Beware of narcissists posing as victims in the narcissistic abuse community.

Originally posted on November 24, 2014

wolvesinsheeps

I came across this post today on PsychForums. It’s by a woman who’s the moderator of a site for victims of abuse (she does not specify which site). She talks about how she is triggered and angered by forum members who she perceive as “better” in some way–smarter, prettier, richer, what have you–and then proceeds to play head games with them, make it difficult for them to log in or even bans them, without ever giving a reason. This poster admits getting pleasure from making the forum members suffer and thinks it’s a fun game. She admits her own life is a shambles and she is deeply miserable. The fact she posted this on a psychological forum indicates she is are aware this is a problem and knows it’s wrong, but she says on the forum she feels like “God” and doesn’t seem to want to stop playing so cruelly with the forum members.

I’ve read a number of blog posts and articles that discuss this problem, which is much more prevalent than you might think. It’s disturbing and scary. It’s hard enough for victims of narcissistic abuse to trust other people, and they come to blogs and forums to find a haven of like minded people who have been through the same shit they have and find support. But not everyone they meet in these online havens are who they say they are. Some may be psychopaths out looking for prey, and what better prey is there than the members of a website for victims of abuse?

Psychopaths, malignant narcissists and other predatory people are attracted to blogs and forums focusing on narcissism and abuse, because these are places where the “prey” is abundant. They can have a field day playing with the minds of vulnerable, hurt victims, especially if they are the admin or owner and have created a website for the abused. I’m not talking about someone like Sam Vaknin here–at least he’s upfront and honest about his narcissism, and he’s actually helped many victims of abuse (I still can’t quite figure out what his true motives are–they must be primarily self-serving, but his writings have helped many). Rather, I’m referring to website and blog owners who focus on narcissism and psychopathy but are malignant narcissists themselves, yet they pose as victims or sympathetic “gurus” who only want to help but do anything but.

Bloggers and forum admins, by nature, are probably at least a little narcissistic, but as long as it’s not used to hurt or manipulate or be used against members of the community, then it’s not a problem. But there do exist those who run sites for the abused who pretend to be caring survivors but are anything but. In fact, they hate and envy those who post on their sites.

flyingmonkey

How can you tell if a forum or blog owner is really a malignant narcissist–a wolf in sheep’s clothing? How do you know that when they talk about “their psychopath” or “their MN” that THEY are really the MN or psychopath and the “abuser” is the real victim?

Unfortunately, there’s no sure way to tell. Narcissists have very tender feelings. They are easily hurt and love to whine about how they’ve been “victimized” by other people who have had the guts to call them out, retaliate, or complain about their evil behavior. They fail to take into account that they had it coming and deserved the “abuse.” When you can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet, it’s all too easy for a narcissist to leave out pertinent facts–such as what THEY might have done to deserve the “abuse” they had coming to them. Their lies and half-truths about their victimization may seem very believable. They can make their victim sound like a raging psychopath should they choose to do so. It’s a form of online gaslighting and they are very good at it.

While there’s no foolproof way to tell, especially online, who’s a malignant narcissist posing as a victim and who’s a real victim, there are some red flags to look for.

1. Does the forum or site owner ban people easily, delete posts, or not approve posts? (I’m not talking about trolls or abusive posts here)
2. Is there a lot of infighting and antagonism between the members? If so, suspect an admin or a person with power on that site playing a “divide and conquer” game with the members to turn them against each other.
3. Is there a member who constantly complains about their victimization but never seems to do anything about it, does nothing but trash their abuser’s character, or never seems to get any better? You could be dealing with a narc posing as a victim.
4. Is there anyone who seems envious or resentful of another person’s recovery or improvement, or even just fails to acknowledge that person’s good fortune, or changes the subject?
5. Is there a self centered person who only talks about their own case, but never offers support or encouragement to other members? That person could be a narc.
6. If there is someone who is openly critical or judgmental of another person’s case or behavior, that person is almost certainly a narc.
7. Is the site owner uninvolved with the members and never seem to interact with them? If so, you may be dealing with someone who is looking to achieve Internet “fame” and really isn’t interested in the subject or its members.
Narcissism and psychopathy are hot topics these days, and blogs and websites about these disorders are almost guaranteed to get a lot of hits and views. Someone who wants to achieve Internet “fame” may start a blog or site about narcissism or psychopathy just because it’s popular and trendy, even though they don’t have much interest in the topic. These blog owners probably own other blogs and sites, and those sites will focus on other “hot topics.” But if the owner is really that detached or disinterested, the site will eventually lose members and fizzle out. It’s hard for members to stay involved, when the owner isn’t even interested.

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Further reading (with my personal experience):

9 Ways to Tell if the Victim Blog You Read is Run by a Narcissist 

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Sh*t haters say.

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I have haters. I’m cool with that. As a person who was bullied a lot during my life I wasn’t always cool with it. I will never like being hated, but now I regard it as a hazard of the trade. If you blog, even if you blog about unicorns and rainbows, someone is going to hate you. I guess I’ve grown used to it. At one point I almost took my blog down because of the haters, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Continuing to write exactly what’s on my mind in spite of people sometimes disapproving of what I say or even hating me for it is good practice for worrying less about what people think of me overall. It just doesn’t matter.

Criticism isn’t the same as hate. I’ve had critical comments too, and some of them were perfectly justified (and where appropriate, I’ve apologized or admitted when I was wrong). Even where I had to defend my viewpoint and saw no need for apology or backpeddling, I realize people are going to disagree with you sometimes. They are entitled to their opinions and the right to express them. That doesn’t mean they’re bullies, trolls, or haters.

But some comments run into the trollish category. Comments become trollish when they become personal attacks or are based on lies. Here are some of gems I’ve run across during my two-year tenure as a blogger.   All are lies, or at least exaggerations. But now such comments are actually funny to me because of how clueless they are.

Enjoy!

“Yeah, she has a fuckton of followers, but none of them are friends. She doesn’t have friends, she has fans. She’s just collecting fans for the supply. They will drop her like a hot potato when they realize how phony everything she says is.”

I don’t care about having fans. I’m very close to my blogging friends and consider them to be as real as real-life friends. I care about them very much and feel like they care about me. Maybe you’re just jealous because my blog is more popular than yours.

“I think she is being paid off by people like Sam Vaknin because she quotes him so much. I bet she is giving him some favors on the side.”

Now this is funny. Sam stumbled on my blog and commented here about 5 times shortly after I started this blog and that lasted for about a month before he blocked me. As far as the second thing, are you serious and do you realize how stupid you sound?

“Lucky Otter is a sociopath.”

Smear campaign much?

“She was never abused. She was probably the abuser. She just tells that story to get more fans.”

Bullshit. And the “fans” again.

“There’s something seriously fucked up about someone whose son is a gay furry. She must have been a terrible mother.”

I’m proud of my son. In spite of having broken people as parents, he knows exactly who he is and is a lovely, intelligent person with a ton of empathy for others.  Do you even have children?   

“I’ve seen photos of stuff in her house, and she’s not poor like she says. She’s got a house full of antiques and is always going on vacation.”

Those “antiques” are things I picked up at Goodwill and yard sales for about three to six dollars each. I probably make less than you do, my income being at the official poverty level. I suppose driving on the Parkway (which is two miles from my house) a few times a year and taking pictures is a “vacation.” Alrighty, then.

“Her blog is monetized. She’s only in it for the money.”

I had the opportunity to make a little pocket change from the ads, which comes to about $40 a month. But I’d be doing this even if I had to pay to do it. If I can earn some money from it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t.

“She plagiarized my post!”

That is a lie. I LINKED to your post and quoted from it. And I promptly removed the offending post after you lost your shit over it. Most people would have LIKED the extra views that link would have brought them.

God, I love my haters.  They keep me entertained.

Narcissistic abuse: who is the real victim?

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Narcissistic abusers are great at charming people they want to impress, or those people they want to get on their side. When they have targeted an individual for abuse, they will stop at nothing to turn their friends, colleagues, even their families against them–and it’s not at all uncommon for them to claim that THEY are the ones being abused.   The process of using malicious gossip and lies to turn people against the victim is called triangulation and is well known in the narcissistic abuse community. Most of us who have been targeted by narcissistic abusers know all too well about triangulation and its close cousin, gaslighting. Both will be used in conjunction with each other to turn the victim’s potential allies against them, effectively isolating them and ripping away any support systems they could use later.

Those who have been turned against the victim by the narcissist are called flying monkeys. They may or may not be narcissists themselves, but they are duped and misled by the narcissist’s convincing lies and charm into believing the narcissist is the real victim and that the victim is the abuser. You can’t really blame them for siding with the abuser, since the abuser can be so convincing and often has a glibness that the real victim lacks. Complicating the situation further is the likelihood that the real victim indeed acts “crazier” or more irrationally than the abuser, usually because they have been driven half-mad by the abuse, which can be so easily hidden, even from those who are witnesses to it.

The good news is, there is a way the real victim can be discerned in an abuse situation, even if the narcissist complains loudly about how THEY are being abused. This isn’t something I thought of myself; it’s been described already by other writers and bloggers. Still, I think it’s something that isn’t given a lot of attention, so I want to describe in detail how this works because it may be the only way you can extract the truth in the evil mental clusterf*ck set up by a narcissistic abuser.

Isolating the victim.

In any abuse situation, there is almost always more than just two people involved. At the core are the victim and the abuser, of course, but chances are good the abuser has convinced other people–including friends and family members of the victim–that the victim is the real abuser, and recruited others as flying monkeys that collectively condemn and mob the victim. The abuser may have even convinced a mental health professional or pastor (or anyone else who works closely with a family) that the real victim is the real abuser, effectively turning everyone against the victim, so only the narcissist appears to have allies and the victim has no one.

This happened to me, when I was still married to my sociopathic MN ex. My ex was always more socially adept than me. He was always better at making friends and giving a good first impression than I was. He was very glib and could spread the lies on as thick and convincingly as a trial lawyer. In fact, I used to joke that he should have been a lawyer (no offense to any lawyers who may be reading this!)

verbal_abuse

It wasn’t a joke anymore when he decided I was an easy target for abuse. We had several friends–mostly other couples–who suddenly seemed to want nothing to do with me, but still talked to him and seemed to like him. When I questioned my ex about why all our friends had cooled toward me, he said things like, “So-and-so doesn’t like you; I really don’t know why!” or “The Joneses told me they think you act kind of crazy and they don’t feel comfortable around you.”  I was even told our friends were “afraid of me.”  Even our children–who were middle schoolers at the time–had turned chilly toward me, as had several other family members. (It turned out later he was telling the kids I didn’t love them and wished they’d go away–of course, this was an utter lie). Meanwhile he had convinced our friends I was insane. If I questioned him about his treatment or if I seemed to be getting at the truth, suddenly I was called paranoid or too sensitive or even crazy. Or I’d get a non-answer like, “No wonder no one likes you. You’re so selfish. Everything is always about YOU.” He was projecting his own narcissism onto me, but I didn’t know it back then. I began to think there must be something very wrong with me that everyone else could see but I couldn’t.

The real abuser may act more sane.

It didn’t help any that my behavior around this time did in fact appear more insane than his did. I always seemed to be the one to act out or lose my cool, while he always appeared completely rational, cool and collected. Of course our kids were more likely to take his side–they looked at their dad and saw a calm, rational person who wasn’t raising his voice and who was telling them their mom was both insane and didn’t love them. They looked at me and saw a frazzled, half-mad, emotionally unstable woman who was always yelling, crying or locking herself in her room–and on two occasions had to be hospitalized. Why wouldn’t they believe him? What they–and everyone else–didn’t know was that his crazymaking behavior was driving me insane and I was already suffering PTSD due to the mental and emotional abuse. He always treated me well whenever anyone else was present, so no one would suspect what he was actually doing. If I tried to call him out on his abuse, I was gaslighted: “stop making things up,” or “that just proves how insane and self centered you are.” Everyone we knew believed him and I found myself all alone, with no one I could trust or confide in. He was able to use confirmation bias to his advantage–thereafter, anything I did became “proof” of my “craziness” or “unfitness” or “selfishness” and the more abused I was, the “crazier” I got.

At one point we began to see a marriage counselor at my insistence. My behavior in counseling was more volatile than his, and my ex also began to see the counselor in private. He was able to convince this therapist that I was the problem in the marriage and the less fit parent. Here was one more person who could have been a potential ally, but due to her ignorance of narcissistic abuse (and his attorney-like glibness and charm), became another flying monkey he could use in his smear campaign against me.

isolation
Click chart to enlarge.

I have read and heard about many similar situations described by numerous narc-abuse survivors, whether the narcissist was a parent who turned all their siblings and other relatives against them, or a spouse who turned all their mutual friends against them. It happens in the work world too, and online, and in schools, and anywhere where bullying can take place. In any bullying or abuse situation, there is one ringleader (or main narcissist) who has successfully used triangulation, gaslighting and projection to turn others against the abused person. The real abuse victim, who may lack the charm and glibness and manipulativeness of the abuser, has usually been isolated by the narcissist from anyone who could have been of support.

Identifying the real victim.

It doesn’t matter if the real victim seems “crazier” or more emotionally unstable or even more “abusive” than the abuser; they have become that way due to the abuse.   They may have a history of previous victimization which rendered them vulnerable to becoming an abuser’s prey and they may have pre-existing PTSD.   The real clue here is which person seems to have no one on their side? Which one has no friends or allies?  Who seems to be fighting a losing battle?  Who seems to have more “mental problems?” That person is almost always going to be the actual victim, no matter how much “evidence” the alleged “victim” claims to have.

If you are currently being victimized by an abuser, this knowledge may be the only way to be able to tell that you are actually the abuse victim and not the perpetrator, since chances are, your abuser has convinced everyone (including you!) that you are the one at fault. Hold onto this knowledge and remind yourself of it as you begin to disengage. Hopefully, knowing that you are NOT at fault and the narcissist is just a convincing liar will give you the motivation you need to get away. Or, if you are a bystander witnessing abuse, you may be able to help the real victim by keeping in mind that the one who seems to have no one on their side is the one you should be helping. Don’t let the narcissist’s convincing lies sway you over to their side.

How to deal with haters and critics.

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I want to reblog this excellent article about how to deal with haters and critics.  Every blogger has them, especially if they write anything besides recipes or decorating ideas (and those bloggers probably have haters too).

I’m a people pleaser.  I hate being hated.   When I’m criticized, I clam up and shrink into the walls.  As a person who writes about sensitive topics,  I’ve occasionally had run ins with people who did not like what I had to say.   At one point I nearly stopped blogging because of my hurt feelings.  But why should I do that?  Why should I let one or two judgmental people intimidate me and silence me?  I’ve been silenced and intimidated all my life.  Writing about my feelings and making them public has been one of the most healing things I’ve ever done for myself.   How insane would I have to be to allow a few malcontents I’ve never met and know nothing about to silence me?  Pretty insane.  The only person who can silence me is me.

This quote in particular really stood out to me and from now on I’m going to think about this whenever I hesitate to post something I really want to post, just because someone out there might not like it:

Criticism and negativity from other people is like a wall. And if you focus on it, then you’ll run right into it. You’ll get blocked by negative emotions, anger, and self-doubt. Your mind will go where your attention is focused. Criticism and negativity don’t prevent you from reaching the finish line, but they can certainly distract you from it.

However, if you focus on the road in front of you and on moving forward, then you can safely speed past the walls and barriers that are nearby.

Haters and Critics: How to Deal with People Judging You and Your Work

By James Clear

It doesn’t matter how you choose to live your life — whether you build a business or work a corporate job; have children or choose not to have children; travel the world or live in the same town all of your life; go to the gym 5 times a week or sit on the couch every night — whatever you do, someone will judge you for it.

For one reason or another, someone will find a reason to project their insecurities, their negativity, and their fears onto you and your life, and you’ll have to deal with it.

With that in mind, let’s talk about being judged and criticized. And just for fun, I’ll share some of the most hateful comments I’ve received on my articles. And more importantly, the strategies I use to deal with them.

Here’s what I’ve learned about dealing with the people who judge you, your work, and your goals.

The Biggest Critic in Your Life

It’s easier to complain about the outside critics, but the biggest critic in your life usually lives between your own two ears. Working up the courage to move past your own vulnerability and uncertainty is often the greatest challenge you’ll face on the way to achieving your goals.

When I started my first business, it wasn’t the criticism from outsiders that held me back. It was my own mind worrying that people would think I was a loser because I skipped getting a “real job” to “start some website.” I didn’t tell most of my friends about what I was doing for almost a year because I was so worried about what they would think about it.

When I started writing, it wasn’t the hurtful comments from readers that prevented me from getting started. It was my own fears about what they would think if I wrote about the things I cared about. I wrote my ideas in a private document for a year before I worked up the courage to start sharing them publicly.

Those are just two examples of the types of internal fears and criticism that so often prevent us from getting started on our goals. It can take a lifetime to learn that just because people criticize you doesn’t mean they really care about your choice to do something different. Usually, the haters simply criticize and move on. And that means that you can safely ignore them and continue doing your thing.

But that is easier said than done because we all like to be validated. Some people like it more than others, but everyone wants to be respected and appreciated to some degree. I certainly do. I know that whenever I choose to take a risk and share my work with the world, I wonder about what my friends will think, what my family will think, and how the people around me will see me because of that choice. Will this help my reputation? Will this hurt my reputation? Should I even be worrying about my reputation?

Especially with writing, these questions created an internal struggle for me.

On one hand, I believed in myself and I knew that I wanted to contribute something to the world around me. But on the other hand, I was scared that people wouldn’t approve of my work and would criticize me when I started sharing the things I cared about or believed.

I’ve written previously about the challenge of putting yourself out there by saying, “You can either be judged because you created something or ignored because you left your greatness inside of you.”

Eventually, I decided that it was more important to contribute something to the world than it was to protect myself from criticism.

Read the rest of this article here.

A rare opportunity.

Two-Girls-are-fighting

Life doesn’t present you with many opportunities to make amends to people in your distant past, but yesterday I had just such an opportunity.

A woman I knew back in the 1970s when we were in 7th and 8th grades contacted me on Facebook. At first I didn’t understand why this woman was sending me a friend request and I didn’t recognize her name so I asked her where she knew me from. It turned out this was the girl I bullied at the Catholic school we both attended.

I wasn’t normally the kind of kid who was a bully. Usually, I was the one getting bullied. However, there were 2 exceptions–this woman, and another girl I attended a class at the Y with when I was 9 years old. In both situations, I perceived that these two girls were even more vulnerable than I was, and I liked the approval I got from the “cooler” kids for my behavior toward them. At the time, it proved that I wasn’t at the very bottom of the pecking order, even though I was close to it. Kids that age are incredibly mean.

I always felt badly about the way I treated her. The strange thing is, this isn’t the way this woman remembers things. She told me she’s sorry for bullying me! I don’t remember her bullying me, but maybe we bullied each other and she doesn’t remember. Memory is a funny thing, especially when so many years have elapsed, but the important thing is that her contacting me provided me with the opportunity to exorcise that particular demon and move on from the guilt I’ve held all these years.

Trolls and lack of motivation.

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I thought I had my lack of motivation all figured out, and thought I’d conquered it, but obviously I haven’t, since I’ve been posting a lot less than I used to and it hasn’t gotten any better. I can’t figure out my lack of motivation, because I love writing and blogging has brought me so much insight into myself and my place in the world, and even moments of joy.

I was all set to write up a new post last night (albeit, not a long one). Whenever I start a new blogging session, I always check my comments first. Lately I don’t seem to be getting as many. I have more viewers and hits overall than ever before, but fewer people are commenting. I’m not sure why. I don’t know if this is something to worry about or not. Maybe it’s silly, but I wonder sometimes if people are put off by my frankness and occasionally unpopular opinions. Obviously, they’re reading, and I do know some people appreciate my frankness, so I guess I shouldn’t worry. I know one of my most frequent commenters (who was actually my #1 commenter for awhile) is busy writing a book right now (and also hasn’t been feeling well) and even Opinionated Man doesn’t seem to be getting as many comments these days, so maybe it’s not just me. Maybe it’s just my stupid narcissism making everything all about me and taking everything personally. Maybe it’s just because I’m posting less, duh.

So anyway, last night I was going to write something about covert narcissism and avoidant personality disorder and whether or not they might actually be the same thing. After all, covert narcissism isn’t recognized as a real disorder but AvPD is. I’ll probably still write that article but I do find lately I’ve been veering away from the topic of narcissism and this blog is becoming more of a general interest blog.

I opened up my laptop, and as is my habit, checked my comment folder before starting to write. And the first comment I saw was a very trollish comment which I won’t bother quoting because of how hateful it was. I sent the comment to Trash anyway. The comment wasn’t merely critical (I’ll still approve those and usually respond to them in some way); it was an attack on my character because of an article I posted MONTHS ago. The writer of the comment objected to what she or he felt was my being too soft on narcissists. Bible verses were used to fuel their rage and personal attack on me.

I hate that. I can take criticism if it’s constructive, but can’t stand judgmental people, and I especially can’t stand people who use religion as an excuse to act like assholes. The Bible is wonderful, but so many people these days use it to back up unacceptable behavior, as if this is their holy mission and right. It’s very narcissistic. Churches are filled with narcissists who used scripture as a way to intimidate those they disagree with, so they don’t have to take any responsibility for their cruel and vicious personal attacks. The Internet is full of them too. I can’t say whether or not this person is a narcissist, but their behavior displayed splitting and black and white thinking, and the “us versus them” mindset so prevalent today. Of course, to this person, I’m one of “them.” What they’re doing has a name: religious abuse.

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I know I shouldn’t have taken the comment personally. I know that as a blogger who focuses on a sensitive issue, angering people sometimes can’t be avoided. People are sometimes going to disagree with you. You are going to have haters and trolls, especially if your blog becomes widely read, as this one has. It comes with the territory. I know many people read this blog and get a lot out of it, and still get far more positive comments than negative ones, so why I am allowing one stupid negative comment to intimidate me enough to make me not want to post? But that’s exactly what happened: I decided not to post anything at all last night because of that stupid comment. I said to myself, “I’m over this. I don’t want to deal with these haters anymore. I don’t think I should even blog about narcissism anymore.” It’s true that I have been focusing less on narcissism because I feel like I’ve pretty much said everything there is to say about it already. But I allowed this one comment to destroy my motivation to write about anything at all!

I have a message for that commenter should they read this: I don’t care what you have to say. You’re a bully and a jerk. This is MY blog, and if you don’t like it, don’t read it! Go read something you agree with instead. It’s my blog, and I can write about whatever I want and you have no right to dictate to me what I can and can’t say. You may have a valid point in your opinion and the right to express it, but you have no right to personally attack me. I’m going to continue to write honestly about what I feel, not to please you. You do not intimidate me and neither do the Bible verses you spout to make it seem like you’re on a personal mission from God when in fact your behavior is itself very narcissistic. But thank you for giving me an idea for a new article.

I love blogging and don’t want to ever stop. I’m not going to let one judgmental malcontent ruin my motivation or put a damper on what I love to do. It took me too long to get to where I am. I’ve allowed myself to be intimidated by people like that for my whole life, and it’s a big part of why I never achieved much of anything and always doubted myself and eventually gave up anything I ever undertook.

Crybaby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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