After three years of intense focus on therapy and personal growth, I'm finally hitting the keys again and will be jumping into NaNoWriMo on November 1st, 2016. Stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday 8 January 2013

MY SISTERS - Carol & Stina

This past week has left me up to my ears in books, Post-Its and piles of research notes.  Though it only dawned on me last night that my weekly post was due today, I was not concerned: I have spent the entire week delving deep into the world of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and its effect on those surrounding the sufferer and have been more than inspired (and made numerous plunders).  In fact, most of the week I had every intention of writing this post on Understanding the Borderline Mother by Christine Ann Lawson, but as I went to sleep last night, I came to the realization that wasn’t what is really driving me.  That’s not where my greatest theft has come from.

This week’s plunder is my sisters.  Well, my sisters from my mother (there are others, but that is a long story...).  
My Beautiful Sisters - Stina & Carol

There were 2 things from my research that brought me to this realization.  First, much of the readings said that children of a BPD are much more likely to develop BPD or exhibit the symptoms unless they are able to connect with a stable adult figure during their childhood to receive the nurturing that the BPD parent is unable to provide.  After being raised by a single BPD mother, I couldn’t think of an adult figure that was consistently available during my childhood to provide this support to me; but I have come into adulthood slightly bent but relatively unscathed considering the extent to which my mother suffered from the disorder.  I was puzzled.

Secondly, BPDs suffer from emotional instability in personal relationships and have irrational fear of abandonment that borders between neurosis and psychosis, with psychotic episodes.  This means that they can often feel slighted or betrayed without rational cause.  Often the children of the BPD get caught in the cross-fire.  For the BPD, the children can fluctuate between all-good or all-bad.  There is no black and white for them.  As I read this, I recalled the visits of my sisters when I was growing up.  They had left the house when I was 6 years old; on my mother’s command.  They were 14 and 16 at the time.  Though my mother begged for their return, they decided it was best to stay away and just visit.  For a BPD mother, their leaving after a visit was a sign of massive betrayal which I would bear the brunt of; being the only child left in the house.  For survival, I always sided with my mother on any issue and didn’t come to my sisters’ defence.  When I was a teenager, I once made the mistake of siding with my sisters and paid for it with hell’s fury from my mother afterwards.  I was trapped.  I couldn’t express myself or my opinions and I definitely couldn’t correct her when she was being unfair.  That is the life of a child of a BPD parent.  There wasn’t the help.  But, that’s not what this is about.

Recalling this encounter with my mother got me thinking about my sisters and that was when it became clear: it wasn’t an adult figure that provided me with the comfort and nurturing I needed when growing up.  It was two little girls; 8 and 10 years old when I was born.  It was them that sheltered me during those first formative years.  It was them that I turned to in my times of need.  It was them that looked out for me and had my best interest in mind.  And it is for them that I am writing My Mother’s Daughters and hopefully giving a voice to all those children and parents that live with this tricky and often hard to diagnose disorder.

For many years, I have called my middle sister, Stina, my superhero.  She has been the example I have followed through most of my adult life.  She was wild and free.  She lived by her own rules and made her way through life travelling only the roads that she wanted.  She made her own life the way she wanted it.  She was strong and bold and confident; all the things I wanted to be but lacked the courage.  I remember her coming home to visit when I was a child and she would always leave me a pack of gum under my pillow.  A small gesture, but filled with love for a small child.  We now live 10 minutes from each other and she is still a constant support in my life.  She recently went away for a two week vacation and near the end, I sent her an email saying how much I missed her.  Nothing was wrong, but I just wanted to see her or at least know that I could see her.  Knowing she is around the corner is an amazing comfort and I feel her absence when she is gone.

For most of my adult life, I lost touch with my oldest sister, Carol.  I was preoccupied with figuring out who I was and had moved away from our hometown where Carol still lived.  But Carol had been my saviour throughout my youth.  I can remember a time when I was 14 and my mother was having an episode and told me to “Get out!”: a threat that was common in the house, but this time I had it!  I ran away.  Carol was the only person I could think of to call; the only person who would understand.  She let me come over and when my mom called, she said that I wasn’t coming home until I wanted to and told me that I could stay as long as I like; I stayed the weekend (hopefully, enough time for our mom to cool down).  It was an amazing feeling to be protected like that.  As the oldest, Carol often faced the brunt of my mother’s wrath.  When she was no longer in the house, it dissipated a bit, but she continued to be a constant target for my mother.  She was the shield for Stina and I (not that we got away free and clear, but we wouldn’t be the primary focus).  Even still, she continued to be a support and safe haven for her little sister.  When I went overseas, I would send emails back home and Carol saved them all and collected them for me.  She would let me know how much she enjoyed reading them which was a constant encouragement in a lonely and strange place.  Carol and I have begun building our friendship again; now, that I’m no longer a child in need of her protection as I once was; we can connect as adults.  Though, to me she will always be like a second mother, keeping me safe from the storm.

To this day, I can look at my life and find the things that I’ve taken from each of my sisters.  My cat (who is my main comfort) is a piece that is from Carol.  She got me my first cat when I was nine.  Another saving comfort as a child.  When I go dancing, I dance like Stina.  She took me out when I was an awkward teenager and I copied everything she did.  As sisters, the three of us are all incredibly different in many ways.  Stina has always been the more girly one.  Carol has always been more sporty.  I was the nerdy self-conscious one.  But despite our differences, we are all still part of each other.  And I am very much made up of many parts of them.  When faced with most issues in my life, I often find myself thinking: what would my sisters do?  I have faced many struggles and tribulations in my lifetime, but I have been blessed with two wonderful sisters, who showed me what it is to have love in your life.

Today I have a successful career in a field I love.  I have a home, wonderful supportive friends and a happy family life.  I am so proud and satisfied with the life I have built and I know that it would not have been possible without the shining examples of my sisters.  Their strength; perseverance; sense of humour; guidance; and most of all, love; have been the most valuable things I have been given in this life.  Much of whom I am today, I owe to my amazing sisters!  Thank you!

PS - Just came across this photo that was posted on Facebook by Stina a while back... the origins of my writing roots:
Carol & Stina teaching me how to type

For more information on Borderline Personality Disorder, please check out the following books available at your local library or bookstore:

Understanding the Borderline Mother – Christine Ann Lawson
Surviving a Borderline Parent – Kimberlee Roth and Freda B. Friedman [highly recommend for children of a BPD parent]
Stop Walking on Eggshells – Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger
The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide – Alexander L. Chapman and Kim L. Gratz
Sometimes I Act Crazy – Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus
The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder – Randi Kreger
Lover Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder – Hari Y. Manning

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