Come closer…go away.

I hesitated about posting this here, but I’m going to take the plunge and do it that because I’ve never once regretted “running naked in public.” (I haven’t changed the URL yet because it costs money for me to do that so I have to wait.)

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Avoidant Personality Disorder

This article is a must read for anyone who isolates themselves from others and doesn’t understand why. You may not have Avoidant Personality Disorder; you may just be introverted or have a few of the traits. I just discovered this blog and the blogger is an amazing writer and I could relate to every word.

Forever alone, revisited.

keep_calm_forever_alone

This is going to be another “running naked” post.

I have mixed feelings about being in a relationship. On the one hand, I long for it because I can’t deny that my inability to connect with anyone on a deep emotional level has caused me a lot of sadness and pain.

At the same time I need my solitude, and it’s almost always my preferred state, due to my avoidant personality. I’d much rather do things alone than do them with others. I’m simply too selfish and don’t want to give of myself to anyone else. I think the selfishness stems from fear though. I’m too afraid: I struggle with fears of rejection, abandonment, judgement, engulfment, being hurt, being used, being abused, etc. I have little to no interest in sex, although I can be sexually attracted. (maybe this is TMI, but I prefer my fantasies to the real thing).

So I have a sort of conundrum. I don’t want to grow old and die alone, but at the same time I don’t want to and am afraid to do what it takes to avoid being alone forever. I was married to my malignant narcissist ex for many years, but the marriage was extremely dysfunctional and I was always in the codependent role. Thinking about the marriage’s failure (which was inevitable from Day One) now makes me feel sad, although for a long time I just felt rage (which is why I started my first blog).

I would only consider a relationship with a non-narcissist now (and really, not with any Cluster B), but that’s a problem because I’m simply not attracted to non-disordered people. I never have been.

The other problem is I’m “in love with the idea of being in love.” Like most Cluster B’s, I become limerent easily (though less so than I used to) and get addicted to the whole “high” that infatuated feeling brings. But it never lasts and I know intellectually it’s not real love. It’s a type of addiction that feels as good as a drug, but the crash (and there always is one) is just as bad as coming down from a powerful drug too. I miss that drug-like high of falling in love though.

To rectify this longing, I live the limerent experience out in my mind by developing powerful crushes on people who cannot give me anything in return for a variety of reasons. Oddly enough, this lack of reciprocation is okay with me. I don’t feel like anything is “unrequited” because I deliberately and consciously get attached to a person only in my own mind and prefer not to share my feelings with the person in question. I have an active enough imagination that there is no need to play it out in reality. In fact, I’d probably run away in terror if it became obvious my feelings were returned. I’d get off on the supply that comes with that, of course–but it would send me into panic mode too. It’s very weird. I don’t know if this is just an eccentricity of mine, or if this sort of thing is experienced by others. Having an active imagination does have its benefits. It’s very narcissistic though.

I think unless I can become non-disordered (which is unlikely), that I need to accept the idea of being alone for the rest of my life. On a day to day basis, I’m okay with that, but it’s sometimes so hard when you look around and everyone else in my age group is married or in a relationship, and I have to do everything on my own. You’re treated by society as defective and if you don’t make a good living, it’s hard to even survive. I feel like a freak sometimes. I can’t look at singleness as a permanent lifestyle or I get very sad and afraid. I have to do what they do in AA, and take things one day at a time.

I need to get out more.

church_choir

I’ve decided to join the choir at my church.

I don’t normally go in much for church-related activities, but I’ve always loved to sing and I love music, and I feel like this is a way I can encourage myself to interact with actual people in a way that might be fun and not require too much actual social interaction since we’d be spending most of the time singing and not talking.

I know that isolating myself as much as I do isn’t healthy. Introversion is fine, but not to the point where you live as a near-recluse, shunning any social involvement at all. Deliberately avoiding all social interaction isn’t going to help me conquer my Avoidant PD or my covert narcissism or whatever. While I have to accept (and do accept) that I’ll never be an extrovert or social butterfly, self improvement requires me to take this step.

Lately my isolation from others has been bothering me. I’m lonelier than I like to admit. I want to connect with people, even though it’s hard for me to do that and there’s definitely an element of anxiety. My shyness has not gone away.

If I’m ever going to meet people I can become potentially close to, just being around them in an environment where we’re sharing a fun activity (like singing) seems like a good way to start.
So tomorrow night I’ll be showing up at choir practice. I’m actually sort of excited about it!
Why limit my singing to my car where I’m my only audience?

What’s my problem?

confused

After over a month of being convinced I’m a covert narcissist, now I’m starting to wonder if my assessment of myself could be incorrect. Most people are having trouble believing me (even good friends) and there are so many disorders that appear similar to it. I no longer think my symptoms are due to Aspergers the way I used to, but BPD + Avoidant PD in the same person can look exactly like covert NPD. So can complex PTSD in some cases.

I’ve been told again and again that real narcissists are unlikely to ever admit they are narcissists, and if they do, they won’t be beating themselves up that much over it. I don’t know if that’s always true (I’ve met a few low spectrum covert narcissists on Psychforums who actually have a diagnosis and feel terrible about things they’ve done and want to change, but maybe the diagnosis they got is wrong and they just have more than the normal amount of N traits). Victims of narcissistic abuse are often quick to diagnose narcissism in themselves and others. We’re hypervigilant and tend to see narcissism everywhere, and we don’t even exempt ourselves. The real narcissists are probably more likely to keep insisting that they are not. Abuse victims think too damn much. It’s all very confusing.

narcissism_selfies

I guess there was a reason why I never added “Covert NPD” to “My Disorders” in the header. Without an official diagnosis for that, I really can’t say that’s what my problem is. It could be, but if so I think it’s at a low level. I know I have a number of narcissistic traits, but most abuse victims do. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have NPD, covert or otherwise. I could just have a really bad case of “fleas,” or just BPD + AvPD, or even complex PTSD.

I’m still glad I started Down The Rabbit Hole because it’s also intended for people with BPD, which I have an actual diagnosis for. I still think my “trip down the rabbit hole” early in August was real but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have NPD. It was still a trip to the walled off parts of my mind, and most abuse victims are at least partly walled off from themselves. We may be partially narcissistic but not enough to qualify for the label.

I care about people with low spectrum NPD and BPD who want to heal or improve, so that’s another reason I’m going to keep DTRH going. It’s getting a good reception. Another one of my missions is to help reduce the negative stigma against people with BPD. I don’t ever expect DTRH to gain the amount of activity this blog has received, but if only one or two people can be helped by my posts, and I can help myself by continuing to do exactly what I’ve been doing, then it’s worth it to keep it going, isn’t it?

Really, at the end of the day, all these labels are just labels and don’t really mean anything at all.

Me and jokes.

grumpycat_notfunny

Having my kind of disorders (Avoidant, BPD and possible [self-identified] cNPD), I have a hard time coping with jokes made at my own expense. I try to hide my anger/hurt and joke back, but it never goes over very well and people can usually tell I’m offended or hurt anyway. It makes me feel too exposed and vulnerable, and that’s why I prefer solitude than being around people.

I also don’t care for those old fashioned jokes you have to “get.” It’s not that I can’t understand the joke, but that I always feel pressure to “get it” and spend the whole time they’re telling me the joke worrying that I might not get it and they’ll think I’m stupid. 😳 😕

It’s a self fulfilling prophecy too, because I spend so much time stressing over maybe not getting the joke that I wind up *not* getting it! And then feeling stupid when I have to fake-laugh.

Most people always want to tell you those kind of jokes and I stress too much about it.
I much prefer random, goofy, wtf humor you don’t have to “get.” Like Roz Chast cartoons. 8)

How does avoidant PD differ from covert (vulnerable) narcissism?

avoidant_pd_bagoverhead

Covert (vulnerable or fragile) narcissism (cNPD) can, on the surface, look an awful lot like Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD–not to be confuse with AsPD!), which I have been diagnosed with, along with BPD.

But appearances are only skin deep.

I found an article on Psychforums (in the Avoidant PD forum) that describes the differences very well. Because covert/vulnerable narcissism is not an officially recognized diagnosis, and is not included in the DSM (yet), covert narcissists are frequently (if not almost always) diagnosed BPD comorbid with AvPD, as I am. Aspergers can also be easily confused with cNPD, and has been by many. But this article focuses on Avoidant PD, not Aspergers.

“Vulnerable narcissism could be misdiagnosed with at least two other distinct DSM personality disorders: Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In the diagnosis of AVPD, there are several criteria that may overlap with vulnerable narcissism. First, avoidant individuals are observed as appearing shy and being fearful of developing close relationships with others. Second, individuals with AVPD may meet criteria for experiencing fears of feeling humiliated, rejected, or embarrassed within individual relationships. Finally, Millon (1996) proposes that the use of fantasy in individuals with AVPD is a major element in the presentation and perpetuation of this disorder. This is striking in the fact that the use of fantasy has long been denoted as primary to the realm of narcissistic pathology.The vulnerable narcissist will likely exhibit significant interpersonal anxiety, avoidance of relationships, and use of fantasy, but this is guided by a core of entitled expectations. That is, vulnerable narcissists may avoid relationships in order to protect themselves from the disappointment and shame over unmet expectations of others, in contrast to fears of social rejection or making a negative social impact typical of AVPD.

Another false positive diagnosis that may occur as a result of misinterpreting vulnerable narcissismis in the diagnosis of BPD. Masterson (1993) forwarded this issue in an elaborate discussion about the potential for misdiagnosis of the closet narcissistic personalitywith BPD. Misdiagnosis can occur because of a clinician’s attention to the overt presentation of the emotional lability in the individual to the exclusion of an understanding of the cognitive and socio-emotional experience that guides the lability. As with social avoidance, the emotional lability of the vulnerable narcissist is influenced by his or her covert entitlement and difficulties managing disappointment and self-esteem threat. In contrast, the emotionally lability of the individual with BPD is a byproduct of unrealistic anaclitic needs (e.g., the need for a strong caretaker to manage his or her fears of being independent).

avoidant personality

Both the AVPD and the vulnerable narcissistic character will likely report difficulties with feeling self-conscious in interpersonal situations, along with the tendency to avoid situations in which they expect to be ridiculed. The difference between AVPD and vulnerable narcissistic characters lies in their expectations for themselves and others. Individuals with AVPD have needs to be liked and accepted by others, but fear they will fail to be acceptable to others. In contrast, vulnerable narcissistic characters need others to respond favorably to them and to admire them regardless of their behaviors, beliefs, skills, or social status, but fear that others will fail to provide them with narcissistic supplies. For vulnerable narcissistic characters, it is not mere concern about being liked or not. Rather, the vulnerable narcissist’s fear is that he or she will not be admired. Furthermore, vulnerable narcissistic individuals experience significant injury and anger in response to perceived slights. Their avoidance of relationships is based upon their fear of not being able to tolerate the disappointment of their unrealistic expectations.

The assessment of entitled expectations and exploitative motivations are important variables that would guide how an individual approaches and experiences relationships, including a therapeutic relationship. Not acknowledging narcissistic entitlement when it is present could lead to important misinterpretations of clients’ experiences that either reinforce their sense of entitlement or lead to unrecognized self-esteem threat in the therapeutic relationship (Gabbard, 1998).”

From “Interpersonal analysis of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism” Dickinson, Kelly A; Pincus, Aaron L

The honeymoon is over.

lost

I’ve been feeling quite strange the past week. It’s the worst I’ve felt in about a year. It started with feelings of anxiety and panic, racing and morbid thoughts and a feeling of unnamed dread. I’d try to nap and my heart would start racing so I’d give up. DBT skills didn’t work and some of my BPD (or PTSD) behaviors returned–negativistic behavior, feeling offended easily, sulking, fits of anger (not directed at anyone but expressed in imaginary conversations with myself in the car or at home), low frustration tolerance, paranoia. I’ve been less motivated to write. I’ve been neglecting housekeeping and eating right. Getting up in the morning is excruciating.

It was all I could do to make it through work. I was feeling sorry for myself all day and at the same time felt guilty for feeling that way. The anxiety has lessened but it’s been replaced by despair and some kind of deep sadness.

I don’t cry easily, but I started crying a few hours ago and couldn’t stop. It feels good to cry, but the feelings are so painful. I feel unworthy. I feel impotent. I feel angry at my parents for training me to be such a good little victim. I hate my ex. I hate myself. I suck at everything. I can’t relate to people. I hate people. I want to connect but I just can’t. I think people will hate me if I let them get too close. My world is so small and constrained and unsatisfying because of my fear of relating to others and reaching out, and because I never have enough money to do anything or go anywhere anyway. The summer’s slipping away and it reminds me of all the lost opportunities and all the doors that have slammed shut, never to reopen. That’s where my head is at. It’s a bad place to be. I feel like I’m losing control. It’s like a war inside my head. I hate all this wallowing in self pity but maybe it’s an opportunity to nurture myself.

I need to find a therapist. This blog is a wonderful tool for healing and it’s something I won’t let go of. It’s brought me a lot of joy. A lot of frustration too, but mostly joy. So I’ll keep blogging. I’d still rather do this than anything else.

But something, I don’t know what, has been triggered–by what I don’t know–and I’ve reached a point where just writing isn’t enough. I need someone to talk to who can help me sort out whatever’s going on in my head right now. I think journaling every day may have brought me to this point.

I’m not giving up. The good thing is that my emotions, while not really under my control at the moment, are there for me to feel. I’m not depressed in the apathetic, almost zombie-like way I used to get depressed when I was living with my narcissist ex. This is an active depression where my emotions are accessible to me and I can sort of name them and I just have to let myself feel them. I’m grateful for that at least. This is what I wanted. But what do I do with them? Can they make me a better, kinder, happier, more empathetic person? That’s what I really want. I need to find someone who can show me what to do with all these emotions.

I guess this means the honeymoon is over, and now the real work begins.

Two new header tabs!

whats_new

Because I write so much about my Aspergers, I realized it would be easier for my readers to find related articles if I made a kind of “Table of Contents” listing the relevant posts. I decided to do the same for my Avoidant Personality Disorder, even though I haven’t written too much about it (my Aspergers and Avoidant traits tend to blend together so there’s a lot of overlap).

Living with Avoidant Personality Disorder

Living with Aspergers

Later, I may add an additional tab about BPD, but because my articles about BPD tend to blend in with the NPD and general Cluster B disorders articles (of which there are far too many to list in a header tab), it would be a lot more difficult to separate them. It would also be harder to pick out the ones applying only to my own experience in having BPD, from those talking about BPD in general. Anyway, my header graphic pretty much announces that this blog is primarily about narcissism and BPD (which I’ve been writing a lot more about recently).

The curse of the Aspergers/Avoidant/Borderline triad.

social_isolation

Today I attended a beautiful Pentecost mass that was held outdoors. The day couldn’t have been more perfect for an outdoor celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples. Unlike the disciples, I didn’t experience a sudden spiritual epiphany or dramatic change in my heart, or start speaking in tongues. But as always when I attend mass, I felt God’s presence around me (if not actually IN me) and felt surrounded by peace and light.

I looked at the tall trees gently swaying in the distance, their bright spring greens illuminated in the bright sunshine against the azure blue sky, and asked God to change me, to let the Holy Spirit flow inside me and fill me with its divine gifts of empathy, unconditional love, and joy. I asked Him to make me a better person who can connect with other people on a meaningful level–and having those gifts would make it so much easier for me to do that.

The truth is, I feel that I’m lacking in all three of these gifts. I do not have NPD and therefore have no desire to act in evil or toxic ways to others, but due to my other disorders–only one of them probably not due to abuse (Aspergers)–I often feel like there’s an emotional blockage keeping me from really being able to connect with other people, to really being able to empathize and feel WITH them the way people who have not been abused and do not have these disorders can do.

This particular triad of disorders is a tragic one. Even having one of these disorders cripples you and isolates you in various ways from others and can lead to a lonely life lacking in meaningful relationships, but having all three at once is devastating. It’s so hard for me to connect with the rest of humanity except on the most abstract level and as a result I’m often so very sad and lonely.

First, being an Aspie (the only disorder I was probably born with) makes it almost impossible for me to read social cues normally and although I can socialize well enough online (because it doesn’t require me to “think on my feet”–I have time to think through what I want to say or how to respond), in the day to day physical world my Aspieness makes me appear awkward and sometimes slow when I am forced to socialize, especially with neurotypicals who don’t understand people with Aspergers, so I avoid people. Due to my awkwardness I was a frequent target of school bullies, and it didn’t take long to learn that it was best to just keep my mouth shut and say nothing. I became painfully shy, fearing ridicule and humiliation. The old adage, “Tis better to say nothing and have others believe you are daft than open your mouth and remove all doubt” has been my motto most of my life.

aspergers_cartoon

The other two disorders I have–avoidant AND borderline personality disorders–I am certain were due to years of abuse by my narcissistic mother and to a lesser extent, my codependent father who colluded with her most of the time (although I never really doubted his love for me). The AVPD (a Cluster C “anxious” personality disorder) only exacerbates my Aspergers. They feed off each other.

Avoidants shy away from social contact because of their low self esteem and overwhelming fear of rejection. As a result they are usually painfully shy but can even seem aloof or cold. Avoidants are not schizoid though (people with Schizoid personality disorder dislike other people and prefer a hermit-like lifestyle; they don’t care how others regard them): on the contrary, we WANT friends, we WANT meaningful relationships, we WANT romance, we WANT others to like us–but our fear of engaging with others due to possible rejection keeps us isolated and alone. We build a protective shell of aloofness around ourselves so we can’t be hurt. People with AVPD are risk-averse, and are likely to be underachievers due to their unwillingness to take risks that may expose them to social embarrassment.

An Aspie with AVPD is nearly–or is–a social hermit, but not out of choice, like a person with schizoid personality disorder. Making friends–a skill that comes so naturally to most people–is something most of us never mastered well, if at all. Even having a relaxed conversation or opening ourselves to another human is like rocket science to those of us with both disorders. It’s a wonder that I was even ever able to engage in romantic relationships and have a family. Of course, all the men I dated and of course the one I married were narcissistic, mirroring the toxic dynamics I had with my family of origin.

avoidant_pd
Like the girl in this cartoon, I can relate to all of this, even the refusal to play charades! I was always terrified of that game because it requires a level of being able to read social cues and an ability to think on your feet, two qualities I don’t possess. And of course, the fear of risk-taking and humiliation.

And that brings us to my borderline personality disorder. BPD is not usually marked by overwhelming shyness or social awkwardness; in fact most borderlines are quite socially adept. But their disorder, like an Avoidant, is fueled by a deep-seated fear of rejection and almost always has its roots in childhood emotional abuse or neglect, as do all the personality disorders.

Borderlines long for close relationships and actively seek them out, but then push others away if they sense the other person might pull away or reject them first. They overreact to slights and are highly sensitive to criticism or rejection. Like a narcissist, they can be difficult to deal with because of this type of selfish oversensitivity can lead them to engage in some of the same antisocial behaviors and game playing people with NPD or even ASPD are guilty of, though not usually to the same degree because people with BPD have a conscience (even if it’s stunted in some) and don’t normally actively seek to hurt others. There are exceptions though–I was shocked and dismayed to read that both the murderer Jodi Arias and serial killer Aileen Wournos were both diagnosed with BPD, though in Wournos’ case, she was also comorbid with ASPD. Still, most borderlines, when they are made aware of how they have hurt their loved ones, feel remorse–but their guilt and shame can make them feel worthless and lead to self-destructive behaviors. It is not a fun disorder.

Though Borderlines are more likely to be self-destructive instead of deliberately destructive to others, this self destructiveness causes huge problems in their ability to form meaningful relationships, and due to their “go away–come closer” way of relating to others, their relationships are usually stormy and short-lived.

lucy_charlie
Sometimes I feel like either Lucy or Charlie Brown (who I’m pretty sure would have AVPD), and sometimes both of them at once.

I am cursed with the overwhelming shyness and social anxiety of Aspergers and AVPD, but during the rare times I have been able to form relationships or friendships, sooner or later I push those people away in some form or another–not because I want to, but because I either become so afraid of rejection I reject the other person first–or more frequently, unconsciously do something to make the other person leave me. BPD is very maladaptive to the sufferer–it tends to bring on the very thing the Borderline fears the most–rejection.

I was diagnosed with BPD in 1996 during a three month long hospitalization for major depression. At the time, I also had PTSD from being a victim of abuse by a malignant narcissist husband, who gaslighted me constantly and even tried (but eventually failed) to turn my own children against me. During that hospital stay, I was given a copy of Marsha Linehan’s excellent manual for BPD, “Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder.Dr. Linehan is a borderline herself (she had originally been diagnosed with schizophrenia but felt her “schizophrenia” was really a manifestation of her BPD). The techniques in the book are a form of DBT (dialectical behavioral training) which teaches the Borderline patient to act mindfully–to think before they act and consider consequences, because Borderlines (unlike people with NPD) act on impulse when they feel threatened.

linehan_book
Linehan’s excellent manual can be ordered here.

Linehan’s book helped immensely and since my long-ago hospital stay, I have learned to control many of my borderline symptoms. In fact I have become so good at it I rarely fly off the handle the way I used to or overreact to the degree I used to do. I still have my copy and have recently begun doing some of the excercises again because I still know there’s a LOT of room for improvement.

Like NPD, BPD doesn’t just go away. All personality disorders are incredibly hard to cure because they have become so much a part of the individual’s personality. There are still many times I unwittingly either push other people away OR get too close (or do both at the same time); I still have problems with understanding where other people’s boundaries begin and end. I also feel like there is a wall there keeping me from really being able to empathize with other people in a normal way. I can empathize in an abstract sort of way (it’s hard to explain what I mean by that but the empathy I do feel is sincere). It’s just so hard for me to connect on a meaningful level because I fear rejection so much. I want to be a friend to others; I want to make others happy; I want to be able to fully share in their emotions, good or bad–but I find it all so hard–not just because of my BPD, but my fear of engaging with others in the first place due to Aspergers and AVPD. This triad has been a huge curse all my life. But at least I know what my problem is. I’m what you would call “complicated.” I have my work cut out for me.

hope

Having all three disorders has made my life incredibly difficult and my relationships–when they exist at all–have been stormy or don’t last. But I don’t feel that I’m beyond hope. In fact, I’ve been feeling much better about myself since I started blogging and accepted God into my life. I do feel that He is changing me in a very meaningful and deep way. Maybe it’s not happening as quickly or dramatically as I had hoped, but it’s happening. I am feeling more ability to empathize with others and feel moments that come very close to pure joy. I have always had a great capacity to feel guilt and shame, so that has never been a problem. For a person with a Cluster B disorder, my conscience is probably TOO well-developed. I apologize for things I haven’t even done. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent my entire life apologizing for my existence. I hate the idea of being a bad or evil person. I like it when I know I’ve made someone else happy. Those times when I can make others happy are becoming more frequent, and I think that’s a step toward healing. I’m also happy to report that my lifelong problem with envy appears to be disappearing. Envy is so toxic–mostly to the person harboring it. It’s a great relief to have that particular monkey off my back most of the time now.

So today’s celebration of Pentecost had special meaning, because even though I wasn’t knocked to my knees by the Holy Spirit, I felt a deep sense of peace, centeredness and just “being in the moment” that has always eluded me. I felt a genuine desire to become a person who can make a positive difference in the lives of others and can feel unconditional love even for those I do not know well. Now I just need to overcome my fear of engagement with others, but I have faith that in time that will happen too, and when that happens, a whole new world will open up to me as the walls I built at an early age begin to crumble and reveal the me I want to be–which is really the me God meant for me to be.

Never give up hope. Ever.