Guest Post #7: How hypersexuality plays a role in Bipolar disorder

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I’m honored to introduce my 7th guest blogger, Jess Melancholia from The Bipolar Compass, a blog about her experiences living with the manic-depressive form of Bipolar Disorder. In her post, she will be discussing how hypersexuality can be a symptom of the manic (or in Jess’s case, hypomanic) phase of this disorder. I applaud Jess for her courage in openly sharing this delicate but surprisingly common symptom of the manic phase of Bipolar disorder.

From her About Page:

Jess Melancholia is a bpHope Magazine blogger who resides in San Diego, California with her husband and cat. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 in May 2014 after suffering a 6 month bipolar depression triggered by extreme family medical stresses. Through medication and a strong support system, she works tirelessly to live a “normal” life and keep her hypomanic and depressive episodes under control. Her hobbies include playing horror video games and wine tasting. Her daytime profession is a molecular biologist at a biotechnology company.

HOW HYPERSEXUALITY PLAYS A ROLE IN BIPOLAR DISORDER
By Jess Melancholia, The Bipolar Compass

I know what you’re thinking; if I’m writing about bipolar 2 disorder, then why am I talking specifically about sex? No one in their right mind would talk about sex to promote their mental illness blog. Why risk chasing away followers? Why not make it easy on myself and just talk about the other bipolar symptoms of mania such as anxiety, overspending, and feelings of grandiosity? Because that’s what everyone else talks about. And while those are important to me, the one that impacts my life the most is what I want to focus on. And if that makes you uncomfortable then stop reading. But I think that we are all adults here and that things like this need to be addressed. There are countless people out there that want me to talk about this. That need me to be their voice. And I want to be there for them, because they deserve to have their story told.

What in the world is hypersexuality?
That would definitely be my first question if I was reading this post. Well I’m glad you asked. I’m actually very excited to talk about such a delicate subject with you. Please be aware that this is not a joke and that I’m being completely serious about this. If you need more information, please refer to the links in the article and my personal blog for more details. If you are experiencing bipolar hypersexuality, then please contact your doctor immediately to get some help. I’ll start off by giving a little bit of background on this topic.

Hypersexuality is essentially, from my personal experience, an overwhelming desire and obsessive preoccupation with sex and sexual content caused by the presence of a manic episode. In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition), it’s listed as a primary symptom of bipolar under the category of “sexual indiscretions.” bpHope.com is a fantastic resource when it comes to articles and expert advice on what the symptoms look like as well as professional opinions from leading experts in bipolar disorder. The technical content I relate to in this post is accredited to them.

According to some studies, hypersexuality can occur between the range of 25 to 80 percent of all patients with mania! Recent studies suggest around 57 percent! For something that prevalent, it’s amazing that such a subject is rarely if ever talked about.

There are varying opinions as to the cause of the symptom. One such opinion pioneered by Louis J. Cozolino, PhD, a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University in southern California, and leading bipolar disorder guru, says that it’s akin to sexual addiction. He goes on to say that people who are manic with this symptom display “vulnerability to a ‘disinhibition’ of social restraints during manic periods.” In fact, there are studies to suggest that there is more blood flow to the left part of the amygdala (almond-shaped part of the brain that deals with fear and panic) in bipolar patients than in other people. Furthermore, feelings of pleasure and arousal are related to a sort of calming effect. Sort of like taking painkillers.

For me, it IS essentially a painkiller. Whenever I’m hypersexual, I stress the need for sexual satisfaction as a top priority. With being happily married to a wonderful husband, this kind of symptom tends to get me in serious trouble. Last year, I had a terribly bad manic episode that lasted several months. During that time period, I lost complete control of myself and acted out sexually towards some stupid college kid I met chatting online. He seduced me into cybersex and phone sex with him along with eventually meeting up a few times. As many times as I told myself and him no, that I can’t and won’t do this, he always managed to get inside my head and change my mind. Under normal circumstance, none of his tricks would’ve worked on me. However, when I was manic, all I did was focus nonstop on sexual satisfaction. The worst part was nothing was ever enough. I needed more and more. Nothing would satiate me. It took over my entire brain and wouldn’t let go until the mania finally died. Despite the fact that I fought fervently against my overwhelming urges, I still was constantly unable to stop myself from falling into temptation.

Now that the clouds have parted and the dust has settled, I can think clearly and work around the triggers that caused me to lose control. My husband and I educated ourselves thoroughly on hypersexuality and he has now forgiven me for my actions. Whereas I was and am still responsible for all actions I take, I understand now that my behavior was a symptom of an illness. A common symptom of bipolar mania. Armed with this information, him, my best friends, and my healthcare professionals have all agreed on a strategic prevention plan to help minimize my triggers and prevent any future mistakes.

Although I do feel guilty everyday for what I did, I no longer feel ashamed of myself. What happened was a terrible mistake but I’ve learned considerable information from it. With knowledge comes power and I’m trying every single day to bring that power back into my own hands. Hopefully I’ll regain it fully one day.

Don’t be ashamed of your actions. Learn from them and grow.

Please visit The Bipolar Compass:
http://bipolarcompass.com/

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NPD mood cycles can mimic Bipolar disorder.

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I remembered something about my NPD ex tonight. He used to have mood swings that seemed in many ways reminiscent of Bipolar disorder. It was only later I realized what they really were–cycles of of grandiose entitlement and dejected self-pity. Whenever supply was abundant–such as when he was promoted at work–he became puffed up with pride and this resulted in an attitude of entitlement and grandiosity which he lorded over his subjects, namely me. He also seemed somewhat manic when he was in one of these grandiose phases.  These were the times he was the most likely to become overtly abusive, both emotionally and physically. Instead of being happy the way a normal person might when thingsa are going well for them, my ex became hostile and prone to pick fights. I learned to dread the times in which good things happened to him, because that was when his narcissism seemed to go into overdrive.

When his supply was running low, he sank into deep depressions, in which he lost all his motivation and energy and spent most of his time staring dejectedly into space or sleeping (or pacing the house frantically at night). His “manic” behavior disappeared and he talked very little when he talked at all. When he did speak, it was to moan endlessly about how terrible his life was and how everyone had it in for him (nothing was ever his fault, and he was still assigning himself Center of the Universe status).  He acted helpless and needy, and wallowed in self pity like a pig in mud. He sometimes threatened suicide (but never attempted it–narcissists generally don’t). As annoying as his depressed moods were, I preferred him that way because he was less overtly abusive (though still abusive in a covert, manipulative way). He acted a lot “crazier” in his depressive states and suffered terrible panic attacks on a regular basis. This actually fits with an NPD diagnosis: when a narcissist isn’t getting any supply and their victims aren’t cooperating, they begin to feel like they don’t exist, and can become very depressed and dissociated. The dissociation can lead to severe panic attacks and even psychotic episodes.

The terms “covert narcissism” and “overt narcissism” aren’t mutually exclusive. A covert narcissist (the depressed, “fragile” type) will usually become more overt (grandiose) when supply is high. A grandiose (overt) type will sink to a more covert form of narcissism when supply is low. The two types of narcissism are really just two halves of the same personality disorder. Grandiose narcissists are thought of as being high achievers, but that may be because since they get more positive supply to begin with, they have more reason to act grandiose.

Before I put two and two together and realized my ex’s bizarre mood swings were in direct proportion to how much praise and recognition from others he was getting, I was sure he had Bipolar disorder. Unlike most narcissists, he did see a psychiatrist (mainly to get meds for his depressions and anxiety; there was little to no desire on his part to improve himself), who actually gave my ex a Bipolar diagnosis.

The most common type of Bipolar disorder is what used to be called Manic Depression. During a manic phase, the patient is likely to be extremely hyper, grandiose, testy, and quick to anger. They have an unrealistic sense of their own invincibility that doesn’t line up with reality. This is very similar to the grandiose phase of someone with NPD.

The covert (depressed) phase of NPD can look extremely similar to the depressive phase of Bipolar disorder. The main difference is, a narcissist will generally not follow through on suicide threats (because they are intended to manipulate and garner sympathy, a form of supply) while someone who is Bipolar is in grave danger of suicide. A bipolar patient can also be helped by medication, while there is no effective medication for NPD (although antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help with some of the symptoms).

Further reading:

The Relationship Between Narcissism and Bipolar Disorder

Guest Post #1: When My World Shattered

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Credit: Unknown artist, Favim.com

I’m thrilled to introduce my first guest blogger, Tessa from Advocate for Mental Illness.   Her blog is about her daily struggles with Bipolar disorder, told from a Christian perspective.  She has recently given her life to Jesus Christ.  Here is her bio from her About page:

ABOUT TESSA

Teresa (Tessa) Smeigh is over 55 and still going strong despite her disabilities affecting both physical and mental abilities. She has bipolar disorder (mental), Fibromyalgia (nerves), degenerative disc disease (spine), and arthritis (joints). Despite that she is active in Mental Health Advocating, writing for http://www.IBPF.org (volunteer for non-profit) and has 5 blog posts already published by them. She is also working on 2 fiction books (mysteries). She keeps her blog filled with useful content, daily devotionals (She is a Christian), stories and poems. Plenty to keep you busy. She has also been interviewed by blogs and had other posts published on many different blogs. She has 2 blogs so far http://www.tessacandoit.com and http://www.finallyawriter.com She is from Deptford, NJ. Her family and blogs keep her busy.
Although she doesn’t focus on it in her blog, Tessa also has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and complex PTSD.  I have asked her to write a guest post about having BPD, because none of my other guest bloggers are writing about BPD but I already have several who will be writing about Bipolar and complex PTSD.
Here is her guest post.
When My World Shattered!
I am a 59 year old female who has suffered mental health conditions since birth. Since I was born in the 50’s people didn’t talk about mental health. Even with a suicide in the family it was not talked about.
As an infant I took anxiety medication in order to keep food in my stomach. I was considered to have a “nervous stomach.” My mother kept a supply of anxiety medicine at hand all through my childhood because anything could set me off into an “anxiety episode” and hysteria. This was common throughout my childhood. My self-soothing unfortunately was considered self-harm by today’s standards.
At a very young age I developed signs of bipolar disorder which at the time we did not know. I got an official diagnosis in my early 30’s after a breakdown. Also by the same procedure, a hospital stay almost 4 years ago picked up on the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and I followed the symptoms back to when I was a child as well, but a little bit later than the bipolar.
Bipolar disorder and BPD are similar in symptoms and are often misdiagnosed. I have officially now been diagnosed with both. The biggest difference between the two is the length between the mood swings. Since my mood swings as a very young child were months apart it is most likely the bipolar disorder started first. Then later when the BPD developed they became rapid even changing during a single day or even hour.
It is difficult to break the symptoms down and say this belongs to bipolar disorder and this belongs to BPD. I will just go into the symptoms I suffer as one. Which is the direct cause, is not really necessary to know at this point.
How about a little history on BPD?
Symptoms usually manifest in childhood, but don’t become serious until a person becomes a young adult. This fits close to my time-line. Only I figure mine started in my teens after a traumatic experience of having been almost raped twice by the time I was 15 years old. I was then emotionally raped at 17 years old where I was told by the young man that either we had sex at that point or he was leaving me (abandonment considered to play a role in BPD) and we had just gotten back together. I couldn’t let him go. I gave in and that was also traumatic. I wasn’t ready. During that time I also suffered a miscarriage although I really didn’t know it at the time. I was totally naive even though my low self-esteem led me to wear sexy clothing and flaunt my body to every man. I didn’t know why I did it. I craved that attention though (promiscuity).
The exact cause of BPD is not know though they suspect brain chemistry plays a role, also genetics and environmental factors, along with the possibility of childhood trauma.
To add to the trauma, the 17 year old played the “I am going to kill myself if you don’t marry me” game when I tried to break up our relationship. I felt stuck, my emotions caused me to give in and marry him. I didn’t love him, but I was married at 19 years old. At 21 I had my first child, 22 I had my second and by 30 I had three children.  By then my weight was out of control due to binge eating.
My self-harm became more severe although I did resist cutting after I tried it and felt it didn’t give me the feelings I needed to soothe myself.
My anger intensified, but I kept it inside. I did not explode into rages unless you really pushed me but those rages were severe. People didn’t listen to my warnings and I flew into rages, shocking people with their intensity.
Paranoia became a constant state of my life. I am always sure people are talking about me. Even today.
Dissociation has been a constant since childhood. I always daydreamed and put myself into my books. I loved to read and my parents would force me outside. That triggered my anxiety and panic.
Severe depression for months on end would cause suicidal thoughts and several attempts and the last one landed me in the hospital for treatment and intense therapy. Luckily I didn’t succeed. The last one was the most serious.
I am currently in severe financial poverty due to low disability payments and reckless spending while I was manic.  Manic episodes are currently considered a symptom of both bipolar disorder and BPD.
I also have had a lot of unsafe sex due to my promiscuity, which is another shared trait.
BPD is difficult to treat. Usually a therapist, especially one trained in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) or CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), combined with medications such as anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and mood stabilizers will help tone down the symptoms.
***
Please visit Tessa’s blog here. 
My apologies about the wonky spacing.  WP isn’t letting me change the coding and I don’t know CSS.  I hope that doesn’t affect anyone’s reading experience!

Going insane: how I got diagnosed with BPD

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I thought I should explain how I got diagnosed with BPD. Although my out of control behaviors in 1995-1996 were due to prolonged emotional and mental (and some physical) abuse at the hands of my ex (on top of having been a victim of narcissistic abuse growing up), the focus of this article isn’t on narcissistic abuse or the way my ex behaved, but rather on my reactions and how out of touch with reality I actually became.

My memory of this time is sketchy and fragmented, almost dreamlike, so what I’m about to write may not flow together well. I believe my fuzzy memories of these two years were due to 3 things: (1) intermittent substance abuse, including alcohol; (2) being so out of touch with reality; and (3) I may have blocked out some of these incidents or partially blocked them out so they seem sort of grey when I think about them now, like a dream.

In 1995 my ex’s mother could no longer live alone so she came to live with us. At first things went smoothly, but she had Alzheimers and was deteriorating fast, and soon her care was left entirely to me. At the same time I was the stay at home mom to a 2 and 4 year old. My ex had started drinking a lot during this time, and said it was because he hated his mother (a malignant narcissist herself) and his behavior toward her was very abusive. He justified his abuse by saying she deserved it because of the way she had treated him. My children saw this behavior but in my emotionally weakened state due to his constant gaslighting, projecting and triangulating (he had turned most of our friends against me) as well as isolating me from those who could help me, I began to collude in his abusive behavior toward his mother. I didn’t physically attack her (he did) but in my frustration with things like her wetting the bed I would yell at her whenever he did and sometimes even when he wasn’t there. I also didn’t try to stop him when he used to spank her like a naughty child.

My ex was drinking heavily and smoking a lot of pot, and I joined him. At night, after the kids were asleep, we would often both be drunk and high. Sometimes his friends came over, who were all younger than we were (my ex’s friends were always younger than him). Sometimes things got wild. I was no longer attracted to my ex by this time due to his constant emotional abuse, so when I was drunk I openly flirted with his friends. I was unfaithful too, but so was he (I am definitely not proud of any of this, especially because I had young children at the time).

We fought constantly. One night, drunk, he threatened me with a gun. I ran down the street screaming and went and hid in a grove of trees for hours in the freezing cold. On several occasions I called the police and they would show up to fund us both drunk and didn’t know who to believe so they would leave and tell us to sober up. At this time I had no control over my reactions or my emotions. I acted more immature than my own kids sometimes.

I used to sleep during the day and wasn’t as good a mother as I could have been. I was testy, impatient and neglectful. I loved my kids dearly, but just didn’t have the emotional stamina or energy to deal with them more effectively or lovingly. (I tried to make up for that later).

Soon the dissociative episodes began. Sometimes things looked weird. People looked like they weren’t real and they seemed demonic. I began to have delusions of reference. I had the weird sensation of unrelated events or conversations somehow referencing exactly what I was thinking. I felt like I was outside my body a lot, as if I was watching the events of my life unfold instead of being in them. This began to happen when I started distancing myself from my emotions into a “comfortable numbness.” (This is common in PTSD and BPD). But it wasn’t comfortable–it was horrifying. I think I was unconsciously protecting myself from feeling too much emotional pain. The abnormal had become normal, the insane had become sane, the evil had become good. I walked through my days in a sort of fog, but not all the time. Occasionally, when triggered, I would come back into myself and “go off” on my ex and experience a tidal wave of unbelievably painful and intense emotions. Instead of spending my evenings doing quiet things with my family, I spent that time on the computer in chat rooms, talking to men. I imagined I fell in love with one or two of them. My emotional reactions to these online entities I had never met were as intense as if they were actual relationships, but all of it was fantasy. To me it felt real.

I couldn’t sleep at night, but would sleep most of the day away. I didn’t take care of the house and only did the rudimentary necessities for the kids, in between taking care of my ex’s mother’s almost constant needs. I lost patience with both her and the kids easily. We ate cereal and yogurt most nights for dinner because I didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to cook anything.

I started a job after awhile at a hotel. I had a short affair with the disc jockey/maintenance man there. I wasn’t in love with him but I enjoyed the kindness he showed me, that my husband wasn’t giving me. One night he confronted me about it and I confessed everything. He didn’t seem upset but admitted he was having an affair too. Strangely, we did not fight about this. I really didn’t care whether he loved me anymore; I was convinced he hated my guts.

I quit my job on a whim even though we needed the extra income, because my ex had squandered over $100K we got from the sale of his mother’s house. One day I just decided not to go in anymore. I didn’t even bother to call, which normally is out of character for me. I started doing really crazy things. One night after a really bad fight I went into the closet in the master bedroom and sat on the floor crying for what seemed like hours. My ex didn’t seem concerned and went out instead. I don’t know why I was doing this; I felt like I had lost my mind and there was no reason for doing this. I had no idea what I was doing; I was just reacting to my pain like a wounded animal. The episodes of dissociation and delusions of reference became worse. I imagined everything–even voices on TV or songs on the radio–were coded messages that referenced something in my life. This is impossible to explain if you haven’t experienced it but it was very strange and disorienting.

delusions_reference

One day shortly after the closet incident, I left the kids in the house with him and decided to go driving. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing, but I suddenly thought it would be a good idea to drive at 90 mph (the speed limit was 65 mph). Normally I’m a very cautious driver but during this time I had thrown all caution to the wind. I wasn’t suicidal in the sense of making a conscious effort to kill myself and I didn’t even contemplate suicide, but I was taking huge risks with my life. Miraculously, nothing happened, not even a pullover by police. I returned home feeling exhilarated from my crazy drive, but immediately that feeling disappeared and I was hit with the horror of my reality and started screaming irrationally and throwing things against the wall just to hear them break. I don’t even know what set this tantrum off–probably nothing at all, but I had this overwhelming desire to act out my excruciating emotional pain. I had no control over myself at all. When I thought about my behavior later on, I was horrified. I wasn’t even drinking anymore by now, so I wasn’t drunk. I was just insane.

My ex told me I was crazy. He always did anyway. But I really was crazy. He told me I should commit myself to a mental institution–or he would. To his surprise (and mine) I agreed. In that moment of clarity, I realized how crazy I had become (due to his emotional abuse of me, but that didn’t make me any less crazy). I allowed him to drive me to the mental hospital, which turned out to have an excellent program and engaging activities. I felt relief in entering that hospital and spent the next three months there. My Axis 1 diagnosis was Major Depression and anxiety, and my Axis 2 diagnosis was BPD, as well as substance abuse. I was also diagnosed with PTSD. I received daily therapy–both individual and group, as well as DBT classes–and I was put on Depakote (a mood stabilizer), Prozac (for the depression) and Klonopin (for anxiety). I stabilized during my stay but I wasn’t as committed to using the DBT tools I learned there as I became later on. I remember calling my mother from the hospital and telling her what was wrong with me, and her attitude was like, “so what? You need to be a mother to your children.” She didn’t even know I was in the hospital. So much for maternal support.

I had mixed feelings about returning home. I was overjoyed to see my children, but wasn’t too happy to see my husband at all. I really just wanted to stay in that hospital for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to face reality.

Fortunately, my mental state never got that bad again, but his abuse was to get much worse. He used my descent into the madness of severe BPD and major depression as an excuse to punish me for “having gone batshit insane” when I should have been a better mother and wife to him.

I still have a lot of guilt and shame over the way I neglected my children when they were so young and helpless. I wonder sometimes how much my not being there for them may have damaged them.

When I look back even earlier at my life, I can remember similar incidents of being totally unable to control my emotional reactions to stressors and triggers, with periods of almost robotic numbness and dissociative episodes in between outbursts. It was a pattern I was familiar with, but it reached its pinnacle in 1995-1996. I had a relapse in 1997 and spent a week in the psych ward at the regular hospital, and got the same exact diagnosis as the year before. Over the next several years, while I was still married to my ex, I spent most of my time in a state of emotional numbness, living on “automatic pilot.” It wasn’t until I finally got the POS out of my life that I felt safe enough to begin to let myself feel emotions again–but this time with mindfulness and acceptance instead of allowing my emotions to control me. I still have a long way to go.

My character flaws.

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Just because I write a blog that sometimes gives advice to others about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and other mental disorders such as Aspergers, doesn’t mean I don’t still have a long way to go in recovery myself.

Blogging and prayer have helped immensely in raising my self esteem and general outlook on life, but it’s important to stay humble too. I’m not anyone’s “guru” even though I may have good ideas from time to time. So lest anyone think I’m tooting my own horn or purporting to be some kind of expert, here’s a list of my character flaws that sometimes get in the way of recovery.

Aspergers/Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) Flaws:

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1. Shyness in social situations that comes off to some as aloofness, coldness or sometimes stupidity (when combined with my Aspie tendency to be “out of it” sometimes).

2. Awkwardness in social situations — doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time; occasional social gaffes that make me look obtuse or clueless.

3. Obsessiveness.

4. Narrow focus on one or two interests at a time. I dislike interruptions from the real world that interrupt my focus and force me to engage with the world.

5. Sometimes instead of not talking at all, I talk too much.

6. I avoid people. I prefer being alone (or with my pets) to being with other people.

7. I am a creature of habit and dislike interruptions from my routines.

8. I don’t like “surprises” or things being sprung on me at the last minute, where I don’t have a chance to prepare for them.

9. I get freaked out and overwhelmed by too much input from the world at one time. I can’t stand chaos, loud people, too much going on at once, or too many people around me outside of formal settings like a classroom or meeting. When I feel like too much is coming at me at once, I shut down and tune out–or get annoyed and angry.

10. Tendency to like to put everything in categories, or as some like to say, in “little boxes.” This leads to a tendency to label people and like labels.

11. General weirdness. This is probably a good thing.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)/ PTSD Flaws:

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These have been getting a lot better and I have learned some valuable tools in dealing with the symptoms in myself that have become second nature now, but it’s hard to be cured of this disorder and I still have some Borderline traits:

1. Tendency to either idealize or devalue people.

2. Hypersensitivity to criticism, jokes at my expense, or rejection.

3. Snap judgments about people before I truly get to know them.

4. Black and white thinking. Things and people are either all good or all bad.

5. Insecurity and worry about being liked (even though I avoid people). Try to figure that one out.

6. When angry, I can sometimes get so enraged I lose common sense and just want to do something to even the score without thinking about the consequences. Healthy fearfulness goes out the window and I act out in anger. Fortunately this happens a LOT less often than it used to; actually it’s pretty rare these days.

7. Rapid mood swings. This goes hand in hand with being bipolar too (that’s in remission). This too has been getting a lot better.

8. Paranoia and hypervigilance. I have a hard time trusting anyone.

9. Envy.

10. Excessive worry. Someone once told me, it’s useless to worry about things because if the bad thing does happen, then you’ve experienced it twice, and if it doesn’t happen, you’ve wasted energy on worrying. Wise words.

11. Fear of taking risks. This too has been getting a lot better, but in the offline world, I still have a long way to go.

15. Defensiveness.

16. Excessive guilt and shame. Easily embarrassed.

Other flaws.

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1. Smoking. (I’ve cut down to less than a pack a day though)

2. A diet that doesn’t include enough fresh fruits and veggies.

3. Laziness.

4. Procrastination.

5. Self-sabotage (this has gotten a lot better).

6. Excessive worry about my adult kids. Overprotectiveness.

7. Beating myself up.

8. Beating myself up for having character flaws.

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All in all I’m far from perfect, but I think my flaws probably make me more interesting too.

Targets and Victims

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I found another blog today written by a survivor of a sick family of psychopaths and sociopaths (I’ve added the site to my list of resources under the “Info and Support” tab in the green bar in the header. I know I’ve written about this before, but this is one of the best lists of the traits of potential targets and victims of psychopaths I have seen yet. I have just about every single one of these traits, unfortunately. From an early age, I was trained to be a doormat. I learned that lesson too well.

BEFORE: TRAITS of a Potential TARGET

Below are the traits most commonly attributed to a sociopath’s target. Every person is inherently different, and that includes each target and the traits that are most pronounced in the individual. An individual would definitely not need any of these traits to be preyed upon.

This is not an attempt to diagnose anyone.

Shyness
Difficulty communicating
A lack of self confidence
Wanting to please
A belief that if you love enough the person will change
A belief that if you love enough the relationship will succeed
Difficulty establishing and maintaining boundaries
Not being able to say no
Being easily influenced by others
Wanting to be rescued from your life situation
Wanting to rescue others from their distress
Being over nurturing particularly when not asked
Feelings of shame and self doubt
Low self-esteem
A lack of memories about childhood or periods of adulthood
A lack of motivation from within and being motivated by others

AFTER: SYMPTOMS of a Relentlessly Abused VICTIM

This is a very accurate list of symptoms experienced by someone who has had their psyche brutally victimized by a sociopath. With that said, this list is not all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be part of any diagnostic function, whatsoever. These symptoms can also be triggered by many other conditions or events.

The source of this data is from ongoing research, but the majority of the data is derived and confirmed from personal experience … the key word being “majority” There are some symptoms listed here that I have not experienced at all, though they have been mentioned enough for me to accept them as potentially common.

If you, or someone you know, has experienced even a few of these symptoms, seek professional help. Keep in mind, though, that not all “help” is equal. If the professional you choose does not seem to relate to your needs as you would expect or desire, keep looking.

Emotional paralysis
PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Suicidal thoughts or actions (indirect homicide)
Loss of interest in life
Loss of energy
Insomnia
Anxiety
Depression or Severe Depression
Numbing of feelings
Disinterest in having a relationship
Panic attacks
Irritability
Increased anxiety from being alone
Increased anxiety from being in crowds
Mood swings
Source: sociopathicstyle.com [confirmed by personal experience (50+ years)]

Waking up from the nightmare

Woman Looking at Reflection

So after 28 years of narcissistic abuse I finally felt free. Before, even though there were periods where we hadn’t lived together, I never felt completely free of Michael’s toxic influence. But my daughter Molly and I were quite literally survivors and both of us had psychic wounds that ran deep and would take years to heal, if they could ever be healed at all.

My job (which I still have) doesn’t provide health insurance so I couldn’t afford to pay for a trauma therapist, but I started reading everything I could about NPD and PTSD/C-PTSD (the type of PTSD that’s associated with abuse). Molly still didn’t want to go to therapy but was still getting her meds for Bipolar and she was in a fairly stable relationship and was no longer getting into trouble the way she used to. She was also beginning to understand why I did some of the things I did and acted the way I had, and I learned she too had a lot of anger toward Michael.

But things were not perfect between us either and we did continue to argue from time to time, and when she was angry, she liked to bring up the fact I had given up custody of her to DSS even though at other times she says she understood it was the only thing I could do at the time and it did save her life. So I don’t let those occasional attacks bother me too much. I know it’s manipulation. Sometimes I think she may have NPD herself, but she does have a conscience and empathy so more likely she just has narcissistic traits which are common people with Borderline PD.

So in March I had to go to court and testify against Michael in order to obtain a permanent restraining order (the one that was issued at the magistrate was good for only 1 month). I was working with an organization that helps abused women and their families, and they counseled me on what to say in court. It was ridiculous I had to jump through all these hoops just to obtain a piece of paper to keep a man I wasn’t married to anyway away from me and my property, but it was what it was.

I knew I had a good case and no reason to be worried but I was still terrified of having to face him in court. Michael is very glib and has a lot of charm when he wants something. He can make himself sound like a victim and make the other person sound like the devil himself. He managed to be surviving pretty well in the men’s shelter, although he told Molly when he saw her how much he hated it and wanted to come back. He also made her go buy him things, which she would do. She felt guilty and caught in the middle between the two of us. It wasn’t fair to her.

Ethan came to visit in early March (on his way from Illinois to his new apartment in Florida–he graduated college in January and is is seeking work in film editing or something related). He wanted to make sure Michael was not going to show up. I assured him he wouldn’t. We had a fantastic time, but he said when he tried to call his father, Michael didn’t want to see him. For some reason he thinks Ethan was the one who convince me to kick him out of the house. No matter how much he’s told Ethan had nothing to do with it, he still blames him for brainwashing me. Huh? Talk about blame-shifting.

I had to write everything I wanted to say in court because I knew my mind would go blank when I had to get up at the stand and talk about why the restraining order should be extended. The big day was in mid-March. Several other cases were heard first and I avoided looking behind me because I knew he was there. I could feel his eyes burning holes into my neck. Finally I was called to the stand and presented my case. I didn’t cry (because it’s really hard for me to cry anymore) but I was trembling and my voice was shaking from fear. The judge had to keep asking me to speak up. I studied her expression but it gave nothing away.

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Michael was called up after me and gave a ridiculous story about how Molly had hit him first and he gave her a black eye in self defense (which is total BS because he didn’t have one mark on him). He gave some other lame
“reasons” why he needed to move back but since he really didn’t have a good reason, they didn’t fly with the judge. In fact, he was almost laughable and seeing the manipulation from more of a distance now, he seemed so transparent. Although I hated him, I almost felt sorry for him.

I won my case and the restraining order was extended for one year. The counselor from the women’s organization that had been working with me gave me a validating hug. I went home feeling lighter than I had in a long, long time.

Michael wasn’t done with me yet, but since I was no longer supplying his narcissistic goodies, his attempts at revenge were rather lame. He did things like trashing me on Facebook, saying what a horrible wife and mother I was and how he wished he never met me. He threatened suicide over and over again. I was kind of embarrassed for him, but because of it I stopped using Facebook, which I wasn’t using much anymore anyway because my mother and other family members had found me there (even though I had changed my first name a little to throw them off).

I had to adjust to my new life. For several months I just tried to take things easy, not get involved in too many new things. I read a lot of books, mostly about NPD, malignant narcissism and personality disorders in general. I read a lot of other books too, and started researching all these disorders online and reading a lot of blogs and forums.

I started making glass, mirror and ceramic suncatchers on weekends and have tried to sell some of them. Mostly I just make them for pleasure though. They also make great gifts. I have several of them on my porch and I love watching the way they catch the light and send colored prisms everywhere.

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But writing has always been the one thing I know I’m best at, yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to write anything beyond a forum post. It just seemed like too much work, and I was afraid I’d forgotten how. I feared I was no longer as smart as I used to be. I didn’t realize at first these numb and dumb feelings were symptomatic of C-PTSD. I knew if I ever did write again it would be to tell my story, but I had no idea where to begin. It all just seemed overwhelming. I thought about blogging but I was afraid it would be complicated and technical, and I still didn’t know what to write about or where to begin.

I re-read M. Scott Peck’s book “People of the Lie,” which I have reviewed in this blog, and realized Michael was not just narcissistic, but was truly evil. Despite it’s medieval connotations, I believe evil and evil people really do exist, and I was very lucky that I survived and both children survived. While most evil people don’t usually murder (they want to maintain their benign appearance), they are murderous and often drive others to suicide or self-destruction. They lie about everything.

I joined a gym and got back in shape. My job is also physical and that keeps me in shape too. I started liking what I saw in the mirror again. I also started meditating, something I started back in the ’90s and then stopped.

About a month ago I revisited the idea of blogging, inspired by some blogs I had seen by other survivors through my readings. On a whim I decided to start one. There’s been no looking back. At first it was meant to be self-therapy, a sort of online journaling, but now it’s turning into so much more and a few people have even said they feel inspired and it’s helping them too. And that makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I still have a purpose in this world and am not just marking time until I die. I want to think that everything that happened to me happened for a reason and that something good can come out of this.

I still have a long way to go, and as soon as I can I want to start seeing a trauma therapist. In the meantime life isn’t unbearable anymore. It’s getting better.

About a month ago Michael was kicked out of the apartment an organization called OctoberRoad was providing for its mental patients. My daughter allowed him to live in her car. He left the windows open during a rainstorm one night and the car was nearly destroyed. She took the car keys away and she hasn’t heard from Michael since, which is very odd, since he would call her up to 10 times a day to demand things.

She has no idea where he is. We think he may have killed himself. She wouldn’t have been notified because she had his wallet in her car and there’d be no way anyone could identify him.

Michael was having his mail sent to the house, which I did allow. After three previous rejections, Michael’s SSI finally came through — and that includes several years of back payments, so he is getting a check for about $30K.

If he is dead, how ironic that it happened just as he finally had a means to be independent and no longer had anyone he could use and abuse. Maybe that was the only reason he stuck around so long–as long as he could use up and destroy others. With that opportunity taken away, and with no real self to fall back on, there was no longer any reason for him to live. Or maybe he was finally forced to look in the mirror and all he could see was an endless black void, and that was just too much to handle. What he has been reduced to is just a shell of what he used to be, but was there ever really anything there?