Emotional Constipation. NPD? Maybe.

How long can a narcissist keep the  mask from slipping?  The longest I’ve seen is about 4 months, but there are moments during that time when I’ve thought I saw part of his face twitch and slide a bit.  Yup, turns out I’ve got myself someone who seems to fit  many of the diagnostic criteria for NPD.  

I’m not certain about it and I don’t want to “label” just yet, and besides, I’m no psychiatrist, but there are signs and have been signs for months.  I’ve been seeing this person for 15 months.  When we met, he told me he’d been separated for a year and was planning to file for divorce at the end of 2012. 

As a hard and fast rule, I have never dated any man who was simply “separated.”  He had to be divorced.  For more than 2 years.  I broke my rule.  I’d heard from mutual acquaintances how great this guy is, how horrible his marriage (24 years) had been and what a douche his wife is.  I was told I “couldn’t do better.”  

For the first 4 months, I believed these statements.  He was kind, loving, giving but he was also smothering me.  We had our first date on a Sunday and were supposed to go hiking.  When we got to the mountains, I find out he doesn’t hike.  So we walked around the lake, talking, etc.  I did notice he wasn’t much of a nature boy.  I’m a nature girl.  Still, I figured I could work with that – and I could and can. 

On Monday, I left work, came home and started cleaning the bathroom fan filter.  I get a call that says:  “I’m 20 min away.  Whatcha want for supper?”  I freaked.  On the phone.  His response was to simply say:  “My car just pointed itself in this direction.  No worries.  I’ll bring supper.”  We’d made no plans for Monday, he’d said nothing to me, and I’d counted on an evening alone.  Yup – I let him come over.  New relationship and all that.  RED FLAG! He just assumed I’d be okay with it.  I wasn’t okay with it but I didn’t say anything.  My bad.  So, every day thereafter, with the exception of Wednesdays, he did the same thing.  Came over, brought food, gave me grocery gift cards (I was trying to make ends meet on a low-paying temp job), gas cards, killed all the weeds outside, painted my bathroom, painted my kitchen, cleaned, did laundry, and was all-around wonderful.  Only he never asked me if it was okay and I thought I’d won the lottery and felt as though I’d have the money taken away if I challenged him on his ever-presence.  So I stayed mum.  I’m not so healed from NPD after all, am I?  I don’t seem to recognize the red flags when they’re ON my face, smothering me!

Fast forward to the end of 2012.  No divorce papers filed.  Can’t get an answer from him as to why not.  That’s when I find out he’s moved back into the family home, but she’s supposedly moved in with her elderly mother who needs care.  He’d moved back in 2 months prior and hadn’t told me.  I have no clue when she moved out.  Even now, I don’t know. 

When I asked him about the divorce he would get angry and withdraw.  He’d stare straight ahead, drum his fingers on the arm of whatever piece of furniture, and say something like:  “I’ve answered that question a thousand times already and I’m not answering it again!”  Well, no, he hadn’t answered it even once.  He’d tap danced around it, ducked and weaved, side-stepped, and changed subjects with lightning alacrity.  

The “discussions” begin – but they weren’t really discussions.  I’d talk and he’d get pissed off.  He’d tell me to get off his back.  He’d throw out some reason or another why he hadn’t filed for divorce yet.  His final reply about it was:  “I’m afraid to, okay?  You happy now? You just emasculated me!” 

Um, no, I didn’t.  I deserved an answer and that answer isn’t and wasn’t good enough.  By this time, I’d become dependent upon him for financial help.  I’d been laid off again and unemployment wasn’t paying enough to  pay bills.  He would make my car payment, pay my electric bill, pay my phone bill and buy food.  I’d do the rest with my UE check.  

Life begins to hammer me.  Lots of crap happened – temp job started; temp job ended.  Was told I’d be hired at one job after leaving on a friday and by monday I was unemployed. Unemployment screwed up my benefits and I didn’t get paid anything for almost 2 months.  Nothing.  Dept of welfare screwed up food stamps and those were a month late. They cut me off for July stating they never received “appropriate” documentation of my income.  Yeah they did.  My state is staffed with incompetent idiots.  They received it more than once. I gave up on them. 

Then my timing belt broke and took out a lot of engine parts.  New engine to the tune of $1,824.  There I was, totally dependent up on this man – no money, no food, no transportation.  Do you think he offered to help pay for my vehicle repair?  Nope.  I was totally dependent upon him for transportation.  Why would he help me become independent again?  He would bring food, but nothing healthy.  Even after telling him I can’t eat certain foods, he ignored me.  Just brought what HE wanted. 

Then we got in a huge fight and he decides not to tell me he’s volunteered for the local fireman’s carnival for three weekends in a row.  We didn’t spend much time together as it was – he was over almost every evening after work, but would always leave by 9 because he had to go home and get his “shit in a pile.”  Yeah, it’s a pile of shit, all right. 

So silly me, I go out and buy a couple of books on male/female communication – give one to him and I read the other one – this was prior to the carnival.  He’s had that book for 3 months and hasn’t cracked the binding.  He SAYS it’s because he doesn’t want to take it in the house since “she” might find it.  WTF???  Excuse me???  

I was still unemployed so I gritted my teeth, knowing I needed this man’s support. I still do – just started working again, but I’m no where near being back on my feet.  I hope to be there within 3 months.  Meanwhile I’m making nice with someone I don’t even want around me anymore,  Luckily for me, I don’t have to make excuses for not wanting to sleep with him.  It’s been too hot to sleep in my bedroom upstairs and so I’m sleeping on the sofa or an air mattress in the a/c in the living room.   He’s noticing something though because he’s trying harder these days to be super nice-man again.  I’m not buying it.  He sees his supply diminishing and knows there is no one else to get it from, so he’s trying to reel me back in.  Keep in mind, and I didn’t say this up front,  this man is extremely inexperienced with women.  He’s spent his adult life married to the same woman and if I wrote his life story here you’d understand why I totally believe him when he says he never cheated on her.  Ever.  Anyone who knows him will back that up – while it hasn’t been impossible for him, he has spent his married life caretaking for a woman who has had illness after illness after illness and once she got better, she refused to work.  He’s spent his adult life working extra jobs to support her and the two kids.  He pays almost all the bills, even though on Jan 1, (she’s working now!) they agreed to split the bills exactly in half. Almost immediately his wife’s mother needed round the clock care and so his wife couldn’t work full time.  So he’s paying everything again.  I tried to explain to him what was going on, but he doesn’t care, won’t listen.  Why?  BECAUSE HE’S NOT GETTING DIVORCED.  EVER.  He hates his wife, and he did finally file, but she’s contesting and he’s just ignoring it.  He won’t ever go through with it. 

So, how stupid am I?  Pretty stupid.  I’m in too deep and I’m attempting to extricate myself. At this point, 15 months later, he tells me he can’t provide me emotional support (yeah, like he ever used to????) because his “tank is empty” from all the time he spent caring for his unappreciative wife.  

I don’t feel sorry for him.  I’m not going to kick myself anymore.  I’m just working toward extrication.  It ain’t easy.  After this, though?  I’m probably done with relationships.  I can’t seem to pick a man who is good for me.  I thought this man was, since after 3 years of not dating and just taking care of ME, we met totally by coincidence.  I wasn’t looking and he wasn’t either.  (so he says.)  

Used to be I could do no wrong.  Now, I’m just another harpy like his wife.  No – he’s never called me that name, but he’s articulated on many occasions that his bad behavior and negative reactions to my needs are due solely to spending “the last 20 years dealing with that shit.”  Uh huh.  And he was a pastor, too.  Oh yeah.  You read that right.  

He says he does what he does because he loves me.  I’m supposed to be totally happy with financial support, food I can’t really eat, and his presence a couple hours a day.  I’m not ever supposed to ask about the progress of his divorce, or anything that might upset him. I’m supposed to just be a good little mistress, sit down, shut up and smile.  Tell him how wonderful he is.  Oh, and I’m also supposed to make him “feel like a man.”  I got told recently that I don’t do that enough.  He told me this in the middle of my most recent layoff, when I was freaking out about money, and was having other issues that I needed help with. He didn’t help with any of them – he simply intimated he wasn’t getting enough sex or home cooked meals.  He hasn’t had any since.  He’s not happy about it. Gosh.  

I’ll get out of it.  I just need to get all my ducks in a row and very coldly and calculatingly use him for what I need until I can move on.  If he won’t talk, won’t be honest, expects me to read his mind, won’t divorce, yet expects me to always be there for him – he can sleep in the bed he’s made for himself.  

Wish I had time to tell the entire story.  It’s a tale.  I don’t have the time,  though.  

And while I do have empathy for anyone who is primary caregiver to an ailing family member, the fact is that it’s not my fault he never sought help; it’s not my problem that he allowed her to drain his “tank” and it’s not my fault that I’m a normal woman who would like a man who interacts on a normal level, emotionally.  This guy is about 14, emotionally.  I already raised one teenaged boy.  Not raising another.  What’s galling about it, and I know better than to write this because it’s normal N behavior:  he would say he’s been nothing but fantastically wonderful to me.  He can’t look in his own mirror.  What he’d see would be too much for him to process.  

Oh – and when he and his wife were splitting up he agreed to counselling. He says he went to 9 sessions and walked out on the last one because each session was all about what he was doing wrong and how he’d treated her like shit.  Well, if you’re close enough to smell that it’s shit…(and I am!)

 

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I Drove 330 Miles…and I’m So Glad I Did!

Like many of us, I see a psychiatrist.  I’ve seen the same doctor for 16 years, and when I first started with him, I really DID need him.  I was a mess!  With lots of support, encouragement, and good advice, I found myself healing from some serious childhood stuff.  I think my Doc is my medication now.  I was without him for almost two years after being transferred out of the area by corporate America.

I tried to find another doctor.  Folks, you can’t replace someone who has been there for you; who has been your ROCK for 16 years.  You just can’t.  It’s almost like a marriage, only with the professional boundaries in place.  So I decided, after trying yet ANOTHER shrink, that I was going to chuck it all where I am and go back to what I knew and trusted.

I drove 165 miles one way to get there today.  While sitting in his office, Doc _____ looks at my file and then looks at me and says:  “has it really been that long????  I could have sworn I’d seen you just a couple of months ago!”  I wasn’t sure what to make of that, so I asked him.  I said:  “hmmm – is that a good thing?”  Apparently, it was, because his reply was:  “Yes!  It means our rapport is so excellent that we can pick up where we left off, almost two years ago.”

My session with him was excellent and so worth the time, drive, traffic, and money.  I told him about the N, and described the situation to him.  I asked what he thought about it.  His reply:  “What do YOU think is wrong with this man?”   I replied that through research, I’d come to the conclusion the man was NPD.  Doc concurred.  He’d come to that conclusion simply from hearing me recite email conversations – and I surprised myself that I’d memorized them.  I was concerned about that because I thought maybe I was obsessing.  Doc told me no, I wasn’t obsessing, rather; I was doing what I do best:  analyzing and processing.

We discussed my primary relationship history.  Doc is a funny man.  He said:  “Okay, so far, with regard to primary relationships in your life, you’ve lived with a psycho domestic abuser, you married a dry drunk, you divorced the dry drunk and involved yourself in a long-distance relationship with a man who was very safe because neither of you had to invest anything in the relationship, then you married a man with Bipolar Disorder, you divorced him and it nearly killed you, then you moved in with a passive-aggressive Momma’s boy, and when that didn’t work you stayed away from men for awhile and started healing.  Now you tell me you found an NPD.  Are you done with men now?”

Yes, I’m done with men.  My judgment is obviously not at a level where I can trust it.  Unless the universe plants just the right man in my path, and gives me a sign that he IS the right man (and it would have to be something planetary, like Jupiter, aligning with Mars or something along those lines) I am done with men.

I don’t need a man.  I’d like one, but I’m fine without one.  I’m not emotionally needy now, although at one point in my life, as a young adult, I was extremely needy.

When I first started seeing the Doc he diagnosed me with borderline traits.  He told me this today.  I didn’t realize that.  He said he didn’t feel I warranted a formal diagnosis of BPD, because I was a high-functioning individual with a shitty childhood history to overcome.  He told me the that my official diagnosis was PTSD. I’d never thought to ask.

Without this man, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  He told me why his formal diagnosis was PTSD with borderline traits and looking back over my life (I’ll be 50 in a few days), I can see how right he was.   I still experience issues with PTSD, the most common issue being what Doc refers to as “ghosting.”

If I have a choice, I never sit with my back to a door.  There were things that would happen to me as a kid and with my first live-in if my back was turned.  To this day, I will sometimes feel as though someone is behind me and I’ll whip around, in fight or flight mode and no one will be there.  People have seen this “startle” response in me – I whip around and go into a slight crouch, my muscles tensed and I’m told I have a panic-stricken look on my face.  That’s “ghosting.”  I don’t think it’s really a medical term, but it clearly describes what I’m feeling.  I’m feeling the ghosts of my past; I’m feeling them so strongly that adrenaline kicks in and my brain sends me immediately into both an offensive and defensive mode.  My posture becomes defensive and my mind pulls forward into the offensive, bringing all the rage I had and still have toward the people who hurt me.  The rage is there, but I’ve learned to control it, as opposed to allowing it to control me.  Life wasn’t always like that.

Doc helped me work through all the garbage that caused that response; he helped me work through to my SELF, to bring the good and bad together and merge them into the person I really am.  He was there through two divorces, three downsizes, an immeasurable amount of heartbreaks; he got me through the teenage years with my son, and all the way through it, he was there to let me know I was okay and that I would be okay.

So, given all that, why on earth wouldn’t I drive 330 miles round trip to spend time with such a supportive and encouraging individual?  Why did I think I could ever replace him?  I’ll probably still be seeing him when I’m 85 and he’s 90, provided, as he said:  “I’m still alive, all the grey cells are working and I don’t need my Depends changed too often.”

I always marveled at how stable his marriage was (and is).  He got married at 21, has four grown children that he adores, and judging from the photos in his office, a wife he adores and loves as much as the day he married her.  Well, I know that, because he’s told me.  He would be lost without his wife.

That’s what I always thought I would have.  I told him that today.  I’ve been very conflicted about this turning 50 thing and mentioned that it’s really bothering me because I’m not where I thought would be at this point in my life.  He replied:  “Maybe you’re not seeing the forest.  Do you think it’s possible you’re exactly where you need to be?”

Yup.  Right again.  I thought about that on the drive home.  I AM exactly where I should be and where I need to be – for me.  I can’t compare my life to anyone else’s life.  I can’t judge myself based on someone else’s accomplishments or what society has decreed to us is defined as “success.”  I AM successful.  I’m here, writing this, still alive, and an emotionally healthy individual who has, at this point, minimal emotional baggage.

I’ve accomplished one hell of a lot in my life, but most would see me as largely unsuccessful because I don’t have the material acquisitions that our society values so greatly.  I don’t own a home, I’ve been laid off 3 times in three years, I have no retirement or savings because I ran though it all through various terms of unemployment, and right now I’m past due on my car payment because my (former) boss turned out to be a total asshole and at this writing, I have $25 to my name.

Know what, though?  It’s okay. I got an email today that is going to change that financial picture.  My entire life I’ve always had what I needed, when I needed it.  I may not have always had what I wanted, but I ALWAYS had what I needed.  That should really be enough for anyone.

I find, as I age, that the things I want are intangible.  They are things only I can provide myself.  Peace, happiness and contentment.  Value of myself FOR myself.  Self esteem without entitlement.  The knowledge that when I look back, 40 years from now (because I WILL live to be 90) I will know that for most of my adult life, I’ve worked to do the right thing, even when it didn’t feel good to do it.  I’ll know that I succeeded in becoming what I truly want to be:  A human being who works to help and heal others, because through that, I help and heal myself.   It’s an ongoing process…