Tag Archives: disorder

Never Justify Or Excuse Narcissistic Abuse

If you’re in the unenviable position of having a narcissist in your life on a regular basis, you have to do all you can to protect your mental health.  Narcissists do their level best to obliterate a person’s self-esteem & sometimes even their sanity.

 

One important way you can protect your mental health is not to make excuses for their bad behavior.

 

It might just be human nature, but people often want to justify someone’s bad behavior.  In many cases, that’s fine.  When someone cuts you off in traffic, maybe he didn’t mean to be a jerk, he was just in a hurry.  When your best friend snaps at you, it’s probably because her stressful job is getting to her- she didn’t mean to hurt you.  Small things like this it’s easy to forgive & forget.  They aren’t a big deal because the chances that person meant to upset or hurt you are virtually non existent.

 

With narcissists however, this isn’t the case.  Their entire existence revolves around getting narcissistic supply in any way they can.  If people are hurt in the process, so be it.  That doesn’t matter to a narcissist.

 

I used to make excuses for the behavior narcissists in my life.  As a child, I told myself my narcissistic mother was simply overprotective, not manipulative & controlling to an extreme.  When my father did nothing to protect me from her abuse, I told myself he just couldn’t do anything.  It’s not his fault.

 

It took me a long time, but I’ve finally accepted the truth- that there is no excuse for narcissists to behave as they do.  They know what they’re doing & if they didn’t, they wouldn’t work so hard to hide their behavior.  They also know the difference between right & wrong- they just don’t care.  Yes, these are some ugly truths, but they are also truths you need to accept about narcissists.

 

Making excuses for a narcissist’s behavior only benefits the narcissist, never a victim.  Excuses show the narcissist that you will tolerate their abuse without complaint & excuse it away.  This basically gives them the green light to do whatever awful things to you they want to do.

 

Excuses also imprint in your mind that you don’t have the right to speak up, that you must tolerate abuse, because the narcissist has a good reason for behaving that way.  This is absolutely NOT the truth, & you do NOT need to believe that it is!

 

Excusing a narcissist’s behavior is basically gaslighting yourself.  You’re lying to yourself, telling yourself the behavior is normal or understandable when it’s anything but.  You get enough gaslighting from the narcissist- don’t add to it by excusing her behavior.

 

Remember, Dear Reader, narcissists abuse for one simple reason- themselves.  They want narcissistic supply.  There is no excuse for that.  Don’t tell yourself otherwise!

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

Unusual Ways Anxiety Can Affect You

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.

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Physical Problems Can Change You

Those of you who have been reading my work for some time know that on February 27, 2015, I nearly died.  My fireplace’s flue had a problem & it caused carbon monoxide to enter my home.  It caused me to pass out, hitting my head on the logs beside the fireplace which gave me a concussion.  I easily could’ve died that day, but I didn’t.  I live with symptoms daily from the experience but my thinking has been especially odd to me.

 

My emotions & ways of thinking are different now than they were prior to my accident.  I have become much more self-centered in my thinking.  I firmly believe this is a side effect of the concussion, as many people I’ve seen who have experienced brain injuries become extremely selfish, some even narcissistic.  Thankfully I’m aware of it & do my best not to let it get out of hand.  I am also triggered VERY easily now.  Seeing a happy parent & child together saddens me, for example, because my relationship with my parents is so unhappy & downright toxic.  It’s very odd since I never thought that way before.  I also don’t lose my temper often, but when I do it is very ugly.  Even after 2 years, I’m still getting used to all of this.

 

I finally recently asked God about what is going on with me.  I’m hoping what He said will help some of you as well if you’ve experienced changes after a health scare.

 

Some health issues can change a person.  The chemical or physical changes caused by some illnesses or injuries can cause a person to respond differently than they once did.  Traumatic brain injuries & carbon monoxide are known for changing a person, but other illnesses & injuries can as well.  Many people experience depression after surgery, for example.  The changes you experience due to your physical problems may influence how your brain processes information.  In my case, my brain was already injured due to C-PTSD, & the concussion was just one more injury & one more trauma.  No wonder I’m triggered more easily now.

 

Becoming more selfish isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.  As long as it’s kept in check, it’s actually a good thing.  So many of us raised by narcissists learned early to put other people ahead of ourselves no matter what.  We need to become a bit more selfish & start taking care of us & without feeling guilty for it!

 

Everyone has a point where enough is enough.  When a person faces a serious health scare or near death experience, that may push the “enough is enough” point way up.  Something about coming close to death makes a person realize just how fleeting life is & how quickly it can end.  Often, that realization means patience for abusers vanishes & sometimes that filter that keeps you speaking nice things doesn’t always work.  You may not get mean, but you may become more blunt.  The realization also can make a person more determined to enjoy every possible moment of their life.

 

 

If you come from a narcissistic family, facing health problems means you have an additional complication to your health concerns.  Do you tell them?  If so, you know they won’t be there to help you if need be.. will they even care?  Can you deal with whatever cruelty they dish out to you on top of being sick?  Being faced with having to hide your problems or hear from your narcissistic parents about how much worse of *insert name here* has it than you are NOT nice prospects!  In fact, they hurt a great deal & they make you angry.

 

If you’re experiencing changes in your personality after illness or injury, talk to your doctors.  If nothing is physically wrong, then maybe you’re experiences are simply similar to mine.  Why not try to embrace the changes the best you can?  Maybe once you get to know the new you, you’ll think you’re pretty cool!  And maybe  too, the changes are for the best.  Losing patience for abusers is a good thing- you won’t be a doormat anymore!  Being more determined to enjoy life is a wonderful thing too.  You’ll  waste less time on fruitless things & spend more time on the things you enjoy & that are important to you.  I know it can be hard to find the good in health problems, but some things like I’ve mentioned in this article can be good.  They may be hard to get used to at first, but they really can be a good thing!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health

Do You Have High Functioning Anxiety?

Most people who live with anxiety are all too aware of the fact.  It’s hard to deny when panic or anxiety attacks strike.  Not everyone with anxiety has the obvious signs, however.  Some people experience a high functioning anxiety, which causes different things to happen.

 

People with high functioning anxiety can appear perfectly calm, but their minds are constantly racing with anxious thoughts.

 

They are often extremely busy, constantly doing something, even unimportant tasks.  “Busy work”.  Yet, they may ignore important tasks, allowing them to get backed up rather than admitting they need help.

 

These people hate to be left alone with their own thoughts.  They keep busy or surround themselves with people.  They also may get lost in TV shows often.

 

So how do you deal with this type of anxiety?

 

You learn to ask for help.  Yes, it’s hard, but you need to do it anyway.  No one can do it all by themselves.  Everyone needs help sometimes!  There’s no shame in asking for help.

 

Get proper rest.  Functioning on not enough sleep is bad for your health as well as anxiety levels.  Being tired makes you even more susceptible to bad anxiety.

 

Take breaks often so you don’t get exhausted.

 

Remind yourself that having anxiety doesn’t mean you’re a failure.  It means you’re human.  It isn’t something of which you need to be ashamed.

 

You also aren’t a failure if you need medication to manage your anxiety.  You wouldn’t feel bad if you needed to take insulin to manage diabetes would you?  Then why feel bad for needing anti anxiety medication?  Illness often requires medication, whether the illness is physical or mental.

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Is Narcissism Really A Disorder?

We all know the term Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but it doesn’t take long witnessing someone with it to wonder if it is truly a disorder.  The word “disorder” implies their behavior is beyond their control, such as in the case of someone with schizophrenia.

 

This term also makes victims of narcissistic abuse feel as if they can’t do anything to protect themselves or even be angry about what is done to them, because the narcissist’s behavior is beyond their control.

 

None of this really sits right with most victims, because we have seen the narcissist in our lives go from screaming lunatic to nice person when the “right” person came along.  I witnessed it with my mother growing up.  She could be screaming at me, telling me how worthless I was, until the phone rang.  She was normal on the phone, then after she hung up, could resume screaming at me.  Although she no longer screams at me, she still controls her behavior just as well.  She can say something incredibly hurtful to me then smile at the person who enters the room a moment later as if nothing happened.

 

Calling behavior like this, so clearly controlled & planned, a disorder always left a bad taste in my mouth.  It was great to finally have a name for what was being done to me, but disorder?

 

Thankfully I found an answer a while back in reading Dr. Karyl McBride’s facebook page.  (In case you don’t know, she wrote an incredible book on narcissistic mothers entitled, “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?”  I highly recommend it- it’s chock full of wisdom!)  She said that personality disorders are different than other mental disorders in that they describe a means of behavior rather than an actual physical illness.  For example, someone with PTSD has brain damage caused by trauma whereas someone with NPD is behaving in a dysfunctional way.  This means people with personality disorders can change their behavior if they desire to do so & learn healthier ways to behave, whereas someone with PTSD can’t change their behavior so easily (if at all) because their brains is physically damaged.

 

Interesting, no?

 

In a way, I found this information to be very freeing.  It means that my narcissistic mother’s behavior isn’t beyond her control & I really do have every right to set & enforce healthy boundaries.  It was also a bit discouraging learning that she could change if she wanted to, but she doesn’t want to.

 

The best way I have found to deal with this knowledge & the conflicting feelings that follow is this: I am grateful that the awful behavior has a name, because it means it isn’t my fault!  I didn’t make my mother abuse me, as she claimed.  I also didn’t force my ex husband to punch walls when he got mad at me.  These people have issues, & that isn’t my fault!  As for knowing they can change but refuse?  Well, that is their right.  Everyone has the right to live as they see fit, & some people make very bad choices in how they live.  Having that boundary in place will help you accept the fact that your narcissist may never change, while still hoping for it.  Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, as the saying goes.  Certainly pray they change & hope for it, as it does happen (albeit very rarely), while accepting the fact it may not.

 

And, never forget- you also have the right to protect yourself from abusive behavior however you believe is right for you to do.  Just as someone has the right to be abusive, you have the right to protect yourself.

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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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“You Can’t Blame Her Forever!”

So many  who grew up in happy homes tell those of us who didn’t that we can’t blame our abusive parents forever.  We have to take responsibility for ourselves one of these days!

 

While this sounds good, I have an issue with it.

 

Parents are responsible for raising their children.  Some do a wonderful job, putting a great deal of time & effort into making sure their children grow up happy, healthy & loved.  Other parents aren’t so good.  They tear down their child rather than build her up.   They expect their child to take care of them, rather than taking care of her as God intended.  They are so self-absorbed that they have no time or energy to devote to their child.  Some may not even meet the child’s basic needs such as food, clothing or shelter.  Others may use their child to meet their needs, & take their anger out on the child or sexually abuse her.  When parents behave in such ways, that child will grow up scarred, either physically or emotionally or both.

 

Abused children grow up with problems.  Some have lifelong injuries because of the physical or sexual abuse they survived at the hand of their parents.  Some have addictions due to their desire to escape the pain inside caused by their upbringing.  And often, many have PTSD or C-PTSD.

 

How can you not blame your abusive parent as long as you have such problems because of that abusive parent, especially when those problems interfere with your daily life even years later?!

 

I firmly believe that the abusive parent deserves 100% of the blame for the problems that he or she caused.  No one can do anything to deserve being abused!  Abusing is the responsibility of the abuser, never the victim.

 

That being said, the victim does have some responsibility.

 

It is the victim’s responsibility to heal as best she can from the abuse she endured.  It is up to the victim to seek help, to research or do whatever she needs to heal.  While some problems may be lifelong such as PTSD or C-PTSD, she certainly can learn ways to manage her symptoms.

 

It is also the victim’s responsibility to be sure that she doesn’t repeat the familiar patterns of abuse.  Sometimes those who were abused as children become abusers.  I don’t understand how this works exactly, but it is a pretty common phenomenon.  It is up to the victim not to allow this to happen!

 

It is up to the victim to learn & grow as a person, rather than stay the stifled person she was raised to be.  It is her responsibility to become the person God wants her to be, even when it clashes with what her abusive parents wanted her to become.

 

It is also the victim’s responsibility to forgive her abuser.   Mark 11:25 says,  “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  (ESV)  I know it is hard to forgive others, especially when they deliberately hurt you.  I know they don’t deserve your forgiveness.  However, I also know that you deserve better than to carry around bitterness & anger inside of you!  Don’t get me wrong- I don’t mean you need to forgive & forget.  That only sets you up for further abuse.  I am saying that you can, in time & with God’s help, release the anger you feel inside.  You will be so much happier for it!  Your health will benefit too, as repressed anger can create a myriad of physical & emotional health problems such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, heart problems, kidney problems & more.

 

Lastly, I believe it is also the victim’s responsibility to educate others & help to raise awareness.  For example, many people have heard the term narcissistic abuse, but do they really know what it means?  Probably not, so why not start a blog on the topic?  Write about your experiences or what you are learning as you heal.  If you wish, do so using a false name.  Writing the truth using your real name can be a scary prospect since you wonder if the abuser will learn about your writing.  I know- it honestly makes me very anxious sometimes that my parents will learn what I write about (as it is, they don’t have a computer, but they do have flying monkey relatives who do).  If you don’t feel confident in writing a blog, then what about checking into laws on the kind of abuse you endured?  Do you see where the laws need changing?  Then look into changing those laws!  Start petitions or create a website on the topic.  There are plenty of ways you can make your painful experiences count for something!

 

 

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

A Frequent Problem Among Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse

Recently I learned something very interesting & also useful for those of us affected by narcissistic abuse.  We are very prone to Cluster C personality disorders.

 

Cluster C personality disorders involve OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Avoidant Personality Disorder & Dependent Personality Disorder:

 

  • OCD involves obsessive, perfectionistic type thoughts.  We need consistency, organization & routine.
  • APD means we are so socially anxious, we avoid social interaction as much as possible.  We are deathly afraid of ridicule or criticism.  We also have very low self esteem.
  • DPD involves indecisiveness, the need for reassurance, clingy behavior, & a fear of being alone.

 

If this describes you, please know you are not alone.  After reading this information, I realized these disorders describe me very well.  I would feel very safe in assuming it’s not just me.  These traits describe so many of us who have experienced narcissistic abuse that I have talked to.

 

There is also one positive note in that personality disorders describe behavior, which means they can be changed.  Personality disorders describe a behavior rather than physical brain damage, so that means they can be changed.

 

So how do you change these dysfunctional & unhealthy behaviors?  In all honesty, I’m not really sure.  Since I just learned about Cluster C disorders, I really don’t know much about them just yet.  I do know, though, that God is the best place to start dealing with any problem.  Since I just learned this information earlier today, I plan to spend some time in prayer later today when I have some uninterrupted private time to try to figure out where to start.  I’m going out on a limb here to say I think God will want me to start with asking Him to tell me the truth.  “Do I really need to be so anxious around other people?  Is it right for me to be so perfectionisitic, so hard on myself?  What is the real truth in these situations?”  (as an example).  That is always a great place to start, listening to God tell you the truth.  He will, & His words are full of healing power.

 

I’m sorry I don’t have more information to share at this moment, but I will share as I learn.    Hopefully it will benefit you as well as me, Dear Readers!  xoxo

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Stop Hating Your Weaknesses!

If there is one thing most adult children of narcissists do, often even years into their healing, is berate themselves.  Any weakness or flaw is cause to tell themselves how dumb or clumsy they are.  God forbid they get sick or injured, because then they become useless in their minds.

 

I do it myself, in spite of telling people to give themselves a break, it’s not right, etc.  I’d always done this but it went into overdrive in 1990 when my mother threw me into a wall & hurt my back, causing me to need to quit working outside the home a few months later.  I felt useless, no longer being able to earn a paycheck.  In 1996 when agoraphobia developed, I felt even more useless since I couldn’t go out alone without panicking.  2002, I got arthritis in my knees & was limited a bit more as to what I could physically do.  2012, C-PTSD fully developed, making me feel even more useless.  Then in February, 2015, I suffered carbon monoxide poisoning which made me pass out & hit my head causing a concussion, & I felt more useless yet once again when I learned most likely many of my symptoms would be life long & were untreatable.

 

Recently I was telling myself how useless I was because of all of these things.  I said something to God about being useless.  I asked too why these things have happened?  I never wanted to be a housewife or work at home- I liked a couple of jobs I had a great deal & would’ve been quite happy making either of them into a career.  Instead I’m at home, not making a lot of money which means I’m also putting pressure on my husband financially.  This just sucks!!  God listened patiently & reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 which says:

 

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”  (MSG)

What a message!!!  It’s a great reminder that everyone has limitations & God will work through them, not just your strengths!   You are capable of great things because you are imperfect!  Even this blog post is evidence of God’s ability to work through weaknesses.  Normally, I jot notes down for posts I want to write, because my memory is so bad.  But this one, I didn’t.  I just asked Him to remind me to write it.  Not only did He remind me, He showed me what all to include in it.

 

Don’t get me wrong- there is certainly nothing wrong with asking God to heal you.  He wants what is best for you, & often that does mean healing your physical or mental health.  Sometimes though, there is a very good reason that you aren’t healed, & you certainly can ask God why.  Maybe like the apostle Paul, you could lose your humility if you were healed, failing to rely on God.  Or maybe there is another reason.

 

God told me in my case, I’ve worked VERY hard all my life.  Not as much working hard at a job, but working hard to appease the narcissists in my life (including anticipating their needs or how to deal with them the most effectively), keeping my emotions in control so as not to upset or “feed” them & trying to do everything perfectly so as not to be criticized or ridiculed.  Now, I have no choice but to rest.  My body & mind demand it often, & frankly… it feels good.  Until the carbon monoxide poisoning happened, I pushed through any illness or injury so as not to be lazy.  Growing up, my mother often said I was lazy & as an adult, I’ve always worked to prove I wasn’t.  Now?  I kinda am, & it’s OK!  My mind & body demand it, so I have to respect that in order to stay healthy.  Maybe your case is like mine, & you too need that rest after a lifetime of working hard.  Rather than feel badly about it, why not enjoy your rest?  Accept it as a well deserved rest rather than hating it.

 

Dear Reader, you are a valuable person.  God loves you a great deal & made you as you are for a reason.  It’s time to let Him work through you, weaknesses & all!

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

“You Don’t Look Sick”

I’ve been reading a lot lately about people who have a disease or mental illness, who have the handicapped plates on their car receiving nasty notes on their car that say awful things like “You don’t look sick.  Shame on you for using that parking place when someone who is really sick needs it!”  Or, others who have problems that don’t show outward signs are faced with family members & friends who don’t believe they’re actually sick.  These people are accused of things like looking for attention, faking it so they don’t have to work or even faking their illness so they can get certain drugs.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this myself.  Having C-PTSD, some people think is a walk in the park.  If only!  Try to handle a flashback when you have to focus every ounce of strength on staying in reality versus getting lost in the flashback & I dare you to tell me it’s no big deal.  Earlier this year, I’ve also been through getting a concussion when I passed out from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Each day is now a gamble on how functional I can be, because both have done damage.  But, since I look fine, & usually can hold a conversation fairly well, people assume I’m fine,  or some will flat out insult me when my symptoms show up.

It can be so hard not to internalize people’s cruel, thoughtless words!  All too often, I berate myself for being lazy when I don’t feel up to simple tasks or call myself stupid when I can’t remember things or can’t find the right words to express myself.  Internalizing such things demoralizes you & makes you doubt the legitimacy of your symptoms.  It can make you feel as if you’re crazy.

When I was 19, my mother threw me into a wall so hard, I had back pain for the next 10 years.  No one believed me, except for one chiropractor & my ex husband then later my current husband.  Everyone else said I was faking it, lazy, etc.  It sank in.  I doubted myself many times.  Even in the midst of awful pain, I thought I was making it up so I didn’t have to work (the most common thing I heard).  On good days when the pain wasn’t so bad, I was convinced I had to be lying & my back wasn’t so bad.  It was a terrible feeling!

The fact is, with most injuries, diseases & disorders, you have good & bad days.  Just because last Tuesday was a good day doesn’t mean you were lying about the other bad days!  You simply had a good day!

Most people seem to lack empathy for those suffering from debilitating health problems.  If you are one of them, STOP IT!  How do you think you would feel if you had a serious problem & someone  told you to get over it, stop faking it or even you don’t look sick?  You wouldn’t tolerate it happily, so why should someone else?

If you are someone who has been on the receiving end of such ignorant, heartless statements, please remember that the person saying such nonsense has no idea what you live with each day.  Ignore what they say.  You know what you live with on a daily basis.  You know your painful symptoms all too well.  Ignore their words & believe what you see & feel, what you live with daily.  Those things will show you that you are sick & that you aren’t lazy, faking, etc.  While you take care of yourself, don’t forget to ask God to heal you.  And, pray for the heartless person as well.  Ask God to help them to have an empathetic, compassionate heart so they don’t continue to hurt you or other people.

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Filed under Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health

Do You Apologize For Having Problems?

In talking with a lady I just met about her traumatic brain injury, I realized we share something else in common.  We both feel the need to hide our injuries & apologize for whatever symptoms we can’t hide.

I think this is a very common phenomenon for adult children of narcissistic parents to apologize for their issues as well as those with the so-called “invisible illnesses” such as mental illness, fibromyalgia, & arthritis.

Why is that?  Why would anyone feel the need to apologize for things that are beyond their control?  I think there are a couple of potential reasons.

One reason is people are often uncomfortable with unpleasant things.  They often respond inappropriately & without empathy.  They may make jokes in an attempt to lighten the mood or change the subject, but whether they intend it or not, it feels as if they are making fun of your illness or troubles.  It’s impossible to feel safe with people who do that, & often easier to hide your symptoms or apologize for the ones you can’t hide in an attempt to pretend you don’t have the problem.

Another reason is so many people seem to think if you don’t have obvious, glaring symptoms like a 5 pound tumor on your face, you can’t be too bad off or you’re faking your problem.  For example, I had awful back problems for 10 years after my mother threw me into a wall when I was 19.  I had better days sometimes where I could deal with the pain enough to wash my car or do other somewhat physical things.  Since I could do things sometimes, people thought I was faking my injury.  I learned quickly it was easiest to hide my pain rather than hear the nasty comments.

Many illnesses don’t affect your appearance, & if you don’t look obviously sick, many people assume you don’t have a problem.  I’ve experienced carbon monoxide poisoning which gave me plenty of lasting problems, but if you look at me, I look healthy.  You’d never know that I live with symptoms of it daily if you spend only a short amount of time with me.  Any time though reveals I stumble over words when speaking, have virtually no short term memory & get very tired, very easily.  When that happens, sometimes people insult me saying I’m old or dumb.  It’s easier for me to hide the symptoms or apologize if they show up.

Mental illness is its own special entity.  So many people believe having a mental illness means you’re weak.  You need to pick yourself up by your bootstraps!  Shake it off!  Let it go!  Stop wallowing in the past!  If you just did those things, you would be fine.  They fail to realize many mental illnesses are exactly that- illness.  You can’t just shake off illness.  Your brain is actually broken.  Many people refuse to believe this, unfortunately, which means it’s easier to hide your symptoms than to risk showing any & hearing about how weak you are.

And still other people who have experienced their own life threatening illness seem to think if you haven’t experienced what they have, you haven’t got a problem.  I knew 2 ladies who both went through cancer several times each.  One had a generous, loving heart, & understood that although cancer was terrible, there were other serious problems in the world.  The other, however, whatever your problem, she would tell you (or at the least imply) to be glad you didn’t have cancer, as if it was the only real problem or real illness anyone could have & nothing else mattered.

I know these types of situation are painful, & wanting to hide or apologize for your symptoms is a very natural reaction.  But I want to encourage you today, Dear Reader, to stop doing that like I am going to try to do.  Your illness or its symptoms are nothing to be ashamed of.  You have nothing to apologize for, either.  The person who makes you feel that way is definitely the one with the problem, not you.

While I’m encouraging you to stop hiding your symptoms, I also would encourage you to have balance in what you discuss.  People who discuss mostly one topic, in particular the awful disease or disorder they suffer with, tend to put off others, even those with great empathy.  It can be frustrating for a person who wants to have a relaxing conversation or even look for support regarding their problems to be forced to listen to someone who drones on & on about their condition every single time they speak.  It’s not good for either person.  The listener gets frustrated, may say hurtful things in their frustration or even end the relationship.  The talker is so focused on something negative (their disease or disorder) that they ignore the more positive, good parts of life, which can lead to depression.  The talker also ends up hurt because they feel rejected when the listener is obviously tired of hearing about their condition.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health