I’m proud to share this guest post with all of you, written by a woman, Yara Aiko, who not too long ago, identified herself only as a victim of narcissistic abuse, having been her mother’s scapegoat during childhood. I wrote a short post about her blog, Healing from NPD, the other day. Since narcissism is a spectrum disorder, she believes (as I do) that most cases of narcissistic “fleas” are actually cases of low-level narcissism.
Yara Aiko’s blog is different than the average narcissism blog. Not only because it addresses the problem of narcissism from the NPD’s perspective, but also because it’s actually written for ACONs (Adult Children of Narcissists) who believe they may have “fleas.” Both she and I have come to believe that many narcissistic abuse bloggers are themselves narcissists, based on the way they act and treat others. I have written about this issue in other posts, so I won’t elaborate here. Of course, it’s good those blogs exist, because they give victims of narcissistic abuse a voice, something they never had before. Certainly not all of them are run by narcissists, but sadly, many are. The problem is that the narcissistic ones are completely un-self-aware, and can’t see how damaging their own actions are, and there’s no surefire way to tell the good blogs from the bad ones.
I admire Yara’s courage in creating a blog about this incredibly stigmatized disorder–something very few people with NPD have done–as well as being so determined and motivated to recover and maybe one day even become NPD-free.
Yara was eventually diagnosed with NPD herself and was kind enough to write about her journey in this guest post. So without further ado, here is her post.
Recovering from NPD: My Journey to Self-Awareness.
By Yara Aiko
Learning about narcissism and narcissistic abuse.
I first learned of Narcissistic Personality Disorder about 6 years ago. I had a rocky relationship with my mother and my aunt, a psychiatric nurse, shared that she thought my mom had NPD. The message was: it’s not you, it’s her.
It was a powerful revelation and one I needed to hear at the time. I had lived a lifetime of being told everything was my fault – I was my mother’s scapegoat.
During those early days I learned a lot about NPD. I read everything I could find on it and it spoke to me: The projection, the splitting, the gaslighting. It all made perfect sense. My focus was on healing from narcissist abuse, learning to manage the narcissists in my life (I realized it wasn’t just her), establishing boundaries, and navigating going no contact. I was the victim.
Narcissism as a defense against my mother’s abuse.
Growing up with my mother, I was forced to develop a hard shell. In order to successfully scapegoat me throughout my childhood, she had smeared me to anyone who would listen—making herself the victim. In turn, people disliked me before they ever met me. I didn’t realize that until years later. Instead from a very young age, I internalized the messages I got from the world and assumed I was unlikable and unlovable.
I strove for perfection in order to prove my value—to the world and to myself. I refused to show weakness or to fail. Having not grown up with it, I craved approval. I would become obsessed with understanding others’ opinions of me and trying to change their minds if it seemed they didn’t like me. I experienced anger when I couldn’t understand why I was so disliked. When someone showed me positive attention—when someone liked me—I liked them back hard and we formed fast and furious relationships that always seemed to fall apart within months for reasons I could not understand.
There was so much I didn’t realize. So many years lost. So many relationships ruined. It’s painful how un-self-aware I was for so long. There were so many layers of self-protection. Every time a relationship went wrong, I obsessed over why. But there was one thing I never considered: how my behavior made other people feel. I had very low empathy for others.
I couldn’t see past my own pain and emotions. Furthermore, I hadn’t grown up with empathy. No one had ever cared about my feelings. So in addition to never having experienced it, I had never seen it practiced, or learned how to be empathetic. I didn’t even realize I was missing empathy. In fact, I thought I was an extremely empathetic person, never realizing I was confusing sympathy for empathy. How can you miss color if you’ve only ever seen black and white?
Hitting rock bottom was my wake up call.
At 34 I fell into a deep depression and sought therapy. They say a narcissist has to hit rock bottom before self-awareness is possible and I agree. At least that was the case for me. We spent almost a year working through my feelings of inadequacy, the pain of my childhood, putting into perspective the times I felt truly hurt or abandoned. Many of my painful experiences of abandonment or rejection stemmed from encounters with other Cluster B personalities — mostly other narcissists and sociopaths. Why was I drawn to these people throughout my life and why were they drawn to me? How was I so easily manipulated by them? Why had I allowed myself to be victimized all these years?
As I explored each of these questions, I began to experience breakthroughs – some big, some small, but they started coming fast and furious at one point. My son was in crisis—he was beginning to have behavioral trouble at school and I started to realize I was doing something very wrong in the way I was raising him. I saw him turning into me. The thought of him struggling throughout life feeling worthless and having these gaping insecurities was more than I could bear and it’s the thing that ultimately pushed me over the line into self-awareness.
It wasn’t just fleas.
At 35 I was diagnosed with NPD. At first I didn’t even believe my therapist because I’d always read narcissists are incapable of seeing their own faults and behaviors and they certainly cannot change. Yes, I act like my mother sometimes, and I admit I may have “fleas”, but I don’t have the disorder, I thought. I don’t knowingly manipulate others or conduct smear campaigns. My mom is that way, but I’m not. I was changing and growing. I was looking at my own behaviors – where they stemmed from, what my triggers were, taking responsibility for my actions– and I was making better choices about how to be there for others, most importantly, learning to practice empathy and be vulnerable.
But when I went back and looked at all those same books, websites, and forums through the lens of how others may see my behavior, as opposed to the lens of the abuse survivor, it started to make sense. When I reread the DSM thinking of myself, instead of my mother, I was hit like a ton of bricks. Seeing that others saw my behavior as abusive and toxic, my lifetime of failed relationships came into perspective. I realized I was the person people were going “no contact” with. Furthermore, I was now the narcissistic parent. It stung.
Searching for answers and support.
I went in search of others like me who realized they have the disorder and want to grow. But there was almost nothing. The vast majority of material is aimed at dealing with narcissists – but almost nothing for the narcissist who has become self-aware and wants to do better. We were completely written off as untreatable – too damaged to bother with. Even many insurance companies won’t cover therapy for us.
I thought about reaching out to other narcissistic abuse survivors on forums for support, realizing what I was going through had to be common. After all, research shows nearly 70 percent of adult children with an NPD parent have NPD themselves. I wanted to know: Was there anyone else like me out there and could they relate? What had they tried? What worked? What advice could they give for getting over this, because I was determined to get over this – not only for me, but for my kids. But sadly, now that I realized I was a narcissist, the rules on the support forums and boards were clear —no narcissists allowed.
I had to do something to help self aware NPDs who wish to change.
Ironically, once I understood how NPD looks and feels from the other side, and given the staggering statistics, it became immediately and painfully obvious to me that a large portion of the people on the narcissistic abuse forums are narcissists themselves. They are painfully unaware but know that something is “off” with them emotionally. They recognize they are different from others but don’t understand exactly how, struggle through bouts of depression, question why all their relationships seem to fall apart, want desperately to recover from their childhood abuse —to finally be happy and feel that deep unconditional love they’ve never had– but have no idea that they themselves have the disorder. That’s why I created healingfromnpd.com.
My goal with Healing from NPD is that it will become a community: A safe space for NPDers searching for tools, advice and support so that they can do better. A place for those who believe they may have “fleas” to get an honest first-hand glimpse of what it’s actually like to have the disorder and become self-aware. A place for those who genuinely love someone with NPD to understand the disorder without the myths, misconceptions and vitriol that fills so many other websites dedicated to us “evil” narcissists.
Narcissists can change. We can grow. We just need the tools and resources to be able to do it. But first and foremost, we need self-awareness.
I jumped at the chance to do this guest piece for Down the Rabbit Hole precisely for these reasons. There are very few bloggers who are brave, honest and self-aware enough to have the tough, honest conversations about NPD – and she is one of them. I hope that the important work she is doing here will help destigmatize the disorder and help others on similar journeys. Together, I hope we—and others like us—can help change the face of NPD.
Please follow my blog at Healingfromnpd.com and join our brand new forums.