NOW AVAILABLE: Barbara, Uncharted Course Through Borderline Personality Disorder

A comprehensive…familial study.

Kirkus Reviews

Barbara, Uncharted Course Through Borderline Personality Disorder is the culmination of a decade researching over one thousand pages of primary source documents and interviewing mental health professionals as Affield learns to understand and appreciate the woman who haunted his childhood.

After Affield’s mother, Barbara, dies in 2010, Affield unlocks the chickenhouse door on the farm he grew up on in northern Minnesota and discovers 200 years of family history, including clues to the riddle of who his father is. Over the next ten years, Affield studies thousands of primary source documents and discovers the story behind the eccentric woman he had been forced, as a child, to call Mommy Darling.

Barbara, Uncharted Course is the startling journey of one woman’s struggle to navigate a maelstrom of rage, impulsiveness, broken relationships, and a skewed sense of abandonment. Born into affluence and privilege in 1920, Barbara attends private schools in California and Connecticut, but as a teenager, borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms begin to manifest.

Taught by the famous pianist, Emile Bosquet at Institut Droissard, Brussels, Belgium, Barbara’s natural talent blossoms. Mouse-gnawed 1939 documents reveal Barbara’s impulsive engagement (and possible marriage) in Poland, and her narrow escape from the Nazi invasion. Upon her return to New York, after dropping out of Juilliard School, Barbara begins a decade of running from her problems, leaving a wake of failed marriages and rendezvous resulting in four children. Feeling abandoned by her family and searching for a new start, she posts an advertisement in Cupid’s Columns that is answered by a bachelor farmer in northern Minnesota.

The first two sections of the book explore Barbara’s childhood and young adulthood. Part three chronicles Affield’s search for his biological father and the labyrinth leading to a breakthrough. Acceptance by his new-found family is an incredible testament to the power of love.

In the foreword, William M. Petersen, MD, said “I likely have never observed a more difficult and severely perplexing patient with Borderline Personality Disorder than Wendell’s mother, Barbara….”

Barbara, Uncharted Course is an insightful resource for anyone wanting to better understand BPD. It is also a moving picture of forgiveness as the author humanizes his mother despite their complicated relationship.

2 Comments

  1. Clytee Gold says:

    Dear Wendell,

    I feel like I know you. I am about 10 years younger than you. A few weeks of each summer of my childhood were spent within 20 miles of where you and your family were suffering unspeakable horrors. I have “survivor’s guilt” in that, in contrast, at basically the same time, I was vacationing on a little lakefront property on Big Turtle Lake (about a mile south of Kohls’ Resort) that my grandparents owned. I was playing with cousins and siblings and thriving in the love of a very functional extended family. My trips to Bemidji became less frequent after I married and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, though I returned several summers in the 1990s so my three children could be with their grandparents there. Paul & Babe always got a visit.

    I discovered your books last summer (2021) in the new little bookstore near the laundromat in Bemidji. I had returned, this time, with MY grandchildren to my family’s beloved “Bertelson Corner” on Big Turtle. I bought “Hermann” and “Pawns” and read them pretty quickly. I am right now ordering “Muddy River Jungles” after just finishing “Barbara.”

    You write well. You are also a generous soul who has great insight into the people around you. I am so touched by the peace you have found with the legacy of your childhood. I feel you have forgiven those who have hurt you, and that is one of the most difficult things any person can do. You are an example to me of modeling forgiveness that I can use in my life.

    Besides having a deep connection to Bemidji, I have a daughter with mental illness and two of my seven grandchildren who struggle. You try to understand mental illness, and it helps me try to understand it. You explain it well.

    A third connection I have with you and the books is that I am a genealogy fanatic. I have been so fascinated by it for over 40 years, and spend most of my spare time trying to put together ancestral families and tell their stories. I loved hearing your interview on “Extreme Genes” – I have met Scott Fischer a few times – I thought he should have listened a little more to your story and dwelt a little less on the chickenhouse, but so it goes. I have been totally immersed in “Barbara” for so many reasons, but I am also so impressed with how you used the documents and sources you had to write a family story.

    So, I finally reached out to you!

    One little comment that I hope is more helpful than hurtful is the condition of the book “Barbara.” I believe you self-publish, and I know quality control is difficult. But, my copy of “Barbara” started to fall apart the moment I opened the book. Page three fell out. I learned to not open it very far to read, so only a few other pages fell out.

    Anyway, you have a gift, and you have given much to the world. I am going to suggest “Pawns” or “Barbara” to my book club for my books selection this year.

    Thanks for listening,
    Clytee Kleager Gold
    Holladay, Utah

  2. Clytee, I am humbled by your kind words. I will respond to your message paragraph by paragraph. It always fascinates me how path’s cross as we travel life. The resort you stayed at was about twelve miles from our farm, as the crow lies. Remember Glogo’s Store on the channel between Big Turtle and Little Turtle Lake? They had a caged bear along the highway and that was a highlight of our trip to Bemidji, when Herman would stop and let us visit the bear–sometimes little tourist kids from local resorts were also there–who knows, maybe you were one of them?
    I just dropped your copy of MUDDY JUNGLE RIVERS in the mail this morning. MJR is my first book–2022 is the 10th anniversary. It is written in first person point of view, in the voice of a twenty-year-old sailor. I try to tell it as true as possible, including profanity. That was just the way life was and to whitewash it would not make the story ring true–I hope you are not offended.
    I am blessed to have Doctor Petersen as a friend–he read the manuscript and shared many clinical observations. Over the years he helped me to come to the realization that my mother Barbara’s mental illness–all her symptoms, including as her rage and impulsiveness were not conscious choices, but symptoms of her illness. Sadly, for children growing up in a home with mentally ill parents, that behavior is the child’s normal. Especially back in the 1950s when we lived such an isolated life. You mention “You are an example to me of modeling forgiveness….” Again, thank you for the kind words, but I have made so many mistakes in my life??? Today I try to follow a path of redemption–if that makes sense? It saddens me to hear of your family’s struggle. I am a strong advocate of “expressive writing.” Actually, next week I am scheduled to do a writing presentation at a group home for adults who struggle with psychological disorders.
    I was so gifted to receive the chickenhouse treasures after Barbara died. Rarely does one have the opportunity to study thousands of primary source documents from every-day people. As I continue to study expressive writing and the psychological benefits derived, I believe that my grandmother was unconsciously doing exactly that, over many decades, trying to make sense of her both her daughters’ mental illnesses.
    On the book quality: When I went to get a run printed from my local supplier in northern Minnesota, they were experiencing a paper shortage–remember the empty store shelves? It wasn’t just paper towels and Kleenex, etc. Anyway, I ordered several hundred author copies from Amazon and am very disappointed in the quality of the product they sent me. I went through them and rejected about 200 that were obvious where the pages didn’t fit tight against the spine. Others I felt looked good–obviously not all of them. I will be happy to send you a new one.
    If you ever are back up in the Bemidji area, I would love to meet and visit with you.
    Take Care,
    Wendell Affield
    Bemidji, Minesota

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