Loving a Narcissist: Speaking Ill of the Dead

He was a big good looking man. Not tall, but broad, his shoulders seemed to go on for miles. His hair was sandy brown, and his eyes were a deep laughing blue. One of his front teeth was chipped, and that just gave his smile that perfect devil may care spark. A big good-looking man. And I’ll be the first to say he was way out of the league of my homely ass. I never understood why he started paying attention to me, but he did. And I fell in love with him so fast, so hard. The internet itself is bogged down with the pages and pages I’ve written about how much I loved him. This is not a page about how much I loved him.

He told me he was a ‘recovered heroin addict.’ I did not know then that a ‘recovered heroin addict’ is a junkie who hasn’t been able to score for a few days. I know it now. He told me I was the love of his life. I believed him. But now I know at least three other ‘loves of his life.’ He told me never to worry about him being unfaithful, that I was all he’d ever need. Except for his insatiable appetite for cocktail waitresses, bus stop boys, and bimbo real estate agents. He said he’d protect me, keep me safe. He pushed me down a flight of stairs. He blacked my eye. He shoved me into walls and bookcases. He tried to close a car door on my arm once. On purpose. And I could still bog down the internet writing pages about how much I loved him.

TomThe heroin finally killed him. I always knew it would. After all those times I sat through those stupid meetings, all those times I crammed him into rehab, all those times I ‘saved’ him. He up and died anyway.

And I was devastated. I still am devastated. Even after all these years of life without him, I’ll still catch myself crying that he is never coming home again.

But there is another chapter to this story.

You see, I wasn’t the perfect lover. I didn’t appreciate the heroin. I didn’t appreciate those bus stop boys, and I sure didn’t appreciate that realtor. I wasn’t properly grateful for being pushed down those stairs. And I never did like those stupid meetings. The hard visitor’s chairs of rehab units bruised my tender ass. The reproachful eyes of a woman who I had called a friend-the ex- before me-those great brown eyes shamed me. I guess I’m never satisfied. What woman would not be delighted by such delectable offerings?

The truth is he was a dyed-in-the-wool son of a bitch. The truth is is spent just as much time praying that the heroin would kill him as I spent praying that I could somehow save him. The truth is that I always felt guilty about being glad that he was dead.

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know his name came up in therapy. Not shocked? Oh, go on.

The first time his name came up, I was still being perfect. I kept telling the therapist what a great guy he was. But, then I couldn’t tell her a single great thing about him. I tried to think of all his many wonderful qualities, but I drew blank after blank. The things I could think to tell the therapist were not wonderful things, and the wonderful things, I could not think of. At a loss for his wonderful qualities, I produced a photo. The therapist took the photo, and said the only unprofessional thing I’ve ever heard her say. She said, “Oh, myyyy…” like that, with the ‘my’ all drawn out at the end. Nearly a decade in the grave, and the looks are still turning heads.

The second time his name came up in therapy, I quit trying to be perfect. I tried to tell the good and the bad. Not all of the bad, though. Some of the bad, I will take to my grave. But I tried to tell a more balanced truth. There was still a lot more bad than good. But in telling the bad, and my guilty feelings, I was able to remember some of the good, too.

Sometime between therapy appointments, I stumbled across this article. It’s not the sort of thing I would generally read, but a close friend went through Hell after being abused by a narcissist, and I was seeking a way to have greater empathy with her. But the article was like looking in a mirror. I was shaken. Badly shaken. I threw up a couple of times. I tried to tell myself that I was wrong. But I knew I wasn’t wrong, or not too far wrong anyway.

At my next meeting with the therapist I asked if she thought he might have been a narcissist. She said that a personality disorder had crossed her mind. Of course, it is really impossible to diagnose the deceased, but you can make an educated guess. And our educated guess is that he was some kind of abusive narcissist. But he is past all help of this world now.

Which is fine, because it looks like I need all the extra help I can get.

Undermining Myself: Schizophrenia and Loss of Self-Confidence

Schizophrenia is a mental condition that can lead me into dangerous or disastrous thought patterns. Over the years, it has done so repeatedly. I can’t trust my schizophrenic thoughts to ever lead me to a good place. The problem with schizophrenic thoughts is that I can’t generally distinguish schizophrenic thoughts and thought patterns from healthy thoughts and thought patterns. I can’t trust that my own thoughts are in my best interests. This is a bizarre way to live. I have no self-confidence in my simplest thought or observation. I can’t. If I want to finally break the endless cycle of suicide attempts, hospitalizations, ruining my life, and starting over each time with a little less then I need to minimize the potential harm of schizophrenic thoughts and thought patterns.

Generally, this means I’m neurotic on a day to day basis. I bother my friends, seemingly ceaselessly. I need corroboration of my simplest experiences. Is it too cold out? Does this taste awful to you? Can you understand me? Did that make sense? I ask these kinds of questions repeatedly. I don’t ask these questions because I need validation. I ask because there are times-lots of times, sadly-when I honestly get the answers to these questions and many others wrong. And that’s just the little petty irritating stuff.

Bigger, more important issues have traditionally caused me much bigger problems. And my track record with bigger issues is even worse than with the petty stuff, and, of course, the consequences are disproportionately larger. Let’s face it, if I eat something that tastes yucky, so what? If I go out on a cold day without a coat, I’ll be uncomfortable, so what? But when we come to decisions-like how poorly I handle money, like whether I’m going to make a suicide attempt, like if I manage to get fired from my good job; those consequences in my life are cataclysmic.

The long and short of it is that I have no self-confidence in my thoughts or decisions. And there is a lifetime’s history of good reason why I don’t.

Drawing of schizophrenic robot sitting in total isolation
Image by: mailowilliams

So I develop adaptive behaviors. I ask petty irritating questions, and my friends forgive me. My friend accompanies me to appointments. He patiently sits through appointments with the social worker, the psychiatrist, the therapist, and others. I think his support and insights deserve much of the credit for this round of treatment going so well. His presence has been tolerated by most of the professionals I see, but the social worker seemed wary of his presence at first. (When she learned that he was not there to interfere, she relaxed.)

But some places, some appointments just make you feel like bringing another person into your appointment is inappropriate. In those circumstances, I have trusted in the professional capability of the people there. Thus, I have successfully gotten mammograms and PAP tests done with no issue. I also anticipated no issue when I began seeing a dentist in January.

I could not have been more wrong.

At first, it seemed fine. The office was super clean, state of the art, although there were never any patients there when we arrived. At my first two appointments, the dentist seemed kind and competent. Then the dentist pulled four teeth and sent me home with a prescription for Tramadol. I have had Tramadol before for minor pains, and it worked well enough, and though I had never had it after dental work before, I trusted it would work adequately. It didn’t. But I just toughed it out. At the next appointment, the dentist was going to fill 4 teeth. As soon as he began drilling, it was clear to me that my mouth wasn’t numb. I told him he was really hurting me…and he just picked up his drill again. He never acknowledged my pain, and once told me roughly to ‘sit still!’

Any sane person would have run away from this dentist at this point, I think. But not me! I convinced myself that I could not be perceiving the situation correctly, I blamed the schizophrenia. I blamed the anxiety. I blamed everything except the dentist who was hurting me.

Twelve hours after those fillings, my teeth hurt like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Of course, by then his office was closed. I got in touch with the office the next day (a Wednesday) and was told he would see me the following Monday as scheduled, but not before. When I explained that I was in a lot of pain (which seemed to be getting worse) the receptionist offered to ‘call something in.’ What was called in was more Tramadol. It did not help at all. I spent a Hellish 5 days. And let me clarify, I’m no wimp when it comes to pain, I’m heavily tattooed, I had a baby on a sofa, this was real crippling pain. When I got into the dental office on Monday, I explained that I was in more pain than I could stand. The dentist just picked up his drill. Not the Novocain, the drill. There are no words for how bad his ‘improvement’ hurt.

I asked for something for the pain, and was accused of drug-seeking behavior. I was hurting so bad, and was so appalled by the drug-seeking accusation, I finally told my friend what had been going on. He suggested that I not mess around, but that I do what I needed to do in order to see a different dentist. I think I cried with relief.

I saw a different dentist who explained that the first dentist had drilled extensively into the roots and nerves of my teeth. He wouldn’t touch it. He wrote me a prescription for Vicodin, and sent me to an oral surgeon. Now I am awaiting major oral surgery. And hoping Medical Assistance does not force me to return to the first dentist.

Mental illness undermines my confidence that I can properly respond to my thoughts, my feelings and situations I find myself in. I feel angry, betrayed, and frustrated that my distrust of my own perceptions led me to continue seeing a dentist who was causing me so much pain. I worry that if I am unable to respond appropriately to a situation as clear-cut as the dentist, am I really doing as well as I think. I feel deeply ashamed and fearful that I might never be able to have true control of my life. Now I am acutely fearful of meeting an abusive person. I distrust my decisions. I distrust my schizophrenia. I distrust myself.

 

Weight Gain and Psych Meds: The Unholy Alliance

I have had the gamut of experiences with psych meds over the years, both the good and the bad. But a couple years ago, I was put on the controversial drug clozaril. I avoided the most dangerous and damaging of its side effects, but it nailed me with the weight gain. In a very short time my weight went from 120 lbs to 190 lbs. And it was awful.

I am still struggling with the weight daily. I do my best to diet, and I have begun doing the DVD called Gentle Yoga. But I’m still on several medications that cause weight gain. So the struggle is real.

My issues with the weight are not the issues that most women struggle with. I actually always wanted to be fat. Most of my closest friends are fat, and I love the sweep and curve of them. Of course, I didn’t get fat like that. Nope. Nope. Nope. I gained all that weight solely in my boobs and belly…no curvy plump arms and legs for me! Nope! I look like an olive with toothpicks stuck in it! I look like I am in my third trimester.

I wanted to be fat like this. I didn't get my wish.
Venus of Cupertino Ipad charger by Eaton London

The other thing is that most fat people I know grew fat over time, over months or years. I gained nearly 70 lbs in less than two months. I had no time to adjust to growing fat, I simply WAS fat in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

With no time to adapt to my new size and shape, I became even more awkward than I was before. Things I used to do with ease are now difficult or nearly impossible. I have to struggle to reach around my vast belly to put on socks and shoes. I leave toenail polish on for months at a time. Really, unless my youngest daughter visits and paints them, my toenails are a disgusting untended mess. I remain baffled at things like driving-how hard it is to fit my big awkward body behind the wheel. (I’m glad I have not had to fly anywhere!)

On my last visit to the psychiatrist, I proudly told him I was losing a little weight. I guess I was looking for praise or validation from him. Instead he looked at my medication list and told me I still should be gaining weight with my current medications. Then he said I was dieting too much! I felt crushed. I have fought, struggled, and, yes, suffered to lose 14 lbs, and here I was being told that I was dieting too much.

As a mental health patient, I have gotten pretty tough. I can stand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune pretty well. I do not shy away from new treatments or diagnoses. But there is one thing I do not want. I do not want this psychiatrist to decide that I have an eating disorder. Patients with eating disorders get a lot of attention. They get the sort of attention that I do not want. I don’t think I have an eating disorder, not now, and not in the past.

I know, I know, from those of you who knew me then, after Tom died, I did stop eating, and my weight plummeted. I remember that too. That was not an eating disorder, that was despair and grief. After a few months I returned to eating normally, and my weight stabilized.

So here is a conundrum. If I continue with the diet and exercise, and I continue to lose weight, I run the risk of this doctor taking an interest in my weight loss. I fear getting an eating disorder label stuck to me. I do not know if my fear is rational. The doctor dropped that PTSD diagnosis on me with no warning, out of a clear blue sky. Psychiatrists are a notoriously tricky lot, and I do not wish to run afoul of this man. I might have mentioned before that I find him alarming. But on the other hand, I really do need to lose weight. We are poor. There is no money for even a trip to Goodwill to buy clothes that fit me. My closet is full of size 6 garments, but they do not fit my size 16-18 body. It is a real problem. At home I live in soft old stretchy sweatpants and pajamas, and that works okay. But since I began participating in my own mental health, my life is a constant whirl of appointments. And to go to appointments, you need to get dressed.

I see people in the waiting room of the therapist and the psychiatrist in pajamas and sweats all of the time. But I know that showing up in your pajamas is noticed. I know that not being dressed appropriately is a point of concern in mental health care.

Up until this week, I have been without a Winter coat. In Pittsburgh. In Winter. I am just too fat to fit my coats. In an awesome turn of events, my therapist found me a well-worn thin wool jacket. It won’t be super warm, but it is far better than the thin leather coat I have been wearing.

I obsessively watch the posts of my fat friends, hoping that they will say that they are taking old clothes to the Goodwill, but they never are.

So the struggles are real.

The fear is real.

The scary thing really is how profound the ‘side effect’ of clozaril was. The idea that taking a tiny pill twice a day could translate into 70 pounds in a little over a month is very scary to me. These psych meds are scary to me. I want them to help me. I have a deep need to believe that they will help me. I want to get better, and I need these pills to help me get on the right track.

But the pills are terrifying. They really are.

When you start swallowing the pills, you really never know who you will be, or how you will be when they kick in. I have had pills change my entire personality. This clozaril changed my entire body. I fear taking a pill that might change my entire soul.

I have a mantra. I say it daily, as often as I need to. My mantra is ‘consciousness is not fragile.’ But as I contemplate how easily the meds alter my consciousness I wonder if my mantra is true.