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Husband diagnosed with BPD - looking for experiences please(23 Posts)
After a few years of struggling with depression my husband has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I've no one to talk to about it, how or if the DBT might help him, if how he is now is how he will always be. I want a miracle and to be told 3 months down the line he'll be a new person. Or his old self would be just great too. We've had a very difficult few years recently, he's had a few long spells off work with depression resulting in debt (manageable but high levels and stressful), police involvement 6 or 7 times when he took himself off to kill himself, anger management problems, and the last 6 months I've wanted to leave as I'm so worn down of feeling like the only parent, hate how he gets angry at the children for basically being children, we can never plan anything as he might decide it's not happening and the children and I are left feeling upset that he controls it all, feeling no affection at all, being yelled at or sarcastically put down for every perceived slight multiple times a day, but I've stayed because I kept hoping he'd get well and we'd return to the happy place we were in for the first 7 years of our relationship. Because I don't actually want to go, I want us to be a family, but not with him as he is now and has been for the last 12-24 months. I'm also very very worried to leave because presumably he would have some form of custody/access and I don't want to not be there to protect them/keep them safe when that switch flips and it goes all dark in his head. He scares me and I'm a grown adult, never physically violent but so angry. Even when he is in the 'good' place he doesn't ever consider their basic needs like changing a nappy unless it's very obviously smelly, or meal times he won't think to feed them until hours after dinner time and then it's dry cereal or oven chips, never an actual meal unless I've left something with clear instructions on microwaving it. He never puts them to bed if I'm out for a couple of hours, I'll come home an hour past bedtime and they're not washed, not in pjs, he'd never do their teeth, sometimes not fed (and if they were the remains are spread all over the house, he wouldn't ever pick up the leftover plates), and he's just sat on his phone - basically they're alive and he'd take care of them if they fell and got injured, but that's about it. He does love them very very much, he's just not able to think of his own needs let alone those of anyone else, and that is very hard for everyone around him. It's a horrible thing to think of leaving someone when their issues are caused by a health condition rather than them just being a nasty person, but the end result is the same, and I'm starting to wonder if I owe the kids more than this and if that overrules everything else, a happy home, stability, not being afraid of speaking or acting in case it triggers daddy. I don't know what I'm hoping for here, some hope, guidance, anything at all because this feels like a miserable half life for all of us.
I know many, many people with BPD, (mental health professional), and the things you describe are really not an obvious result of his diagnosis. Many people with BPD parent effectively, are you completely sure that he hasn't simply opted out of parenting and is using his diagnosis as a justification?
I don't know if it's BPD/Depression or just can't be bothered, he insists these things never occur to him to do them, which I find hard to believe as it's not like it changes - every single night children need to be fed, washed, changed, teeth and medicines done etc! But then he'd not bothered with meals for himself if I didn't make them, I even have to remind him to do his teeth, he used to remember his anti-depressant, but he's taken himself off them as they made him too tired. I miss who he was. I miss the life we had planned out. If it wasn't for worrying about the access arrangements I'd have gone by now I think, but it feels so selfish to leave him because I'm unhappy but send the children off to him without me there to take care of them.
If you still love him could you leave him and have him come to the house for visits occasionally?
Maybe give him one last go. Write lists, detail the input needed, if he cocks up again then leave.
You are effectively a signed parent anyway, it will actually be easier without him to this about. Let him have access for brief periods (2 hours on a Saturday afternoon e.g.) until he can gain your trust. Your children deserve not to be neglected (by him of course, not suggesting you are in any way neglectful).
DBT is only as effective as the effort put in, please don't expect a magical Disney outcome if he isn't on board.
My DF was similar and I believe that I had (undiagnosed but I met the diagnostic criteria) BPD too. The good news is that it is treatable/ controllable with the right type of therapy, e.g. DBT as you mention, but the bad news is that if I were you I'd get the hell out of there with your kids - even if temporarily - because you risk damage to them, I started self harming when I was 4 or possibly younger as a result of my DF's behaviour. It's not your DP's fault, he can't easily think his way out of it because of how it affects his brain, and I believe recent research indicates that it has a genetic and environmental component, so it can travel through the generations both ways. I have broken the chain I think and I am a good parent (!) but I've done a lot of work on myself
It doesn't sound typical of BPD (also now known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder). The laziness I mean.
Hmmm. Be very careful of the BPD being an excuse for abusive behaviour towards you and the children. Mental health issues or not, abuse is never acceptable.
I have BPD and depression. His symptoms sound more like he is back struggling with his depression again. I am working through mindfulness and DBT workbooks but am struggling to maintain the concentration required. I have to be reminded to do a lot of things that naturally used to come to me like take meds, personal care etc. You need to ask for MH involvement I think.
This is written by Lundy Bancroft, from the book "Why does he do that?":
THE MENTALLY ILL OR ADDICTED ABUSER
This last category is not actually separate from the others; an abusive man of any of the aforementioned styles can also have psychiatric or substance-abuse problems, although the majority do not. Even when mental illness or addiction is a factor, it is not the cause of a man's abuse of his partner, but it can contribute to the severity of his problem and his resistance to change. When these additional problems are present, it is important to be aware of the following points:
1. Certain mental illnesses can increase the chance that an abuser will be dangerous and use physical violence. These include paranoia, severe depression, delusions or hallucinations (psychosis), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and antisocial personality disorder known as psychopathy or sociopathy). These psychiatric conditions also make it next to impossible for an abuser to change, at least until the mental illness has been brought under control through therapy and/or medication, which can take years. Even if the mental illness is properly treated, his abusiveness won't necessarily change.
2. An abuser's reactions to going on or off medication are unpredictable. A woman should take extra precautions for her safety at such a time. Abusers tend to go off medication before long—I have had few clients who were consistent and responsible about taking their meds in the long term. They don't like the side effects, and they are too selfish to care about the implications of the mental illness for their partners or children.
3. The potential danger of a mentally ill abuser has to be assessed by looking at the severity of his psychiatric symptoms in combination with the severity of his abuse characteristics. Looking at his psychiatric symptoms alone can lead to underestimating how dangerous he is.
4. Antisocial personality disorder is present in only a small percentage of abusers but can be important. Those who suffer from this condition lack a conscience and thus are repeatedly involved in behaviors that are harmful to others. Some signs of this condition include: (a) He started getting into illegal behavior when he was still a teenager; (b) his dishonest or aggressive behavior involves situations unrelated to his partner, rather than being restricted to her; (c) he periodically gets into trouble at workplaces or in other contexts for stealing, threatening, or refusing to follow instructions and is likely to have a considerable criminal record by about age thirty, though the offenses may be largely minor ones; (d) he is severely and chronically irresponsible in a way that disrupts the lives of others or creates danger; and (e) he tends to cheat on women a lot, turn them against each other, and maintain shallow relationships with them. The psychopath's physical violence is not necessarily severe, contrary to the popular image, but he may be very dangerous nonetheless. Antisocial personality disorder is very difficult to change through therapy, and there is no effective medication for treating it. It is highly compatible with abusiveness toward women.
5. Those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder have a highly distorted self-image. They are unable to accept that they might have faults and therefore are unable to imagine how other people perceive them. This condition is highly compatible with abusiveness, though it is present in only a small percentage of abusive men. Clues to the presence of this disorder include: (a) Your partner's self-centeredness is severe, and it carries over into situations that don't involve you; (b) he seems to relate everything back to himself; and (c) he is outraged whenever anyone criticizes him and is incapable of considering that he could ever be anything other than kind and generous. This disorder is highly resistant to therapy and is not treatable with medication. The abuser with this disorder is not able to change substantially through an abuser program either, although he sometimes makes some minor improvements.
6. Many abusers who are not mentally ill want women to think that they are, in order to avoid responsibility for their attitudes and behavior.
Substance abuse, like mental illness, does not cause partner abuse but can increase the risk of violence. Like the mentally ill abuser, the addicted abuser doesn't change unless he deals with his addiction, and even that is only the first step. Chapter 8 examines the role that substances play in partner abuse.
The attitudes driving the mentally ill or addicted batterer are the same as those of other abusers and will likely follow the pattern of one of the nine styles described above. In addition, the following attitudes tend to be present:
• I am not responsible for my actions because of my psychological or substance problems.
• If you challenge me about my abusiveness, you are being mean to me, considering these other problems I have. It also shows that you don't understand my other problems.
• I'm not abusive, I'm just———(alcoholic, drug addicted, manic-depressive, an adult child of alcoholics, or whatever his condition may be).
• If you challenge me, it will trigger my addiction or mental illness, and you'll be responsible for what I do.
^ ^ ^
The above is copied and pasted from The Abuser Profiles thread which you may find interesting reading.
Oh and this is an excellent book on BPD that you may well find helpful:
Stop Walking on Eggshells: taking your life back when someone you care about has BPD
I have BPD and the laziness and not parenting really don't sound like typical symptoms of BPD. Either he's slipped back into depression massively or he's using it as an excuse. Honestly I find parenting exhausting when I'm depressed but no matter how shit I feel I would always make sure my DSD is fed, teeth brushed, story read before bed etc. Mind you maybe he is just finding it too much, everyone responds differently.
Regardless of his reasons is sounds awful for you! Have you thought about or suggested couples counselling?
Ps I know people with BPD who swear by DBT. I've not tried it personally but it's supposed to be a really effective treatment.
Thank you for all the replies. AnotherEmma that book arrived from Amazon this morning actually, just need to start reading it when I get a minute. We have done couples counselling a few years ago, that was when the depression was first picked up, but his current counselor believes couples therapy would potentially run against what they're trying to do 1 on 1 and he has to be fixed first before he can do the same with any relationship. He's never not struggled with the depression really, just to different degrees, he says he never feels happy, excited etc, he just feels empty or angry.
I feel like if he could have a decent day he might be able to listen, and at least agree a way forward, even if that is that what is best is for him to be off and focus on him without the pressures of family, and I can get on with the important job of raising two wonderful little people, as he takes so much of my energy at the moment. I'd rather talk and him say 'I see what you're saying, I've just been slacking' and cop on, but I can't see it happening as he's so convinced he sees things clearly when he actually has no margin for human error at all.
Saying to allow him access a few hours on a weekend/ evening, how can I 'allow' him - he has joint parental rights surely as their father, so I'd really struggle to withhold access even if I believe it's for their safety as his medical records are obviously privileged.
That's understandable re counselling and does actually make a lot of sense. I agree that he needs to fix himself first. Perhaps fix is the wrong word but I'm sure you know what I mean.
I can understand why you struggle with "allowing" him access. But you would be well within your rights and maybe that would be the kick up the bum he needs. Your DC don't deserve their father being angry, being unmotivated, taking all your energy etc. Sure the world doesn't revolve around them and other people's needs matter but it sounds like you're having to give more time to your DP than to your DC which is just not the right balance at all especially for such an extended period of time.
His black and white thinking sounds very BPD. I have a really good book that's basically about reframing the mind regarding lots of the negative thoughts and cycles from BPD. I can't remember the name right now but I'll dig it out when I get home from work. I'd highly recommend it for him and I think it cost less than a tenner from amazon.
I don't know much about BPD, but I know a lot about supporting someone with MH issues. My DH suffers from depression and episodes of psychosis. When DHs depression is bad he doesn't wash himself or feed himself we don't have children but I would be very surprised if he was able to effectively care for them at these times when he is not able to care for himself.
The most important advise I can give anyone as a carer is to put your own needs first if we go under we can't care for anyone else. It can be incredibly hard caring for someone with mental health needs DH and I seperated for a short while when he was at his most unwell. We are lucky to have had a huge ammount of support from DHs MH team for both of us. It would be worth asking is the team he has been refered to provide any carer support, and looking at if there are any carer support groups inyour area too. You could also ask your GP to refer you for councelling to help you. Personally I have found the support from DHs MH team the most helpful as they understand his condition and are able to answer my questions about prognosis, treatments etc.
We are currently waiting for systemic family therapy which my carer support CPN has refered us for but this is 3 years down the line since diagnosis and DHs condition is much better controlled now.
I am the flip side of your post. I have BPD and ended a long relationship with dp because of it. he was told about my mental health when we met and honestly supported me through thick and thin. but I couldn't stand the guilt of him having to put up with me, im hard to live with to the point I refused him to live with me for the years we were together.
your H maybe depressed but even people with bpd / depression still manage to do basic parenting as hard and draining it maybe. are you sure its completely his illness and not part taking the advantage of you?
no one can tell you to leave or stay as they are not the ones dealing with the outcome. you have to decide whats best for everyone, if your worried about how your H will care for the dc if you leave is there not a way of seeing through contact centre due to your concern for their safety with his mental health state?
anotheremma I've just read your post. My husband has bipolar and I'm increasingly reflecting on some of his behaviour as bordering on abusive.
for you. I have BPD and know how incredibly hard I can be to cope with. I started DBT in September last year and it has helped me so much. Hope it can do the same for your partner.
Unfortunately there can be a crossover, obviously not all people with MH issues are abusive and not all abusers have MH issues. But sometimes MH issues and abuse are both present and it's so important to be aware of it - people can fall into the trap of putting up with the abuse because they feel they have to support their partner with the MH issue. When in actual fact there is no excuse for abusive behaviour and no one should get away with it or have to put up with it.
Absolutely agree with anotheremma, and in my post when I said I'm hard to cope with I mean that I am in a constant whirlwind of chaos life is an emotional rollercoaster. But never abusive, as pp have said that's no excuse for abusive behaviour. DBT will teach appropriate skills for dealing with anger and distress management, but the individual has to realise that their response is a problem before they can learn new behaviours.
I just know this is going to come out wrong.
But his rights as a parent mean nothing compared to the rights of your children. Yes they have a right to a relationship with their father. But they also have a right to their basic needs being met. He doesn't have to be the best father in the world, he is their father and that's good enough, but not if he is incapable of putting their needs first. The cause is really not relevant.
I don't know what the answer to that is. It might be worth having a talk with a solicitor and perhaps your GP about what your options are if you do end up in a situation where you are seriously concerned about your children. E.g. if he leaves you, either to live alone or perhaps to live with someone who is equally unable to meet their needs? Even if you never have to put the advice into action it is always worth knowing what is legally and medically possible.
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