I can’t imagine that anyone who studies Borderline Personality Disorder can begin to understand a Borderline without trying to find out as much information as possible about a Borderline’s mother and about their mother-daughter relationship. If possible, as with my mother’s case, an inclusion of the grandmother of the Borderline in the case history would also be important.
Because my mother’s grandmother came to live in their household when my mother was 5 and HER mother divorced, my great grandmother was probably another powerfully negative (if not outright abusive) influence within my mother’s childhood.
It has taken me five years to get very near the bottom of the pile of my mother’s letters as I have worked to transcribe them. I have had to remove myself from her writings at times and then force myself back to the job again. I am back at the job, as I recently mentioned.
While there remains a small batch of assorted letters from the 1960s left for me to transcribe, it is this large collection of letters from the summer of 1957 that I have put off for last – and avoided. My father left my mother and his four children (ages nearly 2, nearly 4, nearly 6 (me) and my brother who turned 7) behind in Los Angeles while he went on to his new job in Anchorage, Alaska – and to look for housing so that we could join him.
The letters flowed between them daily. My mother often wrote 2 or 3 letters to him per day. My father left on June 11, 1957 and by June 13th my mother writes as if he had been gone a life time. (The rest of us joined dad on the 1st of August.)
I am sharing this one letter right now that my mother wrote about her feelings related to her mother’s ‘interference’ in mother’s parenting, and actually says what I always have suspected to be true, that one of the reasons (a MAJOR reason) my mother wanted to go to Alaska was to get away from her mother’s interference.
I really doubt that any reader of the collection of my mother’s writing will ever be able to see the twisted mind – even a wisp of it or a glance of a glimmer of it – in my mother’s words. In this letter my mother is showing her classic Borderline self – at the same time she succeeds in hiding it.
My mother would not allow her mother to rescue me. True, my mother is referring to an incident here that involved my grandmother and my brother John – but it is a pattern that happened continually with me, not occasionally. It is important for me to affirm this for myself because the only two people in my life that could have ‘interfered’ with my mother’s abuse of me were my father or my grandmother.
My mother describes in this letter the dynamics – not healthy ones between herself and her mother – that operated throughout my childhood to prevent my grandmother from being able to help me. Tonight as I transcribed this letter I saw more clearly than ever how impossible my mother’s relationship with her own mother was, and had always been.
Her statements about her mother in this letter follow a whole string of them within these 1957 summer letters, such as this one in her June 13th letter to dad:
“It breaks my heart but I just had to spank Cindy – it’s 10:30 p.m and she won’t go to sleep!!! I feel so sorry for them and Grandma does not help things. Please Bill, don’t let me be like her and expect perfection in little children.”
I see a receding succession of roaring fire alarms going off down the corridor of time straight back to my mother’s childhood in that statement about expecting “perfection in little children” (as my mother DID expect it of all her children). I hear the echo of the stories my mother repeated over and over to us as we grew up about how this was true in her own childhood. NOW if I heard her tell those stories I could tell her she was abused. But of course I couldn’t when I was a child and heard her tales.
These letters traveling back and forth between my mother and father are so strange for me to read. All I can see in my mother’s is her disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment disorder. She seems to have entirely organized-oriented herself around my father and in his absence suffered great distress and duress. She could not self-sooth herself without him.
I will post the link to all of these letters when I have finished transcribing them. As they are read in order the pattern of their attachment blares back at me throughout these many years since they were written. Somehow my mother was PERFECT at keeping the shadow of her ‘humanity’ alive in her words while completely disguising the violent monster. The monster doesn’t show in her letters, but I can feel the monster between her lines.
It makes me think of driving down a highway, seeing a tree looming on the horizon, watching it grow as it’s approached, watching it diminish once it has been passed by. That’s like the invisible monster hiding between the lines in my mother’s letters. Even as that tree shrinks in size until it seems to be gone – we know it is still there. It is still big. We just can no longer see it because we have moved as its viewers, not because the tree went anywhere other than where it always is.
The monster was always in my mother. How she maneuvered and manipulated our home’s environment so that nobody SAW the monster but its victims still amazes me. At the same time, I believe my grandmother DID see the monster – and my mother could not tolerate it. She had to make grandma ‘go away’, and the only way she could truly do that was to leave her mother in Los Angeles as she moved the rest of us to Alaska.
Mother made her mother ‘go away’ as surely as we make a tree ‘go away’ as we drive on past it and leave it to shrink into invisibility over the horizon behind us. Once that had happened, there was no hope for me. When my connection with my grandmother vanished, when the only safe and secure person in the universe disappeared that I could TRY to attach to, the monster in my mother became invisible to my grandmother. My mother HAD TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN. I was getting old enough that hiding the monster from my grandmother was becoming increasingly difficult for my mother to do.
I loved my grandmother. She was my only hope. My mother made her disappear.
That my grandmother was part of the problem, I didn’t understand. My grandmother certainly helped to MAKE the monster my mother was from the start.
But read this letter. See how insidiously mother hid the truth about what was really going on (the important parts, the dangerous-to-Linda parts) as she kept the invisible monster invisible on the invisibility side of her Borderline, between the lines of her written words, cunningly twisted in her justifications.
After all my time in trying to find a way to describe how my mother operated in some hope that I could help prevent from happening to another child the absolute holocaust of a childhood I had with my mother – I am so very close to giving up. It seems impossible. Any child caught in the deceiving world of a Borderline such as my mother was probably has no chance of being helped or saved – NONE WHATSOEVER!
I did endure in hell. I survived. I did not become a Borderline like my mother. Maybe that’s the best it can ever get under these kinds of conditions. Maybe sometimes there are too many monsters in the mirror that can turn sideways just exactly right and disappear so nobody else can see them and you can’t even see them to show them to someone else – and nobody, not anybody believes you when you tell them the monster is real.
Maybe that’s the way it was for my mother when she was a little girl. Her mother was a monster the same way my mother was a monster. Only my mother put that information somewhere where not even she could really see it in the end (though some of that conflict IS in this letter). That put me in the middle between them, just as it put me being the projection of everything my grandmother hated about my mother when my mother was little – like I was little when this letter was being written.
How does any abused child know what’s going on between the big people, what happened down the generations that leads to their abuse? How can a child recognize the lies? How can they think about them, who do they tell, who would believe them when the lies are so much bigger and older than the children can even begin to imagine?
I still can’t SHOW anyone what I know about my mother. It’s as if it were a dream. “You were just dreaming, Linda. It wasn’t real. What you say happened didn’t happen. You imagined it all. You are making it all up. Why are you doing that?”
The Borderline abusive mother IS in this letter! I can see her!
My father and mother were so entangled in their mutual dependency on one another my mother could not afford for my father to see the monster – and he couldn’t afford to see it, either. Maybe she had him so mesmerized by her madness that he never stood a chance against her.
Recipe for disaster….. that’s what I know as the principal victim target of my mother’s violent abusive madness. What my mother writes is simply on one side of her Borderline wall. What’s on the other side she keeps secret and hidden, even from herself – and in this letter, also from my father.
June 19, 1957 post mark
What a day I have had – what a time I have had since you left my dearest. I need you, I need you. Don’t ever leave me again – I can’t stand being parted from you – find a place soon, soon, soon! Just to be together again. Have you investigated those apartments – they were supposed to be close enough to the base so we wouldn’t need a car!
I wish with all my heart – soul you were here with me now. I’ve never needed you as much. I’ve never in all my life felt so alone.
Yet, I wanted to be alone – I just sent Mother home with all her blankets and she was boiling – I don’t mean because it’s so hot out either!
She comes over tired – all full of her hectic day and I am also tired and neither of us cheer each other up. I miss you so terribly and she can’t understand that – she says she can. “Well, I should hope so after all you’re used to him after 8 years.” Bill, I’ve been sidetracking comments until I can’t stand it any longer! Yet, Bill I’m frightened to death to be alone – I long to be close to you, Oh darling, when I write to you my ‘whole being’ cries to you.
Mother, I think, is dissappointed [sic] ! She thought we’d have fun together and I’m a wet rag. I only want YOU. It’s all I live for, all I think about! I feel as if I was torn away from you and will ache until I am put together again. [Linda note: Father has been gone 8 days – it was their choice that he start work in Alaska and find housing so the family could join him.]
If she had loved her husband it would be different but she’s truly a ‘spinster’ now and it irritates me and my complete love for you irritates her.
We enjoy each other occassionally [sic] but to have my mother come every night when I ache for you – I can’t stand it. Darling, darling, darling.
I haven’t written many things about ‘Mom’ in the letter because I have been trying so darned hard and she has been going way out of her way for me. I tried staying one night alone and it wasn’t too bad, I did sleep. I went out to call her the next night not to come and no body [sic] answered. At 6:00 she appearred [sic] and has been coming every night since.
She was here from noon Saturday until Monday morning. Too much!!!!! [multiple underlines] Several times she has over ridden my discipline, pouted or grimaced and I ignored it until Sunday at the park.
It was only a little thing but important to me. I can’t have her ‘butting in’, which she doesn’t hesitate to do!!
We had sandwiches! John ate ½ and I gave him another. He didn’t want it and I insisted saying he couldn’t play on an empty stomach. Grandma had promised ice creams. When the time came, I got up and noticed he had gone around in back of the tree and thrown the sandwich away. I said he couldn’t have the ice cream then as he didn’t etc. etc. Grandma pouted, stormed, said I wasn’t fair etc. etc. and I told her “It was none of her business.” I had been wanting to for ages. He didn’t get ice cream then but later I got him some after a talk. Right or wrong I can’t be interfered with – perhaps parents make mistakes but they’re not as important as the children not having confidence in us!
Well, today has been bad anyway but I have managed fine (this darn pen) I didn’t want a red refill and it doesn’t work right anyways. I can hardly write with it. Please pardon. Most maddening when I have so much to say!
It was another beautiful day but we didn’t get a letter. I know you can’t write everday [sic] but I am so anxious to know if you like it or not. We’ve had so much trouble and I still don’t know how you like the D – place!
Well, we decided to go to the beach! More of that later. We were almost set when John complained of his foot hurting. It had swollen up this morning and I had gone up to get Epsom salts but realized we couldn’t go anywhere now!
Yesterday while getting I the pool, on the grass, in the backyard, he stepped on a thorn. It was pulled out and I put lots of tincture of Methyolate on it – all over – thinking of you.
By 11:00 today it was pink, blue and red and purple and very swollen. He couldn’t even get a slipper on. The doctor said to soak it, which we did almost all afternoon! By 5:00 it was still bad so I took him to the doctor before I had only inquired, and he gave him a shot of penicillin and told me to come back in the morning. He can’t walk on it and I am quite worried. Could blood-poisoning set in? The doctor said all the poison is centered in that one area now and he doesn’t want it spreading. I will let you know tomorrow.
As soon as Mother came, after supper tonight and we had a very pleasant one too – She was concerned and does love us but she has to try to manage. Anyways, she said it was as she says, the children don’t mind. It was due to that indirectly they were told to go out back and sit on the cot until I cam out and got off but my heavens I had already explained that as a lesson, but they’re children and I don’t want her lecturing them.
After they were in bed and asleep 10:00 again (this house is like an oven until then – it’s been well over 100 all day!) Sharon was still awake. Last night Grandma excused her and the neighbors etc. [Linda note: I think she’s saying the neighbors wouldn’t like the 2-hear-old’s crying) so I took her up and rocked her well tonight I spanked!
When I cam out I told her I didn’t care if she did cry I can’t rock her every night. She said “I never interfere.” I said something about the day and the children. Well, one thing led to another and I told her I thought it best I stay alone nights now and that she does interfere and always has. And it was one reason I was going to Alaska! I told her very quietly and calmly and did not lose my temper. [bold type is mine]
I told her I was grown and had 4 children and it wasn’t good for them to know I was afraid to stay alone and that it isn’t good for any of us to have her over every night.
Well, naturally you know the answers! “So I’m being put out, am I. I am soft but not that soft to come back again after that.”
Bill I’ve had so much lately that I told her I couldn’t argue but I thanked her and told her I’d see her tomorrow. I have an appointment with Cartwright which I can’t keep if she won’t baby-sit. Why can’t we just discuss things. She can’t be criticized.
Really, darling even the times I’ve tried to talk to the children – she says “Now, listen to Grandma – – – – – and starts in too.” Several times I’ve said nicely it’s easier for just me to tell them etc. and she sulks.
I know, as I said before, she’s dissappointed [sic] in me and rubs it in that you haven’t written you liked it [in Alaska] and what a mistake we’ve made and why did we want to go there anyways etc.
What with all the troubles I’ve had, mother and not knowing from you I don’t know!
I’m so cheerful every day but something new happens every day!
Poor Grandma too. I couldn’t talk to her and she left in a huff. I kept on knitting. She probably won’t speak to me tomorrow and I am frightened. I need you, you, you, you.
Write me, advise me. I am so lonely. The days aren’t bad because I am used to having you at work but the nights – are terrible!
Poor Grandma can’t take you place. I feel so sorry but I told her I’ve had to talk to her about this many times before and she swears she doesn’t ever interfere and always tells me how well I do! (Sometimes she does) but also is plenty quick to criticize them too if they’re naughty until I do then she jumps in. Grandma is nice to visit with sometime.
I want to live with you. How can I wait? God guide me and give me strength I need it so! My darling husband I love you! Mildred
Late. I find it so hard to stop writing and there are so many things I have left unsaid – business things – but I will write them tomorrow. I just made myself an iced tea and told myself that there are thousands of women alone tonight – this D. pen! All over this [can’t read word]. Some of them probably widowed, working during the day and lonely at night.
Yes, what is it I tell the children and have told myself recently? “One has to do with out to appreciate and place yourself in other’s position in order to understand more fully what others go through.” I do have you. We’re temporarily separated but you’re waiting for me – I am lucky!! I am not widowed, my husband is not at war, but we’re separated and it’s so hard, my dearest.
I wish I could really talk to Mother and make her understand that I love her dearly but I am grown up and have 4 children and I must be let alone to bring them up as I see fit. She can’t understand my love for my husband, I know. It deeply upsets me. I pray tonight for so many things. Perhaps God can make her understand!
John awakened a few minutes ago. He says the pain is so bad. Darling, I get so afraid without you and I pray for guidance and strength. I have relied on yours so much! I gave him aspirin and will take him early to the doctor. His foot is so puffed and unnatural looking. I don’t like it at all!
It’s past midnight and I must try to get some rest. I sleep on the bumpy hard couch and my life is frugal too – in it’s own way.
I love you dearly and live for your letters. I need them until I have you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I kissed John for you and he says “I miss my Daddy – I love him so.” We all miss you, my sweetheart!