In September of 2010, and maybe even a bit before that, I had no idea who I was. I owe my recovery, serenity and sanity to many in the NPD/Domestic Violence awareness movement who have selflessly given of themselves, their time, shared their experiences as well as their expertise and unwavering support in order to help those like me, new to the realization that what we were dealing with was an NPD relationship own that we were not “Crazy.”
I thank each and every one of the pioneers in this crusade for helping me to understand, learn how to articulate, refuse to accept blame and recover. Betty LaLuna is an alias. While I can appreciate the opportunity Social Media provides for an open platform where anyone from any walk of life can take hold of the cyberwaves and let their voice be heard (it’s cheaper than therapy), I equally believe in choice, respect for one’s right to privacy and anonymity.
Five years ago when I was new to the experience I shared:
“There is a need to create awareness of Narcissistic Personality Disorder abuse and the effects it has on individuals victimized by such abuse. In the same breath, I can state that for the most part, my experience minus a few hiccups along the way has been positive and I have been helped tremendously by those who run online forums. That does not minimize my need to caution that every victim MUST use discretion and common sense when participating in such forums as safety anywhere cannot be guaranteed 100 percent. No one can guarantee safety, and it would be wise to be suspect anyone who suggests otherwise.”
I maintain my original position; and while there have been major developments in awareness, the term Narcissist mainstreamed, there continues to be a need for safe spaces, support and understanding.
In case you’ve never come across the term Narcissistic Personality Disorder – Narcissistic Personality disorder is classified as a Cluster B Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders also known as the DSM. The DSM is the manual used by the American Psychiatric Association, worldwide there are other sources that are used to rate or measure various mental illnesses and/or personality disorders. For the purposes of brevity, I won’t go into each and every one of them; however, when we are discussing Narcissistic Personality Disorder, most sources professional or written by lay persons agree on the characteristics of this devastating personality disorder.
If you are new to this blog, you may not be familiar with the characteristics of NPD. If you’ve landed here, obviously something is wrong. While I am not a licensed professional, nor can I diagnose personality disorders, I can via experience speak knowledgeably about the after-effects of this form of abuse as a direct result of having to navigate the murky waters on my own because I was unable to locate a mental health specialist who recognized the signs present in me as an after-effect of the abuse. Lacking awareness, I was unable to articulate and so this is not and insult to those I consulted with, as certainly I wish to believe their intentions were good; however, lacking the insight and knowledge, I was unable to explain how I ended up a hot pile of broken mess on the floor. I had nothing tangible to report. This individual did not physically hit me, nor did he blatantly verbally abuse me and yet, I was left depleted, at my worst unable to utter a word for nearly a month. Words cannot describe the devastation this individual left in my path, and I was left there by myself to put the pieces back together again. No one could comprehend the level of my distress. Certainly I appeared crazy, but that is what ambient abuse will do. It’s the intangible that makes it all the more maddening. We can articulate a black eye, a bruise, or a slap. We can find a way to communicate verbal abuse we’ve been on the receiving end of; however, when we don’t have a clue about the stealth manner in which someone can systematically destroy us, if we have not been made aware that there is a level of depravity that exists, it stands to reason we’d lack the ability to see this for what it is and in our lack of awareness, we find ourselves isolated and alone unable to begin the process of healing until we get a grasp of exactly what was done and how it was done. Why is of no consequence, there is no discrimination when it comes to being on the receiving end of this abuse, there is nothing anyone can do to prevent it, there is no ‘codependent’ predisposition. Oftentimes, when we first encounter a narcissist, they present as charming, understanding, and supportive.
There are many theories as to what causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder; however, the cause is not what is important from the perspective of a victim trying to heal. What is important is understanding and owning that this individual is dangerous to your mental health, in some cases physical health and emotional well being. In the severest of cases, this form of abuse can result in fatal consequences. Sometimes due to the abuser’s lack of remorse and uncontrollable rage – sometimes homicide is the end result. Sometimes the victim lacking in understanding of the dynamics falls so deep into the rabbit hole, they end up viewing suicide as the only option. According to actor Patrick Stewart who is an ambassador for Amnesty International and a platform speaker for Domestic Violence – in the UK alone, ten victims will commit suicide as a result of domestic violence PER WEEK. That statistic is limited to the UK. I suspect the number is much higher in the United States for those who have been victimized by a Narcissist because of the stealth nature of the abuse, and the temporary ‘insanity’ most victims experience which remains inappropriately treated because most domestic violence mental health specialists miss the signs absent tangible evidence of abuse.
With NPD abuse, the predator’s first line of attack was the victim’s psyche. The end result, the victim’s mind has been turned inside out via gas lighting (ambient abuse) and the slow building up in a campaign of crazy making. In my experience, I have not met one victim to date who has not shared in the early stages of awareness and recovery expressing anything other than they felt as if they were losing their mind and had gone completely insane. Early in my recovery and towards the tail end of the experience when the narcissist was going full throttle with his “Devalue and Discard” routine, I had never felt such devastation in my life, and such cycling – it really did seem as if suddenly I had become bipolar and I fully understand how a therapist might ‘miss’ the trauma. The extreme fluctuations were difficult to contend with – sadness – anger – rage – complete and utter despair all at once, and of course, the narcissist tried to brainwash me that I was crazy. In hindsight looking at his history, it is blatantly clear he knew this scene and the script well. He was a master manipulator and fraud on top of a number of other choice words. It was difficult in the beginning to articulate exactly what the feelings were moment by moment, much less what my thoughts were they were so scattered and when in the dark unaware of what NPD was, this state of distress was only exacerbated further by the fact I in a sense felt mute simply because I did not possess the understanding of this illness and what was happening. I can only liken it to the frustration a mute must feel when in the depths of deep emotion who is struggling to be heard in a room of people who don’t know sign language. It is frustrating, maddening and frightening and it is further complicated by the inability of anyone else being able to pin point, identify, suggest or advise what might be a possible cause for having suddenly lost touch with sanity.
It is impossible to “Get it out” when you don’t know the words, or have an understanding – and that is why I am committed to helping those new to this – I’ve walked that walk – I know what it’s like to be in the depths of that deep dark rabbit hole, a thread shy of insanity. I personally considered having myself committed to an institution, the wound and the temporary insanity was that severe; however, something inside was nagging at me that there had to be an answer – that I wasn’t crazy and that committing myself would only intensify my distress – so I held on in the midst of the storm and desperately searched high and low for answers and eventually I found them.
As mentioned, Narcissists are not only psychological abusers but can engage in physical violence as well. In my interacting first as victim, then a moderator for a particular support forum which averaged 4 million hits a month, I learned the need for support is exponential, I was far from alone.
A Narcissist engages in various abuse tactics: Gaslighting, Manipulation, Brainwashing, Intermittent Reinforcement, Passive Aggression, amongst many other stealth tactics to break you down. It is important to understand, the Narcissist suffers from extreme low self esteem regardless of how much (s)he boasts. While on the surface Narcissists seem to exhibit very “grandiose” ideas of him or herself, the at the core of every narcissist is a fragile ego which needs constant stroking. This is called Narcissistic Supply. In order for a Narcissists to feel whole, they “feed off of others” in order to feed themselves.
Narcissists are predators, hunters – they target individuals in order to get what they want…status, money, image, emotional comfort, sex – whatever it is the narcissist wants or needs, he or she will target an individual to get their needs met. Narcissists are chameleons; they will become whatever they need to become in order to hook you. Narcissists study their victims very carefully before they go in for the kill. During courtship, they are listening very carefully to cues; they are sizing up where your weaknesses are so they know exactly what they need to become in order to convince you that they are the “answer to your prayers”
The problem is, in a sense, Narcissists are addicts – some are addicts in the literal sense, but even if substance abuse is not part of the equation, narcissists have a compulsive need to constantly have a source of supply. Narcissists cannot love, nor do they attach to anyone and so supply is a very important resource to them essentially in order to survive. Without supply, they sense and experience very deep dark voids. The instinct to survive finds the narcissist on a constant hunt for new supply. They recycle supply, and accrue new supply in order to ensure that they avoid falling into the pit – the “Black Hole”.
For victims, this is a very hard concept to grasp…and facing the reality of what a Narcissist truly is – coming face to face with the fact that you’ve shared your heart, your soul, your vulnerabilities, planned your life around someone who never attached or loved you is devastating – coming face to face with the fact that you’ve been caught up in an illusion is shocking and depending upon how deeply you’ve connected to the narcissist – when you come face to face with this realization – that you’ve essentially been psychologically raped many come to realize if they have been able to locate experienced and competent mental health services, they’ve got at minimum a diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder, at worst Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or, depending upon the therapist’s level of experience and research of trauma, theories, they might diagnose C-PTSD depending upon your history and experience.
There is no closure with a narcissist…this was a relationship based upon control – but you never knew it – they played a role so well, you are left in shock. There are many articles and resources on the internet and there are mental health journals written by professionals, there are a plethora of resources out there which attempt to explain what this is; however, many report, and I myself have experienced firsthand that there are very few legitimate resources for help for victims that have suffered from this form of abuse. Many therapists don’t get it and there are so many different theories, it is hard to reach a conclusive answer as to the cause – what we do know is how it’s affected us as victims, and when we first come out of this, we are in very bad emotional shape. We are in various degrees of trauma. If childhood abuse, or another long-term experience of abuse or trauma is part of the package, then it might be a case of (C)PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
I’ve noted that because there are a lot of misconceptions, lack of awareness, and even in some cases conflicting information, friends and family don’t quite “get it” which serves to lead us as victims to feel isolated. Essentially, the therapists throw their hands up with narcissists – the general consensus is they are incurable – and so the mental health establishment does not put forth a lot of effort in treating them. This is a disservice to us as victims, as without proper study and research, how best can they serve us? Adding further insult to injury, it seems more and more with Big Pharma controlling the industry, the solution seems to place less emphasis on talk therapy, and more on medicating the patient, which in intense psychological distress isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but medications historically served to temporarily take the edge off while the patient worked the issues out – unfortunately, the latter is no longer as commonplace as we’d like to imagine.
In my experience interacting with perhaps thousands of victims, on a few different online forums, it is commonplace to encounter an individual in the early stages trying to process who will post a very common statement: “The narc I’m with is more a sociopath rather than a psychopath,” or they wonder what the difference is between a narcissist and a psychopath and this confusion again I believe leads to a lack of concrete evidence and study.
From as best as I can research here is what I have gathered. Please keep in mind, the DSM is revised every few years, so the terms and criteria change:
A Sociopath is the OLD term used to describe what we now call a PSYCHOPATH.
A Psychopath lacks empathy. Not all psychopath’s kill but it is their lack of empathy and ability to attach and/or love that makes them so dangerous.
Not all Narcissists are psychopaths, but all psychopath’s most dangerous trait is the lack of empathy and ability to attach and/or love…essentially, narcissism is the psychopath’s most dangerous trait. All psychopaths display narcissistic traits…
Recently, there was buzz about the American Psychiatric Association, also known as the APA considering removal of Narcissistic Personality disorder from the DSM – this does not mean that Narcissistic Personality Disorder would cease to exist – what it meant at the time is that they considered modifying where it stood within the framework of diagnosing. As it stands today, January 2012 – NPD will remain; however, they have deviated from their old model of diagnosis which was that an individual must have 5 of 9 traits indicated. The revised model follows a rubric. In reviewing that rubric, I remain unconvinced that there will be any improvements with identification, diagnosis or understanding, and to the contrary it is my personal belief that more will fall through the cracks, the few that actually seek diagnosis and evade the label simply due to the lack of skill and information a majority of therapists seem to have in this area. Many are duped which is why they prefer to stay away from those who are psychopaths/sociopaths/ and NPD…there is a high incidence of ‘compassion’ fatigue to put it nicely – to be blunt…these are blood, life and brain suckers, the therapists definitely get that part of the equation and so perhaps they reason it is counterproductive for them to waste time on an individual whom no matter what interventions they try will remain as science, medicine and psychology define it:
“They are incurable.”
Regardless of the APA and/or the mental health industry’s position, it is important to remain informed, as if we are going to heal, we need to know what we’re dealing with. I was fortunate enough to find recovery and get past the undiagnosed Stress Disorder without therapy and/or medication. It was a very rough journey and I am not suggesting this for everyone. I am not a mental health professional; we all need to do what we need to do in order to recover. In my case, traditional therapy failed simply due to the fact that the three therapists I tried were misinformed and uneducated on this type of abuse.
Narcissists mirror off of you…and so this relationship in a sense is symbiotic in that their sickness begins to infiltrate you without you knowing it…you begin to walk on eggshells, you are slowly trained not to make waves, you are invalidated, you are told when there is an issue that you are too sensitive, they know how to turn the tables on you they begin to make you feel like you are being unreasonable. They know how to get you to doubt yourself, this has nothing to do with low self esteem. This is brainwashing. Some are masters at Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and other bullshit. They get you to believe they have your best interests at heart. Most of them are intelligent, charming, and glib and so you begin to believe that you are over reacting – but you’re not…you are reacting to a violation that is taking place that you can’t pinpoint!
In order to heal you will need to find support by connecting with people who understand and who “get it.” There are many forums dedicated to helping individuals recover from this form of abuse; however, I do caution you to tread carefully and be cautious. Just as you wouldn’t wave a $100.00 bill on the street, it’s not advisable you pour all your dirty laundry out there unless you can do so with anonymity. Sometimes things have a way of coming back and biting us in the ass at the most inopportune of times. While at the moment it may be necessary to let one’s crazies out, more and more potential employers are using social media as an additional tool for background checks. There will come a time when all of this is behind you, as it should be and the last thing you need is to lose an opportunity or be judged unfairly.
My philosophy although not original, is simple: It takes a village, each one teaches one. Victims are on a desperate search for answers, validation, support, and healing. I too was a support forum junkie in the early stages. It is what I needed to do, and so I understand that but I simply caution individuals to be very careful with whom you share intimate details. NO ONE’S SECURITY in cyberspace, is 100 percent guaranteed – evil exists and it has an easier time of it behind a computer screen.
Efforts in awareness remain very much an “underground grass roots movement” and what we do hear in the ‘mainstream media’ is grossly inaccurate. Whatever you can do to spread awareness is one more step in the right direction in terms of helping the plight of victims everywhere who to this day remain misunderstood, misdiagnosed and misrepresented. It is my hope that once you find healing, you will continue along your journey, and play some part in raising awareness and giving back in the form of helping someone else.
If something resonates with you, please feel free to leave a comment, as that also helps others in terms of breaking down the cognitive dissonance…others’ engagement and participation helps validate that they are not alone…especially for someone new to this awareness who may doubt the reality or has been so brainwashed they are second guessing their own intuition.
Finally, it is my wish that as a result of healing, you will become empowered and find that inner gypsy that leads you to peace and serenity. Every day, I still find myself on some leg of the journey, but I no longer feel pain, and I’m at a place where I am willing, able and most eager to lend a helping hand. Thank you for the opportunity to share with you. I wish you a serene and prosperous journey.
All the best,