What my fear of rejection makes me do

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Time for a true confession.

I’ve been focusing a bit less on narcissism because the topic itself is somewhat of a trigger for me right now.

But I’ve recently decided to write openly about my BPD, which (along with Aspergers) is often misdiagnosed as narcissism.

Besides the envy and pride I’ve previously mentioned as my worst narcissistic traits, there is one other thing that has sometimes made me wonder if I might really be a narcissist.

Whenever any male in a position of authority has tried to tell me the truth about myself (like a therapist or teacher), I want to attack them. When I was much younger (teens and 20s) this manifested as rage attacks (as it did with my therapist during my 20’s). Today it’s more likely to be expressed as sarcasm, snarkiness, or just…silence. All of this is very narcissistic of me and makes me want to cringe in the corner when I think about it. Because knowingly hurting someone goes against the bigger, better part of me, a person who is kind and compassionate and hates to see anyone suffering or hurt.

I used to torment my therapist back in the 1980s. He didn’t know the intense feelings I had for him. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. If you’ve ever watched the ’90s Nickelodeon cartoon “Hey Arnold,” you will remember how cruel Helga always was to Arnold, but secretly she mooned over him.

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My therapist must have hated me. I LIKED tormenting him. He sat there week after week taking it like a trouper. If he was angry or upset, he never showed it. Most likely my strong feelings and verbal attacks were a form of transference. Maybe I experience a form of transference toward any male in an authority position who mirrors me.

I finally told that therapist I was quitting. Why? Because of my fear he was so tired of my mindfucking him that he’d tell me he couldn’t be my therapist anymore. I knew I wasn’t cured, but I left anyway. Sure, I was having trouble handling my infatuation, but now I know it was really all about hurting him before he could hurt me. How stupid of me, since he was probably more than happy to see the back of me.

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I’ve really been thinking a lot lately about my BPD and the unpleasant ways it sometimes manifests itself. The behaviors are narcissistic, and they don’t happen all the time, or with most people (thank God for that!) But the reason they exist at all is because as a Borderline, I live in mortal terror of being rejected or abandoned, and certain men in authority who tell me truths about myself may represent my father, who I was afraid would reject me (even though he wasn’t really the problem at all).

Sometimes I do wonder if I may be a narcissist.

But I know I’m not because it makes no sense. Real narcissists don’t have a conscience or empathy. They can’t be happy for you or sad for you and I can be. If I do something wrong–even if I derive some kind of sick pleasure during the time I’m engaged in it–afterwards I feel terrible. I just want to run and hide.

I’m working on these behaviors, using an old workbook I got in 1996, because lately I’ve been thinking about possibly dating again. I’m getting over my fear of finding myself with another narc, because I feel like I know enough to read them now, to see the red flags and know when to run if I must–but I also don’t want to drive a nice guy away due to my “I hate you….don’t leave me” Borderline tendencies.

There’s so much apologizing I would like to do to so many people. I know that’s not possible but I wish it were.

I know I’m changing for the better, but a lot of bad and painful emotions are coming to the surface in the process of discovering who I am, because I’m feeling again. I think my PTSD is almost healed, and that’s a great thing, but mixed in with all the nice, loving, tender emotions are some not so nice ones too. Like a maggot crawling on the petals of a rose.

I never said I was perfect.

I hate my BPD.

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Sometimes my BPD rears its ugly head. It comes off as narcissism to people who don’t understand. I don’t always understand it either, and because impulsivity is a factor, when I act out in Borderline ways, I’m not even always aware at the time I’m doing it. Sometimes it doesn’t become clear to me until it’s pointed out to me later, and then I’m all, “Oh my God, what have I done?”
Then I beat myself up with guilt and shame, which is what I did today.

Even though I learned tools for handling my BPD when I was hospitalized (for Bipolar II) in 1996 and have found those tools helpful, sometimes it’s not enough and my BPD gets the best of me. I’ve been accused of being narcissistic before. I know I’m not a narcissist, but I can understand why some people might think so.

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God, I really hate this disorder. Out of all my disorders, it’s the worst one. It trips me up so often and destroys friendships and makes people think they can’t trust me. Then it’s very hard to convince them I never had ill intentions, but acted impulsively out of whatever emotion at the moment was driving my behavior.

I think blogging was the first step in my recovery from narcissistic abuse, but I’ve reached a place where a lot of emotional garbage that was buried and frozen because of my PTSD is coming up to the surface and it HURTS A LOT. I just wanted to cry all day. I didn’t but I wanted to.

I will still blog of course (I don’t plan to ever stop either), but my BPD is showing more and I think all the weird emotions I’m feeling that I can’t understand are becoming too much for me to handle alone anymore. It was suggested to me that I really need to seek counseling at this point. I know there are free or low cost mental health services in my area I could look into.

I hate my BPD. I wish it would just go away and stay away forever. It’s caused me and people I cared about so much misery. It’s destroyed so many friendships. I don’t want this anymore. I can live with my Aspergers and even enjoy it, but being a Borderline really sucks. 😦
Just one more way my FOO fucked me over…

Guilt: the great inhibitor.

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When I started this blog, I also made a commitment to 100% honesty about my feelings, no matter what. Doing that was easier than I thought and due to my honesty, I’ve become less fearful of what other people think and my self esteem has improved (though it still has a long way to go to be in the “normal” range).

About a month ago, my parents discovered this blog. My mother, though she’s in her 80’s, is active on social media and has accounts with Facebook and LinkedIn. At first I was horrified, and waited for something terrible to happen.

Nothing did, at least nothing that was evident at first.

I worry less about my father reading this blog, but then again, he’s not an MN and he actually seemed somewhat supportive of what I’m doing. If he objected to my discussing my MN mother in such a negative way, he never let on that he did. My mother, as expected has said nothing. I quietly unfriended her on Facebook because I’m linking my blog posts there now (my profile is set up so only friends can view details), but she can still access this blog directly if she wants to.

And that’s where my problem comes in. Knowing that she is probably reading every word I say is causing me to censor what I post and be about 95% honest instead of 100%. It’s stupid, because she doesn’t approve of me anyway and will say bad things about me to others no matter what. She has for years. So I don’t really understand why I’m so worried about what this 80-something woman might say about this blog to her relatives.

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Every time I want to post something, I’m hesitating if it’s about her. Since it would be dishonest of me to post wonderful, great things about her, I’m finding I’m not posting about her much lately at all.

My mother has terrified me my entire life. Even though I’m in my 50s now and I am very low contact with her (I only went No Contact with my ex), I still worry about what she might be thinking or saying about me. It’s so stupid–what difference could it possibly make? I’m not a child and I’ve already been abandoned emotionally by her, so why do I still care so much? I know I’m never going to win her approval even if I should ever become wildly successful (for her, it wouldn’t count as success because it would be ME) and what else can she say about me that she hasn’t already been saying? I don’t use real names so I can’t be sued. And finally, it’s not as if she hasn’t already read everything I’ve said about her under “My Story” already. There’s nothing worse I can say that I haven’t already said.

I know it’s irrational to censor myself for fear of what she’ll think, but I can’t seem to let go of my fear of her. I know she will never love me or approve of me. But I feel like she can still control me and she still scares me. I know much of this has a lot to do with having been programmed to always feel guilty and ashamed, even though ironically, both my parents believe guilt is a bad emotion.

How many of you have had to face this situation? What did you do to cope with it? I really need some help here, because if I can’t be 100% honest about EVERYTHING, that puts a damper on my healing.

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.

lauren_bennett1
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.

Why do I feel so guilty?

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For my daughter’s 21st birthday she was informed a trust fund was being set up in her name by her grandfather (my father) but she would not be able to access it until she showed more maturity and interest in attending college. My daughter, feeling it was unfair that her brother got to access his right away (because he has made better choices and had “proven” himself) found a way to access the money anyway. Apparently there was some loophole she found out about (I have no idea how) where she could override the stipulations put on the fund. It wasn’t illegal what she did, but was probably unethical.

While I understood her feeling like she was being treated unfairly, at the same time I understood my father’s concerns and agreed with him she wasn’t mature enough to handle such a large sum of cash and it would have been better to wait until she was older.

We were right. She wasn’t ready to handle it. Within less than two months, almost all the money was gone and she can’t even really say what happened to it. My father’s wife (my “evil stepmother”) is impossible to deal with–cold, condescending and intimidating (although she does take good care of my dad). She is a narcissist who scares both me and my children to the point we are all hesitant to call my father. She acts as a kind of gatekeeper and talking to him means going through her first, so none of us ever call him, although we’d like to. She also intercepts any mail or email that is sent to him. Nothing gets to him unless it goes through her first.

Anyway, after Molly accessed the funds, my stepmother was so livid that she wrote me a letter letting me know she would never speak to my daughter again. I think her rage was not only due to my daughter’s dishonesty (anger which I can understand), but also because, as a narcissist, she hated knowing she’d been “outsmarted” by an upstart kid. My stepmother has always taken great pride in thinking she knows more than everyone else.

It’s incredibly sad that this malignant, heartless woman has managed to separate me and my children from my father (and their grandfather) through her intimidating, condescending words of judgment and disapproval. But that’s what narcissists do–they divide and conquer. Unfortunately this sort of thing is nothing new in my family: my entire family is splintered and fractured like a broken platter, with factions of relatives not speaking to or intensely disliking other relatives due to the rampant narcissism that runs like a cancer throughout the bloodline.

A few of us, such as my son, yearn for unity and healing in the family. My son, very touchingly, recently expressed to me his wish to initiate a huge family reunion one day when he can afford to do that. I didn’t want to tell him this would probably never work, since even if everyone attended (which everyone would not), the drama would be as thick as tar. He is so naive sometimes! But he has also made contact with some distant cousins that even I barely know through social media and is now good Facebook friends with one of them. I commend and admire him for this.

This morning I received an email from my father, which I’ll paraphrase. First of all he thanked me for my Thanksgiving wishes (I didn’t dare call him because I’d have to deal with his wife, so I just sent him an email). Next, he told me I would be receiving a check in the mail soon (I have no idea for how much). That made me wonder if he is about to pass on (no one in the family informs me of such things). After all, he is in his 80s and suffers from worsening Parkinson’s disease and is almost completely physically disabled. He also has had heart issues. His wife is his full time caretaker and narcissist or not, he would be in a nursing home without her. Although his mind appears to be intact, he sometimes has trouble translating his thoughts into coherent words, and he physically he is completely dependent on her.

Frankly, I was gobsmacked I would be getting anything at all. Although I believe he does love me in his own way, I was under the impression I was being totally cut out of any will (due mostly to his wife’s influence and her ability to turn others against me, the same way my real mother does).

But the next part of his email made me feel like I’d been punched in the stomach. In it, he said my daughter (his granddaughter) is a slimey, sneaky liar and will never change. He said his wife wants nothing to do with her (which I already knew but makes me wonder if he feels the same). While I already knew how my stepmother felt about my daughter, seeing the child I love described this way hurt me A LOT. I can understand their anger toward her, (and I myself have often wondered if she is a narcissist herself but I don’t think so) but seeing these words in print was not only horrible but also, inexplicably, made me feel overcome with guilt and shame. Sure, I wasn’t a perfect parent (and sometimes a pretty lousy one), but I tried my best. Her father is an MN and I believe he really did a number on her mentally. But I still feel guilty as if her behavior is MY FAULT. I feel a shame so deep I didn’t even answer his email — I simply didn’t know what to say.

Since my divorce, I’ve been in terrible financial straits. I work extremely hard and hate living like this, but due to my Aspergers, PTSD, and pervasive self esteem issues that keep me from being able to “pull myself up by my bootstraps,” I constantly struggle to just keep the bills paid, never mind having any disposable income to do the sorts of things that normal, middle class people do. So the news I will be receiving money that might relieve some of these problems should make me happy. *

But it doesn’t. It’s not because I don’t think I “deserve” an inheritance or gift, but because of how ashamed these two make me feel as a human being: ashamed for having a daughter who has “wronged” them and keeps getting in trouble and never seems to learn from her mistakes (although I think that is changing), as well as for other mistakes I have made that were unacceptable to them (such as allowing my MN ex-husband to move back in with me for 7 years, until I finally gained the courage to kick the malignant jackass to the curb last year). They are extremely judgmental people and judge me and my daughter harshly for our poor choices, but I have not gotten much credit for anything I’ve ever done right.

It’s very complicated and I can’t even talk about my feelings in a coherent way. I feel like I’m in some kind of emotional labyrinth I can never escape. It’s all so confusing. I feel so guilty right now and I don’t even know why. I long to call or write my father and ask him about his health (because I do love him and care very much) but am terrified of my stepmother’s interception and harsh judgment and how profoundly he’s been influenced by her. He may pass away soon, but I’m afraid I might not even be informed when that happens. Somehow, I feel like I’ve been bought off…maybe I am wrong. I can only hope.

But on the bright side, at least I can reassure myself that feeling this much guilt and shame means I have a conscience and am not a narc. Because sometimes I think I inherited the family disorder too.

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I really need to stop caring so much what my FOO thinks of me. It really doesn’t matter, does it? I just need to approve of myself.

* This really didn’t belong in this article because of its focus, but I want to use the money (or some of it) to take classes in web design, CSS, SEO and how to blog professionally. I would love to be able to quit my day job to be able to write full time.

Followup: The email I wrote back to my father.