I am now 4.5 months into parenthood and every day I am learning more and more about myself.
I would like to share an experience with you that happened last week, and has stuck in my mind as poignant.
When I received by diagnosis of BPD, what feels like all those years ago, I threw myself into researching the condition and trying to find an answer to the question, “Why me?”. One term stood out to me, but at the time I didn’t truly understand it: The Invalidating Environment.
According to many sources, and most notably Marsha Linehan, the invalidating environment is a large precursor to the condition of BPD.
“An environment perceived as invalidating generally means that the child grows up feeling that his emotional responses are not correct or considered in the regular course of things. Over time, this can result in confusion and a general distrust of a persons own emotions.
An invalidating environment is not the same thing as an abusive environment, although abusive relationships are certainly invalidating. Invalidation can be quite subtle and may reflect a general way of interacting.” (taken from http://bpd.about.com/od/environmentalcausesorbpd/a/Invalidate.htm if you need more info).
I spent a lot of time thinking, “yeah – I grew up like that” but had never really noticed it obviously, until last week.
Myself and James had a row, about what is pretty irrelevant, but it resulted in me leaving the house with my daughter in the middle of the night, and driving to my parents house. The next morning, when I got up and explained to my parents what had happened, their responses were as follows:
“What did YOU do to cause it?”
“How did you start it?”
“You don’t feel like that, you feel like this…”
The longer the conversation went on, the more I realised that this was a beautiful example of an invalidating environment. They were disregarding my thoughts and feelings about my argument, and instead telling me how or what I was feeling.
Since this incident, I have made a concious effort to notice this invalidating environment that they maintain, and sure enough, several times since, the same thing has happened again. Now I can see how they treat me, I am beginning to understand some of the origins of my condition. Of course, I don’t blame them, they did the best they could. And in some ways I am grateful, because it has opened my eyes to matters that I am glad I am aware of whilst raising my own daughter.