Three generations of women, all suffering from the same malady – Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This is the scenario presented to us by Florence St. John, in her memoir Borderline. As parents, we’ve all made that promise that we won’t treat our children in the same “awful” way our parents treated us. No, we will do things differently. Although Florence made all those same promises to herself about her own daughter, she soon came to realise that, in many ways, her daughter was a representation of herself growing up, with all the same anxieties and doubts that she had experienced. Florence takes us on a journey of her life, with an alcoholic father and a mother who raised her children in competition with each other, for her affection and love. Later in life, Florence will seek an understanding of her condition through research and group therapy. It will only be then that she will come to understand the true nature of Borderline Personality Disorder and its effects on her family.
I found Florence St. John’s story honest and objective. There was no attempt to shy away from her difficulties or to blame others. Yes, her Mother’s attitude toward her children did leave Florence floundering, but ultimately, she needed to discover that the power to healing and control lay within herself. I was impressed with the author’s ability to step away from herself and look at the difficult situation facing her own daughter, with objectivity. You could feel the love of her family flowing through every word and yet, equally you could also sense the immense frustration this woman was feeling at her inability to break the cycle of BPD and find answers. Borderline is not an easy book to read. I have no doubt, many other readers will feel the uncomfortableness I personally felt when reading aspects of Florence and her family’s life, that could be just as easily applied to my own. This isn’t a psychological treatise, it is a frank, honest, and open discussion about one woman’s fight for “normality” and self-discovery in her somewhat dysfunctional family. A tough, but rewarding read.