Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: The long-standing scars of narcissistic behavior: a retrospect.


The long-standing scars of narcissistic behavior: a retrospect.

Every now and then, I'll come across a couple rough weeks, from a mental aspect. And these moments usually come when I'm gifted with lots of positive energy from good things that have happened in my life.

Sounds weird, doesn't it? You'd think that when positive moments happen around you, then everything around you feels good, inspiring, and empowering. But for someone who has been mentally abused and raised by narcissistic individuals who made sure you regretted all the good that you did, it's hard to accept that, you too can enjoy happy things. A lot of that comes from years of "gaslighting," lack of emotional support, and negative reinforcement among other toxic behaviors associated with narcissism.

[Note: If you need the definition of a narcissistic individual, click here. Please note that narcissism is not an actual condition, but many traits of this behavior lend itself to even more problematic issues.]

Unfortunately, these experiences have left me with deep emotional scars that I must battle every day. Some days are better than others. Some of those scars have a positive effect, such as a sense of independence, empathy for others, patience in troublesome moments, and the ability to work around difficult issues. Quite a few of those scars have a negative effect though, such as an overhanging cloud of guilt, a constant paranoia that what you do is never "good enough," occasional flashbacks of some of the most hurtful moments in my life amid some of the best ones, and a lingering doubt about my abilities despite extremely obvious evidence to the contrary. Frankly, it really sucks.

One of many examples here of how badly these scars hit me. The middle school that I now work at had a "LA Kings Hockey Day" just recently, and I was asked to play in an all-staff street hockey game during the 6th/7th grade lunch against the LA Kings employees who set up the activities for the day. Being the in-house hockey guru (not the physical fitness guru - that title belongs to my co-worker, the PE teacher), I drew first blood and scored the first goal of the game. I think we either won or tired the game in the end. Considering I'm an ice hockey goalie in real life, this was actually huge for me since I'm used to stopping the goals and not scoring them. Getting the kids all riled up and excited that a staff team of ALL WOMEN could match up against the professional crew was icing on the cake and totally made the experience worth it.

I returned to my office space to take a break, and when I think about that simple hockey goal, the flashbacks flooded in again and I had to close my eyes and let them pass before I returned to do other work. It was exactly 20 years ago as a 6th grader in 1996 that I made the decision to try out roller hockey, and I remember all the arguments and persuading my parents that I had to do to be allowed to play. I had to do all the research in what it took to start, get the form myself from the main hockey office, fill it out, and persuade my parents to take me to the Sport Chalet in Torrance to fit MYSELF for the gear while they sat back disinterested and waiting for me to give up. I remembered how they mocked me after my first game ever and how many times I fell down. I remember the times my father would dump me at the park so I could skate around and then come back in a couple hours to pick me up, caring less if I figured out how to skate backwards or shoot a bar down at the net (look that one up). I remember how neither one of them showed up to my games in college (I was the starting goalie for both the USC women's ice and men's roller hockey teams) or acknowledged that I had potential in the sport, until they had an opportunity to brag to someone about how "great their daughter was at everything and that she's better than everyone else." Their hate for what I loved even extended to the point where I was grounded for making some seemingly benign comment about the Lakers basketball games conflicting with Ducks and Kings NHL games on the TV. It only fueled my desire to keep enjoying hockey and playing the game to the best of my ability and within whatever parameters I was able to fight to have.

I wish they told me straight out that I was never good enough for them instead of dishing out doses of negativity, whether it be complaining about the one A- that botched my academic streak after I was accelerated a grade level or telling me that asking for help was a weakness that never got anything accomplished. I was not who they wanted me to be, and because I didn't fulfill that ideal image, I was pushed to the wayside. That pushing away was not just in hockey, but in my own growth, my personal life, and my humanity to the point that I no longer have any contact with my immediate family. It is their loss and their choice.

Perhaps this is why I find myself at home working technology support while doubling as a substitute teacher in a middle school. It's real, it's validating, and it's challenging. I enjoy seeing the faces of kids turn from worry to relief when they bring a non-functioning device to me and I then fix it. Sometimes I'll rib them for fun while I'm fixing it and they actually lighten up and smile. Kids can see what's fake and what's not, and at my school, the fake people are called out and not given any respect. I'm not the person that is avoided by staff or called out by kids as "not nice." Perhaps for just a few minutes they can affirm that I'm someone who can do the right thing, and in return, I want to make sure they don't experience the pain of emotional abuse by adults like I did, even if it's just for that moment in time in a place outside their home.

From an early age, I always felt "out of place," as if I was only around people as an interesting topic to talk about but was never integrated in family activities (face it, family activities never existed within my biological relations). Even in my teenage and early adult years, when I was staying with another family that I had hoped would soften the blow of my very indifferent biological one, I was unlucky to find out that a certain person in that group exhibited those same narcissistic traits, and over the course of years, drove me away from that community, a so-called "Ohana," that I had long believed had my best interests in mind. I had to "earn" my love and appreciation, and when I slipped up once or even considered tending to my own personal needs above another person's, I was thrown into the doghouse and labeled as a "child." But in my weakest of times, I needed that doghouse as a platform to rise above my tragedies and rebuild my life again. For that support I will be forever grateful and glad that I was able to tell the people who truly did care for my person, such as my late friend, that he did make a difference in my world. But I will never forget that self-serving type of goodwill does come with a price, and I will never pass that pain onto another needing person for as long as I live. When I am able to help, I will ask for nothing in return but your success and happiness.

There is a difference between "being supported" and "being part of a family." If you're lucky, then both of those things are one in the same. Unfortunately, those who only have the latter realize that the support lasts for as long as you're perceived to be useful to a cause. After that point, you're passive-aggressively phased out and replaced with others who are considered, to them, more valuable. Nobody cares what happens to you unless it's juicy enough to make the gossip rounds with no follow-up on the person being discussed.

"But Christine, you're so strong! You were able to survive all these things and be the person you are today. I admire that in you."

I appreciate the compliments, but I shouldn't have to be recognized for merely surviving an emotionally abusive life. I shouldn't have to be recognized in such a way that still reminds everyone else that I was a victim of mistreatment and that my obstacles were unnecessary if we lived in an ideal world. I will never get an apology or an admission of fault from the entities involved. That's probably why I have a hard time forgetting these moments. It's the lingering essence of what was done to me that affects me, not the actual people railing me directly.

So how to do I battle these inner demons every day? Keep on moving forward. Do the best I can every day because it is what I want to do for myself. Make a difference around my students and be the friend that my friends need. Be the consummate teammate both on and off the ice. Beautify my own personal world. Surround myself around people who see both my potential and the real person inside.  And lastly, separate myself from the toxic and negative forces that continue to haunt me, even in my memories. It's not easy to let go of this kind of pain, unfortunately. It is a daily struggle in which the progress is slow and the results aren't obvious until I take moments like this to step back, re-analyze, and see how far I've come from the mental hell I've had to live in.

As a parting thought, here are a few thoughts to help you move past narcissistic individuals.

- Love isn't "earned," it is given freely without asking for a reward or a restitution.

- The feeling that "people just don't understand you" is a real problem that you need to look into further. Do you feel out of place? Are the people around you genuinely concerned about your well-being. Do people recognize you beyond your talents AND go out of their way to remind you of this?

- If and when possible, detach/separate yourself from those emitting the toxic energy. Stop talking to them. Separate yourself from the visual reminders of their existence in your life. Unfriend them or, at the minimum, unfollow their posts on social media. They don't deserve to bask in your successes, so don't give them any material to work with.

- Seek professional help. Surviving toxic and narcissistic relationships is not an easy thing to do alone. There are many low-cost therapists available. Check with your local city, county, or state services for resources that can help you.

- Work on improving your own life. The best revenge is living well.

- Connect with others who have dealt with or are still dealing with narcissistic people. One of my favorite places to share, vent, and identify with fellow survivors of narcissistic types is on Reddit /r/raisedbynarcissists.

- It's hard to let go of negative memories but it is possible. Do your best to cope with them, and know that because you can cope with them, you are already in a better place.