Out of the Closet: As a Borderline and a Narcissist

dsc04331aEven now, just as I begin to write I can feel myself wanting to detach, even slightly dissociate into a day-dream type state.

I’m tired though and depressed. What I take some days for my depression and anxiety, makes me tired the next day, which in turns feeds the depression and my boredom.

So, to the point of this post: I have borderline personality disorder. I was diagnosed some time ago, but even if I hadn’t been, I could, quite confidently still say this and know it’s true.

In fact, I sought the diagnosis. Although I would’ve preferred to be proven wrong, the truth is truth no matter how much you don’t want it to be. Sure, I could also be labeled as having Complex Post Traumatic Disorder too and in fact I do think I suffer from that as well. After all, I have borderline because of ongoing emotional neglect and abuse via both parents, which also caused the post traumatic stress.

The traumatic stress was exacerbated during the stretch of weeks that my family and I cared for my father after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. There abuse exhausted me. I found myself wondering during the editing of this post, if their treatment of me didn’t play a part in removing the mask that I wear. That being said, the mask is and has been off in my living situation for a long time. It has come off in periodic fits of rage or berating of others.

According to the DSM (any version that lists it) I fit quite well into each symptom of BPD. I have mentioned the personality disorder here and there on this blog, but not a whole lot, pertaining to myself, preferring to go along with the (C)PTSD part of the diagnosis, given the way I acquired it. Note: I was not diagnosed with Complex PTSD. The therapist who diagnosed me with borderline also diagnosed me with PTSD.

My thinking on that is because the complex form is not recognized in the DSM and it’s likely for insurance purposes as well. This therapist , in fact all the therapists I’ve seen covered by public assistance have seemed to be more concerned with making sure they get paid than making sure they can help me.

Digressing…sorry.

Feeling afraid and shameful, because of the stigma, I have preferred to mention as little as possible in reference to myself. Besides, don’t people with C-PTSD have trouble with impulse control and containing emotions as well?  I’d bet that some do. It’s a coping strategy in defense of feeling threatened. Whether a real threat or not.

Some of what I’ve written of my behavior though, certainly speaks for itself and someone knowledgeable of the disorders would likely figure it out.  In fact someone knowledgeable may even guess I have some level of narcissism as well.

I want to at some point, go down the list of borderline symptoms and illustrate how they fit my own behaviors. But for now, I will just give an example of some unstable relationship behavior:

In past relationships I have been very indecisive (although the men were always unhealthy) and would pull someone in. Then when I felt like things were getting too serious, I’d push them away in some form or another. I know now that it was because I felt engulfed.

I spent my twenties back and forth between two men, seeing one for a stretch of time, then doing that with the other, repeatedly. Same two guys.

Then in my thirties there were two other men, one being married and the other Mr. B. It wasn’t quite the same as with the other two, but I found myself at one point not wanting to make up my mind between the two of them. In fact, I don’t know that I ever would have, had it not been made up for me. The married man from when I was in my early thirties is one in the same as the man I got re-involved with at the end of 2009 and he was married again to someone else

Always though, sex was the high-point and the most important part of these relationships for me. In fact it was an addiction of sorts. Sex in and of itself wasn’t what I’d call an addiction. I was addicted to each person I wanted to have sex with. I didn’t go seek out sex with every guy in town just so that I could have an orgasm. Sex though, with the men I felt drawn to, was an escape for me like getting drunk was or smoking a joint.

I was up late last night reading a blog I found a link to on the resource page of the blog “Down the Rabbit Hole.”

That  blog is called “From Narcissism to Nirvana” and can be found here. I found myself relating to so much of what was written there.

I know, it’s well known that if you question yourself being a narcissist, you aren’t one. But I don’t agree with that across the board. That’s not to say I don’t think all narcissists are aware, nor do all narcissists question. And it’s probably that if a malignant narcissist is aware of what he or she is, they see no reason to change.

Nor am I saying that I think every single person who questions themselves, is one. As has been said before, narcissism runs on a spectrum and a little is a good thing anyway.

On the blog is a post about different types of narcissists. I found this interesting to read about and found myself in the description of “Fragile/Covert narcissist.” Not everything fit, but enough to see and understand that I have some issues with this. You can find that post here.

I have been resisting using these labels. But I believe this resistance is holding me back from writing as freely as I’d like. I’ve been afraid of what some of my readers will think, say or do. (Even though I don’t have many.)

I am irresponsible. I stay up late and I sleep late. I don’t work. I rely on someone else to keep a roof over my head. There’s SNAP but no cash benefits because I don’t have kids. I self-isolate and have done so for a few years now. When I do leave the house for necessary errands, I am completely wiped out by the time I get back.

I berate my roommate and have little patience for our cat.

Even when Mr. B does something nice or positive or whatever, I will still find something to berate him for. I find something out of place and I call him at work, angry about it, trying to change the occurrence. Trying to get him to change his habits. Trying to control the situation. Trying to control him.

I rage when I feel threatened or slighted in any way, most of the time as well, so yes, Mr. B has experienced and been on the receiving end of this.

I get agitated easily when someone doesn’t understand me the first time I explain myself, whether it’s a hearing problem or a logistic misunderstanding, my reaction tends to be the same. And as I repeat myself the impatience and agitation is loud and clear.

I have never had an interest in anything long enough to become an expert in it, really great at it or to really make any money at it. I get bored quickly and easily long before I master anything.

On top of this I also have codependency issues. I am afraid to be assertive. Either I am putting my tail between my legs or I rage. There doesn’t seem to be too much in-between most of the time.

The co-dependency issues:

-I have a need for approval from others/everyone. The situation I went through with my family while we cared for my dying father is a really good example of my codependency behavior.
-Not being capable of drawing boundaries.
-Worried my family wouldn’t love me if I didn’t do what they wanted.
-Not standing up for myself when they raged at me or otherwise verbally/emotionally assaulted me.
-Their approval of me was more important to me than my own safety.

My family as a unit is/was very narcissistic.

None of us know how to deal with our emotions or stress in productive ways among each other. That was made very clear during my father’s illness. Speaking for myself, my emotional and stress responses go beyond my behavior with my family, as I’ve illustrated here.

Briefly speaking for my family members, I see borderline traits in my brother, both borderline and some malignant narcissism in my sister, and covert narcissism in my mother as well as apathy.

I prefer to say that I have borderline personality disorder rather than that I am a borderline. Because the borderline traits are the behaviors of false-self, as I see it. They are the protection and the defense. Even some kind of denial of self.

Even the nice-guy act of certain types of narcissists is a protective shell to get others to like them. I understand that this is manipulative and fake and much of the time there is some evil ulterior motive other than to just be liked. But bear with me, I am not talking about malignant narcs.

On the above mentioned blog From Narcissism to Nirvana, the author explains some behaviors and how they relate to the false-self and the mask. In reading I came to my own understanding of the phenomena of the act, the mask and the false-self.

The act is just that, but it’s also an adaptation to the social aspect of life. It’s also a far outer wall, to protect both real and false-selves as well as to hide the mask itself.

The mask is the shield closest to the surface personality, which I think is the false-self. The abusive self, the raging self, the angry and hardened self…that is all the false-self. The self that developed in defense to protect the real-self. The real self is actually the vulnerable soft little child who just wants love. And is the one hidden behind all these hard outer shells, known as masks.

So when the mask comes off it’s not the real-self you see. Even though, neither was the nice guy you first met. When a mask comes off, it’s still just one layer. The rage and evil you see is the self defense coping strategy developed over so much time.

The real-self is also the developmentally arrested self. The layers of masks are there to cover up the fact that the child has not emotionally grown up and into the full-fledged adult it was meant to. The adult child is emotionally stuck in whatever age the wounding began.

So what you see and experience when the mask comes off, is another defense and protective mechanism because the adult child hasn’t learned any coping mechanisms past that early age. That rage is a coping mechanism for a very scared, frightened, sad and grieving child.

The adult (real-self) never had a chance to emotionally develop because the child lived in a necessary state of defense, constant stress and fear.

Children need guidance and direction in order to learn new and age appropriate coping skills from healthy adults who also understand healthy ways of coping, as he or she grows.  When that’s not available, the child is left to fend for itself.

I can’t speak to the experience of every narcissist or everyone with borderline personality disorder. I’m speaking from the understanding I took from something I read and applied to the way it feels for me.

There are times I’ve reacted in anger when it made absolutely no sense and in fact it was a result of being embarrassed. So my thoughts on this, is that perhaps the mask is worn (for some) because of the embarrassment that they have not fully grown emotionally into an adult.

I can say that is likely the case for me as well as wanting to be liked, accepted and not bring about negative attention.

I am an ACON (Adult Child of Narcissists). Both parents I believe now were there own brand of narcissist. I didn’t see it in my mother prior because she is more covert and much quieter. I also think she has many codependent issues as well. My father fits the more fragile type and his immature emotions were obvious many times throughout my childhood and later.

As a result my defense mechanisms formed as traits that equal both borderline and narcissistic. My father passed away miserable and unhappy. My siblings and mother choose to stay in denial and simply use me as the family scapegoat. However, I am not in contact with them either so I am no longer privy to anything being said in that vein. Their actions, particularly in those last months of involvement with them, made it quite clear how they feel about me.

I feel like a bee who escaped a nest of angry hornets, who wanted to use me for stinging practice and buzz loudly about everyone they felt slighted them or couldn’t control.  I needed to get away from their angry buzzing and their stings. I needed to get the volume of all that noise down. But unfortunately, it still echoes throughout my mind and I am still defending myself against their attacks, even though they are no longer attacking me in real time.

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Below the line is a rambling before editing my thoughts on the act, the mask and the false-self, if you’re interested in some of the thought process.
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The love-bombing, the acting like a super good person, is an act…as most of us know…even the narcissists themselves, including the unaware ones, likely know this. As a narc becomes more familiar with the person he or she is love bombing, he starts to test the waters to see how much they can slack off. And as each layer of the act comes off, the closer you get to the mask. When you reach the mask, that’s when the the hard core abuse and rage really starts.

But under the mask? There’s where the real false-self is. The self that the narcissist doesn’t want you to see. The false self is the constructed self (the wall if you will) to protect the child inside. Because this person, in an adult body, is emotionally arrested at the level of a small child. A small intensely wounded child.

In essence, the false-self is on the surface…under the mask. And all those traits that you see when the mask falls off, is actually still more of the false-self.

The false-self formed a long time ago, during childhood, likely because of harsh abuse and neglect or maybe even from being fawned over too much, to make a child believe he or she was more special than anyone else. But I’d be willing to bet that different types of narcissism forms, depending on whether a child was abused or fawned over. And I’m not speaking from the stand-point of being fawned over as a child.

The false-self formed as a defense to protect the child. And as the child grows, it becomes more and more ingrained because it continues to need to protect itself.

(I’m using ‘it’ for simplification. I know children and humans aren’t things or its. It’s just easier than writing him/her and himself/herself. No offense intended here.)

And so those neural pathways become like dried concrete. And as a child develops into an adult the more it becomes ingrained and cemented in, if you will.

We have been told this can’t be changed because after all it has become the person’s personality. And although it’s disordered, the personality is the definition of someone.

But this begs the question, at least from me, what sort of person would have emerged if there was never a need to protect itself? If the child had been loved, guided and nurtured?

And if someone can become aware, they can also change their behaviors and even the drives that create a mind-set to bring those behaviors forth can also be changed.

In fact it is well known now through the study of the brain that our neuro-pathways are not forever stuck if we decide we want to change. It’s not easy to do but it is possible.

 

Glare and Daggers

woman shooting daggersThe piercing daggers I felt as my sister glared at me were painful and intimidating.

Despite knowing by then how much she loathed me, a part of me still longed for the resolution I knew would never happen.

I’d been bringing my father smoothies on a pretty regular basis, making a last ditch effort to turn his health around, even though the prognosis was dim. But at the time I had not really known how serious things really were.

I now know that I was not getting clear information from my siblings, who in turn may not have been getting clear information from the doctor either. But they accompanied my father to the doctor so they knew more than I did first hand. Now that I think back on it, I have a feeling I was being alienated.

But then I don’t know since I didn’t go to the doctor appointments. I suppose I could have, but in all honesty I didn’t want to be in such a trapped situation such as a car, with my siblings. And it was difficult enough for me to be in the situation as it was.

My father had already been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was understood the prognosis wasn’t good, but there were no definitive answers. At least as far as I knew. As far as my father seemed to know. I wonder how much the doctor wasn’t sharing with my father. I wonder how informed my siblings were compared to my father.

I started to bring him smoothies because he was having some digestive problems and diarrhea. I simply offered them and he gratefully accepted the jars I brought him, filled with what looked like milkshakes and Mistos, (check out Rita’s Water Ice to see what that is) made with fruits and greens.

I had a feeling that my sister wouldn’t respond favorably to my efforts of helping my father, in the form of green smoothies. So when she came by for a quick visit to ask my father how his appetite was, I cringed inside and waited for her reaction in judgment to ensue.

“Not too bad, your sister brought me a smoothie this afternoon,” my father responded.

From the far end of the dining room table, I glanced over the screen of my laptop, I felt the desire for approval, once she knew, while at the same time the impulse to defend myself. I said, “I thought it would help his digestion.”

Like a jealous and narcissistic co-parent, she spun around on her scrawny ass, where she’d been sitting on the coffee table, to shoot me a glare of daggers and said with a cold and bitter tone, “Or go right through him.”  I could hear the sneer that was not quite visible on her face.

I felt so defeated, not to mention hurt yet again. Like I couldn’t ‘win’ with her. As long as I fulfilled her need of “babysitter,” she seemed to feel this right and maybe even a duty to crush and control me every opportunity she saw.

It seemed to be in that moment, that in her twisted little mind, that I was supposed to simply show up and prepare for him whatever was status quo.  How dare I go off the conventional track. After all, food had nothing to do with his illness.*

At the time along with feeling defeated, I also was angry while being afraid at the same time. My sister can rage as well as say some cutting things and bring up other apparent unresolved issues she tends to hold onto, fighting dirty, using them against me when the timing seems just right to her.

And me, at that moment, with her, physically in my vicinity, feeling she was presenting a physical threat to me just by her presence and attitude, I wanted to just keep the peace. At that point, I was just biding my time, already knowing I was going to sever ties with this nasty troll, once I’d gotten through all of this.

So I took the figurative punches while telling myself, “Just a little longer.”
Of course not knowing really how much longer.

I wanted to stick up for myself so badly despite that fear. I wanted her to know that she was being a nasty little bitch for no reason.That her behavior was abusive and she had become, along with our brother, a horrible bully toward me.

I wanted to know why she felt the need, to put down my effort to help, in such a mean way, instead of discussing it with me respectfully if she disagreed with it being a healthy alternative.

I knew why she wouldn’t discuss it. Besides the eggshells that surround(ed) the entire family, she was jealous of my ability to think outside the box, while at the same time feeling superior and that my ideas were stupid and ridiculous.

But for me to stick up for myself, I knew, she’d likely just roll her eyes while berating me for being too sensitive after which she’d walk away feeling triumphant and I’d feel frustrated for not being able to get a word in or not know what to say until the whole thing was over.

I’m sure she knew I wouldn’t ‘rock the boat’ in such a scenario, as to stress out my dying father. She’d already put that anchor in place during a previous conversation about “this not being about her or me. It’s about dad and only dad since he’s the one whose ill.”

And although the probability of her raging while in my father’s apartment was low to non-existent,  I still worried a little about it because I knew her capability of holding on to something until she could release it on me, which could possibly manifest itself in an explosion.

I’d been on the receiving end of that a few times. Once in person. But I’d said something passive aggressive and I really don’t blame her for that too much. A lot of tension had accumulated between us and we hadn’t had any knowledge of how to deal with it because our parents hadn’t taught us how to talk through our frustrations with each other.

But luckily in the more recent incidents where she flew off the handle (after what I was saying was not passive aggressive, but attempting to resolve some issues between us) took place on the phone and I was able to simply hang up.

In person, I felt I ran the risk of her impulse control failing. So I kept my mouth shut.

More stuffed anger on my end.

I think I’m going to have to write one of those letters I’ll never send to each family member, expressing my feelings.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that might help me in a big way.

 

 

*projection. I can’t possibly know what she was actually thinking. I was going by things she’d said in the past, issues we’d had that I’d tried to discuss, etc.