Surviving Narcissism

One of my favorite channels is Dr. Les Carter’s Surviving Narcissism. He has helped me come to terms with my early childhood more than anyone else ever has and I owe him my debt of gratitude. Just the name of his channel is fitting because it really is survival of the fittest out there when you live with narcissists.

The damage they do mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically is hard to quantify but I have a feeling that most mental illness, suicide, drug addiction and general failure in life can be traced back to narcissistic abuse. I know that sounds extreme, but it comes from my own narrow lens on life because it’s how I grew up.

I lived in a viper’s nest of them. I don’t say that jokingly, either, because that’s how it felt as a child. I remember my earliest years were spent hiding – a lot – and trying to stay still, quiet and preferably unseen because out of sight meant out of mind in my clan of narcs.

Once you popped into view, one of them would take notice and unless they were already preoccupied with torturing someone else, then all gloves were off and they would hone in on you like a hunter with a laser scope. It didn’t matter who it was, if one of them had the urge, and they all often did, some sort of abusive behavior would follow and the only way to avoid it was to hide.

When you’re half the size of everyone else your age, you find all kinds of places to hide, too. Long after I should have been able to, I could slip into the space between the couch and the wall easily enough that there was room to drag all sorts of things with me. Mostly every spare blanket I could find because that was also where the cats liked to go to do their thing because doing it out in the open on the carpet meant risking a boot to the ribs, so they figured out early on, too, that hiding to sleep, shit and wait out the chaos until the next round meant survival.

This also meant that no one cleaned up the piles of cat shit that gathered behind the couch because that was far too much effort. Just like cleaning it out of the potted plants that somehow managed to survive in that hellhole. The stench was so bad I often used dryer sheets to cover my face with and would take them with me to my secret spot behind the couch to endure being so close to it. Even with blankets separating me from the smell, and even though my sinuses were always incredibly inflamed to the point I could barely breathe through my nose, it was still intolerable at times, especially if it was fresh that day.

Still, I managed to make it work because hiding anywhere else was too dangerous. There were no other truly safe spaces for me with so many kids in the house and us having to share bedrooms. Under my bed was another favorite place but it was often so jam packed with stuff that it was impossible to get under there, so the couch worked for me and the cats, too.

All those cats. Ugh.

Of course we all had to come out of hiding to eat, the cats and I, but my parents didn’t seem to notice if I barely poked at my food before slinking away back to my hideaway and the world I’d created for myself there that took me a million miles away from reality.

Luckily I had a vivid imagination and was above average intelligence for my age. I squirreled away books and paper and pencils in my hiding places so I’d spend hours reading and writing. I even wrote my first book inside the closet I shared with my older sister later. She was in seventh and I was in second grade, and it was all about a little girl who was being abused.

No surprise there, heh.

I made a cover and used the gigantic hole punch my dad brought home from the Navy to make it into a “real” book and everything. I drew the illustration on the front and tied the pages together carefully with red ribbon I’d snatched from my mom’s sewing stuff and I was SO VERY PROUD.

I would have given it to one of my parents as a gift, but they’d have just acted indifferent and tossed it on to the pile of crap already overflowing on the coffee table or dining room table or wherever. I knew even then they had no interest in what I did or thought or if I even really existed at all so I just didn’t bother and kept everything to myself. I had zero allies in that house and I knew it from the very beginning it seems.

Anyway, I am pretty sure in my first novel, which must have been all of five pages or so, all neatly tied together with bright, red ribbons that were carefully cut to the same length by eight year old me, ended up in one of those many piles of trash that grew like swamp monsters in my childhood home eventually anyway.

I remember bits and pieces of the story still, how my character was beaten with a fire poker and made to live outside in the tree house with the cat. I wish I still had it but, like everything from my childhood including school pictures (when they bothered to get them for me) disappeared long before I left home.

I can imagine it in my mind’s eye, even though it’s not a real memory, though, in my childhood home, lying there in the dark with all that smoke in the air and the yellow, nicotine stained walls, somewhere lost among all the pieces of junk mail and empty cigarette packs and overflowing ashtrays and dirty dishes and dirty socks and toenail clippings and dog hair and odds and ends and crumbs and coffee stained papers and whatever else found its way to the pile before the cats decided to climb on top and take quick naps when no one was looking, pushing and piling things onto the floor and adding to the never ending chaos that usually accompanies a narcissistic household.

I can close my eyes and I’m back there in an instant, my heart racing, struggling to breathe freely, looking for a place to hide. Which is why I try not to go there. That’s the key, though, I can control when and if I go there, how long I stay and when I can leave again. Mostly thanks to Dr. C.

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