Clarity (or, through a glass, darkly).

Contaminated memories.

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Last night I was temporarily able to get rid of the awful empty feelings I wrote about yesterday with a little “Cyclops Therapy.”   🙂
But it didn’t last.

I actually felt pretty good again until today.  Everything just makes me want to cry.  It’s not really depression; I’m not sure exactly what it is.   It’s just this yawning empty sad feeling. I spent a little time trying to examine the feeling, taking it apart to try to understand it.

It’s like every good memory I ever had is somehow contaminated by sadness or some other negative emotion arising from the sea of emptiness that lies beneath.   Once a good experience enters my long term memory, it’s shot through with painful longing and a feeling of great loss and even grief.   Or sometimes it’s contaminated by guilt, or knowing that it wasn’t going to last–not having any idea at the time of what sort of disaster was waiting just around the corner.  So my happy memories make me sad.

If you’ve ever seen the animated film “Inside Out,” you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Riley’s long term happy core memories were in danger of being touched by Sadness (a character depicting that emotion) and a few already were, so Joy (another character) tried to intercept so Riley’s happy core memories would stay that way.

Thank God I see my therapist tonight.   I really don’t know what all this means.  Maybe I’m on the edge of another big breakthrough.  I hope so!

This barren wasteland.

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In my life, I’ve rarely experienced true happiness, of the kind I experienced during the week of August 21, when I was on the Florida Gulf coast visiting my son.  I wrote a lot on this blog about the experience I had while basking in the warm Gulf waters and exploring the beaches and gazing at the unbelievable sunsets, and just being able to relax, forget my worries, and spend time with an almost 25 year old man who I love with a fierceness I reserve for very, very few people.  I felt very close to the divine during that time.   Even the 700 mile road trip going there and back was a sort of spiritual experience for me.   Everything about that week was perfect. I never felt so much at peace with myself and the world.  I felt somehow changed.

It occurred to me today that this weekend will be a month (4 weeks) since I began my vacation.  It’s a cherished memory now (and one that changed me in some profound way), but is now receding ever deeper into the past, joining the other few happy memories I have, most which happened much longer ago than this.     The memory is probably far enough in the past now that it’s no longer part of my short term memory but has now entered my long term memory.

While I’m grateful beyond words that I got to have this amazing experience, and know it won’t be the last time (I’m tentatively planning to return at the end of March),  I feel a deep sadness that it’s over tinged with a kind of yearning to return there forever.  Not so much because I miss the location of where I was, or even that I miss being in close proximity to my son (though I miss those things too), but the feeling of pure joy I had unfettered by anything else.  Rarely have I felt that kind of joy and lightness, and when I have, it’s been fleeting, like the momentary reflection of the sun on a dragonfly’s wings.

It’s been said that you can’t feel sadness without having known what happiness felt like.   Sadness is about loss.  In my case the loss of that deep, pure joy is bringing me into contact with the abyss of emptiness that still lives deep inside me, heavy and dark and cold, like a barren wasteland in which a chill wind always howls and it’s always winter and where nothing ever grows.

I tried praying about it, for I know it was really feeling close to the divine that made me feel so full of joy, not the actual surroundings, but it was just so much easier when I was away.    It’s hard to get that feeling back.   I look around my surroundings here and am reminded of how much I hate this time of year when the days are growing shorter and the nights longer, and  nature’s beginning to look tired and spent before going to sleep again for another winter.   Being here, without the sun and the sea and the sand, so far inland, back in the daily grind of real life, just reminds me of all the heartbreaks and losses and disappointments and hurts that have contaminated my life and pockmarked my soul full of raw and gaping holes.

This feeling of sad emptiness is very hard to explain.  I do suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) so that might have something to do with it, but I go through that every year.   This is different.  I feel like I’ve suffered a terrible loss, like a death, and like there’s no way I’ll ever feel that kind of joy again.   I want to so badly and I know I will, but right now it feels like it’s forever gone.

I imagine normal people feel that kind of joy more often, even if they don’t all the time.    I know I need to find a way to feel that lightness of spirit no matter where I am, but at the moment, I’m overwhelmed with this terrible nostalgia and sadness because my memory of that perfect week is no longer that recent and is quickly receding into the distant past, where details are forgotten or corrupted by other memories.   For that one week, it seemed as if the emptiness inside me was filled for a change; now it’s just empty again.

I always knew the emptiness was there, but I was so emotionally numb and so used to it that I regarded it as normal. I didn’t really think about it; it was just always there. Now it’s nearly unbearable. It could mean that I’m close to diving into the void because it seems so much nearer than it ever did before. Maybe I’m closer to it because so many of my usual defenses have fallen away. Maybe tomorrow night’s session will be an interesting one; I’ve noticed that just before a breakthrough I become more depressed than usual.

I called my therapist crying today and left a long message about how overwhelmed I felt by this spiritual and emotional barrenness.   I’ll be seeing him tomorrow;  I guess we need to talk about it.   I got a small taste of what it’s like to be mentally and spiritually alive and healthy, without any disorders, but the downside of that is that once you’ve seen heaven, reality seems like hell.

Urban lots and blighted souls.

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Although I’m No Contact with all my narcissists, I still find myself oddly drawn to their barren and bleak souls, at least online.    I read blogs written by narcissists because their minds fascinate me, even though I don’t understand them and will never understand them.

In the early 1980s, there was a horror movie called “Wolfen, ”  which was set in the South Bronx of New York City.  I lived in New York at that time and I remember taking the subway through the south Bronx several times on my way to other places.  I’d stare out the dirty windows in horrified fascination at the blocks and blocks of decaying, burned out apartment buildings, abandoned lots full of rubble and garbage and broken glass surrounded by hurricane fences and sometimes topped with barbed wire.  There was a harsh, desolate sort of beauty to the urban blight.  Even on sunny days, the view was as gloomy and foreboding as if there was a perpetual storm festering overhead.    I couldn’t imagine how anyone could live there, but people did.  Although repulsed and afraid, I felt oddly drawn to the gloomy desolation.

I imagined getting out of the train and walking through one of those abandoned lots, staring up at the dark burned out tenements looming over me like demons vying for my soul.  I imagined looking over my shoulder for murderers and rapists, but the only life to be found were half starved rats feeding on trash and carrion crows picking apart the entrails of the dead ones.

That’s what the mind of a malignant narcissist seems like to me: a menacing, creepy urban lot filled with death and decay and laden with potential dangers.  I know there’s nothing good there, nothing I need or want.  And yet I feel this odd attraction to it.  I have to keep getting off that train and poking around like a curious cat.   Maybe there will be a diamond among the rubble, or a starving kitten needing to be rescued.  But of course there never is and never will be.  Online, there’s a sense of safety.  Unlike an actual urban lot, I can easily backspace if I feel myself drawn too far into the blight.

 

My dark thoughts.

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When I feel like this, the only way I can cope is to write.
I had one of my “black mornings.” I don’t get them every day, but when I do get them, they are overwhelming.
I’m getting less of them than I used to, but even one is too much.

I wake up into whiteness. My white blinds reflect the blue white snow that fell three days ago but the shadowless brightness hurts my eyes and mocks the darkness that rises like a miasma and permeates every cell in my body. I lie on my bed and pull the covers up over my head to keep out the daylight. I close my eyes tight. I will myself to fall back to sleep.

I can’t sleep. Thoughts that are blacker than black filter through my consciousness. They seem to arise from a bottomless pit located somewhere in my upper abdomen. They swirl like a cesspool or a black hole or a slow-moving tornado in my soul: thoughts of death, sickness, poverty, loss, and emptiness suck any lesser, lighter thoughts in with them and consume them like food.

Two words reverberate in my atrophied soul: No Future.

I try to will tears to empty myself of this horrible dread and hopelessness, but the backs of my retinas only burn and my eyes remain dry as tinder. I move my consciousness on the pit at the center of my stomach but all I can feel is my heart slamming into my throat. I swallow hard and kick the covers angrily away.

I need to get up. Even if I could sleep I would only wake feeling worse later. Like I wasted a day, and the guilt would consume me.

I look in the mirror on my door. I look like hell. My skin looks grainy. My hair hangs in oily strings. I really need to do something with it. But I know I won’t.

I turn away and go to the kitchen and make some coffee. Strong coffee, milk, no sugar please.
I take it back to my room, drink it. I know I shouldn’t drink coffee given my mental state, but it always calms me for the short term.

The pain is always worse in the morning. Most of the time I can pretend it isn’t there, but it’s always there, waiting in the shadows, ready to sink its tentacles into any mask of sanity I can muster like the flimsy paper covering it really is.

As I write, the darkness retreats. I find some temporary relief. For now, I can fill the void with frivolity and fake cheer.
But the darkness will be back. It always comes back.

Borderlines are human chameleons.

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My latest obsession seems to be the similarities and differences between people with NPD and BPD. I’ve been trying to come to terms with the idea an increasing number of mental health professionals hold that BPD may actually be on the same spectrum as NPD (for more information about this, see Alexander Lowen’s “Spectrum of Narcissistic Disorders”) but is a less adaptive (to the sufferer) form of the same disorder. What I’ve been reading is disturbing to me because I had no idea how similar BPD and NPD really may be.

The most important thing both disorders seem to have in common is that both borderlines and narcissists feel empty inside. Both feel as if they have a black hole inside them, and many try to “fill” that hole with things like substances, sex or compulsive shopping. People with both disorders are prone to abuse drugs or alcohol, or engage in other unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors (with the borderline more likely to be deliberately self-destructive and the narcissist callous or destructive toward others). Filling the inner black hole becomes so important that people with these disorders may disregard the needs of others in their need to get their “fix.”

I found an article in Psychology Today that discusses the devastating conundrum that both narcissists and borderlines have to face: the lack of an identity. It’s this absence of a true identity that make people with these disorders feel so empty and hollow, and drives them to do the kinds of things they do. The primary difference between these disorders is that narcissists adopt a false self to replace the lost true self, while borderlines–although not having a false self per se — instead become human chameleons, adapting their behaviors to a given situation (to avoid rejection)– but none of these identities are really “them.” The truth is, they don’t know who they really are. That’s why borderlines seem to change with the wind and confuse those they are close to.

The article I’ve linked to discusses these ideas in more depth. It’s extremely interesting stuff, but somewhat upsetting to people like me with a BPD diagnosis.

This article is Part 7 of a series about the differences and similarities between BPD and NPD.
The other 6 can be linked to from this one. (Of course I’ll be reading all of them.)

Who Am I? The Conundrum of Both Borderlines and Narcissists

I cannot repost the article here here without written permission from the author, so you will have to click the link to read the article.

Here is an article by the same author about the False Self the Narcissist uses to mask their lack of an identity: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stop-walking-eggshells/201111/behind-the-facade-the-false-self-the-narcissist