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I'm Moving!

I Have Something to Say... this site is moving!

I am relaunching my blog as a new business to support survivors of narcissistic and emotional abuse. In addition to blogging, I am excited to offer trauma coaching, online courses, and books starting this fall.

I am so grateful to all of you who made this journey possible.

Please follow me over and subscribe to my new site!

Trauma Isn't Lazy

Trauma survivors seem to worry more than most that they are being 'lazy' when they aren't 100% productive. Let's expose that lie, shall we?

The traumatized brain is anything but lazy. In fact, it is over-worked, over-stimulated, over-active, and over-stressed. Trauma survivors have an enlarged amygdala, which triggers the fight-or-flight response. In a survivor, this response goes haywire. It cannot perceive between something that happened in the past with what's in the present. The brain remembers trauma in the form of flashbacks that constantly re-create the experience.

A traumatized brain is always on alert. Hypervigilance is constantly running in the background, assessing the situation and trying to report back to the rational brain what it finds. In order to keep up with everyday situations, it often must work hotter and harder than a brain without trauma.

Say a non-traumatized person wants to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. No sweat, right? It requi…

Ten Tools for Trauma Survivors

A couple years ago, I hit a serious wall.  I was emotionally and physically exhausted, but didn't understand why. Sure, I was a mom, wife, graduate student, and ran a business, but this exhaustion went much deeper than my chronic state of busyness and hypervigilance. Sure, I knew I had a rough childhood and had gone no contact with my parents ten years prior. I got on with my life. I made many positive and deliberate changes so I didn't repeat their patterns, but I hadn't fully unpacked just how vast that black hole of childhood trauma was. For me, awakening to the impact of my childhood trauma has happened over many years, with thousands of tiny steps toward recovery. But one day, the truth of it hit me so hard, I had to drop everything to process it. I had no choice because my body and brain simply gave out. I had to grow or succumb. I chose to grow.

I threw myself headlong into the task of really looking at my issues. You could say I was hypervigilant about trauma reco…

Love Bombing And Other WMDs

Abuse survivors are usually wary of new relationships for extremely good reasons that are not their fault. Almost always, the cycle of abuse starts out as something that appears wonderful. The new guy or gal is interested in them. Not only interested, but infatuated. They too-quickly claim they are "the one." They study their target, quick to note all their likes and dislikes, which feels like manna from heaven for someone who has been emotionally neglected. They are quick to become intimate, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Abusers hook their victims fast, always under some romantic guise of "fate" or "true love." Just when the victim believes it's real, the trouble starts.

This initial stage of love bombing is how an abuser manipulates their prey into a false attachment. Everyone needs to be seen, heard, loved, and cared for, and this is the ammunition an abuser uses to target their victims. When someone feels loved, they relax. They bond. Th…

Who Am I, and What Do I Want?

Healing from narcissistic and emotional abuse is a lifelong unraveling. One has to scrape through many layers of gunk made up from the minimization of abuse and misplaced, mis-formed thoughts about one's self and the world they live in. In many ways, I consider myself extremely fortunate and privileged to have escaped my abusers and be in a place where my soul can finally ask two all-important questions: Who am I, and what do I want?

These are difficult questions for anyone seeking to live an authentic life, but for abuse survivors, they are especially elusive. When I was a child, at a time when I was supposed to be developing a sense of self, I wasn't allowed to have an identity separate from my abusers. I existed tin order to serve whatever their ego wanted. That was it. As I naturally fought against this role, I was labeled "rebellious," "ungrateful," and "bad" for trying to seek a separate identity. Even though I distanced myself as much as p…

The Difference Between a 'Normal' Parent and a Narcissistic Parent

Those who have survived abusive childhoods at some time or another have run into someone (or many people) making banal excuses to explain away their experience. "Parents aren't perfect." "They were doing their best." "Just wait until you're a mom or dad." While it's true that no one is perfect and most people don't intend to hurt their children, these excuses wound children of narcissistic parents at their core. These sorts of trite phrases are often used by narcissistic parents to manipulate and dupe others into believing their child is the unreasonable one. It is not possible to ever reason or win an argument with a narcissist. In order for the child of narcissistic parents to have any identity at all, they must get far away.  While it is considered "normal" for most families have some form of dysfunction, narcissistic homes are especially toxic. The following are some common differences between "normal" parents and …

When Survivors Dare To Believe They Are Worthy of More

Healing can be a long process, especially from complex trauma. There is an entire lifetime of coping mechanisms that survivors must unravel before they can decide what to keep and what to toss out. The process of becoming who you really are is tough for anyone, but for those who survived childhood abuse, it means learning fundamental aspects of development that were previously denied. When a baby learns that their caretaker is unreliable, it is extremely difficult to expect others to be reliable throughout their whole life. This deficit creates a whole host of coping mechanisms in survivors. Some become combative and antisocial. Others go to the opposite end of the spectrum.

I am the kind of survivor who learned to cope by being extremely self-sufficient. I hid behind the masks of "I'm fine" and "That's okay." I never required much from my relationships because it was reinforced enough times for me to know on a visceral level that I would be let down. Inst…

When Fireworks Set You Off

I am one of many who struggle with the loud pops and bangs of the Fourth of July. I am not a veteran, but I have been through a domestic war.

The other day my kid was excited to have a new friend over. They were happily playing a hide-and-seek-type game when the child suddenly, out of nowhere, let out a piercing scream. My kids, knowing what loud noises do to me, immediately looked at me to see if I was OK. I wasn't, but I did manage to very calmly let the child know that we can't have screaming in this house before I excused myself to my room. I was hyperventilating and my blood pressure was through the roof. I texted the kid's mom with a half-legitimate excuse for picking her kid up early. What I didn't tell her was that I have complex PTSD.

I wish my body didn't freak out like this. I wish my kids didn't have to look at me with concern whenever I'm surprised by loud noises. I wish I didn't need to think ahead about having a strategy to survive basic…

Gaslighting Creates A Longing To Be Understood

When I was a child, I had no tools or language to understand the abuse that was happening to me. What I did know was that I was constantly misunderstood. My parents often accused me of doing things I never did and punished me for not doing things that were not mine to be done. I didn't know what projection was, but I was constantly accused of having malicious intent when there was none. In order to survive, I stuffed my anger and made sure to never even think a cross thought about my abusers. I attempted to be perfect, which is, of course, impossible. I became hypervigilent in anticipating the needs of others. I became the cheerful servant, like Cinderella, daydreaming about a kinder and gentler world. Also like Cinderella, I didn't understand why, in spite of all my best efforts, my family hated me so much. I thought it was some flaw of mine that I was so misunderstood.

When I grew older, I tried in vain to communicate with my abusers. I honed all the skills to write and spe…

When The Creepiest Stalkers Are The People Who Raised You

When I was thirteen, my father burst into my room while I was doing my homework, and demanded that I follow him outside. He lead me in the dark to the steep, empty hillside behind our house to point out that "some guy" could see right into my bedroom window. He then berated me for half an hour because my shades weren't drawn. Never mind there was nothing back there. Never mind whoever wanted to spy on me would have to jump a fence, climb a hill, and navigate their way through trees and poison oak in the dark. "Somebody" could potentially do it, and I was in trouble for not preventing it from happening. As per usual, I absorbed the blame. It wasn't until a few years later that I realized that the "someone" who would go to all that trouble to watch me through my bedroom window was himself.

My father did many sexually inappropriate things to me and around me for as far back as I can remember. He used to walk around the house naked when my teenage fr…

Narcs Get It Twisted

Conversations with narcissists often start out like this. You make a statement about something that matters to you. It doesn't matter what it is exactly, but the fact that it holds some meaning or significance to you is what the narc hones in on. The narc then demeans the thing you care about, through either dismissing it or making excuses why it doesn't matter. Then they make some unrelated accusation that accuses you of the opposite of your actions and intentions.  Next, they twist what you said to make you wrong, and accuse you of they very thing they are blatantly doing. Fun, huh?

Let's take a look at an example of this. You say you love kittens, and hope to foster them someday. Not too controversial, right? Just a statement about something you care about. A narcissist says kittens are stupid, and there's too many of them anyway. Then they tell you you're just encouraging all those losers that don't neuter their pets. You're probably going out there br…

Narcissists Are Not Nearly As Interesting As Their Survivors

Narcissistic abuse is a strange phenomenon to experience. Because of the very nature of the abuse, victims get sucked in gradually and often have a hard time putting their finger on what's going on. Many experience "waking up" to the realization that their parent, boss, or partner is a narcissist. Initially it can feel like the navigating the Twilight Zone as they step into a new world of insight and understanding. People who have experienced this form of abuse are often motivated to learn everything they can about narcissists to better understand what happened and why they got sucked in. This is good information to know, and there are so many great resources for survivors to understand the predatory nature of narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths. However, there is something that all survivors need to understand about narcissists: they aren't nearly as interesting as you.

You were groomed by the narcissist because you are interesting. You have empathy, which is …

Tearing People Down is not 'Real World' Training

I mentor a group of young adults, and was recently handling a situation where another mentor systematically tore down much of the esteem I had spent several weeks helping them build up. Her reasoning for doing this was to "toughen them up" and get them ready for "the real world." When asked her why she would purposely disparage young people just starting to grasp on to their own ideas, her response was, "Well, that's just the way the world is."

No. That's the way narcissistic abuse is.

Fear-based tactics do not work, and they especially have no place in any sort of system where one person holds authority over another. When a mentor shoots down the ideas of a mentee, it creates a false dependence on the mentor's "right" ideas. The mentee then feels a false insecurity about their own "wrong" ideas. Not only is this terrible teaching, this is extremely dangerous territory for anyone who has experienced narcissistic abuse. It …

Hello Dissociation, My Old Friend

I've always been a daydreamer. As a kid, I spent hours in my own created worlds, whether it was swirling around in an inner tube on the lake, or staring out the car window, lost in some internal medieval landscape with fairies and unicorns. In fact, all of my "good" memories of my childhood are the dreamy ones. As an adult, I formed a career around the those worlds I created. Most of my friends are creative types who live in their own worlds, too. When I need to unwind from a long day, I can get lost for hours thinking about what it's like to live in other places and times. When I'm driving, I'm never actually on the freeway. I'm composing stories to be written until somehow I arrive at home. You could say I have an active imagination. You could say I live a creative life. You could also say that I dissociate.

Dissociation is a coping mechanism, common among abuse survivors. When someone experiences an intense threat, the brain splits off from traumatize…

Why You Can't Be in a Narcissistic Relationship 'Just A Little Bit'

Ending a relationship of any kind can be tough, but when someone tries to disentangle themselves from a narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath, the experience is a special kind of hell. From the beginning, partners are groomed to cater to the needs of the narc while denying all of their own. It's an insidious process of devaluation that happens so gradually, few recognize what's happening until it's too late. Eventually, the partner of a narcissist will feel guilty for having any needs or boundaries at all. The narc's constant requirement to be the center of attention at all times ensures that no one else can exist in that space. In the world of a narcissist, they are always right and everyone else is always wrong. If you don't go along with their program, they are always the victim and you are always the perp.  Anyone who does not feed the insatiable ego of a narc at all times will be punished, and narcs are experts at dreaming up ways to be particularly and intent…

Why I Never Keep Secrets

My mother had a knack for triangulating people through toxic secrets. She learned the behavior from her mother. She would start out by dropping some heavy piece of information that as a child I had no business knowing, and then say, "Don't tell your (dad, brother, teacher, grandma, etc.) because I don't wan't to upset them."

Essentially,  this meant I was screwed. Not only was the information itself a source of stress, but I also had to worry that whatever it was didn't leak out. Even if it didn't say anything, if the person found out, I would be blamed and deemed "untrustworthy." On top of all that was an ethical dilemma. The person my mother was keeping secrets from had a right to know. When they inevitably would find out that I kept the information from them, they would be upset with me, not my mom. The stress piled up, and I suffocated under its toxic weight.

Because of toxic secrets in my family, I was psychologically and sexually abused. …

Emotional Neglect Harms As Much As Overt Abuse

I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional home with a raging, alcoholic, narcissistic father. I still carry a lot of pain over the traumatic memories of his irrational outbursts and propensity to punish me for imagined slights. I struggle with an overbearing sense of responsibility and need to be blameless as a result of his abuse. But recognizing the ways he abused me and my subsequent hangups are pretty easy to identify. Though painful, my father's overt behavior is not as difficult to process as the other forms of abuse I experienced. The hardest is emotional neglect.

The constant baseline in my home was not angry outbursts, it was neglect. It was the chronic, constant expectation that I would not cause any trouble or upset by having needs of any kind. If I did attempt to be seen or heard, I would be punished. My parents were experts in emotional neglect and covert abuse. As a young child, I was expected to require minimal upkeep. My physical need for food, clothing, and shelter…

Why Spiritual Abusers Love To Say "God Told Me To"

Whether you run in evangelical circles or not, chances are you've encountered someone who has started a sentence with, "God told me to..." and finished it with something inspirational, aspirational, or irrational. Depending on the denomination, it might get thrown around as a common catch phrase, or it might be reserved for more serious, "big" declarations. Either way, narcissists in the church love to exploit it. Here's why.

When a narcissist says, "God told me to..." it is almost always in order to over-inflate their own status or position while simultaneously absolving themselves of any personal accountability. What better excuse is there? If a narcissist claims God told them to quit their job, who can argue with that? Certainly not their wife, or their children, or anyone who might be counting on them to pay the bills.

Perhaps a narcissist decides to move their family to another country because God told them how they would be "lifted up&…

Emergencies are Easy- Healing is Hard

A couple weeks ago, my daughter had a medical emergency. I was four hours away. My husband and I had just hiked in to a remote location, eager to spend a few days in silence and contemplation. It was also much-needed chance to re-connect with each other. The last few weeks had been especially busy, and my C-PTSD brain was barely hanging on as it was. I was exhausted in every way, and this trip was the carrot I had been dangling to make it to the holiday. I knew after a few days of recharging, I would get the rest I needed. It was a healthy gift to myself and to us as a couple.

I had one bar on my phone, which was enough to push the message through that our daughter was in the hospital and they planned to operate in the morning. So, we packed up, threw on some snow shoes, and hiked out in the dark. I was straining to not think about the mountain lion I encountered on my last trek in. After a driving on narrow highways full of oncoming high beams piercing my migraine, we arrived at the…

I Have Much More To Say

One year ago today, I created my very first post, I Have Something To Say. This was a huge milestone in my recovery for a few reasons. Because of the type of abuse I experienced, I had a huge mental and physical block about speaking up publicly. The knots in my stomach, lumps in my throat and overall panic came from a very real history and experience of being punished for telling the truth. When someone has been silenced and de-humanized from a time before they could even speak, it creates seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Ironically, I have spent much of my adult life learning how to write and express myself in creative ways. And yet, giving a voice to the parts of me that were abused were so blocked, I couldn't admit out loud what happened, let alone write about it directly. Too much misplaced guilt and shame prevented me from integrating my identity as an abuse survivor into my professional life. Sure, bits and pieces leaked out. I would casually mention to friends I trusted…

The Truth Can Hurt- But It's Never Cruel

Nothing is ever good enough for a narcissist. They seek to tear down and destroy any good thing they can't claim for their own spotlight. Chances are, if you've ever confronted a narcissist about their cruel words, you've heard them deflect, "I was just telling the truth!"

This is the lie of the narcissist: to twist "truth" into malice and give it a holy name. When something is true, it illuminates and inspires. Sure, the truth can hurt. Like a bright light, truth exposes everything. But truth is not judgment. It reveals, but does not condemn. Truth ensures that all will be seen- good and evil. This is why good people crave the truth and evil people must distort it.

A narcissist's "truth" is one such distortion. Its sole purpose is to throw shade on anything the narcissist views as a threat. When a narcissist says, "I was just telling the truth," what they really mean is that they refuse to take responsibility for their cruel an…

For Trauma Survivors, 'Pushing Through' Isn't Heroic- It's Avoidant

I study a lot of stories, and I am well-versed in the power of inspirational stories to uplift and entertain through shared catharsis. We can learn a lot about our own lives through storytelling. However, there is a big reason why some stories that feature characters who rise above their circumstances go down as all-time classics, and why some fall flat. It's all in how the character handles (or doesn't handle) their trauma.

Take Harry Potter, for instance. After his parents died at the hands of evil, he was raised by his aunt and uncle, the epitome of ignorance, hate, abuse, and neglect. When he escapes them by going off to Hogwarts, his experience there is not exactly all happy charms and spells. He narrowly escapes one plight after another until he finally has to battle the one who killed his parents. Harry Potter works because Harry appropriately faces the trauma of his past. He doesn't succeed in spite of it, he succeeds because of it.  He is the ultimate example of …

Abuse is not an Illness, It's a Choice

One of the biggest mistakes I see victims of narcissistic abuse make is to feel sorry for their abusers because their abuser is "mentally ill." This is wrong. Narcissism is not the same as mental illness. While someone with a mental illness might inadvertently cause chaos around them due to their mental state, most of them sincerely don't mean to hurt others. Many mentally ill people struggle with shame caused by their desire to be there for loved ones when their mental illness prevents them from doing so. It's important to understand that a narcissist does not feel this way. A narcissist willfully chooses to harm others. They are in control of their behavior, as evidenced when they put on the charm to manipulate people into thinking well of them. When they act in an abusive way, they choose to do so on purpose.

Narcissists, psychopaths, sociopaths, and those who make up the cluster B personality disorders are notoriously responsible for the bulk of physical, psycho…