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Archive for March, 2013

The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 16

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16.  Wordless places

March 29, 2013.  Twenty years ago when I was visiting my older brother John in Ashland, Oregon I told him I would not have wanted a single thing to have been different in my childhood if any change would have meant that I would not have been able to live in Alaska and on our mountain homestead.  My brother told me that if I really believed that I was nuts.  It has taken me this long to finally know what John meant. 

I needed that land because of the way my childhood was.  I needed that land to save me.  Had I not suffered the abuse that I did I would have been spared the need for being saved and therefore spared also of my deep need for that land.  Book closed.  End of story.

I have no belief that had we not moved to Alaska, had we not homesteaded, had we stayed in California or had we moved anywhere else that the horrors present in my childhood would have been removed.  At this point in my life I understand that the lifelong physiological changes to my body caused by severe exposure to chronic traumatic stress would have happened to me anyway.  If fact, most of the problematic changes happened in California to me before the age of two, and certainly by my age of being nearly six when the Alaska move took place.

Although I have reversed my declaration as I would state it to John now, nothing changes the past.  My speculations are fruitless unless they provide me with insight into my life in ways that are useful to me today.  As it stands I cannot imagine being alive now had Alaska not provided me with what I needed to counteract all the negative forces present in my childhood so that I could survive it.

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What does child abuse do to people?

After I completed my BA in psychology in 1983 I took a graduate course in counseling.  I worked as hard as I could in that class but received my first disappointing “C.”  Most of our grade came from pairing off to practice empathy and “active listening” techniques.  I followed the steps carefully but obviously they made no sense to me.  Thirty years later I know why I could not do what my professor required.  I do not understand the most important communication signals between people.

Nothing that happened to me during the first 18 years of my life was designed to build into me the ability to process human social-emotional information in ordinary (as I use the word) ways.  Because I was a very smart child I got by because I learned how to fill in the blank spots created by a nearly complete lack of caring, genuine, compassionate and empathetic interactions by other people with me.  In other words, although I had no way to know it I learned how to pretend to be someone resembling an “ordinary” person.

I have always known what all the superficial indicators of expression and intent mean on a surface level.  Yet my ability to engage in social exchange with other people cannot be considered effective by ordinary standards of communication except in the simplest, most trivial and trite ways.  With a few very rare exceptions what I give in conversation is not what other people expect, want or evidently need and what they can give to me is not what I want or need, either.  Genuine, authentic conversation based on mutual exchange of integrity is therefore mostly missing from my life.

Part of what I seem to be missing is an ability that appears innate in ordinary conversation.  The capacity to filter what is not from what is considered appropriate to know about a person and then to form a return response that includes reference only to this acceptable information is not, however, an inborn skill.  It is one that is formed into a very young infant-child’s developing physiology very early in life through safe and secure patterns of communication between little people and their attachment caregivers. 

Over time the foundational aspects of communication provide the inner ability to interact appropriately in increasingly complex emotional-social situations with members of one’s species.  I was not given the opportunities required to form this kind of interactional foundation.  What I needed later on to build upon my missing foundation was not available to me, either.

These shortcomings in my early experience as they were compounded by deprivations in the quality of interactions I had with others all the way through my childhood, coupled with my exposure to horrific long-term chronic traumatic abuse, combined with lengthy periods of isolation left me nearly “synch-less” when it comes to participating in successful, mutually satisfying communication with others.  While my counseling professor evidently noticed this condition in me with a critical assessment to the negative, he certainly did not offer any kind of helpful interchange with me that could have assisted me to learn thirty years ago what I have finally come to understand about myself on my own.

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Bump and chop in conversations

It seems to me from my perspective that people who were raised in the absence of debilitating deprivation and trauma naturally incorporate patterns of ordinary existence into their life so that ordinary is natural and comfortable to them.  Ordinary would of course then be a completely valuable inclusion in their discourse with others who also completely know from the inside out what ordinary is.  Yet even if this is true people are people and life is life and nobody escapes difficulties.

Part of my troubles with being in contact with other people is that I was formed to know things in extraordinary ways.  Most of the time the information I detect from others is private to them and is not what they intend for me to know about them.  Because I do not have ordinary filters I almost always inevitably experience a very awkward and uncomfortable pattern created for me (and often for the other person) as I try to slow down my responses enough to use a conscious filter that will let me include what I suspect I am supposed to include and exclude what I imagine I am supposed to exclude from my responses to others.

Given that humans are designed to gather information from tiny facial muscular changes in others at the speed of minimally twenty signals per second, and given that the ability to process this emotional-social information accurately and appropriately (or not) is built into the rapid-forming right limbic brain hemisphere during the first year of life, inadequate infant-mother (caregiver) interactions inevitably harm the physiologically developing ability in the brain to carry on future interactions between self and others in ordinary ways.  People expect to be attended to, heard and responded to FAST.  Because most people in mainstream American culture are geared to keep ordinary visible and difficulty invisible to other people (Mildred’s mental illness amplified this split), those of us who have been formed in environments of trauma are always at a disadvantage in the race of ordinary conversation (whether we know this or not).

My difficulty is not that I do not accurately read (watch) people.  My difficulty is that I read them too well.  I can detect the truth of their reality – as they are ACTUALLY expressing themselves without words – so fast and gather so much information that without the proper emotional-social filter that ordinary people have I am forever out-of-step with social expectations and tolerances when it comes to communication.  What I end up with is an assessment that nearly all social exchanges appear to be a sloppy, inarticulate, inaccurate, phony unsatisfying mess while my contributions can never be upgraded to anything over a “C.”

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Without words

I could call my native language “traumaspeak.”  This is the language I began to learn even before I knew what a word was.  I learned this language through a long childhood of having to hone (automatic) super-vigilant abilities to detect what was really going on within my home environment where nothing was ever what it seemed to be until Mother EXPLODED and then the truth of my world became obvious.  I was raised without safety and therefore formed no ability to trust humans – period.  Because I was a human in a human world my existence was extremely complex.

In an environment where rage is always present (somewhere) waiting to loom and take over the experience of a child some degree of physiological alertness has to always be present.  My world had always been this way from the time I was born.  I naturally developed alternatively to endure within this alternative environment.  (Now I understand that not only was this world not ordinary, it was psychotic.)

No human being, certainly not a small one, can survive being in a chronic state of reaction to danger and threat to life without being able to live through some periods of rest, some periods of quasi-restful calm without being directly aware of the presence of danger and threat.  The spans of time I was able to snatch for myself to be a child existed because my body itself “dissociated” my awareness of my chronic trauma state.  My body-brain manufactured a way for me to live a “second life” along with the chronic trauma state in between Mother’s direct psychotic attacks.

So distant from one another and so entirely separated were these two lives I lived that when I was in my own-self child life I was never prepared for one of Mother’s attacks.  I was never ready.  I never anticipated or expected any one of them.  I felt as shocked at each attack as if it was the first one happening to me for the first time.

Every attack took me by surprise.  I was completely startled every single time.  I was incredulous when fairly late in my adulthood I realized how strange this was.  It has taken me a long time to understand what caused me to be so oblivious to the ongoing presence of the threat of harm during my childhood.  That repeated feeling of shocked surprise was one of my strongest memories, and for a long time I criticized myself for “being so stupid” that I should have had that reaction.

Every time was the first time?  Every time I stared at her lunging toward me with wide-eyed profoundly stunned amazement?  Every time I was completely taken by surprise?  I never had an instant’s pause to have the conscious thought, “Oh, NO!  Here she comes again!”  I NEVER saw an attack coming.  Not one single time.

Mother was psychotic!  How could I have known when she was going to switch into one of her psychotic states of insane rage?  How could I have survived if I had no way to turn off the flow of chronic panic, confusion and terror if my body had not taken over complete control of how I experienced myself in my life?  In my two LIVES?

These separated islands of perceived calm were broken into very small individual pieces as inevitable trauma after trauma repeatedly interrupted my experience of being my own self-child living my life in between attacks.  I had no bridge of language between the two worlds I lived in.  I had no way to think about the trauma in any way. 

I therefore had an equal inability to conceptualize, understand, prepare for, anticipate or defend myself against the harm that happened to me.  The pure act of enduring happens without words.  I was therefore continually jerked back and forth from one life I lived that had words and the other one I lived through that had no words.  (I am not talking here about Mother’s horrible verbal abuse.  That is an entirely different subject from my OWN missing words.)

Nobody ever talked to me about the wordless world.  I never talked to anyone about the wordless world.  I could not talk to myself about the wordless world.  At every instant I was forced to crash out of my own life into Mother’s brutal psychotic one all words disappeared.  There was no way I could ever be prepared for that switch to happen except as my body automatically took care of me – without words.  The inexplicable had no words.

I was left without words for as long as it took for me to be able to return to my own (other) life.  I was not able to begin to discover there were words for the wordless world until I experienced my first counseling when I was 29 years old.  Without words I had no context.  I had no frame of reference.  I had no way to even begin to know I had ever been abused at all, not even when it was happening to me.

I went a long, long, long time not in denial but in a void of wordless oblivion regarding the essence of what difficulties I had lived through.  Perhaps what I see so often in other people I meet is their own wordless oblivion.  Perhaps there is much in people’s lives that they do not speak of because they have never had the words to do so.  Perhaps it is a lack of words that creates that imperceptible but very present communication filter within and then between people in the first place.

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Lack of comprehension

I had an 18-year experience of being ultimately alone which included vast areas within me that I could not know.  There was no bridge of lasting stature ever formed between me and another human being.  I was able to discover bridges elsewhere between myself and factors of the world I lived in because I was surrounded by the place of Alaska which on its own defines no separation between itself and anything or anyone else.

Of course if I had disappeared into the wilderness my lifespan would have been greatly shortened.  I had a place called a home within a family that did keep my body alive.  But past that point there was very little given to me from which I could build myself into a person capable of negotiating life with others of my species in any helpful or meaningful way.

While I understand that humans are not pieces of debris tumbling down a massive river through time, birth to death, I now understand that in this lifetime I will never be able to comprehend who they are or what they are actually doing from their point of view any more than I can comprehend an ant, a leaf or a bird.  I tried to learn as a child.  I can see in Mother’s letters where, when and how she was able to – and did – reach out her long arms of abuse to remove from me opportunities I had outside of our home to try to learn at warp speed what other children are able to learn gradually over the span of their entire childhood.  (This included her removing me from my grandmother.)

Mother could not and hence did not remove all opportunities from me.  I naturally made the greatest possible use of every available chance I had to make progress in my development in any way that I could.  I remained alive and grew up to be the best person I know how to be.

I was, however, made to be a watcher of life which includes being a watcher of people.  I watch humans in the same way I watched the focused and determined activity of ants that spent their lifetime occupied within the universe of their rotting logs on the mountainside, in the same way I watch leaves bud and open on a rose bush and birds gather dry grass and bits of string to build a nest.

There is no pressure of expectation, suggestion or demand that I act like an ant or a budding leaf or a bird.  At 61 I am tired of trying to belong in the world of people.  And I mean tired as in tired out.  Tired of.  Worn down.  Worn out.  Exhausted. 

I know myself now much better than I did thirty years ago when I tried so hard in that class to do what I could not do while I didn’t know I had no ability to do it.  I cannot accurately mirror other people’s reality back to them in a way that they will accept or understand because I have no way to ever cross any bridge of comprehension that would let me know in the least what any experience of being an ordinary human feels like.

As I write these words I realize that there will be some readers of my words who will know exactly what I am talking about.  Not one of these readers will have come out of a safe and secure childhood.  Not one was born loved.  Not one was given what they needed as they grew up to know on a feeling level what trust in humanity could possibly be.  These people probably share with me this inescapably, inexhaustibly lonely way to live.

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The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 14

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14.  Wraith child

Here is the last part of Mildred’s Tuesday, August 6, 1957 letter (from chapter 11) as I believe she wrote it after psychotically erupting at me for something SHE saw happen that never did.  Mildred introduced at the end of her letter the people who bought and moved into the log house in front of ours sometime during the first five days we were in Alaska.  Again, she does not initially give their names, which were Janie and Scotty. 

I’ve only said “Hello” and exchanged a few brief words with my front neighbor.  She’s very attractive, slim, and smart looking.  They have a beautiful place too!!  The people that moved out told me these new people, especially the man, don’t like people and want to be left alone!  They bought the place thinking the Spoerrys [our log house landlady and her husband living in Algeria] would live here in this house who had no children and both were working SO I’ve kept my distance – until they get to know us.  (I understand how they feel too.)  (They have a 3 year old girl and a 10 month baby boy.)

No other news – school starts the day after Labor Day, at least two weeks earlier than California so it really won’t be long now.

We’re all fine, happy and healthy.  I wake up every morning excited anew over Alaska.  We love it but we were ready for it here.  There are undoubtedly people that don’t like it – I’ll send you a clipping from paper from one that didn’t.

Will close now.  Much love, Mildred, Bill and the children.

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Borderline Personality Disorder people are known to radically, and usually inexplicably to others, flip sides in relationships as they typically first idealize and then vilify them.  In spite of all the rambling descriptions Mildred wrote about these people during the year we lived in the log house as their neighbor, what she says about them a year after she moved out of the log house in her July 28, 1959 letter written to her mother is significant to me:

I stopped to see Janie yesterday for the first time since the snow melted.  Her furniture is arranged just the same.  She is just the same.  Oh, some people!!

I hear Mother’s voice of condemnation in these words.  Shame on boring stupid inferior Janie!  In my recent conversation with her Joe Anne Vanover told me that “Mildred had a great need to be superior to everyone else.”  It did not matter what the subject was, Mother was the only person who was ALWAYS right. 

In the year that passed from the time my parents moved us out of the log house at the end of their year’s lease July 31, 1958 (while, as Mildred states, Janie didn’t move or move her furniture) Mildred moved us next into a primitive rented cabin so she could “practice homesteading.” When that living soon became difficult she moved us into an apartment in Anchorage, then into a small trailer parked in Pollard’s field at the bottom of the mountain, then up to the homestead to live in a canvas Jamesway hut, and THEN back to the log house by the fall of 1959, a move she had in motion when she made the above comment about Janie.

As it turned out in the real world, shortly after Mildred made her scathing observation about Janie, she and her family did move out of their log home they had been living in for two years without ever having mentioned a word to Mildred about their plans.  Mother would not have remotely cared, anyway.  In her reality she was the only person who mattered.  This is all in illustration of how Mother obliviously lived in an inarticulated crucible where meanings were defined by her sick mind within which we were all forced to reside with her.   Her judgments against other people never alerted her to the benefits of normalcy or to the harm of her madness. 

I had no experiences that could have given me any perspective other than Mother’s.  As I make this note I think about the emptiness of my young adult mind after I left home at 18.  Because there was nothing ordinary about my life with Mother there was damage done to my development in many ways due to her inability to keep chaos out of her life.  As I mentioned in the previous chapter by the time I left home I was significantly lacking in three areas related to my inability to conceptualize (a) the passage of time, (b) the constancy of objects in space over the passage of time, and (c) a sense of self.  Under ordinary conditions I would have certainly integrated these concepts as they are basic to ordinary mainstream American life.

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The hammock and the passage of time

I mark a significant memory of mine as having been formed through an experience I had in early April of 1971 when I was 19.  I accompanied a man named PJ who was the father of my unborn child and “the love of my life” to visit his friends who lived in Sausalito, California.  Feeling an outsider to these peoples’ conversation I wandered around their rambling yard where I noticed the first hammock I had ever seen stretched between the trunks of two shade trees at the edge of a garden.  It looked new and was made of white cotton cord.  I stopped to study the hammock without having any desire to climb into it.

Over the course of the next months the turbulence and chaos of my life continued to carry me through currents of great changes.  By early October of this same year (after my 20th birthday) I again traveled with PJ to his friends’ house.  Again I felt myself an outsider to their conversation and again I wandered their garden with my baby girl in my arms. 

This time when I passed the two trees the hammock was no longer whole.  I stood in amazement in front of grayed and broken shreds of rope, most of which trailed down to the ground to become entangled in yellow brittle weeds and grasses.  This was the first time in my life I became personally aware of the reality of the passage of time.  It was as if I experienced a paradigm shift that altered how I viewed life as a whole and how I felt about myself in relationship to it.

My life with Mildred gave me no sense of constancy.  I had never known anything but ongoing, perpetual and usually traumatic change that had no obvious cause and that followed no reasonable course over time.  It was not until the instant I was visually confronted by the changes that had happened to that hammock in between the times I had seen it new and whole and the next time I had seen its dismantling that I recognized that change itself occurs within the passing of a specific amount (length, period) of time.  This was the first time I understood that all change is not random.

I had been through many, many serious and difficult experiences during the months it had taken that hammock to disintegrate.  My life, run as it had always been upon accident and instinct, had never been accounted for directly within time itself until that moment.  The hammock, along with the changes that had happened to it (through exposure over six months of time to rain, sea salts in the air, wind, sunshine), brought my first conscious awakening to the momentous idea that there are some kind of mysterious consequences inherent in time passing over-through-by-around a stable object that remained constant in place so that its nature is drastically changed simply because the object exists – in time. 

At this juncture in the development of my mind I was able to finally include myself in this equation that time and change were connected to one another and that I, as an “agent” could witness how time changes things.  This is how I gained, at age 19, my first inkling of awareness that I existed as a separate and distinct self-person-body in that world of time passing and change.  After all, it was I that had also traveled through time and change to be able to capture both of those two distinct images in my mind of the perfect whole hammock and of the one that the passage of time had destroyed.

My insight, although subtle and outside the range of my thoughts, changed me in ways not unlike how the sound of an orchestra would change if an important new instrument was added into it.  Before my experience with the hammock change and the passing of time were disconnected (dissociated) from any sense I had of myself in ongoing life.  Yet even now dissociation, built into my body from my infancy through Mother’s psychotic treatment of me, remains a complicating factor in that I doubt I remember my life experiences in ordinary ways.

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A culture of one

Even as I write these words I am stretching my story of myself in my life from who and how I am now at age 61 as I write this book back through key signature moments in my young adult life as I consider how certain awakenings then were connected not only to who and how I was right before my sixth birthday in August 1957 but also reaching all the way back to being born to my psychotic mentally ill mother in the first place.  Because she had never passed through her own earliest self-development processes correctly, and because all of her difficulties deprived her of the ability to recognize me as an individual person separate from her, I was deprived of the ability to recognize my own self as a person (who existed in time) separate from Mother.

This level of damage is very difficult to articulate and describe.  Normal children with safe and secure adequate early attachment relationships with their primary caregivers have in place by the time they are one year old all the critical self-recognition information they need to continue developing that self.  Whatever experiences a growing child needs to have to be able to (seemingly) naturally and automatically gain both awareness that they are a self and then that they are a self-agent did not happen for me as the captive of the hell-half of Mother’s sick split mind. 

As author Edmund Carpenter described in his 1973 book, Eskimo Realities (Holt, Rinehart and Winston) about the Canadian arctic Eskimo culture prior to Anglo Christian contact, the passage of time, degrees of perceived permanence/impermanence of objects and constructs of self are culturally determined.  These conceptions both define their expression in language at the same time they create the underpinnings of language, itself.  I was forced to exist primarily as a member of a unique culture that was made up (created by) by psychotic Mother to be lived by only me. 

I was, therefore, raised isolated within a culture of one.  Even though I had contact with outsiders to my culture which included controlled contact with my siblings, my core experience was defined by Mother.  I could not have meaningful language for experiences I had never had.  The lack of experience and the corresponding dearth of words with which to conceptualize what I did not know led me eventually in my adulthood to the very late discovery of ideas that belonged to cultures other than mine, most significantly to the dominant American culture.  The difficulty for me in reverse is to find a way to communicate to people who are foreign to my “culture of one” what my life has been like.

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The ashtray and the constancy of objects over time

 After the complexity of many more changes and moves the next moment of significant enlightenment for me came about nine months after my hammock-related recognition.  I had landed in Fargo, North Dakota with my daughter who was now 18 months old.  We lived in a small rented basement apartment.  Lily, our very kind landlady, lived in the other half of the basement.  Lily cared for her ailing older brother who occupied the main floor of the house.

Over the next few months of visiting Lily in her apartment it suddenly flashed into my awareness one day as I sat having coffee in her kitchen that over this period of time Lily’s small ashtray, one of those metal topped ones with a plaid cloth bottom filled with sand, ALWAYS occupied exactly the same spot at the bottom of shelves built into the wall beside the breakfast nook table and benches when it was not in use.  Whenever I wanted to smoke a cigarette it was always to this spot I could look for the ashtray and it was always right there.  This was my moment of awakening to the idea that something could remain the same over the passage of time.

This was the first time, just as I was about to turn 20, that I had experienced any personal antidote to Mother’s judgmental concept having to do with her chaotic sense of the passage of time and the impermanence of objects in time as she expressed it in her 1959 letter speaking of Janie, “Her furniture is arranged just the same.  She is just the same.  Oh, some people!!”  In those 1959 letters Mildred stated within a week after she wrote those words that Janie and her family indeed did move out of their house, although Mildred did not offer any recognition of how they had only been living there for two years before they disappeared.  The only sense of the passage of time that existed in Mildred’s life or mattered to her was her own.

My ashtray insight struck me profoundly because up until that moment I had never comprehended that any kind of stability existed in anyone’s life, let alone that stability could FEEL good and be a good rather than bad experience.  This was the first split-second permanent shift in my thinking that just as this ashtray and all it was connected to in Lily’s life had continuity and stability over time, so also was I and my daughter experiencing stability.  However, this spat of stability only lasted four months for me and I moved again.

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The wraith and the absence of a continuous self

After the next brief three month move-in and move-out of an apartment on the north side of Fargo I next found myself sharing a small house in Minnesota with a friend and her son on the other side of the Red River by winter 1972.  One still night of falling snow I walked alone to a nearby campus and found myself circumambulating the center plaza’s sidewalks in a pattern that left behind my footprints in the sparkling empty whiteness.  I finally stood at the center of a wide circle with my bare palms lifted to the sky ahead of me as I watched snowflakes disappear into the warmth of my hands.

As I stood mesmerized by snow falling and melting on my palms through the silence four words spurted from some distant source that spoke to me only this:  “I am a wraith.”  Though I heard the words they held no meaning to me at the time.  I had no idea what a wraith was and no recollection that I had ever heard the word before.

I accepted this experience without question in the same way I had everything else I had ever gone through.  By this time at age 21 I wasn’t a lost self.  I wasn’t any self at all.  How does a person who has no sense of self at all become rescued from obscurity? 

Forty years later as I examine this word I know how accurate it was to describe me at my young adult age.  Sadly, even now I cannot say I have made a lot of progress out of the condition I was forced into through exposure to such horrific trauma during the first 18 years of my life.  No matter how I look at how I feel in the world, the following is still a far more accurate description of my reality than any other I have ever found.  I cannot argue with this word.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary states that the origin of this word is “unknown”; it’s first known use in Modern English was in 1513; and it’s definition is:  “1a: the exact likeness of a living person seen usually just before death as an apparition b: ghost, specter.  2: an insubstantial form or semblance:  shadow.  3: a barely visible gaseous or vaporous column.” 

The online free dictionary Wiktionary states that “wraith” is a Scottish dialectal word for “ghost, spirit.”  Some claim it has connections to Icelandic vörðr meaning “warden, guardian.”  Others suggest possible Celtic or Norse origins.  Walter W. Skeat conjectured in his 1893 book, An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (2nd edition, Oxford: Clarendon) that “wraith” was of Scandinavian origin meaning “an apparition in the likeness of a person, supposed to be seen soon before, or soon after death.  The apparition called a wraith was supposed to be that of one’s guardian angel.” (p. 720)

(Note:  An online search using these words in combination will reveal technical aspects related to what the word “wraith” more imaginably describes:  child abuse  trauma dissociation depersonalization derealization.)

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These three experiences I have described were significant to my own quickening knowledge that I had definition and that I was actually “something else” other than a blob of body that had occupied space in time for the purpose of receiving abuse from Mother.  I have continued to suffer from a disconnected sense of myself through time.  There was no possible way my awakening to the consciousness of my own self-existence could have happened instantaneously at 18 when I left home.  I am still involved in this process and will be for the rest of my life.

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The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 13

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13.  Isolation complete

Having the core of my developmental experiences under the influence of Mother’s psychotic abuse deprived me of opportunities to learn concepts that would have been in place within my mind under far more ordinary circumstances by the time I left home.  Significant portions of the timespan of my 18-year childhood were occupied ONLY with enduring trauma.  During these times I did not have opportunities to learn and assimilate into my mental framework (a) an ordinary sense of the passage of time, (b) an ordinary sense of the constancy of objects within space over time, or (c) any sense of my continuous self passing through the time of my own life.  (These aspects will be further described in the next chapter.)

My experience of being the sole captive of Mother’s devil child hell psychosis uniquely robbed me of any chance to incorporate these essential, normally foundational aspects of being human into my consciousness during childhood.  Because I endured and survived long enough to escape Mother’s psychotic hell at 18 – and did so with my mental capacities intact – it was then only a matter of time before I encountered what I could call “slam-dunk” opportunities in my young adulthood that gave me what I needed to wake up within me key awarenesses that children spared chronic, long-term psychotic abuse learn far earlier than I was able to learn them.

It is important to realize, however, that because I learned these concepts so late in my life they were not built into the circuitry of my brain and nervous system in ordinary ways – and never will be.  Because this is my book within which I am conveying my own specific reality I can simply say that within me lies an experiential foundation that was formed through a tripart process.  The interplay between who I was allowed to me as the all-bad figment of Mildred’s psychotic mind as she trapped me as her replacement in hell and who I was as a young human being separate from her – as both Mother and I existed in the real world of time and space and were not entirely separable from societal influences – gave me three distinct arenas of experience.

The connection between these three arenas was extremely limited by the design of Mildred’s mental illness and the influence it was allowed to have on me.  I can most clearly describe the three separated kinds of life I had in this way:

1.  Ordinary child:  Mildred’s psychosis did not have the power to prevent me from being a visible (real) child.  Although she had great control over me most of the time, there WERE times in my childhood when I was able to step into the flow of ordinary childhood outside the range of direct abuse.  As I described in Story Without Words, I can see how the visibility-invisibility dynamic operated in my childhood as early as my six week infant checkup as Mildred wrote about it.  While Mother began “vanishing” me very early in my life she could not REALLY make me disappear.  I had human contact, as limited and controlled in every way as Mother could manage. 

I had some access to my grandmother until I was nearly six at which time Mildred was forced to separate us by moving me to Alaska.  I attended school and through what I believe was a miracle designed by God I was allowed to spend time in Brownie Scouts.  I was a member of a family and could not be entirely extricated by Mother from that ongoing life; although as the family photograph collection indicates there were many times I was absent from their experiences.

2.  Closet child:  During the times when Mildred was most highly under the influence of the brutality of her psychosis I was frequently, and for often very lengthy periods of time, isolated and confined.  Mildred’s imprisonment of me in her hell thusly often took place literally in physical space (bed, corners, inside the house with her while my siblings played outside, etc. as this book will describe). 

In addition, tied to the fact that her psychosis identified me as being the devil’s child, Mildred believed I had the power to “take” my siblings to hell (to “ruin” them as in “one bad apple spoils the bunch” as she told her children).  Very often my siblings were forbidden to look at me or to speak to me from the time we were very small children.  This kind of social isolation for a child is hell all by itself.  Mother also prevented me from playing with other children including my siblings.

One bizarre aspect of her psychotic abuse of me is that she closely watched me all of the time except when it suited her otherwise (as in “Get out of my sight.  I can’t stand the sight of you” as she banished me to my bed or to a corner).  She had this kind of “evil eye” on me when I was outside on the driveway that led to the “story” (crime report) I wrote about in chapter 11. 

The intricacies of these patterns of Mother confining me within the “closet” of HER mind-space played themselves out throughout my childhood.  I consider the fact that Mother was able to pollute the mind of my father, to some extent of my grandmother and my siblings, even of my teachers so that her version of my “badness” became their version of me, to be one of the radiating consequences of Mildred’s powers to keep me inside her “closet” (hell) as she shrunk to near extinction (but not quite) my own personal space in which I could exist as a person separate from Mother at all.

Receiving the sole focus of Mildred’s all-bad psychosis meant that her great violence and brutality (verbally and physically) toward me was in itself a profound isolating factor in my childhood.  Nobody in our family ever had a question about who I uniquely was to Mother.  No child could have suffered the attacks that I did without feeling completely cut off from all human contact.  There is nothing on earth that can equal that state of isolation.

Isolation surrounded me everywhere I went.  Had one single person ever looked at me with compassion they would have known my suffering.  Had one single person reached out to make genuine contact with me perhaps my isolation would have been broken.  Nobody ever did.  My isolation remained complete.

3.  Wild child:  Our family’s move to Alaska powerfully and effectively tipped the balance of my intact survival of Mildred’s psychotic abuse in my favor.  When it came to enlarging the arena of “my own closet” outside of Mildred’s penetrating reach into my mind through her ability to influence and control my experience, Mildred lost the war the moment I stepped onto the soil of Alaska.

I credit the divine destiny of God’s intention to give me exactly what I needed to stay alive with my mind clear as the truest reason why our family moved to Alaska.  Once the homestead came into my life my success at survival was assured.  There was nothing easy or simple about the way I made use of the healing powers of the wilderness to stay alive. 

Being a child of the wilderness is where my own nature as a human being grew and thrived no matter what Mildred did to me.  In the wilderness all boundaries that could have confined me within a closet in my mind disappeared.  In the wilderness I was never alone because I was always free.

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Due to the comprehensiveness of Mother’s psychosis about me as it led to her chronic, severe and nearly continual interference with my ongoing experience of being a child (self) from birth, I was never able to develop normal or ordinary socialization abilities.  I mean this literally:  I do not have the physiological ability (capacity) to alter the way my brain cannot process social (human) signals through facial expressions, voice or even through spoken language in ordinary ways.  Through my studies I have come to understand that I process social information in ways more similar to how people with Asperger’s Syndrome do than in ways ordinary people do.

Yet I was born with the capacity to have developed fully in all ordinary ways.  What happened to me was a tragedy beyond measure.  I have developed in unique ways as a result of what I have been through.  I often suffer from the awareness of how different I actually am from ordinary people which leaves me not only FEELING alone but also BEING essentially alone.

Although I shared childhood with siblings Mildred kept them on the all-good track in her psychotic split mind while she kept me on her all-bad track.  There were vast unequivocal differences between these two tracks.  Only in the most general ways were these tracks connected to one another.  As I describe in the next chapter I was formed in, by and for a culture of one.  When it comes to being in society with humans I am essentially alone except for a few rare people with whom I feel connected.  Yet even with them there is an understanding that our relationship is exceptional and will never be ordinary.

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I just finished chapter 11 of this book.  The chapter is over 5,000 words long and is quite complex for readers who are not familiar with the story being told.  The following are thoughts that sprung into mind as I worked with the material in chapter 11 which includes a psychotic abuse incident that happened to me when I was five years old the first week after our family’s move to Alaska.

The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 12

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12.  Spinoff Notes to Chapter 11

Hurts and Harms

I don’t think anyone who has not seen a mentally ill person switch into a rage attack mode can begin to imagine the horror even of what that person’s face looks like let alone what their voice sounds like and what violence they are capable of committing upon very, very young and small children during an active psychotic episode.  It would be tempting to describe it in terms of them being possessed by the darkest demonic forces imaginable.  But this is NOT what happened to Mother.  She suffered from a severe mental illness that was extremely dangerous to her children, most centrally to me.

While there have been times throughout the history of our species and places around the globe where children have been and are being despised, neglected and brutalized, I stand on the side of advancements of civilization that recognize children have rights and deserved to be loved, protected and adequately cared for.  I refuse to diminish my recognition of the harm done to me by Mother’s mentally ill psychotic hatred of me just because “plenty of children suffer.”  Especially in my case the contrast between the “have” children and the “have not” child (me) was so profound that it always astounds me that I had no ability to have thoughts or feelings of any kind related to my predicament until I was nearly 30 years old. 

I had never known anything different and neither had my siblings.  Even though I could not consciously notice, comprehend or articulate anything related to these patterns of Mother’s abusive bias for my siblings and against me, her continual anti-Linda mindset, attitudes, feelings and actions HURT me terribly.  Mother’s direct verbal and physical attacks on me were periodic.  Her mental sickness about me was constant.

While I condemn all physical assaults and all verbal attacks against infants and children, I also realistically differentiate levels of harm according to the degree and kind of mental illness present in an abusive parent (caregiver).  What I describe of my childhood with Mildred did not “just” come from any simple form of favoritism, dislike of my “personality,” jealousy by Mother over anyone else’s positive attention toward me, or simply from “bad parenting.”  Something much rarer and profoundly dangerous was going on.  The kind of harm a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder with an all-good all-bad psychotic split mind does, who singles out one child to be targeted as the devil’s child confined to hell, is beyond comprehension or description.

An image comes into my mind about the way we might think overall about the degrees of harm done to little people by culturally assessed “ordinary” abuse all the way through a continuum to the harm done by “psychotic” abuse.  Popular belief might suggest that the level of harm done by what is considered “ordinary” child abuse can be likened to the experience of standing in a long line at a movie theater’s concession stand only to find once the counter is reached that the desired popcorn has been sold out, while the level of harm done by comprehensive psychotic child abuse could be likened to standing in line to enter a holocaust gas chamber. 

Although I do not write of sexual abuse because it is not a part of my experience, I do include it in what I say next about my response to anyone who asks the question, “How could someone do that to a child?”  If harm to an infant or child has been elevated in anyone’s mind to the level of neglect and/or abuses my answer is this:  “All abuse to children is committed because the perpetrator is mentally ill.” 

I recognize that doing to one’s children what has been done to a parent when they were a child  (the statistic is that 65% of parents who were abused do not repeat the abuse with their children although they will likely experience other kinds of complications with their parenting), periodic stress-induced out-of-control eruptions of temper against children, and even harmful parenting practices based on ignorance of developmental stages of children that prevents appropriate responses rather than hurtful ones all could be considered as being due to temporary eruptions of mental illness.  I also recognize the fact that how offspring are treated by any individual, within any family, community, culture, society, nation and species is a direct expression of degrees of health and well-being therein.  I do not recognize any excuse about why harm happens to offspring as being legitimate.  Harm happens to infants and children because we let it.

All harm done to infants and children is unfair, unjust, wrong and in the truest sense of the word, evil.  Caregivers understandably occasionally make mistakes.  Nobody on earth is perfect.  Preventing mistakes, recognizing when they happen, rectifying the harm done in any way possible and improving conditions that could lead to repetition of the mistakes are essential steps in improving conditions for infants and children.  However, in cases where there is deep underlying chronic mental illness far more attention needs to be paid to how such a mental illness affects children involved. 

In some cases, such as I would say my mother’s was children most likely need to be removed to receive adequate care elsewhere.  That our nation’s child protective services are in a pathetic shambles means that we have vast amounts of work to do before we can make the kind of progress many of our infants and children so desperately need us to make on their behalf.  Learning more about what child abuse is and how to recognize it is an important step in the right direction.

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Placing Memories

There is something very powerful and intense for me about placing memories I have carried for so long – in the case of the one that belongs right here for over 56 years – into their place in time and space within the story of my childhood.  Is this what moving toward closure feels like?  Why can’t I do this without the dread, the struggle, the effort, the work it is taking me to move forward in this book one word at a time? 

Why can’t I breeze through this?  My memories are not new to me.  In the case of this one every time it has reappeared in my thoughts it has come in exactly the same way with exactly the same details in the same order. 

While I know something now as a result of the work I have done up to this point in my writing that I did not know before, I realize that there is more for me to learn and that frightens me.  Which would be the worst part of falling through darkness?  The not knowing where bottom is or when it will be found?  Getting so close to the bottom that it can be sensed as being so close, so much closer, TOO close?  How do I stop fearing that finally stopping the fall is going to end in annihilation? 

For I do fear that so much was so wrong with Mother and so wrong with what she did to me that if I ever knew more than the infinitesimally small amount that I do about my childhood I would disintegrate.  I would disappear.  I would vanish so that no trace of me was left behind.  I fear that I might accidentally learn too much about the truth of my life, that there is a BIG BANG of discovery beyond which – if I should go that far – I will end up where I cannot return from.

Such thoughts and feelings certainly do put trepidation into my writing.  I know the writing itself teaches me things and leads to discoveries.  How much do I want to know about how Mother’s psychotic mind operated?  How can I understand what happened to me if I don’t?  How much can I allow  myself to know about what it was like for me as a small young child to be attacked by a psychotic madwoman of a mother?

How much can I trust myself that if I am still here at 61 no matter what I learn about Mother or about my traumas of my early life I will stay right here?  I am not going anywhere.  Except, temporarily, to get up from this computer yet again to walk away for a little while.

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Don’t Talk

It does not help someone like me to unravel the mysteries of what was wrong with Mother and of what my reality even from being a very young child was like – as I was unmercifully battered for doing things Mother insisted I had done that never happened anywhere at any time except within the mind of this woman who held all power over everyone in her household – when to this day I have never met a single person I can talk to about this reality.

I live in a culture where subjects considered proper for conversation seem to me to be predominantly trivial, trite and meaningless.  “Take a pill and solve your problems on your own.”  Who wants to talk about anything that matters?  Hollywood icons, sports heroes, latest fashions, new gadgets and gizmos, even stupid gossip about people qualify as appropriate subject matter for social exchange.

Don’t talk about why so many are getting drunk and getting stoned, why relationships don’t last, why 75% of our nation’s youth ages 17-24 are unfit for military duty, why a child is born into poverty every 32 seconds in our nation, why our educational system is falling apart, why multinational corporations are stealing global wealth without taxation or why our politicians are squabbling among themselves like a bunch of chickens fighting over a centipede.

I feel as though I am doing nothing more than writing a message in a bottle to be tossed three, four, five hundred years into the future.  Even then, where will the real books even be?  Is there hope mine will survive that long if I can get them into the collection of the Library of Congress?

Not one single person can I converse with about what I am considering about the demise of Mother’s mind and about what that meant to me.  Never has such a conversation happened for me in my life.  Am I prepared to accept the fact that it probably never will?

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Vendetta Against Ignorance

The psychotic look of rage upon the face and the sound of it in words as an adult attacks a child is not confined to people with a so-called diagnosable mental illness such as Mother had.  Any reader who recognizes themselves or anyone else in my words needs to STOP this behavior and get help immediately.  It is never OK to abuse infants and children for any reason – ever!  At the same time I recognize how deep-seated the problems can be in an abusive parent’s life, and how inadequate our emotional care services are.

I wrote this paragraph yesterday and was stopped dead in my writing tracks when I looked around even this community I live within and could not think of one stable, caring, competent resource person or place I could unreservedly suggest a parent or a child in need could turn to for any promise of adequate assistance.  I tried to think in broader terms for “people at large” to turn to should they need help with what troubles them in their self and in their life when it comes to meeting their needs to stop harming children.  I found nothing but empty holes where services to truly support families and children should but do not exist.

Why do I continue to wonder why no one noticed what was happening to me when I was a suffering child?  Why do I write believing anything I say will help anyone anywhere in any way?  What is it about me that believes I among billions on this earth knows anything that matters?  What hope have I always carried within me that if the truth was really known about how lovely the inner life of a child is everyone would care enough to make sure nobody ever hurt them ever?

What grownups care enough to clear the path ahead of a growing infant-child so that harmful obstacles do not cause them to trip and fall until somewhere down the road of their life they end up lying on the floor like Mother did in her later years unable to get up?

What macabre culture have we created that chooses shortsightedness over long range considerations about what leads to individual and then societal well-being?  Why do we bother to have children at all if so few even want them?  Are they possessions?  Are they carrion?

Who decides who is who and what do we want for our nation’s future?

What do we consider to be acceptable losses?  What is wrong with us as a society that we would consider the life of any child who, if they reach adulthood having suffered from avoidable harm against them in their critical stages of development will be barred from experiencing the well-being that was their birthright (see CDC ACE study pyramid) and be a candidate for being one of our acceptable losses?

I cannot write to expose the combination of factors within the family I grew up in as they created long-term horrific abuse of me as a child – that not one single person ever noticed with concern – without questioning the gamut of societal sicknesses that allowed Mother to do what she did to me for 18 years.  There is a collusion of uncaring ignorance in our society that fosters the conditions within which harm to infants and children continues to exist.  It is my personal vendetta against that ignorance that motivates me to write my truth.  I will be content if my work furthers the education of someone even if that someone is only me.

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The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 10

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10.  Dreaming Books

March 23, 2013.  I woke this morning when my hens began cackling outside my bedroom window just before daybreak remembering a dream.  I began having dreams that were important to my ongoing life the winter I was 9 in 4th grade.  I will write about that transition in my development when I get to that part of my story, 1960 to 1961.

In 1998 when I was 47 I had the last dream in what seems to be a series that lasted through all those years.  In 1997 I had realized, finally, how much more I preferred the world in my dreams than I did my waking life.  My attitude troubled me enough that I suspect in some ways I stopped remembering my dreams through my own choice.  However, I also wonder if my dreaming history as it began three years before my menarche and ended three years before my menopause possibly had something to do with the healing, enervating, soothing and very helpful influence of estrogen – until this benefit departed.

Although I very seldom remember any aspect of my dreams now, occasionally one of their themes carries through to my waking awareness, as happened this morning.  I feel blessed both by the nature of the dream and by my recollection of it.  I can think of no people I would rather have had appear in my dreams and no better outcome than the one I was shown today!

Our homesteading neighbors will be introduced in Mildred’s letters beginning in 1959.  Among the ones most important to the success of our family’s venture were the people who lived closest to us at the bottom of “our” mountain, Lowell and Dorothy Pollard and their two young sons.  I last saw these people the summer of 1969 before I left home after my 18th birthday that fall. 

It was through Dorothy’s homesteading book which she thoughtfully gave a copy of to each of us Lloyd children that she and I connected in 2008.  Eight Stars of Gold:  Notes from a Mid-Century Alaska Homestead Journal (2008, Vantage Press) is, according to Joe Anne Vanover, who is a lifetime Alaskan and herself a homesteader, “one of the loveliest accounts of homesteading ever written.”  Interestingly, although Joe Anne and her deceased husband John were good friends with Lowell (who passed from this world nearly 20 years ago), they never met Dorothy.  I am greatly honored to be in contact with both of these astounding women who are now past their mid-80s.

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The season of my dream was a warm one.  I had no battle with snow and ice as I repeatedly walked a long road upon rich black soil into the Eagle River Valley that led to Pollards’ inviting cabin – and then back out again.  Dorothy was lovingly caring for my siblings while I worked on my task.  Sharon was 2, Cindy 4, and John was 7 in my dream just as they were at this current 1957 stage in the Lloyd family story.  I was the age I am now.

Lowell was slumbering peacefully in a quiet part of the house as my contented siblings benefited from Dorothy’s tending.  In the dream I hiked many times to their house to lay the next completed book on the ground at the base of a thick root that arched out of the soil under a large spruce tree that grew to the left as I came up the gentle slope of Pollards’ driveway.  Each time I entered the house, paused for a brief visit with Dorothy, checked on my siblings and then left again to hike back out of the valley.

At the end of the dream I returned to place the final book I had written on top of the tall pile of volumes stacked neatly at the base of the spruce tree.  As I entered Pollards’ house Lowell, looking rested and relaxed, sauntered into the cheerful kitchen yawning and stretching luxuriously.  When he saw me a wide grin flashed across his face as he spoke the only words I remember from this dream, “Hi, Linda!  How are ya doin’?”

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This dream cheered, comforted and encouraged me.  I no longer feel so alone in my work, and I can visualize completing it.  This dream clarified how I see my siblings in relation to this task of telling my trauma story within Mother’s words.  I want them to be innocent, free from any burden, safe, happy, content and lovingly cared for while I busily complete these books.

When it comes to my question, “Whose book is this?”  I now know a lot more than I did yesterday because of this dream.  Ultimately this story belongs to the earth.  I will lay it down.  I will offer it.  I will let it go.  Somehow I tell this story for my siblings as well as for myself.  Something about this task is rectifying to me, as if its completion can in some way even help to heal my parents.

This is a sharing story.  The Lloyd family members were the participants in the story as it was lived – so that it can now be told.  These books are a gift to all who might learn something new and useful from reading them, even if the only lesson some readers come to understand is that adults who survived hellacious childhoods of abuse and trauma will NEVER be able to leave their childhood in the past as many uniformed and misinformed people seem to believe that we can.

I feel refreshed, restored, reinvigorated and very hopeful now that this journey is right for me, that it is good, that the books will bring benefit, even that they are a gift to all of us being brought forth through the writings of Mildred and myself.  I am dedicated.  I know how to focus.  I know how to work.  All that remains for me to concern myself with is the writing of these books.  I need fear no longer.

All life belong to the Creator.  The Creator.  The Great Mystery.  The greatest storyteller Who began all stories with, “In the beginning was the Word.”

To be the writer of a truly tragic tale who makes its story beautiful would require a great gift.  I will do my best, with gratitude, to be so worthy.

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March 22, 2013.  I have chosen my book writing spot, a sort of cave filled with thriving houseplants and spring desert sunshine.  This south room of my house has been lying dormant, available for use by an occasional guest while it remains home to blooming scarlet and gentle pink geraniums and lavender violets.  Someone discarded a battered and rusty folding card table by one of our town’s recycling bins.  It’s in my writing room covered with a sun bleached cloth now waiting for me to move my old laptop in there.

I wouldn’t think I needed a room of seclusion to write in while I live alone in this house.  But I do.  Maybe there is a collection of words gathered in there.  I will find them.

Lonely work must require the quietest of spaces where only muses visit to bring words confined now to no eyes but mine.  There’s no internet access in that room.  No distracting myself now as this blog becomes quieter and quieter.

From that room I will watch the sunlight of spring unfolding new leaves and flower buds out in my garden.  Starts are putting out tiny roots as nearly wild roses, carefully tended, decide if they are going to live or die in their little pots lining my window sills.  If they grow I will give them away to a lady who sells plants at the Saturday Farmers’ Market.  I sure don’t need any more rose bushes in my yard.  Twenty two of them are enough for me, all of them climbers.

In this room only my clucking hens will awaken me to ongoing life as I write and as they lay their daily eggs.  In that room I will write of memories.  Intangible memories that may hold weight to nobody but me.  What I intend to say is beyond argument or commentary from anyone.  The rest of the world is busy elsewhere.

Such a big, wide world.  Open to billions of choices, each with their own story attached should anyone pause long enough to notice, to write them down, or tell them to self and to other.

We are a communicative species among all the rest.  Are we the only ones who take our stories that one step further outside of sound to capture them silently in words?  I think so.  Pack rats of the mind we are. 

Words.  Written words scurry into the past in a line as I reach ever forward into my own past toward the next word.  And the next.  Heart beat after heart beat.

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The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 7

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7.  A Cautionary Tale

March 21, 2013.  I have been posting chapters to this book on my Stop the Storm blog even though the book has not yet gone through its editing stages.  A reader named Jane responded back to me this morning in reaction to the preceding chapters:

Even to your mother I feel a kind of loyalty when reading her first letters.  She is no longer there to explain every word you criticize and explain in your own words on your own terms.  She has no way to defend herself or give a different perspective in how to understand her.  I do not know whether she ever had an official diagnosis.

To address the last sentence first:  Mother’s mental illness was never recognized or identified, which has absolutely nothing to do with whether she was mentally ill or not.  In fact, the psychiatric diagnostic category for Borderline Personality Disorder did not even come into existence until 1980, eleven years after I escaped my abusive home.  While I have no desire to attack my mother as a person, I do fully intend to expose the characteristics of her severe mental illness in any way that I can.  Because hers was an illness of her MIND, it is examination of her words in her writings that can show aspects of how her ill mind operated.  (These concerns have been addressed in books published prior to this one.)

I have what I refer to as great “informed compassion” for our very sick mother.  I am fully aware that she suffered until her last breath from the devastating, tragic effects of this disorder.  I am writing as a survivor of her having done such things to me as nearly beating me unconscious when I was 22 months old, of her brutally ramming my head repeatedly into the porcelain of a toilet bowl as she nearly drowned me when I was four – because she had psychotically evaluated that I was trying to murder my sister, and of her forcing me spend a night sitting outside in the driver’s seat of the family car with my head bent over under the steering wheel (I was 5’8” tall) and locking me into a shed for four days when I was in my teens.

I know what this woman was capable of and what she did to me because of her illness.  It is time for ME to tell what I understand about this woman and about her illness.  Out of respect for Mother, knowing that she was prevented by her illness from publishing her own writings as she deeply desired to do, I have published the entire body of her writings intact in the seven volume series, Mildred’s Mountain.  Readers wishing to read Mildred’s words without my commentary can share her own version of her life freely within those books.  I assure you, however, that her own writings do not contain anything like the truth about how she was who she was as a severely mentally ill person in her lifetime.

There will no doubt be readers who take offense to my writings.  I do not care.  It is not my job to do so.  I am not responsible for anyone’s reactions to the truth I expose.  Your feelings are your own.  Women such as Mildred was can be extremely dangerous mothers, and certainly NOBODY ever came to my defense or to the defense of my siblings.  At this point, ten years after Mildred’s death I am breaking a killer silence – and for a very good reason.

Readers who are uncomfortable with my take on Mother can simply stop reading.  However, it might be helpful for those readers to examine what it is they are taking offense to and why.  Anyone who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, especially if there is a psychotic component to their illness, will very likely struggle with my writings because their own minds cannot process the breadth of information I present.  They are not likely going to be able to discern the intent of my work, either. 

Anyone who has suffered from abuse from a parent with this illness and who feels overwhelmed or who remains in denial might struggle greatly to read my proclamations, as well.  People who have allowed infant and child abuse to be committed by such a parent without stopping it immediately might also not be able to read any further.  I understand this process and of course respect these realities but they have nothing to do with me. 

These books do contain trauma triggering topics.  It is every reader’s responsibility to do whatever is needed to take care of self, including stopping reading and/or talking to a counselor or therapist when necessary.

I will also mention briefly here something I address at other places in my writings.  While I do not believe that people are themselves evil they are certainly capable of performing evil actions.  It is not my place to judge Mildred.  Judgment is God’s.  Justice is another matter, and it is not justice to allow terrible things to be done to infants and children while everyone turns a blind eye. 

Sicknesses of the body including the brain, I believe, can greatly interfere with a soul’s ability to exercise full powers of conscious choice over actions, thus preventing a soul from manifesting itself fully in a person’s life.  To ignore this condition is to participate in shared delusion and shared responsibility when great crimes have been and are being committed against other people – especially against infants and children.  Readers of my writings will choose their side.

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The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 6

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6.  Always Wildflowers

March 20, 2013.  I am afraid of my childhood.  What I can know and what I allow myself to know about it probably amounts to a handful of dust in the desert.  I wonder what story I would have written had I thought of doing such a thing in the first few days of my life after I left home at 18.  Had I already forgotten then what I never knew I knew about what I had lived through by that age?

If I had the power to ring out my voice clearly enough to be heard by those escaping childhoods in hell I would say to them, “Write it all down now, as soon as you can.  Write down everything you remember and do not let go of those words ever in your lifetime.  Those words are your guide to understanding your reactions to everything you will encounter next.  We cannot fully understand our self if we cannot remember what we will spend the rest of our lives trying to forget.”

I would tell these people that although they will not be able to make sense out of the experiences they write down immediately, over time the bigger picture of how we fit into our lives will begin to appear to us like an image developing in a photographic darkroom.  Such a written record of the specific details of trauma and abuse we suffered in our childhoods, as well as the beauty and the goodness that was mixed in, offers us a road map that tells of where we came from.  It tells of our genesis.  It tells of the creativity and strength within us that allowed us to endure and survive all that we lived through.

Such a written record would be a kind of geological survey of the terrain that formed us.  Our stories matter because we do.  To remain afraid of the fearsome story of my childhood leaves me being afraid of myself.  Had I documented my childhood experiences at age 18 I would not have “awfulized” them.  I would have reported them factually without fear, without judgment, and I fully believe my report would have been complete. 

I had no reason to question what I had been through when I was 18.  I knew no other life.  I had no way of knowing how awful my childhood had been, or how bizarre or how unique.  I had no way of knowing that I had been abused at all.  At 18 I had simply survived.  At this point?  I am a survivor.  There is a lifetime of adult living between these two states for me.

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Mildred wrote the following in a diary entry on our second day in Alaska, August 2, 1957:

We always have wild flowers on our table, picked by anxious to please tiny hands.  What greater pleasure is there then to watch small children discovering the wonder of nature in the woods – streams to watch flow, questions to answer – where does the water come from and where does it go, will it ever dry up?

Mommy are these berries good to eat?  Will this water really freeze and will we really have snow?  Yes, darling, yes darling and isn’t it a bit of heaven for us right here in the woodland and don’t you feel closer to God here as I do?  Yes, Mommy, yes and so our life in Alaska begins.

A Bit of Heaven in the Woods –

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Always?”  How could we have had “wild flowers on our table” “always” when we had only been in the log house one day?   (This “table” was a card table someone had loaned to us to use because all of our own furniture was still in California waiting to be shipped.)  How long in Mildred time was “always?”  Mildred’s “always” existed in her universe of “make-believe,” “pretend,” “once upon a time” and “forever.”  It gave us as her children no firm ground to stand upon.

We were young children, and I don’t believe feeling “closer to God here” as “Mommy” did had anything whatsoever to do with our experience of being children in our own life.  Mildred continually overran our lives, usurped our experience, placed her thoughts, impressions, feelings, desires, and observations inside of us.  Again her words reflect the fact that we did not exist as people in our own right separate from her.  We-were-she in her mind.  Mother had no boundaries to separate herself from her doll-children.  We were nothing but movable props her in dramas, even when a moment of drama came that seemed harmless, having to do with wildflowers, berries, and creek water.

Were Mother’s intentions malevolent in the actions she wrote about or in the words of her writing itself?  No, but that did not make her actions and thoughts any less harmful to her children.  Mother invaded us.  Possessed us.  Owned us.  

Mildred’s search for “heaven” was directly connected to her moving cycle madness.   “Heaven” is what her psychotically split-in-half Borderline Personality Disorder brain-mind continually strived to create in her upper all-good world.  “Heaven” could only exist as a possibility for Mildred if she could keep me down in her lower world of hell as the replacement for (projection of) her perceived all-bad self.

We children had no need to name heaven.  We had no need to identify heaven with “the Woods.”  Mildred was projecting herself onto and into us.  Were we happy during the moments she was describing?  No doubt, yes. 

But our ability to experience happiness was always directly connected to and dependent upon Mother’s state of mind.  If she was happy we were allowed to be happy.  If she felt anything else, she pursued us with those emotions, as well.  She chased us down and pounced on us with her adult version of how her children were supposed to be children.  That is not what mothering is about.  That is not what having a childhood is about. 

We were all Mildred’s prisoners, though it was I that was so frequently her targeted-for-abuse prey.  She could be outraged at me, “punishing” me and then turn nearly at the identical time and be “happy” with her other darling children.  The advantage to me of these earliest days in Alaska is that Mildred was so “in heaven” that I was not picked out for “special attention.”  I could be just one of the crew of Mildred’s mental space ship living her version of our life in “always…wildflowers on the table” time in her own little girl pretend fairy tale life (that most unfortunately DID contain evil monsters).

This meant none of us were ever safe.  Never, never safe.  But I do not believe any child can continue to exist in a conscious state of terror all of the time.  We had to have the ability to live as children ANYWAY, and as I have written before, being a child experiencing childhood is NOT the same thing as a child enduring trauma. 

We MADE our own inner space of freedom when and however we could because we WERE children.  Not only did I have the ability to be a child “in between” but my siblings did, as well.  They had to go on being children experiencing their childhood even when I was being beaten, punished, forced into isolation away from and apart from them. 

There was nothing any of us could do to change anything.  We were powerless.  Mother controlled it all.

We endured.  We adapted.  We always, as the children we were, chose the “high road.”  We always did the “right” thing.  We always did the best that we could do in every single ongoing moment we lived. 

My siblings were Mother’s imaginary friends and I was her imaginary enemy.  Sometimes we seemed to be “let out” of our emotional prison by a mother who was momentarily giddy with “heavenly joy.”  But I do not believe that in our perpetual lack of safety we could ever put down the heavy, heavy burden that each of us carried of being the children of a maniacal madwoman no matter how many wildflowers were “always” on our table.  Being forced to “play” with our mother when she was “in that mood” – as she herself was “playing” as if she were THE child (without her ever recognizing that fact) – left us always “playing along” with our mother as she monopolized OUR childhoods. 

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The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 5

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5.  The Log House

Mildred next described the log house and its surrounds in the second half of her August 1, 1957 letter to her mother.  Readers of the letters Mother and Father wrote to one another while Bill was in Alaska and Mildred was impatiently waiting in the Los Angeles area to join him are familiar with the key code phrase Mildred first introduced and Bill then captured to recite back to her during his house hunting process:  “Find us a house to put our home in.”  Mildred had now entered the most significant “honeymoon stage” in her moving cycle madness history (as described in Story Without Words). 

From this point forward in this book I will use boldface type to emphasis important thought patterns of Mildred’s writings as they appear in her words and phrases.  Searching for and finding “a bit of heaven” in physical locations was part of her moving cycle madness.

Our home is truly beautiful.  As nice a house as I’ve ever lived in – barring none!  The living room is large!  There’s, by the way, a large black bear skin on the wall – really Alaskan!

Mother I can’t describe to you my impression of this house.  It’s plain on the outside, just as the slides showed but is a bit of heaven inside.  Bill performed no less than a miracle when he found this.  It’s shining clean and waxed!  As I said the living room is lovely.  The ceilings are high and the walls are beautiful polished pine (I think).  The beams run across the ceiling and are also smooth and polished.  There’s a beautiful lantern (light fixture) somewhat like an oil lamp hanging from the high point in the ceiling.

A small partition with pretty shelves for what-nots partly divides the dining area – which is bigger than ours in Glendora.  The bedrooms are newly painted and the top half of the walls and ceiling are knotty pine.  The bathroom is large and roomy and modern.

There are custom drapes in one bedroom and a lovely new rug set and plastic shower and window curtain set in the bathroom.

There’s a separate thermostat heater in every room, we have it on now, to take the chill off.  It’s cool this morning but was very warm yesterday – when I landed!  (At least 80°.)  I felt silly with even a sweater on.

Now for the kitchen.  It’s beautiful.  The windows overlook the woods which are full of birch and pines, and little Xmas trees – the window in here, and living room and dining room overlook our beautiful stream!  It’s wide and clear and tumbling.

As you can see, this house has thrilled me and quite taken me by surprise.  It’s so entirely homey and lovely.  She left drapes in the living room, a huge chair, a double bed with new sheets, pillows and bed spread on it!  Large and small throw rugs in every room.  It almost looks furnished!  There’s also a desk and one straight chair.

But Mother the kitchen is modern.  It has the newest Kenmore stove with two ovens, two broilers, a deep fryer, completely push-button electric!  It quite took my breath away.  Next to it is a large dish washer.  Opposite is the sink and cupboards which are knotty pine with black wrought handles (like Elsie’s) for dishes.

There’s a large back hall with a deluxe refrigerator (Bill never told me) with a big freezer!  It was just like Xmas morning seeing this house!  Next to it is a new (less than two years) Kenmore washer and separate dryer!  There are lovely enamel white cupboards over for storage.  Then I have an ironer, really!  I haven’t tried it yet – but will.

She left a sweet letter telling me how to use her wonderful appliances and telling me she took her two dogs but couldn’t take her four cats and didn’t have the heart to do away with them – if I couldn’t keep them would I send them to the vets and send her the bill!  Imagine – after all she left us.  The kitties were fed and loved this morning and are purringly happy and so am I!

I interrupt Mildred’s letter here to bring a brief message from its sponsor – me!  Besides saying “Watch out for what happens to the happy kittens later,” I will say there are things I know about Mother that I cannot pinpoint exactly how I know them.  Certainly during the teen years of her daughters she repeatedly occupied hours of our life by taking out photograph albums and scrapbooks of her own teenage years to reminisce about how  happy and well-liked she had been and about how much fun she had had.

I will write more about my experience of her diatribes when I reach that part of my story, but at this moment I mention here that part of her ritual of remembrance was completely inappropriate as she was married to our father while she wandered down memory lane to describe in great detail her enduring love for her lost love, Guy, who had joined the Merchant Marines during the war to disappear from her life forever.  During these bizarre “lectures” it is likely that Mildred “accidentally” let her daughters know of her fear of impending spinsterdom at the time she met and married Bill when she was 23 (after a short six month courtship).  I certainly knew that in Mother’s mind she had felt quite old and feared running out of hope and prospects for marriage by the time Father appeared in her life which freed her to finally leave the home of her mother and grandmother.

Tied into all her repetitions to her daughters in her verbatim accounts of younger self, even as Mildred accounted for her first impressions of her first Alaskan home in this letter, was the dreamy-eyed, take-my-breath-away post-WWII era’s confusion between a woman’s true self and her culturally mandated and approved of image of what was necessary and required for a woman to be adequate and fulfilled as a wife, mother and homemaker.  In the era of the American 1950s great value came to be attached to household items designed to “easify” women’s lives within their home at the same time these pacifiers were marketed as status symbols that gave worth, value, contentment and increased life meaning to the women who used them.  While these items supposedly granted women greater freedom in reality they increasingly imprisoned women in their minds and in their lives by circumventing women’s true personal feelings about themselves in their lives. 

While Mother was not immune from these culturally affirmed and promoted mainstream American constrictions and restrictions on women’s lives, she had lived under similar oppressions long before she married.  Mother told us from the time we were very young that she had wanted to be an actress and that her pursuit of this vocation had been condemned and prevented by her Bostonian mother and grandmother who told her, “Only whores and harlots become actresses!”   The education and training Mildred was allowed to pursue had led her in the direction both of nursing and of early childhood education.  She had accomplished an Associate’s of Arts degree before she married.  This direction was NOT Mother’s own desire, nor was being a mother a choice that a “free Mildred” would have ever made on her own.

Given the writing talent that Mother was born with (see her childhood writings in Story Without Words) and given the great powers of her imagination that were both her great gift and possibly one of her greatest risk factors for developing Borderline Personality Disorder psychosis, under the disguise of being a thrilled and satisfied “Home-Ecky Becky” wife and mother – prancing around her modernized Alaskan log house – lay a tortured and unfulfilled creative woman whose deeply troubled mind and emotions suffered from an unrecognized (and as yet unnamed) severe mental illness. 

Who knew?  Who could have known?  How “inwardly happy” could split-mind Mildred ever be?  Certainly I knew the dysregulated, hate-filled, seething, roiling, explosive dark lower-world side of this woman who craved escape from hell and its threats, this woman who took care of her fears by brutally attacking me.  Certainly Mother’s impetus to homestead fed and was fed by her upper-world side craving for heaven.  Certainly what fundamentally mattered to Mildred had nothing to do with a deep freezer, an ironer or a dishwasher that were never used anyway.

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I haven’t seen too much of the country yet.  We do live in the woods and it’s even in our lease that we can’t cut any trees down.  They have purposely left it this way – it’s beautiful.  John is out raking now and building the beginning of steps down to the creek!  He’s in heaven!  – And very busy!  We seem to have adopted a police dog – that used to hang around her [the landlady] (she loved animals) and John likes him!

The house in front of us is large – even nicer than this.  They have a large front lawn and rustic fence around it (and a fireplace).  It’s just far enough away and is For Sale.  The people moved out yesterday.  I hope for nice neighbors!

There are all kinds of houses in Anchorage and as Bill said, many shacks.  That would have once bothered me – but no longer does!  Now I understand!  People have to live somewhere and if they wanted to come here as much as we did they’ll live anywhere temporarily to do so.  This place – rented – is an exception and I feel God led Bill to it.  There’s no other answer.  Our car is another exception.  It seems to run well, is well priced, and station wagons For Sale are scarce also.

I hope we’ll be happy here and I feel I can be inwardly happy in this house (you know what I mean).

I just added Charlie’s and Carolyn’s names – this is such a long, informative letter I can’t duplicate it.  Please feel free to read it to them and the girls [Mildred’s California friends].  I will write to everyone later.  It was written for you, Mother, up until now but I would like to include them too.  I want everyone to know about the house Bill found and my first reaction to Alaska!

By the way, the airport in Anchorage is very modern and nice!  Anchorage is a mixture of the old and pioneering and the new and modern.  Eventually the old will be gone!

I haven’t seen the downtown section as yet.  We had to go to his Barracks (such an awful room) and get his things.  He borrowed, free of charge, mattresses, sheets and Army blankets at the Army barracks – a service to employers – and the children camped on the floor.  The furnace was on and they were very cozy!

This letter is a BOOK – I must walk now to the store for bread and milk.  I hate to stop as there’s so much more I want to tell you but will save it for next time!

I’ll send you a night letter tonight to let you know I arrived safely – last night I was too tired to budge.  I hadn’t slept a wink the night before and lay down on the bed after dinner last night and never woke until this morning.

I love all of you and hope you can understand a little our reasons for coming – it remains to be seen if we’ll stay or not.  But already the experiences have been invaluable to me and to the children.  The move was a hard one and the trip a tedious one but I am glad we came!

Take care of yourself Mother, get strong and rested and we’ll have fun next summer!  Thank Charlie and Carolyn for taking me to the Green Hotel and helping me.  Charlie I was so excited I couldn’t have even locked my suitcase.

We had your candy Carolyn for dessert last night!  I love you all!  And a X for the children.  Mildred

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The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP!  Goes Alaska letters – chapter 4

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4.  Migration North

All I remember of our trip north from Los Angeles was the Little Golden Book titled How to Tell Time that I held in my hands for the duration of or flight.  All I see of my arrival at the log house is an expanse of hardwood flooring stretching ahead as I walked through the front door.  At not quite six years old I was not very tall so the floor is closer to me than the ceiling is far over my head.   The living room seemed very large with unexplored rooms ahead of me to the right and to the left.

Did I first walk across this room to stand in front of the black bear rug (as I have always called it in my memory) splayed across the far living room wall?  Its dead gaping mouth full of great teeth, its wide staring glass eyes set to star at anyone who noticed?  Two wide feet with smooth claws low enough on the wall I could run my fingers down them to their pointed killing ends.

Was everyone else so busy gliding around excitedly in this nearly empty house, in and out of rooms, opening and closing closet and cupboard doors that  I could stand transfixed in front of this strange fierce beast, pushing my hands through its thick fur so that lines of black bristles stood up between my small fingers?  I am quite certain the narrow pinking sheared edges of felt surrounding the bear was green.  I have always seen it as green but it could have been some other color.  But because I have always known that bear was there on the wall to greet me in our new house I felt a thrill of affirmation in the powers of my childhood memory to find it described within Mother’s letters.

Mother was terrified of bears.  Log house photographs of its interior confirm that the rug was not allowed to stay on the wall very long.  It had been left there by the landlady who had gone off to Africa with her husband just in time for Father to rent us her house.  Where did the great rug go?  Was it rolled up and carried by Father up the narrow ladder to be hidden above our heads in the attic?  Did Father haul it out the front door, across the yard, into the cave of the canvas Jamesway hut to store it forever in forgotten darkness?

I am proud of my nearly-six year old self that I never forgot this bear who had appeared in my life long enough to imprint itself into my memory so that I alone of the Lloyd children have carried thoughts of its life along with its death around with me for 56 years now as an emblem of my childhood.  Perhaps I was motivated to do so because I might have impressed as a young child that of all I knew about the world with my often raging hurtful mother in it only bears seemed to hold the power to scare her. 

Through all the later years we lived on our mountain homestead it was the ring of Mother’s metal cow bell that defined the area around the house we were allowed to wander.  We were never allowed to stray further than the sound of her bell could reach.  Any time she chose to ring it we better have appeared before her eyes.  In one piece.  With no bear chasing us.  Her plan worked.  We all survived our childhood.  Thanks or no thanks to Mother.

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Our family moved into and out of this rented Eagle River log house several times as our Alaska life unwound into our future.  Mother recorded her impressions of her trip north and of her new home in the first letter she wrote from the log house to her mother in Pasadena, California on Thursday, August 1, 1957.  In the first part of her letter she began her writing by describing our trip north:

Dearest Mother (Charles and Carolyn) [her brother and his wife]

It’s really hard to believe I am actually in Alaska!  I feel as if I were transported here on the Magic Carpet in Grandma’s stories she told when I was a little girl.

One of my primary motivations for publishing Mother’s and my own writings is to add what can be known about Mildred’s version of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) with psychosis to the body of documentation about this serious and devastating mental illness.  Any future determination to change the name and/or the description of symptoms of BPD needs to take into account the reality of what it is like to live with this disorder and to live with someone who has it.  This is a REAL mental illness with specific and unique parameters that must not be lost sight of because it might be uncomfortable or unpopular to know the range of truth about it.  While “emotional dysregulation” is certainly one of the complications of this disorder, it is the permanent alterations in the way the BPD brain operates as it can create alternate realities within a very disturbed mind that demands that this disorder retain its own carefully distinguished psychiatric diagnostic category.

I am not exaggerating when I say that Mother lived in a crooked world of her imagination in which boundaries between fantasy and actual reality were fuzzy or entirely missing.  Much of her world was formulated along the lines of fairy tales so that their words, imagery and storylines permeated how Mildred perceived reality and lived her life.  In a recent telephone conversation I had with Joe Anne Vanover the first week of March 2013 (a woman you will meet shortly in Mildred’s early Alaska 1957 letters) I was reminded by this outsider to our family about the role that the fantastic played in Mother’s mind.

Mother had told Joe Anne that during the homesteading years when her life was “really” difficult she made the hardships more tolerable through pretending.  Joe Anne told me, “Your mother described how when she built a fire to heat water beside the creek below your place to wash laundry she pretended she was an Indian princess.”  In Mildred’s mind such pretending was not play.  While the pretend actions were taking place they were REALLY happening in Mildred’s mind.  This kind of pretending is a “step over the edge” into a blurred twilight world that Mother SEEMED to be able to walk into, through and out of again – but in many important cases REALLY did not.

Certainly her level of “pretending” I was the devil’s child replacement for her own bad self in hell happened through operation of a permanent and dangerous psychotic break that could have been recognized at the time it happened when I was born if anyone had known what they were looking at.  Pretending she was an Indian princess with a feather in her hair washing clothes beside a tumbling Alaskan glacial mountain stream might not have harmed anyone, but the changes in her brain that gave structure to her pretending were not normal.

When my youngest child was four he used our old pale yellow metal kitchen stool laid sideways on the floor to sit inside as he pretended the round seat was a steering wheel.  At his developmental stage my son WAS in his mind-world REALLY steering anything from a truck to a race car to a space craft during his play.  He so enjoyed his imaginary games that he ignored my warning as his body grew larger that he was getting too big to fit safely inside the metal rungs between the stool legs any longer. 

One final day he did squeeze himself inside the stool legs and could not get out.  I couldn’t get him out, either.  As our apartment walls rang with his terrified screams I sent his older sister racing to fetch our landlord who appeared with his hacksaw and crow bar to extricate my son who next graduated to building space ships out of Legos filled with loaves of Lego block bread to feed its invisible crew. 

I have no reason to believe that Mother had been all right when she entered her developmental stage of imaginary play.   She was not OK as she passed through this stage, and she was certainly already suffering mentally when it was time to leave this stage – because she never fully did. 

When Mildred wrote of feeling transported to Alaska on a Magic Carpet she did know on one level that she had REALLY traveled in an airplane.  “Feel” is the key suggestive word in her sentence because what Mildred felt to be real was real to her.  If there ever was a conflict that required a choice be made between what felt real to her and what was actually real, her feeling reality always came out on top.

 It never mattered to Mother what anyone else ever felt about anything; only Mildred’s feelings were real to her.  What anyone else needed or wanted never mattered to her, either.  Ultimately this was true because no other person actually existed in Mother’s mind.  Everyone had a part to play as a figment of her imagination and as a projection of her feelings.

It is significant of Mildred’s thinking processes that although she glowingly describes her first airplane travel in this letter, from this point forward she claimed to be mortally afraid to travel again by air.  I read her future statements of this fear as being forms of manipulative tactics used to support her demands to get what she wanted when she wanted it the way she wanted it.  I do not believe that her future supposed fear of flying had anything to do with either fear or flying.

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Airplane travel is certainly wonderful – I arrived in Anchorage at 10:45 yesterday morning – a half hour before scheduled, so Bill wasn’t there to greet us.

Really, Mom it was the most thrilling, exciting thing that has ever happened to me.  The trip here was all worth it just to have flown!  I could write you pages and pages just telling you about the flight but there’s so much I have to tell you.  I am bursting with news.

First of all, Mom you must plan to visit us next summer and you must fly!  There’s nothing to it and you don’t even need ‘a change of clothes’ – only your purse.

The children loved it, were as calm as could be.  [At this time Sharon had just turned two, Cindy four, John seven, and I was nearly six.]   I am still recovering.  It was a thrill, but also quite terrifying to climb 20,000 feet.  John‘s nose was pressed to the window every minute!  (when he wasn’t sleeping).  Oh Mom, I am so anxious now for you to experience all I have – I know you’d be a wonderful traveler.  On the Northwest Orient Flight there were two Grandmothers coming up to see their daughters who had also migrated to Alaska….

The finesse of reading Mildred’s writings lies in noticing important words that contain information above and beyond any ordinary level of meaning.  These words can slip by outside the range of the attention they merit, as could her phrase “migrated to Alaska.”  Mildred just elevated her family’s move to the status of migration, a step even above immigration at the same time this concept was “normalized” in her mind because other people did it.  Migration happens as a result of an innate function for species built that way.  Mildred just made her decision to move north into an instinctive act that she had (obviously to her) been incapable of interfering with.

I also find this sentence to be very interesting:   “I am so anxious now for you to experience all I have….”  Up until this time over the 31 years of Mildred’s life there had been no separation in distance between her and her mother.  There could be no kind of Star Trek Spock mind-meld through which Mildred could now share her new world with her mother.  An entirely different kind of relationship had suddenly come into existence between my grandmother and her daughter which is exactly what Mildred had wanted so that her mother’s “interference” in her parenting could be stopped.  What next?  What now?

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The children were wonderful and so good.  The stewardess and all passengers remarked on what exceptionally good children they were and it was a long Flight.

We reached Los Angeles about 11:00 P.M. and plane left at 1:30 A.M.  The man that checked my baggage offered to help me board the plane early.  So at 1:15 I boarded and had a choice of seats.  I was so excited and thrilled by then after watching all the planes take off I could hardly stand it.  This plane proved quite rough, part of the trip, but I did enjoy it even though my stomach was ‘queasy’.  Every time I felt sick, I’d breathe deeply and try to relax and soon it was easier riding again.  The children slept until we landed in Seattle.  But I was too excited and watched out the window all the way.  Sometimes all I could see were stars and clouds – it was such a clear night!  Other times I could see the lights of the world below it looked like a beautifully lit up Xmas tree.

We landed in Seattle after a twenty minute stop in PortlandFrom what I could see it’s a beautiful spot and when you come to visit us you could stop and visit there!

This statement, for as simple and innocuous as it might appear to be, is another example of the kinds of peepholes into the complexities of Mildred’s mind that appear within her writings.  Because I have closely studied Mother’s expressions of herself in relation to other people I can detect the kind of undifferentiated thinking Mildred had.  Why on earth would her mother want to stop and visit Portland simply based on her daughter’s passing observation from the inside of a plane that Portland looked to be “a beautiful spot” to Mildred? 

Mildred was incapable of forming clear boundaries (borderlines) in her mind between her thoughts and the thoughts in the minds of other people.  From Mildred’s strange mind-melded, joined-together, overlapping and invasively “possessive” (projecting) point of view what she observed, thought, felt, intended, etc. was OF COURSE the same thing that someone else would share in exactly the same way that she did herself.  I suspect that this “you-is-me-is-me-is-you-is-we” mental reality that was certainly how Mother operated is probably a key aspect of Borderline Personality Disorder.  It makes such a woman as Mildred was an extremely dangerous and damaging mother to her children who are never able to – because they are not allowed to – develop their own clear healthy mind-selves under the influence of such a mentally ill mind from the time of their birth.

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My oldest grandson who just turned three had a very sad evening a few weeks ago.  Earlier in the day he told his mother, “Mommy stay home.”  She works fulltime and explained to her son that she would go to work and be home after his daddy picked him up at daycare and brought him back home at the end of the day.  This message did not get through to my grandson’s super-attached-to-Mommy burgeoning mind.  When he did not see his mother’s car parked in the garage as soon as the door opened he burst into heartbroken, inconsolable sobs.

His daddy could not begin to repair whatever rupture his young son was reacting to.  Eventually after bringing the baby into the house he was able to get his bellowing son to come inside, as well.  But it was not until Mommy got home, lovingly and care-fully took my grandson back out to the garage, put him into his car seat where the crying began and then took him out again to THEN enter the house that all was made well enough again the crying could stop.

What manner of trial was this for all concerned?  After my daughter related the events to me I spent some time thinking about what had happened until the problem from my grandson’s point of view became clear.  He was not being a tyrant.  He had not thrown “a tantrum.”  In his mind of course if he wanted/needed/wished for his mother to spend her day at home SHE WOULD!  How could she not?  Because my grandson has not yet fully differentiated himself from his mommy she is still he and he is still her in very significant ways.  Once I understood this about the no-mommy-home little boy disaster I understood that my mother never differentiated from her mother – ever!

And why not?  My first guess is that she had never safely and securely attached to her mother in the first place as my grandson has so fully done with my daughter.  Because of the broken places inside of my mother that corresponded to the broken places in her attachment relationship with her mother, Mildred never got to join with her mother correctly so that she could later, through appropriate attachment-related processes, differentiate from her as my grandson is certain to do in his own time and in his own way with his mother. 

One of Mother’s greatest difficulties related to her mental illness was that she could not separate her mind from anyone else’s, or even truly comprehend that other people even existed as self-agents separate from her with minds of their own.  There is a very good chance that this problem came directly from her insecure attachment disorder created by her inadequate, traumatic early relationship interactions with her caregivers.  Even if mind-melding is a “symptom” of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) its origins began long before Mildred even had verbal language abilities.  This makes the insecure attachment disorder a primary problem in my thinking and the BPD a secondary one.

I also note that these same unrecognized patterns enabled Mildred to take over the mind and life of her husband, as well.  It is for this reason that I highly recommend the book, Stop Walking on Eggshells:  Taking your life back when someone you care about has borderline personality disorder, by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger.  When I was 53 I finally recognized that all that was wrong in my childhood came from this mental illness Mother had by reading the list of characteristics of this disorder that were included in the 1998 first edition of this book.  This list has – I think most unfortunately – been removed from the second 2010 edition.  I suggest that any reader of my writings who begins to catch a glimmer of recognition that patterns in Mildred are similar to those of an important person in their own life find a copy of this book and read it ASAP!

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The wait from 5:25 to 7:30 in Seattle was long!  I had to wake the children up at 4:45 A.M. and then wait two and a half hours in the airport but they were angels.  They were grand and helped carry bundles and were just plain good sports.  I am very proud of them.

We boarded the Northwest Orient plane at 7:15 A.M.  It was a lot bigger and crowded (three seats in one row whereas the other had two).  Much to my surprise they served breakfast and lunch no charge.  It was hard for the children to eat on their lap but they loved it.  Breakfast:  Melon, toast, scrambled eggs and bacon, sweet roll and milk.

I couldn’t eat a bite and haven’t eaten a meal yet!  I guess I’ll get my appetite back – my stomach quieted as soon as I landed in Anchorage.

The second plane was more like a bus and not as noisy as the first.  The people were nice all the way and so helpful.  Why even the PILOT in Seattle carried Sharon and my case clear up to the check-stand (up several flights of stairs) and saw me to the desk to check in for my next flight!

Once we safely arrived it was hard to believe we could be here.  From 1:15 A.M. to 10:45 the next morning.  Amazing!

Bill got our car and it’s very nice and roomy!  He got paid yesterday.  What luck!  Our payments are $75 a month too and it will be rough.  I am going to be watching every penny now.

It’s wonderful to be here and so good to be with Bill again.  This morning when I woke up and realized where I was I was so happy to see Bill next to me – but it also hit me that I was far away from my family.  I’ll miss you Mother, Charlie and Carolyn and the children – will write you often.  Mother I know I’ll see you next summer.

The second half of this letter follows in the next chapter.

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