Tag Archives: Quiet Rooms

Question?: Pdd Symptoms

Chris asks…

Do you have or have you known someone who has Autism?

I have the disorder known as Atypical Autism. The symptoms that I notice the most in myself are that I seem to lack the ability to empathize with others and I am on the negative end of the spectrum when it comes to socializing.

If you have autism, what parts of it effect you the most…
What part of Autism do you find to be the most debilitating..

admin answers:

Atypical autism is another name for PDD-NOS or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. I have high functioning autism, and I am a sophomore in college majoring in microbiology and neurobiology. What effects me the most is reading social cues and sensory sensitivity. I can’t easily detect whether or not a person is being sincere or sarcastic and I have been taken advantage of because of that. I also have extreme sensitivity to sound. I cannot focus if someone is tapping, I process all sounds at once and cannot ignore any of it. It can lead to a meltdown occasionally. For that reason I have accommodations that allow me to take exams in quiet rooms with white noise headphones. I love pressure and use the squeeze machine invented by Temple Grandin a lot. If you haven’t tried it, you have to. It is Ecstasy to feel the squeeze and it calms me down a lot. For some reason my parents didn’t tell me about my autism until I was 16. I wish they would have done so earlier, up until then. I just assumed I was a bad person. Now I use my insight on autism to improve standards at an autistic school I work at part time

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Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother

Second Page: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother
Posted on Monday, April 09 @ 20:55:11 EDT by WrongPlanet Tips WARNNG: Wrong Planet is a family friendly site. However, the following article by columnist Scotty Holman touches on a very sensitive subject that may not be suitable for children or other people who are uncomfortable reading about abuse. Reader discretion is advised.

*”All is caprice. They love without measure those whom they will soon hate without reason.” – Thomas Sydenham, seventeenth-century physician, describing patients he referred to as “hystericks.”*

My mother was truly beautiful. I don’t say that as a proud son eager to lavish her with published praise. She was beautiful – that is a fact. Breathtaking as she may have been, she was also irreparably damaged, the product of an age-old pattern; the lovely and pure are victimized by bitter parasites who suck away every obtainable drop of innocence, thirsty, perhaps, for their own long lost purity.

Read All the King’s Horses


Such a predator forever devastated my mother, and consequently, myself. In quiet rooms he skillfully unthreaded her psyche as if it were a rag doll in his callous, elderly hands. She fell into pieces each time the final thread was mercilessly pulled loose. Yet her grandfather’s thirst was unquenchable. Her grief and shame were not enough to satiate his compulsion to dominate and desecrate.

The abuse continued in secret for nearly ten years. Her childhood innocence was stolen from her at a mere two years of age, the instant she first shuddered at his unwelcome touch. Her mind, however, split apart a little at a time, until her identity was finally and forever shattered. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

My mother’s sexual abuse left her, somehow, less than human… not a real woman, whole and centered, but a complex puzzle with too many pieces to ever be assembled. Though internally deranged, she cultivated a flawless public image of self-empowered, yet domestically inclined womanhood. So flashy… so charming… so empty…

She was only a caricature drawn in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, smudging and fading a bit more every day. I needed someone to protect and reassure me… unfortunately, so did she.

My dearly deranged mother has Borderline Personality Disorder, a mysterious condition characterized by instability in interpersonal relationships, fragmented self-image, intense fear of rejection, ceaseless manipulation, seemingly arbitrary and often violent outbursts, etc…

According to the nationally best selling book, “I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me.” by Jerold J. Kreisman, MD, and Hal Straus, “The borderline shifts her personality like a rotating kaleidoscope, rearranging the fragmented glass of her being into different formations – each collage different, yet each, her. Like a chameleon, the borderline transforms herself into any shape that she imagines will please the viewer.”

The fragments of my mother’s identity took center stage one at a time, each utterly unique characters in a baffling one-woman show. Her fractured performances typically dazzled and charmed the members of her gullible audience. They were also deeply painful and disorienting for those in closer proximity to the stage. I had the only backstage pass. My childhood was marked by unwilling, captive voyeurism. I was the sole witness of my mother’s private madness and all-consuming sexual shame.

Publicly, she was a champagne-sweet butterfly of grace and social finesse. She fooled them all so well, night after night, show after show… Each time the curtain fell and the audience applauded their approval, I forced myself to swallow the tell-tale vomit threatening to spew from my mouth. My mother has never been onstage a day in her life… but Laurence Olivier himself could not have outperformed her when she interacted with the public world, donning one carefully crafted persona after another.

Like any child, oblivious to the vast diversity of life outside their immediate domestic environment, I believed all mothers were like mine. I was an adolescent before I began to comprehend the severity of my childhood abuse. By that time my mother had lost all memory of her frequent, unpredictable episodes of violent, degrading, and perversely inventive abuse.

She now tells me that I, “greatly exaggerate the mere handful of times she even punished me.” When she says this, I know that she is not lying… not intentionally. She has repressed and forgotten those shameful memories. This shouldn’t be surprising. She also lost all memory of her sexual abuse for a ten year period, beginning when the years of molestation finally ended (puberty and the development of a womanly figure saved her from the old man’s perverse interest). Shortly after my birth, her long dormant memories erupted to the surface. My childhood was marked by her freshly unearthed sexual shame and the blinding delirium of her hysterical identity crisis.

One study, “Biparental failure in the childhood experiences of borderline patients” (Zanarini MC, Frankenburg FR, Reich DB, et al) proposes that, “Patients with BPD have been found to be significantly more likely to report having been verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually abused by caregivers of either gender. There has also been a high incidence of incest and loss of caregivers in early childhood for people with borderline personality disorder.”

It would be decades before I was finally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Autistic children are not especially adept at walking on eggshells, and my mother had a way of laying them thoroughly over every available walking space. One wrong word, or gesture, a compliment paid to the wrong person, a sudden bout of food poisoning and my ensuing neediness… would send her into a blind rage.

Prestigious psychologist, Marsha Linehan, a foremost expert on the subject has stated, “Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree-burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering.”

Before anyone uses my story as supportive evidence for the long debunked “refrigerator mother” theory of autism causation, I must explicitly state that my childhood mistreatment is in no way related to my diagnosis. My mother’s abuse may have exacerbated my developmental delays, but could not possibly be responsible for my infantile verbosity, perseveration, mild savantism, hyperlexia, dyscalculia, synesthesia, or any other of my longstanding symptoms commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders. Ironically enough, I believe I acquired otherwise unattainable social skills as a direct result of my mother’s personality disorder.

People often ask me how I learned to intuitively understand and respond to the shifting emotions of others despite my autism. I’ve always avoided this question because the answer is both uncomfortable and alarming – I had to learn to read my mother’s labile moods or I would be beaten senseless. Understanding the emotions of others was not merely an elusive social advantage, but an essential survival skill.

One of my family’s favorite home videos is footage of me at four years-old, struggling to break free of my mother’s embrace as I watch my father drive away for another nine month absence from my life. My face is red and streaked with tears as I scream, “Daddy, don’t go!” My father has always believed this to be a home video testament of my love for him. I’ve never had the heart to tell him that it is merely evidence of the overwhelming terror I felt each time he left me alone with my mother.

Worse than the physical abuse, was the constant blaming, shaming and emotional invalidation I experienced. After hurling me down the stairs or forcing me to lick up my own vomit, my mother would draw me close to her and coo in my ear, “Oh, Scotty boy, quit whining. You don’t have it so bad. When I was your age my grandpa would take my favorite stuffed koala bear. I’d go looking for it, but would find him instead. Then do you know what he’d do to me?”

I do know. I knew at five years-old and I know now. Those detailed stories clawed their way deeply inside my memory, forever altering my development. “I never told you about that stuff,” my mother will insist. She may believe she is speaking the truth, but I know better. I have merely to mention her koala bear and she will be instantly frozen in sudden, dissociated shock, returning moments later in a slight daze, a rapid change of subject ready on her tongue.

I have no doubts that my mother’s illness is directly related to her traumatic upbringing. Perry et. al’s “Neurobiological Analysis of Early Trauma,” reinforces this speculation yet again, “…despite being distanced from threat and the original trauma, the stress-response apparatus of the child’s brain is activated again and again.”

This would suggest that BPD is more closely related to chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than the classic personality disorders. But why the continued pattern of abuse from generation to generation?

Matthew Huston’s book, “Borderline: Walking the Line,” offers an eloquent explanation, “BPD doesn’t just affect the one who receives the diagnosis; it often leaves a wake of turmoil through entire families as the emotional and relational disturbances ripple outward.

When a role model treats you as an extension of herself?there to meet her needs?the trauma can be long lasting. It takes a very strong person to overcome the effects, let alone maintain a constructive relationship with the parent.”

Why, you may wonder, do I feel the need to share such intimate and distressing details with the world? Because nothing in my life, long riddled with extraordinary tragedy, has induced more profound psychic disturbance than my mother’s mental instability. I’m purging myself… my words here are vomit, the expulsion of a poison long sickening my stomach.

If I’ve let the cat out of the bag, I feel no shame for doing so. There is a sickness in secrecy. My mother experienced ten years of sexual abuse for the sake of keeping up appearances and maintaining the family’s integrity. I don’t claim to be polite – fuck polite. I will be shamelessly transparent. Enough has been swept under the rug while my family disintegrated.

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, “Family members often feel mystified and exhausted by their relative’s illness. The intense mood swings and anger outbursts can be frightening and disruptive… It is not unusual for relatives and spouses of BPD individuals to feel depressed themselves, and to struggle with feelings of guilt, shame and helplessness.”

When my mother was at her best, she was the most delightful, doting, spontaneous, and fun-loving woman, with the inflated optimism of a child and the attentive nature of the maternal ideal. What’s more, she was cool! She taught me how to dress, interact with my peers, and climb the adolescent social ladder. Grateful as I am for this specialized instruction, I know now that her motives had little to do with my own happiness. Her bottomless insecurity demanded a picture perfect family. She forcefully assembled her husband and children as one would each article of clothing in the perfect outfit. If a blouse, skirt or child failed to please her, they were quickly discarded.

Will my family ever heal? Can BPD be cured? Interventions and therapy are difficult to come by as this condition is highly stigmatized and avoided by many medical professionals. Treatment is made nearly impossible by the profound self-deception at the core of the patient’s disorder.

Bitter as I often am, I still understand my mother’s utter inability to control or recognize her behavior. I cast no blame on her – she couldn’t help the way she treated me. She was a product of her conditioning. Aren’t we all?

It has taken me 25 years to realize that I am nobody’s king, possess neither horses nor men, and will never be able to put my mother back together again. I’d love to see her restored to the complete and stable woman I’ve never known and likely never will. But her mental and emotional renewal is outside my control. I can only hope that by courageously relating these darkest experiences of my troubled life, I may raise awareness of a stigmatized illness. Perhaps by scattering the seeds of my words, I will miraculously plant a germinating bit of inspiration in the mind of someone, somewhere, destined to outperform royalty, equestrian and human effort… someone who may one day manage to put a truly beautiful – and perhaps not so irreparably damaged – woman back together again.
               
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Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by ThinkTrees Monday, April 09 @ 21:18:50 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) Thankyou. So helpful – beyond measure – that you’ve expressed this, shared this. My mother is described & explained in full, and a great burden has been lifted as a result.
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by sunshower Monday, April 09 @ 22:01:54 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) Beautifully written. It takes great courage to share something so personal with the world.
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by idlewild Monday, April 09 @ 22:11:48 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message | Journal) I know that was difficult to write. As another abuse survivor, I understand what you mean by learning to understand emotion as a survival skill.
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by Ria1989 Monday, April 09 @ 22:46:57 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) Sexual abuse runs in my family and it has wreaked havoc on everyone around. I completely understand why you felt the need to repair people; it’s a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped. Unfortunately, my primary abuser was female, which made it harder to tell to anyone. People expect men to do it, but that’s not always true.

Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by Bram Tuesday, April 10 @ 11:13:38 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) It’s strange how everybody assumes that abuse runs in families because it’s lead to by childhood trauma. Humans have a natural instinct to care for their children, if they aren’t doing it, it likely means that something’s wrong with their brain, and whatever’s broken in them can get passed on genetically to their children. It’s also possible that your condition is a different expression of the same underlying issue as hers, sparing the brain regions she has messed up while causing problems in others. You should consider the possibility that your mother’s memories of childhood abuse may be embellished, manufactured (as in she remembers them and believes them to be real but they never happened) or just plain made up. Anyone who would make their kid lick up vomit loses the presumption that they’re too ethical to make up stories of childhood abuse. I had dealings with a borderline whose stories of childhood trauma got increasingly more interesting over time, although she was scrupulous to always tell the same story to the same person. My assumption now is that her stories had no basis in reality whatsoever. The prognosis for personality disorders is generally quite poor, although dialectical behavioral therapy has proven to have some efficacy for treating borderline personality disorder.
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by Weiss_Yohji Tuesday, April 10 @ 13:57:59 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) Abusers like that deserve nothing less than to be hunted down and executed in public. Why allow these non-human bastards to live? THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO LIVE! EXTERMINATE EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM! NEVER ALLOW THESE SAVAGES TO LIVE! THEIR LIVES HAVE NO VALUE AT ALL AND THEY MUST BE WIPED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH, DOWN TO THE VERY LAST ONE!
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by jojobean Tuesday, April 10 @ 14:18:51 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) Scotty, I am sorry to hear that you and your mother suffered so much. One of my loved ones has BPD and she is alot like your mother, but not quite as extreme physically. However, her tongue is like a sword that she inflicts mortal wounds to the soul with. Everyone tells me she loves me and I am her favorite…I dont see that. Everything is about the outward image. I hope she never has kids. Anyway, part of healing is no longer residing in secretcy…I am glad you are able to express it and give hope to those who suffer from abuse the way you have. I hope you continue to heal and free yourself from the psycholoical labrynth of your childhood. Jojo




Sharing this must have been incredibly tough – it makes you very courageous. I don’t know what else to say except for: beautiful writing.
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by Justice001 Wednesday, April 11 @ 09:32:08 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) As a family member, I know for a fact that Scott’s mother DID NOT give permission for this article to be written! Scott’s opinion and what he believes to be true is completely inaccurate!
Cathartic and controversial essay (Score: 1)
by PaintingDiva Wednesday, April 11 @ 11:26:02 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) I dunno. I see from family members of Mr. Holman’s family and family friends who posted here, that not everyone agrees with his version of his childhood. He does write beautifully if a bit over the top, a good editor would do wonders here. I call this the Dr. Phil, Oprahfication, and who is that other guy? Jerry Springering of writing and sharing. Evidently Mr. Holman is confident that his mother will not sue him for libel. I get his story, and since he has family members disagreeing and chiding him for publishing this, I am going to think of it as hyper realism, dramatic, writing not necessarily non fiction. He spilled his guts here and his mother’s too. I don’t much care for it. He should get busy and write a novel and leave his mother alone. Really. I saw my brother eviscerate our mother in the 1980s when it was trendy to call your parents toxic. All with the help of his so called therapist. Did my mother have issues? Oh yes, yes indeed, she was probably undiagnosed bi-polar and god knows what else. But at the end of the day I found my brother’s behavior destructive, self centered and he never forgave her and it was pretty horrible to witness. Then he had the unbelievable reaction of being surprised when she cut him out of her will. Scott needs to work on that forgiveness thing and fast or this will eat him up alive long term, never mind what it is doing to his family. Just saying. And exactly what this has to with autism I am really not at all sure.
I have NEVER written a more honest piece than this and any family member who feels this is a fabrication should ask themselves, “Where were you my entire childhood? Did you witness those nine torturous months when my father was away? I begged my dad to make it stop. He called me a liar. He still does. I guess blood doesn’t mean much. I stand by every word.
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by blueroses Wednesday, April 11 @ 12:08:30 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) I don’t see how judging and attacking Scott are helping anything. If these comments are really from ‘concerned family members’ and not trolls, maybe it might be good to have these conversations in a group therapy setting, as opposed to mud-slinging on the Internet.
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by techstepgenr8tion Wednesday, April 11 @ 15:38:34 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) Scott, extremely good article. To date I’d never really had a sense of BPD nor anyone close to me, I’d had family members with bipolar of the variety which can cause similarly unpredictable traits but never BPD directly. I also think that the responses here and your responses to them speak volumes. To read through that and see the mention that so many doctors won’t treat it, deal with it, adhere to ‘stigma’ surrounding it, just goes to show that our society is still of the mindset that when it creates wreckage it has every inclination to try to sweep it under the carpet, pretend it doesn’t exist, and even directly attacking it – acting as if they very beings ‘it’ created (for lack of a better expression) are somehow inherently inferior or deserve what is happening to them. Again – great article and thanks for sharing. I think having people come forward with these kinds of stories with as much clarity on the subject and the person are paramount in getting people in such situations the help and treatment they need.
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by Kalinda Wednesday, April 11 @ 20:34:56 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) My mother took her borderline out on me, told me similar stories when I was about 8, I was also highly intellectual. At one point I hit breaking point and my parents took me to a doctor who labeled me with schizophrenia. I’ve never believed I have schizophrenia, but traumatic experiences have induced psychotic features in my personality if I don’t take this stuff I’ve been taking for about 5 years. It’s easy for an Aspie to own his/her illness, but not for someone with schizophrenia. part of this has to do with the name itself, and the method of treatment, and the grouping of symptoms it is a catch22. I’ve never been like your stereotypical schizophrenic but I have had a couple manic depressive episodes due to traumatic experiences. My worst symptoms are spaciness. I’m afraid to depersonalize and lose focus. Sometimes I wonder if these diagnoses are cultural memes, like what if your genes store memories too? At least I’m not borderline!
Re: Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother (Score: 1)
by Vomelche Thursday, April 12 @ 00:52:27 EDT
(User Info | Send a Message) Those who dont believe the story are either self-denial abuse victims or have no clue what real abuse is. The typical stigma associated with mental illness, unfortunately mostly due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the subject. Mental illness is often invisible and overlooked as an attempt to draw attention to oneself. Good thing bullying and abuse awareness is slowly coming around.

View the original article here

Scotty Holman: All the King’s Horses: Shattered Memories of a Borderline Mother

WARNNG: Wrong Planet is a family friendly site. However, the following article by columnist Scotty Holman touches on a very sensitive subject that may not be suitable for children or other people who are uncomfortable reading about abuse. Reader discretion is advised.

*”All is caprice. They love without measure those whom they will soon hate without reason.” – Thomas Sydenham, seventeenth-century physician, describing patients he referred to as “hystericks.”*

My mother was truly beautiful. I don’t say that as a proud son eager to lavish her with published praise. She was beautiful – that is a fact. Breathtaking as she may have been, she was also irreparably damaged, the product of an age-old pattern; the lovely and pure are victimized by bitter parasites who suck away every obtainable drop of innocence, thirsty, perhaps, for their own long lost purity.

Read All the King’s Horses


Such a predator forever devastated my mother, and consequently, myself. In quiet rooms he skillfully unthreaded her psyche as if it were a rag doll in his callous, elderly hands. She fell into pieces each time the final thread was mercilessly pulled loose. Yet her grandfather’s thirst was unquenchable. Her grief and shame were not enough to satiate his compulsion to dominate and desecrate.

The abuse continued in secret for nearly ten years. Her childhood innocence was stolen from her at a mere two years of age, the instant she first shuddered at his unwelcome touch. Her mind, however, split apart a little at a time, until her identity was finally and forever shattered. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

My mother’s sexual abuse left her, somehow, less than human… not a real woman, whole and centered, but a complex puzzle with too many pieces to ever be assembled. Though internally deranged, she cultivated a flawless public image of self-empowered, yet domestically inclined womanhood. So flashy… so charming… so empty…

She was only a caricature drawn in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, smudging and fading a bit more every day. I needed someone to protect and reassure me… unfortunately, so did she.

My dearly deranged mother has Borderline Personality Disorder, a mysterious condition characterized by instability in interpersonal relationships, fragmented self-image, intense fear of rejection, ceaseless manipulation, seemingly arbitrary and often violent outbursts, etc…

According to the nationally best selling book, “I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me.” by Jerold J. Kreisman, MD, and Hal Straus, “The borderline shifts her personality like a rotating kaleidoscope, rearranging the fragmented glass of her being into different formations – each collage different, yet each, her. Like a chameleon, the borderline transforms herself into any shape that she imagines will please the viewer.”

The fragments of my mother’s identity took center stage one at a time, each utterly unique characters in a baffling one-woman show. Her fractured performances typically dazzled and charmed the members of her gullible audience. They were also deeply painful and disorienting for those in closer proximity to the stage. I had the only backstage pass. My childhood was marked by unwilling, captive voyeurism. I was the sole witness of my mother’s private madness and all-consuming sexual shame.

Publicly, she was a champagne-sweet butterfly of grace and social finesse. She fooled them all so well, night after night, show after show… Each time the curtain fell and the audience applauded their approval, I forced myself to swallow the tell-tale vomit threatening to spew from my mouth. My mother has never been onstage a day in her life… but Laurence Olivier himself could not have outperformed her when she interacted with the public world, donning one carefully crafted persona after another.

Like any child, oblivious to the vast diversity of life outside their immediate domestic environment, I believed all mothers were like mine. I was an adolescent before I began to comprehend the severity of my childhood abuse. By that time my mother had lost all memory of her frequent, unpredictable episodes of violent, degrading, and perversely inventive abuse.

She now tells me that I, “greatly exaggerate the mere handful of times she even punished me.” When she says this, I know that she is not lying… not intentionally. She has repressed and forgotten those shameful memories. This shouldn’t be surprising. She also lost all memory of her sexual abuse for a ten year period, beginning when the years of molestation finally ended (puberty and the development of a womanly figure saved her from the old man’s perverse interest). Shortly after my birth, her long dormant memories erupted to the surface. My childhood was marked by her freshly unearthed sexual shame and the blinding delirium of her hysterical identity crisis.

One study, “Biparental failure in the childhood experiences of borderline patients” (Zanarini MC, Frankenburg FR, Reich DB, et al) proposes that, “Patients with BPD have been found to be significantly more likely to report having been verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually abused by caregivers of either gender. There has also been a high incidence of incest and loss of caregivers in early childhood for people with borderline personality disorder.”

It would be decades before I was finally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Autistic children are not especially adept at walking on eggshells, and my mother had a way of laying them thoroughly over every available walking space. One wrong word, or gesture, a compliment paid to the wrong person, a sudden bout of food poisoning and my ensuing neediness… would send her into a blind rage.

Prestigious psychologist, Marsha Linehan, a foremost expert on the subject has stated, “Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree-burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering.”

Before anyone uses my story as supportive evidence for the long debunked “refrigerator mother” theory of autism causation, I must explicitly state that my childhood mistreatment is in no way related to my diagnosis. My mother’s abuse may have exacerbated my developmental delays, but could not possibly be responsible for my infantile verbosity, perseveration, mild savantism, hyperlexia, dyscalculia, synesthesia, or any other of my longstanding symptoms commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders. Ironically enough, I believe I acquired otherwise unattainable social skills as a direct result of my mother’s personality disorder.

People often ask me how I learned to intuitively understand and respond to the shifting emotions of others despite my autism. I’ve always avoided this question because the answer is both uncomfortable and alarming – I had to learn to read my mother’s labile moods or I would be beaten senseless. Understanding the emotions of others was not merely an elusive social advantage, but an essential survival skill.

One of my family’s favorite home videos is footage of me at four years-old, struggling to break free of my mother’s embrace as I watch my father drive away for another nine month absence from my life. My face is red and streaked with tears as I scream, “Daddy, don’t go!” My father has always believed this to be a home video testament of my love for him. I’ve never had the heart to tell him that it is merely evidence of the overwhelming terror I felt each time he left me alone with my mother.

Worse than the physical abuse, was the constant blaming, shaming and emotional invalidation I experienced. After hurling me down the stairs or forcing me to lick up my own vomit, my mother would draw me close to her and coo in my ear, “Oh, Scotty boy, quit whining. You don’t have it so bad. When I was your age my grandpa would take my favorite stuffed koala bear. I’d go looking for it, but would find him instead. Then do you know what he’d do to me?”

I do know. I knew at five years-old and I know now. Those detailed stories clawed their way deeply inside my memory, forever altering my development. “I never told you about that stuff,” my mother will insist. She may believe she is speaking the truth, but I know better. I have merely to mention her koala bear and she will be instantly frozen in sudden, dissociated shock, returning moments later in a slight daze, a rapid change of subject ready on her tongue.

I have no doubts that my mother’s illness is directly related to her traumatic upbringing. Perry et. al’s “Neurobiological Analysis of Early Trauma,” reinforces this speculation yet again, “…despite being distanced from threat and the original trauma, the stress-response apparatus of the child’s brain is activated again and again.”

This would suggest that BPD is more closely related to chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than the classic personality disorders. But why the continued pattern of abuse from generation to generation?

Matthew Huston’s book, “Borderline: Walking the Line,” offers an eloquent explanation, “BPD doesn’t just affect the one who receives the diagnosis; it often leaves a wake of turmoil through entire families as the emotional and relational disturbances ripple outward.

When a role model treats you as an extension of herself?there to meet her needs?the trauma can be long lasting. It takes a very strong person to overcome the effects, let alone maintain a constructive relationship with the parent.”

Why, you may wonder, do I feel the need to share such intimate and distressing details with the world? Because nothing in my life, long riddled with extraordinary tragedy, has induced more profound psychic disturbance than my mother’s mental instability. I’m purging myself… my words here are vomit, the expulsion of a poison long sickening my stomach.

If I’ve let the cat out of the bag, I feel no shame for doing so. There is a sickness in secrecy. My mother experienced ten years of sexual abuse for the sake of keeping up appearances and maintaining the family’s integrity. I don’t claim to be polite – fuck polite. I will be shamelessly transparent. Enough has been swept under the rug while my family disintegrated.

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, “Family members often feel mystified and exhausted by their relative’s illness. The intense mood swings and anger outbursts can be frightening and disruptive… It is not unusual for relatives and spouses of BPD individuals to feel depressed themselves, and to struggle with feelings of guilt, shame and helplessness.”

When my mother was at her best, she was the most delightful, doting, spontaneous, and fun-loving woman, with the inflated optimism of a child and the attentive nature of the maternal ideal. What’s more, she was cool! She taught me how to dress, interact with my peers, and climb the adolescent social ladder. Grateful as I am for this specialized instruction, I know now that her motives had little to do with my own happiness. Her bottomless insecurity demanded a picture perfect family. She forcefully assembled her husband and children as one would each article of clothing in the perfect outfit. If a blouse, skirt or child failed to please her, they were quickly discarded.

Will my family ever heal? Can BPD be cured? Interventions and therapy are difficult to come by as this condition is highly stigmatized and avoided by many medical professionals. Treatment is made nearly impossible by the profound self-deception at the core of the patient’s disorder.

Bitter as I often am, I still understand my mother’s utter inability to control or recognize her behavior. I cast no blame on her – she couldn’t help the way she treated me. She was a product of her conditioning. Aren’t we all?

It has taken me 25 years to realize that I am nobody’s king, possess neither horses nor men, and will never be able to put my mother back together again. I’d love to see her restored to the complete and stable woman I’ve never known and likely never will. But her mental and emotional renewal is outside my control. I can only hope that by courageously relating these darkest experiences of my troubled life, I may raise awareness of a stigmatized illness. Perhaps by scattering the seeds of my words, I will miraculously plant a germinating bit of inspiration in the mind of someone, somewhere, destined to outperform royalty, equestrian and human effort… someone who may one day manage to put a truly beautiful – and perhaps not so irreparably damaged – woman back together again.

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Education : Why One Size Can Never Fit All

Having three children all with special needs but vastly differing educational requirements, the ‘mainstream or special school’ debate is one that I have had cause to consider in depth.  Periodically, a politician will try and resolve this puzzle with a wide sweeping and generalised policy.  ‘Inclusion wherever possible’, ‘state of the art special schools’,’special educationally trained teaching staff in all schools’.  The individuals behind these drastic and often opposing ideas, it appears, often draw on their personal experiences and attempt to implement these new changes with single minded commitment.

Experience drawn from my own family circumstances, though, leaves me certain that there can never be a ‘one size fits all’ educational package for our children.

My eldest child, Rose (who is eleven, has Asperger’s Syndrome and is socially and academically able) attends a very modern state high school.  Her first few weeks as a pupil at this school were rife with tears, tantrums, bullying accusations (you name it!).  One term in, and she is thoroughly enjoying the richness of school life.  The school has an excellent special needs resource, quiet rooms where certain pupils can work if the classroom becomes to overwhelming, established bullying procedures and well-trained, caring staff.  With this ‘safety net’ ready to catch her if and when she falls, Rose has gained in confidence, and her educational future looks bright.

My middle child, Daisy, has severe learning difficulties as a result of a rare genetic syndrome.  At the time of writing she is nine years old, and to date she does not speak and shows no indication of recognising any word other than her own name.  And yet despite this considerable handicap, Daisy continues to enjoy mainstream experience.  She attends an excellent special school for three days each week, where she receives speech therapy, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and close medical supervision.  For the remainder of the week she attends our local village primary school.  Granted, she is not able to follow the curriculum in any meaningful way; but she has learned to be comfortable and relaxed in a busy school environment, and has made age-appropriate friends within her own community.

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Daisy is the darling of our village! Teaching staff have often commented on how the children in her mainstream class have benefited from her involvement.  They have learned tolerance and understanding, and show emotional maturity beyond their years.  This is one angle of the inclusion debate that is often overlooked.  The question ‘Would the inclusion of this pupil have a negative effect on her peers’ was raised, of course.  My husband and I turned the question on its head and asked it right back!  I have grown and matured as a person so much since having my children.  These same benefits of expansion are also available to others with whom they, and other such children, come into contact.

We were brave pioneers in our community.  The primary school had never before been asked to consider a child so severely affected by learning disability.  Many well-thought out letters and tense meetings later, Daisy’s dual placement has been a runaway success for all involved.  Would it not then follow that we should insist on the same type of schooling for our youngest child, Lenny, who has classic autism?

Lenny’s learning ability is not nearly as severe as Daisy’s .  His socialisation, however, is fundamentally affected.  His sensory perception is impaired (or rather, more accurately, is super-normal, a state causing problems without number in a mainstream environment).  Smells, sounds of certain pitches or sounds coming from more than one source, clutter, direct eye-contact, all of these (and many more) issues can reduce my son to ‘meltdown phase’.

We did try Lenny in a mainstream nursery for a couple of terms, but it proved to be almost painful for him and highly disruptive for the other pre-schoolers.  He spent the majority of his mornings hiding amid a heap of dressing up clothes with his hands over his ears.

A specialist autism resource with low stimulus classroom design, small learning groups and specially trained staff was the only real option.  Lenny now loves school (despite having to spend over two hours each day travelling).

Three children, one family; three different answers to the education question.  No two children with special needs are the same.  All have needs ‘outside the norm’ but ‘outside’ covers a whole lot of space, and there are inumerable directions to take!  I sincerely believe that finding the right schooling environment for children with special educational needs can never be a political question.  The politicians need to step back on this issue, and allow experts, parents (the real experts!) and the children themselves the space to make their own decision in this matter.

 

Sharon King is a full time Mum and part time columnist from West Yorkshire, England. She writes at length about her experiences as a parent of three children with special needs, and is currently working on children’s novel.
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