PROLOGUE: Revenge of
-Midway through the Clone Wars-
Jedi knighting ceremonies made insular affairs, Chancellor Palpatine -- the Sith Lord Darth Sidious -- reflected. Only Jedi knights were allowed to attend -- knights, and anyone close to the graduating padawans whom the padawans wished to invite. And Jedi padawans were never close to anyone except other Jedi. Palpatine was the first Supreme Chancellor to attend a knighting in many decades -- and the only practicing Sith to attend one, ever.
Padmé Amidala Skywalker had run into him at the entrance to the Jedi Temple's great Convocation Hall. Together they stood through interminable singing, chanting, lighting of torches, and various processionals down the center aisle. The ceremony did not allow for anyone to sit -- some foolish Jedi custom intended to Honor The Force We All Serve. And to discourage attendance by non-Jedi, no doubt.
Lady Skywalker had obviously been cautioned to discard her ornate headdresses and pounds of petticoats in favor of something more comfortable. Her green velvet gown, appropriately somber, showed off her tiny waist to perfection. Even so, after about an hour she started shifting from foot to foot, and Palpatine -- Master Sidious -- having been through more trials of physical privation than this tender little creature could even imagine, gazed respectfully ahead and managed to hold back a smile. Just.
The vast marble hall, dark except for evenly spaced torches on the walls, sloped gently down to a softly lit stage on which the padawans, one by one, now lit candles and recited a name, for each candle, of a person they felt had been instrumental to their success, a form of thanks before the ritual severing of the braid.
The technology of the ceremony seemed deliberately simple, perhaps in deference to tradition. Anakin had told him that the ritual shears were fifteen hundred years old, kept in mint condition, and used only for this ceremony. Each padawan walked on from stage right, lit his candles among a forest of them preplaced on the stage, knelt for the braid cutting, was dubbed a knight, and then exited stage left.
Palpatine spied Anakin next in line, and this time could not keep the smile from his lips. Once and for the last time in the history of their wretched order, a Jedi would receive his knighthood after publicly thanking a Sith.
The padawan ahead of Anakin was dubbed a knight. While he knelt on the stage and his master severed his braid, Anakin looked in Palpatine's direction, caught sight of someone, and smiled. Probably me, Palpatine thought. No one could see little Amidala from that distance. Anakin started across the stage as the previous padawan left, bowed his head with appropriate gravity as his name was announced, then walked to the candle stands and lit a lucifer from the last candle lit.
He began lighting his own candles, a small grouping of five.
One. "Master Obi-Wan Kenobi," he said. Two. "Master Yoda." Three. "Master Bant."
Palpatine was becoming annoyed.
Four. "Senator Padmé Amidala."
Five. "Master Qui-Gon Jinn."
And Anakin Skywalker blew out his lucifer and knelt on the stage. Obi-Wan Kenobi approached him bearing the ritual gold shears.
A slow heat suffused Palpatine, sweeping from his very toes to the tips of his hair. Blackhearted little -- How did he dare?
Just for the sheer man-hours he'd spent consoling the padawan's whining, Palpatine deserved more than anyone else to be mentioned on that stage. Where could Anakin be counted upon to show up when he was unhappy? It certainly wasn't Senator Amidala's. Abruptly Palpatine remembered himself, and endeavored to keep his anger from showing on his face.
Anakin Skywalker was no Jedi, that was certain. Gratitude was so far from that selfish little heart that, when Palpatine willed it, the dark side would come pouring in.
And then, Sidious thought, glancing at all the Jedi standing packed around him, he will help me murder every one of you.
Late that evening, Palpatine sat at his computer console in his private office, scanning the day's headlines. A time-consuming task, but until he was able to place the entire holonet under the control of the Supreme Chancellor's Office, a necessary one. He had staffers whose job it was to cull the most interesting items for him.
He flipped rapidly through the stories until a familiar face stopped him. One finger absentmindedly covering his top lip, he slowly sank forwards toward his holoprojector.
As beautiful as ever, he thought coolly, except for that hideous gray in her hair.
Palpatine certainly would never have tolerated that.
She had only given one interview in her life, and that one to help advance the career of a journalist friend. Oddly enough, she used this one to say the most laudatory things about Palpatine, his performance as Chancellor, and his conduct of the war. As he watched, the reason became more and more difficult to discern. Was this a shrewd means of pleading with him for her husband's life -- or did she really believe what she was saying?
If she did, the picture that sprang to the Master's mind of the resulting state of her married life gave Palpatine his first good laugh of the week. He turned off the holovid feed, chuckling to himself.
The only reason Finis Valorum could ever have married her in the first place was that he, Sidious, had allowed it.
Lord Sidious pushed a button on his armchair console.
His door chime rang and Sate Pestage, his trusted aide, stepped in. "Yes, master?"
"This matter of the Star of Iskin freighter crash. I'm afraid that the one passenger we intended to eliminate survived."
"I apologize, master."
"No, no apologies. Just make certain this gets done. He's had entirely too much contact with Mothma and Organa lately to suit us.
"Former Chancellor Finis Valorum must not leave that hospital alive."
"Master." Pestage bowed. Then he said, "I was about to message you in any case, my lord. Anakin Skywalker is here to see you. He sends you an apology for the lateness of the hour."
Palpatine frowned. How much more would this brat put him through before it would all pay off? He checked his chrono, hesitating, then heaved an exasperated sigh. "Show him in."
He put his forehead briefly in his hand as he waited, and shook his head. Now what?
Skywalker's voice startled him. "Chancellor?"
Pestage had left the door open. Palpatine jerked his head up. "Anakin. Welcome."
"Are -- are you all right, sir? You looked tired."
Palpatine forced a smile. "I am, a bit, I suppose. Allow me to congratulate you again, my friend. An honor long overdue."
"Chancellor," said Anakin, biting his lip. "I'm sorry I'm here so late. When I thought about this, I had to -- I had to apologize."
"Apologize?" said Palpatine, a distinctly uncomfortable feeling stirring in his gut. "Why, whatever have you done to give offense?"
"I think..." The boy could hardly look at him. "I think I mentioned everyone of importance to me on that stage today, but you. When Padmé pointed it out, I just -- I don't know what I was thinking."
Palpatine tried to stop the boy by holding up a hand. "Anakin, please. There's no need, especially at the twenty-second hour."
"Please, sir." The boy's voice sounded strained. "There is a need. You do so much for so many, and you're so tired, and -- I know I have to be a burden to you."
A spark of satisfaction. A true Sith, indeed. He can't even apologize without asking me for something!
The lie rose easily to his lips, as lies so often did these days. "Now, Anakin, you've never been a burden to me. You musn't -- "
"No, sir, please, just listen."
Palpatine stopped and waitied, peering across his holovid projector while the boy squirmed in front of him. Anakin, Anakin. Couldn't Kenobi at least have taught you some manners?
And then Anakin dropped his gaze to the floor, quieted himself, wet his lips, and looked up.
"I may have forgotten you, sir, but only for a moment -- that's all. You, more than anyone else, know how hard my training has been for me. There were times, if you hadn't been here to talk to, I don't know what I'd have done. You're the one who really got me through all this, not Obi-Wan."
Were those actual tears in Anakin's eyes? Now Palpatine wanted to squirm -- and couldn't.
"I really love you, sir," Anakin burst out. "You're the closest thing I have to a father. And I -- I want you to have this." His voice quavered. "I'll never forget what you've meant to me these past, almost twelve years, sir. That's a promise."
Anakin approached, laid something on the desk, and backed away again.
Palpatine scarcely noticed what it was. Anger and irritation writhed like eels in his gut; heat broke over the nape of his neck and poured sweat down his back. He forced himself to sit stock still, forced back that angry narrowing at the corners of his eyes that his former campaign manager had often chided him about. Only one finger belied his tension, tracing fitful circles on the arm of his chair.
He bit the words out. "Thank you, Anakin Skywalker. Thank you." Keep it short. He could tell the boy wanted to leave, too.
"Good night, sir." Anakin bowed from the waist, and left.
Palpatine's thoughts scattered like so much scrambled eggs, with absolutely no control. Anger was of the dark side, but sometimes, without warning, control left him, even though the dark side was still very much present.
Thank Darkness it wasn't very often. All Palpatine understood was that it was awful, and that he must regain control of the wild anger that howled in his mind as quickly as possible.
He was angry at Skywalker. Yes, that was it. The boy was much too attached to him. No, it wasn't strictly forbidden, and yes, Sith had done it, but -- those Sith had never amounted to very much. Those Sith were lowly Scholars who had never amounted to anything.
Palpatine got up and paced around his study. That was the problem with apprentices, they always tried to attach to the person training them. Maul had done it. Sidious had tried to prevent it, but he had failed utterly. Approval, approval -- Maul had bent himself over backward for his approval, which was really, Sidious realized now, nothing more than a disguised form of that bastard light. Sidious had been as cruel as he knew how, and still Maul had craved it.
He had thought he could do better with someone he hadn't raised. Yan Dooku was old enough to be his father, and still the blasted attachment was there. This time it was a shadow of that infernal Jedi training that stubbornly refused to die, no matter what Sidious tried. He foresaw that, somehow, the old man would have a clear chance to kill him and would pass it up, electing to save Sidious's life instead. A student who felt that kind of devotion would never reach his full potential as a Sith. Failure to progress, Lord Bane always called it with a sneer, and he was right.
That that very failure would preserve his own life posed a conundrum Palpatine had yet to answer.
Palpatine paused by the window. Perhaps only he and Lord Bane had solved the attachment question entirely. No -- only Sidious had. Lord Bane had founded the Sith Order and thus had had no one to attach to. Sidious used Lord Bane's opinions as a guide, and he did crave his approval, but only as a means to tread the correct path. Bane himself could leave the Burial Temple and be lost to the dark side, for all Sidious cared. Not that he would actually try to bring about such a thing, out of respect for the Fallen Masters who had trained him...but then Sidious would never suffer entrapment in that accursed place, to begin with.
And if he ever should, he would reign over them all. That would be akin to grinding the great Bane under his boot heel, and that was enough for Sidious. Some things were sacred, even to a Sith.
He smiled. His breathing fell quiet, and his limbs had stilled their trembling. He was back in control. He felt better.
And then his gaze fell upon his desk. There lay a length of braided hair, tied neatly at both ends -- the severed padawan braid of Anakin Skywalker.
What it must have cost the boy to leave this here with him! A Jedi padawan owned nothing, the ritual braid severed at his knighting his most precious gift. Usually the new knight's former master was its recipient. Kenobi must certainly be wondering where it was right now. And young Lady Skywalker, too.
Palpatine's fists clenched reflexively as the twin eels began their dance in his gut again. He itched to do something, anything. A couple of MagnaGuards had just arrived in the Works; he had ordered them sent from the Invisible Hand. No master should ever be out of practice with the lightsaber.
He stalked through his rooms to collect the appropriate garments and one of his lightsabers, took the lift into the subbasement, and let himself out into the night.
Two days later Sate Pestage reported to the Chancellor's private office.
"I bring you...unfortunate news, master. It seems that upon regaining consciousness, former Chancellor Valorum had his wife move him...somewhere. I've searched for two days, and I can't find him."
Palpatine scowled. "Continue your search."
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.