BPD and Addiction Beginnings
I doubt if I’ll ever be “normal.” I wonder if I would choose to be neurotypical if I actually had the opportunity. Sometimes I feel as though I would gladly give up one of my limbs to be able to rid myself of my mental illnesses. But then I have good days when I can see how my disorder and addictions benefit me and shape me as a person. They enable me to empathize with others who are suffering, and they enable me to connect with people on an emotional level that only a recovering addict with mental illnesses can. They make me strong by giving me challenges and struggles to overcome and work through. Everyone has pain in their life, in some form or another. This is my form.
My mother was always the strong one. She had a “suck it up and deal with it” attitude throughout my entire childhood. As her first child, I was subject to her learning and unlearning how to parent. I don’t think that she ever made conscious efforts to change her ways; I think she just did the best she could. She was much younger than I am now when she had me and throughout my early years. She was overwhelmed and completely unprepared, fresh out of high school and just married to a man that would eventually betray her in every way imaginable while pointing fingers away from himself, leaving her with me and my younger sister to fend for ourselves. She made the decision to leave him, but he made the decision to leave us.
The first eight years of my life were practically the model environment needed to formulate the perfect borderline, and the aftermath of my parents’ divorce just added the fuckin cherry on top. My mother resigned herself to the ideas that love was total and utter bullshit and that no one could be trusted. She was vocal about these ideas too, displaying her hostility, aggression, and suspicions for all of the world to see. But fuck the world, what about me? I was young while seeing this behavior, so I had no idea what to think or how to take in all of the negativity that flowed from every part of the life around me. I learned from these ways of living but also learned from the reactions to my existence. When I cried, I was told to shut up. When I was upset, there was no comforting or explanations about life. When I messed up, I was hit in the face, spanked so hard that I bruised, or practically thrown across rooms and then told to shut the fuck up when I cried out of shame and fear. I was mostly isolated and treated like a burden. I was too loud, too expensive, too fragile. It was just easy to lock me up and hope for the best.
I managed to get through my younger years without losing my curiosity or my hope that people could be good and loving. I had seen some proof that my mother’s temperament wasn’t the end all be all. So I began opening myself up to outside relationships, making friends with the weird people at school and jumping into my imagination with them. The time came when kids were having sleepovers and parties. My mother had been with my stepdad for a while, and they had a lot of issues. He was an alcoholic and a compulsive gambler. Half Costa Rican and mean as sin, he stalked around my mother’s trailer making demands, while I sat there wondering, “Who the fuck ARE you?” It was really strange as a 9 year old to suddenly have a random stranger move into my home and start telling me what to do. Of course, I resisted his attempts at parenting and hated him with every fiber of my being. He was the decider for any social activities I asked to participate in. If he said no, it was a no. And that was that. I would ask for reasons, I would beg and cry, I would yell about him and ask why he even had a say in what I could or couldn’t do. Eventually, I learned that my mom let him decide because he would fight with her if he didn’t get to have that control. She just didn’t want to deal with him arguing.
This means that I hardly ever had friends over or went to any friends’ houses just because my mom decided to stay with someone who was mean for no reason. It had nothing to do with me. It was all them. I would lock myself up in my room. Sometimes my stepdad would try to open it and get pissed that I had it locked. He would bang on the door til I opened it and tell me not to lock it, even when I slipped into my teen years and wanted more privacy. Thankfully my mom handled that and told him I could lock my door if I want to, knowing what it’s like to become a woman, so that ended well. But everything else was a disaster.
After the divorce, my mom and dad did not get along. They didn’t get along well before either, but it got much worse. From what I have been told from various sources, my father was an alcoholic, a drug addict, and a lying cheating bastard. He cheated on my mom a LOT. His affairs were covered up with a series of lies, and lying is my mom’s biggest pet peeve. She went on a literal stake out to find this motherfucker and catch him in the act, and once she did, she was merciless. She wanted him out of her life and away from her at all costs. So I was kind of tugged back and forth between them, and it wasn’t for my own good at all. It was as if I was being used as a pawn in the game they were playing with each other. My dad would disappear and not call for weeks, but then reappear demanding to see us just to piss my mom off. She said horrible things about him to me, and being that I was the oldest, I was expected to be able to handle it. She already had too much on her plate with trying to earn a living to take care of me and my little sisters (she had two more with my stepdad, so I had three sisters in all from her) and dealing with her new boyfriend who couldn’t stop drinking beer and gambling away all of his money.
Little did my mother realize, she was setting me up for a lifetime of questioning everyone around me until they don’t even want to be around me anymore. She turned me into the same hostile, untrusting, cold bitch she was, with the same intense emotions, the same amount of denial, and the same amount of rage. But since I had actually been abandoned and knew how painful it was, I developed an obsession with catching people trying to hurt me before they could get to it first. This has caused a viscous cycle in my adulthood being critical and judgemental toward others out of fear of being hurt, but then when they try to stand up for themselves, I fall apart and sob about how much I hate myself. I can’t handle the criticism. I can’t handle being wrong. I can’t handle you leaving me. Please, don’t leave.
I’ve said all of those things so many times I can’t count. I have uttered those stupid fucking sentences in unison like a script. But I mean every word of it. These words are not a manipulation tactic that is being used deliberately to control someone else. These actions are caused purely from learned behavior, as well as unlearned coping skills. My emotions are intense because I was never taught how to handle them, and I was also constantly invalidated. When I cried, I was told to stop. I know you’ve heard this one: Stop crying, or I will give you something to cry about.
Maybe that philosophy is ingrained into my subconscious. Maybe that’s why I expect people to hurt me when I’m already down. Maybe that’s the gist of abandonment issues. I’m still trying to figure myself out. A big part of my recovery from substances (which I used to soothe myself and medicate my anxiety and dull my large emotions) along with my learning how to deal with having Borderline Personality Disorder has been about exploring my past, especially my childhood and the traumas that I endured and still deal with today. My childhood was a trailer park, lots of yelling, constant boredom, poverty, abuse, the possibility of repressed sexual abuse, being around family members with substance abuse problems, exposure to people who could have easily hurt me or done something to me without me or anyone knowing, abandonment, isolation, loneliness, cops on the front lawn every other week, being scared to death that my stepdad would drunkenly drive his 18 wheeler into our home while we slept because my mom wouldn’t let him in the house…. with very small happy moments in between. All of this chaos turned me into the girl in the leather jacket with a fuckin attitude that can drink you under the table, that can take care of herself, that needs no one. Those are lies. Those are shields I put up in order to protect myself from the big, scary world that was displayed for me as child, and the shields are my way of attempting to avoid suffering. But suffering is inevitable, and pain is part of life. I am learning to break down my walls and let people in with the knowledge that I can recover from any type of wounds others may cause me.
I will continue this journey with you, the readers, in hopes of helping others who struggle in the same ways. My childhood traumas are only the very beginning. There is much for me to learn still, and with the help of my old journals that I jotted every mundane detail of my days into, I plan to eventually understand how my personality became so disordered and how I ended up becoming an addict through and through. Understanding is the first step to getting better, and after years of dissociation and heartache, I’m finally putting the pieces together.
- Samantha D'Shay
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