Living with a personality disordered individual can feel like living in a FOG of Fear, Obligation & Guilt. The following are real stories extracted from the Out of the FOG Support Forum
My mother is a presumed borderline / histrionic personality. I say "presumed" because, if you were to ask her, there is nothing wrong with her and it's the rest of the world that's the problem.
She can be the most charming, charismatic person around - someone people are drawn to. But become close to her and a whole other person emerges: a person full of anger and negativity and paranoia, someone who must be the center of attention at any cost to others, with little to no tolerance when things don't go her way. The most minor inconveniences or daily mishaps become conspiracies to mess up her day or just people out to get her for whatever reason. And then, suddenly, she's back to being charming again. I've watched in stunned amazement while she flips from one to the other and back again, all in a matter of minutes.
Where she is no longer physically violent, there is still a lot of emotional and verbal abuse when she reaches "that point" in her own mind. It's almost like a pressure cooker that has to let off steam or it will explode. Only with mother, letting off steam always has been an explosion.
It's a hard world for a child to grow up in; over time you can come to believe that's just the way adults are and that no one can be trusted.
To me, the biggest problem is you never know what you're going to get or how long it will last. What you see right now may change in minutes, hours, days - or it may not. The changes can be so abrupt and appear to have no real trigger that you can't even begin to predict or prevent them. So you end up tiptoeing around praying that you will do nothing to trigger another episode. But try as you may, something always seems to set them off anyway.
I was married for almost 15 years. I believed him when he said the problems were because of me. He told me that since we had kids, I was trapped, that no one else would want me and I would never make it on my own.
I found out after leaving that he had been a serial cheater during the marriage.
I dealt with daily verbal, emotional, and financial abuse. My wants and needs were irrelevant to him, both in and out of the bedroom. There were a couple of times it escalated to physical violence. He also targeted the kids, especially our oldest. Once, he threatened to kill the whole family because he hadn't gotten enough attention.
Being in that situation felt surreal. It was hard to determine if it really was all that bad or if it was just my perception that was off. I was isolated from my friends and family, so there wasn't much chance to discuss my concerns with outside parties. I felt trapped and was convinced that what he said was true; that I was fat, ugly, worthless, stupid, had no people skills, was a bad wife and mother, and that no one liked me.
I first found out about personality disorders when my 14 year-old stepdaughter left our home, leveling false child abuse charges against her dad and me.
The next 5 years were their own kind of hell. We were not allowed to contact Daughter, didn't even know where she was half the time. Our other younger children were almost taken from our home by Social Services. Daughter chose not to live with us and never recanted her false allegations, so my husband and I battled for her well-being while she was in a Residential Treatment Center. When we weren't in treatment meetings or court hearings, we were battling each other, all the while being treated like child-abusing monsters.
There is no way to clean things up and no other word to use, than "rape". Between 1st and 3rd grade, I was raped in that hayloft by a cousin for about 3 summers in a row. He was around 10 years older than me. What he threatened me with to keep those secrets, I have long forgotten, but that is the only thing that I have forgotten. If I close my eyes, I can see it, smell the hay and remember what it felt like and what his face and "it" looked like.
It doesn't bother me now and I don't know of anything it kept me from doing later in life that I wouldn't have done anyway. But I'm sure it made me wonder "Why me?" and "What did I do wrong back then?" As little as I was, I was not too little to feel shame on many levels and I'm sure I wondered why no one would protect me.
During those years, if this had been the only thing that caused me to wonder why I was being punished, things might have been different. But layers were built upon layers, as if to reinforce the feeling that I must be bad.
I grew up in a large, extended family with a father who was Narcissistic with some strong Borderline Personality Disordered traits as well. He was raised in a religious culture which stressed patriarchal rule-of-law above all else: "Father Knows Best" - and consequently, is encouraged to rule with an iron fist.
Daddy was a revolving door of addictions; sometimes alcohol, sometimes gambling, sometimes food, sometimes smoking. Mother was a battered wife; a co-dependent with some issues of her own. There was a lot of splitting, raging, emotional and physical violence around our place, as you might imagine.
We were still occasionally exposed to Daddy's growing insanity even after mother tossed him out. I cut off contact with him at the age of 16, and saw him maybe 2-3 times more before he died.
As for myself; I've struggled with relationships my entire adult life, as have most of my siblings. Given what was modeled for us at home, that probably isn't too hard to understand. Though I've never been with a batterer, I have had an uncanny tendency to choose Narcissists and liars for partners.
I was determined to make my marriage work. I had always been taught that love conquers all. But my best efforts always seemed to come up short. It seemed like we were locked in an infinite push-pull cycle of good times and hostility. The violence and verbally rage were terrible at times, but they would often be followed by warmth and acceptance from her and I melted. Because she was so kind to me sometimes and I could tell that she was hurting deep inside, I never felt justified in leaving her. I doubted my own thinking. The worst thing was feeling like I could never completely trust her. I never felt safe.
We went to several marriage therapists, but she used those sessions to berate me. She was so convincing, it was hard to tell if she really believed the terrible things she said about me or if she knew they were lies.
I felt trapped when her paranoia began to be directed towards the children. I could tell she was cycling between smothering them and neglecting them. I didn't know how I could protect them from her. Who would ever believe me? She was doing her best to portray me in public as an abusive father and husband.
My father died when I was 7. My mother was a highly driven business-woman who had little time for the emotional needs of a sensitive-natured grieving child. This was exacerbated by the arrival of my 16 year old half-brother who until then had been raised in another home. He was a delinquent, alcoholic gambler and mad as hell at our mother for abandoning him. He blamed and shamed me for what he believed I had gained in his absence.
I tried as much as possible to be invisible around my family, scared that I would do something to trigger their rage. I tried to get my strokes by working hard at school and through friendships. I developed a habit of being as pleasant as possible in the hope that people would like me; it never occurred to me they could have liked me just for being myself!
I internalized the false belief that I must be a bad person who deserved to be disliked and punished. My childhood experiences primed me to accept friends and partners who were emotionally unavailable or abusive towards me. I became a magnet for takers, bullies, controllers and those with strong personality disordered traits.
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If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.
Five years ago, a photographer, an engineer, a writer, an office manager, a grandmother, a graphic artist, a law student, a husband, a librarian, and a stained-glass artisan came together to connect a diverse, isolated population in search of information, support, and growth as they strive to cope with a family members, spouses or partners who suffer from a personality disorder. Since its launch on November 1, 2007, Out Of The FOG has grown from a fledgling discussion group with 10 participants, to a vibrant community of over 4000 registered members world-wide, with new members joining every day.
On August 31 2012, the Out of the FOG Support Forum crossed two significant milestones - 100,000 member posts and 10,000 topics. Thanks to all who participate and contribute to the OOTF support board, which is a unique source of support to non-personality-disordered individuals all over the world.