Anonymous Mom is a weekly column of motherhood confessions, indiscretions, and parental shortcomings selected by Mommyish editors. Under this unanimous byline, readers can share their own stories, secrets, and moments of weakness with complete anonymity.
My parents are both dead now. They died a month ago and I’m still grieving. The problem is they are both very much alive, a 20 minute drive from my house.
Yes, now in my mid-30s, I had to disown my parents. Having a mother with borderline personality disorder had finally taken its toll.
This was a long time coming, but when it happened – when I finally told them, “I have no parents,” – I don’t think it was any less painful than actually losing your parents to sickness or a car accident. I think losing a parent is always painful.
I hate when people say, “People can change,” Or, “They're old!” or, “How can you just cut them off like that?"
I’ve also asked myself these questions numerous times. But the truth is, my parents made me feel as they have always made me feel. Like I was drowning. I have always felt that even if I were actually drowning, depending on my mother’s mood that moment, she may or may not try to rescue me.
I had to disown my father too, because after all these years, especially during my childhood, he didn’t step in to “save” my siblings or I from my mother’s vicious streak. He, too, was under the roof of borderline personality disorder and was probably just as scared as we were -- and still is.
I’ll be brutally honest: I feel like I hate my mother and I have no respect for my father. I have all the symptoms of an adult child of a borderline personality disorder parent. These include, but are not limited to, huge self-esteem issues, panic attacks after talking to or seeing my mother, and I’m wary of trusting people.
The straw that broke the camel's back was when I told my parents I had a serious medical issue and asked if they could they please help out with my children for a couple of weeks. They said they couldn’t until May.They are both retired and their excuse for not helping out was so pathetic, it’s heartbreaking for me. For years, before I disowned them, I asked myself, why do I walk into this?
I haven’t been able to look my parents in the eyes for over a decade and when I used to see my mother, shivers immediately went up my spine. To grow up with a mother who never once told you she loves you is only the start of my upbringing. The lack of love affected both of my siblings, too. One tried to kill himself when he was younger and the other moved half way around the world because in his words, “I couldn’t stand mom and dad.”
I didn’t move. I didn’t try to kill myself. I disowned them instead.
I go between feeling a huge sense of relief to huge pangs of guilt and sadness. I’ve talked this over with numerous professionals and friends. The professionals, one who is an expert of children of borderline personality parents, told me that nothing can be done to “cure” a borderline parent. In my research, too, I found this to be true. I asked this specialist what most people end up doing.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “They do need to cut their parents out of their lives.”
How awful for me to think, “Do you mean unfortunately or fortunately?”
I hate to say this, but I wish my parents were alcoholics. (Really, I wish no one was an alcoholic.) But at least people would understand. “Oh, I get why you would cut them out of your lives.”
But saying, “My mother has borderline personality disorder,” -- well, let’s just say most people don’t understand and I don’t want to explain what that entails.
The problem with having borderline personality disorder is that you can’t recognize that you have it, which is why borderline personalities generally don't get help. And it’s left up to the child (me, now an adult) to make the decision to kill the relationship and salvage the next 30 years of my life -- trying to move on from the first awful 30 years.
What scares me is that this personality disorder can be passed down generations. Although I tell my daughter I love her all the time, there is so much to be learned about parenting and where you can go wrong. Because I grew up with a lack of love, to say the least, I find myself treating my young daughter the exact opposite of how my parents treated me. I’m always going off about how wonderful she is, how proud she should be of herself, telling her that no matter what I’ll always love her. And I know precisely why.
I would tell my mother something wonderful about my career and she wouldn’t say anything, just move onto the weather. She would just kind of frown whenever she saw me. I made her angry, no matter what I did, or didn’t do, even as an adult. Strangely, too, she only asks after my daughter and not my son. Ever. She has never asked about my husband either.
As I’ve told the therapist, “She just doesn’t want me to be happy.” After a decade of thinking about how miserable my parents made me, which affected all aspects of my life, I finally came to the conclusion that they are never going to change, and there can’t be a middle ground. I needed them out of my life if I was ever going to be truly happy.
I think about karma too because I am a mother. I don’t think any mother wants to be disowned. How would I feel if my children one day disowned me? Well, no child wants to disown parents either. And though I’ve now told my parents that I no longer have parents, and they have told me I’m out of the will (typical borderline personality) I feel an emptiness in my gut. The guilt flits in and out. But I am no longer anxious about life.
Overall I am a happier person since I have disowned them. I feel relief mostly, like I’ve gotten out of jail for a crime I didn’t commit.
Many adults are just not strong enough to cut ties. It took me more than a decade to do it. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Many people, I’m sure, won’t understand how I could be so cold. Can’t I just forget and forgive or try to find a way to be civil?
No. I can’t. I’ve tried everything.
This is a very sad time for me, and yet, I am no longer drowning. I feel that I’m in calm waters and, for the first time in my life, everything will be okay.
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(photo: VVSV / Shutterstock)