Sympathy for the Devil?

Question Mark ManI want to talk about narcissism. In and of itself, the intention behind this term is societally utilized to describe someone who is full of themselves. I had no idea that there was an actual narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) until a couple of years ago. A word that was once used as more of a joking way to point out a temporary lack of perspective has now come to light as being a real affliction which many people have been tormented by.

Emotional Vampires

But who is tormented in the actual Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version of narcissism? Is the narcissist a victim of their disorder, or do they just play a victim on TV? Narcissists are well known for their deflection and their inability to look in the mirror. I’ve also heard them referred to as “emotional vampires,” which makes the not seeing themselves in the mirror thing even more apropos. The very nature of narcissistic personality disorder is to pathologically lie, believe their own lies, and blame those closest to them for all of their problems. They are always emotionally abusive, sometimes physically abusive, and devoid of contrition no matter how much they hurt someone they once called their “soul mate.” They are in love with the part of falling in love that makes them feel like they are on a pedestal. And when reality strikes after a few years, and the pedestal degrades and disintegrates to floor level (or lower) after being sucked to dust by the greedy termites of deceit, debauchery, skullduggery, and depravity, the narcissist is now looking at someone eye-to-eye who is finally onto their shenanigans. So they go ballistic.

Does this nightmare of a person, this sociopathic human being (who so many psychological professionals say will never, ever change or improve) deserve any compassion for being inherently compassionless? Are personality disorders brought on against someone’s control? You have to guess that they must be. Who would choose that? Yet, for the narcissist, the manifestation of their mental illness involves doing nasty things and never taking any responsibility for hurting those around them. How can those of us on the receiving end of the wraith of someone with NPD wrap our minds around this?

No Character in this Character

Why does it seem so much easier to feel for someone who is bipolar – a much more well- known personality disorder? Is it because they, by and large, feel remorse for their monster-like moments when they have deeply hurt friends, family, and significant others? Is it because treatment is possible and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; hope? Meanwhile, if you google “relationship with a narcissist” most articles will advise you to run as far and fast as you can, if possible. There is no light.

A very prominent psychologist in Texas who I truly respect once told me that there’s no cure and no medication and really no treatment at all for NPD. As he shook his head with a sympathetic look on his face he said, “I’m afraid sometimes it just boils down to bad character.” But character isn’t a mental illness. Character, to me, represents a choice we make in how we behave and live our lives. Do narcissists have a choice?

Sympathy for the Devil?

These thoughts are a part of a daily quandary for me because I am a compassionate, tenacious person who has always had trouble writing people off. No matter how mean an ex has been, I always wanted to try and at least be friends. If someone clearly doesn’t like me (especially if I have no idea why) they take up far more thoughts in my mind than they probably should. I want resolve with everyone. I want to be good with each other, and good to each other.

   Important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant but anything beyond that is dangerous. He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don’t listen to him. Remember that – do not listen.

I find myself at a two-pronged fork in the road. There are clearly marked paths in front of me. I can live by the idea that narcissistic personality disorder is an illness like any other with symptoms out of the afflicted person’s control, and so they can’t be held accountable for the evil that they do. I can see little Linda Blair’s “Reagan” inside a possessed body and know that it wasn’t her fault that she was possessed and that there was hope for her.

Or I can accept the fact that I am no Father Karris, and I’m not willing to jump out the window and give my own life for this. This exorcism, if any such thing is possible, is someone else’s problem now.


The Bright Side of the Christmas Tree

Christmas StockingTwo years ago, I had hope – still a nuclear family of four.

One year ago, the bomb had exploded, the pieces were being picked up, and I had my first divorced/single mom Christmas.

But it was my year to have the boys on actual Christmas day. As per part of our divorce decree, we flip back and forth each year – both always having time with the kids over the holidays, but only one or the other having the actual eve and day.

As this year’s big day approached – my first Christmas without my children – at first I was like, “Meh! What’s in a date? Christmas is in the heart!” I’ve watched enough Christmas specials in my life to have that old chestnut (roasting over an open fire) drilled into my head. My family’s all willing to save the celebration for when Nathan and Joey get back. So no biggy.

Then it started to hit a bit – depression. I’m going to be a sad 40-year-old lonely cat lady watching Bravo and doing virtual puzzles on an IPad for Christmas. Of course I have friends and family who would take this stray dog in if I really needed to be around people. But of course, it’s not the same as being with your own kids. Christmas was my jam as a kid, and giving those same types of happy memories to my kids was always important to me. Not having the choice is just a bitter, bitter mistletoe berry to swallow.

But here we are, Christmas Eve, and I woke up and decided to look at the bright side of the Christmas tree today. I’m certainly not alone in this world, as other divorced parents deal with the same splitting of time, ruining the happy family Christmases they once dreamed of and forcing a new holiday normal on their offspring and themselves. Even if you didn’t choose divorce, there’s plenty of guilt in the equation. But, there are also positives if you put on your reading glasses and look hard enough.

Five Reasons to Celebrate not having your Kids on Christmas

  1. Sales – Mama’s going shopping the day after Christmas. 50% off. No complaints there!
  2. Avoiding Stress – The collective societal stress out there is palpable. I went to get a chestnut praline latte this morning at the Starbucks annex in the Vons up the street and I saw panic everywhere as people hustled for their last minute groceries. “Not I,” said the little divorced mom. I can eat a sandwich for dinner on a paper plate if I want and my feet won’t hurt from cooking all day, and my blood pressure won’t rise trying to get it all done in time for company. When everyone out there is stressed, it can sometimes make you feel more so, yourself. We often participate in certain traditions because we feel like we have to fall in line, culturally. This temporary reprieve on celebrating Christmas with your kids puts you into the mindset that you don’t have to do what everyone else doing. We will still cook and celebrate, but somehow it feels like it will be more relaxed because it doesn’t HAVE to happen on a certain day at a certain time.
  3. Extra Time – Divorced procrastinators unite! When you are given a few extra days to complete something overwhelming (like Christmas shopping and wrapping) it just feels like the big test was postponed and you have more time to study. Phew!
  4. Avoiding the Post-Christmas Let Down – As I mentioned, I loved, loved, loved the Christmas season when I was a kid, but Christmas night was always kind of a bummer. It was all over. There was no more anticipation. But tomorrow night, the best will still be yet to come of the Christmas season for me and other divorcees who didn’t get Christmas with their kids this year.
  5. New Year’s Eve – So I don’t get actual Christmas this year, but I do get New Year’s Eve, which is harder to fake. Unless you show your kids the ball dropping on YouTube from a previous year. Which I did once at 10pm to convince Nathan and Joey that they’d stayed up until midnight. (Didn’t go over very well!) But this year, I will get a little peck on the cheek from the two handsomest, sweetest little devils I’ve ever known when 2015 comes along. Now that’s something to look forward to!