Thursday, July 14, 2011

There Is More to Her Than Her Looking Like a Confident, Take-Charge Person in Public...

Of all the books I have read on BPD, the one that has most emotionally affected me is Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder by Rachel Reiland (this is a pseudonym). Almost all of the book is available for viewing on Google Books over here.

Naturally, every case of BPD is unique. The problems that Ms. Reiland wrote about in her memoir are not necessarily applicable to the case of anyone else with BPD. However, dear reader, I think it might be prudent to consider reading this book if the phenomena described sound familiar or in some ways mirror your own experiences and encounters.

Ms. Reiland is an accountant who presents a very tough exterior, coming across as someone who is emotionally impervious. Upon reading, I thought, "Oh, she's like The Terminator!" It turns out, though, that the subconscious purpose of this persona was to hide a deeply ingrained insecurity. She still felt like a vulnerable baby girl, and felt the need to put on this seemingly mature "emotionless businesswoman" front as a maladaptive method for coping with the inner pain. Bragging that one is supposedly a big-shot investor in real estate is no substitute for self-acceptance.

I was also very much struck by how, in the early stages of treatment, she had to confront her own latent misogyny. She considered women to be congenitally weak and inferior to men, and thus felt ashamed of being female and of having female anatomy.

This blog post is actually not a review of the book; you already know that I recommend it. Rather, my intention here is to quote from some of the passages that most affected me. I hope that the extent to which I am quoting excerpts falls within Fair Use. If the excerpts are too long, I will remove this post.

Regarding the online Google Books version, the sections from the printed version missing from this online version are:

* Note from the original publisher (Randi Kreger)

* Foreword by BPD expert Jerold J. Kreisman

* Acknowledgments section

* Epilogue

* Section on books and websites that have more info on BPD

* "About the Author"

* Pages that were blank anyway

Other than that, so far it looks like the rest of the entire book is on Google Books.


Tough Persona

On the tough, numb, emotionally invulnerable face that one presents to the outside world. Pages 193-94:

I was far more familiar with the tough half of the inner child, whom in my writings I'd dubbed Toughie or TC for Tough Chick. This was the hardened facade I had maintained for years. TC was the swaggering presence the sisters [of the Catholic school] ousted from the classroom and remained in the hallway. TC lived by an I-don't-give-a-shit credo, too tough to be hurt, too independent to care, and too streetwise to ever trust a soul. To TC, trust was an open invitation to be screwed.

TC was male in every way but one. He had somehow been trapped in a female body. He was the portrait of manhood as I saw it in my childhood, one who loathed weakness and sentiment, as my father did.

The other fragment was the vulnerable one, whom I dubbed Vulno in my writings. I was not nearly as familiar with this one, whose presence seemed to have been given life through therapy. Where TC had erected a barricade of walls in self-protection, Vulno was the antithesis, a fount of raw openness. Vulno trusted everyone and could not make sense of those who would not return such trust with love. It was as if the vulnerability itself, the willingness to be screwed over, would somehow protect her. She was ruled by emotion, always thirsting for love, seeking it everywhere with anyone and suffering great pain if it weren't forthcoming.

Vulno was intimidated by power. She would not seek it. She was content to be a follower if that would gain acceptance and love. . . .

Neither fragmented identity was admirable. Both were extremes. Neither appeared very worthy to me or, for that matter, lovable. But at least I could respect the tough side, which is, perhaps, why that side openly manifested itself far more frequently than the vulnerable one.


Resentment of own femininity. Pages 207-08:

[Dr. Padget, the psychotherapist:] "And because you're a woman, somehow I think you're a pushover? You're saying I think you deserve less respect?"

[Rachel:] "Yes!"

"Why can't you be a strong person and a woman, too?"

"Don't patronize me, okay? You wouldn't get it. You can say all you want to, but you don't know what it's like to be stuck being a woman. You have no idea. You're a man."

Dr. Padget redirected the focus, "What is it precisely that you hate about being a woman?"

I countered with a litany of reasons. . . .

"Boys who stuck to their guns were assertive; girls who did so were pushy little bitches. Boys were steady and strong, while girls were overemotional and oversensitive." . . .

"That's your father talking again," he sighed.

"No, not just my father. My mother too. My mother thought the same things. I know she did."

Hating One's Own Reproductive Anatomy

Disturbed by physiological reminders of her own femininity. Pages 271-74:

Here, Rachel resents herself for having her period.

"Quit using those words!" I demanded [to Dr. Padget].

"Menstrual period?"

"Damnit! You're doing it again. Quit rubbing my nose in it, will you?" . . .

"I know the shame doesn't come from you," he said gently, softening the blow. "It's sad to think that something so natural could be given such distorted connotations. You feel the shame because your parents were ashamed of your femaleness. Nature's sign of maturity became a curse you felt you had to hide. But that's not the way it's supposed to happen."

"Oh, yeah?" I asked, wounded pride still stinging. "So I guess you threw a party when your own daughter started."

"No party," he said, ignoring my sarcasm. "But I was proud."

"For having her first period?" I asked, surprised to hear the words come so easily off my tongue.

"For being a woman. For growing up."

I contemplated the notion for a minute, then asked him, "If I'd been your daughter, would you have been proud of me?"

"Of course," he replied gently, his tone soothing, bonding me to him. "A good and loving father is naturally pleased to see his daughter blossoming into womanhood. Proud to see his little girl growing up."

"Dr. Padget, did you ever talk to your daughter when she wasn't a little girl anymore? You know, about feelings? Did she ever cry in front of you?"

"Sure," he smiled. "She cried; she laughed; she got angry at me sometimes. Some things she felt more comfortable discussing with her mother, but we talked about things too."

Fragmented Personalities

Rachel talks about acting as if she has more than one personality. She summons a specific personality for a specific situation. This is not merely the case of someone behaving formally in formal situations and informal in informal situations; her demeanor changes to an extreme degree as a method of coping. Pages 97-98:

"[ . . . ] "What's wrong with me? Am I really crazy? She's taking over.' [Rachel says this to her therapist, Dr. John M. Padget.]

"Who is taking over?" he asked gently, as if to a child.

"The other one. The mean one. The one that always says terrible things and gets me in trouble. That part of me. . . ."

[ . . . ]

There's only one you, Rachel. Just one. You're fragmenting here. Dissociating."

"What does that mean?"

Dr. Padget went on to explain the terms. Fragmenting, or dissociating, occurred when a person did not have a fully integrated personality. Different aspects of the personality would emerge, depending upon the situation. It was a patchwork means of coping."

When gripped by fear, the abusive tough-acting persona would come to fend off the threat and reduce the feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. When she was overwhelmed by the need to be close to someone, the pleading, begging little girl emerged. In many situations, the adult sensibilities and rationality were present, and thus the personalities would be somewhat integrated and subdued. But in times of intense feelings, one of the other two personas would step in, overwhelming me.

It wasn't a multiple personality disorder type of dissociation, he explained, because I was always conscious, at least on some level, of what I was doing and saying. A person with multiple personality disorder, like Sybil [the protagonist of the eponymous Sally Field movie], would not have the conscious awareness I did.

But the dissociation set the stage for a fierce internal conflict as the two inner-child personae, like oil and water, battled each other. One clearly female, one clearly male.

Body Dysmorphia

Throughout the work she also ruminates over her Body Dysmorphic Disorder. This refers to one having a long-term, pathological discomfort with one's own body and natural physical features, often feeling alienated from them. As she says on page 99, "My bedroom mirror was like the fun house variety."


I do not want to give the impression that this book only makes one feel very negative, emotionally. Rather, Ms. Reiland documents her struggle to come to grips with her condition. It is ultimately an uplifting read.