Saturday, 15 December 2012

Looks Like Leo Tolstoy Had Been There Before Me...

I'm reading  "Anna Karenina"  (I shamefully confess that it's the abridged version) and last night I came across a phrase that jumped off the page at me:

"not having expressed the one thing that occupied their thoughts, whatever they said rang false."

and on the next page:

"therefore Constantine (Levin) tried to do what all his life he had tried and never known how to do: he tried to say something different from what he thought; and felt all the time that it sounded false"

That's it, isn't it? Not being able to express the truth about how you feel makes everything else sound false. That is exactly how I feel when I talk with my FOO. Who would have known that Mr. Tolstoy had observed this same problem as far back as 1877. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Hollow Girl

       Yesterday was a good day. Today, not so much. I've had a couple of triggers that have sent me spinning. One of the triggers made start crying like I was never going to stop. Over the last few months I have been unable to cry, I would feel all the emotion well up in my chest and stop on the throat as if I had Snow White's poisoned apple stuck in it blocking my feelings from coming out. The other trigger was an email from a sibling asking if I'm angry with them (because they can't get hold of me). Always such drama. Always in a tone that makes you feel like you have to drop everything and run to call them, otherwise the world -their world- is going to end. I was thinking about how to reply and decided that I would -sigh- tell him the truth. "No, I'm not angry, I am..." then it struck me that I don't have a name for what I am feeling. This is the thing with growing up without being able to express your feelings, that when I finally muster up the courage to speak up, I don't have the words. I can tell you that after reading his email I felt like I had a hole in my chest. A big hole going from the sides of my ribs and from my throat to the end of my belly. Hollow like a cave. For years I just thought that my FOO were a pain, but still my family after all. Today I feel like my FOO are some people who just happened to share a house with me once but were never a family. Just some people thrown together by circumstances. And it really hurts, and it feels like a hole in the heart because that's what it is: an empty space. They're not there. They never were. They were too busy creating alternative realities for themselves.  Most of my life I have made excuses for them. Whether these excuses are valid or not, the fact remains: emotionally speaking, I do not have a father, or a mother, or a brother or a sister. I never have. I just thought I did. Grieving people who are still alive seems such a contradiction, but this is the reality. It is what it is. To not acknowledge it will only lead to more insanity.
        There is something different about today's episode: it felt more like grieving than depression. It also happened that someone that I don't know well heard me expressing my pain but I didn't mind. I did not mind that someone heard me cry. This is a really big step for me. And you know what? this person was very kind and understanding about it. I showed my pain and the world didn't end.
       I feel that I have crossed the forth wall from my FOO's stage over to the real world. I don't have to be a character in a recorded script anymore. I am allowed to be human.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

I Hear Those Voices That Will Not Be Drowned

In Alderburgh beach there is a sculpture by artist Maggi Hambling dedicated to composer Benjamin Britten. The words pierced into the shell, as quoted in the post title, are taken from Britten's opera Peter Grimes. I don't know much about this opera or Britten himself, but this sculpture really touches my heart. Maybe because I grew up in a family where my voice was drowned and now I have finally found my voice and the voices of others that will not be drowned. Like fellow blogger Kitty @ Brave New Kitty said in both her recent comment on this blog and on her latest post "Planting Seeds": this is important work. Writing about our experiences and joining our voices in speaking up about what we see might make the difference between somebody going insane or being validated and having hope. I know hearing the voices of others has made a difference to me. 

Photograph by Andrew Dunne, 1 November 2005

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Spain as a Model of the Narcissistic Family

"Spain: white shirt of my hope,
sometimes a mother,
always a stepmother"
from a 80s song by Ana Belen

I recently read a BBC article on the current political climate of Spain: Unrest drags Spain towards buried unpleasant truths. I could see three fundamental traits of the Narcissistic family in Spain's recent history:

  1. The demand for Peace at the expense of the truth
  2. The obsession with Unity at all costs 
  3. The penchant for re-writing History

When I was growing up, nobody ever talked about the civil war (1936-1939). When we studied it at school it was rushed. My parents never talked about it. My grandparents didn't either. As a child I didn't think anything of it, but once I moved abroad and started to look at Spain from the outside it struck me as odd, particularly since in Britain they are always talking about the war (World War II). At first I thought that maybe it was about shame. The shame of fighting your own people. And that might have well been a part of it; but in recent years that I discovered that this not speaking about the war was an intentional act. There is even a term for it. The BBC article put it like this:

During the early years of Spanish democracy, forgetting about the Civil War (1936-39) was not just a psychological necessity - it was a political choice. The "pact of silence" instituted after the fall of General Franco was seen as a price worth paying for rapid, peaceful transition to a functioning democracy.

Peace at the expense of not talking about what had happened it's just so similar to what Nfamilies do: shove everything under the carpet and pretend it didn't happen. If you read any material on the subject, they all say that this silence was to ensue a peaceful transition. But is this really true? How does not talking about things has ever helped a situation? It sounds to me that it was more about letting people off the hook, because in whose interest is it that something is not talked about? Isn't it generally in the perpetrator's interests? Confirming my suspicions in this aspect, the article said this:
The approach was codified into law, with the 1977 Amnesty Law guaranteeing a blanket immunity from prosecution for those suspected of crimes against humanity during the Franco era and the Civil War.
This part of the article also made me cringe:
"Independence for Catalonia? Over my dead body… and those of many soldiers." That was how Francisco Alaman reacted to the 1.5 million strong demonstration in Barcelona last month, with many calling for independence for the region.
There is Colonel Alaman, threatening to defend "the non-negotiable principle of Spain's unity even with our lives"
Non-negotiable principle of Spain's unity? What unity? Anyone that knows anything about Spanish history knows that any unity that Spain has had over the centuries since Isabel of Castile married Ferdinand of Aragon, has been superficial and always at the expense of oppressing people. Sound familiar?

The article goes on to claim that "Consequent on Spain's neutrality in World War II, Franco was tolerated within the post-war order." I really don't get how anyone can say that Spain was neutral: Franco's ties with Hitler and Mussolini are well documented. How he managed to convince the western world that Spain had been neutral is beyond me. 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Sorry Jonathan: the Answer is No

A couple of weeks ago I received this email:

Just saw your blog content, and I think it would look awesome on Storylane
I have been working for a while on Storylane, a product that I believe a blog owner like you will appreciate. Storylane works like a blogging platform but is social from the ground up. Your content can be categorized by you and then discovered by our fast growing community. Storylane can breathe new life into the content you created for your old blog and hopefully connect you with people, places, and ideas that can add value and meaning to your life.
Would you like to give us a try? join us here and add a story or two (feel free to use stories that are already on your blog)

Jonathan Gheller
CEO Storylane

Where do I start? With the fact that he quite obviously has not seen the content of the blog?  (Because if he had, he would know that I blog anonymously and that the last thing I would want is for the stories in this blog to be attached to my FB account) or with his blatant attempt to flatter me? or that he sounds too much like he's selling something? 
After my experience with chess master, every time I get flattery from someone I think: "Ok, what are you after?" Flatterers are always after something. In this case, Mr. Gheller wants to promote his latest endeavour. He probably thinks that all bloggers have a big ego or he likes to be flattered himself. Either way... :P

I really like the way Martha Stout puts it:
Suspect flattery. Compliments are lovely, especially when they are sincere. In contrast, flattery is extreme, and appeals to our egos in unrealistic ways. It is the material of counterfeit charm, and nearly always involves an intent to manipulate. Manipulation through flattery is sometimes innocuous and sometimes sinister. Peek over your massaged ego and remember to suspect flattery."

Notice also the slight put down: "Storylane can breathe new life into the content you created for your old blog". Breathing  new life? Old blog? He makes it sound as if our writing needed to be brought back to life like Frankestein's creature.

I checked what Storylane was about, and I have to say that I didn't like it. I found the format and the look restrictive,  too "left brained" if you like. It looks exactly like the idea of a businessman and not of a writer (Who else calls a blogging platform a "product" or a blogger "owner"? or talks about categorising content as if stories were boxes in a warehouse) I didn't like the idea of answering questions to write the stories either. One of the questions was this:

In what ways are you like your father or mother?

Yeah, sure. Acons are going to love that one...

And last but not least: Not only Mr. Gheller sounds like my Bil, he looks like him too. Nope, definitively, Storylane is not for me.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Blade Runner

From the time I was a teenager until my late twenties "Blade Runner" was my favourite film. Closely followed by "Rumble Fish". Odd choices for a  teenage girl really. Something about the films drew me to them. I didn't know why. Now I do. "Rumble Fish" is basically a story about a dysfunctional family. "Blade Runner" is about seeing a different reality. Recently someone lent me the DVD for "The Adjustment Bureau". I loved it too. Most of my acquaintances, when giving their opinion on the film (including the person who lent it to me) would say: "I didn't like it. It wasn't what I expected","Why? What were you expecting?" I'd ask. "A political thriller or conspiracy theory film". I found those answers really amusing. So many people I know watch a film with a preconceived idea. I don't. I go with the story and see where it takes me.  In this particular case  I knew that the film was based on a Philip K. Dick story so I already had a sense of what kind of film it would be. I have not read any of his books, though I've always wanted to, and I really don't know much about the writer. Before I went on my holiday, I listened to a BBC podcast about Philip K. Dick's life. Journalist Matthew Parris interviewed actor Michael Sheen ( yes, the guy that played the unbearable snob in "Midnight in Paris"). At one point in the interview, Michael Sheen says: "indicative of Dick’s writing is the moment where the central character begins to discover that maybe the reality that he’s living in and that he’s taking for granted may not be everything that’s going on and that maybe there’s something else going on behind it."
Maybe that's what draws me to all films based on Dick's stories. That central theme of being able to see a reality that nobody else sees.
As I'm listening to the podcast I start wondering if Philip K. Dick was an ACoN. You pick up on different threads once you know about Narcissism. There were a lot of clues in the things they were discussing about Dick's life even if they themselves weren't picking up on them. They spoke about Dick's relationship with his mother. For some reason this made me think of that scene in "Blade Runner" when Mr. Holden is running a VK test to see if Leon is a replicant:
Mr Holden says: "Describe in single words the good things that come into your mind about your mother."
Leon replies: "My mother? Let me tell you about my mother" and shoots Mr. Holden.
Well, if that doesn't reek of ACoNhood I don't know what does.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Heckle and Jeckle

     The commentary on other blogger's posts of the recent events has triggered a memory. It came back to me as I was thinking how Charity's actions seemed like she was trying to get a reaction from us. Like setting a cat among the pigeons.  
Someone mentioned about people who get a kick of creating a situation and watching people's reactions. For the life of me I can't remember who said it. I was thinking: what kind of person does that? And then I remembered...
     It seems so far away now that I don't remember much of the detail. I do remember the feelings though. Years ago I made friends with two sisters. When I first met them I thought they were really funny, in a witty clever way. My friends found them irritating. Their nickname for them was Heckle and Jeckle because of their high pitch voices. I could see what they meant but, tolerant and patient as I was then, I used to make excuses for them because I felt sorry for them. They had a really tragic history.Their father had died falling from a scaffolding when the mother was pregnant with the youngest one, so she had never even met her father. The other sister was five when it happened. Their mother had really struggled to make ends meet being on her own with three little girls. 
As things turned out I ended sharing a flat with them for nearly 3 years. 
     These girls used to make the most shocking statements when there was a ready audience to see what people's reactions would be. I had completely forgotten about this. Since my relationship with them ended in proper narcissistic fashion, I don't think of them very often.They loved winding people up. And people would fall for it every time. One time I brought up the issue with them about how they were embarrassing me they just told me that I was too sensitive. That I had no sense of humour. And that I had to learn to take jokes. How I wish I knew then what I know now. I could have given them a run for their money. Although to give myself credit, towards the end I started giving back as good as I got, and they were terrified. When they realised I could turn their tricks against them they said: "We've created a monster. Kara is not a "good girl" anymore." I guess their definition of a "good girl" was a victim that would take their digs laying down every single time. What they did might not seem like a big thing but it was rooted in cruelty. Putting people on the spot so that they could amuse themselves. It's just wrong. The funny thing is that if anybody came even remotely close to having a dig at them they would tear at them like a vicious tiger. They would go on and on for hours about how bad was the person who had allegedly offended them. Another great example of one set of rules for you, another set of rules for us. 
   When I was looking up the name of Heckle and Jeckle in english (I only knew them by their spanish translation) I found this: (from the wikipedia article)

 "While both are basically brash, cynical and antagonistic, Heckle may be more openly confrontational, and Jeckle slightly more devious. Both may deliberately annoy their mutual foils with insults, slapstick violence and rudeness, but Heckle is more likely to make his intentions clear from the outset. Conversely, Jeckle often treats enemies politely at first, in order to lull them into a false sense of security before unleashing magpie mayhem. They are alternately cast as a pair of conmen actively out to swindle an unsuspecting dupe—or just freeloading opportunists, idly in search of a free ride or mooching a meal.The duo bested their foes by outsmarting them, all the while indulging in wry commentary that made their adversaries appear even more stupid.
The characters' cheeky personas occasionally extended to impromptu song routines, such as "Give Us a House to Wreck" in House Busters (1952)."

Give us a house to wreck indeed. These sisters loved generating chaos and then had a good laugh at everybody else's expense. I'm realising now that their nickname was fitting in more ways than one.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Determined to Fly

I read the lyrics to this song in Bess' blog yesterday. I have heard the song lots of times but never really paid much attention to the lyrics. The song really struck a cord with me too.

Learning to Fly

Into the distance, a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
Flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone, my senses reel
Fatal attraction that's holding me fast
Now, can't escape this irresistible grasp
Can't keep my eyes from the circling sky
Tongue-tied and twisted; just an earth-bound misfit, I
Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything
No navigator to find my way home
Unladen, empty, and turned to stone
A soul in tension that's learning to fly
Condition: grounded - determined to try 
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted; just an earth-bound misfit, I
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air,
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night
There's no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation - a state of bliss
Can't keep my mind from the circling sky
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Standing Up for Yourself (Part 2)

      Standing up for yourself is like a two-sided coin. One side is knowing how to stop people invading your boundaries. The other side is looking after yourself. This is easier said than done, I'm afraid. We have been conditioned from birth to look after other people and other people's feelings. Conditioned to rather be uncomfortable than bother anybody else. To drop our own stuff to go take care of someone else's. So when I at last drew a line in the sand and managed to keep all the narcs in my life at a reasonable distance I found that I didn't know where to start when it came to my stuff. I had spent my whole life "winging it" (as in: to improvise with little preparation). Spinning plates. Stashing and dashing. Dealing with the urgent rather than the important. Always on the run to catch up with one thing or another. Reacting to things as they came my way rather than deciding in advance what I wanted. And always, always putting myself last. 
     When I was in the process of deciding to put the narcs behind a safety line, I came across this sentence in a self-help book: 
 "If you don't have a plan you'll be a stepping stone for those who do."
    That's exactly how I felt. Like a stepping stone in their plans. The problem was that I didn't know what I wanted. What I wanted had never been an option. It had always been about what other people "needed". Since I was the "good girl" who never got in trouble and was always "ok", it was my "job" to help with my siblings' messes. 
   This sentence haunted me. "I need to have a plan" I'd say to myself, "but what?" "What do I want?" "I don't know". And somehow to even think about what I wanted just felt self-centred  and selfish. That's what all the narcs had been doing all along, right? Except that, in our quest to not be anything close to what they are, we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. Because there is nothing wrong with looking after yourself and your stuff. What the narcs are doing is different: they're not looking after themselves and their stuff, they're getting us to do that for them. Hitching a free ride at our expense. They just trained us to think that way so that we would look after their stuff. Quite a clever ploy, don't you think?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


To all my ACoN friends.

"Read All About It" by Emeli Sande.

You've got the words to change a nation
but you're biting your tongue
You've spent a life time stuck in silence
afraid you'll say something wrong
If no one ever hears it how we gonna learn your song?
So come, on come on 
Come on, come on 
You've got a heart as loud as lions 
So why let your voice be tamed?
Baby we're a little different
there's no need to be ashamed
You've got the light to fight the shadows
so stop hiding it away
Come on, Come on

I wanna sing, I wanna shout
I wanna scream till the words dry out
so put it in all of the papers, 
i'm not afraid
they can read all about it 
read all about it oh

At night we're waking up the neighbours 
while we sing away the blues
making sure that we remember yeah
cause we all matter too 
if the truth has been forbidden 
then we're breaking all the rules
so come on, come on
come on, come on, 
lets get the tv and the radio 
to play our tune again
its 'bout time we got some airplay of our version of events

there's no need to be afraid
i will sing with you my friend
Come on, come on
I wanna sing, I wanna shout
I wanna scream till the words dry out
so put it in all of the papers, 
i'm not afraid
they can read all about it 
read all about it oh

Yeah we're all wonderful, wonderful people
so when did we all get so fearful?
Now we're finally finding our voices
so take a chance, come help me sing this
Yeah we're all wonderful, wonderful people
so when did we all get so fearful?
and now we're finally finding our voices
so take a chance, come help me sing this

I wanna sing, I wanna shout
I wanna scream till the words dry out
so put it in all of the papers, 
i'm not afraid
they can read all about it 
read all about it oh

I wanna sing, I wanna shout
I wanna scream till the words dry out
so put it in all of the papers, 
i'm not afraid
they can read all about it 
read all about it oh

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Standing Up for Yourself (Part I)

        I feel that standing up for oneself is like lifting weights. You have to start small and build yourself up. I wish I had had a chance to build myself up before I had to confront an N in my FOO. Having no skills at all in this department and being thrown down at the deep end I found the experience highly stressful and emotionally damaging. Still, at least I learned that I could do it and the world didn't end.
        When I first started realising that things had to change, someone lent me a book about boundaries. It discussed at length the importance of being able to say no. I remember thinking at the time that there was no way that I could ever do this, even imagining myself saying no to people other than my husband made me feel anxious. I could see that this was the way to go, I just didn't think that I'd ever be able to do it. However I realise now that saying no is like every other skill: it becomes easier with practice. So practise with people you feel safe with (or with people you who might never see ever again: salesmen, waiters, etc). It's also a good idea to practice asking for things as well. I'm one of these people that I would never ask for anything: I  have no sugar in my tea because when I was younger I was too shy to tell the host that I'd like sugar in my tea. (You can see what a long way this has been for me if I couldn't even say: Could I have some sugar, please?)
       Something else I learned is to buy myself time before I agreed to anything. I learned to say things like: 

  • Can I get back to you on that?
  • I need to check my diary.
  • Not sure what I'm doing yet.
  • I'll let you know.
These replies buy you a bit of time so you can think about whether you really want to do what is asked.  Be prepared for people who will ask you what you're doing on a particular day first so that when they tell you what they want you to do you have no excuse. Well I suppose you could just say: "Sorry, I don't fancy doing that." I'm not that far ahead, not saying that I will not be one day, I'm just not there yet. So my defence line for people like that is to say: "Why are you asking?"
Being able to return questions with another question is an invaluable skill to have. We are not obliged to give an answer just because someone is asking it. Besides I have found that there are a lot of nosy people who are always "fishing" for information but never volunteer any about themselves. "Those who fetch, carry", best not to give them anything to "carry". There is another trick that nosy people have up their sleeve: they keep silent until it becomes so uncomfortable that before you know it you've told them everything they wanted to know. I'm training myself to be silent with those people, see who can hold out the longest. It is really hard at first, because we are so programmed to fill in the silence, but I promise you: it does get easier with practice.           

Why is it Hard to Stand up for Yourself?

If you come from an Nfamily and you find it hard to stand up for yourself, know that this is because your defence mechanism has been disabled since birth. It is not because you have no backbone or you are not strong. If that was the case you would not have made it this far. A fellow blogger, Elena K , put it beautifully in one of her comments:
"surviving despite those feelings of weakness and brokenness is worth something, isn't it? Just being here today means we were strong enough to make it, despite everything."

Yes, we are strong. We've just been conditioned to think that we are not. Our parents  wanted robots, not independent thinkers, so they raised us accordingly: to never say NO, to never rock the boat, to make no demands. Then they send us into the world without any shield or weapon to protect ourselves. Like sending a sheep among wolves. The poor sheep stands no chance.

Also against us is the old "it takes a thief to catch a thief", so if I'm not a thief how can I possibly recognise that somebody else is? For a long time I believed the idea that anyone who was being horrible to me in some way, must be hurting inside, until one day the logic didn't stand anymore, because I was also hurting but I was not behaving that way, and someone who was hurting, out of all people would know what it feels like and would go out of his/her way to not do that to others. I could not excuse these people any longer. 

I felt like I had been conned my whole life. It was only when I was able to "see" the reality of the situation that I was able to attempt to start standing up for myself. 

The way I look at it now is this: If someone is standing on my toes, whether they're doing it on purpose or they're not aware of it at all, is irrelevant, I still need to tell them to step off my toes. If they're honest people they'll be sorry and apologise, however if they're an N, they'll start arguing with you about their "right" to stand on your toes (this was my experience with the Ns in my life-both friends and family).  This is no mean feat, since most of us don't particularly enjoy confrontation and deep down we sense that the Ns will not give up their "conquered" territory without a fight. I can't say that there is an easy way about it, and I'm not sure that even if I had had the tools I have now I would not have ended in the same place. It's impossible to know. I think that's the other side of the coin: that when you do stand up for yourself you know there is a fair risk that is going to be the end of the relationship as you know it. There is something frightening about finding out someone's true colours, specially if they're a family member or a close friend. Your gut is telling you something is wrong but you just can't bring yourself to believe that that person would be as bad as your gut is telling you they are. You keep telling yourself: nah, surely that can't be it! There is a lot of emotional investment in those relationships and having to acknowledge that it's time to "cash in your chips" and go, really hurts. And once you know, there is no undoing it, you can't go back to not know it.

I think this is why, for some many of us, this is such a long process. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Core of the Matter

     Another concept that really stuck with me when I read the book on Adrenal Fatigue was this:

"For more than seventy-five years we have known that the adrenal glands cannot heal from fatigue unless they have the opportunity to rest. Long periods of bed rest are not feasible for most people, nor are they usually necessary. The particular kind of rest you need when you have adrenal fatigue comes not so much from lying down, but from standing up for yourself, and from removing or minimizing the harmful stresses in your life."

    I think this is where the core of the matter lies: To stand up for yourself. I can see now how that one thing would be the one that would make the most difference in my life. I didn't know how to do it though.
When I read that, I thought: "That's all very well, but how on earth do I do that?" I just simply didn't have a clue. If my FOO asked to come over to stay I didn't feel that I could say no even if it was inconvenient. If I was invited to a social event I felt I had to accept even if I didn't feel like it. I always felt like I couldn't say NO. It's like it didn't exist in my vocabulary. I only felt that I could say NO if I had a valid excuse, but to say a plain NO was just beyond my capabilities. I couldn't even imagine myself just saying NO.
I think this is the thing that kills me with a lot of self-help books: 1) a lot of the material is focused on what the problem is (which is kind of pointless, because we already know what the problem is, otherwise we wouldn't be reading the book in the first place) and 2) they tell you what to do but not how to do it.
So why was I unable to say NO? The short answer is because in my FOO saying NO was not an option. When I did start saying NO to one of my siblings, she turned into a gorgon (well, not quite literally, but you know what I mean). So I wonder if this inability of saying NO came from the deep down knowledge that the minute you said it, all hell would break loose. Come to think of it, I have no problem saying NO to my husband. So maybe it wasn't so much that I was not capable of saying NO but the fact that I knew the battle that would ensue if I did. The way things were going with this particular sibling was that I either stood up for myself or accepted a life of endless servitude. So I had to really improvise as I went along because there's no way I was going to be anyone's unpaid slave. Later on I did find some really helpful stuff which I wish had been available to me for when I was in the eye of the storm but to paraphrase my favourite french writer: "our destinies and our desires rarely play in unison." Still, better late than never. Some of these new found tools are proving really useful, because at the end of the day, there's plenty of narcissists to go around and even if you have cut or limited your association with the Ns in your FOO you might still have to deal with the ones that you might come across one way or another.
Standing up for yourself is like lifting weights, you have to build yourself up first. More on that in the next post.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Adrenal Fatigue

     Having a relationship with narcissists will drain your adrenals. It's as simple as that. When at last I realised that my adrenals weren't functioning as they should, I blamed  it on the stress I had had for the three years before (I had moved three times) but now I don't think it was that at all. I think the stress was from being surrounded by people who just took and took and took, and eventually I had no (emotional) resources left. I was emotionally bankrupt and I didn't even know it. Having grown up in an Nfamily I didn't know any different. I didn't expect to have anything from other people but I always felt obligated to give to them. I can see now how this was a recipe for disaster. So in 1995 I had a really bad cold that wouldn't go away and after that I lost all the energy I had had before. In a book about adrenal fatigue it says that the cold or flu is what kind of catapults the adrenals to exhaustion but I think is the other way round: you get the really bad cold because your immune system and the adrenals are already exhausted and your defences are down.
      Back then there was no information on tiredness, no internet, nowhere to find why I was feeling the way I did. So I kind of plodded along, trying to keep head above water as much as I could, met a guy and got married. Then I really crashed. While going out with my husband we had had a lot of grief from the people around us and I just didn't have the energy or the insight to deal with it all. It was all so stressful and in a way it felt like somebody else had the remote control of my life and I could see it being fast forwarded without being able to do anything about it. After we got married we seemed to have a whole lot of people come and stay with us: parents, siblings, relatives, friends, friends of friends. It never occurred to me at the time to say no, sorry, it's not convenient or I'm not feeling so great or whatever. This went on for some years, but one thing I had started to pick on is that some people seemed to drain me completely while others made me feel better and have more energy. I couldn't make head or tail of why this was happening. Nobody I spoke to seemed to know the answer either. I would have to wait to 2003 to read in a book about Adrenal Fatigue (by James L. Wilson) that yes, people CAN rob us of our energy and it DOES have a physical effect on us. Unfortunately, even though I felt highly validated that the whole thing wasn't in my mind, I was disappointed that there was not a lot of information about why this is the case. The book called them Energy Robbing People and it said:

"It is not necessary at the moment to explore the reasons why they deplete you but just to become aware of who drains your energy."

I strongly disagree with this statement, I think the reasons why they deplete you are paramount to your recovery. Because I wasn't getting to the bottom of this, it took me a long time to feel better. I did try to follow the advice in the book, but I found that while I now knew what was wrong and I was taking all the vitamins and looking after myself I only felt marginally better, maybe one or two notches up, which isn't that great really. But when I got to the bottom of it (i.e. discovering that my FOO was narcissistic) and learned tools to deal with people differently, my health and energy levels improved considerably. Even in the last few months since I started my other blog I have felt a whole lot better. Yes, I still crash every now and then but I rest for a day and I pick up whereas before it might have taken me one or two weeks of rest to decompress and recover.

However, to give credit where credit is due, there were two ideas in the book that really helped me:

"Patients often tell me that they feel guilty for minimizing their contact with friends or family members even when that person is robbing them of their energy. But it is important for you to realise that nobody has a right to your energy. Your energy is your energy to use to stay alive and healthy."

To hear that nobody had a right to my energy really helped, it's almost like I needed permission to cut ties with some of the draining people in my life and that sentence just let me off the hook. The thing with draining people is that they're absolute masters of making you feel sorry for them and then they use your pity to keep you in a vortex of obligation and guilt. That creates a sort of double bind because if you spend time with them they'll exhaust you and if you don't, you'll feel guilty which is an exhausting emotion too, so either way you're stuffed. If you're stuck in that kind of dynamic with someone in your life, your adrenals don't stand a chance:

"researchers have found that rendering an animal helpless is one of the most rapid ways to deplete its adrenals".

No kidding. Being stuck in unhealthy relationships in which there seems to be no hope of improvement and no way out is the surest way to deplete your adrenals.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

About This Blog

        During the last few years I have felt like I was looking at life through glass.  I had started to see that there was another reality going on with my FOO and some other people I knew but it seemed that I was the only one that did. I wasn't exactly sure of what was going on but I sensed, that there had to be some sort of explanation for my experience. After much research I found the ACoN community. Now I wonder why didn't I find them earlier, but I guess it's all about asking the right questions, or in this case about googling the right questions. You kind of "have to name it to claim it" and you all know, that if you have been brought up in a narcissistic family, this is no small feat.
        I already have another blog which I had to make it private just in case you-know-who found it. One of my blogger friends, Jessie, asked me recently if I would make it public again. I'm not sure I can, I want to be able to speak freely of some events that took place in my life which I am still trying to process and making it private gives me the freedom to give a lot more detail about it. However I do feel that once we know about narcissism we do have a sort of responsibility to share what we have learned  and what has helped or not. After all, I would not have come this far without having read the blogs of others that have been here before me and have taken the time to share their knowledge. So while I will continue to post the more detailed stuff on my other blog, I am going to post everything that I have found that helped on this one.

 I have chosen to name this blog after the Lewis Carroll book because of the chess analogy. I used to have a friend, a sort of mentor if you like, that I really admired at first: he looked like he had worked out what life was all about. He seemed to be a unusually emotionally healthy, no hang-ups, no depression, no guilt,  a highly functioning kind of person. In my ignorance I thought that was the way to go. For years I tried to imitate him and learn from him, but I never seemed to make any progress. While in theory it should have worked, in practice it left me feeling empty. Unbeknownst to me I was in a game of one-upmanship and  I was just a pawn in his chess board. I didn't know about narcissistic supply then. So I suppose you could say that between my FOO and some other "friends" I picked up along the way, I had built quite a catalog of narcissists. If you don't come from a dysfunctional family and have enough emotional resources I would imagine some of these people wouldn't have been a problem for you and you'd probably find them quite amusing if not entertaining, but when you're already carrying the burden of a narcissistic FOO the "extra" narcs in your life are no joke, because they take the last remaining bits of energy you may have for yourself that your FOO hadn't taken already. At one point I was "supplying" to so many narcs that no wonder I had no energy and felt ill most of the time. Not having a clue about the physical impact that people can have on you I used to blame it on stress, and it was only when I'd had enough of being tired all the time and started trying to find some answers that I found out about Adrenal Fatigue. Although the book I read about it did mention about "energy robbers" being a detriment to your health it never went into the reasons why that was so and rather focused on diet, exercise, etc. I suppose it would be a bit unfair to criticise the fact that it didn't go more into it and I understand that not everybody who suffers from adrenal fatigue may do so because of the people they hang out with, there might well be a number of reasons why other people get adrenal fatigue. I get that. It's just that, I believe now, that if I hadn't come to understand the impact of narcissism on my physical health, I would have spent the rest of my life in that vortex of blaming the symptoms and not the cause, and never really getting to the bottom of it and never really getting better. Around that time I saw a doctor who said to me: "If you don't change the way you live your life you're well on your way to get Chronic Fatigue or Fibromialgia." Actually, it wasn't the way I lived my life, it was the company I kept. I wish someone would have told me that.