Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Sunday, February 24, 2013

There's No Fracking a Narcissist

I'm not sure if it was divine intervention or what but the other day, in the midst of my angst over the events of the past few weeks, I was suddenly aware of an interesting word and its definition.  I have heard the word before, I sort of knew what it meant but I never really researched it much. As I was praying and crying and going over things in my head, the word made its way to my consciousness and I felt moved to delve into the meaning of it.

To be honest, I will never know if it was the Holy Spirit which led me there.  Knowing how loving my Father is, and knowing that He knows not only the desires of my heart but my specific personality and my needs, I would like to think that the random way in which I came to this word and felt pushed to research it was a little gift from Him. Also, when I went to confession yesterday and spoke with a visiting priest, he relayed to me without knowing me or any specific details of my situation (as I only confessed my inability to show love to someone who has hurt me deeply), that I need to be mindful of the fact that other people are imperfect, too, and they have many problems themselves and can't always have healthy relationships with me.  Ding ding ding!

Ok, so the word I'm referring to is Narcissist.   The surface definition of narcissism is the excessive love of oneself.  But when you actually take a look at the symptoms of a narcissist, i.e. the behavior they display in relationships, it goes much deeper than that.  It fleshes out the degrees of self-love and what kinds of issues it causes in what could be a healthy relationship otherwise.  I think a lot of people, myself included, can have narcissistic tendencies, especially when you have some emotional baggage you're still sorting out with God.  BUT, to have the disorder, to really be hidden deep in the muck of narcissism is kind of scary, actually.  Probably not to the narcissist because they're completely unaware of it, except if you're my friend, Erich, who seems to think he is a narcissist but doesn't mind saying so.  But to other people, people who love a narcissist and want a relationship with them, it's frightening!

So there I am, reading over report after report of this word.  I am not even close to really understanding the true depths it is capable of extending to.  I am not an expert; I was aware of the word before but only began to really study it just the other night.  I obviously cannot officially diagnose someone with NPD because I am not a psychiatrist.  But from what I can understand of it, and what I can check-mark off the list of symptoms (practically everything), I believe the word fits as easily as Cinderella's lost glass slipper.  Only this story is far from a fairytale.

How does one have a relationship with a narcissist?  The answer is, simply, you don't. I mean, not really.  You can have a surfacey relationship with a narcissist as long as you understand one thing: there is no fracking a narcissist.

What is fracking, you might ask?  Fracking is a term used for hydraulic drilling/fracturing (for natural gas/oil, etc).  It's high-pressure so it's apparently very useful in combination with regular drilling, to get to the source.  However, there have been recent studies showing how unsafe, unstable and dangerous fracking actually is; not to mention a huge waste of resources and the potential of contamination and injury. 

I've realized that the same can be said for trying to develop a deep close relationship with someone who displays narcissism as their primary personality trait.  If you are the long-term victim of a narcissist (i.e. the boyfriend or girlfriend, spouse, child, friend), you often have a sense of there being a good relationship and because of your victim status, you're completely unaware of the true nature of the relationship.  From what I've read, you will defend the narcissist in your life for their behavior, sugar-coat and minimize their wrong-doings, and often put that person on a pedestal for being such a great person, for "saving" you (because the narcissist has made you believe you were nothing without them), etc.  You might also develop some of the same tendencies they've displayed, blaming other people for issues that arise even though it's not their fault, or using people for your own purposes and then dropping them when you're done with them.

With a narcissist, you cannot dig deep.  You cannot dig around into the relationship, trying to establish a close bond without the very real potential of something bad happening.  You can't attempt to understand them without a lot of wasted effort and time as a result. Because almost everything you say is taken the wrong way, much of it can be manipulated and the end result is a lot of hurt.  Often, narcissists will bring something up, make it a big deal but then back-track and say it's not a big deal, only after there has been some sort of blow up.  In these instances, they were the ones attempting to do the fracking but in a very manipulative way and for all the wrong reasons; not to understand, but to control - you or the situation, and the explosion thereafter can often be paramount.

Taken from this source (also cited below this post) is a really good spot of information:  Communication with a narcissist is best described as "crazy making" because narcissists are known to reinvent reality to suite their personal agenda. Leading psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D. weighed in on the topic to further explain the mindset of a narcissist: "Since narcissists believe that the world revolves around them, or that it should, they think they can reinvent reality and no one should question them. Even though they know that what they're writing or saying is stretching the truth, they think that they are so clever about it that they will fool the recipient into going along with them."  Narcissists thrive on evoking both reactions and emotions from their victims.

Reading that above statement right there was like someone just hit the nail on the head!  I read through several of the correspondence emails that had caused so much anxiety for me the past few weeks and realized how much of that had taken place.   One such instance was saying that she had asked me several questions in a previous email to which I did not respond, but I combed over that email 3 times and found not even one question.  I re-read the email before that, still no questions asked.  There were several other instances in which I found the "truth to be stretched," and it just made my heart ache.  I can't even get mad about this sort of thing, it is just too sad and depressing.

To share some of what I've learned about how to deal with a narcissist, here are two suggestions I found to be very helpful, taken from this source (also cited below):

Know when you’re being gaslighted.
When your narcissist says something, then later denies saying it or claims to have said something different, you can find yourself doubting your own sanity. Were you listening? Were you dreaming? Is he nuts? Am I nuts? What’s going on here?  Your narcissist may be doing this maliciously to throw you off balance. Or, more likely, he’s simply responding to his need of the moment, forgetting what he previously said.

(I had this happen in this scenario several times and I really thought I was going crazy.  I mean, seriously, I have mommy brain and post-partem brain and I have so many other things going, plus I'm not perfect, it is possible that I could have been wrong in those cases but when I had actual words staring at me on a screen that backed up what I thought, I knew it.  The reality of this "gaslighting" suffocated me like thick smoke, but at least I knew I wasn't crazy after all!)

Bolster your own self-esteem.
Don’t be surprised if your self-esteem tanks because your narcissist is bent on satisfying his own needs, not yours.  This doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with you. What it does mean is that you’re not getting enough positive reinforcement. So, say kind things to yourself. Spend more time with others who think highly of you. Get involved with group activities that bolster your ego.

(So this past week, after having been told that I was such a disappointment over and over and being made to feel like everything was my fault (though all I wanted to do was UNDERSTAND), my self-esteem did a major downward spiral.  Everything that I messed up on in my own life with my own family seemed to be magnified and I was in a very raw state of self-hatred and despair.  It was so difficult to climb out of it. THANK THE LORD for the sacrament of confession because it was up until this past Saturday when I went that I really couldn't seem to see the light of day no matter how hard I tried. My husband seemed really concerned about me and my kids suffered greatly for it.  It is very important, especially as a mother, to take this piece of advice because when you feel low, it's not only setting a really bad example for your kids in the way of how one should view oneself, but it affects them in so many negative ways.)

Now if only I can put these things into practice.  Given the place in my life this person has, it doesn't seem feasible to just stop talking to her.  And honestly, I don't think that's what God wants of me.  We had to do that several years ago, my husband making that decision, for what I see now as the same reason though I didn't understand it then.  But, it wasn't just because she was/is a narcissist; it was because her interactions with us were affecting our marriage and we were already struggling so much.  We had to get rid of everything that made it more difficult to unite as the couple God made us when we joined together as one on our wedding day.  There were other relationships and things we let go of back then, too, that we could not pick back up again.  As a recovering co-dependent, it's a bit of a difficult scenario for me as it's kind of dangerous to have a relationship like this.  And often, the pain of my flesh likes to speak above the love in my heart.  I don't think letting go completely is what God is asking of us now.  I'm not really sure what it is.  I have much more prayer to engage in.

And that is one of the best pieces of advice I have received and in turn, offer: PRAY!  If you are dealing with someone who exhibits this personality, pray for yourself and for that person. Pray that the Holy Spirit can guide your interactions and help you stay on the path you are meant to be on toward Him. And pray for healing and a conversion for them and anyone they have affected with their behavior.

So what is the point of writing all this anyway?  This actually really really hurts to even think about, let alone write out. But, at the same time, one of the reasons I started a blog was because I am a servant and though I don't always write anything of importance or direction, I do know many of the things I have written and shared have helped others.  I can only give that glory to God as He is the one who placed it on my heart to serve in this way and I am nothing without Him.  Sometimes I fail miserably and don't always come across the right way to some.  I am guilty of that a lot.  But sometimes, there is a nugget to be found amidst these heart-felt ramblings of mine, and whether I am told about it helping someone or not, God knows which ones and directs them accordingly. Though I only have 30-some followers, I have noticed some other traffic from all over the world here to my blog from people googling different phrases which land them here.  Hopefully, their short stops will find them gleaning some small tidbit of information they didn't have before, or some inspiration from God's love which I try often to convey here.

I can't pretend like this blog is much of anything in reality but if one lonely lost sheep finds even one iota of *something* which leads them to a better life, than God's job for me has been fulfilled.  I think about many lovely ladies in my life whose blogs I happened upon in weird random ways (probably divine intervention), and how several of them have become close friends, mentors, and sisters in Christ.  All that just from them doing what God asked of them.  I only hope to mirror some semblance of their servanthood, humility and grace.

While I write about many things on this blog, mostly centered in my motherhood and my immediate family of 5 children and my husband, I think it's important to step out of my comfort zone, lay my heart open and bare on the line, and reach out to anyone who struggles with other issues as I do.  Today it's the serious subject of dealing with unhealthy, hurtful people...tomorrow it could be something as simple as how to not burn biscotti!

(Some of) My Sources:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stop In the Name of Love

Ohhhhhh....  Here we go again!!!

My heart is so heavy right now and I realize I can only go within myself, seek out my Heavenly Father and relinquish my suffering to His holy grace.

It appears that everything is not as it seemed to be.   And I. am. devastated.

I have written before about an up and down relationship with an extended family member. I believe the last post I ever wrote about it was in excitement and anticipation of what the future held for a new chapter in this relationship.  And somehow, I was getting ahead of myself.  Somehow I was deceived into thinking it could be anything but what it has always been before.

So here I am, drowning in the wake of yet another unfortunate misunderstanding in which the villain cape has been taped upon my back.   It's probably my fault.  Naturally, or maybe because I was taught to be this way, I ask a hundred questions and try to figure things out so that I can understand.  I say things (admittedly not always with tact) and keep chiseling away at something until I FINALLY UNDERSTAND IT.  I can't stand NOT getting it.  Especially when not getting it also means that things are unresolved.  But somehow, for some people this means that I am arguing.  I am just really confused.

In the past few weeks I have been dragged into something that isn't my business to be in and then ridiculed for not wanting to be in it.  I have also been told not once, not twice but THREE times that I am disappointing in various ways.  The last time was this afternoon.  To tell you the truth, I disappoint myself.  Because I don't know when to just step the hell out of the way and let the Holy Spirit work.  I don't know how to stop chiseling my way to enlightenment when clearly, that's not something I am allowed to have at this moment in time. I'm meant to be in the dark.  Because often, darkness is what is needed for secret things to take place; i.e. a growth, a process, a one heart or another or both.  I. can't. do. it.  The light is not mine to have.

Somewhere in the dark I have to remember that no matter what, I am to Love.
Sometimes, loving does not equal understanding.   Darn it, I forget that so often.

SO, as much as I wanted to reply to the last delivery of  how much of a disappointment I am, as much as I wanted to ask so many more questions, call the person out on making yet another statement of untruth, as much as I really really really wanted to chip away until I found the root, I didn't. I couldn't.  Because I realized that LOVE should've kicked in about 2 emails ago in a more tangible way on my part. I FELT my love flowing, the compassion and heartache over such a broken person, I knew it was there but I ignored what I was really meant to do with it in this horrendously unfair situation.

It finally dawned on me as I leaned over my counter reading this message, my breath literally hanging in the air, tears streaming down my face, that I had failed miserably in my quest to love someone who has no idea what real love looks like.  In the 9 years that I've known this person, God has convicted me SO MANY times of my duty to love and teach love, especially to other broken people who just don't get it yet.  And sometimes I forget that.  Sometimes, my flesh speaks louder than my heart.  Sometimes, the pain I feel is like a thousand daggers so much that it blinds me. Sometimes my own brokenness deceives me.

I have failed before.  I probably will fail again.

But this time....  Nay.  I will not.  This time, I will walk away.  I will step aside for the Holy Spirit to do whatever is needed.  I've said it before and I'll say it again...sometimes loving someone means just praying for them from afar.  And not continuing to chip away in vain.  I will stop trying to understand. I will stop trying to explain that what they think is not the truth.  I will stop worrying about whether or not it will be resolved.  In the name of Love; I will stop.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Desperately Daddy

The sighs and cooing of an overtired baby are a constant symphony in our bedroom late at night.  I roll over to see my equally-tired hubby rocking Jeremiah as his lamb-like lowing floats across our king-sized bed. Jeremiah was just asleep; rocked there on the soft lullaby of warm milk and the scent of mommy. 

I sigh my own sighs.  Not out of frustration but contentment. I look at my husband of just over 8 years and my heart smiles wide.  I remember a time when I was pregnant with our first baby and he admitted that he had no idea how to be a good dad.  You're writing notes to your unborn child, I thought, you already are a good dad.

Jeremiah and Daddy having a late-night chat
His fear has continued, even all these years later.  Especially lately as we have faced so much and he has had the world's weight on his shoulders:  Five children in 8 years.  Losing babies.  Losing jobs.  Running a business.  Making plans for our future. Figuring out and trying to express true, unconditional love to those of us in his keep.  But the fact that he even worries about being a good dad is a sure sign that he is in fact a good dad. One of the things I love about my husband is that his thoughts are humble; he expresses his desire and desperation to be the best he can be at this vocation which God has called him to.  He takes the responsibility to heart. 

And all these years later, his worries that he's still not quite getting it right serve as a reminder to me to be gentle, loving; to encourage him down the road which he finds incredibly scary and frightening.  Not because I don't find it the same, but because I do.

We are in this journey together.  Over the years, we have learned much about the art of working together as a team to bring our children up in a godly home. Early in our marriage, it was difficult to be selfless; always passing a child to the other one in exasperation and accusation.  You never hold her!  Why can't you just take her for once? It was a constant back and forth of who should take what responsibility when.  A few years ago I wrote this post about the "parenting dance," and how one fateful night we were destined to finally get it right, in the midst of several puking children, loads of laundry and the minimizing of our selfishness.  I'm blessed to say that even since then, we've grown ever-closer and better in-step with each other as the parenting dance has turned into the marathon that raising children together is destined to become for people like us.

It's times like this night that bind two people together.  Deepening a relationship by having and raising children together has a way of doing that.  A husband and a wife and the middle of the night, tasting the essence of what marriage is, what parenting is.  Opening ourselves up to the challenges and changes new life creates.  Rocking and sighing and listening - finally - to the rhythmic breathing of a tiny infant sleeping against one's neck, and the sound of two hearts growing closer.  Somehow, in the midst of it all, in the years that pass, as you allow the understanding to seep in, the experience to build, you finally get the inkling that yes, perhaps you are a good parent after all.  A good partner in life. You rise above the human tendencies to do for self, and submit to the call to do for someone else, to do what God asks of you.  In this case, not just for a tired mama of five babies, but a son; a young baby who desperately needs to know not just his mama's scent and strength and love, but his daddy's as well.  Lucky boy.  And lucky me!

"[He will] turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers..."  (Malachi 3:24 NAB)