If Someone Had Known
Anakin sat in the middle row of Chancellor Valorum's custom stretch speeder, two blue-robed Senate guards behind him, Chancellor and Lady Valorum in the front. Disapproval and annoyance pulled the former Chancellor's mouth into a taut frown; Lady Valorum rested a calming hand on his thigh.
Anakin tried to break the tension. "Lady Valorum. I have to ask. Are you aware that you have no presence in the Force? It's -- it's amazing. It's like sitting in this speeder with three other people and not four."
"From what I've been told, it's a birth defect." Lady Valorum turned to glance back at him. "It wasn't my only one. I was born with some of my abdominal organs outside my body and had to have surgery before I was a day old. My parents were told that many times when there's one birth defect there are actually more than that, but I didn't find out about this other thing for many years. I had a terrible back problem once and sought out the healers at the Jedi temple, and I became pretty well-known in there rather quickly. I think every master and healer in the place came by to meet me and give each other dumbfounded looks. I guess it was before your time.
"The healer Janna Lyne asked if she could do some research and testing on me. Apparently I have as many midichlorians as any average human, but the part of the brain that you use to sense and manipulate the Force doesn't work in me. Or isn't there." She shrugged. "Never made any difference to me, though."
"I've studied that," said Anakin. "That there's some seventy percent of the brain that isn't used, and in a Jedi, some of that brain tissue is 'awake.' So to speak. The strange thing is, Chancellor Palpatine always felt that way, too -- to all of the Jedi."
Until tonight. Anakin shuddered at the memory of the cold touch of the dark side.
"We're here," said Chancellor Valorum.
The speeder set down on a landing deck in a less-fashionable part of the Congressional district. Still upscale, still exclusive, still well patrolled and guarded, 300 Republica may have offered its residents a more modest lifestyle, but it was also an address largely overlooked by the newscasters and the holomedia. Although the Valorums lived offplanet, they maintained a small apartment here for their frequent trips to the Capitol.
Lady Valorum ushered Anakin into her sitting room, done tastefully in muted shades of green, and caught her husband's arm at the door.
"Go on to bed, Kinshem." Anakin smiled at the Naboo word; it meant, "treasure." "I want to talk to Jedi Skywalker." Valorum caressed her hair briefly and whispered something, and she answered in a low murmur. As he turned away she caught him around the waist and pulled him into a hug. This time her whisper reached Anakin's ears.
"I love you."
Valorum turned away and Lady Valorum turned to her visitor, all business.
"You said you needed some advice. How can I help you?"
"Someplace that isn't so open."
She frowned. "All right."
They settled in at her kitchen table, and she fixed him with a steady glare. "I'm going to offer you some kaffe, and then I want to know what this is about. It's quite late."
Anakin put his hand over that growing soreness in his stomach again. "I can't drink anything, thanks."
Anakin began. "What do you and Chancellor Valorum know about the Sith and the Separatist leadership? Do you know as much as Senator Organa knows?"
Lady Valorum frowned. She had been a great beauty once, and truly still was, with clear skin, a few crinkles at the corners of her large eyes, and arched russet brows. "I imagine we do. Finis and Bail Organa have always been good friends, but even more so since Finis stepped down. Bail relies on him quite a lot."
"The Sith. What do you know about the Sith?" Anakin asked, praying she knew the facts of the basic situation. The truth was going to be hard enough for her to believe without Anakin having to introduce the wildly improbably idea of an extremely powerful Sith master controlling everything, for the first time here tonight.
Lady Valorum ran her hands over her face. "Jedi Skywalker. It's nearly the twenty-second hour. Tell me what you're fishing for?"
Anakin leaned forward. "Do you know about the master?"
"Ah, yes. The Sith master. The one who trained Count Dooku."
"You're aware that the Jedi Council has spared no effort to identify this...person?"
Anakin's throat worked. To say it out loud made it seem more real. An image of Palpatine's face, kindly smiling at him, flashed before him. Anakin blinked it away.
"We've been concerned for some time that the Sith master has access to the highest levels of the Chancellor's office."
"Senator Organa said he had been tracked --"
"He told you? To 500 Republica."
"He told Finis. He said there was a state of the art communications room under the subbasement there."
Now it was Anakin's turn to run his own hands over his face.
"Right. Lady Valorum...I saw Chancellor Palpatine tonight. And I discovered the identity of the Sith master we've been looking for."
She waited, her blue eyes bright and expectant.
Anakin made himself say it. "It's Chancellor Palpatine."
She gazed at him for a second with a thick, blank expression. Then she said, "What?"
"It's Chancellor Palpatine. He identified himself to me."
"To you? I can't possibly believe that. Palpatine, a Sith lord! I never heard anything so ridiculous! And why would a Sith lord choose you to reveal himself to? Jedi Skywalker, why are you doing this? What is it the Jedi want in sending you here to probe me and my personal history with Palpatine?"
"That's not what this is about, I assure you. I did see Palpatine, and this did happen. You had no idea?" He shook his head. "No, of course not. Of course, you wouldn't."
Lady Valorum's face set in the hardest expression Anakin had ever seen on a woman. "Obviously you're here on Jedi business. Tell me what it is, without the games, or I'll have you escorted out."
Frightened now, Anakin held out his hands. If she should contact the Council --
"I'm not here on Jedi business, I'm here on personal business, my lady, and this is no game. What the Chancellor said to me this evening was real. I know you can't begin to understand that, but understand this. I can't go back to the Temple with this. I can't go to any of the senators. I can't go to anyone. If I do, the Council will send a team of masters to the Chancellor's office, and they will kill Palpatine. They will kill him, do you understand! And I can't do that...I can't have that, and I can't decide what to do! I have to --" Anakin's throat tightened at the thought of Padme and their baby, and he felt his face redden and the tears start in his eyes.
Lady Valorum's gave him a wary expression, as if he were a poisonous snake coiled in the middle of the table. Clearly she did not believe, but she knew the tears were not an act.
"This is ridiculous. Even if he were a Sith lord, why would he tell you?"
"I have a personal relationship with Palpatine. He's...taken an interest in me, mentored me, ever since I came to the Capitol --" It hit Anakin in the gut, making the pain even worse. Was their entire friendship an act? Was it all only to use him? Had anything about it been real? He put his head in his hands and moaned, "Oh...oh, no..."
"What?" she said.
"I can't believe this any more than you can. I still can't believe... I can't believe this could really be what he's done..." Anakin looked up. She stared at him as if he were going down under a live wire.
"But I know it. I know it to be true. I felt it...I felt it. You can't mistake a touch in the Force. He touched me...he touched me!"
She sat back. "I'm afraid I don't understand. How can I possibly accept your word as proof? You could be -- you could be having a mental breakdown, for all I know."
"Lady Valorum. You know Count Dooku is dead. He told me because he wants me in his place. He asked me to become his new apprentice." Lady Valorum turned her face away and shook her head, and Anakin didn't need to sense her to know he was losing. In another minute she'd put in a call to the Jedi Temple, and it would be all over.
"There's more. Please. Please listen to me." He hadn't intended to do this, but now he was neck deep. He had to make her believe. "Palpatine knows things about me. Things about me no one could possibly know -- things I haven't told anyone. If he wasn't a Sith lord, how else could he possibly know these things?"
She eyed him dubiously. "What things?"
Anakin took a deep breath, and then he told her.
"Jedi Skywalker, I'm sorry you've gotten yourself into all this trouble, but Palpatine is the head of his own wartime intelligence network. I'm sure he's privy to things no one else is."
"Lady Valorum, think. You're a woman. The way Padme dresses -- could you tell she's pregnant? You hear a lot of Senate scuttlebutt -- has anyone, anywhere, said one word about her expecting a baby? No. And they wouldn't -- because Padme would never tell. She would never tell, because she knows I would be expelled from the Jedi Order, and she doesn't want to do that to me. She's only even seen a medical droid twice since she found out." Lady Valorum frowned at that. "I could see it if there were Senate gossip, but no one knew who the father was -- but there is no gossip. No one knows. But Palpatine knew. He knows, and he's trying to use it -- to force me -- "
"He's trying to blackmail you. 'Do this for me, or I'll tell your masters you married her.'"
Anakin only wished that were all of it. To use his fear for Padme's life this way -- the betrayal washed over him again, more forcefully than ever, knocking the breath from his lungs.
"Palpatine would never- -" Lady Valorum began, and then suddenly stopped herself. And dropped her gaze to the creelwood table, and kept it there. "Oh," she said. The little word fell in front of her with a thud.
She was silent for a moment. Then she raised her eyes to his, and her whole frame seemed to shrink. "Well, I can't say exactly that Palpatine would never do that. He's been straighter than ninety-five percent of what gets elected to the Senate...but I can't say he would never do something on that order."
"Well, he's done it to me. And he's done it for a reason. Do you know anything at all about the Sith? Look at all the powers he's been invested with. Don't you think that a Sith lord might just seek out all of that?"
Now Anakin could see impending tears on her face. She struggled to push them back. "But...Palpatine was voted those powers. He didn't ask for them."
"No, but he accepted them. And Count Dooku -- don't you see, if he is the Sith lord, then Palpatine controlled both sides of the war. So he would be asked to accept them."
A hideous expression crossed Lady Valorum's face. Anakin knew the feeling only too well. "A whole war? A whole galactic war, for three years...? He didn't. He couldn't. It's too...monstrous. Never!"
"But he has, my lady. He has. And now Count Dooku is dead...and he needs someone to help him finish the war."
"But that doesn't make any sense. If what you say is true, he's going to have to go when the war ends. And Count Dooku! Why would he kill his own apprentice, if he needs one so badly? And why would he let himself be kidnapped? All of you almost died during that rescue. It doesn't make any sense. You have to be wrong!"
That almost stopped Anakin. "Why would he kill his own apprentice?" And then he answered his own question, slowly. "Because I was better. Because I'm supposed to be the Chosen One..." His eyes met Lady Valorum's, and he could see that she was familiar with the prophecy. It had been explained in practically every news release about his exploits in the Outer Rim sieges.
The cold dread that chilled her heart reflected in her eyes. "But...but..." she protested. "The war. It isn't just machines. What about all the deaths on Sullust, and Kashyyk, and..." her eyes began to fill with tears. "And millions and millions spent on a clone army. And two thousand Jedi. And all the clones who've died. And..."
Anakin watched her go through every emotion he just had, and his heart went out to her. She hid her face in her hands. "He didn't. He couldn't." She uncovered her face and looked up, searching his. "Just because he touched you with the Force -- that doesn't mean it was the dark side. You could have been mistaken."
"No, my lady. There is no mistaking the dark side. And what he was doing when he did that to me...what he was telling me...you can't use the light side of the Force, to do that. To anyone."
Her face was ghastly pale, and her eyes were red. She kept shaking her head slowly.
"Lady Valorum, think. Your own husband -- you know Chancellor Valorum had done nothing wrong while in office. You know that better than anyone. You know he was proven innocent of any wrongdoing. You were probably there for some of that. And yet, he was forced from office...by Palpatine."
Her eyes fastened on something far
beyond him. "He used to...crowds. Something about crowds. Something about
crowds, he'd say it was as if they literally pressed on him...and how being
around me was like being by himself. He used to say that to me, that he liked being around me because I was 'quiet.' But I was anything but quiet, especially when I caught him about to do something stupid that would damage his career. I never understood that." She sighed and put her head in her hands. "I guess maybe I understand it now."
She looked up. "He'd get snappish. Whenever we campaigned on Naboo, I'd have to watch him. After so many hours he'd start to get this look, and I'd have to run in and snatch him out, and walk him around someplace the crowds were cordoned off from. I could do that, you know, because I was a staffer -- 'Sorry, Senate business, I have to snatch him away for a minute.' I learned to talk him down. And -- and -- "
"When Palpatine first became a Senator, and we first started seeing each other, he'd make me go ahead of him to every social event he had to attend. I didn't understand the intent, at first, because we wanted to keep our relationship quiet and I thought it was so we never arrived anywhere as a couple. But he'd ask me to call him from every event and tell him who was there. And I'd do it, and sometimes he'd show up, and sometimes he wouldn't. And it mystified me, because I knew he was avoiding someone, or maybe more than one someone. And I'd quiz him about it, but he'd always deny it.
"I got tired of being lied to one day and started keeping guest lists of things, and noting which events he came to and which ones he didn't. If I didn't go, or I didn't call him, he wouldn't go. And eventually I noticed that Palpatine never showed up at a gathering if there were Jedi present. And I started to tease him about it. 'Palpatine, you don't like Jedi -- admit it!' And it got to be a joke -- I'd contact him from a party or a dinner and say, 'You can come, it's safe, there are no Jedi...'"
She trailed off and sat, breathing in soft little gasps. "But..." she coughed. "But you said you'd known him thirteen years and you never sensed anything. And he has meetings with the highest Jedi masters, all the time!"
Anakin reached across the table and took her hands, so sorry to have to tell her this. "I also said that the only person who ever felt like you do in the Force, to the Jedi...is Chancellor Palpatine."
Her whole face seemed to crumple in pain. "But...but...the war. All the destruction on the Outer Rim..." Her eyes filled with tears. "Is this my Palpatine? How can this be my beautiful Palpatine?"
And she put her head in her hands and began to cry.
Anakin's own eyes blurred and he didn't know what to say. He sat for some moments while she cried harder and harder, her shoulders fairly shaking with sobs. At last he got up and crossed the room to her chair. He leaned over her and tried to comfort her, his hands on her shoulders.
"I'm so sorry," he said. "I'm so sorry."
The door slid back and former Chancellor Valorum strode in, barefooted, in pale blue pajamas, his short hair messy and dark rings under his eyes, but those blue eyes themselves were alert and they fairly snapped at Anakin.
"Sereine!" he said. "Darling, what's the matter?"
He came to her and leaned over her, and Anakin shrank back to make room.
Lady Valorum was crying so hard she couldn't speak.
Valorum's look stabbed at Anakin. "What is going on here?"
"I'm sorry, sir. I can't tell you."
Chancellor Valorum strode to the kitchen door, pressed the lock, and turned to stand in front of it, arms crossed. "I think you need to tell me what you've said to so upset my wife."
"You have to kill him," said Chancellor Valorum an hour later, when they had both explained.
"No," said Anakin. "I'm not going to do that. I'm not even sure I'm capable of it."
Sereine Valorum rounded on her husband from where she stood over the sink splashing her reddened eyes with cold water. "I can't act to harm him. I don't care what he's done!"
"Sereine. This little incident you're telling us about, with Kinman Doriana and his extortions and bribes and you actually deleting Palpatine's accounts from my criminal database? How could you do that? You knew Palpatine was corrupt, and you let him go? If you hadn't, none of this might have happened!"
"Your database was strictly illegal and you knew it. I know you were desperate to rein in Senators like Orn Free Taa, but there was no guarantee it ever would have worked out that way. You were probing people's personal finances without warrants! It could have backfired on you just as easily as them. What Palpatine did then was one incident. I did have an easy time deleting his information, because it wasn't all over that database like some Senators'. And I obviously badly miscalculated what it meant. I badly misread a lot of things, it seems."
"You aren't clairvoyant, Sereine. But you won that first Senatorial campaign for him. It never would have happened without you. And I did have evidence against him and you let him go. Without you, he wouldn't even be here! You owe this galaxy, Sereine, you owe all of us! I don't care about your personal feelings for Palpatine." Here a shadow of pain crossed the former Chancellor's lined face. "You know the truth. You must do something about it."
Lady Valorum began to cry again. "There is good in him...I know there is!" she said. "I can't accept that he's done this. There must be a reason for this, there has to be. I won't help either of you kill him. Don't you think he has a soul to be saved?"
Valorum stared at her in shock. "Sereine...Sereine, this is a bad man, an evil person who started an unnecessary war to -- to -- This is someone who's killed millions of people! How can you even think to protect him? You can't." He glanced over at Anakin. "How can either of you even consider protecting this man?"
Anakin had dropped back into a chair. "I don't know. It overwhelms me. How can someone be so good to me and yet do this? But I can't let you go to the Council. I won't let you do that."
"Just how do you intend to stop me? Are you going to kill me, Jedi Skywalker?"
"No. But I can't let you harm him. And I'm not going to."
Valorum slowly slid his chair back from the table. Slowly got up.
Anakin again. "You can't do this. I'm afraid...I'm afraid I haven't told you both everything."
Finally, he told them all of it. About his prophetic dreams that accurately foretold both his induction into the Jedi Order and his mother's death. About his horrible dreams of Padmé on the birthing table, screaming...suffering. Dying. About the promise of the Sith lord's power to save her.
Finis and Sereine Valorum sat frozen into the early hours of the morning, both white with shock as they listened.
"I can't do it," Anakin finished. "I can't kill my wife and baby, not if there's a chance they may live. And I can't let you kill them."
The silence grew in the room. At last Valorum said, "There is no other way to handle this. You are a Jedi knight. Surely you must see that."
Anakin shook his head. "Arrest him. Arrest him only. I will defend him against anything else."
Valorum shook his head. "No. If
the Jedi move on the Chancellor -- and there is no way they can fail to -- they
have to kill him. Both of you, think.
Sereine, you aren't stupid. Think. There is no way to take him alive.
"If you do nothing, what happens? The war continues. Who knows how many additional powers Palpatine will acquire, how many other ways he could subvert the Constitution before it all ends?
"If the Jedi attempt to arrest him, what happens? Either he will fight...or he won't. If he's meek, if he submits, there will be an absolute uproar in the Senate. We may find this difficult to believe, but they will find it impossible. When that happens, they will turn on the Jedi -- and the Senate and the Chancellor control a million-man clone army! Think -- the Senate loves Palpatine. The people love him. He's nearly the most popular sitting Chancellor in history. If the Jedi turn on Palpatine, and the Senate brings the clones to his aid, think of the popular support they'll have!
"And if he fights! If he fights, it will be that much worse. The Jedi will be forced to defend themselves -- and that will look even more damning! The Jedi Council will look like traitors -- and the clones will be turned on the Jedi. We will have another war, one even more bitter and bloody than this one! At the same time as this one! No. You must see that you have to kill him."
Anakin and Lady Valorum sat in miserable silence.
"The only way there isn't another war and possibly a complete takeover by Palpatine is if he dies. You have to see that!"
"That's...that's uncertain," said Anakin. "Even if I did this. Even if I went to the Council, we only have four masters here we can send to arrest Palpatine. I told you. Palpatine has touched me through the Force...I know how powerful he is. He may be too strong for all four masters put together. And they'd never put anyone less than a highly trained master in play against Lord Sidious. And they shouldn't. They're right to do that."
Valorum held Anakin's look. "Then you must stand with them."
Anakin dropped his gaze, shook his head. "I can't. It's my wife and baby. I can't."
Sereine slid her chair back abruptly, holding both her hands up as if to ward them both off. "Whatever you both do, don't involve me," she said. "I won't help you hurt him. I won't." She walked to the square window over her kitchen sink and looked out. "What is that?"
Anakin joined her. Far below, a crowd of people gathered in the street. Past the window, the airspeeder traffic began to blink their running lights. First one speeder, then three, then all of them.
Valorum caught sight of the blinking speeder lights from his seat at the table. He got up and left the room, and Anakin heard a holovision newscast blare from the sitting room.
In a few moments the former Chancellor returned. "General Obi-Wan Kenobi has defeated General Grievous. The Chancellor's office hasn't announced it to the holomedia, but Jedi Master Windu has. The Chancellor's office was originally scheduling a special session of the Senate for noon, but now it's been pushed back to the fourteenth hour." Valorum shook Anakin by the shoulder. "The Jedi Council is trying to force Palpatine's hand. You must see that!"
Anakin felt it again then -- that cold touch in the Force. And he heard Palpatine, speaking to him as if he were right at Anakin's shoulder. He couldn't stop the shudder that shook him. "Leave me alone!" he shouted back, not caring if the others heard or not.
Lady Valorum turned. "What is it?" she said.
"Palpatine. He spoke to me."
Valorum. "And what did he say to you?"
Beyond hiding anything, Anakin drew a deep breath. "'You must realize, if the Jedi destroy me, any chance of saving her will be lost.'"
Valorum, on one side of him. "And you want to save that. Jedi Skywalker...even if you managed to achieve it, what is his incentive to help you once he's in custody?"
Sereine, on the other side. Exhaling sharply and shaking her head, speaking as if to the sitting Chancellor himself. "Palpatine, Palpatine. You really have no idea, do you?"
Anakin could barely find the strength to turn his head. "About what?"
"Here you and I have been crying and crying all night long, over him. And all he can think to say to you is Padme, Padme, Padme. He really doesn't seem to believe you ever cared anything for him at all, does he?"
Anakin's brain felt dulled, with stress, with shame, with humiliation, with lack of sleep, with sheer disbelief at all that happened in a few short hours. The significance of that remark, if there were any, was lost on him.
Lady Valorum spoke again. "Anakin. What do you want to do? Right here. Right now. What do you want to do?"
Anakin felt his throat tighten with unshed tears. "I want to stop time. Right here, with the sun about to rise on the first morning after the war, and the people celebrating in the streets. Right now, with my pregnant wife and my good friend tucked safely away in their rooms, and I can just close my eyes and go back a few hours in my mind to the time I didn't know this. It feels like it was just a second ago, when Palpatine was just my good and precious friend. I don't even want Padme to have the baby. I just want to stop time. Right here. Right now."
The three of them stood there, watching the speeders flash. Now horns honked, muted by the thick transparisteel.
And then Sereine Valorum gasped.
"Oh! Thank everything that is!"
The two men turned to look at her.
"There's a way! I know how to do it!"
She jumped excitedly, grabbing both Anakin's arm and her husband's. Her whole face transformed, her eyes shining with joy.
"I know how to stop time!"
An APD allegory in the form of a Star Wars fan fiction begins, on the Fiction page. Prologue up, 10/14/18. Chapter Four up, 11/13/18.
Movie Review: Black Swan from a mental illness perspective, on the Op-Ed page. 7/10/18
Supermodel Gia Carangi: Was It Really BPD?
"Gia Carangi was a story all right. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, 10-car-pile-up beauty, high fashion, Eurotrash, big bucks, fast cars, homosexuality, AIDS, an early death…"
—Boston Globe review of Thing of Beauty, Stephen Fried's superb biography of the model.
Gia Carangi. Better known as just Gia, she was arguably the world's first supermodel. Immortalized in Stephen Fried's 1993 biography and the 1998 HBO movie that made Angelina Jolie a breakout star—not to mention the hundreds of classic fashion photos she left behind—Gia is one of our truly timeless beauties.
Gia moved from Philly to New York in the winter of 1978 and became the instant darling of Vogue magazine at eighteen. She seemed poised for greatness—a half million dollar a year modeling career, TV, the movies—the sky was the limit. But she fell victim to heroin abuse. Blackballed from modeling for such offenses as tardiness, no-shows, even shooting up while on set, she fell from grace and suffered a horrible death from AIDS at age twenty-six.
The stories about her are legendary: She once got into a fistfight with Vogue fashion editor Frances Stern. She walked out on a huge Versace fashion shoot with Richard Avedon. She shot up during a bathing suit and summer wear sitting for Vogue and appeared in the magazine with track marks on her arms. Once she shocked everyone on a shoot by appearing on camera with blood running down her arm from injecting heroin.
Openly gay, she pursued women with poetry and bouquets of yellow roses. She once lured a girlfriend into her car and simply took off with her to parts unknown. She climbed to another girlfriend's window stories above a New York street—trying to impress her—rather than use the front door. There are darker tales of violent arguments with girlfriends, of stealing to buy drugs, even from her own mother. An altercation at an airport over a knife, dangerous car chases with the police…What drove Gia to such extreme and desperate behavior?
Almost thirty years after her death, her growing cult of fans rivals those of Elvis or Marilyn Monroe for sheer devotion. But with all the attention that's been given to the details of her life, the PD Reader only wants to know one thing: Why hasn't Gia's real problem ever been named? For if her life story isn't screaming out, "Help me, I have borderline personality disorder!" we don't know whose is.
What is borderline personality disorder?
For that matter, what is a "personality disorder", period? Borderline PD expert Shari Y. Manning is the author of Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, one of the best borderline books around (remember her name…we'll come back to this author a lot in our discussion of Gia).
Dr. Manning writes that someone with a personality disorder "exhibits a chronic pattern of behaviors that are based in his or her personality, which means essentially that they affect everything: moods, actions, and relationships." Personality disorders are classified as "Axis II" on the five "axes" of mental health disorders, meaning they are chronic, usually lifelong. (The other occupant on this lonely axis is mental retardation.) This would be opposed to most of the mental health disorders you commonly hear about, such as depression or bipolar, where the symptoms tend to come and go, leaving the person "normal" (if there is such a thing) between episodes. Often an episode of depression or bipolar mania can be battled into submission with medication. Not so the personality disorders.
Manning tells us that the central feature of BPD is a biochemical abnormality in the brain that is present at birth. A borderline person’s emotional response to just about any stimulus flies right off the chart compared to the emotion a person without BPD would usually feel in the same situation. A BP’s day is full of huge, huge highs and incomparable lows. A quote from Sharon Beverly, from Stephen Fried’s Thing of Beauty, illustrates well what we’re talking about here. Sharon was Gia’s first big love; they dated in Philadelphia in the mid-seventies when Gia was still in high school.
Fried writes, “It was immediately clear to Sharon that Gia had no emotional middle. ‘She was an extremist, and she found emotions traumatically hard to deal with,’ Sharon said. ‘There was a very sad side of her. It wasn’t a sadness that was really blatant—she was always in a good mood, always joking—but it was there. She always questioned why she would get upset. She felt that she had a very rough life and felt that it took a lot of energy to deal with the world as it was. She could never pinpoint where the unhappiness came from, just something inside of her that she could never satisfy. I don’t think she was talking about her parents. I don’t even think she meant anything that tangible was rough. She just meant living and thinking and breathing and having to mentally deal with waking up and living was a hard thing for her.’”
Sounds an awful lot like Marilyn Monroe and the late Princess Diana, doesn’t it? These are two other famous women with BPD—also extremely beautiful, also adored for the electricity that comes across to the viewer in their photographs; for the way they communicated exclusively through the printed photograph. Well-known for that neediness, that wistful quality of sadness and longing that made people around them want to take care of them. If you have read as much about borderline personality disorder as we have here at the PD Reader, you know that this quote by Sharon Beverly describes the internal experience of BPD perfectly, as well as the feeling BP’s often inspire in those around them.
A BP can become so upset or angry over a relatively small issue that he or she can’t control his or her behavior. The borderline behaves inappropriately and gets a negative reaction from the people around him or her—people important to the BP, parents, friends, teachers, or employers. Then the BP feels ashamed. After all, the message he or she is getting from absolutely everyone is that he or she shouldn’t have felt that way and should be able to control his or her behavior. But the problem, documented by modern medicine with MRI’s and PET scans, is that the BP can’t. Maddeningly, BP symptoms are often situational—in this arena or with this person, the BP performs well, but in that arena or with that person, the BP cannot.
People are born with varying degrees of susceptibility to the extreme emotional sensitivities of BPD. On one end of the spectrum are those whose ability to regulate emotion is so impaired that even the calmest home environment, with the most competent and compassionate parenting, isn’t enough to prevent these children from having severe adjustment and mental health issues in adolescence and as young adults.
Then there are those with a milder susceptibility to the disorder. If these children experience excellent parenting and a good fit between themselves and their environments at home and school, BPD may never develop to the point that the individual meets the criteria for a formal diagnosis. But raise the same children in environments where parents are unable to meet their needs—whether through abandonment situations such as illness or divorce, or outright emotional, sexual, or physical abuse—and a child who otherwise could have been fine turns out to have full-blown BPD.
Gia's family history sounds something like this. From Thing of Beauty: "...Joey, Michael [Gia's older brothers], and Gia were often left to their own devices. 'It was real peanut-butter-for-breakfast time, at least from the way Gia described it,' recalled one friend. 'Nobody was paying attention to those kids.'
"'We could've used some disclipine,' said Michael. 'Every child needs it. We were allowed to do what we wanted. I could stay out as long as I wanted and nobody would know. I don't think my parents ever talked to us about sex. In the back of your mind, you want discipline, you want to be told stuff by your parents--just to know that they care and that they know what you might be going through. Gia was the youngest, the breakup affected her the worst. And I feel girls need more attention than boys anyhow.'" Fried also quotes Gia's aunt Nancy Adams: "Kathleen [Sperr, Gia's mother] was driving up there [to New York, where Gia was just making it big in modeling in the late '70's] to do Gia's laundry...When Gia and her brothers were kids, their mother wouldn't do anything for them. They had to get up themselves, they had to do their own clothes. Now Gia's a model, and she's driving to New York to do her laundry for her."
Gia's mother, Kathleen, left the family when Gia was eleven. When she remarried the next year, Fried tells us, her children did not even find out about it until after the wedding.
Mental health clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose BPD and all other mental and emotional illnesses. At this writing, BPD is still diagnosed using the nine diagnostic criteria in DSM-IV-TR, and will be until DSM-V is published in May of 2013. Until then, the DSM-IV criteria are what we've got, so let's look at them one by one and see if, and how, Gia fits. Next...Criterion 1.