Monday, January 20, 2014. I can think of other titles for this post. One could have been PULLING MY MATRIARCH TRUMP CARD – FOR THE FIRST TIME. Another could have been FINDING A FEARLESSNESS I DIDN’T KNOW I HAD. The list could go on but I guess those remaining words will find their way into the body of this post rather than at the top of it.
Maybe my own message within this post is tied to stopping the intergenerational flow of the effects of trauma and traumatic stress by identifying and naming “mental illnesses” that appear in families through births and through marriages. There are all kinds of other ways to think about families, but this morning I am considering myself and my own family especially because of the intense interactions I faced yesterday.
I have the highest regard, respect, admiration and compassion for my ex-husband who I will refer to as Joe. Returning to this town I am again in his presence occasionally during family interactions. He and I had a rough marriage ending 28 years ago this month. He married the woman he was involved with – without my knowledge – for 3 years prior to our divorce.
Now he is trying to divorce her 25 years later having finally reached a point where he can no longer bear dealing with her (diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I can tell he deeply loves her and yes, that hurts – BUT. And now is one of those times when BUT becomes a mighty and a very big word.
My heart goes out entirely to ANYONE having or coping with BPD. It is the disease that caused my mother to severely abuse me from the moment of my birth until I left home at 18. It is the disease that infiltrated my father’s fragile psyche and allowed him to allow her to do what she did to me. In the end this disease killed both of my parents. I know its horror and I know its power — and sorry folks! I know how hopeless it can be to treat it, to cure it or to stop its deadly progression over the life-course of a person who has it.
As I approach the publication of the books that are connected to this blog and its topics I need to toughen up. I need to become extremely realistic about the kind of NASTY feedback from the BPD “community” that I am likely to receive. So perhaps what I found myself being compelled to do yesterday was simply a powerful exercise in that direction.
I was able to talk with Joe yesterday for 2 hours about what I know about BPD. As the matriarch of my family which includes Joe’s two grown daughters and very young grandsons I found myself opening my heart and mind to including HIS current wife in MY family thinking.
How odd, really, is that?
Joe has been engaged with his wife for years now trying to finish a divorce. Anyone who knows something about BPD can imagine the hell of that process and it is none of my business — EXCEPT for the fact that this point hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks yesterday.
If my girls’ father does not end his marriage with his BPD wife, and should he EVER suffer from a serious medical condition while he is married to her my girls’ — and Joe — will have hell to pay. I am basing this fear upon what I saw happening when my father came out of pituitary tumor surgery in 1990 wrapped tightly in a straight-jacket and out of his mind from a massive brain hemorrhage during surgery.
Had my father not divorced his BPD wife three years prior all of his 6 children would have been powerless to avert the emotional mayhem and crazy decision-making about his future that Mother would have trapped us all within. As it was, because they were divorced, the hospital itself placed a restraining order and mother which prevented her from coming near Father or any of us. We were able to get Father out of Alaska to the best brain trauma rehabilitation treatment he could receive in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
If my father had not divorced Mother what would have happened during those terrible and extremely stressful and distressful times? Father NEVER recovered from that surgery and lived another ten years under the loving supervision of one of my sisters. Would the 6 of us have been forced to find an attorney while Father was tied to his intensive care hospital bed to prove Mother mentally ill and incompetent to make decisions regarding Father’s future?
What kind of HELL would THAT have been?
So it seemed clear to me yesterday after all these years of history that I pull out my matriarch trump card for the first time in my life and USE it.
Joe has invested much time in learning everything he can about BPD. He is continually faced with close friends who are on his side and hate to see him having such a hard time and who wish to support him fully make statements about his wife that profoundly reflect an absence of understanding about mental illness, especially about BPD.
I affirmed yesterday what I know Joe knows: His wife is NOT present in her life any more than my mother was present in hers. I have learned so much about my history of abuse and about BPD in the 28 years that have passed since Joe and I last had conversations — and I told him what happened to his ex-in-laws during the marriage he and I shared for a decade. It’s a tragic, horrible story.
I told him about the abuse I suffered. Oh but that I had had SOME tiny clue about who I was based on what had happened to me while Joe and I were married!
Did I want to protect his wife? How strange. Yes, I did. I also, leaving ALL of my emotions out of the entire conversation except for one “tiny time,” confronted him with the fact that his wife is very likely to get worse and that when she tells him she fears she will become a bag lady if he does not support her post-marriage — HER FEAR IS VERY VERY REAL!!!
Joe’s response to me at that point was understandable: “Oh! I so DID NOT want to hear that!!”
It is the truth. What part of me has any possible business in attempting to protect JOE? I am doing that. I feel it inside me. I want him to DO THE RIGHT THING according to his conscience so that whatever happens next for him and his wife HE has no regrets.
My father did that. I asked him shortly after he divorced Mother after 37 years of miserable marriage why he had not done that sooner. He told me that he married her for life. My ex feels a similar way now in some way tied to how he feels about what happened between he and I.
Father did have the means to support Mother even after his death. Mother also got the homestead and Father took the debt. She of course sold the land and squandered the money. My point was that she still died destitute and suffered greatly. I see no end-of-life for a severe BPD person that does not include suffering.
What is the “right way” for him to complete a divorce process that his wife has dragged on for years while finding a way to get her husband to even assume the debt for her attorney fees?
I have no idea and it is not my business. I was called within, however, to give my ex the facts about what happened in my family, facts that were not available to me in any way while he and I were married. I found myself relying upon a kind of powerful freedom of fear yesterday that allowed me to walk right — and rightly — through this time that WAS extremely difficult for me.
I thought about that fearlessness. I was no doubt BORN with that capacity. It has not left me! When times get really hard — which described the entire first 18 years of my life — I seem to have a kind of fearlessness cloak that I can wrap around my entire being so that I can walk through what I KNOW could wipe out a person who does not have that gift.
I was given that gift so that I COULD make it through my life. I used that gift yesterday on behalf of my family with in some nearly bizarre way now includes my daughters’ stepmother whom they detest, the 2nd wife of a man I have always loved. I am, however, FIRST WIFE and mother of Joe’s kids. I AM the matriarch and I guess part of why I moved back that 2000 miles from my HOME in the high Arizona desert to this HINTERLAND I detest (truth!) was exactly because life called me here so I could use both of these gifts.
A matriarch without fearlessness is a true force to be reckoned with! I guess that could have been another title for this blog post!
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