Even though I’ve lived in major metropiltan areas my entire life, I must confess that sometimes I’ve felt like I’ve lived in a small town. This week’s author lives in a rural communty where everyone knows one another. As she bares the pain and challenges of having a mother-in-law with Borderline Personality Disorder, she has chosen to remain anonymous.
When Your Mother-in-Law Suffers
In the first 23 years of my marriage, I wondered if all mothers-in-law fit the stereotype that causes so much ridicule. Being married to an only child only heightened behavior that I just could not explain but that hurt my family deeply.
Holidays were a nightmare. Each would have me crying before I was forced to leave to visit the inlaws. I knew what was in store for me, and I was seemingly powerless to stop it. My mother-in-law’s punishment was relentless if she didn’t get her way as to time, place, or length of stay. She would most oftentimes give us the silent treatment during the event punctuated by jabs and cutting remarks. Later, after we were safely away from her home, the crying fits would start over the telephone. No one, it seemed, ever loved her enough. Even our children felt the tension and resented the enormous piles of gifts that represented her love (and her shopping compulsion).
Over time, my husband and I put up a sort of self-protective wall. We stopped visiting except for brief holiday appearances and only called her occasionally. We told ourselves that my mother-in-law would not be allowed to manipulate us; her emotional stability would not be our problem. Sadly, and unbeknown to us, she turned her attention to our oldest daughter, then 12, who eventually put up her own walls resulting in her grandmother’s rejection.
My husband’s family members slowly turned away from us. Friends of his parents treated us coldly as well. Even our daughter’s friends whose mothers were friendly with my mother-in-law quit speaking to our daughter. We heard snippets of the criticism from people in town. We discovered that she complained about us to anyone who would listen.
A verbal attack by a friend of my mother-in-law in public was the final straw. I broke down, went to see a therapist, got on medicine for anxiety, and confronted my father-in-law. At first he was apologetic. Then he defended her, attacking me for treating them as if I were “better than them.” How else could he explain why we did not visit more often and be more attentive?
My therapist taught me boundary lessons, and a chapter in Toxic Parents gave me support, but it was not until I spied a book, Stop Walking On Eggshells, that I understood the nature of my mother-in-law’s problem. She fit 7 out of the 9 criteria for high-functioning Borderline Personality Disorder. As I sank to the floor in the bookstore and nearly cried with relief, I knew. It had a name! We were not crazy! Finally, it all fit.
To protect my husband and her, I wish to remain anonymous, but to help others who are suffering as we have suffered, I must speak out about Borderline Personality Disorder. It is a condition that ruins the mental and physical health of victims and destroys families. And, refusing to admit its existence keeps those with the disorder needlessly, perpetually, sad.