Tag Archives: complex post traumatic stress disorder

Speak Out Or Stay Silent?

There are conflicting messages for victims of abuse.  Some people encourage victims to speak out.  Help raise awareness!  Confronting your abuser will be good for you!  Others encourage victims to keep quiet.  Stop dredging up the past.  Forgive & forget.

 

Rather than stating what I think victims should do, I would like to encourage you to decide what is right for yourself.  After all, being vocal about being abused can be very challenging.  Being vocal about it means you’re reliving some of the most painful experiences of your life.  It also means some will criticize you harshly.  You may lose friends & family who side with your abuser.  Is this something you can deal with?

 

There are pros & cons for speaking out as well as staying quiet.  You need to consider them seriously before making any decisions.

 

Silence isn’t always good, as it can encourage an abuser to continue abusing.  Knowing the victim won’t tell anyone what is happening gives the abuser free reign to do as she/he pleases without fear of consequences.  It also means things can stay pretty much the same for the victim in that her friends & family will continue treating her as they always have.  Silence allows the victim to continue in the familiar place that she is accustomed to.  This can be a good thing, to a degree, especially if she does not feel strong enough to confront her abuser or even discuss what has happened, & if this is only a temporary place.

 

Telling her story can empower the victim.  She takes back the power that her abuser stole by forcing her to stay silent.  She realizes it’s her story & she can do as she sees fit with it.  She can help & inspire others who have been through similar circumstances if she opts to go public with her story (such as blogging about it, for example).  By speaking openly about what happened, she also can give her family the opportunity to grow & to heal.  However, telling also means that she can be setting herself up for criticism, even from those closest to her.  Those she believed were on her side may turn against her.  They may refuse to believe her, tell others she’s lying, or invalidate her pain if she speaks to them about the situation.  And, if she opts to confront her abuser, that can open up a new world of pain.  Abusers hate confrontation, especially narcissistic abusers.  The abuser may turn the entire situation around, blaming the victim for what happened or denying they did anything wrong.  Often, the one telling the truth is demonized by abusers as well as those who may have known about the abuse but did nothing.  Many people can’t live with what they have done, so they vilify the victim.

 

What do you think is your answer, Dear Reader?

 

Before you answer that question, I urge you to pray.  Let God give you advice on which way to go, & how to go about it.  Also, allow Him to give you the strength you need, because either way is very challenging.  You will need His strength.  And remember, 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.”  (GNT)  God will empower you to do anything you need to do!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

A Little About Flashbacks & Repressed Memories

Recently, I’ve been having a lot of repressed memories return to the surface along with a flashback.  I had a total of 6 repressed memories & 1 flashback in a period of 2 days.  Not a fun 2 days for sure!  However, I realized something.  They all had reasons for happening.

 

Flashbacks & repressed memories show you what areas you need healing in.  If you’ve dealt with events properly, you won’t have flashbacks about them.  You’ll also remember them, so they won’t be repressed memories returning to the surface.  Although they’re rough, at least flashbacks & repressed memories can help you see what you need to work on.

 

They also can enable you to feel emotions that you couldn’t feel, let alone process, at the time of the trauma.  When I experienced mine recently, for the first time, I felt all the pain, anger & fear I was unable to feel at the time because I was simply trying to survive.  Feeling those emotions enabled me to release the pain.  Finally!

 

Flashbacks & repressed memories also are a good validation for why you’re low or no contact with your narcissistic parent.  I only recently blocked my parents’ phone number after months of no contact from them.  My father apparently called, & couldn’t reach me so he sent his flying monkeys after me to tell me to call him.  Considering his age & failing health, I honestly had a tough time not calling him at first.  Thank God I have a loving God & good friends who reminded me why I blocked his number in the first place to get me through the worst of it.  A bit later is when the flashback & repressed memories happened.  They really helped drive home the fact that I need to stay away from my parents.  They showed me exactly how abusive & dysfunctional they are.

 

I know flashbacks & repressed memories are extremely painful to deal with, but if you allow yourself to learn & heal from them, at least that pain won’t be in vain.  If you’re unsure what you’re supposed to learn or do after a flashback or a repressed memory returns, then pray.  God will show you what the purpose of it coming to your mind at this time is.  I also suggest keeping a journal.  Writing things down gives you something to look back on.  It reminds you of things you may have forgotten, & offers you strength when you see how far you’ve come.  A written record can be a wonderful thing!  I use an online, password protected diary so my journal is completely private.  No one reads it but God & I.  There are plenty to choose from, so you might want to do the same.

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Fear Is Not From God

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.

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Can You Ever Be Completely Healed After Abuse?

I recently was talking recently with a lady about this very topic- can someone be completely healed of the effects of narcissistic abuse?  We both shared the same opinion.  With God, of course, all things are possible.  However, to be completely healed isn’t necessarily the norm.

 

For one thing, narcissistic abuse infects every area of your being.  The stress of it can affect you physically, such as developing high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease.  The negativity & crazy making affect you mentally.  So many victims feel like they’re crazy.  Many lose their self esteem or live with depression & anxiety.  A lot of victims live with PTSD or C-PTSD after leaving the relationship with a narcissist.  Many people in a relationship with narcissists are affected financially.  Narcissists see people as nothing more than tools to be used in whatever way benefits the narcissist, so many victims lose a great deal of money to their narcissist.   Many victims are also affected spiritually because of the narcissist’s weird religious beliefs or being overly “religious”, using God to make the victim feel like a bad person, God is punishing them or the like.

 

For another thing, if you had a narcissistic parent (or two), the abuse is even worse simply due to the nature of the relationship.  It goes so deeply against nature for a parent to abuse a child instead of loving & caring for her, that it’s virtually impossible to accept.  That can deeply affect a child no matter that child’s age.  Many are in denial, saying their narcissistic mother was just quirky or over protective rather than narcissistic.  Some believe their covertly narcissistic parent was naive, & didn’t know any better.  Or, they believe the covertly narcissistic parent was incapable of stopping the overtly narcissistic parent from abusing them for various reasons.

 

Also, childhood forms who you are as an adult.  Whether you had a good or bad upbringing, you are a product of your childhood.  I think childhood is much like the foundation of a home.  If a home’s foundation is damaged, the home won’t be safe.  If you had a bad childhood, your adulthood won’t be healthy until you fix the damage done to you in childhood.

 

You may never fully heal from the abuse.  It’s quite normal.   If you get to the place the abuse doesn’t consume you, you’re doing great.  If you can think or talk about certain events without feeling devastated, but instead feeling more like you’re remembering an unpleasant dream, you’re doing great.  It’s quite possible you may not be healed more than that.  In my personal experience plus observations of the many other victims of narcissistic abuse I’ve spoken with, complete healing isn’t common.  In fact, I haven’t seen it myself.

 

If you are like most of us & still struggling even many years after the abuse happened, please know you’re not alone!  Not by a long shot!  You also aren’t weak or a failure.  God hasn’t abandoned you either.  In fact, He is with you during the worst times, whether you feel His presence or not. I’ll close this post with a beautiful reminder of that fact..

 

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

(KJV)

 

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Don’t Justify & Explain Your Mental Illness

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.

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A Bit About No Contact

If you have read much at all about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you have read about the benefits of going no contact.  It is often the only solution, as many authors on the topic will feverishly tell you.  After all, it’s not like you can reason with someone who refuses to accept any responsibility for their actions.  Many times, all you can do is hope to escape the narcissist with your sanity in tact.

 

Unfortunately though, one thing I have noticed is many people who say that no contact is the only solution fail to mention that is it not a cure all.

 

Certainly, eliminating an abusive narcissist from your life is beneficial.  You no longer have the daily struggles.  Without their gaslighting, you can think clearer.  Your finances may improve as well, if the narcissist was draining your bank accounts.  You finally can focus on yourself & healing.  However, without the narcissist in your life, you still will have problems that stem from your time being abused by that peson.

 

Please believe me, I’m not speaking against no contact.  While I believe it is an individual decision & no one should attempt to force anyone into making that decision, I also realize it is usually the best solution.  I just think it is very important for people who opt to remove the narcissist from their life to realize that doing so won’t solve all of their problems.  Yes, it will improve daily life since they won’t have to deal with new, frustrating, abusive situations, which is fantastic.  But, it also won’t solve some things.

 

No contact doesn’t cure PTSD or C-PTSD.  In fact, there is no known cure for either.  All you can do is manage the symptoms, which, by the way, can be much easier without a narcissist around!

 

It also doesn’t stop repressed memories from returning to the forefront of one’s mind sometimes.

 

It also doesn’t mean you won’t have times of missing the narcissist.  They all have something that made you love them.  If they didn’t, deciding to go no contact wouldn’t have been a difficult decision at all.

 

No contact doesn’t mean you won’t think of the narcissist anymore.  Whether he or she is a parent, relative, romantic interest or friend, you have shared experiences together.  You won’t forget them just because that person is no longer in your life.  Birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions will pop into your memory periodically.

 

Please don’t lose hope after reading these things!  They don’t mean there is something wrong with you or you are irreparably damaged.  They simply mean you are a normal person who has been deeply affected by narcissistic abuse.

 

These things also don’t mean no contact is a bad idea.  Like I said, it is often the only solution to an extremely painful & impossible situation.  The reason I wanted to share these things with you, Dear Reader, is so you will be prepared if you do opt to go no contact.

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A Possible Cause Of Panic Attacks

I read an interesting article about anxiety:

 

http://bigthink.com/robby-berman/clinical-psychology-says-hiding-from-anxieties-makes-it-worse

 

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.

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Mental Illness: Normal Consequences Of Abuse Or Something Wrong With You?

Something crossed my mind recently.

 

People with PTSD/C-PTSD, depression or anxiety that stems from being abused are referred to as having a mental illness, or mental health problems.  It occurred to me though that this is, in a way, false.

 

Yes, C-PTSD/PTSD, depression & anxiety are proof of damage in the brain, so they are in that sense mental disorders.  But, such things are also normal reactions to highly abnormal circumstances.  The truth is actually that these disorders were brought about by an abusive person determined to hurt you.

 

Having C-PTSD, PTSD, depression or anxiety aren’t signs that you are weak, a failure, stupid or anything else.  They are simply proof that you have been through some traumatic things, & you survived!  You are strong!

 

Rather than being ashamed of yourself for being “mentally ill”, why not instead embrace the fact that you are a normal, mentally healthy person who has been through some terrible things?

 

I’m not saying embrace your disorder- I doubt anyone could enjoy flashbacks, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks & more.  Instead, I’m saying see your disorder as proof of your strength & that you have been through trauma.  Not everyone survives being abused.  Many victims develop terrible addictions & still others commit suicide.  You haven’t done those & should be proud that you haven’t!

 

 

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Benefits Of Journaling

 

I swear by keeping a journal.  In fact, I write in mine daily, & have a reminder on my cell phone to do so.   It helps me to vent when I’m upset & to remember the many things for which I’m grateful for.  It also helps me to keep track of when events in my life have happened.

 

I’ve also realized that a journal can help you heal from narcissistic abuse & keep your sanity while you’re in the midst of it.

 

There is something about seeing things in writing that brings such clarity.  It makes things more real.  It validates your experiences.  It shows you that yes, that really did happen & it happened that way.

 

Keeping a journal can help you to keep track of the truth, so when the narcissist in your life insists that a situation isn’t the way you remember, you can look back on your journal & see the truth.

 

If you’re considering going no contact, it may help you to decide what to do by seeing events in writing.  As I said, seeing things in writing brings clarity, & you need that when trying to decide if no contact is the right solution for you.

 

Journaling gives you a safe place to share your feelings without judgment.  What you write is between you & God only.  Sharing with people, even the most well meaning ones, can sometimes lead to hurt feelings.  That is something you don’t have to worry about with a journal.

 

I’ve found a website for a free, online, private journal that I just love.  www.my-diary.org  allows you to keep your journal private or make it public.  You can change the colors of the “pages” to personalize it if you like.  (No, I don’t get any bonus for recommending this diary site- I just like it & thought you might too).

 

I hope if you don’t currently keep a journal, you’ll consider doing so, Dear Reader.  It really can be a very useful tool for keeping mentally healthy.

 

 

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Distracting Yourself

People are often less than thrilled with facing unpleasant things, such as emotional healing.  It’s quite understandable, really.  Emotional work isn’t fun!  It’s very hard, very draining work.  It’s also very necessary.

 

I’ve caught myself many times distracting myself from the emotional work at hand.  There have been plenty of times I’ve had a flashback at a very inconvenient time, & couldn’t deal with it right then. Times like this, I don’t think distracting yourself for a short time is a bad idea at all.  In fact, it may be absolutely necessary, such as when I had a flashback while driving.

 

There have been plenty of other times when a flashback has happened or a repressed memory pops back into my mind that I distract myself even when I have the time & ability to focus on it.  I’m just tired of things that happened 10, 20, or 30 years ago still affecting my life at 45.  It’s exhausting & maddening, so sometimes I ignore the flashback or memory & try to avoid thinking about it.

 

I’ve noticed many others who have survived narcissistic abuse do the same thing.

 

This isn’t good though!  I’ve come to realize that most of these things come to me when I have the time & I believe that is for a reason- so these awful things can be dealt with right then.

 

Avoiding facing issues only postpones the problem, it doesn’t make it go away.  It is best to deal with things as soon as possible.  After all, God allowed it to come to mind for a reason.  He must know you are able to deal with it & need to do so.  He wouldn’t allow this memory to return to your mind if coping with it wasn’t going to help you in some way.

 

Don’t get me wrong- there are plenty of times we need to distract ourselves from the work of recovery.  If you’ve been focusing on narcissism & narcissistic abuse for a long time, it’s time for a break.  If you have the awful experience of having a flashback behind the wheel like I did, you definitely don’t need to think about it then- you need to focus on driving!  If you write about the topic like I do, frequent distractions are a must to keep your sanity.

 

I believe the key is using wisdom.  I know in my heart when I should focus & when it’s time for a break.  Granted, I don’t always pay attention, but I do know.  When I ignore those “knowings,” I feel it.  The memory that came back won’t leave me alone, I get angry, moodier than usual, tired mentally & physically.

 

I realize I need to ask God to help me in this area, to do His will.  To face things as needed & to take breaks when needed.  I would encourage you to do the same, Dear Reader.  It will be good for your mental health!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You’re Much Stronger Than You Think!

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!

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The One Good Thing About Triggers

Anyone with PTSD or C-PTSD knows about triggers.  Triggers are those things that send us rocketing into a flashback or emotional flashback, or at the very least, remind us of some painful trauma we’d just as soon forget about.  They also can trigger a panic attack or dissociation.

 

As painful as triggers can be, they also can serve a good purpose.  They can show us the areas in which we need healing.

 

I have a very hard time going into the neighboring town where my parents live.  It is full of awful memories for me, so I avoid the town as much as possible.  Going past the library is the worst though.  That was where my first job was, & where my mother did some very abusive & hurtful things to me.  She once screamed at the top of her lungs at me in the parking lot in front of my now ex husband, the patrons & my coworkers.  She humiliated, belittled, shamed & degraded me there too.   Repeatedly.  When I see the library building, even just driving past it, I either get a panic attack, flashback or dissociate.  I’ve done them all.  The one time I went inside that library a few years ago, I had to leave immediately because of having a panic attack & flashback at the same time.  Naturally, I haven’t gone back to that library since.

 

One good thing about this is I realize that I need further healing in the area of the things my mother did to me at that library.  I have dealt with so many things my mother did to me, but not the events that took place at that library.  I know I have repressed some of them, but not all.  I need to deal with what I do remember.

 

Have you ever thought about triggers this way, Dear Reader?  As painful as it can be, it is a good thing when you learn about some area where you need further healing.  You can’t heal from what you don’t acknowledge, so you need to know what areas you need to work on.  Every event you heal from brings you one step closer to wholeness, one step further from the trauma you have endured & fills you with more joy & peace than you had previously.  If you can look at triggers as a sign that you need healing in a certain area, they truly can help you.

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Respond, Don’t React, To Narcissists

Narcissists know how to push every button you have & many you weren’t even aware of having.  They do this in order to provoke an emotional reaction from you.  Whether you’re angry or hurting, your reaction makes them feel powerful, which in turn provides narcissistic supply, & makes them feel good.  That is why they often act much like a machine gun with their cruelty- quickly pumping out verbally abusive comments one right after another.  The more they can hurt or anger you, the better they feel.  When you have pretty much fallen apart, they are deliriously happy.

 

If you want to put a stop to this behavior, join the club!  We all do.  There isn’t any way I know of to stop it entirely.  But, there are some ways to slow this down.  One very effective way is to learn to respond, not react.

 

Reaction is done immediately, often without thinking.  If a doctor uses that little hammer & taps your knee is a certain spot, your reaction is for your leg to kick.  That is the type of response narcissists want from you- immediate anger or hurt without thinking as soon as they have said or done something hateful.

 

Responding however is different.  It’s slower & more deliberate.  You take time to think, possibly even putting your emotions aside before you give any sort of response.  This is not what narcissists want, & that, Dear Reader is a good thing!

 

The more you react emotionally to a narcissist, the more buttons they will push to get you to react more.  It’s a vicious cycle.  However, the less reaction you give them, the less interest they will have in hurting you.

 

Responding can seem impossible to do at first, but it really does get easier & easier with practice.  The best way I personally learned to do this is a technique common to caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.  When something is said or done, stop for a second.  Take a deep breath in & out, then speak.  That brief moment of the deep breath helps you to think, & also to remind yourself why you must stay calm & focused.  Plus the deep breath relaxes you.  This technique enables you to stay calm & focused in the face of sheer madness.

 

I urge you to give this a try the next time you must deal with the narcissist in your life.  It really does help you.  I have done this when speaking with my narcissistic father.  Now that he has Alzheimer’s, the narcissism has gotten worse than ever.  I don’t feel right about being too harsh with him since it’s the Alzheimer’s making it worse rather than him deliberately trying harder to get attention or hurt me.  (Dementia & Alzheimer’s can make someone with NPD act worse)  But, at the same time, I need to protect myself.  Stopping long enough to take in & release that deep breath helps me to maintain my composure & give a decent response rather than an angry reaction.  It may help you as well!  Try it- what do you have to lose?

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A New Perspective On PTSD & C-PTSD

I recently had an interesting revelation that I’d like to share with you today, Dear Reader.

 

A friend of mine has PTSD as a result of time in the military.  One story he told me was how he was on patrol in the gunner hatch of a humvee, in the lead vehicle, when they were approached by a 12 year old boy carrying a teddy bear.  My friend told him to stop, but he wouldn’t.  Even firing a warning shot into the air didn’t deter this boy, & my friend had no alternative- he had to shoot the boy.  It turns out the boy’s teddy bear contained 6 pounds of explosives- he could’ve killed so many people!

 

When this story crossed my mind the other night, something else crossed my mind: I’ve been through enough trauma at the hands of narcissists to give me the same disorder as this man who has been through unspeakable trauma.

 

Wow.  Talk about giving a new perspective!  It really showed me just how bad the abuse in my life has been.

 

So many people with PTSD or C-PTSD due to narcissistic abuse tend to trivialize their experiences & I have been one of them.  They think it’s not so bad because they weren’t in the military or their narcissist didn’t hit them.  They even try to hide their awful symptoms because it’s embarrassing they have the disorder because the abuse “wasn’t so bad.”  They think they’re weak for having PTSD or C-PTSD.

 

Having PTSD/C-PTSD aren’t signs of weakness.  They are anything but!  They are signs of having experienced trauma so severe, it actually physically broke your brain.  They are normal reactions to extremely abnormal circumstances.  They are a sign you survived something pretty horrific.

 

If you live with either PTSD or C-PTSD, please know you have nothing to be embarrassed about.  Would you be embarrassed if you got diabetes?  Cancer?  Then why be embarrassed about having a mental illness?  Also, just like you can’t do anything to get a physical illness like cancer, you didn’t do anything to get PTSD/C-PTSD.

 

If you feel able to, please talk about your experiences with PTSD or C-PTSD or even the abuse you endured.  Talking things out is good for you- it helps you to heal.  Also, talking about what you live with as a result of the trauma can help to raise awareness of PTSD/C-PTSD.  People truly have no idea what it’s really like to live with such an awful mental disorder.  They have these crazy, false ideas of what it means to have PTSD/C-PTSD & those ideas need to be eliminated & replaced with the truth!

 

I would like to encourage you to ask God to show you if He wants you to discuss what has happened to you or the PTSD/C-PTSD, & if so, how.  Does He want you to speak to groups?  Write a book?  Write a blog?  There are many ways to raise awareness. Maybe you have a calling to one of those ways.

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My Promise To My Readers

I’ve noticed an interesting trend with this blog.  When I write about my mistakes, failures or struggles, my blog gains more followers & views.  My recent post about a bad C-PTSD day gained me quite a few more followers & a lot of views.

 

I believe this is because people are tired of people who claim they’ve been completely healed from their past, saying all you have to do is pray & believe, & God will deliver you completely from your past.  People who are completely delivered from their pain are in the minority, yet they are the ones most in the public eye, it seems.

 

The problem with this is it makes people feel like failures.  It sure did me.  I felt like I must not have enough faith or I was praying wrong.  Maybe because my experiences weren’t as bad as some other folks’ God wasn’t going to set me free- maybe He thought I was over reacting & needed to realize that.

 

Then one night while watching TV a few years ago, I saw Josh McDowell doing an interview on TBN’s show, “Praise The Lord.”  As a child, he was sexually abused.  His story was heartbreaking, but it gave me hope at the same time.  Why?  Because he admitted that as a grown man in his 50’s or maybe 60’s (my guess.. not sure) he still had issues stemming from that abuse.  He said when people touch his shoulder in a certain way, he can’t handle it, because it reminds him of his abuser.

 

Realizing that this wise, caring, good man of God still had issues from childhood abuse so many years later released the feeling of shame I had.  He’s obviously no failure, yet God didn’t wave that magic wand & set him free of all symptoms of the abuse.  Maybe, just maybe, that means I’m not a failure either!

 

Two Scriptures also came into my mind in a new way.  Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” & Philippians 1:6, “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:”  I realized that God is truly there with me during all the bad times.  Not only the times that I’ve lost a loved one or had a fight with a friend- all of the bad times.  He is with me during flashbacks, panic attacks & depressive episodes.  He is with me during all of those valley of the shadow of death times, not just some.  Also, I realized you learn a lot more going through something than you do if you’re just delivered from it.  The things I learn by going through are the things that I’ve been able to share in this blog, & in my books, too, & I believe people are being helped by these things.  I’ve received plenty of messages to prove it.

 

Also, He is the one who showed me I needed healing.  He started me on the healing path by gently showing me what was wrong with me & how to heal.  So, since God started that “good work,” it seems logical to me, judging by Philippians 1:6, that He will continue working on healing me until Jesus comes back.  This tells me there is nothing wrong with continuing to have issues for years after the fact.  It’s normal!

 

These revelations gave me a new heart for how I write.  Rather than constantly trying to encourage or teach readers what I have learned, I felt it would be a good idea to share my mistakes & struggles, too, to let my readers know that they aren’t alone.  Everyone who has been through narcissistic abuse struggles to some degree.  It’s ok!  God is with them & helping them to heal.

 

So, Dear Reader, this is my promise to you- to be real, not only encouraging or educational.  I’ll also let you know that I understand your struggles, because I struggle too, every single day.  And, there is nothing wrong with you or your faith if God hasn’t miraculously delivered you.  There are plenty of us in that same valley, so at least you aren’t alone!

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A Day In The Life With C-PTSD

Today, September 6, the day I’m writing this, was one rough day for me.  I’m hoping sharing it here rather than in my private journal can help others.  I also hope my writing makes sense- it’s really hard to write when the C-PTSD flares up.

 

To start with, I woke up first thing in the morning after a restless night full of nightmares I barely remember & repeatedly waking up for no obvious reason.  I started out my day very tired, which made concentration harder than usual.  It also means my moods are more erratic.

 

I decided to go to the local craft store for some yarn for a new crochet project.  Although I spent 3 days prior out all day & it wore me out beyond description, I thought maybe going for a brief drive & visiting a craft store alone when it’s not busy would be doable.  Yea… that sounds good in theory.. in practice though?  Not so much.  The parking lot was super busy since other stores in the shopping center were packed apparently.  Then, the cashier at the craft store was on her first day, so she was confused & learning as she went rather than being fast like the lady who was training her is.  UGH.. I wanted out fast & there was no escape!  Not one other register was open!  I got my yarn & made a mad dash for the parking lot since I felt like the agoraphobia was going to overwhelm me.

 

After leaving, I went to visit a dear friend.  The brief drive shouldn’t have been full of triggers & anxiety, but it was.  On the way to her home, I followed a car for a good part of the journey that resembled a car an old boyfriend of mine drove.  This ex died in 2014 after killing his boyfriend, then himself, in their home. It was all over the local news at the time & very hard for me to come to terms with for a while after that, since I didn’t realize how he was.  The story was a complete shock to me.  Seeing this car reminded me of our brief relationship, & how incredibly sad his story was.  Also it made me grateful I escaped him unharmed.  I have no doubt he would’ve killed me if I’d stayed with him.  When I left him, I had NO idea how dysfunctional or dangerous he was.  All I knew was he spent hours screaming at me when I broke up with him that evening, telling me I was making a huge mistake, he was a great guy, I’d regret leaving him, I was ruining his life, etc.  (Nothing out of the ordinary for me since my mother screamed at me constantly in my last couple of years before moving out of her home.)  As a result, I spent many years beating myself up for ruining his life.  Learning of his death in 2014, I realized how dysfunctional he was which set me free from that guilt, however, the story was so sad, I still feel pity for him, the man he killed & their families.

 

There was also a surprising amount of traffic out today & the exhaust fumes made me feel sick, thanks to the over-sensitivity I have to carbon monoxide.  Surviving carbon monoxide poisoning can do this to a survior, & frankly, it’s a real nuisance!  I got a nasty headache, stomach ache, & I felt woozy after breathing in the fumes that doesn’t want to go away.

 

I also realized the date on my way to my friend’s house.. September 6.  On that day in 1990, I hurt my back at work.  Not terribly, but pretty painful.  As it was healing, my mother threw me into a wall during an argument which made the pain a thousand times worse.  Shortly after, I had to quit working outside my home.  My mother never believed my back was injured, & told anyone who would listen how I was so lazy that I was faking the injury so I wouldn’t have to work again.  In fact, my doctors even thought I was faking it, & said similar things.  I was told so often that I was faking it, I wondered if I really was faking it.  Years later I learned people with PTSD often have lower back pain with no known physical cause- you’d think a doctor back then would’ve sent me to a counselor, but no one did.  Instead they shamed me for being lazy.  The memories of that experience made me angry.

 

Thinking of how my mother responded to my back pain triggered other intrusive memories I really don’t want to have.  For one, about a year ago, my mother called one day & said my father told her my ex husband hit me.  She said she had no idea, & if she’d have known, she would’ve called a lawyer about this & straightened it out!  The fact is she did know- she blamed me for making him hit me right after it happened.  She saw the bruises I wore- the most obvious injury was the shape of his hands were on my wrists in the form of bruises.  It was just one more time she didn’t care about my pain.  Other memories intruded my mind, against my will & I was unable to push them away.  They reminded me of many painful times that my parents have abused me & I was supposed to tolerate it all quietly, with a smile, including our most recent fight in May & how they have quit speaking to me since then, even though they were in the wrong.  I was angry & sad all at once remembering these things.

 

Did I mention I’m still having difficulty grieving the loss of my 2 cats since May?  Grief seems to magnify other issues, making them even more challenging than usual to deal with.

 

This awful, miserable day meant I had to hold in my tears or anger until I was alone since no one was responsible for the emotions.  It’s just a part of the disorder & no one I was around today should be forced to feel bad for making me cry or making me angry.

 

I’ve also reviewed this post at least 10 times to make sure my writing makes sense, because making sense is so hard to do when the C-PTSD flares up.

 

This is typical of a day in the life of someone with C-PTSD or PTSD.  Any little thing can trigger thoughts that they don’t want to have yet are helpless to prevent.  Mood swings & anger &/or depression can be triggered easily too.  To be honest, it’s sheer hell to live with.

 

PTSD or C-PTSD are not a result thinking too negatively.  They aren’t wallowing in the past or looking for pity.  They aren’t playing some “poor me” card, looking for attention or pity.  They mean someone has experienced such trauma in their lives, it literally broke parts of their brain.  They are serious mental disorders with symptoms that can easily be out of control.  They mean the person who is sick has good days & bad days.  On good days, it may seem like the patient is totally fine.  That isn’t the truth however.  On good days, this usually means the patient is just better at hiding his/her symptoms than on other days.

 

I’m not explaining this because I want pity.  I’m putting it out there because I know many people who read my work live with PTSD or C-PTSD, & can’t always explain it to other people in their life.  I’m hoping this will help those people relate to my crappy day.  Maybe they will now be able to explain to their counselors or their friends & family just how triggering & difficult a typical day with PTSD or C-PTSD can be.  Sure, my specific circumstances may be different, but I’m sure the basics are the same- agoraphobia, unexpected triggers, & intrusive thoughts & wicked mood swings.  Please know, Dear Readers, I pray for you daily.  Living with PTSD or C-PTSD is horrible, & I pray for God to heal you & until He does, show you how to live with the awful symptoms.

 

Also, you’re not alone!  You’re not crazy!  There are so many of us who live with these symptoms due to traumatic experiences.  Having PTSD/C-PTSD doesn’t make you weak or a failure or any other ridiculous thing you’ve been told.  It’s a sign you reacted normally to very abnormal circumstances.

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Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over Your Mistakes

I’ve always had a knack for remembering dates.  Even after the TBI I got in 2015, I still remember many dates that have been important to me at some time in my life.  For example,  I got my first car on July 6, 1989.  I moved out of my parents’ home on June 9, 1990.  I met my husband on March 14, 1992 & our first date was November 4, 1994.

 

Don’t get me started on my furbabies- I remember who I adopted when or when who was born, & when who passed away.

 

Remembering dates can be convenient sometimes, but it also can trigger some very unpleasant memories.  For years, I beat myself up from August 23 until November 24 because that was the short time I was involved with a man who I thought was a good guy, but I was unhappy dating.  When I told him I wanted to break up, he did his best to make me feel stupid & like a failure, which sunk in with me.  I believed I ruined his life & was a terrible person for it.  Many years later, I read that he shot & killed his boyfriend & then himself in their home.  It finally clicked that maybe he wasn’t the good guy he portrayed himself as.  I started remembering our short time together & realized that he was a very disturbed man.  I didn’t have clues then to just how disturbed, though.

 

In a way, learning this information was a good thing.  I finally was set free from the guilt of leaving this man.  It was as if I finally had permission to accept that leaving him was for my own safety.  It also helped me to think about something…

 

I have spent my life beating myself up for way too many things!

 

The disturbed man I mentioned?  I was only 19, he was 28 when we dated.  He was very controlling & I was so accustomed to being controlled, although it bothered me, I didn’t realize it was wrong.  It was so bad, in fact, that I didn’t want to date him.  I only did because he was pushy & my friend at the time said I should.  After growing up with narcissistic parents, this behavior of allowing others to control me is pretty normal.  I see that now, but for years, I told myself how stupid I was for this.  I should’ve known better.  HOW?!  How could I have known better?!

 

I’ve also beat myself up for not standing up to my parents more often, for tolerating way more than I should have.  This also doesn’t make sense- they’re my parents!  Aside from the dysfunctional teaching I grew up with that said I deserve whatever is done to me, being parents puts them in a unique position in my life no one else shares.  Most people are like me in that they are more willing to tolerate things from their parents than other people.

 

Does this describe you as well?  Have you spent way too much time chastising yourself for things that really aren’t your fault?  If so, please stop it right now!

 

Everyone makes mistakes!  Those of us raised in abusive, dysfunctional environments tend to make even more than most people because we simply do not know any better.  Frankly, it sucks, but it happens!

 

Have you learned from your mistakes?  Good!  That shows you don’t want to continue being dysfunctional!  That is something to be proud of!!

 

Do you realize that sharing stories of things you did & what you learned can encourage other people?  It really can!  I’m hardly proud of sharing the things I have in this blog, but the good part is they encourage other people.  I have the emails & comments to prove it.  In a way, my mess has become my ministry.  Not only the mess of my dysfunctional upbringing, but the mess of the dumb things I did as a result.  That encourages me too, because I know it means my pain has a purpose.  It wasn’t for nothing!

 

Your pain has a purpose too, Dear Reader!  If you don’t feel that way, then talk to God about it.  He will reveal the purpose to you, & comfort you!

 

 

 

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My New Book Is Available!!

After a conversation with a dear friend in early July, she inspired me to write a new book.  It is designed for a slightly different audience than usual.  Normally I write for those of us who know at least some about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  This book, however, is written for those who know something is wrong with a person in their life who is extremely selfish & manipulative, but they just aren’t sure what it is yet.

 

“It’s Not You, It’s Them: When People Are More Than Selfish” helps these people to understand Narcissistic Personality Disorder, deal with the behaviors if they opt to stay in a relationship with the narcissist, & ways they can help themselves heal.

 

I’ve learned so much about NPD in recent months & have felt such a strong desire to help victims of narcissistic abuse & raise awareness, I believe this book had to be written.  Admittedly, I’ve never written a book so quickly before, but I believe it must be for a reason.  I pray God is going to use it mightily.

 

If you’d like to check out the new book, the timing is good- my publisher is offering a sale on all print books.  15% off with free mail shipping until August 14.  Simply use code AUGSHIP16 at checkout

Links are below..

 

Ebook:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/656668

 

Print book: http://www.lulu.com/shop/cynthia-bailey-rug/its-not-you-its-them-when-people-are-more-than-selfish/paperback/product-22817234.html

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20% Off Two Or More Print Books!

My publisher is having another great sale on print books.  20% off if you buy two or more.  Simply use code 2FORYOU at checkout.  Sale ends August 7, 2016.

 

Find my books at:

 

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/cynthiabaileyrug

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Another Book Sale!

My publisher is offering another sale.  15% off all print books with free mail shipping until July 31!  Enter code “SHIPSAVE16” at checkout.  The code is case sensitive, so enter it exactly as it appears between the quotes.

 

My books can be found at:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/cynthiabaileyrug

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Talking About Your Trauma

I’ve been reading lately about discussing abusive & traumatic experiences.  It seems many people have very definite opinions on the matter.  Some think it is the duty of the victim to talk about it, to raise awareness & help other victims.  Others think talking puts unfair pressure on the victim, & they’ve been through enough.

 

It seems to me that in a way, they’re both right.

 

Proverbs 31:8-9 says,

“8  Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.

9  Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”  (KJV)

 

I believe this clearly states that it is right to speak up against abuse.  But, if you notice, it says to “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”  That could be those who are still being abused & unable to escape, but it also could be those who are recently traumatized or even those who only recently realized they were abused (as abusers love to convince victims they are helping, the victim made them hurt them, it isn’t abuse, etc).  It can be hard or even impossible to talk about your trauma when you’ve only recently escaped your abuser or learned what was done to you was abuse.

 

So how do you know what is right for you to do?  Pray.  Ask God to show you what He would have you to do.

 

If you feel speaking about your experiences is the answer for you at this time, it can be scary, I know.  Lean on God to enable you to do it. Not everyone who discusses their abusive experiences is in the public eye.  God may not want you to write a book or blog.  He may instead send people across your path periodically who need to hear your story.  That calling is no less important than those who are in the public eye.  Helping people cope with their pain is an extremely important calling, no matter how it is done.

 

If you don’t feel the need to discuss your experiences, probably this means you have some healing to do first.  Talking about things really isn’t easy.  Abusers always make victims afraid to talk.  When you first escape the abusive situation or first realize what was done was actually abuse, you may need to think & pray a lot to come to terms with things.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that!  Do what you need to do!  Prayer, writing in a journal & even writing letters you never show to the abuser are excellent places to start.  Never feel bad if you’re in this place!  Everyone starts their recovery somewhere, & often it’s alone.  Besides, if you hope to be one who can help other victims, you have to be able to do so.  Self-care is vital!  You have to take care of yourself if you want to be of any help to others.

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Ways To Respond To Someone Who Doesn’t Understand Mental Illness

Not many people have a good grasp on how to treat people with mental illness.  Depression, anxiety, PTSD & C-PTSD in particular seem to be targets for those with little to no  compassion.

 

Following are some examples of bad things people often say to people suffering with mental illness.  One thing that seems to diffuse people from further insensitive, invalidating comments is a calm, logical response.  Some examples of ways to use that logic follow the examples.

 

“It’s all in your mind.”  This one tells me the person saying it thinks you’re crazy & has no patience for you.  Not exactly something to make you feel all warm & fuzzy, is it?  A good response could be, “Well, yes it is.  It’s a mental illness after all.  Where else would it be?”

 

“Think happy thoughts.”  Well, gee, why didn’t I think of that?!  *facepalm* Depression, anxiety, PTSD & C-PTSD can come with intrusive thoughts that may be impossible to control.  Depression steals your hope, anxiety fills you with often irrational fears, PTSD & C-PTSD steal your hope, fill you with fear in addition to reminding you of all of the horrible, traumatic things you’ve been through.  A possible response could be, “You seem to forget- my brain doesn’t work like yours.  It’s physically broken.  It’s not that easy for me to just think happy thoughts.”

 

“You should just…”  Unasked for advice is never fun.  It’s even worse when the person giving it has absolutely no idea what they are talking about. This one really gets under my skin, especially when it’s wrapped in fake concern.  “I mean this in love, but you need to get over that…” for example.  I’ve responded with, “Thank you but I didn’t ask for your advice on this subject.”  The person who did this with me stopped speaking to me for months after saying that, but I don’t know if that is a typical response or not.  She’s the only one I said that to so far.

 

“I know how you feel.”  No.  No you don’t.  You aren’t me.  You don’t live with the mental illness that I do.  We are two very different people.  So no, you don’t know how I feel.  <– I believe that is a good response.  I admit, I get snarky when told this.  My responses aren’t usually this nice.  Mine have been “You spent most of your life suicidal too?  You have C-PTSD too?  Aren’t those flashbacks terrible?  Oh, you don’t have them.. then I guess you really don’t know how I feel.”  Not nice, but it tends to get people’s attention when nicer comments don’t.

 

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”  I think people forget that we are all different.  What doesn’t sound so bad to one person can devastate another.  My high school guidance counselor told me this phrase after telling her my mother would scream at me & tell me how horrible I was.  It made me feel wrong for being traumatized.  I was young & didn’t know about narcissism then, so I didn’t respond.  Now?  I think I would say something like, “Maybe it doesn’t sound so bad to you, but you weren’t there.  You weren’t the one going through the trauma.”

 

“You can’t have PTSD.  You weren’t in the military.”  Unfortunately, because there has been attention on PTSD in soldiers, the rest of us with it resulting from non-military trauma have been disregarded.  It reminds me of when AIDS was first coming into the public eye in the 80’s, & people thought it was a “gay disease.”  AIDS isn’t a “gay disease”  & PTSD isn’t a “military problem”.  It’s a trauma problem.  And, reminding someone who says you can’t have it because you weren’t in the military is a very good response.

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The Difference Between Flashbacks & Repressed Memories

Not everyone realizes the differences between flashbacks & repressed memories returning, so I thought today I would explain them.

 

Repressed memories are memories of events so traumatic, you were unable to deal with them at the time they happened.  To cope, almost immediately, you unconsciously pushed it to the dark recesses of your mind, & forgot about it.  Then some time later (could be months, could be years later), something triggered a reminder of the event.  The trigger could be anything- a facial expression, a scent, the sight of something that resembles an item that was there when the event happened or a sound.  When the trigger forces the memory back to your conscious mind, suddenly you remember what happened.  It feels the same as remembering anything else you forgot in the sense that you are well aware it is simply a memory.

 

Flashbacks are quite different.  Flashbacks aren’t necessarily something you forgot.  You may or may not remember the event before the flashback.  The main difference between repressed memories & flashbacks is flashbacks feel like you’re reliving the event.  For me, this is what makes flashbacks so much worse than repressed memories- the feeling of reliving a traumatic event while trying to stay in reality.  Flashbacks can be triggered by something, such as the soldier who has flashbacks when he hears fireworks, but sometimes they simply happen without an obvious trigger.  Also different than repressed memories are the physical symptoms that can accompany flashbacks, such as elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, sweating or chills, & trembling.  My husband has seen me have flashbacks many times, & even so, he can’t always tell when it happens.  I tend to get very quiet & still.  Sometimes I cry, sometimes not.  Flashbacks aren’t always obvious to those witnessing someone have them.  Not everyone having a flashback is vocal or shows obvious physical signs when they happen.

 

If you’re having a flashback, it is vital for you to know how to ground yourself so you stay in reality rather than get lost in the awful memory, which obviously is different than having a repressed memory return to the forefront of your mind.  Grounding techniques basically assault your senses, which forces your mind to focus on them instead of the flashback.  Touching something with an extreme texture such as a soft fuzzy blanket, silk or even burlap can help.  Some people swear by holding ice cubes or stomping their feet hard on the ground.  Smelling something with a strong scent can help too.  Lavender is good because not only is it strong, it has anti-anxiety properties.  A strongly scented cologne, perfume or soap can help.

 

I’ve found that pets can be very helpful while having a flashback, even if they aren’t specifically trained to be service animals.  While taking my cat, Sabrina, to the vet when she was a baby, I drove us past a place I used to work when I was a teenager.  Looking at the building, I immediately had a flashback to a time when my mother screamed at & berated me in the parking lot.  (Thankfully, I was stopping at a red light when it began- I can’t imagine having to deal with a flashback while driving!)  As I sat there & tried to ground myself, Sabrina reached over & scratched my hand.  Not bad, but it was enough to jolt me out of the flashback.  She’s never scratched me before or since, but I’m grateful she did that day. Her brother, Zippy, will get in my face & head bonk me to get my attention.  Neither are trained service animals, but they instinctively know what their mommy needs.

 

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Emotional Flashbacks & Sensory Flashbacks

Most people have heard of flashbacks, where you feel as if you are reliving a traumatic event.  It can be so difficult to tell reality from the awful memory during a flashback.  They are horrible, & I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.

But, this isn’t the only type of flashback.  Emotional flashbacks happen too.  They are when something triggers an overwhelming feeling in you.  For example- being late makes me feel tremendous anxiety & shame.  My mother would get me to high school at the last possible moment to show me she was in charge, telling me how lucky I was she would do this or anything at all for me, considering how awful I treated her.  It’s been almost 30 years since she did this yet anxiety & shame still kick into overdrive if I’m running late.

Other examples of emotional flashbacks are things like believing if you make a mistake it makes you bad or feeling shame if someone disagrees with you, or doesn’t like something you like.

There is also such a thing as a sensory flashback.  Sensory flashbacks are brought on by something that affects the senses.  For example, smelling a certain perfume or seeing a style of clothing like your narcissistic mother wore creates terrible anxiety in you.

Emotional & sensory flashbacks can be managed with the same methods used to manage regular flashbacks.  Grounding techniques can help you to get through it.  Use something to stimulate the senses, such as smelling something with a very strong scent, or touch something with a very coarse texture or even hold an ice cube.  Something that strongly stimulates at least one of your senses will force your mind to take notice, & help to loosen the flashback’s hold on you, keeping you in reality.  And, once it’s done, don’t forget to take care of yourself while you recover.  Flashbacks, even mild ones, can take a lot out of you.  You need to rest & pamper yourself to recover afterwards.

Although flashbacks can be extremely painful to experience, they also can be beneficial.  They show you what areas you need healing in.  I encourage you to try to use that awful flashback to help you in this way.  As you feel strong enough, face whatever issue came up & cope with it the best you can.  Pray- ask God to help you to heal.  Learn about ways to forgive your abuser, because you deserve to be happy, without carrying around anger or bitterness.  Learn ways to take care of yourself, to be the nurturer you never had.

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Anger Isn’t Always Bad

I just got myself a little ice cream. Rocky road, my favorite  🙂  Hubby brought it home probably close to a month ago by now.  I’ve been the only one eating it & it’s maybe 1/4 gone. Realizing that I haven’t been over indulging triggered a flashback.

 

When I was growing up, my mother would get candy bars at the grocery store, & often when we came home, she’d give one to my father, one to me then take one for herself.  Often, she forced me to take another one, then when I finally did, she’d call me a hog & give me a very creepy, maniacal smile.  It was so scary looking!  If I confronted her, she’d say “But it’s cute when I do it” & continue the scary smile.  I also had to eat the stupid candy bar or she’d have treated me even worse, more shaming.  I still flippin’ HATE Fifth Avenue candy bars because of her.  Not sure if they even make them- I’m not a big candy bar fan.  Gee, I wonder why??

 

It was kinda funny though.. for once, I realized how angry I am about what my mother did to me.  I also realized it wasn’t a bad thing.  I certainly have a right to be angry about this!  Not only did this awful behavior of my mother’s trigger a flashback (I sincerely hate them!), it’s things like this which are directly responsible for me having eating disorders in my younger days.  I wasn’t overweight growing up, but my mother consistently commented on my weight or my body.  She also very harshly criticized whatever I ate or didn’t eat.  Everything about me, my body, my looks & what I ate was wrong.

 

God’s been working with me on getting OK with my anger for quite a while. I’m never angry all that long, I forgive easily & I don’t get vengeful or cruel.  I’m not consumed with anger.  Also for quite a while now, I’ve envied those who say they don’t let things bother or anger them & felt guilty for not being so “good”,  being a bad Christian or even worse, proving my mother right when she said I have a terrible temper.  The Bailey temper, as she’s always called it.  According to her, the Bailey temper is the worst plague in all humanity, past or present.  So not being ashamed of my anger or feeling like it was misplaced or over the top was a breakthrough!

 

If you struggle with anger too, Dear Reader, please know you are not alone!  Many of us raised by narcissistic parents go through this.  Also, please know that feeling anger is human!  God gave people emotions so we are aware of things.  Joy means what you’re doing is a good thing- have fun with it!  Sadness helps us grieve when we lose someone we love.  Anger is a sign someone is mistreating us.  Emotions are God-given & there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of them, including anger!  It’s what you do with emotions that can be a bad thing.  Simply feeling anger isn’t bad at all.  Hurting someone in the heat of anger, however, that is bad.

 

So the next time you feel angry, feel it!  Don’t ignore your anger!  Ignoring or burying your anger only leads to problems.  Feel your anger.  Tell God what you’re feeling.  Journal about it.  Talk to a safe friend or relative.  Beat up some pillows if that helps.  Write angry letters you never send.  Find a safe way to get your anger out, & rest easy that your anger is not only normal, but God ordained.  There is nothing wrong with you for feeling angry for being mistreated!

 

Also once you get the anger out, know you’re going to be tired.  Emotional work can be very draining.  Take care of yourself.  Rest & relax.  Lay around & watch movies if that helps.  Do things that comfort you & make you feel nurtured.  It’s  good self-care to take it easy after any emotional work.

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The Butterfly Project

As many of you remember, I created The Butterfly Project a few months ago in a simple attempt to help offer inspiration & comfort to victims of narcissistic abuse, while also raising awareness of the horrors of narcissistic abuse.  I hope you have visited the website or follow the Facebook page, & have decided to participate!

 

I also created a twitter page.  You can visit it at: https://twitter.com/ButterfliesProj  Everything that posts to the Facebook page will publish on twitter now, so if you are one of those who doesn’t like Facebook, then I hope twitter will give you a new option for following the page!

 

If you haven’t visited The Butterfly Project, please take a few minutes to check out the website.  It explains in detail what the project is about.

 

Thank you for your time!  I hope you will consider joining me in this project!  It won’t cost you much money or take up much of your time, but the potential to help others is great!

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Does Your Narcissistic Mother Make You Sick?

I’ve been living with a sinus infection for longer than I care to admit.  Finally it seemed to be improving some.  It was wonderful not having a fever or sneezing & coughing every three seconds!

 

Then my narcissistic mother called.

 

As we were on the phone, I started coughing & sniffling more than I had in a while.  Not that she noticed, mind you.  By the time we hung up, I was feeling yukky.  I checked, & I had a slight fever for the first time in a while.

 

Later in the day I mentioned this to my husband.  He said “I’m not surprised.  Her calls often leave you feeling bad.”  I thought about it & he’s right.  I often hang up from her calls with a bad headache, a backache or if I’m already sick, my symptoms get worse.  It’s not a guarantee that every time I’ll feel bad, but it happens often enough.

 

Have you ever noticed if this happens to you too?

 

If it does, I would hazard a guess to say it’s normal.  Years ago, I read somewhere that many people who have experienced trauma or have PTSD have lower back pain with no physical cause.  In fact, 51% of people with PTSD fall into this category.  If dealing with people who have caused you trauma can cause back pain, why couldn’t it also cause you headaches or exacerbating symptoms of an illness you already have?

 

Honestly, I haven’t found a way to avoid this from happening.  Instead, I have decided that I have every right to avoid talking to her if I am not up to the possible physical problems it may cause me.  It is my right to protect my physical & mental health.

 

The same goes for you too, Dear Reader.  If your narcissistic mother makes you feel bad, either physically or mentally, you do NOT need to answer her calls or texts, or visit her if you don’t feel up to it.  I’m not saying cut all ties- certainly that’s an option & often a good one for narcissists, but that decision is entirely yours.  I won’t advocate going no contact or staying in contact,because no one should influence you on such an important & individual matter.  That being said though, limited contact is a good alternative if you are unable to go no contact or unsure if it’s the right solution for you.

 

Limited contact simply means what it sounds like- limiting the time you spend with your narcissistic mother.  Not answering her call every time she calls, not responding to her texts or emails right away & not spending a great deal of time with her- instead only doing so as you feel able to do so.  This is the option I’ve chosen with my mother & although it’s not a perfect solution (no such thing exists, especially with narcissists), it works pretty well for the most part.

 

I urge you to pray about it, Dear Reader.  If dealing with your narcissistic mother affects your physical & mental health, you certainly have every right to go limited contact with no guilt.  As I said earlier, you have the right to protect your physical & mental health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There Are No One Size Fits All Solutions

When people discover that what they have experienced is narcissistic abuse, they look for answers.  Some make the mistake of thinking there are obvious answers, but unfortunately, there isn’t any such thing.

 

Every narcissist is different.  Every victim is different.  There are also many gray areas when it comes to dealing with narcissists- very little is black & white.   As a result, what works for someone else may not work for you & vice versa.  You aren’t going to find anything that maps out your perfect way to healing yourself of ways to cope with a narcissists.  You have to try different things to figure out what works best in your situation.

 

An online friend & I were discussing this topic recently.  For her, understanding that her narcissistic mother was abused as a child didn’t help her in the least.  In fact, it seemed to make her angrier that her mother would take her issues out on her daughter.  While I get that, for me, learning my narcissistic mother was abused helped me to be more understanding & compassionate with her while still maintaining my healthy boundaries.  I was able to stay calmer than I once had around my mother.  I realized she was wounded & acting out of those wounds because she has no healthy coping skills.  Neither my friend nor I are wrong- we’re doing what works for us.

 

As an author who writes primarily about the topics of narcissism & narcissistic abuse, I have come to realize that as much as I want to help everyone who reads my work, I can’t.  The best I can do is explain what I have learned, talk about what works & doesn’t work for me, & discuss my experiences.  It’s up to each reader to glean from the books & articles what works for them.  Unfortunately, some will be disappointed that what I suggest doesn’t work for their situation.

 

And, ignore those who say things like, “*fill in the blank*  will work for you”.  It may work for you.  Hopefully it will.  But, it also may not work for you.  People who say they have the answers may, in fact, be narcissists themselves.  I realized that after reading a  blog about healing from narcissistic abuse some time ago.  The blogger wasn’t open to opinions other than her own.  She seemed to think what worked for her would work for everyone, & if you disagreed, you were wrong.  For example, no contact.  It was the only solution this blogger supported, & there were no excuses for not going no contact.  While that makes sense to a degree, not everyone is willing or able to go no contact.  What if the narcissist is low on the spectrum?  They may be hard to deal with but also tolerable.  Plus, going no contact is very hard, especially with your own parents.  Not everyone feels capable of going no contact.  Low contact may be a better option.  Still others live with their narcissistic parent & can’t afford to move out so again, no contact isn’t an option.

 

That is just one example.  There are other authors that are the same way- they believe they have all the answers & you need to listen to them.  Be careful whose advice you take when reading about narcissism!   If something seems off, trust that feeling.  Pray & ask God to show you who you can trust & who you can’t, & help you to get the information that will help you the most.

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Book Sale!

This time, my publisher is offering 15% off all print books & free mail shipping until June 12.  Simply use code COOKBOOK15 at checkout.

 

My books can be found at: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/cynthiabaileyrug

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Print Book Sale!

My publisher is offering a sale on all print books: $5 off any $20 or more purchase.  Simply use code NEWMOON at checkout. (code is case sensitive, so use all caps!)  Sale ends June 5 at midnight.

 

You can find my books at this link:

 

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/cynthiabaileyrug

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