I should stay the hell off Facebook.

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I’ve hated Facebook for a long time, and last night reminded me of one of the biggest reasons why.   My mother’s entire side of the family is on Facebook, and of course I just *had* to go look at their profiles and see what everyone is up to.   I don’t know why I do that, since every time I do, I’m always blindsided by a tidal wave of envy.  Last night was no exception.

A niece, who is twenty years younger than I am, appears to have a storybook life, at least the way she presents herself on Facebook.  She appears to have all the following going for her: She is happily married, her adorable  husband just opened a high-end restaurant to rave reviews, they just finished building a house near the ocean, she gave birth to a third perfect child a few months ago (natural childbirth, of course), her children are disgustingly beautiful, she always looks fit and well put together, she always looks ecstatic in her photos, and she gets a ton of comments–like hundreds of comments from their scads of friends and of course the extended family–telling her how beautiful and perfect she and her family and everything else are.  Oh, and they just got back from a vacation too.  She has the love and acceptance of my mother and all of her extended family.  And she’s not alone.  Everyone else on that side of the family seems to have a perfect life too.   I always imagine (and probably imagine correctly) that they all look down on me.

Do I sound envious?  I guess you could say I am.   I don’t have the sort of happy, successful, perfect, monied life my mother and her extended family value.  Because I “failed,” I’ve been devalued and am seen as an embarrassment and source of shame, which is the real reason why I’m never invited to any family functions, not that I’d go anyway.   The sad thing is, as the family scapegoat, I was set up to be the family black sheep and never be able to have a life like that.

I need to quit Facebook.  I really hate it.  All that perfection makes me want to HURL!

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Self-pity and self-compassion: there’s a huge difference!

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I read a post yesterday on another blog that I agreed with, except there was one thing that didn’t quite sit right with me. The post said that self-pity is an important part of healing from Complex PTSD.

In his book (which I’m still reading), Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, Pete Walker says that self-compassion is an important part of healing, and I think this is what the blogger actually meant. But self-compassion isn’t the same thing as self-pity, an activity which I don’t find at all healing and in fact seems to make my problems worse. Of course we have the right to engage in self pity from time to time (and probably can’t help doing so), and no one should deny us the right to do so. But for me, it just doesn’t work. It’s an unpleasant, soul-sucking experience that seems to drive my negative programming even deeper than it already is.

The way I see it, the difference between self pity and self compassion is analogous to the difference between pity and empathy. I think this makes the distinction clearer.

Pity has an element of condescension or even contempt. You pity someone you dislike or look down on. It’s kind of like sympathy but it’s contaminated with judgment and scorn. You feel like you’re “better” than a person you pity. A wealthy banker may “feel sorry” for a homeless person without feeling a shred of empathy. The banker is glad they’re not homeless, and feels as if they’re above that anyway. If someone says “I feel so sorry for you,” or “I pity you,” you’re likely to feel offended and judged, not comforted. I hate being pitied so much I might be tempted to punch you if you do.

Superficially, empathy, compassion, or sympathy may seem like the same thing as pity, but they’re not the same at all. Sympathy means to feel sorry for someone without judgment or condescension, but it’s not quite the same as empathy, because it lacks the sharing of a feeling. It’s a shallower emotion, but it’s still better than pity. Compassion and empathy are interchangeable and both imply feeling “with” another person, or sharing an emotion with them. It’s giving your friend a heartfelt hug after a breakup, or laughing or crying with them when they’re happy or sad. It’s giving a homeless person your own sweater because you hate to see them shivering in the cold. There’s no condescension or judgment. When someone empathizes with you, they say, “I understand” or “that really must have hurt.” Doesn’t that feel a whole lot different than someone telling you, “I feel sorry for you.”

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Self-pity is part of our toxic programming. It’s driven by shame. Self pity is when you sit around and think about how much your life sucks and how much YOU suck. There’s no self-nurturing or comfort in self pity, no self love, only self-hatred and shame. Self-pity enforces the terrible things we’ve already come to believe about ourselves. If we’ve been told time and again how stupid, bad, clumsy, ugly, or what a loser we are by our narcissists, eventually those voices become internalized and we develop a toxic inner voice called an Inner Critic. When you’re stuck in self pity, that’s your Inner Critic demeaning you and repeating to you the same lies about yourself your narcissists already drummed into you. You learn to abuse yourself, and self-pity is just self-abuse. When you say, “I suck” or “I’m a loser” or “nothing ever goes right for me,” you’re reinforcing the toxic programming and acting as a flying monkey against yourself.

Unfortunately, for those of us who suffered from narcissistic abuse, it’s common to wallow in self pity. It’s an all too familiar state of mind, but it isn’t the real you. The things we tell ourselves when we’re stuck in self pity are lies. When I get stuck in self pity, I feel just horrible. I just want to die. I usually wind up feeling resentful and angry at the world, but also ashamed of myself for being such a helpless victim and pathetic loser. I’m consumed with shame and guilt, which leads to depression. I also can’t release the negative emotion when I’m in self pity mode. I get stuck there and it drags me down and saps from me any energy or joy. I’ve had hangovers that felt more pleasant than a bout of toxic self-pity.

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You can replace self pity with something much better that also feels a heck of a lot nicer: self-compassion. Self-compassion means acknowledging that you are a human being worthy of love, happiness and the good things in life, while empathizing with your inner child’s hurt over not having gotten those things. You give your inner child permission to feel sad or to grieve and agree with them how unfair it is that she/he got cheated or was abused. This may seem like self pity, but it’s not, because the element of judgment and shame isn’t there. You’re not beating yourself up over how terrible you think you are; you’re telling yourself you’re good and deserve better and allowing yourself to grieve. Instead of covering up your inner child with a paper bag, you’re offering her a hug.

It helps me to actually visualize my inner child. I have her talk to me and tell me what she needs and wants. I don’t judge her or try to shut her up; I just listen. If she feels sad, I tell her those feelings are valid and let her feel sad. If she feels mad, I let her express the anger (but at the same time reassure her she won’t be able to hurt anyone or anything because I won’t let her). I find that by non-judgmentally listening to what she wants and needs or how she feels, I’m eventually able to release any negative emotions and I don’t get stuck. By giving myself permission to feel without self-judgment or self-shaming, sometimes I wind up being able to cry, and as weird as it sounds, that always comes as such a relief. When I’m stuck in self pity, these healing tears never come, because the shame that’s been programmed into me won’t allow me to release them. My programming tells me the massive lie that crying is shameful and weak, when in actuality it’s sometimes the most healing thing you can do. Your Inner Critic is a narcissist who doesn’t want you to heal and that’s where all that awful self pity comes from.

“Saving face”

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“Saving face” is the concept of avoiding facing the consequences of having been shamed, sometimes by sacrificing something you value. A perfect example is what I almost did yesterday when my irresponsibility for posting a certain article was called out elsewhere. I almost took down this blog!

Throughout my life, “saving face,” has been my usual reaction to being held accountable for choosing wrong actions. It’s never made me happier, and more often than not, I wind up regretting it later. I later wonder why I didn’t just own up to it and take responsibility. But the fear of being shamed is great enough to make you do crazy things just to avoid it. In my case that usually meant some sort of disappearing act–you know, acting on that urge to “sink through the floor in shame.” But the thing is, all it does is make you look like a coward and that in itself makes you look worse than the thing that caused it all! Please note I am not talking about situations in which you are being unfairly treated or bullied. That does happen, and it happens to the sensitive the most of all. In those cases removing yourself might be the best and smartest course of action. No, I’m talking about situations in which you know you’ve acted badly and are called to the carpet about it.

“Saving face” is a staple of some cultures. In Japan, ancient samurais adhered to the tradition of seppoku, which meant stabbing oneself through the heart with a dagger when one had been shamed.* The intent was to avoid shame, even if your life was the price. Related to this (but different) is the practice of “honor killings” some fundamentalist Muslim countries still adhere to. This means killing a family member (usually a woman) when they are believed to have brought shame to the family. In these cases, love is weaker than narcissistic pride. How else could one voluntarily kill their own wife or daughter who they claim to love?

It’s interesting to me that even the term, “saving face,” is a reference to the False Self, a mask shown to the world. Saving face isn’t about honesty or authenticity; it’s about maintaining the mask, even if all it involves is escaping consequences.

Some people see “saving face” as somehow noble. But it isn’t–it’s cowardly and narcissistic. Unfortunately it’s human nature, especially for those of us who grew up in situations where we were constantly shamed just for being ourselves and developed low self esteem. We may not be suicidal, but we’ll sacrifice things we love if the consequences of behaving badly are too embarrassing.

But why should it be that way? People are still going to talk even if you remove yourself from the situation or disappear, the way I’ve always tended to do. Wouldn’t it be better to face the consequences? Even if people aren’t forgiving, ironically your humility shows them you have self respect and the courage to own up to your mistakes. What’s so shameful about a simple “I was wrong” or “I’m sorry.”

* I understand that non western cultures differ and to call traditional practices narcissistic or selfish is probably not accurate.

An upsetting memory.

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I remembered something today. Little by little my mind is pulling up ancient memories from dark and forgotten corners as I move further along in my recovery. This one almost knocked me over.

For years…YEARS!…I couldn’t write. This past year and a half has been the first time in my life I haven’t in under the thrall of a high spectrum (malignant) narcissist, and it wasn’t until I freed myself from them that my words began to come back.

As a child I wrote all the time. I drew pictures too. I remember my father bringing home these little blank stapled booklets in different colors with lined paper in them. There were about 50 of them, tied up in rubber bands. I used to write little stories and illustrate them. I could spend hours doing this.

I always blame my mother for everything. I act as if my father (who was codependent, and probably either covert N or borderline) had nothing to do with my disorders. I always saw him as a victim too. But he colluded with my mother; both were abusers. I remember one day when I was 7 or 8, I came home from school, and as I did every day, I went to my desk and opened the drawer to start writing my little stories. I noticed some of my finished booklets were gone. Panicking, I looked everywhere for them, and couldn’t find them. They were very personal to me, like diaries. They were for my eyes only (my Avoidant traits had already set in) . I was very upset but couldn’t tell my parents because then they’d be looking for them and they’d KNOW.

I looked all over the house for them, and finally found them in my father’s filing cabinet in a folder with my name on it. I was horrified. He stole my private creations from me! I felt so violated. My boundaries had been viciously invaded. I remember stealing them back and destroying them. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at them anymore. There was too much shame.
It was as if I wanted to annihilate myself…my true self.

After that I seemed to lose interest in drawing, although I continued to write. But my passion for even that was gone. I didn’t say anything to my dad about him stealing those booklets because to do so would be to invite critique and shame. I knew instinctively he liked them (otherwise he wouldn’t have taken them from me), but I didn’t even want to hear anything good about them. The stuff in them was just too personal. I felt like I’d been raped.

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I wrote a novel in 2003. No one wanted to publish it. It sucked. I still have it but it’s embarrassing to read because of how bad it is. I know why though; at that time, still under the thrall of my ex, I was trying too hard to be “a writer,” to make an impression, instead of being authentic.

And now…I’ve done a 180 from when I’d hide my little illustrated books and was so horrified when they were discovered: deliberately posting the most personal stuff imaginable for total strangers all over the Internet to see (under an assumed name, of course). It’s like I’m trying to redeem my shame, somehow. It’s very hard to explain.

After being in my abusive marriage, I thought I’d lost all my ability to do anything at all. I’d sit down and try to write something, and….I couldn’t do it. I even thought I’d lost my intelligence. I was marking time until death. I felt stupid, dead. But I didn’t care either…or thought I didn’t care. I couldn’t feel anything at all. All my emotions were gone.

I was wrong, so wrong about all that.

On freaking out.

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I shouldn’t freak out so much whenever I post something I’m embarrassed by or ashamed of or that is very personal.
I always forget how good running naked in public can feel.
The outcome is never bad, and always leads to even more self awareness.
How can that be a bad thing?

I’m not alone in freaking out over stuff like this. It seems to be universal, hardwired into the human brain.
Why is there so much shame in making yourself vulnerable, telling your secrets? Does it mean you’re weak? Is it something we should be ashamed of?
I don’t think so. I think being vulnerable and candid means we have the courage to honest even when it hurts, and that makes you stronger than 100 boxes of Wheaties.

I posted an article earlier I was certain would run off most of my readers, cause my friends to leave me, and basically kill this blog.
But that hasn’t happened.
Everyone’s been so supportive.
And I want to tell everyone thank you. I’m glad I did this now.

Where I stand on “positive thinking.”

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Positive thinking taken to extremes is deluded thinking.

I’ve seen several blog posts about the problem of forced positive thinking lately, and since this is an issue that has concerned me for a long time, I thought I’d add my own take on it.

In recent years, there’s been an increased societal pressure toward “positive thinking.” I think two factors have led to this trend–the New Age philosophy that we can “be as gods ourselves,” and the continued glorification of the Reaganistic optimism of the 1980s. The signs are everywhere, in self-help and pop psychology books, in countless popular slogans and memes that appear on bumper stickers and coffee mugs, on motivational posters, on calendars, on the political campaign trail, and all over social media such as Facebook. The forced positive thinking brigade has even infiltrated churches. Motivational speakers like Tony Robbins and preachers of the “Prosperity Gospel” like Joel Osteen have gotten rich by telling us that if we only think positive thoughts, our entire lives will change for the better. They tell us if we let go of negative thought patterns, we can become happy, successful, healthy, and wealthy.

This is all fine and good, and personally I see nothing wrong with positive thinking for its own sake. Even if the outer trappings of your life rival those of someone living in a Third World nation, it’s certainly better for you if you can scare up a little optimism and hopefulness, and it’s definitely bad for you to dwell in hopelessness, depression and negativity. At the very least, seeing the glass as always half-full will make you more accepting of your sorry lot and therefore happier. That said, it’s incredibly difficult to see the glass as half full when there is barely a drop in your glass. That would be deluded, not positive, thinking.

For all its advantages to our psychological well-being, there’s a dark side to the positive thinking movement too, which goes hand in hand with the current societal glorification of narcissism and the nasty belief that selfishness and lack of compassion are virtues. While telling people that thinking positive thoughts is not a bad thing itself (because there is truth to the idea that negativity tends to draw in negative things–I have seen this dynamic for myself), the positive thinking movement has been taken to disturbing extremes. It’s led to victim-blaming and an overall lack of empathy for the less fortunate. The poor are blamed for their own poverty, regardless of the circumstances that might have led to it or keep them trapped there. They are told they are “not positive enough” or “made bad choices.” Even worse, some churches of the “prosperity gospel” ilk tell them they must have some moral failing or God would be rewarding them with material blessings. They are made to feel shame and guilt for their sorry financial condition. The chronically ill and disabled are likewise blamed for “not taking care of themselves” or “choosing bad habits.” It’s easy enough for someone who has never had to struggle with poverty or serious illness to thumb their noses at those who have and tell them it’s all their own fault.

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Is this the way Jesus would have acted? No, of course it isn’t. In fact, most of Jesus’ followers and disciples were the most financially and physically vulnerable members of his society. Jesus himself was humble carpenter and certainly not rich. He didn’t condemn these unfortunates or shame them for failing to be positive enough, or making the “wrong choices.” In fact, he seemed to love these vulnerable people most of all. Whatever happened to the “social gospel” of the late 19th and early 20th century? Oh, that’s right–it became “communism.” Somewhere along the way, compassion for the less fortunate and the culture of charity got twisted into “weakness” and “enabling.” The enormous popularity of Ayn Rand, who believed the greatest human evil was altruism, is disturbing, especially since her philosophy of “objectivism” has infected the minds of powerful politicians of a certain political persuasion, including many “Christians.”

While I don’t subscribe to some Christian fundamentalists’ idea that Satan is behind all this worship of greed and self-love and the denigration and victim-blaming of the less fortunate, I do think it’s a very destructive turn in the way our culture thinks, and it’s psychopathic in nature. Lately I’ve been seeing more blog articles criticizing this trend, and that seems like a good sign that at least a few people (usually victims of narcissistic abuse themselves) are finally realizing our society has become woefully empathy-deprived. Hopefully their message can break out of the blogosphere it’s currently confined to and begin to touch the hearts of The Powers That Be who are not yet completely brainwashed by the Cult of John Galt.

It’s absolutely fine (and desirable) to be a positive thinker, because positive thinking does tend to have its rewards, but blaming the misfortunes of others on their negative thinking or worse, their moral failings is just a form of societal gaslighting and is utterly evil itself. It’s also rife with hypocrisy– the Positive Thinking Powers That Be denigrate the emotions of guilt and shame for themselves, but they make sure those who haven’t been blessed the way they have feel plenty of guilt and shame for not having been “enough.” They never stop to think how impossible it is for someone who is struggling every day just to have enough to eat or with severe pain or illness to think in a positive way. It’s much easier for the already privileged and healthy to be able to say “life is good” and mean it. The well heeled Positive Thinking bots never stop to think of this–or they just don’t care, which is most likely the case, because those who haven’t been “blessed” with wealth or good health MUST have done something wrong to deserve it.

Any society that is empathy-starved is eventually going to self destruct.

For further reading, check out this article from The New York Times and also this one about empathy being a choice.

I still have so much to learn…

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I just spent a few minutes ordering (used) books about Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorders from Amazon. There’s still so much I don’t know, especially about my own BPD, which trips me up constantly, in spite of my attempts to be mindful and think before I act (or react).

For example, a few months ago I unintentionally alienated someone I valued as a friend. Actually two people were involved. What happened was I went on a rant because a second woman hurt my feelings, and rather than discuss this privately with her, or simply move on and chalk the whole thing up as a learning experience, I decided to write a rant and publish it. No, I did not identify the person in my rant and yes, what this person had said to me (in private) was extremely mean and hurtful (and definitely not true either). But could I just move on or let it go–or just tell the person how hurt I was? No, instead I had to turn this person’s private message to into an angry blog post. After I realized what I had done, I removed that post, but its repercussions still haunt me. This individual is absolutely convinced I am a malignant narcissist with evil intentions and has said so in public. I’m not, but based on my behavior at the time, I can understand why someone would think this is the case.

The woman who I wrote that scathing post about wasn’t someone I knew very well, and her low opinion of me (which it turned out had been low from the beginning–she just didn’t like me, which is okay, it happens to everyone) really didn’t matter too much, since we hadn’t been “friends” for very long. But in the fallout from that bad decision I made to call her out publicly, I alienated someone else whose friendship I really DID value–because it turned out that person was friends with the person I ranted about. I didn’t know.

I also did something else to anger the woman who’s friendship I valued (basically, a blatant invasion of her boundaries), but again, at the time I didn’t realize what I did would be hurtful to them. I was just so…CLUELESS. All of this impulsive borderline shit I was pulling came off to others as MALIGNANT NARCISSISM and since then I’ve had that label slapped on me by someone who mattered to me and a few who never really did. Being thought of that way by someone I value really hurts. It hurts a lot. That’s about the worst insult I could ever get (strangely enough, when I was younger, the easiest way to insult me was to call me TOO SENSITIVE, ha!)

But I deserved it too. Putting myself in my alienated friend’s shoes after the damage was done, and thinking about how I would have felt if someone did the same thing to me, I couldn’t deny that I would have been extremely angry, to say the least. Also, the timing of my actions was just too weird. I didn’t know I was hurting anyone, at least not consciously. I really didn’t. But how would my friend know I didn’t know? Why wouldn’t she think it was malicious and intentional?

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The problem with having BPD is the obtuseness that comes with it. In that sense, it can resemble Aspergers because you just don’t KNOW what is appropriate. You simply are not aware of when you’re acting out, manipulating or attacking someone. I think this is one of the little-talked about things that separates BPD from full-blown narcissism. Borderlines can just be so fucking clueless. We are so out of touch with ourselves and who we really are that we don’t even have a false self to pretend to know what it’s doing. We really don’t know what the hell we’re doing and even when we think we have our behaviors under control, they still sneak out, without our even knowing. It makes you really feel crazy and out of control when later on it’s pointed out to you (as to a two year old) WHY what you said or did was wrong and WHY someone was hurt by it, when you thought it as just a normal reaction at the time and you had no earthly idea it would be so hurtful or damaging. But when you do become aware, it’s so OBVIOUS that you say to yourself, how the hell could I not SEE that?

BPD is a sort of blindness. You get so tangled up in your own emotional state you literally cannot see how you may be hurting others. You may not be throwing screaming temper tantrums or throwing things across the room, but the harmful actions come out in other, sneaky, passive-aggressive ways. You don’t WANT to hurt others, but you do anyway because YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. It sucks because as a person who does have a conscience and struggles constantly with guilt and shame, I feel remorse when I realize what I have done. The problem is, by the time I become aware, it’s often too late to repair the lost friendship. They have already given up and moved on. BPD destroys relationships.

I feel like even with the DBT skills I’ve been using and the reparenting techniques I’ve tried recently, that there is so much about this awful disorder I don’t know. I don’t know myself as well as I should. Dammit, I DON’T TRUST MYSELF! My Aspergers/Avoidant PD mitigates my Borderline symptoms to some extent, but they still come out. I avoid others partly because I’m afraid I might hurt them. I don’t want to be this way anymore.

I feel like I need to educate myself much more about BPD, and just knowing WHY we do the things we do and act out in passive aggressive ways without knowing what we’re doing, will help. So that’s why I just ordered some new books. I need to spend some more time reading and less time unintentionally creating drama, stupidly thinking that it’s “right.”

This journey of self-discovery is amazing most of the time, but sometimes facing the truth about yourself is unbelievably painful.

One last thing–if you are reading this (and you will know who you are if you read this post), I want to say I’m so sorry. I was wrong.

“The Power of Vulnerability” with Brene Brown

A friend of mine sent me this video, and it’s exactly what I needed to hear today. I found myself tearing up as I listened to Dr. Brown speak, because she speaks the truth.

“At the core of vulnerability is shame, but vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, peace and creativity.” (paraphrased).

If everyone did what this video says we should do, the whole world would change.

Why family scapegoats become lifelong victims.

If you were scapegoated by your family, two things can happen. You can become a narcissist yourself (narcissism being an elaborate defense mechanism to avoid further hurt and abuse) or you will internalize the early message that you’re worthless, defective and have no rights. I’m going to talk about the second scenario because that’s what this video is about and it’s what happened to me.

As a scapegoat, you are trained to live in fear. You become afraid to defend yourself, express your opinions, or demand fair treatment. This attitude of worthlessness, fear and shame is carried into adult life. Other people can immediately sense you are a pushover and a magnet for abuse, rejection, and bullying, and you become a target for abuse by others well into adult life.

You can become a lifelong victim unless you find a way to break the pattern. It’s difficult to unlearn, because it was established so early in life by the narcissistic parent.

Golden children, who more closely resemble the narcissistic parent or provide them with narcissistic supply (adulation), are more likely than scapegoats to become narcissists themselves. They will often become the aging narcissistic parent’s flying monkeys against the scapegoated adult child, continuing the family pattern of abuse.

Scapegoated children are the family shock absorbers. They are the children who have been assigned to absorb and internalize the narcissistic parents’ rage and to mirror back what has been projected onto them.

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This is exactly what happened to me. Although because I was an only child I sometimes served the Golden Child role, for the most part I was the scapegoat. My Aspergers and high sensitivity made me even more perfect for that role.

Today I’m the black sheep and the “loser” of my family. I’m never included in family functions because of my poverty and the fact I’m “different” than the rest of them. Although they disapprove of me, I really became exactly what they needed me to be. My becoming a “loser” ensured they would always be winners.

I’ve been disinherited because they believe I’m undeserving, a shameful blemish on the family’s “good name,” further guaranteeing I will always remain poor and therefore powerless–unless I hit the lottery (which I don’t play) or write a book, which I plan to do. The irony of all that is the book may very well be one that exposes the people who raised me for what they really are.

I’ve always been a risk-averse, avoidant underachiever. My dealings with others have suffered because of my fear of the judgment of other people. I was often bullied as a child and teenager.

I married a narcissistic man and continued to live with him and allow his abuse even years after we were divorced.

Although as an adult I’m no longer bullied (and am Very Low Contact with my ex), people still try to push me around, treat me like a mental defective, leave me out of conversations, overlook me for promotions or raises at work, or just talk over or look through me as if I’m not there at all. When I say something, people act like they don’t hear me. It’s very hard for me to make friends or fight back when I need to because I was trained from an early age to be so very afraid of everyone. I’m the proverbial shrinking Violet and wallflower–the kind of woman my mother used to mock for being so “insipid.” I seem to have the opposite of charisma.

For many years I walked around as if ashamed to be alive. I carried shame with me like a heavy burden that affected the way I spoke, the way I related, the way I thought (all the negative self-talk and self-hate), even the way I moved and carried myself. I embarrassed myself.

Since I started writing, I’ve learned that I wasn’t put on earth as an example to others of how not to be (I actually used to believe this), but that God gave me these challenges and this life to teach me valuable things about myself–but that waking up to who God meant for me to be was going to be hard, painful work. I don’t live in self-pity: my narcissists have been my teachers.

One day I dream that people offline will know who I really am. That I have a personality. That I’m funny and intelligent. That I have opinions of my own, and that I am actually good at things. But more than anything else, that I have a finely tuned bullshit detector–a gift unintentionally bequeathed to me by my narcissists, and it’s a gift more priceless than any amount of money I may have inherited.

The following video will explain why what narcissistic parents do to their own offspring is nothing less than soul murder. Unfortunately, the original video I had posted here (which I preferred) was the best one to illustrate the way being scapegoated as a child tends to continue well into adult life, with the grown adult child now unconsciously projecting a “kick me” sort of vibe in relationships, friendships, on the job, and everywhere else, and then they wonder why they continue to feel victimized everywhere they go.     It’s hard to break the pattern, but it can be done.    Here’s a different video with the same general message as the first, although the first one (which was removed) was much better, in my opinion.

I feel like I’m a bad friend.

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Tonight on a whim I looked up an old Facebook friend I hadn’t talked to since 2012 (we had been close from 2009-2011) and was shocked and very upset to learn that she died this past September of Merkel cell carcinoma. She’d had to have part of her jaw and her lips removed and I even saw her post that first announced her terminal cancer diagnosis. She asked for prayers.

I never knew. I never bothered to check in on her until tonight and felt just awful about not having been there at all for her while she was in so much pain and dying. I left a post on her wall (which is still up) telling her to rest in peace and how sorry I was. What else can you say to a dead friend you abandoned? Sure, she was only a Facebook friend but I still feel like an insensitive heel.

About two years ago, another casual friend, someone I had actually known through work who ran a blog about living in poverty in the United States, and who was known to have suffered from major depression, committed suicide. I hadn’t talked to her in several months, and it was her husband who posted about her death on her wall. I learned this horrible news THE DAY AFTER she killed herself. All I could do was offer some kind words to her bereaved husband, who had loved her very much and was understandably devastated. I felt ashamed at not having talked to this woman during the months prior to her suicide and was almost too embarrassed to say anything to her husband.

I always seem to find out bad news about friends and people I used to know on Facebook, which is another reason I don’t like Facebook too much.

But neither of these things are as terrible as the way I treated a close friend of mine from back in the 1980s. Robert was gay and he was one of my best friends for several years. We used to have a blast together, and were even roommates for awhile. I remember planning his 21st birthday party and how much fun it turned out to be (and I hate parties!)

But Robert was also promiscuous and brought strange men home while we were roommates. He also developed schizophrenia around this time, and due to both his bringing men I didn’t know to the apartment and his declining mental condition, I had no other choice but to move out. We continued to remain in touch occasionally even after I married, but over time, as friendships do when lives go in different directions, we lost contact and stopped speaking.

betrayal

Just after my son was born in 1991, I received a phone call from Robert’s sister. She told me Robert was in the hospital and very close to death. He had AIDS and had lost his vision and his mind, and was no longer able to feed himself and had to be cared for like an infant. It occurred to me he probably already had AIDS during the time I knew him. I was shocked at the news and promised to come visit him in the hospital, but I never did. In all honesty, I was afraid to see him like that and chickened out, even though I had intended to go.

He died two weeks later. His sister called again and invited me to the funeral. Again, I didn’t attend because of the guilt I felt over having abandoned him and never visited him in the hospital.

I realized later how selfish this was of me, only caring about my own needs and feeling like seeing him like that would be too upsetting and just plain weird. My friend needed me when he was dying and I let him down. I never forgave myself for that and still pray for God to forgive me for my selfishness. I’m sure He has, but I never really forgave myself.

That’s why I feel like I’m a terrible friend and maybe don’t deserve to have any.