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When you have experienced trauma in your lifetime, in particular repeated trauma, it’s going to affect you. Some expected signs of trauma in a person are things like depression & anxiety. There are a host of other, lesser known signs that can be extremely disruptive to a person’s life.
Hyper-vigilance may be the most common sign of trauma in a person’s life. It happens often in a person who has lived with their abuser, such as the child or spouse of the abuser. Living with an abusive person means you must be on your guard at all times, so you don’t do anything that upsets the abuser. That hyper-vigilant behavior often stays with a person long after they have ended the relationship with their abuser. It also leads to a host of other problems.
Physical pain in victims of abuse is often a sign not of an injury or illness, but of having experienced trauma. In particular, this pain often manifests in the neck & back. This is due to living in a hyper-vigilant state for an extended period of time. Hyper-vigilance causes your body to be in a state of not only emotional but physical stress, & that can cause physical pain in spite of there being no injury.
An extreme startle response is also caused by having to be in a state of hyper-vigilance. It manifests as being drastically more startled than you would expect to be in a specific situation. This startle response often cause anger or even tears in the startled person.
Sleep disturbances is another common sign of trauma in a person’s life. Nightmares that either relive the trauma or trigger emotions similar to those experienced during traumatic episodes happen often. Waking up often during the night or struggling to fall asleep in spite of doing things to help even including taking sleep aids are also common. Some people can wake up throwing punches, because they are so accustomed to protecting themselves. This happens with those suffering from PTSD who have served in the military or those in law enforcement.
Being too busy is a trauma response that many people employ. These people will keep themselves as busy as possible during their waking hours. They work long shifts, participate in many activities & rarely take time to just rest, even when they’re sick. They do this as a way to avoid facing their pain. If they don’t have time to think, they also don’t have time to think about their pain.
Similar to being too busy is losing yourself in activities. Staring at social media or watching tv for hours is another way to escape facing pain by focusing attention elsewhere. While neither is bad, doing so for hours on end is unhealthy, especially if the one doing so is unable to stop.
Eating disorders can be another sign of unresolved trauma. It is a way to regain some control when a person feels like they have no control otherwise.
Avoiding places & people that remind a victim of past trauma are more trauma responses. No one wants to face reminders of pain, of course, but those who have been through extreme trauma will go to great lengths to avoid it.
Avoiding conflict is very common in those with traumatic pasts. When abuse happens during conflict instead of dialog designed to work things out, it instills fear in a person about conflict with anyone, not only the abuser.
If you recognize yourself in some or even all of these symptoms, hope is not lost! The more you deal with the trauma in your life, the more these unhealthy patterns will break. Not overnight, but they will happen. Keep working on your healing however works for you. Pray, write in a journal, talk to a supportive friend or therapist… whatever you do that helps you, keep on doing it even if you don’t feel like you’re making progress. Healing isn’t a simple thing. Sometimes it looks like nothing is improving, then suddenly you make big progress. Other times, you’ll slip back into old, dysfunctional habits. It’s ok! It’s just a part of the healing journey. Don’t give up!
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I recently realized something that I’ve been living with for my entire life is most likely a symptom of narcissistic abuse. It never occurred to me before, so I started researching it & found absolutely nothing on this topic. All I can share with you is my personal experience, nothing I learned from anyone or anything else.
Many of you who know my work know I survived Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in 2015. As a result, I live with symptoms of that & a Traumatic Brain Injury from either the oxygen deprivation to my brain during the poisoning or the concussion I most likely got from hitting my head when the poison made me pass out or a combination of both. I don’t discuss these symptoms much partly because I don’t want to sound like either my mother or mother in-law who used their health problems to gain attention. I also doubt my problems in spite of the glaring evidence that something is wrong. Sometimes I think I’m exaggerating or even faking it in order to get attention like them. And, I don’t want to “bother” anyone with my trivial problems.
I know how ridiculous this sounds. How can I think that way when I know better than anyone else just how difficult my life is because of the symptoms? And for attention?! I minimize them to everyone, including myself. As far as burdening anyone, I’m not one to ask for help easily so I of all people should know if I want to ask for help, it’s very necessary. I know all of this, yet these thoughts are still there. Why?!
Suddenly it hit me. These thoughts are there because of narcissistic abuse!
Growing up, my illnesses & injuries were taken as an inconvenience. My mother could be nice to me when I was sick or hurt. A part of me looked forward to being sick or hurt for that reason. But, she would remind me even years later how much of a burden it was when I was sick. The older I got, however, the less likely it was she’d be nice to me when those things happened. In fact, I never missed a single day of high school even though there were days I really should have stayed home.
When I was 19, as I’ve mentioned before, my mother & I got into a physical fight & she threw me into a wall. I am reasonably sure she wanted to kill me that night. I lived with awful back pain for 10 years after that. No doctors believed I was injured & my mother was convinced I was faking it. Looking back now, I think the pain was due to the emotional trauma rather than any physical injury, because when I get extremely stressed, my back aches in that same location. At the time however, I didn’t realize this, & thought if even the doctors think I’m faking it, maybe I am.
As an adult, other people haven’t believed me when something was wrong or acted as if my pain was nothing but an inconvenience to them. My ex husband being the worst of them, but there were others too.
I believe the years of being accused of faking problems led me to doubt myself, & think that I am faking whatever problems I have, unless there is undeniable proof. I realized this recently when I learned one problem I have is a common symptom of brain injuries. It should have simply been eye opening but instead it made me happy because here is proof that something is wrong! I’m not faking it!
I also realized I hide so much from my husband because I don’t want to burden him, & I don’t feel I have the right to expect his help when I need it. Pretty ridiculous, really. He should help me if I need it! That is what spouses do for each other!
It occurred to me that if I experience this with my own health problems, then others who have endured narcissistic abuse probably do too. That is why I wanted to share this with you today. You’re not alone & you’re not crazy! I totally understand!
Unfortunately as of yet, I don’t know of any ways to change this dysfunctional thinking, but if I come up with anything, I definitely will talk about it in the future. In the meanwhile, please know I understand & am praying for you!
Have you ever heard of executive dysfunction? As the name describes, this is when executive functions don’t work properly. Executive functions are cognitive & mental abilities that enable us to accomplish things. They help us by directing & controlling our behavior, planning, prioritizing as well as giving motivation.
Executive functioning is higher level cognitive functioning. Some examples are:
Anyone can experience executive dysfunction periodically, in particular when overly stressed or tired. That is entirely normal. It becomes abnormal when executive dysfunction interferes with daily life. Difficulty with decision making, concentrating, organization & low motivation are some examples.
Executive dysfunction is often caused by brain damage. Traumatic brain injuries, dementia & Alzheimer’s disease are known causes, but mental illness can cause it as well. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression & Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are known to cause it as well.
PTSD is another mental illness that can cause executive dysfunction, & that is the reason I felt it necessary to discuss executive dysfunction.
May of us who struggle with PTSD or C-PTSD also struggle with executive dysfunction, yet are unaware that was what our problem is. It doesn’t help that those in our lives call us lazy, tell us we need to get out more often or offer other equally useless & unsolicited advice. Useless or unsolicited, it still can take a toll on the self esteem especially since it’s already been so damaged thanks to the narcissists in our lives.
Those of you who have been down this road, I want to let you know today that you aren’t lazy! There is something wrong with you & it’s not your fault that you have this problem! Your brain has been broken due to the trauma or traumas you have experienced. Brain damage in any capacity is no joke! It’s a horrible thing!
Brain damage is also not something you can fix easily, like a broken bone. Brain damage may heal completely or it may not heal at all, no matter what you do or don’t do. The brain is a very unique organ & very unpredictable in how it responds to injury, trauma & even healing. I’m not telling you this to make you lose hope. I’m telling you this so you can be realistic in what to expect.
With the symptoms of executive dysfunction, you can learn ways to work with your symptoms.
Set up a routine & stick to it. Not so much you become rigid about it because there will be times you need to change it. Even so, having a set schedule takes some pressure off because you know what you need to do each day. It becomes a habit, so it’s easy to remember over time, too.
Use a calendar app on your phone to help you remember appointments & tasks that are out of the ordinary. One with alarms is especially helpful.
Utilize sticky notes & to do lists to help you to stay organized.
When motivation strikes, use it! There tend to be more days without it than with, so when it happens, use it to the best of your ability.
Executive dysfunction isn’t easy to live with I know, but you can learn ways to cope!
When a person faces serious health problems, they change & not only physically. Their personalities change, too. That is normal. Sometimes the personality changes can be very bad.
A dear friend of mine lost her husband some time ago after caring for him for several years. Not long before he died, she told me some very disturbing things about his behavior. This once good, kind, loving man was suddenly exhibiting many narcissistic traits. In particular, he didn’t want his wife to be with other people, including their children. It was bizarre since narcissism doesn’t suddenly show up, like when you catch a cold. The more we talked about things, the more I thought of something…
After I survived Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, the hospital gave me no information & even said my elevated carbon monoxide levels “weren’t so bad.” They also said I had no brain injury in spite of showing many signs of a concussion from hitting my head when I passed out. The hospital said I could return to work two days later, but by that time, I still felt just as miserable as I did when I left the hospital. I was lost, so I started researching my condition. I also joined a traumatic brain injury group on Facebook. I noticed immediately most people in the group showed a LOT of narcissistic tendencies & were very insecure. I left the group quickly, but I realized something. I was starting to behave much as they were! I wanted my husband to be with me non stop & was very annoyed he wasn’t. I knew he had demanding, elderly parents with health problems, plus a full time job which all left him exhausted much of the time, but even so, I was annoyed he didn’t spend more time with me. Realizing how selfish I was behaving was a real wakeup call!
I told my friend about my experiences plus what I witnessed in that group & in time, we realized what happened with her husband was much like what happened to me.
The reason I’m sharing this is so many people are affected by serious health concerns either in themselves or in those they love. Whether you are the person with the condition or someone you love is, it’s vital to understand that serious health problems can change someone’s personality drastically. The condition doesn’t even need to be something that affects one’s brain directly like Alzheimer’s, stroke or traumatic brain injury for this to happen.
When you become seriously sick or injured, you become scared. Even if you’re getting the best of care & have a great prognosis, health problems are terrifying.
Add in that you can’t do things you once took for granted & are forced to rely on other people for help. That too can make you feel afraid, especially for the person who has always been self reliant, & is a serious blow to the self esteem.
Having to rely on other people also can make you feel like a burden, which unsurprisingly is terrible for one’s self esteem.
Feeling like a burden can make you feel that you need to put your best face forward & not show others just how miserable you feel or how much you’re struggling. There is a very difficult balance in this situation. If you act as if your symptoms aren’t as bad as they are, or not happening at all, people often think you’re faking the health crisis. But, if you are honest about it, people often think you’re exaggerating your symptoms, feeling sorry for yourself or looking for attention.
Feeling insecure & afraid naturally change a person. Many people get angry. Many others talk about their illness non stop in an effort to educate people, which often alienates them because people get tired of hearing about this topic. Most people though seem to become insecure, some even to the point of displaying narcissistic tendencies.
If you are the person who is ill & behaving this way, please work on healing! You are only hurting yourself & those around you! I know it’s hard but you can change! Watch your behavior, & change it accordingly. Apologize when you mistreat someone or have unfair expectations on them. Stop expecting people to meet your needs & focus on God to do that.
If you are the person in a relationship with someone who is behaving this way, remember, you can’t change their behavior. They have to change themselves. But, you aren’t helpless. You need to have good boundaries in place & enforce them. Talk to this person & explains that their behavior hurts you. Non-narcissistic people will respond to that! I know it seems hard to believe if you’ve dealt with a narcissist, but it’s true. Remind yourself that their behavior isn’t personal. It’s their illness making them act this way rather than something you are doing wrong.
Whichever position you are in, remember to stay close to God. Nurture that relationship. That is what will help you more than anything else!
Most of us have used terms like, “That drives me crazy!”, claimed something gave us a “panic attack” when all it did was startle us, or even described a moody person as being “bipolar” even though that moody person wasn’t diagnosed with the disorder. Phrases like this have been part of the way people talk for God only knows how long.
I believe there is a problem with using these phrases though. By using these phrases so freely, they dilute very serious mental health disorders.
Claiming something drives you crazy makes insanity sound like an annoyance rather than a serious mental problem.
Panic attacks are also much more than being startled. They can feel like you’re having a heart attack. They are physically & mentally debilitating. After I have one, I feel very emotionally drained & exhausted for quite some time after.
Saying a moody person is bipolar makes Bipolar Disorder seem much less serious than it is. Those with Bipolar Disorder aren’t simply moody. Manic episodes can involve some very risky & even dangerous behavior. The down side is seriously bad as well. The depression can be so severe as to include suicidal ideation.
If you think I am over thinking this situation, then consider this. As a victim of narcissistic abuse, doesn’t it offend you when someone carelessly describes someone’s selfish behavior as narcissistic? You have seen narcissistic behavior up close & personal. You are all too aware that it is extremely different than someone doing something without thought or consideration of other people. It is more than selfishness. It is abusive, malicious, cruel & dangerous to your mental & physical health. Lumping someone who simply was thoughtless in a momentary lapse of judgment in the same category as someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is deeply offensive to anyone who has seen the unmasked narcissist first hand.
I really don’t think most people are being malicious when they say something “drives them crazy” or some other phrase related to mental illness. These phrases have become so common place, no one really thinks twice when saying or hearing them. They simply have become an everyday part of our vernacular. The problem with that is over time, very subtly, they reduce the meaning of real & serious mental disorders. Sometimes, even make them laughable. This just should not be the case!
If you realize you use such phrases, please reconsider doing so. On behalf of my fellow “crazy” people, I ask you to stop it. I know what I live with having C-PTSD & there is nothing laughable or trivial about it. Having to fight your own mind to get through the day is serious & an incredibly difficult way to live. It isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy. Having my mental health trivialized or turned into the butt of a joke is insulting.
What makes this situation even worse is mental illness is seldom believed. If a person wears a cast on their leg, people see this person obviously broke their leg. They offer that person sympathy. Mental illness doesn’t have a glaring piece of physical evidence that is undeniable proof of the mental illness. Those who suffer with it often aren’t taken seriously because they look “normal.” Living with that then the trivialization of our illness is extraordinarily hard. Proverbs 18:21 says the tongue has the power of life & death. Please remember that & choose your words wisely!
2 Timothy 1:7 in the Amplified Bible says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” It can be so hard to remember that God has given us a healthy mind sometimes! Having lived with many symptoms of C-PTSD for as far back as I can remember then almost all since 2012, there have been more times than not that I have doubted that very Scripture. Clearly I’m not proud of that but it’s true. Waking up during panic & anxiety attacks, the way sometimes anxiety runs roughshod over logic & the crippling agoraphobia I lived with for well over 20 years can make that happen.
If you can relate, then you too may be controlled by a spirit of fear as I have been. There are ways you can identify if this is indeed the problem or not.
Do you have the urge to hide from everyone, even God? Fear can become a self made prison, creating the urge to avoid everyone. Most introverts are fine with plenty of alone time but even so, fear can make even the most die hard introvert spend too much time away from other people & become lonely. It also can make even the most devoted Christian pray less & less.
Is your faith becoming weak? If so, you may be living with a spirit of fear. Fear can create a hindrance for believing in what God has to say. It can make you think irrational thoughts such as all of those promises in the Bible aren’t for you, that God meant them for other people. It can make you doubt the call on your life to the point of not following through with it. It also can make you forget what you know the Bible says or what God has spoken to you.
Fear can consume your thoughts. When fear takes over, all you can think about is the issue that makes you afraid. You neglect relationships, doing a good job at work, caring for children & pets & more.
Fear can skew your judgment. Because fear is so tormenting & miserable, you can become desperate for a way out. This means you may listen to people you normally wouldn’t listen to for advice. You may consider or actually do things you know you shouldn’t do.
If you can relate to these, then you may be operating under the control of a spirit of fear. Don’t lose hope though! You don’t have to live this way any longer!
To start, refocus on God. Read your Bible more often. Subscribe to a daily devotional or Bible in a year email. Listen to Christian music that makes you feel close to God & do it often. Ask Him for help whenever you feel fear. And when you don’t, thank Him & ask Him to help you to live with this type of peace more often.
Consider your situation logically. Ask yourself why this situation makes you so afraid. Is there a valid reason to feel fear? Can harm come to you or someone else? Doing this can help you refocus & accept that there is no real reason to be scared.
Force yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes. It really will help you to have more self confidence which will in turn reduce the amount of fear you feel. When my mother died & I learned I was her personal representative, I didn’t think I could do it. I had no choice though. I legally couldn’t pawn the duties off on anyone else. I literally had to force myself to do things that were miles out of my comfort zone. I did them though. I tried to reward myself almost every time I did something, too. It didn’t have to be anything big. I like driving while listening to good music so I would take a long route home & just enjoy the music. Sometimes I picked up dinner rather than cook. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone helped me to gain more & more confidence, & the rewards helped to cement good feelings in my mind. Try to do the same! Start small & do bigger, scarier things as you feel able, & don’t forget to reward yourself after for a job well done!
In time, you can stop living with that spirit of fear & start living with the sound mind that God has given you!
Experiencing trauma, in particular repeated trauma forces people to develop certain responses in order to cope with their horrific experiences. Many people waver between two or even more of the four trauma responses, but usually people use one much more than others.
Some people favor the flight trauma response over the other three options. This basically means their instinct during a traumatic event is to do anything they can to avoid the trauma. If they can run away, they will. During a traumatic event, someone who favors the flight trauma response but cannot escape will be pretty easy to identify. They are clearly anxious, which means their breathing is shallow & rapid. They may be restless, and this shows by tapping their feet or fingers. Their eyes dart around, looking for a means of escape.
In situations where traumatic experiences are repeated, such as in cases of child abuse, some long term problems develop from using this trauma response over & over again. Flight is used as a coping mechanism, & it manifests in many ways. Workaholism, perfectionistic ways, micromanaging others, the need to keep busy constantly, obsession with video games, endlessly surfing through channels or social media, & other avoidance type behaviors can be signs of someone who has experienced the flight trauma response regularly. These behaviors are designed to keep someone from thinking about past trauma. There are other signs too, such as anxiety disorders, constant worrying, inability to relax, hyper-activity & being overly analytical.
Like other trauma responses, it is understandable a person could react this way to trauma & behave this way after repeated triggers of their flight response. That doesn’t make the behavior healthy, however. Being constantly on the go whether it is mentally or physically takes a toll on a person’s mental & physical health. Changes need to be made & they can be!
As always I recommend prayer to start. Ask God to guide you, to help you to behave in a healthier way & anything else you can think of.
Look at your life. What is unhealthy? Are you constantly working eighty hour workweeks? Spending every free moment playing video games? Do you feel as if you must stay busy every waking moment? These are some examples of red flags. It also may help to ask those people who are closest to you for their thoughts as well.
Once you have identified the problem areas in your life, then figure out a plan on how to make appropriate changes. Cut back on hours spent at work if at all possible, or find another job. Set times for certain activities & stick to the limits.
Lastly, it will help you tremendously to finally face what you have been avoiding. I know it’s hard! I know it’s scary! I also know that until you do this & focus on healing & becoming healthier, any changes you make most likely will be temporary. Emotions demand to be dealt with, & if they aren’t dealt with in a healthy way, they will manifest in unhealthy ways. You’re going to suffer from the pain of the trauma or of the pain of the unhealthy manifestations of your emotions. Why not make the pain count & focus on your healing? At least that way, the pain will end & you will be much happier & healthier for it.
Experiencing trauma, in particular repeated trauma forces people to develop certain responses in order to cope with their horrific experiences. Many people waver between two or even more of the four trauma responses, but usually people use one much more than others.
During traumatic experiences, those who exercise the fight response do exactly as you would expect. They fight. They are obviously angry, they will cry, ball up their hands into fists, their jaws will be clenched tightly, & they look ready to attack anything that is in reach. Sometimes they do, usually punching walls or slamming doors.
Clearly this type of trauma response can be useful. If someone is afraid of you, they aren’t going to attack or abuse you. Unfortunately though it can backfire, & in particular with children with narcissistic parents. When a young child gets angry at their narcissistic parent, that parent won’t tolerate that. Narcissists want their children to show no emotions whatsoever, & anger at the narcissist’s abusive ways is the least tolerated emotion. Narcissists expect everyone, in particular their children, to tolerate their abuse indefinitely & without complaint. Standing up to a narcissist says their behavior is wrong & won’t be tolerated, which creates a narcissistic injury. In other words, their pride is damaged when they are told their behavior is anything less than perfect. Often narcissistic parents step up their abuse in these situations. These children learn not to show anger towards their parents, & often take it out on innocent victims.
The repeated use of this trauma response can cause many problems that last into adulthood. Some problems are the inability to handle anger in a healthy way, a quick temper, becoming a bully, becoming controlling & sometimes even becoming narcissistic or showing some narcissistic tendencies while not being a full blown narcissist. It seems to me these behaviors are all about having some control &/or hurting others before the angry person can be hurt.
This sort of behavior doesn’t have to be permanent though! With effort & time, you can develop healthier habits!
As always, I highly recommend starting with prayer. Ask God to help you change, to show you what you need to do & anything else you can think of.
You will need to accept that you don’t have to control or bully others, too. Remember, even God doesn’t control people. If anyone has that right, it’s the Creator of the universe! If He won’t do it, what makes you think you have the right to do so?
It will help to consider other people more often, too, not only yourself. Consider others when you make decisions, when you make plans, when you speak. Consider their wants & needs, too. What do those close to you want & need? How can you help to meet those needs & wants?
When you feel yourself getting angry, stop. Take a deep breath & release it slowly. This will help to calm your body & mind, & that will allow you to think clearly about the situation. When you think clearly rather than simple react, you may realize the situation isn’t really worth being angry about like you thought it was at first.
Also please know that you are going to need to heal from the events that created this behavior in you in the first place. I know it’s a scary thing, but you need to face those things in order to heal. I promise you, it WILL be worth it!
The lasting effects of an overused fight trauma response don’t need to be such a big part of your life. While it did help you survive for some time, & can be a useful tool, there are clearly many negatives! You can make healthy changes & live a happier life!
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Many people realize the truth will set you free. They know that even the ugly, painful truth is always better than a pretty lie, & no matter how much it may hurt, always aim for truth in their lives.
Then there are other people who are nothing like that. They prefer pretty lies any day. They excuse the bad behavior of others readily & deny those people have done anything wrong. These people are practicing something called willful ignorance.
Willful ignorance is a legal term which basically means a person has made a poor decision to circumvent information as a way for people to avoid making uncomfortable decisions. On a more personal note, it is the avoidance of information or evidence that would force a person to face something unpleasant.
One of the best examples of this came from my personal life. As I’ve written about before, at the time my father was dying, I had been no contact with him for several months. My family attacked me via any means possible daily, trying to force me to go say goodbye to him. Every time I would block one means, they’d find another. I finally asked God why. One of the things He said was that me staying away meant I was proving that not everything was ok. If I would have gone, that would have shown them that my father was the great guy they wanted to believe he was. I was threatening their willful ignorance.
This also happens in cases where a person is abused by their parent, spouse, in-laws, etc. & other people refuse to believe it rather than get involved & try to protect the victim.
While it is certainly understandable to avoid painful things, willful ignorance is incredibly dysfunctional. It sets people up for disappointment & unnecessary suffering because they refuse to acknowledge the warning signs most people see. It hurts those closest to those who engage in this behavior because they are helpless to help the person they love. These people are so devoted to their dysfunction that they will ignore what the person who loves them says, & will fight with them to protect their denial.
It is so hard being in this situation, whether you are the one practicing willful ignorance or the one who loves someone who practices it.
If you are the one practicing it, please stop! I know the truth can be scary & painful, but by avoiding facing that, you’re hurting yourself, not helping yourself. You need to know that God loves you & will help you to face whatever needs facing. If you have trouble with that due to having an abusive parent figure in your life, He understand that too! Be honest & tell Him just how you feel. It’s ok! I can promise you, He won’t cast you into hell or strike you down with a lightening bolt. He will gently help you to see you can trust Him which will help you to start facing the painful things you must face.
And, if you are someone who loves a person who is willfully ignorant, I want you to know that God understands your pain & frustration. Ask Him to show you how to support our loved one in a healthy way. He will! Don’t get sucked into the dysfunction either. Stick to the truth & don’t let this person convince you of their false beliefs. Keep your boundaries in place & protect yourself from the dysfunction of this situation. This person has the right to engage in their dysfunction to their heart’s content, but you also have the right to engage in healthier ways. Part of that means protecting yourself & not getting involved in their dysfunction.
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Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The name implies that narcissistic behavior is an actual mental illness, doesn’t it? It sounds like narcissists cannot control their behavior because something is actually broken in their brains, much like with schizophrenia, PTSD & other mental illnesses.
This “disorder” thing didn’t sit right with me when I first started to learn about NPD. I also thought about my parents & ex husband. They all were very good at controlling themselves. I remember my mother screaming at me when I was a teenager, as she did daily for quite some time. Then, the phone rang, & she spoke with the caller in a normal voice as if nothing happened. My father convinced everyone he was a nice, simple country boy rather than the controlling manipulator he was behind closed doors. My ex? When we argued, he would push me to the point of yelling as he sat calmly saying the cruelest things imaginable, & annihilating my self esteem.
Even so, I thought since narcissism was classified as a disorder, that meant my observations must be wrong. Obviously disorder means they can’t help the way they act, right?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is part of the cluster B group of personality disorders that also include Borderline, Antisocial & Histrionic Personality Disorders. A few years ago, I read on Dr. Karyl McBride’s Facebook page that personality disorders are dysfunctional behaviors rather than a broken brain, if you will. Someone with Schizophrenia, for example, has a physical problem with their brain. They display bad behaviors but they are beyond the person’s control. That can’t be said for someone with NPD. All it takes is watching a narcissist for a short time when you realize that that person can control their actions VERY well.
This difference probably doesn’t sound overly important to you, but it actually is. The difference means you treat someone who is narcissistic different than someone with Schizophrenia, PTSD, depression or another mental illness. This isn’t only because the symptoms vary so greatly, but because of the nature of the problems.
Although chances are someone with mental illness will hurt you at some point, it won’t be intentional. It will be because their illness made them behave a certain way. They may not even be aware of hurting you if their illness is quite severe. Once made aware of what happened, they will apologize & try not to repeat the hurtful behavior.
Narcissists are very different. When they hurt you, you can guarantee they had a distinct reason for it, & they are glad they did it. They enjoy hurting other people at worst, & feel absolutely nothing for it at best. If they are confronted about their behavior, they may apologize, but it will be a non-apology, such as, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” or, “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” You also can bet on the fact that the hurtful behavior will happen again once they know just how much it upset you.
Due to such vast differences in the way they respond when they have done something wrong or even abusive, you need to treat each person differently. The mentally ill person deserves mercy if they are trying to behave better. The narcissist isn’t going to try, so rather than “forgive & forget”, it’s best to protect yourself. Set & enforce strong boundaries instead. Give them almost no personal information. Learn about the Gray Rock Method.
If you buy into the lie that the disorder in Narcissistic Personality Disorder means they can’t help their behavior, you might pity them & tolerate the abuse. Never forget that personality disorders describe a dysfunctional behavior rather than a person with a sick brain, & treat the narcissist accordingly.
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD, is a rather new mental health diagnosis. It is common among those who have survived repeated traumas, such as those who endured child abuse or domestic violence.
C-PTSD shares many of the same symptoms of PTSD. It also includes other symptoms that make C-PTSD more, well, complex than PTSD.
Moodiness to the extreme. Moods can be difficult to control for anyone at times. A person with C-PTSD has a much more difficult time controlling them on a regular basis, & sometimes is unable to control them.
Difficulty trusting people. A person with C-PTSD has seen the worst of people, & only naturally has a great deal of difficulty trusting people. It takes a lot for someone with C-PTSD to learn to trust anyone. It also doesn’t take a lot for someone with C-PTSD to lose trust in people.
Flashbacks. There are three types of flashbacks. The typical flashbacks where a person feels as if they are reliving a traumatic event. There also is emotional flashbacks. They don’t feel as if the event is being relieved per se, but the emotions of a traumatic event are being relieved. Emotional flashbacks are extremely common with C-PTSD. Lastly there are somatic flashbacks. They are similar to emotional flashbacks, but rather than dealing with the emotions connected to trauma, they deal with the physical pain connected to trauma.
Toxic shame. Toxic shame is extremely common among those who have survived abuse, in particular those who survived child abuse. Their parents told them the abuse inflicted on them was their fault, which instilled a root of toxic shame in them for supposedly making their parents do the terrible things they did.
Dissociation. A survival tactic, dissociation emotionally removes a person from a traumatic or abusive episode. Many survivors of sexual assault in particular describe it as feeling as if they are not in their body as the assault happened. It also can lead to extensive day dreaming when not in a traumatic situation or even Dissociative Identity Disorder in some extreme cases. DID is especially common among child abuse survivors.
Hyper-vigilance. Hyper-vigilance can take two forms. One is when a person is extremely aware of their surroundings. Even in a crowded place, those with C-PTSD are aware of a person heading to the restroom or leaving the building. Another form of hyper-vigilance is when the body is constantly in a state of preparedness for attack or trauma. This often leads to constant pain.
Suicidal thoughts. The most serious & potentially life threatening aspect of C-PTSD is suicidal thoughts. Those who have C-PTSD frequently battle with severe depression, even to the point of suicidal thoughts. Sadly, suicide seems like the only escape from the pain in the mind of many people with C-PTSD.
While these symptoms are very common with C-PTSD, their seriousness shouldn’t be underestimated. All are life altering, & suicidal thoughts obviously can be life ending. They can be managed, however. I find prayer to be my most effective help when these symptoms flare up. Journaling about them is also very useful. It can help you to see what causes the symptoms to flare & figure out ways to cope with them. Another helpful tip I have found is to remind myself of what is happening. I remind myself that whatever is happening is merely a symptom of the disorder, nothing more. I’m safe, nothing can hurt me. Grounding can be very useful during flashbacks, & it needs to be something that is very extreme to the senses. Smelling a strong scent like lavender or touching a scratchy blanket help by distracting your mind away from the flashback.
Lastly, when your symptoms flare, they’re showing you where you need healing. They actually do have a purpose, so use them to help you.
I get a daily email from the funeral home that took care of my mother when she died. It sometimes has good & interesting emails. Sadly though because our relationship was so abnormal, & it’s aimed for people with normal relationships who are grieving, it isn’t usually particularly helpful.
I just read the first email I truly disliked. Even so, I think it can be a valuable teaching tool, even for those in relationships with narcissists.
The email quoted a book written by a young woman whose sister died. She said her mother cried non stop. She wore headphones constantly so she wouldn’t have to hear her mother cry, & her father worked very long hours for the same reason. The commentary on this brief story said that as someone grieving, you should consider how your actions affect others. You should keep your home life as normal as possible. People who love you will be upset to see you suffering. It ended with take time to share your feelings & not isolate yourself.
When I read this, it bothered me.
Not talking things out isn’t healthy. Whether you’re grieving as the lady in this article or suffering at the hands of a narcissist. you have to talk about things. You can’t ignore things & hope they’ll go away because they won’t. The same goes for toning bad things down when you do talk about them. It’s wise to share only with people you know are safe of course, so I’m not saying talk to just anyone. Only aim to talk with safe people who won’t judge, criticize or invalidate you. Can you imagine how much better the lady in this article would’ve felt if she had someone to talk to?!
Also, it seems to me the family in this article split up rather than pulling together with their shared loss. That isn’t healthy! The family in this email would have been so much better off if they would have spoken to each other about what each one was feeling & supported each other. Whether you are grieving a death like the lady in this article or are suffering at the hands of an abuser, you should come together with people who are experiencing a situation similar to yours. That way you can help each other to get through. Finding that common ground with another person also can be incredibly validating! If you don’t know anyone, there are countless online forums & groups on social media sites where you can meet such people.
The final sentence bothered me, too. It seemed to me that taken in context with the rest of it basically said, “Let people know you’re upset, but not *too* upset.” That is just wrong. If people truly care about you, naturally they don’t want to see you upset of course, but they also won’t expect you to hide your feelings just to appease them. They would rather see you bawl your eyes out or yell than plaster on a fake smile & pretend everything is ok. They probably would see through the fake smile easily anyway. I know my friends would. If you’re suffering at the hands of a narcissist in particular, I know it can feel sometimes like no one cares, but that isn’t true! That is only what the narcissist wants you to think, so you won’t discuss the abuse with anyone. There will be people who genuinely care & want to help you. Let them!
In the midst of suffering, it really can feel like there is no escape, like you’re all alone & no one cares. Don’t believe that! People do care & you can get through this. And most importantly, there is a God who loves you so much & will be there for you no matter what. Don’t forget to turn to Him & let Him help you to get through!
Living as someone with mental illness yet is high functioning, I can tell you it’s utterly exhausting. Doing things takes more energy than it would for someone without mental illness because I have to focus harder. I also do my best to put the problems in a box when necessary so they don’t affect other people. It takes energy to keep that box closed & on a shelf!! Add in having a brain injury & I spend a lot of time exhausted.
If you too are high functioning with mental illness, I’m sure you can relate to what I said, even if you don’t also have the brain injury. You truly are not alone! This post is to help you to understand that.
It feels like you’re being fake a lot of the time, doesn’t it? The truth is you aren’t being fake. You’re just hiding a part of yourself from others you don’t want to know about that part of you. There is nothing wrong with not being 1000% open with everyone. Sometimes it’s best to keep some information private from some people.
It also feels like people don’t believe you have any illness at all. People seem to think if you have mental illness, you need to be incoherent, hearing voices, attempting suicide, or even not taking care of your basic needs such as showering & changing clothes regularly. If you’re clean, your home is in order, you’re working & maintain relationships, many people don’t think you’re struggling with your mental health. They miss the small, subtle signs such as an increased or decreased appetite, sleeping more or less than usual, difficulty focusing, or feeling tired.
Your good & bad days look very similar to most people. They truly have no idea that on bad days, it took every ounce of willpower to pry yourself out of bed, to bathe, to do whatever you need to do on that day. Chances are, most wouldn’t believe you if you told them because they see no real differences between this bad day & your good days.
Sometimes people may say you’re gloomy or a “Debbie Downer” because sometimes your sadness or negative views show. They don’t realize that is depression talking. Or, maybe sometimes you jump at the slightest move from someone or sound & it irritates people. It happens because you have an anxiety disorder, PTSD or C-PTSD.
Although you may not look like it, you feel you are struggling so much. Mental illness consumes so much energy! Focusing on a simple conversation can take a lot out of you. People don’t often understand why you’re tired, but this is exactly why.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these situations? If so, I hope it comforts you some to know that you’re not alone. Many of us understand because we’re on the same boat.
And please remember, just because you can function & function well, don’t think that means you don’t have a real problem. I know, sometimes it’s easy to think this way when you have a few good days in a row. That being said though, mental illness is just as serious as physical illness & should be treated as such. Sometimes it can be more serious in the sense that some mental disorders can be life threatening by making a person suicidal. Don’t neglect to rest when you need to, take your medication as directed, talk to safe people & let them love & encourage you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking care of yourself or asking for help. If you broke your leg, you would do those things, wouldn’t you? Then why not do the same thing to take care of your mental health?
This post is going to sound a bit odd to many of you, I’m sure, but I hope you’ll read it anyway as I believe it can be beneficial to those in similar situations.
I saw a quote on Facebook that got me to thinking. It was long, so I’ll summarize. It suggested that you talk to nature. Before cutting a tree or plant, tell it what you have in mind to do, & talk to animals with respect. That sort of thing.
Having some Native American Indian heritage in me, I tend to do this. It just seems to be in my blood. I never thought much about it though until reading the quote.
I’ve always talked to my pets as if they were people, & treated them with love & respect. Many people including many at their vet’s office have commented how well behaved, smart & loving they are.
After my mother died, I took over some of her house plants. I’ve never been particularly good with plants, but decided to try with some of them anyway. I started talking to them when I decided to bring them home. I told them I was taking them home soon & I’ll do my best to take good care of them. They’re doing surprisingly well!
Before reading this Facebook post though, I began doing this more, & that even includes talking to inanimate objects. Reading the post only confirmed to me that I was onto something.
When my mother died, & I learned I was to be her personal representative, I was less than thrilled to put it mildly. I hated going into her house for years, I even hated the house itself, because of all the awful memories it held. It seemed every room had some bad memories attached. Knowing I’d have to spend a great deal of time there triggered horrible anxiety & even anger in me. I had no idea how to deal with this, so I asked God for help. He told me, “Talk to the house.” I thought I must be imagining things… then my very logical husband said the same unusual thing a day or two later, even though I told him nothing about God saying that.
One day when I went to my parents’ house, I started talking to it. Obviously, I felt strange, talking to this inanimate object, but I did it anyway. I told the house I realized I was wrong for being upset with it for things that people who lived in it did to me. It wasn’t fair to blame the house for the actions of people, & I was sorry. Let’s get to know each other better. Suddenly I began to feel a lot more comfortable in the house. I’m not angry at the house & I don’t cringe every time I see a location in it where something bad happened anymore.
I also did this with my mother’s car, which is now mine. There were a lot of pretty bad memories of times with her in that car, so I dreaded dealing with the car. The first couple of times I got behind the wheel, I talked to the car much like I did with the house. And you know something? I don’t mind driving that car now. I’m comfortable with the car now.
Like many of us in our family, my mother named her car. Her name is Peaches, so when I take her out I often say things like, “Hey, Peaches.. ready to go for a drive?” I also told her she was getting new tires recently. I do the same for the house, saying hi & good bye, or telling the house what I’ll be doing today in what room.
I firmly believe a lot of us who have experienced narcissistic abuse have similar feelings. Some things & places can offer reminders of awful situations, or even trigger flashbacks. I suggest talking to the item in question. It really can help you! I know it sounds crazy, but isn’t it worth a try? Whatever helps you to remove some pain is a good thing. So please, give it a try.. what do you have to lose?
I recently had an idea. I am going to create a series of small books that focus on only one facet of narcissism & narcissistic abuse at a time. Each book will be maybe 1/4 the size of my regular book & naturally much cheaper. I think this is a unique way to get information out there & hopefully it will help raise awareness too.
I’ll be releasing a few in the near future, I’m thinking maybe 3 or so, & I’ll post about it when that happens. I don’t want to release a series that contains only one book, yanno?
When the books are available, they will be available on my website at:
And also at my ebook publisher’s website at:
So many of us raised with narcissistic parents have heard the phrase “just let it go” too many times to count upon mentioning our awful upbringing. People fail to realize that we would love to let it go & not think about it anymore. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple!
Narcissistic abuse is incredibly ubiquitous. It doesn’t simply affect one small part of you- it permeates every area of your mind & even body. All of your thinking stems from the perspective of someone who was abused by a narcissist. Your body may reflect that abuse too, even if the narcissist didn’t attempt to hurt you physically. The constant stress of living with a narcissist can lead to adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, C-PTSD or PTSD (which are both brain injuries resulting from surviving trauma).
Simply put, you can’t “just let go of” such things no matter how much you wish you could. And honestly, why would you? To make some cold hearted, unfeeling person more comfortable in your presence? Life experiences- good, bad or indifferent- made you the person you are. Learn from them all & grow!
There are some things you can let go of, however. You can let go of:
The next time someone tells you to “just let it go,” you can tell them what you have let go, using the above statements as an example. Or, if you really want to throw them for a loop, ask them what exactly do they want you to let go of & how they recommend you go about doing so.
I recently was watching “Dr G: Medical Examiner” on TV. The show fascinates me in a morbid way. She discusses various cases that come into her medical examiner’s office in Florida.
Well, this particular episode had a strange case. A lady had been found lying on the floor of her bedroom by her son. She was badly burned, yet nothing in the house was burned. Suddenly the paramedics came & transported her to the hospital where she died 11 hours later. It turned out she committed suicide.
The lady wanted her fiancee to commit suicide with her. He didn’t take her seriously. They got into an argument & he left. She then grabbed a lighter, drove to a nearby field & lit herself on fire! Apparently she had a change of heart & drove herself home. She called 911 & after she hung up is when her son found her.
The story was heartbreaking to me. I’ve been suicidal in my life & let me tell you, it is a horrendous place to be. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone! It’s torture feeling as if no one cares & the world would be a better place without you.
Many people who are truly suicidal show very subtle or no clues that they are feeling this way. People are often shocked when they die because they say there weren’t any signs. Or, they say something like, “I didn’t think he really meant it when he said he was tired of living.”
Dear Reader, please pay attention to the people in your life. Many people are suicidal, especially if they have mental illness. Did you know there’s a 15-20% suicide rate among those with Bipolar Disorder? PTSD is even higher, estimated to be around 50%.
Even those without diagnosed mental illness can become suicidal. Everyone has a breaking point. Losing loved ones (through death, divorce, moving, etc) can take a huge toll on a person’s level of joy. Losing a pet can trigger suicidal thoughts in many people. Even losing a job can be devastating. Men in particular have a hard time with job loss. Medical problems can trigger depression. The fear of the unknown can be utterly terrifying, especially when it comes to one’s health. Or, sometimes having surgery can trigger depression due to the changes in one’s body.
The point is all kinds of changes, sometimes even positive ones, can trigger depression in a person. Knowing this, it’s a good idea to offer support to those you love if they have faced changes or difficulties. I’m not saying you have to fix their problems for them. I am saying that it is a good idea to be there for someone. A little support or show of your love for them can go a long way. Many suicidal people believe no one cares about them. Letting a person know you care may make all the difference.
If someone wants to talk about a problem, listen to them without offering advice unless they ask. Many times, people just need to vent. They may know how to fix the problem or there may be no solution to it, & they just need to talk about their feelings.
When talking about their problems, sometimes people’s emotions get overwhelming. They may burst into tears or get angry out of the blue. Don’t take that personally! It happens when people are extremely stressed & upset!
Avoid saying things that are going to upset the person further:
Rather than saying something stupid, be honest. Tell the person you don’t know what to say to help other than you’re sorry she’s hurting or sorry that happened to her. Tell her you’re here for her & you love her.
If there is something you can do for the person, do it! Don’t just say, “I’m here for you” then bow out if asked for something. Mean it!
Offer to pray for &/or with the person. Praying with someone often can bring a great deal of peace.
Check in often. Call or text as often as you think the person is OK with. Don’t harass them every 15 minutes of course, but once a day should be good.
If your friend mentions suicide, please think carefully about what to say! Never tell the person she’s being selfish or stupid, or that their child/spouse/parent needs them. Shaming a suicidal person just makes them want to kill themselves even more. Ask why they feel that way, then listen to what they say. Cry with them, hug them, pray for them, tell them you love them.
If you are the suicidal one, Dear Reader, there are people who will listen. There are suicide hotlines. 1-800- SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) is a national one that will direct you to your local hotline.
Although I’m sure you don’t feel this way, there are people in your life who love you. Your family & friends, even your pets, love you more than you realize. And, God loves you so very much. When you hurt, He hurts. Turn to Him, & tell Him how you feel. He will understand!
James 1:5 “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it.” (TLB)
As many of you know, I have C-PTSD. It’s badly damaged how I think & my short term memory. Then in 2015, I got carbon monoxide poisoning which caused me to pass out & hit my head, further damaging my brain. Thanks to these problems, I’m really not as smart as I once was, & it can be simply maddening.
The above Scripture has helped me a great deal with my physical limitations. I lean on God so much more than I used to for giving me wisdom, & He has not disappointed me. I’m not bragging about my intelligence. I am bragging how generous God has been!
So many times in my life, I have been stuck in a painful situation I didn’t want to be in, & God has shown me creative ways to get out of the situation or to cope with it so it isn’t so painful to me. One that comes to mind immediately happened a few years ago. My narcissistic mother told me I was going to take her to & from the doctor who is almost 30 miles away. I had things going on that day & didn’t want to do it, but she refused to reschedule her appointment. This had happened many times & I was tired of it. It also bothered me we’d be taking her car & not mine- I hate being trapped without my own vehicle. I asked God to help me get through the day & I needed a creative way to either get out of this in the future, or for Him to put it on my mother’s heart to be more open to my schedule, not only hers. As we were leaving the doctor’s office, God gave me an idea- drive home like we were on a NASCAR track. There wasn’t much traffic, so I did. I had a lot of fun speeding down the highway, & my mother was especially angry because it was her car I drove that way. That was the last day my mother saw this particular doctor. LOL He wasn’t doing her any good anyway- she just got narcissistic supply from him & his staff because they listened to her. They didn’t help her pain at all.
So many other times in the past few years since developing my physical problems, I have needed wisdom & asked God for it. He has answered those prayers every time. From simple things, like creating a routine for maintaining my home that keeps my place very clean but isn’t hard for me, to more challenging things like how to deal with financial problems, God has helped me every time. He has even helped me to understand my narcissistic parents, which has helped me so much! Understanding them has shown me that I’m not the problem, & they have some serious issues that aren’t my fault. Talk about a blessing! After hearing how I was always the problem, this knowledge has truly comforted me more than I can say.
What areas do you need wisdom in, Dear Reader? Whatever your needs, I encourage you to ask God for wisdom. He will grant you wisdom & creativity far above & beyond anything you can imagine. Whether your situation is like mine where you need more wisdom to handle daily life or it is a one time frustrating situation, be prepared to be amazed when you ask God to give you wisdom.
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!