I'm going to admit something here that I can't discuss with my family: I suffer from borderline personality disorder.

I've tried explaining this to them, but it never goes well. They tell me I need to pray, that god will grant me peace...all the usual garbage that people who don't believe in therapy vomit out to people who desperately need it in order to keep the brain from lashing out against themselves.

If you've read my past blog posts you can probably see that my family is essentially a giant group of triggers, as well as potentially part of the source of my disorder.

It doesn't feel right blaming them for my brain lashing out against me, and part of the person I am wants to make excuses for them. I want to understand why they stood by while my grandfather molested children. I want to understand my mother's use of the silent treatment with her kids, or my aunts regularly comparing me to my older cousin and finding me coming up short. I love them in my own broken way, and the mantra growing up was that, "no one loves you like family."

I'm used to feeling judged, but occasionally I can't handle it in a healthy way. In the past I've lashed out, against myself mostly. I've never treated myself like I like myself, because largely I do not. Because I don't like myself I find myself very suspicious of anyone who claims to love me. I assume they don't know the real me, because if they did they would make a run for it.

So the things I've talked about here: my mother's refusal to talk to me when she first learned I was an atheist, my best friend of a decade abruptly cutting off communication, my family's judgement of my inability to forgive the man who molested me... I may write about them with an air of disgust--but in person all of that disgust is focused inwards.

I don't know what I hope to achieve by writing about this here. I'm currently in a "devaluation" cycle and I'm just basically spending my free time doing my best to stay calm. It wasn't even something big that triggered me, just a friend saying to me and another mutual friend, "________ I love everything about you. Carol, I love everything except your nervousness."

I've basically dissected that off-hand comment to the point where I have utterly convinced myself that yet another person is sick of my crap. Do I know that I'm over-analyzing? Oh, hell yes. The real son-of-a-bitch that comes with a personality disorder is that pure logic like that doesn't fucking register.

I am not some girl interrupted who wants to boil your bunnies. I am an emotional person who, on a good day will give you the shirt off my back and a shoulder to cry on. I just don't really believe that anyone would possibly want to deal with me on my bad days of crying and hating myself.

I know that this post is only loosely connected to atheism, I could try and force a connection. Growing up I was taught that there was this being who loved unconditionally, provided you didn't kill his love for you with sin. The "sins" of my sexual awakening, my religious doubts and rebellion against my family tortured me in ways that I can only hint at. If I was shitty enough to make god stop loving me, then what was I supposed to expect from mere mortals?

I don't know how to end this blog post. Like I said, I'm not in a good place mentally, so my usual pithy remarks are absent.

This isn't a cry for help, it's just admitting I'm not as strong as I wish I were.


Views: 358

Comment by Ed on April 8, 2015 at 10:48pm


You seem to have a keen awareness of your situation. I have experienced that so-called love that only a family can provide. It is debilitating at best. The shortcomings of your family are NOT your shortcomings in turn. Outside of a truly compassionate understanding friend I can only recommend a professional counselor/therapist to give you guidance & help you cope with your issues. It helped me at an earlier stage in my own life. I wish you well.

Comment by Marianne on April 10, 2015 at 8:14am

Hi Carol :)

One thing you pin-point is crucial to the understanding of how the devastating and humiliating dogma of Christianity (and any religion that defines normal (and healthy) human behaviour and reactions) is sinful, dirty and shameful.

It leads to self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness. Freedom from religion may provide instant liberation from those shackles, but the truth is, if parents have been mind-controlling you with the "God's love for you is the only real love worth having/God will love you if you don't sin" sentences, it takes quite some time to alter the brain to attune to the freedom that atheism provides. Luckily, the brain is fluid in its ability to lay out new pathways and form new connections (I better stop before a certain neuroscientist will arrest me for being too sloppy with the physiology) but you get the idea. This is excellent news for all of those in need of therapy. Yay!

I am in cognitive therapy to beat depression and anxiety. To top it all off, I'm completely and entirely estranged from my family. This was my choice, because I understood that they were only adding to my depression. A huge problem for patients in therapy (or people in need of therapy) is something the experts call "expressed emotions", meaning your next of kin, friends and family telling you how they feel about your illness and treatment thereof. It can seriously impede the patent's progress.

I've had to to battle with myself to actively convince myself that I am worth something, and that I am worth something on my own and for myself. They consequently regarded my younger brother to be much more intelligent than me. My dad even said at one point "[name of my brother] is the bright mind of this family". I'm in law school and graduated top of my class in high school, so it should be pretty obvious that I'm intellectually capable of a tonne of stuff, but for years and years, I only thought I was lucky mixed in with a lot of hard work and discipline. I did something last week that made my depressive brain admit defeat and I cried because I realized that what my dad had been saying was SO wrong.

You say pure logic doesn't fucking register. I don't know what having a PD feels like, but I do know a thing or two about how reason and logic evading the brain entirely feels like, even if it's THERE. Obviously, Carol, you demonstrate that you are capable of logical thinking. It's just so damned hard to get the entire brain to follow.

The fact that you were molested makes me really fucking angry at the person who did this to you. It's kind of "expressed emotions" when your family thinks you should forgive that sack-of-lard. I'm completely with you on the "no-forgiveness" line because if you forgive, it's demeaning to yourself. It's such a grave offense - one of the worst - and someone need to give you a medal for surviving this. I am in complete awe of your strength, girl.

I've often contemplated what being strong means. I always thought it meant the ability to counteract and stop bad things from happening to you, since the opposite would be vulnerability. But I've come to think of it in a new way. Being strong can mean those things, but it sure as hell also includes enduring extreme hardships, not with a straight back, but sobbing and crying like a baby on the bathroom floor. That's okay. That's human. And letting your body react the way it must is, to me, a way of being true to yourself. And therein is where the strength lies, methinks.

I did NOT mean to write a damned essay to you, but I was just so inspired to share, because you're so brave to put this out there.

Ed's advice is great. Get therapy. I don't know,  but I think it would be okay for a patient to inquire about the therapist's beliefs, because I've seen psychologists doing research on "therapy involving God bladibladiblah" and I think for us atheists, it's important for us to have the possibility of complete openness with the therapist without the slightly judgmental nanosecond which I think is unavoidable. We have different views on how to treat others, not to mention our views on sex, sin and guilt.

I wish you nothing but the best.

Comment by Erock68la on April 11, 2015 at 3:32pm
Hi Carol,
I'm sorry for all you're going through. It sounds like Ed's right; therapy may be very helpful. And if you do happen to get a therapist who starts talking the god stuff, tell him/her to leave it out. If they persist, walk away. You have to be comfortable with the therapist and they should leave their personal beliefs out of it and talk to YOU.

I agree with almost everything Marianne said, except the forgiveness part. I'm not saying forgive him this minute. Just don't put it in the "no way" bin just yet. Forgiveness is not giving the person another chance or letting them back into your life. Forgiveness is not condoning or approving of or in any way saying it's ok. Forgiveness is all internal, inside you, for you and no one else. The anger and the hurt you carry around by not forgiving only hurts you. The other person is almost never sitting around wringing their hands with guilt over what they did waiting to be forgiven so they can go on with their life. The reality of it is it's just you and the weight of your hurt/anger. Forgiveness is just making the conscious decision to put down that weight and walk away from it. It's not demeaning to forgive. It takes an uncommon inner strength, especially when the pos doesn't deserve it.
Comment by Pope Beanie on April 11, 2015 at 10:08pm

It doesn't feel right blaming them for my brain lashing out against me, and part of the person I am wants to make excuses for them. I want to understand why they stood by while my grandfather molested children. I want to understand my mother's use of the silent treatment with her kids, or my aunts regularly comparing me to my older cousin and finding me coming up short. I love them in my own broken way, and the mantra growing up was that, "no one loves you like family."

I can attest that 1) professional therapy worked for me and 2) it helps to have someone important to you root for you. At the same time you avoid toxic encounters (e.g. from your family), keep looking for people out there who act mentally healthy and who allow you to learn from them.

One thing that helped me feel better about myself was imagining other people in the same predicament, and realizing that they deserve love and support. I.e. it's an outside-in approach to realizing that 1) I deserve love and support and 2) there really are people out there who feel good about helping people like me (us). In fact, going back to school at age 61, I'm surprised constantly by the number of people (in this case other students) who are going through the same problems. In one of my current classes, even an instructor fully of daily anxiety has asked for my advice, because I could open up and tell him that I've been there.

Comment by dataguy on April 12, 2015 at 9:37am
Hi Carol, thank you for sharing! I won't offer any advice, the best advice I have has already been offered. I will say, though that your story is very similar to mine. I get through life one day at a time, and even though I've had to cut off all relationships with my parents and most of my siblings, my convictions for not raising my own children the way I was raised has resulted in a wonderful family of my own. Even though I stuggle with emotional pain often daily, having a good marriage and balanced, successful and emotionally stable children seem to me to be a reward for the self-awareness that my pain has caused. It may be little consolation, but I'm sure you're a great person, and society needs more people who can help the next generation be good people, unlike many in older generations. Good luck!
Comment by Marianne on April 12, 2015 at 10:21am

It seems it's easy to confuse forgiveness with acceptance. What Erock68Ia is describing is really acceptance, in my book. Now, I'm not saying forgiving won't get you anywhere, but if you feel that it will demean you the slightest to constantly strive for forgiveness as the ultimate goal, you might be in for a long and painful wait. I am very clear with myself on this: I am not forgiving any of the horrible things my family said and did to me, but I am actually coming into a pretty good place, and I can feel that I'm moving on -without striving for forgiveness. I also make it a rule not to forgive anyone who doesn't ask for forgiveness, and even if they do ask for forgiveness, it's never granted without proper and careful consideration. It's one of my safeguards.

I am in no way telling you what you should do or how you should feel (that would be horrible), but I just thought I should share with you that healing is fully possible without forgiving. Forgiveness is the mantra of Christianity. Forgiving someone can be a good thing, but it's not a prerequisite to moving on and finding peace.

In the session I had on Thursday with my therapist, we discussed forgiveness on a general basis, and he was clear with me: "It's not your task to forgive them. Your job is to accept the past, which is not the same as condoning their actions". This may not work for everyone, but it sure as hell helps me.

And if something helps you, then go for it! :)

Comment by Pope Beanie on April 12, 2015 at 1:40pm

 "It's not your task to forgive them. Your job is to accept the past, which is not the same as condoning their actions".

That's a good quote. It was what it was, and it is what it is. I'm not trying to be cute here--well not entirely, but just recognizing realities is a big step. I could add "que sera, sera" (what will be will be), but no! As far as the future is concerned (and for that matter, some of the present), we have choices we can make to change things, or learn to be more optimistic.

I used to have this self-criticizing voice in my head, and I constantly felt inadequate, and vulnerable to attack. It surprised me how easy it was to say to myself "Shhhh, give yourself a break. You wouldn't criticize others like that". Forgiving myself for some things came easier too, just realizing that I'd forgive others for those things, so why not myself?

Comment by SteveInCO on April 12, 2015 at 2:11pm

Count me among those who think Irock's definition of "forgive" is not the correct one.

It is a good thing to be able to put a past hurt (whether it is small, or in this case, titanic) behind you, at least to the point where it isn't always at the forefront of your thoughts, and deal with your current life, but that doesn't mean that anger at injustice is itself unjustified or a bad thing.

Even if you "put it behind you" it's OK for your anger to flare up when you are reminded of the situation.  It's also most emphatically OK to refuse to have anything to do with the person ever again, especially when it's clear they'd do the same thing again.

I reserve forgiveness, as properly defined, for people who realize that what they did was wrong--not just upsetting to you, but wrong--and are taking steps to make sure they don't do it again.

Even then the magnitude of some acts is so great, you might still want nothing to do with them, and that's perfectly fine.  It's your life, you are an adult, you get to choose who you spend it with.  Your family, for refusing this, is in essence actually condoning what happened much as they seem to insist you should do, and that's just evil on their part (I am assuming they believe it happened, if not, their anger at you is likely based on their belief you are making false accusations, something that would be worthy of their condemnation if it were true).

Comment by Mo Trauen on April 12, 2015 at 7:04pm

Rewrite your story in your own mind as told from the viewpoint of someone who is on your side completely.  Let this new version be your truth.

I am sorry that you have so much to deal with.  Take comfort from the fact that you are not alone.

Comment by James Cox on April 13, 2015 at 7:31pm

Sounds similar to my own, but I seem to do ok, mostly. I left the day after HS, and tried to cut loose where I could. Sadly many families seem twisted, one way or another. Looking for normals seems just about a lost cause, and trying to find 'Never-land' just more of the same. It does seem that others can make us crazy, but we can choose who we attempt to bond with.

It really does help to take care of yourself, via personal health, and 'exposure'. Saying 'NO' or 'YES' at the right times, is a worthwhile thing to learn. Sadly some people are 'sucks' for time and sanity, they can be the people you also love...;p( 

Wish you luck.



You need to be a member of Think Atheist to add comments!

Join Think Atheist

© 2019   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service