At 5:35 pm on Good Friday, March 27, 1964 I was 12 years old and not yet a woman.
Then the great Alaskan earthquake happened on this day at 5:36 pm — the second strongest earthquake on record anywhere on our planet.
I could tell you my personal story of the earthquake that day when my menarche happened, but all I want to mention now is that by the end of that three minutes of terrible shaking, I was a woman.
What matters most to me right now is that because of the earthquake, because of my mother’s writing about her personal experience during it, because those pieces of paper she wrote her story on survived for over 40 years and then found their way into my hands after her death in 2002, I now have proof of a critical point regarding Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) — most importantly of my mother’s version of this mental adaptation to early traumas and my assessment of her condition.
I believe that an abusive borderline parent will do everything in their power to keep the ‘outside world’ from seeing or being able to detect both their broken mental condition and the abuse that is a result of it. This is what makes BPD parents so extremely dangerous to their offspring. Nobody outside of the family is likely to EVER suspect the existence of either the mental illness or the abuse. (Knowing the signs to look for in order to notice in the first place and then to be able to see through the crack in the reality of BPDs will be covered in future posts).
I am not saying that my mother’s mental illness or her abuse of me was invisible to the outside. I am saying that a combination of the fact that nobody cared with the fact that these same people did not know what they were seeing even if they were looking, resulted in a complete absence of intervention for the entire 18 years of my childhood I spent being severely abused by my mother.
It is likely that my father also succumbed to these same factors, although the additional fact of him being my father SHOULD have allowed him the ability to intervene on my behalf in some way. This is a good part of why I am pursuing my writing based on my personal experience. I believe that personality disorders are so pervasive, consistent and insidious that until our present ‘enlightened era’ it has been nearly impossible for those who are on the inside to recognize what is going on, either.
This is why what I found in my mother’s writings about her earthquake experience is so empowering to me because it confirmed what I intuitively know about her condition and affirmed my assessment on many levels both of the cause of BPD and of the consequences of involvement on any level with a person — especially a mother — who has it.
You can read her story as she wrote it at My Mother’s Alaskan Earthquake Journal Entry.
In the months just prior to receiving my cancer diagnosis I was hard at work sorting and copying into my computer all my mother’s letters, notes and journal entries concerning her homesteading experiences. I will post what I have completed for you to reference, but there remains hundreds of disorganized pages and letters that still need to be included to make the entries complete.
These papers my mother wrote traveled thousands of miles, some of them being stored for up to 30 years in her various storage lockers she kept, and finally found their way to me nearly 50 years after she wrote them. It was in this collection of her papers that I found the stories that she wrote the winter of her 11th birthday. (SEE also: My Mother’s Childhood Stories)
All the time I was transcribing her writings I was searching for a clue that would show me the truth in her writings that would confirm what I know in my own heart about my mother’s mental illness. Because my mother’s stated intention in writing any of these letters and journals was to eventually write what she referred to as her “Alaskan book,” they were written from the public side of the border wall that allowed her to write under the ‘spell’ of that BPD persona. Because this borderline split between public and private is so fundamentally and profoundly crafted into the altered brain of a borderline it is usually impossible to detect it through their own description of their version of reality.
That is why what I found in her earthquake writing created in me a state of elation! I FOUND it!! I found the hole in her border wall, the crack in her reality. I found the chink in the armor that she had developed as her brain grew in childhood to protect herself from unbearable pain. I found the equivalent of my own Silver Chalice. If I never read another word she wrote I have still successfully completed my mission and my quest.
I need to take a related diversion, or detour at this moment to make a connection that I believe is vitally crucial to putting severely abusive mothers’ behavior in the social context of the human mythological imagination.
I encountered this ‘myth’ several years ago at the start of my research, Euripides’ Medea, and would like you to find a way to read it if you can. It is contained in this book
though I read it in an earlier printing of this one
Refer to this for historical context surrounding the Trojan War and Jason and Medea:
Euripides’ famous retelling of this part of Greek myth in his play about Medea was first performed in 431 B.C., hence this story is a retelling of mythology that is older than 2500 years. My point is that I believe this story is about a particular form of madness and can be seen as very closely related to aspects of what we now know of as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). For whatever reasons the authors of the myth ascribe to her, in the end Medea murders her own children.
Had my mother been able to escape any consequence for her actions, I know she would have murdered me. In fact, this is a point of argument that I hold with the experts’ version of what dissociation is and what it does. I DID NOT dissociate during my mother’s beatings of me. I felt every single one of them because I had to remain absolutely aware and present during all of them as soon as I was old enough to control my body. Her rage usually and quickly escalated to the point that she lost control of herself while she was beating me — in rhythm to her recitation of the litany she had created for me — SEE: Litany from Start to Finish — to avoid the most dangerous falls her beatings caused me or I would have been killed — if possible, killed many times over.
It is evident in Euripides’ play that all the public present knew of Medea’s intent to kill her children because she stated it publicly and yet nobody intervened — not even when they heard the children screaming as she hacked them to death in their home with a massive knife. Yet while many consider that this play refers to abandonment, one of the key symptoms of BPD, it is the ‘lower layer’ related to a mother’s ‘passion’ to kill her child or children that most fascinates me personally.
Because I understand that extreme childhood trauma can cause an evolutionarily altered brain to form, and because I believe that BPD appears as one of the manifestations possible from these changed brains, I also believe that it is the very, very ancient genetic information about surviving in the worst of all possible worlds that triggers this mother-passion to harm her offspring. It is no different an instinctual reaction as one pursued by animals when they kill offspring, abandon entire litters, or choose the most ‘fit’ of the offspring to save while abandoning the others.
This is, I believe, the human basis of the killing Medea did of her children and the attempted killing my mother did to me.
Now back to the earthquake writings: My proof is contained therein. If you read her writings at My Mother’s Alaskan Earthquake Journal Entry you will find in her story the following — (Words written in the brackets are mine as is the type bolding. Eklunds were neighboring homesteaders on the valley floor whose house my sisters, younger brother and I had been staying at while my parents were in Anchorage during the earthquake):
“Finally Eklund’s house was in sight – from outward appearances all seemed fine. She came running out as we approached. I could see our children were fine. I was so thankful! I hugged and killed [meant kissed no doubt but she wrote killed], each child in turn. We were all together again. I can’t emphasize strongly enough – that this was all that was important. We could always start over again – even though for us, who like so many Alaskans have struggled so long and hard for everything and still have so far to go. We could and would, if necessary, do it again. I’m sure there was absolutely no questioning our minds to that.”
Even if we call this a ” Freudian slip, or parapraxis, an error in speech, memory, or physical action that is believed to be caused by the unconscious mind,” the unmistakable evidence is here in her writings that what I suspect of her mental reality was real.
When I am ready to dig through boxes again, and ready to set up my scanner and do this, I will scan in the actual words as she wrote them with her own hand. I transcribed them into my computer exactly. There is no way, once a person sees her writing, that the two middle letters in ‘killed’ could possibly be construed as being the two middle letters in ‘kissed’.
Finding this hole through which I could see her reality may well be the only tangible vindication I can ever discover that proves my mother was who she did not say she was, particularly as she terrorized me from the moment of my birth as a result of her psychosis.
The only other related confirmations that I have found in her writings appears in the last of her childhood stories (mentioned above) and in her writing of the dream about the dark rainbow and the storm which can be seen at
Drawing the line between the real world and the reality of the world of a borderline becomes nearly impossible particularly for those of us who were abused by one from birth. Not only the trauma is built into the body-brain, but as a result, the version of the borderline mother’s reality is built into the survivor, as well. I know my mother’s is built into me.
These three ‘holes’ that appear in my mother’s writings are thus critically important for me to both possess and to consider as I attempt to face the reality of what happened to me on all the levels that my mother damaged me. I’m not sure that anybody who was not severely abused by a borderline parent can even begin to imagine how important these tangible expressions that illustrate clearly the break in the nearly perfect facade a borderline shows to the public world is — or imagine the terrible confusion such a parent creates in the minds of those she abuses.
My mother never knew that she meant to write that word KILL, yet there it was where I was able to find it. What a gift this discovery is to me, and perhaps to someone else who reads this post. That word is a direct connection to the ancient genetic potential for survival in a traumatic world that mothers who have been abused themselves CAN form even in this very real current day world. Because the evolutionary throw-back potential can exist in a brain that was traumatized during its development, it is folly for us to remain puzzled on any level when we hear of a mother abusing her children, not even her infants.
We can no longer afford to be puzzled when mothers actually kill their offspring, either. All the evidence that trauma can turn a mother into a killer is in the 2500 year old play about Medea which I am sure only reflects a reality that has been with our species from the time of our beginnings. It was present in my mother’s writings and in her abuse of me.
I also want to note here that the infliction of self harm and self injury that is common to borderlines did not have to be a part of my mother’s spectrum of behaviors because she made no distinction between herself and me. I was a projection of all that she had been taught to abhor within herself. I was thus an externalized aspect of her mind — a mind that was, in effect, turned inside out because the burden of containing her own reality within herself was potentially too much to bear. She could then heap all kinds of punishments and injuries on me and did not have to self-harm her own body.
As always, thank you for reading — Your comments are welcome and appreciated. Linda