Are you crazy? Or are you dating a Narcissist?

Am I crazy? He’s accusing me of  doing the very thing that I’m upset with him for. Am I crazy? I just apologized to him for the awful thing that he did to me. Am I crazy? He was definitely with her but he said it wasn’t him. Am I crazy? That incriminating screenshot someone sent me was photo-shopped. Am I crazy? He’s lying but he’s screaming that he wouldn’t lie. Am I crazy? “You’re so insecure” Am I crazy? He came home at 4 am again. Am I crazy? Walking on eggshells. Am I crazy? “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.” Am I crazy? His ex is messaging me to tell me he’s sleeping with her. Am I crazy? “It’s all in your head.” Am I crazy?  Wait, he told you I said what? Am I crazy? He bought me an expensive gift. Am I crazy? Our roommates are giving me the cold shoulder. Am I crazy? “I thought you guys were broken up?” Am I crazy? I need his permission to do anything. Am I crazy? Too exhausted to speak over his yelling. Am I crazy? “No one’s going to love you like I do” Am I crazy?  I stole from my friends but I can’t remember doing it. Am I crazy? “Do you not understand a word that I’m saying” Am I crazy? He’s armed with an explanation for everything. Am I crazy? Another expensive gift. Am I crazy? He told me to leave. Am I crazy? He wants me to come back. Am I crazy? He asked why I enjoy hurting him so much. Am I crazy?

I took a bit of a hiatus from writing this blog, but I did not stop writing. In fact, for awhile I had become an armchair psychologist with my friends and family, diving into the world of narcissists and mapping out the last year, trying to make sense of a senseless situation. I had been duped. In a previous blog post I had stated that I felt like I had just met myself. However, I can tell you with a clear head, that I have known exactly who I am, what I’m capable of, and that my values have not changed at all since I was very young. I’ve had the same loyal and amazing group of friends my entire life and they too will tell you that I haven’t changed the slightest bit. I’m the same awkward, loving, excitable, scrappy, defiant, and boundary-pushing girl I’ve always been and the only thing that has changed was that for a moment, I put my self-worth into the hands of someone who had no business deciding the worth of anyone.

I find it impossible to wrap my head around the fact that there are people who are not capable of love and empathy. When you love someone who doesn’t love you back it hurts and takes a huge blow to your ego, we all know that one. But loving someone who convincingly pretended to love you, while living a ridiculous double life, spinning a web of lies so thick that it’s easier for you to give in than to attempt to untangle it, while they go out of their way to plant thoughts into your head and into the heads of the people who care about you for game-now that’s some bullshit. I slowly learned that wrapping my head around the why’s and how’s was not my job. My job was to let it go, happily move on, and be grateful that I do know how to love because now I know that being loved and being able to give love back is a gift and not something that’s just programmed into all of us.

I’m not wasting any more of my energy on the subject because I’ve moved on and thankfully I’m surrounded by an army of people who truly do love and support me, and I appreciate them now more than ever. But I do want to say this to anyone questioning their sanity because some slug is calling them crazy every time you confront them about something they are guilty of:

Your emotional reactions to abuse is not the problem. The problem is the abuse and don’t ever let the abuser convince you otherwise.

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How much is that therapist in the window?

When I first started therapy I was so intimidated. The white coat syndrome struggle was real. I was on stand-by in the waiting room, nervously picking at my fingernails, while nature sounds and lavender oils drifted around me. I appreciated the effort to take the edge off. I started to relax when a bird’s squawk interrupted my concentration. Well played, nature tape. Tick Tock, Tick Tock. I spaced out and wondered if therapists have therapists. Finally she came around the corner and greeted me along with her intern. We sat down in the office and started my first session.

You should consider your introductory session as a trial. It’s so important to feel 100% comfortable with the person you’re about to lay everything out on the table for. After we went over our expectations and reservations, she told me my schedule has conflicts with her schedule, but her intern’s schedule is flexible. Hm. This concerned me a little bit. Should I really put my fragile state of mind into the hands of a student?

For me, (and probably you, too) the answer is Yes, and I’ll tell you why.

Finding the right therapist for you is a lot like dating. There’s no app to swipe right on your ideal person (or is there?) so you just make an appointment, show up, and hope for the best.

You will know right away if you don’t vibe. Trust your gut. This person is going to influence your mental health and get all up close and personal with your deepest and darkest secrets. I quickly learned chemistry was more important than credentials.

Our first couple of sessions were difficult. I had to pull things out of my brain archives to explore and identify my triggers. This was uncomfortable and draining for me. After an exaggerated emotional outburst one night, I hopelessly emailed him like the damsel in distress that I was…

Subject: THIS ISN’T WORKING I’M BROKEN.

Message: Hi. I don’t need therapy. I need to be sedated. I’m a menace to society and I cannot carry on.

Disoriented and Drowning,

Kaytee

Subject: Re: THIS ISN’T WORKING I’M BROKEN

Message: Hi Kaytee. It definitely sounds like a very difficult weekend, and maybe the support of a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner may help in those times. I have some numbers here for you. I will keep my Wednesday open in case you change your mind.

Best,

Intern

*3 days later*

Subject: Hi.

Message:  *Tucks tail between legs* Meep. Is your Wednesday still open?

It’s taxing to feel vulnerable. We are programmed to dodge our feelings in an effort to save face. Why? We’re not machines. Holding our feelings hostage forces us to stew on our issues, instigate more problems, and turns us into toxic people. Seeking help does not make you weak. It’s brave and it’s extremely hard work. We’re all little Veruca Salt in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, walking around all big, bad, and impatient, screaming that we want our golden tickets and we want them now! Well, self-improvement is not instantly gratifying. In fact, you should be working towards it the rest of your life. Imagine if we we were all taught how to identify and diffuse our triggered emotions at an early age. Just imagine it. How would it statistically change things like the heroin epidemic, suicides, and school shootings?

If you’re ready to be the best version of yourself, but money or time is holding you back, consider an intern. Their prices are significantly less expensive (sometimes even free of charge), they aren’t burned out from years of experience, they’re caught up on the newest and most effective methods of therapy, and they’re monitored by licensed therapists! Life hack! You’re basically getting a 2 for 1. Most of my sessions were over an app similar to facetime, which was AMAZING. The convenience was a huge relief and I felt way more comfortable in my own space, which allowed me to fully open up and let my walls down. Serious game changer.

Invest in yourself. I promise it’s never too late and things are never too far gone to change for you. Every single day is an opportunity to be better. Your future self will thank you.

Whose mind is it, anyway?

 

Obsessive Irrational thoughts.

This is what I struggle with the most. Why do I have them? Am I schizophrenic? Why won’t they stop?

When my mind starts to race, the brakes are tough to pump. I not only think impulsively but I act impulsively too. I’m spontaneous by nature (when I was 20 I moved to Las Vegas on a whim without a plan because I thought I was going to be a poker star) but lately my impulses weren’t the exciting and adventurous ones that people envied me for. They were negative and irrational. They caused me to have reactions that were completely disproportionate to the situation. After my adrenaline subsides and I float back down to earth I’m left feeling totally humiliated and filled with remorse. I’d say “that wasn’t me”. I truly felt that way. That wasn’t me. I don’t do that. Who was that? I don’t know her. She’s trying to ruin my life. I gave that side of me a name in an attempt to take the responsibility off of myself-Morgan Mayhem.

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I was like Superman and Clark Kent (well, more like Clark Kant get my emotions under control) The wild thing is it kind of worked. Whenever I did or said something absurd I’d blame it on Morgan and people just went along with it. It became an inside joke between my friends and I. Naming the irrational thoughts in my head allowed me to make light of the situation and not be as incredibly mortified after these episodes. I didn’t know it at the time but I was accidentally practicing a cognitive therapy technique called cognitive diffusion.

Guys, I have a confession to make. I am Morgan. Morgan is me.

As much as I wish I could blame my behavior and thought process on an extraterrestrial with a few screws loose using my body as a host-I just can’t. That’s ridiculous.

I did, however, learn an effective way for Morgan Mayhem to help me combat my obsessive irrational thoughts. She let me externalize my issues and recognize them for what they were rather than be the issue. This gave me the courage to stand up against my irrational and sporadic thoughts and separate them from who I am. I’m no longer overwhelmed and consumed by them. Instead I just tell Morgan to kick rocks.

Real Life Example:

I work for a beer distributor in Baltimore City. I’m at work trying to figure out how to run reports-something I should already know how to do, but the system is giving me problems. Morgan enters my thoughts, stage left. “Why are you still having issues with this? Your boss hates you. How dare you make her stop to show you how to run this report. You’re so annoying when you ask questions.”

Before: “Ugh, you’re so right. I’ll just waste time trying to figure this out because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone any more than I already do. I’m going to get increasingly frustrated then give up and it’ll effect my job and probably the rest of my day but at least I won’t be annoying.”

Now: “Kick rocks, Morgan. You suck.”

See how easy that is?! It’s such a simple solution that truly does work.

Morgan Mayhem is my overactive triggered mind playing tricks on me, nothing more. I’m not schizophrenic. I’m not a lost cause. I’m not a terrible person. You aren’t either. Give your thoughts a name, disassociate yourself from them, and roll your eyes whenever they speak up. Make your voice louder than theirs. It takes a little practice and time but soon you will start to feel like a super hero with the power and strength to kick your anxiety to the curb.

You will never fight a greater battle than the one inside of your head.

We all know the feeling of impending doom even if we don’t know where it’s coming from. Sometimes you’ll feel it and not know that’s what it is. Your fight or flight is in overdrive. You have a boost in perception and reflexes. Your heart rate increases but hardly ever decreases. Your chest tightens and your heart becomes heavy. You jump to conclusions and are ready to deal with any threat that comes your way-when no threats are present.

Anxiety is an essential survival mechanism but when your thoughts are a set of unbreakable and irrational patterns from being in scary or stressful situations it will consume you and turn your world upside down. If you don’t learn to manage your anxiety it will unpack its bags and stick around for as long as you let it.

A little over a year ago I went through two really stressful and scary situations in a short amount of time. The first was getting robbed. I was living in a studio apartment in downtown Baltimore. I propped the door open as I finished unloading groceries and sat down to watch the animaniacs. After about a half hour I got up and went into my room. Then I heard a door shut. I convinced myself it was just a neighbor but I couldn’t shake the feeling. I nervously texted my friend, Aimy, about it and she assured me it had to be a neighbor. Something wasn’t sitting right though and even my apartment looked different to me-but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t until the next day I realized things were missing. I got ready for work and couldn’t find my purse. Did I leave it in the car? I went to look and the car was gone. Wait, what? I went inside and looked around and realized my couch had been pulled out away from the wall. Then it all kind of hit me. Was someone hiding behind my couch while I was watching tv? I checked my bank statements and my credit cards were maxed out. Omg. What. Is. Going. On?! For the next few weeks I obsessed over the what ifs. What if I saw him? What if he hurt me? What if I never got up to go into my room? What if he had a weapon?

About 2 months later I moved into an apartment with two friends. One was a recovering addict. 6 months clean. Awesome dude. Super funny. Very kind. After about a month I realized he was using again. He would nod out while talking to me. He would lock himself in the bathroom for long periods of time. He would be really disoriented and sad. I found heroin needles in the bathroom and told him not to do it in the apartment. I never lectured him or anything like that-just asked if he wouldn’t do it there. In retrospect I wish I would have said more to him, but I know it wouldn’t have mattered. I talked to a friend about my fears of finding him dead in the apartment. Then it happened-I think the very next day, actually. I was pretty mad at him because he was supposed to pick me up from the bar but I couldn’t get ahold of him. I texted him and asked if he would take my dog, Vader, for a walk. He said “already done”. Awesome. I asked when he was coming to the bar. Hours go by and I didn’t hear from him-My texts got more mean. “I know what you’re doing..you probably passed out-cool” “We’re not friends anymore” “You’re dead to me” -that was the last thing I said to him. I’ll never say it to anyone ever again. I walked home all mad and even more so when I got to the door and it was locked. My key was in the apartment. Perfect. Knocked on the door. Nothing. Ughhhhh. Called a locksmith and he finagled his way in. Invited locksmith in and tried to haggle the price. Walked down the hall and there was my roommate. Blue and unresponsive. Oh fuck. I threw $100 at the locksmith and told him to leave. I called 911 and they gave instructions on how to clear his airway. He made some noises so I thought he’d be okay-I learned later that the noises were most likely the last of his air leaving his lungs. That will always stick with me. I sat on the counter and watched him leave in a body bag. No one ever came back in to tell me what to do next. I felt like I had just sat through a really terrible play. Did that really happen? Did I make that up? I waited for awhile then walked down the hall. I passed the bathroom and there was a mess of blood, puke, needles, and a bag of heroin left behind. Is this real life? I numbingly cleaned it up and sat on the couch until the sun came up.

Bad things happen in 3s. It was from that moment I definitely started to see changes in myself. I was always on alert. Something else was going to happen, I just knew it. My anxiety was through the roof. When the denial subsided and the gravity of the situation really weighed heavy on my mind I started to isolate myself and became increasingly paranoid. I developed OCD habits and that + my anxiety affected my relationships with everyone who I cared about. I got help to manage my anger and confusion about the situation, and really dug deep into how it affected me/ how to reverse the damage.

In the last 7 months I’ve learned a lot about how to manage the anxiety and get my fight or flight response back in check. I thought it might be important to share the things I’ve learned because it really has helped me so much. I’m breaking away from fear and making positive changes. I’m a better person now than I’ve ever been. Everyone is fighting battles that are hard to conquer but you’re so much stronger than you think. Anxiety is a mind game and you can absolutely manage it if you really focus.

Stop playing the victim. You cannot change anything that’s happened to you. You can only change your response to it.

Do not isolate yourself. Make an effort to make a connection with everyone around you. Be kind and humble.

Stop procrastinating. Invest in a planner and organize your responsibilities. Utilize checklists-put something on the checklist that you’ve already done that day. Give yourself a head start. Ask yourself “if I died tomorrow what would I have liked to have done?” Then go do that. The future is now.

Focus on things you can change in your life that will cause a positive ripple effect. Think: relationships, health, organization, your job, your appearance, volunteer, etc.

To truly be the best version of yourself pretend you already are. Fake it till you make it. It will become second nature.

DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT leave time in your day for your mind to idle. Mental stimulation is so important-maybe the most important. Pick up new hobbies. Learn a language. Learn an instrument. Paint. Clean. Plan. Do something. Do anything. If you have to let your mind idle then meditate and think with purpose. Solve problems. Write. When your mind isn’t engaged you will over-think, over-analyze, and drive yourself mad.

Stop looking for guarantees in life. Expect nothing. Appreciate everything. If you don’t like something-change it.

Find time every day to unwind. Get a massage. Soak in the tub. Stretch. Do yoga. We physically carry anxiety in our muscles. Release it. Tension is who we think we should be-relaxation is who we are (I think that’s how the proverb goes)

Do not rely on temporary solutions. They will become permanent problems. Alcohol or pills might make you forget about being sad for a little bit but it will double down.

Our time is so so precious. Work on yourself and before you know it you WILL bounce back. Better than ever. Take it slow and be proud of every single baby step along the way. Take the time to truly learn from negative experiences to prevent drowning in them.

I want to share my story because just a few short months ago I felt totally helpless. I drove myself crazy trying to understand why something-that could never be changed-happened the way it did. I know I’m not alone and I hope I can help someone who is struggling with the paradox of self pity and doubt find their way out, too.