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

Dreaming is Free

48037634-cachedThis post title has ADHD written all over it, but stick with me. I’ll keep the loquaciousness to a minimum. If you’re Googling “Loquaciousness” don’t feel bad. I overheard that word at a party and couldn’t wait to use it in a sentence. Then I realized – I was that L Word. And hilarity ensued. You should’ve been there. I killed.

But back to this post.

When the hell did mid September happen? Shit. I have things to do. A book to finish. Power meetings with influential networking hipsters who can change my life by signing on the dotted line after accepting my hilarious pitch of my oh-so-fabulous story.

Dreaming is free, people. Just ask Debbie Harry. Please Google her too, kids. And do yourself a favor – dance naked to Heart of Glass at least once in your life. Alone in your room is fine. But not in front of any mirror. Just dance. And while you’re at it, blast “Dreaming.” Because it really is free.

What made me think of dreaming out loud tonight? I’m glad you asked.

A couple of hours ago I received a text message from an old sister-friend from our home town of O’ahu, Hawaii (let’s call her B). She and I both live in Southern California now, but have not seen one another in nearly 20 years, can you believe? We reconnected through the marvels of modern technology and plan to meet up soon for a long overdue brunch. But back to her text. I was matter of fact-ly very tongue-in-cheeky mentioning to her that I had a book to finish because I’m dreaming big – her reply was priceless and one I just had to share:

“Don’t stop until it’s done! Then dream up another dream – that way you’re always livin’ the dream.”

It’s been a while, but that quote is so her. Beautiful. Positive. Inspiring. The depression, diseased part of my brain thinks she’s a bitch. I happen to adore her. I win.

B has always been this stunningly beautiful light, and her energy is equally pure and real. Whatever she’s on, I want some. I kid. Those drugs days are over, kids. I know she’s high on life and love. B just reminded me I’ve gotta get me some of that – clinical depression be damned.

If only snapping out of a dark space of wanting to evaporate were as easy as reconnecting with a beautiful soul. Sometimes staying in touch with loved ones, even in the thick of isolation reminds us how much beauty there is in this world. The fact is, when wrestling with clinical depression some days that actually does work. Other days, not so much. Sure, there are medications that help kick-start our serotonin and dopamine receptors, but even that sometimes isn’t enough.

Today was hard. I mean really tough. Because of a morning trigger (something superfluous other than that it hit a button I’ve been trying to avoid), I found myself in a downward spiral of despair that only the fantasy of not wanting to live surrounded my psyche for the better part of the day. Was I ever in danger of taking my life? No. But here’s the thing about clinical depression. There’s a huge difference between not wanting to live and actually taking the steps to assure you don’t. One of my favorite authors, Auguesten Burroughs maps it perfectly:

“If you believe suicide will bring you peace, or at the very least just an end to everything you hate – you are displaying self-caring behavior. You are still able to actively seek solutions to your problems. You are willing to go to great lengths to provide what you believe will be soothing to yourself. This strikes me as optimistic.”

I cling to these words. They are my life raft even when I’m the one puncturing the holes and I feel myself sinking. I remember – most of us with depression don’t really want to die. We just don’t want the pain.

Dreaming is free.

 

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This is my blog. Please check out my website for book excerpts, old school stripping photos, press and more.

Christine Macdonald

Operation Orgasm: The Student Becomes The Master

I’ve never been a rule person. Breaking any and all guidelines for being a good kid was my thing. Screw conformity. I’m scaling the fence as my brain registers the “No Trespassing” sign. Unabashedly. Tell me I’m not allowed to go there, and I’m doing everything in my power to figure out why, and then do it. Not always a good system in the real world, but sometimes, it’s the perfect mindset that allows us to experience things we never thought possible within the space of freedom in our mind.

Ever since I learned the difference between pink and blue booties, I’ve been curious about my sexuality. Not in such a way that at the tender age of sand boxes and jungle gyms I was dry humping my living room pillows, this was more of a conscious effort to learn all I could about every inch of my body.

Long before my b-cupped funbags made their first appearance in 1988 (I have since removed my implants in 2001), as a preteen I began to explore my other female lady goods. I was fascinated. The fact that I had actual baby-making equipment inside me was a trip. Using a hand mirror to investigate every inch of myself, I was in awe of that place – that sacred part of womanhood that no one talked about  – my personal No Trespassing place.

Orgasm

A product of Catholic school and a bat-shit crazy mom of her own, my mother made painstaking efforts to never discuss down there, and if she ever did, she always gave it a cartoon name like Fuffy, or Pee Pee. I didn’t get it. It’s my body and I wasn’t allowed to ask questions or even acknowledge its existence?

This is bullshit.

By the time I was in high school, my body and me were dialed in with one another. And thanks to a perfect storm of personal curiosity, longing to connect with this incredible flesh vessel of mine and one share-everything-with friend, my life changed forever one summer.

Leah and I were both seventeen and had way too much fun breaking rules together. She was also the kind of friend you wanted to hang with after too many wine coolers. We’d spend hours gabbing about sex, sharing our limited experience, and thinking that just because we boned a couple of dudes, we were the shit.

“The kissing part is fun, but I don’t get the big deal about sex.” I confessed with the shrug of my shoulders.

“So, you didn’t… come?” The look on Leah’s face was priceless. Far removed from judgment, plastered with excitement. She was bursting out of her ESPRIT Sweatshirt, actually squealing.

“I thought just the guys…” My face tilted to one side, my voice turned up. “…you mean we can, too?”

“YES! We can too! You just gotta know your body!” She squealed.

Our conversation dove further into the complexities of penis vs. vagina (like we knew anything about joy-sticks). And when I woke up the next day, I flew into the bathroom, ready for my first assignment.

You just gotta know your body.

When you don’t know what you’re missing, it’s kinda weird to be so pumped in your quest to find it. But after hearing Leah’s declaration of how awesome having a Lady O was, I was dying to go there as quickly as possible.

BathTub

The stream of water was foreplay. My ass scooted under the faucet and directly on top on the drain, head gently resting on the floor of the tub, feet pointed to the sky, knees slightly bent. Operation Orgasm was underway. As the warm water trickled on to my sweet spot, I began to feel silly – not to mention anxious with the water slowly rising. But this new feeling of warm water in new places had me optimistic that I would finish long before the water reached my ears.

Remembering what Leah said about relaxing and being in tune with how good it would feel, I closed my eyes and went there. My mind wandered to Mickey Rourke in my [then] favorite movie, 9 ½ Weeks (still does sometimes) and it was ON. Fifteen minutes later it was on again. And again. And, well, you know where this is going.

The next time I had sex with my guy, I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to make my body quiver with pleasure. More importantly, I knew how to communicate with my partner so he could take me back to land of ‘Oh!’. Most teenage boys could give two shits about their gal finishing – they’re just happy someone else is in the room. But I got lucky. My fella was into me getting off as much as he did. We even got to a point where we could ride the wave together (Hey Brett, if you’re reading, call me).

They say things get better with time, and when it comes to rubbing one out – how true, how true.

But first, we need to climb our fences of inhibition. Face the uncomfortable, awkwardness of touching ourselves – alone – in the privacy of our personal space.

For some women masturbating is forbidden to do, much less discuss. Others are completely comfortable talking about and regularly going at it. There’s a scene in Sex and the City (television series, not movie) when Samantha asks Charlotte if she’s ever seen her vagina up close with a hand-mirror, which got me thinking, I wonder how many of us have?

Thanks to my friend Leah and her wonderful friendship and encouragement, I was able to explore and take myself to my pleasure zone. In many ways, and in record-breaking numbers (I never left my room that summer). This inevitably led to mind-blowing sexscapades with a handful of fabulous partners through the years. And all because I dared trespass the one place so many of us women feel ashamed to explore.

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We are all a product of our upbringing. And with no disrespect to religious practices, beliefs, or parental rules – when you get to a certain age in your young adult life, as a woman especially, it’s so important to blaze your own trail, tear down that “No Trespassing” sign, grab your mental magic marker and write “Welcome” all over it.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a friend to share your personal experience with, call her up immediately. Chances are, she’s got a story for you too.

Christine Macdonald