Becoming real.

stone_cat

My subconscious mind seems to be revealing the most to me lately through dreams.

In my last therapy session, I was asked what my true self was really like.   I wasn’t able to answer very well.  I felt like I had to make things up.  Chair Girl is so elusive, and only comes out intermittently.  I know she’s shy and has the potential to be very loving, but sometimes it’s hard for me to capture her essence, who SHE is.

Last night, I had another beautiful dream that answered this for me.

I owned a strange object.   It was a cat made out of black stone.   But it wasn’t actually black stone.   The person who gave it to me explained that this object had once been a real cat, who had been killed during a plane crash (but whose body somehow remained intact) and whose owner, a man from China, had the cat’s body cryogenically frozen and sealed, much like those services that do taxidermy on dead pets and send your pet back to you stuffed and fitted with glass eyes.  But this cat wasn’t stuffed and it didn’t have glass eyes.   It was hard as a rock, heavy, and shone like stone.   Its eyes were sealed shut, forever sleeping.

I loved the cat anyway, and felt sad over what had happened to it.  I  liked to just sit with it and pet it, even though it was no more than an object and could never respond or give back any love.  I sometimes wondered what he had been like, and I named him Max.

One day something very strange happened.  I knew Max had been dead for years.   But on this one day, while I was holding it in my arms, pretending it was a real cat, I heard a small mew.     I looked down and saw that Max was trying to open his eyes.    I almost dropped him in shock, but instead set him down gently on a chair and watched in amazement.   I wasn’t sure what to do.   This was scaring me.  But I was frozen in place.   I couldn’t stop watching.

Max began to transform.   His cold stone body became a beautiful coat of reddish brown tabby fur, and his eyes, now opened, turned from black to brilliant blue.   He started to breathe.  He looked up at me and meowed loudly.  It occurred to me he must be part Siamese, with those blue eyes and loud, raspy voice.

I asked him if he was hungry, and he immediately jumped down and walked regally toward the kitchen, as if he understood what I was asking him.  He kept looking back at me, meowing.  I happened to have some cat food and he ate as if he’d been starving.    My shock having worn off,  I felt love overflowing for this tiny animal.   I picked Max up and held him and listened to him purr contentedly.    He was so tiny but so beautiful and I realized that somehow, it was my love that had woken him up and transformed him back into a living, breathing, loving cat.

One of my favorite stories as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit, and I think it’s because of the universal truth in that story:  that being loved is how one becomes real.

velveteen_rabbit3

Max is the real me.  By learning self-love and self-empathy, she’s waking up and making herself known. She’s becoming real.

Joy.

joy2

I finally saw my therapist after 3 1/2 weeks.   I hadn’t seen him since before Christmas.   It felt like coming home.   In fact, when I saw him I did something uncharacteristic of me: I blurted out, “I MISSED YOU SO FUCKING MUCH!” and ran into his arms like a 6 year old  girl runs into her dad’s arms when he returns home from a long day at work.   He thought that was funny and laughed.  I sat down sheepishly, my face turning red from my outburst.  But he just thanked me for being so open.

We discussed the dream I had a couple of nights ago, the one where I was swimming in the ocean with my mother.   He agrees with me that my mother in the dream wasn’t actually my mother, but the part of me that internalized her critical and disapproving voice — and a lot of her narcissism.

We talked about my nakedness and the fact I was deep underwater — and feeling happy about it.   Nakedness represents my vulnerability, and the ocean is deep emotions.  I was feeling happy being vulnerable and exploring the deep ocean of feeling that I avoided for so long, like  someone who’s afraid of the water and yet desperately wants to just let go of their fear and jump in the deep end.

Because I was swimming with my mother, and she was as naked as I was in the dream (we were both much younger in the dream but were approximately the same age, yet I knew it was my mother) and because I was feeling completely comfortable in her presence, this means that the  self-critical, judgmental, narcissistic part of my personality (which is really my mother’s voice which was internalized) is integrating with the vulnerable child-me.   I had already figured most of this out myself, but his agreeing with me validated what I already knew.

Something even stranger happened yesterday, and it’s directly related to the dream.    I was browsing through one of the Christmas catalogs I always get, preparing to toss them in the recycling.   But one ad caught my eye:  an ad for JOY perfume.   JOY is very expensive — about $80 for a small bottle.   It was always my mother’s favorite fragrance and I remember my dad always bought it for her on her birthday.   I suddenly had a strong desire to purchase a bottle for her for her birthday, which isn’t until August.

I thought it was strange that I had such an idea, because I’m No Contact with my mother and intend to remain that way.   I have no desire to see her, talk to her, or have any dealings with her at all.   For the past few years I haven’t even sent her a gift, just cards on her birthday and Christmas.  Why all of a sudden would I want to send her a bottle of her favorite, and very expensive, perfume?

I told my therapist about this and we talked about it.   I want nothing from her.  Buying her the perfume wouldn’t be to “buy her love,” because I know it would never work, and in fact, I don’t even want to talk to her when she receives it.  I just want to mail it to her and leave it at that.  I expect nothing in return.

I know my mother will cry.   She’s a high spectrum narcissist, but she gets emotional about certain things.   When I was a teenager, she cried all the time, but back then she drank heavily and usually cried when drinking — or when sober, to manipulate or get attention.  She rarely cried from genuine emotion.

But I doubt anyone has given her a bottle of JOY in many years, and I know in my heart that she will cry because it will touch her.  She’s like that.   She’s easily moved to tears when people are unexpectedly kind to her.  I also know that as hateful as she always acted toward me, there’s a part of her that is desperate for my love.   I know she thinks I don’t love her, but that’s not quite true.  I just don’t want to deal with her, because I can’t and because it’s very bad for me.   I love her; I just don’t like her.    I want to do something nice for her.

But I don’t want to see her tears.  I told my therapist I know she will cry if I do this, but I wouldn’t be able to handle her emotional reaction.   He asked me why and I said I didn’t know.   Maybe it’s because her tears are triggering to me because they were so often used in the past to manipulate, or just because I can’t stand to see her out of control.  Maybe seeing her like that makes me feel too vulnerable or is just too embarrassing.    I have no idea why seeing her shed tears of gratitude would make me want to run, but I know it would.   I told him if she called me to thank me, I would avoid the call.   All I want to do is give her something that would mean something to her, because she has had such a sad life and will never escape from her prison of oblivious, un-self aware narcissism.

My therapist said what he saw happening to me was that I was turning something negative and dark into its polar opposite.  From the crucible of narcissism, real affective (not cognitive) empathy is emerging, and that is why I suddenly want to give my mother something that means so much to her, without expecting anything in return.

He told me something else too, and this bothered me a little.   He said when I first started coming to see him over a year ago, I seemed angry and cynical.   I was a little taken aback by that, because I had thought I came across as friendly and funny.   I didn’t realize back then that this was a mask, and apparently the anger I really felt wasn’t that well hidden.  (I’m not a very good narcissist because I’m such a lousy actor, apparently).  It bothered me that I could have been so transparent, but of course it’s his job to see through to my real self.

But he followed that up by admitting he hasn’t been seeing as much anger lately.   Instead, he’s seeing a loving, gentle person emerge, a person who is capable of empathy and love.   I wasn’t even aware this was happening, but he’s seeing it.  I just thought it was weird that I wanted to splurge on a bottle of JOY for my mother, but it really means much more than that, so much more than that.

Hey, Mom, I know you lurk on my other blog. I don’t know if you ever found this one.  But if you did, and you are reading this, YES, you’re getting a bottle of JOY from me for your birthday.   Don’t ask questions; just accept that it’s something I want to do for you. My biggest wish for you is that one day you will become self aware.

Swimming.

underwater_swimming

Photograph by Enric Adrian Gener

 

I have to talk about this dream I had this morning, even though I can’t remember most of it.   It was absolutely beautiful, but I don’t understand it.

All I remember was that I was swimming, as naked as the day I was born, in what seemed to be a shallow sea or a coral reef in some beautiful, tropical place.   I moved like a fish, smoothly and swiftly, completely in the moment.   Feeling completely weightless, I turned somersaults over and over.  I grazed my fingers in the silt-like sand when I dove toward the bottom, and I could feel the weight of the azure water in my palm like a small ball as I moved along.   Schools of thousands of colorful, iridescent fish swam alongside me, glittering in the muted sunlight far above.   I worried about nothing.  I didn’t seem to ever have to come up for air and it seemed like I could just swim like this forever.   I never felt more happy or free.

Here’s the weird thing.  I was swimming with my mother!   That’s right, the same one who emotionally abused me my entire life and who will never change or even become aware of her narcissism.   The one who turned me into a borderline and a narcissist!  Not once have I ever felt comfortable or at ease with this woman and I intend to remain No Contact with her until the day one of us dies.

But in the dream, we were swimming together, and I felt this unconditional love not only for her, but for everyone and everything in the world.    And I felt like she felt the same way as I did, and we just swam together, naked, happy and free.

Maybe she represents the part of myself I’m rejecting, or my narcissistic inner voice that is really my mother’s nagging voice.    Maybe that part of me is learning to love and accept my true self and my mother and I swimming together means some integration is taking place in my soul.

I have to remember to tell my therapist about this dream.  I think it’s important.    I’m so happy I finally get to see him tomorrow, after three very long weeks.  It’s been near-torture not being able to talk to my therapist.

“My Narcissistic Healing” (Youtube)

Sada (I’m not sure if that’s the correct spelling) is a beautiful 29 year old black woman who also happens to be a covert narcissist (I am not sure if she has a diagnosis or not). A couple of months ago, she started a Youtube channel that now has over 30 videos on it.    She seems to add new videos almost every day.

Sada  has an enormous amount of insight into her narcissism and is devoted to healing from her disorder, which was caused by her own mother’s abuse of her as a child.  (Her mother was a malignant covert narcissist).     She isn’t in traditional therapy, but has begun attending church and is in pastoral counseling.   Spiritual or religious counseling may work for many people, though for myself I find traditional psychotherapy more helpful (used in conjunction with my faith and awareness of God’s love).

I don’t believe Sada’s primary motive in these videos is to get supply or become Internet-famous, although let’s be honest, if she actually has NPD there’s at least a little of that too (and of course, even people who don’t have NPD want validation!)    I think her videos are sincere and articulate, and she seems intelligent, low keyed, down to earth, and is taking the actions she needs to to make some real changes.

I also love the way she is always walking outside in her videos, just enjoying nature as she records and speaks.      She really seems to be working hard at becoming a better person and changing a lot of her former behaviors.

In this video (her newest one), she talks about the way she internalized her narcissist mother’s toxic messages, which caused her toxic shame.  She learned to hate herself enough that she began to build her own false self to cope and feel better about herself.

Sada’s Youtube channel, My Narcissistic Healing, can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYjH0HO_iZ8TJZBXzOZoorg

It’s also listed on my Resources page.

The childhood origins of narcissism.

This is a very informative video explaining how narcissism develops during childhood.

Deciding on an appropriate blog description.

question

I’ve been having a little trouble deciding on an appropriate blog description (the subheader that appears under the blog’s title).

I have tried various descriptions (especially over the past week) and I haven’t been really happy with any of them.

“Recovery from childhood trauma” stayed the longest, and it covered all the bases. I was very confused about what I “had,” and for the longest time my therapist wouldn’t give me a proper diagnosis (due to both hating labels and not being sure what my real problem was). I knew I had C-PTSD and BPD (or at least BPD remnants) and suspected narcissism too but had never received any kind of diagnosis for that. Since all three are caused by childhood trauma and because I was so confused about myself, it just seemed prudent to leave out the psychiatric labels altogether. This worked because anyone suffering any kind of childhood trauma wouldn’t feel intimidated by posting here, but it also made this blog sound too much like another narc-abuse blog, which it isn’t, even though I am a victim of narcissistic abuse.

A few weeks ago, my therapist finally tentatively diagnosed me with low spectrum NPD (used as a protection from the emotional ravages of BPD and C-PTSD). He saw that I had just enough traits to get the stigmatizing diagnosis (yikes) but he also assured me I wasn’t in the hopeless category and am no way malignant. I’m not proud of the label, but it also came as a relief because it validated what I already knew and resolved a lot of cognitive dissonance and confusion I’d been experiencing.

I felt like as far as this blog was concerned, I would be dishonest by not admitting it, so I wrote a post about it. I also decided I should change the description to include that. But I couldn’t bring myself to use “NPD” because it’s so off-putting to so many people and might run off my readers who are “only” C-PTSD but not Cluster B at all. I decided “covert narcissism” would be a bit easier to swallow, but after a few days I felt uncomfortable with that too.

I also began to notice that while no one seemed to run off and abandon me after my shocking admission, my regular commenters seemed more careful about what they said, adding little disclaimers to their comments. I assumed this meant they were now a little wary around me — maybe they thought that if they weren’t careful about how they said things, I might go off on them, devalue them, or otherwise start abusing or gaslighting them or something. I left in the “…caused by childhood trauma” in the description to encourage my non-cluster B readers to stick around and not decide I was now one of those “evil people” just because I had not just one (BPD), but two, stigmatizing diagnoses now. Besides, childhood trauma is also something I write a lot about on this blog.

Since “covert narcissism” is almost the same thing (or really is the same thing) as “vulnerable narcissism” or “fragile narcissism,” I changed the “covert” to “vulnerable.” It SOUNDS less intimidating. But that made the description too long and aesthetically unappealing, since I still wanted to leave in the “…caused by childhood trauma.”

But every time I opened up this blog and saw the term “narcissism” in the description (referring to ME and not my abusers) I inwardly cringed. It made me feel sick to see that. So last night, I changed the description AGAIN, this time to “recovery from cluster B hell caused by childhood trauma.” After all, “cluster B” was pretty general and could refer to BOTH BPD and NPD, without specifying which one. (It could also refer to ASPD!)

But no, “recovery from cluster B hell…” wouldn’t work either. It hit me how much that description sounded like this blog would be about narcissistic abuse and might attract narc-haters thinking this was just another ACON blog that would demonize people with NPD and other cluster B disorders, and I didn’t want to do that. Don’t get me wrong — those blogs are necessary and good (for the most part, except those that are clearly run by un-self-aware Cluster B people who think in a black and white, us-vs.-them way), but I’ve moved away from writing about myself as a victim only. Seeing that cluster B disorders arise FROM abuse and are primitive defense mechanisms against further abuse, I’m now trying to write for BOTH sufferers of C-PTSD and for Cluster B people (both NPD and BPD) who want help, since we are ALL victims of trauma.

I thought about going back to my original “recovery from childhood trauma,” but again, it’s TOO general and leaves out an important bit of information about me that I think my readers have the right to know. I also wanted other people with self-aware NPD who wanted to change to feel welcome posting here without running off my non-cluster B readers. I also felt it was important to include “BPD” in the description, since that was my first diagnosis and much of this blog is about that.

I finally settled on “recovering from BPD and narcissism caused by childhood trauma.” I know it’s a little lengthy and cumbersome, but I don’t think it’s too off-putting for non-cluster B people and victims of abuse, but it also is honest and encouraging to cluster B people who also want to comment.

This is so hard to reconcile because of the negative, us-versus-them mentality that’s so pervasive when it comes to narcissism and victims of narcissistic abuse. That, of course, needs to change. We all have C-PTSD.

Please share in the comments what you think. Was this a good choice, or do you think I should change it to something else? If you have any suggestions for a better (or catchier!) subtitle, please put it in the comments.

One more thing: please don’t feel afraid to state your honest feelings and opinions on this blog. I might have a stigmatizing diagnosis, but I think I’m basically a good person, just a broken one. I want to help others who have suffered too, and that’s a big reason why this blog exists. I’m not without empathy either (lack of empathy isn’t a requirement for NPD anyway — it’s just really common). I promise I won’t bite! I’m pretty mindful about the way I treat people these days and feel like I’ve made some progress anyway.

The adventure of self-discovery.

treasure

A few people have asked me how I remain so motivated to stay in therapy and so determined to become whole one day, in spite of the many setbacks I’ve faced and the inevitable triggers I’ve willingly confronted (as well having a stigmatizing cluster B diagnosis that many therapists don’t want to deal with). Even my therapist has said I’m one of the most motivated clients he’s come across. People wonder if I’m just a sucker for punishment and even have masochistic tendencies.  Why on earth would I want to voluntarily embrace so much psychic pain instead of opting to remain emotionally numb the way I used to be?

I think the number one motivator for me is that I’ve learned to think of the road to wellness as an adventure of the mind and soul, not unlike climbing Mount Everest or exploring the ocean depths.    The only difference is that it doesn’t involve bodily risk. Staying as emotionally dead as I used to be seems as boring as staring at a wall all day.  Now that I’ve seen a glimpse of what I can attain, I never want to go back.  Knowing what I know now about myself, remaining in that particular hell would drive me insane.  So these days, I’d rather face the unpleasant challenges and do battle with them.   None are too big for me to conquer, even though at times they can seem to be.

By nature, I’m not a huge risk taker, but I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the human mind.  My own mind is like a labyrinth right before my eyes, but within its dark tunnels and crevices I never know when I’ll find some treasure.

Being in therapy for anyone who suffered severe trauma and abuse can be extremely triggering and at times very painful.    I’ve left some sessions and fallen into vast yawning depressions afterward, feeling lost within the emptiness that I always knew was there even before I knew what was really wrong with me.

Faith that a higher power (or God, if you prefer) will show me the way to the treasure chest I know lies deep within is a huge motivator for me, but even now, without knowing exactly where it lies, occasionally I stumble across evidence that I’m getting closer.   A diamond here, an emerald over there, a small vein of gold embedded in the unforgiving granite.   It gives me hope and motivation to keep going.    I no longer doubt that it’s there….somewhere.   All I need is to keep going.   Therapy provides me with a compass to know which direction to go and the assurance that I won’t die trying to find it.   The journey may appear dangerous at times, but I know it never really is.   Staying mindful helps me conquer any fear that I’ve gone too far or too deep.

Discovering things about yourself that you never knew can be really sobering, even upsetting, but it’s also enlightening.   Awareness and insight about your own motivations is the key to healing from anything that plagues the mind and soul.   Self discovery is always fascinating and full of the unexpected.    It may seem like hard work, and it is, but I know the reward will be worth all the pain, and there are enough pleasant surprises along the way to keep me trudging along the rugged trail.   I can do this!    You can too, if you want it badly enough.

I really need my therapist right now.

My therapist is out of town until January 12th.

It’s hard to go two whole weeks without seeing him.  Of course, I can call him (he has given me permission to do that) but I always feel like I’m overstepping his boundaries so I try to avoid it unless it’s a real emergency.

I wouldn’t say this is an emergency but I just feel so sad and alone right now.    I’m crying while I write this.  I don’t even know why.   I think all these dreams I’ve been having mean some dark stuff is emerging into consciousness that must be dealt with.  But I have to wait.

What I feel isn’t exactly depression.   It isn’t really anxiety either, but it contains elements of depression and anxiety.    It’s hard to explain, really.  I feel as if I’m on the edge of a meltdown.  The void seems way too close for comfort.  All my usual defenses are gone and I just want to crawl in bed and shut the whole world out.    I might just do that.   Just go to bed early and forget the howling wind outside and the howling wilderness that lives inside me.

Why does my therapist always have to go somewhere whenever I’m in crisis?   I don’t expect anyone to answer that.  It is what it is, but it’s not fair.

Brain in the blender.

brain_blender

I’ve fallen even deeper into the rabbit hole and my mind feels like someone tossed it in a blender and pushed the “puree” button.  That’s how confused and conflicted I feel at this moment.  So much to process and sort out.  I don’t know if I ever can.  But I must, because failing in this would be worse than death.

I’ve been having some recurring dreams involving my NPD ex.  Each of these dreams involves him being in a new relationship and becoming wildly successful financially.   The first dream I had of its kind I blew off, thinking it couldn’t be that important.   After all, in the dream,  I felt inexplicably jealous.    Since I want nothing to do with him in real life (and have been NC or at least VLC with him for three years)  and could care less if he meets someone new, I dismissed this dream as a fluke. The second dream had me puzzled and a little bothered, but again, I dismissed it.  I can’t stand this guy — where would these jealous feelings be coming from?

But last night I had the third dream.  This one was much more vivid and seemed to be screaming at me to pay attention because it had something very important to tell me.

In the dream, I was sitting in my ex’s brand new corner office.  It was huge, with a floor to ceiling window that overlooked some city-scape far below.   The furniture was expensive  and dark and manly, lots of leather and brass.   And everywhere — on his huge empty mohagany desk, on the bookshelves, on a high credenza — were dozens of priceless glass and crystal sculptures.

He was telling me (arrogantly) his new fiancee whose father owned the company had given him this job — which paid in seven figures.   The photo on his desk showed a beautiful young brunette, smiling hugely with perfect teeth and her perfect hair flying in the wind, the ocean behind her.  Sailing?  Had he been with her on that sailboat?    Had he taken that photo?

How stereotypical: the sailboat, the model-gorgeous girl, the corner office, the perfectly manicured nails, the casual but expensive businesswear.   He looked like an advertisement in GQ.  I almost laughed.  But I didn’t.  I couldn’t.

I was too consumed by envy and rage. I wanted to take a sledgehammer and break that picture, break all of those glittering pieces of glass that were mocking my failure of a life — and break his head while I was at it.  I wanted to go on a rampage and destroy all these things that had come so easily to him, while I still had to struggle at a dead end job to pay for the necessities and would probably remain alone until the day I died.

Hell, I felt like Betty Broderick.

I woke up upset by the dream, because of a truth I’d been avoiding that I could no longer avoid.   Even though there are no chances of this man ever becoming that successful in reality (my ex is a pathetic sociopathic bum living on disability obtained at least in part fraudulently, on my dime, but that’s another story), my intense envy indicated that I was as much of an abuser in my marriage to him as he was to me.   In some ways, perhaps I was even worse.

How could I make such a connection from a dream like that?  After all, he was the one with all the creature comforts and the world laid at his feet, while I had nothing and no one.

But that’s actually the whole point.  It’s my envy and feelings of worthlessness compared to others that fuel my narcissism.  Even during my marriage, even when things were going well for us and he actually worked, it created huge problems.  I was never my husband’s friend and partner; I was always in competition with him.   I couldn’t stand it if he was somehow “more” or got more recognition than I did.   It’s not that I wanted him to be miserable, but I only wanted him happy if I had something to do with it or if that happiness were shared with me.  I couldn’t stand it if he had outside friends, outside interests, recognition from others besides myself, money he’d earned that might not benefit me directly.  And deep down, more than anything else, I feared the possibility that he might leave, and with the means to do so….well, he could.  And why wouldn’t he? What did I have to offer?  No, I’d rather have him hobbled and dependent.

Did I cause him to sink into codependency on me and eventually become entitled and expect me to support him?  Did I make his NPD even worse than it was?   There were always red flags; I saw them in the beginning but I ignored them.  But he wasn’t that bad, not at first.  Did I send him even farther up the N spectrum, into malignancy, because of my own insecurities, my need to peck away at his self esteem so that I could feel more “equal” and less diminished?

“I remember how bitter and painful the envy I felt was.  I couldn’t contain it; even if I tried to hide it, it oozed out of the seams and smeared everything it touched.”

 

I used to hate it whenever he’d have a success of any kind that didn’t have something to do with me or something I had done.    I remember raging and then sulking for days in self pity when he got promoted.  Most wives would have been thrilled.  But not me.  I couldn’t stand it when he got recognition at work and I hadn’t.     I couldn’t stand it when he’d be invited places by friends (even if I was invited along) because I had so few friends.  I knew this wasn’t normal behavior of a wife toward her husband, but I remember how bitter and painful the envy I felt was.  I couldn’t contain it; even if I tried to hide it, it oozed out of the seams and smeared everything it touched.  I didn’t know where this monster came from and had no idea what to do about it.  I knew it was wrong, so wrong, but I couldn’t change the way I felt.  I had no mindfulness tools and would just take out my frustration and envy in passive aggressive and covert ways, such as making snide or cruel remarks, giving the silent treatment, making left-handed “compliments,”  or grousing about how *I* never got any recognition.

He could have left me.  He probably should have left me.   Of course, we were both abusers, abusing each other like partners in some hellish dance.   His abuse of me has been covered extensively in other blog posts, but I never acknowledged (or even realized) how much I abused him.  The abuse I inflicted though, was far more passive aggressive and covert than his was.  I used codependency and helplessness as a way to make myself look more virtuous and more like a victim than I really was.   That doesn’t mean I wasn’t codependent  and didn’t feel helpless; I did, very much so.  But I absolutely believed I was not at fault.     I told myself so many lies I believed they were the truth. I painted this man I had married out to be a monster while I was a helpless victim.  But I was doing my own share of picking away at what little self esteem he might have had.  Neither of us had much, if any at all.

He didn’t leave me because some part of him needed my codependency and helplessness, even though I was never very supportive or empathetic, toggling wildly between borderline rages and sulking, narcissistic depressions.    He knew I was “weaker” and could be forced to do his bidding due to his strength of will and more glib way of communicating.   He was codependent himself, and I think the difficulties I created for him were a convenient excuse for him to self-sabotage, since he never seemed all that interested in being successful anyway.   In many ways, we were mirror images of each other, abuse and codependency intermingling and feeding off each other and reflecting back ever-uglier images.

Subconsciously, I was re-enacting my relationship with my mother, who would never have allowed me to outshine her on any level.    During my childhood, she constantly reminded me how much better she was at everything than everyone else, including me.  “Don’t even try to compare yourself with me,” she would gloat.  “We’re not in the same league.”  I always knew which “league” she had placed me in.   I wasn’t allowed to succeed in anything, was never given any opportunities or encouragement.  My small successes didn’t count.  Yet my failures were punished.  I couldn’t win.  I was a sitting duck.  The only skill I learned to be good at was learned helplessness.

With him, I had become my mother.  I diminished him for any successes the way she diminished me for mine.  But I thought of myself as a nicer person just because I lacked her arrogance, grandiosity, and over the top demands.

I played the learned helplessness skill well.   I learned to play the “victim” and of course I attracted bullies.  My father told me I was bullied because others were jealous of me.  I knew this was bullshit.  But I still internalized that message, and although my self esteem was non-existent, there was a part of me that felt contempt and rage toward those who refused to recognize how special and superior I really was.    I didn’t dare express this though; I hid it behind a mask of meekness and weakness.   Anger wasn’t something I dared show, but I was like a pressure cooker, and every so often I’d blow up and scare the daylights out of everyone around me, including myself.   I think the unexpectedness and intensity of my sudden rages was made them so scary.

I never developed any real skills.  I never finished college. I didn’t stick with anything for long enough to become good at it.  I never had a real career that I didn’t happen to “fall into.”   I’d give up whenever anything became too difficult or proved too much work. I know now that this wasn’t laziness; it was a real fear I had that I might fail.    My motto wasn’t “if at first you don’t succeed…,” it was, ” if you never try, you never fail.”

Even harder to admit is this.  All my life, I’ve surrounded myself with people I regarded as being “less” than myself.   I resented the hell out of anyone who was doing better and would usually avoid them to avoid feelings of envy and shame.   But at the same time, I was filled with contempt for those “underlings” for being the only people I could be around to avoid those feelings of envy and shame.  I felt like I had nothing in common with them and would pretend to be interested to get them to like me and give me the admiration I never seemed to get from anywhere else.   But they were never friends because I didn’t really care about them at all.   I know I must sound like a horrible person.   I feel like a horrible person for admitting this.   Fortunately, I don’t regard people this way anymore, but it’s still difficult for me to be around people who I know are successful in life, even if I don’t actively dislike them the way I used to.    I no longer feel contempt for those who are not successful, but I do feel more comfortable around them than with more successful people.

Narcissism–both my own and that of those closest to me–has ruined my life.   It was my narcissism that kept me from applying myself and succeeding in anything.   It was my narcissism that kept me constantly comparing myself with others, even my own husband, and feeling diminished if they outshone me in something.  Which meant they weren’t allowed to shine at all, because I didn’t shine.   It was my narcissism that kept me locked in a toxic cycle of mutual abuse and codependency.  It was my narcissism that kept me so closed off from anyone else and emotionally stunted.

“I wanted them to be happy there, down at the bottom of the barrel, with me.    Anything else would mean I’d lose them…”

 

I also realized something else.  Since I’ve mostly identified myself as a victim and not as a narcissist myself, I always thought the reason I avoided relationships was to avoid the possibility of falling in with another abuser.  And while that’s true,  it’s not the whole story. I also avoid relationships because I don’t want to hurt anyone and I’m afraid I still could.

I never wanted to hurt anyone.  I never thought I was an abuser.  I was horrified at the idea I could ever be one.   Even when I knew I was hurting those I loved (and often I didn’t know), it wasn’t because I wanted to see them in pain.   It was a compulsion to relieve my own pain of “not belonging” or being “less than” by bringing them down to “my level.”  I wanted them to be happy there, down at the bottom of the barrel, with me.    Anything else would mean I’d lose them, and losing anyone was the same as death to me.

Narcissism is the gift that keeps on giving.  It’s going to stop with me.  But, as much as I want to hate that part of me that brought others down to make myself feel better, I know hatred–especially toward myself–won’t work. It was self-hatred that got me here.   The only way out of this mess is fostering compassion (NOT the same as self pity!) for the wounded child within.    I’m working on it, but it’s going to take awhile.  Right now, I just feel like my brain’s been through the blender.

2 childhood dreams and a spot-on interpretation.

steel_wool

Once in a while, it takes someone who doesn’t know you well or at all to be able to see things the way they really are.

Last night, on my other blog, Lucky Otters Haven, I posted an essay about two weird dreams I had as a young child. All these years, I never thought of them as much more than those random, humorous dreams that all kids have (and maybe, in part, that is all they are).

But a commenter on that other blog who is familiar with my background (from reading my background story and other posts there) offered an interpretation that just sort of hit me upside the head with its accuracy. It just felt right.

Here was the post I wrote about the two dreams:

I was a weird, sketchy kid who had weird dreams. When I was about 5 I had a dream about something called a “clout” that looked like an oversized steel wool pad. It was sitting on the small rug in front of my bed and I was too scared to put my feet on the floor because that clout thing was evil. It just sat there on the rug, in all its black malevolence, not moving, but I knew it was alive and meant to kill me.   I knew if I put my feet on the floor the clout would suck me down into the Hell-portal it must have come from.

When I was around  the same age, one morning I woke up doubled over with laughter.   My dad asked me why I was laughing, and I remember saying, “someone was throwing mud at my door.”   I pointed to the door of my room and globs of gooey mud were sliding down its painted surface. I couldn’t stop shrieking with mirth.   I kept pointing but he couldn’t see the mud and told me to stop making things up.  “Look!  Look! There! There!” I screamed in frustration, but I was still laughing.   Then I woke up for real and was almost afraid if I looked at the door, mud would be on it. I was really awake this time, so there wasn’t. Relieved, I went downstairs for my Cap’n Crunch and orange juice.

mudsplat

Here is the interpretation the commenter (Little Shepherd Girl) wrote in the replies (the comment has been edited):

If I was to venture a guess Clout was the mental disorders, the sharp tangles that afflicted your family. The mud was how the dark side was going to smear you with it and smear you, but you were laughing because you knew it wouldn’t work. It would slide right off.

GOD held you safe in the palm of His hand all along. In childhood we fear evil but also know trust. I think Heaven is blissful trust and a ground ecstatic True Reality free of all anxiety.

I think she nailed what both of these dreams were really about.  The tangled steel wool pad-thing definitely represents the toxicity of my family and probably also represents the state my mind was in — already hopelessly knotted and tangled and full of sharp edges.      Ages four and five were around the time I began to dissociate (something my mother hated and caused her to call me “spooky” and angrily order me to snap out of it) and become symptomatic in other ways suggestive of a child developing an attachment disorder.

It was evident to most people that something wasn’t right with me.   I remember sitting in the family room in our split level house banging my head against the wall and telling my mother who was screaming at me to stop that I was doing it because it felt good (she probably cared more about damage to the wall than to my head).   I think doing this was actually a way of distracting myself from the evil that was beginning to infect my mind from the toxic family atmosphere.  Maybe I was trying to drive out the “demons,” who knows?  All I know is it was a compulsion and I couldn’t NOT do it.   I was also beginning to show signs of being unable to regulate my emotions appropriate for my age level and not adjusting well in peer situations.

But even that far back,  some thing inside me knew I was going to be okay in the end.   I never lost my sense of humor or sense of hope.

Maybe those are the things that kept me from crossing the line into malignancy or sociopathy.