Personality Disorders

I grew up with people who were quite mad – in both the ‘angry’ and ‘crazy’ sense of the word – and I learned early how to sink out of sight and look for underground ways to get my needs met. I was the quiet one; my sister fought tooth and nail, which I now consider was the healthier response. But in the end I survived, and she did not.


Both my mother and father came by their deep distress honestly. First broken by the Great Depression, they then watched their beloved siblings disappear in Hitler’s war. I don’t believe they were inherently out of their minds – just so shocked by the circumstances of their young lives that they lost their footing altogether.

These days there are mental-health categories for my parents’ disorders that were not available in the 1950s. One can look them up in a Diagnostic Manual: my mother’s symptoms come close to what is now called Borderline Personality Disorder, and my father’s more in the Narcissistic category, like Glump.

How I wish I’d understood earlier that they were essentially sick people, because I might have been spared from working so hard, for so many years and so unsuccessfully to try and make them make sense!

So how do we respond to a clearly disturbed Klump who is in a very powerful position, has a dangerous personality, needs to have his way at all times and literally cannot listen, thereby threatening the health and safety of every one of us, not to mention the very earth itself?

As someone who has spent a lot of time with seriously disturbed people – not only as a child growing up, but also living next door to a very unstable neighbor while raising our children - I recognize mental illness when I see it.

One day my neighbor all but severed her thumb by climbing the fence between our backyards and slicing her hand on a pointed fencepost, her eyes wild and unfocused. I was immediately in familiar territory, recognizing in her face what I used to call ‘blood behind the eyes.’ I went suddenly cold and efficient, knowing just what to do: grab for the closest piece of cloth, staunch the spurting blood and get her to the hospital, quick.

It was that day, leaving her stitched up and in a bed in the locked Psych ward, that I began wondering if this lifelong ‘curriculum in madness’ I’d been taking was not somehow significant? Was I being prepared to eventually help out when there would be larger-scale madness to deal with? And what would that look like?

So here we are, less than a week after the inauguration and in the midst of madness of a very large order, indeed, but look at the huge creative response to that madness!

Perhaps these are the very days I’ve been waiting for!

Ben Kessler said it well in a note received yesterday:

“It's hard times to be sure, but it's to the general benefit that they got several steps harder all at once instead of slipping slowly while we boil unawares.”

So far, we are coming up to the plate magnificently, I would say. Did you know that the Netherlands has offered to cover the bill for the Women’s Reproductive Rights in our country if they get scratched out? And that hundreds of thousands of US citizens have vowed to keep the National Parks open with many individual contributions?

The good news is that we are awake, we are willing and able to respond with intelligence and creativity, and so far we seem to be good at keeping each others’ spirits up in the process.

I learned the hard way that trying to speak reason to power does not work, because people like my parents simply have no idea how to listen to a word anybody else says. Nor does Bump. That is the nature of the disorder.

I hear words like “Disaster!” or “Fight!” or “Confront!” – which arrive at my In-Box a dozen times a day – and I shrink because in my experience all that does is make me feel like a loser. Whenever I protest by confrontation, it seems I am giving more energy to what I am trying to fight. It took me years to accept that attempting to negotiate intelligently with people who cannot hear me is a frustrating waste of breath.

Some people are better at it than I am, and may they succeed in their endeavors. Not me…

For me it has been about taking my life in my own hands, listening to some source of wisdom deep inside and going for what I loved, whatever that was. That meant side-stepping the madness rather than confronting it head-on, and getting really creative about doing things a different way.

What we call ‘thinking outside the box.’

For example, when my parents refused to let me dance, I secretly signed up to work in the kitchen at a dance camp; when they wouldn’t sign for a library card, I asked a kind friend if I could come to the library with her and choose a book or two for both of us. It was humiliating but I did it, and the day I turned16 I marched to that library and signed for my own card!

This is all simplistic side-stepping of the rules, but I believe we need do that now, asking some basic, pointed questions about the underlying rules that have been governing our lives, our country, our world; questions like:

“Why do some people have more money than they need, and others sit homeless on the sidewalks?”

“Whose idea was private property in the first place? Is the earth for sale?”

“Why is so much food wasted while people go hungry?”

“When was it decided that girls were inferior to boys?”

As Caroline Casey quotes from Rev. Ike, “If we humans dreamed it up, we can damn well dream it down!”

It’s time to re-envision who we are, where we are and how we wish to live – and maybe even find it in our hearts to be grateful we are being pulled up short by a Lump.

I try and imagine him a baby crying his heart out in the cradle; a scared little boy peeing in his pants; a teen-ager kicked out of high school for bullying (this I know for a fact.) I saw the ‘lost soul’ in him clearly the other say, watching him try to convince someone that the numbers at the Inauguration were much bigger than they said, that people loved him – “don’t you see there was pure love in those streets?” he all but begged.

He’s another human, like me, longing to be loved.

So here’s my daydream, and I ask you to hold your judgments a bit: What if on the level of his soul, he has willingly made a sacrifice to help all of us wake up out of our torpor? What if his soul’s high purpose is to convince us to take collective responsibility for outmoded belief systems? What if we are deliberately being goaded to question, re-think, remember, re-create the world we truly wish to live in?

And what if, even if none of that were true, knowing that this time it is all about us, not him, we acted as though it were?

It’s more than time.

I choose to believe, that on some profound level where our souls all merge together, that it is true. That gives me energy and sparks my imagination. And if so, then this is what I aspire to:

“I wish to love this man, Donald Trump – not his political personality, but where our souls touch - and call him by his real name with respect and gratitude, one of us, as he makes the personal sacrifice of playing a repulsive, insane megalomaniac on the global stage to help us all awaken to concerted, loving action.”

Ultimately either we all make it through together, or none of us does. That’s the reality.

Last evening, wondering if I would have the guts to write such a sentiment in my piece this morning, a Great Blue Heron flew into my view where I sat at the kitchen window here on the farm, and winged its way towards the creek, aloft in the setting sun.

I choose to take that as an omen.