Wow – this is a tough tough question that I know I will have to address at some point over the next few years, and so posts like this are very encouraging, and, I think, quite rare. Have you seen any other good posts about being a parent with a mental illness, and the challenges this poses? I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has a post, a link, or a story to share!
May 4, 2014 at 1:51 pm
I read the original article – interesting post. My perception is that underlying her viewpoints are the biological-geneticist theory of mental illness, what I would call “neo-determinism” – the idea that if one has a mental illness, one’s kids are more likely to have it due to genes alone. This may be somewhat applicable in the case of bipolar disorder, which more clearly has a genetic-bipolar component. But I am not at all convinced that it applies in the case of Borderline Disorders, in which (in my opinion) the evidence for relational-experiential-environmental causation is much stronger than for any genetic contribution. I am again relying on Jay Joseph’s analysis of twin studies here, which casts serious doubts on any supposed genetic transmission of BPD (see http://www.jayjoseph.net/publications). For that reason I would advise thinking carefully about how – or if – to tell children about BPD, since any pessimism or genetic implications for them based on a parent’s having it may be completely unwarranted. If the parent can get good treatment and recover to become non-borderline – which will also involve them becoming a better, more positive parent toward their children – then the children’s chance of developing a borderline “disorder” may be the same or even less than that of the general population.
May 4, 2014 at 10:08 pm
Thank you SO much – this is very helpful, and very reassuring, and I will follow up on the link. This has definitely been a big concern of mine (the idea of genetic predisposition, that is), and it’s good to know that there is research that casts doubt on this. I try to be so conscious of the environmental/relational aspects, as I know they’re so crucial to personality development – it makes everything a really tricky balancing act, and I don’t know how to react sometimes! For example, I worry that I’m so concerned about the possibility of invalidating my children’s emotions, that I don’t deal effectively with discipline, and I end up being inconsistent! Oh, the joys of borderline parenthood …….. thank you again for the helpful response!
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May 5, 2014 at 2:43 am
Thank you. In Masterson’s book “The Search for the Real Self” I remember there was a heart-warming story about a borderline mother who went to therapy for several years, both to help herself and her young daughter who was already exhibiting severe emotional problems, lack of confidence, and acting out at school. Once the mother recovered from BPD and took much better emotional care of her daughter, the young girl got much more confident at school, lost her negative psychological symptoms, and basically developed healthily from then on.
May 5, 2014 at 10:50 pm
That is _really_ encouraging, thank you. It’s always tempting to think that the effects I might be having are permanent, or any ’emotional damage’ done might be irreparable, but it’s good to remember that people (including small ones!) are resilient and have the power to heal, and can overcome adversity and difficult experiences, with good emotional care. Pathways in the brain can indeed be re-wired (hopefully at any age!). Thank you too, for following my blog 🙂