Difficult child with possible Borderline (BPD)/self harm

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by WiseChoices, Aug 3, 2019.

  1. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    Hi, everyone!
    I am new here, so glad I found this forum. My difficult child 2 (DC2) is 20 yo, senior year at University. Did community college for AA degree while living at home
    , left for Uni last fall and experience away from home for first time has been extremely difficult. After a very brief dating situation that didn't work out for her, she started self harming. This has been an ongoing problem since then. She was in therapy for eating disorder for 3 years, cbt for 3 years before leaving for uni. After the dating experience (3 dates in all) , she felt her behavior had been "out of character" and convinced the therapist and psychiatrist that she was bipolar in addition to her diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I did not agree with the bipolar diagnosis based on the assertion that the mania was supposedly daughter fooling around with the young man she was dating (normal college aged person's behavior) and that she ordered $75 worth of bracelets to cover up self harm scars after young man broke up with her. Therapist said it was out of character for my daughter (?) and agreed with the diagnosis DC2 had come up with herself. She had been on 4 different medications by that time for depression all of which stopped working. After that, she got medications for bipolar (a mood stabilizer) and another anti depressant which she both stopped taking shortly after starting them because she didn't like how they made her feel .

    Came home over Christmas break, stopped cutting, went back to school in January, started cutting again, binge eating (gained 80 pounds in 1 year while away at Uni) and stealing food from room mates.

    She has been home over the summer. She stopped cutting when she got home, binge eating got much better, she started going to gym with me. Took 3 online summer classes. Has never held a job despite encouragement from us and from therapist. Hasn't been in therapy since Christmas break, and is rejecting to go.

    We recently decided , together with DC2 ,that it would be better for her mental health to stay home for fall semester and commute for the 2 days of classes. It's a 2 hour drive, and I normally don't let anyone drive my car, but I offered I would drive her except for a month when I will be on vacation. She seemed relieved to not have to go live at uni again where she isolated , staying in dark room, in bed, all day and barely making it to class on many days.

    Things seemed to look up a bit, but now as her birthday is approaching, she started self-harming again and left a bloody tissue in MY bathroom undoubtedly for me to find. I asked her about it , trying to break through the secrecy, and she wouldn't admit to self-harm, but it was clear she was doing it again . We talked the next night, and she was open and admitted to hurting herself , but won't entertain therapy or getting help "because she is afraid they will hospitalize her". She seems very depressed again, and I read that birthdays and holidays can trigger depression for patients. She holds a lot of anger and pain about her childhood, can't let go of her resentment for her Father, and blames her mental health problems on her childhood .(He was dry drunk , returned to AA 2 1/2 years ago, made his amends to both adult children. I know they don't have to forgive him. I went into Al Anon at that time).

    I am very concerned about the self harm, about her suicidal thoughts. She says she does not have a plan, but feels so low about herself all the time. I have encouraged Al Anon, she made a few meetings, then stopped. She will start many things and can't stick with most of them: meditation, yoga, different hobbies, her major at school, signing up for classes, dropping classes. I have read "Stop waking on egg shells" and sometimes am convinced she has Borderline (BPD), other times , I am unsure. Her last therapist denied Borderline (BPD) when I brought it up, but did mention histrionic PD even though she had never shared that diagnosis with my daughter ?

    Right now, DC2 won't open the DBT book I got despite the fact that it has a whole page of suggestions for self harm distraction skills. She says she wants to stop self harm, but doesn't seek any help/input for it. Anything I suggest is immediately dismissed as not working for her. I am scared. I have started to listen more and not give advice/suggestions which is hard for me.

    I feel like I am rescuing her again with driving her to school, then again, family does care for ill family members temporarily. It will be only for 1 semester. In the spring, she can take all online classes and she will graduate in May.
  2. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    Hi. Well, been there and tried to fix her life and now she is 33 and no better plus helpless and not nice to us either. The mentally ill only get better if they want help and seek it out. We don't help them by pitying them, although I have been there too. It does not help either to treat them like invalids. They get better if treated as if they CAN, not by acting as if they are damaged and frail. I did this. I am very sorry for it.

    I am still in Al Anon and therapy and my husband and I, the worlds biggest enablers, finally learned that there is nothing we can do to save our daughter. Nothing. Nada. It is a hard pill to swallow, but nobody can help, fix or change another person. Only the person herself can do it. It took us a decade of trying to see this and to truly stop trying and to give our beloved daughter to God.

    My daughter is a cutter. How much shej cuts we don't know for sure nor do you. Tjey hide it and lie unless they know it scares us and they want to use it for pity and favors. I think my daugjter is borderline bit it is impossible for us to diagnose. It is hard even for doctors to diagnose right. There are no blood tests, just guessing. I dont care about my daughter's diagnosis. I just wish she would get help.but wr can't force this. They need to want to change and to initiate help on their own.

    My daughter smokes pot as a healtjy plant,h words, that cures everything from anxiety to cancer. That is her only help. Her disturbed husband is like her and they feed off one another, fighting physically at times in frohnt of my doomed and beloved grandson. I can't help. CPS told me he is not abused by their standards. The bar for removing a child is very high. Medical pot is legal in their state and smoking it around him is not bad enough.. Not vaccinating him is not illegal nor is homeschooling with no credentials. He is fed and not beaten up. That's thle bar. Even though the cops have been out for her husband choking h her once and the baby saw and cps never tried to do anything about it. i i worry about him. I can't do anything. And if Kay knew I called CPS she would never let me see him to check on him. They isolate him
    I have to be careful. There are no grandparent rights on her state (or most)..

    My daughter is very angry at us for no longer paying her bills. We are punished with silence but are now too broke to help out. We gave her most of our retirement. My two other kids are very upset and protective of us. They don't care for their sister and ignore her and she doesn't like them either.

    Kay was adopted very young from another country and.plays that up. We don't love her, her words, because of this. It is true that she.looks very different from us (she is.pretty, we are just plain.), is not like us in personality and ambition and she says she doesnt belong. Yet we spent more time, love and attention on her than.the other kids and THEY feel hurt by this. We loved her and still do to the moon. We just gave her to God because helping her made her angry, helpless and worse. And helping didn't help. She wanted money, not therapy or any other help. And she spent any money on pot. Still does. What she does not do is work or clean or cook.

    From my experience my best suggestions are to back off and stop trying to find solutions. She has to do these things. She probably won't take your suggestions and may hate you for them and punish you with venom. Let God handle her. You can't.

    Love to you. Be well. If you pray, keep praying. Go back to Al Anon. Are you sure she doesn't use any drugs? Pot and alcohol count.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  3. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    Thank you so much for this! I really needed to hear it. I will continue Al-Anon, without it I would be lost . No drugs or alcohol, we dont allow it in our home. She had prescriptions of antidepressants but threw them out when they stopped working. She was on Xanax but took 6 months to get through a 30 day supply. I did recently find a bottle of Equate non-drowsy allergy medication in her bag with 42 pills left. That made me wonder . She will be 21 in a few days, and could drink, but she doesn't have money or a job, and I will not buy alcohol.
  4. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    Kids don't need jobs or money to use drugs. The kids share substances happily. Don't let her lack of money fool you. Kids are very eager to give out booze, pot and hard drugs. We rarely gave Kay money and paid the landlords etc. directly. No cash to her. But she was able to use. She even did illegal things to get money. I was shocked and shamed that she pretended to be homeless and made a good buck panhandling at train stat.ions. A neighbor saw her and then Kay admitted it, blaming us for giving her no cash.

    This is worse. I can't prove this, but she hinted once, then recanted and said it was a joke, that at times Lee allowed her to prostitute. This put me in the hospital so she said it isn't true. I no Ionger know if she did it or not and never want to know.
    She stole our things and sold them and shoplifted. She did finally get caught but they didn't press charges. Too bad. They just banned her from the store.

    She found ways to get money that we never thought of. To us she would never have demeaned herself morally. But she did. Please don't be as naive as we were. I wish I knew nothing. Ignorance is bliss.

    Don't think you are on top of her. Unfortunately, you don't know what she does. We thought we knew too but we ate shocked at what we did not know. Addiction is in her family DNA. She is at high risk.

    Be well. Keep your guard up.
  5. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    Welcome Wise:

    I do not have experience with what you describe but do know that my son also was cutting when he was around the age of 15. I was horrified to be honest. He even did his name on his knuckles and tried to hide them from us. He was seeing a psychiatrist at the time which had a great bedside manner but gave my son benzos for anxiety which lead to full blown addiction and HELL for us. The doctor told us that most of "them" do cut. Not sure what "them" meant but I think it meant those that are having emotional problems.

    I agree that keeping her close to you is a good idea and I would do that also. It doesn't sound like she is being mean to you or doing this intentionally. Is her father in the picture? She is young and hopefully she will get past all these behaviors and something will click for her.

    Do you have faith? I think that spirituality is so important for our children that are going through a rough time.
  6. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    Thank you so much, RN, for your kind and caring response ! I do have spirituality and faith. I attend Al-Anon and have been through the 12 steps .

    My daughter also was on Xanax and 2 other highly addictive anti anxiety medications. I am so very sorry that your son had an addiction problem. I think the last bottle she had , she was using the remaining 10 or so benzos (30 day supply which she had used over 6 months here and there) to sleep, but they are gone now, and right now, she has no more access to them.

    I am very aware of substance abuse issues and will not support her getting any more prescriptions filled going forward because she is highly susceptible to addiction with the depression/anxiety/ self injury .

    She is a good person, sometimes moody and rude, but nothing too major. I would say normal teen behavior, but she is 20 years old .Acts more like a teen. She has a few good friends but rarely makes plans to see them.

    What greatly concerns me is her refusal to see a therapist . Her old one got dropped off our insurance, and she doesn't want to start over and is scared they will "lock her up" (her words) for her self-injury. The old therapist was not very helpful in my opinion, not solution oriented, and DC2 got worse over 3 years of therapy, not better .

    Husband is in the home with us. He is 27 years clean and sober, had 5 years in NA, 20 years dry drunk, and now 2 years in AA. He is a good man, but stays out of daughter's issues . I deal with them mainly alone. I was thinking that it should be discussed as a family. He and daughter do not have the best relationship. She is very resentful of him, and doesn't want to forgive him for certain issues like yelling at her really hard when she was young when we were building our home and he was trying to keep her safe in the construction site . He has made amends for his parenting errors as part of his 12 step work but she won't accept them which she doesn't have to.

    She needs help and I am trying to get through to her to be willing to work with a therapist. Any ideas? I went to the S.A.F.E website and they have an excellent free webinar for parents of self-injurers which I listened to. They have suggestions for what to say, but my daughter has dug her heels in . That site says not to use threats or force with self injurers, so I am trying to appeal to her reason .
  7. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    I probably would try to see a therapist with hubby to figure this out if it were me...to try to have steps or a plan of some type would make ME feel better.

    My son never was fond of therapy and would tell them what they wanted to hear for the most part. He didn't change one iota until he matured a bit and was in a strict, faith based environment.

    My husband not fond of therapy but he was pretty good when we were going through our thing, listening to what I'd find out about what we needed to do to handle our son. It was really a crap shoot but we did need to show a united front with him. Of course your situation not the same. I would be afraid as well.
  8. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    Yes, that's an idea . Thank you for that. It would also get husband involved in the process which brings the family together more.
  9. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    Update: I noticed more self injury yesterday, more bandaid wrappers in trash .My new thing is to call it out rather than let the secrecy exist.

    I waited until today. She has a bandaid on upper arm, and I asked what happened . Daughter says she doesn't want to talk about it and grins in this embarrassed way. I said "I know it's hard to talk about". I tell her I want her to get help, that she doesn't need to do this alone . That we can go to the first appointment together, that we could go as a family .She says "No way do I want to go as a family. And I know you told Dad!"

    I tell her she had said she wanted to stop, and that self-injury gets worse if we continue to do it . That it has been a year now of more severe cutting (she used to stick a needle under her fingernails starting at age 12) . That I would like her to have a plan on someone to contact before she self injures.

    She says this is nothing what she really wants to do is rip into herself .

    She doesn't want to take about it . She needs to end the conversation. Her day is hard enough as it is (I made her clean the bathroom and her room - she had 4 days to do it and still didn't get it done by last night).

    I can't get through to her .This grin she puts on is like a game she is playing .with her body, with her life. How do I get her into therapy?
  10. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    The only way I know of is to force her to go or give her a strong consequence if she such wont, such as making her leave for not helping herself. This may or may not make her go...she could fake going and not really go or she might. If she goes she can talk to the therapist or else not talk. You won't be sure what really happens. At her age, you have no legal options. All is on her.

    I have tried, but have never found any way to force anyone else, especially my daughter, to do anything she doesn't want to do. You can control your reaction to what another does or doesn't do, but you can't say just the right magical words to make anyone do anything they don't want to do. I wish we could!

    A doctor is unable to tell you anything about even a family member without written permission from the person.

    You eventually learn that you can't control anyone but yourself in most therapy, AA and Al Anon groups, which may be why your husband doesn't push. Pushing doesn't work and he is discouraged from enabling her in AA. He is correctly working his program.

    For years I didn't believe that I should let go and let God, and I tried to get Kay to change, in spite of being told it won't work. I finally believe it now. It didnt help a bit. I wish would have known long ago.

    If you have God in your life, my best advice is to focus on your own life to make it good, and give your daughter to God. Be well.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
  11. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    Yes, that's what I keep hearing in Al-Anon. Give her to God. It's so hard! We used to be so close , her and I.

    When I dropped her off the college , a year ago, we cried so hard . We had traveled together, we shared many of the same interests.

    Weeks into college, she made a friend that was important to her. She since has dropped this friend because she felt controlled and abused my said friend. When this friendship started, DC2 started pushing me away .Hard. I accepted it as a sign she was forging more independence. She started blowing all her money, and wanting more which I didn't give her, set boundaries .

    She later admitted to me that she talked bad about me to this friend and that the friend started bashing me (and my daughter believed what was being said rather than letting her relationship with me speak for itself). So I went from "best friend" (her words) to horrible person . That was hard to handle and I went through a lot of grief .

    Even now, she is somewhat stand offish with me, won't accept hugs, doesn't want to be touched . She treats me with a bit of distance. Only once in a while will the old daughter come through and she will be closer .It's very painful.
  12. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    I have been at this longer than you. It isn't easy. We bought Kay a house, a mobile home, put down money for rent when she lost her homes, bought her cars...think of it, we did it. We even had a fully paid college fund but she hated school. We would have paid for any therapy but she would not go.

    We have a very small retirement fund now. My other two resent her and every leg up we gave her was a bust. It didn't help her get on her feet. Instead she demanded more. That is all it did.

    We are not close like I am with the other kids and nieces and nephews. No hugs. No love. Just abuse over what we should do for her.

    We are done and it still hurts, but we see now that nothing will change her unless SHE wants to change. Not expecting her to change any time soon. She is full of anger and false memories of her childhood "abuse" that never happened. We never even spanked her and she got more attention than my other two combined. We really tried.

    Her life is now pot.

    I think it is important for us to think of ourselves first, even if we are not yet ready to stop trying to change our kids.

    Be well.
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  13. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    Thank you for that. I hear you .I have to stop bending over backwards in order to get love/approval.

    It is what it is.
  14. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    Wise, I echo Busy's sentiments. It sounds like the story of my 38 year old Borderline daughter. I tried, and tried, and tried to help: money, childcare, a place to live, help moving over and over again, counseling, cars, and on, and on. The mental illness started revealing itself around age 20 with substance abuse, self-harm, abusive relationships, rages, and so many nights of fear about her safety.
    She was a shining start before that.

    She cut contact with me two years ago in a rage. I worry about her and miss the old her, but I don't miss the abuse, manipulation, and rewritten history of all my faults. Busy is right that each of our children must want the help themselves. We didn't cause it, we can't control it, and we can't cure it. No matter how much it hurts, they have their own journey. Protecting yourself does not mean you love your daughter any less. Remember to love yourself as much.
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  15. SunnySad

    SunnySad New Member

    Your daughter might balk at the suggestion, and use her avoidance of therapy and college classes as an excuse, but you might want to look into mercymultiplied.com. It’s a FREE residential program for women 13-32. It is a Christian ministry and it has homes in 3-4 states. Maybe she’ll go after graduation.

    I’m desperate to have my daughter go but it has to be her choice and she has to apply, etc. They (Mercy) said it can take years, but girls often come in after the parents have made inquiries years earlier - so I have hope. Sorry to sound like an advertisement, but to me it sounds like maybe your daughter could benefit from the program.
  16. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    She very well may, but is a staunch atheist, so I doubt she would consider this. Thank you for the suggestion though.
  17. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    What about the "fear of perceived and real abandonment" that is the Borderline (BPD)'s classic symptom? Wouldn't cutting off be abandonment they create? The way my daughter has held on to her grudge against her Dad and is now starting on me is her abandoning us, and she doesnt seem scared of that abandonment. She seems to rage mostly inwardly, but verbally is saying stuff that sounds very angry and ragy.

    Her illness started with depression and anxiety, and it is getting worse . Self harm now. A beautiful girl, former gymnast and dancer, very intelligent, and used to be my joy and my sunshine. She started changing age 16 and it has gotten worse every year . I miss who she used to be. She is beyond recognition. Plus 80 pounds, scars all over her, and constant restlessness and dissatisfaction with everything. I feel such grief.
  18. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    Forget who she used to be. Kay is beautiful and not a dummy, and artistically gifted and was once a moody but sweet child. But she wont use her gifts. She is who she is today, in the moment. In the now. It's awful. But its its factual.

    Unfortunately you have no legal way to force your kid into any program. Kay is a staunch atheist too. Many of our kids are. This I always felt is significant, not that its bad to be a responsible atheist adult. But Its easier for our kids to do anything they want, I believe, if there is no higher power.. That also makes it harder to find good programs for them that they may accept. But i don't think they would go anyway.

    RN managed to do it, but her son was obviously ready. And cheers to him!! Normally we can't force programs on the kids. From long suffering experience, let your daughter decide what to do and, unlike us, don't push. I recommend not helping her make poor decisions either. We did.

    It worked to make us feel better until she threw all we did in the trash. So we did it, but it was for us. Somebody says that here and I resonate with that.We "help"them to make US feel better, not for their good. Whoever says that, thank you. It helps. Its true.

    Making us feel like caring moms doesn't help our kids. At all. They know we love them. That is all we need them to know. Your daughter is not afraid you will ever really abandon her. Every borderline is different anyway. They all have their own maladaptive ways of coping. Some self harm. Some develop anorexia, this is very common too. Some are overly promiscuous. Some shoplift. Some do other things. No two fit the text book.

    Don't do what we did. Don't spend every day looking for that right fix. The right fix is in them only and when.they are ready. I think they enjoy telling us NO!

    Be well. Trust your daughter to your higher power, if you have one.
  19. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    Wise, my daughter was a dancer also, and it breaks my heart that she let that go - it gave her so much joy.

    You're right about the "fear of perceived and real abandonment." I have spent years in therapy, read the books on borderline, and still attend 12 step (Codependents Anonymous). I am not perfect, but I have worked very hard to use the skills I learned and to not abandon her.

    Unfortunately and ultimately she has gotten worse because of the trauma she has allowed herself to be exposed to. She is the one who has cut off our relationship (and with most of our family also). I have no control over that. Having PTSD myself, I must confess that there is some relief in not subjecting myself to her unpredictable and constant rage of which I was her most frequent target. At 66 the stress and verbal attacks took a toll on my health. I have three adult children. The father of my oldest two was an addict, and years ago I came to the acceptance that my daughter and/or my oldest son, who is an addict might die. My suffering will not alleviate hers, so I choose to work on healing myself. Maybe that sounds selfish or callous. I live with both grief, some serenity, and even moments of joy in my life now.

    I pray everyday for my daughter and all of us, and I work my side of the street with the tools I mentioned above.
    I am my daughter's mother, but I am not her savior. I believe in a higher power, and I pray she moves toward healing in her own time and way.
  20. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member


    At her age she should be covered on your insurance as a dependent which should last until she is 26. If it were me I would insist she go into residential treatment as long as she is living in your home, supported by you. College would not be a priority with these kinds of issues going on, in my way of thinking. Not only the cutting. That great a weight gain would be considered an eating disorder, I think. *Oh. I see she was in treatment for an eating disorder. There are online courses that she could take, if she wants to keep up her progress towards the degree.

    I have a girlfriend with daughter that has similar issues and on top of it, she has Type I diabetes. She did go to an inpatient program. After she completed it, she finished her BA and then got a Masters in Social Work. She is working and in a serious relationship and living with a great guy.

    Your daughter is not going in the right direction. This could get worse. I would think about putting a stop to this now. A supportive boundary for her to heal. You might want to go into therapy yourself for help and support to develop and to put into place a plan and to support her to do the right thing for herself.

    There are moments when we have to take risks, even if they might in the short term make things worse. I am in that position too. But to not do this is to close our eyes to reality. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know. But that's how I think and feel.

    To me, her refusing to get therapy is a red flag. She is trying to control her situation, and she does so through the very distorted lens of her problems. By going along with her, you let her drive the situation in a way that is destructive and potentially dangerous. By not confronting her, you as if consent. That is my way of thinking. I support you to take control. After all she is your daughter, in your own, with your support, economically and emotionally.

    I agree with Busy that the right fix is in her. But that does not mean that you should not support her to do the right thing. You have some control by virtue that she is in your home and needs your support. By not taking control you are supporting her to do the wrong thing. Your money, your shelter, your support, is helping her fuel her illness. I recognize this sounds harsh. All of us have done it, and some of us still do so, off and on. I do.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019