Princess Diana saved my life.
However fanciful that statement may sound, it is also, to some degree, true.
In the years when the royal marriage was crumbling, and Diana’s popularity with the masses was at its lowest ebb, the articles being written by a rabid press were a thousand times more critical and far less fawning than they would be after her passing (although undoubtedly no more factual). More than one intrusive publication at the time explored the notion that perhaps the unpredictable and complex princess suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder.
At the time, I’d never heard of that psychological affliction. In one of my first internet searches ever, I researched the term. Leapfrogging from one page to another, I stumbled across a review of a book written for family and friends of those with Borderline Personality Disorder. A questionnaire from the book was included in the review; a quiz to determine if one was trapped in a relationship with a person suffering the disorder.
I took the quiz with an eye to unraveling my tortured relationship with my mother.
I answered “yes” to every question.
At last, at last, I had an explanation for the enigma who was my mother, and for the anguish and abuse that had comprised my childhood.
Knowledge is power, the saying goes. Like many proverbs, it carries a germ of truth. Armed at last with real understanding of the mental disorder that had, in all probability, troubled my mother, I began the long, excruciatingly painful but eventually rewarding struggle to excavate myself from the ruins of my childhood.
Decades later, it is a struggle that still continues. My healing is always tenuous. But without the famous and sometimes infamous Princess, and, more importantly, the insensitive and intrusive media speculation about her behavior—without those things, the healing that I have experienced might never even have begun.
Like the multifaceted person who was Diana, Princess of Wales, my mother was saint to some, demon to others, and both, sometimes at the same moment, to me. The life she wove about me, my brothers, and my father, was often a glimpse into the nether regions of hell. But we (and this is something I must constantly remember) escaped. She never could. My mother lived in that hell always. She was her own hell. We dwelt only on the fringes of her insanity, and at last, with physical distance, growing understanding and therapy, and finally with her death, we were freed.
I doubt anyone will ever genuinely know if the beleaguered Princess actually suffered from some, any, psychological disorder, or if, much more likely, that was merely the fabrication of a bitterly unkind and hostile press. And continued speculation on the matter would be both inappropriate and cruel, for the truth is, none of it matters a bit except to the family and friends who loved her. For the rest of us, that aspect of her life never was and still is none of our business. But I will forever be grateful to the famous woman who endured such unending public abuse, for without what I learned, encountering cruel conjecture and malicious speculation and rumor about her, I might never have begun the tortuous ascent from my own personal hell. I say that Princess Diana saved my life, but it was really I who saved myself. I took her story and let it lead me to knowledge. I took that knowledge and wove it into a net – an escape net, to which I clung for my very life. My very life: the life that I now have. The whole and healthy life that I created, like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of intense misery.
And while I may not live happily ever after, I will never forget the story of a princess with which that new life began.