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A Beautiful Bouquet of Red Flags

Sorry for my absence! It’s been a crazy summer, but the hard work was worth it! For my Anatomy & Physiology 1 & 2, I earned an A in both classes and was named to the Dean’s List for the first time in my life. Its very exciting for me to see hard work and effort pay off, as I haven’t always felt that way about school in the past.

In my limited down time, I’ve come across some interesting Instagram posts lately. They’ve been slightly “triggering” (I still absolutely hate that term, I think its overused and mocked, but it is what it is) for me. Narcissists are often either glossed over or puffed up. When people don’t see the “behind the scenes,” that person is the greatest ever. They’ve got a charming, glossy exterior, that fools everyone. Until they’re the victim. This is something that seems to get talked about once a year when its domestic violence awareness week, and then we forget about it. Those of us who have experienced it don’t forget. Often, we live with complex diagnoses, dealing with silent triggers each day, that evoke powerful emotional reactions that we don’t realize happened until its too late. I’m speaking mainly about men as the perpetrators here, but this can go both ways, so guys, don’t disregard me – it happens to you too!

I’ve been in therapy for a year now. My diagnoses are something I never expected, but very fitting. Sometimes my reactions to SIMPLE things are so instinctual; all emotion, no consciousness to them. Its been a long year. Its been more down than up. But I want you to see and hear from someone who you may have watched (or may not have, I’m not offended 😉 hopefully you’ll stick with me now though!) go through “some shit.” I want people to hear how REAL this is and how incredibly damaging it is, and how intensely difficult it is to break those learned protective habits. I wanted to share this thread (IG: @narcissistic_abuse_is_real) that resonated with me.

Its hard to nail all this down if you’ve never truly dealt with a narcissist on some level. You might read through this and say “everyone has some of these traits” and roll your eyes and click back to Facebook. I get it! I didn’t believe it or understand it until I experienced it. I pray you never have to – but I think its valuable to understand it so you can spot it, and more so, be a good friend when someone is unfortunate enough to get caught in the web.

Its almost impossible to believe that someone would be so foolish to fall in and worse, STAY with someone who does this to them. How do you get stuck thinking that someone who makes you feel like utter garbage every day, still loves you?

Its simple. First, the attraction is like a moth to a flame. They have an uncanny ability to be unreasonably attractive for a reason you will NEVER be able to put your finger on. Its mind-boggling sometimes. Even you, being madly in love, will look at this person and not be able to understand it most days. Second, this person does absolutely EVERYTHING to earn your trust straight out the gate. They prey on people who have weak boundaries in this area. Whether its because you were raised to be submissive, you are anxious to be “taken care of,” are in a bad position financially, mentally, or otherwise, or even a combination of these, you’re lured in because they fulfill a weak spot in your current situation.

Narcissists love to be the hero. A damsel in distress is their favorite target. Why? Because they can swoop in, make you feel like a million bucks when you need it most, shower you with whatever money and love and attention they can muster, and then the deal is sealed. Now that they’ve “rescued” you, you’re beholden to them. Or so you feel, sadly. They may have left you in an equally crappy situation – but in their telling of the story, you have been restored to greatness… all thanks to them. This is how you get trapped in the web. What I see most often is a women who is down on her luck – maybe a bad breakup or situation left them homeless, or they’re trying to get out of wherever they are; this person swoops in and improves their situation. Sometimes its not even a major improvement! Sometimes, it could be equally as bad, and especially as the victim realizes they’re trapped in a new situation, it goes down hill quickly.

Usually its practically blissful for a while. The worst offenders assert their control over the situation in the most sly of ways at first. Little ways to keep the person trapped, financially or mentally – you “build a life together” and now, boom, you’re having his child, or you’re still completely unable to financially separate yourself from them. The more obvious offenders go for gold. Physical abuse is the most obvious, offensive abuse.

But the mental toll being on-guard 24/7 takes is overwhelming. Then the victim starts blaming herself. Why wasn’t I stronger? Why couldn’t I just figure this out for myself? Why couldn’t I see all this coming!? We beat ourselves up endlessly for things that have always been out of our control.

Here’s the thing to remember: if you find yourself in this position, its not your fault that the other person is exerting control over you that you cannot thwart. The sooner you can acknowledge and embrace that, the sooner you can move on. Its so important to start exploring your own energy. Start figuring out who YOU are, outside of this situation and relationship. Its so important to keep working on yourself and growing. Embrace the bad attitude and consciously and turn it around. Its going to be a long, uncomfortable period in your life, but the most important thing is, you have to remove the ability for that person to control you. Do whatever it takes to get out of that situation. That abuser will never change. You can’t do anything to change them. It is not worth the energy, effort, or what you assume is the love you are giving to try to fix anything. A true narcissist will never change because they are heartless; you aren’t. You aren’t perfect – no one is. But you can and will survive this, carry on, and do better. Work on yourself. Find your light again. You can do this, and if you don’t have friends who will help you get there, now you have me!

Much love & Light ~ Jess

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Is it Over Yet?

Depression and anxiety have spanked me this year.  I have always dealt with my anxiety.  What that really means for me is, its just manifested in “non-traditional” ways, like being short with people, having very narrow focus, retaining ridiculous amounts of stress, avoiding a wide variety of situations, and being extraordinarily moody for no apparent reason.  Basically, I’ve just lived with it and not acknowledged it.  You know, very positively!

Now my struggle with it is far more visceral. I can’t sit still.  I can’t move either.  Sometimes I can’t catch my breath.  Thoughts race – even the most ridiculous things seem true, imminent.  Thoughts feel thick, like wading through a tub of coconut oil.  There’s too many thoughts, but I can’t escape them.  I feel like I’m on the brink of complete collapse sometimes.  When I can gather enough clarity, I take a few pumps of oil and I can start feeling freer in 15 minutes or so.  Its as though I line everything up, like little toy soldiers on a wall and I can start flicking them off the wall, one by one, every wild, racing, over-the-top thought and fear.

Since I was in high school, depression has floated in and out of my life.  When I sought treatment the first time, someone close to me said “I just can’t understand what you could possibly have to be sad about.”  And that’s when I stopped constructively dealing with depression.  Sometimes I’ve anticipated the lows, and other times, I have been blindsided.  I’ve picked up, carried on, and dealt with it.  Its what we expect people to do!  Quietly, privately, and with as little emotion as possible.  No mess, no fussing, no drama.  That’s what I thought I was accomplishing after Matt abruptly passed.  I was dealing like a champ.  I was pushing forward, growing, kicking ass.  In reality, I was definitely surviving, if not even thriving, but I was completely failing to heal the hurt.Introvert inclusion

I have trust issues.  There.  I said it.  I find myself not trusting people about the DUMBEST stuff.  There are a million reasons running through my head why anyone isn’t doing what they claimed.  It isn’t even based in reality!  I was trained, systematically, over a long relationship, that I wasn’t worthy of the truth.  I wasn’t worthy of being included.  I wasn’t important enough to anyone. I wasn’t worthy of my own husband telling me what he’s actually doing.  Its a daily struggle of insecurity.  Who is excluding me from stuff?  Why didn’t I get invited to something?

The more I have been sorting out, the more I realize.   And the more I wonder.  I wonder why I gave so much trust to someone who repeatedly broke it.  I wonder why I believed someone who routinely fed me stories.  I wonder why I wasn’t valuable enough to get the truth.  But I also realize that this wasn’t my shortcoming.  I did what I was supposed to do.  I trusted the person who was supposed to take care of me and my son.

I’ve been talking with close friends lately about my purpose and what I want from life.  One of my greatest aspirations in life is to be a wife and mother – explains a lot about why I was so eager to please someone who would have pushed me off a cliff if it suited him.  I’ve felt this since I was young.  I feel for me personally (NOT everyone!), there is no greater calling than to have a fulfilling relationship and raise good humans.  That in turn gives me the framework to then achieve professionally and otherwise.  And don’t worry, I don’t think my value rests solely with a marriage.  Its just something I find extremely valuable personally, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

What I want to bring to you, dear friend, is the awareness about yourself.  If you’re struggling similarly to myself, the first step is getting help.  Get perspective.  I don’t mean from your goofy friend with all the opinions. There are some easy things (from an implementation standpoint, anyway) that you can do that will help you get on the right path.

  • A therapist is a great neutral sounding board.  It might take a few tries to find someone that you’re comfortable with. That friend with all the opinions might be eager to listen, but they might not always have time to carefully consider your concerns – after all, they aren’t paid to listen to you.  They might also have ulterior motives.  God forbid they do not have your best interests at heart or don’t care who they share your personal business with.  It will only compound the problem to know that someone is speaking about your issues with others.  Find someone who is truly neutral.
  • If consistently visiting a therapist is out of your budget (I know it can get expensive!) look into some self help books and/or workbooks.  You don’t even need to pick something deeply self-exploratory.  Start with something that doesn’t feel too inflammatory and work your way up (just don’t let yourself off the hook before you get there).
  • Start journaling. Good old fashioned pen and paper, not on your phone or computer.   Take 10 minutes each day.  If you’re really committed, spend 10 minutes when you first wake up, writing about things you’re grateful for, and 10 minutes before you go to bed, brain dumping, so you can go to sleep with a blank slate.  Ten minutes is just a guideline – it gives you a set window of time to commit to the process.
  • Really want to go all in?  Start doing guided meditation.  Use YouTube videos like this one to help you.
  • Figure out if you would like or if you feel you need medication.  I weighed the options medications to help with anxiety and depression and I couldn’t balance the weight of not being lucid against the potential benefits.  Of course, I’m a huge advocate for hemp oil because of its lack of negative side effects and overall health benefits.  The hemp and cannabis plants are extraordinary in their benefits to humans and even pets; get good stuff in your body, however you choose to consume it.  There are tons of things to look at when you’re looking for a brand of oil (I’ll explore it in another post), but you can get the best here.

Accepting that you’re going to have good days, you’re going to have bad days,  and its all just part of life, is the first huge step to working through things.  Explore your reactions to things and situations.  Analyze why you’re reacting to things a certain way.

~The only thing we control in this world is how we react to things~

Read that until you understand it.  You can’t control what anyone else does; you can only control your reaction to the situation.  Stop letting other people’s stupidity send you over the edge.  Stop letting someone else’s inconsistency, arrogance, ignorance, selfishness, lies, jealously, etc etc control how you feel!

This is all just the tip of the iceberg, but its a great start.  Much love & light to you today!

Want more on the topic?  Drop your comments and questions below!

~ Jess

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Finding a Voice

I’ve been trying to be vocal about my mental health struggles over the last year.  Trying to be a voice for those who don’t feel strong enough to speak on their own; to help others seek the help they need, too.  I made a big step in my life – I’ve been in therapy for a little over a month now.  So far, its been a lot of the usual background jabber, so its brought up a lot of extensive, deep-seated issues.  “Not too bad,” I thought.  Silly me.

All the emotions, all at once.  Mix it in with how I was already feeling; lost, confused, unsure of myself and future, and you’ve got a whole mess.  At exactly the same time, I feel like the most determined, self-assured, strong person, and also the least successful, least useful, failure.  Imagine bringing up essentially everything that has ever deeply impacted me over a few short visits.  Its like knowing your hair is already on fire, and then dumping gasoline on it.  Its not fun, but I know that it has to be done.  I really like the therapist I’m seeing and I feel like its a good match for where I’m at.

Every day, I’m grateful for my oil.  After a dose, I can feel myself coming down from a very overwhelmed place.  Sometimes my day requires more than one dose.  But its vital.  I am choosing this path because I don’t want to feel less.  Feeling is vital, or I won’t learn to do better in the future.  I’ve thought about the different medications I could be on, and both my therapist and I agree that its not a necessary step at this point.

Its been a few months since I’ve felt more “myself.” But what does that truly mean when your life has been in a whirlwind of harsh transition for the last year and a half (but really longer). In the last 9 years, I’ve moved 8 times. Not because I wanted to.  Mostly because of lost jobs and selfish decisions.  We had a tumultuous 6 years together, with children, adding a child, losing homes, separating, getting back together, so many lies and half truths.  I learned a lot of valuable lessons, but I also learned a lot of unfortunate ones.  Like who or how I can trust. That’s a lot of change, and while I thought I was figuring things out on my own, I found myself even more lost than before.  It has felt like I’m being swallowed whole, into a very dark, quiet, absent space.

Finding yourself doubting every last word from people is a horrible way to live.  If you tell me the sky is blue, I’m still going to look.  And then I’m going to try to figure out what the underlying motive could be. This is how messed up your mind gets. You even question the people you love and trust the most, even though they aren’t the ones manipulating your mind.  You can’t even trust yourself – what if you aren’t understanding what’s being said?  The sickest part about it all, is that you’re really not stupid.  You don’t have trouble reading people.  You’ve been trained to believe you don’t understand.

I try to remind myself every day that I don’t have trust issues; I am healing my trust issues.  I am speaking into existence the healing I need.  Every day, I work towards getting acquainted with who I am today, not who I was, who anyone thinks I should be, but who I am now.  Its a difficult road.  A lot of scary grey areas that are hard to sort through, but have to be, so I can move forward.  The grey areas of life are the parts that no one ever wants to handle.  We spend our time avoiding it.  Yet, its where life really happens.  Healing comes when we sit down with our crap, shake hands with it, interview it, find out where it belongs in our life, and decide whether it deserves that place, and if not, we dismiss it from our life.

It will be a long process, but its worth it.

Love & light ~ Jess

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The First Year

It will soon be a year since everything changed.  One year since the person I thought was my husband left this world.  One year since my life ended up in a blender, and came out a beautiful smoothie.

I don’t regret things in my life.  Its not how I live.  I make choices based on calculated, conscious decisions, and then accept the consequence.  A year ago, a choice was made that altered mine and Nicholas’s life dramatically, and like I always say, it was a blessing in disguise.

In the early afternoon of April 26, 2017, the state police came to my home to inform me that they found my husband in his vehicle up in Warren County.  The room spun; I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t speak.

I will eternally be grateful to the people who rushed to my side.  Alicia, who probably broke more than a few laws racing to me.  Sandi, who sat with me while I took wild phone calls that brought more mind-blowing information each time it rang.  Renee, who set up a GoFundMe that allowed Nicholas and I to find a place to live and stay on our feet while we were reeling.  Kelsey and Kyleen, who connected us with more help than I could have imagined.  Tina, for reaching out and being a voice of reason, even when I didn’t want to hear it.  My parents, for forgiving the grudges and being there for us.  Every single person who sent food, clothes and supplies for Nicholas, even stuff for me.  Even the people I don’t talk to anymore, for one reason for another.  I am grateful.

I’m sure each passing year will get easier and less confusing.  I didn’t expect to be “alone” this year though, and its making it a little more challenging for me to navigate.  My emotions have already bubbled up a few times, and we are still a bit away from the anniversary.  Keeping busy and focused are my only options right now.

Screenshot_20180411-162142Nicholas has come further than I could have ever imagined.  We have a secure, stable home; stable income; I don’t feel threatened that life is off-kilter and unpredictable this year.  Last year, I didn’t know if we’d have a place to live or food to eat each month.  Last year, I was stressed that health insurance was a question.  I’m stable.  That’s what matters.  I have a blossoming business.  I have a greater desire to be creative and continue growing personally.

 

There’s a knot in my throat, but I know it means we’re alive and making it.

-Jess