Here’s the rub; this whole narcissism bit was born out of my personal research, which I was doing to identify patterns I had been exposed to and cultivated in the past. I went through codependency and empathy because that shoe fit. I had nailed down my “deficiencies.” However, I wanted to understand all the confusion I felt about my past relationships. Why it has been so difficult for me to unplug myself from it because I get it, “it’s crazy.” I stumbled upon gaslighting, and that broke me into the chewy center of the tootsie pop.
In my past relationships, I literally have felt as though I was going crazy. I was continually stating my boundaries, needs, pains, and the lack and hurt I was feeling caused by their behavior, caused by a person who claimed to love me. (I often speak of Jerry because he is a massive component (8 years). My most significant and most prolonged cluster fuck to date, but believe it or not, he wasn’t the only one; hence “their.”) So gaslighting. I started researching gaslighting. Which led me to Dr. Ramani, a licensed psychologist with a Ph. D. She specializes in personality disorders. She has an insane amount of FREE content on Youtube about, you guessed it, narcissism. I went faaaaaar down that rabbit hole, and it shed so much light and provided me, for the first time ever in my life, clarity about these relationships and my participation in them. She also has a book (foreshadow???) titled, “Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving A Relationship With A Narcissist” and it magnified my clarity – it focused it.
I have said, and maybe it’s shitty of me because fill in the blank I want this information to be accessible so that it can help someone. Maybe in a fucked up way, I am trying to save my old self, (like you can do that?), but I wish I could’ve saved myself time, anguish. Learning that unplugging yourself from a narcissistic relationship is not the same as just breaking up with someone was validating. The entanglement. The giant knot. Unpacking all the “abuse” and downright fuckedness of the whole situation was not as simple and as pragmatic as you may judge it. Anyone thinking, beyond myself, “enough time has gone by” “you’ve moved on and your married” or “why” clearly has the benefit of never experiencing a narcissistic relationship.
I fully accept responsibility for my participation in all of it. Still, I had no awareness of what was happening. I was trying to love someone incapable of showing up the same way for me. I was dumb. Blind. Living in a fantasy, that I created. I wanted what I wanted because I had invested. Because every time I had enough and was going to leave (in some cases, I did leave), I wasPROMISEDtime and again that “things would be different” and “I will change, please don’t go – I love you so much.” And that’s all I wanted. Change in behavior and to be loved by the person I loved so very much. I didn’t want the cheating, the lying the chronic “sorry’s” that only served to manipulate and bide time. I whole heartily misunderstood and I didn’t learn after repeated failures to deliver on their behalf. I was comforted by the devil I knew, the predictability of chaos, and the hopes that he would change. I was wrong. I had unreasonable expectations given the nature of the person I was involved with.
So, heavy, right? We also have an election coming up. In my opinion, it is fundamentally important to educate yourself on the issues that are in front of us, and part of that is behavior. Being able to spot and identify grandiosity, lack of empathy, gaslighting, carelessness, manipulation, etc. may provide more clarity (as if the state of affairs isn’t clear enough), but hey, The Social Dilemma, right?
And perhaps you don’t have an intimate relationship with a narcissist, or you never have. However, maybe you have someone in your family, or a boss, a friend, who leaves you feeling a bit like shit? Perhaps through research and identification, you’ll possess clarity, and thus the ability to move through it; however, best suits you.
Make no mistake, narcissism is prevalent; “Narcissism is an epidemic, and no one is free from its effects. Much like any epidemic, whether or not you get the illness, you are affected. If you aren’t a narcissist, then you may be under the spell of someone who is a pathological narcissist, and it is taking a toll on your life. Increasingly, we are emptying the connection, respect, and empathy out of one of the most important and healthy of human experiences and turning it into branding, showmanship, and posturing.” Of course, this is a quote from Dr. Ramani (duh!).
As usual, please share and feel free to reach out!
This week and next, I’ll be diving into narcissism! Ironic, eh? I feel pulled to discuss this right now for multiple reasons, both personal and otherwise.
I won’t be sharing a book on Thursday; instead, I’ll be doing another post continuing the examination of narcissism. In this particular post, I have pulled information directly from the DSM-5. I intentionally did this because I am not a psychologist and because science overrides my general knowledge on the topic. It’s essential to believe and pull from science. Am I right?
Y’all know I am a big fan of trying to understand human behavior. I believe that understanding and being able to identify these characteristics is massively important. It helps us navigate our social relationships and has the potential to decrease our suffering.
I have suffered because I did not understand this personality disorder. I had STRONG beliefs that I could influence this personality type to, in my personal experience, be more empathetic and loving. Of course, that belief stems from my own issues, which I will dive into – shit, that’s all I ever dive into.
For those who can identify these traits within their intimate relationship partner, I will be posting resources on October 1st (you can also DM me, and I can get them for you). The most significant misunderstanding about being in a narcissistic relationship is, if the abuse of narcissism were physically visible, it would be one of the most devastating depictions of a physical assault.
I met Jerry on December 20th, 2003; I was 17 and in high school, and he was 19 and a musician. We spent the better part of eight years together. In the first year and a half, I was given a promise ring one night at a fancy romantic dinner. Shortly after that dinner, I found out he was sleeping with my best friend after suspicion led me to snoop his cell phone. I broke up with him, and then we got back together. We tried and did, to an extent, build a life together. Unfortunately, massive portions of that life were filled with lying about anything and everything on his part and disrespect. He constantly lied about who he was talking to, where he was, money and bills that were paid or not paid, weed use, and in general, who he was. We fought a lot because of all the lying. I could never trust him. There was no recovering since another lie was just on the horizon. We were always slipping. I never felt secure. I was never considered. Things that were important to me were disregarded by both of us. We both put him first. I’ve beaten our porn issues to death, but it is a perfect example of how everything in our relationship went. I had an issue with Jerry and porn, not because I had an issue with porn. I had an issue with how the porn affected Jerry and thus me. I wouldn’t sleep with him because his lying directly impacted my ability to be vulnerable or intimate with him. I didn’t feel secure or loved by him. He’d watch porn to compensate and then lie about it. So I wouldn’t want to sleep with him because I was hurt that he lied. My feelings were rarely taken into consideration. So, I was always on the defense. Therefore, we rarely we’re on the same team. Yet, I loved him so much. We had these cycles, which became our norm. We’d have months filled with good times and love (cards, flowers, and wonderful words) but, then a month would come up, and it would slip us back to the last slip up, and then we would start all over. Wash, rinse, and repeat. I later learned this is classic love bombing.
At this point, you may be asking: why did I stay? My blind love, his promises of change, his pleas for me to stay, my lack of self-respect, naivety, my love of personal torment (chaotic childhood/attachment issues), the glimpses of hope, and my thoughts on his potential are what kept me hooked. I did truly love him; I know it says a lot about me. Failure is a huge childhood issue for me. I felt, if I gave up on my relationship with Jerry, it was a mark of personal failure.
Another core belief of mine is actions speak louder than words. I told you, my core beliefs are so fundamental they are kindergarten lingo. I even tattooed, “they can say they love you, but it still won’t change a thing” on my back. Jerry would say, at times, the most wonderful, nice, and validating things, but (big but) he never toed the line. He could talk the talk, could never walk the walk. I always saw him as having untapped potential. If he could just stop lying, things would be better.
After five years of dating, we broke up. He moved to Maui in 2008, and I flew to Maui to get him back. On the heel of that, he cheated again. Broke up and got back together. He wrote me a song and proposed; I got a ring! And at 25, I decided to go back to school to finish my degree. We needed to relocate for me to finish my degree. I was, for the first time in our relationship, in the driver’s seat. He couldn’t hack the move. He felt his music career was taking a back seat to my goals. He began texting about meeting up with a “lesbian” who sent him multiple pictures of herself in lingerie (lesbian is in quotes because it was a copout). He set up a dating profile looking for a girl who possessed both my personality and physical qualities, but just not with the knowledge of him, which I unfortunately possessed. All of this I, of course, found out on my own. I confronted him. We cried together on the floor of our bedroom. We realized we were nearing our end. We came down to LA to visit family, and I slept with someone else and lied about it.
End of relationship.
In 2017, I wrote a poem, if you will, concerning Jerry and I emailed him about it. Got no reply.
Then in the Spring of 2018, Jerry and I corresponded through email. At this point, it had been nearly 2 years of rolling around the idea of amends. We talked about a lot of different things; my emails were reserved. Still, I put it out there that I was feeling bad about a lot of things—mainly how things were between us. To sum up Jerry’s emails, he was thoughtful, kind, and sensitive to my expressions of sadness and remorse. He was worried about me,
“I really hope you are okay. It worries me whenever you reach out to me. I always feel like you are going through something and can’t really tell me. Life is weird as shit but were not strangers. We’re the same dumb kids we always were but with adult lives to live.”
Taking this as a sign of personal growth and change for him, I felt some safety, and I dispensed pieces of pain that were on my heart in those emails, moving towards amends. He said all the right things. Things that should have been satisfactory, but I found myself doubting if he were put face to face with me, what would he say? It’s easy to respond to an email because you can type whatever. Being face to face and on the spot is a whole other thing. You can’t calculate. You can’t delete. He also shared with me that he got a new dog and “was totally in love” with the dog. (Keep this in mind for later).
We also talked about music his new band was putting out. He sent me a few demos, and they were really good. Seriously, good. But hearing and reading his lyrics got me so caught up in how he was really doing. You see, one of my regrets with Jerry is, while I was dating him, I was constantly feeling frustrated that I didn’t know who Jerry really was because he always lied. Arguably, he clearly expressed who he was or how he felt in writing his heart in his songs. And if I listen back to the stuff he recorded while we were together, he was communicating how he felt about all the issues we were having. The issues he was having. But in my self-righteousness and pain, I never heard what he was saying. So, when he sent me over these songs, one in particular, “lost in my head again — avoiding existence — but I stay trapped in the same routine — push everyone I love away — and I felt my best — when I was all alone” I couldn’t help, but listen.
In my email to him on August 7th, 2018 (shown in part I of this story), I asked him two questions. His reply to my email came a week later, only addressing the first question. I could labor on about our email exchanges and how much frustration it gave me, but in full transparency, here ya go:
The amount of gratitude I felt for getting the opportunity to see and talk to him, I cannot put into words. What I felt and thought this would do for me was quite frankly the opportunity of a lifetime—healing for a disease that seemed as if only he had the cure for.
All the way to meet him on that Thursday afternoon, I was full of nerves. I came prepared with notes. Yes. Notes. I really wanted my intention to translate and I wanted to do the work. Take responsibility. I tried to brace myself for whatever was going to happen, including him not showing up. I got to the restaurant. Grabbed a beer. Sat alone at a tabletop in the rear of the restaurant. I didn’t see him come in the door; I just felt his presence as he approached the table. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here he was, this stranger I knew better than most. I was utterly overwhelmed with nerves, anxiety, love, and familiarity when I saw him. He looked different. A lot different from how I remember him. He looked burdened, heavy. His chest was more barreled. His hair was bleached, fried. He was dressed in all black, per his norm. The lines in his face had gotten harder. Time will do that; my bags have gotten worse. But he looked like he’d let himself go a bit. I am not saying this to be mean through judgment, but I felt concerned. His light had dimmed. His birthday was that Saturday. So, as a gift, I offered to buy whatever beers he drank. I had a few myself to calm my nerves. I also brought him a few crystals, specifically Rose Quartz, which is for the heart chakra. I told him he “could throw them away” if they didn’t resonate with him. I told him about how he was coming up for me. I said, “You are like cancer in my brain that I cannot get rid of.” I told him how sorry I was, and I read off my notes:
I told him I will always accept him for who he is. A failure and regret of mine. That I will always love him for how/who he is. He did not reciprocate. Not even with apologies. Just like in our relationship, I apologized and tried to undo everything I had seemingly done to him in an attempt to restore him.
We caught up on his family and friends who have drifted through my memory. We talked about his mom. My only conversation with her is carved into my mind. Where I was and what I was wearing, and what she said to me. It echos time and again. Like when we found out, she had passed. Jerry and I were sharing a twin bed at his Grandpa’s house in Ontario. Sitting on our bed one night, his brother calls, and he doesn’t answer it. I tell him, “call him back; it may be important.” I will never forget his face and the reaction he had. It was heartbreaking. In the time Jerry and I spent together, while it was fractured, we saw each other through many life changes. Particularly loss. He was there for me when I found out my uncle committed suicide. He was at the funeral. Helped. I was there with him when his beloved Grandpa died like died. I was there when his mother passed. Our memories are intertwined. Moving on is more than moving on from each other. It is moving on from everything because it is all enmeshed.
We talked about our respective relationships, which I will keep sacred. We joked. We were happy in each other’s company. We only had an hour since he met me on his lunch break. He was working at the same job, I submitted his resume to years ago. When we got to our cars, I popped a white head on his face that had been bothering me the whole time we talked. Hugged and said goodbye. After I left him, I sent him an email with the notes I had read to him before heading home. Jerry replied, “I think we were probably sending each other an email at the same time. As I keep saying, you have no need to be sorry but I appreciate your effort to apologize. I will try my best to not be a stranger but in reflecting, it was pretty hard to see you. It brought back so many memories and feelings. I do have so much love for you too and I hope you are able to get yourself into a positive mental state. I’m here if you need anything. Just let me know.”
And “I genuinely miss you.“
To which I replied, “We need to have another lunch, there is so much more to cover.”
He sent me a text and said, “Lets have lunch again tomorrow.”
Through the wave of postpartum hormones and the loss of an old identity, my brain forced me to reconcile old baggage as I transitioned into a new chapter of my life. Rinse the sin. I was forced to contemplate the type of human example I wanted to be to this innocent life I haphazardly brought into the world. I wanted to identify as someone who represented and abided by my core beliefs. A fundamental core belief of mine, stated simply in kindergarten lingo, is to treat people how you want to be treated.
Following a very traumatic birth through the first 16 months after my daughter was born, I struggled immensely. I can’t even conjure up the words to express it. I have no words to describe how difficult it has been for me to adapt and change, to find acceptance.
The birth of my daughter was the catalyst of my beginning to make amends.
I have been so fortunate to love deeply a handful of times. Some deeper than others. But still, my relational life has been full of love and disappointment. Examining my past, my feelings regarding my actions are littered with guilt, shame, sadness—a longing to fix the unfixable. I loved deeply but didn’t always act with love. I blame myself for not knowing myself better and making wiser decisions. I made decisions that were unconscious and rooted in fear. I blame myself because I should’ve known better.
During this self-flagellation, I began to feel the pull to contact my relational foul-ups of the past. Right my wrongs, if you will. I had all this guilt I put on myself about how I treated others – ones that I loved. I felt I needed to step up and take personal responsibility for my fuck-ups. I needed to dig myself out of the emotional hole I put myself in. I needed to address the effect I had on the ones that I loved. I needed to find personal peace and acceptance, and forgiveness.
Following the birth of my daughter, I was experiencing uncontrollable intrusive thoughts and feelings for months. Trying to sort them out and make sense of them was agonizing. My ex, Jerry, was the person who came up all the time. Not in a romantic way, but he just kept coming into my thoughts randomly. I’d wake up thinking about him, he’d pop in my head during the day, and by night, I had been pushing out the thoughts about him all day that after I’d fall asleep, I’d dream about him and then start the cycle all over again. I was conscious of my thoughts, but I could not control them. These thoughts became so invasive that his name began to escape my lips more regularly. It was awful, consuming, and I needed it to stop.
I am married and have a child, and I have so much shit on my plate, it didn’t make sense why all of this was coming up. I talked to friends at length (god bless you all), trying to sort this out and make sense of it. What were my options? What could I do to address this and fix it? Stop it. My friends suggested I try writing a letter first, to see if that would help. It didn’t. I drank. Wrote. Got rid of everything. Prayed. Read books. Used crystals. Meditated. Exercised. Nothing made the incessant thoughts stop.
So at the end of my exhausted rope, I decided to reach out to Jerry to see if we could meet up and talk
For those of you concerned about my husband: I am so beyond grateful and lucky that I have a supportive husband. I communicated, honestly, every step of the way. So, there was no freak out or any jealousy. I was able to walk my individual journey as I needed to, without projected fear from my husband. Lord knows, I had plenty of my own fear. He supported me and told me “to do whatever I needed to do to be happy.”
(Side Note: Marry this person. The one who walks alongside you. You are a couple, but you are still forever you).