Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I am a VICTIM and I BLAME YOU you! (STEP 1--no getting aruund it)

Recovering from PTSD is hampered I believe by our society’s uneasiness with terms like “victim” and “blame”. The 12-step programs that have saved my life can be the worst culprits in maintaining the sickness of the victim of a narcissistic partner, spouse, or parent, because they do not allow the speaker to lay blame for her woes anywhere but at her own feet.

This serves a purpose, of course, and a very valuable one: I can’t change anyone else’s behavior, so if I want to improve my situation, the only person I am capable of changing is me. And this does work. Focusing on one’s own behavior, that is, one’s own attitudes, one’s own folly, and working like a demon on self-improvement, one step at a time can bring about seeming miraculous change: and the newly sober, clear-headed, physically healthier, socially re-acclimated 12-stepper finds herself becoming capable of living a good, happy, secure life. Those demons that plagued her when she was high or desperately searching for her next fix vanish into thin air and the life that seemed hopelessly chaotic, dancing from overdue bill to unpaid tickets to missed court appearances to visits by Child and Family Protective Services to bruises from loving boyfriends to wretched insatiable loneliness is suddenly manageable. Clean. Enjoyable. Respectable.

Did I say suddenly? LOL...no, it’s not sudden, not really, it involves hard work, commitment, putting oneself outside comforts zones, trusting other people who have been there before...but I’ve experienced those moments, those lovely pink cloud days when you look around you and it seems like you’ve just woken from a horrible nightmare and there are flowers blooming and cats purring and coffee brewing and friends laughing and a sense of utter security...and you think, damn...

This is better than any high I’ve ever chased. And it doesn’t fade in a few hours or a few minutes. This, you think, is REAL happiness when all your life you’ve been chasing after the feeling you got the first time you got high on your drug of choice-- a feeling we in the program know you will never ever feel again, not if you’re an addict.

That’s the horror of addiction, the endless circular tracking after that first pure feeling of being high...released from the cares of the world...happy for the first time in your life...purely, blissfully, joyful...and you think, this is REAL happiness, when all your life you’ve been chasing after feeling this way just by living the way you’re supposed to live: a good, clean, honorable and productive life.

For an addict, we are told, a life well-lived is never enough. It gets boring. Frustrating. Is there really an addictive personality? Less able to handle the inevitable nibbles and slaps of fate that most people take in stride without letting it ruin the overall perfection of the life they are living so well?

Brain studies show there are indeed differences in chemical/electrical responses of addict brains. That’s nice to know--kind of like finding there are distinct differences in the brain functioning of sysgendered people as opposed to transsgendered people, or lesbian and gay people compared to straight or bisexual people. Sort of lets you off the hook--it’s not ALL my fault...anyone born with this sort of brain would have these sorts of problems.

But okay, so what? Can I change my brain? I feel better about myself knowing I really didn’t choose to be so incredibly fucked up, but now here I am and this is how I think and behave, and what am I going to do to improve my life as best I can with the brain I’ve been dealt?

Which comes back to the sticky wicket of victimization. By labeling myself a victim, I’ve been told over and over at 12 step meetings, by counselors, in research on recovering from abuse, I make myself weak. I’m doing it to me. So stop feeling like a victim, they say. Think positive. Change the things you can. Stop blaming your parents for making you live in a shed in back of the house and sleep in a little hole dug into the dirt. Stop blaming your husband for keeping you isolated for 20 years, chasing all potential friends away, belittling you so relentlessly you stop noticing until someone else by chance overhears and asks horrified, “how can you let him talk to you like that?”

Like what?

Because you’ve become so numbed to the non-physical and therefore invisible abuse because it’s exactly like your father used to do and you saved your sanity by numbing out then and becoming a cold, distant, alienated punk figure, but it never dawns on you that your father treats you like a bad dog until someone outside the family asks, horrified, “how can you let him talk to you like that?”

Like what?

Oh, I was a victim. Indeed I was, a wonderful victim, totally willing because totally oblivious. But I can’t blame the men who took advantage of my weakness. That would be against one of the main tenets of 12-step theory. You have no one to blame but yourself.

When you point the finger of blame, you have 3 fingers pointing back at you.

That’s a 12-step truism.

Anger is a luxury we cannot afford. I can feel no anger which can be justified. None. I lost that dubious privilege when I became an alcoholic.

My spouse has double-digit sobriety. Celebrates with cake and card signed by all the members and receiving a brass coin. The way groups celebrate anniversaries varies, but as far as I know, they all celebrate them. They all count everyone’s “time” eagerly, clapping for milestones like 90 day clean, a year clean, being clean “just for today”.

In the Gotterdamerung of our marriage, I challenged my spouse: how can you say you follow AA when you admit you hate quite a number of people and have no intention of forgiving them. And when you blame your unhappiness on me. Blatantly, literally, in front of two marriage counselors, and relentlessly to me. (And then become enraged because I do not “share” my problems with you but with my own sponsor and support group)

Why don’t I trust you to fix me? Why don’t I lay my problems at your feet (I’m your SOUSE ---LOL typo I think I’ll let STET-- you should trust me and only me). Anything else is a betrayal.

Whoa, I’d say, that’s number three: You, with double digit sobriety, are advising me to go against the tenets of the very program you claim has saved your life, and would be making you happy joyous and free if it weren’t for ME? What’s wrong with this picture?

Her reply chilled me. It should have told me the game was over, I should have left him then and there (You may have noticed the gender switches...is my spouse a he or a she? Excellent question. I’m not sure myself at this point. More may be revealed, or she/he may take it to her grave. Stay tuned.)

This paragon of recovery, double digit sobriety, stated with utter disdain: Bill W. did some bad stuff--I don’t remember the exact words but the message was clear. My spouse (let’s call him Dick) had placed himself above AA.

Clearly, Bill W. was just a man, clearly he had faults. But a biggie in AA is “principles before personalities” and the words of the Big Book have a wisdom (and I do believe in its wisdom despite its limitations) that transcends the follies of its author.

For non 12-steppers, it may not seem like a big deal to say Bill W was no great shakes. But I’ll risk an irreverent comparison here for clarity’s sake. (They buried John Lennon for this, but here goes:)

That’s kind of like an ardent Christian, when confronted with un-Christian-like behavior, saying, oh, that Jesus Christ? He wasn’t that great a man, was he?

Arrogance. Breathtaking arrogance.

I should have left then. But I still thought I could help her. The AA program had helped her before--had helped our marriage before. In the face of all opposition: our latest marriage counselor, every book or article written on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, blogs from tortured former victims now triumphantly free...

Now triumphantly free.

Once a clinical narcissist has written you off as less-than-worthless but actually (paranoiac) maliciously hurtful to the narcissist, it is time to GET OUT.

I was in extreme danger but so determined I could fix this damaged soul and no one else in the universe could (here’s MY ego, shattered though it was, helping to keep me stuck in a horrible situation I could NOT fix but believed I should, believed I could, believed I was obligated to try at least till death do us part...)

I was saved by Dakini energy, I was blessed. I performed an outrageous but not dangerous stunt that got me kicked out of “Dick”’s life--via the sheriff’s deputy and court orders still in place (although invalid and being appealed--another story)

It involved a few pieces of silverware wrapped in a napkin, or as Dick described it in the police report “a bathtub filled with knives”. I can’t help but chuckle at that image, but it’s in the report, word-for-word.

Reality check, please: who has enough knives in their homes to fill a bathtub with, anyway. Did I go door-to-door, begging knives from neighbors, gathering them in a bundle, in order to fill the tub? Did I have a secret collection of knives stashed somewhere? How many would it take to fill a bathtub? Depending on the size...butter knives or sabers? Saxon axes? Did I order 300 sets of Ginzu knives late one night?

I can laugh because I know I was never any threat to Dick. Quite the opposite. The pathological narcissist is incapable of putting himself in another’s shoes, so any description of my state of mind was truly a projection of Dick’s state of mind. I laugh with relief.

When I was first driven out I stayed with a friend a few days and had a dream where I was being chased in a car by Dick and he inteded to kill me. I jolted awake and felt immense relief-- the relief one feels with having escaped death. Awake I scoffed, Dick was no murderer.

But he accused me of attempting to murder him. On absolutely no grounds. (The case never made it to the criminal side of the court house--they’d have laughed it out onto the street.) And a narcissist can only project motivation that’s in his own head.

So who was truly in danger in that household? My subconscious knows. My dreams know.

Above all, my blessed, beloved, fiercely protective Dakini energy spirit knew--and planted the butterknives to save my life. And I am grateful.



If I snap into gratitude too fast, if I gloss over the fact that I was in a devastatingly soul-killing relationship with a very very sick manipulative person intent on my destruction while playing the role of my greatest lover, friend, protector, and champion...

Well, shit on that. I do blame. I was a victim. I wasn’t physically restrained but held by a sense of responsibility, duty, even love though I’m loathe to admit I loved someone who used me then tossed me like a depleted teabag.

And that’s where I am now. A depleted teabag. Flavorless. Limp. Unappetising. Nothing to offer anyone, Scared to death of being taken up oh so gently and plunged back into a boiling pot. And it seems people are trying. I’m sure their intentions are good when they try to get me back into the swing of things. Back into life after marching in lockstep with a person insisting she was so very terminally ill with emphysema she could die any day and I believed it. For 20 years. Insanity. Someone else had to point that out to me.

It’s not that I don’t take any responsibility for where I am today. I’m an adult. I’m better educated than most. I had a lot of advantages I never took advantage of. But unless I look at my victimization, see how my soul was ravaged bit by bit, all that pain will get stuffed and there’s simply NO MORE ROOM for any more STUFF in my psyche.

It leaks out. It explodes out. It eeks out in innumerable inappropriate snaps of anger at people I love or people behind the grocery check-out or idiots who drive slow in the passing lane...

Trust me. I’ve spent a lifetime in denial. Floating above the surface of my life because when I get too close to the real thing I get so incredibly afraid I am paralyzed with fear, I hide in bed I cannot get out, this nameless fear presses down on me and I feel as if I’m lying atop a manhole cover and if I move an inch it will leap up, explode, sending the TRUTH of realty, hellfire, endless pain, terror, well-deserved flames or else an endless void...howling on the edge of nothingness.

Nothing but me and my head and my sick dreamscape world and how fucking terrifyingly lonely is that? Existentially lonely, not the kind of lonely you can fix by being with other people. Because they are all just part of your nightmare. And if I leave off my guard for half a second, it will all come pouring out...the horror.

The horror.

Days I can’t move can’t call can’t just can’t just can’t.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


                                   Sitting on a porch in Old Town half a block from
                                   the Waterfront. My mother's old diamond sparlking
                                   on my finger liquid rainbows like a setting star grown huge on the horizon.
I always freak out this time of year. My mother died one Thanksgiving morning ages ago. Breast cancer crept into her brain, creating bizarre delusions. Thought my Dad was holding a gun to her head; it was really his keys; he thought that was funny.

Visitors stroll right down the middle of the street. A little giddy
with the hot fragrant air of Key West. Confident. Just knowing there’s
fun in store.
She insisted me (13) and my brother (16) go to the big Thanksgiving pre-game bonfire. She didn’t know I loathed to go: hyperactive crowds and noise and frozen toes and fingers and the simple-minded “rah-rah-rah” school spirit I never did get the spirit but I played clarinet in the band to please her and she was dead when we got home.

Music plays from B. O.’s Fishwagon, “Ain’t That a Shame?” And people cheering.
I don’t remember a single friend at her funeral. They may have been there. They didn’t talk to me. Dad a silent hunched figure took one valium it made him cry so no more of those, not ever. Never ever. Right before they shut the coffin my couin Frankie--lots older, 20 at least--put his arm around me and I sobbed. I remember because he was the only one who dared and only that once, prickly pear cactus that I’d become. My brother said: be strong. My favorite aunt told me to wear waterproof mascara for the next viewing.
Three viewings
Three viewngs
Three motherfucking viewings.
Endless handshakes from strangers pitying young mother lost, “I’m sorry” “I’m sorry” “I’m sorry”. Grandfather leans over and admonishes me to say “thank-you” whenever someone says “I’m sorry”. Sorry.
Sorry Thanks Sorry Thanks Sorry Thanks Sorry Thankssorrythankssorrythankssorrythanks
They’re all so fucking sorry. I hate them. Be strong. Sorry thanks I will not cry I will not cry I will not cry.
Pieces of people appear through the white porch railing,
Heads hidden by the banister top. Many say “Hi!” It’s a
mindlessly friendly sort of town. I like that about Key
West. I say “Hi!” back but I can’t really see them.

I hate this time of year. The deification of turkey slaughter. The gleeful devouring of dead flesh. Beautiful colorful paper turkeys children cut and paste as we admonish them to cut and taste real dead birds. I will tear these pretty pieces off the door of my detox room in the looney bin. They will say nothing but tape another up. And tape another up andtapeanotherup as I patter to the toilet just in time shaking and puking and hallucinating like an old gutter drunk drinking 65 years I’m 24 I’m in Cornell Law School I’m lapping Maalox like a cat at the nurses station because my hands shake too much to hold the plastic shot glass. People hate me when I fail to say “thanks”.

Men spit lung cookies on the sidewalk. Thanks for sharing.
Give me your TB your Bird Flu. Some women spit too, but
them we put on psych units.
I always get a little crazy this time of year.
Fluffy grey cat joins me on the porch. Does it live here?
Little girl’s allergic. It may be feral; it’s hard to tell.
Key West is a town that takes care of its strays.
Faint tabby stripes. Tiny ears.
White chin. Little kink at the end of her tail.
And too many toes.
I couldn’t write without cats.

Mommy bald, mommy throwing up non-stop, her feet pattering to make it from th couch to the bathroom. Finally gave in to a basin by the couch, covered, which she cleaned out herself many times a day. I, wrapped in spoiled selfish adolescent horror ignored it. Her. Hid in the basement hugging the noisy dirty coal furnace when she screamed in pain. Ungrateful little bitch. Terrified child trapped in sinking ship with no Exit sign lit.
White whiskers droop.
Dark eyes outlined in white.
Swivels her ears and turns to me when I address her,
turns back to the smell of a good catch being hauled onto
the dock. Putrefaction stoped for now by ice ice ice and
more ice.
My brother always wanted to work in an ice house he said. Became a doctor instead. Grateful for his success so my failure would not be the end of father’s hope. Me the black sheep black suits me fine but does show cat hairs who cares in the looney bins where I take notes I am not a real patient I will write a book about this someday I the eternal audience watching watching watching and never learning.
White chin, white belly, belly in bloom,
She cleans her teats like a good mama cat.

Mommy a corpse. Smiling blue eyes and peppermint gum and freckled skin and summer days at the county club pool fade to black. Hammering technicolor close-ups of corpse flesh in full maggoty blowfly bloom. Eyes squeeze tight squeeze tight squeeze tight shut forever to the light. I willed myself a creature of the night, I followed my greatest love to the grave and I set up camp there. I married a man with 6 months to live. Twenty years later he tired of walking hand in hand ready for his imminent death any day any day you better do this for me now I could die any day for twenty years we walked the lintel line between life and death and I was comfortable there till my usefulness got used up and I was tossed back into life against my will my wishes. I do not belong with the living I want to rest among the dead
Another kitty-cat squeezes throught the railings.
I’m a nurse now, on and off duty. I help crippled strangers up and down stairs. I help blind people know where they are and who’s around and what the dangers are. I buy palm frond roses from smelly drunks on Duval. I’m disabled myself get a check every month to prove it but I can wash my own basin thanks. I can never atone never atone never atone. Mercy, please, someone. I crave to see my own blood. Dripping from my wrists. Pouring out of my belly. And I need it to hurt,
Black and white with
Tender amber eyes.
I couldn’t live without cats.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Living With a Narcissitic Personality Disordered Spouse

I've been married for many years to someone who was only recently diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. After an initial period of losing my mind, I decided to sit back, analyze the situation. Seeing that I was not in any imminent danger, nor do I have any children to worry about, I instead am sticking around and enjoying the show.

It's fascinating in a way... sort of like living with Ted Bundy, only my spouse has emphysema, needs oxygen 24/7, can't walk more than 2 steps, uses a motorized scooter, and is entirely dependent on me.

Think Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Think rats on silver platters.


No, I'm not sadistic. I really am quite harmless. Wouldn't hurt a fly. My spouse is lucky.

But I'm no angel and I think after many years of her narcissitic hammering me into submission without my being aware of what was happening, I'm entitled to a chuckle or two at her expense now.

Also, I hope to enlighten any women (my wife is a male to female transsexual) who are under a man's thumb and may not be aware of the harm they are doing to themselves-- by not speaking up, by allowing themselves to be controlled by men. Yes, even strong women, compassionate women, competent women, being controlled by men in the 21st century, in the USA, when you'd think we should know better...

I heart women, my best friends are women, but I heart men, too. There are great guys out there, darn it, and they are the unsung heroes while the narcissistic male assholes grab the spotlight and unsuspecting women swoon.

I just want to balance the scales a bit. That's all.

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