The Sociopath and Me: A Love Story

49737013Because of the overwhelming messages I’ve received from my Narcissist’s Harem post a couple of years ago, I’m continuing my story. I’m lifting the veil of shame from choices I’ve made and want to share the personal lessons I’ve taken with me along this ever-evolving road of self-discovery. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through exposing intimate (often ugly) truths about myself, it’s that I am never – ever alone.  If you’ve been involved with someone crippled by the restraints of mental illness, I’m here to tell you, neither are you.

Before we delve further into my story of The Sociopath and Me, full disclosure time. If you’re new to this blog – I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m crazy. Yes, it’s true. As millions of us do*, I struggle with my own form of mental illness. It’s a lovely brew that simmers on low most of the time on the back burner of my life.

Everyone’s personal story is their own, so I’m not here to dissect the ingredients that create my savory dish (which include Clinical Depression, Histrionic, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). But like every herb and spice the makings of mental illness are as organic as their owner’s story. We are born with certain DNA that serve as welcome mats to things like mental illness, addiction, alcoholism and any other myriad of issues. But the nature vs. nurture argument cannot exist without mentioning the way we were raised as children, and how that plays a major part in the comedy and tragedy that is life.

17444642555_fa91a08408_bOnce delving into mental therapy and doing the dirty work as to why I kept making the same poor choices, the reasons for my diagnosis became clear. Yes, I have a family history of depression, but taking six pills of Molly (MDMA, Ecstasy, “E”, “X”) for five years almost nightly doesn’t come without some pretty major brain damage.

The delicious irony I can only see now – is that in my quest to capture the euphoria that Molly served (truck loads of Dopamine and Serotonin, the ‘feel good’ brain waves), my downward crashes were heavy. I was a 24-year-old stripper with cash and freedom, but suffocating on thoughts of suicide and self-loathing while I lived the rock star life.

“Stripper Cliché, your self-serving over indulgent table of toxic choices is ready!”

It took way too many damaged brain cells to learn that taking a little white pill for Happy always came at the price of The Unfathomable Sad.

In terms of the other ingredients making up my personal diagnosis, I will just say that nurture comes into play. You’ve got your garden variety father abandonment, step-father abuse and overall neglect peppered with a healthy dose of alcoholism from both parents. But I won’t bore you with the details of my Lifetime Movie of the Week. None of us need reminders that we are all products of our childhoods; we realize this with every bad decision and self-sabotaging action.

Although I don’t speak for strippers and drug addicts in general, it’s a safe bet to determine that anyone who like me, lived a decade naked on stage wasn’t there because of an inflated sense of self-worth. More irony here – growing up with a valid fear of abandonment pretty much ensures we’ll abandon our own selves in the process of becoming an adult. When it’s all we know, personal dysfunction is comforting and as screwed up as it sounds, treating ourselves like shit – feels like coming home.

Which brings us to The Sociopath and Me.

When hearing someone described as a sociopath, I used to immediately think, Ted Bundy. In other words, if you were labeled with this mentally ill moniker, you were a straight up serial killer – period. My judgement was so far into the horror of such a twisted mind, that I made the common mistake most of us who’ve been involved with sociopaths do: we dilute reality with fantasies. And hey – they’re not murdering us – so, they aren’t that bad’!

I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’m thinking it’s kind of a red flag when “not murdering me” is on the plus side in justifying why you’re dating someone who you know isn’t good for you.

“He’s a total Sociopath.” My friend declared, after hearing yet another story of he and I. For my friend, these tales were a constant loop of dysfunction. It drove her nuts that I was still with this guy. Her conviction was enough for me to Google what exactly she was talking about.

After learning of the characteristics that make up your typical sociopath (not to be confused with psychopath), I was eerily familiar:

  • Lie to get what they want, Lie to see if they can get away with it (for the sake of lying)
  • Incredibly charming
  • Manipulative, Deceptive, Cunning
  • Impulsive
  • Disregard for Rules, Safety of Self or Others (Self Harm)
  • Thrill Seekers (Drugs/Alcohol Abusers)
  • No Personal Responsibility (it’s never their fault, they are always the victim)
  • Craves to Always be the Center of Attention

I should be clear in saying that my calling this person a sociopath is my opinion – and not a professional diagnosis. But after reading up on Psychiatrists’ articles, I gotta say I’m pretty spot on with my feeling. So is my friend. And here I thought my fella was just tinkering on narcissist tendencies.

So what’s the difference between Narcissists and Sociopaths, anyway? Here’s what I found:

THE SIMILARITIES

  • Both are very charming and charismatic.
  • Both tend to be very intuitive and skilled at observing and reading people.
  • Both are egocentric and self-interested. Me, Me, Me and Mine!
  • Both do not take accountability or blame for their actions but will gladly accept the credit for anything positive.
  • Both believe they are never wrong.

THE DIFFERENCES

  • Sociopaths will deliver an insincere but convincing apology if it benefits their agenda, a narcissist will not.
  • Sociopaths will appear more humble and less of a braggart. Narcissists are more oblivious to how they appear to others and will often boast about their achievements.
  • Sociopaths upon meeting you, will try to pick your brain and ask you a lot of questions. Narcissists will focus the conversation on themselves and their interests.
  • Sociopaths are manipulative and calculating and will exploit others to further their agenda. Narcissists exploit others who they feel are hindering their agenda.

All very interesting!

So why on earth would anyone get involved with this type of person? For me, it all boiled down to my lack of self-worth (doesn’t it always?). Also, like with most relationships, the beginning stages are always covered in bliss. The charm, sex, laughter and exploration of being with a new “love” is intoxicating. Add some serious intimacy issues with both people and the ride – no matter how dangerous – is even more of a thrill.

As I’ve written about in “Boredom or Bedlam: Are You An Emotional Cutter?” some people crave and create drama because it makes them feel. In my case, we were both unaware that we were doing this and totally getting off on the rush.

This post isn’t meant to call anyone out, but rather a way to shed light on why any of us would be with someone who is wrong for us. Especially after we know better.

When we don’t truly see our value, we continually give people discounts. We settle for crumbs at the table because we’ve been emotionally starving for love. The problem is the crumbs never fill us and we keep going back to the table for more. It’s not until we leave these toxic tables and choose other, healthier menus altogether that we finally find true love – especially with ourselves.

20141219182851-confidenceSo if you’re like me and you’ve allowed yourself too many crumbs and not enough healthy servings of love – I’m here to tell you, it’s not hopeless. The first step to being free from your self-loathing and shame (for being with yet, another ‘fixer-upper’ partner), is knowing we are worth more and truly getting the fact that – no matter how much we love someone – their issues are always their own – and NOT about us.

Being alone is scary. It can get lonely. It often sucks. But know this: feeling alone when someone is in our life is always, unequivocally worse than actually being alone.

I will always love The Sociopath. My heart is wrapped around him and his issues and I wish him well with his story. But in order to navigate my own in a healthier way, I had to close our chapter. It was easier than I expected because I’m in a different place than I was when we met. He has a lot to do with that.  As crazy as it sounds, I am grateful.

Once we realize the love for ourselves is what guides us to healthy love with others, being alone instead of with the wrong person isn’t at all bad.

* In 2014, there were an estimated 43.6 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with Any Mental Illness (AMI) in the past year. This number represented 18.1% of all U.S. adults. – National Institute of Mental Health. 

Christine Macdonald

Your Crazy is Showing

Narcissist self portraitSo here’s the thing. I’m crazy.

Not in a Have the Lambs Stopped Crying, Clarice? crazy. But enough to warrant psychotherapy and be excused from the occasional jury duty order (my bright idea that, no doubt will kick my kharma down the road, I’m sure).

So how crazy is my Crazy?

Being an adult entertainer in my former life twenty years ago, grabbing my ankles on stage was just another day ending in “y.” You’d think unveiling my official medical diagnosis to the World Wide Web would be cake.

You’d think.

Pumping the breaks on conclusions jumping off the screen, I’ll say this: I’m happy to report this post isn’t coming from a locked down facility with padded walls. But the mere fact this scene was a vacation fantasy from my life during some of my worst depression days?

There’s the rub.

One of my favorite writing tasks was to sum up my memoir in six words, thanks to friend, Larry Smith and his brilliant Six Word Memoir empire. My post was well received and actually ended up being a feature on his website. Check it:

Ex-stripper turned writer. More exposed now.

So although my comfort in performing in the buff six days a week was in check, I can’t say the same for sharing too many personal details of my mental illness. Let’s just say I have issues (mainly PTSD from childhood and trust issues with men – go figure). I’m sure your working on

Christine Macdonald

A Narcissist’s Harem: Are you in one?

 * * *

Let me start by saying that although my tag line states that I’m in recovery from narcissism, the term is a very tongue-in-cheek way of saying I’m a recovering addict.

Addicts are narcissists in our own delightful way – in that when we’re using – it’s all about us. Hopefully, after we pull our heads out of our ass, this darling trait dissipates and a much more level-headed, compassionate and thoughtful person emerges.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the purpose of this post isn’t to gab about my addiction or recovery from drugs. I’d like to shed some light on something I’ve been working through after a recent personal heart-wrenching experience I really brought on myself. Again. Familiar heartache induced by my own denial that somehow, if I were enough – my prince charming would change.

As I alluded to in yesterday’s post, thoughts of:  I’m old enough to know better! creep in whenever  I trip myself up, having not learned the valuable lessons the universe keeps trying to teach me. I can’t seem to get a clue. Or worse, I know exactly what I’m getting into (when I relapse, date an emotionally unavailable man…), but my “fuck it” switch is on – and I don’t care how much pain I’m serving myself on the back end.

You don’t need to be an addict to date the wrong person. And by wrong – I mean to say – a person who is not in a place to open their hearts to you because they have work to do on themselves. We’ve all been there. Maybe the chemistry is too strong, they’re so much fun, or they live right up the street and it’s too convenient NOT to date them. Whatever the reason, we dive head first.

Fast forward to the moment we realize – somewhere between the snorting laughter and multiple orgasms, we’ve slipped. Our world is smaller. We become obsessed. Every thought, action and daydream is about how we can serve our love. Our friends tread lightly, showing us the obvious red flags, but they know we’re in too deep.

man-cheats-phone-teaserNot every person we’ve dated who was clearly wrong for us is a narcissist, but check out these basic characteristics and see if any ring true:

  1. Extremely confident.
  2. Charming beyond compare.
  3. Has many friends of the same sex (a “harem”) – most, if not all are previous lovers.
  4. Requires excessive admiration [regularly fishes for compliments, and is highly susceptible to flattery].
  5. Plays on sympathy.
  6. Is the life of the party. Always “on” – a “people person.”

This list sums up just about every man I’ve ever been involved with.

There’s a catch-22 with dating a narcissist – or even someone who isn’t diagnosed, but just has some narcissistic traits – they’re so much fun and charismatic, it’s hard to see underneath it all – that they are manipulating our hearts to serve their hungry ego.

To be fair – the last man I dated isn’t a monster. Far from it actually. If anything, we’re so much alike in terms of our personal history and struggles. He used to tell me I was the female version of him and I beamed with pride. The issue isn’t how much of an asshole a narcissist is (my guy was actually quite dear), it’s that they don’t realize what pain their behaviour causes because they are so wrapped up in their own turmoil.

These people aren’t evil. Like every human being, they have a story. They didn’t wake up one day and decide to manipulate, lie to and cheat on the people they are closest to. They’re protecting themselves against what they fear the most – intimacy, abandonment, heartache. Reasons aren’t excuses, though – so even when knowing our partner doesn’t mean to – it doesn’t make our staying with them (and putting up with disrespect) okay. At some point, we need to take personal responsibility.

I remember early in our relationship, I was invited to meet he and his friends for drinks. When I arrived, I met them – all female – and already knew he had a sexual history (and current status) with at least one of them. I held my cool, and at the end of the night as he walked me to my car, I hugged him and told him I wasn’t going to be part of his harem.

On the drive home, I felt proud. I finally held my ground and stood up for myself with a man I was dating.

Three days later he was in my bed.

As much as I knew deep down he wasn’t available for anything serious, I listened to his confessions of love and adoration over and over again, trying to ignore the constant texts from numerous women at all hours. I knew he was still meeting women via on-line dating sites, sleeping with others. I still stayed.

many-women-men

So why, after knowing all of this did I fall from my self-esteem soap box? It’s easy, when you’re co-dependent and struggle with feeling ‘not enough’. We think “If I’m pretty, skinny, sexy, funny, smart enough – more than any of the others – he will pick me.”

After a few months, my insides began to turn. I finally realized I was manipulating myself as much as anyone.

After meeting a lovely women he invited to join us for drinks, I got the wake up call I needed. When he left for the mens room, his new lady friend asked if he and I were dating and she was floored to learn we were still lovers. She shared with me how he was texting her daily and flirting with her – and that she was thinking they were on the threshold of dating. She was me, six months ago.

It’s been a few weeks since having any contact with my ex. I don’t harbor any resentment or blame with him, and I hope we can circle back and reconnect one day. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t miss him – but what I don’t miss is the feeling of being in a competition with his other harem members. I don’t miss the needy, insecure person I was turning into, who I’ve fought so hard – for so many years to change.

For some, standing up for ourselves and never settling for disrespect is natural. Then there are people like me, who are still learning to believe we are worth so much more than what we’ve ever allowed ourselves to feel.

Sometimes holding on give us strength. But when it comes to dating a narcissist or someone with narcissistic traits, we only get stronger when finally get real with ourselves. We need to let go of the belief they can be serious dating partners.

*Because of the overwhelming response I’ve had to this article, I continued with a piece about my dating a Sociopath. Sociopaths and narcissists have much in common. To learn more, please read: The Sociopath and Me: A Love Story.

Thoughts?

Christine Macdonald