Bipolar: The roller coaster I didn’t pay to get on

Very readable and relevant article about living with Bipolar disorder and dealing with people who still insist on stigmatizing mental illness. Thank you, “Mama”! 🙂
Please leave comments under the original post. Oh, and please follow her blog too.

I'm Mama, but I'm still me...

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You’re crazy! You’re a bitch! You’re a mess! I wish you’d just get your shit together! Why can’t you be normal? Just get out of bed! It’s like you’re two different people! It’s all in your head! You’re just lazy! Good for nothing! Worthless! Pathetic!

These are just a few of the things I’ve heard over the years in my struggle with my mental health. Some of these things have been said by friends. Some of these things have been said by loved ones. And some of these things I’ve said to myself.

Have you ever had a bad day? I mean, a really bad day. You wake up late. Forget the most important thing that you needed for work at home, but you’re already late, so you have to make up an excuse not only about your lateness, but about your not bringing that important thing. Your boss calls…

View original post 1,355 more words

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Guest Post #7: How hypersexuality plays a role in Bipolar disorder

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I’m honored to introduce my 7th guest blogger, Jess Melancholia from The Bipolar Compass, a blog about her experiences living with the manic-depressive form of Bipolar Disorder. In her post, she will be discussing how hypersexuality can be a symptom of the manic (or in Jess’s case, hypomanic) phase of this disorder. I applaud Jess for her courage in openly sharing this delicate but surprisingly common symptom of the manic phase of Bipolar disorder.

From her About Page:

Jess Melancholia is a bpHope Magazine blogger who resides in San Diego, California with her husband and cat. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 in May 2014 after suffering a 6 month bipolar depression triggered by extreme family medical stresses. Through medication and a strong support system, she works tirelessly to live a “normal” life and keep her hypomanic and depressive episodes under control. Her hobbies include playing horror video games and wine tasting. Her daytime profession is a molecular biologist at a biotechnology company.

HOW HYPERSEXUALITY PLAYS A ROLE IN BIPOLAR DISORDER
By Jess Melancholia, The Bipolar Compass

I know what you’re thinking; if I’m writing about bipolar 2 disorder, then why am I talking specifically about sex? No one in their right mind would talk about sex to promote their mental illness blog. Why risk chasing away followers? Why not make it easy on myself and just talk about the other bipolar symptoms of mania such as anxiety, overspending, and feelings of grandiosity? Because that’s what everyone else talks about. And while those are important to me, the one that impacts my life the most is what I want to focus on. And if that makes you uncomfortable then stop reading. But I think that we are all adults here and that things like this need to be addressed. There are countless people out there that want me to talk about this. That need me to be their voice. And I want to be there for them, because they deserve to have their story told.

What in the world is hypersexuality?
That would definitely be my first question if I was reading this post. Well I’m glad you asked. I’m actually very excited to talk about such a delicate subject with you. Please be aware that this is not a joke and that I’m being completely serious about this. If you need more information, please refer to the links in the article and my personal blog for more details. If you are experiencing bipolar hypersexuality, then please contact your doctor immediately to get some help. I’ll start off by giving a little bit of background on this topic.

Hypersexuality is essentially, from my personal experience, an overwhelming desire and obsessive preoccupation with sex and sexual content caused by the presence of a manic episode. In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition), it’s listed as a primary symptom of bipolar under the category of “sexual indiscretions.” bpHope.com is a fantastic resource when it comes to articles and expert advice on what the symptoms look like as well as professional opinions from leading experts in bipolar disorder. The technical content I relate to in this post is accredited to them.

According to some studies, hypersexuality can occur between the range of 25 to 80 percent of all patients with mania! Recent studies suggest around 57 percent! For something that prevalent, it’s amazing that such a subject is rarely if ever talked about.

There are varying opinions as to the cause of the symptom. One such opinion pioneered by Louis J. Cozolino, PhD, a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University in southern California, and leading bipolar disorder guru, says that it’s akin to sexual addiction. He goes on to say that people who are manic with this symptom display “vulnerability to a ‘disinhibition’ of social restraints during manic periods.” In fact, there are studies to suggest that there is more blood flow to the left part of the amygdala (almond-shaped part of the brain that deals with fear and panic) in bipolar patients than in other people. Furthermore, feelings of pleasure and arousal are related to a sort of calming effect. Sort of like taking painkillers.

For me, it IS essentially a painkiller. Whenever I’m hypersexual, I stress the need for sexual satisfaction as a top priority. With being happily married to a wonderful husband, this kind of symptom tends to get me in serious trouble. Last year, I had a terribly bad manic episode that lasted several months. During that time period, I lost complete control of myself and acted out sexually towards some stupid college kid I met chatting online. He seduced me into cybersex and phone sex with him along with eventually meeting up a few times. As many times as I told myself and him no, that I can’t and won’t do this, he always managed to get inside my head and change my mind. Under normal circumstance, none of his tricks would’ve worked on me. However, when I was manic, all I did was focus nonstop on sexual satisfaction. The worst part was nothing was ever enough. I needed more and more. Nothing would satiate me. It took over my entire brain and wouldn’t let go until the mania finally died. Despite the fact that I fought fervently against my overwhelming urges, I still was constantly unable to stop myself from falling into temptation.

Now that the clouds have parted and the dust has settled, I can think clearly and work around the triggers that caused me to lose control. My husband and I educated ourselves thoroughly on hypersexuality and he has now forgiven me for my actions. Whereas I was and am still responsible for all actions I take, I understand now that my behavior was a symptom of an illness. A common symptom of bipolar mania. Armed with this information, him, my best friends, and my healthcare professionals have all agreed on a strategic prevention plan to help minimize my triggers and prevent any future mistakes.

Although I do feel guilty everyday for what I did, I no longer feel ashamed of myself. What happened was a terrible mistake but I’ve learned considerable information from it. With knowledge comes power and I’m trying every single day to bring that power back into my own hands. Hopefully I’ll regain it fully one day.

Don’t be ashamed of your actions. Learn from them and grow.

Please visit The Bipolar Compass:
http://bipolarcompass.com/

NPD mood cycles can mimic Bipolar disorder.

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I remembered something about my NPD ex tonight. He used to have mood swings that seemed in many ways reminiscent of Bipolar disorder. It was only later I realized what they really were–cycles of of grandiose entitlement and dejected self-pity. Whenever supply was abundant–such as when he was promoted at work–he became puffed up with pride and this resulted in an attitude of entitlement and grandiosity which he lorded over his subjects, namely me. He also seemed somewhat manic when he was in one of these grandiose phases.  These were the times he was the most likely to become overtly abusive, both emotionally and physically. Instead of being happy the way a normal person might when thingsa are going well for them, my ex became hostile and prone to pick fights. I learned to dread the times in which good things happened to him, because that was when his narcissism seemed to go into overdrive.

When his supply was running low, he sank into deep depressions, in which he lost all his motivation and energy and spent most of his time staring dejectedly into space or sleeping (or pacing the house frantically at night). His “manic” behavior disappeared and he talked very little when he talked at all. When he did speak, it was to moan endlessly about how terrible his life was and how everyone had it in for him (nothing was ever his fault, and he was still assigning himself Center of the Universe status).  He acted helpless and needy, and wallowed in self pity like a pig in mud. He sometimes threatened suicide (but never attempted it–narcissists generally don’t). As annoying as his depressed moods were, I preferred him that way because he was less overtly abusive (though still abusive in a covert, manipulative way). He acted a lot “crazier” in his depressive states and suffered terrible panic attacks on a regular basis. This actually fits with an NPD diagnosis: when a narcissist isn’t getting any supply and their victims aren’t cooperating, they begin to feel like they don’t exist, and can become very depressed and dissociated. The dissociation can lead to severe panic attacks and even psychotic episodes.

The terms “covert narcissism” and “overt narcissism” aren’t mutually exclusive. A covert narcissist (the depressed, “fragile” type) will usually become more overt (grandiose) when supply is high. A grandiose (overt) type will sink to a more covert form of narcissism when supply is low. The two types of narcissism are really just two halves of the same personality disorder. Grandiose narcissists are thought of as being high achievers, but that may be because since they get more positive supply to begin with, they have more reason to act grandiose.

Before I put two and two together and realized my ex’s bizarre mood swings were in direct proportion to how much praise and recognition from others he was getting, I was sure he had Bipolar disorder. Unlike most narcissists, he did see a psychiatrist (mainly to get meds for his depressions and anxiety; there was little to no desire on his part to improve himself), who actually gave my ex a Bipolar diagnosis.

The most common type of Bipolar disorder is what used to be called Manic Depression. During a manic phase, the patient is likely to be extremely hyper, grandiose, testy, and quick to anger. They have an unrealistic sense of their own invincibility that doesn’t line up with reality. This is very similar to the grandiose phase of someone with NPD.

The covert (depressed) phase of NPD can look extremely similar to the depressive phase of Bipolar disorder. The main difference is, a narcissist will generally not follow through on suicide threats (because they are intended to manipulate and garner sympathy, a form of supply) while someone who is Bipolar is in grave danger of suicide. A bipolar patient can also be helped by medication, while there is no effective medication for NPD (although antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help with some of the symptoms).

Further reading:

The Relationship Between Narcissism and Bipolar Disorder

Guest post #4: You Are Empowered (Just Plain Ol’ Vic)

I’m happy to introduce my 4th guest blogger, Just Plain Ol’ Vic.  Vic’s blog is one of my favorites.  I’ve been following it almost from the very beginning of my blogging journey and have found it always inspiring and thoughtful.    Vic has helped me through many of my own rough moments and is a regular commenter on this blog too. Be sure to stop by his blog!

This is from his About page:

Just Plain Ol’ Vic

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Bio: Thanks for taking a look at my blog. I am Just Plain Ol’ Vic, however Vic will do just fine. I originally started this blog as a form of writing therapy. I am happily married, with kids but my wife suffers from bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, has an eating disorder and is a recovering alcoholic. Needless to say it is quite a bit for one individual to handle, thus my blog. I started this blog to connect with others that suffer from mental health issues and/or have loved ones that have mental health challenges. This is a way for me to connect, discuss and educate myself about my wife’s condition and perhaps in turn, allow me to be a better spouse. Perhaps too, in hearing my story, others will know that they are not alone and there is help, empathy and resources out there. My blog has since developed beyond just talking about mental health (although that is still a priority). I pretty much discuss what is on my mind or happening in my life. I am not afraid to spout verbal diarrhea, give unsubstantiated opinions and generally exercise my 1st Amendment rights. Along the way I hope to provoke some thoughts, get you interactive with my blog…perhaps even make you crack a smile and belly-laugh every now and then. So if by now you are still interested and willingly join me on my journey, thanks for coming along and don’t forget to buckle up! http://justplainolvic.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/tempting-fate-taking-a-leap-of-faith/

Here is his guest post, not really about himself, but about all the wonderful things he’s learned from living with his wife, who suffers from Bipolar disorder.   Through their relationship, joys and struggles, Vic says he has developed a level of empathy and understanding for the mentally ill he might not have otherwise had.  I thought his story was very touching and inspirational and I even got a little misty-eyed reading it.

YOU ARE EMPOWERED

By Plain Ol’ Vic (http://justplainolvic.com/ )

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Introduction:

Hello there, my name is Vic and first of all I would like to thank Lauren for giving me this wonderful opportunity as a guest blogger.  I don’t think my story makes me any more special than the next person, thus my moniker of “just plain ‘ol” seems very appropriate.  I am just a guy, husband and father that is trying to make sense of his world and do right by my family. There are days that this is harder than it sounds; as my wife has bi-polar disorder, has attempted suicide, has had multiple hospitalizations, is a recovering alcoholic and recovering from an eating disorder.  Guess what?  She is and will always be a wonderful woman and I am lucky to be married to her.

 Instead of telling my story and the trials and tribulations we have faced as a couple and family, instead I would like to talk about some of the positive things I have learned as I have become more educated and empathetic to the challenges my wife faces on a daily basis. As tough as the challenges have been, as daunting and insurmountable as the obstacles seem to be – we are still here, engaged in the moment and are as strong (perhaps stronger) than we ever were.

***

It is so easy, when someone suffers from a mental illness, to have it consume their lives and allow it to define who they are, how their perceive themselves and become the cornerstone of their existence.  I am here to tell you that does not have to be the case!  You ARE empowered to be who you CHOOSE to be, should EXPECT people to treat you the way you DESERVE to be treated and you should NEVER SETTLE for anything less.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

I know it is hard to look in the mirror and not “see” your mental illness.  I challenge you to look beyond the physical and see your spirit within.  See the inner beauty, the inner resilience and the inner fighter that you have become.  “Normal” and “perfect” do not exist, they are made up abstractions.  Who you are, your uniqueness is what makes you beautiful.  If you can embrace that inner beauty, it is the first crucial step to learning to love yourself.

YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE AND AFFECTION

Having a mental illness does not make you “less deserving” than the next person. Despite the challenges you may face every day, you are deserving of a partner that will love you for who you are – not what they want you to be.  While a relationship can and will be challenging at times, you can find someone that will accept and love you the way you are.  The key to this is communication:  being open and honest from the first moment.  Making sure you have a partner that you can talk to, confide in and lean on is critical.  No relationship is ever perfect but it can work for you as long as you are willing to work for it.

YOU ARE POWERFUL, STRONG & CAPABLE

Having a mental illness does not make you less of a person, less capable than someone that is “healthy.”  Indeed you may actually be much stronger than a “healthy” individual because you have to endure so much more.  Never doubt your ability to lead a full and productive life.  You are capable of achieving whatever you set your mind to.  Now I am not going to deny that it may be tough, that there may be setbacks – however you are powerful, strong and capable – you can take back your life.  Your life and your contribution is just as important and relevant as anyone else, so shout your message from the rooftops and embrace all that makes you unique.

I would like to show you this video where I drew inspiration from for this post.  Now I have made it clear that while I am not religious I am a spiritual individual, however despite that I cannot deny the power of this message.  Please also understand that I think is message (and my message) is geared for both men and women.  Take the time to listen to some of the words that are said and understand that this IS you or CAN be you If you so choose.  There are so many things misunderstood when it comes to mental illness, so many stigmas out there.  However if you empower yourself, share and communicate your story then you too can help other see what makes you so wonderful, so unique and so human.

I wish everyone the best.  Be well.  Take care of yourself and each other.

Just Plain ‘Ol Vic.

 

Guest Post #1: When My World Shattered

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Credit: Unknown artist, Favim.com

I’m thrilled to introduce my first guest blogger, Tessa from Advocate for Mental Illness.   Her blog is about her daily struggles with Bipolar disorder, told from a Christian perspective.  She has recently given her life to Jesus Christ.  Here is her bio from her About page:

ABOUT TESSA

Teresa (Tessa) Smeigh is over 55 and still going strong despite her disabilities affecting both physical and mental abilities. She has bipolar disorder (mental), Fibromyalgia (nerves), degenerative disc disease (spine), and arthritis (joints). Despite that she is active in Mental Health Advocating, writing for http://www.IBPF.org (volunteer for non-profit) and has 5 blog posts already published by them. She is also working on 2 fiction books (mysteries). She keeps her blog filled with useful content, daily devotionals (She is a Christian), stories and poems. Plenty to keep you busy. She has also been interviewed by blogs and had other posts published on many different blogs. She has 2 blogs so far http://www.tessacandoit.com and http://www.finallyawriter.com She is from Deptford, NJ. Her family and blogs keep her busy.
Although she doesn’t focus on it in her blog, Tessa also has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and complex PTSD.  I have asked her to write a guest post about having BPD, because none of my other guest bloggers are writing about BPD but I already have several who will be writing about Bipolar and complex PTSD.
Here is her guest post.
When My World Shattered!
I am a 59 year old female who has suffered mental health conditions since birth. Since I was born in the 50’s people didn’t talk about mental health. Even with a suicide in the family it was not talked about.
As an infant I took anxiety medication in order to keep food in my stomach. I was considered to have a “nervous stomach.” My mother kept a supply of anxiety medicine at hand all through my childhood because anything could set me off into an “anxiety episode” and hysteria. This was common throughout my childhood. My self-soothing unfortunately was considered self-harm by today’s standards.
At a very young age I developed signs of bipolar disorder which at the time we did not know. I got an official diagnosis in my early 30’s after a breakdown. Also by the same procedure, a hospital stay almost 4 years ago picked up on the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and I followed the symptoms back to when I was a child as well, but a little bit later than the bipolar.
Bipolar disorder and BPD are similar in symptoms and are often misdiagnosed. I have officially now been diagnosed with both. The biggest difference between the two is the length between the mood swings. Since my mood swings as a very young child were months apart it is most likely the bipolar disorder started first. Then later when the BPD developed they became rapid even changing during a single day or even hour.
It is difficult to break the symptoms down and say this belongs to bipolar disorder and this belongs to BPD. I will just go into the symptoms I suffer as one. Which is the direct cause, is not really necessary to know at this point.
How about a little history on BPD?
Symptoms usually manifest in childhood, but don’t become serious until a person becomes a young adult. This fits close to my time-line. Only I figure mine started in my teens after a traumatic experience of having been almost raped twice by the time I was 15 years old. I was then emotionally raped at 17 years old where I was told by the young man that either we had sex at that point or he was leaving me (abandonment considered to play a role in BPD) and we had just gotten back together. I couldn’t let him go. I gave in and that was also traumatic. I wasn’t ready. During that time I also suffered a miscarriage although I really didn’t know it at the time. I was totally naive even though my low self-esteem led me to wear sexy clothing and flaunt my body to every man. I didn’t know why I did it. I craved that attention though (promiscuity).
The exact cause of BPD is not know though they suspect brain chemistry plays a role, also genetics and environmental factors, along with the possibility of childhood trauma.
To add to the trauma, the 17 year old played the “I am going to kill myself if you don’t marry me” game when I tried to break up our relationship. I felt stuck, my emotions caused me to give in and marry him. I didn’t love him, but I was married at 19 years old. At 21 I had my first child, 22 I had my second and by 30 I had three children.  By then my weight was out of control due to binge eating.
My self-harm became more severe although I did resist cutting after I tried it and felt it didn’t give me the feelings I needed to soothe myself.
My anger intensified, but I kept it inside. I did not explode into rages unless you really pushed me but those rages were severe. People didn’t listen to my warnings and I flew into rages, shocking people with their intensity.
Paranoia became a constant state of my life. I am always sure people are talking about me. Even today.
Dissociation has been a constant since childhood. I always daydreamed and put myself into my books. I loved to read and my parents would force me outside. That triggered my anxiety and panic.
Severe depression for months on end would cause suicidal thoughts and several attempts and the last one landed me in the hospital for treatment and intense therapy. Luckily I didn’t succeed. The last one was the most serious.
I am currently in severe financial poverty due to low disability payments and reckless spending while I was manic.  Manic episodes are currently considered a symptom of both bipolar disorder and BPD.
I also have had a lot of unsafe sex due to my promiscuity, which is another shared trait.
BPD is difficult to treat. Usually a therapist, especially one trained in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) or CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), combined with medications such as anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and mood stabilizers will help tone down the symptoms.
***
Please visit Tessa’s blog here. 
My apologies about the wonky spacing.  WP isn’t letting me change the coding and I don’t know CSS.  I hope that doesn’t affect anyone’s reading experience!

Going insane: how I got diagnosed with BPD

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I thought I should explain how I got diagnosed with BPD. Although my out of control behaviors in 1995-1996 were due to prolonged emotional and mental (and some physical) abuse at the hands of my ex (on top of having been a victim of narcissistic abuse growing up), the focus of this article isn’t on narcissistic abuse or the way my ex behaved, but rather on my reactions and how out of touch with reality I actually became.

My memory of this time is sketchy and fragmented, almost dreamlike, so what I’m about to write may not flow together well. I believe my fuzzy memories of these two years were due to 3 things: (1) intermittent substance abuse, including alcohol; (2) being so out of touch with reality; and (3) I may have blocked out some of these incidents or partially blocked them out so they seem sort of grey when I think about them now, like a dream.

In 1995 my ex’s mother could no longer live alone so she came to live with us. At first things went smoothly, but she had Alzheimers and was deteriorating fast, and soon her care was left entirely to me. At the same time I was the stay at home mom to a 2 and 4 year old. My ex had started drinking a lot during this time, and said it was because he hated his mother (a malignant narcissist herself) and his behavior toward her was very abusive. He justified his abuse by saying she deserved it because of the way she had treated him. My children saw this behavior but in my emotionally weakened state due to his constant gaslighting, projecting and triangulating (he had turned most of our friends against me) as well as isolating me from those who could help me, I began to collude in his abusive behavior toward his mother. I didn’t physically attack her (he did) but in my frustration with things like her wetting the bed I would yell at her whenever he did and sometimes even when he wasn’t there. I also didn’t try to stop him when he used to spank her like a naughty child.

My ex was drinking heavily and smoking a lot of pot, and I joined him. At night, after the kids were asleep, we would often both be drunk and high. Sometimes his friends came over, who were all younger than we were (my ex’s friends were always younger than him). Sometimes things got wild. I was no longer attracted to my ex by this time due to his constant emotional abuse, so when I was drunk I openly flirted with his friends. I was unfaithful too, but so was he (I am definitely not proud of any of this, especially because I had young children at the time).

We fought constantly. One night, drunk, he threatened me with a gun. I ran down the street screaming and went and hid in a grove of trees for hours in the freezing cold. On several occasions I called the police and they would show up to fund us both drunk and didn’t know who to believe so they would leave and tell us to sober up. At this time I had no control over my reactions or my emotions. I acted more immature than my own kids sometimes.

I used to sleep during the day and wasn’t as good a mother as I could have been. I was testy, impatient and neglectful. I loved my kids dearly, but just didn’t have the emotional stamina or energy to deal with them more effectively or lovingly. (I tried to make up for that later).

Soon the dissociative episodes began. Sometimes things looked weird. People looked like they weren’t real and they seemed demonic. I began to have delusions of reference. I had the weird sensation of unrelated events or conversations somehow referencing exactly what I was thinking. I felt like I was outside my body a lot, as if I was watching the events of my life unfold instead of being in them. This began to happen when I started distancing myself from my emotions into a “comfortable numbness.” (This is common in PTSD and BPD). But it wasn’t comfortable–it was horrifying. I think I was unconsciously protecting myself from feeling too much emotional pain. The abnormal had become normal, the insane had become sane, the evil had become good. I walked through my days in a sort of fog, but not all the time. Occasionally, when triggered, I would come back into myself and “go off” on my ex and experience a tidal wave of unbelievably painful and intense emotions. Instead of spending my evenings doing quiet things with my family, I spent that time on the computer in chat rooms, talking to men. I imagined I fell in love with one or two of them. My emotional reactions to these online entities I had never met were as intense as if they were actual relationships, but all of it was fantasy. To me it felt real.

I couldn’t sleep at night, but would sleep most of the day away. I didn’t take care of the house and only did the rudimentary necessities for the kids, in between taking care of my ex’s mother’s almost constant needs. I lost patience with both her and the kids easily. We ate cereal and yogurt most nights for dinner because I didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to cook anything.

I started a job after awhile at a hotel. I had a short affair with the disc jockey/maintenance man there. I wasn’t in love with him but I enjoyed the kindness he showed me, that my husband wasn’t giving me. One night he confronted me about it and I confessed everything. He didn’t seem upset but admitted he was having an affair too. Strangely, we did not fight about this. I really didn’t care whether he loved me anymore; I was convinced he hated my guts.

I quit my job on a whim even though we needed the extra income, because my ex had squandered over $100K we got from the sale of his mother’s house. One day I just decided not to go in anymore. I didn’t even bother to call, which normally is out of character for me. I started doing really crazy things. One night after a really bad fight I went into the closet in the master bedroom and sat on the floor crying for what seemed like hours. My ex didn’t seem concerned and went out instead. I don’t know why I was doing this; I felt like I had lost my mind and there was no reason for doing this. I had no idea what I was doing; I was just reacting to my pain like a wounded animal. The episodes of dissociation and delusions of reference became worse. I imagined everything–even voices on TV or songs on the radio–were coded messages that referenced something in my life. This is impossible to explain if you haven’t experienced it but it was very strange and disorienting.

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One day shortly after the closet incident, I left the kids in the house with him and decided to go driving. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing, but I suddenly thought it would be a good idea to drive at 90 mph (the speed limit was 65 mph). Normally I’m a very cautious driver but during this time I had thrown all caution to the wind. I wasn’t suicidal in the sense of making a conscious effort to kill myself and I didn’t even contemplate suicide, but I was taking huge risks with my life. Miraculously, nothing happened, not even a pullover by police. I returned home feeling exhilarated from my crazy drive, but immediately that feeling disappeared and I was hit with the horror of my reality and started screaming irrationally and throwing things against the wall just to hear them break. I don’t even know what set this tantrum off–probably nothing at all, but I had this overwhelming desire to act out my excruciating emotional pain. I had no control over myself at all. When I thought about my behavior later on, I was horrified. I wasn’t even drinking anymore by now, so I wasn’t drunk. I was just insane.

My ex told me I was crazy. He always did anyway. But I really was crazy. He told me I should commit myself to a mental institution–or he would. To his surprise (and mine) I agreed. In that moment of clarity, I realized how crazy I had become (due to his emotional abuse of me, but that didn’t make me any less crazy). I allowed him to drive me to the mental hospital, which turned out to have an excellent program and engaging activities. I felt relief in entering that hospital and spent the next three months there. My Axis 1 diagnosis was Major Depression and anxiety, and my Axis 2 diagnosis was BPD, as well as substance abuse. I was also diagnosed with PTSD. I received daily therapy–both individual and group, as well as DBT classes–and I was put on Depakote (a mood stabilizer), Prozac (for the depression) and Klonopin (for anxiety). I stabilized during my stay but I wasn’t as committed to using the DBT tools I learned there as I became later on. I remember calling my mother from the hospital and telling her what was wrong with me, and her attitude was like, “so what? You need to be a mother to your children.” She didn’t even know I was in the hospital. So much for maternal support.

I had mixed feelings about returning home. I was overjoyed to see my children, but wasn’t too happy to see my husband at all. I really just wanted to stay in that hospital for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to face reality.

Fortunately, my mental state never got that bad again, but his abuse was to get much worse. He used my descent into the madness of severe BPD and major depression as an excuse to punish me for “having gone batshit insane” when I should have been a better mother and wife to him.

I still have a lot of guilt and shame over the way I neglected my children when they were so young and helpless. I wonder sometimes how much my not being there for them may have damaged them.

When I look back even earlier at my life, I can remember similar incidents of being totally unable to control my emotional reactions to stressors and triggers, with periods of almost robotic numbness and dissociative episodes in between outbursts. It was a pattern I was familiar with, but it reached its pinnacle in 1995-1996. I had a relapse in 1997 and spent a week in the psych ward at the regular hospital, and got the same exact diagnosis as the year before. Over the next several years, while I was still married to my ex, I spent most of my time in a state of emotional numbness, living on “automatic pilot.” It wasn’t until I finally got the POS out of my life that I felt safe enough to begin to let myself feel emotions again–but this time with mindfulness and acceptance instead of allowing my emotions to control me. I still have a long way to go.

All my narcissistic lovers.

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Not long ago, when I started studying narcissism in depth for this blog, I came to a shocking and disturbing realization: Every single one of the men I had relationships with or fell in love with were narcissists. It’s because I was trained by my family to be Narcissistic Supply, and as a Borderline, these relationships tended to be stormy.

Having BPD means I’m not the ideal codependent doormat, and when I felt violated–even though I’d allow the abuse to continue because after all, I was trained that way–I’d still try to fight back, at least for awhile. This led to lots of drama and some truly terrible fights with narcissistic men who I could never fix, no matter how hard I tried. I sure wish I knew then what I know now.

I have always been attracted to narcissistic men and they have always been attracted to me. I’m easily taken in by their elaborate displays of romance and promises in the beginning–there’s no one more romantic than a narcissist trying to procure you as supply. It’s fun while it lasts, but as soon as they know they have conquered you, the abuse begins. One red flag to watch out for: a man who moves in too fast, or starts talking about a permanent commitment or marriage only weeks after you met them.

Here’s a list of the narcissists I was seriously involved with (or married to). Only one wasn’t a narcissist, but he was severely bi-polar. The names are made up.

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Steve P: my first serious boyfriend in high school. Steve called constantly (like 8-10 times a day at first), wanted to be with me all the time, regularly sent flowers, was very passionate and loving at first. He actually would cry because he “loved me so much.” After a while he became physically and mentally abusive, insulting me, questioning me about other boys, what I was doing when he wasn’t around, calling me names, and finally becoming physically abusive. One day, with absolutely no warning, he called me and told me he was dumping me because he met someone else. I was enraged at the nerve of this but actually relieved to be rid of him finally.

Mark S: my second serious lover during my college years. Mark was very cool–knew everything there was to know about art, music, theater, and he had offbeat, interesting friends. He used to take me to the East Village in New York City where we’d attend all the punk and new wave clubs and shop in funky vintage clothing and record stores. We had a lot of fun. But he was also an intellectual snob and looked down on my “pedestrian” tastes in music, movies, etc. He looked down on my friends, whose intellectual abilities he felt were beneath him. Mark saw himself as a rogue and a cultural rebel, and after awhile his constant put downs became annoying and we’d fight. He also never wanted to have sex (he was a cerebral narcissist), thinking it was a huge waste of time that could be better spent feeding his mind with new cultural experiences. After about a year, he told me I was too boring and my tastes too commercial and pedestrian, and he dumped me for a woman who looked exactly like me but was apparently much more hip and “in the know” about what was cool and cutting edge than I was. He wound up marrying her.

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David B: David was not a narcissist; he was bipolar and suffered from severe depressions and substance abuse. He drank heavily to self-medicate and was always in and out of the psychiatric ward. He regarded me as a sort of mother figure and I liked the idea of being needed so much. But his neediness and clinginess became cloying and suffocating, he was constantly drunk, so eventually I left him, not without a little guilt in doing so. But he was really driving me crazy.

Michael B: The malignant narcissist I married. He is actually a psychopath. Michael acted very much like Steven in the beginning–showering constant attention and gifts on me, moving in very fast, talking about marriage just three months after we met. Being that I was in my mid-20s, I was open to marriage and he seemed perfect. I should have seen one HUGE red flag: the expensive engagement ring he insisted I have was purchased with my own credit card, because he had already maxed all his out. He always lived way above his means. He’d take me to expensive restaurants and insist I pay (and of course, he would pay me back later, but he never did). The rest of our story can be found in the articles under “My Story” in the header. Let’s just say the man is a psychopathic monster with serious substance abuse issues and a parasitic monster at that.

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Daniel S: The only lover I’ve had since the divorce. Well, okay, we were actually still married. (I’m not proud of this). But my marriage was already long over and I was desperate and miserable and not thinking straight (not that it’s an excuse to cheat). Daniel was actually a worse malignant narcissist than my ex, if that can be believed. He had that intense predatory stare, which I took to mean sexual and romantic interest, but was really his way of sizing up me as his prey. Of course I found him irresistably attractive. Unfortunately Daniel was another cerebral who had very little interest in sex. After a huge show of ardent romance and all that goes with it, he started the abuse, which included insulting me and comparing me (unfavorably) with his past lovers and what he saw as an “ideal woman.” He said he wanted babies with me but constantly criticized my parenting skills (as if he could know, since he never met my kids). He raged a lot although he never actually became physically abusive. He sulked and gave me the silent treatment when I didn’t do things his way or wanted to spend time with my family. He was stingy and although he had a lot more money than I did, he always made me pay my own way on dates. He obsessed about money. He would buy me things and constantly remind me how much those things cost him. He also would give me gifts and then ask for them back later, telling me he was only letting me “borrow” them. I am serious about this. After I ended our relationship (due to guilt at least as much as his abusive treatment), he still continued to call me constantly “as a friend.” After several of these phone calls, I finally worked up the guts to tell him to bug off and blocked his number.

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I have not had one lover or husband who was a just a nice regular guy. There have been a few of these men who seemed interested in me, but I always found them boring and rejected their attentions because I didn’t feel any “chemistry” with them.

I think it’s time to change all this. I want to start dating again soon. I know what red flags to look out for now so I think I can avoid the narcs, but can I fall in love with a normal man who will treat me well?

My character flaws.

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Just because I write a blog that sometimes gives advice to others about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and other mental disorders such as Aspergers, doesn’t mean I don’t still have a long way to go in recovery myself.

Blogging and prayer have helped immensely in raising my self esteem and general outlook on life, but it’s important to stay humble too. I’m not anyone’s “guru” even though I may have good ideas from time to time. So lest anyone think I’m tooting my own horn or purporting to be some kind of expert, here’s a list of my character flaws that sometimes get in the way of recovery.

Aspergers/Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) Flaws:

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1. Shyness in social situations that comes off to some as aloofness, coldness or sometimes stupidity (when combined with my Aspie tendency to be “out of it” sometimes).

2. Awkwardness in social situations — doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time; occasional social gaffes that make me look obtuse or clueless.

3. Obsessiveness.

4. Narrow focus on one or two interests at a time. I dislike interruptions from the real world that interrupt my focus and force me to engage with the world.

5. Sometimes instead of not talking at all, I talk too much.

6. I avoid people. I prefer being alone (or with my pets) to being with other people.

7. I am a creature of habit and dislike interruptions from my routines.

8. I don’t like “surprises” or things being sprung on me at the last minute, where I don’t have a chance to prepare for them.

9. I get freaked out and overwhelmed by too much input from the world at one time. I can’t stand chaos, loud people, too much going on at once, or too many people around me outside of formal settings like a classroom or meeting. When I feel like too much is coming at me at once, I shut down and tune out–or get annoyed and angry.

10. Tendency to like to put everything in categories, or as some like to say, in “little boxes.” This leads to a tendency to label people and like labels.

11. General weirdness. This is probably a good thing.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)/ PTSD Flaws:

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These have been getting a lot better and I have learned some valuable tools in dealing with the symptoms in myself that have become second nature now, but it’s hard to be cured of this disorder and I still have some Borderline traits:

1. Tendency to either idealize or devalue people.

2. Hypersensitivity to criticism, jokes at my expense, or rejection.

3. Snap judgments about people before I truly get to know them.

4. Black and white thinking. Things and people are either all good or all bad.

5. Insecurity and worry about being liked (even though I avoid people). Try to figure that one out.

6. When angry, I can sometimes get so enraged I lose common sense and just want to do something to even the score without thinking about the consequences. Healthy fearfulness goes out the window and I act out in anger. Fortunately this happens a LOT less often than it used to; actually it’s pretty rare these days.

7. Rapid mood swings. This goes hand in hand with being bipolar too (that’s in remission). This too has been getting a lot better.

8. Paranoia and hypervigilance. I have a hard time trusting anyone.

9. Envy.

10. Excessive worry. Someone once told me, it’s useless to worry about things because if the bad thing does happen, then you’ve experienced it twice, and if it doesn’t happen, you’ve wasted energy on worrying. Wise words.

11. Fear of taking risks. This too has been getting a lot better, but in the offline world, I still have a long way to go.

15. Defensiveness.

16. Excessive guilt and shame. Easily embarrassed.

Other flaws.

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1. Smoking. (I’ve cut down to less than a pack a day though)

2. A diet that doesn’t include enough fresh fruits and veggies.

3. Laziness.

4. Procrastination.

5. Self-sabotage (this has gotten a lot better).

6. Excessive worry about my adult kids. Overprotectiveness.

7. Beating myself up.

8. Beating myself up for having character flaws.

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All in all I’m far from perfect, but I think my flaws probably make me more interesting too.

Grandiose and “vulnerable” narcissists: how do they differ?

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Both the beggar and the king could be narcissists with a different M.O.

An interesting article in Psychology Today explains the difference between grandiose (invulnerable) narcissists, and “vulnerable” narcissists. Either can be somatic or cerebral, and either can also be malignant or non-malignant.

The two kinds of narcissists can seem very different on the surface:

Grandiose narcissists can seem emotionally cold, convinced of their achievements or success, and rarely if ever talk about their fears or their problems. They can be very quick to judge others though. On the surface they seem strong and tough. You won’t see them show emotions other than rage or pride, and if they are ever sad or fearful, you will never see that side of them. Like all narcissists, they are never happy,but they can “act” happy if they need to. And like all narcissists, they are incapable of love but may be able to put on a show of “falling in love” to obtain a new source of narcissistic supply.

Grandiose narcissists are the CEOs, politicians, narcissistic celebrities and others who have achieved a high level of success. Those who haven’t achieved success will stop at nothing to rise to the top, even if it means destroying their competition in the process. They are ruthless predators. Our current society glorifies the traits of the grandiose narcissist and doesn’t seem to bemoan what they don’t have: the ability to show emotion and feel love or empathy. Grandiose narcissists don’t care what others think of them.

Vulnerable narcissists, rather than brag about their achievements and never showing their feelings, are given to bouts of self pity, and use emotions (like crying, whining, demanding, or sulking) to manipulate others into giving them what they want. They are less likely to be materially successful, and may be dependent on others for their survival. In fact, they may seem to take a kind of perverse pride in their failures and hard luck. Vulnerable narcissists are the emotional and financial vampires who will suck your funds dry and constantly demand attention and comfort for their many problems. They are high-maintenance “drama queens.” They seem to have no self esteem. They will wear down their sources of supply with their constant demands and mind games. Both types of narcissists will shamelessly manipulate others to have their way.

…narcissists feel emotions like vulnerability, sadness, empathy and compassion in a shallow way, if at all, and cover them up with rage, blame, manipulation and disdain for others. This coping mechanism has a heavy price: they don’t feel secure enough to relax and really feel happiness and joy, although they may have fleeting moments of those emotions.

Vulnerable narcissists tend to swing back and forth between acting superior and feeling hurt; may become self-destructive when their vulnerabilities are pointed out; they may accuse their spouse or significant other of having affairs and being unfaithful, and may resort to spying on their partner or constantly asking for reassurance. They also have a pattern of looking for the “perfect mate” and then demand constant reassurance they are loved and valued.

Grandiose narcissists have much in common with people with Antisocial Personality Disorder; while vulnerable narcissists have more in common with people who have Borderline Personality Disorder. Both of these disorders, along with NPD and Histrionic Personality Disorder, comprise the Cluster B (dramatic) personality disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It can be very difficult to distinguish those who have NPD from those suffering from one of the other two disorders.

Grandiose narcissists were more likely to have been spoiled as children and treated like a little king or queen by their families; vulnerable narcissists are much more likely to have been abused or neglected as children.

But both types are still narcissists, so they still have many things in common under the surface, especially their sense of entitlement, lack of empathy and inability to feel joy.

According to the Psychology Today article, the main difference between vulnerable narcissists and and invulnerable narcissists is in the way they feel:

With their fragile self-esteem, vulnerable narcissists experience helplessness, anxiety, and depression when people don’t treat them as they desire.

They feel shamed and humiliated by negative feedback or when others challenge their superior self-image. They also experience anxiousness, bitterness, dissatisfaction, and disempowerment.

They suffer from many BPD-like emotions, like feelings of emptiness and inadequacy. Others find them sensitive and emotional; preoccupied with fears of rejection and abandonment. They are touchy, quick to be offended, and easily provoked.

A vulnerable narcissist may seem “nice” at first, but their constant demands will wear you out and they will never ask you how your day was or how you feel. They don’t care. Vulnerable narcissists may seem sensitive but they are only sensitive about themselves and how others feel about them; they are oblivious (or just don’t care) if you are suffering or have been hurt or need to talk. They are unable to give love in return for the love they demand. They cannot feel joy or ever appreciate anything. They are vampires who will keep taking until you have nothing left to give–or leave.

Earlier I said both types of narcissists can be somatic or cerebral. My guess is that women, who are more likely to be somatic narcissists, are also more likely to be the “vulnerable” type of narcissist. Acting needy and helpless are traits that are still found more socially acceptable in females than in males. That being said, I’ve known several males of the vulnerable type and some of them are cerebrals. My ex-husband is a great example of a “vulnerable” cerebral narcissist.

I also think it’s possible to be both types at once, swinging back and forth between acting invulnerable/grandiose and vulnerable/helpless. Their dramatic mood swings would probably make this hybrid type of narcissist easily misdiagnosed as suffering from the manic-depressive form of Bipolar Disorder.

A narcissist can also be vulnerable in one area of their life and grandiose in another. The high achieving company president who never seems ruffled and terrifies his underlings may go home to his wife and demand attention and sympathy from her, and sulk or whine if he doesn’t get it. The snobbish, perfectly groomed and physically fit trophy wife may fall apart and act helpless and needy if forced to look for a job.

Targets and Victims

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I found another blog today written by a survivor of a sick family of psychopaths and sociopaths (I’ve added the site to my list of resources under the “Info and Support” tab in the green bar in the header. I know I’ve written about this before, but this is one of the best lists of the traits of potential targets and victims of psychopaths I have seen yet. I have just about every single one of these traits, unfortunately. From an early age, I was trained to be a doormat. I learned that lesson too well.

BEFORE: TRAITS of a Potential TARGET

Below are the traits most commonly attributed to a sociopath’s target. Every person is inherently different, and that includes each target and the traits that are most pronounced in the individual. An individual would definitely not need any of these traits to be preyed upon.

This is not an attempt to diagnose anyone.

Shyness
Difficulty communicating
A lack of self confidence
Wanting to please
A belief that if you love enough the person will change
A belief that if you love enough the relationship will succeed
Difficulty establishing and maintaining boundaries
Not being able to say no
Being easily influenced by others
Wanting to be rescued from your life situation
Wanting to rescue others from their distress
Being over nurturing particularly when not asked
Feelings of shame and self doubt
Low self-esteem
A lack of memories about childhood or periods of adulthood
A lack of motivation from within and being motivated by others

AFTER: SYMPTOMS of a Relentlessly Abused VICTIM

This is a very accurate list of symptoms experienced by someone who has had their psyche brutally victimized by a sociopath. With that said, this list is not all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be part of any diagnostic function, whatsoever. These symptoms can also be triggered by many other conditions or events.

The source of this data is from ongoing research, but the majority of the data is derived and confirmed from personal experience … the key word being “majority” There are some symptoms listed here that I have not experienced at all, though they have been mentioned enough for me to accept them as potentially common.

If you, or someone you know, has experienced even a few of these symptoms, seek professional help. Keep in mind, though, that not all “help” is equal. If the professional you choose does not seem to relate to your needs as you would expect or desire, keep looking.

Emotional paralysis
PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Suicidal thoughts or actions (indirect homicide)
Loss of interest in life
Loss of energy
Insomnia
Anxiety
Depression or Severe Depression
Numbing of feelings
Disinterest in having a relationship
Panic attacks
Irritability
Increased anxiety from being alone
Increased anxiety from being in crowds
Mood swings
Source: sociopathicstyle.com [confirmed by personal experience (50+ years)]