September 6, 2010
When Princess Diana died in a horrific car crash, the masses and the media were quick to blame it on overzealous paparazzi. Some even concocted conspiracy plots by the Royal Family. But why didn’t anybody blame Borderline Personality Disorder? Sure, the belief that Princess Di was suffering from BPD is pure speculation, but the evidence is pretty convincing. After all, borderlines are notorious for their risky and impulsive behavior. If they are not suicidal, they are engaging in self-destructive behavior. This might have led to her hasty decision to try to outrun the paparazzi. BPD might have even explained overwhelming feelings that she was being victimized by the paparazzi and the Royal Family.
In a review of Diana in Search of Herself : Portrait of a Troubled Princess by Sally Bedell Smith, the author questions what purpose it serves to diagnose Diana after her death. The author also takes offense to people labeling Princess Di as “barking mad”. But if the princess did indeed suffer from BPD, then don’t we have an opportunity to bring this serious mental disorder to the public’s attention? By criticizing those who would talk about her illness, aren’t you perpetuating the shame and the stigma that prevents people with BPD from seeking help? The point of this speculation shouldn’t be to deride the tragic princess, but to learn from her struggles. The public fell in love with the glitz and the glamor, but very few knew about the dark reality of her life:
The effects of Diana’s parents’ divorce were certainly traumatic and led to lifelong problems with issues of abandonment, anxiety, and insecurity. Diana often wept before and after public engagements due to both her own high expectations for herself and the public’s expectations of her. She was prone to mood swings, bulimia, self-mutilation, lying, and inattention.
One has to wonder if her decision to marry a prince was just her way of escaping her issues. BPs use the excitement of new love as a band aid for all that ails them. But when that honeymoon feeling fizzles out, the relationship no longer serves its purpose. And that means the old one must be discarded, even if he is a prince. BPs need the excitement of a new love to fill a void that can’t be filled.
Borderlines are good at covering up their disorder. Denial is one of their most potent coping mechanisms. When it comes to the appearance of well-being, BPs are good at faking it. Her adoring fans were more than willing to buy into the illusion that she was tormented by Charles and the Royal Family. We can only wonder how Diana’s life would have been different had she been diagnosed with BPD and received treatment for it. Unfortunately, her friends and family never encouraged her to get help. They were more concerned about protecting her good name. BPs surround themselves with enablers, people who help cover up the evidence. Conversely, BPs alienate those who attempt to help them or criticize their inappropriate behavior:
Throughout Ms. Smith’s book, it becomes clear that the British, especially the upper classes, view psychiatry with intense skepticism and disdain. Raised as a member of the aristocracy, Diana was supposed to keep a stiff upper lip—to sort herself out, rather than seek psychiatric help. To his credit, Prince Charles did try to get Diana professional help while they were still on their honeymoon. He arranged for his bride to see a psychiatrist, who prescribed tranquilizers, which she rejected. Later Diana was given Prozac, which she took for only a short time. Instead, the Princess chose to take sleeping pills for many years, and Ms. Smith never discusses how the side effects of this medication might have affected Diana’s behavior.
One could argue that the mistrust of psychiatry, is not exclusive to the British or the upper class. It is all part of a BP’s self-destructive make-up. The author suggests Diana often made bad choices because of her BPD.:
Instead, she relied on her instincts and wound up repeating the same mistakes over and over.
BPD adversely affects normal cognitive function. It makes otherwise intelligent people do stupid things. Their strange behavior is also influenced by bouts of paranoia. Their denial protects their self-esteem (or rather their self-created image) but prevents them from seeing the big picture and limits self-awareness. And therefore prevents them from getting better.
Is it preposterous to say that the adverse affects of BPD led to the demise of Princess Di? Is this any more preposterous than blaming the paparazzi or the Royal Family? BPs are good at finding scapegoats to take the blame for their suffering. They are even better at convincing others of their victimhood. But first consider that Diana’s life was troubled, long before the paparazzi took their first photo. She suffered from emotional instability, long before she married the prince. Consider that the drama and chaos that ruled her life, created a downward spiral of shame and depression long before her tragic death. Perhaps the best way to honor the memory and good works of Princess Diana is to make sure others, like her, get the help they desperately need.