Narcissists Fold, Spindle and Mutilate: Where and how to get help

I just read a post entitled  No Longer Dead and I knew immediately what this woman was dealing with based on the first half of her post.  My assumption is that the second half is her, telling herself that she will not accept this individual any longer until or unless he acquiesces to her completely legitimate and emotionally healthy demands.

If this woman has been dealing with an NPD, she was dead to him from the beginning.  She never truly existed as a human being worthy of love, respect, dignity and empathy.  She was simply this person’s mirror.  It appears she spent years being devalued and discarded and then finally got sick of it, found her strength and decided to move on.

This is a good post to read.  Many times, when we are the focus of devaluation by a narcissist, we don’t know what the heck is going on.  All we know is that nothing we do seems to be good enough; everything is our fault; we are crazy.  Nothing is wrong with the narcissist and he or she makes it very clear to us that we are the problem.  Still, when we’re in the middle of it, it’s difficult to step outside the fishbowl and peer in.  Objectivity seems to be the lowest on our list of priorities, with survival of a relationship that never was being our top priority.

Even if you’ve been married to an individual for most of your adult life, if you are being treated the way the woman in No Longer Dead was being treated, you haven’t had a relationship.  A relationship takes two people.  A Narcissist absolves themselves from relationship responsibilities before they engage with another individual.  A narcissist doesn’t have relationships; he or she merely has mirrors.  Even if you’ve been married for 30 years to a narcissist, it sadly means that you’ve been a mirror (and nothing more) for 30 years.

Narcissists can’t love another human being.  They don’t love themselves, even though their surface would indicate that they do love themselves – too much.  Scratch that surface and you find nothing.  Narcissists are fragile shells and to keep their shells intact they abuse before they can be abused.  This is why they are hyper-vigilant for the slightest criticism.  They twist and spin words that they believe might be critical (even if they aren’t) and deliberately make them critical so they can set about stomping the purveyor of those words into submission.

Narcissists are emotional vampires and they have memories like elephants.  Those who share emotions, who show they have emotions, who are compassionate and empathetic, are considered weak to a narcissist, ergo; they are FOOD.  A narcissist will suck you dry, and when you finally realize what’s been going on and stand up to the narcissist in your life, they will pull out every emotion you ever shared with them, twist and spin it and fling it back at you with deadly accuracy.  When they see their mirror has gained strength, thus providing the mirror the means of seeing the narcissist for what it truly is, they will move in for the emotional kill.

There is a point at which you, as a mirror can avoid this emotional kill, if you truly see what’s going on.  It’s a nanosecond in the scope of a 30-year marriage, or a many-years-long “relationship” with a narcissist, but if you see it, and flee when you see it, you will have a slightly diminished time frame during which you have to heal and rebuild your emotional health and strength.  If you don’t see it (and many of us don’t, and no one but you can say when that point is) you will be so emotionally crushed that it may be years before you have the strength to bootstrap yourself out of your situation.

If you are experiencing any of the issues described in the first half of No Longer Dead you MUST take a step back, grab your journal if necessary, and start assessing things.  Just start writing, and don’t worry about how things come out.  This will allow you to re-read and identify what’s truly going on.  If you don’t write, see a counselor.  Talk to a trusted friend.  Get an objective view of your situation.  While you’re doing this ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THAT A NARCISSIST NEVER CHANGES.  THIS IS NOT A RELATIONSHIP; YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO SAVE YOURSELF, NOT A RELATIONSHIP THAT NEVER WAS. 

I don’t recommend seeing your family pastor or priest.  Why?  A pastor (and especially priests) are trained to keep the marital unit together regardless the circumstances.  If you see a priest you may be told it’s your responsibility (if you’re female) to act in submission with your husband’s will, regardless his will.  Depending upon your denomination, a pastor may tell you the same thing.  Fundamental Christian pastors may tell you (if you’re female) that you’re the one with issues since you’re not acting in accordance with “God’s” will or your husband’s will.  Trust me on this one, I’ve been there.

Most religions don’t recognize personality disorders as an acceptable reason for divorce.  My experience has taught me that when religion enters the picture, it is the woman who pays a huge price when her mate is a narcissist.  If there are children involved, you must get them away from the daily influence of the narcissist or you will have children who grow into damaged adults.

I believe that faith in a higher power is essential.  Many don’t believe that, and I respect their choice. For me, though, if I didn’t have faith in a higher power, I’d never have made it this far in life.   If you don’t have faith in a power greater than yourself, all that’s left to see you through your turmoil is whatever reserve of inner strength you may have.

My best advice for getting free of a narcissist (and you are with a narcissist if  all or most of the first half of No Longer Dead applies to you) is to seek secular help.  Prayer works, regardless your form of worship or faith.  Positive thinking works, but getting there is difficult.   Narcissists have many crossover traits to alcoholism, as well as to Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Even if the narcissist in your life doesn’t drink, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have alcoholic traits.  It’s very easy for someone to believe they are not an alcoholic simply because they don’t drink.  Alcoholism is defined not only by the consumption and need for alcohol, but by a very clear set of behavior patterns and those behavior patterns align with the way I’ve seen narcissists act.

If you are with a narcissist who does not drink, the odds are good you have a dry drunk on your hands.  Al-Anon is a great place to get the help and support you need in dealing with a dry drunk and/or a narcissist.  Please open the link for dry drunk to read the characteristics.  You will see that they align clearly with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

If the narcissist in your life drinks, it’s very important to get help through Al-Anon.  There are meetings everywhere and while some view it as a betrayal to the person with whom they are involved, that is simply misplaced loyalty.  Most of us who wind up with a narcissist in our lives have had prior experience with some form of emotional dysfunction in our lives, probably during childhood, when we are most malleable and taught to accept behaviors that are truly self-damaging.  Regardless your faith, if you believe in a higher power you must ask yourself if your higher power would find your situation acceptable, and would that higher power believe it to be something that is good, healthy and uplifting for you?

Remember this:  Martyrdom is not the glorification of God or any other higher power.  It is the glorification of EGO.  Many times, we have our egos too invested in who we are; that which we allow to provide us our criteria for life is our ego, not our SELF, which involves listening to the still, small voice and acting from within a higher level of knowledge with regard to self.  If we act from within the self, and not the ego, martyrdom to the cause of a narcissist becomes anathema to us.  In martyring ourselves to another’s abuse of us, we deny that which has been universally given to us:  love, in all its forms. Martyrdom is not love.  It is the glorification of our own egos, and that is not a good thing.

If you are with a narcissist, and you have sublimated yourself to that individual’s monstrously sick manipulation, you are martyring yourself.  STOP NOW!  

If you don’t stop the madness now, you may find yourself dealing with a massive case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Trust me on that one, too.   PTSD can result from recurring, consistent emotional abuse.  Couple that with the physical abuse that some experience when with a narcissist and you’ll wind up with a full-blown case of PTSD.

Five More Days Until…

…I turn 50.

I’m struggling with this, but the struggle is diminishing the closer I get to the actual number.  That’s all it truly is; a number.  I don’t feel 50; I don’t look 50 (although that wouldn’t be an issue, because looking one’s age isn’t a bad thing; it’s just a bad thing in American society).

This has been a difficult year for me, fraught with change and I feel like I’m playing dodge ball with life.  I’m Neo, only what’s being fired at me are massively flaming figurative bags of shit, over and over again.

Let’s see:  18 months ago my company transferred me from SC to where I am now.  Six months ago, they laid me off.  I lived hand-to-mouth for around six months, attempting to turn my artistry into a business.  It’s working, but slowly.  It’s not making me enough money to live on – yet.  Five weeks ago, I accepted a “contract” position, with a contract that was carved in granite.  Two weeks ago, my employer breached that contract (and did some other things I can’t talk about on a public forum for legal reasons), and my rent and car payments bounced because of it.  I hired an attorney.  He’s taking it on contingency.

Four months ago I met a man who turned out to be NPD.  How many different ways can you spell N I G H T M A R E ??

My landlady, who was supposedly a friend, did something morally and legally wrong (which I won’t mention here) and I forgave her and allowed her (cautiously) back into my life.  That was poor judgment on my part.  The best indicator of an individual’s future behavior is their past behavior unless you know they’ve initiated the process of change into their life.

This year, I feel as though life is attempting to spit me out.  I’m not going to let that happen.  I know how to find the positive in every bad situation and when I told my therapist last week that I was feeling like I should be well-settled, have more, BE more, etc., ad nauseum, at this point in my life, he replied:  “Did you ever think maybe you’re right where you’re supposed to be?”

He’s right.  I have a lot to be proud of.  I’ve accomplished much in my 50 years, particularly considering the childhood years.  I’ve come a long way.  I am a successful person, with accomplishments that, while visible only to me and some close friends, are truly amazing accomplishments.

I think this is my year of change.  It’s my year of decision-making for the rest of my life.  I believe that what I do now will set the foundation for however much time I have left in this world.  I need to make the right decisions, but how do I know I’m doing that?  I don’t.  I just have to make decisions and if they turn out to be bad, do what I’ve always done and bootstrap myself out of them.

What I do know is that I’ll survive.  That’s what I do.  Someone said to  me yesterday:  “you’ve had so much shit happen in your life; there’s been nothing really good that ever happened to you.”  That’s not true.  Yes, shit has happened, but it’s happened, except for this year, because of choices I made, and it’s possible that this year happened because of my choices early on.  That said, my early choices were uninformed and made from within the chaotic mind of a PTSD young adult who didn’t understand why she felt and acted “crazy” most of the time.

I’m okay.  50 will be better than 40.  Life usually doesn’t work the way we think it will, and I know that I will always have whatever I need. I may not always have what I want, but I will definitely have what I need.  That makes everything okay.

I’ve chosen to meet 50 with a smile and a great attitude.  Whatever life has in store for me, I’ll meet it head-on and roll with the punches.  I won’t fight it.  My usual MO is to fight, but I’ve found over the past two years that listening to my intuition is a better way to go.  Don’t fight to control that which I can’t control.

I say the serenity prayer a lot, to remind myself.  🙂

 

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…