When in Rome

The constant threat of physical violence combined with all the other stuff that went on daily in “the cave” (otherwise known as my childhood home) really shaped, or rather misshaped, my perceptions of the world and people in general.

I assumed that because I came from a clan of sociopathic narcissists, so did everyone else. I had that hunch confirmed many times by visiting friend’s houses and again when I married into a family of loud, violent, selfish pricks very similar to my own. It felt like the entire world was made up of these types and I saw for myself that these people are everywhere, only further distorting my view of humanity in general.

Sure there were nice teachers here and there and somehow my oldest sister managed to marry one of the nicest guys I’d ever met (who she then dumped for an asshole shortly after the wedding), but other than that I was pretty much surrounded by them.

Whatever niceness I had within me was like a candle light in a hurricane, and since I had no one to practice being nice with consistently, I, too, became an asshole. It was the only way to survive in a sea of them.

Sometimes I guess you really do have to “do as the Romans”, as the saying goes.

Professional Hecklers

Is the best way to describe them. No matter what I did, or where I was, I could count on one of them to either be there physically offering their unsolicited opinions and criticisms or else they were living in my head, a constant negative narrative running on a loop.

That all came to an end after I found Dr. Carter’s channel on Surviving Narcissism and realized that was what I was dealing with. Not just one or two, but an entire clan of them. I then married into another clan of them in a failed attempt to get away from my own.

Now I know you may be wondering, how can everyone in two families be narcissists? It does seem highly unlikely and naturally it may make you then ask if I’m deluding myself or misreading people. Or maybe I am the narcissist trying to deflect onto them.

I wondered that myself but then I met others who also come from entire families of these disordered people. We tend to be their scapegoats and are usually the ones who land in therapy because we’re so affected by it all that we know we need help.

Narcissists don’t do therapy. There’s nothing wrong with them. YOU are the one who is crazy and needs to be institutionalized.

That’s your first clue. The second is that none of them are happy for you or with you whenever good things happen. Instead they act as your personal heckler during good times, bad times, and everything inbetween.

It’s who they are.

So how do comedians handle hecklers? They either ignore them (the worst thing you can do to a narcissist) or they turn the tables on them and humiliate them (the second worst thing you can do to a narcissist). Both methods work but the second one takes a little practice.

I’m currently working on honing my skills at doing just that. It’s very unnatural for me to be a dick to people though, so I’ll probably always fall back on just grey rocking them.

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

I grew up in the shadow of my dad’s ego which was fed by being the lead singer and guitarist in my parent’s band. They were booked every weekend and were pretty good considering the godawful country music they played.

Two of my uncles and all of us kids played with them at one point or another. My brothers both played drums, my sister sang and played guitar and I pretended I could play on the keyboard.

During breaks and when they were finishing up for the night all of us kids had to stay outside in the parking lot. The things I witnessed in those honky-tonk parking lots in the 1980s are forever burned into my memory and could fill pages and pages. I could seriously write smut full time based on what I saw and heard.

It was quite um, educational for an inquisitive preteen girl and I honestly did learn a lot about human behavior. Most importantly, I learned what I didn’t want to be as a woman and a mother.

Boys Will Be Boys

My aunt was rich. To me at least. She lived in a giant house with a pool and had a life of luxury compared to us. She also looked exactly like my dad in a wig, which I thought was hilarious every time she’d load up her camper full of foster kids and drive up from LA to the central valley where we lived.

I remember that she only had boys and one boy in particular slept with her in my bed when they stayed over, while all the others stayed in the camper.

He was her “boyfriend” according to my parents.

She was nearly or just over seventy years old and he was just a teenager of about fourteen, so I thought they were full of shit. I also didn’t believe them when they told me she was only allowed to foster boys after being caught pimping the girls out to her wealthy friends at parties.

I remember when she died and they came back from her funeral, laughing that the boy, now a legal adult, had showed up with his boyfriend. For some reason they thought it was hilarious that this old woman may have turned a young, impressionable boy gay.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized there may have been some truth to it all, which is horrifying. I also realized just how fucked up my parents were to allow that to go on in our house. In MY bed.

God I hope there’s a hell for people like them.

The Best Advice

I found this comment somewhere and copied it so I could revisit the wisdom contained within whenever I feel the need. I thought I’d share it here because it may help you, too:

You need to practice acceptance. Carrying all this baggage with you is no way to live. You can put the past away and just bring it out on the odd occasion for an airing. Writing it down does help. What helps more is acceptance. It happened it is not happening now. I am now free to walk my walk, look at the present day, look to the future. The past you describe did happen don’t deny it but do not let it define you. No psychiatrist in the world can help you more than you can help yourself and you do that by living in the present not the past not the future. You live each day as a new day a new opportunity. You don’t need luck you need resolve from within. Use it and enjoy the rest of your life spend time looking forwards not back.

Things Unseen

I started playing the Ouija board just after my best friend died. It was the weekend before my fifteenth birthday and we were supposed to celebrate together but a bottle of liquor and a huge tree on a stretch of country road at three in the morning took her and a handful of other mutual friends lives and put an end to all our future plans together.

She wasn’t my first or only friend to die but she was the most painful loss.

I spent hours walking in the dead of night, alone, so I could spend time at the cemetery with her. I even slept on her grave more than once. It really wasn’t healthy, but I had no other way to grieve. My mom had refused to even let me go to the funeral, telling me it was “morbid” to want to go at my age, and she had been my friend since second grade so I felt lost without her.

So, I tried to talk to her through the Ouija board which backfired, of course. Instead of getting closure with her, it opened a door into the occult that I now wish I never would have opened. One that took me forever to close again.

They say once you open that door it can never truly be closed again and I believe that. I still have Ouija boards show up in the most unusual ways, trying to find their way back into my life. I’ll write about that more later.

I never did talk to my friend again but the Ouija board did give me faith in things unseen.

Ich tu dir Weh (I hurt you)

Sometimes we end up doing far more damage to ourselves than they ever did and that is a sad truth about child abuse. It’s common for victims of child abuse to continue feeling they deserve to be abused long after the original abusers are gone. We might seek out replacements or we may take on the role ourselves and I recognized this in myself early on. I was self harming in ways I won’t go into detail about, but it was incredibly damaging to my body and psyche.

One of the most twisted songs from my favorite German poet/harmonica player, Till Lindemann, seems to be about two people: a torturer and his victim. Yet a deeper dive into the lyrics shows that it very well could be the inner dialogue of someone who self harms.

I’d put a “warning” label on this but if you are at ALL familiar with Rammstein, one isn’t necessary and if you aren’t?


As for the lyrics, they’re not for the faint of heart either but it’s intriguing how he wrote them to seem as if it’s two people when it really could just be one:

[Verse 1]
You are alive just for me
I stick medals in your face
You are completely devoted to me
You love me, because I don’t love you
You bleed for my salvation
A small cut and you become horny
Your body, now totally disfigured
No matter, what is allowed, happens

I hurt you
It doesn’t hurt me
It’s good for you
Listen how it screams

[Verse 2]
With you I have to option to torture
Barbed wire in the urethra
Put your flesh in salt and pus
First you die, but then you live on
Bites, kicks, hard punches
Needle, pliers, dull saw
Whatever you wish, I don’t say no
And insert rodents into you

I hurt you
It doesn’t hurt me
It’s good for you
Listen how it screams
I hurt you
It doesn’t hurt me
It’s good for you
Listen how it screams

[Bridge 1]
You are the ship, I’m the captain
What’s the destination of the journey?
I see your face in the mirror
You love me, because I don’t love you

I hurt you
It doesn’t hurt me
It’s good for you
Listen how it screams
I hurt you
It doesn’t hurt me
It’s good for you
Listen how it screams

The “I see your face in the mirror” gives it away that it’s someone hurting themselves, to me at least. The way they detach (how IT screams) and justify (it’s good for you!) is typical of self harming victims. They truly believe they deserve it and will do all sorts of things, sometimes unspeakable things, to themselves as punishment for simply existing.

The amount of self hatred it takes to do these things is almost inconceivable yet no one is born loathing themselves. It’s something they’re taught. A repeating mantra of lies fills our heads and I’d love to encourage other victims to unlearn these awful lies so they can see that the truth is, they matter.

The thought that millions of us struggle with self loathing and self abuse is hard to accept but it is our collective reality. I’ve learned healthier ways to cope and I am grateful for that. I hope and pray all victims do the same.

Sabre Rattling

I grew up watching my oldest brother and sister trying to kill each other. My brother would have long scratch marks down his arms and back from her and later my mom told me she had to hide the knives from them or they’d use them on each other in their frequent fights.

I never dreamed I’d ever fight one of my siblings like that because they were so much older and bigger and I avoided conflict with them as much as possible. I avoided everyone in that house as much as possible.

I did pull a knife on my other brother once, though. I was seventeen and he had knocked his dog out cold with a punch to the head right in front of me. He was pissed that one of them had shit on the floor. He was coming after my puppy next and I was having none of it.

This brother was the one who had brought pit bulls into the mix when I was around nine or ten, because there wasn’t enough chaos and anxiety in the house apparently heh. Don’t get me wrong, I loved his dogs, but I was scared to death of them. They were nuts, just like he was.

One of the puppies he gave to my mom was literally insane. He was big for a pitbull and would sit in her lap and growl if anyone came near. She thought it was endearing. It wasn’t.

When she had a stroke and went to the hospital, they left all the dogs together for a couple days and when then came back the others had turned on hers and killed him.

Even they knew.

A Picture Speaks 1,000 Words

I have almost zero evidence that I was born, had a childhood and left home. There are no pictures save a couple my dad gave me just a few years ago before we estranged. One is of me as a baby in a messy room standing in an old crib and it looks as if I’d been crying.

The other of my four siblings and I taken as a family picture and in it I look about 7 or 8. None of us are smiling and it looks like I’d been crying. Probably because I had been.

I don’t remember that day but that’s because I don’t remember a lot. It’s as if I didn’t form memories for so much of my childhood, so I don’t even have those internal photos to draw from.

The first picture I have of myself in life smiling is my wedding picture. I was nineteen years old. We’ve been together 33 years.

Shamed into Silence

I was the last in line as the youngest in a large family. Since none of them took responsibility for their own actions and instinctively put the blame on whoever was lower than them on the totem pole, naturally it trickled down to me.

I was to blame for just about everything and I was meant to feel shame for even being alive. It made it almost impossible for me to even speak at times, I felt so unworthy to even exist. I was selectively mute which only angered them whenever they were in my face trying to provoke me into a fight. I never learned how to express myself properly which led to a form of autism.

It didn’t help that my personality is one of a quiet and sensitive nature to begin with. I always cared about things none of them seemed to even notice as they went about their loud, brash, adversarial and utterly shallow lives.

The older I got, the more attention I got for being the quintessential blonde haired Barbie doll, the worse the shaming became. By the time I left home I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, let alone anyone else in the eye. My eyes were always cast down and I hated even doing my hair and makeup because I had to look at a face I had been conditioned to loathe.

I hated myself so much and I didn’t really know why. Everyone outside my family seemed to find me more than worthy and told me so.

Once I was away from the chaos and confusion and constant shaming, I could begin to work on “de-shaming” myself.

It’s still hard to come to terms with the damage shaming did to me but then I remember: some of us have been shamed into eternal silence. I still have my voice.

And I can look myself and other people in the eye now.