A figure appeared in the darkness. In the gleam of the moonlight, I knew it was her, the woman who gave me life. She was small but managed to overwhelm the room with her haughty pride. Her words always cut. They were sharp. The wounds were deep.
Every time my mother saw me, she realized her mortality, her own demise. She hated me for my youth. She couldn’t stand that I was a specimen of beauty and each day it grew; it was going to outshine her.
She knew that. She couldn’t control it.
So she controlled how I felt about myself. She made sure I knew I was ugly.
She told me every day, “You’re so ugly!” She wished I was a boy. Boys were better.
She didn’t have to compete with boys; she could manipulate them more easily.
She didn’t place value on my academic achievements; to her, I was worthless and stupid.
She didn’t graduate high school. She hated me for having opportunities she never did. She tried desperately to hold me back from being successful at anything.
I was the Repunzel in this warped retelling of the story.
The mother (the witch) had fallen from the high tower and was blinded by the thorn brush she herself harvested. Now she’s an aimless spirit, wandering the halls of my home. She wrestles with an unknown assailant as Jacob wrestled with the angel. She’s asking me for something, but she can’t speak.
Is it forgiveness?
Is she asking me for my blessing?
If I do forgive her and let her go, does this mean I’m free?
That ended with a police escort to the local hospital.
He spent three days there, changing his medication and talking to someone for ten minutes a day. He attended group sessions, and when he came home, he was ready to be better.
It was a week before he had another episode.
And since then these episodes have been happening every 3-5 days. Some are more serious than others. The last time, he threatened to kill himself.
Unfortunately, that isn’t anything new, except that, this time, he also threatened his mother and I.
We’re going to try therapy, but right now, it feels like he’s a ticking time-bomb, set to go off at any second. From the outside, I know it doesn’t look like he’s trying but he is, he really is.
So this is where I need help, The Band:
Do I stay, or do I go?
Do I walk away from my husband because he’s sick? Or do I stay, even if it’s to the detriment of my sanity, and my child’s well-being?
I don’t know what to do and I have no support network.
My son’s father was never in the picture, and my mother is a recovering addict – currently incarcerated. My godmother, the woman who raised me, is dead. I have a brother, but he has no job, and no home.
My best friend was witness to the gun incident, and has mostly given up on me. She told me that I’m codependent, and making terrible choices for my child. She thinks I should leave my husband, like she did. But her husband was an alcoholic – mine isn’t.
My in-laws have been terrific. Any time we need somewhere safe, their home is always open. But they are elderly – one of them is in a wheelchair. I feel I can’t burden them with this. I feel I am making them choose between their son, or their grandson and I.
Where can I go? What should I do? Please, The Band, help me. I feel so alone. I’ve prayed to every god I can think of, and I still feel so lost.
There is no handbook for when you marry someone with mental illness.
But I realized I’m not an angry person – I’m just pissed off at everything that has happened.
I’ve also realized I am not guilty or responsible for her demons.
I have my ways to beat the monster, to tame it. But ignoring is not one of them; neither is feeding it.
Quick wit can get you far, as will patience, but you can’t be tolerant because with tolerance comes more abuse. You have to show it that you won’t be broken down, that you won’t stay passive to everything it does.
Giving into the victimizing is as big a deal not as engaging in a screaming fit.
How can you deal with it?
The formula is simple: you don’t give it what it wants. It confuses the monster, and it puts it down.
This is a survival game; every day you’re on defense.
Every day, you need to examine the opponent, and every moment you have to be ready.
It can drag you down or make you stronger, whichever you choose.
I can only write this from my perspective, of course. I can’t tell you what my family goes through. I don’t know what my friends experience. I could guess, but that would be it: a guess. But here is what I go through, living with Borderline Personality Disorder.
First is the rage. I can literally see the switch in my head flip from peaceful to ready to explode; I only wish there was a visual clue to those around me. I fill with rage in an instant, and it just explodes out. I’m not violent with it, though that is an impulse I fight every second. My only real hope of it never getting that far is to find the right combination of medications.
From there, impulses. Everyone has basic impulses. Gut reactions. Instincts, even.
The thing about my impulses is that they can be very less than helpful: the impulse to quit a job because of a hard day; the impulse to hurt myself because of a rough week.
I am very lucky that I’m through the job-quitting phase. Every one I’ve left has been for a solid reason. But each time, it was the final straw-impulse that put me there. I’m just lucky my love of current job is stronger than my impulse for self-defense that leads to the “I quit.”
As for the impulse to hurt myself, that started right before I was in the hospital for the first time, and it ended before I got pregnant with my second baby. It lasted less than 6 months, and I don’t plan to do it again. Another impulse that isn’t worth it.
Not all impulses I have with Borderline Personality Disorder are that extreme.
Most of them are standard – not thinking before I speak or act. A lot of it can be brushed away as minor. But words and actions do hurt, and not everyone is so quick to forgive. Worse yet, years of verbal impulses can chip away what patience there is. And I see what I’m doing – I know the pain – but I’m powerless to stop it. I honestly don’t know what I’m saying until it’s out of my mouth.
I know, I know… think before you speak. I’m getting better. I wouldn’t be married otherwise. Here’s the kicker: I can usually convince myself something is harmless or can be explained to be harmless in the two seconds it takes to think before I speak. I’m not usually right, though.
I think splitting is one of the worse parts. Imagine your entire world is black or white, where black is evil and white is godly. Everything is one of the two, no half and half, and NO gray.
That’s splitting. It mostly pertains to people who have Borderline Personality Disorder, but does not have to.
My husband, Pat, has been flip-flopping between the two for years now. He can flip ten times in one day, or he can go days or months before a flip. It has a lot to do with how we are treating each other.
One minute he can be making me dinner and he is white as hell.
The next minute he used instant mac and cheese, not the regular, and he’s suddenly evil. True story. My defense? He knew I wouldn’t eat the instant shit, so why did he bother making it?
Not everyone is one or the other, but this doesn’t mean they are gray. We’ll call them transparent. I don’t think there is a better way to describe it. They are the random people in the world you come upon who leave little impact beyond the few minutes in their presence. A cashier who wasn’t bad or good, just transparent.
And my kids, we’ll call rainbow. It’s like a whole different way of thinking.
As for myself, I’m usually black or transparent.
That’s just how life with Borderline Personality Disorder works.
Sometimes I wish what I had was as real and tangible as alcoholism or drug addiction: there is something real to battle and win. Instead I have this intangible illness – this personality disorder – that affects everything I do. I can never be cured of Borderline Personality Disorder, that hurts everyone, and I just have to deal with it until it eventually kills me.
I wonder how many people who have Borderline Personality Disorder die of old age? I know it isn’t impossible, but I wonder what the odds are. Even if they don’t commit suicide, borderline habits can lead to early demise.
Don’t worry: I don’t intend to turn to alcohol. I can’t mix it with my medication. And I won’t turn to drug addiction. I rattle enough as it is, with my daily meds. No, those aren’t the only reasons. My illness hurts those around me enough as it is – why purposely add to that?
All I’m saying is that “15 years sober” sounds better than “15 years off my rocker.”
Yet, all of them have always been under my control. I just didnʻt know it.
All this time, I thought they had complete control of me, but the truth is, and has always been, that my demons for me, like yours for you, are ours to tame, name and obliterate (maim). Once they are tamed and named, they can no longer control you.
They can only be your bitches.
While this might seem very simple, I know it is anything but. I know that it is a demon son of a bitch to deal with the thoughts we think, and it is worse when the PTSD kicks in. I know, too, that people think you are pretending, but, I know that you cannot possibly pretend to be the thing that you have been fighting your whole life long – that thing that other people think and believe is your identity, or, sometimes, they think it is your mask.
It is the monster that no one thinks about becoming real in the lives of domestic violence survivors, and the irritating little mother fucker of a demon that likes to rear its head just when you thought you had the shitty little thing tamed. You find out quickly that these demons donʻt want to be tamed. They want to be what you want to be, which is free and wild. They want to be free to run wildly amok in the hallways of your memory, fucking with you until tears fall, and not only do others stop seeing the real you, even you stop seeing the person you always knew yourself to be.
My own demons like to play with me, they like to knock the fuck out of reality and truth, and they like to tell me that I’m not at all what others think me to be. My demons tell me all the time that I am not capable of doing things the right way, because I do things my way, and my demons like to remind me that I am not the prettiest, or the smartest, they tell me I am the most irritating person and that even the people who love me the most also and equally loathe me.
My own demons fight with me, argue the truth until there is nothing left of it, the proverbial pile of mindfuck particles left scattered around my psyche like some sort of diabolical confetti comprised of the memories that made me feel better, or made me feel awful, or made me think things that were not the truth, or made me believe that I was not ever in control of who I am…but that they were.
Then one day I figured out that those demons were askinʻ for it. They were literally, by right of their continuing to pop up in my life at the most inconvenient times, asking to be seen to, to be heard, to be told what to do and how to behave. They needed me to see to them, to stop feeding them the bullshit that, for so long, had made them sick and ugly and loathsome, and just completely miserable, and that kept me under their control.
Lots of times we do not see that we might be dealing with someone elseʻs demons, and ones that they show to us, and only us, for the purposes of healing them, through the power of love and truth all at one time.
Sometimes, the demons respond favorably, and other times, they fight back, wanting to live and be heard until they no longer have voice to scream at us with, or anger to flail through us with, or any other way of being or thinking that lives within us, because instead of letting them become like flying monkeys, we make them into the little fuckers who, no matter what, we have control of.
We canʻt see ourselves as anything but works in progress, and as such, sometimes we need to help those parts of who we are that are not that great. We need them to compare them to what we want to see, what is already there, and what just requires a little coaxing….