A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post called “Am I am Empath?” In that post I talked a little about my crazy dream of working with people who have NPD. I’m not sure I could ever actually be a therapist to them; it’s a very scary thing to contemplate and for obvious reasons could be very triggering to someone like me who suffered at the hands of narcissists. But my re-emerging empathy could prove to be my strength. I have spent a lot of time this week praying about it, asking God to guide me and give me strength if working with people with this disorder is his will.
Maybe my prayers were answered because suddenly I find myself in a position of trying to help a reader of this blog who was recently diagnosed and is very depressed about it (I would be too). She’s ashamed of this diagnosis and has been shy about posting. She’s in the midst of a narcissistic crisis (which means all her supply has been lost which caused the false self to deflate, which in turn forced her to confront the emptiness within). Last week, she admitted herself to the hospital because of severe depression. She says what she feels now is mostly grief and dissociation and she cries almost constantly and can barely function. All those tears are necessary to healing. I suspect what’s happening is she’s grieving the loss of the false self that every narcissist goes to great pains to keep inflated like a balloon that hides the pain and emptiness that’s always there. At the moment she has no defenses against it (and hopefully can stay this way long enough for therapy to begin to work). I hope the hospital didn’t load this woman with sedatives, because she needs to be able to feel all these emotions so they can be purged. Psychiatric drugs can blunt a person’s ability to fully experience their emotions. I’m glad she has the help of a therapist, who hopefully knows how to work with NPD people in a narcissistic crisis.
I’m not a therapist and have not been trained to work with narcissists, or with anyone for that matter–not even people with mild anxiety or depressive disorders. But my knowledge of NPD and empathy toward their pain (and some sort of uncanny ability to see past the mask to the inner child inside) can make me a friend to this one who is in crisis and has apparently been forced to drop her mask (breaking through the false self is the hardest part of working with people who have NPD and is what makes it so much harder to cure than BPD). When a narcissist has lost supply and is in crisis, the false self can’t sustain itself and this is when an NPD is in the best position for healing to begin.
She has started a blog (not available for public viewing) which I think could go far in lessening the stigma and educating people about what it feels like to be an NPD who is ego-dystonic and does NOT want their disorder, and what’s more, is remorseful about past behaviors (there are blogs by narcissists, but most of them focus on how narcissism has made their lives BETTER). But right now, she’s been too depressed to write anything. I suggested she take some DBT classes to learn mindfulness skills, since right now she is having difficulty regulating her emotions, similar to someone with BPD. This is normal–when the mask falls, an NPD will appear to get “worse,” and act more like a Borderline. Her intense reaction to learning she had NPD was very much like mine was last August when I “discovered” I had NPD (I don’t have it but I was sure I did and that went on for about 4 months).
This reader gave me permission to put her story here. The fact she’s confiding in me means a lot to me, and her apparent trust touches me. For the record, I have problems even believing this even person has NPD, because she has been so humble, and so emotionally vulnerable. Many narcissists, when in crisis, rage and attack. She is not doing that. She also seems to possess empathy, from what I can tell. If she has NPD at all, she must be low on the spectrum, not malignant. I suggested she gets a second opinion or at least ask her therapist why she was given such a stigmatizing diagnosis. If she has been misdiagnosed, then why? Most therapists are VERY reluctant to give ANYONE an NPD diagnosis, even people who fit most or all the criteria. I also think the blunt way her therapist told her (“You have NPD”) might have served as a wake up call, but I think it set this woman over the edge too and was rather cruel, but what do I know? Maybe she needed to be shocked into the truth so she could begin the healing process.