Category Archives: Voices of NPD

Guest Post: Narc-hate sites make recovery hard

Voices of NPD spotlights guest posters with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to share their stories of what it is like to live with NPD, becoming self-aware and personal growth. 

By Rudy Schmitz

I got my Narcissistic degree in 2012 when I was supposed to be recovering from severe depression. Three months later I was back at the Doc’s worse than I was before. Additional assessments were required and eventually it seemed to be a coin toss between High-Functioning Autism or a Cluster B personality disorder. The institute where I was treated had no autism specialists, so I was tested for autism someplace else. I failed the test. So, Cluster B, it was. Not too long after, I was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Little did I know at that time that this label would have the huge impact it did on my life.

Becoming NPD Diagnosed

Of course I had been diagnosing myself. According to me, I had every Cluster B disorder, traits of some in Cluster A and a bunch of markers from the Cluster C too. And then I had a couple of mental illnesses on the side, or at least, I could have, that were not disorders just illnesses. I made myself into a nut-job basket case, ready to be locked up, put away, put down even. Confirmation bias, squared. And then squared again.

But there it was, with official papers and everything: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And from what I had read about that, it made sense. From what I would learn about it in the near future, it would make a lot more sense. A lot, a lot. There suddenly were explanations for tons of things I never understood before, but always wondered why they had happened.

NPD on the Internet: Confusing NPD with ASPD

I started reading everything I could get my hands on. I began taking it all in – every word ever written about the subject that I could find. I felt sick to my stomach. I started hating myself. I started hating other narcissists, I started hating people that were victims. The amount of bitter, dark and evil material that is written about Narcissistic Personality Disorder is simply overwhelming.

In my opinion these websites are responsible for a lot of misconceptions about narcissistic personalities. This is the impression that arises when you read those websites:

Narcissists are evil, selfish, malicious and violent. They will go through great lengths to get what they want from you. They will manipulate you, mentally abuse you and some will even use physical violence.

Reading the material online, I thought, this could not be true. That cannot be what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is. I am not that evil of a person. This can’t be correct, this can’t be the truth. People would have told me. I have friends that would have told me. The narc hate sites really affected me in bad ways, and I was becoming what they told me I was. I had to take a few steps back from this and reflect. And that is when I started seeing patterns.

This description depicts the narcissistic personality as an evil predator that consciously uses and abuses its victims to get whatever they want. I do not deny that fact that people displaying this kind of behavior exist. I am not blind to reality. I see these people. I see the results of this behavior every day.

But I am opposed to the idea that these people suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There is an explanation for why these people are called narcissists today. The same reason they were called psychopath 25 years ago. Fashion. Back in those days psychopath was a fashionable word, under the influence of Hollywood movies.

Today, narcissist is the fashionable word. I’m not quite sure why, but it is. People doing this though neither are psychopaths nor are they narcissists. They have an even more complex condition that gathers the worst of a couple of disorders in it, Narcissistic Personality Disorder likely to be one of them. Their disorders are co-morbid.

Narcissistic Abuse “Survivors”

The way narcissistic behavior is generalized, people just copy their material from each other without even validating it. The amount of pseudo-science that is on some websites is baffling. Numbers and percentages given without validation, statements not backed up by any explanation or proof. And of course, almost every one of those websites is run by previous “survivors of narcissistic abuse”.

These people often think they have a right to address and advise the world on the subject of narcissism because they spend a couple of months, maybe years in a relationship. Well, I have driven several cars in my life, but I don’t advise people on which one they should buy, and certainly not on how to drive one. I have crashed a couple, and that does not make me a safety expert either. On the contrary I would say. And yes, I survived the crashed too.

They often do not seem to realize that what they communicate in public is just their perception of the things they experience in their relationship with that partner, who is most of the time not even diagnosed with NPD. Especially in the cases where there is severe abuse at hand, it is unlikely that this is even the case. It is much more likely that that specific partner has a complex disorder of antisocial and narcissistic disorder in comorbidity. Even statistically it is more likely that the man or woman is a sociopath than a narcissist. But what the hell, narcissist is a cool and hip word, so we just call them narcissists.

I am a narcissist yes. But I am not abusive by nature. I am not violent by nature. Exploitative yes, abusive no. I will use you, but won’t abuse you. At least not intentionally. And that it unintentionally at times comes across that way, is unfortunate. But contrary to popular belief, I will feel guilty about that. I do feel guilt. Tons of it.

History of NPD in the public eye

So when did the definition of a narcissist change for what Kohut and Kernberg thought of and published in 1967 and 1968? Since then, Narcissistic Personality Disorder has been a willing subject of discussion among psychiatrists, psychologists and even neurologists and biologists. In the past decade it seem however that the subject has crossed the borders of the professional field of science and made its way into the world of the laymen. And in from where I am standing, it did not do people with NPD much good.

The movies Psycho (original 1960, remake 1998), American Psycho (2000), and the Hannibal Lecter quartet have had a big impact on the use of the term “psychopath” in the late 90’s and first decade of the 21st century. Apparently something has had a same sort of impact on the use of the term “narcissist” in the current era. The remarkable fact is that often the same kind of person is referred to when using the term. I just wonder, what it is that has had this influence on society. I can’t seem to be able to figure it out, but suggestions are welcome.

Even though I realize that there is an external source for the ignorance with which people use the term, unlike a psychopath, as a narcissist, I do care. In fact, I can’t help but care, because the pathology of narcissistic personalities forces us to base our self-worth solely on external sources. The external sources though generally think that we are monsters.

Let me tell you this: Did you know that Mother Theresa, a person declared a saint only 20 years after her death – making her the “youngest” saint ever—is believed to have been a narcissistic personality, to the extent that there’s a sub-species of narcissists name after her? How is that for being a monster? Monsters do not have the habit of becoming saints, you know.

And I struggle with this. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Being a self-aware narcissistic personality opposed to an unaware one redefines the world for you, but it does not necessarily make it better.

Reaching out to others

I talked to the moderator of a forum for narcissistic abuse “survivors” (I consider that a ridiculous term, as if one is likely to die of narcissistic abuse… really?) and I wanted to help. I am convinced that the insight of a self-aware narcissist, speaking to narcissistic behavior – as well as the behavior of the “survivors”— is a valuable tool and source of information for such a group.

She agreed and let me join the forum. I did not pull up a facade, and introduced myself for what I was. Without exchanging one single word with me, half the people already wanted me out and were against me. If you know one narcissist you know them all seemed to be the code of arms. They don’t even give you a chance, you are condemned already. For what you are, and condemned again for being honest. And condemned again for trying to help.

It is these kind of experiences that make rehabilitation a struggle. You want to do good. You do not want to be a secret, because when people find out later, you just know you will get the “why-did-you-not-tell-me-such-an-important-thing-out-front” drama. And before you know it you will be called a gaslighting, manipulative bastard again.

Most of the stigma that stick to the name “narcissist” are rarely applicable to the person that actually is a narcissist. The stigma are often exaggerated, ignorant and even false. And every person is their own person. Just like every narcissist is.

Please follow my blog No! It’s Not Your Fault or find me answering questions about NPD on Quora.

Interested in sharing your story? Contact Healing from NPD.

Guest Post: Reaching through the looking glass

Voices of NPD spotlights guest posters with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to share their stories of what it is like to live with NPD, becoming self-aware and personal growth. 

By Marie Nelson

I’m grateful to get to share my story here at Healing from NPD. When I learned I had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and went online for answers and advice for people with my disorder, I felt extremely marginalized. Most blogs are for “victims”, and many are very harsh. This type of website is important because it presents a nuanced picture of people with NPD and gives hope of recovery to people like me.

Awareness
This summer, at 36 years old, I was diagnosed with NPD. I had hit rock bottom and stayed there for a year, experiencing a major midlife crisis that cost me both my job and self-esteem. Finally, after being hopeless for a long time, I sought out therapy.

The NPD diagnosis hit me very hard. I know it must sound weird, but I would never have imagined myself to be a person with NPD. I’ve thought of myself as a dependent person with lots of empathy and compassion. How odd that must sound now. Therapy revealed many unpleasant truths about me, but also about my family and childhood. It was like I had to see everything, especially myself, in a different light after becoming diagnosed.

If I were to describe my characteristic symptoms of NPD it would be these: I can be very self-absorbed and forget that other people are struggling in their lives too. I see myself as either very capable or very much a loser—there are no in-betweens. I need other people to provide me with some sense of self-esteem.  I have a lot of hidden anger that causes dysphoria and rumination. I often have unrealistic fantasies about the future. I have a hard time being a grown-up and on some level I resist responsibility.

The past
Before going to therapy I didn’t question my childhood, because I don’t really remember much. The memories are elusive, they consist mostly of moods and feelings of helplessness. I was a quiet child, who craved the attention of adults and got it through my role as the “weak” kid. I have many unanswered questions about my upbringing, and about how my brother and I were raised, or maybe mostly left to ourselves. But I don’t know how to get the answers for the moment being.

In my early adult life everything was about escaping the inner emptiness. I used all kinds of stimulants like travelling, shopping and drinking, and I couldn’t stand to be alone with my thoughts. When I had to take on responsibility I would find some ways to avoid it. For that reason I have a lot of self-inflicted chaos in my life. I didn’t finish college and it was difficult for me to keep jobs for a longer time. I blamed my social anxiety, a faithful companion through all the years, but never understood that there was something else behind it.

I always had trouble with relationships both with family, as well as friends and partners. I’ve often felt lonesome, even in the company of other people, and had a great wish to belong to a group or a community. Recently I’ve realized that I always withdraw from groups, also my own family, because I expect to be pushed out. On some level I always expect to be rejected. And that’s what I believe to be my core challenge: to not withdraw from people in my life.

Now
Sometimes I wonder if I were better off before therapy, when I were still oblivious to the real me. But on the other hand, when I hopefully at some point, get through this period of feeling raw and being vulnerable, I’ll be a much wiser person. Not only because I understand who I really am, but also because I’ll be more aware of other people’s motives, struggles and feelings.

The shame and anger that came up in therapy is difficult to cope with.  But the dysphoria periods are shorter now, and I find some comfort in knowing that becoming aware is painful, no matter what the disorder. For the first time I’m choosing to feel the pain instead of running away from it.

I believe part of the recipe for healing is turning the look-out on to other people. After starting to understand ourselves and our defense mechanisms, we need to really see other people. It’s a way for us to gain empathy and to beat the defensiveness that keeps us lonesome. It’s difficult, especially if you’re projecting a lot, but I’ve been told it’s possible.

I recently started up in group therapy with other people with different personality disorders. It’s a challenge because of my withdrawing habits, but I’ve promised myself to stay in it. For example, if I start feeling pushed out, which I definitely will at some point, I’ll need to address it in therapy. I will have to assert my feelings in a group and not just run away like I normally do. It’s a way to actually choose a behavior, and not just react automatically based on some firmly grown childhood pattern.

I believe we can learn to manage our defense mechanisms and change the behavioral patterns. Maybe I’ll always have to be pretty aware of my own thoughts and do a lot of reality checking, but that’s a small price to pay for development and better relationships.

Finally, we should also bear in mind that we are not just our disorder. I have a disorder, but I’m much more than NPD.

Interested in sharing your story? Contact Healing from NPD.

Guest Post: Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

Voices of NPD spotlights guest posters with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to share their stories of what it is like to live with NPD, becoming self-aware and personal growth. 

By Lauren Bennett, Down the Rabbit Hole

I’m honored to write this guest post, because I think the owner of this blog has done something very courageous in starting this blog.  She, like myself, has realized that NPD and narcissistic abuse is not an us vs. them issue, as most of the narc-hating blogs would have you believe. There’s a lot of overlap and grey areas.

Often, those of us who identify as abuse victims with “fleas” actually even have narcissism or even NPD. We aren’t all that different — whether we have NPD or C-PTSD or are codependent to a narcissist, all of that has its roots in having been the victim of something we had no control over: usually, not having had parents who were able to love us unconditionally and give us the early mirroring we needed so badly.

Pete Walker, who wrote the very readable and helpful “C-PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving,” even acknowledges that narcissism is one of the four responses (“the four F’s”) of C-PTSD.  Narcissism is the “Fight” response. On other words, narcissism — even NPD — is a manifestation of C-PTSD.

“Going down the rabbit hole” is an apt description of what it feels like when you finally realize that you — a person who believed you were merely an innocent victim of narcissistic abuse — are actually a narcissist yourself. It’s very surreal, to say the least. But I’ll get to that later.

I’m only a victim!

The trajectory I took to self-awareness has been a strange one. I began my first blog, Lucky Otters Haven, as a blog for people like me, who had been raised by narcissists or had had close relationships with abusive narcissists and were trying to navigate the world on our own and tend to our wounded, fragile psyches after going “no contact”. I started that blog four months after going “no contact” with my very malignant sociopathic ex-husband.

I spent several months as a narc-hater. I wrote scathing posts about how all “narcs” (a word I am trying to avoid now) are evil, have no souls, and are incurable. I posted on other blogs that regarded them much the same way I did. In fact, most narc-abuse blogs take this attitude, and to be fair, rage and even hatred is a normal reaction when you are going “no contact”.

Anger overrides fear, and we can’t make our break and get away if we remain stuck in fear and codependency. Anger can give us the motivation and courage to get away and begin to pick up the pieces of our broken lives. So it has its place. The problem is when you can’t let go of it. Once the danger has passed, and you are safely “no contact”, that anger has nowhere else to go.

Many narc abuse victims remain stuck in their hatred and victim mentality, and begin to see narcissism behind every lamppost and under every bed. They see narcissism in normal human behavior and become paranoid and hypervigilant.  They can even become narcissistic themselves.  Only they are so consumed by hatred they can’t see it. They can’t get better or be happy, because they refuse to take any responsibility for their own healing beyond ousting all the narcissists from their lives. No, what happened to us wasn’t fair, but I realized I would never heal until I began to look inside myself, instead of at what everyone else was doing to me (or what I imagined they were doing).

Beginning to question

At some point I began to tire of the constant narc-bashing. Hatred was no longer doing it for me. I began to want to understand what made narcissists tick, and why they behaved the way they did.  That didn’t mean I wanted to be in contact with them, I just wanted to understand.

I already knew they were broken people who developed an elaborate defense mechanism to avoid ever being hurt again. They were people who were so sensitive or were so badly hurt in childhood they dared never feel vulnerable again. So their true, vulnerable self was sent into exile, and a “false self” of invulnerability was constructed over it. I began to read and post on a forum where both NPDs and “nons” posted, and was surprised how little drama there was.

I began to think more deeply about narcissism and the idea that just because one hates “narcs” doesn’t mean you can’t be one yourself.  I began to look at myself too. Was it possible that I was a narcissist?

Both groups seemed to want to understand each other, and many of the NPDs (both diagnosed and self-diagnosed) on the board wanted to change! Several were even in therapy. I began to entertain the idea that narcissists COULD change, and not all of them were incurable, and most of them weren’t evil either. They didn’t choose their disorder; their disorder chose them.

I wrote a couple of posts describing what I’d learned — that not all “narcs” were evil or incurable. That it’s a spectrum disorder and there are shades of grey. That it’s a disorder caused by trauma — the same as their C-PTSD! To the haters, this was blasphemy.

Suddenly I was being mobbed.  A narc-hater I had thought was a friend began to gaslight, project onto me, and tell vicious lies about me in her blogs. Her flying monkeys (other narc hating bloggers who were her friends) came flying out of the woodwork to destroy my reputation. They were like pit vipers. I was so traumatized by this that I almost took my blog down. I was shocked! These narc haters were acting like exactly what they despised. I felt like I was in some crazy house of mirrors.

Could I be one of “them”? 

I began to think more deeply about narcissism and the idea that just because one hates “narcs” doesn’t mean you can’t be one yourself.  I began to look at myself too. Was it possible that I was a narcissist?  Although I didn’t fit the DSM criteria for NPD that well, I had been reading up about covert or vulnerable narcissism and realized that I fit the profile for that perfectly. I took an online test and got a very high score.  At first, this was extremely disorienting, even devastating. I fell into a depression and cried and felt dissociated for several days. I felt as if my perspective on everything was backwards — up was down, left was right, everything I had believed was the truth was a lie, and everything I had believed was a lie was the truth.  I felt like I had fallen asleep and woken up in another, nightmarish dimension.  So now I was on the other side — I was one of “them.” I had fallen down the rabbit hole.

I started my second blog, Down the Rabbit Hole, as an attempt to process this new knowledge about myself and figure out what I could do about it. I didn’t want to be a narcissist!  Narcissists were bad!  Although I had stopped demonizing them, I didn’t want to be one! The stigma was unbearable. Thinking I couldn’t afford therapy, I set about on a slightly nutty self-healing regimen, combining aspects of DBT (I have a BPD diagnosis I received in 1996 and still had Marsha Linehan’s wonderful DBT workbook), meditation, hot baths, prayer, self-talk, music therapy (to elicit emotional catharsis), and other things to heal myself of both my BPD and what I believed was my covert NPD.

My journey in therapy

I talked about all this on my new blog, but my friends (my real ones, who didn’t abandon me just because I thought I was a narcissist) kept saying there was no way I could be a narc, it was in my head, it was just “fleas,” I was too nice, I had too much empathy. I entered therapy in November 2015, and my therapist told me he didn’t think I had NPD and probably not even BPD (he thought I’d either recovered or was misdiagnosed in the first place).  But my therapist also told me he didn’t believe in labels and only treated symptoms, so he never gave me a new diagnosis.

Over time, I began to show more of my narcissism in my sessions. In early sessions I tried hard to impress him and make him like me. Of course, I was making no progress while doing this but I took pride in my ability to make him laugh and think I was a nice person. But over time, my narcissistic traits –envy, faked empathy, secretly believing I was better than others (while at the same time being insecure and thinking I deserved nothing), inability to take criticism well, a tendency to devalue those who didn’t think highly of me — began to come to the surface.

I felt as if my perspective on everything was backwards — up was down, left was right, everything I had believed was the truth was a lie, and everything I had believed was a lie was the truth.  I felt like I had fallen asleep and woken up in another, nightmarish dimension.  So now I was on the other side — I was one of “them.” I had fallen down the rabbit hole.

It was around this time I began to feel unpleasant emotions in therapy and despite a temptation to run away from feeling them, I made myself explore those dark emotions anyway, no matter how much it hurt.  At first it was impossible to cry in therapy (I only cried alone in those days) but eventually I learned to trust him enough to cry in front of him. This was a huge win for me. We talked about my core of inner emptiness and this awful feeling of something missing inside, and the dissociation I sometimes felt.

I realized with a shock how fake I was.  That fakeness is exhausting for me, and makes me avoid social situations because I feel like I always have to “rehearse” what I’m going to say to be seen in the best possible light. I’m always worrying about what everyone else thinks of me, at the expense of caring about others.

It’s not that I lack empathy. I actually do have quite a bit of it.  But the effort involved in always thinking of how I will appear and having to rehearse how I’m going to act or what I’m going to say makes it hard for me to really hear what others are saying. For over a decade I thought I had Asperger’s or high functioning autism. But now I know differently.

When I was a child, I was very sensitive and often bullied.  I felt everything too much, and in my family, showing emotions other than fake happiness (even though we were all miserable) wasn’t acceptable and I was punished or shamed for showing my feelings.  In school, I was made fun of and ostracized.  By adolescence, I learned to cover my sadness and sensitivity (which I had become ashamed of) with anger and frequent, uncontrollable rages, leading to a BPD diagnosis in 1996. But as I entered adulthood, this sort of behavior doesn’t get you very far or make people like you much. Unconsciously, I began to cover my inability to regulate my emotions with a thin false self, which eventually led to a narcissistic personality (albeit not a malignant or sociopathic one).  I never wanted to hurt anyone, but unwittingly I did anyway, in my attempt to avoid being seen as the vulnerable, hurt, victimized person I knew in my heart I still was.

Now that my therapist has been seeing me for a year, I think he has a better idea of what is really wrong with me. At first he didn’t think I was a narcissist, because I was too “nice” to him and didn’t let him see those traits. He still hates diagnoses, because of how stigmatizing they are.  But last night, he let the truth slip out.

Getting my NPD diagnosis

I studied psychology and know a bit about the different techniques used on people with NPD and recognized that my therapist was using some of those techniques on me.  We do a lot of “chair work” and inner child work, which has been very powerful (and often painful).  Last night, I brought up again my suspicions that I had NPD.  He asked me why it was so important to me to have a label and I explained it was because it would be a confirmation of what I already suspected and would help make things clearer to me about why I did the things I did. It would bring me some closure.  I guess that made him decide to finally spill the beans.  Although he didn’t come out and say “you have NPD,” he let it “slip.”

My therapist let it “slip”.  I looked up at him, feeling shocked.  “Are you saying I have NPD?” I asked, incredulous. He looked slightly uncomfortable, “How does that make you feel?”  “It explains everything…”

What happened was we were doing some “chair work” and I was speaking as my 8 year old self. Lately I’ve gotten good at slipping into my younger self and even speaking as a child would. I always get emotional when we do this kind of work, sometimes even crying. He asked me what she (the little girl) wanted and I said I just wanted my daddy to hold me and stop confusing me. He talked to me in a “dad” voice. I started to cry then. I just wanted to be loved unconditionally.

He was quiet while this was going on, then he said this: “Most narcissists aren’t as good at accessing their younger self as you have become. You have made so much progress. I’m proud of you.” I looked up at him, feeling shocked.

“I just meant–” he started to say. He looked embarrassed. “No, wait. Are you saying I have NPD?” I asked, incredulous. He looked slightly uncomfortable. “Well, yes. I hesitated to tell you because it’s such a stigmatizing label. But you needed to know. You were ready. How does that make you feel?”  “It explains everything and validates what I already knew.”

I thanked him for telling me and laughed about him letting it slip out like that. It’s not that I want to have NPD, but it felt good because now I can stop spinning my wheels and driving myself nuts wondering if I really have it and always trying to speculate that it might really be “something else.” It’s a sort of closure and now I feel like we can really get some work done, so I am very grateful.

Moving forward

I agree with the owner of this blog that many, if not most of us, who suffered narcissistic abuse (and might have once identified only as victims suffering from C-PTSD, or in my case, comorbid BPD) actually have NPD ourselves, or at least are on the N spectrum.

I agree that the concept of “fleas” is actually low level narcissism, only most narcissistic abuse victims and bloggers can’t bring themselves to admit this, because to do so would cause too much cognitive dissonance and put them in the same camp with the “enemy.”  As long as some victims continue to think in their rigid, us-versus-them, black and white way, they will never be able to see their own narcissism because they must continue to be seen as blameless “empaths” and stay trapped in their victim mentality.

Narcissists or victims, we are all broken people. We are all victims of abuse. And none of us (except probably malignant or sociopathic narcissists who are too far gone) are hopeless or incurable.  I am so grateful to have found this blog and be able to write this post for it.

Please follow my blog: https://downtherabbitholeblog.org/