Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges.

Book pre-review: When Marnie was there

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I was going to say ‘no blog post from me this weekend’ – but of course, this is a blog post! I am taking the night off from writing, so that I can spend it reading. Not just for pleasure, though it will be that – but for therapy.

The book I will be reading is a children’s book called ‘When Marnie was there’, by Joan G Robinson. The reason I am reading it is because I read it once, and it has never left me.

Before I tracked down an old copy on Amazon, I remembered nothing about it except that I read it somewhere between the ages of eight and eleven, it had the name ‘Marnie’ in the title, and it was frightening. I couldn’t have told you what the story was about, save that I knew there was something about it that was scary and disturbing. Not in a way that put me off reading it, or gave me nightmares. But in a way that left a deep and lasting impression, but in a completely indescribable way. I cannot explain to you what it is that makes me absolutely sure the book was significant and settled somewhere deep in my psyche and in my whole being – leaving me only with a memory of what it felt like to read it, or rather what it felt like to have read it. I have no memories so concrete as of actually reading it.

I know that deep down I have always wanted to go back and re-read it – and I remembered only as much as was needed, in order to ensure that I could find it again. And luckily there appear to very few books with ‘Marnie’ in the title! Though I know I never forgot it, I cannot honestly say I thought about it very much (if at all) until a few years ago. I think that over the last few years, either because of having children, or more likely, because of the process of therapy, the book has come to mind on a number of occasions. My therapist and I have often talked about children’s books; and I have found them (and children’s films) invaluable sources of comfort and support during therapy breaks, particularly the long summer break. I have found that they often convey simply and powerfully, important life lessons that we need to learn and keep with us, but that as adults we have somehow forgotten how to internalize – if we ever knew.

I have always wanted to go back and re-read it – but for some reason, a week ago, I actually looked for it and bought it. My therapist asked me an important question: “why now“? Why now, when I could have sought it out at any other time over the past few years? I think the answer will come with reading the book. I think that my subconscious knows – that it has always remembered the story and knows why it was powerful and important. Perhaps it made a link with the current material of therapy, and perhaps, as I read, I will discover what that link is.

I have already realised something interesting, just by reading the back cover. It seems that the main protagonist is not Marnie, but a girl called Anna. Which made me immediately think of the start of a story I wrote when younger, that I discovered in an old box of papers recently. I wrote about it in a post called ‘Update and a story by 12 year old me‘. The girl in my story is called Anna too, and at that time, the only link I could think of to the name Anna, led me to believe I might have written it at around the age of 12, even though the style of writing and the handwriting, felt ‘younger’. But now I feel absolutely sure that the link with the name ‘Anna’ comes from ‘When Marnie was there’.

I feel a fair amount of apprehension. There is always the possibility of disappointment: that the book will not be as interesting or as powerful as when I first read it; that I won’t be able to understand why it made such an impression; that I won’t be able to make a link to my therapy. But there is also the possibility of so much more – not least a calm and pleasurable few hours immersed in a story, a luxury I rarely have time for these days.

So enough of writing – for now – I’m off to read about Anna and Marnie! I will write more about them, when I know what there is to tell…..

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11 thoughts on “Book pre-review: When Marnie was there

  1. Good luck with it. But, elated or disappointed, perhaps the thing is to be enriched by as much of the process, up or down, as you can be.

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  2. I’m looking forward to hearing about what it was like to re-read this. I’ve enjoyed your past posts about children’s books and the insights you’ve gained from them, because I think that children often see things in stories that adults often don’t quite ‘get’ – they touch on hidden fears or feelings that are very hard to verbalise and those feelings about the book linger right through to adulthood. The book that does that for me is one which was given to me 47 years ago, called The Baby Bird and the Leaf, which is about a baby bird who tries to save an autumn leaf from being blown off his tree by tying it on with horsehair, but is really an allegory for holding on to the memory of his mother who his father says has ‘gone on a long journey’ because he does not want to tell the baby bird she has died, and the baby bird is just waiting and waiting for her to come back. It makes me feel incredibly emotional every time I read it, because it brings up not just sadness over loss but all this longing to have been part of a family where there was such love and closeness in the first place.

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    • Ohhh….even just reading your description makes me want to cry šŸ˜¦ I both really want to read it now, but also don’t, as I’m sure it would have the same effect on me. It sounds heartbreaking šŸ˜¦ I will write about Marnie once I’ve been through it with my therapist, and talked about it – hopefully I will have a few more insights then! I think you’re very right about children’s books….

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      • It was also my first experience of a children’s book where everything wasn’t completely resolved at the end of the story. The baby bird is left waiting for his father to wake up so he can ask him abut his mother, so we never know for sure what will happen, and I remember feeling intense anxiety about this (and I still feel a little of that even now as an adult with an adult’s understanding of the book). I think part of me was worried that the father bird would die in his sleep and the baby bird would be left with no-one. I don’t think that was something the author intended at all, it’s something that taps into my own fears of abandonment.

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  3. Very interested in what happens next! Please let us know what the reading of this book does to you! XXX

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    • I will…..I wanted to wait until I’ve talked about it with my therapist. There’s been another big and personal event happen in therapy over the last week, so we haven’t yet really got in to talking about the book, so it may be a few weeks before an update!

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  4. I watched the movie online…..very powerful story!

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    • It is, isn’t it! I’m not sure if I want to watch the film. It’s such an important book to me, I almost don’t want to have it altered in any way, by watching the film…it’s a bit like I absolutely refuse to watch Hamlet, ever! The last thing I want is for my favourite Shakespeare play to have Mel Gibson or Kenneth Brannagh or any actor, in my mind’s eye as the main character!!

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  5. Pingback: Reducing email contact with my therapist – Part 2 | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

  6. Pingback: A childhood story – further thoughts on ‘When Marnie was there’ | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

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