Thursday, March 31, 2011

To bond, or not to bond... that is the question.

Through my many therapist sessions over the years there has always been a piece to this Borderline Personality Disorder that I had always heard and filed away. Knowing that it was important to address, but not sure I really wanted to look at it. It was dark and ugly. 





It isn't something I want to be true about myself. Granted, just because it is a symptom of BDP doesn't mean every person with BPD has that specific part. I get that. We are all different and this is where "falling" for diagnosis' are dangerous. Certainly do not turn a diagnosis into a label. Right, so why does this bother me so much? Because I see it in me. That's why. It isn't huge and stumbling, but it is there. It being there at all is too much in my book. 

What is it? 

Inability to bond. 

Not total inability, but for some, yes it is total. This piece explains a lot as it relates to my romantic relationships in the past and the one I currently enjoy with Aj. But the part that is ugly to me is what sort of impact does that make on my kids? and do I suffer a lack of bonding with them? 

The answer is yes. And that crushes me. I don't want it to be that way. In fact, as I started to come to terms with this, I immediately began watching how I interacted with my kids and started scrutinizing anything I thought and did and made a mindful effort to see if it linked to a lack of bonding. 

The judgments came rushing in almost immediately, what kind of mother doesn't bond with her children? Is this the sort of thing that allows monster mothers do harm to their children? Am I at risk of snapping in that way? All of these questions and doubt were unacceptable to me. 

Gladly I can report through my observations I am now confident that I do not have a total lack of bonding with my children, but any weakness in that bond is translated as failure in my brain. So I struggle. A lot. When I go to bed at night I wonder, "Did I hug my kids enough today?" "Did I make physical contact, showing them my love for them, my approval?" "Did I feel close to them and interested in what they had to express enough today?" "Did I tell them that I loved them enough or even at all?"

Naturally, when you doubt yourself that much, chances are the answer is yes to all of those plaguing questions. The point here is that this is exhausting, it has pressed on into deeper things, like when I was helping my daughter into her stretch pants and she clumsily teetered because she was busy watching her brother and ended up knocking me in the head (lightly) I became irritated and snapped at her to pay attention, I felt devastated for my lack of "control"; I hold myself to a higher standard and I should not have snapped at her. At least that is what my emotion mind tells me. Now I fully understand that some of my irritation is because I still need to assist my seven year old into her pants in the morning (only some mornings) - But still, that incident plagued me enough to send me into a spiral of shame before bed last night. I felt as though "if I had bonded properly, I wouldn't have done that" ~ Bear with me, I understand that those feelings are completely unfounded in reality. I understand that even the best mother in the world will get irritated at times and snap at their kids. 

However, it makes me wonder. My guilt and shame over my problems that crop up when I think of my dear, precious children that are so innocent, they didn't buy into this. They didn't sign-up for this; are almost unbearable at times. I honestly know with every ounce of my body, that if it weren't for my disabilities my daughter would not suffer as much with her anxieties. It does something to a three-year old to have her mommy be sent away to a hospital. It does something to a child that already has a disability to have her mother sleep for a year. Because honestly from her perspective that is what I did. 

It impacts the oldest child who at 7 all of a sudden had mom gone. He has always been the size of a child at least 4 to 5 years older than him and by mistake we have always treated him as the child he looks like, not his real age. This is part of why we had him in counseling for a year and part of why we took parenting classes, to teach ourselves to remember that he is only the age he is. His size doesn't age him. (I kid you not, he is almost 5'10" 150 lbs, size men's 14 shoe and he is only 11 years old. He literally is the size of a 15 year old) Anyway, back to topic. I could go on and on about how all of this has impacted my family, and all the shame and guilt that I work so hard to KILL comes to the surface every time, so where am I going with this? 

Well, what are the best parents in the world? Really, think about that. Are the best parents the ones that do not make mistakes? Is that even humanly possible, to not make mistakes? We know the answer to that. I have thought long and hard about that question and this is what I have come up with:

The best parents are the kind that will always take responsibility for their actions. The best parent will always seek to offer their child the absolute best they can do at any given time, and the best parent will know and understand that he or she has limitations. They will offer their children the help they need when they need it and they will always help their children to learn to take responsibility for their own actions as well. Because honestly in life, being responsible is the key to it all. Responsibility led me to take control of my mental illness instead of  spending not a single second longer in denial. Responsibility is what drives me to mend any lack of bonding that I may experience. Responsibility allows me to honestly let my children know that I am not perfect and no one is. 

Tonight, as usual, I will hug my kids tightly and profess my love. Tomorrow I will, as usual, be mindful of whether I am spending the time they need with them, whether I am listening when they are needing it, and I will, as usual, be ever asking myself if I am genuinely interested in their daily lives. I will, as usual, be very mindful of my bonding with my children and my husband. Just because it doesn't come natural, doesn't mean it can't happen for me, because in my wise mind, I see clearly that it is there and it is growing.

MJ