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BPD Causes

Updated on October 22, 2014

Cause of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder is a very complicated mental illness and it's causes aren't 100% known. However, studies have shown that 75% of BPD patients have experienced recurrent psychotraumatic events during their childhood. These events were traumatic enough to literally rewire the pathways in the brain. I am one of those 75% of people who suffered through many, many psychotraumatic events as a child.

In fact, I'm a textbook case. I was abused mentally, emotionally and physically. I was neglected. I experienced losses which made it impossible for me to trust anyone.

Here is my story.

My biological mother

My first loss

My mother, whom I call my Debbie-Mom, never wanted me. She got pregnant with me because she knew my Dad was going to leave her. When he told her he was still going to leave her, she tried to abort me, but because of the laws in England, she couldn't. When I was born, her first words to me were "Get it away. It's not mine".

For the first few months, I slept in a dresser drawer. My Dad had to put nails in the drawer to keep it open because when I cried, she would just close the drawer. I suspect she refused to change my diaper because I've had over a hundred scars on my butt for as long as I can remember (I suspect from extreme diaper rash).

As a toddler, she stepped it up a bit. She would lock me and my older sister, Lisa, in a closet. My Dad said he used to have to come home from work to let us out so Lisa could go to school. I suspect this is where my extreme fear of the dark comes from. She also liked to pit me and Lisa against each other. She would give me a fly swatter and tell me I would get a cookie if I would go hit my sister (or vice versa). I'm sure, being only children, we gladly swatted each other for a cookie.

I don't know when she started hitting us herself. My Grandma says she used to complain because we bled too easily.

At the age of 5, my Dad finally left her. He said she could have anything she wanted as long as he got us. She ended up trading us for a doublewide and a truck. Oddly enough, my very first memory is of the day she moved out. After she got her doublewide, she decided to take my Dad to court for custody. She didn't even show up for the first hearing. And at the second, she told the judge she didn't want to see us until we were 18. I saw her sporadically for the next 5 years. Those memories aren't exactly pleasant either. After a while, she just stopped the visits so I only saw her when I was visiting my Grandma.

During that time my Debbie-Mom had two more kids, Dusty and Leivon. My little brother, Leivon, was born with a genetic disease, Tuberous Sclerosis. It almost killed him and my Debbie-Mom spent years battling not only the effects of this disease, but also the numerous side effects from the drugs he had to take. I think having to deal with this disease is what calmed my Debbie-Mom down and made her a good mother for Dusty and Leivon.

However, it didn't change her feelings towards me. At the age of 10, she took my brother and sister and disappeared. It took me 8 years to find them.

My Step-Mother


My Dad remarried within a couple months of divorcing my Debbie-Mom. Lisa and I didn't meet his new wife or her kids until after they were married. But I didn't care. She was the nicest woman in the world. I couldn't have asked for a better mother. But it was temporary.

When I was 7, everything changed. I suspect it's because that's when my Dad started cheating on her. I still remember the first time she "flipped". Without going into too many details, she ended up making Lisa strip in front of the picture window while me and my step sisters watched. Why? Because Lisa had walked to the gas station and bought a candy bar with her allowance money. This started happening on a regular basis, with it progressing from stripping to actual slapping and punching. Lisa would get severely punished for almost no reason at all. And we were made to watch every time. Within a couple months, she started in on me. She would accuse me of stuff I hadn't done and punish me. This only got worse when she and my Dad separated because for some reason, we stayed with her.

Later that year, she was upset with me. She ran my bathwater using using completely hot water. The water was so hot that when I put a rinsing glass down in it, the glass shattered and instantly cut my hand almost completely in half. The only thing keeping it attached was a one inch piece of skin right above my wrist. I ran to the living room, squirting blood all over everything. My last view before we left for the hospital was the walls and the carpet covered in my blood. I never went back to that house. My Dad picked me up from the hospital and I moved in with him and his girlfriend that night. All that did was make me feel tremendously responsible for what I knew my sister was going through. I couldn't really do anything about it so I just focused on my surgery and the physical therapy needed to gain the use of my hand again.

A couple months later, I piled a bunch of toilet paper on my bed and set it on fire. All I remember feeling was extreme fear for Lisa and anger at the world. This made Patti and Dad move back in together. But it didn't make the abuse stop. In fact, it kind of made it worse.

The Terror

We had dogs. Bunches of dogs. And they weren't good dogs. No. These were dogs that ran away all the time. These were dogs that peed all over the floors all the time. They especially loved to pee on my bedroom floor. About once a year, we would have the carpets cleaned. When I was eight, our dogs Scruffy and Zippy got really bad. We had to clean the carpets 3 times that year. It's going to be your blood on those walls and I'm going to be the one to put it there The third time, Patti's friend Sandy came over to help. Sandy was Patti's best friend. Her makeup and hair were always perfect. Her clothes were always the latest style and her long nails were always polished and manicured. She was the type of person who didn't normally clean carpets. But for some reason, this time, she made an exception to that rule. Her and Patti cleaned those carpets for hours while Lisa and I sat upstairs. When they got done, Sandy came upstairs and pulled me away from Lisa. She took me to another room and I'll never forget what she said. "If those dogs ever pee on the floor again, there's going to be blood on the walls. It's not going to be Patti's blood. It's not going to be your Dad's blood. It's going to be your blood on those walls and I'm going to be the one to put it there". I sat there staring at her blood red nails that she was pointing at me, letting her words sink in. I truly thought I was going to die because there was no way I could stop the dog from peeing on the floors. I fainted and I didn't speak a word for two days.

This was one of those extremely psychotraumatic experiences in my childhood.

My Sister

My biggest loss

Lisa and I had always been close. She was my only full blood sister and we were the only ones that got abused, so we gave each other support. In truth, she was my best friend. One of my favorite things to do was to listen to her sing. She had such a pretty voice.

When I was 10, I lost Lisa. I can't recall the events of that night clearly but here's what I remember.

I've never known what started the fight. I was sitting in my room and I heard screaming. When I went to see what was going on I saw that Patti had Lisa down on the floor. She was on top of her punching her in the face and hitting her head against the cement. When I tried to pull Patti off Lisa, my stepsister grabbed me and pulled me from the room. I don't know what happened next, but I've been told there was a knife involved.

Two days later, my Dad told us to say our goodbyes because Lisa was going away. I can't explain the rush of emotions I felt. The loss of another sister (my Debbie-Mom had taken Dusty and Leivon just a couple months before. And two years before that, one of my step sisters had been sent away to Texas). The sadness of losing my best friend and my only emotional support. The fear of knowing I was the only one left for Patti to hurt.

Lisa left that night. She was adopted by an Uncle in Iowa. I didn't see her for probably 10 or 11 years and I've only seen her a few times since then.

I was right about being the only one left. Patti made it her mission to make my life a living hell. She loved to hit me and slam me into walls. Once she even hit me so hard that she sprained her wrist. Another time, when I was 13, she made me bleed so severely that my shirt was completely soaked in blood. I wore that shirt until my Dad came home, just knowing if he could actually see what was going on, he would put a stop to it. But he just looked at me and walked away. That's the day I gave up.

On My Own

The day my Dad walked away from the sight of me in my blood soaked shirt, I knew I was on my own. That's when I started running away all the time. I started drinking heavily and having sex. I started cutting myself and got a bunch of tattoos. I just didn't care. I would run away and a couple days later I would get picked up and be put into juvie before being sent home. After a quick shower and a change of clothes, I would run away again. I knew if I stayed home, Patti would get me.

My extended family knew it too. My great-aunt let me stay with her for a while (without telling my Dad). She gave me my own room and even bought me new clothes. But I didn't know how to act around her family. They said I love you and gave each other kisses and hugs. My family had never done any of that so I was extremely uncomfortable with it. After a couple weeks, I just couldn't handle it anymore so I left.

I believe I got picked up for running away 32 times that year. Finally, the judge sent me to a girls home. I was there for a year and I learned a lot. The problem was that when I was released, I had to go back to the same home environment. It was okay for a while. My Dad had bought a bar while I was gone so they were there most of the time. But when Patti came home, it was same old same old. My breaking point was the day she told me I should feel sorry for her because she had to put up with me. That's when I started running away again.

Sexual Abuse

Before I was sent to the girls home, I was kicked out of school for skipping too many days. When I was released from the girls home, they let me back into school solely because I had maintained straight A's even while I was skipping (I hadn't had a B since the fourth grade). Well, even after I started running away again, I still went to school. At school, there was this bully. He always called me names and he wiped butter on my suede jacket. Then one day he kicked my dog (Zippy always followed me to school and waited for me to get out). I admit I reacted stupidly when I pulled out a knife and tried to cut him. That little fiasco got me kicked out of the city school system (no joke. I had to go to another city to get my GED). The day it happened, I was too scared to go home, so I asked a friend if I could stay with him. Nick wasn't a close friend. We just hung out a lot because we both knew all the same people.

That day I went home with him. Over the next 12 hours, he raped me 5 times.

I didn't go to the police. I didn't even tell my parents. The only person I told was my boyfriend. He was angry and we broke up because of it. He must have told someone because a couple days later 5 of Nicks friends jumped me and beat me up with a warning to not open my mouth again.

A couple months later I asked the judge to send me back to the girls home and he did. I was able to get the counseling I needed to deal with the rape and, this time, I was able to learn a lot more about responsible living and personal responsibility. I was supposed to be released into my Grandma's custody, so you can imagine my shock when my Dad was the one who showed up.

It was a long drive home. I used that time to tell my Dad what was going to happen when we got home. I informed him that I was going to get my GED. I was going to get a job. I was going to smoke and I would be responsible for buying and paying for my own cigarettes (Even though I was only 17). And I was going to hit Patti back if she ever touched me again.

He agreed.

If you look at the history of most BPD patients, you will see backgrounds very similar to mine. Sometimes their stories will be not as bad. Sometimes they will be a whole lot worse. Most involve cases of multiple forms of abuse, neglect, and loss of a loved one.

Other causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

Although 75% of Borderline personality disorder patients report a history of extreme abuse, there are still 25% who grew up in a "normal" household. There are a couple theories as to why they developed BPD.

Dr. Joseph Santoro, a leader in BPD research, thinks that those 25% may have suffered from a different disorder like ADD, Childhood Bipolar Disorder, a genetic defect or maternal substance abuse while in the womb. Having one of these disorders and then trying to deal with the stress of how that disorder disrupts normal family patterns, could lead to a development of BPD.

Otto F. Kernberg, another leader in BPD research, theorizes that those 25% failed to develop in childhood. He believes that failure to achieve the developmental task of psychic clarification of self and the failure to overcome splitting results in an increased risk to develop a borderline personality.

There also seems to be a genetic factor. Like with other mental illnesses, if a close relative has BPD, you are at a higher risk for developing it too.

Video about a BPD Brain

A normal persons brain is very different from a Borderline's brain. Our brains are wired differently. They react differently. They work differently.

I also want you to know that I'm not playing the blame game. I fully believe that both my Debbie-Mom and my stepmom have undiagnosed mental illnesses. I just can't believe that a mentally sound maternal figure could treat a child the way me and Lisa were treated. And, in that line of thinking, I can't blame them for something that isn't their fault.

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© 2011 Othercatt


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