Moms Behind Mental Health: Bri's Borderline Personality Disorder and journey to motherhood

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My mental health battle began around 4 years old. My mother was a single mom with her own issues regarding her childhood and the men in her life. So, there were always men in and out of our lives, my dad included. When I was four, my mother met a man that gave her a sense of security and decided to marry him. This man didn’t have children of his own and had suffered ongoing physical abuse in his youth. I vividly remember the belt marks on his back from being beaten as a child. Being a new father to one that wasn’t his own, I now understand that he didn’t really know any better. Needless to say, I was physically and mentally abused by this man for the 7 years of marriage he and my mother had shared. Things like not making my bed, a messy room, running late, opening my birthday present before he said I could — yes, opening my birthday presents — would set him off and I would be “in for it.” He would use his bare hands, a belt, full two-liter soda bottles, and once broke a cutting board on me. I was only allowed to eat three times a day, at the times he said I could, and he would serve me the portion sizes he would eat as a grown man and expect me to eat everything on my plate. Most of the abuse occurred while my mother was at work, and I would be so scared to tell her what was happening. When I finally would work up the courage and tell her, she would get in an argument with him over it, but she never left the situation. She never removed me from the danger I was in, every day. She wouldn’t “save” me. Once, CPS was called and showed up at my school to question me about the abuse. I was told to keep quiet about it, because “other people have it worse than I do.”So I did. I didn’t say anything. Eventually, I found evidence of him cheating which was my golden ticket; and they divorced when I was 12. After leaving that situation, my life became the opposite. From one extreme to another. I would eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was spreading my wings and exploring this newfound freedom. However, this ended up becoming incredibly unhealthy, physically and mentally. My relationship with food to this day is so screwed up. 

Fast forward to when I was 20 years old. I was going through a very tough break up and reacting to it in a way that just wasn’t “normal.” My psychiatrist suggested a 30 day stay in a beautiful, intimate rehab center. This is where I was first openly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. If you’ve ever heard of this disorder, it was probably on an Investigation Discovery show where the wife killed her husband or something. I say this jokingly, but the sad truth is this disorder is linked to some pretty awful people. Now, obviously, I am not capable of hurting anyone in that way. I can’t kill an insect without immense guilt! However, I do struggle with my emotions daily. Borderlines suffer from emotions that “cycle” multiple times throughout the day. Those emotions are also amplified, so disappointment feels like devastation, and on the other end, happiness feels like ecstasy. Frustration is probably the hardest emotion for me to deal with. There is a book about BPD titled, I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me, which I think perfectly describes it in a nutshell. This disorder is said to be 67% hereditary, which TERRIFIES me as a new mother. I wouldn’t wish this disorder on my worst enemy, let alone my child. 

During my pregnancy, my disorder kept me in a constant state of anxiety. We had suffered a missed miscarriage 6 months prior to getting pregnant with our son. I was so afraid to accept this pregnancy as viable. The constant mental narrative of an abused child, “I don’t deserve good things to happen to me, so why would this work out” would constantly run through my head. It got a little easier after each pregnancy milestone but as the pregnancy would progress I would grow more and more attached to my baby, which meant an even greater fear and anxiety would take over. Why would I be allowed to be happy? Why would I be granted a healthy, beautiful baby boy? When is the other shoe going to drop?? I was in constant turmoil, and convincing myself that my constant turmoil was going to hurt my unborn child. Again, “I am the cause for all of my suffering. It is always my fault.”I know this isn’t true, but that other side of me is so damn good at bringing me down. 

Now he’s here. My baby boy is here! He’s healthy, we’ve made it to six months old and everyone is OKAY. It hasn’t been easy for me or for my husband. My husband is constantly having to reassure me that I’m a good parent, a GREAT mother. On the other hand, he has to take over when I get frustrated because that frustration turns quickly to anger, and I ruminate on that one little thing that frustrated me for most of the day. The exterminator once left a note saying keeping the dishes and standing water out of the sink would eliminate the ant problem we were experiencing. This was literally the one day I left dishes in the sink from the meal prior because we were in a hurry. Shaking my head and laughing now, because it obviously still bothers me, but I could not let that go! 

I choose to deal with my disorder without medication. It’s not that I’m against meds. I did try them for awhile. People I worked with told me I would act like a zombie on the meds and that I had lost my personality. I didn’t feel like myself, almost like I didn’t have control over my brain which is so ironic because the meds are supposed to help you gain control. It just wasn’t/isn’t for me. Now that I’m a mom, I wonder if I should go back on meds because my disorder has been flaring up with the addition of a baby. But I’m conflicted. I don’t like altering my body and mind artificially, and I want to have more children. How will these meds affect future pregnancies? What if they caused another miscarriage? The last thing I need is another reason to blame myself for something gone wrong, even though I know I am not at fault for the miscarriage we endured. It’s that other side, that other Bri. The one that is so good at popping up when I’m most vulnerable and tend to win over rational thought. 

I’ve always said that I will not parent the way I was parented. I’ve always said that I’m grateful, in a way, that I was raised the way I was. Because I don’t want that for my life, and I don’t want that for my children. I can stop the cycle. I can be the change. I am 10 years diagnosed now, and I’ve made incredible strides. I’ve accomplished more than what is expected of a Borderline. Every day, I have to check myself. Every day I have to assess what is a “normal” reaction and what is a Borderline reaction. But I’m doing it! I’ve been doing it, and frankly, I’ve been kicking ass at it. This is my first time speaking publicly about my disorder, and it’s terrifying, but I thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope that if there is another mother out there struggling with this disorder, she knows she’s not alone. We are not broken because of our struggles. We are not defined by our disorders. We are unified, and it’s up to us to keep the conversation alive and ongoing. 

-Bri Gonzales can be found on Instagram