Ditziness and complex PTSD, BPD.

ditzy_comic

“She has no common sense.”
“She’s just a dumb blonde.”
“She’s kind of ditzy.”
“She never seems to know what’s going on.”

These are phrases I’ve heard said about me my entire life, and not just by my abusers. To most people, I do come across as a little ditzy or scatterbrained. It doesn’t help that I happen to be blonde, because blonde haired people have to work twice as hard as everyone else to be taken seriously, since the (false) stereotype that all blondes are intellectual lightweights doesn’t seem to be going away.

I prefer to think of myself as an Annie Hall type. You may remember the 1977 movie starring Diane Keaton as Woody Allen’s (brunette!) scatterbrained but quirky love interest. I think I talk and act a lot like Annie Hall. At least I like to think I do, because Annie had a lot of charm and was loveable too. She was also a lot smarter than she appeared.

annie-hall

It gets tiresome being thought of by others as less intelligent than I actually am (my IQ is actually very high) and I get self-conscious about appearing “dumb.” My self-consciousness only seems to make the problem worse though, because it causes me to make silly mistakes and do or say socially awkward, dumb things out of nervousness.

For over a decade I thought I had Aspergers, because not only am I socially awkward, I often seem to be “out in space” and not really aware of what’s going on around me. It’s hard to hide this from others, and sometimes people talk down to me in a patronizing or condescending way, believing I can’t understand simple directions or information.  I resent it when people do that.

dumb_blonde

I’m not an Aspie, and I definitely don’t lack intelligence.  But dissociation is a symptom of both complex PTSD and BPD, and this is what I think is happening when I seem to be off in some other universe. When you dissociate, you’re not really in your own skin, and are not present in the moment. You’re outside yourself, stuck in the future or the past, and not paying much attention to the material reality of the moment. As a child, my report cards alsways had comments like, “Lauren does not pay attention,” or “Lauren spends too much time daydreaming in class.” I wonder now if I was dissociated whenever I was daydreaming.

Dissociative episodes can be very scary, but if you spend most of your time only slightly dissociated, you might not even notice that anything is wrong. You’ll just come across as being a bit “spacey.”

Further reading:
Derealization and Depersonalization in BPD and NPD

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Solipsism syndrome.

dave the solipsist

A few times throughout my life, usually when overtired/anxious (and once when VERY high), I’ve had this peculiar (and terrifying) feeling of being the only person in the universe (the time I was high and it happened it was even worse–I was disembodied consciousness, a singularity in space/time–I finally came to the conclusion at the time that I must be God and must have created the entire universe and everything in it from my mind–talk about narcissism lol!). It’s a rather frightening experience, if truth be told. If you’ve ever experienced it, you’ll understand the overwhelming feeling of immense and indescribable loneliness, even though your rational mind is telling you it’s an illusion and isn’t true.

I was thinking about this today for some reason so I looked it up on Google. I found out this feeling of nothing else existing except your own consciousness is a fairly common dissociative experience called solipsism syndrome. It’s a form of derealization. I never knew it had a name.

Some Eastern religions are built around the concept of solipsism and many philosophers throughout history have considered it a possibility too. Of course I don’t believe in it but during the few times I’ve experienced it, it does feel very real.

A similar phenomenon is the feeling/belief that everyone else is just yourself in another incarnation and/or is a projection of yourself. Solipsism seems extremely narcissistic, even though it has nothing to do with NPD and is a fairly common experience in both psychotic and dissociative conditions, drug intoxication (especially psychedelics and dissociatives), and PTSD and C-PTSD. It’s also common in astronauts who spend long periods of time living in space.

solipsism+syndrome

I read this story today and wanted to share it.

The Egg
By: Andy Weir

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us a ‘universe’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” (Albert Einstein)

Is NPD really a dissociative disorder?

dissociative_identity_disorder

I think there’s good reason to think NPD (and to some extent, BPD) is really a dissociative disorder. Think about it. There is a true self and a false self that are split from each other, much the way a person with dissociative identity disorder (DID) has a “waking self” or the “host personality” (the DID’s equivalent of the true self) that has split into different “personalities”, some of which aren’t even aware that others exist. Still, the narrative of the true self runs beneath everything, like an underground river feeds the land above it. In other words, the false self’s behaviors are driven by the need to keep the true self hidden and/or protected.

NPDs (and BPDs) also have episodes of dissociation and feelings of unreality, depersonalization, derealization, or even annihilation when under stress or when injured, and these dissociative episodes can become so bad during a narcissistic crisis that a psychotic break can occur. Narcissists are not unknown to become psychotic during old age due to massive loss of supply.

There are other things too that are dissociative–the magical thinking, the splitting, and the manifestation of the FS itself, which is, in essence, a separate “personality” from the TS.
I’ve read elsewhere that NPD could be a dissociative disorder, and I think it’s a valid argument. Thoughts?

Going insane: how I got diagnosed with BPD

going_insane

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.

When time stands still…

394261 14: A fiery blasts rocks the World Trade Center after being hit by two planes September 11, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

394261 14: A fiery blasts rocks the World Trade Center after being hit by two planes September 11, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Last year, one of my regular readers spoke of seeing a bunch of military tanks practicing for a martial law takeover. In America, I am hearing of an increasing number of incidents like this. I try to avoid the news, but there’s an increasing and unavoidable sense of panic that our nation may be on the brink of a removal of all our freedoms as martial law becomes the norm rather than the exception. It’s very frightening.

But what I really want to talk about is the feeling of unreality and dissociation that accompanies seeing something like what my reader did.  She said when she saw the tanks, she felt as if she was dreaming. It didn’t seem real to her. I know that feeling, and I think almost everyone who is old enough knows that feeling: it happened on September 11, 2001.

I think just about everyone remembers exactly what they were doing the moment it happened. I’m not sure of the psychological reasons why whenever there is a major historical disaster — JFK or MLK getting shot and killed…Pearl Harbor…The Challenger disaster…9/11 — we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing with unusual clarity. It’s as if our mind takes a picture at the moment we hear or see bad news.

Here’s how I remember 9/11. It’s hard to believe it was 15 years ago, because my memory of it is so clear and sharp edged. Yet I can’t remember what I had for breakfast that morning.

That day was a brilliant and beautiful, filled with sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. It was warm as early September can be, but the oppressive humidity of high summer was gone. Fall was in the air.

I was at work, in the lunch room, making myself a cup of coffee when I heard. A coworker came in, looking pale as a sheet. He said one of the Twin Towers in New York was down, that a plane had crashed into it. I stared at him, thinking he must be joking. But I could tell from his face he was not. I forgot all about the coffee, and followed him into one of the offices where a TV was on. Everyone was gathered around the TV, and there was an eerie silence. No one said a word.

On the TV they were showing a replay of the plane crashing through the first tower. I felt like I was dreaming. No, this couldn’t be real. It looked like a movie — an action movie like “Independence Day.” No way was this happening. It had to be a movie, with phenomenal special effects.

As I stared at the screen, I saw the second tower go down in black smoke and flames. A plane had crashed through it too. No, no, no, this wasn’t happening. It was some elaborate set-up, like the “War of the Worlds” bogus radio newscast back in the 1930s.

In a fog, I slowly walked back to my desk. I only had one phone call that day. Although the office didn’t close, no one was working…and no one cared. No other customers called. No one talked, except in hushed whispers. There was a lot of crying going on, even for those who had lost no one in the disaster and had never been to New York City in their lives. As for myself, I felt nothing. I just felt numb. I didn’t feel like myself at all. It wasn’t until the next day that I burst into tears thinking about it. I can’t even imagine how it would have felt to have been right there, watching these horrible events unfold from a New York City apartment window, as many did…or worse, be just outside the towers when it happened.

Whenever we hear bad news, whether it’s something that affects only us (such as when someone we love dies) or something that affects an entire nation like 9/11, we remember these events with the clarity of a movie. I’m not sure what the reason is for this, or what purpose it serves, but I believe it’s a form of dissociation–when we temporarily split from ourselves and feel as if we’re viewing the events from an outsider’s perspective. That accounts for the surrealness of these moments. It’s why we have a photographic memory for them. Maybe this is a way we protect ourselves from the shock of unbearably bad news at the moment it happens — and can’t grieve properly until our minds are ready to process it.

How does everyone remember 9/11 and what was your experience of it like?

Looking death in the face: I was almost murdered at age 18

lauren_bennett4
Me during the late spring/summer of 1976, somewhere in upstate New York. I was 17.

Alaina Holt-Adams did a very brave thing the other day. She posted about her rape experience at the hands of her psychiatrist when she was 15 years old. It took enormous courage for her to post about that, and I am proud of her for doing so. I think she’s glad she did too.

But it made me start thinking about something that happened to me when I was 18. I’m not really ashamed or afraid to post about it, because it happened so many years ago, but for years I couldn’t even think about it without it setting off severe panic attacks.

I was raped and almost murdered–in my own bed by a total stranger.

During the summer of 1977 I was living in a co-ed residential facility for adolescents with emotional or behavioral problems, most of whom could not live with their families for one reason or another. Many of these kids were personality disordered themselves, having suffered at the hands of abusive psychopathic or narcissistic parents. Many of them had grown up in poverty. My mother and I could no longer live with each other, and my psychiatric problems were severe enough to qualify me a spot in the residence.

The residential facility was in New York City, in the East Eighties. During the 1970s and 1980s (until Rudy Giuliani became mayor and started his campaign to clean up the city in the early 90’s), New York City was a cesspool of filth and crime. The city was losing money fast, and funds that would normally go toward improving the infrastructure or finishing building projects just weren’t available.

New York was riddled with unfinished buildings that sat in their half-completed state, sometimes for years, attracting squatters and the homeless, and serving as hangouts and crash pads for heroin and other hardcore drug addicts. As you might expect, these unfinished buildings were hotbeds for violent crime. No woman (or man for that matter) who valued her body, her possessions, or her life would be caught dead walking anywhere alone at night. The subways were filthy, covered with graffiti and trash, and extremely dangerous, even during the day. I always carried a can of pepper spray with me, just in case. Everyone I knew did too.

The residence I was staying in (which no longer exists) was housed in a Brutalist building on East 87th Street. Located next to it was one of these abandoned, underfunded buildings, its steel-and-plywood scaffolding still up, and you’d have to walk under a makeshift plywood tunnel to pass it on the street. The scaffolding was about four feet away from my bedroom window (I had a private room) and about two feet beneath it.

My room was on the third floor and had casement windows–the type that open out rather than slide up and down, and you have to crank open. It’s my understanding that casement windows are much easier to break into than the more popular sash-type windows, and during the summer months, I’d leave the windows closed (there was air conditioning) though unlocked. I had a lot of potted plants on my window sill, but no curtains or any other type of window covering. I hated the Venetian blinds and kept them up all the time. Anyone could have seen in. I never really gave this any thought. To the best of my knowledge, no one could see me in there. My room was in the back of the building and we faced no other occupied buildings.

new_york_1970s
New York City was filled with scenes like this during the 1970s and 1980s. Even the “good” neighborhoods weren’t immune to urban blight due to the lack of funds.

I had dark blue plastic sheeting taped to cover the built-in fluorescent light over the small Formica desk in the corner. I never could sleep in complete darkness (to this day, I can’t) and the blue light was soothing to me as I listened to the radio while I fell asleep. It was dark, but I could still see.

One hot summer night I woke up suddenly. At first I thought I must have been having a terrible nightmare, but I realized with dawning horror that this was no dream–it was actually happening.

There was a man lying on top of me, and he had his rough fingers up inside me. My face was pressed down into the pillow (I was on my stomach) and I couldn’t move. I tensed my body and tried to fight him off, which was impossible given the position I was in. Realizing that I was awake, the man shoved his entire fist into my mouth (I have no idea how he was able to do that, but it sure felt like he did) and pushed my head down further into the pillow so I couldn’t breathe. At the same time, he pulled his fingers out of me. And then he spoke, in a low, demonic voice:

“Scream and I’ll kill you.”

I didn’t scream. Like a trapped animal, I froze in place while struggling to breathe. I felt dissociated from my body, as if I was watching this happen to someone else.

I felt him shift on top of me and use his knee to roughly push my legs under my body, and then he raped me. Still pushing my head hard into the pillow, when he realized I would not make a sound, he finally removed his fist from my mouth. I began to feel dizzy from lack of air. The pain I experienced during those moments was so intense I felt like my head was exploding with knives of white hot light.
I knew he was going to kill me.

Then something happened. I stopped panicking. I started to relax. I knew I was going to die on this night, at the age of 18. In my mind’s eye, I saw the headline of my murder on the front page of the next day’s edition of the New York Daily News, my entire sad life memorialized by a smiling black and white newsprint photo, reduced to another tragic statistic that would be forgotten within months. There would be a funeral and a lot of fake tears and hugs. Life would go on. My existence really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I felt my smallness, my powerlessness in a world that was never very kind to me. I think this sort of “relaxing” happens when we know we are going to die a violent or painful death. The dissociation is the mind’s way of coping with unbearable pain and the unbearable knowledge of imminent mortality.

lauren_bennett2
Photo taken in 1977, the year I was almost murdered.

My dissociated state probably saved my life. Suddenly–I don’t know if he heard something or not–the man stopped raping me, got up, and ran out of the room. I turned around just in time to see the side of his face as he fled the room. In the blue light, I could see he was either white or Hispanic, and not very tall. He had dark hair and a short beard. That was all I could make out.

I began to come back into myself and started to shake and sob uncontrollably. I ran to the houseparents and told them what happened. They believed me, and came upstairs to investigate. They inspected the empty room next door to mine, and discovered an open window that was directly over the scaffolding below. Police determined the man had probably seen me in my room, figured out the room next door was unoccupied, and used the scaffolding as a means to climb into the building. The window may have been left open, or he could easily have opened it himself.

What really made my blood run cold was discovering a large butcher knife under my bed the next day. The man must have dropped it as he fled my room. I knew with the certainly the sun will rise tomorrow that he had been intending to maim or kill me with it.

The rape investigation required me to be checked by a medical doctor. No semen was found inside my body, and I was unable to identify enough information about the intruder to be able to pick him out of a book of mug shots the police showed me. There seemed to be hundreds of violent criminals who fit the description I gave.

For two years I could not sleep without my door barricaded at night. Things got especially bad after I got my first apartment. I had trouble sleeping, frequent nightmares, and slept fitfully at best. I was always tired. I was afraid to go out, and afraid to be alone. I was terrified to be alone at night, and had to sleep with every light in the apartment on.

Gradually I overcame these fears, but the rape has always haunted me and I still can’t sleep in complete darkness. I still get chilled to the bone when I think about how close I came to death that night in 1977.

My annoying narcissist roommate’s latest tricks.

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Just a little update about my annoying, narcissistic roommate. It’s getting very difficult for me to hide my increasing annoyance with her. I don’t want to be unkind because she acts so needy but she invades boundaries and whines constantly about her multitude of problems, most of which she’s brought on herself. Of course, all of these problems are someone else’s fault, never hers.

I thought I used to be bad as far as worrying about people hating me, but I was never THAT bad! As an adult, I always try to respect others’ boundaries and don’t like to force myself on other people if I sense they don’t want to be bothered, even if their lack of attention worries me or makes me feel paranoid. If I really care about their friendship, I’ll approach them and ASK if I can talk to them before asking them if anything is wrong.

It was different when I was a bullied, openly emotional child. I was sooooo sensitive–I used to constantly ask if people were mad at me. I don’t ask people that anymore because it sounds really immature, and most of the time, I realize I don’t even CARE if that person likes me or not, unless I’m seeking their friendship. I usually prefer to be alone most of the time anyway.

My roommate acts like I did when I was a kid. Almost every day, she comes in my room (usually without knocking–I’ve literally had to push her out the door if I was getting dressed or undressed) and asks if I am mad at her. Of course I tell her no. But her paranoia is becoming a self fulfilling prophecy.

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She ran up my electric bill for February to almost $300. That’s an outrageous amount–like the kind of bills I had when I was living with the parasitic “homicidal” narc sperm donor. I know it was her using all the heat, because her room was always hot as an oven in January and February, and both my daughter and I don’t leave the heat running all day, even when it’s freezing cold. If I’m not home, I actually turn the register off (we don’t have central heating–it’s a very old house). My daughter uses a space heater and it’s only on if she’s home.

I approached the roommate and showed her the bill. At first she agreed to pay part of it in addition to her rent, and I thought everything was settled. But then about 5 minutes later she stormed into my room announcing she’d changed her mind. In a snotty tone of voice, she said she shouldn’t have to pay anything because my daughter was using the heat too. I replied sarcastically that was fine, and I hoped she’d like not having power next month since I can’t pay such a huge bill without her help–and why should I? Because my daughter is between jobs right now, she has no income to help, but it wasn’t her using all the heat anyway. Finally I suggested to my roommate she pay a lesser amount than the one I’d first proposed.

She was upset by this and started in on me not liking her again. I told her I liked her (a lie) but was getting annoyed with her self centered, entitled attitude. I even said I thought she was narcissistic.

Immediately, she deflected the attention off of herself onto my daughter, who had nothing to do with the situation. She said my daughter was the one with the bad attitude. I returned to the original point and told her she was failing to take any responsibility. Of course she denied this and started talking about how she cleaned the house for me for free and that I should be paying her for this service (even though I never asked her to clean the house). She feels like she is OWED free electricity. Of course the high bill is not HER fault.

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I don’t like her attitude toward my daughter at all. Something really weird happened a couple days ago (I know my daughter wouldn’t lie about this or have any reason to). The roommate walked out into the living room where my daughter was sitting with her friend, naked from the waist up. She asked my daughter if she thought she was attractive (she isn’t–and she’s 53 years old exposing herself to a 21 year old?). My daughter told her straight out she didn’t think that was an appropriate question and she and her friend left the room. I thought she handled it maturely.

So after this happened the roommate came to me complaining that my daughter hates her.

I think she is jealous of my daughter, who is young and very attractive, and always finds ways to take little digs at her body, her personality, her attitude, her friends, whatever. Or she may be envious of the close relationship we have with each other, because her own daughter won’t speak to her.

Occasionally though she gets in these weird maudlin moods and start crying and tells my daughter she loves her because she reminds her of her OWN daughter, who doesn’t speak to her (I wonder why!)

Speaking of mood changes, I’ve noticed that about some narcs. Their mood changes are unsettling and disturbing. Sometimes they act like they have a dissociative identity disorder with all their rapid personality (mask) changes. My mother used to do this a lot. She’d act sweet as pie and the next moment, for no discernable reason, start screaming at me or slap me. She did the same thing to my father (except she didn’t slap him–she pushed him down the stairs once though and he broke his arm). These sudden mask changes used to really scare me because I didn’t see them coming. It’s like some narcs hear voices in their heads or are seeing things that aren’t there. They really do seem to be out of touch with reality. It’s creepy as hell.

Sometimes my roommate also gets this weird LOOK out of nowhere–like her eyes are boring into my soul and she’ll get this bizarre SMIRK on her face. It reminds me of my mother, and many other narcs I’ve known. I also noticed when she gets this LOOK her eyes turn flat and black.

She sold her car for $150 and whines nonstop about having to sell it because she didn’t have the money to fix it even though she goes nowhere and her disability is more than I earn. I just want to box this woman’s ears and tell her to shut the hell up. I get tired of hearing her grating voice constantly droning on about how terrible her life is.

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So now she’s talking about moving back to Florida, even though she says no one in her family there talks to her. I hope she does, because I don’t know how much more of this I can stand. Since she’s paying rent, I won’t kick her out without notice, but I think I’m going to give her until May 1 to leave. That will give me time to find someone else. Next time I won’t use Craigslist.

Narcs don’t scare me anymore, even though their behavior can be unsettling and creepy. I know I’m stronger than they are and they know it. My education over these past six months has given me the tools I need to handle their evil games. I can smell a narc a mile away.

I’m not afraid of this woman because she’s not very intelligent and although she tries to play all the narc games like gaslighting and triangulating, it doesn’t work because she has no charm whatsoever and is just too stupid to effectively recruit flying monkeys or not fall on her face looking like a buffoon. I think the most effective narcissists tend to be intelligent. Those are the dangerous ones.

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My roommate isn’t particularly dangerous or malignant due to her lack of intelligence, but is extremely annoying and like Chinese water torture, the constant barrage of tiny annoyances build up over time. Her constant snide remarks, complaints, weird looks, and boundary violations are wearing me down and bringing out ugly parts of my personality I’d rather avoid. I think under normal circumstances I’m pleasant to be around (if not always very forthcoming); I’m not a bitch. My roommate’s irritating behavior is turning me into one. I noticed I’m getting snappish and impatient with her. I can’t help it. I don’t like that side of myself at all. I don’t take pride in being a bitch but in her case, it’s getting so hard to be nice. The moral of this story is that even an unintelligent narcissist can bring out your evil side.

I can deal with one more month, but that’s all. That gives her plenty of time to find another place. I haven’t told her yet. I know she’ll fly into a rage and I’m not looking forward to that, but I just can’t stand her personality and can’t live with someone like that anymore. She’s bad for my health.

Test driving narcissism (how I almost became a narcissist)

In answering a comment on yesterday’s post, I suddenly remembered something I had forgotten.
I remembered how I almost became a narcissist. I think I was finally ready to remember. It’s part of my journey to wellness.

I immediately began digging through boxes of old photos, because I was burning inside to write this post, to confess everything, and photos say a lot.

Narcissism runs in families, and although exacerbated by abuse or neglect, it can develop later in a susceptible person, and it happens because of a conscious choice the person makes. They may not actually be saying, “Okay, I’m going to be a narcissist now,” but they have been teetering on the brink of darkness and the would-be narcissist decides it’s easier to plunge right into narcissism than to keep being hurt as their true self.

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3 generations of women: my maternal grandmother Anna Marie, my mother in the center, and me at age 5. (ca 1964) Our family dinners were always this stiff and formal.

Narcissists start life as Highly Sensitive People.
For a number of reasons, I’ve come to believe most narcissists started out as HSPs (highly sensitive people). I will not go into my reasoning here, but I strongly believe these are people who once felt things too much, and if they were abused, it would have been too much to bear. To survive, they constructed a false self in an effort to protect the too-sensitive self (true self) from further hurt. The problem is, for narcissists, the false front works way too well, so well that once it solidifies, it’s there forever.

Tormenting my therapist.
I remembered the therapist I had during my early 20’s. I was terribly infatuated with him, obsessed beyond all logic. This is called transference in psychotherapy and my therapist kept trying to get me to “work through it” but my crush kept intensifying. It was killing me. One day I told him I couldn’t take it anymore and walked out the door in mid session. I never saw him again.

I realize now how narcissistic I acted during my sessions with him. I was attractive and knew it so I flirted openly, tried to get him to hug me (he actually did this until he realized it was a manipulative game on my part and there was a definite sexual aspect).

One day I stormed into his office having a hissy fit because I’d found a magazine in the waiting room with his and a woman’s name on the label. I stomped in, started waving the magazine in the air demanding he tell me why he never told me he had a girlfriend. His answer was quite reasonable (and it was of course none of my business), but I sulked the whole rest of the session and refused to say anything. I’d show him!

After I quit therapy, I hoped I had hurt him. I think I was angry at him for “making” me like him too much and leaving him was my method of punishing him. Of course, my leaving therapy didn’t hurt him. I was just his annoying, demanding, manipulative little bitch of a patient and he probably couldn’t stand me. I wanted to think I was hurting him, but I was really only hurting myself.

It shames me to remember all this, but I really manipulated that therapist, and annoyed him all the time ON PURPOSE. I was sadistic…I was crushing so hard, maybe my strong feelings for him were causing me to want to hurt and anger him. I remember getting a thrill if I could see a look of hurt on his face. It made me feel more powerful–that I could do the hurting instead of always being the one to get hurt.

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1977: Still a nice, sensitive, codependent girl at age 18…things were about to get ugly.

I was becoming partly dissociated from the me that is now and the me that was before. But it was all a defense against being hurt, and I knew it. I just couldn’t admit it.

I never saw my therapist’s diagnosis of me (I was there for anxiety and panic attacks) but it makes me wonder if “NPD” might have been one of the diagnoses. I’m pretty sure it was still called NPD in the early 1980s.

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I think I can see the beginning of the “narcissist stare” in this photo of me from 1984. I look colder and harder than in the 1977 photo. I see this same look sometimes on my daughter, who is close to the same age I was here. I think this look can also be seen in some Borderlines.

The Danger Zone.
Sometime in my late teens and early 20s I began to act “like I didn’t care.” It was feigned but at the time my high sensitivity was shameful to me. I didn’t want it. It was my albatross, my curse. I was tired of being teased about it. So I made a choice to just act like a different person. Act like a person who didn’t give a shit about anything. I began to drink heavily and smoked a lot of weed to numb the pain of being me. I began to be over-critical of others and gossipy, something I had never been, and spread lies about people I didn’t like to anyone who would listen.

My envy of others (something I still struggle with) was off the charts. I couldn’t stand people who had more than me, were prettier or thinner than me, were smarter than me, or had a better relationship or job than me. I would spread lies and rumors about these more fortunate people. Mostly, it backfired, for my Aspieness made it almost impossible for me to maintain my masks or hold up a lie. A good narcissist has to be good at reading social cues. I wasn’t, but I sure did try.

I found it hard to feel happy for anyone. If a friend got a promotion or fell in love, I felt bitter and jealous instead of glad for them. I’d rant that they didn’t deserve it. And I actually believed this, to a point.

I imagined myself not “needing” anyone. I dated a few guys and unceremoniously dumped them, and yet I was so lonely. I longed to be in a happy relationship, but couldn’t allow myself to be vulnerable enough. I treated men like objects.

I didn’t listen to people. I interrupted them, only thinking of what I would say next. I only wanted to talk about me. Other people were becoming objects too.

I lied to people about my accomplishments (which in actuality were few), my background, my social status. But no one really believed me. I wasn’t good at this game. In fact, I sucked at it.

I think I came very close to becoming an N. Over time, this hard outer shell I’d constructed out of the ashes of my own pain ossified and grew more stable. I was forgetting what it felt like to be vulnerable and human.

There was something else too. During the time I was test driving narcissism, I suffered from severe panic attacks (which is what led me into the therapy described above). I felt like I was out of my body a lot, and that made me panic. Some of these attacks were so bad people thought I was having epileptic seizures, because when I was “out of my body,” I had trouble controlling my movements and would stumble around as if drunk, or my eyes would sort of glaze over as if I wasn’t quite “there.” To rule out epilepsy, I had an EEG done. It came out normal. The only thing I can think of is that somehow the dissociated state I was in was causing me to feel detached from my own body, because I wasn’t “myself.”

Coming back from N hell
One day when I was about 26 (and the same year I got married to my MN ex), a friend of mine from high school told me she didn’t think she could be friends with me anymore, because I was too mean and she didn’t trust me. Other people were calling me out for spreading rumors and lying and my whole flimsy construct came tumbling down. I couldn’t escape from the web of lies I’d created, and now that web threatened to engulf me. It was terrifying but was the wake up call I needed.

I finally realized I was hurting people. Even then, I hated knowing I’d hurt someone else more than I hated being hurt by others. I was overcome with guilt and shame, and realized I couldn’t keep up the mean-girl front anymore. I didn’t become a narcissist, but I came close, so close.

This wake up call catapulted me back into my normal self and the horrific panic attacks soon subsided. (I still have panic attacks from time to time, but they are specific to certain situations and nowhere near as numerous as they were from 1979 – 1984 or so.)

Choosing codependency.
I’d been balancing at the precipice, and ultimately chose codependency (sometimes now referred to as “inverted narcissism”). Looking back, that was actually a very wise choice for if I hadn’t, if my guilt had not been strong enough to stop me in my tracks, I would have been a much different person today, and would not be doing what I’m doing right now. Sharing my journey with other survivors of narcissistic abuse. It’s a contagious thing, and any of us from narcissistic families could have gone in that direction. But we didn’t. That’s why we, not the narcs, are the lucky ones.

I think my Aspergers actually saved me. Aspies cannot read social cues and therefore can’t lie well and are bad at maintaining a workable mask. To be a narcissist would require me to use skills I did not possess. So I chose codependency because I had not been trained by my MN family to think for myself or trust my own judgment. I was trained to be Narcissistic Supply. That was a role I was much more successful at and comfortable with than my Narcissist Test Drive period.

But I think there was an advantage to my visit to the dark side too, and maybe a reason. I feel like like I understand narcissists’ motives and thinking patterns and self-hatred more than the usual non-narc ACON. Because I almost became one myself and felt a little bit of what they feel. All the money in the world wouldn’t be enough to get me to turn into darkness again. It was like a trip to hell. But I do know, they are in excruciating pain. All the time.

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Refinishing a table as young wife (around 1989-1990). I didn’t know how malignant my husband was yet but he was showing signs.

Never feel guilty for feeling guilty.
If I had been able to ignore or deny my guilt or the pain of others that I’d caused myself, I think I would have crossed the line into becoming a fullblown narcissist (though maybe not a malignant one).

Most narcissists make a choice at some point, usually early in life because of abuse but sometimes later, like I almost did. But I think there is also an escape hatch: a window of time where a budding narcissist can still “get out” and redeem themselves before the door between the Ns and everyone else slams shut.

Unfortunately I still have a few narcissistic traits and think I still sometimes act a bit like one. *red face* But my ability to feel shame and guilt is very well developed, in fact too well developed (and always has been), so that overrides my N traits. Perhaps that makes me a Borderline (I was actually diagnosed with BPD comorbid with other disorders in 1996). But if I am a Borderline, I try to control those behaviors. I try to be aware of them. I think I’m doing pretty well.

Growing into me.
Now I’m changing, moving farther away from the N and B traits of my early-mid adulthood than I have ever been. I don’t envy people much anymore and am beginning to understand what it feels like to feel joy or sadness for someone else. To feel humbled by the simple but beautiful things that surround us. I’ve embraced my sensitivity and am finding rather than being a curse that brings torment and hurt, it’s a beautiful thing that allows the growth of empathy and true understanding. Instead of shame over it, now I’m proud.

The ironic thing about this is that, it’s because I like myself MORE now, that my N traits are disappearing. I used to think I was worse than a piece of dog poop stuck on the bottom of a shoe and had to go around proving I was more, much more than that. It’s not like that anymore, and I’m ever so grateful I saved myself at the 11th hour.