The story of Gia Maria Carangi is one that has fascinated people since the 1980s. How one beautiful young woman from Philly could soar so high and fall so fast is a source of interest, complexity and unexplained tragedy for many, including me.
Many will know her from the movie Gia, the 1998 depiction of her life starring Angelina Jolie. It’s a great movie, although, since I was old enough to have lived through the entirety of the 80s, I first heard about her story way back then. When Gia died in 1986, I was 12 years old, a time when I was just getting interested in fashion magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour.
Due to my age, most of what I remember was the aftermath. Gia had been one of the most famous models in the industry for a short time before suddenly falling into obscurity. It was only upon reports of her death that details of the last few years of her life began to surface–reports of some of the worst things that could happen to a person: drugs, addiction, poverty, desperation, rape, isolation, loneliness and AIDS. It all seemed too perplexing to be true. But it was. How could this happen to a star who had once shined so bright?
There was something else I remember: the harsh judgment. I grew up in a cult-like religion and Gia’s story quickly came to be used as a cautionary tail. See what happens to young women when they choose the wrong path! I was conflicted and confused, as I often was back then, about what I was told and what I believed in my head. Where was the compassion?
Fast forward, just for a moment, to more than two decades later. In the years just prior to Amy Winehouse’s untimely death, most of what I remember was, again: the harsh judgment. The condemnation, the ridicule, the jokes, the dehumanization. It made me sick! It’s a sad part of life that there will always be people who enjoy kicking people while they are down.
Back to Gia, when I was first coming to terms with my BPD diagnosis I got rather obsessed with learning more about her story. I watched or read what little there was to watch or read; besides the movie and all her incredible modeling photos there wasn’t that much info about her in 2012. There was just enough, though, to get a hazy picture of the woman Gia once was.
Now, I absolutely do not have the audacity to diagnose anyone, yet there were so many elements to Gia’s story that were classic signs of BPD: An intense and irrational fear of rejection and abandonment, rapid changes in mood, issues with identity (was she a famous model or was she a tough street chick, did people truly love her or did they only love her for her fame? If she was so comfortable with her sexual preference, why couldn’t everyone else be?) Who was there to help her figure all these things out? Would it have helped?
In the case of Amy Winehouse, it seemed that help was often extended, but was not taken. Even in Gia’s case, with what little information there was, it did seem that there were people who were trying to help in whatever way they could. It can be perplexing for those on the outside to understand why their attempts to help don’t always work.
The one thing I can offer here is that when your mind is not healthy it can be next to impossible to think logically. I was going to write more about the difficulties people with BPD face when dealing with offers of help but realized it was far too dense of a topic to discuss here. One for a near-future post, to be sure.
Thanks for reading and good health!
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