It’s BPD awareness month.

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Therapy is getting real hard now.

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There’s a reason why I haven’t been posting about my therapy here much lately.    I posted about a dream a couple of weeks ago that I thought was significant and I emailed it to my therapist, since I’d been finding excuses to not go to my sessions.   He wants to talk to me about this when I see him next, which is this week.

He feels that I’m running away from something (I posted about that in my last post) and I know he’s right.   We’re getting into some heavy duty stuff now, having to do with early trauma I faced at the hands of my mother from about 5 – 7 years of age.  Some of the trauma is sexually charged (even though it wasn’t technical sexual abuse), but I can’t explain more about that here right now.    I know the worst thing I can do is avoid therapy now, because I’m reaching an important crossroads, but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

At the same time, I really want to explore this because I know that only in doing so, will I have a breakthrough that could change everything and make me whole again.

The reason I’ve been posting less about therapy is because right now I feel more vulnerable during our sessions than I ever have.   Part of this is because of me.   I’m getting into the roots of my disorders and it’s not just painful, but makes me feel overwhelming shame. I’ve even been reluctant to tell my therapist all the details about exactly what happened (and I certainly can’t talk about it here yet either).   But I remember everything.   I just haven’t been able to release the trauma because I have so much trouble confronting it, and every time he tries to bring it up, I change the subject, start laughing, or try to distract him from talking about it again.   At the same time, the fact I do not makes me feel like I’m cheating myself and the session just becomes a whole lot of nothing, and it’s all my own fault.  And then I feel guilty about it.

The other reason I’ve been posting less about therapy is because of some of the feelings that are coming up for me that are related to some new techniques my therapist is trying on me.  They are definitely working, but they tap directly into the core of my vulnerability and fear of attachment, so I’ve been skittish and reticent, and at the same time my feelings of attachment and transference toward my therapist are growing.

This involves light (non-sexual) touch during our sessions, which he is completely ethical about.  He always asks permission first.  He’s respectful and sensitive about my boundaries, and if I say no, he just says okay.

It’s easier for me to become emotional in our sessions than it used to be, but he noticed that very often, whenever I’d be on the verge of tears, I’d change the subject or make a joke to break the emotion.   I begged him to stop me when I do that. “Don’t make me run from it; make me feel it no matter how much I try to distract myself from doing so or try to get you to change the subject,” I pleaded.

Both of us realize how important emotional catharsis (crying) is for my healing, and that it’s the best way to release my trauma.   I have difficulty crying but it’s been getting a lot easier.   What he does now, is when I start to get choked up,  is he moves in closer (we face each other with no desk in between) so our knees are touching.   This light, nonsexual physical contact sometimes makes me want to pull away, but I fight that temptation and just allow myself to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed for a minute.   He stays silent while I gather myself and get used to the contact, and then the feelings of discomfort pass.   It’s a lot like getting into a cold pool — after a few seconds of discomfort, it feels great.

Once I’m comfortable, that’s when the tears start.   Then he moves in about one inch closer and holds my knees together between his own.   This isn’t sexual; I feel like it’s a way to “hold” me and keep me feeling grounded and connected with my body while I deal with “uncontrollable” feelings that normally make me feel completely dissociated, panicked, and out of control.   I asked him about this and that’s exactly why he does it.  It works too.

He’ll ask me to describe exactly what I feel and if there are any visuals or memories connected to whatever feelings come up.   Sometimes the tears are flowing freely at this point, and sometimes not.   I used to cover my face in his presence when I cried, but now I’ll just keep talking and let him see my tears.   However, we have both noticed I always cover my mouth and nosewhen this happens.  I’m not really ashamed of the tears per se, but more of being an “ugly crier,” which I always thought I was.   It’s our goal to get me to full-on, deep sobbing, which hasn’t happened yet.   Sometimes I wonder if it ever will.

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I usually keep talking while I cry, but sometimes I go silent or bury my face in my hands.  When this happens, he doesn’t tell me to stop crying, or “please don’t be upset” or anything like that.  What he does instead is make soothing noises, much like a loving parent would make if their child was upset.  Sometimes he’ll even put a hand on my arm and I feel like this steadies and grounds me.  It makes me feel cared for.

Sometimes his empathy and the fact I’m being treated exactly the way I had wanted to be treated by my own parents — with nonjudgmental concern, compassion, and understanding — sends me over the deep end and I feel so overwhelmed and moved I can’t handle it anymore.   The feeling of empathic affection emanating from him becomes TOO intense — and as much as I am so starved for that, I’m not used to it.   As a result, sometimes I (unconsciously) try to shatter the feeling of connection by pulling away suddenly, changing the subject, or laughing from embarrassment.   Sometimes my laughter becomes hysterical and almost uncontrollable, because I just can’t handle all the feelings — and some of these feelings are sexual too (on my part).   I haven’t told him about that.

My therapist tries to get me to connect whatever emotion I’m feeling with a memory.   It’s rare that I can do this; in fact, more often than not I don’t know exactly why I’m crying and can’t seem to name any emotion at all, or if I do, it’s several emotions all mixed together in a jumble.   It seems as if I have plenty of strong emotions and even the ability to release them to some extent, but my conscious, thinking mind is so dissociated from my heart and feeling mind, that it’s often hard for me to describe the emotion or name it.

Connecting emotions to a traumatic event is even harder.   Although I can remember traumatic events, many in vivid detail and some very early in my life, whenever I talk about them, I do so coldly and without much emotion, as if those things happened to someone else.   The goal is to get me to reconnect those parts of my mind that hold the memories to the parts that hold the feelings that were originally connected to the memories.   The disconnection occurred because of the traumatic nature of the memories.   I can be “retraumatized” (usually without knowing exactly why) and I can remember events, but I can’t experience them together yet.

Our sessions are so emotional now that my transference toward him has increased. That was part of what I was running from too.  I didn’t want to feel that.   But I need to, and need to learn how to work through the complicated emotions so eventually I can transfer those onto others and learn to attach to people in an authentic and vulnerable way, and finally be unafraid of expressing real, vulnerable, “weak” emotions to others.   What’s happening in therapy now is really an incredibly beautiful thing, but a part of me is ashamed of its “sappiness.”   But why should I be ashamed of it?   Why are only anger and “tough emotions” acceptable? That’s exactly what’s wrong with the whole world!

Another weird thing that has happened is that sometimes after our sessions,  I come home and find my eyes welling with tears at random times and seemingly for no reason. He has instructed me to try to find an emotion to connect these moments with, if not an actual memory.    So far I haven’t been able to do that but he did say it doesn’t really matter if I can or can’t — even if I can’t find an emotion or memory to connect the crying with, it’s still a release of trauma.  Trauma can be released physically (through crying, screaming, or other means), even if there is no memory of what originally caused it or a discernible emotion to connect it to.

This week I’m going to do better.  I’m diving into this and not looking back.    I have to stop being so afraid of confronting the truth about my past and just plow through the shame and let whatever happens, happen.

This was one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written, but I knew I had to.    I hope it helps others.

What am I running from?

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I haven’t posted here for a long time.   The truth is that lately I’ve been losing interest in my therapy and haven’t even been wanting to go.   Since my sessions are never unpleasant or traumatic, I really don’t know why.  I know I’m not cured, though that thought occurred to me briefly.    Sometimes uncomfortable emotions come up in session, but I actually look forward to those, because it means we can work on them.  They’ve never been cause for me to want to run.

But recently, even while I’m in session, I keep talking about things that have nothing to do with therapy, or even with me.  My therapist correctly pointed out that he sensed I was avoiding something that’s coming up.

In our last session we began talking about an early childhood trauma involving my mother, when I was about 5 -7.  I skirted around the issue and told him I couldn’t give him details, but I was starting to get emotional.   It’s not something I’m able to talk about yet, even with my therapist.  Not even here.  It brings me too much shame even now, but I remember exactly what happened as clear as day.   He wants to explore this with me and I do too, but…I’m afraid to.   It’s too shameful.    But the avoidance started several weeks before this.

So I’ve been losing interest.  This week I felt too tired to go so I didn’t.  That hasn’t happened before.

I just had a dream that may shed some light on what’s going on, because the real reason is occluded even to me.

The dream involved a usual theme that occurs in many of my dreams. Somehow, in spite of my limited income, I had come into ownership of a vast house, so vast that I kept discovering rooms I never knew existed and had never seen before.  Exploring my new home was exciting, but in the back of my mind I knew I really couldn’t afford this house.

There were strangers in the house, as if it was some public place.    I walked through a doorway that opened out to a huge industrial kitchen with huge flat stainless steel cooktops lining an entire wall.  All these random people were cooking — bacon, eggs, steaks, you name it.    I turned to some stranger and told them I owned all this.   I told them that before, I had lived in a one bedroom apartment (my actual place has two bedrooms).  I admitted I wasn’t sure I could afford all this but that I would try.

One of the strangers I met was a very attractive man in his thirties.  (In my dreams I am always younger than my real age).    He seemed interested in me and kept following me around, trying to start a conversation.   I was interested but reticent, so I may have seemed disinterested, even though I wasn’t.   We found a room with tables that had numbers on them, as you might find in a restaurant.

The man invited me to sit down at one of the tables with him, Table #30.   Reluctantly, I did.  He was friendly and asked me many questions.  I was attracted and interested, but also afraid.   As I am in real life, I felt threatened by his interest in me.   But I was willing to get to know him better.  My attraction overrode my wariness.

I admitted to him I was afraid of relationships but that I’d be willing to give one a chance under the right circumstances.   He seemed understanding.

I got up for some reason that I can’t remember and then came back to Table 30.   He was gone.   A woman sitting at a nearby table told me she had seen him leave and drive away.  I was disappointed.  I wondered what I’d done.  I knew I’d never see him again.

I wanted to write this dream down before it fades from my memory, but I haven’t thought about what it could mean yet.    I’m going to mull it over today and if I figure it out, I’ll write another post later.  Right now my brain isn’t working and I just want to go back to bed for a few more hours.

6 “useless” emotions that aren’t useless, and 2 that really are useless.

Originally posted on July 10, 2016 on Lucky Otters Haven

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I get tired of the positive thinking brigade who tells you you always must be happy and that there’s no place for “negative” emotions.   Not only is it obnoxious to wear a pasted on smile all the time even when you’re not feeling it, it’s not natural or healthy.   Of course, being a positive person who thinks positive thoughts is a good thing, but when it’s taken to ridiculous extremes (and it certainly is in my family, where “negative” emotions are not accepted or allowed) it can be soul-damaging.   Following is a list of unpopular (or “useless”) emotions that definitely have their uses (when they’re not excessive).  There are only two emotions I can think of that have no uses whatsoever, and I’ll describe those last.

1. Guilt.

My father always used to tell everyone that guilt was an unhealthy, useless emotion, but I couldn’t disagree more.   True, excessive guilt is bad for you, but the right amount of guilt separates people with a conscience from the psychopaths. I pointed out this to my father once, and he became enraged.   Hmmm, I wonder why!   The ability to feel guilt keeps us civilized and mindful of the feelings of others.

2. Sadness.

Sadness is a normal reaction to a loss.  It also connects people in those times of loss.  We have socially sanctioned rituals that promote and even encourage the expression of sadness (funerals) but otherwise, people are uncomfortable with the sadness of another and are always trying to cheer you up.   If you’re crying, people always want you to stop. Why?  Feeling sad and crying can be healing; if sadness is repressed it can lead to something much worse–depression.   People need to just shut up and let you be sad and cry if that’s what you need to do.

3. Anger.

There are times it’s appropriate to be angry.    Anger, though toxic both to yourself and others when excessive,  helps you survive.  If you feel threatened or feel that someone close to you is threatened, you are going to fight back.  The only other survival option is to flee (which I’ll talk about next).   Otherwise you’re just going to stand there and let yourself or your loved ones get attacked or treated badly.    Excessive anger, of course, leads to hatred, and hatred is not only useless, it’s dangerous to the soul.

4. Fear.

If you can’t fight (sometimes you can’t), you can flee danger.   Like anger, fear is a survival emotion.   It can be excessive, leading to anxiety disorders, but fear in normal doses is both healthy and appropriate reactions to danger.   It’s important to distinguish whether it’s better to flee (fear) or to fight (anger).

5. Jealousy.

I’m not talking about envy here, an emotion often confused with jealousy.  But they are not the same.   Jealousy refers to the fear that someone is taking something you love away from you; envy refers to wanting what someone else has.  There are similarities though. Both are bitter, painful emotions, hard to deal with.  Sometimes they lead to people attacking the object of their jealousy or envy to “even the score.”   But jealousy has its place.   It’s another survival emotion, similar to anger mixed with fear, that warns you that something that belongs to you is in danger of being taken away.   The problem is jealousy often crops up when there is no real danger of that happening, and that leads to all kinds of problems.  Excessive jealousy can actually be self-defeating and drive what you love away from you — the most obvious example is constantly asking someone you’re in a relationship with if they are seeing someone else, or snooping in their things to find out.  That sort of behavior will eventually drive the other person away.

6. Envy.

I hesitated to put envy here, because on the surface it really doesn’t seem to have any useful purpose.  I almost put it as one of the “useless” emotions I’ll be describing last.  But envy does have one useful aspect.  If it’s not excessive, it can be a motivator, making you take action to improve your own circumstances.   When it’s used that way, it’s really more akin to admiration than envy.   The problem with envy is it can so often turn so bitter that it saps all your energy and lowers your self esteem, making you LESS likely to improve your circumstances or achieve the things you want.

The Two Emotions That Really Are Useless.  

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1. Worry.

I heard a great saying once:  “Worry is useless because if what you dread comes to pass, then you’ve lived through it twice; if it never happens, then your worry was in vain.”  I took those words to heart because of how true they are.   Worry is absolutely useless.  If faced with a potentially bad or dangerous situation, worry won’t help you.  If something can be done to prevent the situation from happening, taking action will help,  and once you take action, then there’s nothing more to worry about.   If there’s no action you can take, then worrying about it is a waste of time.  Better to plan how you will deal with it when it happens, than to sit around wringing your hands, pulling out your hair, and making yourself sick over it.

2. Shame.

Shame must be distinguished here from guilt.  Guilt refers to something you did, while shame refers to the person you are.  Guilt is useful because without it, there would be no apologies or amend-making for bad behavior.   People would just go around doing whatever they want, regardless of how it makes others feel.   Shame, on the other hand, is useless because it means feeling sorry not for something you did, but for who you are.  If you were the family scapegoat, then you were the receptacle for all the family shame, and were made to feel like you’re worthless and don’t deserve to live.    Shame is the one emotion that is at the core of all the personality disorders and every case of complex PTSD generated by familial abuse.  It’s incredibly toxic–probably the most toxic emotion there is, and it has about as much usefulness as a bicycle does for a fish.

For more about shame vs. guilt, please read Carrie Musgrove’s article about the important distinctions.

Cold Therapy: what is it?

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Narcissus flower in bloom.

Cold Therapy is a new therapy developed by Sam Vaknin for people with NPD and other disorders.   It sets up a scenario that creates a facsimile of the original trauma that that set off their disorder (retraumatization).   The “cold” refers to the idea of recognizing the narcissist is an emotional child and allowing them relive the trauma without offering any “warmth.” The narcissist is then given emotional tools to handle the traumatic event differently, thereby “rewiring” the brain.    It has had hopeful results on several people diagnosed with Cluster B disorders, including NPD and ASPD, and other disorders.

According to Vaknin,

Cold Therapy deploys tools from the arsenal of child psychology to treat these disorders because of their roots in attachment dysfunctions and arrested development. The therapy seeks to recreate an environment conducive to the replication of original childhood traumas so as to allow the client to resolve them as an adult.

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From the webpage about Cold Therapy:

Developed by Sam Vaknin, Cold Therapy is based on two premises —

1. That narcissistic disorders are actually forms of complex post-traumatic conditions; and
2. That narcissists are the outcomes of arrested development.

Cold Therapy borrows techniques from child psychology and from treatment modalities used to deal with PTSD. Cold Therapy consists of the retraumatization of the narcissistic client in a hostile, non-holding environment which resembles the ambience of the original trauma. The adult patient successfully tackles this second round of hurt and thus resolves early childhood conflicts and achieves closure rendering his now maladaptive narcissistic defenses redundant, unnecessary, and obsolete.

Cold Therapy makes use of proprietary techniques such as erasure (suppressing the client’s speech and free expression and gaining clinical information and insights from his reactions to being so stifled). Other techniques include: grandiosity reframing, guided imagery, negative iteration, erasure, happiness map, mirroring, escalation, role play, assimilative confabulation, hypervigilant referencing, and reparenting.

The therapy then makes use of Lidija Rangelovska’s “Spiral of Healing” to revisit the original traumas, but this time in a holding (supportive) environment, replete with empathy and emotions.

Who can benefit from Cold Therapy

Cold therapy is a radical departure from current tenets of most treatment modalities.  It is especially effective in the treatment of Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorders, and certain mood disorders, including dysthymia and major depressive episodes (clinical depression of both exogenous and endogenous causes).

Who can attend

Anyone can attend the seminar (which is to be held in Vienna, Austria on May 12 – 14, 2017), but licensed therapists, psychologists, and mental health practitioners will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the seminar.

Dates, times, exact location, itinerary for the workshop for each day, and information about payment can be found here:

https://www.scribd.com/document/336914118/FIRST-EVER-Cold-Therapy-Certification-Seminar-in-Vienna-REGISTER-NOW

Warrior.

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Harsh Reality: Realizing You’re the Abuser (reblogged article)

Yara Aiko from Recovering From NPD wrote this incredibly insightful and inspirational post about one of the worst things a person can realize about themselves.  It’s not too late to change!

Harsh Reality: Realizing You’re the Abuser

By Yara Aiko, Recovering from NPD

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Shit has been really getting dire around here. Supply has been low and I’m hitting a wall. For months now I’ve been dealing with strong emotions and painful childhood memories, and trying hard to fight off emotional numbness and dissociations.

At the same time, I’ve been trying to restrict my access to unhealthy or attention-seeking forms of “supply” as I try to force myself to learn to rely on myself to regulate my own self-worth. Not. Easy.

Prolonged numbness + dissociation = rage

I’ve tried just about everything I can think of to pull myself out of this emotional wasteland I’m in. But nothing has had a strong enough impact to pull me out of it completely, or to permanently make it stop. Everything seems like a short term, temporary fix, before it’s back to the boredom and numbness.

I know it can’t last forever, but at this point I’m getting desperate. And angry.

woman-fist-angerWhat does that mean? I’m so desperate to feel again I’ll do anything. Positive supply isn’t coming quick enough and in abundance – so I’ve resorted to fucking shit up.  In other words: let’s stir the pot and see what bubbles to the surface.

What’s been pissing me off recently that I can bring up now and start a fight about? Who’s on my shit list that can I text something snide to, just to see how they respond? Let’s go online and troll someone obnoxious. At this point, all bets are off. Anger feels better than boredom. It’s that dire.

For the record, I am not proud of this. I’m actually quite ashamed.

I absolutely hate that I am doing this and really want to stop. These feelings are a reminder to me that self-awareness alone is not enough. Not by a long shot. But it is helpful. I thought about it last night and realized I’m essentially throwing a temper tantrum to get attention. The same thing I did as a child when nothing else worked. (Insight)

Discovering my multiple personalities

multiple personalities dissociation.jpgI’ve heard NPD compared to a dissociative  disorder. Sometimes I can’t seem to control which personality comes out, or turn it off. This is a prime example.

This week “Cluster B Girl” is out and she’s a royal narc. She don’t give a fuck. When Cluster B Girl is up, I see myself raging and doing other self-destructive behaviors that I know I’ll later regret.

Internally I am thinking, stop it! Why are you doing this—this behavior is not going to get you want you want, in fact just the opposite! Shut up before you make things worse. Face palm. But the words are flying out of my mouth like someone else is speaking them.

I have a front row seat, but I’m not really participating. Except the rage—I feel that full force.

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Read the rest of Yara’s article here.

 

Post-Trump Trauma Support Group

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I’ve lost interest in posting here lately because I’ve become so pre-occupied with the dark turn taken here in America since Trump’s election. It’s extremely triggering for me and I’m more than a little obsessed. I know this isn’t healthy, but I feel like I need to do something.

Troll-tweeting Trump is fun, but is no longer enough to relieve my stress (even though it’s still fun).   I know I’m not the only one deeply traumatized and triggered by this administration.   Some want to escape; others, who were always kind of apathetic politically (like I used to be), now feel like they must take some kind of action.

I think survivors of narcissistic abuse are especially sensitive to the way we are all being gaslighted and manipulated by this administration.

I’ve been taking out my frustrations and anger on those I love, and I hate being like this. I feel like all the progress I’ve made in therapy has taken a backseat to the rage, fear and sadness I feel right now.

I needed a support group for Trump-trauma, but couldn’t find one.  So I made one.   It’s already pretty active and the people are really friendly.  If you are feeling down, depressed, traumatized, dissociated, angry, terrified, or even just merely concerned, then this group may be for you.

It’s a closed group, so you will need to request to join.   Looking forward to meeting new members, especially fellow bloggers!

For obvious reasons, Trump supporters are not welcome.

Post-Trump Trauma Support Group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/630537017139485/

“Why Therapy is Not Working” (Ryan Liberty)

I love this guy and his videos.  He has a fun, upbeat style.  Follow his channel on Youtube.

You can also follow his Emotional Trauma Support Group on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/ryanalysis

This is helpful to me right now.  Not that therapy isn’t working, but I feel stuck and powerless because of the political situation.   This has never happened to me before.

Dysphoria, Dissociation, Anhedonia, Oh My! (reblogged post)

My friend Yara, who has an NPD diagnosis (not malignant) is in recovery and has been feeling down lately.   She just wrote this article about the way she’s been feeling.   I think these feelings she is experiencing are common to anyone suffering from trauma disorders — NPD, BPD, and C-PTSD.   It’s that awful feeling of yawning emptiness that occasionally makes itself felt.    She also talks about some of the things she is doing to relieve the pain and remain mindful.  Here is her post.

Please follow Yara’s blog, Recovering from NPD.

Dysphoria, Dissociation, Anhedonia, Oh My!

By Yara, Recovering from NPD.

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Feelings Wheel.

 

I’ve had a tough week. I dissociated for most of the week and am just now (thankfully, hopefully?) coming back to reality.

When I get like this, my weekends blend into my week days. My days into my nights. I have to look at the calendar several times a day to remember what day it is. Still I have trouble. Today I looked up and it was Thursday. I’ve done nothing with my week and it’s nearly over.

Each day, the hours go by and before I know it, the kids are home and I’m struggling to get through dinner and bedtime. Struggling to pull it together enough to be at least somewhat present for them. I smile and play with the baby. I try to make conversation with my oldest, showing interest in his day. But I’m on “autopilot” – how I describe my dissociations. It’s like I’m seeing the conversations happening, but I don’t feel like I’m part of them. I feel disconnected from reality, like I’m floating inside my own head watching the world take place around me, but not participating. The next day I remember it as if it was a dream.

All day yesterday I walked by several piles of laundry I meant to take care of and didn’t realize they were there until the evening. I simply didn’t see them. I’m completely checked out.

Next week I’ll get some stuff done, I tell myself every week. I’m going on two months of this now and starting to really get concerned. It’s affecting every aspect of my life, including my work. I’m falling behind and it’s only a matter of time before someone notices I’ve produced virtually nothing in weeks.

I’ve always had periods of “depression.” Cyclical ups and downs throughout the years. This is the first bought I’ve had since becoming aware of my NPD, so this time it looks different to me. I’m aware of aspects I wasn’t aware of before. In the past, this would be the time I’d be searching for new “supply.” A new hobby, interest, friend, something exciting, anything to take my mind off the boredom. But I’m trying to learn not to rely on that anymore, and instead rely on myself.

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Read the rest of Yara’s article here.