This was the first blog post I ever published, on October 22, 2017. I republish it today, on the 25th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in her honor. Thank you, Diana. What you suffered helped me to live.
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.
Until I encountered those articles, I’d never heard of that psychological affliction. I was completely uninterested in whether the disorder applied to Princess Diana, but the description intrigued me. I needed to understand more about it. In one of my earliest ever internet searches, I researched the term. Leapfrogging from one page to another, I stumbled across a review of a book; a book written for family and friends of those with Borderline Personality Disorder. Included in the review was a questionnaire from the book: a quiz to determine if one was really 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, and like most 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, rude media speculation about her behavior—without those things, the healing that I 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 that Betty Jean wove about me, my brothers, my father, even her acquaintances, was often a glimpse into the nether regions of hell. But we (and this is something of which I must constantly remind myself)–we escaped. She never could. My mother lived in that hell always. The rest of us dwelt only on the fringes of her insanity, and at last, with physical distance, knowledge, understanding, therapy, and, finally, with her death, we were freed.
With regard to those articles that set me on my search, though, well, aside from Diana’s well-publicized and admitted struggles with bulimia, no one, and certainly no member of the media, could ever have had genuine knowledge of any psychological disorder suffered by the beleaguered Princess. Those rumors were nothing but the fabrication of a bitterly unkind and often hostile press, hunting for their next story! Continued speculation on the matter would be both inappropriate and unspeakably cruel, for the truth is, none of it matters at all except to the family and friends who loved her. For the rest of us, that aspect of Diana’s life never was and still is none of our business.
But I will forever be grateful to the famous woman who endured such unbearable public abuse, so much anguish-provoking intrusion into her private existence, for without what I learned, encountering cruel conjecture and malicious speculation about Princess Diana, I might never have uncovered the knowledge I needed to begin the tortuous ascent from my own personal purgatory.
I say that Princess Diana saved my life, but it was really I who saved myself. I took her story, the painfully sad fairy tale of a real-life Princess, and allowed it to lead me to knowledge. I grasped that knowledge like a lifeline, weaving 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 cease to be grateful to nor forget the story of a princess with which that new life began.
Perhaps the press and media might learn a bit from “The Speech of Angels”, published October 24, 2017. You can locate it in the Archives.