Narcissism Is a Serious Word
If you’ve loved one you understand the desperation and disorder
I may have fallen in love with a narcissist but I never wanted to write about it.
Narcissism is an ugly word. Actually ugly doesn’t do it justice. It’s beastly, grotesque, monstrous, hideous…the worst of the worst.
Recently someone left a comment after reading one of my pieces, “I Fell In Love With a Narcissist.”
He felt narcissism is a ‘characteristic’ and not a ‘disorder.’ A lot of people display narcissistic tendencies and it’s not fair to label it a disorder. And then, he politely said he felt it was mean to write about an ex-spouse.
I thought his comments were fair and deserved to be addressed. Narcissism is a confusing topic.
And anyone who has encountered it understands the desperation and the disorder.
Of this disfigured form of love.
Initially, I couldn’t bring myself to say the ugly word.
Not even after a psychologist marriage counselor diagnosed my ex-husband. I exchanged those ten undesirable characters with a phrase, “he’s a good guy in a bad place.” It worked for me.
I am a writer. A freelance journalist and former business columnist with a marketing and PR background. I now write a national column about relationships and divorce.
I made a conscious decision to write about love.
Because there’s another ugly word called divorce, though I prefer the nicer word — breakup.
It’s lonely, painful, and misunderstood. Writing about it licked my sensitive wounds. It also provided emotional triage to other barely beating hearts.
I lived with a narcissist and I was leaving one. Yet I rejected writing about it. I was willing to be a beacon in divorce but not the poster girl for Narcissism.
I just wanted my freedom. I wanted to liberate myself from a man I had naively entrusted my soul to.
To gain my emotional sobriety back.
But he wouldn’t let me go. Unless I left with absolutely nothing and financially that wasn’t possible.
I was two-and-a-half years into my divorce when I finally spoke my narcissistic truth.
I won’t lie.
It was both emancipating and scary to write that column. To call out the bully with no adult on the playground.
I prayed a lot before I wrote that first piece.
I told God I didn’t want any part of my purpose to be tied to this frightening disorder.
I prayed for a resolution. For my husband to stop the games. To stop the emotional and financial abuse and finally divorce me.
But he didn’t stop.
And I finally embraced my path.
An unnecessarily long and brutal five-year divorce caused by an individual who suffered from a narcissistic personality disorder. A parent who would hurt his own children to assure their mother was left with nothing.
There I was.
The woman who didn’t want to be the poster girl for narcissism.
Caught between the desperation and the disorder.
I wasn’t a bitter ex-spouse. Counseling had beaten that out of me. It had turned the temporary victim mentality back into an empowered individual. One who made the choice to stay in an unhealthy relationship far too long. My husband was who he was yet I had tolerated the intolerable.
But I was upset and I was angry.
My children did not deserve to be at the receiving end of a parent who would hurt them. And make them struggle and suffer for years while they deserved to be carefree — sans the normal adolescent aches and pains.
Without financial independence nor my parents alive, I was trapped. In what was the fight of my life to protect my children. At the same time, my once strong demeanor became dehumanized, demoralized, and drained. At a time, when my children needed their enduring and mighty mother.
Narcissism is a spectrum.
There are many individuals who exhibit narcissistic characteristics. They might be egocentric, self-obsessed, selfish, arrogant, demanding, or attention-seeking. The type of behavior you might associate with a spoiled child. There are plenty of people who can be categorized as ‘difficult personalities.’
They can be unkind, cruel, biting, and mean. But this does not make them a narcissist.
A selfish person, an egocentric person, these are in fact, characteristics. None of the aforementioned traits individually define narcissistic personality disorder.
For this reason, I believe anyone who writes about narcissism bears significant responsibility.
I do not believe one should write about their experiences with narcissism — if they have not been with an individual — who was actually diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder.
And by diagnosis, I mean the narcissist has actually been seen by a psychologist or highly specialized LCSW counselor.
Going to counseling alone and conveying relationship details is not enough.
In this scenario, it may be hypothesized the ‘other’ individual suffered from a narcissistic personality disorder. But it is not a situation where the actual person has been seen and diagnosed.
An individual who is diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder is not as common as you would think.
This is because narcissists do not seek counseling. It’s one of the reasons it’s difficult to identify their actual numbers. And why some believe their numbers may be much higher than concretely known.
By nature of the disorder, narcissists do not have self-reflective tendencies. Therefore, they are often diagnosed when treated for another issue, addiction, marriage counseling, etc.
This in no way means narcissists are also addicts. What it means is because a narcissist will not seek treatment for narcissism, some are inadvertently diagnosed when other issues in their lives arise. In other words, someone who is abusing alcohol may seek treatment and a counselor may determine they also suffer from a narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissism is a difficult topic.
One size does not fit all.
There are overt and covert narcissists. There are individuals who do in fact have some characteristics but are not actual narcissists. There are some who have the disorder who are on the mild spectrum and some who are severe. There are some who are strictly emotionally abusive and some who are physically and emotionally abusive.
When readers email me, I tell them this.
If you identify with the words you are reading and believe you may be involved with an individual with a narcissistic personality disorder — it is best to seek a qualified psychologist or specialized Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) because they will be able to provide you the proper counseling.
One or more characteristics do not a diagnosis make. It is a combination of those characteristics coupled with an alarming and dangerous lack of empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel the pain of another human being. It is a developmental stage we receive in childhood.
It is something an individual with a narcissistic personality disorder lacks.
And it is the reason narcissism isn’t just an ugly word but a serious mental health disorder.
The other day, I was speaking with someone who referred to an individual as a narcissist. In this particular situation, this person could not be labeled a narcissist. Yes, they were self-infatuated. But they also possessed deep empathy.
This was a case of an individual having a narcissistic characteristic, as many do. It was not a case of true narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissism is a serious word.
And those who have loved one understand the desperation and the disorder. This horribly disfigured form of love.
They understand the accompanying isolation when you can’t find others like you or those who can help you.
When you are in the throws of the fight of your life with a disturbing personality disorder that is widely acceptable yet horrifically abusive.
I didn’t want to write about narcissism.
But there were other barely beating hearts out there.
Ones just like me.