It’s a bit over a week until Halloween. For many of you, these are going to be long, painful days and nights, among the worst of the year. I know that you have gotten through them in the past because you are alive and reading these words. I have total faith you can get through them this year, too, even if you don’t.
I know that each time you experienced flashbacks, you came to a deeper understanding of what happened to you and what it has meant in your life. The first time, you probably had little idea of what a flashback was and how to deal with it. By trial and error, you found things that helped you ride through the hard hours. Each year you developed more skills in handling flashbacks, pain, and despair. Each year you may have thought that you had forgotten those skills, but they came back when you needed them. They will be there for you this year, too.
Revisiting My Old Writing
I was curious to find out what I had written in the early days of this blog. Actually, I was curious to know how my writing had changed over the years.
The first thing that struck me is that I still believe everything I wrote eleven years ago.
I noticed that my writing today is more personal. I share my emotions more openly, I give opinions more freely, and I care less about what others may think. I am less interested in giving historical background, helpful as it is to put things in context. (I do miss doing the research, though.) I hope that the background pieces I wrote for the various holidays are still helpful to people. And I hope that the sharing I do today is just as helpful in its own way.
My spelling and grammar have gone to hell, as has my typing. You can’t tell because I check everything with Grammarly. (Try the free version; it’s very useful.) Comma usage is my biggest problem. I think I have regressed to a second-grader’s understanding of punctuation. I don’t follow the rules; I unconsciously try to copy speech rhythms.
The only change I truly regret is the deterioration in my typing. I have to correct three or four words in every sentence, and I have better uses for my time.
Here is an earl yentry I made. I wonder what made me choose to write about borderlines instead of, say, the blog’s purpose and my hopes and fears.
I really, really dislike this label, even though it isn’t one that I have collected (so far) in my career as a client and patient. Many therapists don’t understand the etiology of the cluster of symptoms that comprise “borderline personality” and, therefore, cannot work effectively with “borderline” clients.
For this reason, borderlines have gotten a bad reputation among therapists. They are considered difficult, unpredictable, boundary-breaking, ungrateful, and unchangeable. They are often subtly or not so subtly discriminated against. In clinics, they are assigned to the junior staff, in private practice, they are “referred out,” and in hospitals, they are treated firmly but with little empathy. Not always, but often.
It’s illuminating to consider where the term “borderline” comes from. In the early days of psychoanalysis, it was considered possible to analyze neurotic, but not psychotic, patients. Neurotic people got better as they talked freely about their pasts and their troubles, but psychotics tended to become more disorganized mentally if asked to free associate.
It was soon discovered that a group of people started off looking neurotic and then suddenly, often temporarily, acted psychotic. Thus they were considered “on the border” between neurosis and psychosis.
If you read the old case histories, you may notice that these patients look to our eyes like high-functioning trauma survivors who were having flashbacks in the therapy hour. Some appear to be multiples that switched periodically. Since analysts in those days had no idea what a flashback was, they assumed that their patients had tricked them into thinking they were neurotic when they really were psychotic.
When clinicians started to study borderlines more closely, it was hypothesized that the mother’s behavior caused the syndrome. A mother who alternately pulled her baby very, very close and then became distant and rejecting set the child up for a lifetime of boundary problems. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Alternate invasion and rejection of the child’s very self could well lead to huge difficulties with relationships.
In this scenario, the father, other relatives, family friends, teachers, and clergy are ignored, and so is the possibility of physical and sexual abuse. There are many ways of stimulating and then abandoning a child, many ways of messing with forming boundaries. And needless to say, ritual abuse utilizes them all.
When people make the connection between early catastrophic abuse and their present behavior, when they learn what flashbacks are, when they go, “Aha! So that’s why I always expect nice people to turn into monsters,” they have a chance, for the first time, to gain control over their lives and their behaviors. This is as true of borderline behavior as of any other symptom of childhood abuse.
What it comes right down to is that, as ritual abuse survivors, we live on the border of past and present. We are not unchangeable; we are trauma survivors.
Spencer is Playing Hide and Seek
Yesterday, I made a little pathway to his hiding place in the office so that I could lie down on the floor and we could talk to each other. I didn’t try to touch him, but I noticed we briefly made eye contact. I knew enough to quickly avert my gaze so that he would not think I was being aggressive.
I was glad to see that he was still alive and as I remembered him – large and mostly white.
It was a baby step, but that was all right. I was resigned to not having him come out of his hiding place until the new year.
Last night, however, I heard him meowing in my bedroom. In the past, meowing meant he wanted seconds on his midnight meal. I carefully snuck out of the room, shutting the door behind me, got more food, and came back into the bedroom.
Then the most amazing thing happened. He came right up to my face, snuggled, walked away, came back, and snuggled again. And he purred out loud! I had never heard him purr – only felt the vibration of his chest. The loving went on for an hour or so. I drifted off to sleep, expecting him to go under the covers, where he had spent so much of his early time with me.
This morning I couldn’t find him. My closet door was open, and I decided he had to be there. I didn’t want to spend my morning disturbing him, so I ran back to the computer to tell you all about this happy development.