My parents just informed me that my foster sister, now in her 20s, was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I had never heard of this personality disorder but have been Googling non-stop since I was told this news and a lot of the symptoms describe her perfectly.
She is alternately very clingy and dependent, almost like a toddler, and very aggressive, trying to push people away from her. She has had several suicide attempts some of which ended with her having inpatient treatment. She is incredibly irresponsible with money and all my relatives have lent her so much that she then spends on stupid things.
My foster sister first came to us when she was five, after another temporary placement. Since then she has had a more or less stable life, she was in the system yes, and there has been drama with her birth family, but we were always there for her. So that part confuses me. I want to gain deeper insights into the causes of BPD. Is it something we did wrong?
Having borderline personality disorder does not mean your family did anything wrong with your foster sister. It means she has had a traumatic start in life. This is one thing the brain can do to react to an abnormal situation.
It does not mean she is broken for life. Treatment can help. Knowing what her diagnosis is is just the first step towards her feeling better.
What she needs from you all now is continued support just like you have been doing until now. Reading the symptoms you should be better able to understand why she acts the way she does and you will be a more effective support person.
I do know that they're very difficult people to understand and deal with. One moment it seems fine and the next they want nothing to do with you and rather kick you down. They push you away and try to get you back again as well. It isn't easy to deal with.
- Genetics: There is some evidence that BPD runs in families.
- A chemical imbalance: neurotransmitters like serotonin, when they are out of balance, have also been linked to Borderline Personality Disorder.
- Altered brain structure: Where parts of the brain such as the amygdala function differently, this could play a role in developing BPD.
- Finally, environmental factors like trauma and neglect.
As you can see, it is a lot more complicated than many people would have you believe.
It does not sound at all surprising to me that someone who has experienced the kind of trauma that landed them in foster care in the first place and then the trauma of being separated from their biological family would end up being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder later in life. That is not to say that everyone in this boat gets BPD, but it is not strange.
Early childhood trauma can have a huge impact on the rest of someone's life, even where that traumatic life is replaced by a stable life in a loving family. Stability and love are so important, but they cannot overcome everything.
It has got worse lately. When I met her, she opened up about her troubles very soon but otherwise seemed like a very strong person, a survivor. It was when I started to get close to her that these borderline behaviors made their entrance. That too is typical I think. People with BPD are afraid of people getting too close and crave it at the same time.
Oh, I am so sorry you are dealing with that and sorry for your sister too!
Whatever you do, don't blame yourself. She is your sister, and you can only have been a child yourself at the time. What you can do now is, if you are interested, go to a support group for relatives of people with borderline personality disorder and learn from others what the best and least painful to you ways to support your sister are. I know that people who have loved ones with borderline are often deeply affected themselves, and you may be if your sister went through hard patches as a child especially. If you get therapy, do it for yourself as well, not JUST to help her. You deserve that.
Beating yourself up over this, or your parents doing that, seems pointless. Your question should be how you can go on from here, how you can help. And there are definitely ways that you can help.
When you have someone with borderline personality disorder in your life, there is a chance that you will get sucked in so deeply that you forget to take care of yourself. Eat well, practice relaxation, take care of your finances, make sure to have plenty of contact with other people.
If you want to help the BPD in your life, look into joining a family support group. This can help you find better ways to help that person, but also put things into perspective for yourself.
The diagnosis has been a reason for me to, I don't know, reevaluate things in my own life? I have lent my foster sister money to the point that I have had to go without myself. When she calls, I'm always there, in the middle of the night or while I'm at work. My boyfriend has always found that puzzling. She's family now and I love her. But yes, self care. I have not been very good at that.
And when I asked if we'd done anything wrong, I wonder that about myself. Has my behavior towards her been enabling her, making her symptoms worse?
I am just taking a break from it all for now, a sabbatical for my own mental health. But there is lots here to think about on how to help my foster sister deal with her boderline personality disorder and be there for my parents as well while they think about the same.