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  • Writer's pictureLiz Vines

When a Loved One Has Borderline Personality Disorder, Part 2

Updated: Mar 21

Healing While Living with a Parent With BPD:

This can be a big experience. And there are absolutely ways to cope, heal, process, and make sense of things in your relationship. You might feel overwhelmed, confused, angry, sad, or scared, and your relationship may go through many changes throughout your lifetime.

While the standard advice of setting and maintaining firm boundaries still applies here, the kind of boundaries that you are able to put in place may be different. It probably won't be possible to have as much space as you would if you lived separately. Some of the boundaries you may want to focus on might be around how much of your emotional energy you want to invest with your parent. This could mean asking yourself how much you want to share about your personal life and emotional experience and how much you want to make yourself available to support your parent. By the way, it's not your job to emotionally support your parent. It's their job to do that for you, but not all parents will be able to do this. It might be helpful to look outside of your home for other adults who are safe and comfortable to talk to, who you like spending time with. Do any of your friends have parents/guardians who you feel you can trust and rely on?

We humans need love, affection, connection, and support. And sadly, some or all of these things may not always be available (whether or not a parent has BPD). It's not uncommon for children of parents with BPD to develop special skills for getting the love and attention that they need. This might mean developing strong intuition and empathy skills so that you can take care of your parent, because maybe showing them love and kindness helps you more reliably receive love from them. It's wonderful to develop intuition and empathy, but it is also important to apply those to yourself as well. Growing up with a parent with BPD (or any other mental disorder for than matter) may involve the need for so much outer focus, that sometimes other skills like people pleasing come along for the ride. Antidotes to people pleasing are self care, boundaries, self-compassion, and working with the fear of what may happen if you "let someone down."

Anxiety may also be a common experience because people with BPD can be unpredictable. There may be loud displays of emotion, suicide threats, self-harm, impulsive behavior. Sometimes there is drug and alcohol abuse and extremely poor self care to the point of damaged health. Witnessing this can be terrifying, especially for a child. Working with nervous system regulation and hyper-vigilance can help your system learn that life is not always this chaotic, and you don't always have to be prepared for the worst. Neurofeedback, EMDR, mindfulness, meditation, and parts work might be especially helpful.

There may be several different grieving periods throughout your life as you reflect and see new ways that your parent wasn't able to be there for you, while also understanding on different levels that they suffer immensely are are doing the best that they can. You might have some beliefs about yourself that need tending to - that you are lovable unconditionally and that you don't have to be perfect to be safe - might be a few to work with.

Whatever your situation is with your loved one who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, there are ways to cope and ways to set boundaries so that you can take care of yourself. Remember that this is a trauma disorder, and help is also available for people with BPD, but you don't have to be the one to heal them.

Revisit Part 1 of this Blog Post.

Learn more about Trauma Therapy.


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