What 2017 has taught me.

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I feel like a victim again.   I was doing pretty well emotionally until this year.  Since I left my ex in 2014 and started blogging, slowly I began to feel freer and lighter emotionally.   I felt like I was finally rid of most of my C-PTSD/BPD symptoms and the emotional work I was doing both in and out of therapy was reaping benefits.    I came to realize that I had been repeatedly victimized by others for most of my life because I acted like a victim and kept telling  myself I was one.  I became my own abuser.   Although I will never blame myself for what happened to me or the psychological problems I developed because of it (which in their own warped and unhealthy way protected me),  I realized, like Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz, when Glinda The Good Witch told her she always had the power to go home but just didn’t realize it, that I always had the power to be a non-victim, to not live in mortal fear of everyone, but didn’t realize it because the abuse I endured had made me blind to the fact I was as worthy and powerful as anyone else and deserved to be treated well by others.  I was finally seeing what was possible for me without all that paralyzing fear, shame and self-hatred dragging me down.

But the political abuses of our monstrously narcissistic and sociopathic president and his equally malicious administration has retriggered a lot of the Bad Old Me, the scared-of-everything-and-everyone me.     I won’t go into the specifics of what those abuses are since this is not intended to be a political post and I know I’m not alone in feeling so terrified and depressed at the same time.   All of us, especially those of us who survived narcissistic abuse, and especially if it was sustained over a long period of time, all know why he triggers us.

2017 has been a horror show for me.    I feel like an unwilling participant in the Trump Reality Show, all the while knowing I’m on the losing team.    This doesn’t just mean obsessing over the latest upsetting news story and worrying about the effect its outcome might ultimately have on my freedom, financial status, health, and general well-being.     I’ve also been doubting myself again.  My feelings are hurt more easily, I ruminate and obsess for weeks over insults and rejections, even by people I don’t know well.   Often I feel like I can’t function at all.   I’ve returned to feeling like a victim, and even while I know that such a self-defeating, negative attitude tends to draw in even more negativity,  I can’t help it.   Almost a year after Trump’s inauguration,  I’m generally in one of three moods: fearful, depressed, and angry — sometimes all three at the same time.  Sometimes I feel dissociated, like nothing is real anymore.   Sometimes I slide into a kind of numbness where cynicism and fatalism take over.   I think about death a lot.

But something odd has happened too.  In the midst of the darkness, my faith in God has intensified.   I know he has a plan for me, which involves illuminating the truth and serving as a voice for the vulnerable.   Even while my emotional life is presently in turmoil, I feel like God is very near and no matter what happens, I should not be afraid or give into despair or hopelessness.   Even if I become one of the casualties of this president’s policies,  and even if I have to die,  it will have meant something and I would have fulfilled His purpose for me.

As my faith has grown, my heart has changed.   I used to consider myself self-centered and unconcerned about others, even to the point of not being able to feel much empathy to others.   But that was because I felt like I constantly had to protect myself from being hurt.   It’s strange to me that even though a lot of those old “poor me” emotions have come back, this newfound concern about the world at large has not faltered and always exceeds my concern for myself.  That is definitely something new.

I realized about two years ago that the narcissistic abuse I had to endure as a child wasn’t just some random thing that happened.    It was ultimately a teacher that gave me a doctoral level course in how narcissists operate.   It was schooling to prepare me for what we are facing now on the national level.  After my rage at my abusers (and people with NPD in general) burnt itself out, I began to wonder if I was a narcissist myself, or even had NPD.    I looked at those traits I possessed that resulted from not having been validated as a functioning, worthy human being by my parents — my self centeredness, my envy of others, my tendency in the past to not take responsibility and project fault onto others, my rage, my frozen empathy, my tendency to hate (or fall in love with)  people easily — and concluded that I was myself a narcissist.   I made it my mission to rid myself of my narcissism, but at the same time (or actually, slightly prior to it), I entered an odd phase where I began to sympathize with narcissists and sought to understand them rather than keep bashing them.   I wrote posts criticizing what I felt, at the time, was an unjust demonization of people with NPD by the narcissistic abuse community.    I even started a blog documenting my self-healing journey and later, my therapy.   (That blog has been inactive since April and I have no interest in ever posting in it again).

As it turned out, that weird phase was short lived.  I had insisted that my therapist give me an NPD diagnosis, since I was so certain I had it and couldn’t work on myself properly if I didn’t have the actual label.  My therapist didn’t think I even qualified for the BPD diagnosis I had been given in the ’90s.   Instead, when I kept pushing for a diagnosis, he said he thought I had PTSD (more accurately, C-PTSD), maybe with a few narcissistic traits (“fleas” in narc-abuse parlance), but certainly not fullblown NPD.     Gradually I stopped sympathizing with narcissists too, and developed indifference toward them.   The whole topic of narcissism, in fact, had begun to bore me.   Today I could care less about narcissists, although I don’t actively feel hatred toward them.   I just feel — nothing toward them.

I’ve been puzzling over why I developed that weird empathy toward narcissists (and my conviction that I was one), because I’m feeling none of that now, with this malignant narcissist president, or toward narcissists in general.  Yesterday I finally realized why that happened.   The darkness and evil we are facing is so dangerous and so powerful, that for me to have remained in a state of hatred (which is normal for people who have recently left narcissistic relationships) would have kept me from being able to reach out and give hope to others.  Hatred, no matter if it’s born of righteous anger, is just another form of darkness, and blocks any light from getting through.  Not only would it have hindered me from doing the work that God planned for me, it would have eventually destroyed me.  Hatred eats you alive and exacerbates any narcissistic traits one has.   In order for me to let go of my hatred I had to look inward at my own narcissism and rid myself of it.  I would not have been able to see what I was doing to myself with such clarity had I remained stuck in hatred.

I know I’m not explaining myself very well, but I know I’ve changed, and all these psychological stages I had to go through happened as part of my training.  Knowing that, none of this is easy.  In fact, it’s excruciatingly painful but in an existential, rather than personal, way.   It hurts to know there are so many horrible people in the world who have no conscience, no moral center, no respect for the truth or for justice, and do not care about anyone but themselves.   It hurts to know that greed and narcissism is decimating everything good in the world.   It hurts knowing that we have a bunch of men running the country who have made it clear they want most of us to perish and are actively trying to make that a reality and are gleefully going about their mission to destroy.   It hurts to know that, to them, I’m worthless, a useless parasite who deserves to die.   Their soullessness and cruelty makes me question my own worth and is making me doubt myself again and making me act in the old ways that bring about abuse.   I’m prey and they can smell that.    But this time, it’s not just about me.   It’s about all of us who have been targeted.   The evil we are in the midst of feels eternally powerful, oppressive, almost biblical in its malice, some dark force not of this world.  It’s overwhelming.   It’s overwhelmingly sad.  And scary.  And very, very hard not to give in to hate.

Nevertheless I must soldier on.    I can’t go back.   My past gave me tools to do the work I have been asked to do, whatever that work may be.   No matter what happens, God has my back.   But it’s so hard.

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Always waiting for the other shoe to drop…

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I think I made a kind of breakthrough in my therapy session tonight. For years one of my problems has been this overwhelming fear that something bad will happen to one of my kids. (I don’t like to even say the D word because I irrationally believe if I say it, I’ll somehow make it happen, by putting it out into the universe or something).

Of course all parents worry about their adult kids, especially when they know they’re out there somewhere in cars, which we all know are dangerous hunks of metal capable of the most ghastly and gory deaths you can imagine and operated by countless idiots and drunks on the road who can’t drive. I think my apprehension about something bad happening to my adult children edges into OCD-type territory though, because of how overpowering and pervasive these thoughts are, intruding where and when they are not welcome, even though I know that in all likelihood, something bad will NOT happen and even if it does, worrying about it excessively is like living through it twice. I think about my hypothetical reaction to such an event and wonder how I would retain my sanity, if not my will to live. I always marvel at people who have lost a child in a sudden manner like a car accident (a long illness is more bearable because you have time to prepare for it and process it) and wonder how they can still go on with their day to day activities–going shopping, paying bills, working at a job, watching a movie, hell, even having FUN sometimes. I know that wouldn’t be me and I obsess over how I might react.

I’ve been so haunted by the remote possibility of getting THAT life-changing phone call late some night (you know the one), that it’s even been a recurrent theme in my writings. I had a dream over a year ago about losing my son, and wrote a post about it, called Losing Ethan.

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Anyway, I decided to bring up this problem because it doesn’t exactly make my life happier and it annoys the hell out of my kids. The first thing my therapist did was tell me to stop BEING those feelings, but just OWN them. In other words, he’d noticed that when I talk about bad feelings that make me ashamed or anxious, I always use the term “I am….” Instead he told me to practice saying, “I feel…” or “I have…” In this way, you create a bit of a distance between yourself and the bad feeling. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel it, but with a little distance, the emotion can be explored, almost from the viewpoint of a third person. Ironically, what happens is you feel the emotion MORE (I can’t really explain why that works but it does).

His advice was brilliant, because a few minutes later, I made a connection. In 1998, with my then-husband in jail, I was forced to learn to drive his stickshift truck. I had to teach myself and never learned to park the truck properly. So after picking up my kids from their after school program and pulling into our driveway, I set it to Neutral and the truck began to roll downhill–containing both my kids, then ages 5 and 7, straight toward a TREE. The events that played out next are described in this post, called The Tree.

The important thing is, I’d connected this traumatic event in August of 1998 to my current obsessive thoughts about tragedy striking and generally always feeling like I’m about to receive some devastating news–and I knew immediately that these unpleasant thoughts are based on guilt and shame. I started to tell my therapist that I always felt guilty that the truck had rolled and that I *could* have killed them. For about 10 years I couldn’t even talk about it, because any time I did, I’d start feeling very dissociated and anxious. My ex knew how to press all my buttons, and knew this was my biggest one. If he wanted to upset me all he had to do was remind me what a rotten mother I was to almost kill my kids that night because he knows I’m still struggling with guilt over my failure to protect them, my failure to be smart enough to know how to park a stickshift.

I’m always very mindful of my body language, voice and gestures when I’m in session, probably as much as my therapist is. These things can tell you a LOT about yourself, not just about others. And I realized as I was making these connections that my body relaxed and I leaned back but my voice became softer and sadder. I was opening up to him in a way I hadn’t before. He just listened, with what appeared to be a great deal of empathy.

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And at some point I felt tears come to my eyes. My eyes just barely glistening, tears not overflowing, but there, making the backs of my eyelids feel warm. I looked off to my left like I always do when I get deep into stuff, and kept on talking. I felt myself opening up and feeling some kind of generic emotion that wasn’t sadness and wasn’t guilt and wasn’t gratitude or joy but was none of these things and yet all of these things. I wanted to share all this with him. I heard myself speak and my voice became thick and my eyes burned again.

There was more, much more, but I’ll end this here because I’m getting emotional writing this. The important thing is, I almost shed tears in front of my therapist tonight. That might not seem like such a big a deal, but for me it was a huge deal because I haven’t been able to cry in front of another human being in about 15 years–which I realized is when THAT happened. (It might have been longer than that though–my memories of the time I was in my horrible marriage are gray, shadowy and even have yawning gaps in places).

What happened tonight is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg–I was seriously fucked up for a very, very, VERY long time, at least since age 4 or 5–but it’s significant because it means the wall in my head that prevents me from really being able to connect to my emotions is developing a few weak spots.

“There’s a killer on the road”…

This powerful, suspenseful poem chilled me.

Eye Will Not Cry

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~

Lost within his life’s direction…
He took the wrong train connection…
His destination is unknown…

His eyes survey the gathered crowd…
A quiet coach, no noise allowed…
He sees her sat alone…

Keeping her eyes on the book…
She was bewitched by just one look…
She’s chilled to the bone…

She doesn’t even know his name…
His evil crimes or hidden shame…
Or his heart that’s made of stone…

He’s craving her undivided attention…
She’s floating in an air of tension…
Into confusion she is thrown…

Trying to avoid his charming stare…
It could be fun, if she’d only dare…
Common sense on hold…

A spark of innocent conversation…
Ignites thoughts of dark temptation…
Her confidence has grown…

She begins flirting with her hair…
In his trap, shes now been snared…
She plays with her phone…

Fallen for his devilish smile…
His journey becoming more worthwhile…
But time has…

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