This will need edits – but not today! This is chapter 17 of “Story Without Words” – and may be the final chapter – don’t know yet!
Requires a reading of Mildred’s childhood stories in this chapter: +STORY – 9. MILDRED’S CHILDHOOD WRITINGS
Follows my description of Theory of Mind (ToM) here: +STORY – 16. Visible vs. invisible
XVII. Shared story
In my thinking and in my writing I am working out my own Theory of Mind (ToM) about my mother’s mind. I use what I discover to retrospectively consider how her mind determined her actions at the same time I understand myself better. I share what I learn with the hopes that my writings can add useful information to the overall study of the BPD mind and its psychosis. I especially hope something I say helps infant and child abuse survivors at the same time it helps stop these abuses where they are happening now.
How big is the world of a human mind as it spans a person’s lifetime? How big is a mind split in half by psychosis? Do two halves of a split mind each grow into the size of two whole minds? Is a psychotic break like Mildred had an instance of genesis where two individual ‘cell minds’ grow separately in opposite directions? How do two separate minds operate inside of a single individual? Is there a ‘place’ where these two separate minds meet one another? If so, where might we look to find such a ‘place’?
Did Mildred’s BPD psychotic break simply create two separate identities within her mind that lived simultaneously through her one body? Certainly there was an irrevocable difference between the personality of the woman who attacked me from the one that lived in her upper visible world (as readers see her in her adult writings). The exception was with her husband who could not avoid experiencing both of his separated wives.
I am certain that young Mildred had seen similar good-bad splitting behavior turned toward her at one time or another in her childhood by her mother and her brother, if not also by her grandmother. From the beginnings of her life and of her development of her own ToM she could not understand or make any internal sense or peace with the split nature of the ‘personalities’ she was the recipient of in her attachment relationships.
To simply state that the treatment Mildred received dissociated good from bad in many important ways for her tells us very little of real use or value. If we looked at all the highways in the world and then pointed to one single crossroad in explanation of where all the roads from there then went we would find out nothing about the overall nature of all possible directions of the connecting roads. When on her journey through her childhood Mildred lost her self-agent at many important crossroads where her mental development required her to make a decision for which she had missing and conflicting information.
A growing little person cannot simply stop moving forward at one difficult crossroad of development to wait for enough of the right information to appear so an informed correct decision about self-in-the-world can be made. It is the nature of ongoing life (vs. death) that forward motion occurs. Decisions are forced to be made in the early development of ToM — correctly informed ones or not.
A return to Mildred’s childhood stories (chapter 9) provides an opportunity to actually see the operation of Mildred’s mind in operation as she wrote each word down on paper. We can correspondingly watch a small part of the development of her ToM as she struggled to resolve conflicts inside her stories as she attempted to resolve them within her mind.
By the end of her last story within the microcosm that her collection of stories provides in the order they were written, we find all we need to know in her final words, “that is the question.”
What happens to a person leaving the most formative years of their life who is left not with answers about self-in-the-world but rather with nothing but questions? What happens when the most important developmental question — “Where is my mommy and where is my home?” — is not only left unanswered but is so complicated beyond a child’s ability to even begin to resolve the question that the very self-agent asking the question is dissolved in the process of asking it? I do not believe there is then any hope of moving past this crossroad with an intact self because there is no intact Theory of Mind.
I am not being either presumptuous or grandiose when I say that I believe the existence of Mildred’s childhood story about the search for her lost Mummy and home is the greatest gift ever given not only to the study of BPD as a whole, but to the study of a pre-psychotic BPD mind.
We see both the ascension and the descension’ of Mildred’s mind already present in this story as we journey with child Mildred on the most important search any child raised without safe and secure attachment – primarily with its mother – is forced to make. We are watching the fundamental break in the development of Mildred’s ToM exactly with her as she wrote her words. There can be no greater tragedy in a human life than to find no mother-home for self in the world. In Mildred’s writing we can see that instead of what she most desperately needed and hoped to find, her mother-home, did not exist. “The most glorious bluebells” marked the spot where (and when) recognition of the absolute pivotal futility of the search to meet the most essential need of a child’s life appeared in Mildred’s mind as she wrote her words.
Mildred was forced to move on. At this instant Mildred was faced with the most significant paradox possible: How to go on being with an intact self when there is no intact self?
Mildred made the only decision possible at this juncture of her life. She wandered away from this crossroad lost with nothing with her but an unanswerable question as a guide forward through the rest of her life.
Considering that this happened to her – and through no fault of her own – means that no matter what Mildred did to me I cannot fault her for that, either.
Mildred gave the world an actual picture in the words of her childhood story that describes for us the instant in which an ascending-descending BPD split happened to her at age 10 years old. She tells both of finding “the most glorious bluebells” where the hope of unification with mother and home was destroyed at the same time this hope was left broken behind her as she moves on in her writing as Mildred remained alive to descend from this point in mental time and space because she had to move forward in her life.
Mildred moved on in her life to make enough unconsciously informed crossroad decisions to eventually find herself a literal home on earth where a plethora of glorious bluebells thrived. She ascended far up an Alaskan mountain to stake claim to her home as she literally homesteaded 160 acres in the exact spot where her childhood hopes were transformed magically into reality. However, Mildred reached this peak, this apex point corresponding to her psychotic BPD-matrix mind’s idea of heaven only because she had also grown the descending depths of the lower half of her mind’s hell world (with me in it).
We are not told in Mildred’s story when and how she had discovered that both her Mummy and her home were missing. This is not the place or time in my writings to explore who the man and the two girls might have referred to in her story. My concern is how I became sucked into the drama that grew into Mildred’s ongoing life as I was born into it 15 years after her story was written.
Mildred had green eyes. Beth in her story has blue eyes. I have blue eyes. Mildred wrote that Beth and Priscilla shared a home but had different mothers. From the age of five Mildred had been ‘mothered’ my both her mother and her grandmother. Had Mildred already developed into two different girls long before this age 10 story was written? If so, it was blue-eyed Beth who spotted the flowers.
In Mildred’s later-developing psychotically split matrix-mind was it blue eyed me who knew where mother-home was supposed to be? Was it the part of Mildred she made me into – to replace herself in hell – that actually held this knowledge in this part of her split mind? Was keeping me as her bad self-replacement along with the part of herself that held her hope invisibly in her invisible lower hell world necessary to free the other ‘upper’ good half of Mildred to search in the visible world for her mother and home?
Both halves of Mildred, the good and the bad,could not be visible at the same time. This ‘either/or’ pattern had been forced onto Mildred and into her ToM development through the trauma of abuse and neglect that had happened to her from her birth. At the same time ‘bad’ Mildred had been visible to her attachment people, Mildred as herself was literally made invisible to them. The only times Mildred herself was visible to her caregivers – and therefore visible at all – was when she was ‘being good’.
What was this little child supposed to do? Certainly she could not take any kind of mental representation of a safe and secure person or people into her invisibility with her when it was those same people who were wrongly, meanly, deceitfully, capriciously and traumatically forcing her into oblivion in the first place. (I would add here my suspicion that when ‘bad’ Mildred was made invisible (banished-vanished into invisibility) to and by her caregivers she was accessible for torture by her brother and who knows who else?)
The entire pattern of being manipulated, controlled and tormented by the lie of false ‘love’ to a ‘good’ Mildred by her caregivers gave her what I do call ‘betrayal trauma’. It is important for me to mention that I had always known I was hated rather than loved. I was never betrayed in the way that my mother was.
In my childhood I was always the mouse (prey) and Mother was always the cat (predator). Thus the macabre game Mildred played with me was always ‘cat and mouse’. In Mildred’s early life sometimes she was clearly the mouse and sometimes she wasn’t. While she had no ability to control when she was the mouse and when she wasn’t, she was TOLD that these patterns were all her fault.
There can be no greater lie told to a child, or a more destructive one than this. Mildred was given an impossible paradox to solve and she bravely tried with all the powers of her mind to solve it. She found the only solution her creativity allowed her as she went searching for her safe and secure attachment person in her mind.
Of course my being told from birth that I was not human but was the child of the devil was a lie. But I was not given an ‘either/or’ impossible paradox to resolve within my mind.
Mildred stepped into the writing of her story without describing how, when, where or why she knew her mother-home was missing. She was already lost as her story began. Although these essential parts of her story are invisibly silent without words, we can use the powers of our own ToM to understand that in Mildred’s perception of herself in her world there had once been a mother and a corresponding home and there had been a time when she knew where they were. I never had any such invisible-visible story to tell.
I never had a mother and I had never been born into such a home. Or, to be more specific, it can be understood that I was born to an invisible mother-home. I was thus spared any need to search to find what I had never had to lose in the first place.
Mildred’s experience of betrayal trauma gave her a ‘reason’ to try to ‘reason’ what the ‘reason’ was that sometimes she was an invisible mouse while at other times she was a visible child. How else was she to solve the problem if not with reason? All this reasoning occupied vast amounts of child Mildred’s mental resources during the period of time in her development which demanded of her that she apply resources of her mind to form a ToM with adequate reasoning abilities as she needed it to live with for the rest of her life.
As we can tell in her story all her efforts to find and use all these ‘reasonings’ failed her because she was trying to solve a paradox that the people in her life had given to her that had no solution. In contrast, my existence in the world was as clear as it was consistent: Once evil equaled always evil; once invisible equaled always invisible; never visible equaled never visible. As horrible as Mildred’s abuse of me was for those long 18 years of my childhood, it could not harm me where it mattered most. My mind remained intact — whole — and unbroken.
Never once until I was 29 and gone from home nine years did I EVER — not one single time — ever wonder about what had happened to me. I never questioned or had any curiosity about myself as my parents’ daughter. Nobody had ever presented me with a paradox I could solve or introduced any ambiguity into my mind about myself in the circumstances of my existence.
This fact was the greatest blessing Mildred’s psychotic split-world break gave to me. I had simply existed as my own self because I had never been given a choice to do anything else. Because I had never been given this kind of choice I had never made a decision at any crossroad of my life that would have appeared at the same time an opportunity to choose had appeared.
Because such a choice opportunity remained invisible to me, I can best say I was enabled, then, to make invisible decisions at invisible crossroads. My mind was thus spared any challenge to ‘reason’ in any way about what happened to me. As odd as it might seem, this realization at this moment makes me chuckle. At the same time I am stunned by the beauty of how what happened to me as a result of Mildred’s perfect psychosis saved me.
I am impressed as I realize I was able to do exactly what Mildred’s psychotic split-world matrix mind wanted me to do. In effect I was left being the blue-eyed Beth standing exactly where Mildred left her hope when she wrote her age-10 story. There I simply stood enduring all 18 years of my childhood knowing essentially where the most glorious bluebells stood at the spot where Mother and home used to be. I marked that spot as I was being born with my full capacity of pure and perfect hope for life that every human being is born with.
That I was born to an invisible mother-home did not mean I didn’t have a mother-home. Because I see how I was born to mark the exact spot where my mother’s hope had shifted into invisibility as her hope broke in half, I see that who could have been my visible mother was the hope-less part of Mildred who left “the most glorious bluebells” behind her under the gaze of her hope-full half of herself — at that fixed spot at the fixed time Mildred wrote her story words.
This understanding about my life with Mildred is coming to me exactly as I write these words of my story. This understanding coming to me is happening as I consider Mother as she wrote her words. It is through my mind in my words that I am meeting the mind of Mildred in her childhood words.
These are the first moments of my life in which I finally understand that all the horror and violence and terror and immeasurable suffering, all the darkest darkness, all invisibly captured and kept within the lower matrix hell Mother kept me in within her mind contained at heart all the true hope my child mother lost as she left it behind as described in her story.
In a most paradoxical way, because I have worked these past 30 years of the second half of my life free of blame or anger born of hatred for Mother because of what she did to me, I have been able to find myself within everything that ever happened to me in my childhood.
I came to the moments of this writing with full knowledge of myself as I existed without emotion at my core and without question in my mind as I endured every single thing Mother ever did to me. I know that all I ever did was stand perfectly clear and calm in my mind concerning what I knew of my own experience. Nothing psychotic Mildred ever said or did to me changed what I knew.
As I write these words I can finally give a word to what I have always had — of what nobody ever took away from me. That word is — REASON.
In my state of perfect reason that came from there being no reason at all for what happened to me, I never reasoned about anything. Nothing was ever given to me to reason about. There had never been a reason for what happened to me that had anything to do with me. I never thought about this except in the single sentence that came into my mind as I described it at the beginning of this book. At that point of my life I simply needed to consciously have those words that told me it was not HUMANLY possible to be as bad as Mildred said I was.
Therefore, I was both human and not bad. I made no argument in my mind to either of those facts.
Even at times as a human child I had actually done something wrong, what Mildred did to me in consequence on those occasions was so far past ‘reasonable’ as to defy anyone’s efforts to reason about her (Nobody ever tried.). Her attacks on me were always without reason as ordinary minds comprehend reason. There was no possibility of finding reason to reason about where none existed — and I wasn’t motivated to spend any time trying to do the impossible.
Before I turned 29 mine was never any kind of esoteric choice not to think about my abuse history. My history had, prior to this age, simply existed as I existed. While I had spent 18 years thus existing in near perfect traumatic turmoil, that turmoil was always Mildred’s and never mine. That’s just the way reality was. I knew this innately when I was born and I consistently kept this knowledge in my mind.
Most importantly I never lost access to the truth of my own mind. The overwhelming vastness of the lie I was unequivocally born into allowed me to both keep reason at the same time no trace of this huge lie could erase my pathway to my own mind.
Over my past 30 years of so-called ‘recovery work’ I have at times considered myself to have ‘lost myself’ as I found much contemporary recovery lingo suggested to me. I never lost myself so I have never needed to find myself. If indeed I had lost myself – as Mildred did when she began to split in two long before she wrote her stories – by definition I would have lost the way back to myself.
What I needed to do was to go through a forensic discovery process that has enabled me to separate the words of Mother’s story from the words of my own story. As I do this, even at this moment, I choose one word, then, and only one word to place at the exact spot where my story and my mother’s meet.
I make visible in my story the single-most important and therefore meaningful invisible word of Mildred’s story. That word, born of silence, is hope. In the darkest darkness of Mildred’s lower hell world she kept me in I did what I was supposed to do: I kept hope alive and I have never lost it.
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