My life at the moment

My work situation has calmed down somewhat, for which I am grateful. I was having hours of intense anxiety around being fired, and that’s mostly stopped now, though I relapsed for about an hour or two Friday. Friday is the traditional ‘firing day’. Well – could be I’m too harsh, I don’t know. The contracting company is looking for a specific product, and if the people they hire don’t already know how to produce that, they don’t have time to teach them.

I didn’t meet my quotas, but I assume what I did produce was fine. The project manager then reduced my quotas, but at the same time, my projects became much less complex, so in the end, I didn’t have enough to keep me busy. Yet, I’m still there. Earning the big bucks. I wish.

I’m working on sleeping without pills. It’s hard. I can fall asleep, but I can’t stay asleep, and then I can’t fall asleep again. But sometimes, I can. So that’s confusing.

I feel off balance trying to write again. My energy was going into surviving and coping with the practical side of life. I’ve never been good at the practical side. I don’t have much of a ‘game face’, where I present well to the world but am crumbling inside. That’s not really me. I think I look like I’m struggling often, and I struggle to do well. It’s not really lack of talent, more, so much internal turmoil to deal with, there’s not enough energy left over to deal with life.

Therapy is a bit of an after thought at the moment. I’ve been going in right after work, so I’m firmly in work mode. Which is a little too tightly wound to really dig into emotions much.

I have been pondering whether my therapy is helping much at this point. I’ve been going for years after all. There is no real plan, no goals as far as I can see. In a way, that’s fine. I’m not looking for someone to set concrete goals for me. In another way, I really do not know what I’m trying to do, mostly.

I feel too tired to really challenge the therapist or try and find out what I’m trying to do. Though I do ask, often towards the end of a session. Last time, I had discussed a troubling visit to my parents’. Ron said he thinks I need to try and speak some truth to my parents, or at least try to ask them what they mean by the various things they do. I’d gone over to pick up my son, who was not ready, so I had coffee with them and some neighbours who were visiting. I’d felt that my father had disliked me, but couldn’t really articulate what he had done.

I tell Ron that my father is a narcissist. The whole family has always revolved around him and his needs. Conversation is about his pet interests, or else he won’t take part. Everything is kind of tilted towards his approval. Then I acknowledge that Ron doesn’t believe in labels. Ron says he does informally, if you’re angry with someone, you can call them a narcissist, or self-absorbed, or whatever.

I hate this aspect of Ron. That he won’t call anything by name. Plus he doesn’t seem to get how my family is. You can try and say things, but nothing helps. Maybe I’m scared to try. But they’re unbelievably knit together. I just think it would be very hurtful to try and speak up. If you believe in narcissism, it helps you understand patterns of how people operate and the webs they weave. I just feel like I’m wading through pudding trying to describe it to Ron.

At the same time, I feel connection to Ron so am reluctant to leave. But what if someone out there could actually help me? Someone who could help me with dissociation and parts? How to find that person?

Last session also, I tried to feel into a trigger that happened, as I’d had to go to the dentist for a cleaning. Form me this is a trigger. It’s like a piece of blackness dislodges itself and floats around my system, making my life black and heavy.

I did feel some of it in session. The next day, I had such a severe headache I couldn’t make it into work. But then, that black feeling dissipated quite a bit, and it may be that trying to feel some of it in session helped.

  1. It sounds like Ron believes in psychological terminology as a form of insult, rather than communication. For sure, your father is a narcissist. It does, I think, help to name that. I’ve been trying to get what this really means, that there is an ordinary level of narcissism, which is just lack of experience with some particular reality, so that we deny it. (If it doesn’t exist for us, it can’t really exist. It’s not malicious, it’s just like men not realizing the extent of sexism. Hard to grasp if it’s not part of your personal experience.) And then there is something like my own dad’s, who is at some kind of extreme edge of it, where the only time he can feel any connection to other human beings is when he is harming someone else, because he just can’t risk feelings of vulnerability. It does help to talk about things with labels and then to discuss what that might really mean.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, he kind of does believe that. I know somewhat where he’s coming from, in that we can label people as a means of dismissing them. But I think naming, labels, can also be a stand in for a lot of concepts, which you just miss entirely if you refuse to call anything any kind of a name. I feel in general in therapy I’m floundering around, with no one to help me talk about anything because there is no acceptable vocabulary to try and engage with.

      I am sorry about your father – he is obviously very extreme.

      I think some degree of self-absorption, or seeing one’s own point of view, can be healthy actually. When it’s not hurting others by minimizing their experience. I like what you say about talking about things with labels and figuring out what that might actually mean in the circumstances. That’s what I’d like to do. Thanks Ash.

      • I had this therapist who objected to the phrase “I want….” At the time, I felt that it was important to recognize my own desires for what they were. She believed it important to use “the language of choice” as a form of empowerment. She didn’t seem to realize how disempowering it was to be told what words I was allowed to use. It does seem as though it’s hard to describe things to Ron because what he hears is anger and an attack rather than an attempt to communicate about how your family is relating. I agree that trying to be more honest in your family is probably pointless. Staying on the surface is what people do in order to avoid being attacked. It’s suffocating, but this might be as good as it gets with them.

        • Ellen said:

          What a wearisome therapist that was! Therapists can go off in strange directions sometimes – something that helps some clients won’t necessarily help everyone. I think it’s important to figure out what we truly want. Or even want in the moment.

          I’m simplifying the situation with Ron quite a bit, because I do find it painful to write about. He actually doesn’t think I can change them, rather, that speaking my truth will help me feel more empowered, or some such. Better able to deal with the world outside of my family. And it’s true I find them hard to pin down – all those silences and turning away, those small frowns or whatever – am I making this up, or is something actually happening? So if I could maybe ask a question at the time, or say something like ‘you seem upset’ or something, maybe I would discover more about what is real and what I’m making up.

          It upsets me to think about, and I am not inclined to do this. I think I actually space out or some such at the time, and feel bad after. I do have to see them because my son lives with them, and it’s hard to deal with.

          I still think some vocabulary and concepts would be helpful. Hope your day is good.

          • I guess I am thinking if you spoke your truth, your family would probably attack you in some way for it, and basically who needs that? But to me it seems important to know one’s own truth and choose who to share it with. I guess to me it seems like your family has learned not to reveal any vulnerablities: all those perfect dinners and talk of gardening. There is no material for anyone to criticize. It becomes like wrestling with marshmallows. And then I think all of the little emotions are expressed in these subtle forms which can then be denied if they end up being a problem. It seems like a way of seeking permission to have that feeling. If someone responds to it in a non-verbal way, then it’s an okay experience to have. But the person with the feeling doesn’t need to risk much. You could try calling someone out on it and see what happens. I don’t think you are making anything. People who don’t really have the emotional capacity to cope with intense emotional material do deal with it by trying to at least quarantine it, so the family does not blow up entirely.

            • Ellen said:

              That makes sense and rings true for my family. They do keep vulnerabilities to themselves, and really, I can see why, because if you express anything it could be criticized. It’s very boring a lot of the time. Thanks for believing me. It’s hard to explain this to people. The oppressive feeling, the constant sense of uneasiness.

              Maybe the problem is knowing my own truth. Maybe it would be more clear if I tried to express it, maybe not. It is hard to hang onto truths silently and on one’s own. Cheers

            • I think maybe it’s possible to express your truth later, to people who want to hear it. When you are there, can you imagine telling the story of what it’s like to be there to someone else? Would that help?

            • Ellen said:

              Not really, to tell the truth. Because nothing much happens, so people want to reassure me, and say I’m imagining it – I should think more positive. 🙂 I know I sometimes have a problem reading situations as negative when they’re not, but not in this case.

            • Oh, I hate that one.

          • leb105 said:

            I suspect they aren’t even aware of their emotions, or gestures, so that asking about them wouldn’t yield much information – but if YOU can be aware of those gestures, and the meaning YOU’RE making of them, that would liberate you.

          • I suspect if you said, “You seem upset,” your parents would probably deny it. My mom is like that, at least. I’m not sure if she denies it because she really doesn’t realize she is upset, or because she does but thinks she shouldn’t be. At this point in her life, I think the habit of not saying things is too ingrained to change.

            Anyway, it just sounds like there is a lot of underground, half hidden communication in your family. You could certainly try bringing your part up to the surface, but if you do that you’d have to protect yourself from feeling wounded if there was no change in response. Maybe it would be more helpful to figure out what you feel and say it first to a safer person?

            • Ellen said:

              Yes, there’s definitely a lot of underground type communication. I have tried saying how I feel to ron, and it’s a good idea. I still feel a bit unheard. Not sure if that’s me or if it’s in how he’s responding. In general, this type of behaviour is hard to explain to others, because there’s nothing simple to point to as upsetting.
              I’m sorry about your mother. Mine would definitely deny. Thanks

  2. I agree with what both you and Ashana have said about labels being useful, as long as the ideas associated with that label are challenged and not just unquestioningly accepted. In the case of narcissism, being able to use that term brings with it a whole different level of understanding from other people who have experienced it and know how subtle and yet immensely damaging some of the behaviour can be to the victim – the gaslighting, public vs private behaviour, the recruitment of others to maintain the balance of power for the narcissist. “Self-absorbed” captures some of that, but not the full story. But at the same time there are nuances to narcissism. In my case (my mother) I’m not sure that I’d even say she had NPD, but she was definitely more than just self-centred. As an example there were never any issues around one of her three children being a golden child and others being scapegoats, it was all more mixed than that, and I don’t think she did what she did out of malice, but she was emotionally abusive and behaved in many other ways typical of narcissism. It was an eye-opener for me to be able to attach that label to my experience and then to be able to find out more information and get support from other people who did not dismiss everything as being “misunderstanding” or “overreacting”, including techniques to deal with (or minimise contact with) the narcissist.

    As far as therapy goes, I really get what you’re saying about Ron. It is very difficult to give up what you do get from such a longstanding relationship, even when it doesn’t meet the needs or wants you have now. When I compare it to what has happened with me and Dr L, it seems to come down to asking how much of the problem of not being able to get what you want or need from your therapist is due to not having the right skills to do that, in which case the answer leans more towards staying in therapy and working on developing those skills, and how much is due to the therapist not being able/wiling to give you what you need no matter how well you ask. For me, going to see another therapist was helpful, particularly one who was prepared to discuss my relationship with Dr L in a constructive way. I don’t know if this is a practical option for you, but perhaps one to think about?

    The other thing that might be helpful is to think of it in terms of other relationships and how you might manage similar problems in those (of course that may not be very helpful advice if you don’t have other close relationships to compare with). For example there is a lot of information out there about how to decide whether to stay in a particular romantic relationship or not, and while it’s not an exact parallel with therapy there may be some little nuggets of advice that you can relate to your own situation.

      • Ellen said:

        Thank you. 🙂 Me too.

    • Ellen said:

      Interesting about your experience of your mother. My father also is not malicious in any conscious type of way. He did do scapegoating and playing favorites though – the siblings were all played off against one another, competing for small bits of love and approval. I feel little bond today with my siblings because of this I think.

      Thank you for all of your comments DV – they are so relevant to my issues.

      If this was a romantic relationship, I would be happy – I’ve never had a relationship where the man listens and is concerned. I’d definitely stay. 🙂 But I know what you mean, the issues can be similar.

  3. Counseling is different for every person. I spent years in counseling with 3 different counselors. The first one helped me through the most difficult stages of integration. The other two taught me more about living a life without parts.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, therapy is different for everyone, and at different stages. Thanks Ruth

  4. leb105 said:

    Good to hear from you, E! I’m glad you’re able to adjust to the pace and expectations.
    I tried to have a therapy session after a big meeting, and it was a total bust – I won’t do that again! You sound as if you’re able to switch gears, though. Maybe you don’t get to the point of feeling close with Ron, but it doesn’t seem all that vital as long as you’re coping, in the rest of your life?

    I think I know why Ron seems so clueless about the usefulness of trying to speak up in your family. All he knows about it is that you’ve imagined it would be useless and too painful. You’re protecting yourself. Maybe HE knows better than you what the BENEFIT would be to you, to stand up for yourself, even if you’re completely correct – to go through that pain and survive it.

    • Ellen said:

      It is hard to go from one way of being to another, like from a professional self to a therapy self.

      Maybe it would be beneficial to speak up. Thanks

  5. Grainne said:

    Glad to hear the job stress has settled some. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working and it’s paying the bills! 🙂

    As for your dad and the label deal, I agree with you. If not for “labels” Ron would pretty much be out of work wouldn’t he? Or do labels become diagnoses at some point? That could be said of all of us. Maybe I don’t have cptsd….but then what? I just deal with trauma wrong? Is the narcolepsy just a miscommunication between my brain and my body? Arthritis just my bones not getting along? Lol…it’s silly when applied that way. My point is, we are all human and we all deal with life, stress and other people in our own ways. The way your family behaves is baffling but relatable to many. My foster family pretended my dad didn’t sexually abuse me because it was easier that way. Your dad (and family) avoid the reality of life when they are together. You, my friend, are stronger than that and try to take it on….to understand the things you think and feel and work through them. I think you’re the healthiest one of your entire family.

    As for Ron…and all these years knowing you, tries to help you through. There may not be an answer that resolves the things you face daily but he seems to try to test you and the theories you hold to be true (and they are true!). Maybe he just thinks there’s no harm in looking at other directions of thought. I don’t know. I know for sure he cares about you and your wellbeing and that sometimes he helps you. That familiarity and safety means a lot to me, for you.

    Xox. Have missed your blogs. Glad to see you’re okay and fighting on. Much love from me. Xx.

    • Ellen said:

      Yep, arthritis is your bones not getting along. lol.

      Thanks for the kind words. Thanks for saying Ron cares about me – that is true and I’m glad to be reminded. He’s reliable and caring.


  6. For me, there is utility in labels: 1) it validates the experience – i.e. it is a recognized part of the human experience, and enough other people have lived through something similar that it exists as a concept; 2) it focuses the research community on understanding both the challenges confronting people who are, for example, narcissists or who have to live with them; it means we can accumulate a body of knowledge so that 3) the label can help us learn about skills, therapies, and strategies to make life better for the people affected.

    Of course labels can be used badly, to exclude or dismiss people, or to overlook variations within categories. But for heaven’s sake Ron, knives can be used to maim or kill people, but that doesn’t mean you won’t use one to cut your meat at dinner.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, that’s what I think also. Very clearly put Q. Thank you

  7. I’m glad the job stress has settled. Labels, I find useful. in my own healing anyway. I do hope you will come to whatever decision is right for you. sending hugs. xoxo

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