Borderline Personality Disorder In Teens : Getting Back On Track After Set Backs

When my teen came home after failing at college, she was angry, depressed, violent, and mean.  Getting her moving again was a challenge.  

Failures Can Leave Teens Disillusioned

When my daughter got kicked out of college for the second time, we booted her to rehab.  Not because she was addicted; rather, she just can not handle any amount of alcohol and did not seem to be able to stay away.  While the drinking spells were all months apart, the blood alcohol levels that were tested were all above .22 and as high as .33 in one case.  She could have died.  

To be clear, she did great at school.  Involved in athletic endeavors, contributing significantly to the College Newspaper, good grades, and many friends.  She also had trouble getting along with roommates and had a friend or two that seemed like a bad influence.  She just was not quite stable and alcohol was the kiss of death.

One can never be sure about these things; my sense is and she has told me that she tends to black out on the first drink.  Folks with the Borderline Personality Disorder can lose time just walking across campus.  I think that is similar -- so that one drink and she can not remember anything.  With those around her unaware that she is already blotto on one drink, there is noone to monitor if she is having one drink or 10 in an hour.  

The poor kid that came to her rescue at 2am to find her sitting in a pool of blood from cutting her arm in a non-life-threatening way, had to spend two days recovering from shock before he could proceed with his finals.  And, when in distress, even though she does not remember much, she always calls home.  This is a good young woman with a lot of trouble.

Rehab was Helpful

Since this was the second time she was booted from college - once at the end of school and then three months later at the start of the next semester - our condition on returning to school was rehab if there was a relapse.  Even still, it was challenging to get her there.  The school nurse worked on her and would not let her return to her dorm.  Her father was on a flight to get her, which is probably fortunate as it was tough for him to put her in such a place.  And I got encouragement from the Psychiatrist we saw all summer that this was the right thing to do given the level of distruction and the numerous chances we had given her already.  

The first thing I said to the resident Psychiatrist at the excellent Hazelden in Minnesota was that I did not believe she was an addict though I wanted to take this alcohol issue seriously.  "I am concerned that we aren't treating the underlying condition", I said.  He countered, "I am going to cut you off right there.  Substance abuse treatment is the way to go.  Its the sad state of mental health in America that they do not make the patient responsible for themselves."  He went on to convince me that making her accountable for herself was absolutely crictical.  

I took the four day parent training and became convinced that letting her temper tantrums, rude behavior, or snarky comments slide was not in her best interest.  Yes, she is distressed and no, it is not really her fault.  It is, however, her responsiblity.  She has to get hold of herself and learn to control her emotions. 

Returning Home Was Not Easy

When she came out of rehab, we had a different girl at our home.  Much more contrite.  She could sit down and have dinner with us and play a board game without making a searing, snarky comment to hurt someone.  

In a few weeks, her depleted self esteem and lack of direction took over and she was back to mean fits of screaming.  As mother, I was pretty much alone.  My husband found it hard to be tough on her as she was so tortured.  And I found it hard to be trapped in a small car with her.  She screamed at me with such venom that I was shaking several times a day.  If she wasn't screaming, she was lying in bed doing nothing or eating through the kitchen creating messes.


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