This is a book which is initially quite distressing to read but is so beautifully written that one is forced to persevere. One's perseverance is rewarded by the most amazingly positive outcome.
Rachel (not her real name) was brought up by parents who were well-meaning but, to put it kindly, were very old-fashioned in their views. They rather bitterly regretted that Rachel was a girl rather than a boy and found subtle and not so subtle means of reminding her that to be a girl was to be second class. Her father in particular was overbearing and resorted to violence -- the belt -- when he thought that Rachel had misbehaved. The result was a very maladjusted girl who was clever but whose behavior at school was appalling.
As a teenager she ran riot using drink, drugs and sex as a means of escape. Somehow she managed to get a degree in accounting and find a wonderful man whom she married and with whom she had two children. However, her self-destructiveness, emotional outbursts and general instability not only affected her, her husband and her work but it soon also affected her children. When the children started to be the objects of her uncontrollable rages she agreed to be booked into a psychiatric ward. She was fortunate in being the patient of the head of psychiatric services who turned out to be her savior. He diagnosed her condition as Borderline Personality Disorder and over the next few years she saw him regularly and frequently in therapy sessions which explored her largely suppressed unpleasant experiences as a child. Gradually she came to realize, accept and transcend those experiences. This was not accomplished without enormous patience on the part of the therapist, perseverance on the part of Rachel and almost saintliness on the part of the husband. Nor was it accomplished without further hospitalizations. However, this compelling story, which at times reduced this reviewer to tears, does have a very happy ending.
Borderline Personality Disorder is a surprisingly common phenomenon. It is found in about one to two percent of the population. It is most usually associated, as in Rachel’s case, with a traumatic childhood normally at the hands of abusive parents, relatives or guardians. Rachel displayed many if not all of the usual symptoms: feelings of being abandoned, intense but often very unstable relationships, a poor self-image, destructive behavior (drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity), suicidal tendencies, powerful mood swings, feelings of meaninglessness, uncontrollable anger, and the fragmentation of aspects of the personality. What is frightening about BPD is that between a fifth and a quarter of the prison population suffers from it. Rachel’s story illustrates that with sufficient help and support BPD sufferers can overcome the condition but she was fortunate in having the framework of a supportive husband and therapist, the financial backing, and ultimately her own sheer will power to see her through the ordeal. Unfortunately, nearly ten percent of BPD sufferers successfully commit suicide while few of the remaining ninety percent are helped to genuinely leave it behind.
This book is a moving testament to what can be achieved given the right level of support. It is a detailed account of one brave woman’s journey out of BPD. For anyone who actually has BPD or who is working in the mental health field or caring for someone with BPD this is an inspiring and hope-giving book.
© 2007 Kevin M. Purday
Kevin Purday is a consultant in international education working mainly in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. His main focus is on helping schools to set up the International Baccalaureate Middle Years and Diploma Programs. He has taught both philosophy and psychology in the I.B. diploma program.
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