Little Miracles.

GodsGrace[1]

God keeps sending me all these little gifts and surprises that are becoming proof to me that he listens and cares.   I’ve written about a few of these before.  A few others are too hard to explain so I haven’t talked about them. Another one happened today, sort of a big one.

Katie from Dreams of a Better World blog and I have been having a lot of discussions (in the comments) about the nature of suffering and what it means.  She’s also written some excellent and moving blog posts about it.    A whole book could be written about this topic (and maybe has), but here’s the short version of what we both think suffering means.

God doesn’t cause us to suffer or make bad things happen.  He isn’t a big bully in the sky. But he allows those things to happen and asks us to trust him when life looks hopeless.   He uses those things so we learn to lean on him, and then he will begin to show us in small ways that he is there, and that increases faith.

What happened today seems like a dream, but I think it’s the beginning of a spiritual awakening…maybe.   Time will tell.  I know I’m changing, and they are all good changes. I don’t think these changes would be happening without God and the reason why things never changed before, was because I wasn’t ready to trust him or lean on him yet.  I was still too proud and too suspicious and untrusting and skeptical because of my past. But you need to lean in completely and just let go. But that came later.

You reach a spiritual low that can go no further, in our cases caused by prolonged abuse, and one day we realize we must fight to survive.   But we’re so weak and beaten down, how can we fight?   But we do.   We get angry at first, and rage and pound our fists against the walls and at the sky and maybe at God himself.  But soon the angry fires burn themselves out and are replaced with a sort of openness.  I can’t explain this openness but it happens after the anger.  It’s like you’re empty and waiting.  Waiting for what, you don’t know.   You’re exhausted.

If you’re a writer, you start to write. Katie and are both write and that’s the tool God has given us to draw us closer to him, and to help us make sense of what happened to us. So we started blogs. For someone else, it might be art or music. Creativity is very close to spirituality, and it is given to us through grace.

That’s when God steps in.

And then everything begins to change.

Getting back to the conversation Katie and I were having in the comments about suffering, I decided to go to Mass today.  I never go on Saturday but something told me to go today.  The homily was about–

You guessed it.  The nature of suffering and how God uses it to humble us and mold us into who he wants us to be. 

I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t possibly be a coincidence.   I felt my heart open.  Wiping away tears, I looked up at Jesus on the cross and whispered thank you.

After a lifetime of not knowing what I was put here for or what I wanted to do, and not being passionate about much of anything,  the clouds are finally beginning to clear and some kind of plan is coming together for the rest of my life, and it’s nothing I could have ever dreamed up myself.

Whenever I tried to make choices without God, I always made the wrong ones and was back to where I started or worse.   But now, I’m finally starting to see the path that God has laid out for me, because my faith is growing.  And it’s the little miracles like what happened today  that are helping with that.

 

 

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Why I blog.

blog_thinker1

I read a very interesting article today called Pimping for Likes (thanks again to Opinionated Man, I found another great new blog to follow).  The post addresses the all too common frustrations we bloggers experience when our Likes, views or followers aren’t growing as fast as we’d all like them to and asks the question, would you give up blogging if no one read your blog?  

If you’re only blogging to be popular or attain a web presence, I think people can tell.  Your heart won’t be in it.  It won’t be honest and it won’t be engaging.   People are smart.  They will pick up on your lack of passion for your chosen topics and go elsewhere if all you care about is gaining a web presence without actually caring about what you blog about.

There are lots of wonderful bloggers who don’t have many followers or views.   That’s not because their blogs are bad.  It’s because either they haven’t been blogging long enough to attain a web presence, or because the blogger is mostly writing for themselves and isn’t actively trying to promote their blog.  Some people don’t care about popularity.   And there’s nothing wrong with that.  They’re blogging for the best of reasons–because they love to write and blogging gives them a voice and a way to express themselves. .

It’s the reason I blog.   I really can’t think of anything I love doing more.   It’s also been very healing for me.  I’d keep writing and blogging even if I was the only person in the world reading my posts.  But I’m only human and it can be very discouraging when you feel like your online voice is falling on deaf ears.  At first, it was frustrating when I’d spend a couple of hours perfecting a post, choosing the perfect picture for it, editing it and re-editing it, and then post it, only to get no likes and only a few views.

Here is a post I wrote when this blog was less than two weeks old, when I had a whopping 12 followers and hardly any views. It makes me laugh to read this now, but I’m sure most new bloggers can relate to these feelings of frustation:

https://luckyottershaven.com/2014/09/18/im-frustrated/

It was the first time Opinionated Man reblogged a post of mine.  With his 50K plus followers (at the time; now he has nearly 60K), he seemed like a blogging God to me. Because of his generous nature and willingness to help new bloggers succeed, this post (which sounds very whiny to me now) wound up getting a ton of views, Likes, and comments, and I got my first sizeable batch of new followers.  What a great way to start your blogging career!

Although being popular isn’t my primary reason for blogging, I have to admit I’ve come to care about this blog’s growth too.    There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn’t become your main reason for blogging.  I’ve been blogging for a year and a half now.    During that time, my stats have grown steadily, to the point where I’m averaging 50K views a month.  A year ago I never would have believed it.

Source: http://luckyottershaven.com.webstatsdomain.org/

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a little help along the way,  thanks to other, more popular and established bloggers reblogging or linking to my posts.   I learned about sharing to social media (something I was reluctant to do at first) and linking to other blogs.   I’ve made a lot of friends among other bloggers and we’re like a big community who help each other get seen.  Yes, of course there is envy among bloggers, but fortunately I haven’t seen too much of it and for the most part, there’s more of a desire to see your fellow bloggers do well than to see them fail.

There are blogs far more popular and successful than mine.   This blog is really pretty small potatoes, but watching it grow is still incredibly encouraging and exciting, like watching your baby grow up.    It’s a heady feeling when you type a few words into Google and see your own blog come up at or near the top.    Although I would still blog even if I only had 10 views a month, these incremental rewards have a way of motivating you to keep writing even more.  It’s also very cool being in a position now where I can begin to help other bloggers the way I was helped when I was new.   It’s wonderful to be able to pay it forward and help others get more of a web presence.

I’ve been accused of caring too much about my stats.    Maybe it’s true.  Watching my stats has become one of my favorite hobbies, but maybe that’s because I’ve always been a numbers junkie.   The growth of this blog didn’t just happen on its own though. I had to work hard at it, and the hardest part for me was getting over my fear of sharing posts to social media.  I don’t have enough of a Google presence to just sit back and let things take off on their own.   I have to keep working at it, keep sharing, keep connecting.   It’s almost a full time job.   Even so, while watching my views  and web presence increase is a nice side benefit of blogging, it’s not the reason I blog.

If you only blog to see your stats grow, and care nothing about what you write, not only will people be able to tell your heart isn’t in it, but chances are you’ll get discouraged and give up the minute your stats take a downturn.  I’ve had slow months and a few with no growth at all. It hasn’t all been a smooth ride uphill.    Some of my posts that are personal favorites just don’t seem to resonate with others that well, while other posts that I could care less about, seem to take on a life of their own. It’s always a surprise seeing what others like and what they don’t.  You can certainly try to concentrate on writing more of the types of posts that seem to resonate more with others, if being popular is your thing.

My other blog, which documents my journey in therapy, is nowhere near as popular as this one. It hasn’t really grown at all since I started it in August, and that’s okay.     I don’t share most of the posts on that blog to my social media and I don’t promote it at all.  I only write about 1 – 2 posts a week for it, while I write every day on this blog.    It also has a much narrower topic focus, while this one covers a much wider range of topics.  I figure, if people want to read the posts on my other blog, they will find them, but I don’t worry about it too much or try to call attention to it.   I mostly write it for myself.

In summary, I blog for four reasons, in the following order.

  1.  Enjoyment, love of writing/blogging
  2.  Self-therapy and healing; giving myself a voice.
  3.  Community with my readers and other bloggers; helping others
  4.  The thrill of increasing web presence.

So.  Why do you blog?

Therapy in Color

I have always believed in the power of art and creativity. Engaging in painting, drawing, poetry-writing, singing, sculpture, cartooning, creative writing, music-making, arts and crafts, and even cooking, scrapbooking, and home decor relax the mind, feed the soul, and bring us closer to our Creator. Each one of us has been blessed with some kind of creative gift and it’s our job to find out what it is we love to do best, and use it to connect more deeply with the world, not just escape from it.  Making art in any form also fosters mindfulness.

Even something as seemingly childish as coloring books can help us connect with our creative muse. This article explains why.
After all, it’s the child in us that gets activated when we create, and there’s no one more creative than a young child.

Catharine Toso

An increasing number of adults are handling stress by engaging with art. Specifically, art in the form of coloring books. But while some may consider this to be a temporary fad, the psychology behind it is much deeper. Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate Jordan Gaines Lewis explains the appeal of coloring books to adults, and why they work, in a piece for New York Magazine’s The Science of Us blog.

Creative engagement is a major stress-reliever for many people. If you are artistically inclined, whether it be in the visual arts, music, or literature, you already know this. However, just because one lacks artistic training doesn’t mean that this great feeling can’t be experienced. So many adults are spending time with an open coloring books because it allows us to exercise our creative muscle, as long as we can hold a coloring pencil. Lewis cites psychologist Barry Kaufman, who says that the…

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Emotional blockages.

emotional_blocks

I think my challenges in really feeling my emotions are due to blockages of energy within my body. I discovered this simply by focusing on how my body felt in my therapy sessions or when I feel an emotion bubbling to consciousness. There’s a definite tightness in three parts of my body, which actually correspond to three of the chakras. If the emotion is strong, there can be a dull pain, as if the pain of the emotion is trying to get out and can’t. I can never fully let go, because of my fear that if I do, I might completely lose control.   I’m learning that ironically,  I have less control by holding negative emotions inside because when I do that, they continue to act as a slow-acting poison long after their job is done, instead of passing out of me like the release they’re supposed to be and freeing my soul to be able to experience more positivity in my life and more able to access my creative spark.

I think I’ve grown to trust my therapist enough that I’ve begun to let go just a little.

There are three places where my emotions are blocked:

The middle of my abdomen. This corresponds to the third, or solar plexus, chakra, which represents competence and power. I’ve always felt so powerless and incompetent.

My chest. This corresponds to the fifth, or heart chakra. This is where the higher emotions such as agape love, empathy, all kinds of (nonsexual) connectedness, and gratitude reside. It’s always been so hard for me to really connect with others, due to fear and lack of trust.

The middle of my throat. This corresponds to the 6th, or throat, chakra, which represents the ability to communicate with others. I’ve always been a shy person afraid to speak up, even if it’s for my own rights as a human being.  Blogging has helped, but it’s not nearly enough.

I think by focusing in on bodily sensations and becoming mindful of your feelings, you can zero in on which ones you need to work on and focus on relaxing and breathing deeply into the blocked areas to be able to feel it fully enough so you can purge it.

Unfolding.

origami_crane_in_hand_by_miaauraylea

Tissue paper origami wings
pressed down flat on the table
now unrecognizable sharp edges that cut and slice
No longer beautiful
no longer delicate
a paper thing bound for the trash
made ugly by the rage of its creator
because it didn’t come out perfect
It insulted her pride
and filled her with shame

You came along and saw beauty there
in its flattened ruins
I see you holding it gently in your hands
I see the sadness in your eyes
at what this once was and could have been

Your clumsy but tender fingers prodding its innards
working to bring it back to beauty
Wrinkles are its scars
You are so careful not to tear the aging paper
as you work the jumbled angles back to life

It will never be perfect
even so much as the day it was made
but its unfolding is a testament to your compassion
made beautiful by those who see its value
and breathe life into it
and save it from incineration.

A lifetime of writing (part one).

Selectric_II

Writing, as opposed to the spoken word, has always been my preferred mode of communication. While it’s true I’ve never published a book or made a real career of it, I have a deep love of words and the rhythms and drama of the English language. Writing is where I feel the most at home in myself, and when I’m at my happiest and feel the most productive. Starting this blog, in spite of some painful incidents arising from it in this past year, has been the best decision I ever made.

This blog began as one for victims of narcissistic abuse and of course, as a ranting platform for myself, but recently I’ve been moving away from that subject for several reasons, the most obvious one being that I simply can’t think of anything new to say about narcissism that hasn’t already been said. There are other reasons too. I haven’t decided what this blog’s new focus should be, or if it should have one at all. But I love to write about writing, so that seems like as good a topic as any, at least for today, so I thought I’d share what my lifelong on-again, off-again love affair with the written word has been like.

Childhood.

little_girl_writing

English was always my favorite subject in school, and my best one too. Once I learned how to form letters and put them together, I found that I loved written assignments and always did well in them. As a child I also loved to draw and often wrote little illustrated stories at home for fun. Not too long ago I wrote the sad story about the little blank books my father brought me home from a business trip, and how I used to fill them with little stories and pictures (usually drawn in marker because I liked the sharp edges of a marker or pen over crayons and you could fit in more detail). Unfortunately, that ended one day when I found out some of my creations had been stolen. After that I was hesitant to write for myself anymore, and pretty much stopped drawing at all.

But my love of writing didn’t die, and as I grew older, my stories became more detailed and longer. I also liked writing papers for school about topics that interested me and enjoyed everything that went with putting together an awesome looking project–choosing what color construction paper to use for the covers (which I liked to slide into a clear plastic cover with a color-coordinated plastic spine to hold it all together), what to draw on the cover (if anything), how to design the letters spelling out the title, organizing the pages, etc. I almost always made A’s on these projects.

Once I learned to read fluently, I couldn’t get enough books. I remember in third grade, I read voraciously. For some reason, I was particularly enamored of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. I also really liked anything by Beverly Cleary. But I’d read just about anything I could get my hands on. At about age 10, I received “Harriet the Spy” as a gift, and she became my hero. I must have read that book about 10 times, and I read Louise Fitzhugh’s other books as well (too bad she didn’t write more books). To me, Harriet was the coolest girl ever, and she loved writing as much as I did. If I couldn’t be one of the popular girls, then I wanted to be Harriet. She was relatable, but so much cooler than I was. For awhile I even carried around a notebook (a black and white cardboard speckled one just like hers) and wrote down random observations about people. I think Harriet is still relevant. I know Fitzhugh’s books are still popular because so many children who are “different” or feel out of place can relate to Harriet. I wish I still had some samples of my early writing, but unfortunately these were lost a long time ago.

harriet_the_spy
Harriet was my idol when I was about 10.

I was often the target of bullies, especially in 3rd-5th grades, and often would escape to the school library for solace. We had a very sympathetic school librarian. I loved everything about libraries, especially the smell of books. It was very comforting to me, and the only place I felt really at home. Books really were my friends. One of my favorite places to go on the weekends was (drum roll, please!) the public library. I think it’s terrible that government funds for public libraries have been cut in the past decade. I think they’re so important. The Internet is great, but nothing beats a library for nurturing your mind.

Adolescence.

girl_reading

During my teen years, writing became a back-burner activity, something I did when there was nothing else to do. I did continue to read voraciously, but was a lot less inspired to create anything of my own. What I did write tended to be what one of my teachers called “thunder and lightning” poetry–typical adolescent angst poetry about darkness, depression, despair, neverending rain, crashing storm-generated waves, and death imagery. I was Goth before there was such a thing (and liked to dress in black or dark clothes too). I also wrote long, angry screeds about my mother, who I’d decided (rightfully) was the shallowest, most un-maternal person on earth.

I also kept a diary. It was thick sky-blue leather hardcovered book with a golden lock and key. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit much in the spaces for entries, because it was a five-year diary so I only had a 5th of a page to write anything, and the lines were tiny (and my handwriting tended toward the large and florid). I finally quit writing in it after about 2 1/2 years. Like most other things from my growing-up years, I have no idea what happened to it.

Term papers became more of a chore, because now I was required to use and cite sources, etc. but once I got motivated, I did enjoy it and always got high grades. Sometimes, though, I’d wait until the night before it was due (after fretting for weeks) and stay up all night working frantically to finish the project. My teachers could never tell the difference, but I certainly don’t recommend waiting until the last minute to start a school project, if for nothing else other than the enormous stress that causes.

Early Adulthood.

term_paper

College was basically a continuation of high school as far as my engagement with writing was concerned and was limited mostly to term papers and school projects. Of course, the topics I had to write about were more in keeping with my interests (psychology and art). They were also required to be typewritten and I had recently learned how to type and really liked the “professional looking” fonts available on the school’s IBM Selectric and the futuristic looking font-balls you could snap in and out of the machine (I had a typewriter, but it was a basic Royal ribbon typewriter with standard typeface). In those days before the Internet, access to fonts that didn’t look like “typeface” was considered very cool. I also liked the fact I could backspace and actually erase mistakes, instead of having to use White-Out or erasing strips which only covered them and always looked messy. I still have a few of my psychology papers; sometime soon I’ll dig them up and read over them again.

The only project I ever did badly on in college was a verbal assignment on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (oh, the irony!) for my Abnormal Psychology class, but it wasn’t because I hadn’t done my homework or prepared for it; it was because we had to present it in verbal form, in front of the classroom, and I clammed up terribly and my mind went completely blank. I got a D in that assignment, and it took me a very long time to get over that. In written assignments though, I always got A’s or high B’s.

My love affair with electronic typewriters like the Selectric ended when I started my first office job as a receptionist and had to spend entire days typing up invoices and memos. I remember our first word processor and how cool that seemed. I even took classes in Wang, but once again, it wasn’t too long before that seemed humdrum too.

I only completed three years of college because I got engaged and had to work full time, and something had to go. If I had to do it over again, I would have waited to marry and gotten a degree in journalism or gone for a Masters. While married, I didn’t write anything more ambitious than shopping lists. I wouldn’t dabble in creative writing (for myself) again until my early 40s, although I did take jobs as a technical writer, medical editor and part-time book reviewer during my late 20s and thirties.

(To be continued in Part 2.)

When I used to paint.

I don’t do much painting anymore (except painting the walls in my house), but during my 20s and 30s painting–whether on ceramic tiles or canvas–was very relaxing and enjoyable to me. I sold or gave away most of my artwork, but here are two I refuse to part with.

This first painting, which is an interpretation of a National Geographic photo of mountains in the Pacific Northwest, is hanging over my mantel. There’s a dark and rather eerie moodiness to it that everyone always notices but wasn’t present in the original photograph. I didn’t believe them but I remember looking back at the photo I painted this from and realizing how right they were.

I had been married to my ex for two years at this time and I think his subtle abuse was already beginning to take a toll on my state of mind and my soul.

mountains_1988

I used to enjoy painting on tiles too. Here’s one I painted in acrylic (before I got a kiln* and started painting with fireable ceramic paint, which are tricky to learn to use because the colors in the jars are not always the colors they’ll be after firing!)

tile_1986

This is actually a depiction of myself and my fiance (the same man who almost destroyed my life for the next 27 years) during the height of his “love bombing.” It was a whirlwind romance, straight out of a storybook or Harlequin romance.

Beware of men (or women) who come on strong with the romance and sweep you off your feet–they are probably predators who have targeted you as prey.

All cynicism aside, I still love this painting and it hangs in my bathroom. We’re shown far away in this idyllic (and idealistic) scene (naked in the pond, naturally!), but I thought the likeness was still pretty accurate.

* I have not had the kiln since 1993. One of my cats at the time, an unfixed male, used it to “mark” and everytime I’d fire it up after that, the smell that permeated the house was unbearable! I couldn’t even sell the thing.

The neverending rain and depression.

rain_gif

I can’t seem to shake this seasonal funk I’m in. It’s been raining steadily for a week now–gloomy, overcast, steady rain that goes on all day and night, not the intense but shortlived thunderstorms of summer that are somehow energizing.

I don’t like fall in this part of the country. It always rains a lot, and as much as everyone crows about the “fall colors,” I don’t think they’re that special. This isn’t Vermont with its sugar maples that turn brilliant orange and red, or Colorado with its neon yellow Aspens–here the trees just look unhealthy. There’s a few spots of bright color here and there, but the numerous oaks and sycamores just turn from green to brown or a deep purplish red before they go bare for another winter. It’s depressing. Maybe up on the Blue Ridge Parkway the sight is prettier, but I don’t have a running car right now so I can’t go there.

I’ve been stuck inside my house for days, waging war on the camel crickets and the fleas I can’t seem to get rid of. I’m working a lot more. My roommate is moving on Tuesday and I haven’t found a replacement yet. It’s dark when I get up in the morning. It’s getting dark shortly after I come home from work. Yesterday was actually cold and I had to crank up the heat for the first time since April. I’m tired and draggy all the time. I barely have the energy or motivation to cook dinner. I’ve even been avoiding my friends because I just feel like I’m going to drag them down with me.

As far as my writing, the ideas have been coming like an old man’s teeth–few and far between. I’ve been resorting to either reblogging other people’s stuff, posting fluff or pictures, or recycling old articles I wrote, due to the dearth of original ideas. Actually I do have one good idea for a new long article, but I can’t seem to motivate myself to write it. I’d promise I’d write it today, but I don’t trust myself to stick to that promise. I know if I don’t though, I’ll be feeling terrible about it.

exhausted_rain

Last fall wasn’t any different from this one weather-wise, but I was new to blogging and the excitement and novelty of that kept me motivated and able to beat my SAD symptoms. I did have a lot of worries, as I recall. My daughter was still having drug issues and was facing 30 days in jail (she is doing a lot better a year later–she has matured a lot and become much more responsible). I wasn’t sure I was going to get along with my new roommate. My ex was still abusing me through text messages. But blogging was like a whole new world, it felt like doors were opening everywhere.

Sam Vaknin, the “god of narcissism,” found this blog in November (my least favorite month other than December) by Googling himself (haha!) and actually made some nice comments and shared some of my articles on his sites and social media. That gave my blog the early jumpstart it needed and I was ecstatic. As far as I know, he still comes here to read but he no longer comments or shares anything. That’s okay because this blog is doing well on its own now, without anyone’s help. But the novelty and newness of it is gone. I don’t see any new doors opening. I know I have to open those doors myself (the next step would probably be writing a book) but I just don’t seem to have the energy or motivation.

Last year at this time the ideas were almost coming too fast–it was actually frustrating because I didn’t have enough time to write about everything I wanted to write about. Now it’s all I can do to think of any original ideas at all. As far as writing about narcissism, what more is there to write about it that I haven’t already? I don’t know whether to keep the focus on narcissism, or shift the focus to general mental health, or just turn it into general purpose blog. I’m stuck. Blogging has brought me so much joy; what happened?

I feel like I’ve reached a blockade in my path to recovery. I know that isn’t really true, and it’s just depression making me feel so negative, and it’s just a matter of working through it or waiting it out. I know it will pass; it always does. But I feel like I’m running in place but going nowhere. The weather isn’t helping.

storm_clouds2
This too shall pass.

I know the only way through this is self discipline. I have to make myself write even when I don’t want to. Once I get started, I get into it and that tends to lift my mood and my imagination begins to work again. I also have to make myself get out, in spite of the gloomy weather and no car. I have the company car to drive; I can at least go up to the store in that. Walks in the light drizzly rain aren’t so bad; it isn’t freezing cold out. I haven’t been to church in several weeks either. It always make me feel good to go, but for some reason I’ve been sleeping in instead. Then I wind up feeling guilty and miserable (not because I’m offending God–I don’t think attending church is necessary to “please God”–but because I know I’m doing myself a disservice by skipping).

So today, instead of sleeping in, as I’ve been doing on weekends lately, I’m going to make myself write, make myself go out for a walk in spite of the dreary weather, maybe even take a short drive. Read a book. Clean the house (it needs it). Do something that will make me feel like one of the living. Sitting around feeling sorry for myself and sleeping half the day away is going to get me nowhere fast. I got away from my abusers, but the way I’ve been treating myself is self abuse! It’s possible to be as toxic to myself as my narcissists were to me. I know I’m not the only person in the world who struggles with this time of year. And spring is only 5 1/2 months away! :mrgreen:

Hey, I actually wrote a new article that’s more than two sentences long! I think I feel a little better already.

An upsetting memory.

little_booklets

I remembered something today. Little by little my mind is pulling up ancient memories from dark and forgotten corners as I move further along in my recovery. This one almost knocked me over.

For years…YEARS!…I couldn’t write. This past year and a half has been the first time in my life I haven’t in under the thrall of a high spectrum (malignant) narcissist, and it wasn’t until I freed myself from them that my words began to come back.

As a child I wrote all the time. I drew pictures too. I remember my father bringing home these little blank stapled booklets in different colors with lined paper in them. There were about 50 of them, tied up in rubber bands. I used to write little stories and illustrate them. I could spend hours doing this.

I always blame my mother for everything. I act as if my father (who was codependent, and probably either covert N or borderline) had nothing to do with my disorders. I always saw him as a victim too. But he colluded with my mother; both were abusers. I remember one day when I was 7 or 8, I came home from school, and as I did every day, I went to my desk and opened the drawer to start writing my little stories. I noticed some of my finished booklets were gone. Panicking, I looked everywhere for them, and couldn’t find them. They were very personal to me, like diaries. They were for my eyes only (my Avoidant traits had already set in) . I was very upset but couldn’t tell my parents because then they’d be looking for them and they’d KNOW.

I looked all over the house for them, and finally found them in my father’s filing cabinet in a folder with my name on it. I was horrified. He stole my private creations from me! I felt so violated. My boundaries had been viciously invaded. I remember stealing them back and destroying them. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at them anymore. There was too much shame.
It was as if I wanted to annihilate myself…my true self.

After that I seemed to lose interest in drawing, although I continued to write. But my passion for even that was gone. I didn’t say anything to my dad about him stealing those booklets because to do so would be to invite critique and shame. I knew instinctively he liked them (otherwise he wouldn’t have taken them from me), but I didn’t even want to hear anything good about them. The stuff in them was just too personal. I felt like I’d been raped.

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I wrote a novel in 2003. No one wanted to publish it. It sucked. I still have it but it’s embarrassing to read because of how bad it is. I know why though; at that time, still under the thrall of my ex, I was trying too hard to be “a writer,” to make an impression, instead of being authentic.

And now…I’ve done a 180 from when I’d hide my little illustrated books and was so horrified when they were discovered: deliberately posting the most personal stuff imaginable for total strangers all over the Internet to see (under an assumed name, of course). It’s like I’m trying to redeem my shame, somehow. It’s very hard to explain.

After being in my abusive marriage, I thought I’d lost all my ability to do anything at all. I’d sit down and try to write something, and….I couldn’t do it. I even thought I’d lost my intelligence. I was marking time until death. I felt stupid, dead. But I didn’t care either…or thought I didn’t care. I couldn’t feel anything at all. All my emotions were gone.

I was wrong, so wrong about all that.

Crazy ride.

Giving up is conceding that things will never get better, and that is just not true. Ups and downs are a constant in life, and I’ve been belted into that roller coaster a thousand times.
–Aimee Mullins via http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/

To ride or not to ride.

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Roll back down the track about 11 months. September 2014. That was the day something in my brain finally connected right and I got the idea to start a blog about narcissistic personality disorder.
I had no idea what I was in for. Not even close.
I didn’t have the foggiest idea what sort of roller coaster ride starting a blog about narcissism would become.
It would become the most life-changing ride of my life.

I had no real plan to start a blog. Occasionally I’d have the fleeting thought like “oh, maybe I should start a blog sometime…” but these thoughts were passing and vague, like puffs of cigarette smoke passing over my head. And they went nowhere. Instead, they dissolved in the sea of my uncertainty and inability to make any sort of decision: “Oh, but no one would read my blog,” I’d remind myself. “I’m so boring and have no interests and so what would I blog about anyway? How boring my life is?” So these passing ideas were just sort of pipe dreams. They had no spine or any substance at all. They dissolved away like smoke and vapor and dreams. So I wasn’t seriously considering blogging until the day I finally did.

In February 2014 I’d kicked out my narcissist ex who was living on my couch and making my life a living hell. For about two months I walked around kind of numb and rudderless. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going and I was scared but sort of excited too. Mostly I was just trying to find my bearings and stay grounded. It could be frustrating. I just wasn’t used to making decisions or doing things on my own, without the narc’s “help.”

In about April or May I started reading a lot about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I first reread “People of the Lie,” the only book about malignant narcissism I owned at the time (now I have a whole library of such books). I began to read George K. Simon’s “Manipulative People” blog. That was the very first blog about character-disordered people I ever read. I posted a few times, tentatively, but never got too involved, because soon I found other blogs and started reading and sometimes posting on those too.

One day in September 2014 (the 10th to be exact) I was poking around online and on a whim decided I wanted to start a blog. The idea came out of nowhere. In retrospect I think it was God giving me a nudge because I was ready. But ready for what? I had no idea where such a thing would take me–all I knew was I needed to tell my story and in doing so try to sort through all my confused and bewildering feelings. I attempted to start my blog on Blogger, but it kept wanting me to use my real name because it’s run by Google and connected to it, and using my real name on the type of blog I was going to do was out of the question. I had heard WordPress was hard, but decided to give it a shot.

Ascending the track, eyes ahead, heart in mouth.

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WordPress wasn’t hard. The learning curve was about three days, and after that I felt like I knew what I was doing. At first writing was a bit of a chore, and I didn’t write every day. As time went on, and I started to explore narcissism more deeply and do more reading (by this time I had ordered two of Dr. Simon’s books–“In Sheeps Clothing” and “Character Disturbance”), I found my fascination increasing. I was also beginning to change and my confidence was starting to rise out of the toilet. People told me I seemed somehow “different.” For the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing something that made me feel passionate and that could possibly be of use to others too.

Since then, many things have happened in my blogging journey. I’ve learned more about myself and my narcissists than I ever dreamed possible, and I also found faith in God during the process. I believe with all my heart that God gave me the life He did to lead me to where I am now, writing about my experiences as a victim of narcissistic abuse and learning as much as I can, so I can pass along what I know to others who are in similar situations.

On top of the world–but don’t look down.

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There have been incredibly heady, exciting times–sudden spikes in popularity, an article going viral for the first time, certain well-known people in the field of narcissism who found and helped promote my blog and its articles, suddenly having so many new friends, getting comments and emails from people who told me my words gave them hope or the courage to leave their narcissist, or even in one case, saved their life. It was surreal the first time I found one of my articles at the top of page 1 of Google, or got reblogged by someone whose blog gets many more hits than my own. As an added bonus, I found out my traffic was sufficient to run some ads, and from that I’ve been able to make some pocket money. Making money never has been and never will be my purpose for doing this, but I’m not going to lie and tell you it isn’t sort of nice to have an additional $20-$30 dollars a month for doing something I love to do. Maybe someday I can parlay this into a career, especially if I write a book (which I plan to start doing fairly soon, when I have some time and think of a topic for a book I’d want to write). It might even be fiction, only using what I know now about myself and the scourge of narcissism as a sort of matrix that holds the skin of the story together.

Hurtling back to earth.

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It hasn’t all been a joyride either. There have been painful and disappointing times too–my first hater and troll comments, people accusing me of having dishonest motives or being a narcissist myself (or at least a narc-enabler), the loss of several people I thought were friends along the way (for various reasons), finding unflattering comments about this blog on other blogs, finding out I’d unintentionally hurt a few people I cared about; other friends disappearing into the black hole of cyberspace, writing highly personal articles that scared me to post so much I felt sick before finally taking that deep breath and posting them anyway (and I’ve never regretted doing so), being emotionally triggered by someone else’s sad story or just from digging so deep into my own psyche or past; chronic worrying that maybe I’m too narcissistic; and having periods of self-doubt and depression when I wonder if I’m good enough to be doing this at all or if it even really means anything.

Exhilaration and sadness.

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But on the whole, the ride–like a rollercoaster–has been incredibly fun. The downs just mean you’re going up again, and the overall feeling of blogging about narcissism (and related mental health subjects) has been exhilarating, empowering, and the most enjoyable and creative activity I’ve ever undertaken–and best of all, I’ve actually stuck with it. In the past, I would get interested in things, but never stick with them for very long, especially once the going got rough or I realized how much blood, sweat and tears it would require.

But blogging about narcissism, as emotionally triggering and difficult as it can be at times, is a labor of love and the more I do it, the more I want to keep doing it. Unlike every other interest and hobby I’ve had, I haven’t lost interest in it.

Writing about narcissism (and my own disorders) is incredibly emotional, sometimes painful, and a LOT of hard work. There have been times I found myself in tears after writing a particularly emotional article, especially if it involved a painful experience from my own past, and for me being able to release emotion is a great thing because for so long most of my emotions were bottled up.

The Healing Power of Creativity.

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Blogging is also very creative. One of the only things I rarely ever doubted about myself was that I had the ability to write. Creative writing was always something I was good at and did for fun. As a 7 and 8 year old, my father brought home these tiny little leatherette-covered notebooks with the covers in bright primary colors. The tiny pages had miniature lines for writing which was good because at that age, I still couldn’t write in a straight line (the slope was always downward: was that foreshadowing what was still to come?) On the cover they had a single word like “Memorandum” in embossed golden letters. They were given to me in stacks of rubber bands. There must have been 50 of them. In those little books I wrote lots of little illustrated stories. I always used colored markers and pencils, never crayons because they left too big a mark on the tiny pages. I don’t know what happened to those little books but I wish I still had them.

Even my parents–who rarely had anything both good and true to say about me (I was both scapegoat and golden child in their marriage)–both admitted I could write really well. I worked in medical journalism when I got out of college and wrote some freelance book reviews and did some proofreading and freelance editing, but after having children and moving to another state, I gave all that up. And when I did write, it was always for someone else or for money, never for the love of doing it.

Also by then I was in my disastrous marriage to a psychopathic malignant narcissist, and all the good and healthy things about myself (which didn’t seem to be many) began to gradually and insidiously slip away. I became a near zombie. I thought I forgot how to write. In 2003 I wrote a novel (a very bad one, it turned out) and I had my mother read it (she was probably the worst person for me to have read it) and she told me it sucked, which it did. I was trying to write like Pat Conroy, an author I was very much into at the time.

I reread it two years ago and cringed while reading it. It was full of florid, purple prose, cliched phrases and cliched, one dimensional (is that a cliche?) characters. The one sex scene was embarrassingly bad (I will not go into detail about that here!) I felt sick after reading this amateurish piece of badly written sentimental trash and it was everything I could do to reread even a page of it. That’s how embarrassed by it I was. It was so bad that a Harlequin romance would seem like Tolstoy in comparison.

In what universe had I ever thought that piece of Pat Conroy wannabe-garbage was good enough to send out to publishers and agents (who all rejected it)–or have my constantly-critical mother read it? The novel is still sitting in a cardboard box in the back of my closet, its pages becoming brittle and yellow with time, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to throw it away. It’s a reminder of a time where I couldn’t write because I was too divorced from my own emotions. A person who is dead can’t write–and I was like a walking dead person, trying to write about emotions I couldn’t access.

So after that I imagined I was a terrible writer after all, and never really had that much ability. Writing this blog has reassured me that my ability to write never went away and in fact it’s improved over the months I’ve been writing this blog. So blogging is increasing my self esteem that way too. I think the abilities God gave us are one of his greatest gifts, and those of us who have a talent in one or more of the arts (performing, literary or visual) are especially blessed, because we have the means to communicate feelings to the world, not just ideas, facts, or thoughts (not that those aren’t valuable too).

I call blogging my self-therapy because that’s what it is. It’s also my creative outlet right now. I can’t get over all the positive changes I see in myself (and that others have noticed too), including an increased ability to be in touch with my true emotions, having a relationship with God after having been agnostic most of my life, a much more positive attitude than I used to have, better health, and retrieved memories and revelations about what my painful and difficult life has really meant (news flash to myself: I was not born to be an example to others of what a “loser” looks like).

I don’t want to get off this ride.

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Queen’s University engineering student David Chesney rides the 28- metre-long rollercoaster he made.

All these discoveries are so unbelievably exciting and validating they far surpass the pain I’ve sometimes experienced on this sometimes terrifying ride into the unknown. Sometimes I feel like I’m exploring a new galaxy, and finding wonders every day, both great and small–and horrors too, but the horrors are usually cast by my own shadow and prove in the end to be harmless.

I would never have believed the most amazing journey of my life would take place without my ever having to leave my house.

There’s something about a roller coaster that triggers strong feelings, maybe because most of us associate them with childhood. They’re inherently cinematic; the very shape of a coaster, all hills and valleys and sickening helices, evokes a human emotional response.
–Diablo Cody

via http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes

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