I think I’m falling down the rabbit hole all over again.
I began this blog a bit over a year ago believing I had NPD (low level, non-malignant, covert type). Some of you might remember I experienced a very weird, disorienting and extremely upsetting “trip down the rabbit hole” (hence the name of this blog) on my “discovery” after reading an article about covert narcissism. It was like a hellish “a-ha” moment. I was utterly gobsmacked. But it explained everything.
I did NOT want to have NPD–it was already bad enough I had a BPD diagnosis! After a few days of panicky uncontrollable crying and some dissociating, I decided I was going to fight this beast. I didn’t think I could afford therapy, so I set about on a somewhat nutty self-healing regimen. Some of the things I tried actually worked.
I started to experience a lot of emotional pain but then I got stuck and could advance no further. My mind was probably protecting itself from even darker truths that I wasn’t ready to face. I realized I couldn’t do this on my own and finally decided to enter therapy.
Almost no one who read my other blog and then came here could believe I might have NPD, but I kept insisting I did, because what else would explain the bizarre house of mirrors experience I had of suddenly becoming aware of my own narcissism? It was like looking at myself for the first time and seeing myself the way others had always seen me, and it wasn’t a pretty reflection.
My therapist laughed when I told him I thought I had NPD. He doesn’t even think I have BPD (or at least, not anymore). I was never given a battery of tests or pre-therapy interviews or any kind of formal evaluation. He also doesn’t believe in labels, because he thinks they are very stigmatizing, which they are. When I insisted on a diagnosis, he said it was probably PTSD. He said he thought I was too cooperative and too pleasant to work with to be someone with NPD or even BPD, but I think that could be due to my having internalized mindfulness to a degree that I’m no longer abusive to or dismissive of my therapists. I’m also extremely motivated to heal from whatever it is I actually have.
He hasn’t experienced the way I acted with previous therapists. I told him all about it, and for all I know one or more of them may have actually diagnosed me with NPD. I know I gave them all a very hard time (though one or two of them really were bad therapists). I really don’t know what they diagnosed me with, because at the time I saw those therapists, I never cared enough to ask. But whether anyone diagnosed me or not, I’m still not ruling out that I may in fact have NPD, albeit not a malignant form of it.
I received a comment today, under another post. The comment said, “You do know that you are a narcissist, right?” Now, it’s possible this might have been a troll remark from someone who was angered by the article it appeared under (I admit it was a controversial viewpoint) and I shouldn’t take it seriously. But that comment triggered something else in me–the idea that my therapist might actually be wrong, and that my self-diagnosis from a year ago and that made me start this blog may actually be the correct one.
When I read over my posts, there are so many things about them that scream covert NPD to me. Not so much my attitude on this blog or even in general (I try to be respectful to everyone and I do have empathy, or at least I’ve freed some up lately), but the mechanics of what is actually happening to me in therapy and the things I’ve been feeling. The black emptiness inside and the difficulty I have in accessing my softer emotions. The anger and hurt and occasional feelings of dissociation that are beginning to be revealed to me under the extremely guarded and avoidant demeanor I had a year ago. And the shame, always the shame. My desperate efforts to hide my shame and the exhaustion and stress it causes me.
I think I could be both an empath and a narcissist. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it really isn’t. The old DSM listed 9 criteria, of which you only had to meet five. “Lack of empathy” wasn’t a required symptom. It could have been be any combination of the 5. I know the DSM has changed and I think as a way to understand personality disorders (or any other mental disorders), it leaves a lot to be desired, but I still think this is significant. Especially if I’m low on the spectrum, I could still have empathy and some access to emotions.
The comment hurt my feelings–a lot. But I also realized it might have upset me because it’s returning me to the truth that I conveniently shoved away, using my therapist’s reassurance that I did not have NPD as an excuse to believe I didn’t, because it’s something I don’t want to face.
I’m not saying I have NPD. But I’m not saying I don’t, either. It would explain so much about why I feel so much empathy for ego-dystonic covert narcissists who want to be rid of this awful disorder. (I have very little to no empathy for higher spectrum narcs who have no self-awareness or are unwilling to change, who are malignant or sociopathic, or who believe their disorder makes their lives somehow “better”). It would also explain why I would want to help them heal. It might be because they mirror me; I see myself reflected in them. My dream of working with people with this disorder in some manner could be a reflection of my desire to heal myself. I guess I’ll never know for certain. I wish I there was a way.
I’m still going to stay with the therapist I have regardless, because whatever he’s doing with me is working.
ETA: A friend on social media (Twitter) said my false self is as thin as a sheet of aluminum foil. Foil is easily torn and destroyed. I like that analogy.