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23 January 2017 @ 12:21 pm
The Play's The Thing  
[Note: This is a frank discussion of being in relationship with someone whose personality disorder hasn't been treated and I make assumptions about our newly minted president's mental health based on the obvious behaviors he's displayed and the opinions of experts. They might be wrong if his behaviors were only displayed in private but the whole world has noticed some of the most obvious symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. My POV is that while I deplore the stereotypes and stigmas associated with mental illness, I've seen what happens when mental illness is ignored because people don't want to talk about it. POTUS works for the American people and his denial of reality among other behaviors is potentially dangerous to others. If we don't call it as we see it and put pressure on our leaders to confront the elephant in the room there is a potential for disaster. Not every person with every mental illness is capable of doing every job--which is no more ableist than to say that I, an older person with heart disease and damaged knee can't run a marathon. A person with his same disorder who learned to manage it well could be very successful as a POTUS. But DJT has been shielded from the consequences of his condition and so never sought the treatment he could have easily afforded. That's the saddest part--he could afford it while so many can't.]

CW: mental illness, politics

I was trying to describe relating to someone with personality disorder (untreated, not managed) to a friend on twitter & came up with an analogy.

Since personality disorders can affect thinking and fundamental world view in a way that is more pervasive than other types of mental illness, it can be disorienting to interact closely with such a person. You think you're both on the same page but their reactions seem off in ways that startle or unsettle you. Sometimes it's closer to what you expect and you think you're approaching a relationship you can be comfortable with--and then it changes suddenly.

My analogy is it's like you're in a play but you have two entirely different scripts and the director has given you different instructions about motivation and the end of the play. You both keep stumbling along trying to assert YOUR understanding of the play (reality) and the words you use mean different things to each of you. Worse, the other person sometimes gets upset out of proportion to what is happening and takes it out on you. These upsets come suddenly like a storm appearing out of a blue sky and when they recede the other person can't understand why you still want to discuss it.

Applying this to Donald Trump, everyone expected him to "pivot" (behave like presidents usually do within a range of variation) and he continues to act out and tweet about every minor slight he perceives. His ego is paper thin, his insecurities are enormous and now the White House press secretary is called upon to shore up his shaky self esteem. Both the press and other politicians don't know how to react to his erratic behavior.

Trump wants to feel and look strong like the authoritarian leaders he admires, and woe unto you if you don't agree that his decisions and even his inauguration audience is HUGE and wonderful. If there is an inconvenient truth that pierces his wished-for identity as awesome leader, it must be denied and his preferred reality re-asserted--even in his own mind. Who are you going to believe, the president or your lying eyes?

You will feel off balance, like you are walking through quicksand. You keep talking with people who agree--yes THIS is reality and what he says isn't. But his lies are repeated constantly and you don't have the megaphone he's been given to dispute them. We rely on the press for this and our president is trying to discredit them every day.

Hold on to your reality and support your friends and family in affirming it. Support your press in challenging his lies and if they try to go along with him, challenge them.

The urge to deny that this problem exists is strong. We want to have a president who is sensible and rational. We want to feel safe. It's tempting to say he's just eccentric. I saw this dynamic in my own family who didn't understand my mom's illness (not much was known about personality disorders and we're still learning a lot). My mother held my half-sister's hands under scalding water and sent her to the hospital and it was swept under the rug. No one seemed to think she might not be able to raise me. (Both my mother and sister had borderline personality disorder.)

Mom admitted later she thought about killing us both. We hasten to say that most people with mental illness don't harm others--and statistically that's true. We don't want you all to fear us (I have depression and PTSD). But we can't deny it when someone DOES have a potential to harm others. Giving an unstable man the nuclear codes and the ability to make decisions that can end lives is a huge risk and we need to talk about it.

As I write this the press secretary is back defending the president's ego and spouting more lies while saying he won't ever lie to the press. His proximity and representation of someone with NPD requires him to take on the reality of the president and substitute it for his own. He has launched into an impassioned speech about how unfairly Donald J. Trump is being talked about by the mainstream media. He's bought into Trump's reality 100%.

Here's an excellent example of someone who has had great personal and professional success by managing and treating her personality disorder (and coming out about it):

Marsha Linehan, the founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) talks about her own diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

You might also find this interesting: Trump's Lies vs. Your Brain: here’s what psychology tells us about life under a leader totally indifferent to the truth.

Finally, Propane Jane's excellent article from the POV of a professional in the field: Instability-in-Chief