Yes, I had an eating disorder. Yes, I was vain and eccentric. Yes, there is the concrete proof that a cult arose to celebrate my beauty in the Barbie version of me. But does that relegate me, as many seem to think, to the current DSM description of Borderline Personality Disorder?
I submit the following Wikipedia boilerplate:
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is marked by a prolonged disturbance of personality function, characterized by unusual variability and depth of moods. The disorder typically involves an unusual degree of instability in mood and black-and-white thinking, or splitting. BPD often manifests itself in idealization and devaluation episodes and chaotic and unstable interpersonal relationships, issues with self-image, identity, and behavior; as well as a disturbance in the individual’s sense of self. In extreme cases, this disturbance in the sense of self can lead to periods of dissociation. The primary features of BPD are unstable interpersonal relationships, affective distress, marked impulsivity, and unstable self-image.Suicidal or self-harming behavior is one of the core diagnostic criteria.
Let’s take these points one by one, shall we?
Moodiness. I beg you to find a woman, empress or not, who is devoid of peaks and valleys. Some days simply set one off. For instance, when my husband bought me a monkey for my birthday, but once the little creature began pleasuring itself in the halls, my mother-in-law banished it to the Court zoo. Anyone might have a wee snit fit under those circumstances.
Black and white thinking. Hm. I beg to differ! On the contrary, my challenges at Court had more to do with rebelling against the stodgy Habsburgs and their absolutism and monarchical demands. Was it not I who eased tensions between the Emperor and Hungary? Did I not submit a compromise in allowing my mother-in-law rule over my children? And what of my negotiating an on-going tryst between that actress and my husband? Shades of grey were paramount (and I’m not talking about that popular smut series).
Impulsivity. I reject this. I was calculated and obsessive, but not impulsive. One does not learn five languages, invest in the cultures of other lands, and painstakingly maintain a regime of exercise and beauty cures if one is given to willynilly adventures at the drop of the hat.
Splitting. Okay, you have me here. I did tend to idealize and demonize regularly. And those in my circle would continually thrill and disappoint me in turn, but I see my waffling more as a cycle of naivety and betrayal than psychotic rupture.
As to my relationships and self-image. C’mon. I was first lady to the most powerful man in the world! I bore up, even at the tender age of 16, to all sorts of pressures. Maybe maintaining a 19 inch waist and a weight of 50 kilos was compensatory? Maybe, instead of a pharmaceuticals to release the pain of my obligations, I chose to be tight-laced to the edge of my threshold in order to distract myself from the perpetual Habsburg white noise of disdain. If you consider that my marginal anorexia led to anemia, which, in turn led to various rest cures in Madeira far from the frigid halls of Viennese court-life, well, maybe I was crazy like a fox!
Ironic, also, that in the end I did not kill myself. Someone else had that dubious honor. Borderline, schmorderline. I was merely living my life.