Peace Drunk

I had a strange realization this morning, as I was getting ready for work – I realized I have not had a panic attack in three weeks.
Given that, before his moving van pulled out, they were a daily occurrence…I feel this is cause to celebrate.  I know my nerves certainly are.
If you’ve never had a panic attack – let me describe the cornucopia of fun they are:  Your heart rate starts to soar…and it feels like an electrode has been inserted into your spine, and this blazing heat replaces your backbone.  Your mind becomes a tornado of thoughts spinning so fast you can’t grab ahold to even one of them to figure out what to do next.  Your hands shake.  You can’t really seem to form a sentence.
You feel like you’re going to die – because your mind has gone haywire, and your body feels like it’s going to implode. 
And I was having those daily.  YAY!
You don’t realize how nervous you become accustomed to being in your own home.  A NARC’s favorite tool is to keep you off balance…so that you are so busy trying to stay ‘normal’, you don’t bother questioning lies or inconsistencies.  They focus on keeping YOU off center, because, as the person ‘closest’ to them, you are likely the one who can validate truth.  What better way to make you the world’s most unreliable witness than to keep you in a constant state of apprehension for the normal things life throws at you.  Also…the more unstable you appear to others, when he has to start smearing you after the relationship ends, his version seems more plausible, because you were always a nervous wreck.
Losing my keys – OMG…I am going to make him late.  He will be mad at me.  He will remind me I’m scatter brained.  He will leave me.  I will be alone.  I can’t function on my own!  WHERE ARE MY KEYS…then, I couldn’t find them, because I’d been in a panic.  Fixing Dinner – OMG…I don’t remember if I’m supposed to sauce the chicken before or after I bake it….dinner will be ruined, we will have to go out to eat…which means food is wasted and money is spent replacing the dinner I ruined… He will remind me I’m scatter brained.  He will leave me.  I will be alone.  I can’t function on my own!  I am not ready to go to bed, but he’s tired.  I have to go lay in bed until I fall asleep.  OMG…I am tossing and turning…he will not get enough sleep…he has a long day tomorrow…(I have a full time job as well, and actually made more than he did.)…if he is tired, he will lose focus…his boss will yell at him… He will remind me I’m scatter brained.  He will leave me.  I will be alone.  I can’t function on my own!

The NARC, during the end of a Love Bombing cycle, will start to implant these little nuggets into your daily life to make you fear their disapproval at the most insignificant things.  You learn to be on alert, because life had better run smoothly, or you will be chided, demeaned, ridiculed and insulted in very subtle ways at first…so you become ‘accustomed’ to them as just part of your daily discourse with one another.  Eventually, when they realize that they’ve implanted the fear they will abandon you for being human…then, they amp up the dissatisfaction and the blaming you for everything that goes wrong…every decision made (Whether you made it or not.  He literally told me, several times, ‘Well why did you let me do that?  If you knew, why not say anything?’  Uh…maybe because arguing with you is 1.) An exercise in futility, and 2.) We both know it will end up being my fault in the end…or at least damned sure not your fault, so lets just cut to the chase, shall we?)
So you put up with those first very subtle digs that grow deeper and more cutting as the time goes on…because you become convinced it IS your fault…and if you are just ‘good enough’, Love Bombing will happen again…YOUR behavior will turn them back into who you fell in love with…and all is right with the world.  You learn to beware the small things, because they will only get larger in your incompetent, clumsy hands.  And that thought Is terrifying, because it means that, once again, you’ve failed at living up to your partner’s expectations, and you will be emotionally punished. 

You become so attuned to what is wrong with your actions…you know instinctively that a mistake you make will cause the Love Bombing clock to be ‘reset’…and thus, you panic, knowing you have displeased ‘The Great One’ again with your incorrectly sauced chicken or, God Forbid, toilet paper hung the wrong way.  (I am not even kidding.)

So it was quite surprising that I realized that I hadn’t had those horrible physical feelings that merged into Mental Tornadoes that left me incapacitated as I tried to figure out how to fix my horrible wrongs to maybe bring the Love Bombing back…or at least fix it to the point he wouldn’t notice how wrong I had done something.

It’s strange – for a woman who is in the midst of turmoil, who has to move on her own, and who barely has two dimes to her name for the foreseeable future – the calm of not having the Human Emotional Hurricane around, ready to sweep me into the sea and spit me back out makes me feel strangely at peace in a world with the early stages of massive overhaul.

And the peace it brings is, frankly, intoxicating.
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Normal, See?

If you are unfamiliar with Narcissists…it seems impossible to wrap your head around how they operate:  It should be so easy to see someone obviously manipulating you, twisting memories to suit their agenda, or behaving in ways that seem to contradict what your own memories relate to you.  How can someone involved with these people not see what is happening to them?  How can they not see they are with an unrepentant jackass?

While it might be malicious – make no mistake:  A Narcissist is highly skilled in many areas of human interaction:  Just not in ways that are healthy for anything remotely resembling a normal, healthy, productive relationship.

Narcissists are, deep down, chronically insecure and damaged.  However, they are also aware in some very strange way, that they are, indeed, damaged.  That damage may seem so severe they can’t acknowledge it, and their own ability to ‘fix’ it long since departed.  They are virtually incapable of the self-examination necessary to evaluate a flaw, address it, and figure out a way to repair the issue within themselves. 

I am no psychologist…just an armchair shrink who needed to understand how the man I shared my life with could change me in ways so diametrically opposed to who I was, I had to understand what in me was so malleable, and what in him was so broken that he had to break those he came in contact with just to feel the sense of ‘kinship’ necessary for most humans to interact with others.

But the NARC I shared my life with was deeply, permanently scarred in ways I can’t fathom.  Abandoned by his father at a young age, and left in the care of a mother who, on a good day, could only be described as confoundingly neurotic,  so that young boy never had a chance.  He developed the skills necessary to dazzle people with his wit, assess them with his skill, and weigh the benefits of using them for whatever purposes (When he was younger, it was sex…as he got older, money and security.)  For a man who could easily be described as dynamic…he was masterfully subtle in finding the tiniest cracks in one’s psyche, and wedging that open to extract the marrow of what he found.

I sort of recall when it started between us:  The process of my being turned into his puppet.  About 6 months into our relationship ‘reboot’, he ‘poofed’.  When he returned a week later…he said the stress of his divorce, combined with my nervousness made him need to leave and ‘think’ about things.  Immediately – instead of thinking ‘Uh…normal people talk about issues…they don’t bolt to ‘figure things out.’  I felt ‘guilty’ – My anxiety about his divorce problems had affected him:  I’d better work on that.

Yes – in citing MY behavior for a reason for him to run for the hills…he began the process of grooming me to take responsibility for his actions.  6 more ‘poofs’ followed, that year alone – each one using my stress over his custody battle…my stress over finding a job when my contract position expired…my stress over money.  So I began to swallow my natural feelings about the stress he was under, and I learned to keep those pushed down, so they didn’t affect him.  It never worked…because that’s not how the human mind works:  You work with/deal with emotions, you don’t push them down and ignore them.  But that’s what happened – I learned to suppress my normal reactions in favor of not ‘inconveniencing’ him.

Not ONCE did he ever say ‘I have no clue how to work out an issue that requires me to fix something in myself, so I just ran until the weird feelings went away and I didn’t have to face it any longer.’  Never did it cross his lips ‘I control my actions and I am a coward, so I ran away.’  It was initially partially my fault due to anxiety anyone would feel when someone they love is going through a difficult time, and progressed to ‘You filter things in such a way it makes me have to lie to you so you don’t filter them and make yourself more paranoid/anxious/angry.’ 

When you share your life with a Narcissist, you eventually realize it’s always your fault.  And it’s so slow and deliberate, that you lose your ability to question those…because your romantic partner does what they do best:  Mold and shape you into the tool they need to move about their own life with not a care in the world who they ruin in the process.  They are smart enough to realize if they did it at once…they would lose their Narcissistic Supplier…and the relationship itself if they dumped all this molding on at once.  WHen it’s incremental, it’s far less noticeable what is happening, until enough time has passed looking back means it’s impossible to tell when and where it began. 

Disagreeing with them — oh, no…not on their watch!  You learn that just swallowing their digs and accusations is far easier than the epic battle that will ensue if you dare to contradict/question/disagree — so swallow, accept it, and plod on.  One slow, NARC-paced step at a time.

The good thing is – I slowly feel ‘normal’ coming back.  I have gotten angry/sad/furious/despondent…and hopeful in the span of the past month when it became clear the ‘new’ relationship I was building with myself was not dictated by keeping feelings and thoughts at bay so someone else isn’t inconvenienced.  I still catch myself trying to stifle the feeling to cry or get angry…then tell myself ‘Do it!  Get Angry!  Cry your eyes out!  Rip that picture in two and set it on fire!  WHO CARES!’ 

And ya know what – it is messy, kinda painful, and definitely confusing…but I am finding I rather like this ‘New Normal.’  I am looking forward to living it more.

Taking Myself Back

One thing I have kept repeating over and over and over to myself, and likely will for a while…How did I get here?

I remember, long ago, when I was divorced from my first husband…how hard the identity shift was — I was no longer a wife, stepmother, daughter in law…I was just…me.  And I had no earthly idea who that was.

I had married the wrong man for me.  Mainly, because where I grew up — women got married.  My ex husband and I were incompatible from the start…and after three years of trying to be a wife to a man who was just not a good fit for me as a husband…I cried ‘Uncle’.

As I understand it, as far as divorces go…technically, it was pretty easy.  Three months from filing to finalized…little problems with divvying up stuff, sure…but no kids, not much in the way of assets.  All things considered, I got out relatively unscathed.

However…I do recall having 6 months where I had no clue who ‘I’ was.  I felt ‘lost’.  I didn’t understand what about life ‘fit’ me as an individual.  I remember having a year after the divorce where life was FUN.  Did what I wanted, bought what I wanted, worked late without feeling guilty.  It was a great period in my life.

I guess time weathered the feeling of self-discovery and the pride at creating a life that was ‘mine’.  Because, slowly…over the past 5 and a half years…I had lost myself again.

Maybe it was my innate stubbornness — many friends who were there for the first go-around with Kyle did not take his reentry into my life so kindly — they weren’t so quick to forget the nights consoling me after his discarding me.  They weren’t about to let their memories fade the lies he’d told me.  I was not going to admit this was a big mistake, and I wanted desperately for it to work.

Maybe it was my fear that, inherently, my imperfect figure or advancing age were magnifying that I am a flawed woman wracked with insecurities.  Hey…at least someone wants me now.

Or Maybe, it was just I am drawn to his charm — which, despite being an unrepentant, lying, narcissistic asshole, he has in spades.  He is a very dynamic person who often bragged, literally, about his talent for manipulation.

I know that, over the past few years, life with a NARC, as I have tried to keep my promises chipped away at my already fragile self-esteem slowly.  I felt like a bucket that kept pouring out, but was never refilled.  Eventually, it ran dry.  The string of small lies, big lies, ‘teasing’, insults, and outright cruelty wrapped in hugs has turned me into someone who looks older and more tired than she should be at 49.  I want to look at life with excitement and wonder…not dread that my world is going to be shattered because my one ‘lifeline’.  I truly don’t see the fragile qualities that now seem ‘me’ as anything remotely familiar of who I understood myself to be.  I have lived scared of his disapproval for so many years, I honestly can’t pinpoint when it started within this relationship.

I don’t know, and may never fully understand.  But I know that I am in about the same place I was when I divorced my husband 16 years ago.  And I refuse to repeat this lesson again.

I am going to give myself the love that I couldn’t ever have received from one incapable of loving.  I plan on taking myself on dates, doing things I enjoy doing. I plan on discovering what life as me feels like again.

I Love You*

As my fiancé walked out the door for the last time last Thursday – his last words to me will ring in my head forever:  ‘You know I love you.’

Yes…his last words, as he was leaving me for whatever lie he had cooked up to cover whatever trail he was blazing to move onto a new source of Narcissistic Supply…were that he loved me.  

That is the last lie he will ever tell me.

If you find yourself in a relationship with a Narcissist, I am certain you hear that a lot.  It is also a complete and utter giant, wet, steaming pile of bullshit.

Narcissists are categorically incapable of loving as a normal person understands that concept to be.  Narcissist love what you do for them.  The adore how you have a supply of emotional and mental resources to drain.

But I can promise you – they do not, nor will they ever love you in the traditional sense.

Please do not kid yourself if you think your NARC is different:  Aside from physical attributes…they are cut from the same cloth.  ‘Love’ is  tool they craft in order to take from you what they want.  They mist us with their charms…they mimic expertly what the motions should be for love.  But they cannot muster the empathy, compassion, tenderness and selflessness that is required to have a loving relationship.

The Love Bombing phase is where we, the Targets, fall in love.  But, those who we fall in love with are just not who they are at their core.  They can never truly be that compassionate, caring soul we are sure is at the heart of all those amazing romantic moments.

The Narcissist loves themselves – as much as they are capable of something resembling ‘love’.  They love that the Target doesn’t see them for who they are.  They love that the Target is their own, personal pile of silly putty – able to mold and shape as they want.  They are NOT interested in helping you grow with them.  They have no time or concern to nurture the best in you, and still love the worst in you.  They do not love you, and never truly will. 

They do NOT love – the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can clear your head from their mist.  And it’s sad, ultimately, because they will never be ‘whole’ in the sense most people are.  They are missing something elemental that got skipped due to trauma while they were young, or some horrible upbringing that nurtured something dark and draining in them.  And they can’t ever ‘learn’ those wonderful qualities that add the cherry on the cake of life for you and I.  I do weep for the children those NARCS used to be – it’s sad to know that they missed an essential part of growing up where they learned to appreciate and cherish the good in other people, rather than extract it for their own personal gain.

Their love will ALWAYS come with an asterisk — there will always be a footnote to clarify what they say when they say ‘I love you.’  It does come with conditions — just not conditions they share with you in the beginning…and likely never will.

I would say that the best response, when you hear ‘I Love you, ‘ from a NARC is to look them in the eye, smile, and say  ‘Go Fuck Yourself!’

The Long Road from Hell

My world was shattered last week, Wednesday, June 29, 2016, at approximately 7:20 p.m.  My fiancé, the man I had been building a life with for the last 5 years, arrived home from a two week trip to God knows where, and informed me that our life together, as I knew it, was over.

I would love to be able to summarize, briefly, what caused it — but it wasn’t any single event.  Our relationship had grown a bit…sedate.  Demanding jobs and familiarity can cause that.  But no fights, no explosions.  Just a two week ‘poof,’ from him, a return, and what artifacts of his life he could pack up within the span of several hours, and he was out the door — leaving me in a pile of emotional and financial rubble.  No idea where he went.  No idea with whom.  I was literally blindsided, and the only thing I know is the partner I had come to rely on is gone with reasons I can only deem suspect.

In wondering what happened, I reached out to some trusted friends, who told me that, perhaps, I should research Narcissism…because ‘Kyle’ (Not his real name) seemed to fit several of the major categories for Narcissism.

Upon reading and learning more, I was numb.  It was as if each article, each link….every morsel I was picking up was just a mirror of the life I had been living, and a picture perfect portrait of the man I had been building it with.  What was worse…I could not deny my own reflection in the words detailing what their victims became and suffered.

Because I have to become healed, and get back to the person I was…I am starting this blog.  I need to understand all the complexities of this vicious, life-altering Tango I had been unknowlingly dancing to since we reconnected a long time ago.  I feel as if I am an empty shell of a woman now…used up and discarded, and he is happily starting a new chapter, with zero regard as to how much he has destroyed the life I was living to the core.  I don’t know who the fuck I am anymore, and I have to find that person again before I can pick up the shards of this shattered existence and try to live again.

Being on the receiving end of Narcissistic Abuse is undeniably fucked up:  It’s incremental in it’s takeover of the victim.  I almost wish he’d hit me:  THAT I could verify when/where it happened.  The little digs…the love bombing….the discarding….you absolutely cannot fathom how confusing it is to live this existence with a person who is patient enough to extract enough when they need it, and crafty enough to do it before your eyes and not have you see what’s happening, until it’s too late.  By that time..you will not recognize the person who has looked back at you in the mirror.

I need to understand this…and, more importantly…I need to work my way back to some semblance of who I was.  I need to let other people who have this ‘What is going on with me’ gnawing in their soul to look very hard, and maybe recognize they are headed for a huge crash if they don’t switch direction NOW — and with any hope, they can see some of their life as I tell this story, and get themselves out before more damage is done.  Maybe others who are on the same journey I am will feel less alone as they realize someone else if going through the same fucked up mess of rebuilding their life as a stranger to themselves and keep asking the question ‘How did I get here?’

Thank you for visiting.  I hope you’ll come back.  I hope I come back, too.