Intrusive and Dominant Behavior in Relationships Can Be a Sign of Narcissism, Research Suggests

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Narcissists are trapped in their own world, they cannot see beyond their own delusion

The narcissist I had within my family always seemed to twist reality. It’s as though the memories we shared were far different from each other. No memory we both shared was viewed the same way.

Any interaction with the narcissist always left me confused, upset, and slighted. I never understood why they were always quick to cast blame or judgment on me. Or how the narcissist would lie to me, when I had screenshots, and evidence to disprove their claims

How does that make sense?

I would always wave this off as the narcissist being a liar. But how can someone lie so much and seem so adamant about their false reality? There has to be some line that shows the stark difference between lying and what is their truth.

And that’s when I realized that the narcissist is highly delusional. In their world, they truly believe the lies they are sharing. For a narcissist, their lies are not lies to them — their lies are their reality.

Narcissists are trapped in their own world, they cannot see beyond their own delusion.

Now please remember that not all narcissists are like this. And not all narcissists are evil. Narcissism is a real disorder that affects real people every day.

From healing wounds about a narcissist, I’ve found that I have to do what they fail to do: see outside myself.

So I began putting myself in the shoes of the narcissists that I had in my life — I began to see their reality.

This does not excuse, nor does this allow for further mistreatment — but rather, it gives us an idea of who they really are.

Understanding a narcissist’s viewpoint may help give you some answers, and help you find your peace with them.

Narcissism is a clinically diagnosed disorder

According to the DSM-5, narcissism is formally called: narcissistic personality disorder.

The key for a clinical diagnosis for narcissism — or any mental disorder — is consistent behavior patterns. Isolated incidents that happen infrequently (i.e., lying) are not enough to meet diagnostic criteria for narcissism.

For the complete diagnostic criteria for DSM-5 Revised criteriaplease click here.

I will be explaining the criteria step by step to help you understand how narcissism is clinically defined.

Below are the summarized versions of the DSM-5 Revised criteria:

Impairments in either identity or self-direction

This means that there are issues with someone’s functioning that are impacting daily life. This can include arrogant behavior, exaggerated achievements, preoccupation with fantasies of success, wealth, power, etc., lacking empathy, and the need for excessive admiration.

An issue with identity or self-direction can really stem from feeling insecure. Narcissists require the attention of others and need to be seen as the best. This runs back to a narcissist not truly knowing who they are.

Narcissists need the praise of others, so they constantly have to work to be the best and stay the best all the time.

A narcissist’s consistent behavior patterns, combine with their slew of negative symptoms can lead them to struggle within their life.

Impairments in interpersonal functioning such as empathy and intimacy

Interpersonal functioning, from a clinical standpoint, is based on how someone functions within their relationships. Relationships aren’t just romantic — they extend to any relationship. Relationships can include friends, neighbors, coworkers, and so on.

When reviewing interpersonal functioning, it is important to look at the stability of all relationships that a narcissist has over time. Are their relationships typically easygoing, or is there always an edge to their relationships?

For example, the narcissist in my life never had any real friends. Yes, we heard about the narcissist’s soccer friends, but we never saw any close friends. It seemed that any friends this narcissist had were kept at a distance.

When we review the inner workings of a narcissist’s friendships, we can begin to see the impact of their negative symptoms. Research has shown that a narcissist may be more likely to be vengeful, overly dominant in relationships, and even including intrusive behavior.

With vengeful, dominant, and intrusive behavior, there will be instability in all relationships. The negative symptoms associated with narcissism are often shown through their relationships.

Personality traits involving grandiosity and attention-seeking

Narcissists believe that they are the best thing that has ever walked the Earth. A narcissist’s self-worth is really tied to the praise they get from those around them.

With a lack of identity and a narcissist constantly having to work to be the best, they can burn some people along the way. But grandiose behavior doesn’t automatically come from someone thinking they are the best — it can stem from insecurity.

Remember, a narcissist is not void of feelings — everyone has feelings and can be close to a person. But narcissists can lose the people that they care about due to their behavior.

With grandiosity, there is an attention-seeking aspect that may be more noticeable. They want to be seen as the best to fulfill that insecurity they have about themselves.

Important diagnostic factors that need to be considered

The criteria discussed above must be stable and consistent throughout a person’s life, cannot be explained by another medical condition, or considered normal for their developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.

This is a quick story on what criteria a narcissist needs to meet. Just because someone was mean to you or rude to you does not qualify them as a narcissist.

Narcissism is a real disorder that has a daily impact on someone’s functioning.

A key point that isn’t discussed by the DSM-5 is the lack of awareness of one’s own functioning. Someone with narcissism doesn’t flat out know that their intentions are twisted. This is their reality, and that’s what they believe. No matter what someone says, this is what a narcissist will believe.

So this can fall under delusional behavior when you are faced with a narcissist.

How does this change things?

In terms of dealing with a narcissist, it isn’t going to change your situation much. But what it can do is help give you more understanding and give some explanation.

The next time you interact with a narcissist in your life, you can understand that their behavior is a pattern. A pattern is predictable, so you can more easily understand the narcissist.

Why fight someone who doesn’t see reality in the same way? If you do, you might want to bang your head against the wall — you’ll get the same outcome.

I want to explain this to other people who may be struggling with a narcissist in their life. I know it’s hard. Wanting to get a narcissist to understand the pain they have caused — but they won’t see eye to eye with you.

A narcissist will never see what you see.

Much like someone with active visual hallucinations, you cannot tell them that something isn’t right in front of them — even though you can’t see it.

To a narcissist, their lies are true. Why spend any time telling the narcissist that their truth isn’t reality? It’s what’s real for them, and it’s what they believe.

Suppose you can’t make sense of a situation with a narcissist, where it seems that they are making stuff up or lying to you. Remember that you are not wrong; you are dealing with someone who is not fully in touch with reality.

No amount of proof, evidence, or logic will prevail over their lies.

When I realized this, my relationship with the narcissist changed. I didn’t need to disprove their lies — I didn’t need to do anything.

If a narcissist’s lies are truly what they believe, then you cannot argue with that.

As hard as it is, you will need to accept that this is how it will be with a narcissist.

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Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is for educational and entertainment purposes only. This information is not meant to diagnose anyone but rather to spread awareness and start a conversation. Thanks!

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As Originally Posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Family Relationship Trauma in Childhood May Potentially Impact Someone’s Mental Health

photo credit: Dan Meyers on Unsplash

The heartbreaking lessons I’ve learned from working in an adult psychiatric hospital.

When I was 23 and freshly out of college, I wanted to get hands-on experience working at a psychiatric hospital. I was curious about other career paths in the mental health field, such as nursing or counseling. I figured that getting real experience was the best way to see if this was the field for me.

I have my battles with mental health, so I wanted to use my experience to help others. From my past and ongoing experience with mental illness, I had many valuable tools at my disposal to help my patients. It’s a challenging journey (and still is), but helping others is something that can always help you gain perspective and understanding.

When I got the job, I was thrilled; I was ready to start this new adventure and learn all that I could. Overall, I was thrilled working at the psychiatric hospital. My coworkers were friendly and supportive — it was a good work experience.

I got exposure to so many different types of mental health cases, and I met some truly unique people along the way. I learned a lot about how psychiatric disorders can develop and what they can look like in the long term for people who live with a mental illness.

Here are the four life lessons I learned from working in a psychiatric hospital.

Childhood trauma can affect someone for the rest of their lives

Childhood trauma is something that is not spoken about too frequently. As children, we cannot vocalize our pain, or the environment we lived in may not have allowed open dialogue like that.

The trauma that occurs in childhood is recognized as an adverse childhood experience. A negative childhood experience is something that happens in childhood that has the potential to be traumatic. If the experience was traumatic or not, it’s still something that has somehow affected their lives.

An adverse childhood event can be abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction that can affect a child. It’s important to understand that as kids develop, they carry these experiences with them.

Whatever the case may be, adverse childhood events play a big part in someone’s mental health throughout life. I started to notice that many of my patients were either abused, assaulted, or suffered some traumatic event in their lives — childhood and adulthood.

Adverse childhood events can lead people down a road of rocky mental health/illness, chronic health problems, and even substance use. Many of the patients in the hospital were shut off, addicted to substances, or were so far gone from themselves.

Don’t EVER do drugs

Please stay away from them and don’t even try them. It can lead you down a horrible road.

Not all the patients we saw were addicted to a substance, but a large majority were. There were countless times I have seen a patient come in detoxing off some substance.

I’ve seen alcohol withdrawal that caused heart issues and temporary tremors, someone on meth who was ready to punch me in the face because I was upsetting her. Other times I have witnessed someone coming off of hard party drugs that landed him in the psychiatric hospital.

The apparent risk for drug use can be potential overdose — but as long as that’s avoided, then it’s OK? Not really. There is a thing called drug-induced psychosis, where a substance directly causes an episode of psychosis to occur.

I have seen many patients come through the hospital in a drug-induced psychosis. Going through psychosis is terrifying and utterly horribly. Psychosis is when someone loses touch or altogether leaves reality.

When someone is coming off of a substance, with drug-induced psychosis or not, there can be agitation and aggression on the patient’s end. This is common, and the patient’s behavior isn’t always reflective of who the person is.

But regardless, there can be crises within the hospital that could lead to a dangerous situation.

Everyone should know crisis de-escalation

Crisis escalation is a valuable tool that can save lives. Understanding what to do and not what to do can bring down a crisis or prevent one from occurring.

There are good techniques to reduce tension when someone gets to the point where they are yelling, screaming, shouting, and maybe even threatening.

There are four critical parts to crisis de-escalation: undivided attention, be nonjudgmental, focus on feelings and allow silence. Visit Crisis Prevention Institute to learn more about crisis de-escalation.

Also, knowing the signs of someone escalating and whose anger is rising is essential to help determine safety for you and those around you.

While I worked at the hospital, I spent roughly half of my time there on the crisis team for the adult units. I played a small role in each crisis we went to. Sometimes, it would be a patient who was unwilling to take meds that they needed. At times it could be violent and dangerous out of nowhere.

While working at the psych hospital, I learned that observing someone’s behavior can help you understand emotionally to prevent a crisis. The use of de-escalation was a must around the hospital and is something that we all should know.

Being able to deescalate a situation that has the potential to go badly is a critical step in understanding how to maintain safety. Aside from this, the staff and staff behavior did influence the overall climate of the unit.

You can affect others more than you think

As staff members of the unit, we always needed to be alert and ready to help. We were there to keep people safe. But we had a lot of issues with staffing which led to overworked employees.

Sometimes that sour attitude carried into our job, so we weren’t always the shining happy faces that patients needed. Unfortunately, that is just how it is in mental health care.

I saw how the behavior of staff directly influenced the patients. If the team was tense, patients were anxious. That’s when I realized just how much of an impact we can have on other people.

The behavior that we exhibited as technicians on the adult units needed to be warm and inviting. We could not create an opposing team like that could lead to negative patients. But it’s hard when you consider the long-term workers at the facility.

Through the people I have met, I’ve learned valuable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

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As Originally Posted on Medium and NewsBreak

We Don’t Suffer from Mental Illness — We Live With It

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Much like other illnesses, we tend to say that we suffer from the symptoms this illness manifests.

We are suffering when we experience unpleasant symptoms — our own body is revolting against us somehow.

I knew I had anxiety and depression for much of my life, but I hid it and masked the symptoms. I honestly didn’t believe that I had a mental illness. Instead, I thought it was all my fault that I was feeling this way.

If I could ‘snap out of it, my life would change. And now, three years later, I know that this is not true.

I gained a lot of insight into mental health after I graduated college with my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I wanted to get into the field of mental health and help those in need.

So I figured the best way to accomplish this goal was to work in a psychiatric hospital. And that’s what I did.

I worked in a psychiatric hospital as a mental health technician. I only worked in this position for a little over six months, but it has completely changed how I see mental health.

While working at the hospital, I saw many different patients with a wide array of mental health disorders.

The diagnoses on our unit typically ranged from schizoaffective disorder to major depressive disorder. I saw the entire spectrum of mental illness within half a year.

While I experienced crisis calls and violent patients, I mostly saw people at their lowest point.

When I saw patients come in for the first time, I recognized that this was their toughest moment. They were desperate, lost, suicidal, and maybe even delusional. But over time, watching patients heal and transform back into their usual selves was something that always warmed my heart.

Sadly, this did not happen as much as I would hope, nor would it last very long either.

I have sent off too many patients from the hospital only to come back worse than before. It’s a horrible sight when you see someone come back into the hospital in worse shape than the last time you saw them.

I live in New Mexico, a part of the United States, and our mental health care is horrible. The psychiatric hospital I worked at did the best with what they were given in terms of funding.

We are in a poor state, so we have many people who live on the streets or have no stable housing. I saw the immense suffering, isolation, and complete devastation my patients went through.

There was a good majority of patients that were homeless and had no consistent medications either.

I often find myself reflecting on the patients I cared for at the hospital. So many of my patients lived with mental illness for nearly their whole lives, and they would continue to do so.

From working at the psychiatric hospital, I learned that we suffer from mental illness, but we also live with it. Even on the best medications with the most effective treatment, other symptoms will always flare up.

By changing suffering to living, we emphasize how we battle every day to do our best — we are strong.

That even if there is a smile on my face, I may be in a world of pain — but we will be okay.

When we shift from suffering to living with mental illness, there’s a softer feel to it. Those with mental illness still suffer, but changing how we view our mental health can help us gain a different perspective.

I’ve found within my recovery that I had negative emotions, focusing on the fact that I am suffering from mental illness. I could see myself, and even my patients as well, get wrapped in their suffering — but it’s like a black hole. The suffering will suck you in, chew you up, and leave you with getting even worse.

Those diagnosed and who have struggled silently for a while know the pain involved in mental illness. Suffering implies so much negativity that it can dampen hope.

Changing your mindset around mental illness can give a new perspective in managing your mental health.

The hours I spend anxious and depressed have taught me how to break away from that. I have worked my life around my mental illness to support my needs.

Not everybody can adjust their lives to their mental illness. Not everyone has the support system that they need to thrive. I recognize that I have privilege in this matter, and some do not.

Yes, we suffer most days with our mental illness, but when we think about adjusting our lives to meet our mental health needs, the perspective shifts.

Taking on this perspective change has given me a brighter view of life. I have learned that living with mental illness can be done. This article was inspired by the YouTube page, Living Well with Schizophrenia. Please give their channel a view if you want to learn more about living well with mental illness.

As Originally Posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Gaslighting in Relationships May Be a Common Manipulation Strategy for Narcissists

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When someone thinks about what truly makes up a narcissist, typically the first thought is manipulation. Narcissists are all about what they can get for themselves. Everything in a narcissist’s world centers around their own desires and beliefs. A heavy hand of manipulation comes in when a narcissist needs to ensure or strengthen their power over someone.

One of the most well-known tools that a narcissist uses is gaslighting. Gaslighting is a type of manipulation that causes pure psychological torture. A narcissist will use gaslighting to try and alter some part of your memory or behavior to satisfy their own needs.

According to the APA Dictionary, gaslighting is seen as manipulation that is so intense and extreme that the manipulation causes psychological damage to the victim.

We’ve all had our own experiences with manipulation, gaslighting, and narcissists. One way or anything, we all have experienced some level of narcissist control.

I experienced gaslighting consistent manipulation and abuse at the hands of a family member. This family member displayed odd behaviors that I noticed while growing up. The main behavior I noticed was lies. I caught this family member in too many lies to even keep track of. If I questioned these lies, they would gaslight me.

One of the many manipulations and gaslighting tactics that were used against me were lies. I was lied to constantly by this family member. If I caught that family member in a lie, they would swoop in to promptly correct my memory to support their reality. Even after catching them in lies, I still believed this person because I was raised to never doubt what they said.

Now this family member was well respected within the community. They had a doctorate level degree and was a well established, practicing clinician.

But what I had also noticed is that nothing ever changed with this person. Their routines stayed the same, their lavish lifestyle only got better, their lies increased, and their manipulation became too toxic to handle.

I never wanted to admit that this person was a narcissist because, well, they are family. Why would family say such cruel things to me — why would this well-educated doctor tell me such lies about myself.

It was not until recently that I saw this family member for who they really were: a narcissist.

So I went on to believe that I was everything they said I was. I was the manipulative one, I caused problems, I was greedy, I stole, and most importantly I was a liar.

I truly believed that I was everything the narcissist accused me of being. For much of my teen years, I spent my time trying to undo all of the bad things I had done. Did I know exactly what I had done? Nope. I had no damn idea what I had done that made me such a bad person. But I was persistent in trying to prove that I was better than who I once was.

It wasn’t until early this year when I began to question the narcissist’s logic and reasoning. It all started one day when I noticed something odd: what the narcissist had said about me, no one else believed. I had been manipulated into believing such horrid things about myself, that I couldn’t distinguish lies from reality.

It all came to a point for me when my now husband and I were talking. I told him that I had done some awful things in my teen years that I needed to make right. I had expressed how badly I had upset the narcissist, and how I needed to prove to them that I was better.

So my husband asked me a simple question:

“What exactly did you do?”

And that’s when the realization struck me. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I was forced to shift my attention to myself instead of noticing what the narcissist was doing.

There wasn’t a single action that I had done that warranted my negative self-image. But I remember how the narcissist confronted me, him telling me that I was so awful and mean that he would be forced to call the police on me.

I remember feeling so devastated and ashamed of my actions. What left me in a true crisis was the fact that I was unable to find one single action that I had done to warrant calling the police. Regardless, I had made the narcissist so upset that I felt tremendous guilt for my actions.

What was the inciting incident to this situation you might ask? Nothing.

I was 17 years old with so many different life changes occurring that I was lost. Not to mention my struggles with OCD from a young age. I was the narcissist’s perfect target. I was a young, impressionable kid who wanted validation and approval by someone who I cared about deeply.

I was not a liar, a cheater, or a manipulator — I was none of that!

I found my freedom by being critical of the narcissist. I examined their behavior patterns and began to understand who they truly were.

Narcissists are empty shells, that need power over other people to feel complete.

I noticed that gaslighting was a common method of behavioral control from the narcissist. By invalidating and shaming their victim, the narcissists ultimately gain power over them.

I have built myself up from what was destroyed by the narcissist. I am a naturally empathetic person, not some monster out for money or control.

Narcissists have an arsenal of various tactics to ensure cooperation and strengthen their manipulation with their victims.

But as I am sitting here writing this I feel overcome with a sense of freedom. I am free from the narcissist’s lies and manipulation.

All of my adult years have been built on lies from this narcissist. The narcissist ran my life, and I did not even know it. But now I am free to forge a new path for myself.

This is a new start.

As Originally Posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Covert Narcissism Can Be a Hidden Danger in Relationships

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Covert narcissism explained through the lens of the NXIVM cult.

Covert narcissists are the narcissists that aren’t noticeable. They are often the last person you might think would be a narcissist. But the more you get to know a covert narcissist, the more you see their true intentions.

The concept of covert narcissists is well showcased by looking at the cult ‘NXIVM.’ In this cult, the leader Keith Raniere was a nice, selfless man who claimed that he only wanted to teach people how to be their best selves. Raniere developed a ‘tool’ he called, Executive Success Programs (ESP) to help people rid themselves of whatever was holding them back.

Keith Raniere began to market this ‘tool’ that he created. Raniere got others to recruit into NXIVM to sell his self-improvement tools to others. Essentially, NXIVM was a multilevel marketing scheme disguised as a self-improvement program.

The NXIVM cult was marketed as being this happy family that only wanted to help the world.

The main theme throughout the cult is that Raniere wanted to change the world for the better. Raniere held so much power within the company and over hundreds and thousands of people that took part in his work.

Over time, women were recruited into a secret society run by Raniere himself. Each of the women secretly recruited into this society was branded with Raniere’s initials. Eventually, the secret society was exposed and leaked to the world.

It was later revealed that the members of this secret society, run by Raniere, were forced to share nude photos or horrific secrets at ‘collateral’. The collateral these women were forced to share was used to ensure that no member spoke out against the secret society.

Collateral was expected to be given regularly — no member could refuse.

The secret society was held up on a system of masters and slaves, with Raniere being the headmaster. Over time, the slaves and masters would have an opportunity to have sex with Raniere to reach true enlightenment. Raniere believed that if his followers had sex with them, they could truly receive his teaching.

Of course, sex with Raniere was not what was marketed to these women.

The secret society was described to these women as an empowerment exercise where you would enter as a slave and would need to follow the orders of your master.

A slave’s master could demand nearly anything. The slaves had to ask for permission to eat or sleep. Each slave needed to respond to a message from their master within 1 minute of receiving a message.

The women in this secret society were made to believe that this would help empower them and lead them to become their best selves. Each woman was expected to bring in more women into the secret society.

Slowly, big names within the NXIVM organization were beginning to leave. Those who left began to speak out against Raniere and his practices.

How does covert narcissism relate to Raniere?

Please note that Raniere was far worse than just being a narcissist. Covert narcissism was Raniere’s main strategy to get people hooked and submerged into his ideology.

The observable behavior, seen by those outside this cult, noticed the superiority and facade that Raniere was upholding.

Raniere won people over with what they could see — a brilliant man who saw interest in them and wanted to help them. Raniere targeted people and made them feel special; this helped Raniere bring his victims in. Once they were close enough, he would turn up the heat — new rules and continued dedication to Raniere.

Much in the way of covert narcissists, they can pull their victims in and keep them there by painting the same happy picture of themselves. Any questions towards the covert narcissist will be easily deflected with, “they’re a nice person,” just like Raniere was touted as a self-less man. Why would a nice, selfless person hurt others?

Covert narcissism is really padded with the masking of superiority with something nicer — like a self-improvement guru who only wants the best for you.

But what’s best for you needs to benefit the narcissist, or how else is it for the best? Of course, this is from the perspective of a narcissist.

The difference that makes a narcissist a covert narcissist

Of course, knowing the signs of a narcissist are still applicable; there are some outside signs that only covert narcissists will display.

Lack of grandiose or superiority is what a covert narcissist usually is missing. But of course, there is superiority when it comes to covert narcissists. Still, they take much longer to show truly their intentions. The superiority of a covert narcissist can typically be seen through growing a relationship with them.

The closer you get to a covert narcissist, the more clear the signs become.

It’s not that easy to tell with a covert narcissist if they feel superior or grandiose. With Raniere, he hid his grandiose belief behind a humanitarian effort. Who’s going to question someone who is supposedly doing good things?

With narcissism in general, everything is always about the narcissist.

We always think of a narcissist as someone bigger than themselves. Narcissists really think that they are the best.

Just like every person is different, so is every narcissist. No two narcissists will ever be the same, but they can have similar traits. The trait I have always noticed between covert narcissists is that they are most often described as “nice.”

Like Little Red Ridinghood in Into the Woods, she sings “nice is different than good” about the wolf. This is the best way to understand a covert narcissist.

Raniere was seen as a nice, selfless humanitarian who only wanted to do good. That’s how the covert narcissist was able to get their victims to really trust them.

Covert narcissists may be nice, but they aren’t always good.

Spotting the hidden danger

Covert narcissists are the most dangerous because you cannot spot them as easily.

Raniere was composed and always had alone time with his followers. He was well-groomed, nice and made the person with him feel special.

Over time, it turns into a slow, progressive takeover that targets each member. They are made to feel special because this brilliant man likes who you are. Obviously, this isn’t some b.s, it’s real and engaging for these people.

From being so close to his followers, Raniere was able to manipulate the way he is seen. Raniere always kept his followers close so he could guide them on how he wants to be seen.

Narcissists will always try to paint themselves in the best light.

No matter what, always trust your instincts, and never let anybody convince you out of how you feel.

Many of the followers of Raniere reported that they felt odd with him. That there was something that wasn’t right. But Raniere was a wonderful humanitarian who only wanted to do good — or so he said.

Raniere painted himself to be the greatest of the great — the best that ever lived.

Yet, Raniere showed his dedication as a great, selfless act, which masked his true intentions. Raniere wanted his followers to only believe in him and always to follow his word.

All of the red flags with Raniere are not completely noticeable at first. You’re taken back by this possibility of greatness in your life, and there is this great person who always wants to help you achieve your goals.

Even though the signs aren’t clearly obvious that Raniere was a narcissist upon meeting him, all of his actions are tied back to greed and his own selfish motives.

Thankfully, Raniere was found guilty of all charges and has been sentenced to 120 years in prison. Raniere’s rain of terror is finally over — but his victims relive their torment every day.

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As Originally Posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Self-Forgiveness Starts with Taking Responsibility For Your Actions

photo credit: Ava Sol Unsplash

I was in a crowded bowling alley for an award night. I had joined a year-long bowling league season, and things were wrapping up for summer.

I bowled among people on our local USBC hall of fame and pro-bowlers; it was a fantastic experience. At the beginning of the season, I started pretty poorly but slowly sharpened my skills.

Unfortunately, I had ended the season horribly and wanted to hide my face from everyone. I just felt embarrassed and silly being there — I couldn’t have achieved much.

The night carried on, and it was award time. I heard name after name being called. I only listened in when I heard my name being called. I quickly got up and made my way to the front of the crowd to accept my award.

I had won nearly a hundred dollars for achieving the award of most improved. I had improved my average of almost 35 pins. I was so excited and happy that I had achieved one of the most challenging awards in a bowling league.

As I descended from the front of the crowd, I settled in to the back, wanting to fade from the group.

That was until I heard my name being called again for another award. I had won the award for the highest handicap series for the entire season!

Another difficult achievement!

I felt so happy and proud — but only for that moment.

After that night, all I could think about was my last two weeks of bowling being my worst. How could I have won these awards with the worst scores just a few weeks back?

I needed to do better, and I needed to be better.

But why should I doubt my achievements when I worked very hard to reach them. Instead, I am hung up on my mistakes. All the games I played, injuries that flared up, and embarrassing mistakes I made were at the forefront of my memory.

On my bad days, I am down on myself pretty severely. Every accomplishment I have ever had is only followed up with criticism and judgment from myself.

But what purpose does that serve? Why should I harp on a poor throw or a bad score — it’s not life or death. Bowling is a fun, happy sport for me that brings a sense of family to my heart.

But what right do I have to take away my happiness and success?

That’s when I noticed how poorly I handled failure for myself. I was stuck looking at the negative that I failed to see the positive.

I’m not here to become the best bowler, nor do we go into any hobby wanting to be flawless. Mistakes are part of life and do not mean that you are a failure.

The bad days aren’t remembered, nor do the terrible days predict your overall success. Forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we make is essential for life.

By showing yourself forgiveness, you can see the small, successful moments all around you. By approaching our failures with forgiveness, we can begin to show more kindness.

Why you should forgive yourself

According to Standford Medicine, we may believe that being hard on ourselves means we will be successful — that’s certainly not the case.

Forgiving ourselves is a gateway to showing more kindness to our failures. The perspective shift comes when we imagine ourselves talking to a child in how we speak to ourselves.

To understand why we need to forgive ourselves, we have to review why we need self-forgiveness. We cannot live our life being mean to ourselves. Accepting that you made a mistake and learning from it are the essential points.

Acknowledging our mistakes is essential, and we should never stop doing that. But when we don’t forgive ourselves for making a mistake, we can fall into a dangerous trap.

With never allowing ourselves to be forgiven, we hold on to that frustration. That frustration can continue to grow and feed into negative self-talk.

Negative self-talk is when we speak about ourselves unkindly. Consistent negative self-talk can lead us to have poor self-esteem and lack confidence in our abilities and decisions.

Rest assured that self-forgiveness can be broken down into manageable steps.

Small steps towards self-forgiveness

Acknowledging our mistakes is the first step in practicing self-forgiveness. Self-forgiveness, at its core, can be seen as a way to understand your mistakes and learn from them.

Making a mistake isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but repeating that mistake can indeed feel that way. With each error, there is a lesson that can be learned.

According to verywellmind, there are the four “R’s” to forgiveness: responsibility, remorse, restoration, and renewal.

Responsibility

Take responsibility for your actions first and foremost. If you made a mistake and you hurt someone, be sure to own up to that. If you didn’t accidentally hurt someone with your actions, then maybe you will need to take responsibility for whatever your consequence may be.

Self-forgiveness does not mean excusing your actions. Always keep that in mind!

Remorse

If you hurt someone, say you’re sorry. Just like taking responsibility, you have to be accountable for your actions. Simply acknowledging your mistake isn’t enough.

Of course, this may not be as relevant for smaller, minor mistakes. Either way, remorse is a lesson. What could have been done better to avoid this consequence or outcome?

Above anything else, learning from your mistakes is a sure-fire way not to make that mistake again.

Restoration

Much like responsibility and remorse, there needs to be some action on your part to correct your mistakes. Some mistakes can’t be fixed, but there is always something you can do to help.

By taking accountability, and the proper steps to fix your mistakes, you can release that mistake.

Consequences and outcomes for your mistakes don’t need to be drastic and life-changing. When I would bowl, sometimes I would drop the ball right into the gutter. I am now down a throw from my fumble; my next roll has to make up for my lost opportunity. Missing this throw could be the reason our team loses.

But again, that’s okay — my team won’t hate me. It’s just how things played, but I shouldn’t feel bad for the role I play.

Forgiveness to kindness

I can show myself more kindness by forgiving myself when I make a mistake.

The hate I have shown myself is enough to turn my enemies cold and surprise even the roughest of people. Why should I be my own worst enemy?

I would never trash my friends or tell them they were failures — so why am I saying that to myself.

I’ve seen that self-forgiveness can help me soften up and relax with my surroundings. I don’t need to be perfect; I don’t need to diminish what I have accomplished.

I will celebrate every win and laugh off every mistake (when appropriate) because I don’t have time to show myself hate. Showing yourself kindness is so vital in strengthening your relationship with yourself.

When I praise the good, I’m taking the energy I would use to shame myself into showing kindness.

Next time you make a mistake, practice self-forgiveness. You deserve to treat yourself with kindness every day.

As Originally Posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Inheriting a Mental Illness Isn’t All About Genetics

photo credit: Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

Being proactive is being aware

My husband and I have recently been discussing when we will have kids. It’s a typical conversation to have between newlyweds, but one that is scary to conceptualize. I want to fill our house with the sounds of a baby and grow our family beyond our two cats.

I have always wanted children, and now that the possibility is becoming very real, it’s scary. Generally, this is a normal thing to be worried about it. We all want the best for our children.

Having children is a significant life change, so it needs to be discussed. But I worry about what I may be passing down to my children. I have lived with mental illness for much of my life.

I have had anxiety since early childhood, which later morphed into different mental illnesses as I got older. I don’t want my kids to go through what I went through.

The thought of what we could pass down is also a standard topic. For instance, my husband is worried about what he may pass on to our kids.

My husband always mentions if our kids will have celiac disease or not. Since celiac runs in his family, that’s an illness we will have to watch out for with our future kids.

Celiac is no big deal — of course, I don’t live with it, but we can buy specialty food. I have adjusted to living with someone who has celiac: different food, different toasters, and clean countertops at all times.

But when it comes down to anxiety and mental health issues, it’s different. There is a shame and stigma attached to mental health, one that I have experienced as well. This cannot be a disorder that you can live with. It almost feels like you are a failure if you have a mental illness.

Of course, you are NOT a failure for having an illness.

I live with mental illness, so I know how much of a struggle it is every day. I don’t want my future children to experience this. I know I do not have kids now, but I will one day. This is a thought that is heavily on my mind and has been for years. I don’t want another person to go through what I have gone through.

This is a more vulnerable piece for me to write, but know that this comes from my heart. I only want the best for my future kids. My worry comes from a good place, but what’s the point of worrying?

Nature vs. nurture

There is an aspect to my worry that can be answered with nature vs. nurture. If we have the genetic makeup, does that mean we will have that disorder? Much like gene expression for celiac, environmental factors can cause a disorder to present itself.

“People don’t simply “inherit” mental illness. A number of biological and environmental factors are at play in gene expression..”
-Professor Kathryn Douthit on Counseling Today

Environment plays a huge role in shaping who we are. Our environment can also affect gene expression, as mentioned by Professor Kathryn Douthit. This means that our environment can shape and affect us, but what kind of effect can it have?

Research has suggested that environmental factors could potentially be modified with appropriate intervention to help counter someone’s genetic disposition for mental illness. More research needs to be done on just what environmental factors or other extraneous variables can co-occur to cause mental illness to develop for someone.

Relinquishing control

I have such a need for control, and I recognize that. Perhaps this falls back to my perfectionism or lack of awareness of mental health at times; I want a better life for myself and my family.

I don’t know what it will be like when I have kids, nor will I know how to manage my mental illness once I have children. So why should I focus on controlling something that is completely out of my reach? I should focus on myself and making sure that I am okay.

I have to take care of myself to be a healthier version of myself for my future kids. Making a plan for my own mental health can help me navigate new motherhood when it does arrive.

The coping techniques I have now may not work or be appropriate for when I have children. My whole life will change, and I’ll need to learn to go with the flow.

Take my lesson of worry as a sign to let something go in your life that you have no control over. I am so stuck worrying about the mental health of my future children that I fail to see the reality I live in now.

I can’t be worrying about my future kids when I have me to worry about. My mental health is hard to manage at times, and I need to find better coping methods.

I can’t control passing down mental illness with kids, but I can be proactive with my own mental health.

Being proactive is being aware

I will never stop learning about mental health; I always want to improve myself. I can focus on myself, meditation, and learning more about better taking care of myself.

Being this worried about being a future mom isn’t going to benefit me right now. What I can do, is focus on my mental health and work on finding peace within myself.

I know that if I take care of myself, happiness can bleed out to those around me, even my future children when my kids come.

Writing this article and diving into research, I have learned a lot. I have learned that there is nothing I can do right, not ever, to prevent this. What I can do, is to better myself now and in the future.

In therapy, you learn tools, tips, and tricks for better living. It sounds like an easy ride, but it isn’t straightforward. Your brain has been wired a sure way to make you believe by your environment.

Change is good, no matter all the bad that could happen.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Keep Your Distance From a Narcissist to Protect Your Peace

The helpful ways to protect what is more important: your sanity

JC Gellidon on Unsplash

For my entire life, I have lived on the lies of a narcissist. What I thought was true was false, and the reality I saw was a delusion.

I could never get a single truth to come out of the narcissist. Even the simplest of truth was difficult for the narcissist to share.

I felt scared and completely alone.

I wanted nothing more than to have a peaceful, loving family, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me.

Growing up, I saw how the narcissist challenged others who questioned them. The fights, terror, and anger were a constant sight for me.

I learned the hard way that when you push back against an abusive narcissist, you are left with nothing but destruction — and a little bit of hope.

I fought tirelessly for years to get other family members to see what I saw in the narcissist. The lies and manipulation were almost constant — the signs were evident to me.

As I heard my family defend the narcissist, I began to feel as though I had lost touch with reality.

The truth I was showing to my family was an assault on the character of the narcissist. They were brainwashed, I was brainwashed — but I dared to challenge the narcissist head-on.

I now know what narcissism is and how I can understand the repeated flow of behavior. I learned to detach from the mess the narcissist had created and cared for myself.

Now I am in a better place, but I can see how strong the narcissist’s delusion was when I look back. Many people don’t see the signs of a narcissist, or they don’t even know what a narcissist is.

Please keep in mind that narcissism is a real disorder that affects real people. Not all narcissists are abusive, but some are.

Even if you don’t have a narcissist in your life, you may be in a problematic relationship. No matter who someone is to you, no one is allowed to make you feel inferior.

The guidance I want to share does not need to apply only to an actual narcissist, but it can work for others as well.

You don’t have to be a narcissist to have narcissistic traits — some people can be mean, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.

But always take steps to protect yourself no matter what.

Keep your distance

This is the first thing to do; You cannot get safe until you are away.

Stay away from them as much as you can, separation will help you heal. This can be very difficult for some family dynamics or relationships. If you cannot keep your physical distance, then keep yourself protected.

Disengage, and try to be as disconnected as much as you can from them. I understand that this might seem mean, but remember that your happiness is essential, too.

Establish boundaries around seeing this person, and limit contact to whatever extent you are comfortable with.

Take your power back

Get back at narcissists by taking your power back.

Your power is sacred, as your power is you.

Your power is being able to express who you are without worry of judgment; it’s your overall drive and determination.

Even if the person in your life isn’t a narcissist, this can still work. Do not let someone make you feel as if they are superior to you — no one has the right to make you feel this way.

It doesn’t matter if it is your mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, aunt and uncle, or even a family friend. No one has the right to make you feel less like less of a person.

You are perfectly built, flaws and all; don’t let anyone shame you for your shining light.

Believe your truth over their lies

Your truth is important; that is something always to remember. When a narcissist lies, they are trying to protect themselves. Whatever a narcissist’s reason for lying, maybe it is essential to resist falling into questioning yourself.

Through my own experience with a narcissist, I found myself questioning my motives, actions, and even reality.

If someone in your family upsets you, and it makes you feel sad, angry, embarrassed, or any other unpleasant feeling — it’s valid.

Just because a narcissist doesn’t believe that they hurt your feelings doesn’t magically undo the hurt.

Believe yourself, hold onto your truth, and don’t ever allow anyone to make you question that. You are strong.

Know that this too shall pass

It’s hard to look back and see the faults in your relationships with someone who is narcissistic. And it’s even harder to continue to endure abuse at the hands of a narcissist.

I have dealt with a narcissistic abuser for my entire life. I am finally free of their abuse and manipulation, but I will live with the pain they have caused me for the rest of my life.

The situation you are presently in is not your forever.

One day you won’t wake up with anxiety over what they will do next.

One day you will feel completely free, and the narcissist will be nothing more than a memory.

You are so important; use these tools to help guide you to peace and happiness from a narcissist.

.

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As Originally Posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Anti-Depressant Withdrawal Symptoms Can Be Dangerous

Being awake was agony, and falling asleep was torturous; each day only seemed to worsen

photo credit: lilartsy on unsplash

For the past week, I just haven’t been feeling right. My depression was worse, my mood was irritable, and I was so anxious.

I was devastated by this change because I thought I had been doing better. Over the past couple of months, I felt like things were finally turning around. Having this random mood change was difficult to handle.

I wanted to feel like myself again, but I didn’t know how to fix the problem. I tried exercising and drinking water more — instead, it made me feel tired.

As the days went on, my symptoms seemed only to get worse. I began to feel dizzy and weak with increased irritability. At one point, I began to develop these zapping sensations throughout my body.

I became so desperate for relief that I walked until I was unable to stop these electric shocks.

I was miserable and so uncomfortable.

Being awake was agony, and falling asleep was torturous; each day only seemed to worsen.

One day I woke up feeling worse than I had before. The shocking zaps that filled my waking hours only continued.

I crawled out of bed went to take my pills, as I did every morning. I was so dizzy and anxious that I felt I needed to go to the hospital. I had no energy to write or read — I could only cry and rock myself for comfort.

As I opened the medicine slot, something caught my attention. This time I decided to check my pill box to make sure that I had everything. A part of me was hopeful that maybe this was simply a medication error — and to my surprise, I was right.

I looked at the last full slot and noticed I was missing something: my anti-depressant.

Upon further inspection, it seems that I had missed my anti-depressant for an entire week. I did not simply miss a day when adding pills a week earlier. I didn’t even know where my anti-depressants had gone, too!

I usually keep all of my medicine in the same basket to make it easier to refill my pillbox every day. My antidepressant was nowhere to be found among my medication.

It turns out it had fallen out; I didn’t notice what it was and put it with the Advil and Benadryl thinking it was nothing important.

For 1 whole week, I starved my brain of serotonin. How I had been feeling every day was related to me missing my usual dose.

I quickly called my doctor and told her what had happened. My doctor stated that I was going through some withdrawal symptoms. Both my doctor and pharmacist told me to resume my regular dose and rest.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons over the week.

Withdrawal effects of anti-depressants

There have been debates around whether anti-depressants can have effects if you stop them abruptly. I was on my medication for a year and a half at the highest dose possible.

From what I experienced, I needed to learn more about anti-depressant withdrawals. Not everyone will experience withdrawal, but those who do can experience unpleasant symptoms.

In fact, stopping an anti-depressant can lead to depression-like symptoms. I experienced a slew of different symptoms that all looked like depression.

Aside from depression-like symptoms, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has listed the following symptoms with anti-depressant withdrawal:

dizziness (this is usually mild, but can be so bad that you can’t stand up without help)
anxiety which comes and goes, sometimes in intense ‘surges’
difficulty in getting to sleep and vivid or frightening dreams
low mood, feeling unable to be interested in or enjoy things
a sense of being physically unwell
rapidly changing moods
anger, sleeplessness, tiredness, loss of co-ordination and headache
the feeling of an electric shock in your arms, legs, or head (those are sometimes called ‘zaps’ and turning your head to the side can make them worse)
a feeling that things are not real (‘derealisation’), or a feeling that you have ‘cotton wool in your head’
difficulty in concentrating
suicidal thoughts
queasiness
a feeling of inner restlessness and inability to stay still (akathisia).

After I read over this list, I saw a lot of the symptoms that I had. My doctor and pharmacist both confirmed that what I was experiencing was withdrawal symptoms.

The symptom that really affected me the most were the ‘zaps’ I was experiencing (bolded above). They were so uncomfortable, and they created an almost numbing feeling to my extremities.

Thankfully, these symptoms were easily relieved by resuming my normal dose. And nearly a week later, I am feeling a lot better.

Accidents happen — it’s okay

Don’t beat yourself up over missing some doses. I wasn’t purposefully trying to withdraw from my medication.

I felt so silly when I first realized I had missed my medication, but now I feel relieved and happy. I need some extra help — it will keep me safe and happy.

My husband will now double-check my pillbox when it makes it weekly to ensure that I don’t miss anything again. I know this may sound odd to some people, but I have ADHD, so it is easy to forget simple yet important things.

If you experience missing a dose or two, plan to set up ways to prevent this from happening again.

Now that I am back on my anti-depressants, I need to make sure that I stay on them. If something happens more than one time, it’s a pattern. I don’t want this ever to happen again, so now that I have my plan, I can more confidently handle my pills in the future.

Forgive yourself and move on

To my surprise, I didn’t feel guilty or angry at myself. In fact, I felt at peace with this all. This is the first instance that I have ever forgiven myself so quickly.

For once, moving on was easy, and forgiving myself wasn’t a battle.

It was an accident, I didn’t intend to do this, and that’s okay!

Beating yourself up about missing your medication is only going to make you more stressed. Take this as a valuable lesson and move in.

Take time to rest

Over this past week, I haven’t written or done any work, really. I spent the entire week lying on the floor, wrapped in a blanket, and zoning out to Rick and Morty.

Once I resumed my medication, I was happier, more lively, and able to get some work done. I didn’t want to push myself because I needed to ensure I was back to being myself.

So, as a trade-off, I had to stop writing and being active on social media. I took a week’s break, but now I am back!

I took this time to rest because I lacked sleep, energy, and overall mental strength to accomplish the simplest task.

as originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Taking Your Power Back From a Narcissist

The greatest weapon that a narcissist has is power — take that away and they have nothing

photo credit: Michael L on Unsplash

I sat across from them at the kitchen table, my foot nervously tapping on the ground. They sat across from me, eyes cast downward and a stern face with a hint of a menacing grin.

In a quick utterance, they said, “There is going to be issues around your car with the family — the fact you have even used it is an issue — so the best option is for you to put the title of your car in my name — and take your name off of the title.”

My cheeks flushed, my stomach dropped into my knees, and I felt as though my heart was going to stop.

“What happens if I don’t?” I managed to squeeze out in between breaths. I needed to be strong.

They glanced up at me for a moment and dropped their eyes, “Well, we don’t know what other family might do if they found out that you have been using your aunt’s car this entire time.”

I became enraged. I never took my aunt’s car — she gave it to me! Ever since I was a child, my aunt told me she would give me her car because she loved me. Why would he think I took it?

“I understand, but I did not take her car; it was a gift from her. She always wanted me to have her car.”

The narcissist repeated, in an eerily calm voice, “Just take your name off the title.”

After a few weeks of doing the same dance, I realized that I was not required to do anything. The ownership is in my name, not theirs! I have control over my own property, and that car is my property.

Who are they to tell me what to do?

I never took my name off that title, and I never, ever will.

Understanding narcissism

From my research, I learned that narcissists believe that they are so powerful that they need others to believe it too.

The narcissist will hold some type of power over you, whether it be money or acceptance — it’s anything that can be used to manipulate you. Not every narcissist will be the same, but it is important to understand that not every narcissist is the same.

By taking that power they have over you, and ignoring their commands or threats will make their power fade.

Narcissists are only as strong as they build themselves up to be.

Ignore The Narcissist

After I realized my own rights, and that my property was my own, I stopped engaging with the narcissist. They tried harder to get my attention, anything at all to get me to crack. The narcissist even went as far as to spreading slander about me to other family members.

I wanted to apologize and not hear about this anymore. I wanted everything to be fine and not painful. I didn’t want anyone in my family to be mad at me. I know I hadn’t done anything, but the narcissist was making it seem like I had.

But I held strong and made sure not to go crawling back.

I began to understand narcissism a little more. I was hopeless and stuck, and I needed a way out of this situation.

When I began ignoring my narcissist, they became meek and quiet and turned it around to portray me as the villain. They know my triggers are my family, and wanting to do anything to help, and they played on that to get a rise out of me.

Disarm them

To disarm a narcissist, it is best to break any ties or connections with them. In some circumstances, like mine, cutting off the narcissist was a challenging task. But once I stopped participating taking their bait or when they are trying to get a rise out of me, I simply ignore it.

The narcissist in my life wasn’t able to take a hint too quickly, so I had to be straightforward with them. I stopped engaging and told them, “Please, leave me alone.”

I’ve found that talking to the narcissist does no good. Of course, do not be rude, but set up clear boundaries. You have every right to control how much communication you have with someone — no matter what.

I was looked down on any time I was in their presence and made to feel like a complete failure. I was so petrified of their wrath and making sure their needs were always met that I was scared of them.

But now, I look them dead in the eye and tell them what needs to be said.

When being direct with a narcissist, it is important to stay polite and respectful. As hard as this was for me, I tried my best to still be courteous to them. Stooping to a narcissist’s level only makes the situation way.

If you have to talk with them, keep it short and simple. Do not try to explain yourself, do not accuse or point fingers back at them. As good as it may feel about telling a narcissist off, it is important to remember that if you already feel unsafe around them, you don’t want to push it.

Narcissists are dependent on others for their self-esteem — without people to control, they are helpless.

Prepare for backlash

Dr. Nancy Lee from Upjourney details what can potentially happen when a narcissist is ignored:

“If you ignore a narcissist and deny them their source, they may become enraged and try even harder for your attention — especially in ways that can be toxic or abusive. Ignoring a narcissist will enrage them because of their fragile egos. They’ll feel humiliated and lash out against you to protect themselves.”
-Dr. Nancy Lee on Upjourney

Upsetting a narcissist can feel like putting a bullseye on your forehead. You will be their focus, and they will get increasingly more bold in order to get a rise out of you.

They will try to hurt you in some way. Narcissists know your triggers and your soft points and will use that for their benefit.

When I faced him, he was furious; they stated some horrible things to me, threatened to call the police, and shunned me from the family.

The silent treatment was terrible. The narcissist would pretend not to notice me and even go as far as to exclude me from talking with the rest of the family.

And for what? I can’t share much else, but I can sum it up fairly well: money.

Money and greed go hand in hand, and my narcissist was a shining example.

But I did not let up. Slowly over time, their image cracked and cracked further.

It seemed that the more people he lost that he could control, the weaker he got.

Dealing with a narcissist is a challenging task that can drain the life right out of you. You never what the narcissist will do next, or what their true motives are.

Next time you face a narcissist — or anyone with a superiority complex, remember that their power is an illusion.

No one can control you but YOU. It is your life to control, no one else can take that from you. Use this to empower yourself to stand in the throws of anything that comes your way.

Please note that narcissism is not a word to be used lightly. Narcissists show a distinct pattern of abuse that is done through fear and manipulation tactics.

As Originally Posted on Medium and NewsBreak