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

Boredom or Bedlam: Are You An Emotional Cutter?

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

CalmStorm

Calm before the storm

When raised with cracked foundations of chaos, it’s easy for us to understand how as adults we feed off drama. Up is down and right is left. We know better, but it doesn’t stop us from running with the proverbial scissors that cut up personal happiness and responsibility, leaving a trail of regret.

For so many of us, chaos is fuel. It’s our oxygen when the poor choices we make ignite anxiety within the walls of fear. We cannot breathe until the risk of losing our breath is born from our own doing. Anything else is boring.

Although each slice is hidden deep inside our psyche, emotional cutting – hurting ourselves to feel – is just as damaging as the physical act itself.*

“Self-harm is a way of expressing and dealing with deep distress and emotional pain. As counterintuitive as it may sound to those on the outside, hurting yourself makes you feel better – Cutting and Self-Harm (www.helpguide.org)

Life is not a straight line for any of us. For adult children of dysfunction, it’s a barbed wire maze of self-sabotage that draws blood with every turn. And the puncture wounds make us feel alive.

It’s hard to understand unless you’re in it. Even more difficult to rationalize when we’re the ones orchestrating our own pain. It’s cool when our loved ones support us, but we know they don’t really get why we continue to be the architect of our own demise. Neither do we.

So how do we turn off the auto-pilot road to self-destruction? For starters, it’s a good idea to get real. I’m not talking about saying the words people want to hear. This is about digging deep. Shred the years of layered bullshit you’ve been telling yourself and speak from deep inside your truth. It’s not fun; it can actually be scary. But everything boils down to the ugly truth: we cannot make it through the painful maze without actually going through it. Feel the pain. Weep. Wail. Then scream into the air (or a pillow, so your neighbors don’t call the cops). Just get it the fuck out.

Since I can remember I’ve been living some version of the truth, which is a colorful way of saying lie. What began as floating in a sea of self-medication [insert your vice here], quickly morphed into believing the bullshit I was telling myself.

I’m fine. 

I can handle it. 

They are the ones with the problem. 

I know what I’m doing. 

I don’t need anyone. 

I’m not lonely. 

Living a lie is exhausting. Yet so many of us do it because we’re afraid of facing the shit that caused us to take comfort in our bullshit in the first place.

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One of my best friends jokes about how we’re so much alike – and should be wrapped in caution tape. And I’m not kidding when I say ‘I’m such a work in progress I should wear orange cones for earrings‘. Humor is nothing if not effective when it comes to getting real.

But get real, we must. Whether it’s telling a friend, teacher, boss, relative or therapist – we need to share our truth.

The healing begins when we stop pretending.

The first person you need to share your dark truth with is the most important person in your world – you. You’re no good to anyone if you’re no good to yourself.  It’s time to stop buying your lies, and start getting real. We are worth it. If you don’t believe this, it’s because believing we have no value is the biggest lie of all. Take back your truth. It all starts with the decision to try.

*I am not an expert in mental health. This blog is a platform to express my own opinions and beliefs based on personal experience. If you or anyone you know is suffering, please reach out to a professional and seek help. You are worth it – even if you don’t feel it right now. 

Christine Macdonald