“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.

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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.

I’m overwhelmed…

thank_you

But overwhelmed in a good way.

Coming out as a covert narcissist here a few days ago was incredibly scary. Even though I’d already written posts explaining why I felt like I was one, I was only self-diagnosed.  That’s not quite the same thing as actually getting a real diagnosis of NPD.  People can dismiss self-diagnoses pretty easily and find all kinds of reasons why they think you’re wrong.  Then you start to doubt it yourself and you’re back to where you started.

Having such a disorder (and BPD also), I’m terrified of rejection, disapproval, and negative judgment. Especially because NPD is an incredibly stigmatizing diagnosis to be saddled with.  Hell, having BPD was bad enough!

I imagined the worst: my friends high-tailing it off my blogs, and never speaking to me again. Other friends deciding they had to go No Contact with me now.  Trolls and narc-haters writing abusive and hurtful comments. Losing a bunch of my followers and readers.

Well, surprise! None of that’s happened. If a few people decided not to follow this blog anymore, I’m not aware of it (I can’t keep track of that). No one has been  the slightest bit negative or judgmental, and the people I consider to be my real friends have stuck by me and have been overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging.

I feel like having the diagnosis actually is helpful, in that now other people with this disorder (the self aware, low level ones who want to change) feel more encouraged to share their stories or even start their own blogs. Both self aware narcissists and non-narcissists have expressed their appreciation for what I’m doing and for having enough courage to “out” myself.

Is getting narcissistic supply the reason why I feel good about this, or is it just normal?  Maybe I shouldn’t analyze that so much.

One thing about becoming self aware is that you begin to question and suspect *everything* you do as being somehow narcissistic!  But we are still just people, broken people–and sometimes, as Freud famously said, “a cigar is just a cigar.”

I also feel more motivated to start writing again. As Sleeping Tiger expressed in her “coming out” post (which I reblogged here the other day), when we feel like we can no longer be completely honest on our blogs, out of fear of being judged or abandoned,  that’s when you run the danger of losing interest in blogging.  That was beginning to happen to me.  I couldn’t let that happen, because writing and blogging has been such an important part of my recovery.

I was finding I no longer wanted to just write about narcissistic abuse for victims only (so many other people are doing that anyway).  I was chomping at the bit to share this news even though I knew that doing so would be a huge risk.   I wanted to take a slightly different path, and now I feel free to do that, without unpleasant consequences.  I hope this gives courage to others to do the same.

Prior to posting my coming out article, I prayed a lot about it. Then spent several days waiting for an answer. And the answer came:

YOU MUST DO THIS.

There is no other way.

God (or Providence, or the Universe, or whatever term you prefer) is showing me that I *am* loved, and was never really forgotten. My NPD was finally revealed to me because I was ready.

But I have a job to do too — using my own experiences as someone with covert NPD — and this journey to healing I’m on — to help others who suffer from this disorder (as well as those suffering from related trauma and attachment disorders such as C-PTSD and BPD).

I’m overjoyed and moved at all the positive and supportive feedback I’ve received so far. Coming out was a game changer, I think.  I feel like I’m now I can move forward onto the the next leg of this amazing, frightening, mind-bending, often sad, often very weird, but also joyful adventure whose goal is to reclaim my true self and internalizing her needs and wants as my own.  As she begins to unfold and come out of hiding, my hope and dream is that I’ll be able to say buh-bye to my false one, as she will no longer be necessary.  She has served her purpose, but it’s time to down-size.  She’s got her pink slip.

I know I made the right choice.  This coming from someone who has a history of always making the worst possible choices.

So thank you, everyone, for being here for me and continuing to be so supportive. I appreciate you all so much.

Have a happy and safe holiday!

Me and my unpopular opinions.

unpopular_opinions

My therapist made me cry tonight.

Here is what happened. We were discussing some of my narcissistic traits, in particular my covert need to feel special or superior.   The way I do this isn’t direct or overt.   Until very recently, I was never even aware I did this.

I finally realized today that I have this pattern of always siding against popular opinions, no matter what the topic is.  I thought back over my life, about forums and online groups I’ve participated in, real life groups I’ve been part of, and realized that I actually sort of like to stir the pot, and take on whatever is the unpopular view.  Sometimes I’ll do this even when I don’t really care one way or the other.    For example, there was this entertainment forum I used to post on.  There was a celebrity everyone there hated, and I really had no opinion one way or the other, but still, I found myself righteously defending this celebrity against the haters (and siding against who everyone else liked).   At the time I thought it was because I was defending an underdog, because I  do have a strong sense of justice.   And that was true, but it wasn’t the main reason.  The primary reason I took a different stand than everyone else was because doing so made me feel special, not part of the “group think.”  Hey, I wasn’t a sheep who couldn’t think for myself!  I had original ideas and was smarter than everyone else! I knew more!   I was special!  Of course I would never state this directly.  I always wanted to be thought of as a nice person.  As long as you thought of me as nice and smart, everything was hunky dory.   If you challenged either my intelligence or my good intentions,  I’d get all butt-hurt and plead innocence.  Or disappear in humiliation.  I had a habit of disappearing or leaving groups when my “superior” opinions were challenged–or when I was called out for acting like an arrogant know it all.  I couldn’t back up my arguments because I lacked conviction.   I never took a real stand on anything because I didn’t have any real convictions.  I only cared about myself.   Feeling strongly about issues outside of myself is something very new for me.

The other reason I sided with whatever was unpopular was because I have always felt like an underdog, and was never a popular kid.   So I could relate to underdogs and anything unpopular, even if it was a concept or a thing rather than a person.

This same pattern reappears over and over and over, as far back as I can remember.  In any group situation, either online or offline, I *always* find myself having a different opinion than everyone else, whether it’s politics, entertainment, home decor, food, music, or anything else.     I can be very contrary, and this is annoying to some people.   I can understand why too.  It’s because of this underlying feeling that I am better or smarter or something.  But it isn’t really that at all.   In reality, I feel like I might be inferior to you, so this “proves” I’m not.    I’m not always sure when I am being sincere and when I’m not, or is it just this need to feel special or smarter than everyone else? I’m not sure sometimes.   I think it’s a bit of both.   I do feel like my views about things on this and my other blog are my real, sincere ones.  I’m getting a lot better.

Of course, my contrariness would bring me the attention I craved– usually the negative kind, but I enjoyed stirring the pot and then sitting back and acting all innocent and wondering why *I* was being persecuted!   Now I feel like I’m on the outside looking in and the view makes me want to cringe in horror.

My point here isn’t about what my opinions actually are.   Sometimes I really do feel strongly about the “unpopular opinion,” especially recently.   It’s about my narcissism and my quest for the emotional empathy I lost.  Or feel like I lost.

I told my therapist about all this, and he pointed out the fact that I sided with underdogs  meant I was showing a kind of empathy.   Then he told me that I developed the narcissism as a protective shield to keep my empathy safely hidden so it wouldn’t be harmed and that I had done a good job as its guardian. (It also buried my roiling and uncontrollable borderline emotions so I didn’t have to feel them).

This happened toward the end of our session (it annoys me that if tears come, it’s usually in the last 5 minutes).  I just buried my face in my hands and cried.   I’m not even sure why I was crying but I just felt warm inside because he understood.   I also knew what he said was the truth and it really hit home.  He asked me what made me so emotional so I told him I never felt like anyone empathized with me and that  whenever anyone does, I’m almost overwhelmed with relief and gratitude, like someone who is starving and finally gets a hot meal.

I know this post is a little disjointed and probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Everything is just so confusing to me right now.    I have a lot to process.

“Out of the Closet: As a Borderline and a Narcissist.” (reblogged article)

Another ACON blogger who believed she was “just” a narcissistic abuse victim with C-PTSD and “fleas” has been doing some serious soul-searching.  This is what she is discovering about herself, and it’s like finding the world flipped around on its head–or walking into a house of mirrors.

I’m reblogging this because it comes just days after my own “coming out.”   I can relate to everything she writes here.

Please follow Sleeping Tiger’s blog:
https://asleepingtiger.wordpress.com/

Out of the Closet: As a Borderline and a Narcissist

By Aura Gael, Sleeping Tiger blog.

houseofmirrors

Even now, just as I begin to write I can feel myself wanting to detach, even slightly dissociate into a day-dream type state.

I’m tired though and depressed. What I take some days for my depression and anxiety, makes me tired the next day, which in turns feeds the depression and my boredom.

So, to the point of this post: I have borderline personality disorder. I was diagnosed some time ago, but even if I hadn’t been, I could, quite confidently still say this and know it’s true.

In fact, I sought the diagnosis. Although I would’ve preferred to be proven wrong, the truth is truth no matter how much you don’t want it to be. Sure, I could also be labeled as having Complex Post Traumatic Disorder too and in fact I do think I suffer from that as well. After all, I have borderline because of ongoing emotional neglect and abuse via both parents, which also caused the post traumatic stress.

The traumatic stress was exacerbated during the stretch of weeks that my family and I cared for my father after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. There abuse exhausted me. I found myself wondering during the editing of this post, if their treatment of me didn’t play a part in removing the mask that I wear. That being said, the mask is and has been off in my living situation for a long time. It has come off in periodic fits of rage or berating of others.

According to the DSM (any version that lists it) I fit quite well into each symptom of BPD. I have mentioned the personality disorder here and there on this blog, but not a whole lot, pertaining to myself, preferring to go along with the (C)PTSD part of the diagnosis, given the way I acquired it. Note: I was not diagnoses with Complex PTSD. The therapist who diagnosed me with borderline also diagnosed me with PTSD.

My thinking on that is because the complex form is not recognized in the DSM and it’s likely for insurance purposes as well. This therapist , in fact all the therapists I’ve seen covered by public assistance have seemed to be more concerned with making sure they get paid than making sure they can help me.

Digressing…sorry.

Feeling afraid and shameful, because of the stigma, I have preferred to mention as little as possible in reference to myself. Besides, don’t people with C-PTSD have trouble with impulse control and containing emotions as well?  (Rhetorical question.)

Some of what I’ve written of my behavior though, certainly speaks for itself and someone knowledgeable of the disorders would likely figure it out.  In fact someone knowledgeable may even guess I have some level of narcissism as well.

Read the rest of this post here.

My name is Lauren, and I’m a recovering covert narcissist.

Hand of a child opening a cupboard door

This is the hardest blog post I’ve ever had to write.   But it’s time to out myself.   What other choice is there?

I have NPD (the covert, vulnerable form).

I also have BPD, C-PTSD, Avoidant PD, SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).  I’m an extremely introverted INFJ and prone to periodic black depressions, occasional dissociative episodes, panic attacks, and debilitating feelings of emptiness.

I’m a mess.

Before you hit the backspace key, please let me explain.

My therapist, who hates labels and took a long time to come to this conclusion (and even laughed at me when I first told him what I suspected over a year ago) finally agrees with me about the diagnosis. However, he also believes I’m not high on the spectrum  (I only *just* qualify).  He has also told me he believes I am at heart an empath.  We are working hard together to re-claim those abilities (as a child I was definitely an empath), and it’s beginning to bear some small fruit.  I still have a long way to go, but being self aware and practicing mindfulness helps me immensely.   I do not want to be this way anymore; have not wanted to be this way since I began this blog (started because I self diagnosed as a covert narcissist).  Well, I was right.

I wrote a guest post “outing myself” two weeks ago, on Healing From NPD’s blog (which I wrote about in earlier posts).   I’ve been terrified of sharing it here though, because of how stigmatized this disorder is, but mostly because I’m afraid of being abandoned or negatively judged (something borderlines and narcissists are both terrified of) or even mobbed.  But why should I be so afraid?   People who would judge me negatively, stop reading my blog, and not give me a chance aren’t the sort of people I’d want to stick around anyway.   I don’t think my real friends will abandon me.

So far, I have shared the post I’m about to link to with two other people in private emails, and both were very supportive and did not judge me for it.   Since one of my passions is the de-stigmatization of Cluster B disorders and a more nuanced, realistic view of them, I think “coming out” actually helps my case.

Also, I started this blog because I believed I had NPD, but at that time it was only self-diagnosed.  Over time, I began to deny I had it at all (especially because of my therapist’s doubts and reluctance to give me such a label) but deep down, I still knew I did.   There’s no denying or sugar-coating it anymore.

I developed the narcissism as a self-protective overlay over the overwhelming  and turbulent emotions of BPD.   I was never aware I was doing this so it was never a choice, as some believe.    It was easy enough to admit I have BPD, but NPD is a whole ‘nother ball of wax and much more vilified.   Admitting you are one is scary as hell.

But I feel like not admitting the truth would be dishonest. This is probably the hardest blog post I’ve ever had to write, but I know I’ll feel better when it’s over and done with.

So, here it is:  the article I wrote two weeks ago, describing my entire journey, from a newly No Contact narcissistic abuse victim (which I am!) to a self aware covert narcissist who desperately wants to heal.    It was narcissistic abuse that made me this way.  It’s only by the grace of God I didn’t become malignant or incapable of seeing myself the way I am (or believing it’s a good thing to be – it’s definitely not).

http://healingfromnpd.com/content/guest-post-falling-down-rabbit-hole

I hope you read the whole thing with an open mind and try not to judge.

I’m relieved but also scared. Once I hit the publish button, there’s no going back.

Some of you who are empaths or just good at putting two and two together might have guessed I was working up to something like this.

Deep breaths.

But I feel like this is the wisest choice and in the long run, the one that will be of the most help to others as well as myself.

Finally, for those of you who opt to continue reading this blog and following my journey to wellness (I won’t ever give up), thank you! Your support means everything to me and encourages me to keep going, no matter what.

“Why I Hid Behind a False Self” (video)

A covert narcissist talks about her covert narcissist mom’s abuse and why she developed a false self in response.   This woman is in recovery and has a Youtube channel with many other videos.

Waking up to the truth. #narcissism #NPD

victim_npd
Credit: http://healingfromnpd.com/node/19

I am very excited to announce that the owner of the new blog about NPD and ACONs will be writing a guest post for this blog. You may remember I was discussing this blog the other day — she is an ACON (adult child of narcissists) who recently discovered she herself has NPD.

Up to 70% of children of narcissists develop the disorder themselves. I think this blogger is onto something huge, since that condition most of us call “fleas” could actually be low-level narcissism, but given a different name because it’s just too hard to face the truth. I can’t speak for others, but I certainly think that’s the case for me. I just can’t deny the sobering fact that I fit the profile for covert narcissism perfectly. In my heart, I’ve known this for a while (in fact it’s what made me start this blog), but I still keep finding excuses to think of my symptoms as indicating something other than what they actually are.

What is covert narcissism?

http://www1.appstate.edu/~hillrw/Narcissism/shycovertnarcissist.html

The author of the blog linked to in the first paragraph wrote an article that took the 9 DSM-IV criteria of NPD and adapted them to those of us who identify as ACONs with “fleas” and C-PTSD. Could this be a wake up call for many of us?

Only if we take off the horse blinders.

http://healingfromnpd.com/DSM

It was a wake up call for me.
Here are some of my own C-NPD symptoms:

— Constant worrying about what other people think of me.
— Shyness in social situations because of my worry over what others will think.
— “Rehearsing” what I am going to say in advance, while someone else is talking, so I never really hear what they say
— Rehearsing how I will act in social situations, which is very exhausting for me (and made me believe, for over a decade, that I had Aspergers).
–Withdrawing (sometimes with resentment)from situations in which I feel like I’m being ignored or not given the attention I think I deserve.
— Lack of empathy — not so much because I have a hard heart or don’t care about others (I’m not a sociopath!), but because I often don’t hear others because I’m too busy worrying about what I will say next to be seen in the best possible light.
— Feigning empathy
— Over-concern with being seen as a “good” or “smart” person.
— Envious
— While feeling worthless and insecure, I still have this underlying resentment that others are getting the attention and adulation I deserve but have never received.
— I feel like if people “knew the real me” (a “me” I don’t even know) they would hate me, so I put on a show of being much nicer than I really am. (This doesn’t apply to online, where I am more fully “myself” and don’t have to wear that mask — but in the real world, this is very much what I act like)
— Deep down, although I hate myself and think I don’t deserve anything, I also feel like I’m “superior” to others because I’m more “deep” or intelligent than most people, only they can’t see or appreciate this fact.
–Similarly, I often feel “superior” to people who I perceive as shallow or who have conventional interests and beliefs (sometimes this is triggered by secret envy of their greater success or happiness).
— I do not react well to most criticism. I usually brood over it and fall into a depression.
— I tend to devalue those who become too critical (usually by avoiding them in the future).
— Fear of appearing too vulnerable (although I am working hard on accessing my vulnerability — it’s hard work though!)
— When I was less mindful and unaware, I engaged in things like negative gossip and devaluation (usually about people I was jealous of), gaslighting and projection (without knowing I was doing these things).
— When things are going well (and I’m getting more supply), I tend to revert to a more grandiose style –this can involve things like bragging, sometimes exaggerating my achievements, or name-dropping.  (Covert or vulnerable “fragile” narcissism may actually be “failed narcissism”: when a narcissist–even a grandiose one–isn’t getting sufficient supply or they can’t deny they are failing in life, they tend to revert to the covert or vulnerable form, which is a type of “compensatory narcissism.”)
–Finding myself being disliked in many real world situations and not able to understand why (this has been improving as I’ve become more mindful and self aware).  Before, it was always “them” and I was just a misunderstood victim who everyone else refused to (or couldn’t) understand.

I realize most people do some of these things sometimes, but these are things I do all the time (and used to do a lot more of before awareness). Although I try to be mindful and not do them, they are habits that are very hard to break because they’ve been with me so long; these are my default defense mechanisms when I am not paying attention and “watching myself.”

I understand now that my growing impatience with the pervasive negative stigma toward NPD and my need to understand narcissism from an “insiders perspective” was because deep down, I “knew” and was preparing myself to become self aware.

For a victim of childhood narcissistic abuse to get to the point of realizing they may have NPD themselves, it is necessary to let go of the all too common “us versus them,” black and white thinking that holds so many of us captive to our own narcissism and keeps us from looking inside ourselves to see the shocking truth.

But take heart: if you are a self aware narcissist (or suspect you may be one), it’s not your fault. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person and it doesn’t mean you can never change (I make an exception here for malignant or sociopathic narcissists, who probably cannot change and even like what they are even if they’re self aware). “Narcissists can never change” is a myth the Kool-Aid drinkers like to make everyone believe. Your narcissism was something that was done TO you, and you most likely had no control over it. You adopted those defense mechanisms to survive, and according to Pete Walker, narcissism is the “Fight” reaction to narcissistic abuse and is a manifestion of C-PTSD. You CAN change and you can even heal! Being self aware and WILLING to change means you have already taken a huge step toward healing, possibly the most difficult step of all.

Remember, narcissism begets narcissism. But we aren’t hopeless and a cure IS possible!
We can break the generational cycle by looking inside ourselves and working together to stop the stigma NPD has gained.

Just give me the diagnosis already!

I really wish my therapist would just go ahead and give me an NPD diagnosis because that would bring me some much needed closure and make me stop trying to find excuses that it’s really “something else.” It would confirm once and for all what I’ve suspected for over a year. But he probably isn’t going to do that since he hates psychiatric diagnoses and prefers to work with symptoms instead of disorders.

That being said, I know enough about psychology to recognize that many of the techniques he is using with me are those used on people with NPD (also BPD).   I still think he’s a fantastic therapist who is helping me a lot, whether he ever gives me a label or not.  Maybe he has diagnosed me, but just doesn’t want to tell me.

The truth about covert narcissists and why they aren’t hopeless.

covert_narcissist

BPD and covert narcissism/covert NPD are often confused with each other, because on the surface, their symptoms can appear very similar.   Neither has a grandiose sense of self or displays much (or any) arrogance, which is the more typical picture of someone with NPD.   Like borderlines, covert narcissists can seem very sensitive, needy, or emotionally fragile (something grandiose narcissists are not usually noted for, except for their infamous outbursts of rage).

Because covert or “fragile” NPD is not a recognized psychiatric diagnosis (at least not in my country),  people  who are actually suffering from covert narcissism (or covert NPD for those higher on the spectrum) are usually diagnosed with something else — usually Borderline Personality Disorder, especially for females.   Covert narcissism is also frequently confused with  PTSD (which may actually be comorbid with it),  Avoidant Personality Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, or Asperger’s syndrome/high functioning autism.

Covert narcissists, unlike borderlines, do have a false self–but their false self, rather than being grandiose or arrogant, is usually a “nice guy or gal.”  They want to be seen as good people, not badasses.   Some covert narcissists present themselves as victims, or as altruistic or helpful.  But in all cases, their real motive is to obtain narcissistic supply in the form of admiration (the helpful, altruistic types) or sympathy or care (the victim or helpless/needy types).

Another way covert narcissists differ from borderlines is they have problems with entitlement and envy (which I talked about in yesterday’s post about my own envy), even though it’s hidden.   They also usually lack emotional empathy; while borderlines generally have less empathy than a non-disordered person, they have more than narcissists.  That being said,  I can think of at least two diagnosed covert NPDs who have very high levels of emotional (not just cognitive) empathy, so I don’t think this is always an accurate indicator.

Another difference between BPD and covert narcissism/NPD is their core fear.  Borderlines are terrified of abandonment (being left), while narcissists fear rejection, disapproval, or judgment (how they are seen by others).   Of course they fear abandonment too, but how they are seen by others is their highest priority.

A commenter on this blog made an interesting observation about me under another post.  He or she said that in reading my posts, I seem to express more fear of how I’m seen by others than of abandonment, which indicates I have covert/fragile narcissism rather than BPD.   I actually think I have both.   BPD is my core disorder, but as I explained in my post about envy from yesterday, I think I unconsciously developed a thin layer of narcissism over that as a protection from the lack of emotional control I felt as a pure borderline.    As I go deeper into therapy,  I’m finding as that layer of narcissism begins to melt away, my emotions are going haywire again, more like a borderline.   But it’s okay now, because mindfulness activities help me keep any emotional lability in check.    I’m also learning how to use my strong emotions to my advantage and learn to love them instead of reject them.   For these reasons, I no longer have to cover the BPD “cake” with narcissistic “icing.”  There’s no way I’d want to go back to that awful feeling of being so disconnected and dissociated from my truth.

Covert narcissists can be every bit as malignant as grandiose narcissists, and in fact they can be more dangerous because they don’t wear a neon sign announcing they’re narcissists.   They show fewer red flags and can seem so nice at first.   But they soon prove to be emotional vampires, draining your mental and emotional resources until you’re exhausted and feel like you’re going insane.    They seem to have a bottomless well of neediness that can never be satisfied, no matter how much attention or care you give them.   They just keep taking and never give anything back.

But it’s still better to be a covert narcissist than a grandiose one.  Covert narcissists, no matter how high on the spectrum they are, are more curable and better candidates for therapy than grandiose/classic narcissists, because their disorder is almost always ego-dystonic.   This is probably because covert or fragile narcissists tend to be lower functioning than the classic type.    Unlike classic narcissists, they don’t believe their narcissism has improved their lives or made them successful.  Many (though not all) of them become lifelong underachievers, living far beneath their potential. They see themselves as “failures” and can’t understand why they can’t maintain jobs or satisfying relationships.   Although they may go for years believing it’s the fault of everyone else that their lives are so miserable, since they tend to be depressed and anxious, they’re still likely to seek out therapy.  When and if they become aware of their disorder, they usually want to change.   Even if they don’t know what their real problem is, they still know something is wrong.  They only need to realize their problem lies within themselves and not because the world is persecuting them.

Quite a few covert narcissists I know from the NPD forums seem entirely capable of accepting culpability once their narcissism or NPD is pointed out to them (and some discover it on their own). From there, getting better is just a matter of not expecting miracles overnight and a willingness to do a lot of hard emotional work.   Classic narcissists almost never think they have a problem or are willing to make any changes or enter therapy, even if they become aware of their narcissism.  They usually believe their narcissism has been of benefit to them.

Envy and replacing shame with acceptance.

shame_jung

For as long as I can remember, envy was always a huge problem for me. This is one of the reasons I think I probably have covert narcissism. Envy isn’t something usually associated with BPD (borderlines are much more likely to become codependent to those they see as “superior”). Of course, it’s possible to be both.

Envy is associated with a sense of entitlement. For a covert narcissist, the emotion of envy is a lot more complicated than it is for an grandiose narcissist. A grandiose narcissist, believing they are better than others (but only the false self actually believes this), feels entitled to be treated accordingly. They are filled with anger and resentment when they see someone else who has something they want and if they are malignant, they may try to sabotage the other person’s good fortune. They don’t try to hide behind a facade of deference to others.

Covert narcissists also have problems with entitlement, but it’s a lot more hidden. They normally do not think of themselves as superior, at least not in the overt, in your face way a grandiose narcissist does. They may even consciously suffer from low self esteem and feel worthless. Being a victim often becomes a way to obtain supply, in the form of sympathy or attention. Not all covert narcissists are like this, but many of them are. But at the same time they feel worthless, they also feel a sense of superiority or entitlement.

The dynamics of how this works are complicated, but try to stay with me here.

Emotions at war.

Covert narcissists, as opposed to grandiose narcissists, tend to be low functioning (though not always).   If, let’s say, a covert narcissist is the outcast in a group or ignored (and they are often introverted and sometimes socially awkward too, though not always), they feel victimized or unappreciated. To resolve the cognitive dissonance caused by wanting to feel superior to others but their reality indicating anything but, they take on a kind of “sour grapes” attitude. So, for example, they might pretend (or even convince themselves) their introversion or social awkwardness makes them somehow “better” than others who are more extroverted or popular.  They tell themselves the reason they’re ignored, rejected, or unappreciated is because they are actually more intelligent, more insightful, or have more “depth” than the extroverted or more popular “peons” who are ignoring or rejecting them. They tell themselves others just don’t appreciate their superior mind (or whatever) because they are too stupid (or shallow, or whatever). They believe they deserve better and resent others for treating them like they’re less. They might even go so far as to tell themselves others are jealous of them! This is actually projection, because the reality is, no one is jealous of them–they are actually deeply envious of others. Of course they will never tell you they think they’re better than you, because that would make them grandiose. They keep the feelings of superiority and entitlement to themselves and it’s still mixed with feelings of worthlessness and self hatred.

Unfortunately, as ugly (and confusing) as this description is, I can identify all too well with it, because I’ve been this way since adolescence. Telling myself I was really better than others made the fact I was usually an outcast (or deliberately isolated myself, assuming I would be cast out) more bearable. But the truth was never far away, and the truth was: I felt absolutely worthless and hated myself.

Life as a zero-sum game.

Until very recently, it was hard for me to feel any joy when something good happened to someone else (unless there was something in it for me) because somehow another’s good fortune made me feel diminished. It was as if I regarded life as a zero-sum game. If you win, that means I must lose. I’ve been aware of this trait for many years. I always hated this about myself and tried not to be this way, but it was nearly impossible to drum up any joy for others. It was so difficult to fake being happy for someone that I compensated by changing the subject or ignoring the good news of someone else. Or sometimes, even throwing subtle barbs into a compliment or congratulations. Yes, it was very narcissistic and I’m ashamed of that.

cartoon_antidepressant

It got so bad that when I was married, when my husband got a promotion (even though the extra money we’d have DID affect me positively), I was overcome with envy and all I could do was change the subject because I found myself unable to even fake happiness. I remember thinking, “why don’t I ever get promoted? I deserve to be recognized for my hard work too.” Somehow his achievement made me feel like a failure in comparison, and I felt bitter and miserable for days after that. I tried to hide these feelings because I knew they were wrong and filled me with shame. But I couldn’t make my emotions obey my mind (which told me his promotion–or anyone else’s good news–had nothing to do with me). Because this isn’t a BPD trait, I think I developed a thin sheet of narcissism on top of my BPD.

Fortunately, this awful trait never extended to my kids. Even when I was at my worst, I always felt happy when my kids succeeded in something or were happy. I always felt sad when they were sad or hurt. I had a lot of empathy for my kids, even when that didn’t really extend to anyone else.

Learning to love your real self.

I’m happy to say that this is changing, and my empathy is starting to extend way beyond my children. I’m no longer so envious of others (though I can’t say it’s completely gone–I do have relapses, especially when triggered). I don’t always feel diminished or resentful when someone tells me their good news. More and more often, I’m actually able to feel happy for others when they tell me something good happened to them–even when there’s nothing in it for me. It sure is a lot nicer to feel happy for someone than to resent them!

I’ve written about this recently, but lately I’ve been feeling a kind of softening inside, more tender and loving emotions, like something inside me has shifted. I think this is because in therapy (and because of my faith too), I’m learning how to accept my inner child (true self). This basically means replacing shame and dislike with love and empathy for that child. When you begin to stop feeling ashamed of who you really are, and begin to see the gifts your inner child was born with but you were blind to because shame was always in the way, you begin to stop rejecting that child and allow your real self to come out more often and shine (and in so doing, you no longer have a need for a fake, false self as a shoddy replacement).

In my case, I always tried to hide my inner child’s positive traits — high sensitivity, emotionality, desire for connection, appreciation of beauty, and wanting to love and be loved — because I was programmed at an early age to believe all these traits were “weak” and that emotional vulnerability and everything that goes with it was something to be ashamed of. It was the narrative I lived that my parents (and later, bullies at school) drummed into me at a very early age. I tried to cover that over with a tough exterior for awhile, but when that didn’t work (grandiose narcissism was a very bad fit for my temperament!), I turned inward and began to isolate myself and at the same time, resent everyone else. I wouldn’t let anyone get to know the real me, and isolating myself was the easiest way for me to hide.

little_girl

Fortunately I never developed full-blown NPD (just a lot of N traits as a way to protect myself from the emotional ravages of BPD–I call this my “aluminum foil” false self because it’s so thin and easily torn), so it may be taking less time for me to be able to access my real self, and begin to replace shame with acceptance and real self-love. I’ve only been in therapy for 10 months and I can’t believe how far I’ve come already. Of course it also helps to have a therapist who is highly empathetic and skilled in getting someone like me to be able to see themselves from a different vantage point and teach me how to empathize with my inner child (and in so doing, learn to re-parent myself). I also had a head start because I was blogging about my mental and emotional state for about a year before I started therapy, and that helped me gain a high degree of insight into myself (and temperamentally, I’ve always been analytical). Prayer and meditation have helped enormously too.

I’m also highly motivated. I don’t like these traits in myself at all. I hate them so much that if I were offered a choice between being rid of them for good and a million dollars, I would choose to forgo the money but be emotionally free.  I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I really am going to win this fight.