This post is Part II of the previous entry, which talks a bit about the effects of growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home.
The golem in some ways is like a zombie, save that it is wholly artificial. Both are animated by magical means and are (generally) completely subject to their creator’s bidding. They appear alive, but are soulless and empty—half-living, if you will.
The latter part of the last post talked about the effect that our Christian upbringing had on my two younger sisters and me, and the various ways that we have been affected as adults by what we experienced as children. (I should say that my sisters are still conservative Christians, and go to the same church as my parents.) My youngest sister has bi-polar disorder. My younger sister has gone through therapy for anorexia and still thinks she’s fat. As for me, though undiagnosed, it’s likely that I have borderline personality disorder.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition (DSM IV-TR) defines borderline personality disorder as:
A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, as well as marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
- Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving).
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself.
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
- Chronic feelings of emptiness.
- Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms.
I’m broaching incredibly personal territory by sharing any of this, but that’s what this blog is about, I suppose; and looking objectively at this list, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 & 8 are definitely true of me. I won’t share too much, but do want to cover the more major aspects of BPD for me.
Anyone who has known me for any significant period of time knows my temper is one of the more unfortunate aspects of being my friend. It rises quickly and sometimes violently, and growing up I pointed to my red hair as the cause. One of the reasons I suspected bi-polar at first was the rate at which my moods shifted, which could be violent and sudden. My mood could go from calm to agitated in seconds, then to depressed hours later.
My temper only got worse during the teen years, when the pairing of puberty (and the subsequent rush of testosterone) and the awakening of my then-aberrant sexuality caused some significant emotional disturbance. There was also the frustration of living under my parents’ thumb and policing, which was seeming more unreasonable, but so much of it had to do with living daily with the dark secret that I was gay and making sure my Christian parents never knew anything about it.
Probably the most significant factor of why I think this is BPD is the violent reactions to rejection that I’ve had over the years, and how practically every relationship I’ve had has operated under the shadow of the fear of abandonment. I form intense attachments with people fairly quickly, often with wild expectations of how those relationships will pan out. This is known as idealization and devaluation, wherein when the attachment is good a person’s positive qualities are exaggerated. When it goes bad, the opposite is true. (This is ultimately what happened with Seth.) Idealization/devaluation is normal in childhood development, and eventually a child grows out of this stage—unless a trauma occurs.
A possible cause for this is that when I was about four, my mom became pregnant with my youngest sister. For some reason—possibly something I’d heard/read about families only having 2.8 children, and not understanding decimals at that age—I assumed this meant that I, as the eldest, would have to leave to make room for the new baby. Since a family could only have two children. My parents didn’t find out about this until shortly before my sister was born, so for months I’d lived in terror of abandonment; and even when they assured me I wouldn’t have to go, at age four the fear was still palpable.
I also tend to identify strongly with people and causes, sometimes to the point of obsession. My personality, which I’ve known for a while can be chameleonic, will sometimes change slightly to adapt to my surroundings. Again, this has to do with the fear of rejection and trying to be as acceptable and likable as possible. However, the driving fear in all of my relationships (friendships or romantic) is that the other person will eventually get bored or I’ll offend them so grievously somehow and they’ll reject me. It’s incredibly pervasive.
In many ways I feel like a half-formed person, like a golem. My parents even expected absolute obedience from us growing up. While I’m able to write about this and articulate feelings, the terrified child lives on in me and filters all of my experiences. It makes it so that I’m unable to truly feel positive emotions, because to an extent I’m always living in fear, always trying to gain my parents’ approval through friends, co-workers, peers, etc.
But it never feels like enough.
My parents have admitted that they made huge mistakes back then. But they can’t turn back the clock, and I’m stuck with finding the way out of the forest on my own. Therapy is expensive, I’m flat broke, and friends (well-meaning as they are) can only help so much…