Therapy in Color

I have always believed in the power of art and creativity. Engaging in painting, drawing, poetry-writing, singing, sculpture, cartooning, creative writing, music-making, arts and crafts, and even cooking, scrapbooking, and home decor relax the mind, feed the soul, and bring us closer to our Creator. Each one of us has been blessed with some kind of creative gift and it’s our job to find out what it is we love to do best, and use it to connect more deeply with the world, not just escape from it.  Making art in any form also fosters mindfulness.

Even something as seemingly childish as coloring books can help us connect with our creative muse. This article explains why.
After all, it’s the child in us that gets activated when we create, and there’s no one more creative than a young child.

Catharine Toso

An increasing number of adults are handling stress by engaging with art. Specifically, art in the form of coloring books. But while some may consider this to be a temporary fad, the psychology behind it is much deeper. Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate Jordan Gaines Lewis explains the appeal of coloring books to adults, and why they work, in a piece for New York Magazine’s The Science of Us blog.

Creative engagement is a major stress-reliever for many people. If you are artistically inclined, whether it be in the visual arts, music, or literature, you already know this. However, just because one lacks artistic training doesn’t mean that this great feeling can’t be experienced. So many adults are spending time with an open coloring books because it allows us to exercise our creative muscle, as long as we can hold a coloring pencil. Lewis cites psychologist Barry Kaufman, who says that the…

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A lifetime of writing (part one).

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Writing, as opposed to the spoken word, has always been my preferred mode of communication. While it’s true I’ve never published a book or made a real career of it, I have a deep love of words and the rhythms and drama of the English language. Writing is where I feel the most at home in myself, and when I’m at my happiest and feel the most productive. Starting this blog, in spite of some painful incidents arising from it in this past year, has been the best decision I ever made.

This blog began as one for victims of narcissistic abuse and of course, as a ranting platform for myself, but recently I’ve been moving away from that subject for several reasons, the most obvious one being that I simply can’t think of anything new to say about narcissism that hasn’t already been said. There are other reasons too. I haven’t decided what this blog’s new focus should be, or if it should have one at all. But I love to write about writing, so that seems like as good a topic as any, at least for today, so I thought I’d share what my lifelong on-again, off-again love affair with the written word has been like.

Childhood.

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English was always my favorite subject in school, and my best one too. Once I learned how to form letters and put them together, I found that I loved written assignments and always did well in them. As a child I also loved to draw and often wrote little illustrated stories at home for fun. Not too long ago I wrote the sad story about the little blank books my father brought me home from a business trip, and how I used to fill them with little stories and pictures (usually drawn in marker because I liked the sharp edges of a marker or pen over crayons and you could fit in more detail). Unfortunately, that ended one day when I found out some of my creations had been stolen. After that I was hesitant to write for myself anymore, and pretty much stopped drawing at all.

But my love of writing didn’t die, and as I grew older, my stories became more detailed and longer. I also liked writing papers for school about topics that interested me and enjoyed everything that went with putting together an awesome looking project–choosing what color construction paper to use for the covers (which I liked to slide into a clear plastic cover with a color-coordinated plastic spine to hold it all together), what to draw on the cover (if anything), how to design the letters spelling out the title, organizing the pages, etc. I almost always made A’s on these projects.

Once I learned to read fluently, I couldn’t get enough books. I remember in third grade, I read voraciously. For some reason, I was particularly enamored of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. I also really liked anything by Beverly Cleary. But I’d read just about anything I could get my hands on. At about age 10, I received “Harriet the Spy” as a gift, and she became my hero. I must have read that book about 10 times, and I read Louise Fitzhugh’s other books as well (too bad she didn’t write more books). To me, Harriet was the coolest girl ever, and she loved writing as much as I did. If I couldn’t be one of the popular girls, then I wanted to be Harriet. She was relatable, but so much cooler than I was. For awhile I even carried around a notebook (a black and white cardboard speckled one just like hers) and wrote down random observations about people. I think Harriet is still relevant. I know Fitzhugh’s books are still popular because so many children who are “different” or feel out of place can relate to Harriet. I wish I still had some samples of my early writing, but unfortunately these were lost a long time ago.

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Harriet was my idol when I was about 10.

I was often the target of bullies, especially in 3rd-5th grades, and often would escape to the school library for solace. We had a very sympathetic school librarian. I loved everything about libraries, especially the smell of books. It was very comforting to me, and the only place I felt really at home. Books really were my friends. One of my favorite places to go on the weekends was (drum roll, please!) the public library. I think it’s terrible that government funds for public libraries have been cut in the past decade. I think they’re so important. The Internet is great, but nothing beats a library for nurturing your mind.

Adolescence.

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During my teen years, writing became a back-burner activity, something I did when there was nothing else to do. I did continue to read voraciously, but was a lot less inspired to create anything of my own. What I did write tended to be what one of my teachers called “thunder and lightning” poetry–typical adolescent angst poetry about darkness, depression, despair, neverending rain, crashing storm-generated waves, and death imagery. I was Goth before there was such a thing (and liked to dress in black or dark clothes too). I also wrote long, angry screeds about my mother, who I’d decided (rightfully) was the shallowest, most un-maternal person on earth.

I also kept a diary. It was thick sky-blue leather hardcovered book with a golden lock and key. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit much in the spaces for entries, because it was a five-year diary so I only had a 5th of a page to write anything, and the lines were tiny (and my handwriting tended toward the large and florid). I finally quit writing in it after about 2 1/2 years. Like most other things from my growing-up years, I have no idea what happened to it.

Term papers became more of a chore, because now I was required to use and cite sources, etc. but once I got motivated, I did enjoy it and always got high grades. Sometimes, though, I’d wait until the night before it was due (after fretting for weeks) and stay up all night working frantically to finish the project. My teachers could never tell the difference, but I certainly don’t recommend waiting until the last minute to start a school project, if for nothing else other than the enormous stress that causes.

Early Adulthood.

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College was basically a continuation of high school as far as my engagement with writing was concerned and was limited mostly to term papers and school projects. Of course, the topics I had to write about were more in keeping with my interests (psychology and art). They were also required to be typewritten and I had recently learned how to type and really liked the “professional looking” fonts available on the school’s IBM Selectric and the futuristic looking font-balls you could snap in and out of the machine (I had a typewriter, but it was a basic Royal ribbon typewriter with standard typeface). In those days before the Internet, access to fonts that didn’t look like “typeface” was considered very cool. I also liked the fact I could backspace and actually erase mistakes, instead of having to use White-Out or erasing strips which only covered them and always looked messy. I still have a few of my psychology papers; sometime soon I’ll dig them up and read over them again.

The only project I ever did badly on in college was a verbal assignment on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (oh, the irony!) for my Abnormal Psychology class, but it wasn’t because I hadn’t done my homework or prepared for it; it was because we had to present it in verbal form, in front of the classroom, and I clammed up terribly and my mind went completely blank. I got a D in that assignment, and it took me a very long time to get over that. In written assignments though, I always got A’s or high B’s.

My love affair with electronic typewriters like the Selectric ended when I started my first office job as a receptionist and had to spend entire days typing up invoices and memos. I remember our first word processor and how cool that seemed. I even took classes in Wang, but once again, it wasn’t too long before that seemed humdrum too.

I only completed three years of college because I got engaged and had to work full time, and something had to go. If I had to do it over again, I would have waited to marry and gotten a degree in journalism or gone for a Masters. While married, I didn’t write anything more ambitious than shopping lists. I wouldn’t dabble in creative writing (for myself) again until my early 40s, although I did take jobs as a technical writer, medical editor and part-time book reviewer during my late 20s and thirties.

(To be continued in Part 2.)

When I used to paint.

I don’t do much painting anymore (except painting the walls in my house), but during my 20s and 30s painting–whether on ceramic tiles or canvas–was very relaxing and enjoyable to me. I sold or gave away most of my artwork, but here are two I refuse to part with.

This first painting, which is an interpretation of a National Geographic photo of mountains in the Pacific Northwest, is hanging over my mantel. There’s a dark and rather eerie moodiness to it that everyone always notices but wasn’t present in the original photograph. I didn’t believe them but I remember looking back at the photo I painted this from and realizing how right they were.

I had been married to my ex for two years at this time and I think his subtle abuse was already beginning to take a toll on my state of mind and my soul.

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I used to enjoy painting on tiles too. Here’s one I painted in acrylic (before I got a kiln* and started painting with fireable ceramic paint, which are tricky to learn to use because the colors in the jars are not always the colors they’ll be after firing!)

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This is actually a depiction of myself and my fiance (the same man who almost destroyed my life for the next 27 years) during the height of his “love bombing.” It was a whirlwind romance, straight out of a storybook or Harlequin romance.

Beware of men (or women) who come on strong with the romance and sweep you off your feet–they are probably predators who have targeted you as prey.

All cynicism aside, I still love this painting and it hangs in my bathroom. We’re shown far away in this idyllic (and idealistic) scene (naked in the pond, naturally!), but I thought the likeness was still pretty accurate.

* I have not had the kiln since 1993. One of my cats at the time, an unfixed male, used it to “mark” and everytime I’d fire it up after that, the smell that permeated the house was unbearable! I couldn’t even sell the thing.

Crazy ride.

Giving up is conceding that things will never get better, and that is just not true. Ups and downs are a constant in life, and I’ve been belted into that roller coaster a thousand times.
–Aimee Mullins via http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/

To ride or not to ride.

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Roll back down the track about 11 months. September 2014. That was the day something in my brain finally connected right and I got the idea to start a blog about narcissistic personality disorder.
I had no idea what I was in for. Not even close.
I didn’t have the foggiest idea what sort of roller coaster ride starting a blog about narcissism would become.
It would become the most life-changing ride of my life.

I had no real plan to start a blog. Occasionally I’d have the fleeting thought like “oh, maybe I should start a blog sometime…” but these thoughts were passing and vague, like puffs of cigarette smoke passing over my head. And they went nowhere. Instead, they dissolved in the sea of my uncertainty and inability to make any sort of decision: “Oh, but no one would read my blog,” I’d remind myself. “I’m so boring and have no interests and so what would I blog about anyway? How boring my life is?” So these passing ideas were just sort of pipe dreams. They had no spine or any substance at all. They dissolved away like smoke and vapor and dreams. So I wasn’t seriously considering blogging until the day I finally did.

In February 2014 I’d kicked out my narcissist ex who was living on my couch and making my life a living hell. For about two months I walked around kind of numb and rudderless. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going and I was scared but sort of excited too. Mostly I was just trying to find my bearings and stay grounded. It could be frustrating. I just wasn’t used to making decisions or doing things on my own, without the narc’s “help.”

In about April or May I started reading a lot about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I first reread “People of the Lie,” the only book about malignant narcissism I owned at the time (now I have a whole library of such books). I began to read George K. Simon’s “Manipulative People” blog. That was the very first blog about character-disordered people I ever read. I posted a few times, tentatively, but never got too involved, because soon I found other blogs and started reading and sometimes posting on those too.

One day in September 2014 (the 10th to be exact) I was poking around online and on a whim decided I wanted to start a blog. The idea came out of nowhere. In retrospect I think it was God giving me a nudge because I was ready. But ready for what? I had no idea where such a thing would take me–all I knew was I needed to tell my story and in doing so try to sort through all my confused and bewildering feelings. I attempted to start my blog on Blogger, but it kept wanting me to use my real name because it’s run by Google and connected to it, and using my real name on the type of blog I was going to do was out of the question. I had heard WordPress was hard, but decided to give it a shot.

Ascending the track, eyes ahead, heart in mouth.

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WordPress wasn’t hard. The learning curve was about three days, and after that I felt like I knew what I was doing. At first writing was a bit of a chore, and I didn’t write every day. As time went on, and I started to explore narcissism more deeply and do more reading (by this time I had ordered two of Dr. Simon’s books–“In Sheeps Clothing” and “Character Disturbance”), I found my fascination increasing. I was also beginning to change and my confidence was starting to rise out of the toilet. People told me I seemed somehow “different.” For the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing something that made me feel passionate and that could possibly be of use to others too.

Since then, many things have happened in my blogging journey. I’ve learned more about myself and my narcissists than I ever dreamed possible, and I also found faith in God during the process. I believe with all my heart that God gave me the life He did to lead me to where I am now, writing about my experiences as a victim of narcissistic abuse and learning as much as I can, so I can pass along what I know to others who are in similar situations.

On top of the world–but don’t look down.

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There have been incredibly heady, exciting times–sudden spikes in popularity, an article going viral for the first time, certain well-known people in the field of narcissism who found and helped promote my blog and its articles, suddenly having so many new friends, getting comments and emails from people who told me my words gave them hope or the courage to leave their narcissist, or even in one case, saved their life. It was surreal the first time I found one of my articles at the top of page 1 of Google, or got reblogged by someone whose blog gets many more hits than my own. As an added bonus, I found out my traffic was sufficient to run some ads, and from that I’ve been able to make some pocket money. Making money never has been and never will be my purpose for doing this, but I’m not going to lie and tell you it isn’t sort of nice to have an additional $20-$30 dollars a month for doing something I love to do. Maybe someday I can parlay this into a career, especially if I write a book (which I plan to start doing fairly soon, when I have some time and think of a topic for a book I’d want to write). It might even be fiction, only using what I know now about myself and the scourge of narcissism as a sort of matrix that holds the skin of the story together.

Hurtling back to earth.

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It hasn’t all been a joyride either. There have been painful and disappointing times too–my first hater and troll comments, people accusing me of having dishonest motives or being a narcissist myself (or at least a narc-enabler), the loss of several people I thought were friends along the way (for various reasons), finding unflattering comments about this blog on other blogs, finding out I’d unintentionally hurt a few people I cared about; other friends disappearing into the black hole of cyberspace, writing highly personal articles that scared me to post so much I felt sick before finally taking that deep breath and posting them anyway (and I’ve never regretted doing so), being emotionally triggered by someone else’s sad story or just from digging so deep into my own psyche or past; chronic worrying that maybe I’m too narcissistic; and having periods of self-doubt and depression when I wonder if I’m good enough to be doing this at all or if it even really means anything.

Exhilaration and sadness.

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But on the whole, the ride–like a rollercoaster–has been incredibly fun. The downs just mean you’re going up again, and the overall feeling of blogging about narcissism (and related mental health subjects) has been exhilarating, empowering, and the most enjoyable and creative activity I’ve ever undertaken–and best of all, I’ve actually stuck with it. In the past, I would get interested in things, but never stick with them for very long, especially once the going got rough or I realized how much blood, sweat and tears it would require.

But blogging about narcissism, as emotionally triggering and difficult as it can be at times, is a labor of love and the more I do it, the more I want to keep doing it. Unlike every other interest and hobby I’ve had, I haven’t lost interest in it.

Writing about narcissism (and my own disorders) is incredibly emotional, sometimes painful, and a LOT of hard work. There have been times I found myself in tears after writing a particularly emotional article, especially if it involved a painful experience from my own past, and for me being able to release emotion is a great thing because for so long most of my emotions were bottled up.

The Healing Power of Creativity.

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Blogging is also very creative. One of the only things I rarely ever doubted about myself was that I had the ability to write. Creative writing was always something I was good at and did for fun. As a 7 and 8 year old, my father brought home these tiny little leatherette-covered notebooks with the covers in bright primary colors. The tiny pages had miniature lines for writing which was good because at that age, I still couldn’t write in a straight line (the slope was always downward: was that foreshadowing what was still to come?) On the cover they had a single word like “Memorandum” in embossed golden letters. They were given to me in stacks of rubber bands. There must have been 50 of them. In those little books I wrote lots of little illustrated stories. I always used colored markers and pencils, never crayons because they left too big a mark on the tiny pages. I don’t know what happened to those little books but I wish I still had them.

Even my parents–who rarely had anything both good and true to say about me (I was both scapegoat and golden child in their marriage)–both admitted I could write really well. I worked in medical journalism when I got out of college and wrote some freelance book reviews and did some proofreading and freelance editing, but after having children and moving to another state, I gave all that up. And when I did write, it was always for someone else or for money, never for the love of doing it.

Also by then I was in my disastrous marriage to a psychopathic malignant narcissist, and all the good and healthy things about myself (which didn’t seem to be many) began to gradually and insidiously slip away. I became a near zombie. I thought I forgot how to write. In 2003 I wrote a novel (a very bad one, it turned out) and I had my mother read it (she was probably the worst person for me to have read it) and she told me it sucked, which it did. I was trying to write like Pat Conroy, an author I was very much into at the time.

I reread it two years ago and cringed while reading it. It was full of florid, purple prose, cliched phrases and cliched, one dimensional (is that a cliche?) characters. The one sex scene was embarrassingly bad (I will not go into detail about that here!) I felt sick after reading this amateurish piece of badly written sentimental trash and it was everything I could do to reread even a page of it. That’s how embarrassed by it I was. It was so bad that a Harlequin romance would seem like Tolstoy in comparison.

In what universe had I ever thought that piece of Pat Conroy wannabe-garbage was good enough to send out to publishers and agents (who all rejected it)–or have my constantly-critical mother read it? The novel is still sitting in a cardboard box in the back of my closet, its pages becoming brittle and yellow with time, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to throw it away. It’s a reminder of a time where I couldn’t write because I was too divorced from my own emotions. A person who is dead can’t write–and I was like a walking dead person, trying to write about emotions I couldn’t access.

So after that I imagined I was a terrible writer after all, and never really had that much ability. Writing this blog has reassured me that my ability to write never went away and in fact it’s improved over the months I’ve been writing this blog. So blogging is increasing my self esteem that way too. I think the abilities God gave us are one of his greatest gifts, and those of us who have a talent in one or more of the arts (performing, literary or visual) are especially blessed, because we have the means to communicate feelings to the world, not just ideas, facts, or thoughts (not that those aren’t valuable too).

I call blogging my self-therapy because that’s what it is. It’s also my creative outlet right now. I can’t get over all the positive changes I see in myself (and that others have noticed too), including an increased ability to be in touch with my true emotions, having a relationship with God after having been agnostic most of my life, a much more positive attitude than I used to have, better health, and retrieved memories and revelations about what my painful and difficult life has really meant (news flash to myself: I was not born to be an example to others of what a “loser” looks like).

I don’t want to get off this ride.

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Queen’s University engineering student David Chesney rides the 28- metre-long rollercoaster he made.

All these discoveries are so unbelievably exciting and validating they far surpass the pain I’ve sometimes experienced on this sometimes terrifying ride into the unknown. Sometimes I feel like I’m exploring a new galaxy, and finding wonders every day, both great and small–and horrors too, but the horrors are usually cast by my own shadow and prove in the end to be harmless.

I would never have believed the most amazing journey of my life would take place without my ever having to leave my house.

There’s something about a roller coaster that triggers strong feelings, maybe because most of us associate them with childhood. They’re inherently cinematic; the very shape of a coaster, all hills and valleys and sickening helices, evokes a human emotional response.
–Diablo Cody

via http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes

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I think it’s time we stop bashing all narcissists.

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This post is probably going to make some of you angry or upset. I understand that. After all, many of us were badly damaged by the narcissists in our lives. Anger and even hatred is an understandable and very human reaction to their abuse.

The blood sport of “narc bashing.”

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There are a lot of people these days writing about narcissism and the sentiments found on the Internet about “narcs” and “N’s” is overwhelmingly negative:

— They can never change.
— There is no hope for them.
— They are monsters.
— They are demons.
— They aren’t human.
— God hates all narcs.
— They all deserve to burn in Hell.
— There is nothing good about them. Everything they do is evil.
— They were born evil. They are bad seeds.
— They never tell the truth.
— They have no emotions. They are machines.
— They all deserve to die.

Pretty ugly, isn’t it? This attitude is fueled by hatred and behind hatred is fear. Again, I understand this. I’ve experienced that hatred and fear myself. We have a right to be angry if we were badly treated by a narcissist. People with NPD aren’t pleasant to be around. But here’s the rub: unchecked fear and anger lead to hatred, and hatred accomplishes nothing. Hatred builds walls and leads to a refusal to even try to understand people with a devastating mental disorder. Hatred is itself evil–and narcissistic.

Hatred also leads to bigotry and intolerance. There is already too much of that in the world. People with NPD are mentally ill. We don’t malign people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder the way we malign people with NPD, but people with those disorders can also be very unpleasant to deal with. If someone started a blog that spewed hatred toward people with schizophrenia, there would be outrage. That person would be called a bigot and possibly evil.

Narcissists are abuse victims too.

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It’s true that people with NPD are extremely unpleasant to deal with. But all mental disorders are unpleasant. People with NPD weren’t born that way. There is no such thing as a “bad seed.” In almost all cases, a person became a narcissist because of severe abuse or neglect as children. In most cases, they were raised by people who were themselves malignant narcissists or psychopaths.

Pastor David Orrison, who writes about narcissism from a Christian perspective in his “Narcissist Friday” posts, illustrates this well in this sad story. He is rightfully critical of the disorder and its manifestations but his posts are always written in a way that attempts to understand narcissism and people with NPD the way Jesus would have done–holding them accountable without hatred.

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Some of you have said, “but they don’t count because they made a choice to be narcissists.” Yes, that is true, it was a choice. But that choice was almost invariably made when they were young children, as a coping mechanism to protect themselves from being hurt anymore. Narcissists are people who started life with too much sensitivity, maybe more so than those of us who identify as HSPs (because we still found a way to cope with life without constructing a protective False Self). Narcissists felt too vulnerable and naked. They were born without any natural coping mechanisms at all. They knew they couldn’t survive without this protective natural armor, so they had to construct a False Self to cope. The False Self is a lie, but it protects the True Self from further harm. The reason they act so mean is because they live in terror of the False Self being damaged and exposing the too-vulnerable True Self. Like the rest of us, they wanted to survive. This was the only way they knew how.

This doesn’t give them an excuse to act as they do. It doesn’t mean we have to tolerate their manipulations and abuse. I’m not condoning abusive behaviors and that applies to anyone. But we don’t have to spew hatred against people suffering from NPD all over the web either. We don’t have to be so judgmental. We don’t have to pat ourselves on the back because we are “better” people. Only God can judge us that way. We can try to have compassion without giving in to abuse or allowing narcissistic behaviors to destroy us.

A serious dissociative illness.

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Narcissists suffer. They are deeply unhappy people. They don’t know how to feel empathy, or experience joy or love for others. They never learned how–or they dissociated themselves from those feelings at an early age because it hurt them too much to be that way. They are not without emotions. In fact, their emotions are so strong they feel like they must always be on the defensive, 24/7, 365 days a year. Imagine how stressful it must be to go through life in mortal terror of your facade of invulnerability being ripped off, of constantly having to act a part in a play, of never being able to show your pain to others, of never being able to risk loving anyone else or feeling empathy, of being bitter and envious of everyone all the time? It must be hell.

Narcissists, in spite of their name, don’t love themselves. They only love their False Self, and will do anything to protect it from exposure as the mask it really is. Because the False Self was constructed when they were so young, they don’t even know themselves most of the time. How can you love someone you never got to know? If anything, they live in deep shame of who they really are so they hide from the world behind their masks.

Some mental health experts believe NPD should be classified as a severe dissociative disorder. You can read about that here and here. It’s not that narcissists don’t have any goodness in them, but that they have “split” from their good (true) self to avoid further harm–even to the point where they can no longer access who they really are. But the pain they feel still comes through and if we listen closely enough, we can hear what they are really saying: “please love me.”

Narcissists never got to grow up. Their true self is at the emotional stage of a very young child. Inside every narcissist is a little boy or girl of 3 or 4, sitting in a dark corner crying because they feel so lonely and unloved. Their reactions are at the level of a young child too. They never learned how to experience more mature emotions, because the False Self was constructed when they were too young to feel the emotions of an older person.

NPD is a spectrum disorder running from mild all the way to psychopathy and sociopathy at the top of the spectrum. Most narcissists are not psychopaths (who actually have Antisocial Personality Disorder rather than NPD and have built a wall so impenetrable even they can never access it and will never be able to admit they are the ones with the problem). Even malignant narcissists (just under psychopathy on the spectrum) may have rare moments of insight and regret for the way they behave. It’s my belief that NPD is as much a spiritual disorder as a mental one, but that doesn’t automatically make all narcissists “evil.” Who are we to assume that God hates all narcissists and can’t help even the most malignant ones? I believe God can perform miracles should He choose to do so. To speak for God this way is itself narcissistic.

Art allows the True Self to find expression.

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The pain and hurt that fuels narcissistic behaviors can find honest expression. I’ve noticed many or even most narcissists have a talent in one or more of the arts–William Shakespeare, Ezra Pound and even Michaelangelo (who probably had NPD) come to mind, to name a few. Good art is about Truth and is one of the greatest blessings God can give. It’s through these artistic endeavors that a narcissist’s true self comes through, that they dare give that vulnerable hurting child a means to express the truth of how they really feel. Having a creative ability–whether in the visual, literary, or performing arts–is all the proof I need that people with NPD are still loved by God. Through their art, they are crying out through their mask. They want to be loved and they want to feel love. I can think of many examples of this, but the other day I received an email that really stood out to me and made me take a second look at my own negative attitude toward “narcs.”

The email was from a young man who admits he has NPD. He expressed a strong desire to try to heal himself. He hates his disorder because of what it has done to his life and the ways it has caused his relationships with others to suffer. He wants to know how to feel empathy and genuinely love others. I have no doubt his words were sincere and came from his True Self.

This young man said he was a singer-songwriter so I checked out some of his stuff on Youtube. (I can’t post it here right now because I have not asked for permission to do so). I was blown away by his talent. The words of the songs he writes express emotions almost too deep for words. His powerful emotions of pain and the desire to love and feel connected with others come through in his beautiful voice–and in his face when he sings. I have no doubt his music comes from his True Self, not his false one. Through music, he’s able to break through his wall of narcissism and allow himself to become vulnerable, to cry out in the darkness.

Insight and willingness: ingredients for change.

willingness

I don’t know if this young narcissist can heal himself. It’s a difficult enough disorder to treat by professionals, but he says he can’t afford a therapist and can’t find one willing to treat NPD anyway. Most narcissists won’t present themselves for therapy because their disorder is so deeply ingrained they have no insight and think it’s everyone else who has the problem, not them. Some narcissists may have insight into their disorder and know they aren’t well but still not be willing to change because their mask has become too adaptive or they are too afraid. But insight is the first step toward redemption–it’s not possible to have willingness without insight. This man has both the insight and the willingness. With both present, I think there is hope for him.

Tough love, not hate.

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Just because we should stop spewing hate against people with NPD doesn’t mean we have to tolerate their manipulative and abusive behaviors. It also doesn’t mean we can’t leave a narcissist or go No Contact. In fact, doing so may be the most loving thing we can do for them. Going No Contact removes the source of supply we have been giving them, and in rare cases may cause a narcissist to seek help or at least begin to question their own motives. Going No Contact is also the most loving thing we can do for ourselves. Refusing to have further contact with a narcissist isn’t an act of hatred. It’s an act of self-love and survival.

St. Augustine said, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Jesus inspired this quote because He hated no one but was no pussy either. We can hate the behaviors without hating an entire class of people with a severe mental and spiritual illness that causes them even more misery than they cause those they attack. Going No Contact or refusing to play their narcissistic games isn’t an act of hatred. It’s an act of survival and is just plain common sense. It may even be a way we can show them love–“tough” love.

I realize this post may be controversial because we ACONs have gotten so used to thinking of “narcs” as evil. Their behaviors may be evil, but people with this disorder are still human beings who have feelings–even if they don’t know how to show them properly or keep them under wraps. Except for the most malignant narcissists and psychopaths at the top of the spectrum–who probably can’t ever change–I think calling narcissists evil, or referring to them as demons, monsters, or machines is a form of bullying a group of very sick people and is just as hurtful to them as what they have done to us.

I also realize I may sound like a hypocrite. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve engaged in the popular sport of “narc bashing,” and recently too. While the anger and rage we feel toward people with this disorder may be adaptive while we are trying to disconnect from an abusive narcissist, when these emotions no longer serve a practical purpose (after we have gone No Contact or disengaged from our abusers), they become bitterness and hatred, emotions that eat away at our own souls and can even turn us into narcissists.

I write so my head won’t explode.

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Alaina, a frequent commenter on this blog, said she almost named her blog “I Write So My Head Won’t Explode” but decided it was too stupid to be a blog name.

I think it’s great. So great I decided to write an article with that name. It’s great because it’s the truth. If I didn’t have this blog and wasn’t able to write every day about the good, the bad, and the ugly, I think I would have gone insane by now.

Writers are by nature people with issues. We have mental problems. That’s why we write. If we didn’t write, we’d be drinking, drugging, sleeping all day or stuffing our faces with junk food, or engaging in any number of other unhealthy and self-destructive activities. I know I did until I started writing.

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If you can write, you are blessed. If you enjoy and are good at any creative endeavor (writing, art, acting, singing, dancing, etc.) that can add something useful, entertaining, educational or beautiful to the world and at the same time provide an outlet for your deepest, most painful or confusing emotions, for the love of God, use your God-given gift.

Writing is my safety valve. It’s something I love doing that isn’t going to destroy my mind or my body. But it’s a discipline too. Sometimes I have to force myself to write, even when I don’t want to. I’m always glad I did.

As ACONs and survivors of narcissistic abuse, we also have a calling and a responsibility to educate others about what we have experienced. Nothing happens for no reason. We were given the lives we were given as an education so we could help others. Part of our responsibility as narcissism bloggers is exposing the N’s of the world who have nothing but ill will for other human beings–and we do that through writing.

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Since my daughter moved out Tuesday night, I’ve been more depressed than usual. In fact, I haven’t been this depressed in over a year. It’s not so much because she’s not here(though I do miss her), but that she lied to me when she was leaving. I confronted her about the lie yesterday–she told me her grandfather had sent her birthday money in a card, when he actually did not because I called him and asked–and she explained it was a bluff because she thought maybe I had stolen it and was possibly trying to get money out of me (playing on my “guilt” for having “stolen” it).

I felt betrayed and hurt by her lack of trust in me as well as her lying to me in such a mean spirited way. It’s been bothering me since it happened. It made me worry that she may really be a narcissist and not a borderline at all. I started thinking maybe she was diagnosed with BPD so her insurance would pay for her treatment (I don’t think NPD is covered by most insurance companies). I really don’t want my daughter to have NPD. It’s a painful and horrible thing to face–that your own kid who you love more than anything in the universe, may be a narc. I’d rather believe she has BPD. Maybe that’s all it is. I hope.

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Yesterday I didn’t even go to work, I was so depressed about all this. I lay in bed sleeping most of the day instead, which is what I do when I’m depressed. Of course that just made me feel even worse. I didn’t want to write, I just wanted to sleep and feel sorry for myself.

But I also felt like pressure was building up in my head and that if I didn’t write, my brain might explode. So I forced myself to write, and I did feel a lot better–I no longer feel stressed to the point that I think I have to wear a head truss to to keep it in one piece.

The real reason highly sensitive people get bullied.

authenticity

I had an “Aha” moment today.

The reason highly sensitive people get bullied so often isn’t because of our sensitivity. It’s because of the dismally low self esteem that tends to go along with being that sensitive, especially if we were victimized by malignant narcissists and bullies when young.

Narcissists envy and fear high sensitivity.

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Narcissists hate high sensitivity in others for two reasons: 1. They envy it because it’s something they can’t have or may have lost as children and it’s a sign of an authentic person, which is something they aren’t but wish they were; and 2. they fear it, because they know this quality makes it possible for to zero in on the emptiness hiding under the narcissist’s guise.

Their hatred and fear is expressed through love bombing followed by bullying and other forms of abuse meant to weaken the HSP. An HSP’s fragile ego can be destroyed or greatly diminished after years of bullying and abuse.

Sharon: an HSP who carried a can of Narc Repellent.

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I was thinking about a woman I used to know named Sharon.  She was an empathic young woman who felt everything so deeply–but mostly joy and love.  She’s exquisitely sensitive but is also self confident (she was raised by very loving parents). She is comfortable enough with herself to show her vulnerability openly, allowing herself the liberty to feel all her emotions as well as share the emotions of her friends.

You might think Sharon is a magnet for bullies, but she’s not.  She makes friends easily because she has such a loving and positive presence and and people feel like she cares about them, and she likes herself too (without being at all narcissistic). They are right.

Narcissists avoid Sharon like the plague. Why? They would probably love to get their hooks into her if they could, but Sharon’s confidence in herself and easygoing comfort around all kinds of people scares them right off. While still being emotionally vulnerable, Sharon is invulnerable to narcissists because they sense her strength. She’s indestructible and they know it. As a result Sharon is never victimized and tends to attract other loving people as her friends, people who just want to be around her because she’s a lot of fun but can also cry with you if that’s what you need.

If you’re a highly sensitive adult whose self esteem has been destroyed by narcissistic abuse or a sensitive kid who has become insecure and fearful because of bullying, your high sensitivity will be expressed very differently than someone like Sharon.

Sensitive children do get tested by school bullies, and it’s harder to not let that damage your self image when you’re so young, especially if your parents are also bullies and have already done a number on your self esteem. But for an adult, most people will admire emotional openness and vulnerability or at least respect it–as long as they also know you respect and love yourself. People can sense when you’re comfortable in your own skin and narcs will stay far away, because they’re only attracted to codependent types who are unsure of themselves or their place in the world.

Being highly sensitive: a curse or a blessing?

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A sensitive person who hates herself will tend to act in ways that attract mean people and bullies to them. They are unsure of themselves, fearful, easily depressed or discouraged, easily hurt, easily frustrated, paranoid, hypervigilant, and insecure. They are afraid of everything, and like ravenous wolves, narcissists can smell their fear. They see this–not the underlying sensitivity–as weakness, and they will horn in on such a person for narcissistic supply or bullying because they’re an easy mark who will be too afraid to call them out on their abuse.

Things are very different for a sensitive person with high self esteem. Such a person will be appreciative, insightful, observant, compassionate, forgiving (but not stupidly forgiving), affectionate, creative, a good listener, empathetic, and with a well developed (but never mean or sarcastic) sense of humor. They are not fearful and they know their place in the world. They have a clear sense of their own boundaries (and those of others) and know how to enforce them if they think they’re being violated. They attract people like themselves as friends and lovers and these relationships tend to be self-reinforcing for both parties.

Narcissists know a strong HSP is powerful and dangerous to them.

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Malignant narcissists stay away from self-confident HSPs, because they know they’re much stronger than they are. They know they’re dealing with an authentic person who is happy with themselves and with life, while they are anything but. They know a confident HSP (not the same thing as narcissism) has a laser-like ability to see through their mask without fear and won’t hesitate to call them out when it’s necessary. To a malignant narcissist, a self-confident HSP is a very dangerous and powerful person. That’s why they work so hard to destroy our self confidence and make us hate and doubt ourselves. If we’re crippled by abuse, they can still get what they need from us (supply), without running the risk of having any damage done to them.

As my confidence has grown over these past two years, I’m noticing a transformation of my lifelong high sensitivity from something that made me feel weak and helpless for most of my life into something that makes me feel strong and authentic. I know now that this “curse” and “weakness” I was born with is really a blessing and a strength. I just needed to develop enough confidence to be able to use it effectively.

Learning to love your high sensitivity.

dancing

Here’ a few things I have learned.

1. If you have a talent or skill in one of the arts, use it to express what you’re really feeling. Painting, singing, dancing, writing, poetry–can all be ways we can release our deepest emotions in a “safe” way that’s socially acceptable. Don’t hold anything back when creating art, performing or writing. Allow yourself to be vulnerable even if it feels weird and awkward at first.

2. If you don’t have an artistic talent, take up a hobby that speaks to you or get involved in a sport such as running or take a martial arts class, which can build confidence. Activities that center you and build both inner and outer strength, such as yoga, can be helpful too.

3. Always be 100% honest about your emotions. If you’re very shy or fearful, write down your thoughts and feelings in a private journal. Don’t worry about the quality of writing–that’s all just gravy. The main point is to get your feelings down on paper. Seeing your thoughts on paper (or a computer screen) will give you clarity. If you choose to blog publicly instead, you will gain confidence from expressing your most private feelings to the whole world and from the feedback from others you will get. It can be very scary to publicly post something you wouldn’t tell your next door neighbor (as I have now twice this week!), but believe me, it’s worth it. You’ll be amazed at how much doing such a thing will increase your confidence and sense of inner strength. At first you’ll feel like you’re running around naked in public, but you’ll be amazed by the sense of freedom and liberation running around naked can give you! 🙂

4. Every day, try to do one nice thing for someone other than yourself. If you’re really ambitious, you can try volunteer work to help the poor, homeless, children, animals, or anyone more vulnerable or less fortunate than yourself. In doing so, you will feel like you have a purpose, and that you can help others. Knowing you have made someone happier will raise your self esteem.

5. Listen to music whenever you can.  It’s second only to writing and blogging in my healing journey.

6. Surround yourself with positive people (not the same thing as positive-thinking nazis, who are often narcissists themselves) but authentic, happy people who accept you for who you are and don’t judge you.

7. Get narcissists away from you. No Contact is best, but is not always possible. If you can’t separate from your narcissist, read as much about their disorder as you can, and read about PTSD and complex PTSD and the devastating effects these character disordered people can have on the rest of us. Read books about highly sensitive people. Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person is probably the best known (and an excellent book) but there are other books about HSPs too. Write down your feelings in a journal your narcissist cannot access.

8. Try prayer. It does work.

Nobody knew who I was.

nobody
Woodcut by Käthe Kollwitz, 1867-1945

I used to be a nobody.

Or, as my malignant narcissist mother would have put it, “a nothing.”

Before I started this blog, years of psychological abuse had sealed my lips and closed my eyes to what I could be. I rarely spoke to the people around me, and when I did, I revealed nothing because I was too afraid and was convinced I was a boring person who lived an equally boring life. I never ever revealed anything about my emotional life to people outside my immediate family, and even with them, I was reticent.

I’ve always found it difficult to make friends offline, due to my Aspergers and my avoidant personality, as well as my fear of revealing too much. I still almost never talk about my feelings offline. When I was a child I revealed way too much. I was highly sensitive and vulnerable but didn’t know how to handle it. That kind of openness got me bullied and as a result, I learned it was best to say nothing at all. I didn’t realize my high sensitivity was in reality a wonderful gift.

I shut and locked all my psychological doors. After a while, I couldn’t remember how to unlock them. For me, writing was the key, but I assumed the lock was broken and the key would not work.

For most of my adulthood, although I managed to marry and have a family (with a narcissistic bully who was all wrong for me or for anyone) I had practically no social life outside of that and hardly ever engaged in any interesting activities. I gave up easily. I never completed anything I started due to my dismally low self esteem that told me I was sure to fail. I gave up writing and art and all the things I had loved when I was younger. I feared being boring but boring is exactly what I became. I was just too afraid of everything to be anything else.

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I believed my purpose in this life was to be an example to others of how not to be. Hell, even my own mother called me a loser and a failure, and if your own mother has no faith in you, how can you believe in yourself? Mother knows best, right?

Wrong.

I thought about writing a blog, but didn’t because I feared I would have nothing to say that would interest anyone. I also thought it would be too hard and I would give up in frustration, like I had given up on so many other things when they became too difficult. My irrational fear of failure crippled me.

Even if I could think of something to write about, I was afraid people would hate my words and ideas. Ideas? I didn’t think I had any anyway. In my own mind I was the most boring person in the world. I felt like a walking zombie, marking time until death.

I was so wrong. So very wrong. I’m free to reveal the self on this blog that was in hiding for decades and many times was hidden even from myself. I’m finding it’s safe to be open and vulnerable, at least online. And I’m finding there is so much joy to be had if you just open your eyes and your heart and let yourself feel life. It really wasn’t that hard to do, once my psychopathic sperm donor was out of the way.

I never thought I could help anyone, least of all myself. I felt impotent and helpless in the world, someone born to be a victim, a source of narcissistic supply to others, because that was how I was trained. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t really stupid, uncreative and boring. I wasn’t a loser and I only failed because I was too afraid to try anything and would give up easily the few times I did try. I didn’t realize it was my PTSD and depression that turned me into a walking zombie. Mental illness is a powerful dark beast and can engulf and eclipse your true spirit.

My creativity is blossoming. I always had ideas, but now they’ve revealed themselves as I’ve let go of my debilitating fear and self hatred. Sometimes I feel like I have too many ideas and can’t write them down fast enough.

Although my external circumstances haven’t changed very much (outside the narc being gone), I have hope now. I feel like a real person again, an interesting person who can even be a friend to others. I’m even starting to like myself, and think I’m a pretty interesting person. I’m even becoming proud of my high sensitivity I used to be so ashamed of. In its highest form, high sensitivity can reveal empathic ability.

vulnerable_quote

I truly believe that once I got the narc out of my life, that God stepped in and took things over. He has shown me who I really am and what my purpose is in this world, and it’s not to be an example to others of how not to be. A plan for my life is taking shape and every day it amazes me. There’s so much to be amazed by. He is teaching me how to use the gift of writing that I had been wasting for so long on bullshit or not using at all.

Becoming vulnerable again through my writing is a beautiful thing. If you like yourself, you can handle the bullies, but chances are there will be fewer than you think, and most people will admire your willingness to be open and can relate to that. Your voice will be heard by those who are really listening. It can penetrate the darkness in other people’s lives.

Being vulnerable is about being honest. It’s embracing the truth rather than believing the lies.

Becoming vulnerable takes courage. Rather than being a trait of a weak person, it really takes a strong person to be willing to feel life in its kaleidoscope of colors. Before, I only saw in shades of gray.

I used to believe there was nothing left to look forward to. Now I know there is still so much ahead of me.

Nobody knew who I was. I wouldn’t let them in. Now the door is wide open. Come on in.

My crazy fantasies.

introvert_head

I have some crazy fantasies. As an INFJ Aspie with an extremely vivid imagination, for me these fantasies can be almost as real as reality itself, and that is really pretty cool. Some people, usually neurotypical extroverts, think it’s unhealthy to live inside my head so much. I disagree. If I enjoy these thoughts and they don’t interfere with day to day functioning, how is it unhealthy?

I won’t go into the details of my fantasy life but there are times I think there’s something wrong with me for having the kinds of thoughts I do and deriving so much pleasure from them.

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I was telling a friend on FB tonight about the details of one fantasy. She doesn’t think I’m crazy but pretty normal. I just had to bounce this off someone else as a sort of reality check. I need to do that from time to time, just to make sure I’m not insane.

I think most of us, especially if we’re introverted, have our secret life we don’t want to talk about. It’s like having our own personal movie that we write, direct, cast and star in. These personal movies can make a rather humdrum, often irritating and sometimes depressing life seem more full and interesting.

The other great thing about having such an active inner fantasy life is it sometimes jumpstarts creative ideas, which can be transformed into actual, tangible things that can be shared with the whole world.

This blog is half a year old today!

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On September 10th, 2014, after about 2 months of just reading blogs by other survivors of narcissists (and occasionally posting on Dr. George K. Simon’s wonderful blog, “Manipulative People”), my life was about to change. And it started with a small idea.

I had always like the idea of starting a blog, but didn’t for several reasons.

1. I thought it would be too hard.
2. I didn’t feel inspired enough to write articles every day or do the work to maintain a blog.
3. I had no idea what I wanted to write about.
4. I thought I forgot how to write. Seriously.

It just seemed like an overwhelming, daunting task and I just thought I wasn’t an interesting enough person with an interesting enough life to start a blog. For years while married to and living with my narc, my self esteem had been so decimated that any interests I once had were gone like the wind, and any talents I once had I was convinced were gone. I didn’t even think I was that intelligent anymore.

For a couple of months after FINALLY kicking my narc to the curb, I floundered around trying to find my bearings and get used to living without him. I was ecstatic he was gone, but I was like a ship without a rudder for awhile. I was still codependent and felt anchorless. I wasn’t used to being alone.

In about May or June of 2014 (I kicked him out in February), I started to entertain the idea of blogging and thought it might be something I might do in the future, but not anytime soon. I still had no idea what to write about. But I thought my story might be interesting. I worried it might be too depressing to write about though–why would anyone with an ounce of sanity want to read about my problems, for heaven’s sake? Maybe I’d just write about my experiences in in Wordpad and leave it at that.

I’m not sure why I started to read so much about NPD, PTSD and Aspergers in around July 2014, but I knew my ex had NPD and wanted to find out more. I also wanted to find out what made me tick and what made he and I tick and why I was always so codependent and scared of everything. I read voraciously, both blogs and too many articles and books to count.

Then in August 2014 I discovered a blog written by a woman I could relate to better than any other blogger about narcissism I’d yet come across. Like me, she’s an Aspie, and like me, she struggles with poverty, being bullied as a child, and having narcissistic parents. Like me, she likes to keep her topics varied and writes about unrelated topics sometimes. Her politics are also very much like mine. We believe the same things about the increasingly narcissistic society we live in today. We both love art, reading, talking about deep things, hate political correctness and small talk, and we both love Roz Chast and Peanuts cartoons.

But we have our differences too: Unlike me, Peep struggles with Lipedemia, morbid obesity, and numerous chronic physical conditions that make mobility difficult for her. Also, unlike me, Peep has a much more Biblical and fundamentalist view of Christianity than I do (yet we are both Christians who have asked Jesus to be our personal savior). The abuse Peep endured was much more severe than mine (and mine was pretty bad!). Unlike me too, she has no children, and is married to a non-narcissistic man and they enjoy a very loving relationship. Peep doesn’t believe any narcissists can ever be cured, while I still think the jury might be out on that, at least for a few.

Peep is also a very good writer and sometimes very funny. Her posts are always a joy to read and even when they’re depressing, they’re so helpful and well written. I devoured her blog like a dog devours steak.

Peep was the blogger who inspired me to start this one. I was reading an article on her blog one day (I can’t remember which one now) and suddenly looked up and said to myself, “That’s it. I’m starting my own blog.”

It was a clear decision, a “eureka” moment really–no more wishy washy indecisiveness and self doubt for me. The idea came so suddenly it almost seemed like it was someone else telling me to do it. Now I think it was God (I was also agnostic at the time I started the blog, but began to shed my doubts about his existence, among other things, just by WRITING.) See, I think creativity is actually very close to a spiritual experience and when we allow our God given gifts to flow, that’s when see truth and beauty and come the closest to being with God. All of us have gifts. Your job is to ask God to help you find it. It may not happen immediately, but keep asking and I promise you it will come to you. Maybe not in a “eureka” moment–it may happen more slowly–but you have a gift God wants you to share with the world.

I’m veering off topic. Sorry about that.

…So that night, I pulled up WordPress on my browser, opened it up for the first time. and that night put up my “Hello World” post

On a gut level I felt that making this blog public was incredibly important–because doing that would help me, as an Aspie who is also avoidant–connect with others. Making it public would also help me get over a lot of my social anxiety. It seemed like a crazy thing to do at first–share my personal story I wouldn’t even share with my neighbor or coworker–with God knows how many hundreds or thousands of complete strangers all over the world. But it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, and it’s working!

Everything since that day has changed. My whole life is changing. Maybe not my external circumstances so much (yet), but I’m changing on the inside. I’ve noticed my overall tone has changed from a much more negative, pessimistic, cynical and poor-me attitude to one that’s more positive and fun.

That being said, I do have my less pleasant and more pessimistic moments and I make sure to write about those too, because it’s important to allow myself to feel and then purge my painful emotions. People who feel down can sometimes relate better to “misery loves company” than too much upbeat positive thinking. I know I can–only lately am I responding more to “positive thinking” articles.

Being too upbeat all the time isn’t the way real humans operate, and the ones who do operate that way are more annoying than a bad case of fleas. They’re probably narcissists too.

Back to the point, at this late age, I’m finally finding out what Lucky Otter is all about, and she’s pretty cool!

journaling

This journey has been an incredible ride into the inside of my mind and soul. There have been difficult and frustrating parts of this journey–but those were actually the best parts, because it was those hard times I had in the blogosphere that taught me the most about myself and my relationship to God and to this world.

I was surprised to find I still had the gift of words that God in his grace and mercy had given me, and had never taken it away! He gave me another chance.

The growth of this blog has been incredible in the six months it has existed. I won’t get into the details about that here because I have written about that so much before, but it’s more than I ever dreamed was possible. It’s surreal.

So I’m celebrating today by congratulating this blog for turning 6 months old today and for bringing me and so many other people hope, insight, tears, and laughter. And forging some great friendships along the way.
If it weren’t for you guys, my followers–and all your support (special thanks to OM–he knows why!), this blog wouldn’t be what it is right now.

This blog is my pride and joy, my getting-big-and-unwieldy-but-much-more-interesting new child, and just like a loving mother of a big and active toddler (that’s the stage of “life” I think this blog is at right now), I want it to grow up to be the best blog it can be and to be able to help more people who feel like their hope is gone.

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Thank you all so much! ❤