Thursday, March 24, 2016

Talking with a Ghost

Mind the tags - this post is about my experience of childhood trauma.  If this triggers you I am very sorry.

There was once a little girl who had a special friend she liked to spend time with.  One night when she was spending the night with her friend the girl found a monster in the night.  She awoke in her friend’s room, but her friend wasn’t there.  She walked down the hallway and heard strange noises coming from the basement.  Walking down into that room, the girl saw her friend and her friend’s father.  Her friend’s father was doing something the girl didn’t understand to her friend, but it didn’t look like her friend liked it.  And it didn’t look like something any grown up should be doing to a child.  So the girl ran across the room and yelled at the man to stop.  The man turned to look at the girl and stared.  He said “I am a man of God.  If this was wrong then God would strike me down.”  He was quiet for a moment then he pointed at the girl. “If you tell anyone I’ll hurt your brothers.  You have to do what I tell you from now on.”  And that was when the girl understood that monsters hide behind familiar faces.

          When I decided to start blogging about what I can remember about my childhood trauma I decided to use a narrative method.  It allows me to talk about what happened and how it felt without fully pouring into that madness.  There are huge chunks in my memory from around the ages of 7-10 and I’m guessing that’s when the abuse happened, but the truth is I just can’t remember.  It’s funny what the human mind will do to protect itself.  In my case I forgot.  I learned to ignore things that didn’t make sense because looking at things too closely would tear down those walls my mind put up.  Forgetting worked for over twenty years, and then things started coming back.  Small things came to me:  I remembered I inexplicably stopped talking to my friend in middle school and never got into another conversation with her until the night we were leaving high school.  I started having dreams about that house.  I started to notice things I had done since childhood – never leaving my bedroom door closed, sleepwalking, and always keeping my finger nails long enough to scratch if need be.  Looking at these things now they all speak the same language:  possible escape.  If they door was open I might be able to get away.  Sleepwalking got me out without me even being aware of it.  And those fingernails could be quite effective in warning someone off. 

          There was a counselor I was working with that I was going to talk to about the trauma once my cancer surgery was done.  But.  He died unexpectedly and I feel like I’m dangling in the wind now.  It is HARD to find someone to open up to about this.  This is not fun to talk about.  It hurts to write about it.  But I don’t want to be a victim to that man of God anymore.  He has no power over me.  And so I’m going to write.  Until I can find another counselor who I feel safe with and won’t make my trauma worse, I will write.  Because this anger/grief/shame/not-feeling-safe needs an outlet.  Writing about this feels like talking about the ghost of my childhood.  I don’t know if I tried to talk to anyone about it when I was a child, but I do know I escaped into books.  Words helped me to survive then and they will now.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Delicate Balance

Last week or so I posted a video on Twitter that had a really good description of narcissistic behavior.  The video's called How to speak to a narcissist and is by Dr. Greg Hamlin and about halfway through it he talks about the title of the video - speaking to a narcissist.  A fellow person who's had a Narcissist in their life (I'll call her Z) tweeted that appealing to a narcissist's needs felt like manipulation.  So I'm going to talk about that a bit cuz it brings up this really interesting point about empathy.

There have been numerous psychological studies done on human children to see if empathy is something we're taught or if it's ingrained.  The general consensus is that it's a combination of both nature and nurture, but that by the age of 9 months most children are capable of showing empathy to another human being.  

When it comes to narcissists there are a ton of theories on why these people are empathy deficient.  Personally I think a combination of things make up a narcissist, but whatever it is that makes them the way they are makes it very difficult to try to understand why someone else would be hurting, or upset, or feeling used.  Anger they can understand, but those more subtle emotions are really beyond their ability to recognize.  Enter into this a person who's extremely empathetic...they get when a person is hurting or upset or feeling used.  They instinctively try to make that other person feel better.  The narcissist will jump all over this person because this person gives their attention to them freely, at least in the beginning.  In a normal relationship (which is what the empathetic person is used to) there is a give and take.  An exchange happens in a normal, healthy relationship (whether it's a friendship or a romance) so that each person receives support and feels like they are appreciated.  Unfortunately, when one person in a relationship is a narcissist, the relationship becomes a vacuum with the narcissist constantly pulling from the other person.  

The great thing about the comment that started this little post is that saying 'it feels like manipulation to appeal to a narcissist's needs' shows that the person making that comment is very high in empathy.  Because if you're worried that you're hurting them, then you're feeling something a true narcissist can't.    

The other thing I wanted to mention is how invested in the relationship the narcissist is.  I haven't seen this discussed much, and have only my own experience with my mother-in-law Narcissist to go by, so take this with a grain of salt.  The example in the video is of someone going to talk to their boss, who is a narcissist.  In this example the narcissist has an investment in the relationship, but it isn't an emotional investment so negotiating both parties' needs might be relatively easy.  Keep in mind I mean relatively easy in terms of dealing with a narcissist.  If the narcissist in your life has no emotional investment in the relationship with you then forget about any negotiations.  If there is an emotional investment then the narcissist may attempt to compromise on some points and the other half of the relationship may get some of their needs met.  But.  That won't happen unless the narcissist is getting something to fill that vacuum I mentioned earlier.  And typically if the narcissist isn't invested then they're getting nothing in that emotional vacuum of theirs from that particular relationship.

So my big take away from this whole thing is - it's good to be empathetic, but you've also got to watch out for yourself.  Self care means stepping back from relationships that leave you feeling drained or vacuumed out.  It really is okay to say no, step back, and leave some people to fend for themselves.  Sometimes as an INFJ and HSP this can be difficult, but not stepping back is worse.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Loss and Life in General

So far 2016 has not been an easy year for me.  Was given the skin cancer diagnosis on January 21st and things have been pretty par for the course since then.  The trials and tribulations of being married to an adult child of a narcissist (who also happens to be in complete denial of the face that his mother is a narcissist) have not gotten any easier.  This past Monday (March 7) we found out the counselor we've been working with for months died suddenly and unexpectedly.  It affected me quite profoundly and has left me feeling the loss of the support he provided.  At this point I'm not willing to even consider finding another counselor because we put in so much emotional work and I just don't feel like I can do that again anytime soon.  Building a good relationship with any counselor is crucial to getting anything constructive done and I just don't have the emotional energy available for that.  The other part of this, of course, is dealing with Donald's constant need for reassurance at the expense of my feeling of emotional stability.  It's not a good combination and with the death of our counselor the separation will probably come sooner rather than later.  The other major issue with Father Eugene's unexpected death is I'm now left with either finding another counselor who's dealt with childhood sexual trauma before or just dealing with it on my own.  And right now I just don't know how to proceed with that.

Update on the pre-op appointment is next, although if you've got a problem with needles you may want to stop reading here. might be best to talk a bit about the mass that was removed from my right eyelid in December before I get into the pre-op info.  The ophthalmologist at Langley AFB and an assistant removed the bulk of the tumor on my eyelid with a local anesthetic.  This means they used lots of eye drops the numb the hell out of my eye, and finally inserted a needle with general anesthetic several places around the eyelid and finally into the eye itself.  It sucked.  I'm not afraid of needles and could get shots all day long, but having a needled inserted into my eyeball was quite anxiety producing.  After that needle it was a piece of cake.

Now, moving on to the pre-op....the very nice dermatology specialists had several of us folks who were going to be receiving MOHS surgery to have their cancer tumors removed watch a video.  The video was great except that it talked about taking some extra tissue around the actual tumor to ensure all the cancer was removed.  That particular method isn't going to work well with me because there IS no extra tissue on the human eyelid.  The other issue the video raised that concerned me was the fact that is talked about doing multiple sessions of general anesthetic to get all the cancer.

I was less than thrilled by the idea of having a needle go into my eyeball not only once, but possibly several times.  It was a concern I raised with the surgeon who was understanding, but said the only other possibility was to put me to sleep for the day so they could do the removals as necessary.  Being put to sleep was not a thrilling idea either because I need to be able to eat frequently to manage my hypoglycemia.  There are times I'm amazed my body functions at all with the multitude of individual problems it has.  The surgeon was confident he'd be able to remove the mass in one go, but of course he can't guarantee that because once the mass is off they have to cut the skin into layers and look at each layer under a microscope to make sure they got all the cancerous tissue off.  So we decided that instead of having to go through my eye more than once he'd instead go through a nerve in my mouth.  Which I'm much more on board for, so yay I suppose.  The surgery itself is scheduled for May 10 and we've pretty much been told to expect to be at the hospital for most of the day.

The other super great thing that happened is I got the results back from the biopsy done on the other side of my face.  It's showing pre-cancerous (which means it's on its way to becoming cancerous, but isn't quite there yet) which brought me a lecture to do all the things I'm already doing when I'm in the Sun but hey, who's counting wear sunscreen and reapply every two hours, wear a wide-brimmed hat, put on clothing with SPF, and wear sunglasses.  Okay, I don't wear sunglasses all that often because I have prescription glasses, but I guess I'll be wearing them over the summer now.  Ugh.  At least I know when the hell they're going to cut my eyelid now -_-