Is “surreal” an emotion? May I take apart this word–sur réalité or sur réalisme? Taken from the French, it literally means ‘on reality’ or ‘on top of realism’. The sense is that one is floating above the weightiness of the solid world. One has drifted into the abstract. Of course, you might be reminded of Surrealism, a cultural movement which flourished in Europe between WWI and II. According to André Breton, one of the movement’s best known representatives and writer of the “Surrealist Manifesto”, Surrealism is greater than our concrete reality. It’s a superior and absolute reality–a surreality. When I say that I’ve had a surreal feeling all day, I don’t use Breton’s definition. I am describing the sensation wherein one feels a bit floaty and above everything. Everything feels just a bit out of tune. Sort of like when you’re watching a film and the audio track is a few seconds off. The actors are speaking, and their words don’t match the motion of their mouths.
I saw BT (Beloved Therapist) yesterday…finally. As soon as she saw me she exclaimed, “Oh my goodness! I am so glad to see you. I’ve been thinking about you since you emailed me about the letter your mother sent you! I’ve been trying to get you in, and there’s not been one cancellation!!” I wasted no time. I handed her the letter. I told her to read it. She looked at it, and said, “Dear Santa? What?” She began reading it. Her perusal was punctuated by gasps, double takes, and eye rolls. It was a short letter so it didn’t take long. She put it down and looked at me. I said, “Please, please give me your professional opinion because I need to hear you tell me. That letter isn’t okay, is it?” She looked me in the eye and said slowly, “There is nothing about that letter that is okay. It is so full of wrong.” She went on to tell me just how wrong it was. How wrong was it? She found elements of narcissism, schizoid personality, borderline “on fire”, and passive-aggression. She topped it off with–“You know, I’ve never said this in my years of practice, but I think I need to say this. There is something…dark here, too. Do you know what I mean? Something that moves beyond the brain into the mystical.”
I don’t weep often. I weep if people weep in front of me, but, on my own, I feel at times that my well has run dry. I’ve spent too much of my life crying. When BT said that to me, however, my inner well overflowed, and I started to cry. Stories of my mother’s darkness started pouring out of me. That Christmas Eve morning when I watched her strangling my step-sister. How helpless I felt to stop her. The endless rages…I just wanted another person to enter into it with me. Just once. I don’t share these stories with my friends. My husband knows a lot of it, but I don’t sit around crying about it. At this point, it’s just historical fact. One does what one must to deal with it and heal it. But…I just didn’t want to carry the darkness anymore. So, I cried. It was a relief to hear another person tell me that I had a reason to cry. Most of my life I’ve heard people tell me to shut-up or they would give me something to cry about.
BT told me that she really was dangerous to me. That was a relief, too. She explained that while she may have Borderline Personality Disorder, there are also other psychiatric disorders at play. She lacks empathy. I knew that. And, she can be extraordinarily sadistic. I came across this last night:
Proposed DSM III-R criteria for Sadistic Personality Disorder
Sadistic Personality Disorder is:
- A) A pervasive pattern of cruel, demeaning, and aggressive behavior, beginning by early adulthood, as indicated by the repeated occurrence of at least four of the following:
- Has used physical cruelty or violence for the purpose of establishing dominance in a relationship (not merely to achieve some noninterpersonal goal, such as striking someone in order to rob him/her).
- Humiliates or demeans people in the presence of others.
- Has treated or disciplined someone under his/her control unusually harshly.
- Is amused by, or takes pleasure in, the psychological or physical suffering of others (including animals).
- Has lied for the purpose of harming or inflicting pain on others (not merely to achieve some other goal).
- Gets other people to do what he/she wants by frightening them (through intimidation or even terror).
- Restricts the autonomy of people with whom he or she has a close relationship, e.g., will not let spouse leave the house unaccompanied.
- Is fascinated by violence, weapons, injury, or torture.
B) The behavior in A has not been directed toward only one person (e.g., spouse, one child) and has not been solely for the purpose of sexual arousal (as in sexual sadism).
This describes my mother perfectly excluding 8., and that’s only because I don’t know what she thinks about. While Sadistic Personality Disorder has been removed from the DSM-IV, it’s still valid for the sake of discussion. Combine SPD with BPD and a dose of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and what do you get? A nightmarish childhood, I can tell you that! Oh, and let’s not forget the decade of therapy for which you’ll be paying later on. Lord have mercy!
After crying myself into a puddle on BT’s couch, she asked me, “What are you going to do now? Can you do anything that’s going to edify you?” This was the moment that I felt God wink at me. My entire afternoon was planned for me. I was spending it with my co-writer who had just added a new member to her family. His name is Quick. He’s an 8 week-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever otherwise known as “the Toller”.
I spent almost five hours rolling around on the floor with Quick. He licked my ears, chewed on my collar, and retrieved his tiny chew toy (yes, he retrieves at 8 weeks! He’s one clever toaster as his mama calls him). I cuddled him, kissed his tiny nose, and he kissed me back in his inimitable puppy way. If there were ever an antidote to deep therapy sadness and being faced with the reality that I will have to end my relationship with my mother in a final ultimatum, it’s the unconditional love and affection of a puppy. I get to see him tomorrow, too! I’m being called his ‘Auntie’ now. It makes me giggle. I’ve got a nephew, and he has puppy breath!
Life is strange, isn’t it? There is a vast and great darkness and evil deeds done to innocents the world over. At the same time, there is this tapestry of joy, beauty, and grace that astounds me. Having known so much of evil causes me to hold so tightly to the joy when I find it. I want to suck the marrow out of every moment until it takes over another one of those darker spaces in my heart that still ache with scar tissue left from a black deed done in a dark place. One day my heart will shimmer with light. Somewhere in the heart of God it already does.
With that, I have two little girls who are in their pajamas awaiting my presence. They have tucked themselves into my bed with our iPad–“Mama, would you watch some old “Muppet Show” shows with us on YouTube?” Aaah, you bet I will. Look around, there’s so much life to be had and enjoyed. Hug someone you love tonight.
To inspire you…