Tag Archives: anxiety
Living as someone with mental illness yet is high functioning, I can tell you it’s utterly exhausting. Doing things takes more energy than it would for someone without mental illness because I have to focus harder. I also do my best to put the problems in a box when necessary so they don’t affect other people. It takes energy to keep that box closed & on a shelf!! Add in having a brain injury & I spend a lot of time exhausted.
If you too are high functioning with mental illness, I’m sure you can relate to what I said, even if you don’t also have the brain injury. You truly are not alone! This post is to help you to understand that.
It feels like you’re being fake a lot of the time, doesn’t it? The truth is you aren’t being fake. You’re just hiding a part of yourself from others you don’t want to know about that part of you. There is nothing wrong with not being 1000% open with everyone. Sometimes it’s best to keep some information private from some people.
It also feels like people don’t believe you have any illness at all. People seem to think if you have mental illness, you need to be incoherent, hearing voices, attempting suicide, or even not taking care of your basic needs such as showering & changing clothes regularly. If you’re clean, your home is in order, you’re working & maintain relationships, many people don’t think you’re struggling with your mental health. They miss the small, subtle signs such as an increased or decreased appetite, sleeping more or less than usual, difficulty focusing, or feeling tired.
Your good & bad days look very similar to most people. They truly have no idea that on bad days, it took every ounce of willpower to pry yourself out of bed, to bathe, to do whatever you need to do on that day. Chances are, most wouldn’t believe you if you told them because they see no real differences between this bad day & your good days.
Sometimes people may say you’re gloomy or a “Debbie Downer” because sometimes your sadness or negative views show. They don’t realize that is depression talking. Or, maybe sometimes you jump at the slightest move from someone or sound & it irritates people. It happens because you have an anxiety disorder, PTSD or C-PTSD.
Although you may not look like it, you feel you are struggling so much. Mental illness consumes so much energy! Focusing on a simple conversation can take a lot out of you. People don’t often understand why you’re tired, but this is exactly why.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these situations? If so, I hope it comforts you some to know that you’re not alone. Many of us understand because we’re on the same boat.
And please remember, just because you can function & function well, don’t think that means you don’t have a real problem. I know, sometimes it’s easy to think this way when you have a few good days in a row. That being said though, mental illness is just as serious as physical illness & should be treated as such. Sometimes it can be more serious in the sense that some mental disorders can be life threatening by making a person suicidal. Don’t neglect to rest when you need to, take your medication as directed, talk to safe people & let them love & encourage you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking care of yourself or asking for help. If you broke your leg, you would do those things, wouldn’t you? Then why not do the same thing to take care of your mental health?
General anxiety & anxiety associated with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD, are very different. Generalized anxiety involves things that might happen. What if I get fired? What if I get into a car accident? Anxiety that stems from C-PTSD is nothing like that. For me, I seldom even know the cause of my anxiety. I just feel crippling anxiety with no clue why.
One aspect of this anxiety that has baffled me the most is sometimes when I wake up, either during the night or first thing in the morning, it attacks. It comes in these awful waves where I feel like the anxiety is going to overwhelm me, then it passes, then it comes back again & passes again. This happens usually for a good half hour at least until eventually the anxiety just stays away until the next time. For quite some time now, I’ve tried learning what this is about with no luck… that is until recently. I wanted to share what I learned since I have no doubt many others live with this obnoxious phenomenon, too. If you’re one of the “lucky” ones like me, I hope this helps you.
After having survived trauma, in particular repeated traumas, your brain knows the worst case scenario. It’s seen some really ugly things, up close & personal, & quite frankly does NOT want to go back to that. Understandable, of course. The problem is the brain will do anything to avoid this, & can take things too far.
The traumatized brain is in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze. Sometimes, the brain acts like it believes danger is about to happen at random, such as I mentioned happens to me when I first wake up. Whether danger is actually there or not, it thinks danger is lurking & triggers the fight, flight or freeze responses kick into overdrive. It’s kind of like car alarms when they first became popular in the late 1980’s & early 1990’s. They were so easily triggered that virtually nothing could make them sound. This is like anxiety in a brain that’s experienced repeated traumas.
And good luck at this point convincing your panicked brain that no danger exists. It knows better because it’s seen some pretty terrible things. It won’t be reassured that there is no danger because of that.
When this type of anxiety kicks in, you can handle it. I know it’s hard, but it’s possible.
Remind yourself of what is happening, that this anxiety is only a symptom of C-PTSD. It isn’t a sign that there is any potential danger. It’s a symptom of a brain that has been broken due to experiencing horrific traumas. Nothing more. Maybe think of it like a toothache. If you have a cavity, your tooth will hurt until you’ve seen the dentist. If you don’t know that you have a cavity, that pain will scare you. However, if you are aware of having a cavity, the pain will still hurt of course, but at least you won’t be scared because you know why you have the pain. When you know what is happening, it can make it much easier to cope with a difficult situation.
Try to understand why the anxiety is so bad. You may not be able to figure that out, but hopefully you can. If you can, then you can calm the anxiety by figuring out a solution to the problem or reassuring yourself that the problem isn’t so bad.
Never forget to pray, too. God understands us even better than we understand ourselves. When you don’t understand why the anxiety is happening or how to calm it down, He will. Let Him help you! He will be glad to!
There is a lot of talk lately about being a minimalist. In other words, not having tons of stuff. Some people even give away of most of their belongings & moving into a tiny house or tiny house trailer.
By their definition, I’m not a minimalist. I need a slightly larger house than that! However, I’ve always been of the mindset I don’t need a lot & regularly clean out some of my belongings.
Since I periodically help my husband with the unpleasant task of emptying his late parents’ home & am in the process of doing the same to my late parents’ home, I’ve realized this minimalist thing needs to be taken up a notch in my life. No, I won’t sell my home & replace it with a 300 square foot tiny house, but I am cleaning out.
I’ve found a great deal of pleasure in downsizing. Recently I went through our entire CD collection. Somehow it grew to just over 300 CDs! Since I’d ripped most of them & safely stored those mp3 files on online storage, I figured this is ridiculous. They take up a lot of space in my small house & I’d like my space back. I made sure everything was ripped & got rid of all but 31 CDs that have some sort of sentimental value. They now fit in a storage box that’s slightly larger than a shoe box! I can’t tell you how good it feels not to have that big collection anymore!
I realized that my paternal grandmother was right. Too much stuff is just more to maintain & clean, which takes up precious time that could be put to more pleasant uses. Some of those uses are hobbies, hanging out with people you love, volunteering… I’d love more time for those things, wouldn’t you?
Too much stuff also can create anxiety. Something about living in a cluttered space makes me VERY anxious, as no doubt it does many other people. Since those of us who survived narcissistic abuse usually deal with a lot of anxiety, that is what made me think writing about this topic may be a good idea.
If you’re considering downsizing, I have some tips to help you get started.
When considering getting rid of an item, ask yourself what function it has in your life. Does it make your life easier? Does it bring you joy? If the answers are no, it may be time to let that go.
When was the last time you used/wore the item in question? If it’s been a while, it may be time to let it go. But, if it’s something you do use, just only maybe once or twice a year, that may be an item to keep. As an example, not everyone needs a deviled egg plate daily, but sometimes it can be useful.
Consider what your life would be like without the item in question. Do you think you would feel better or worse without it? If better, send it to a new home!
If you’re going through items like books, scrapbooks, pictures, movies or music, do you enjoy the hard copy or could you be content with digital only versions? Digital versions don’t take up space like hard copies do & can be right at your finger tips, so they have a big advantage like that. However, some things are irreplaceable, so it would be very hard & even depressing to get rid of them. Use wisdom & balance in these situations. I have a ton of pictures stored online, but I also have quite a few printed pictures from years ago. Also, if you opt to keep digital versions, remember – phones, computers, & external hard drives crash. I recommend using a reputable cloud storage for such things to be sure nothing gets lost. I like Dropbox but there are also Google Drive & other online storage options.
Is the item a one of a kind item? That can make it trickier to give away. If the item has sentimental value because it once belonged to someone you love that has passed on, I recommend keeping it if you can. If you don’t feel peace about that though, find someone special to pass it along to that you know will love it as you have.
I firmly believe in downsizing, balance is the key. Clean out! Give away things that don’t serve you well, but keep things that do serve you & bring you joy. You may be surprised how much less anxious you are when you realize you have a lot less stuff in your home than you once did.
Many adult children of narcissistic parents have trouble with anxiety. Those of us who live with it know the awful feelings of blind fear that anxiety can bring or the misery of a panic attack. But, did you know anxiety can bring other seemingly unrelated symptoms as well?
Are you clumsy? That can be related to anxiety. If you are preoccupied as many people with anxiety are, you can miss seeing that hole in the sidewalk that makes you twist your ankle or not pay enough attention to the item you’re holding so you drop it.
Forgetful? Also anxiety related. Being distracted by anxiety, you are less likely to concentrate on other things, so you may forget things easily.
Do you have unusual dreams? That also may be related to anxiety. The brain constantly processes information- good, bad or indifferent- even when we’re sleeping. Anxiety can make you overthink things, thus opening the door to unusual or even bad dreams.
Changes in how your voice sounds? Stuttering? That also can be related to anxiety. A person’s voice may change when exposed to higher levels of anxiety. Their voice may get shaky or higher pitched.
Difficulty finding the right words? Anxiety again, especially when in difficult situations. If you’re in a situation that reminds you of a traumatic experience in particular, finding the right words can be difficult because of the intrusive thoughts of the traumatic experiences.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you aren’t crazy! You’re anxious. Don’t panic! Easier said than done, I know, but try not to panic at least. Anxiety is a nasty problem but it can be managed.
As anxiety kicks in, try to relax the best you can. Slow down. Pray. Tell God what you feel & ask for help. Write in your journal. Talk to yourself- ask what are you so afraid of? Can things happening really hurt you right now? Breathe deeply & slowly. Hold something that offers you comfort, such as a soft blanket. Smell a scent that comforts you- lavender isn’t only a pleasant scent but it offers anti-anxiety properties. Tactics like this may help you to get through the intense moments.
There are medications available for those with anxiety disorders. Talk to your general practitioner for more information, or for a referral to a psychiatrist. If you prefer the natural, herbal route, there are alternatives. Valerian root, lemon balm & kava kava are plants that have anti-anxiety properties. I take valerian root supplements & drink lemon balm tea at night often as it helps me to sleep. In fact, I grow lemon balm plants in my yard- it’s easy to grow & to dry the leaves for making tea. It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor before taking herbal remedies though to make sure they won’t interact with any medications you may be taking.
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)
As many of you know, I have agoraphobia. Leaving home, sometimes even to go into my yard, is very difficult or impossible. Anxiety takes over & logic that nothing is going to go wrong or hurt me goes out the window. Quite frankly, it sucks.
Recently I’ve been wanting to go for a drive. That’s all- just enjoy a short drive in my awesome car. However, the agoraphobia left me at home & my car sitting…
A few days ago, I opened up my email first thing in the morning. I get a Scripture delivered daily. That particular day the Scripture I shared above was in the email. When I read it, something clicked in my mind. No, God didn’t give me a spirit of fear. My agoraphobia is NOT from Him.
The agoraphobia started in 1996, just after my paternal grandmom passed away. My husband told his mother, who didn’t even acknowledge my loss- she changed the subject. A short time later, this exact same experience happened with his sister. Somehow, these experiences cemented in my mind that I don’t matter. I shouldn’t bother anyone with my problems or even my presence, which is a belief that stems from my upbringing with my narcissistic parents. Their behavior made this belief evolve into feeling like I don’t even have the right to leave home, possibly bothering people in public places.
Thinking about this angered me a great deal. As is common with many adult children of narcissistic parents, I’m suffering because of other people’s cruelty. This agoraphobia isn’t from God at all, & that Scripture was a reminder of that.
2 Timothy 1:7 enabled me not only to go for a ride, but a longer one than I originally wanted to do. And, I got on smaller interstates too! (After getting sick in 2015 & being unable to drive for a long time, I lost a lot of confidence in driving. I’ve avoided bigger roads & interstates since.)
I’m not saying I’m cured. Even thinking of leaving home now makes me tense up. However, I do know that keeping these things in mind is going to be helpful for me leaving home in the future.
I’m sharing this with you today, Dear Reader, because I know so many of you also live with anxiety &/or agoraphobia. Please consider what I wrote about here. Know that such awful things are NOT from God. It helped me to remember that & get mad at those who put the anxiety & agoraphobia on me. Maybe it can help you as well to think about it. What is the root of your anxiety? If you don’t know, then ask God- He will show you. He showed me why I have agoraphobia. I never would’ve guessed that on my own! He can do the same for you. Once you get to the root of the problem, you can work on healing it properly.
Mental illness is very different from physical illness in many ways. One of those ways is the fact most people don’t usually believe someone has a mental illness. If you have diabetes, people can see there’s a problem. They see you testing your glucose or giving yourself an insulin shot. If you have cancer, you have xrays, mri’s & maybe even a visible tumor that people can see. But if you have a mental illness, there isn’t such evidence.
If you have Bipolar disorder, you’re just “moody.”
If you have C-PTSD or PTSD, you’re “dwelling in the past, need to stop thinking about things, need to get over it or you can’t have it because you weren’t in the military.”
If you’re depressed or anxious, “you’re feeling sorry for yourself, stop being sad or anxious, need to get out more or take a pill & get over it.” “Everyone feels sad/anxious” is another common comment.
What people fail to realize is you can’t control the symptoms of mental illness any more than you can physical illness.
As someone who is not only suffering with mental illness but also frustrated with the lack of compassion & understanding many people have about it, you may do like many people, & try to explain & justify your illness. Chances are, this will only frustrate you further.
As someone with mental illness myself, I get it. You want people to understand & not judge. You don’t want to be invalidated either. After years of thinking any problem I had wasn’t important (thanks, Mom & Dad for the invalidation), I assumed my mental health wasn’t important either. It took a long time for me to accept that I have real problems, & being invalidated by subject changes & such stupid statements as “Just take a pill- you’ll be fine” make me feel as I did growing up, like I don’t count. Frankly, I’ve come too far to live with that feeling anymore. I’ve also realized if I continue to explain to certain people who say such invalidating things, it will leave me feeling even more frustrated & angry. They only dig their heels in deeper & become more committed to know nothing of the problem at hand. They don’t want to understand, so nothing I can say will make them understand. It’s not worth my time & energy trying to make them understand
If you are in this situation as well, Dear Reader, I would like to encourage you today. You don’t have to explain your mental illness to anyone. Some people are going to want to know about it, but some won’t. Those people are committed to not knowing or understanding, & it’s not your place to make them understand or know what you live with. You will know if someone is genuinely concerned for you & wants to know what you experience. They won’t try to tell you what to do to “get over” your mental illness. They will offer understanding & support, not judgment. They will offer to help you if they can. People like this are the only ones that deserve your time & any information you wish to share about your illness.
I read an interesting article about anxiety:
To sum it up, the author, a psychologist, suggests that anxiety & panic attacks are a result of not dealing with emotions for too long. The attacks are the mind & body’s way of releasing enough pressure so we don’t get overwhelmed.
This makes sense in a way to me. Feelings do have a way of demanding to be heard.
My first panic attack happened the night before my grandmom’s funeral in 1996. I’d never heard of panic attacks & thought I was having a heart attack. My husband had them before & figured out quickly what was going on, thankfully. Anyway what triggered the attack was thinking about seeing my family. I hadn’t seen them in a few years at that point, because my mother then later also my ex husband told me my grandparents hated me. Since my family was close at the time, I figured if my grandparents hated me, everyone else did too. I pulled away from them in 1992. I thought if I showed up 4 years later at the funeral, these people who hated me would kick me out or show their hatred of me in some other way. I didn’t feel capable of dealing with losing my grandmom, who I loved, in addition to being hated. Thinking about that was painful. I tried to push all my thoughts aside because I felt overwhelmed. Then, a panic attack started.
Other times, panic attacks have started in similar ways. Trying to push aside fear of going into a public place or ignoring anger rather than facing it can trigger panic attacks for me. Before I stopped speaking to my in-laws, knowing I was going to see my mother in-law triggered panic attacks. I knew she hated me & if we were alone for any length of time, was going to say or do something hateful. Trying to ignore the anger I felt at being forced to deal with her triggered panic attacks.
I don’t know if this psychologist is right about all panic attacks, but when I thought about it, I realized it’s definitely true for at least some of my panic attacks. Does this describe yours too?
Unfortunately the author didn’t offer suggestions on ways to cope with these panic attacks. I’m guessing though the best way to do so is to face the feelings that accompany them as soon as you can. Pray, talk to a supportive friend, journal… whatever way works best for you to cope with your feelings. I also wonder if writing in a journal on a daily basis could help. Daily recognizing your emotions & dealing with them seems like it should cut back on panic attacks.
Something crossed my mind recently…
I thought about how I dealt with the abuse as it happened to me in my younger days. I didn’t deal with it. For one thing, I didn’t have the time. It was one crisis after another after another for years. I didn’t have time to deal with something before something else happened. For another thing, I grew up thinking I never had any real problems. It didn’t matter how much something hurt me. My pain was never validated, so I believed it was no big deal.
As a result, I went on with life as if nothing happened no matter what trauma I’d just endured. Like, when I was 19 & had my first nervous breakdown. I locked myself in my parents’ bathroom & was catatonic for roughly 5 hours. By the time I came out, I had about one hour to get to work. I was at work on time, & went through my day as if nothing happened, in spite of being tired & feeling very “off.” The prior year, my mother came to my job, screamed at me in the parking lot, humiliating me. When I went back inside, I took a few minutes to relax only because my supervisor told me to, then got back to work. In fact, after both situations, I ended up comforting my now ex husband because he said such situations were hard for him, rather than receiving comfort from him or anyone for that matter.
I used to think these things meant I was strong but I realized something today. I wasn’t strong- I was dysfunctional. True strength would have meant I faced these situations & took care of myself after. Instead, I told myself they were no big deal.
When you are abused by a narcissist, you get a very warped view of all sorts of things, including what true strength is. Pretending things don’t bother you when they do isn’t true strength. It’s merely setting yourself up for these things to manifest in bad ways at a later date.
I’m telling you this today, Dear Reader, because if you feel weak, like so many victims do, because you can’t seem to “get over” the abuse you endured, you need to realize you aren’t weak. Quite the contrary. It takes a lot of strength to face past abuse & trauma. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to ignore it.
It takes a lot of strength to live daily with PTSD or C-PTSD. It’s incredibly difficult living with constant memories of things you wish you could forget but can’t, managing symptoms, pulling yourself out of a panic attack, calming yourself after nightmares or coming back to reality after a flashback. Things things take a great deal of strength.
It also takes a great deal of strength to change, to try to live a healthy life instead of a dysfunctional one. Change can be scary since it’s going into foreign territory. The familiar is comfortable, even when it is painful, so many people find it easier to stay dysfunctional than to change.
Developing new & healthy boundaries is downright terrifying when you haven’t had them before, so setting & enforcing them also takes a tremendous amount of strength. When people who had weak or no boundaries first start to set them, they meet with a LOT of opposition. To press on even though everyone around you is calling you selfish or wondering what happened to that “nice” girl you used to be takes a lot of strength!
So you see, Dear Reader, just how strong you are? Give yourself some credit today. You are so stronger than you give yourself credit for!
Many people have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. It’s commonly known because approximately 4-6% of people in the USA get depressed in the fall & winter months (according to Web MD’s site). According to the same article though, less than 10% of people with SAD have a reverse version of it, where they feel good in the fall & winter, sad in the summer. Maybe because relatively so few people have reverse SAD, not a lot is known about it.
Some say the increase in sunlight is responsible for the depression- maybe some are oversensitive to the sunlight. Others say it’s the heat that brings people down. Still others blame the change in schedule (particularly for parents) & financial burdens such as vacations, babysitters, etc. And yet others blame bad memories attached to the season, such as the death of a loved one, divorce becoming final or a traumatic event.
Personally, I think all of these may be possible, but it depends on each person with reverse SAD. Causes vary even more than the symptoms do.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve gotten depressed, irritable, angry & anxious in the summer. My energy levels go very far down, practically non existent. My appetite fluctuates, although usually I don’t want to eat. My normally messed up sleeping patterns get even worse. Being exposed to the intense summer sunlight makes these symptoms even worse. I just want to hide in a dark, cold room until October. As a child, my narcissistic mother thought it was funny. As I got older & was obviously depressed during summer vacation, my mother would ask what she could buy me to make me look less sad. *sigh* My sadness seemed to annoy her…just not enough to seek help for me.
As an adult, I’ve come to believe that my SAD stems from three problems: trauma in my very early life that I barely remember that happened during the summer, I dislike heat, intense sunlight & long days, & my mother has shamed me my entire life for preferring fall & winter over spring (her favorite season).
If you too live with reverse SAD, please know you aren’t alone! There are quite a few of us out there who live with this disorder. There isn’t something deeply wrong with you- you’re just a little different than most of the population. Different does NOT equal wrong. Also, there are ways to manage this disorder. You may have to try several to see what works for you.
When I first found out this was an actual disorder, I researched SAD to see how people handled being depressed in the winter. Some ideas sounded like they could help me, but some would only make things worse (like full spectrum light. My husband has the more common SAD, & full spectrum light bulbs help him but send my mood rocketing downhill). Below are some suggestions that may or may not help you. I would suggest trying various suggestions that sound appealing, & see what happens. If they don’t help, try others.
- Avoid intense sunlight & heat as much as possible. During the summer months, I stay indoors constantly. I also keep curtains mostly closed to block out as much light as I can. I also keep the temperature around 70 in the house. Not necessarily good for the electric bill, but it does help my mood a bit having it cool inside.
- Prepare for what you know is coming. It’s a summer thing & summer comes every year. This means you can prepare for it ahead of time by taking antidepressants starting a month or two before the warm weather really kicks in. I prefer the herbal route & take St. John’s Wort (readily available at most places that sell herbal remedies) for depression, valerian root (also readily available) for anxiety & lemon balm tea (I grow my own- lemon balm is super easy to grow & to dry for tea) for sleep troubles. I read this morning that melatonin levels are affected in those with summer SAD, so I may begin taking that at night again. Melatonin helps you sleep, although some people (me included) tend to have very odd, vivid dreams when taking it. If you prefer, talk to your doctor or counselor about adding an antidepressant or antianxiety medication. Or, upping the doses you’re already taking during the summer months.
- Make sure to get enough sleep. Not easy at this time of year, but try to go to bed & get up on a regular schedule. If you need help falling asleep, there are many, non addictive medications you can take for this problem.
- Eat healthy & exercise as usual. It can be so easy to want to stop eating or eat too much when depressed, but you need to eat healthy especially when depressed. If you exercise do so gently- don’t push yourself!
- Be gentle with yourself. Reverse SAD is a true disorder- treat it as such! Respect the fact you have a problem & stop trying to push yourself harder & harder. You may need to relax more often than usual when it kicks in- do it, & don’t feel guilty. If you had a broken leg, would you feel guilty for taking it easy while healing? No? This is no different!
- Journal about your feelings or talk to God or a safe person. Get your feelings out. Have a good cry. Tears are cleansing to the soul.
- Beauty. Whether that beauty is a lovely scented candle, looking at a fresh garden in full bloom or elegant classical music, beauty can do wonders for helping alleviate depression. I have a thing for lavender incense. Lavender is known for its ability to help promote relaxation, plus the scent is just lovely.
- Pray. Most importantly, I believe, is to maintain your relationship with God. Allow Him to help you & to tell you what you need during this dark time. When I’m depressed, I want to avoid everyone, including God, but isolating too much isn’t healthy.
Many adult children of narcissistic parents have an issue with being overly concerned with hurting the feelings of other people. I wonder if it’s because early on, we learned that we were not to make any waves. Just silently serve our narcissistic mothers when needed, & otherwise we were to blend silently into the background. Speaking up & hurting someone’s feelings would make us more human & less “tool like”, which would make using us wrong. And we all know, narcissists can’t be wrong!
As a grown woman, I still have a problem in this area. I would rather do something I am unwilling to do than say no & potentially hurt someone’s feelings. I would rather ignore my own hurt at someone’s thoughtlessness & tell them that it’s ok rather than speak up about how wrong what they did is, even knowing that they need to realize their actions were unacceptable.
This sort of behavior is unhealthy. Keeping things inside rather than speaking up isn’t good for your physical or mental health at all. High blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease & diabetes can result as well as depression, anxiety, bitterness & self-destructive behaviors.
I’m not saying you have to spew forth every bad thought that comes to mind or even be harsh with your words. However, there are times you need to say something, & there is nothing wrong with that. You need to have a healthy discernment of when to speak up & when to stay quiet, as well as the courage to speak up when necessary & wisdom on what words to use.
I know it sounds difficult (or even impossible), but it can be done. I’m working on improving in this area myself.
Prayer is of the utmost importance. Asking God to help you in this area, giving you what you need to accomplish what must be done. He will do it! Just follow the promptings He places in your heart.
Also, the more you heal, the more dysfunctional you realize this behavior is, & the more willing you are to change it to get away from the dysfunction. That willingness helps to give you courage to make the appropriate changes.
Work on your self esteem. The better you feel about yourself, the more willing you are to make yourself a priority, & to take care of yourself. You will realize you do have the right to have reasonable boundaries, & if someone hurts you either deliberately or accidentally, it’s perfectly fine to speak up to them about their actions.
You also need to know that there is a difference between hurting & harming. Hurting someone is temporary. They’ll get over that pain quickly. Harming however, the damage goes much deeper. Hurting comes from facing painful truths (such as admitting that something you did hurt someone else). Even so, it can make a person learn & grow. Harming, however, causes damage. So, if you tell someone what they did hurt you or set a boundary, there is nothing harming in either of those things.
When you have been abused, you eventually get angry. It’s only natural. Many people think that this means you are harboring anger. It can be very discouraging & painful for you, because so many people will tell you you need to let it go, it was so long ago so why are you still holding onto this & other painful, invalidating things. Christians often will quote verses on forgiveness & make you feel guilty for being angry. I actually was told once by a Christian lady, “God says forgive so I do it. I don’t know what your problem is.” *sigh* I can’t even express how ashamed of myself I felt when she said that.
I always find it interesting that these judgmental people never have good advice on how to forgive, but they sure are quick to tell us we need to do it!
The truth of the matter is anger is not easy to deal with. Some people are very blessed & are able to let it go easily, but they are pretty rare. The rest of us have to feel it, & get really angry before we can let it go. Often several times.
Anger can also be somewhat deceptive. You can think you are done, you’ve forgiven someone, when suddenly something triggers anger at that person all over again. I experienced that a few months ago regarding my ex husband. I thought I’d forgiven him long ago, then after my mother bringing him up in conversation, it triggered a flashback which made me very angry at some things he had done to me. It was frustrating because I was sure I’d completely forgiven him.
Anger is a complex emotion that demands to be heard & dealt with in some way. So long as you are trying to deal with it however works best for you though, this doesn’t mean you are harboring anger, resentful, bitter, etc.
Harboring anger, however, is different.
Harboring anger involves not trying to let the anger go. People who have no desire to forgive are harboring anger.
It also includes a disdain & intense hatred for the person who abused you,
Harboring anger also means you don’t care why the person hurt you- you only care that you were hurt. A mature person tries to understand why someone acted the way they did rather than only knowing their actions. They know if they can understand, even a little, it may help them to forgive the other person & not take on the blame for that person’s actions.
People who harbor anger are very bitter. For example, if someone has a spouse who cheated, she assumes all men are cheaters or he assumes all women are cheaters.
These people also hold grudges for years. They can still be just as angry today as they were the day they were hurt 37 years ago.
These people also talk badly about whoever hurt them at every opportunity. Those who aren’t holding onto anger are different- if they discuss that person, they do so in a matter of fact way, without name calling or insulting.
Today I encourage you, Dear Reader, to examine your actions. Are you harboring anger or are you angry but trying to forgive your abuser? If the latter, then please, stop listening to those who are trying to convince you that you are a bad person for feeling the way you do! Ignore the ignorance of other people, & do what you need to do to heal & forgive!
One thing I learned in the relationship with the narcissists in my life, in particular my mother, is that I am nothing but a screw up. My writing was never taken seriously. In fact, my mother told me once it’s “nothing but a waste of time.” She told my father that “no one wants to read that trash I write.” I’ve also heard comments like all I do is play on the computer all day, & even been laughed at when I mention working (as if being an author isn’t a job). I always heard, too, how I never did enough for anyone, & am too selfish. My mother used to tell me that to have a friend, I had to be one, & by that she meant do anything for others & let them use me. I had so-called friends who would get very angry with me if I wasn’t available when they wanted me to be or do whatever they wanted me to do. These narcissists also always made sure I knew that I was wrong because my personality was very different than theirs, I liked things they didn’t like or I disliked things they liked. They liked to either say outright or imply that I was crazy for such things. My mother’s favorite phrase was, “You need help” (implying I was in need of psychiatric help) accompanied by a pitying look. She even threatened to have me committed many times. (Interestingly, she never once sought counseling for me, so started counseling on my own at 17).
All of these things were devastating to my self-esteem. I’ve wasted so much time thinking I was a complete & utter failure in every possible way- a terrible friend. awful girlfriend then wife, lousy pet mom, & even a lousy author. Depressing doesn’t describe how this felt. But, I’m sure I needn’t tell you this if you too have been subjected to narcissistic abuse. You know all too well how this feels.
There is good news though! You can be healed from this pain & dysfunctional way of thinking! Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” And, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (KJV)
God’s word is very true! I gave my life to Jesus in February, 1996, & from that moment, I began to change & heal. God has been healing me from all the abuse in my life since then, & definitely has made me a new person. The wounded old me who was convinced she was crazy, worthless, stupid, & more is long gone. Thanks to God, I am healing daily, & have no doubt I’ll never return to that miserable, dysfunctional mess I once was. I may not be totally free of low self-esteem, but it is now much better than it once was & continues to improve.
God can do the same for you. All you have to do is trust Him to take care of you, & He will. He loves you so much & wants to bless you. He wants you happy & peaceful. He wants to heal you from the devastating effects of narcissistic abuse. He certainly has done so for me. Sure, I still have a long way to go, but I also was extremely damaged. God, being the gentle, loving Father He is, heals me little by little, as I am able to handle it. He’ll do that for you as well- only give you what you can handle, as you can handle it.
Are you willing today to claim God’s promises for your healing?
My mother recently ended her silent treatment. She barely spoke to me for several months, & as usual, I don’t know why.
It was an interesting conversation to say the least. Among things she said, she asked me if my ex husband ever hit me & I said he did, once. She never asked how badly I was hurt, just said if she would’ve known she would’ve called a lawyer. (*sigh* She did know- she saw me all bruised immediately after it happened & made sure I knew she didn’t care in the least.) Then she said, “His family was really religious though, weren’t they?” I said no, his mother was. “So it was his father that was abusive!” Not really- more neglectful than anything & wasn’t there much since he was an over the road trucker. She went on to say no one should be abused, it’s not fair to abuse people, abusers are bad people & other drivel.
Later that night, I’d been thinking of this part of the conversation & wondering why she was trying to justify my ex’s actions. I couldn’t come up with an answer for that one. But, I do believe that she was saying he was a bad person to justify why she abused me so badly when I wanted to date him when we were teens. In her mind, if he was a bad person, she was right in doing the horrible things she did to me in an attempt to keep me away from him. She used to tell me back then that she was saving me from myself, & probably this could reassure her that it was true. I thought of this as a sort of retroactive justification for her crazy, abusive behavior
As my narcissistic parents have gotten older, I believe they are trying to cope with their abusive actions. Normal people would see the error of their ways, & apologize. They may even do something to try to make it up to their victim. Narcissists however, do nothing of the sort. They find alternate coping skills, because they refuse to accept the fact that they made mistakes or did cruel, hurtful things. While you hear plenty about their most common coping skills like projection, there are others you rarely, if ever, hear anything about.
Some of those lesser known dysfunctional coping skills are:
- Retroactive justification- like my mother just did regarding my ex husband’s abuse. Finding a reason why they were right to be abusive after the damage is done.
- Reinventing the past into something nice- things didn’t happen the way you remember, according to the narcissist. They happened in a much happier, more pleasant way. My mother loves to talk about what a great mother she has been to me.
- Denial- “That never happened!”
- Selective memories- Only remembering the pleasant things, never the bad. “I don’t remember that at all…”
- Creating excuses- “you made me do that!” “If you wouldn’t have done ____, then I wouldn’t have had to _____” “You were a very difficult child.”
- Making themselves the victim- “I tried to stop your mother from hurting you, but she wouldn’t stop.” “He’s so much stronger than me.. there was nothing I could do to stop him.” “It was so hard on me, what she did to you”
- Feigning incompetence- “I just didn’t know what to do.”
- Feigning ignorance when they knew what was happening- “I had no idea she was doing those things to you!”
- Constant chatter- Both of my parents are very talkative, but especially with me. They actually listen to others, but with me, it is pretty much non stop chatter & ignoring anything I say, especially my mother. I believe having an audience not only provides them with the coveted narcissistic supply, but also means I won’t have a chance to ask questions about why they did the things they did.
- Looking for comfort from you, the victim- my father is especially good at this one. When he finds out I’m experiencing a crisis, he wants me to reassure him that I’m ok & all will be fine. If anything comes up in conversation about abusive things my mother has done to me, it’s the same thing- he wants reassurance that I got through it ok. Twice I tried to tell him about me having C-PTSD, & twice he changed the subject.
- Money- my parents never were overly generous with money with me, but in the last few years, they have been very generous. I’ve never asked my parents for help, but they have volunteered it several times during tight times for me. I believe it’s to appease their guilt.
So how do you handle these incredibly frustrating coping skills? (And yes, you are going to have to figure this out, because narcissistic parents WILL force you to deal with them at some point.)
In my experience, I decided to let them have their coping skills rather than try to get them to face the truth. Nothing you can say or do will give them a “light bulb” moment. They’ll never say “You’re right! I never should’ve done that to you! It was wrong & I’m sorry.” So why try? It’ll only frustrate & hurt you. Instead, I’ve found it’s best for me to allow them to have their dysfunction. Besides, I know in my parents’ case, they aren’t very strong emotionally- I don’t know if they could handle facing the ugly truth about the awful things they’ve done.
While allowing them to use these coping skills, at the same time, I refuse to validate them. My parents have often wanted me to confirm their false beliefs, & I refuse to do so. I also refuse to acknowledge that they were incompetent, innocent, ignorant, had to do what they did, or the real victims. I may allow them to have those false beliefs, but I refuse to validate them & participate in the dysfunction.
When my parents want comfort from me about my problems, I flatly refuse to give it. I ignore them, or change the subject. If it gets too bad, I’ll say, “I’m the one with the problem. I can’t comfort you when I’m the one who’s got the problem & am trying to figure out what to do about it.” (notice I neglect to admit I’m hurting or any feelings- this is because if I said I felt badly, it’d feed their narcissism. They’d end up hurting me even more. Never ever admit your feelings to a narcissist!)
As far as the incessant chatter, I’m not very talkative anyway, so it works for me not to have to create conversation. Besides, sometimes they do have very interesting things to say. Like most narcissists, my parents are very intelligent. Their conversations at time can be quite interesting. My father knows a great deal about WWII & the War Between The States. He also was a drag racer in the 50’s-60’s. My mother knows quite a bit about varied topics, & enjoys crafts. I enjoy crafts too, so we can have some good chats about crafts we like. It can be a good thing when you can just sit back & let them do the talking, because you don’t have to try to come up with topics that won’t start an argument.
Even knowing how to handle these dysfunctional behaviors, I still come away hurt or angry sometimes. My mother discussing the time my ex hit me made me physically ill for that entire day & the next, plus triggered a flashback. But, the good thing is this sort of thing is a rarity. Understanding their coping skills & finding ways to cope with them means this sort of thing isn’t the norm anymore. I no longer leave every conversation with my parents feeling devastated. In fact, understanding these things mean I usually only feel a bit frustrated or sad that things aren’t better. That is a thousand times better than feeling devastated or physically ill each time!
This really is about the best you can hope for when dealing with narcissistic parents. Probably this is partly why so many people think no contact is the only answer. While it is in many cases, sometimes no contact is impossible or not the desired result. My prayer is information like this will help those of you still in relationship with your narcissistic parents.
The last few days, my C-PTSD has been flaring up. I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve been especially moody, anxious, depressed, & having more nightmares than usual. Then last night, I had a very odd experience.
My husband & I were lying in bed, watching tv. He was starting to nod off, & I was relaxed, hoping to go to sleep soon, when suddenly I smelled coconut. Immediately, an ex boyfriend of mine came to mind, as he used coconut scented air freshener in his car & I felt extremely anxious, almost to the point of having a panic attack.
A little background on this boyfriend.. I dated him in 1990, when I was 19 & he was 28. I wasn’t in love with him, yet he told me I would marry him (no proposal, just a command) & we’d have lots of kids (another command). He was controlling, jealous & angered easily. I was not happy in this relationship at all & spent most of our short time together anxious, miserable & trying to avoid his anger. The night I broke up with him, he spend hours screaming at me, telling me how stupid I was, how great he was & how much I’d regret leaving him. Fast forward to January, 2014. I read on my county police’s facebook page that he shot & killed his boyfriend, then himself. I had no clue he was gay or capable of murder. It was very traumatic when I realized the kind of person he was & how utterly clueless I was to that. Even looking back, I don’t recall any signs of him being gay or that dangerous.
So back to last night…
As I lay there, smelling coconut, it quickly turned into an actual emotional flashback. I felt like I was 19 again, back in his home & full of anxiety. No specific event played out in the flashback, only the awful emotions that were a daily part of our relationship. Eventually it passed & I was fine, just tired & emotionally drained. I went to sleep a little while after this.
This morning I prayed about it & the term “sensory flashback” popped into my mind. I did some research online & found very few details. At least what I found was somewhat helpful. Sensory flashbacks involve the senses, such as feeling someone is touching you when no one is. They are not very different than the typical type of flashback in that you feel like you’re reliving a traumatic experience. Last night, I had a hard time telling reality from flashback, just like during a typical flashback.
Dealing with a sensory flashback seems to be about the same as dealing with other flashbacks. You need to ground yourself- touch something, smell something, taste something. Something that is strong to the senses helps to keep you grounded- hold an ice cube, smell lavender, taste a little lemon juice. Something that basically “assaults” your senses will help you to stay grounded.
Focus on deep, slow breaths to help you to avoid hyperventilating.
If this happens while you are away from home, try to find somewhere safe to work through it.
Don’t beat yourself up for this. Many people have flashbacks. It happens sometimes when exposed to trauma.
Be understanding & gentle with yourself. Flashbacks can leave you feeling very tired & drained for a couple of days.
Recently I was talking with a friend of mine on Facebook. He’s a former soldier with PTSD. I saw just how hard he can be on himself for not perfectly managing his symptoms, & it broke my heart.
On July 4th, he went with his wife & kids to see fireworks. Like many vets, this isn’t an easy thing for him. This year though, he got through just fine with some help from his family. He was proud of himself, as he should have been. The next day he was due to go to the beach with his family but had such bad panic attacks, he couldn’t go. He said some pretty bad things about himself for not having control over the panic. He said he felt he should be able to conquer this, but he couldn’t, & was extremely hard on himself over it.
I realized I do the exact same thing when my symptoms flare up sometimes. I try not to, but there are still some times when I tell myself I’m worthless, stupid & a host of other things. I think a lot of us with C-PTSD or PTSD do this exact same thing. That doesn’t make it right though!
C-PTSD & PTSD are actual brain injuries & the symptoms are not caused by faulty thinking or beliefs like many people think. The symptoms come about because the trauma(s) a person has endured is so bad, it caused physical changes to some parts of the brain. Expecting to be able to control the symptoms perfectly is just not wise. It’s like trying to control the symptoms of a sprained ankle. Not going to happen! How can you expect to control physical injuries? It’s impossible!
If you have C-PTSD or PTSD, then you know you have good & bad days. Good days are like my friend’s fireworks experience this July 4th. When you can manage your symptoms well, it’s a very good day & you can feel on top of the world. Bad days are the polar opposite, & you often feel like the most worthless human being alive. Unfortunately though, both good & bad days happen. It’s only natural.
When the bad days happen, I really think it is best to avoid beating yourself up over them. No good can come of it! Beating yourself up only makes you feel worse about yourself. It also can make the anxiety worse. It makes you feel even more depressed.
Instead of beating yourself up, then why not accept the fact that days like this happen? You obviously can’t control them, so it’s not like they’re your fault. Accept that they happen,& do the best you can do to manage the symptoms as they arise. Sometimes your best may not be very good, & that’s ok too. It’s just part of having such an awful disorder. Also remember, this disorder doesn’t define you- it is simply a sickness. You are NOT your disorder!
Sometimes I feel like all I am is a narcissistic abuse survivor. Writing about this topic is not for the faint of heart, & certainly not what I expected to be doing as an author. But, I feel this is what God wants, so I’m obeying gladly.
Even so, there are still some times that I feel like that’s all I am.
When I got carbon monoxide poisoning last February, I came pretty close to death. It caused me to do a great deal of soul searching. Among other things, I thought about this & realized I pretty much had become just someone who survived narcissistic abuse. Frankly, it was depressing. Surviving a narcissist with your sanity in tact is certainly something to be proud of, but even so.. what about other things? I’d lost some things I once enjoyed- for some reason, knitting & crocheting became uninteresting to me instead of hobbies I once loved. Thanks to the C-PTSD, reading has become hard for me as my brain feels overwhelmed if I look at the pages in a book too long. I felt empty.
I often write about the value of taking breaks from your healing & learning about narcissism. You simply can’t focus on such deep, heavy topics constantly & maintain any joy. I think it is equally valuable to take time to get to know yourself though. Truly get to know the person God has made you to be.
I have focused on this quite a bit since February. It’s turning into a very good thing. Getting to know me has helped me to be more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve begun to take better care of myself with less guilt. It has helped tremendously in reducing my anxiety levels as well. I realized this recently at the doctor’s office. A nurse suggested Weight Watchers for me. Weight has been an issue for me my whole life. My mother has always criticized my weight, even when I was thin. So much so, I had eating disorders starting at age 10. Now, I’m about 20 lbs overweight, & some people in the medical field act like I’m more like 700 lbs. overweight. This nurse was one of them. That situation used to trigger a lot of anxiety & shame in me but this time I felt fine. I told her no & ended that conversation.
The best part of getting to know myself is my relationship with God has become much more comfortable & open. There always was some shame in me asking for things I needed. So much so, I’ve always prayed more for others than myself. That is balancing out more all the time.
I have learned that I am not only someone who has been through narcissistic abuse, but also am a child of God, a wife, a mother to some super amazing furkids & a person who is gaining some diverse interests. I have been forcing myself to step outside my comfort zone & explore things, which has led to learning some new interests.
Dear Reader, please do as I have done, & start to get to know yourself too. You are a wonderful person, & you should appreciate that about yourself. You are so much more than you were told you were. Find out who you really are. Get to know the new you & embrace that person!
Sometimes having the bad short term memory that accompanies C-PTSD can be interesting. I find things I thought were lost or forgot I had. It can be like Christmas some days..lol I just found something I’d started to make a couple of months ago, then promptly forgot about.
It’s a small box that I painted & wanted to fill with little slips of paper containing good ideas on combating anxiety. I wrote out a bunch of ideas on colored construction & painted the box to make it more visually appealing. Anyway, some of the ideas are stop & breathe deeply for 2 minutes, go for a drive, pray, listen to relaxing music, read about something I find interesting, look at fun pictures or paintings I enjoy. I searched the internet for ideas & found a bunch!
If you too live with anxiety, then you know sometimes it can be hard to fight. It also can be hard to think of ways to fight it when you’re in the throes of it, especially if you’re having a panic or anxiety attack. That is where this box idea comes into play. When the anxiety is too bad & I need help alleviating it, I’ll pull out ideas from the box & do whatever it says on the paper.
I thought this was a helpful idea, & it might benefit you too, Dear Reader. It’s a very cheap & easy to do idea that won’t take up much of your time. I found a pretty little wooden box I liked at a craft store for $1 & construction paper at the dollar store. I used acrylic paint (usually just over $1 for a bottle) to paint it, then sprayed a clear paint over it since acrylic paint is water soluble. Just use a little creativity & you can create a cute box that you enjoy looking at. A trip into your local craft store should provide you plenty of inspiration. It seems to me this box is more likely not to be ignored if it’s visually appealing.
Then when your box is all done, or at least while the paint or stain is drying, write out a bunch of ideas that help you to relax. Use a pretty paper or if you prefer, type them out on your computer using a really interesting font, then cut out the ideas, fold the pieces of paper & place in your box.
I hope this idea helps you, Dear Reader. Anxiety is nothing to ignore. It can wreak havoc on your mental health as well as your physical health. Treat yourself well & try to relax when anxiety becomes a problem for you- you deserve to be as healthy & happy as possible!
Narcissists treat their children as if they are mere tools- they take them off the shelf when they need their narcissistic supply or need the child to do something for them, then they put them back when done, & expect the child to stay out of sight & out of mind the rest of the time. (Isn’t this also how your average screwdriver or hammer is treated?)
Many narcissists also tell their children that children are to be seen & not heard, speak when spoken to only or other such hurtful things. They also clearly don’t wish to be bothered with their child’s needs or wants.
These things mean the child grows up learning to behave as if she is invisible. She stays quiet, & stays out of people’s way. People treat her as if she is invisible as well, because they see how she acts. (Your behavior shows others how you expect to be treated.) Their treatment reinforces to her that she needs to be invisible, & the painful cycle continues. It is so frustrating when even total strangers treat you this way. A few years ago, I stopped by a convenience store. When I was done & backing out of my parking space, I looked. No one was behind me so I backed out. Suddenly my car jolted to a stop. Someone in an SUV backed into me. We got out of our vehicles & she immediately began screaming at me for upsetting her by hitting her truck. I couldn’t even get in a word to tell her she had backed into me, not the other way around! Thankfully no damage was done to my car & she said none to her SUV, so we walked away from the incident. Her behavior hurt though. I felt like she thought I was so unimportant I shouldn’t be allowed to say one word.
This invisible thing results in a deep sense of shame about your very existence. You feel as if the fact you exist is a bad thing, & this can destroy your self-esteem. I know this from personal experience- I’ve never had healthy self-esteem. In fact, at 44 years old, I still battle low self-esteem often.
I have been working on becoming visible instead of staying invisible off & on for a few years now. I’ve learned that to do that, you need to start setting some boundaries. Don’t let others call all of the shots, all of the time. For example, I’ve always let others end the phone call first, & now I’m starting to do end it when I feel strong enough. (sad.. such a mundane task shouldn’t be so stressful!) If someone wants to go out with me but I have plans, instead of rearranging my plans, I suggest another time. Basically, I’m finding little, reasonable ways of making myself noticed. The good news is it does get easier & easier, the more I do it. I hope you will try to do the same thing so you no longer feel invisible. You deserve so much better than that!
I was talking with a good friend recently. She told me about something traumatic that happened to her a while back. She also said that many of her friends & relatives told her that she needed to get over it & trivialized her awful experience, rather than offer her compassion & support. Naturally, it upset her badly that people she expected to be compassionate were instead cold & unfeeling.
Unfortunately I understand her feelings all too well. Since I got sick at the end of February, I’ve experienced this same thing first hand more times than I can count, starting at the hospital. Apparently even a potentially deadly illness isn’t enough to warrant compassion from most people.
There is a terrible lack of love, empathy & compassion in the world today. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “1 But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear]. 2 For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane. 3 [They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. 4 [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God. 5 For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them].” (AMP)
I firmly believe this is what is happening today, why people are so indifferent to the suffering of others. Look at how people behave. Money & things mean more than people & relationships. Animal & child abuse are commonplace, as is hypocrisy. And most importantly, God is rarely invited into, well, anything. Not many people have God as their top priority in life. Without God, it’s impossible to truly love people God’s way- full of compassion, caring, & great empathy.
Dear Reader, I’m certain you have been on the receiving end of this hurtful type of behavior. Your pain has no doubt been trivialized or even invalidated. (This is especially common for adult children of narcissistic parents, since our parents didn’t always leave bruises or broken bones like physically abusive ones did, & they act like good people around everyone but their own children.)
While there is certainly no way to control how people act & completely avoid their coldness, you can remember that a person who acts this way has a problem. That will help you not to internalize their words, thinking something is wrong with you for being upset over whatever trauma you experienced. You need to remember that, because you are not wrong, crazy, oversensitive, etc. for being upset when something bad happens to you.
And, also remember that people with problems naturally turn self-centered to varying degrees. Some people become so self-centered that they don’t have it in them to care about others who are also suffering. Remembering this too will help you not to internalize being treated so poorly.
I would like to also encourage you to consider how you react when someone tells you about a painful or traumatic experience. Do you offer compassion? Empathize with their pain? Or, are you so wrapped up in your own problems you refuse to see anything or anyone except what relates directly to you?
If you are the type to have a hard time empathizing when you too are suffering, it may be time to change that. Aside from the fact that behavior can be hurting others, being good to others also is good for you. It takes your mind off your problems, even if only temporarily. You also may learn that this person & you share a common problem, & now you have someone to talk about your problems with. You may be able to help each other!
Don’t know how to change this about yourself? Ask God for help. Ask Him to increase your empathy, to make you more aware of the feelings of others & to give you wisdom on how to help those He puts in your path & wisdom with your words. God will honor your prayer, & bless you for wanting to help others.
I was talking with a good friend of mine recently. She, too, has problems with anxiety, although hers isn’t associated with C-PTSD. It still sounds pretty bad, unfortunately. While we were discussing our experiences, I told her that since I got since in February, my anxiety levels have been a lot better. She asked what I have done to change things. Honestly I couldn’t think of what to say at that time. I had to get alone, pray & really look at things later on.
I got a new revelation on how quickly life can change or even end when I got sick. When I got sick that February day with carbon monoxide poisoning, I didn’t realize just how serious it was, nor did anyone at the hospital tell me. I read about it on the Mayo Clinic’s site & Wikipedia after I got home & was shocked at just how close I came to death or the possibility of permanent brain damage. I made myself face how I felt about this situation instead of ignoring my feelings (as I learned early in life to do), & although it’s been painful to go through, it’s been good. Coming that close to death really gave me a new revelation on just how fast life can change, or even end. That revelation has helped me tremendously to have a better perspective. I don’t sweat the small stuff so easily now. I don’t want to waste whatever time I have upset if I can help it. We only have a relatively short time on this earth, & I have wasted enough years upset, angry, hurt & anxious- I want to enjoy the rest of the time I have as much as possible!
Wanting to enjoy my life as much as I can also made me enforce my boundaries better. I’m learning to respect how I feel & say no sometimes. I began asking myself some tough questions: What is good or right about making myself miserable just to make someone else happy? If someone wants that, they certainly are selfish & don’t have my best interests at heart. And, what makes that person so much more important than me anyway? Why is their happiness so much more important than mine?
Before I got sick, I was too stressed & anxious. So much so, my hair is damaged & broken. This was another sign that things had to change. If my hair was showing such awful signs of stress, what could be happening on the inside to my heart or other organs? I made the decision that I deserved better than this- it’s time to fight the anxiety & stress. Making that decision was important. The decision enabled me to slow down or even stop when anxiety kicks in & talk to myself. I ask myself is this going to hurt me, is there something I can do to make this situation better, what am I so worried about? Questions like that make me think about the situation logically, which cuts back on or even eliminates anxiety.
I have begun to focus more on relaxing. When I take my daily shower, I enjoy the feel of the warm water instead of just rushing through it. I exfoliate my skin often & use a good quality lotion I like after my shower so my skin feels great. I shampoo & condition gently with good products to take care of my fragile, recovering hair. Often too, I turn on some good music, & light a scented candle while in the shower. This turns a boring daily ritual into something I enjoy & that relaxes me. I also turn on music when I do household chores, as the music makes me feel good. When I get into bed, I take a moment to relish how comfortable & cozy it is. I have a collection of pictures on my tablet that make me feel good- pictures of serene scenery, Victorian era images or even inspiring quotes that validate me. Little things like this add to squelching anxiety.
Often, people talk to me about their problems. (I think many adult children of narcissists are often the friend everyone talks to about their problems). I’ve recently begun to remind myself that I’m not God- it’s not my place to fix other people’s lives. Just because my parents raised me to fix their problems doesn’t mean that fixing people is my responsibility! My job is to offer compassion, advice if asked, help them in some way if I feel God is leading me to & direct them to God. This has enabled me to feel less anxiety because I can detach emotionally some now in these situations.
Most importantly, I also remind myself constantly that God is in control & is my provider. No matter what we do, God still is in charge. He wants what is best for me & wants to bless me. He has brought me this far for a reason, & has not once forsaken me. Reminding myself of such things has brought me closer to God & our relationship has drastically improved. Not that I have complaints about how it was before, but even so, I feel so much closer to Him now & my faith has grown.
Granted, this doesn’t conquer all anxiety every time it happens. I still battle agoraphobia every time I leave my home or wake up with panic attacks sometimes. However, things have improved greatly. And a bonus has happened- by slowing myself down to deal with anxiety, it’s become such a habit, I’ve also started doing it automatically when dealing with my narcissistic parents. Instead of immediately getting angry or hurt over what they do, I am now able to remind myself that whatever they’re doing isn’t about me- it’s about their dysfunctional behavior. For example, if they try to make me feel guilty for not calling more often, I remember that they don’t want me to call more because they care about me, but because they want that narcissistic supply. The result is I don’t feel guilty- I realize they are trying to get supply from me & I have the right to protect myself from it. Talk about a bonus! I can cope better with anxiety & my parents too?! It feels good not to feel guilty, hurt or angry every time I hang up the phone from talking to my parents!
I believe what I have learned can help you as well. I urge you to pray about what I’ve written & put it into practice if God leads you to do so!
As is common with adult children of narcissists, I have a lot of anxiety. It got worse once the C-PTSD developed fully in 2012. This anxiety has caused my comfort zone to shrink into a little tiny place. So many things can make me uncomfortable if not downright terrified. One of my biggest problems has been routine. I need a strict routine & if something interrupts that routine, I panic.
At the end of February,I suddenly became very sick with carbon monoxide poisoning. During the worst of it, I passed out & hit my head pretty badly. While recovering, it’s caused me to think a lot about things. Mostly the fact that life can change in a flash, & we should enjoy whatever time we have on this earth. It caused me to rethink some things. I also felt God was dealing with me about stepping out of my comfort zone. Granted, He had been dealing with me for a while about it, but I had somewhat ignored that (not proud of this, mind you!). When laid up with a concussion & recovering from what could have been a life ending illness, there’s really no excuse to ignore God anymore. Not like I’ve been too busy to talk with Him!
He showed me that during last December when my father was in the hospital, I was constantly outside of my comfort zone. I had to leave home constantly, deal with complete strangers (doctors, nurses, etc) & spend a lot of time with my narcissistic mother. In a period of two weeks, I was so stressed, I lost eight pounds & my hair suddenly became brittle & fragile. However, good came from this awful time. While I still have agoraphobia, it’s improved quite a bit. I have gone from absolutely terrified of leaving home to able to do it much easier. Spending a full day alone at the hospital waiting on my father to have surgery helped me in that area. It was hard, but I got through it, & it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it’d be.
That particular situation forced me well outside of my comfort zone. I wanted no parts of it, but it turned into a good thing anyway. So, I started doing so on a smaller, voluntary scale. I have a schedule for cleaning my home. I’ve changed the schedule recently (which I was quite nervous about doing since I’ve had this schedule for 20+ years) so there is more flexibility in it, & it’s been a good thing. By having a more flexible schedule, I’ve been able to spend time with friends, write or just relax when normally I’d be too busy to do so. And, this flexibility has helped reduce my anxiety levels. If something comes up on a day I need to do housework, it no longer completely flusters me.
I know stepping outside of a comfort zone has the potential to make you extremely anxious, but it really can be worth it! Start by doing small things outside of your comfort zone as you feel able to do them, & work up from there. If you truly are afraid, don’t discount what you wanted to do- merely postpone it for a day where you feel stronger. Those days happen sometimes, & it’s ok! But, if you feel able, push yourself, & ask God to help & strengthen you. You will be rewarded when you find yourself comfortable doing something that once terrified you!
Lately, I’ve been reading some about emotional neglect & criticism, & their detrimental effects, especially on children. They can cause anxiety & toxic shame, both of which are absolutely horrible to live with.
I’ve been seeing lately how much anxiety & shame I carry, & as I mentioned in this post, now I understand why I have them. When a parent doesn’t care about their child’s feelings, acts as if the child is a bother &/or is overly critical, seeds get sown in the child. The child becomes fearful. She learns early that people will hurt her with their words or actions (or both), & no one will protect her, not even her parents. She also internalizes the fact no one cares enough to protect her, & becomes deeply ashamed of who she is. After all, if her own parents don’t love her enough to care about & for her, she must be deeply flawed, unlovable, a terrible person. Or so she believes.
These dysfunctional beliefs carry into adulthood. It means she settles for dysfunctional or abusive relationships (friendships or romantic relationships), lives with extreme anxiety especially when dealing with other people, has a hard time asking for assistance, & doesn’t believe she is worthy. Worthy of what? Pretty much anything! Anything from setting healthy boundaries to taking care of her health to getting new clothes because her old ones are worn out & more.
It is a miserable way to live, & no one should have to live like this! If you recognize yourself in this post, then please read my other post I mentioned above. In it, I offer some ways I think can help you overcome toxic shame. As it diminishes, the anxiety should follow. It has for me.
I’m praying for you, Dear Reader. May God bless you, & help you to overcome the pain of toxic shame & anxiety! xoxo
Lately, I’ve been having a hard time writing. Even these brief blog entries are an issue most days. It kinda stinks, because I love writing so much. Having C-PTSD contributes to my difficulties with focus sometimes, but it isn’t always why I have trouble focusing.
I’ve been feeling very burned out lately, & I realized why. Focusing on one’s healing & mental & emotional health is a very good thing. It enables you to work through issues, to forgive, to heal. However, it really is possible to focus too much on such things. The mind needs breaks from hard work, just as the body does, & focusing on healing is certainly hard work! The mind also needs a break from negative things as well. (Please know that I’m not saying be positive about the truly negative things in life, as that isn’t healthy either.) If you too have C-PTSD I believe these breaks become even more important to your mental health.
When you grew up with a narcissistic mother, it can be hard to be a balanced adult. Early on, once you first realize that your mother is abusive, you’re angry. Very angry. All this time you thought what she did to you was your fault, & you finally learned she lied- it wasn’t you, it was her. That is a tough pill to swallow! Then you learn more & more about narcissism, & so many things finally make sense, things about you & about your mother. It’s very easy to become consumed & focus constantly on your mother’s abuse, on NPD, on the problems you have as an adult that stem from that abuse & more. However, this is not healthy to do at all! Like I said, the mind needs breaks sometimes, & it needs balance.
How do you achieve balance? You make a conscience effort to do these things. I know it can be hard, especially with the obsessive thoughts that often happen with C-PTSD, but it can be done! Force yourself to focus on something fun. Watch a movie. Play with your kids, furry or human. Go for a walk in the woods. Visit a local park. Go for a drive. Buy a coloring book & crayons. There are many things you can do to bring a little joy into your life & those things needn’t be expensive or require a lot of planning. Be creative, & I’m sure you’ll come up with some fun things to do.
Spend time in God’s presence. Spending time in nature, admiring the beautiful creations He has made is not only good for drawing you closer to the Father, but it’s also very restorative to the soul. Many people are affected by the weather such as in cases of those with Seasonal Affective Disorder. If that describes you, I would suggest holding off on the nature time until the weather has a more positive effect on your mood. Fall is my favorite time to do this, so if you catch me wandering around during the summertime instead when the heat & bright sunlight depress me, something is very wrong with me! lol
Another thing I have found that helps me is to collect some things that you enjoyed as a child. I’m a child of the 70’s-80’s, & I think we had some pretty cool toys! I have Spirograph, Magic 8 Ball & Lite Brite apps on my tablet. I have an atari with quite a few games. I have a few stuffed animals, my old Merlin handheld game, Rubix cube, Snake & Bowlatronic. I just saw a hot pink Tonka jeep that I had (& loved!) as a child on ebay, & am considering ordering it. I also ordered a set of the Crystalite animals- I collected them in first grade. I’ve also purchased a few board games over the years that my husband & I both remember from our childhoods & we enjoy playing. Although my childhood was less than stellar, some of my fun old toys do make me smile to this day. Having them helps me to remember some positive memories for a change, & it feels good.
Also a nostalgic thing I enjoy is collecting old pictures. There are a couple of facebook groups I belong to- one is for the area where I grew up & the other is for the area where my family is from in Virginia. Both are history groups, & share many old pictures of both areas. I save the more interesting pictures of places I enjoyed growing up. It’s so much fun looking back over the pictures of how those towns were when I was a kid. It does make me a bit sad how much they’ve changed, but even so, it’s fun remembering how things used to be.
Music is another wonderful way to break away & feel good. I still love the music I grew up with, & listen to it often. Some songs take me back to a happy place. Journey always reminds me of going to dinner with my wonderful paternal grandparents at a tiny local Italian place when I was a kid. My grandmom gave me change for the jukebox- something my mother always refused to do. “Who’s Cryin’ Now” was one of the Journey songs played, so yes, their music takes me back to a fun evening. Listening to good music that transports you back to a happy time can be very good for your mood & very relaxing.
Pamper yourself. Also hard to do when you grew up with a narcissistic mother who undoubtedly told you how selfish you were for showing yourself any kindness, but remember- narcissists project their flaws onto other people so they can then get angry about those flaws. Your mother was wrong- you aren’t selfish! Doing nice, pampering gestures for yourself aren’t selfish either- they are healthy, & they show you that you care about yourself. Nothing wrong with that!
I think distractions like these are also very helpful because they empower you. If you think about what you’ve gone through constantly, it’s as if your mother still has power over you. She’s still controlling you, by being in your thoughts so much. If you purposely kick her out of your mind sometimes, you are taking back control of your life, & your thoughts.
Also, distracting yourself sometimes is good for your anxiety & depression levels. The more you focus on the abuse you endured, the more anxious & depressed it can make you. Focus on healing- get angry, cry, do what you have to do- but take at least the same amount of time to relax & have some fun! It’s good for you!
Recently, I wrote this post about being angry at all of the things I feel have been stolen from me due to having C-PTSD. The anger that was simmering kicked back into overdrive briefly on Tuesday night.
I had to speak with my mother that evening. I ended up pretty angry with her by the time I hung up. Shortly after I got the wonderful call from my vet that I mentioned in this post. In spite of the incredibly good news, I was angry. Although my mother didn’t do it on purpose, I felt like, as usual, she’s interfering in my life & stealing my joy- making me angry at a time when I should’ve been completely happy. I felt in my heart I needed to make a decision at that time..Either continue to be angry or to thank God for & enjoy the wonderful news I had just gotten. I decided to focus on the good news for the night, & deal with my anger at my mother later on. Oddly, this turned out to be a good thing for me in a way..
I feel like I took back some of my power!
I think by being able basically to put my mother aside for a while was helpful for me. It showed me that my mother & her narcissistic ways haven’t stolen everything for me, as it so often feels like. She isn’t in control anymore, & I am more powerful than I feel. Instead of being angry with her & failing to enjoy the miraculous news I’d just received, I was able to refocus my mind onto the good. I had an entire evening of basking in joy, then dealt with the anger the following day.
Have you ever tried anything like this?
In all honesty, I can’t say I’m sure this type of thing is a good thing to do on a regular basis, but doing it once was a good experience for me. It may be for you too. I would encourage you to ask God about it, if you’re in a similar situation. It may help you as well. But, if God advises you against it, please listen to Him & don’t try it!
Yesterday was an eventful day. One of my cats, Pretty Boy, needed his annual checkup, which was late. A little background: Pretty Boy was diagnosed with diabetes since 2011, a condition called Somongyi where his body responds oddly to glucose in 2012, & then with a liver carcinoma in 2013. That is when the vet said he may not be around much longer, & chances are his glucose wouldn’t be regulated ever again. In spite of it all, he’s been doing GREAT! Mostly his glucose has been regulated, & he’s obviously feeling good. However, I was still nervous (as always) about his checkup. Turned out the vet said he is doing extremely well, I’m happy to say. Two vets saw him, one who specializes in diabetes, & she told me she thinks he’s starting to go into diabetic remission!! It’s very unusual- cats often go into diabetic remission, but usually within about the first 3 months after their diagnosis. The longer they have diabetes, the lower the chances of remission are. Leave it to my little guy to be unique.. lol It’s truly an answer to prayer! I’m so excited!
This all got me to thinking last night how much I have to thank God for.
Lately, the C-PTSD has been especially bad, leaving me extremely depressed, tired, anxious, having a hard time concentrating & really unable & unwilling to be around people. It’s been hard to think of anything to be thankful for, but this vet visit was the kick in the butt I needed to change my attitude. OK, I’m still having some trouble feeling grateful, but I am doing better at it today. I’m grateful my special little kitty is much healthier than anyone could’ve expected. I’m grateful too that he’s such a sweet baby- he knows every emotion I have, & if I’m upset, he is right there, offering lots of love to try to make it all better. I’m grateful for another one of my cats, Punkin, who also has PTSD & how we can help each other when symptoms flare up. I’m grateful God has blessed me with the many wonderful cats I have & had in my life. I’m grateful that even during the worst of times with C-PTSD, God still cares & helps me to get through it all. I’m grateful I survived all of the traumas that caused the C-PTSD, & still have a pretty decent attitude about life most days. I’m grateful I have people in my life who care about me. I’m even grateful for the classic car I drive, because it was once my grandfather’s car (my favorite car he ever had) & God found a miraculous way to send it back into my life after not even seeing it in 26 years. (I wrote that story in ebook form- it’s a fascinating story even if you aren’t a classic car fan like me. Here’s the link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/cynthia-bailey-rug/my-life-the-story-of-a-1969-plymouth/ebook/product-18462742.html )
As a result of thinking about these things & more that I am grateful to God for, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I feel the C-PTSD starting to improve some. I’m not expecting grateful thoughts to make all of the symptoms magically disappear of course- that would be very naive- but, I have noticed a grateful attitude does help to reduce the severity of C-PTSD symptoms. I think because it makes me feel closer to God as well as more appreciative of the good things He has blessed me with. Thinking about such things also increases my faith in God. Really focusing on the blessings He gives you can’t help but to increase your faith!
I know sometimes when symptoms are raging, it feels like there is absolutely nothing to be thankful for. I’ve felt that way many times myself. However, if you can try to think of the good in your life, or ask God to show you the ways He’s blessed you, it may help to reduce your symptoms. Even if it only helps a little bit, isn’t it worth it?
Something is happening that I assume is a natural part of C-PTSD, but I haven’t read or heard anything about it: anger, & lots of it. I’ve read that often people with PTSD or C-PTSD can have a short fuse, getting angry at silly little things, but that is all I read. So, I had to start praying..
For the first time, I’m getting very angry when people are deliberately hurtful, mean or even abusive towards me. I realize for the first time that I don’t deserve such poor treatment. In a way, this is pretty darned cool!! God showed me it means my self-esteem is at a good place instead of in the toilet where it’s been most of my life. In another way, it’s rather scary since it’s new territory… I’m not used to feeling anger, because I learned early in life I wasn’t allowed to feel it. If I expressed any anger, my mother said I had that “awful Bailey temper.” I carried that dysfunctional habit of not expressing anger into adulthood.
In addition to that, I’m getting very angry at the things that I feel C-PTSD has stolen from me. This morning, this anger was triggered because of my hair. Yes, sounds crazy, I know.. I was brushing my hair this morning & realizing so much is broken off & my hair is extremely dry. It looks awful, which upsets me as I’ve always had healthy, nice hair. Researching this online, long story short, I learned that anxiety & depression are most likely the cause for me. *sigh* Great. Then a little while later, I decided I was going to work on the new carburetor that is going on my car. As I skimmed over the directions, they didn’t seem too difficult- I thought I could do what I needed to do. Nope. Trying to follow the directions, I was easily confused. Although I did eventually remember that I’ve done this before (admittedly, 20+ years ago..), trying to actually do what the directions said to do absolutely baffled me. I also couldn’t remember details of how I’d done this. it was just the icing on the cake for me. Made me so angry that I have to rely on my husband do to this simple task for me! I miss my independence so much! I then thought about so many other things that C-PTSD has stolen from me, like my coping skills. i was once very strong, but now any little thing can frazzle me. Writing has become very hard for me, because my focus absolutely stinks. Reading, which was always my favorite pass time, is now a burden because my brain gets easily overwhelmed when I look at the pages in a book. I can’t tell you the last time I had a restful night’s sleep that wasn’t interrupted by nightmares or waking up with anxiety attacks, & yes, this happens even with sleeping pills. I’m sick of the constant anxiety, depression, forgetfulness & mood swings too. We won’t even discuss how many perfectly fine days have been ruined by flashbacks out of the blue..
I realize I sound like I’m wallowing in self-pity, which is what so many ignorant people think C-PTSD is, but yanno something? I think it’s OK to have these moments of self-compassion sometimes, & even be angry about it. It’s NOT fair to be abused, let alone so badly & so frequently as to develop C-PTSD. It’s WRONG! And, it’s so maddening when you’re suffering through every single day while your abuser goes on with his or her life without a care about what they did to you. I know, God says vengeance is His, & I respect that by not trying to get revenge on anyone. That being said.. sometimes it’d be nice to see that person suffer a little, yanno?!? Not nice, not a good Christian attitude either, but I think it’s just normal to feel that way once in a while (& then ask God to forgive me later..). It’s also maddening when you are trying your absolute best just to survive, & someone comes along telling you to stop looking so depressed, shake it off, let it go, just think happy thoughts.. seriously, don’t you want to slap those people hard sometimes?? lol I actually chewed out my husband recently for telling me to do my best. He’d said it many times, & I felt like doing my best was never good enough for him. One day, i got angry & told him “the fact I’m out of bed today & I haven’t put a gun to my head should tell you I *am* doing my best!” He was shocked, but it finally clicked for him that even if it doesn’t look like it, I really am trying!
Does this describe you too? Do you have times like I’m having today where you are just hot mad at having C-PTSD? If so, doesn’t logic dictate this as normal behavior sometimes? C-PTSD is such a frustrating, depressing disorder! God reminded me of that, & understands my anger & frustration, just as He does yours. Please, don’t berate yourself for how you feel! Feelings can’t be helped- they just happen. It’s what you do with those feelings that matter.
How can you cope when these days happen? To start with, get those feelings out! Once I’m done writing this entry, I’m going to write in my journal or pray. Getting all the anger out I can in a safe manner. Writing is an awesome way to get out your anger & hurt if you don’t feel like praying. Or, you could beat up a pillow- that helps too. Talk to something as if it’s the person you’re angry with, maybe an empty chair in front of you.
Music can help too. Right now, I’m listening to 1980’s hair bands & heavy metal- some of my favorite music ever. What is your favorite genre of music? Well, crank it up!! Doesn’t matter if it’s heavy metal or classical- whatever makes you feel good! In fact, go for a drive with your music blaring if you can- it’s fun & therapeutic!
Be gentle & understanding with yourself. If you’re feeling angry, there is a reason for it! Don’t tell yourself to just get over it, stop feeling that way or even that you need to forgive the person who hurt you. Accept the fact it’s really OK to be angry sometimes! The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26-27 “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry- but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.” (MSG) See? Even God says it’s OK to get angry sometimes! Just don’t do anything bad with that anger, such as get revenge.