Invalidating environments can be a contributor to a child’s growing up and later being diagnosed with BPD, and is then one of the worst, if not the worst, environments for someone already diagnosed with BPD, to be in.
Growing up, I definitely lived in a very invalidating environment. My mom, especially, was extremely dismissive of just about everything. Any feeling, desire, wish, or anything at all that I expressed that meant something to me, was brushed off, ignored, denied, or just flat out degraded. My sister, who was “healthy” and understood nothing about me, at one point yelled at me and told me that she didn’t care that I was depressed and that it was my fault. She had a very “just snap out of it” mindset when I was finally diagnosed with something. My dad, was then like the villain in my life, and as a child, the only person who could have saved me, was my mom. Except she never did. She looked the other way, took his side, and denied that there was ever an issue, along with encouraging me to just do what he said (so she didn’t have to stand up to him).
To this day, she is still like this, and so I’ve learned to never express things to her, and to basically only be a shell of happiness when I’m around her. I give her a little bit of credit that she has very very slightly come around, but she would never acknowledge the things she failed to do, and she’d still rather avoid issues than deal with them. If brushing things under the rug were literal, we’d have mountains of rugs not large enough to cover all of the dirt.
When I first told her about my diagnosis with BPD, she again brushed it off and chose not to believe it. I was “overreacting”…and so we never talked about it again. Getting this diagnosis was huge for me. On one hand it felt like the end of my life, but somehow at the same time it felt like a new beginning. When I read up on BPD I felt like I had finally found what described my experiences TO A ‘T’. I couldn’t believe it. And now that I knew what was “wrong”, I could work on fixing it. To have her once again shut that down, was like the ultimate rejection of all rejections growing up.
In the present time, any senses of rejection or invalidation, really set me off. It will make me louder, angrier, sadder, and act out to extremes, until I feel validated. It’s not a cry for attention, it’s a cry for help. If someone invalidates me, I feel the need to up the ante until they “hear” me and realize that I am serious. I am an extreme introvert. To tell someone that I feel sad, is a huge step for me. I will often times do this in a very quiet or indirect way. Just because I’m not sobbing when I tell you, doesn’t mean I’m not really sad. If you knew anything about me, you’d know that the fact I said the words “I am sad” means I have already reached my rock bottom and need help, because it is simply out of character for me to express emotions. Why? Because they were never validated or acknowledged, and that has instilled in me a very big fear to express myself for fear of further invalidation.
When my mom found out I first self-harmed, I got in trouble and then it was never again discussed. When child services came to visit because of my dad’s “inappropriate touching”, they talked their way out of it, the worker left, I got in trouble and was told that I needed to “compromise” my comfort zone because that’s what he liked and wanted, and it was never spoken of again. Nothing changed. When I sprained my ankle in cheerleading, my mom told me it didn’t really hurt and that I was fine, then proceeded to shove me, literally, in the kitchen, to make me walk, and it was never spoken of again.
What has that left me with? The same it’s left many people with BPD. The inability to tell you how they feel, because they honestly don’t know. When a child is sad or hurting and is told that he is not really sad or hurting, it creates a lot of confusion. The child only learns that he isn’t sure of what he feels, needs cues from others, and learns that he can’t trust himself. Because he still feels and knows that something isn’t right, he doesn’t trust others either because they never seem to help him, let alone validate that what he says he feels is real. This creates quite the altered sense of reality, and an adult who is at times stuck in a stage of feeling like a child that just needs and wants taken care of.
When I was first diagnosed, my therapist at that time gave me an emotions wheel. I used to look at this worksheet anytime I had an emotion, so I could try to figure out which one I was feeling. I’ve progressed a little with identifying my emotions, but I still struggle a lot. Hence my constant response of, “I don’t know.” It’s an honest answer. I often will observe others so I can figure out how I should feel about something, or what I should be doing, or how I should be acting, etc.
My biggest gripe about all of this? The very people who contributed to my having BPD, have essentially ruined my entire life. They’ve left lasting impressions that will take years to heal from, and even then I will forever have to work harder at life than others. As if it’s not bad enough that they didn’t take care of me when I was little, they continue to deny what I’ve become, because of them.
My last thought on this post, is that I put “inappropriate touching” in parenthesis. My entire life I’ve come to question if what he did was really wrong or not, because I was scolded for thinking it was, and forced to continue accepting it. When I was 18 and my boyfriend was beating me, of which my father was present for and continued watching TV, my father later lectured me about how if I just behaved right, those things wouldn’t happen.
For the longest time, sexual and physical abuse directed toward me, were “ok”. I never felt I had a right to not accept it. It was just a part of life, right? I knew it didn’t feel right, but my feelings were never right. Being treated well, always felt wrong. It’s taken me a long time to fix this. It’s still not completely fixed, but it’s a work in progress, and I at least recognize it now.