Survivor Stories: I Am Very Happy

I met him online and liked his personality and sense of humor very much. He seemed like a pretty genuine, average guy for about the first three weeks aside from a few comments that seemed like backhanded compliments that - at the time - I thought I was reading into too much, but now I recognize as the first red flags. We “fell in love” right away and I was showered with gifts and compliments. For three weeks. 

He had some problems, though. He was a disabled vet with PTSD from serving in Iraq and was going through a divorce from his second marriage. He was also for the past three years raising his teen daughter from his first marriage. When his ex remarried and had another child, his daughter grew jealous and falsely accused the step-father of molesting her. After the police questioned her, she admitted it was a lie and was sent to live with him by the mother who resented her creating this turmoil. 

I was with him for about two years. A constant on and off, make up and break up, fight and beg back cycle. I do not have low self-esteem, have a good job and a home, but was beholden to “working with and forgiving him” because of his PTSD. He was a master of saying and doing the most hurtful things and somehow making it seem like I would be the bad person for not forgiving him. He would create fights out of things that I can’t even pinpoint. He criticized every minute little thing I did. Oh, but when he wanted to say the right thing… sigh. I could just melt back in his arms. I cried about 30% of the time I knew him. 

One night he was picking some fight and began defending himself against being a narcissist. I hadn’t even accused him of this, and up until a year ago I had no knowledge of the true traits of one other than my general understanding of the Greek mythological story. On a whim I searched “narcissist” in YouTube and the titles of some of The Little Shaman’s videos came up that started putting into direct and simple terms what I couldn’t quite describe. Narcissists are ungrateful. Narcissists ruin holidays. Narcissists always have to be right. And so many more that were literally 100% spot on. He had diagnosed himself at some point, I suppose. He knew it. And thank God he let it spill because honestly, I would have never been able to heal without this information. He was so twisted, maddening and full of head games, I needed a “decoder” to deprogram and reprogram myself. 

I binge watched those videos, I played them for my mother so we could talk through them, I sent links to friends that I thought had similar abusive relationships past and present. During March 2018, the videos were the ONLY thing I listened to day and night. Thank you, Little Shaman! She helped me more than years of therapy and I don’t know her but I love her for it!!

So where is the guy? Well I’m the middle of that March 2018 period, I stopped contacting him. Seeing what he was actually made me dislike him—would he have been able to hoover me back in? I would be lying if I said no. I think he still could have, but he was arrested. His daughter turned him him for raping her. The story about the stepfather was made up. He was the molester the whole time. His self-righteous, better-than-everyone, accuser-of-everyone-else’s-faults persona was the mask he wore to cover up what he really was. And the PTSD was a lie, too. He was in the military, yes, but was discharged when they learned he was bipolar. A clever cover story for his unstable behavior, brilliant actually, as it made all around seem like bad people for not cutting him slack and he could play the war hero, too! 

He was given twenty years. No chance for parole. I was given the gift of never having to worry about him contacting me because he can’t. 

I have since met someone else, someone that I may have overlooked because he was at first shy but I gave him a chance because he made me feel good after feeling bad for so long. And when he got more comfortable around me, he turned out not to be so shy, but instead the most amazing, kind, funny, good-hearted man I have ever met. We have been together about nine months and it’s a very healthy strong relationship. And I am very happy.

Despite this I would say I’m not quite 100% healed from the narcissistic abuse because it’s just that damaging. But I’m close and lucky—not everyone has their narcissist thrown in jail (no contact) with their crime (real self) displayed in the newspaper to help them see who the narcissist really is. In turn though, I am hyper-sensitive to people with any toxic traits— now which is a parting gift I am happy to take from the experience.


Survivor Stories: A Priceless Work in Progress

Broken beyond words, a stark realization I had in the moment he finally had one hand around my neck and the other hand pointed right to my face.  With more conviction in his eyes and words than he had the day we said our “I dos” , he raged, “Don’t you ever think I need you or want you. Don’t you think for a second that I can’t get a better b**** than you.”  The topic at hand, of course, had nothing to do with other women or jealousy. It had to do with the fact that moments before, in a fit of grandiosity on his part, he almost killed us on a six lane highway. I braced for impact and my soul immediately released any attachment to this world assuming, “This is it”.  

Ashamedly, I admit, that was not the first time I’d heard those words uttered.  It was his go-to speech regarding pretty much anything. The most memorable of all was about a sandwich.  I actually have that recorded, too, to remind me I am not making up that story (evidence of gaslighting). The speech, however, was not usually accompanied by a hand to my neck.

Almost a year before what would be our final days together (mentioned above), I had naturally started to respond less to his behaviors.  I couldn’t control him but I could control me, and so I did. Unfortunately, where some narcissists may respond by backing down since you’re not giving them that supply, his bad behavior escalated overtime to becoming downright absurd, bizarre, and abusive.  I was no longer feeding his ego by reacting to his bad behavior and so his behavior got worse.

At the time, I didn’t have words to validate what I knew to be true.  I didn’t know what NPD was, or about future faking, or that “narcissists tell on themselves” (he actually told me he was a narcissist once).  What I knew was that whatever was happening there was not love. It was not honor. It hurt. All the time. Every day, in some way, even on the good days, something hurt.  I did not want to spend another day convincing myself that the truth was different than the evidence. I did not want to spend more time telling myself that he does love me, when he would spend any time at all telling me he could do better.  So I left.

I used to pride myself on knowing him better than he knew himself.  I used to pride myself on loving him harder and better than anyone ever had.  I used to pride myself on being able to hover ever so lightly within our house made of egg shells.  I have since learned to flip that script. I now know myself better than anyone, and love myself harder than anyone, and I now live alone in a house I am building out of solid rock.  A priceless work in progress.

Danielle S.

How Anxiety Disorders Are Created

Anxiety disorders are examples of neurosis. What is neurosis? Neurosis is usually defined as mental illness that is distressing but not resulting in serious loss of reality. Symptoms are stress-related but do not encompass what we would consider especially dangerous symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions or other forms of psychosis. The symptoms of neurosis can be very difficult for a person to deal with alone. They can be frightening or upsetting. Some personality disorders are complicated by neurosis; in fact, the term "Borderline Personality Disorder" was apparently created in the 1930's when a psychoanalyst noticed that some of his patients seems to be on the "borderline" between neurosis and psychosis.

This simple diagram shows how the brain can incorrectly process information and create neuroses from it. As you can see, when information is processed normally, it is integrated into the brain correctly and the brain can move on from it. When it is not processed normally, the brain becomes stuck and it cannot move on. This creates symptoms such as anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, phobias, obsessive thoughts, agoraphobia, panic attacks and more.

We cannot pretend that traumatic experiences did not happen. They are still retained in our brains and they demand to be acknowledged. Sometimes we fear that the feelings attached to them will overwhelm us but even if we refuse to acknowledge them, they will come out whatever way they can. This is usually in the form of disruptive symptoms and over time these symptoms can become very debilitating if they are not addressed. When the root of these symptoms is addressed, they go away. They are a reminder from your mind that there are things you haven’t dealt with yet, and that you must do it soon.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are all very helpful with anxiety-based disorders. If you are suffering, you don't have to! There is help for you.

Questions to Ask A New Therapist

Choosing a therapist could be one of the most important things you do in your life and it can be difficult. Many well-meaning people become therapists but they are not all good at it, nor do they all have the right personality or style appropriate for all situations. For example, a sarcastic, funny therapist may be appreciated by some people as humor helps people feel at ease but this may be the exact wrong approach to take with someone else, who may feel they are being laughed at or insulted.

With healthcare the way it is, many people are simply assigned a therapist and then just show up to the session. There is no research into the therapist at all and no feeling of control over their own healthcare; many times the client does not even know the therapist's last name. This makes it difficult to research the therapist's education or check to see if there are complaints against them. These things are very important, because there are many good therapists and counselors but there are also a lot of really bad ones.

Many people might feel a little aggressive or forward asking their therapist these questions but it's very important for your well-being and it's great practice at being assertive. Remember: it's your well-being and your money. Take an active role! It'll work out so much better that way.

10 Questions to Ask Your Therapist

After you've gotten things like insurance and appointments out of the way, some of the questions you might want to ask your new therapist are:

  1. How long have you been practicing? This is important for many obvious reasons, but the most important one is because you want to deal with someone who has experience with many different kinds of situations.

  2. What type of training have you had? This is important background information so that you can get an idea what techniques the therapist is familiar with and what will work for you.

  3. What type of experience have you had with people who have [my diagnosis]? This is very important. If you've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you might not want to see a therapist that has never worked with someone who has that illness. Many illnesses and diagnoses require a certain type of approach. If the therapist is not familiar with it, therapy could do more harm than good. Therapy is not "one size fits all" and these type of therapists should probably be avoided.

  4. What is your approach to therapy with people who have [my diagnosis]?This lets you know the style and type of techniques your therapist has found success with in the past regarding your disorder.

  5. Are you available after-hours in an emergency? This lets you know whether the therapist can be contacted after hours if you are in crisis. For some people, this is very important and if the therapist says no, it may be a dealbreaker for you.

  6. Do you take calls during sessions? This is important and it should be asked right away so there are no nasty surprises later. Many clients have had their sessions interrupted by phone calls and feel extremely hurt or angered by it. Be sure to let the therapist know if you are not OK with them taking calls and decide together if this will be the right fit for you. If the therapist says that they do take calls during sessions, think about whether you will really be OK with that before you agree. You may be asked to stop talking or leave the room, even if you are in the middle of a very emotional disclosure.

  7. What is your cancellation policy? This helps you understand clearly what will happen if you can't make it, so you are not surprised and angered by a bill that you didn't see coming.

  8. What is your style of treatment? Is he or she sarcastic, are they indirect, are they aggressive, are they laid back, do they joke or tease...? These are important things to know to avoid personality clashes and hurt feelings later. As we see in the example above, not all approaches work with everybody. You want to find the right fit for you. For instance, if you are sensitive or easily-upset, an aggressive sarcastic therapist or one who jokes around too much is probably not right for you. If you are very stubborn or a procrastinator, a more aggressive therapist might be necessary.

  9. What are your feelings about medication? Some therapists are pro-medication and some are not. For some clients, meds are out. If the therapist even suggests them, this is a deal-breaker. For others, meds are needed and they require a therapist who will support them in suggesting meds to the doctor. It's best to find out where your therapist stands on this right away so you can make your decision appropriately.

  10. How will we know when therapy has been successful? This is very important. Therapy is not generally supposed to continue on for years and years with no end in sight (except in cases of certain personality disorders). There should be a light at the end of the tunnel. Vague answers such as, "Well, that's up to you" or "You'll know when you know" are not really acceptable here. Of course it ultimately is up to you, but we are looking for a more concrete answer such as, "Well, we can consider it a success when you are no longer pathologically afraid of snakes" or "When you can go to the park without having a panic attack, we will know you are ready to move on."

We should approach the therapy relationship as an active partnership between two people: ourselves and the therapist. Good therapy requires willingness and action on the parts of both parties involved. It requires trust, skill, understanding and communication. This is a person you are entrusting with your mental health and that should not be taken lightly.

Moreover, the therapist is a person you are hiring to do a job. People can lose sight of this in the often-skewed power structure of the therapist-client relationship but make no mistake: you are paying the therapist to perform a service for you. You certainly would not hire the first person off the street - sight unseen - to build your home or care for your child. It's the same thing. Don't be afraid to ask questions and get some background from your therapist before you decide to hire them. Interview them, the way you would interview anybody before you hired them. Questions like "How long have you been practicing?" or "What type of training have you had?" and "What experience do you have working with people who have [this diagnosis]?" are very important. You wouldn't hire someone to care for an infant who has only ever worked with school-age children. If the therapist's answers are not to your satisfaction, find a different one.

Please see Part I of this article: 40 Signs You Might Need a New Therapist