Guest post #13: Panic and Narcissism


Don Shelby, who writes the blog Living With Narcissism, and suffers from depression and panic disorder, had a surprise for me today.  I opened up my email and there was his guest post!    He’s been busy and had some personal issues so was unable to send it earlier, and I’d completely forgotten about it, but after I read it I was very glad he remembered to send it because I could relate to it and I think a lot of you will be able to also. Most of us who had narcissistic parents learn to be afraid of everything. It’s why we take so few risks.

From Don’s About page:

I’ve lived with narcissists for most of my life and only recently understood the phenomenon of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Co Dependency in relationships.  From my humble beginnings being raised by a single Narc mother to several long term relationships with Narc women I have been fully and completely indoctrinated to be a good little obedient co dependent with very low self esteem.  I personally suffer from depression and anxiety/panic disorder.  I currently still live with my narcissistic partner of nearly 20 years and for now intend to continue in this relationship.  This blog is my safe space to openly discuss what goes on in my world around this dynamic and to explore coping mechanisms and ways to heal the co dependency in me.  I am not a mental health professional.  I’m just a victim of narcissistic childhood abuse who’s on a mission to heal my soul and gain back my life once and for all.

Panic and Narcissism 
By Don Shelby, Living With Narcissism


I had my first full blown panic attack in my mid 20s. Since then, my life has become a quest to understand why I felt so anxious and panicky over situations that I used to not have any fear about whatsoever in my younger years. For a long time, I thought that the panic attacks started then, but now I believe they started at a much younger age and only manifested fully in my 20s when life got too overwhelming.

My mother was a narcissist and she terrorized me and my brother throughout our lives until her death in 1997 in order to manipulate us and get us to do what she wanted. My brother and I flip flopped between being the golden child and the scapegoat depending on which of us was on her good side at the moment. I grew up with uncertainty, no boundaries, and rules that changed with my mother’s moods. I was taught to distrust my own feelings, thoughts and desires and especially of anyone outside of our family unit. I was taught to only trust my mother and to believe everything she told me as if it was written in stone. Whenever I would want to do something that she didn’t want me to do she would try to scare me into not doing it by telling me that I’d end up dead or worse if I did the thing I wanted to do. She’d paint a pretty scary picture for me and then I had to choose whether to take the “risk” and go for it or to take her word for it and not do the thing. I’m not talking about risky behaviors like skydiving or rock climbing here. I’m talking about going to college out of state or going on an amusement ride she didn’t want me to ride or swimming in the ocean. Normal stuff a lot of kids do. Every day stuff. Her justification was always that we’re not like other people and it’s okay for them but not us. Why were we so different? Because my mother said so.


So I was raised to be fearful and to only trust my mother. Still, today, when I’m about to embark on something that I perceive as scary or challenging I can hear her voice telling me how crazy I am to try something that foolish and that I’m going to end up dead because of it. I was a fearful kid and I grew into a fearful adult. The real crazy part is that, despite my fear, I still went ahead and did most of the things that my mother warned would kill me. I rode that roller coaster. I swam in that ocean. I went to college out of state. There was a big part of me that didn’t believe her lies. I pushed my luck often and did what I wanted to despite her warnings. But it cost me too. This pushed me into the Scapegoat role constantly with her while she admonished me for disobeying and looked for any sign of failure as a chance to show me how right she was after all. It forced me into a corner where I could never fail because failure would usher in an unwelcome torrent of “I told you so’s”. I could not let her win. And I didn’t. For years I put a ton of pressure on myself to show my mother that she couldn’t keep me from living my life. Zero failure was my mantra. Never show weakness. Always tell her only the positive things going on and hide my vulnerabilities from her.

So all those years of being strong actually broke me down until my nervous system couldn’t handle it anymore and I started experiencing panic attacks over the slightest little thing. I guess there were triggers but I wasn’t aware of them. My own mind became my new battle ground and I didn’t feel safe anywhere. I changed career paths because of it. I stayed in lousy relationships because of it. I lived in places I hated because of it. I didn’t have the confidence in myself to take care of my own needs like I once had. Still, I struggle to lead a happy, normal life. There are a lot of things I simply don’t feel strong enough to do anymore. My nervous system is so sensitive to fear triggers that I can’t handle much stress at all in my life. I’m a shell of the person I used to be and I feel like an old warrior, battered but not broken from my experiences in life. My mother waged mental warfare in my youth and other women have continued her battles as I’ve been attracted to a lot of narcissistic type people over the years.

The silver lining is that with understanding narcissism and the effects of C-PTSD I now know what caused my panic attacks to start and why my life has been challenging in ways that most of my friends were not. I can’t go back and change the past but I can take what I’ve learned into my future and make it better. Sure, I still struggle with anxiety and panic, but with understanding has come some tools to help me persevere through my triggers and symptoms. I know the value of setting boundaries and having self respect and listening to my inner voice above others. I remind myself daily what I knew when I was five. My mother was wrong. I’m not crazy and I’m not going to die on that roller coaster.

16 thoughts on “Guest post #13: Panic and Narcissism

    • Very insightful post into life with a narcissistic mother! I felt as if you were writing about my mother and can completely relate to so much of what you have been through..
      ”This pushed me into the Scapegoat role constantly with her while she admonished me for disobeying and looked for any sign of failure as a chance to show me how right she was after all”.
      This was also constant for me and she always said ”i told you so” and that I won’t be able to do anything’…It was so nasty..When I first moved to London to work and be with all my friends, I was sexually assaulted at a bus stop. I stupidly told my mum hoping she would be supportive and she said ‘ Well I told you London was dangerous before you moved there”..This obviously wasn’t what I needed to hear from my mother..
      Thank you both for sharing!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Reblogged this on Living With Narcissism and commented:
    luckyotter from Lucky Otter’s Haven asked me months ago to share a post with her and I finally got around to writing something. She was gracious enough to post it today. She has tons of useful information on her site and I highly recommend checking it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you shared Don’s post, Lauren! I found it fascinating to read about narcissistic abuse by a mom from a man’s experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m writing here because I can’t see any reply button in this other post .

    I don’t feel that narcs can love animals in general. They just use them to get their supply of energy, and eventually to hurt someone else, which gives them something to plot for hours of their life. The problem is, in my opinion, that people around narcs usually LET THEM.
    My experience.
    I live with some people, one if which i would say is narcissistic, it’s a woman and is the mother of a dear friend, we all live in the same house and it’s already hectic (we lived there for over 12 years, discontinueat times). There are 2 dogs as well.
    Before these 2 dogs, there were 2 different ones, whose passing I already felt suspect. I’m not talking about intentional murder, for me it’s about magnetism and the inevitable consumption of the animal energy, just like for us, and both cases have been used (and still are) by the ill person to haunt her son, who actually knows the “truth”. Now, There are two other dogs.
    It’s been some time that I’m trying to get away from that house with the animals, but it’s hard and so I felt that making the environment safe for the animal was top priority. Why? because they are innocent, and if we can’t let them out to be free (if free can be) then at least we must avoid toxic things for them. I’m referring to nasty habits like giving them chips when someone eats those things, or staying for hours on the couch watching tv with the dog, that becomes a pillow.
    It’s not just that tv is radioactive and blasts frequencies that direct ANY creatures’ brain (those who claim it’s not true… maybe they’re paid to say so, like anyone else in this world), it’s about empathy. If the human is sitting for hours and the tv disposal, and violence sex & co. make their way from the screen to the brain, what kind of energy is the human hosting? and so… don’t you see that animals perceive that too? ok, some even say it’s like helping those human to stay better. No, it’s a huge lie to keep them supplied. Who cares if animals die? They die so often that it’s normal. Well, it is, but it is not NATURAL. So, this narcissistic THING is actually something like sadism, in my opinion and experience.
    So, i’m doing all I can, like living outside the main house (I live basically in the outdoor container, made some space to work and live, i use the garden water and the door is always open), the dogs are free to enter and exit, but when I feel that inside they’re having the junk snack, I tell them (the dogs) not to get caught by that, they understand. it’s been 2 weeks I did so, the dogs feel better: the male one doesn’t call for insistent attention, being free to enter and exit whenever he wishes made his days, and doesn’t whine anymore (which was something the people inside where ALWAYS complaining); the female one stopped being aggressive to strangers and started haunting more often; both dogs learned a lot, and their intelligence is beyond the physical things.
    it’s not easy, well.. it’s really frustrating. Not about dogs, about the human narc. She immediately felt her supply was not near and she must have noticed that many people noticed the positiveness radiating from the dogs. But above all she must have noticed that my life was going much better. She tries quite often to get them inside the house! I really don’t know why other people think it’s healty to keep a dog in the house when you have a garden…
    Like this morning, she got out of the house with a packet of cookies, while i was walking around the house. I heard her opening the door, knew the dogs would go after the food, so I followed the dogs (I was talking on the phone, how convenient) and I let them out before she could realize what happened. She said later she just got out to get a clothe-pin to close the package, being 9 am, just woken, and of course bringing a whole huge package of cookies outside… come on, please, DON’T.LIE.TO.ME.
    Today she comes because she wants to talk, she says that my living outside the house make her worried, and I asked her to simply show me how would it upset her. I told her that MAYBE it was because EVERY DAY she watches movies about rapes and murder, and that THAT’S the reason I don’t find right for the dogs to be inside a house WITH someone who is not AWARE of the pain he/she causes. She just said that if the dog wants to stay with her, it’s the dog’s choice. And of course that she is free to live her life the way she wants. Fine. I told her that when someone sees someone being tortured, would this stand aside? She would, me… no.
    Guys, the problem is that everybody is magnetized by her, and no one actually dares to do nothing to prevent other people to suffer from her caprices, instead they all seem to find themselves useful to her causes. I HAVE PROOF that a healthy and genuine life makes everything better, even for dogs, but no one would care, they are just scared she may burst again
    So I say to them all, and to you as well: how many have to die to FINALLY comprehend that they CAN’T? I don’t care what they do for living, what they dream of, what they struggle for, it’s all a huge ball of lies, until facts prove them. By the way, I sense lies.
    I’m quite nervous nowadays, I must admit, and I often get upset, rarely I explode. I can’t earn money since I last came here and I can’t go mout from here without money… I asked even my parents (something I never did), but being my mom narc as well… I’m trying to avoid my father dying as well.
    And I love life. For me there are those who eat deaths and those who don’t (or try not to).
    Narcs are death eaters, no exception. Whoever would try to get happy/serene/whatever at someone else’s expenses in UNNATURAL WAYS, that’s surely a narc too.
    She also says the the veggie garden we made is not to her liking, she is a tidy person and bla bla. By the way, she is tidy when she decides to tide up, actually she is the one that dirties more than anyone in that house, but claims to be the only one to clean (NOT TRUE, all people clean and witness other cleaning, but they just let her say that… wow.). I feel like I’m living in a slaughterhouse where they’re all resigned to their fate.
    I can’t let innocent creature stay here without someone aware, or else I’d have gone already on my own. I know I can make it, it’s just… hard, and I don’t have enough time to feel relaxed to organize, being that she often comes abruptly.
    So, seriously, don’t confund care with love. love in unconditioned, and involves not hurting.
    Care… or training, grooming, petting… they’re just mechanical ways to get someone’s attention, animals included. IF you understand what animals feel… you would then know your truth.
    That’s why i feel it’s a torture. because i do… and i’m just blocked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel so sad for those animals too and feel your pain.
      I agree with you, that narcs can’t really love anyone, so that means they can’t love animals either. Even if they are treated well, there’s always some agenda or ulterior motive to their “care.” Like the animal has some use for them (security, impressing the neighbors, etc.) Animals do have feelings though–dogs are at the mental level of a 2-4 year old child and need attachment and love just like a little child does.

      The reason you couldn’t reply to that post is because comments become disabled after a post is 4 months old.


      • This morning I received the notification of your reply, what an urge of creativity I felt! recognition by “someone else” is vital. Even an eyesight is precious, but since we are writing each other at distances… we have to cope with that.
        I feel something else to say, to all of you. For how hard it is, and the hardest it is the more I advise you, try and see the whole “picture”. This narcissistic thing is a system thing. Example: I’m Italian, and I happened to move in Ireland 4 years ago, stayed there for a whole year, during which I asked my family to send me a copy of the bible. Being my mother a church attender (and my father follows) she immediately thought “that”, I stated the truth at once, which was that I meant to have a reading of that book and study it, since they church-attenders never do. Of couse, They could easily intend my menaing because I’ve always been studying things that afflict others, but I knew that they would never comprehend that. Nonetheless, she sent it to me, AS A GIFT, a new copy of the bible of jerusalem approved by the church of this era, basicali NRSV (new revised standard version). Then I decided to move, and I gave all my stuff to friends that I met there (except for the stuff in the trolley, a guitar and a package I sent home with some of my and my roomate stuff, 20kg in total), including housewares, bedsheets, you name it. and including the book in question, which I gave to a catholic pastor I was working with at the restaurant (he was the “washboy”). He was so glad because he could finally learn some italian, and a friend of his was learning italian already so they actually both were happy. By the way, in all honest I always talked truth even to that pastor friend of mine, and working with a muslim and a catholic professant… was really insightful. They were both learning from each other’s cult and they were easily filling the gaps… I say all of this because it’s important to notice these things, very important for our journey.
        So, I ho back to Italy and I say my family what I did (also because they promptly asked me about my light carriage). And I told them. I honestly was expecting something like a hug, or at least a meaningful eyesight that would mean “great! go on!”. they were shocked. “the bible! the bible we gave you! how could you give it to someone else?”. I couldn’t really help saying “well.. you lot glorify san francesco d’assisi, who according to your tales abandoned all his riches to go living among the nature….”. They got weirdly upset, saying that bible is not up to me nor anyone else to be read like that, that only church can interprete it for us. And so on.
        Same old, same old.
        Just like when I say that taking antibiotics any month because you have throatache any month won’t ever cure you, it will just get you into the loop.
        All our sufferences are actually caused by inducted obsessions. And they all lead to narcissism. Or the pope wouldn’t be dressed in gold. They’re idols, to be respected and feared, like apotheosis in ancient rome.
        So, the bigger picture… is nasty. It won’t make you any happier to see it, but that’s not what information does anyway. It will though make you feel aware of the mechanics of the whole. Then you will find you want to meet someone else with whom to share this journey you’re having, that some call life. And that stimulation will surely add to the bottle of your emotions, memories, and stuff, and it will help get put the bad that contaminates it, just like putting more water into an oily bottle will eventually let the oil out.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Trauma is a mean through which we programm and get programmed. I always point out that in german the word “traum” means dream, and that says a lot.
    I’ve got loads of them, just like any of you, but only when I felt what they were I could really find a meaning to them… and a use as well. A use? yes. I use them for myself to remember what I had to endure in this journey, because forgetting is the key to oblivion. And I don’t want to forget.
    I mean, since it happened and keeps flashing by, I have to do something about it. Or, like the waste that is invading the planet, it will inevitably become a nuisance and worse. Until some, probably most, just get addicted to it as if ti was water and start thinking that maybe it’s part of the cicle of life and so one. Rubbish.
    I tend to “justify” things, my family says since I was a child, but they couldn’t be more wrong. They mean, by “justify”, that I argument a lot about something, as if I have something to justify myself for. Again, they are wrong. But nonetheless this tendency is due to the fact that I’ve often been accused of things I didn’t do, and punished for them as well. Later on, I developed the skill of lying or omitting, just to avoid being hit and offended/cursed. Tradition in southern Italy includes beating children if they don’t follow their parents’ lead, and my family is traditional.
    So instead of telling you all the trauma that flashes in my memories, with the risk of putting them into your already crowded mind, I invite you to be more aware of yourself, and to follow your instinct. For me, instinct (from latin IN-STINGUERE) is something that “stings” you, and reaches you despite the too many layer that cover your being. We are intoxicated by lies and mysteries and by mystery we’ve been broght to say we want it. But we don’t. Some of us, like you, realized that the price is a ponzi scheme, a fraud that will deplenish our soul until the light turns off.
    And when we realize that, that’s when we try to sting ourselves to remember. Instinct.


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