It is not hard to visualize some image of what a brain looks like, but can we form a picture of what a mind looks like? What is the relationship between our brain and our mind? Are there ways to watch our mind in operation? Think about a cow and a glass of milk; a car and a stop sign; a house and a door; a key and a lock. Even my mother, Mildred’s mind knew the connection between these things.
What if I exchange ‘connection between’ to ‘relationship to’? What is the relationship of peanut butter to a sandwich, of a university to a diploma, of the past to the present? If Mildred were reading this book (not possible, she died in 2003), and if a mind had gears, as soon as the word ‘relationship’ appeared on this page the gears of her mind would have started to slip. By the time she read ‘past to the present’ Mildred’s mind gears would have locked themselves up and over the edge into her psychotic world she would have spun. The problem with Mildred was that not only did she never know when she reached that far edge of her madness, but nobody else did, either.
Where can a mind stumble? Where can it fall? Where can it break? Confusion between past and present is not uncommon among survivors of severe trauma. Unresolved trauma can intrude into a survivor’s present in all kinds of ways including nightmares, flashbacks, and contamination of the present with powerful trauma-based emotions from the past. While Mildred’s body contained unresolved trauma memories going all the way back to her entrance into this world, her mind had either never developed or had lost the ability to process trauma-related information in anything like an ordinary or healthy way.
There were changes in the way Mildred’s brain, and therefore her mind, operated. The stunning fact that nobody recognized how disturbed her mind was is the fundamental topic of the entire series of “The Demise of Mildred,” including this book. Although she lived in a society filled with rational and reasonable people, everyone was somehow fooled into believing that whatever Mildred did was harmless. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
I have taken on the daunting task of trying to understand and then clearly explain in my writing how Mildred split her world in two and what this split meant for me as her chosen-for-abuse child. The very nature of Mildred’s Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) mental illness, as it came to operate on a foundation of psychosis, demanded that she continually maintain a visible upper all-good world that was permanently separated from an invisible lower all-bad world.
I was born into Mildred’s invisible lower world of hell that had been created through the psychotic break she suffered during her difficult delivery of breech-me. I believe it was the effects of the drug ‘twilight sleep’ that was no doubt administered to her during her labor that caused her already BPD-mind to break. So perfect was her madness that nowhere in her writings will an uninformed reader be able to detect what Mildred did to me to keep me in her hell in place of herself. Using whatever words I can find I will bludgeon to extinction the invisible soundless barrier that kept Mildred’s split worlds divided from one another as I reveal the secrets held within her hell.
November 25, 2012 Sunday – Writing process notes to a friend –
You so well know how ‘shame’ based worlds destroy confidence and the experience of competence. I feel utterly incapable of writing this book. In the ‘Lost Horizon’ movie – those finding their way to Shangri la had to be led by competent guides along the most treacherous of narrow mountain pathways to get there. Death defying – solid rock going straight up and going straight down. Such a narrow walk – inch by inch by inch. Impossible to see in any direction – other than – barely – forward.
I feel I am doomed by my inadequacy as a writer to even approach this task. The only asset I feel I have is my sheer determination to move forward. When facing such a madness as Mildred’s, and the great harm her madness did to me, there are no moorings. It is the sheer weight of the invisibility of the world Mildred created, her hell that she invisibly placed invisible me inside as I was being born so that she could invisibly commit such crimes against me – while nobody knew what was going on (except my poor witnessing siblings and my father who Mildred had blinded and turned into stone).
I wonder what kind of a collective unconscious archetype might hold the essence of invisibility for our species. “If nobody sees, nothing is happening.” (I was fascinated at age 18 when I first heard the “Tree falling in a forest, nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?” — Of COURSE it makes a sound! How is it possible human minds could imagine that it wouldn’t?)
It seems I could write myself into my grave trying to bash my way out of such profoundly invisible silence. Around and around, a downward spiral always moving further and further into obscurity and oblivion. Like a force of nature. Like something that cannot by essence be changed. I am left feeling a total fool for even trying.
The paradox seems to be that because of the essential nature of such a lower world of hell as Mildred created in her mind is created out of terror of oblivion – as her hell world existed where her mind ultimately feared disappearance – a living disappearance far worse than death – inescapable, indescribable, a world nobody has survived to tell about – so language and the processes of human communication have not bothered to create any kind of a path I can follow to write the truth about this reality.
And though I have been gone over 50 years from her physical power over me much of me is still trapped in there unless I can fight my way out of it exactly with words – words that entrance readers – otherwise the aloneness remains.
Just because Mildred’s mind was broken as far as it could not orchestrate an ordinary life — even as her mind confined and tortured me for those 18 long years — this does not mean that what her mind KNEW at its creation was not valid. What kind of abandonment, rejection, what kind of need met with despairing hopelessness was present when she was little to so break her?
This epitome of human aloneness. At this moment – thinking about how ‘unmet by human contact’ I feel because I know no other human being who has self-experienced the kind of invisible hell I lived in from birth – I cannot communicate with anyone because nobody KNOWS the felt-experience of what I am trying to convey.
At this moment – I see – my MOTHER knew!! She made me know what she knew.
I have autobiographical memory, or lived memory, of playing the game of basketball. I have lived memory of cross country skiing. In other words, I have FELT memory from participating in these sports. I also of felt memory of being a daughter to my mother, a daughter to my father, a granddaughter to my grandmother, a sister to my sisters, a sister to my brothers, a wife to a husband, a mother to my daughters, a mother to my son. My brain and therefore my mind can share information between any and all of my sports-related experiences just as I can smoothly share information about all the relationships of my life.
I can compare and contrast freely in my mind. I can comprehend what is similar and what is different about sports and about relationships. My mind does not exchange basketball for skiing, does not interchange basketball with skiing and does not confuse one sport with the other in any way. I do not ‘magically’ change a basketball into a ski. I do not do this with relationships, either.
While Mildred could keep her sports straight she had no way to keep her relationships straight except on the most blatantly obvious level. Mildred’s mind could not keep the IDEA of or her feelings about any of her relationship experiences separate from the actual people who had been in the past or were a part of her life in the present. Just as it is known that BPD minds cannot process the relationships that exist between polar opposites in the ‘grey zones’, they also cannot process any relationship information about relationships as they exist in real-time in ordinary ways, either.
Mildred’s mind did not give her any consistently firm inner ‘relationship’ ground to stand on. Her mind was always at risk for slipping and sliding, quivering, shaking and quaking in regard to her relationships. As will be seen in her letters Mildred’s BPD-mind’s relationship transgressions could happen so quickly she had ‘changed her mind’ about who-was-whom within the span of a single sentence, which often meant everyone (except me) simply became a mind-melded ‘we’.
At any given moment in time it could have been asked about Mildred’s actions in her forever-shifting dramas: Was she a mother to her children or their sibling? Was she a mother of a son or a sister to a brother? Was she a mother to a daughter or was she a daughter of a mother? Was she a wife to her husband, a sister to her brother or her father’s daughter? Mildred never ‘really’ knew. She did not ‘really’ know that her children were not dolls, not props for her dramas and not her imaginary friends.
Most destructively Mildred did not know I was not an inhuman child sent by the devil to kill her while I was being born, not a ‘curse upon’ her life, not her imaginary enemy, and I did not have the power to take her other ‘good’ (real) children ‘straight to the devil’. Mildred’s literalized divided-world psychosis required that I forever remain invisible as the sole resident of her lower world of hell.
By changing me into her own perceived bad self who the devil was coming to get she confined this entire ‘problem’ to a person (me) in a place (hell) so she could be free to live with everyone else in in her upper visible world of goodness.
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