Some Things Remain The Same

by Diane Kane

I grew up in the 1960’s when ottomans were called hassocks, and Borderline Personality Disorder was still known as Schizophrenia. The hassocks of the 1960’s that I remember were hard, with blunt edges, and bright patterns. The ottomans of today are soft and rounded, in calming colors. Although they serve the same fundamental purpose, the name is less harsh more appealing. It’s like that with Schizophrenia also.

The first time I heard the words Borderline Personality Disorder, I was sitting in the office of a therapist who was seeing my mother. “Look it up,” she said. “I think you will find that the description matches your mother.”

“There’s nothing borderline about my mother.” My mother was the master of manipulation. I used to think she should have been in movies. She would have been the best actress in the world. “My mother is extreme in every way,” I smiled the smile that comes to my face when I know no one will ever understand. “With my mother, it’s like, ‘Come here darling; I love you so much, let me stab this knife into your heart.’”

At the time that the therapist had called and asked to meet with me, my mother and I were in a period of estrangement. It was one of the hundreds of times that she had worked up to a rage that always ended with “I disown you!” and she would throw me away. Most times it was a relief. The build-up to her eruptions was draining and degrading. She would find something that she disliked. It could be an idea or something as small as a word. If she couldn’t find anything real, she would make something up. Then she would proceed to pick at it like a scab. Ever so slowly, she would obsess on the subject, little by little, poking and prodding, waiting, hoping for a response, relentless in her pursuit of turmoil.

When the therapist called me, she left a long message, “I’ve been seeing your mother for the past six weeks. She has given me permission to talk with you and meet with you if possible …” My mind said no way, but I listened to the end. “I … I just …,” her voice broke. “I just want to know how you have survived all these years.” I listened again, and again, so I could hear her last sentence.

We talked for over an hour, and she asked again. “How did you survive in such an abnormal environment?”

“It was my normal.”

Borderline Personality Disorder, the therapist, had called it. I didn’t look it up right away. I didn’t need to. She had given me something more important than a diagnosis. She had given me validation. Mental illness has different names, that change with the times. It’s not as important what you call it, as it is just to keep talking about it.

""Diane Kane writes short stories and poetry. Her self-published children’s book BRAYDEN THE BRAVE is featured at Boston Children’s Hospital to help families dealing with medical issues. She belongs to two writers groups and enjoys sharing the love of writing with others. Diane has been published in Goose River Anthology and is one of the co-producers of TIME’S RESERVOIR, a Quabbin Quills Anthology.

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