Riding The Dragon

Flying In Circles


I was really struggling to deal with The Dragon. She had no absolutely no concept of boundaries. When I asked her, repeatedly, to be home by midnight, she would, equally repeatedly, ensure that she arrived home after 02:00AM the next morning, or she’d just stay out all night. But she didn’t see that as a boundary intended to keep her safe, even when I explained it to her, she just saw it as something to fight against, a rule to break.

I reminded her that she was, even though she didn’t feel like it, the mother of three young boys, and that she had an obligation to them. Part of that obligation as I saw it was for her to be there for them during the night. I had no idea what the boys really wanted from their mother, and given the emotional, and behavioral chaos prevalent during the last five years, I was sure that they weren’t expecting anything consistent. But, I was equally sure that just knowing that their mother was home, or would be home if they woke up during the night would give them a tremendous sense of security.

When Zee was very young, we bought lots of books and did a lot of research on parenting trends and techniques. Some of the advice resonated with us, and some of it we threw out immediately. One technique that made a lot of sense to us, and that we both agreed completely on, was that of establishing a good day/night time routine that he could unconsciously rely on. It worked very well, and he settled into it quite happily. It worked so well that if was the first thing we did with Ryder and Kai when they were born too.

It’s also the one thing I’ve been able to hold onto through the years. Even during the worst of the “Bad Times”, when Miki and I could barely stand to be around each other, I still held onto this sense of routine. No matter what rage Miki might be in, or where she was, or what she was doing, when it came to 18:00PM, I would take Ryder, then about two years old, into the bedroom, close the door, and quietly settle him with his night time milk. I think to a large degree that it kept me sane during that chaotic time too.

I tried explaining this idea of routine to The Dragon when she was calm and rational, but even though she listened thoughtfully, I could tell that she didn’t understand it at all. I suppose it’s not too difficult to understand, since The Dragon has BPD. She was the dominant Alter when Miki was first diagnosed by Dr. L. Now, she was back, and the emotional dysregulation that typified BPD was also back, affecting her behavior.

At times she would fly into a blind rage, hurling abuse at me, and anyone else close. She would swear in a very, strong, Coloured accent, her language taking on a decidedly sinister Cape Flats gangster tone.

At other times, she was this powerful, effective woman, capable of: taking two young boys to the ER for treatment; or of disappearing for two days and getting herself a job; or of pushing her girlfriend’s car down the road when it broke down.

Very rarely, she would be calm and rational around me. She would talk quietly and we could discuss our crazy lives. Just yesterday morning, she’d sat down quietly on the bed, next to me. She’d looked smaller than her Alter’s twenty-four years, almost child-like, hunched over, hugging her legs to her chest.

“We broke up again,” she said.

“Who: You and Taya?” I asked.

“Yeah, but it’s Ok, we made up again.”

“You’ve done that a few times now,” I replied gently.

“She’s very difficult to deal with.” Her voice was low and serious. “She’s either fighting with me, or begging me to be with her. When I’m nice to her, and help her out, she doesn’t notice, she’s never grateful for anything I do. But then she bursts into tears and begs me to help her, to be there for her.”

“I know what you mean.”

“She’s very jealous and possessive. She shouts at me for looking at other girls, even when I’m not.” She was genuinely confused and hurt by her girlfriend’s behavior and she’d come to me, looking for advice, or at the very least, someone to listen to her.

When we’d first started treatment, YvdH had helped me tremendously in understanding BPD: how it expressed itself; what was the internal cause of her behavior; what I could do to help her; and what it might do to me and the family. By understanding her condition and her behavior I was able to regulate my reactions to her. For me, at the time, understanding was the key to dealing with her condition and subsequent behavior. During the “Bad Times” I was completely confused by her behavior, my reactions, and our life together, which had somehow turned from pure, domestic bliss, to absolute hell. But with an understanding of her diagnosis I was empowered to better manage my reactions to her outbursts. I was by no means an expert in dealing with her, but at least I understood what was happening and I’d found something that did work: compassion.

Then she’d gotten pregnant with Kai and overnight she’d healed, or so it appeared to everyone. She was off her medication for the entire duration of her pregnancy and at the same time, all her BPD symptoms had disappeared. I didn’t have to manage her; she was doing it herself.

After Kai’s birth, his resuscitation at six weeks and our move to Johannesburg, Miki’s emotional state had deteriorated again. But this time, I didn’t have to deal with BPD based outbursts. She wasn’t bursting into tears one minute, begging me to love her, and then flying into a rage the next, something else was happening. Neither of us was sure exactly what was happening, just that something was, and it was different to her previous problems. It was only when we got back to Cape Town a year later that her Alters started presenting openly, and she was diagnosed with D.I.D.

Over the following months a number of Alters were identified, each of them with distinct personalities, behaviors, and traumas, and in some cases psychoses. The latest Alter to present, and by far the strongest and most complex was The Dragon. She has BPD. We’d come full circle in a sense.

Dealing with Miki by herself when she had been exhibiting symptoms of BPD was hard enough, but now I was dealing with a far more complex situation: Miki had a number of Alters who presented randomly and to varying degrees, and one of them, The Dragon, a very strong and dominant Alter was displaying behavior typical of BPD. But unlike previously where her emotional dysregulation was consistent and I had a framework to work within, I was now struggling to identify and manage The Dragon’s BPD behavior within the broader context of her D.I.D. I couldn’t treat Miki, or any of the other Alters – besides The Dragon – as though they had BPD, because they didn’t. This lack of a framework for managing her emotional outbursts meant I didn’t have any techniques for managing any situations when they arose. Instead of me being receptive to Miki’s, or the Alter’s emotional states when they arose, I found myself falling back on my own reactive behaviors that I’d developed before we’d entered therapy. These reactive behaviors were not useful for The Dragon, and not useful for us as a family.

Riding The Dragon

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