Many victims of NPD abuse struggle with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). Whether diagnosed or not, if you’ve been in an NPD abuse relationship, you don’t need a diagnosis or someone to ‘crown’ you with (C)PTSD, you just know something is not right. You could be in the middle of something innocuous nothing particularly plaguing you when all of a sudden out of nowhere, a sound or a smell or the way the sun is lighting the sky somehow triggers this anxiety in you that you cannot control and all of a sudden this fear of impending doom, danger or death overcomes you. I remember when involved with the narc this happening quite frequently and I could not figure out why on earth or how this seemingly ‘loving’ person could bring up such intense emotions…love and anxiety all at once in the same breath. I remember going food shopping and having panic attacks in the snack aisle and I could not for the life of me pin point what it was about Doritos that triggered me…I had no idea I was suffering from (C)PTSD, I just knew I learned how to mask it well and nobody knew about my deep dark secret. On bad days, I would just elect to wrap myself up in the cocoon and the safety of my home, and if I had no choice in the matter, learned how to use anger and rage to diffuse it. I blamed it on hormones and PMS. I thought it was a side effect of my disability, and sometimes I would spiral for a bit into a depression, but was always able to bounce out of it. I reason now that perhaps I’ve earned my disability Fibromyalgia and CFS. That is not to say that I believe the condition is psychological but that years of overtaxing my body with stress hormones, battling (C)PTSD and not knowing it, eventually my entire endocrine and nervous systems decided it was time to shut down. One can run themselves into a rut which is why they say, stress is harmful…I floated around fronting for 30 some odd years before my body finally said: “Fuck you!” I was rendered permanently disabled at 35.
It is unfortunate that our mental health industry, and our courts are not up to par when it comes to NPD abuse issues and the psychological devastation, harm and assault it creates in hearts and minds of victims; it is even more tragic that we live in a society that can only measure harm in terms of broken bones and bruises; however, it is my hope that someday, we will get to a place where psychological harm is recognized as an assault as legitimate if not more damaging than a punch in the face. In the interim, I have every faith that we can and will survive. We will overcome if even simply because we “will’ it so.
I prefer to look at us as ‘pioneers’ in a movement. Each and every person whether they are recently victimized or have time under their belts and are now survivors, whether they write as a means of catharsis, or for the purposes of providing support, validation and education to the harmed masses, we all in some way by default are actively engaged in a movement. I so pray that at some point, everyone who is using their gifts, talents and knowledge to raise awareness can one day unify in some form or fashion as it is with the unification and joining of such forces that I believe someday we will get our moment of justice…patience and perseverance are virtues.
I have read an article on PostTraumaticStressDisorder and it discussed various theories in terms of the disorder. What resonated with me was the following:
“Another theory suggests that the intrusive memories, flashbacks, and dreams associated with PTSD result from an inability to integrate the traumatic experience into a person’s belief system about the world. Many people wonder why the traumatic event happened to them or to someone they love. But it might be this constant wondering why that leads to an inability to forget the event.”
For some reason, after reading this the phrase: “Lack of Closure” kept repeating itself in my head. I’d like to think I’m dealing with (C)PTSD and not hearing voices, I can attest I did not answer the voice so in most mental health circles, I think I am still on the ‘normal’ spectrum. Nonetheless, this article kept replaying in my mind as I seem to have had a bit of a relapse and it was only recently that I could really see that I do have issues with (C)PTSD and how they have affected my entire life.
I’ve shared that I lost my father at the age of eleven to a violent crime. A gunshot wound. My father despite his faults was my world; however, he did have some faults, addiction being one of them. With this, I learned early on that my world was not resting on solid ground. I begged him and pleaded with him to stop drinking. He wasn’t a violent man, and in my adult reasoning, I can conclude he was self medicating vast amounts of pain…stories that as punishment his father would elect to have him kneel on uncooked rice with a gallon of water resting on hands at the ends of two outstretched arms and if he dared flinch he would be whipped. There were other stories of abuse, and somehow everyone continued to behave as if this was all normal and acceptable. The other part of abuse is shame and how witnesses also are conditioned to practice the art of denial and shove shit under the rug. It was suggested that for whatever reason, my father was the black sheep of the family. It may have been earned but I often wonder if anyone ever developed the insight to understand the odds they were all up against. At least half of his siblings suffered from substance abuse issues. I don’t believe bad seeds are born, I believe they are made. I also think denial is a mother fucker. It is apparent to me that many addicts are self medicating, but within the world of addiction also lies a vast amount of pathology…some forms more sinister than others. Nonetheless, my reference point of addicts because of the relationship with my father did not include the awareness that some addicts suffer from severe and abusive personality disorders which is why twenty-seven years later when I met the narc and he shared he was an ex crack addict I did not raise an eyebrow…my father was prior to becoming an alcoholic, an ex heroin addict. My career with drugs was short-lived. I tried pot twice in college. The first time nothing happened, the second time, I felt the need to puke my guts up…that was the beginning and the end of my drug career. I drank for a time, but when I noted a pattern that it was something I lived for on the weekends, knowing my familial history on both sides, I dropped the habit with a quickness. I did however, take to cigarette smoking, as a matter of fact, I was such a square, I was a closet smoker for a long time. Smoking gave me a bit of a buzz until it didn’t anymore, and before I knew it, I was addicted.
There is no doubt in my mind, I know my parents loved me…the best way they knew how. Nonetheless, as I look back, it takes a lot of strength not to hold resentment and misgivings for how inadvertently they managed to successfully fuck me up. I need to be raw here, this is not an occasion for rainbows and butterflies…the key to healing is getting it out with no shame and letting go of the shame attached to ‘what people will think.’ I am who I am, I had no control over what I was subjected to, just as my parents were also victims of abuse. There are no generational curses, those ‘curses’ are evidence of lives gone wrong because there is a history of pathology in our ancestry. Just like herpes, mental illness and abuse is a ‘gift’ that keeps on giving until someone decides to draw the line, abstain and refuse to give in. At some point, someone gets the great courage to put the pieces together and decides the truth must come to light one way or another if any future generations are going to have some semblance of hope and ‘breaking the curse.’ It’s not fair that such defects in the human psyche exist, but at a certain point one must resign to the fact that shit happens. It’s what you do about it that makes one stand out from the crowd. The true test of courage rests in being able to call a spade a spade, even when fighting what that statement may bring to light about oneself.
Such a journey is not about pointing fingers, making excuses, casting blame but rather understanding the whys and the hows so that one can move on. A therapist might be helpful, but if one has enough insight and can stand to be honest with themselves, personally, I am not sure if a pill can replace the healing that can take place when one is willing to dig deep and take inventory. FEAR is a formidable opponent but the enemy is actually within oneself and it must be purged one way or another or it will continue to haunt and color one’s life. (C)PTSD cannot be cured but it can be managed…my personal theory. I can read and absorb information just like a therapist can and when you are going through life on a beer pocketbook, sometimes it is more prudent to do the work yourself and find your truth no matter how intimidating rather than rest on the professional opinion of someone who essentially is placing a diagnosis on you based upon a checklist. I think everyone has their own personal flavor of crazy…it just gets dangerous when it reaches pathological proportions. We all have varying degrees of quirks, but then there are some walking around with vats of disorder. Those are the ones to run from with a quickness. You cannot heal, help, cure or rescue anyone but yourself. If one is going to truly heal from NPD abuse, one has to get real…face the demons and cut the bullshit once and for all and make an honest attempt at detoxing from delusions.
It is hard, it hurts and there is nothing glamorous about such a journey, but it is one worth taking as the other option is a slow spiritual and emotional and/or physical death. One can rather easily succumb to such deep dark despair that suicide begins to look like a viable option.
My truth is I was born to less than perfect parents. This does not make me unique or special and there are many who have suffered much greater than I have and for that I remain humble; however, when dealing with pain, pain is pain. One cannot measure whose is greater or less than another’s…it is pain and it hurts. It damages, it destroys, it wounds it paralyzes it renders one defenseless until there is a pivotal moment where one has no choice but to look it in the eye, face it and defeat it…persevere in spite of it.
In doing the work recovering from NPD abuse, I’ve done my share of reading. There is a reason why in my case I believe I was drawn to such an abusive relationship – this is a conflicting thought as I equally believe I was targeted. If what we know about NPD and/or psychopaths is true, then I think two forces were at work…an inherent weakness in me that he sensed he could penetrate and feed off of. It was my ignorance that led me down the path of being a victim. I could not articulate, nor did I see how previous blueprints were in place that left me vulnerable. I was conditioned early on to accept shoddy abusive behavior from as early as I could remember; therefore, what defenses would I have? It is invalidating and re-victimizing to tell a victim they should have known better, where would such knowledge come from if it was never taught? Yet, victims everywhere continue to be re-victimized by those whose ignorance thwarts sensitivity in understanding. I’ve come to accept that Rome wasn’t built-in a day and so I don’t think this writing will be a groundbreaking opportunity to change the way society views victims of all forms of domestic violence; however, if this helps one person come to terms then I think it will at least justify a spit medal.
My area of expertise does not lie in being able to cite the traits of the personality disordered, nor do I have a desire to want to master that. At the end of the day, I know the general criteria for various personality disorders, it’s part of recovery boot camp. Nonetheless, in layman’s terms I can sum it up in that we were dealing with some very dark Fucked up individuals. If the mental health industry would get on board with that jargon it might be easier for the masses to absorb and perhaps we’d all be better off for it. We’d no longer have to pile through thousands and thousands of pages of documentation simply because our mental health experts are too lazy to take a few steps beyond their textbooks to get to the crux of what is ailing their clients. Maybe they’d get skilled enough to understand that the only thing that helps is letting victims purge and act out their recently traumatized brand of crazy without judgment. Maybe it would help if they themselves took a pill as I certainly have sat in a few shrinks offices where they proceeded to label me with some brand of bullshit when in fact, I’ve discovered in hindsight they’ve had no clue all along. In one instance, I felt as if it was my calling to console the shrink after I let out all that I held inside…feeling no less better or arriving at a moment of clarity…the only clarity being the bill I received for services rendered which did little to resolve the problem. I walked around wounded for years, and I wish to God I knew in my twenties what I know now…but as they say, better late than never.
The first time that PTSD blueprint was created was on May 15, 1979 when my father, who for as far as I could remember I loved with all my heart, but who also inadvertently trained me to walk on eggshells, fearing his imminent death due to abuse of alcohol walked home after being shot in the chest to say goodbye to me. Recounting that moment in time all over again is almost surreal. I remember my mother was out of work, laying on the living room sofa, perhaps depressed over the loss of her job and who knows what else. I know it was about three thirty pm as I had just arrived home from school and we were having a discussion. I was sitting on the living room floor, the console television on behind me, Days of our Lives was on the air. The universe I presume always has a flair for irony. My father who was no longer with my mother, was painting our dining room and he stepped out to buy some paint. Despite their separation, he always had a set of keys to our apartment with him, as he always picked me up from school except for this particular day, so at first when the doorbell rang there was no real movement by either one of us to go answer the door. In fact we just both sat there somewhat ignoring it. Next I heard the buzzer ring but with more intensity, there was an urgency to it and of course, we figured my father was busting chops, he had a penchant for doing that at times…to get on my mother’s nerves, or perhaps he thought it was funny. For example, whenever our bookshelf would get dusty, he’d write in the dust: “DUST ME.” He’d do a lot of things that were a bit off-center, but there was an understanding between them and I knew despite the dysfunction, they both did their best to make sure that I knew I was loved even if it was a bizarre kind of love. I can’t quite say I was abused even if some type of damage was done. I think the problem lies in my inability to find intent to abuse even though there were actions that without a doubt were abusive. I am not sure anyone gets through their childhood without some gripe of one flavor or another. It sounds like a contradiction to say that I forgive, even if somehow all that did go wrong still haunts me. I believe my mother suffered from PTSD. I believe she’s been misdiagnosed and has struggled with all sorts of anxiety and depression. I believe (C)PTSD is the culprit just based on what I know of her childhood and the extreme mental and emotional abuse that took place in my grandmother’s charge, coupled with a father that demonstrated his love by ensuring that the financial aspects of survival were in place but left two young vulnerable children alone to fight the complexities of life with little guidance. Out of respect for my mother’s privacy, that is about all I can disclose, her story is her’s to tell but I can say that knowing what (C)PTSD does to people, her violent outbursts, her fits of rage, her uncontrollable temper which I was in the line of fire of most of the time was to a certain extent beyond her control. I know she spent years in therapy, I know she has a diagnosis of depression which can be co-morbid with PTSD, and at one time I even suspected bi-polar, except she’s been frugal as all hell and I’ve never seen her get to any semblance of a euphoric high. I am not a doctor to diagnose but if I had to diagnose, I’d place my wager on (C)PTSD. Of course, being raised in this environment, it is easy to see how in a way, my script was written without much chance of revision…until now.
Returning to that day in May of 1979, the day my father was shot, I remember that as I was sitting there with my mother ignoring the buzzer. We also heard banging of the vestibule door and a lot of voices screaming “Open Up! Open Up! He’s Shot!” For a moment, that still did not register I don’t believe my mother would have me open the door to something as traumatic as that had she had her wits about her at that moment, but we were in some kind of surreal trance, it happened so fast and I don’t think it registered. I looked at her, she looked at me and I ‘dutifully’ walked to open the door. I got up and buzzed them into the lobby. We lived on the first floor. As I opened the door, about six or seven guys were surrounding him and I could not make out what they were saying because I went into shock right there….I just remember hearing all kinds of chaotic conversations, my father stumbling in through the door, my mother screaming “Call an Ambulance why did you bring him here?” “Why didn’t you call the paramedics!” I don’t remember seeing blood, my last vision of him was a blur I blanked all of it out and I just ran straight into my mother’s room and screamed, just screamed – no words, just screamed but somehow despite all of this happening in an instant, I heard them say “He would not let us call an ambulance he wanted us to walk him home he said he wanted to see his baby before he died and as we were walking him up the street he was calling to his mother (who had died months earlier) saying ‘Momma I’m coming’. I don’t know how long it took for the paramedics to come, I don’t know if they wheeled him out or if he walked out to the ambulance, I screamed and did nothing but scream for the whole time, I never saw him, I never had the chance to say goodbye, I hate that I was robbed of this, I hate that I was in shock, I hate all of it and I lived with this my whole life and you would think that by now re-telling would not have me well up on the verge of tears but even writing this I am sitting here in tears and I haven’t figured out if it’s anger, or pain, or rage or being denied the chance at justice. The son of a bitch who shot him lived across the street from us and walked. No one would come forward.
No one would tell me who the murderer was, I probably passed the piece of shit in the supermarket a number of times, there was this faceless piece of shit that stole my father from me and he walked. Where is the justice? Where does a little girl go to find safety? Answers? Peace? Protection? Comfort? The moment I dreaded, the fear I walked around with for years, my father’s imminent death was now here and there wasn’t a goddamn thing I could do about it except swallow it and now I had nothing. Moreover, this nameless faceless piece of shit was still walking around, perhaps saw me in the morning walking to school and had a big ‘ol laugh at my expense…I might even have known him and greeted him. To this day I don’t know who he was.
I hate that I could have the best therapy money could buy and the best pills my insurance will cover and this wound will never leave…this psychological keloid will never be removed…
There was a ‘rough’ family that lived around the corner from us. They had a bit of a racket going, maybe even full blooded psychopaths. My neighborhood was close-knit and everyone knew everyone else and so everyone sort of lived and let live. There was a spoken code, you don’t shit where you eat…dope fiends if you knew them, served as neighborhood security…crazy I know, but I never feared walking home late at night as I got older. I recall shortly after the incident hearing whispers and talks when it was assumed I was asleep and I remember my mother sharing with someone that one of the ‘rough’ family members from around the corner offered my mother the opportunity for street justice since no one with any real power was going to step up to the plate on the legal front to avenge my father’s death. I know this tale is beginning to take a turn and sounds like a ghettoesque version of Shakespeare meets Bruce Lee but it is what my reality was. To my mother’s credit, she had the strength to decline the offer…when I was about fourteen, I heard a rumor that the murderer who was a gang member was found dead in an abandoned building up the street. I hope it was them that did it, although my better judgment tells me they respected my mother’s wishes and that this individual essentially got what he had coming to him.
At some point during the chaos, I recall my mother finally coming into her bedroom where I stood screaming. I remember her slapping me and me just hyperventilating holding back the sobs. I could feel my ears burning and the force of the slap was a hot kind of numb. I don’t know why and this part may be imagined, but she might even have had me breathe into a bag. I don’t remember changing out of my uniform, I don’t remember how we got to the hospital, we had to have taken a cab. But I do remember getting there, and perhaps my memory serves me as incorrect, but I remember my father’s brother coming to the hospital briefly to provide certain documentation but then he left, I don’t remember seeing him at all after that until the funeral.
I do recall my mother’s brother coming to the hospital and sitting with us. We sat in the waiting room for hours. At a certain point, my mother decided to go back home to check on the house. Given all the drama, for some reason she feared that someone might try to break in while we were gone. I stayed in the waiting room with my Uncle and we just sat there in silence. At about nine pm, the surgery was over. My father was still alive at that point, and I walked down the corridor with my uncle and watched them wheel him into an elevator transporting him I presume to recovery. Nothing was said, no information was shared, I just got to see my father wheeled from a distance to an elevator and my uncle and I returned to the waiting room. About ten minutes had passed, actually ten minutes had passed because I remember looking at the clock and it read ten minutes after nine. At that moment, the doctor called my uncle over and I felt this sense that my father was dead I felt something run through me it was a charge it could have been premonition, maybe his spirit didn’t flow through me, but I remember that sensation and when my uncle returned poker faced, I looked him dead in the eye and said: “Daddy’s dead right?” He denied it and told me everything was fine. We continued to wait as my mother had not returned and we sat there in silence but I knew it was a lie, I knew my father was dead.
Shortly thereafter, my mother returned, and my uncle pulled her aside and there were some whispers going on between them, I then had both my uncle and my mother return poker faced…and we all rather robotically made our exit from the hospital. No one said anything, we just walked down the ramp, through the opened parking lot in silence. About a third of the way down the parking lot, my mother collapsed in tears. I had never ever seen my mother break down. This was a woman who was 5’10 with one hell of a temper, a bad ass for sure…who was reduced to a helpless child right there before my eyes. I took all of this in, but remained somehow removed. It was if I was outside of my body witnessing all of this, and I watched my uncle try to console her. She pulled it together enough to get to the curb where we hailed a cab.
Next thing I remember, we all sat in the living room my mother my uncle and I just sat there for a few moments in silence, the light from the dining room illuminating the living room. My mother and my uncle looked at each other and my mother said: “Your Uncle has something to tell you.” Then he said, “Your father died.” I felt nothing. I felt numb. I just took it in for a moment and immediately looked at my mother who now began to cry again and I remember hugging her and telling her: “Don’t worry Mommie, we still have each other.” But I felt nothing. We packed overnight bags, and went home with my Uncle that night. I don’t remember much of the next day. I don’t remember talking or saying much, I don’t remember feeling. Everything seemed like it was in suspended animation. It was as if my being were detached from my body and I could perform actions and speak when spoken to, follow whatever commands if any but I had no soul, I had no depth of feeling, I had no color, no hue, I was a walking shell. I remained this shell throughout the entire ordeal up to and following the funeral.
I remember only one thing about that funeral. I sat in the back of the parlor the entire time. I remember my fourth grade teacher coming to the wake. She sat in the back of the parlor with me. I don’t remember anyone else there at all. I remember her sitting with me and telling me not to grieve, that my father loved me, and that he was now always going to be with me. I remember her telling me that he was sitting in the corner over his casket and was keeping watch over me, that he would always be with me and protect me.
I am remembering so many layers that existed before this, how I never felt safe. How in some ways I always felt it was my job to keep everything on an even keel. To not excite my mother to the point where her rage would be directed towards me and how to try my best to be extra good so that maybe, just maybe my father would stop drinking. It bothers me that I can’t recollect a time between my mother and I where I felt I could be myself, where I felt safe, warm, protected, pampered, and somehow some way, I feel as if I learned early on how to be this perfect little girl. Of course, my mother reminds me this wasn’t the case, I don’t know if it is invalidation, selective amnesia, but the truth is, I was not a bad girl, I learned how to occupy myself, I remember being very young and I presume my mother suffered from insomnia as I remember her rising rather late in the day on a number of occasions. I don’t remember her working until I was about seven years old. Again, to be fair, I can’t and I don’t fault her for anything that has gone wrong between us. Fighting my own demons, I know how hard it is to fight to function barely enough to get through the day, and I believe she has beat incredible odds, I just think that by the time she became a parent, she was spent. I know I wasn’t planned, I know that if she could escape having me she would, I know that by the same token she’s glad she had me, but she had no tools or experience from which to draw from when it came to the nurturing department. I believe in her trauma, I became the ‘surrogate’ parent, the chore girl, and I spent a lot of time alone in isolation. What saved me was that in my teens she allowed me to visit friend’s houses who did have normal families and it allowed for a respite. I also had a grandfather who saw that my other needs were met in terms of the material and he and my uncle served as my ‘advocates’ when my mother got a bit too much out of control. Nonetheless, very much like my mother, history repeated itself where by at the age of 12 I started to get an allowance from my grandfather which allowed me to ‘take care of myself’ and so I became in a sense independent of my mother. My mother has certain misgivings about this; however, I think this is what saved me, as it gave me an outlet and opportunity to at least distract myself and not feel as trapped or deprived as I would have been had I not had what my grandfather could provide.
I just remember being a child and constantly being in fear of my mother, there did not seem to be any warmth, she was self-absorbed, and in her own world. She’d come home from work and be in a terrible mood ALL THE TIME and after a while, I learned how to con my way out of this, but it was not without consequence. I realize now, she would lock herself in her room in seclusion, probably to minimize the amount of rage I could potentially be subjected to. PTSD is a very strange creature…you never know when it will erupt, it takes all you have to keep in in check and I only became acutely aware of it, as I had successfully suppressed it up until the Narc blew the lid off the pot. I haven’t quite figured out if that should result in a thank you or a fuck you…but either way, one thing I do know is true – for as much as he might have tried to destroy me, he can’t light a candle to me…and I have gotten my own revenge without having to really try, as the illusion has been shattered, and I can’t bring myself to respect him or pity him but can only shake my head and view him as an insignificant pompous ass who for all his feigned grandiosity, is the epitome of all glorified ghetto existing in the body of what can only be termed, the world’s oldest teenager. There is no redemption when it comes to him, no way he will ever be able to bring sexy back in my eyes. For that I remain grateful; however, the Pandora’s box has been opened, and I’m on the path.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Where to Now St. Peter
I took myself a blue canoe
And I floated like a leaf
Dazzling, dancing half enchanted
In my Merlin sleep
Crazy was the feeling
Restless were my eyes
Insane they took the paddles
My arms they paralysed
So where to now St. Peter
If it’s true I’m in your hands
I may not be a Christian
But I’ve done all one man can
I understand I’m on the road
Where all that was is gone
So where to now St. Peter
Show me which road I’m on
Which road I’m on
It took a sweet young foreign gun
This lazy life is short
Something for nothing always ending
With a bad report
Dirty was the daybreak
Sudden was the change
In such a silent place as this
Beyond the rifle range