Total Pageviews

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shame and Anguish

Sally (not her real name) was overwhelmed with shame whenever she became depressed.  Sometimes she was suicidal.  At other times, she felt compelled to share her shame with me and beg me to accept her as she was.
Laocoon, Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy
She wore a mask of unbearable anguish whenever she begged for acceptance. Her anguished face reminded me of the statue of Laocoon in the Vatican Museum. Laocoon had a right to feel anguish. Giant serpents were killing him and his children. Sally’s anguish was just as unbearable. She believed she was a whore and a prostitute, and she feared that I would leave her as soon as I realized what she really was.

Her first plea for acceptance was delivered in my living room a few months after I gave her the engagement ring.  She came over in a trance-like state and perched on the edge of my leather chair.  She presented a face of heartbreaking anguish, which remained unchanged throughout her thirty-minute soliloquy.  Her eyes were fixed.   She did not respond to anything I said or did, except to shrink away from my touch.  I don’t think she could hear me voice.  It was as if she was delivering a prepared speech from inside a dark soundproof room.

"I  am a whore and a prostitute,” she screamed in anguish.  “If you marry me you will marry a whore and a prostitute.  Can you do that?  Do you want to do that?  Can you marry a whore--a prostitute?"  She itemized all the reasons why she was a whore and a prostitute.  Did I still want to marry her? 

After she finished,  she sank back into the chair, exhausted.  I told her she had nothing to be ashamed of and that I loved her and wanted to marry her for who she really is.  The past is just the past.  I was not sure whether the affect storm itself had calmed her, or if it was my words of unconditional love and acceptance.  After ten minutes she returned to her daughters at her own home.

Recoleta Cemetery,
Buenos Aires, Argentina
She is neither a whore nor a prostitute.  She is not responsible for anything that happened to her when she was a child.  All of her adult sexual relationships have been based on her feelings of love.  Her relationships may only lasts for a few months,  but in each relationship her love is real  She doesn't pick up strangers for casual sex.  Each new love affair is genuine and meaningful for her.  But the love never lasts long, and the man who was her best friend and lover for a month or two will inevitably became her newest worst enemy.  I believe she loved her two former husbands when she married them, and they loved her.  Both men were devastated when she divorced them.  I do not know anything about the intentions of her former partners, except for one man, whose sister-in-law told me he refused to marry Sally because of his family’s opposition to his marrying a woman who had been in a mental hospital.

A second storm occurred about a month later in her kitchen.  Her daughters were at school.  This time she remained standing, facing me, with the same anguished facial expression.  She feared I would reject her because she cannot have an orgasm during sexual intercourse.   She raged about her being “cold and stiff” and was terrified that I would reject her because of it.  

In actuality, she is not frigid.  She has extraordinary clitoral orgasms.  Indeed, her orgasms are one of her few genuine pleasures.  She masturbates daily, with or without a partner, and never travels without her vibrator.  The intensity of her orgasms is the reason I call her Sally in this blog.  
She cannot have an orgasm during intercourse because of a medical condition that is beyond her control.   Her vaginal wall is lined with a dozen cysts.  Sexual intercourse is painful.  She sometimes talks about the pain afterwards, but struggled mightily not to show her discomfort when we made love.  When she is depressed, she views the pain as divine punishment for her sexual misbehavior.

About a month later she returned to my living room to deliver another plea for unconditional love and acceptance.  She arrived as if she was walking in her sleep and again perched on the edge of my chair with the exact same anguished expression.  This time she was terrified that  I would become so disgusted with her after we were married that I would leave her forever.  

Folk Art Museum, Guangzhou, China
“If you leave me after we are married it will kill me,” she screamed.  “I couldn’t survive being abandoned again.”   It was not clear what she meant by this, since it every one of her previous relationships the breakups were initiated by Sally.  Most people understand that we have to take people as they are, but Sally can only love someone who is perfect.  As soon as her partner disapoints her and she recognizes that her partner is less than perfect, her love is instantly  transformed into hate.  She completely abandoned her parents and all her brothers and sisters.  She ended both her marriages, carefully planning each divorce months in advance, and taking each husband for everything she could get.  They deserved it.  They were evil.  Sally is proud of the fact that she has never been dumped by a man.  Perhaps this was the reason for her overwhelming fear that I would leave her.

In a sense, she holds herself to the same impossible standard  she uses to judge other people.  When she realized that she herself was not perfect, she became terrified that I would treat her in the same way she has treated all of her former lovers.  She does not understand that I do not see the world the way she does.  I am not perfect and I do not expect perfection in her.
But I could not ask questions or say anything during this new affect storm.  She was delivering a prepared speech and my only job was to listen.   She went on to itemize her faults.  She screamed “Are you going to kill me?”  Again, she told me she was a whore and a prostitute.  She talked about her promiscuity, her rage, her cruelty, her frigidity.   She said she would kill herself if I left her.  She screamed “Do you want to kill me?” with such ferocity I feared the neighbors might call the police.  When she calmed down and sat back in the chair, I promised that I would never leave her.  She seemed greatly relieved.  It was very late.  After drinking a glass of water, she returned to her daughters at home.

When she was happy she talked about her previous affect storms with insight.  She said they were just another effect of her post traumatic stress disorder, which is a term she prefers to her actual diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.  Twenty-five years ago, when she was overwhelmed with shame and guilt, she would secretly destroy phone books with a hammer, or shake the headboard and beat the mattress with her fists.  When her husband bought her a dildo she took it to the basement and smashed it with a sledge hammer.   Later, after her commitment to a mental hospital in Houston, she learned how to vocalize her anguish with a living person.  She talked with psychiatrists and other therapists.  Before we met, she paid a local therapist to come to her house and listen to her affect storms.

I thought her willingness to share her deepest fears with me was a sign that our relationship was working. 

I was wrong.


  1. From personal experance this darkness eats both beings like the true personal death it becomes over time. As time passess both people die inside until the true natures are both dissolved into a darker level than either have ever personally experianced

  2. Run.... get away. As far and as fast as you can. Or you will be dragged into the abyss that she exists in.

  3. Ah, yes, borderline personality disorder. Before you uttered those
    words I'd decided to evoke them to you.

    How terribly, profoundly painful for both her and yourself!

    Take good care of your heart. Breathe light freedom into your own heart.

    This painful experience is lead from which gold can be alchemically made.

    (BTW, one friend who was a therapist--though not my therapist--said of
    me, once, "You're a little borderline". I probably was (past tense,
    mostly). But only a little -- but even a little of that shit is a
    fucking lot!)

  4. hmm. I didn't read the heading and subtitle, or whatever, on your
    blog before reading and responding to your post, as must be clear upon
    reading my comment of moments ago.

    Now I'm reading more of your blog. It's interesting, and you're a fine
    writer. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. No, I'm not stalking you! -- even though I've just sent Three emails. Sorry!

    I was just reading Wikipedia's BPD page, and I can't say I've ever had
    some of the basic symptom set -- despite what my therapist friend said
    (as mentioned).

    I never engaged in the extreme idealization/demonization thing
    Wikipedia mentions. I did have intense moods and relationship
    difficulties.... And I've definitely suffered from so-called
    "relational trauma". (Neglect, abuse -- played the role of Scapegoat
    for Mom. Dad was not all that available. And I never came to Dad with
    complaints about Mom's abuse.)

    I'd go on, but ... as I said, I'm not a stalker.

    Peace to your heart!

  6. Ancient Chinese proverb: Never marry a nut case, and avoid the lunatics.

  7. Please, I beg you. Get your girlfriend to a mental health professional, NOW. She is suffering and so are you. There is NOTHING to be ashamed of! Mental illness is a disease that can be treated. Believe me, I've been there. Good luck!


Popular Posts