Missing: Coming to Terms with a Borderline Mother

Kathy on “On Track with Betty Mac,” November, 2016

What readers are saying about Missing . . . 

This is a vivid, stirring, deeply informative book about coming to terms with a mother with a devastating mental illness. Kathy Ewing writes with grace, generosity and—always—heartstopping candor.

—Marian Sandmaier, author of Original Kin: The Search for Connection Among Adult Sisters and Brothers and The Invisible Alcoholics: Women and Alcohol

Compelling and beautifully written.

—Barbara Finn, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Menlo Park, California

Missing is a beautiful, aching, slow burn of a book. Reading it reminded me of the story of the frog that gets put in a pot of tepid water, only to be scalded alive as the heat gets ratcheted up. Ewing starts her tale with her wheelchair-bound father, then pivots her lens to focus on her mother, whose anger, contempt, joylessness and emotional distance are the stuff of everyday life for Ewing and her two sisters. Read this book and you will find that Ewing’s heartbreak, revealed in what feels like literary slow motion, soon becomes your own, as you grieve with and for Ewing and her entire family, hapless bystanders to one woman’s intractable mental illness.

—Katie Hafner, Mother Daughter Me

 As a fellow Ohioan, I found Kathy Ewing’s work hauntingly familiar. Her writing about her family is searching, touching, and elegiac.

—Alix Kates Shulman, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen; A Good Enough Daughter

 Missing is a thoughtful and intimate look at life in a family profoundly affected by borderline personality disorder. Throughout the book, Kathy Ewing writes with clarity, honesty, and self-awareness–and, notably, without self-pity or histrionics.

—Scott Edelstein, Sex and the Spiritual Teacher

 A candid, riveting account of the author’s journey to make sense of a bewildering childhood. With curiosity and compassion, and without blame or bitterness, Ewing shares poignant recollections of being raised by a parent with borderline personality disorder in a way that feels as though we’re walking beside her. We are right there as she revisits perplexing experiences, honestly looks at her relationships with her own children and, ultimately, arrives at a new and lighter place, one of deeper understanding, acceptance and peace.

—Kimberlee Roth, co-author, Surviving a Borderline Parent

 Kathy Ewing’s Missing reminded me of an old home movie, flickering in and out to capture the sweetness and the many sharp pains attending this family in the middle of the last century. Ewing directs the camera skillfully and with a steady hand, and I found myself aching but also admiring the art she has made of this.

—Kristin Ohlson, The Soil Will Save Us; Stalking the Divine

 Sadness mixed with understanding and compassion, this memoir shows the impact borderline personality disorder has on loved ones.  The author, in spite of the challenges imposed on her, writes “Like Dr. Linehan, I resist blaming the mother.”  This perspective offers the reader a nonjudgmental lens into the life of a child witnessing BPD as a strong thread in her world.

—Perry Hoffman, Ph.D., President and Co-Founder of the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder

Kathy Ewing unconfuses the science regarding borderline personality disorder, which can be murky and confounding, even for therapists. Most stories about BPD focus on the drama, but the brilliance of Ewing’s narrative is stepping around the quick and easy to show emptiness, hunger, and hopelessness as the driving forces in her mother’s psyche, as well as their powerful impact on her baffled, resourceful kid. At the same time, she evokes a small-town ‘50s childhood pitch perfectly. This book will help a lot of people who grew up in similar circumstances make sense of their experience and move past it. Kathy Ewing is a hero.

—Belleruth Naparstek,  Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal; creator of the Health Journeys guided imagery audio series

I never understood why my mother, who died in 1995, was so unhappy; why she wanted to be the unluckiest, poorest person in the room; why she was so closed off, so harsh, so absent. When I had children of my own, her dismissive comments and coldness seemed even more troubling and inexplicable. I wanted to understand her and hoped ultimately to forgive her.

Then, in helping a friend diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, I made the connection: I began to suspect that my mother had had BPD. Missing describes how my father’s physical illness—he became a paraplegic in the early ’50s—may have triggered my mother’s BPD. It shows how learning about BPD has helped me understand, and ultimately forgive, my mother’s enigmatic and frustrating behavior.

Searching for information about BPD, I have read a great many academic tomes and a few reader-friendly volumes, but I found no memoirs specifically about mothers with BPD. Now, I hope my book helps fill that gap for others.

BPD is still relatively unknown, compared to depression and schizophrenia, but it is on the increase. A recent Time article calls BPD our age’s “signature crack-up illness.” It cites a recent study estimating that 18 million Americans suffer from BPD, over three times the number of Alzheimer’s patients (and more than double the number I found when I first began researching two years ago). O Magazine featured BPD in August, 2005—a sign that BPD is coming out of the shadows. These sad statistics, I believe, indicate a growing market for books about BPD.

In addition, a profound stigma is attached to the disorder. My book attempts to demystify BPD and to dispel many misunderstandings about this mental illness. Family members as well as sufferers will find Missing to be a compassionate introduction to the disorder and a useful source for discussion with therapists and support groups.

Missing: Coming to Terms with a Borderline Mother has been published by Red Giant Books.