It was the “Mother of all Depressions.” For four days I was unable to get out of bed. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t care about anything. I wanted to die. Really; I found myself hating my life so much that I began to think putting an end to it was the answer. A tape with the obscene mantra, “I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life” began to play in my mind. The last time I felt similarly was one dreadful July 4th five years ago, when I found myself being admitted to an Adult Psychiatric Unit.
Experiences can sometimes begin to feel familiar to that time five years ago. Questions from family or friends about drug use, an uncontrollable anxiety over issues that later seem to end up as the small and minor challenges of a life in hyper drive. Family members and friends have no idea how to handle the evil, bitchy side that comes with depression. We fight, scream, cry and make threats. The choices I make when depressed are often not at all healthy and incongruent with physical or emotional well-being. Sometimes, the thoughts inside my head secretly struggle with the ways close friends have changed and seemingly moved on with their life. I may feel my life, in comparison to theirs, isn’t moving.
When I’m depressed, I want something; a pill, a hit of dope; SOMETHING that will stop my ability to feel. I will listen to recorded pipe organ music for hours and hours on end. The music of Bach, played on a pipe organ usually relaxes me. Those in my close inner circle have involved themselves with attempts to get me to do something to pull myself out of that dark evil place and back into the light. With each attempt I often hand them some bullshit line like, “Sure, I’ll get up and take the dogs for a nice long walk” or, “Yeah, and I’ll eat something.” What did I actually do? I went back to bed, but only after laying some feigned guilt trip about how much I may have missed them lately and how terrible I feel for the things I do that drives them away.
My pathetic actions give them yet another glimpse of how capable I am of beating the fucking shit out of myself for the ways I have hurt them in the past. Sometimes, family and friends threaten to close our relationships. “I have forgiven you and you should take a look at what you need to do to forgive yourself” a close friend once said. When this friend said that to me I began to know how familiar my interactions with them could feel. It seems I can be a cycling, emotional train wreck seeking solutions or fixes to my problems, from them.
Gradually, I have found myself coming around, getting back into the light of life and feeling better. A combination of things has worked. I began years ago writing or journaling about thoughts and feelings I experience, being as honest as I possibly can be with myself, in my personal journal. This process of sharing has become so comfortable to me, that I often write these same thoughts and feelings in a blog that anyone can read online. I read from many books that have sustained me through some tough times of painful personal growth. I pray.
From loved ones, I have received many gifts: words, though sometimes harsh, have raised my awareness of my behaviors. Love and “big momma type” hugs are a tactile way of feeling alive. Time spent sharing experiences or in quiet contemplation with other loved one’s travelling on a similar path of personal growth brings connectedness, and dilutes feelings of isolation. The last gift from loved ones has been their understanding and patience.
Tools learned in earlier cycles of depression are known to work and avert another “Mother of all Depressions”:
- Heightened anxiety is a precursor to thoughts that are not totally based on reality
- Understand self forgiveness
- Accept the way people change and move through life; we all must do the same
- Do not compare your life with anyone else’s
- Be grateful for the loved ones who have stayed by your side and reach out to at least one of them early on in any future cycle of depression
- We can learn to re-frame situations and experiences which may trigger negative thinking
- None of us are ever alone. We will never be alone
I read a blog that inspired me to begin sharing my journey away from depression. I have linked to it below. It was blogged by “Hope Despite Depression” at blogspot and is titled “Grateful for Depression?” http://hopedespitedepression.blogspot.com/2010/11/grateful-for-depresson.html
May we never allow depression to consume ourselves as much as it has in the past, ever again. May we begin to see our life experiences in different ways.
“Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.” — Abraham Heshel
Prayer can mean to some, “a conscious contact with God as we understood him,” which is important in one’s recovery or quest toward personal growth. There are many ways to pray and each of us has a style that uniquely expresses our spirituality. Meditation or even the singing of a hymn are examples of any number of ways in which people pray. Once we open ourselves to the Universe and the concept of something out there larger than ourselves, we can get comfortable with our own way of praying. It may mean leaving past ways behind. Maybe we’ve been used to prayer that relied only on words. Perhaps we used to pray for what we wanted, making sure we told God precisely what was best for us and everybody else. Or maybe we didn’t pray at all because we didn’t know how to, or were afraid.
I remember growing up in the Lutheran church, Missouri synod and having to attend confirmation class every Saturday morning, grades 6 through 8. I still remember our pastor teaching us “how to pray.” According to this pastor, we first had to tell God how sorry we were for all of our sins, original (sin that comes along with every human) and those we knew we had committed. Then we were to humbly ask for God’s forgiveness. Next we had to praise God; tell him how wonderful we knew him to be and how much we loved him. Finally, we could ask for what we needed, with the understanding that only God knows what is truly best for us. Lastly, we were to thank God for all he has done for us and that which we hope for him to do in the future.
No other song, no other prayer, no other piece of liturgy is so well-known and loved in my Unitarian Universalism church home as “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade. In six short lines “Spirit of Life” touches so much that is central one’s need to communicate with our Higher Power: compassion, justice, community, freedom, reverence for nature, and the mystery of life. It finds the common ground held by humanists and theists, pagans and Christians, Buddhists and Jews, gay and straight among us.
Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.
Thankfully, we don’t need to worry about how to pray; the Universe shows us how. We must however, be willing to move from the everyday world to a place where it is just the Universe and us. It is an exciting part of one’s spiritual journey to develop new ways to pray, trusting our relationship with the Universe to deepen the experience. What matters most is that we give ourselves to it. When our prayers are from the heart, we know it, and are at peace.
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)
“It is a true proverb, that if you live with a lame man, you will learn to halt.” — Plutarch
Working through the memories of childhood is a task each of us eventually faces. Addiction in a family system contributes to addiction along the way and affects our own individual addiction(s) and creates drama in life as adults.
I have realized that we can decide whether it’s important for us to know if and how addiction has operated in our families. We can gain that knowledge as we need it. But isn’t it enough simply knowing the addiction is real, that it’s present in family systems, and that we didn’t cause it? Knowing we didn’t cause it helps to stop blaming one’s self.
The important thing I have found is to focus on my own recovery. I cannot change a thing about my family or the past. But, I have found I can change my attitude toward them. When ever we feel caught up in the addiction or drama in a family members’s behavior, we can bring our attention back to ourselves. That way, resentment and fruitless anger yield to honesty and humility. Detaching from the things we cannot change, forgiving the harm done to us, and letting go of the past are important parts of our healing.
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.”