This post may be lengthy. But I want to clear up some of the confusion about what my psychiatric diagnoses are, and what I’m actually in therapy for (short answer: I don’t really know).
I started this blog in early August 2015, because of an article I read that caused me to have a sudden shocking epiphany and sent me hurtling “down the rabbit hole” (hence the name of this blog): I “discovered” I was a covert narcissist. Or so I thought.
Almost immediately, I frantically scanned the web for blogs written by narcissists, especially the covert/fragile type, who wanted to be healed or are in therapy or treatment. Obviously, blogs written by and for narcissistic abuse survivors didn’t count (even though I started my primary blog, Lucky Otter’s Haven, as such a blog–but which has since greatly expanded its scope). The only blogs by narcissists I could find were generally of two types:
1. Blogs that celebrated NPD–these were bloggers who felt as if their narcissism had greatly improved their lives and made them more successful (and who naturally had zero desire to change)
2. Blogs by narcissists giving advice to abuse victims. The most famous example of this type of site is Sam Vaknin’s ancient Tripod website, which hasn’t changed since the ’90s and is badly in need of a more current look and easier navigation. Sam has a few copycats floating around on the web, other narcissists who give a first person perspective of having NPD and sagely warn their readers to go no contact with people like themselves.
So I decided there was a need for a new type of blog: one written by a narcissist who wanted to heal. A blog that humanized NPD by documenting the inner state, emptiness, loneliness, and emotional pain of someone who had the disorder, and describing the things I was doing to eradicate narcissism from my soul.
So for four mindf*ckingly surreal months, until December 2015, I identified as a covert narcissist who also happened to have BPD (which I was actually diagnosed with, along with PTSD and Avoidant Personality Disorder in 1996 and 1997). I became hyper-aware of my own behaviors, believing that even the normal things I did were somehow the actions of a narcissist. I felt like I was living in some alternate universe, where everything was the opposite of what I’d previously believed. The dissociative feelings were severe.
Sure, I saw the videos and read the blogs that said if you believe you’re a narcissist, then you are not, but I didn’t believe them. What I probably had was narcissistic “fleas” (narcissistic behaviors that can rub off on an abuse victim who has been exposed to narcissistic abuse over a long period of time). I may even be on the narcissistic spectrum (which means having a few N traits), but that doesn’t mean I have NPD.
Of course, there are those who believe that Borderlines are actually narcissists (Alexander Lowen is a psychiatrist who believes BPD is just a form of Narcissism that is not quite as high up the spectrum and possessed of a more fragile false self–I’ll be talking about his very interesting book, “Narcissism: Denial of the True Self” in an upcoming post). There’s a lot of theories out there about Cluster B disorders, but at the end of the day, they’re just theories. Psychology has never been and never will be an exact science. At best, it’s a social science, at worst, an art form.
My four months of being a “narcissist,” I now realize, were an important part of my healing. For during those months, I decided to pull out my book of DBT skills, which had been sitting on a shelf collecting dust since 1998. Even though DBT is geared toward people with BPD, I figured these exercises might work for my “NPD.” I didn’t want to be a narcissist. It would be better to have cancer! I desperately wanted to be healed from this black scourge on my soul–or what was left of it. I couldn’t afford therapy (or so I thought)–hell, I’d heal myself from it! I’d find a way! Go suck on a moldy twig, naysayers! I’ll prove all you “experts” and haters wrong! A skeleton transplant? Sure, why not? Hey, it would be a piece of cake!
I undertook a rigorous self-therapy regimen, described in earlier posts. Basically it was a mish-mosh of New Age, Buddhist, and Christian spirituality; music to elicit emotional catharsis and crying; meditation; deep, circular breathing; ultra-hot baths; cocooning myself naked under blankets like a fetus; having conversations (actual conversations!)with my inner child; chakra balancing; prayer; poetry writing; a lot of reading about NPD (which I’d already been doing); Bible reading; DBT; and of course, blogging. I even “came out” on my main blog but later on had to retract it (and felt pretty foolish having to do so).
I began to post on a forum for people with NPD (or who thought they had NPD). Surprisingly, that was a positive experience. The “narcs” posting on that forum did not seem very narcissistic. Granted, most of them were self-diagnosed (like me!) and identified as “covert” (the more fragile, emotional type of NPD). Perhaps these people didn’t really have NPD at all. Maybe they were just a bunch of people like me with “fleas.” If they really were narcs, maybe being self aware caused them to be more mindful of the way they were treating other people, because I found them to be helpful, welcoming, supportive, and honest about the issues and problems their narcissism (if that’s what it was) was causing for them and others. I saw almost no abusive behaviors at all. The narcs and the “nons” (as they were called) seemed to co-exist peacefully on the forum and there was almost never any drama. The forum didn’t even have a mod! It didn’t need one!
My time there taught me a lot, and my DBT skills and other methods of self-therapy I was engaged in (described in more detail in my early posts on this blog), intended to heal my “NPD,” didn’t do that (since I don’t have NPD), but they did bring me to a point where I was ready for real therapy. While all the self-therapy activities I was engaged in were helpful (some more so than others), they weren’t nearly enough. I ran into an internal wall where I could seem to get no further and I sank into a deep depression.
I decided to enter real therapy. That was in November. At the time, I still believed I had NPD, but when I did a Google search, all that came up under “NPD therapists” in my city was “trauma” or “attachment therapists.” I tried the search again, this time using “BPD therapists.” Again, trauma and attachment came up.
Of course, all cluster B disorders are really attachment disorders caused by childhood trauma. Okay, fine. I clicked on the entry for a therapist whose picture showed a man about my age with a kind, empathetic face.
Somehow, I’ve had the money to pay for it. Even twice a week now. That’s proof to me that God exists and loves me after all (I always thought that, if he existed, he hated my guts). My therapist is using a mixture of psychodynamic therapy techniques used for people with Cluster B, complex PTSD and attachment disorders. I was interested in being reparented in particular, and in fact that is part of his regimen.
When I told him I thought I had NPD, he laughed. He told me I may have some of the traits of narcissism, but he doesn’t think I’m a narcissist. He also said he has doubts that I’m even BPD (I don’t act out the way I used to, due to mindfulness and DBT skills being second nature to me now). Does that mean I’ve actually cured myself of BPD? I don’t know. But he doesn’t like labels anyway. He prefers to treat symptoms rather than “disorders” and I’ve come to prefer that too. The important thing is, we’ve established a very strong connection and rapport, and what he’s doing is working for me, whatever disorder it is that I actually have. Maybe there should be a new diagnosis: CPD: Confused Personality Disorder.
As for this blog, I’ve slowly been transforming it. It’s not an easy job and I’m having to do it in bits and pieces. I’m keeping the “broken mirrors” theme because I think it still fits. I’m trying to eradicate this blog’s dubious past as a “OMFG I HAVE NPD” blog. I had to wait several months to change the domain name (the old one was “healingnpd.com”) until I had the funds to do so (changing a domain name isn’t cheap). Still, being that all trauma- and attachment-based disorders (complex PTSD and all the personality disorders) are interrelated and share many of the same symptoms and causes, I still welcome people with cluster B disorders, including NPD, to make themselves at home here. At the end of the day, we all suffer because of the trauma that was done to us.