Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Stop Walking on Eggshells"

As we were preparing for last week's court hearing regarding my mother's trust, a friend of mine reminded me of the book she had given me some years earlier called "Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your life Back When Someone You care about has Borderline Personality Disorder." My friend and I have had many conversations over the years about our younger sisters who have led difficult lives. My sister's affliction first manifested itself as depression when she was in her late 20s, then evolved into what most professionals would label as manic-depression or bi-polar illness. Whatever the label, the condition has been manifestly difficult for her and for her closest family members and friends. My friend and I experienced similar family dynamics growing up with emotionally unavailable and judgmental fathers and mothers who just didn't seem to get it. As the older of two siblings, we each left home and moved on with our lives, children and careers. Our sisters have had more difficulty, finding frustration with jobs, physical health problems, kids, relationships and family. Neither, however, would say even now that there was or is a problem even though they are both on government disability. That's the irony of mental illness (in some cases defined as borderline personality disorder). "People who suffer from it desperately want closeness and intimacy, but the things they do to get it often drive people away from them," says Dr. Xavier Amador, a professor at Columbia University. "Their needs are extremely difficult to meet, because they are so turbulent and irrational." That pretty well sums up the lives of our sisters. My sister can completely lose it, get in my face screaming extremely hurtful things. Frankly, I can't take it and have chosen to limit my time with her and guard against abuse. So I pulled out the "Eggshells" book written by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger to reread certain chapters. Here's what I was reminded of:

- While you may feel vulnerable to the person with borderline personality disorder, you have more control over the relationship than you may think you do.
- Stop trying to resolve childhood issues through relationships. I've begun to understand the full depth of my frustration with each of my parents. As the court conservatorship hearing played out last week, I knew I was fulfilling my father's role as parent to unruly and misbehaving children. That would be my sister and my mother.
- Focus on your own issues. "Do you have a firm sense of who you are apart from the person with BPD," asks author Paul Mason. How much time do you spend worrying about this relationship and what would you do with that time if life with this person were perfect?
- Determine your personal limits or boundaries with the BPD person. Personal limits are not about controlling or changing other people's behavior, says Mason. They are about you, and what you need to do to take care of yourself.
- Develop a noncombative communications style.
- Shift responsibility for the BPD's feelings and actions back to the BPD. You can let them know that you support them, but they are ultimately the only person who can make themselves feel better.
- Don't ignore or accept rages.
- Ask yourself, "What do I want from this relationship?" The more needs and wants that go unfulfilled, the more likely the relationship is unhealthy.
If you are interested in getting a copy of "Stop Walking on Eggshells," go to the Powell's Books Web site here.

No comments:

Post a Comment