How I became a Cluster B basketcase.

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I had some new insights today on the genesis of my disorders. Not actual new memories, but insights on memories I already had that I know now led to my covert narcissism and BPD. I can pinpoint the exact events that turned me into a borderline, and later on, a covert narcissist.

I’ve been a borderline since about age 4 (in a young child incipient personality disorders are known as attachment disorders). A few weeks ago, following my trip down the rabbit hole, I mentioned having remembered that someone told me something when I was 4 years old that was significant in the development of my BPD.

I still don’t remember what was said, or who said it, but somehow I know I began to be sexually abused at that age. By who or in what context, I can’t tell you because I don’t actually remember. I just know I was.

That’s when things began to get weird for me. I have a vague, dreamlike recollection of sitting on the short flight of carpeted stairs of our split-level house in New Jersey, watching my parents (who were probably drunk) dancing in the living room. They were doing the Cha Cha Cha, a dance popular at that time. I remember feeling unreasoning (and probably Oedipal) jealousy at that moment, because my father was ignoring me, even though I was calling to him to dance with me too. I believe that’s when my hatred toward my mother began. Instead of reassuring me or including me in the moment with them, I was simply ignored and impatiently told to go back to bed.

I don’t remember what happened after that, but I began to have terrible nightmares, and sometimes would wake up screaming. Sometimes after I woke, the dreamlike, dissociated state would continue. I remember hearing, ghostlike, the theme from the TV show “The Mickey Mouse Club” playing somewhere–although it was 3 in the morning and in those days, it wasn’t possible for anyone to have recorded the show and play it somewhere later. I got out of my bed to find out where the music was coming from, but the house was completely dark and everyone was asleep. It was very eerie. I also remember one morning, having gotten out of bed for breakfast, seeing tiny colored sparkly objects that looked like glitter, falling everywhere around me. No one else seemed to see them. I asked my parents if they saw the falling glitter and they looked at me like I was crazy. There was something else that happened around that time that was equally strange, but I can’t recall now what it was. It’s not far from my conscious awareness though. I think I’ll remember soon. I might remember what was said to me and who said it too–because I know it was important.

I started doing things like banging my head against the wall in the family room, because it felt good to me for some reason. My mother would tell me to stop but I’d keep doing it, because I couldn’t stop. It seemed to relieve some kind of congestion inside my head. I don’t know–I tried it recently just to see if it still felt good, and it didn’t at all. It hurt! I also began to develop strange ticks and habits like pulling my hair and sucking on it. My mother started keeping my fine hair short because “I was ruining my hair” by doing that.

I began to get a taste of rejection in kindergarten. I always felt somehow different from the other children, but couldn’t figure out why. Not different in a good way, but in a defective one. I’d already internalized the conflicting golden child/scapegoat messages given to me by my parents, who expected me to serve both roles because I was their only child. No wonder I longed for a younger sibling! This alternating, unpredictable and crazymaking golden child/scapegoat treatment exacerbated my BPD (which I think already existed) and set the stage for covert narcissism–unworthiness and inferiority (beaten into me by being their scapegoat) that overlaid grandiosity and a sense of being better or more “special” than other kids because my parents sometimes told me I was when they weren’t punishing me. I didn’t know who I was. When people told me to “just be yourself,” I had no idea what they meant. Who was I? I couldn’t live up to their lofty idea of the perfect little girl they wanted me to be or thought I was; but it also made no sense when they wouldn’t allow me to try new things or make decisions on my own, always saying things like, “you can’t do that,” or “you know you don’t want that.”

Their punishments were severe and I became a fearful child, and feared rejection wherever I was. How could anyone like a child that was so bad, but at the same time, was supposed to be this perfect princess but could never live up to being one? I was so confused and felt so apart from others. I remember when I wasn’t crying (I wrote a article about what a huge crybaby I was), I was nervously asking the other kids at school if they liked me. Was that my true self or a newly minted false self asking them that? I’m not sure, but I think it was a last ditch attempt of my true self to get reassurance, love and acceptance, because I sure didn’t get it at home.

I was an unpopular, oversensitive child and everyone always told me how sensitive I was too. I remember being mortified and embarrassed by this but had no idea what to do about it. my mother used it against me too, calling me out for my “hypersensitivity” in front of other people, or making excuses for her hurtful comments by blaming me for “always taking things the wrong way.”

I started to try to hide my emotions but wasn’t very good at it, and the other kids could always see right through that transparent mask I tried to wear. I was intelligent, and my grades were okay, but my teachers always told my parents that I was an underachiever and a daydreamer and of course “too sensitive.” They also wrote on my report cards things like, “Lauren is intellectually brilliant and very creative, but she is an underachiever. She could be doing so much better if she applied herself. She also has problems socializing appropriately with the other children.”

And I did. I never fit in anywhere. I got bullied throughout my elementary and most of my high school years. It didn’t help any that we moved three times within my first 8 years of school, requiring me to start two new schools in the middle of the year (actually, the second school was due to my having been bullied so badly my parents were forced to have me change schools). I used to be chased home by bullies everyday and was never invited to parties or after school activities that weren’t teacher- or parent-planned.

I did manage to always have one or two close girlfriends so I’d sometimes get a respite when a sleepover was scheduled. But for some reason, my mother wouldn’t allow me to go on sleepovers very much. She didn’t like the idea of me doing things on my own without her. It got so bad that around the age of 11 or 12, I got very upset one night because she had failed to come in to the bathroom to wash my hair while I sat in the tub. I felt like I couldn’t handle something like washing my hair on my own, and more than that, I felt…rejected and forgotten! I remember going downstairs crying and asking my mother to tell me she still loved me, just because she had failed to come in to wash my hair. I don’t think I got that reassurance. At the time I still went out of my way to make friends. But I was too friendly and clingy too, so although at the time my debilitating shyness hadn’t set in and I made new friends fairly easily, I didn’t keep them for long. I was already demanding too much from them, I guess.

My parents divorced when I was 14, and I moved to New York with my mother. I already blamed her for their divorce, and already had pegged her as a narcissist, although I didn’t have a word for it then. I remember telling her how “empty” and “shallow” she was. This would make her rage. But under my anger was terror. She scared me on some deep gut level and she seemed to hate me. Even as an adult, I’d always revert back to being a child in her presence. She was drinking heavily, and I began to drink too. She didn’t try to stop me. She had a string of lovers that came and went, and to get to the kitchen or bathroom, I’d have to walk through the living room where she and some boyfriend were sleeping. One of her lovers used to love to make fun of me with her. I remember sitting at the dinner table with the two of them laughing at my worries, speech, the way I looked, and anything else they could pick on. I remember running away from the table in tears more times than I can count. I was left alone in the house often, which I actually liked because it meant I didn’t have to deal with her or her nasty boyfriend, and I’d cook my own dinner, usually a TV dinner or frozen pizza. Inside, I secretly worried that this woman who seemed to always want me by her side when I was younger (and be her mini-me) didn’t seem to want me around at all anymore. I wondered what I had done wrong to make her stop loving me. Now I know she never had.
I was a depressed, sullen, underachieving teenager who lived in a fantasy world inside my head because I was learning to hate people.

At age 15, I was rejected by a group of girls that I described in “Crybaby.” That was devastating to me, and I spent several days literally sick in bed after that. I don’t remember if I cried. I think I might have already stopped being able to cry easily, but I felt like I wanted to die. I remember making a promise to myself I would never again reach out to anyone in friendship and that I’d have to hide my emotions from that day on.
I think this was the beginning of my narcissism–my false self was born. Up until then, I’d displayed borderline attitudes and behaviors (as they would appear in a child), but after this event I became increasingly aloof and tried to pretend I didn’t care what anyone thought of me.

I began to act up more at home too, and outwardly rebel. My mother and I got into huge drunken screaming matches that would end with her either passed out on the floor drunk, or with us both throwing things at each other. One night, unable to control my rage, I grabbed a kitchen knife out of the drawer in the kitchen and went after her with it. She was drunk. I held it in front of her to scare her but did nothing, then dropped it and told her I was sorry when I realized what I’d done.

That was the night she kicked me out. I was 17. I went to live with my father for a time before entering a girls’ residential facility for a year that treated adolescents with emotional or behavioral problems.

But even though I can’t say I blame her for kicking me out since I probably scared her to death with the knife incident, being kicked out by my own mother was traumatic. I took this as proof she never loved me, because threatening her with the knife had been a desperate cry for help, to be validated. Even though I can understand why she didn’t want me around anymore, the hurt from her total rejection of me (she didn’t speak to me for another three months after that night) stayed with me and ate away at me for years. I believe this incident–being literally tossed out of the house by my own mother before I reached 18–was what solidified my narcissism and when my false self became a permanent fixture.

I became colder and more aloof. I stopped being able to access my true feelings, except for rage and fear. I could no longer meet people easily. To get too close to anyone meant I’d be rejected, or made fun of. Occasionally I’d explode into a BPD rage, but mostly I kept my emotions inside–so far inside I couldn’t even feel them much anymore. The only exceptions were the times I fell in love. My crushes were intense, insane, overpowering; they were a force of nature. My emotions would be all over the place, and I’d be completely obsessed with some boy I imagined would make me happy for the rest of my life. I couldn’t seem to live without a boy who could reflect me and act as a mirror. I was attractive and seemed to find dates easily, and I had a way of getting boys to fall in love with me (I had the slightly pitiful yet charming waif act down to a science). I think I’d become very manipulative in these relationships. Eventually these relationships would end, and I’d be miserable until the next one came along. When I wasn’t dating, I had intense unrequited crushes and lived in my fantasies of happily ever after. I think I might have been showing histrionic PD traits too, although my narcissism is actually the cerebral type. I was never that interested in sex for some reason.

Without a relationship to validate me and prove that I existed, I felt empty inside. Without a relationship, I was nothing. I had no real interests and any type of hobby I did pick up, I’d eventually drop. I couldn’t stick with anything, and began abusing alcohol and later, drugs. These were the only other things that seemed to temporarily fill the vast black hole I felt inside. I still had no idea who I was or what I was here for.

This was longer than I intended, but it’s pretty clear now when my BPD and narcissism began. My BPD began at age 4 due to some type of sexual abuse and something that was said to me. As for my cNPD, it didn’t happen overnight. It gradually developed in me between the ages of 14 and 17. What solidified it were two things–being rejected by a group of girls who had seemed to like me; and the final boot by my mother. My BPD always lay beneath the narcissism, ready to erupt at the worst possible times.

Crybaby.

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WARNING: THIS ARTICLE MAY BE TRIGGERING.
I spent the first 13 years of my life almost constantly crying. I was a perpetually squalling cranky baby, a screaming tantrum-throwing toddler, a tearful preschooler, and a school child prone to attacks of uncontrolled crying in public places and embarrassing situations. During my teen years, my crying was downgraded to near-constant sulking and negativity. Tears came mostly when I was angry or frustrated by the time puberty hit. Rage frequently accompanied the tears, or maybe it worked the other way around.

I had the curse of the blonde and fair skinned, so my emotions showed on my face in neon reds and pinks against the white background of my skin. I blushed easily and that was embarrassing enough. I could feel the blood rising up my neck like a sudden wave of heat and my ears would start to burn. My bullies picked on my tendency to blush and would deliberately embarrass or humiliate me to see my ghostly pale face turn as red as a fire engine. If it went on long enough, my lips would start to quiver and there would be tears, and that’s what they were really waiting for–to see me cry.

The crying was awful. I wasn’t a pretty crier; in fact I was ugly when I cried. My skin would turn into a mottled red and pink that looked like a bad case of rosacea, my nose ran like a faucet and turned so red it was nearly purple, and my eyelids turned bright red too and swelled up as if they were bee-stung. It would take hours for these facial giveaways of my pathetic vulnerability to finally disappear.

I had a great deal of difficulty controlling all the intense and confusing emotions that seemed to crash over me like tidal waves when I least expected it. These feelings were just too big for me to handle, and I was so easily overwhelmed by them and had trouble soothing myself (this is an early indicator of BPD and other disorders like PTSD). Whenever I cried I thought I would never stop. No one could calm me down. My emotions were a force of nature too powerful to be tamed. When I wasn’t crying, I felt a constant dull ache in my chest (heart area) and congestion in my throat. Even that early, I knew crying would relieve the tightness and pain, but the crying was like vomiting and sometimes as painful because the intense waves of emotion plowed through me like an out of control bulldozer.

Raised by a narcissistic mother and enabling (possibly low spectrum or covert narcissist) dad, I became the the family scapegoat (made even more crazymaking by the fact that as an “only” in their marriage, I also sometimes served as Golden Child). I was either held on a pedestal that far exceeded my actual abilities/beauty/intelligence/whatever, but most of the time I WAS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM. I questioned myself and everything I did; it seemed I could do nothing right. I wasn’t allowed to do things for myself or speak my mind. I felt awkward and defective in my family and everywhere else too.

Not long after I started elementary school the bullying started. I was the class crybaby and kids always target the kid who cries the most or seems the most vulnerable. I had no defenses at all; I had never been taught any and lacked the confidence to stand up for myself. Things got especially bad in 3rd – 5th grades. During 4th grade, I was followed home every day by a group of kids who laughed and jeered at the way I walked and imitated my walk, as my tears welled and threatened to overflow (no wonder I hate mimes). The bullies would call out to me and sometimes even throw things to get my attention, but I wouldn’t turn around. I just kept on walking. I knew I couldn’t let them see the tears streaming down my face because that would make everything so much worse.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Morse, was a psychopath with arms like Jello who always wore sleeveless dresses, so whenever she wrote on the board, all that quivering, pale freckled flab hanging from her bare arm made me want to throw up, but I still couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was mesmerizing in a horrible way, like a car accident.

Mrs. Morse knew how sensitive and scared of everything I was. She knew I was bullied by most of the other kids. But she had no empathy for my plight. She was a sadistic bitch straight from the pit of hell. She deliberately called on me whenever I was daydreaming, which was often (no kids got diagnosed with Aspergers back in those days and the idea of “attachment disorders” that lead to later personality disorders was an afterthought in those days), then she would make me stand in the front of the room and answer a question or solve a math problem while she glowered at me like wolf about to pounce and kill their prey. She never did this to the other kids, who were allowed to answer questions from their seat. She deliberately tried to humiliate me, because she knew she would get a reaction.

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One time I couldn’t solve the math problem on the board (which was my worst subject), and she berated and belittled me in front of the class.
“You never pay attention. You’re always daydreaming. Do you have a mental problem?”
The class laughed.
My tongue was in knots and I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt tears burning the backs of my eyelids like acid.
I swallowed hard and tried with all my might not to let a tear loose but they started to flow anyway. I hung my head in shame and rubbed away the tears with my grubby fists as I turned away toward the wall. My narrow back and bony shoulders heaved with silent sobs.
That was exactly the moment this sadistic malignant narcissist who passed for a teacher was waiting for.
“Look everyone! Lauren is crying! Look at the tears! Cry, cry, cry, baby.”
The class burst into screams and hoots of laughter.
“Cry, baby, cry!”
I stood there in front of the class, staring at the floor, snot mingling with my tears, and longed to melt into those scuffed green-gray linoleum tiles, and never return.
In today’s anti-bullying environment, this “teacher” would have been fired for that shit. She might have even lost her teaching license. That kind of thing isn’t put up with anymore.

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Later that year, there was a similar blackboard incident. This time, I was stood in front of the room and told I looked like an albino rabbit when I cried. (I actually did, due to my fairness and my slight overbite.) I was mortified as this unbelievable cruel bitch encouraged the entire class to laugh at my pain and humiliation. I ran out of the room and fled to the library sobbing. The librarian was a sweet and very young woman (probably just out of college) who actually liked me and knew about my love for books. That library was my refuse and the librarian was my friend who understood me. This time, she saw me rushing in like that and held her arms out to me as I crashed into her and sobbed into her warm fragrant neck. We stayed like that for a long time, until Mrs. Morse (accompanied by one of her 9 year old flunkies) came marching in looking for me. Mrs. Morse grabbed me roughly by the arm and marched me back to the pits of hell she called a classroom. Sadly, I looked back at my librarian angel and saw the wetness on her face and her sad little wave.
She knew, and I knew she knew. I’ve never forgotten her. Sometimes in my fantasies I still see her waving at me with that sad tearful smile, and that image gives me comfort and strength.

I think my years of uncontrollable emotional displays came to an end when I was 15. They had already been abating somewhat, replaced with rage and anger, but I had trouble controlling my anger and constant dark moods, even though I wasn’t crying as much. I started to drink and do self-destructive things. I started “talking tough” but inside I still felt anything but.

The year before, when I was 14, my parents divorced and I was taken to live with my mother in the city. She loved it; I hated it back then. We fought all the time, mostly because of her self involvement. My grades slipped and I never did my homework. I was depressed all the time and cared about nothing. When I cried (which was still often) I usually did it alone. The other kids at school didn’t like me. I was never invited to parties, always last picked for softball. I felt intimidated and shy all the time, but I still tried hard to make friends–a little too hard. I fit into no clique (I have never fit into any clique) but there was a group of girls low in the high school pecking order consisting of the geeks and quiet, studious girls. They seemed welcoming enough at first. I saw their small (or more likely, polite) displays of acceptance and wanted so badly to believe they actually LIKED me that I guess I started following them around like a needy puppy.

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I noticed after awhile they avoided me too, and my “birthday corsage” box was proof of my unpopularity, because it was not signed by all the girls and when it was signed, it was just a name. No long flowery messages, no in-jokes, no high-school risque comments, no “you are such a great friend” or “Love ya, Lauren. XXXXOOOOOO” Just…signatures and an occasional terse “Happy Birthday.”

My fears were confirmed later that day. After weeks of avoiding me, the group of nerdy girls approached me and told me they wanted to take me out to a restaurant for my birthday after school. Wanting so much for them to like me I remember grinning like a fool and nodding like the needy puppy I was. Inside I was a little suspicious, but dammit, I wanted to believe them! Maybe their ignoring me had just been my overactive, “oversensitive” imagination after all, and they really did care. Why else would they want to spend time with me on my birthday?

At the restaurant I was picking up a certain tension. The girls kept looking at each other worriedly and wouldn’t look me in the eye. As I ate, I watched their anxious faces. Something was up, and it wasn’t good. I felt like I was going to throw up. I spoke to no one.

Finally, Harriet, the leader of that clique told me she needed to talk to me–privately. I felt like I was on my way to the principal’s office for some transgression. My heart pounded in my throat and I felt tears burn the backs of my eyelids, but I didn’t cry. I bit my lip until it bled and tried to just breathe through my terror.

Outside, she smiled at me sympathetically. Then went on to tell me the real reason they had planned to take me to lunch was because they didn’t want me to hang around with them anymore and didn’t have the opportunity to tell me at school. She actually got tears in her eyes when she said this, and then told me she hoped my feelings hadn’t been hurt. Um…hello? But all I could do was stand there staring at her as if I was cognitively challenged. For the first time ever, I felt emotionally numb. I didn’t realize at the time that would soon become my new way of coping with my pain.

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I was traumatized by that rejection. I spent the next two days in bed. I felt sick and couldn’t go to school. I told no one what happened because the shame was too great. I didn’t cry; I couldn’t anymore. I just wanted to sleep forever and maybe die.

After that I couldn’t cry anymore. At least not in most situations that call for it. I had and still have trouble accessing my emotions. It was too scary to let them out, because when I did, bad things happened. It scares me to realize I might have easily become a narcissist, splitting off from all soft emotions, even empathy and guilt. Many narcissists started life this way too, without natural defenses.

I know now whenever I feel that painful tightness in my chest and throat, that means I need to cry. I’m not afraid of it anymore. I want to retrieve my long-ago ability to feel intensely connected to my emotions, because used properly, being an HSP is a gift and a blessing. The big difference will be that I’ll be able to let emotions pass through me freely and be able to express them without shame and without allowing them to overwhelm me or control me.