What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
Musings on a journey of recovery from NPD Abuse…
WELCOME TO NARC RAIDERS
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 as when one speaks out against abuse, one can easily become a target – sometimes of abusers who troll for the sheer thrill of it, sometimes abusers are engaged in cyber stalking and happen upon sites their victims are using…other times it’s a case of “trolls” who have an underlying motivation other than ‘helping others.’ Far too many forums have been attacked by nameless, faceless individuals in an attempt to sabotage the altruistic efforts of those who simply wish to ‘give back.’ Those who seek to sabotage such efforts are individuals and entities who have their own ego issues and personality disorders to contend with…Nonetheless, I remain passionate about driving home the point that 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.
In case you’ve never come across the term Narcissistic Personality Disorder – Narcissistic Personality disorder is classified as an Axis II 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. For the purposes of brevity, I won’t go into each and every one of them; however, they all more or less agree on the characteristics of this devastating personality disorder.
Many are not aware of this personality disorder. Nonetheless, I can testify it is devastating, not so much for the individual “suffering” with the disorder, but for those who interact with the individual with NPD – and please note, it appears these individuals are not ‘suffering’ as they do not connect emotionally and even if we wish to embark on a philosophical debate of suffering I’d place my wager that the victims who have been abused are the ones who really suffer if we’re going to engage in applying ‘suffering’ labels. Leave the philosophy and analysis for later, get off the floor first, as what is so difficult about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and by default the abuse when one is involved with such a person is that the abuse is stealth and you will have to use every ounce of energy you have left now that you are depleted to recover. When we first encounter a narcissist, usually in a ‘romantic partnership” the narcissist presents as charming, understanding, and supportive but this is not at all what he or she is.
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 – homicide occurs, or the victim not fully understanding 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, and personally I suspect the number is much higher for those who have been victimized by a Narcissist or Psychopath if only because of the stealth nature of the abuse, and the emotional distress given that it is covert. Sandra Brown, author of “Women Who Love Psychopaths” has offered the statistic that there are an estimated 6 million psychopaths in the United States and they will have a collective reach of 60 million victims. Victims of NPD abuse to date have no verifiable statistics.
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 strong emotions, and such cycling – it really did seem as if suddenly I had become bipolar as the extreme fluctuations were difficult to contend with – sadness – anger – rage – complete and utter despair all at once, and of course, he did everything he could 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 that I believe over time grew due to my working on the sidelines promoting it, along with the efforts of others, they eventually were able to secure bragging rights to ultimately reaching 4 million hits a month. I mention this not to draw attention to myself, but more to highlight the sheer number of individuals who are either affected or suspect they are in a damaging relationship. Pathology as a whole is on the rise and there are many reasons for this. During my tenure as moderator, many victims shared that eventually the mental abuse escalated to physical violence. It can be concluded that in a majority of cases, the narcissist’s campaign was first initiated with an attack on your psyche. This IS emotional rape.
A Narcissist engages in various abuse tactics: Gas lighting, 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. 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 suffer from very deep dark voids and so, the narcissist is always on the 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 they’ve got a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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 psychiatric journals, 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. The 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 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 as victims? 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 of 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 have ceased 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 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 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 Post Traumatic 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. Moreover, because of my lack of knowledge, I could not articulate exactly what the problem was…I was able to secure a diagnosis of trauma but there were very few resources out there – many equate PTSD with WAR VETS. I was acting out, I was angry and terribly sad at the same time, this was a wound; I really thought I was going insane, I felt insane and had lost all control. Those who have not suffered this form of abuse don’t understand at all. In my case the narcissist never laid a hand on me…to me he was not an abuser, at least not the picture I had in my mind of what an abuser was – I did not realize all the mixed messages, signals, gas lighting, brainwashing, intermittent reinforcement…I could not articulate WHAT HE DID that was abusive…I couldn’t say he hit me, I couldn’t say he blatantly verbally abused me – he didn’t…it was a slow calculated campaign aimed at destruction, it was mind games, it was pushing buttons, it was what we call word salad, it was insanity disguised as sanity. It was the bottom of the rabbit hole and I spent four years there having no idea of the dance I was engaged in…my demise was slow but little by little I just started sinking and on the surface, everything seemed okay but it wasn’t…it was sick.
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 NLP which is Neurolinguistic Programming it is a way of brainwashing people. 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 but one 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 of whom you choose to follow.
As a result of my journey, and all that I have learned, I remain in shock over the lack of resources for victims who are struggling with this form of abuse, as well as the lack of understanding within the domestic violence and the mental health community. My path required a ton of research and proactive efforts in connecting with others in order to share and obtain validation that I wasn’t crazy…the thousands of stories I personally read demonstrated to me that I could not possibly be crazy…and even more validating, were the chilling similarities in each of our stories.
After a few hiccups, I am pleased to report that the original Narc Raiders page that was created two years ago is back up and running. You will find the link to that page on the right hand panel of this website. It serves as a Face Book point of contact for anyone who may need assistance or information on NPD abuse and recovery. From time to time I post articles and resources that may be of help to those who don’t know where to turn; however, most of my ‘awareness’ activity is centered more around blogging. It is my feeling today that the best method of helping is simply getting the information out there rather than soliciting discussion online as I have learned that while the internet is a useful tool for information and communication, it really is no substitute for authentic face to face communication, and so I rather engage in helping someone understand so that they may then have the ability to ‘articulate’ and find the professional help they need in order to overcome the devastation, rather than possibly encourage they place their hope, faith and trust in an online entity who could potentially be a predator as well. In the past, I established a secret group on Facebook which was by invitation only. Unfortunately, there were imposters that I am unable to identify – trolls if you wish – who engaged in attempts at sabotage. Unable to identify the source, and the ensuing panic members faced, my inability to point the finger at anyone in particular and refusing to slander anyone I simply shut down the site without any other explanation. That experience led to some accusing me of being a fake, a fraud, and in one case, a Man! Some in the movement who ‘preach’ love, support and claim to have a knowledge that this form of sabotage frequently takes place, rather than standing in solidarity turned their backs and I presume smeared my name in a few places…it is immaterial to me, as I prefer to let my work and my effort speak for itself.
My philosophy is simple: It takes a village, and each one teaches one. I would have to be incredibly narcissistic and ego driven to think that ANYone who is in the middle of this journey will stick to one particular forum. 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 I have learned.
The drive to engage in the endeavors I did was born out of a passion to raise awareness of this stealth form of abuse because I experienced firsthand the devastation it causes, and as a result of that experience recognized how little support and understanding exists within society. This continues to be very much a peer support movement and until the Mental Health professionals get on board, we only have the few crusaders who have walked the path to lead us to knowledge and empowerment and each other. While FB groups go a long way to provide validation, support and help – sometimes we need a place to let it all hang out, and I found that the one place that I really placed a wager on in hindsight really wasn’t as effective as it could have been, and I witnessed too many members stuck for what I think was longer than necessary. There were also issues in my opinion as they pertained to power plays, and in some cases re-victimization of victims and this was ignored and unchecked despite my bringing it to the attention of those in power to rectify things. Towards the end I made the error of referring someone there feeling a sense of loyalty and appreciation and was distressed to learn a few weeks later that the individual was displeased and shared in their own words: “They felt narced all over again by the admin.” There were a few more incidents and I don’t feel the need to disclose which forum in particular, and note I’ve shared that I’ve been involved with a few of them, but it was for those reasons, what I believe is right and ethical that I thought it best to embark on my own journey. Whether I have only three members or three million, I won’t ever deviate from my principals and if I am fortunate enough to get a really strong support team on board, they too will have to fully understand this is a ZERO TOLERANCE for ABUSE forum.
Efforts in awareness remain very much an “underground 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. I am not looking to ‘hook’ anyone, but rather if I can help get you off the floor, then I think I’ve done a good job. 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 comments 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,