My previous relationship was with a man with a paranoid personality disorder. Eventually, it was determined that he also had a narcissistic personality disorder. With this knowledge I chose to stand by the side of my then partner, as I felt that, through no choice of his own, he was afflicted by mental illness. It goes without saying, that this affliction played a major role in my life both individually and in the relationship. Each day proved to be a difficult day. I have blogged about my experience with his paranoid personality disorder. The insight I have gained through my process of understanding narcissism has broadened the scope of my comprehension of the bigger picture of what was going on and what was “in play” within our relationship. I stated in my blog about paranoia that by sharing this type of information openly in forums such as this and my decision honor the commitments I have made to my partner, I have alienated myself from key persons I would normally choose to have in my support network. As a result of my openness and honesty, I sacrificed both family connections and close friendships.
Contrary to what some people may think, I felt I had given considerable thought to my decision to stand by my partner, again consulting with both paraprofessionals and professionals in the field of psychiatry. It is a lonely experience trying to share the struggles my partner and I faced to some in our support network, and some abandoned us altogether. I was often asked,” Why do you stay with such a person?” When faced with trying to understand his narcissistic behavior, I found myself in a very familiar place, asking myself that very same question.
As I continued to learn to live with the decisions I made, I saw more of the options available to me. Thoughts, feelings and emotions were so jumbled up inside my head. I felt as though I was hanging onto a very thin rope over a very deep abyss. I knew that in times such as those I was experiencing, I needed to first take care of myself. Eventually, healthy people came into my life. One or two of them were there all along, only I wasn’t open to receiving their opinion and I didn’t pursue the friendship. I found I had a small circle of stable people I could call and talk to and spend time with outside of my home environment.
I knew I needed a tool to process the jumbled feelings, the hurts, resentments and fears that were consuming my thoughts; even manifesting themselves physically in my body. One way I typically approach the more significant issues in my life is to look at the situation very analytically. One of the ways I do this is to write a blog and journal which incorporates the more factual matters; much like the way one would approach writing a research paper on the subject matter. Following is the result from my research, condensed and specific to my situation with my former partner:
The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, need for admiration, extreme self-involvement, and a lack of empathy for others. Individuals with this disorder are usually arrogantly self-assured and confident. They expect to be noticed as superior. Individuals with NPD are sometimes called “serial bullies.” Many highly successful people might be considered narcissistic. However, this disorder is only diagnosed when these behaviors become persistent and very disabling or distressing. The narcissist does not cater at all to his own needs. Contrary to his reputation, the narcissist does not “love” himself in any true sense of this loaded word.
He feeds off other people who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them. This is their sole function in his world: to reflect, to admire, to applaud, to detest – in a word, to assure him that he exists. Otherwise, they have no right to tax his time, energy, or emotions – so he feels.
NPD is a true mental diagnosis for people who need admiration, lack empathy and have a grandiose sense of their self-importance. It is called a pervasive pattern of grandiosity in fantasy and behavior, and usually begins by early adulthood and it presents itself in a variety of symptoms. To make this diagnosis, a person presents five or more of the following:
Are You Narcissistic?
Fill in the blank next to each question with a number from 1 to 5 as follows:
1 strongly disagree 2 disagree 3 neutral 4 agree 5 strongly agree
_____ I am very concerned with what others think of me.
_____ I am easily bored.
_____ I feel that I am attractive
_____ I call, text or email my friends when we haven’t spoken for a while.
_____ People are always coming to me with their problems.
_____ I am more important than most people I know.
_____ I find that other people’s remarks can be hurtful.
_____ I don’t like being alone for long.
_____ People often don’t appreciate me.
_____ I feel that I am always sorting out people’s problems for them.
Scores between 24 and 34 are normal (The average is 29).
If your score is 35 or more you may be narcissistic.
If your score is 23 or less you may be lacking in self-confidence.
It is rare for a narcissistic person to be diagnosed with NPD because those who really should be don’t seek help and so don’t get clinically assessed; it is usually members of their family or work colleagues who seek help to cope with them. Here are a few pointers that may help you identify one:
Their lack of empathy colors everything they do.
They may say, “How are you?” when you meet, but they are working from memory.
They are not interested in how you are.
Virtually all of their ideas or ways of behaving in a given situation are taken from others, people they know and perhaps think of as an authority (mirroring).
Their sense of self-importance and lack of empathy means that they will often interrupt the conversations of others.
They expect others to do the day-to-day chores as they feel too important to waste their time on common things.
Listen for the constant use of “I”, “me” and “my” when they talk.
They very rarely talk about their inner life, such as their memories and dreams.
They feel that the rules at work don’t apply to them
They will always cheat when they think they can get away with it
If you share workload with them expect to do the lion’s share yourself.
They love to delegate work or projects, and then interfere by micro-managing it. If it goes well, they take the credit, if it goes badly they blame the person they delegated it to.
There tends to be higher levels of stress with people who work with or interact with a narcissist, which in turn increases absenteeism and staff turnover.
They get impatient and restless when the topic of discussion is about someone else, and not about them.
How is narcissistic personality disorder treated?
There is no known cure for narcissistic personality disorder, but psychotherapy might help the person learn to relate to others in a more positive and rewarding way. Psychotherapy tries to provide the person with greater insight into his or her problems and attitudes in the hope that this will change behavior. The goal of therapy is to help the person develop a better self-esteem and more realistic expectations of others. Medicine might be used to treat the distressing symptoms, such as behavioral problems, that might occur with this disorder.
What are the complications of narcissistic personality disorder?
People with narcissistic personality disorder might abuse drugs and/or alcohol as a way of coping with their symptoms. The disorder also might interfere with the development of healthy relationships with others.
What is the outlook for people with narcissistic personality disorder?
The prognosis depends on the severity of the disorder.
Can narcissistic personality disorder be prevented?
There is no known way to prevent narcissistic personality disorder.
- Living with a Person who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (brighthub.com)
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Children (brighthub.com)
- Insight into Treatments for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (brighthub.com)
- Bipolar or Narcissistic Personality Disorder? (everydayhealth.com)
As an addict and when I have been actively using, I grasp only at the shadow of things. I neither relate to people as if they are real, nor do I communicate as a mature, loving person. Instead, I have pursued phantoms and a few dragons, and in the end, have found only dissatisfaction.
Addictions diminish and demean us as much as they allow us to see things only as extensions of ourselves. We become afraid of individuality and differences. We allow ourselves to see other people only as reflections of ourselves.
Through my efforts to grow personally and in my recovery, I have come to need substance in my life. It is when I am working at real problems, connecting with people as they are that I truly feel alive. In my relationships, if I am to see growth, I need to give and receive genuine and authentic love and affection.
In my healthy relationships with family and friends, and in my recovery groups and network, I find substance and particularity. I find authentic people who are learning not to be afraid to extend themselves and who come to meet and greet me in life. Together, we can all learn to live and to love as vital, whole individuals in a real world.
I am learning to get out of the shadows and darkness of my addictions and wanted to share my experience with my readers so that we can all live in a world of substance, reality and love.
“Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.” — Aesop
“The great law of culture; let each become what he is capable of becoming.” – Thomas Carlyle
Each of us is unique, precious and human. We need to join in the movements of life and culture that encourage us all to grow and change and live out the fullest of our potential.
By remaining immersed in addiction, we are simply joining the ranks of the dead in life, those who deny the possibility of growth and becoming. Addiction is a stunting illness that holds back the healthy forward movement of life.
In recovery, there will be moments of hesitation and even relapse. Relapse is part of recovery. When this happens, do not lose faith in yourself because we are constantly strengthened through our personal growth and recovery work. Insight will be gained and the support we need will be found in our groups and through our connection to our Higher Power. And so we continue to reconnect with our own rhythm and pattern of growth. Try making this affirmation to yourself: “I am part of a living culture and I am capable of change and growth.”
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Even though we may deny it, there are those of us that may secretly want to be hurt by others; since, in some strange abhorrent way, we think that is what we deserve. Before I became clean and sober, I lost my good opinion of myself; I indulged in actions that placed me in situations of humiliation and debasement. It’s a sad truth, but I found comfort there, finding a sort of release from tension through degrading acts.
For those readers who may relate even remotely to such degradement, resolve with me to reject humiliation. I find that through talking to others, that life is rich and varied and open – I want to join in! There was a woman sitting across from me on the bus the other day, and I noticed that from her purse hung a long chain of Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA) sobriety chips; the one most prominent boasting 30 months sobriety. This woman was riding the bus with two others, who I eventually came to know as her husband and daughter.
As I watched this woman interacting with her family, seeing their big smiling faces, listening to their jests and laughter, I thought how alive they looked. Not ghostly images of addicts going unnoticed as life moves about them, but rather, they were engaged in life. I wanted to join in!
We do not have to continue to find false comfort and release in acts that come back to haunt us and humiliate us. There is no more room in my life for feelings of inferiority or worthlessness. There are ways for us all to gain self-esteem and a sense of true value of our lives.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
One of the things I know I have gained through recovery and personal growth is that I have been given courage in the face of life’s darker realities. Now, I’m even more enthusiastic to offer my help to others in the face of addiction, depression, mental illness, physical illness and any other of life’s calamities. I know I can help, because I can say, “I’ve been there.” I’ve gone through so much, and I’ve come out of it on the other side. I understand the fear.
What a tremendous gift this can all be to others, given by those of us who understand the fear. Especially, for those facing their recovery issues after us. Our presence, our support, our unconditional love, and our non judgmental attitude are often what another suffering person needs. Our experiences as addicts, individuals challenged with mental illness – you name it – whatever other fear based dilemma we have faced, have given us an understanding and wisdom.
We have the perspective to be practical and realistic when necessary. We have the empathy to be compassionate. We have the strength and clarity to keep our boundaries in the face of another’s challenges and fears. My courage I am feeling at this moment is my personal growth and recovery in action. For that, may we all be grateful!
Some days I wonder, “How am I ever going to recover from my addictions?” “What more must I do to get well?” These are the basic questions I ask myself, as I struggle with my illness: an addiction to Crystal Meth.
The questions I ask in my mind are obvious, once I have taken time to really think about what is going on in my life. And the answers are just as simple – stop acting out, stop using, stay busy, and work my plan of personal growth through the SMART Recovery program, whose logical approach works best for me.
I know however, that it’s not enough to just go to those meetings once each week and putting in my time. Easy solutions may seem plausible, but just mouthing the words isn’t going to do the job. I have been a sick person, very sick at times, and I am going to struggle sometimes to see things straight again; to get back on course. The route is charted by the people who support me.
Counselors and good friends have become my guides. But when all is said and done, I have to make the choice to accept the answers and the help that will bring me renewal and health. I know the way forward to health isn’t easy, but I have confidence in myself that I will come through. Like the elegant Phoenix, I too shall rise from the ashes and be beautiful!
“At the bottom of the modern man there is always a great thirst of self-forgetfulness, self-distraction…and therefore he turns away from all those problems and abysses which might recall to him his own nothingness.”– Henri Amiel (1821-1881), Swiss Philosopher and Poet
I am aware of the way I sometimes rush around or slide off into the land of fantasy to distract myself from looking at myself too closely. Am I afraid that what I might find is nothing but my own… nothingness? Are my addictions a misguided search for some kind of identity at any price?
I am discovering that identity is not something given, once and for all. Perhaps there is never a fixed point at which I can say, “I am that.” Life is a process, upheaval, reversal, change and a continuous process of becoming. If I can be brave enough to welcome change and the pains it can cause, I may never have to fear the vertigo of nothingness or the madness of distraction that becomes self-destruction.
Fear thrives on distractions. Love thrives on presence. — Alan Cohen
February 19, 2008 was the date of my last blog. So much has happened since then. Much of the time I felt depressed. There were days that would run into one another. Long, endless days. Days in which I simply couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of bed. There were many times of intense anxiety during which my mind played games with me, blinding me to see any beacon of hope. I truly couldn’t see any real possibility of coming through the stressors that I faced. I failed to see any good in life. When I wasn’t curled up in bed, I would be quickly sailing through one mood swing to another. Anyone in my way along this vacillation of moods was sure to be quickly cut down by some sarcastic remark I hurled at them. My mood swings triggered some very negative reactions in my partner as a result. Any thing wrong in my life, our life, or his life I quickly pointed the finger of blame right at him. It didn’t take long before I alienated myself from even his support. I felt so alone, yet continued to alienate myself from everyone.
Not that there were that many people to alienate myself from this past month. The past year has found my partner and I eliminating those individuals from our life that were negative, users, or involved in our life when using drugs. Unfortunately, some good people became casualties in this process. I can see how in my desire to avoid people, I put them into the same elimination process of dismissal. The loneliness that resulted only perpetuated and deepened my depression and mood swings.
Days and nights were spent sleeping, interrupted by periodic attacks of anxiety which would cause pain in my chest so severe and a loss of breath so tight in the chest that each time I thought that surely I would die. But death didn’t come, my problems grew around me, and I couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with them. I was afraid. Lost, alone and afraid.
The list of what I saw as problems, or challenges is so long and far too tedious for me to list here for you, but the main issues were of financial problems, putting my partner’s mother into her final resting place (she transitioned on January 23, 2008 and we didn’t have the money to pay the funeral home for her burial), relationship issues, a longing for the life I once had, guilt and a feeling that I was not adequately caring for our growing family of animals (now 3 dogs, 3 cats, and one parrot), our lack of health insurance, medical concerns and I’m sure there’s more that I could include if I gave it some more thought. But suffice it to say, my world felt heavy, unpleasant and sick.
I wish I could say that I am beyond this latest round of depression; that it’s behind me. But I can’t. Things look better to me. A number of what seemed to be huge, voluminous challenges, have turned out to be almost “non-issues” once they were faced. A big part of my problem was the way I wouldn’t deal with my fears. As my partner withdrew from me, I was no longer receivi9ng his support or help in solving issues which were jointly ours. The turning point came with the addition of another very, very large stressor.
One evening about four weeks ago, my partner got off the phone and said that a dear friend of his – someone who opened her home to him and supported him for nearly two years, was in trouble. She lost her home, and had no where to go along with her two Pit Bull mix female dogs. The primary friendship is between my partner and his friend, and knowing how indebted he has always felt toward her for that long period of love, nurturing and support, the decision to open our home to her and her two dogs came easily. Of course. We’d make it work somehow. This friend Linda’s dogs are Sadie and Sierra, two litter mates that are seven years old. These dogs have always been known to be protective, aggressive and have bitten a number of people during the course of their life. They are known to attack and kill smaller animals, like cats and small dogs. Great. We have three cats and three small dogs (the third dog, Rascal became part of our family after Christopher’s mother died. We gave Rascal to her for Christmas a few years ago). We set up residence for the cats in one bedroom, the dogs in another. Sadie and Sierra would have the living room. It seemed as though it would work just fine.
That first night, Christopher was going into the bedroom where the cats were being kept, and one of them got out, headed straight for Sadie and Sierra. He panicked, running to rescue the cat. Sadie and Sierra attacked Christopher, biting deep into the muscle of his right leg. The pain was severe, that I could tell. It was his shock and fear of the way in which the dogs turned on him that lingered and was difficult to shake. Linda wanted to pack up an leave that night. We weren’t going to let her do that. She had nowhere to go. Again, we’d make it work somehow.
We carefully made our way through the next two days, but in the evening of that third night, I opened the bedroom door and out ran our twenty-six year old cat, Cinder. He was lumbering right between the two growling and aggressive Sadie and Sierra. I panicked. I started screaming at them to get back! Stop! Now they weren’t going after the cat. It was me they were after. They started jumping up my back, biting at me as they lept. Their weight and strength caused me to slip and fall onto the tile floor in the living room. They wildly bit at my backside and both legs. I couldn’t get up! I felt as though I were moving in slow motion in a nightmare. I screamed so loud and at the same time looked back and could see the bared teeth of each dog biting into me. Linda wasn’t home. Christopher came running down the hallway screaming like a maniac scaring them off of me. By this time however, the attack caused so many bites to me, and the jeans I was wearing were nearly shredded from their teeth. While Christopher kept them away from me, I ran to the bedroom. All I could think to do was take a shower. I cried hysterically, and couldn’t get the fierce image of those dogs biting at me out of my mind. I still can’t shake that memory.
Christopher placed a call to Linda on her cell phone and she was back home within minutes. She took the dogs outside for what seemed to be hours. Again, she felt she should leave, and again we said “stay”. We’d make it work out. As strange as this may seem, it has worked out. Gradually, I have come to increase my trust of Sadie and Sierra, and we are all more cognizant of our movements in the house, as well as the placement of each animal. Most who hear this story can’t understand why any of this would be allowed to happen. That we’d bring this into our home, complicating life so dramatically, disrupting so much of what once was our routine. I say, this is our commitment to someone who has given so much of herself. She continues to give of herself, going beyond any expectation of reciprocity in a roommate type situation. Linda is quite easy to get along with as a roommate, as she pulls more than her share of responsibility. She has given me the motivation to move forward in life, and face my fears.
To me, Linda has been an incredible listener, gently asking if I am open to her feedback. She has seen the areas where my fear leads to inaction and ultimately becoming an even greater and more dangerous problem. In those situations, she has taken me by the hand and committed herself to helping me; being at my side, asking questions I may have missed, devising solutions, and ultimately resolving problems. This has been such a burden lifted from my shoulders. It’s the support and guidance I am in need of for now, all given without creating any codependency. It all feels so healthy to me. I’ll share more of this past month’s developments, and the progress we’re all making here in our home.
“Most people write off their longing for friends and family as so many losses in their lives, when they should count the fact that their heart is able to long so hard and to love so much as among their greatest blessings.” – Etty Hillesum –
I’m lonely. It’s lonely either being a practicing addict or even as a recovering person on a path of personal and spiritual growth. When I was being sexual with someone else by “partying and playing” in my past, I could push the truth away for a while in the high of the moment. But afterward, back in reality, the loneliness became even more devastating. I could pretend not to care, telling myself that I didn’t need people. But I knew I was lying. Connection, not disconnection, was what that which I longed for; and still find myself longing for today.
I realize that it is possible to rebuild those connections that have been lost. Even as I become healthier through the work I do along my path of personal growth and spirituality, the loneliness does not go away immediately; it takes time. The more I reach out to people honestly, believing I am worthwhile and have something to give, the less lonely I feel. The connections may be new; with new people met traveling along the same path – not those family or friends hurt by me in the past.
Those old relationships may carry their hurts, resentments and doubts for a very long time; never believing that I am capable of change. Overcoming “guilty until proven innocent” can take a very long time to achieve, if ever. New relationships help fill the void left by those loved one’s that can’t, or won’t adjust to the efforts I make and my new, healthier behaviors. There is always a flaw in what they see, which keeps them from an openness of the heart. Yet I have found there’s a world out there, and I belong in it.
I may long for some of the old relationships, but that longing is often quickly dashed when I remind myself of the conditions that were placed on their love. I have found through my personal growth the capability in some people, and in myself, the ability to love unconditionally. Unconditional love – the giving and receiving of it, comes so much more naturally and is a joy to have in my life.
So who am I still lonely for? A relationship with the Universe? Other people? Once I answer that question for myself, I can do something about it.