help - I think my mom has a personality disorder
I am 27 years old and have a 53 year old Mom that I love dearly, but am very worried about. She has been emotionally unstable for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up she was prone to extreme emotional outbursts and mood swings - at her worst, accusing me of not loving her when I was 6 because I wanted to go play in the pool instead of staying on the beach and throwing a ball with her, freaking out to the point that she packed her bags and left our family vacation, only to come back later that night in hysterics, crying and saying she was just so stressed at work and would never do that again. (She did.) In less extreme times she would be set off by the smallest thing - dishes not being put away, rooms being messy, etc., saying it showed how little regard for her we had and how much we didn't appreciate her - locking herself in her room and crying for hours. I chalked this up to normal stresses of parenthood - surely all moms have felt under-appreciated and frustrated by messy kids who don't seem to respect their hard work? On top of all of this she was unhappily married to my father for 18 years, so that was a constant source of stress and I blamed many of her outbursts on that root unhappiness. To further complicate things, these bad episodes (sometimes they were for an hour other times for a week) were outnumbered by the good or great ones. My dad traveled a lot and when he was gone, my mom was a different person - happy, carefree, fun. Then when he was about to return home things got incredibly stressed - she blamed all of this on my dad, saying he would be grumpy if things weren't just so. It was as if we were living a bipolar existence.
I was always a very smart and intuitive kid, and picked up on my mom's moods quickly, doing everything in my power to make her happy so things didn't fall apart. She confided in me about everything from an extremely young age (once admitting that when I was learning to talk she feared I was getting too close to my dad and would quiz me about who I loved more). Lots of this was about her marriage - she said she had never really loved my dad but wanted kids and he seemed like a "good guy", but then also blaming him for the fact that they weren't happy together. There was never, to the best of my knowledge, any infidelity or drug problems or anything crazy like that. Just two people who didn't seem very in love (if my dad ever loved my mom or did any more, it was hard to tell - he is not an emotions on the sleeve kind of guy). Most of their fights involved my mom screaming and my dad doing nothing. She threw things occasionally, and one night he snapped and pushed her into a door. I'm not making excuses for him, but it was definitely a one time incident and though never warranted, my mom can push buttons like a real pro. Instead of accepting her responsibility in this, she dramatized it. To this day she says that my dad always emotionally abused her, and then the abuse turned physical. Again, I am in no way condoning physical (or emotional abuse) of any kind - he was wrong. But from where I was sitting she emotionally abused him for years, and while he was not an innocent party overall, people snap.
When my parents finally divorced (I was in high school), my mom blossomed into a new person. She was dating and having fun and seemed so happy in a way that she wasn't before, enforcing my belief that the unhappy marriage was the cause of most problems. Of course, there were still issues with my dad (and looking back these are more clear) - he didn't do himself any favors in terms in not making an effort with my sister and I - but my mom really relished the fact that he was such a "bad, absentee father" while she was a great mom. She always said she wished it wasn't the case but it was just reality...though whenever we started patching things up with my dad she laid guilt trips on like you could not believe - saying she had always been there and ultimately we had to choose because she wouldn't be disrespected like that. Recently I have spent more time with my dad, and though he will not say a bad word about her, saying its not his place, I see how much it hurts him and realize how hard living with her must have been for him.
This was almost 12 years ago. Since then my mom has gotten some therapy and calmed down quite a bit, definitely got some of her anger issues in check, but I would say is as emotionally unstable as ever. She has dated up a storm and cycled through relationships, each more unstable and faster moving than the last, throwing her into months or even a year long period of mourning and depression, extreme his and los. It's not just her love relationships - friends and siblings go from being #1 in her book to being out to get her and terrible people. One day she called me out of the blue to say my sister's fiance - who she had always loved - was a terrible person and maybe my sister shouldn't marry him. Because he was grumpy one night after his favorite sports team lost!
She recently went through another breakup and the patterns are the same. She goes from being the world's most persistent optimist to sobbing that she will be alone forever and why can't she catch a break. Her finances are a mess. I could go on. I was researching bipolar disorder when I came across a borderline personality disorder summary on wikipedia - it was like someone was describing my mom to a tee. I was shocked, and strangely relieved. I know I am not qualified to make this diagnosis, but honestly I have a hard time imagining what else it could possibly be.
To be clear - 95% of the time my mom was very loving, very supportive. She encouraged my sister and I to do great things, travel, live in other cities, and was always so so so proud of us. I think the fact that she could be such a great mom really clouded me from seeing the underlying problem, especially when it would go away at times. I was never very close with my dad - and enjoyed such a close relationship with my mom - that I was more willing to overlook the problems. But all the constant drama has really changed and damaged our relationship. I am scared for her future and I am scared that I won't have the mom I know and love, or my kids won't enjoy that person as their grandmother.
So now the question is - what do I do? My mom has been in therapy but definitely refuses to acknowledge and in turn treat the real root of her problem. She functions day to day but I'm concerned as time goes on she will really lose it. I'm also realizing the extent to which this behavior has impacted and shaped me and how much I need to address that. I am terrified that anxieties I have in my current (fantastic) relationship are not only learned behaviors - I have been actively addressing them - but hereditary, What if I have BPD too? I definitely have a fear of abandonment or getting hurt, and when I read the description I generally don't think I fit it, but this all has me pretty freaked. Has anyone been here before? I really need some advice on how to get my mom the help she clearly needs without making her hate me, and also how to begin going about unlearning these very very unhealthy behaviors. Thank you in advance for any of your help.