On people pleasing.

people_pleasing

I think most of us who were exposed to narcissistic abuse for any length of time learn to become people pleasers, always deferring to our “betters” (the narcissists) and becoming human doormats. People pleasing is known by many terms, but “codependent” in particular comes to mind. It’s an extremely unhealthy way to live.

All my life I’ve been a people pleaser. ‘ve always been terrified of saying “no.” I’ve always gone along with things I didn’t like just to keep the peace. The problem with being a people pleaser is that it tends to attract further abuse (they know we’re pushovers so they’ll up the ante); and potential abusers can “smell us out.” People pleasing also never really pleases anyone. Someone is always going to be displeased, even if it’s only ourselves. Chances are, the person you’re trying so hard to win the approval of is going to find something wrong with what you’re doing for them anyway, especially if they’re narcissists.

People who try too hard to please everyone–like politicians who can’t commit fully to either liberal or conservative stances because they’re too afraid of the disapproval of either side, wind up alienating everyone. It comes off as insincere–and it is. You just know they’re hiding something.

people-pleaser

I remember the first time I realized how fake I was being while engaged in people-pleasing. I was about 9 or 10. We were visiting some relatives in another state and my uncle had a collection of decoy ducks he was very proud of. I could have cared less, but because I’d been raised to always be polite, I faked intense interest in his hobby. In fact, my “act” was so extreme he really thought I was interested and kept talking to me about his ducks even though I wanted to scream at him to shut up already. It’s fine to be polite and civil, but I was so afraid he would “discover” my boredom with his hobby that I went above and beyond-and felt absolutely disgusted with myself later. Of course that didn’t stop the people pleasing. No one living in constant terror and shame the way I did would be able to stop.

Freedom from the “people pleasing” game where you always wind up losing doesn’t mean not helping others or being cold and selfish. People pleasing is very disordered and even narcissistic in itself–because you’re trying to please others to get approval or love, not because you really care about their feelings or well-being. You don’t need empathy to be a people-pleaser, just a weak and beaten down ego that makes you grovel like a dog for a treat. People pleasing is actually a central feature of several personality disorders–BPD, Avoidant PD, Dependent PD, and Covert Narcissism.

Unlike people pleasing, true caring and altruistic feelings for others are not about pleasing people–they’re random acts of kindness that come from an authentic and confident person’s heart, and nothing about it is fake. I’m working toward this too. Right now I’m still caught up in the fear of displeasing anyone and the ramifications that has for me. It’s very self-centered.

In summary, people pleasing is about lies–it’s all about trying to boost a shaky self esteem and it’s about as fake and inauthentic as you can get.

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What’s my problem?

confused

After over a month of being convinced I’m a covert narcissist, now I’m starting to wonder if my assessment of myself could be incorrect. Most people are having trouble believing me (even good friends) and there are so many disorders that appear similar to it. I no longer think my symptoms are due to Aspergers the way I used to, but BPD + Avoidant PD in the same person can look exactly like covert NPD. So can complex PTSD in some cases.

I’ve been told again and again that real narcissists are unlikely to ever admit they are narcissists, and if they do, they won’t be beating themselves up that much over it. I don’t know if that’s always true (I’ve met a few low spectrum covert narcissists on Psychforums who actually have a diagnosis and feel terrible about things they’ve done and want to change, but maybe the diagnosis they got is wrong and they just have more than the normal amount of N traits). Victims of narcissistic abuse are often quick to diagnose narcissism in themselves and others. We’re hypervigilant and tend to see narcissism everywhere, and we don’t even exempt ourselves. The real narcissists are probably more likely to keep insisting that they are not. Abuse victims think too damn much. It’s all very confusing.

narcissism_selfies

I guess there was a reason why I never added “Covert NPD” to “My Disorders” in the header. Without an official diagnosis for that, I really can’t say that’s what my problem is. It could be, but if so I think it’s at a low level. I know I have a number of narcissistic traits, but most abuse victims do. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have NPD, covert or otherwise. I could just have a really bad case of “fleas,” or just BPD + AvPD, or even complex PTSD.

I’m still glad I started Down The Rabbit Hole because it’s also intended for people with BPD, which I have an actual diagnosis for. I still think my “trip down the rabbit hole” early in August was real but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have NPD. It was still a trip to the walled off parts of my mind, and most abuse victims are at least partly walled off from themselves. We may be partially narcissistic but not enough to qualify for the label.

I care about people with low spectrum NPD and BPD who want to heal or improve, so that’s another reason I’m going to keep DTRH going. It’s getting a good reception. Another one of my missions is to help reduce the negative stigma against people with BPD. I don’t ever expect DTRH to gain the amount of activity this blog has received, but if only one or two people can be helped by my posts, and I can help myself by continuing to do exactly what I’ve been doing, then it’s worth it to keep it going, isn’t it?

Really, at the end of the day, all these labels are just labels and don’t really mean anything at all.

Me and jokes.

grumpycat_notfunny

Having my kind of disorders (Avoidant, BPD and possible [self-identified] cNPD), I have a hard time coping with jokes made at my own expense. I try to hide my anger/hurt and joke back, but it never goes over very well and people can usually tell I’m offended or hurt anyway. It makes me feel too exposed and vulnerable, and that’s why I prefer solitude than being around people.

I also don’t care for those old fashioned jokes you have to “get.” It’s not that I can’t understand the joke, but that I always feel pressure to “get it” and spend the whole time they’re telling me the joke worrying that I might not get it and they’ll think I’m stupid. 😳 😕

It’s a self fulfilling prophecy too, because I spend so much time stressing over maybe not getting the joke that I wind up *not* getting it! And then feeling stupid when I have to fake-laugh.

Most people always want to tell you those kind of jokes and I stress too much about it.
I much prefer random, goofy, wtf humor you don’t have to “get.” Like Roz Chast cartoons. 8)

How does avoidant PD differ from covert (vulnerable) narcissism?

avoidant_pd_bagoverhead

Covert (vulnerable or fragile) narcissism (cNPD) can, on the surface, look an awful lot like Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD–not to be confuse with AsPD!), which I have been diagnosed with, along with BPD.

But appearances are only skin deep.

I found an article on Psychforums (in the Avoidant PD forum) that describes the differences very well. Because covert/vulnerable narcissism is not an officially recognized diagnosis, and is not included in the DSM (yet), covert narcissists are frequently (if not almost always) diagnosed BPD comorbid with AvPD, as I am. Aspergers can also be easily confused with cNPD, and has been by many. But this article focuses on Avoidant PD, not Aspergers.

“Vulnerable narcissism could be misdiagnosed with at least two other distinct DSM personality disorders: Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In the diagnosis of AVPD, there are several criteria that may overlap with vulnerable narcissism. First, avoidant individuals are observed as appearing shy and being fearful of developing close relationships with others. Second, individuals with AVPD may meet criteria for experiencing fears of feeling humiliated, rejected, or embarrassed within individual relationships. Finally, Millon (1996) proposes that the use of fantasy in individuals with AVPD is a major element in the presentation and perpetuation of this disorder. This is striking in the fact that the use of fantasy has long been denoted as primary to the realm of narcissistic pathology.The vulnerable narcissist will likely exhibit significant interpersonal anxiety, avoidance of relationships, and use of fantasy, but this is guided by a core of entitled expectations. That is, vulnerable narcissists may avoid relationships in order to protect themselves from the disappointment and shame over unmet expectations of others, in contrast to fears of social rejection or making a negative social impact typical of AVPD.

Another false positive diagnosis that may occur as a result of misinterpreting vulnerable narcissismis in the diagnosis of BPD. Masterson (1993) forwarded this issue in an elaborate discussion about the potential for misdiagnosis of the closet narcissistic personalitywith BPD. Misdiagnosis can occur because of a clinician’s attention to the overt presentation of the emotional lability in the individual to the exclusion of an understanding of the cognitive and socio-emotional experience that guides the lability. As with social avoidance, the emotional lability of the vulnerable narcissist is influenced by his or her covert entitlement and difficulties managing disappointment and self-esteem threat. In contrast, the emotionally lability of the individual with BPD is a byproduct of unrealistic anaclitic needs (e.g., the need for a strong caretaker to manage his or her fears of being independent).

avoidant personality

Both the AVPD and the vulnerable narcissistic character will likely report difficulties with feeling self-conscious in interpersonal situations, along with the tendency to avoid situations in which they expect to be ridiculed. The difference between AVPD and vulnerable narcissistic characters lies in their expectations for themselves and others. Individuals with AVPD have needs to be liked and accepted by others, but fear they will fail to be acceptable to others. In contrast, vulnerable narcissistic characters need others to respond favorably to them and to admire them regardless of their behaviors, beliefs, skills, or social status, but fear that others will fail to provide them with narcissistic supplies. For vulnerable narcissistic characters, it is not mere concern about being liked or not. Rather, the vulnerable narcissist’s fear is that he or she will not be admired. Furthermore, vulnerable narcissistic individuals experience significant injury and anger in response to perceived slights. Their avoidance of relationships is based upon their fear of not being able to tolerate the disappointment of their unrealistic expectations.

The assessment of entitled expectations and exploitative motivations are important variables that would guide how an individual approaches and experiences relationships, including a therapeutic relationship. Not acknowledging narcissistic entitlement when it is present could lead to important misinterpretations of clients’ experiences that either reinforce their sense of entitlement or lead to unrecognized self-esteem threat in the therapeutic relationship (Gabbard, 1998).”

From “Interpersonal analysis of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism” Dickinson, Kelly A; Pincus, Aaron L

Comparing covert narcissism and BPD

covert_narcissism2

I read an excellent article (thank to Natasha!) last night about covert narcissism, which is not currently recognized by the DSM, although it’s been considered as a provisional diagnosis.

Covert (vulnerable) narcissists are essentially low-functioning narcissists who present a shy, avoidant, humble, or caring image but they also constantly struggle with feelings of inferiority, emptiness, and self hatred. Like overt narcissists, they are hypersensitive to criticism but don’t hide it as well. They can become quite parasitic, relying on the support of others, either financially, emotionally or otherwise–but never giving back, even if they try to make a show of how “giving” they are. From what I’ve read in this article, it seems that the symptoms of covert narcissism, a subtype of NPD, are remarkably similar to those of BPD, with a few glaring differences:

— The covert narcissist suffers from more pathological envy than a person with BPD. The envy stems from a hidden sense of entitlement or superiority to others that belies their false humility and actual low self esteem. BPD is not characterized by a sense of entitlement. In a way they are wearing a double mask or have two false selves: the grandiose false self (that cloaks the emptiness they really feel) which is cloaked by false humility and shame. A covert narcissist may constantly be apologizing, but they don’t really mean it.

— A covert narcissist is more likely than a borderline to seek out friends who they perceive as “beneath” them so they can feel superior in comparison. This also stands out from an overt narcissist, who will seek out anyone who can provide them with supply (and likes to be associated with those they look up to). Covert narcissists avoid people they perceive as superior or having more than they do, which is most people.

— The covert narcissist has Avoidant (or introverted) features not associated with the DSM-recognized symptoms of BPD (although it’s possible for a borderline to be introverted and socially phobic, or for Avoidant PD and BPD to be comorbid with each other, as they are for me). Covert narcissists are more socially awkward than borderlines and can seem very similar on the surface to someone with Aspergers or Social Phobia. But behind the avoidant or socially awkward traits is a fear of being discovered and a hidden feeling of superiority to other people, unlike someone with Aspergers who simply finds relating to people exhausting or uncomfortable or a person with Social Phobia, who finds relating to others terrifying.

— They have no empathy. Any “empathy” they show is false, intended to get supply by bolstering their image as a “nice” person. Borderlines usually have at least a rudimentary ability to experience empathy.

— Like a classic narcissist, a covert narcissist lives in fear of their own emptiness being exposed, while someone with BPD lives in fear of being abandoned.

— Borderlines are more likely to be suicidal or self-harm than a covert narcissist, who may do self destructive things or threaten suicide for attention (supply) but will rarely make a serious attempt.

— Borderlines are more impulsive.

http://www.researchgate.net/publication/275665641_Narcissistic_Personality_Disorder_Diagnostic_and_Clinical_Challenges

This is also a very good article comparing covert NPD with overt (classic, grandiose) NPD: http://narcissisticbehavior.net/revealing-the-two-faces-of-narcissism-overt-and-covert-narcissism/

Some people believe covert narcissists are actually more malignant than classic narcissists, because their agenda is so hidden (covert) and they can seem like such nice, humble people. Although they are harder to detect, I think they really want people to see them as “nice” even though their motives are entirely selfish. I think the reason some narcissists become covert is because early in childhood they learned that acting grandiose or entitled was too dangerous (they were likely to be punished for it) so they cloaked their grandiosity behind false humility and shame. This is why they often feel victimized by everyone but at the same time feel entitled to be treated as if they are special and separate themselves from others, who they see as morally inferior (but actually feel inferior to–yes, it’s very confusing!) At the same time, a covert narcissist is more likely to seek therapy than a classic narcissist because their lives are so unsatisfying and limited–and for the same reason also more likely to be cured if they commit themselves to getting better. In this way they don’t differ too much from people with BPD.

A person with NPD can also switch back and forth between the covert and overt subtypes. When things are going well and supply is abundant, a covert narcissist may become grandiose and aggressive, and a normally grandiose narcissist can become much more covert when their supply is running low or has been removed.

The honeymoon is over.

lost

I’ve been feeling quite strange the past week. It’s the worst I’ve felt in about a year. It started with feelings of anxiety and panic, racing and morbid thoughts and a feeling of unnamed dread. I’d try to nap and my heart would start racing so I’d give up. DBT skills didn’t work and some of my BPD (or PTSD) behaviors returned–negativistic behavior, feeling offended easily, sulking, fits of anger (not directed at anyone but expressed in imaginary conversations with myself in the car or at home), low frustration tolerance, paranoia. I’ve been less motivated to write. I’ve been neglecting housekeeping and eating right. Getting up in the morning is excruciating.

It was all I could do to make it through work. I was feeling sorry for myself all day and at the same time felt guilty for feeling that way. The anxiety has lessened but it’s been replaced by despair and some kind of deep sadness.

I don’t cry easily, but I started crying a few hours ago and couldn’t stop. It feels good to cry, but the feelings are so painful. I feel unworthy. I feel impotent. I feel angry at my parents for training me to be such a good little victim. I hate my ex. I hate myself. I suck at everything. I can’t relate to people. I hate people. I want to connect but I just can’t. I think people will hate me if I let them get too close. My world is so small and constrained and unsatisfying because of my fear of relating to others and reaching out, and because I never have enough money to do anything or go anywhere anyway. The summer’s slipping away and it reminds me of all the lost opportunities and all the doors that have slammed shut, never to reopen. That’s where my head is at. It’s a bad place to be. I feel like I’m losing control. It’s like a war inside my head. I hate all this wallowing in self pity but maybe it’s an opportunity to nurture myself.

I need to find a therapist. This blog is a wonderful tool for healing and it’s something I won’t let go of. It’s brought me a lot of joy. A lot of frustration too, but mostly joy. So I’ll keep blogging. I’d still rather do this than anything else.

But something, I don’t know what, has been triggered–by what I don’t know–and I’ve reached a point where just writing isn’t enough. I need someone to talk to who can help me sort out whatever’s going on in my head right now. I think journaling every day may have brought me to this point.

I’m not giving up. The good thing is that my emotions, while not really under my control at the moment, are there for me to feel. I’m not depressed in the apathetic, almost zombie-like way I used to get depressed when I was living with my narcissist ex. This is an active depression where my emotions are accessible to me and I can sort of name them and I just have to let myself feel them. I’m grateful for that at least. This is what I wanted. But what do I do with them? Can they make me a better, kinder, happier, more empathetic person? That’s what I really want. I need to find someone who can show me what to do with all these emotions.

I guess this means the honeymoon is over, and now the real work begins.

Raw nerve.

everything_is_fine

Over the past few days I have been extremely anxious, even panicky. I can’t focus enough to write anything or do much of anything else either. I really have no idea why or what might have triggered it.

Last night instead of writing anything, I poked around on nostalgia sites, reminiscing about the things of my childhood, particularly the snack food. My childhood was terrible, but I have fond memories of the various sugary and salty foods I ate (why in %$#& did Buitoni ever stop making those awful but delicious toaster pizzas? Where’s a chalky, non-chewy Giant Sweet-Tart when you need one?) and the toys I played with (those over 45 or 50 or so will remember that Fuzzy Wuzzy soap that grew “hair” just like a Chia pet and had a small but high quality prize inside). These memories bring me a measure of comfort. Things seemed so much simpler before everything started going to hell about 30 years ago and hearts began to harden and greed became good because a movie character named Gordon Gecko said so. Life has just become way too complicated and stressful for someone like me (although I couldn’t live without the Internet, which for someone like me is the best thing that could ever have happened).

Sometimes I feel like I just can’t cope anymore. I’m so tired. I’m getting old. I have too many unresolved psychological issues. I worry about the future constantly. I have a pervasive feeling of nameless dread, as if something terrible is about to happen.

I don’t know where these feelings come from or what might have triggered them, but I feel like a raw nerve and even at work have been jumpy, quick to take offense to everything, and paranoid. I have too many disorders to function well at a job for any length of time, especially when it comes to dealing with others. Sometimes I just wish I could go off by myself and live as a hermit, never having to deal with anyone, but for that you need money and I have no money. I’m caught in a no-win situation.

The job might be part of the problem. I’m burned out; I hate my job. There. I said it. I hate the politics at work, and the favoritism. I’m not a favorite. I have never been a favorite at any job. I can’t play the game; I have never been able to play the game. I wish I didn’t have to work, or could just write and make a living that way. But I can’t, not yet anyway. I don’t want to look for a new job because I know it will be as crappy as the one I have, that I’ll still be forced to deal with people I dislike and who dislike me just as much. I’ll still feel like the odd one out, the employee who is most expendable and always overlooked. I’m so ill suited for the service industry but I can’t get my foot in the door for anything else. I burned all my bridges a long time ago, and now I’m well past 50 and it’s too late to start over in an employment situation or going back to school. My only hope left is to become a professional writer.

The DBT and self-soothing tools I normally use to focus and center are not working. My thoughts are racing and my hands are shaking. My sleep has been fitful. Maybe it’s the heat but I think it’s more than that. I feel like my head will explode. I don’t know what’s really going on with me right now. I need to find a good therapist. I need to be in a relationship but am too scared. I need to write more.

One thing that might be contributing to my high anxiety is caffeine. I’m addicted to coffee. I’m craving some right now, but I don’t think I should make any. I might have to cut down on my favorite beverage–a prospect which itself causes me anxiety.

I spend most of my free time holed up inside the house on this laptop, which is fine when I’m actually being productive, but last night all I did was poke around on random nostalgia sites and Facebook and wrote absolutely nothing. And then felt guilty about it.

I know what I need to do is go out, do something outside the house, get off the computer, but I don’t have the motivation.

Finally I got the idea to just write about my panic-stricken state. After all, this blog was intended to be my therapy, so what have I got to lose?

Crybaby.

kid_crying

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.

meanteacher

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.

white_rabbit

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.

charlie_brown_linus

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.

nobody_loves_you

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.

Are BPD and complex PTSD the same disorder?

age_3_1961_2
Me at age 3 in the zone. Was the template for my BPD already laid down?

Ruji, a new commenter on this blog, made an interesting observation–that BPD should be divided into at least two subtypes: Empathy Challenged/Character Disordered (closer to NPD/ASPD) and Highly Sensitive Person with Emotional Dysregulation (closer to the type I have, although at different times in my life or when extremely stressed I have displayed the more character-disordered subtype). I agree with her. Ruji’s idea is remarkably similar to The World Health Organization’s two subtypes of BPD:

1. F60.30 Impulsive type
At least three of the following must be present, one of which must be (2):

–marked tendency to act unexpectedly and without consideration of the consequences;
–marked tendency to engage in quarrelsome behavior and to have conflicts with others, especially when impulsive acts are thwarted or criticized;
–liability to outbursts of anger or violence, with inability to control the resulting behavioral explosions;
–difficulty in maintaining any course of action that offers no immediate reward;
–unstable and capricious (impulsive, whimsical) mood.

2. F60.31 Borderline type
At least three of the symptoms mentioned in F60.30 Impulsive type must be present [see above], with at least two of the following in addition:

–disturbances in and uncertainty about self-image, aims, and internal preferences;
–liability to become involved in intense and unstable relationships, often leading to emotional crisis;
–excessive efforts to avoid abandonment;
–recurrent threats or acts of self-harm;
–chronic feelings of emptiness.
–demonstrates impulsive behavior, e.g., speeding, substance abuse

Psychologist Theodore Millon has gone even further, proposing that BPD should be divided into four subtypes:

1. Discouraged (including avoidant features): Pliant, submissive, loyal, humble; feels vulnerable and in constant jeopardy; feels hopeless, depressed, helpless, and powerless.

2. Petulant (including negativistic features) Negativistic, impatient, restless, as well as stubborn, defiant, sullen, pessimistic, and resentful; easily slighted and quickly disillusioned.

3. Impulsive (including histrionic or antisocial features) Capricious, superficial, flighty, distractible, frenetic, and seductive; fearing loss, becomes agitated, and gloomy and irritable; potentially suicidal.

4. Self-destructive (including depressive or masochistic features) Inward-turning, intropunitively angry; conforming, deferential, and ingratiating behaviors have deteriorated; increasingly high-strung and moody; possible suicide.

Millon’s Types 1 and 4 would correspond to the Highly Sensitive Person/Emotional Dysregulation type mentioned above (and therefore closer to the Avoidant/Dependent PDs); Type 2 sounds very much like NPD; and Type 3 seems closer to ASPD or Histrionic PD.

complex_ptsd
BPD symptoms are almost identical to those of Complex PTSD.

There are so many diverse–almost opposite–symptoms that can appear with this disorder that one person with BPD can be very different from the next. In fact, you can take 10 borderlines and they will all seem very different from each other, with barely any similarities in their behavior at all. One will be shy, fearful and retiring, never making waves, acting almost like an Aspie or an Avoidant; while another may break the law, lie constantly, and act obnoxious and rage whenever things don’t go their way. A borderline could be your raging boss who drinks too much and ends every annual Christmas party with one of his infamous rages, or it could be the sweet and pretty schoolteacher who goes home every night and cuts herself. She could be the come-hither seductress or the nerdy computer programmer. He may have few or no friends or a great many.

This diversity is not the case with the other personality disorders, which have more cohesiveness in the symptoms their sufferers display. So I wonder–is BPD really a personality disorder at all? Does it even exist, or is it really just a group of trauma-caused symptoms the experts in their ivory towers stuck in a single box called “BPD” because they didn’t know how else to classify them?

In fact, all these diverse subtypes have one thing in common–they are all very similar or identical to the symptoms of someone with complex PTSD (C-PTSD). People with C-PTSD are often misdiagnosed as Borderlines because their behaviors can be just as baffling and manipulative, and both disorders also include dissociative, almost psychotic episodes. Extrapolating from that, I wonder if ALL borderlines actually have C-PTSD.

Earlier today I posted an article outlining 20 signs of unresolved trauma, and I was struck by how similar these were to the symptoms of BPD. And there is also this article that Ruji just brought to my attention that also describes how remarkably similar the two disorders are, but that the idea of fear of abandonment (which is recognized as the root cause of BPD) is not recognized as a factor in causing PTSD and that may be part of why they have been kept separate.

The BPD label, like any Cluster B label, is very damaging to its victims because of the “evil and character-disordered” stigma it carries. One psychologist has even included us, along with narcissists, among the “People of the Lie”!

Yes, it’s true some borderlines do act a lot like people with NPD or even Malignant Narcissism or ASPD, but most probably do not, and are really much more similar to people with Avoidant or even Dependent personality disorders, which hurt the sufferer more than anyone else. But if you have a BPD label, people start backing away from you slowly due to the stigma. Therapists are reluctant to treat you because they assume you will be either difficult and hateful in therapy sessions, or will never get better. Insurance companies won’t pay claims where there is a BPD diagnosis, because it’s assumed there is no hope for you. I’ve had this problem when I’ve tried to get therapy. I remember one therapist who I had seen for the intake session, who told me he needed to obtain my psychiatric records before we could proceed. The session had gone smoothly and I felt comfortable with him. A few days later I received a phone call and was told he did not treat “borderline patients” and wished me luck. So that’s the kind of thing we’re up against if we’ve had the BPD label slapped on us.

Also, as an ACON blogger who works with a lot of victims of narcissistic abuse, my BPD label sometimes makes people wary of me and they begin to doubt that my motives here are honest. At first I was reluctant to talk about my “Cluster B disorder” here, because I knew it might be a problem for some ACONs, who think borderlines are no better than narcissists. But I eventually decided that to hide it away like an embarrassing family secret would be misleading so I “came out” about having BPD (I never actually lied about it, but played it down in the beginning and rarely mentioned it). I’m glad I fessed up, but there have been a few people who left this blog after I came out about it or began to doubt my motives. So there’s that stigma and it’s very damaging.

Both C-PTSD and Borderline PD are caused by trauma. Both are complex defensive reactions against future abuse and both involve things like splitting, dissociation, psychotic episodes, self-destructiveness, wild mood swings, and behavior that appears to be narcissistic and manipulative.

The way I see it, the only real difference between C-PTSD and BPD is that the traumatic event or abuse happened at an earlier age for someone with BPD, perhaps during toddlerhood or infancy, while all forms of PTSD can happen at a later age, even adulthood. But the symptoms and defense mechanisms used to avoid further trauma are the same for both.

Two new header tabs!

whats_new

Because I write so much about my Aspergers, I realized it would be easier for my readers to find related articles if I made a kind of “Table of Contents” listing the relevant posts. I decided to do the same for my Avoidant Personality Disorder, even though I haven’t written too much about it (my Aspergers and Avoidant traits tend to blend together so there’s a lot of overlap).

Living with Avoidant Personality Disorder

Living with Aspergers

Later, I may add an additional tab about BPD, but because my articles about BPD tend to blend in with the NPD and general Cluster B disorders articles (of which there are far too many to list in a header tab), it would be a lot more difficult to separate them. It would also be harder to pick out the ones applying only to my own experience in having BPD, from those talking about BPD in general. Anyway, my header graphic pretty much announces that this blog is primarily about narcissism and BPD (which I’ve been writing a lot more about recently).