As some of you may or may not have noticed, my earlier writing has a much more sarcastic edge to it. I still enjoy snark, but am much more judicious of its use in my work now. Upon reflection, there are reasons for that.
I began Shrink4Men shortly after moving in with my narcissistic ex or, rather, the beginning of my Lost Weekend. A seven and a half years Lost Weekend. Never really understood that term until having walked away from that world and that relationship. Funny.
During those years, I attracted and allowed angry, arrogant/insecure, unstable and unscrupulous people into my life. No one forced me. I volunteered.
One extreme manifestation of this was a group of women and men (largely based in the UK) who harassed me for several months, a couple of them for years. The group was comprised mainly of psychiatric patients on NHS disability benefits (at least one of them was in a lockdown psychiatric facility — apparently with Internet access) and two NHS mental health nurses who were the ringleaders (the nurses were men). Not only did I attract them, I allowed myself to be drawn into a stupid and expensive to me lawsuit with mentally ill Internet trolls. At the time, my fear of them was real. Recalling how I responded, I feel like an idiot. Totally walked right into it. I reasoned I was standing up for myself. In reality, I was played. By mentally ill Internet trolls (judicious).
Offline, my social circles included mostly self-absorbed people, malignant and benign, who were either profoundly bitter and angry or profoundly needy and sad. I went from being a fairly social person to a budding recluse. That is unless I wanted a buffer from my boyfriend, in which case I’d throw a dinner party or schedule a group outing. Sometimes, I genuinely wanted to do those things. Other times, it was all about the sweet, sweet buffer.
Buffers aren’t 100% effective though. Inevitably the ex would have a dust up with one of the other narcissists in the group and party over. With hindsight, I see my deep unhappiness then, but was so emotionally checked out I lost sight of myself and retreated inwardly.
The first year and a half of Shrink4Men, I published frequently, multiple times a week. Look at my index. There’s a steep drop off when the thing with the UK psych patients occurred. Combined with my relationship, it was just too depleting. Every now and again, I’d have a short-lived increase in writing activity. Then the ex would manufacture the next crisis or conflict, and my energy would be sapped again. What energy remained went to my clients and my dogs.
My ex would say that I ignored him and didn’t pay him enough attention. He was wrong about that, too. Inordinate amounts of time, energy and attention were spent tiptoeing around his emotional eggshells and not reacting to his provocations, never ending demanding neediness and barely below the surface viciousness. There was nothing left for myself.
It’s hard to do self-care when voluntarily allowing your self to be shit upon week in and week out. It’s impossible, actually. Unless escapism counts as self-care (it doesn’t).
Three years out of that relationship, I’m not very angry anymore. There are occasional spells, but it’s hours or a day at most, not days and weeks. The anger typically comes when I look back with regret every now and again and wonder what life would be like if I’d chosen differently. Then I remember we don’t have time machines and appreciate how much better, actually, how life is more consistently good rather than not now, even with its ups and downs and disappointments.
My experiences, knowledge and skills help other people who are wanting of it, and there’s good in that, too. When life throws an inevitable foul ball, there’s energy to adjust course and weather the squall.
There will always be people who vilify and hate me for sharing my belief that having a personality disorder doesn’t exempt a person from accountability, consequences and social censure. It’s understandable. I’m telling the victims of narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths and other abusive personalities that they don’t have to live that way and don’t have to feel guilty for not wanting to live that way. I’d be angry with me, too. I probably wouldn’t send me unsolicited emails for the sole purpose of insulting me, but that’s me.
In the wake of the break-up, I jettisoned a lot of other relationships, and mutually jettisoned relationships, too. It became increasingly intolerable being around bitter, angry, unhappy, self-absorbed people. I don’t hate any of them, even though some of them are pretty despicable. Hate gives them power over my emotions. It’s like a food allergy. I don’t hate peanuts because they make me wheezy, itchy and puffy. I just do my best to avoid them and choose not to partake. The chocolate part of the brownie would be great, but then there’s the wheezy, itchy puffiness. Not worth it. Narcissism isn’t countered by Benadryl.
Another temporary speed bump in addition to regret is encountering new narcissists in the wild. Most of them are amusing in small doses because it’s so much easier to see them coming and they’re just so damned predictable. Observing how they operate is like looking at one of those old-time boards with the game plays drawn on it. At least it is for me, but then this is my life’s work.
Then there are the ones you don’t see coming, but make their presence known when you enforce a boundary, expose them or tell them no. Pathological liars will probably always piss me off just a little and some more than others. Again, it’s much easier and quicker to let go because I accept that’s who they are and what they do. That doesn’t mean not protecting myself from them and delivering consequences if they try to cause me further harm.
There are still nuisance reverberations from my Lost Weekend. Primarily the lingering anger of former-never-really-were-my-friends because I no longer allow them to manipulate or exploit my codependency. Periodically, that anger drives them to make mischief. Narcissists will try to punish you for no longer allowing them to feed off of you.
Whether they realize it or not, they’re doing me a kindness. Their shenanigans are a good reminder that I never want my life to be like that again. My current policy is ignore the stupid childish stuff and stand my ground when real harm has been done or they threaten real harm.
I neither miss that time of my life, nor most of the people in those old circles. There were some good people who were lost in there with me — other codependents mostly. The really healthy people you’d see once or twice, and then never again. Healthy people typically don’t want to see 56-year old men (my ex wasn’t the only one) throw tantrums at a party or listen to women yammer on about who has the worst life or the most super cool life. It’s all equally ridiculous and boring. And that’s what narcissists are really. Boring. That’s one of the reasons they create so much drama — they’re bored with themselves and emotional intensity alleviates their boredom.
Peace and calm aren’t boring. They’re actually pretty nice. But you can’t get there until after you escape your Lost Weekend.
Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men and women who trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.
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Thanks Dr. Tara for sharing your feelings and life experiences. I must say you’ve really lived a tough life but you never gave up and that’s the only reason of you becoming so strong. Dr. Tara,The only problem with us humans is that we regret a lot. We always say to ourselves oh if I could have done that thing, oh if only I haven’t done that my life could have been so better. But we never say, what a great adventurous life I have lived so far, I’ve become so matured, I’m so smart now, I’m so strong almost unbreakable now. We never thank ourselves. Like for me the most difficult thing was to get up in the morning and smile at myself in the mirror, at first for a few weeks it brought tears to my eyes do you know why because I was trying to escape from facing myself in the mirror smiling because I never thought I can look so good smiling at myself I mean how can you smile at something you hate the most. But now every morning I get up look myself in the mirror and say out loud Good morning God. That’s what Dr. Wayne Dyer used to do, he used to say Good morning God every morning being thankful for the day in advance.
Anyway, Dr. Tara the people who hurt us the most are the true teachers who help us become the best version of ourselves. Hard to swallow it is still for me but that’s a bitter truth that if we don’t accept we are gonna struggle with ourselves for the rest of our lives. The work you do is a really really hard one. I mean a woman trying to stand up for men’s rights in a almost feminist world Not Acceptable. There are only a handful of women like you Dr. Tara who are fighting for men. You are brave. That’s what I would say A Brave Woman.
Thank you Dr. Tara, God Bless You and have a Beautiful Day Iron Lady. ☺
“What a great, adventurous life I have lived so far…” “we forget to thank ourselves…”
What a beautiful and necessary perspective.
Thank you, Dr. Tara, for this post. I won’t bore you with the grimey details except to say that I’ve walked a similar path and have been lost and felt quite defeated at times. My ex’s narcissist is not the only one in my life, and although I finally have a great partner, sorting through the rest has taken me to some rocky places. Your post, in its honesty and openness, has shined some light on a few things for me. It’s also made me swallow hard and see my own hand in my life in a new way. That has been very helpful and healing for me on this rainy morning, so thank you.
And thank you for the work you do. Your courage is inspiring.
Thank you, Dr. Tara for writing this. My heart goes out to you. I am sorry you have had to put up with so much crap from selfish unenlightened people who have attempted to snuff out your words of truth! But as Buddha said, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
You’ve been a beacon to many of us these past several years. In some fashion, I think we have “all been in this together” in discovering how to live our lives free from the snare of the narcissists, histrionics, borderlines and sociopaths. I have learned much about avoiding these life-draining people and I owe that to you and to the many insightful blog posters. One section I found particularly helpful was the “In His Own Words” essays.
Literally, there is no other blog, column nor page anywhere else where one can find life-enriching (even life-saving!) advice like one can find here at “Shrink4Men.” Please know how grateful we are! 🙂 May we all breathe free and take charge of our lives once more!
Thank you so much for sharing this. Much of my experience with the lost weekend is similar. I really appreciate your reactions and the candid nature of the self reflection you brought here. Thanks as always for all that you do.
David Paul says
Wow I can so relate to this after a 9 year marriage to a BPD I had almost no friends left. She either managed to pi**off my fiends and they didn’t want to be around her or I got yelled at for even talking to male friends on the phone outside of work hours. Of course she could talk to anyone she wanted to anytime although the only people she talked to regularly were her family because most people figured out what the deal was with her after a couple of months. And ceased contact. She walked out on me 6 months ago in the middle of the night (Is there any other way these people operate?) and I made it clear that she would never come back if she did. She had pulled this walk out stunt once before 5 years ago and against my dad’s advice I allowed her to come back. Of course I believed the whole thing about she had learned her lesson and things would be different. There were about 3 good years right after she came back because she was going to counseling and getting treatment for an eating disorder. Once the counseling stopped the old ways came back and it became bad again. I got yelled at for almost anything that was wrong and most of it was for stuff that did not even matter…….like there was some cat litter on the floor. Duh we have cats and this happens but it gets cleaned up everyday. And then she wondered why I worked so much or went to my shop to be alone………..She never did figure that out because she was the perfect wife at least in her mind. I pretty much knew that she would eventually leave because she ran of targets for her unhappiness. First it was my-ex wife that was the reason for her unhappiness (She had her own problems and was ordered by the court to cease contact or go to jail. Yes I do see a pattern here and I am aware and am working on fixing myself) then it was my older daughter was the cause and she moved out, then it was my younger daughter and she moved out, of course by now I’ve figured out its just a matter of time before I am the cause. And yup sure enough my number came up as the cause. She’s been gone 6 months and I’ve had no contact for over 3 months and I finally feel like a real person again……….gee I can talk to people or strike up a conversation in a store without getting yelled at or accused of flirting. It’s going probably going to cost me a good bit of cash to get rid of her forever but the piece of mind is worth it. Its only money and I know how to make more. Its a small price to pay to get my peace and quiet back in my life. Fortunately I have some really long term friends that are supporting me through this and I have made a few new ones so it is all going to be good in the end for me. I know there is a healthy relationship out there somewhere for me, its just my job to find it.
I am wondering, did anyone try to warn you about her (it appears your dad did-but you didn’t listen). My son is in a verbally abusive relationship and my husband and I have been trying to open his eyes to the person she really is, but unfortunately he has chosen to believe her lies and we become the horrible parents. We do not know what to do anymore. We have said nothing for months, but last night he showed up with her at our place of business around closing when we cash out the register and my husband told him that she should not be there for that. That lead to a bunch of accusatory texts about us not trusting her-we don’t! But the main point was she should not be at work with him, as he does not go to her place of work (the two days she does) and hang around. Anyway, it has been quite “chilly” here today! I just don’t understand being in a relationship where there is only respect going one way. She has never respected him or us, but he shows her and her family respect and I guess he feels that is all that is necessary. Is there anything that anyone could have said to you that would have opened your eyes earlier to who she is?
That’s a fair stretch of time… mine was about 4&1/2 years. I’m pretty well over any anger related to that crap
but I do regret the time lost. I guess it was a lesson I had to learn about myself, mostly, and I learned it.
Now… I see the machinations & manipulations of NP/BP types fairly quickly and it truly amazes me how similar
they all are and how they don’t comprehend that another person can objectively recognize and quantify their malignant
crap. They really seem to have no insight to that.