mind, and that I am reacting to your situation from within my own situation, thoughts and experiences. Which is to say, I don't think I am right! I wish I could just listen to you. I think it is the best therapy, especially with someone as clear as you. So I had these thoughts that I wrote above, but please don't think I believe I know what is best for you, or that I presume to know how your mind is working. Just really, throw it in the bin if it doesn't apply, I put no weight on it myself.

    I wish you the best in life, a calm and peaceful heart.

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  • Posted

    Hi Matt.

    If it's your desire to share this with your mother do it but  since you say she's not very supportive, I would put it in the middle of an normal email in a BTW style:

    "as I've not been very well lately I've had a number of appointments recently and I now have a diagnosis of BPD. Just to let you know."

    Something of this sort. But Matt, if she's not supportive just let go. You'll need therapy that's for sure but maybe your mum's role is not relevant at this stage. Take care.

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  • Posted

    my worry when people are diagnosed with BPD is that sometimes they are labelled as this due to the fact that they can't find any other label to stick onto you. BPD is sometimes used by patients diagnosed with it as an excuse for their behaviour, so being rude ! Impulsive, non committal and  able to manipulate. This all sounds negative but it's not the reason I am saying this is because I was labelled with BPD about 10 years ago and maybe at that time my symptoms of attempted suicide, self harm, impulsive behaviour did match, however once I managed to get my head together I went for re diagnosis as I found BPD to be frowned on by quite a lot of people. It took me a week of talking to the psychiatrist and putting my points across and I am pleased to say I was re diagnosed as having reactive recurrent depression not BPD. 

    The he whole point is please don't live to your label, live your life the best that you can.

    all the best

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