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Hello everyone,

This is my first thread. I just wanted to start a discussion asking anyone who would like to talk about how they dealt with parents/caregivers with mental illness as a child.

In the last year or so, I became aware that for my entire life, my single mother had Borderline Personality Disorder. This essentially meant that as a timid, typically well-behaved child, I was constantly forced to deal with public outbursts (her screaming at perceived slights from other people, road rage and reckless driving, antagonistic behavior) and private outbursts (her throwing things, threatening suicide, crying and calling me ungrateful, etc.).

While she was at work, I would get out of school to spend time at my grandparents' house. They were alcoholics, and though when sober they were wonderful people (my mother was also lovely when she wasn't having one of her "episodes"), they would often drive drunk to pick me up from school, threaten to kill each other, fall and hurt themselves, etc., which caused my mother more stress, which led to more outbursts.

I am just wondering if anyone else had a traumatic childhood (I still feel odd saying that, as I feel quite lucky to have had the childhood I did, but I suppose the "proof is in the pudding"), and if so, what is your story? How did you deal with it, and how are you coping with it today? How do you think it changed your personality or behavior?

In advance, I really appreciate all of your responses!

Civilianne
 

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I am not an NF, nor did I have a similar childhood, but I am an LPC and am interested in what sort of discussion follows....
 

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I didn't know what my mother had growing up. I now believe it was Borderline Personality Disorder. She acted in many of the same ways your mother did, but she kicked it up a notch. If you weren't behaving the way she expected (no matter how unreasonable her belief was), she'd beat you for it. Couldn't turn out the light in a room because you couldn't reach the switch chain? It would become this weird waiting game, with you trying to figure out how to do the impossible, always knowing in the end you'd fail and get beat for it. Never cry and never look at her. Those were sure to get you beat.

With my mom, I think as kids, we learned to stay out of the house as much as we could. We'd go on "adventures". We'd go out most of the day if we could manage it. Imagination was something we possessed, because it was the only way to "forget" what you had to deal with at home. We'd look out for each other. If one of us was in those "waiting games" with our mom, the others usually tried to help, whether it was with a silent look or sometimes stepping in to see if we could do it. That might earn all of us a smack, but we watched out for each other that way.

I became very quick to notice when my mom was changing from one of her normal, fun modes, to the dark side. There were times, that if I caught it quick enough, I could gather my siblings and we'd get out of the house. Other times, all you could try to do is be as inconspicuous as possible until the mood passed. Unfortunately, this meant, when I was smaller, I often wouldn't leave my room. Not even to eat or go to the bathroom. I'd stay in my room all day long to avoid a beating.

We also learned to be careful for what we asked for. Gifts from her were a form of manipulation, and she expected things back in return. There was always the power struggle between her and my father, too. She wanted to cause him as much pain as possible, and we were the perfect way to do that most times. We had to learn to be little diplomats in that war.

The biggest drawback was not having any support from most people. She could seem incredibly "normal" to most people. So they'd have trouble understanding why we weren't closer to our mom. If you tried to tell them what she was really like, they didn't believe you. So we learned to stop trying. We'd cope on our own.

My father, on the other hand, was not very good father material. But there was a period in his life where he got depressed and drank heavily. He could be two types of drunk, the happy giddy drunk, or the angry drunk. You never knew what you were getting when he came home. Even the happy drunk was uncomfortable, because it felt fake, and you knew it could turn the other way at any moment.

We'd try to avoid him too. What else can you do? There's little you can do as a kid to help either parent overcome their problems. But you try anyway. You try to be there for them. To support them. To give them the love they seem to crave. It just gets sucked into the black hole and drains you.

There was always a strong desire to not mess up as a kid. Mistakes got you into trouble in a way most kids couldn't fathom. You tried to be the "good kids" all the time. The responsible kids. The grown-up kids. You did it to survive.

My older adult self has spent a lot of time trying to understand my parents and where they were coming from. I accept what they are in a very detached sort of way. It doesn't mean I want to have a really close relationship with them. I don't think I could. But I do yearn to understand why it all was that way. I don't want it to repeat. I want to learn from the situation and help anyone else that finds themselves in a similar one. I want to be the one that throws the closet door wide open and lets all the skeletons out. I want to empower people with what they don't know or understand. And I want to give kids the help I couldn't get when I was there.

I had an INTJ friend tell me that he knows I went through some really nasty stuff, but that it's shaped me into the person I am today. And he's right. It's made me very sensitive to how I affect others. It's made me sensitive to injustice, especially those in abusive situations. It's made me strong even when I'm shaking in fear inside. And it makes me appreciate what I have, every little thing. It also shaped how I look at others. I don't judge as readily as some people might, and I'm very good at seeing the hidden things that most people would never believe. I'm also more apt to accept something that sounds preposterous as a possibility, because things are not always as they appear.

There are struggles, too, to cope with what we went through. But I think I have posted an awful lot for one post. I can always share more later if there is a need.
 
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