Monday, December 6, 2010

Exciting times ahead…..

It’s that time of year again. It’s a time when we reflect on times past, and look forward to the New Year ahead. 2010 has been a really great year for the Tate family. It didn’t start off so well, but when I think about how much has happened inside the space of the last twelve months I feel quite amazed at how much we have managed to pack into it all.

I finished writing my first book, Web of Lies, in January, and at the same time I began writing this blog in order to help me promote the book and help others through sharing my own experiences.
The road to publication has been a bumpy one. We managed to get Web of Lies out in E format by late August, but there have been many hiccups getting the print version ready. To all those who have waited patiently, I thank you. Hopefully all the problems have by now been ironed out and the print version should be available to order very soon. Watch this space........

Since setting up the website and the blog, I have met many interesting people who have really enriched my life and taught me so much about psychology, personality disorders, healing, therapy and counselling.
Many people who have contacted me have had experiences similar to my own. I’m glad these people have contacted me, and directed me to the many amazing support sites which exist to help the victims of psychopathic narcissists.
I’ve blogged about some of the great books and websites before, and you can also find my recommended reading list on my website

I have now also teamed up with a fantastic Author, Sarah Strudwick, who wrote the book Dark Souls,and together we have founded the website Waking You Up
The new site pulls a wealth of information together in order to help people BEFORE they become the victims of the psychopathic narcissist. It also addresses the recent APA announcement that NPD will be re-classified under the APD (psychopathic) label. Please visit the website for more information on these changes.

Dr David Holmes, Senior Psychology Lecturer and Director of the Forensic Research Group at Manchester Metropolitan University, said of Waking You Up

Congratulations! An excellent no nonsense website, which I will promote to students and others. As you state it is a growing issue of vital importance to the population at large who are reluctant to recognise the enemy within but increasingly reward even revere insensitivity to others.
The APA will always make changes - not always for the better - NPD tends to be distinguished from some psychopathic traits. My view is we need greater awareness by detailed understanding from cases and removing some of these 'lightbulb' recognition details may just cause identification to fail. As you say people may be reluctant to perceive husbands etc as 'antisocial' or 'psychopathic' as labels.

It’s so important to realise that these people do not visit the doctors and be diagnosed. They have to be identified and exposed by those close to them, which is hard, and anything that makes it easier will limit the damage done.

Waking-You-Up has the sole aim of helping to educate people about the dangers of psychopaths and hopefully expose some of the ‘red flags’ which we should all look out for when entering a new relationship.
We plan workshops for 2011, and we will team up with many well-known Psychologists and Authors in order to help spread the word and provide help and support for those who need it.

In addition to all that, my second book ‘Renaissance – A Journal of Discovery’ is now complete and will be ready to order in early 2011. The new book is a message of hope for all those who’ve found themselves affected by a destructive relationship, and it is my wish that it offers some much needed encouragement for anybody who has had to re-build their lives from scratch after escaping from the spider’s web.
For more information on the new book, check the website over the coming weeks.

So, there is much to look forward to in 2011!

In the meantime, my thoughts have turned to Christmas, snow, family, food & drink, and of course hearing my children’s laughter. Christmas is all about the kids after all, and I relish the thought of seeing the looks on their faces on Christmas morning after Santa has paid his visit. I intend to enjoy the time with close family and friends, and recuperate after our busy year.
2010 is ending on a high note.

Here’s hoping for more of the same next year too.

To everybody, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a peaceful 2011.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A quick word on 'Renaissance'

I stated in a blog post back in February that the epilogue for Web of Lies may well end up turning into a book of its own.

Well I was right, it has.

Like Web of Lies before it, Renaissance has taken on a life of its own. I’m not driving this book, it is driving me.

I began writing it in response to the many enquiries I’d received from readers regarding mine and the children’s well-being. My initial plan was to just write an update, to let everybody know that there is light at the end of the long, dark tunnel, and that I was now stepping out into it. I wanted everybody to know that the darkness doesn’t last forever, and that with time, patience, and the help of loved ones, you can overcome just about anything.

When I began to write though, it became apparent that the recovery message is every bit as powerful and relevant as the message about recognizing the abuse in the first place. It doesn't end when you make the break. If anything, escape is just the beginning.

Nothing can be rushed, that’s what I’ve learned these past few years. We go through certain processes as we move forward with our lives, recovery is one of those processes. And as long as we keep our minds open, accept our limitations, and recognize our potential, we will continue to evolve and grow as individuals, and we can achieve just about anything we want to.

Through writing Renaissance, I have also learned another very important lesson; namely, that to reach the light, we must sometimes re-visit the dark.

There is a ‘Therapist’ who features quite heavily in Renaissance. I visit her with regularity in the book (as I did in real life), and she advises and guides both me and the children towards recovery.

In Renaissance, the ‘Therapist’ has actually become the amalgamation of several different people I have met (and many I have not met, but merely corresponded with) along the road to recovery. And so, the ‘Therapist’ has evolved into a mechanism for explaining everything that I learned over the past three years.

Renaissance is not intended as a self-help book, there are plenty excellent ones about already, and they are written by people far better qualified that I am when it comes to educating the reader in what to expect and how to react. I simply wanted to describe the process I have experienced personally, and what I have gained from it. I have left the psychology to the experts, from whom I’ve learned so much during this journey. And so, my books are not psychological road-maps, they simply relay a real life story, and hopefully demonstrate that we, as ordinary people, can ALL do extraordinary things.

I hope that my portrayal of the ‘Therapist’ in this book pays suitable homage to all those people who have helped me and the kids along the recovery journey. I hope that the reader can learn from the ‘Therapist’, in the same way I have learned from friends, family, fellow authors, and experts in the field of psychology.

And with that, I shall return to my writing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When will I love again......?

I recently read an excellent article which gives tips on how to prevent yourself from falling into the same trap again with regards to having a romantic relationship with a sociopath or narcissist. It’s something which worries each and every one of us. I’ve had many questions since the book was published regarding this very matter, and believe me, it’s something I’ve also pondered long and hard myself.

There is no fixed time-scale for recovery, but I believe you must be a good way down the recovery path before you can consider getting involved in any sort of romantic relationship.

Most of the women who contact me ask “will I ever be able to trust a partner again?” I would say the answer to that question should be an emphatic ‘yes’. What’s harder to answer is “can I ever trust my own judgement again?” That (to me at least) is the tougher of the two questions.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be wondering how it was you could have got it so wrong. How could I not notice the warning signs in the beginning? Why was I so blind? And why on earth did it take me so long before I finally woke up and pulled the plug?

Don’t beat yourself up about these things. NPD/APD’s are masters of disguise. It’s almost impossible not to be taken in by their lies. Remind yourself how many others were also fooled at the same time. Your friends, family, business people, bank managers etc. How many others were taken in during the time that you knew him? I bet there were a good few, right? So don’t be too hard on yourself for falling for his charms. You won’t be the first, and you won’t be the last either. So the best thing to do is ACCEPT it, and move on.

What are the chances of it happening again?

Well, that again depends on how quickly you can facilitate recovery, and how much you have learned to accept about what happened. In my opinion, it cannot happen quickly. If you find yourself getting involved with somebody again almost immediately, then my advice would be to take a step back. Give yourself time. It's a knee-jerk reaction and totally normal to want to 'replace' the relationship as quickly as possible. But, unless you head is in the right place, you risk either getting involved with somebody who isn’t right for you, or once again getting sucked in by the same characteristics you were attracted to the last time.

The article gives excellent advice with regards to waiting. You need to re-discover yourself and what drives you emotionally. This can only be done over time, and by finding ways to enrich your life in other ways which don’t include romance, at least not for now. There's much more to life than being somebody's 'significant other', so enjoy the time you have to concentrate on your own emotions, without having to worry about somebody else's.

If you have kids, take the time to focus solely on them. The chances are, you’ve been deprived of quality time with one another because of all the stress caused by the relationship breakdown and the subsequent fallout. Spend time with them, and you’ll find that for the time being at least, you don’t need anything or anybody else in your life.

Apart from kids (or if there aren’t any kids),surround yourself with good, reliable people. Become a good, reliable person yourself. Cultivate friendships, and step back from shallow people who drain your energy. The people who stand by you during the difficult times are worth their weight in gold. Hang on to them, and you’ll never be lonely again.

One of the most difficult things to do after the break down of a toxic relationship is to rebuild self-esteem. Again, time is the key. You need to actually get used to being on your own again and being happy in your own skin. It takes time to regain confidence and repair the damage. Don't rush it, you'll recover at your own pace. You'll know when you're ready to move on, and into another relationship.

Be assured though, you are better equipped now than you were when you met your ex. You will know the signs to watch out for, and you’ll trust your inner voice more this time too! You'll instinctively be on your guard, and therefore less vulnerable than last time. Once you've understood what it was about you that attracted him/her in the first place, you'll know what needs to be changed the next time you venture into 'dating' territory. And when you do, just try to relax and enjoy the experience of getting to know somebody new, but go at YOUR pace and make sure you have clear boundaries set from the start.

If it feels wrong, then it probably is.

The experience you had with your ex will arm you for the future. Believe that you will find happiness again, and you will, in time.

So, to answer the question "When will I love again?" I can only say "When you're ready, and not a moment before."

"If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counsellor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius."
Joseph Addison

Friday, October 8, 2010

Words........

Inspired by a lovely compliment I received today, I'm posting these song lyrics, which appear in the book

If there are any musicians out there, I'm looking for music for this song.....


Words come so easy to one such as you
When words flow with ease, they don't need to be true
Creating a world, a fictitous story
Becoming a God in your kingdom of glory

Your words are so empty, be they written or spoken
These words can't make love, and our love is broken


A wonderful hero, a spectacular mind
Words upon words, no substance behind
But here in the real world, words aren't enough
They give no support, when the going gets tough


Your words are so empty, be they written or spoken
Your words can't heal love, our love is so broken


Here in the land of the living and breathing
Reality's hard, there are mouths that need feeding
Actions speak louder than words in this life
Your actions destroyed us, they cut like a knife


Your words are so empty, be they written or spoken
These words can't save love, and our love is broken


Promises promises, I've heard them for years
Words and more words, they fall on deaf ears
Empty and void, your words are so shallow
No longer ring true, they are empty and hollow


Your words are so empty, be they written or spoken
These words can't heal love, our love is so broken



So I listen no more to the romantic dream
I can take it no longer, your words make me scream
So go forth and conquer, imaginary knight
Find another young mind, your words to excite


Your words are so empty, be they written or spoken
These words won't save love, our love it is broken



Write some more words, but leave me in peace
Keep living your dreamland, just give me release
Further and further, you're fading away
You ran and you hid, left me in today


Your words are so empty, be they written or spoken
These words can't heal love, our love is so broken



Linguistic expression can't repair what you've done
Run along to your tart now, for my love has gone....


note: Inspired by the 1992 song of the same name, by Madonna

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dealing with anger...a skill we must learn

When I first contacted the brother of my ex’s late wife, almost nine years had passed since her death. I was concerned that I might be opening up old wounds, and was therefore very cautious when approaching him.

Despite the long time lapse, he was still very angry about the damage caused to his sister by my ex. In fact, I think that perhaps the anger had grown over time. It’s easy to understand why this happens. It’s due to a lack of closure. He was never able to get the answers he sought about his sisters’ tragic demise. He had sent Emails to my ex to demand an explanation, but was met with nothing but stony silence. This had left him in a state of frustrated limbo, with no outlet for his feelings of anger towards my ex.

The same thing happened to me when my relationship broke down. So many questions were left unanswered, and despite my best efforts, I was unable to get any satisfactory explanation as to what had happened. I felt overwhelmed with bitter recrimination.

At the time, I was ignorant to his Personality Disorder, and as a result of this, I ended up turning a lot of the anger and frustration in on myself. This placed me in a living hell, and it took me many months, and a great deal of will power, to get myself out of the pit.

During that time, I was advised to use my anger to give me strength. This was very good advice, and I follow it to this day.

Anger is a powerful source of energy, and I found I was able to use that energy to spur me on and get myself away from the toxic situation.
Anger can be positive in this respect. It's a primary instinct which creates fire in our bellies, and is fundamental in aiding our ‘fight or flight’ instinct.
With me, flight came first. Initially, I knew I needed to get myself and the kids away from this situation, at any cost. It was preservation, fuelled by anger, that got me through this time. Instinct took over, and I found myself on auto-pilot. The anger drove me through, and gave me the energy to get away from the 'danger'.

Once away, the anger didn’t abate. If anything, as I started to gain inner strength and recover some clarity of thought, I found the anger was deepening. This time, it was directed towards my ex. There is no tangible release for anger such as this, because being angry with your NPD/APD ex is akin to banging your own head against a brick wall. You’re just going to hurt yourself. It’s never going to get you anywhere, because he/she will never acknowledge they have done wrong, and, therefore, your anger can never be ‘validated’.

Closure will evade you for as long as you are in a highly fragile angered state. You need to find an outlet, or a channel, or the energy will eat away at you and you'll be the one to suffer.

For me, some release came through learning more about my ex’s history. I was fortunate that by making contact with his late wife’s brother, I was able to gain knowledge which ‘armed’ me for future dealings with him ( the ensuing anger gave me the strength to fight). It was also an enormous help to the brother, who was finally given an outlet for his own anger. By swapping information with me, he was able to come to terms with what had happened to his sister.

It wasn’t closure for either of us, but it was certainly a step closer. His anger was validated by hearing what I had to say, and mine was validated by hearing the truth about what had happened to his sister. This knowledge helped me to make sense of the situation I was in. Temporarily, you can bet we both got even angrier! But at least we were able to vent to eachother, and hence find a release for the pent up emotions we both harboured. It was a step forwards for both of us. One step further down the road to recovery from the impact the NPD/APD had on both our lives.

Further release came through learning about the psychology aspect of what had happened to me. It was certainly a ‘light bulb moment’ when I discovered the true nature of Personality Disorders (in this case NPD/APD), and the havoc they wreak upon the loved ones of sufferers. It suddenly started to make sense, and I was able to look back over the entire relationship and pinpoint all the ‘warning signs’ I’d ignored along the way. Suddenly I became aware that I wasn’t the first (and won’t be the last) to have gone through this nightmare. Knowing you are not alone is extremely empowering. Learning about the root cause of the problem, equally so. This gave more validation, and reduced the anger to a more manageable level.

It was also very important for me to understand (as I’ve said before) my own role in the relationship.

Understanding how YOU have contributed to a pattern of events is an essential part of the healing process.

Inevitably I got angry with myself. This is only natural. Many of the events could not have taken place were it not for my active participation. However, I had to learn not blame myself for what happened.

We all need to learn to accept that it wasn't our fault. We must accept we made errors of judgement about his/her character. Acknowledge that we made some misguided decisions whilst in the relationship. We must admit these blunders, and then move on from them.

Again, don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself about the feelings of anger. They are going to keep coming in waves for a long time yet. And nothing you can do will be able to prevent it.

If, (like me) you have been left with children to nurture and a mountain of debt to overcome (or other similar seemingly hopeless circumstances), you can’t expect the anger to dissipate any time soon. I still get very angry in certain situations. When I observe the hurt which has been caused to the children (triggers for this usually come out of the blue, from the mouths of the children themselves), or see glimpses of 'what might have been' when I look at other ‘normal’ families, it hurts me to the core. This hurt is then quickly replaced by searing anger.

This is a cycle I’ve come to accept. I know there’s no point trying to fight it, so I am resigned to the inevitability of these feelings. However, instead of letting the fire consume me when it comes, I instead try to channel the energy it generates.

I use this energy boost to fuel my determination to be a better and more dedicated Mum to my kids. I try to turn the anger into a solid resolve to fix the mass of problems the ex created in his wake, and to succeed where he so miserably failed.

Like other emotions, you cannot just switch anger off. What you can do though, is try to release it safely without doing any harm to yourself or your loved ones. You CAN turn it from a negative into a positive. Let it become a driving force in your determination to overcome the situation you have been left with. Learn to channel this powerful emotion to YOUR benefit, and yours alone.

Failing this, you need an outlet. Talk, talk, and talk some more! Talk to anybody who will listen. Vent, and get it out.

If there’s nobody to talk to, do something energetic. Go for a run, hit the gym, or simply punch your pillow. Don’t keep it in. It has to come out.

Try not to dwell on your feelings of anger towards your ex. As I said before, the PD is no outlet. Your anger AT him/her will never be validated BY him/her, therefore, it's energy wasted.

It happened. You can’t change it. You can’t change him/her. He/she couldn't even help it, so there's just no point being angry at them.

Scream out loud if you must, but keep the anger in the moment. Don’t let it spill over into the rest of your life.

Wounds like this don’t heal easily. It’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to be ‘fixed’ within any given time frame. All you can do is face each wave of anger as it comes, and either channel it in a positive way (fight or flight), or simply let it go.

Whatever you do though, don’t bottle it up. You can never heal if you do. Bottling it up is like picking at the wound from within. It will irritate it, and infect it, and you’ll end up carrying even deeper scars than before.

As hard as it may seem, you must let it go. You’re not ‘letting him/her get away with it’ by releasing the anger and no longer harbouring resentment. On the contrary, you’re rising above it, and into a place where they can never hurt you again.

Anger is a primary instinct over which we have little influence. We should not try to ignore or suppress our anger, but instead learn to respond to it in a way which will ultimately facilitate our recovery.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” ~Buddha

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mr Duplicity....beware of passive aggression

Extract from Web of Lies - My Life with a Narcissist

"“We’ve been married three years today,” I said
“Yes, I know.”
“It’s been a hell of a three years, hasn’t it?”
“It sure has.” He wasn’t smiling. He looked almost bored.
“Ask me if I’m happy.”
“What?” He rolled his eyes to the ceiling in a ‘oh here we go again’ expression of
exasperation.
“Ask me if I’m happy Bill. Do you think I’m happy? Do I look happy to you?”
“I’m trying my hardest to make you happy, but it seems at the moment nothing is
good enough”
“Nothing’s good enough? How can you say that after I’ve put up with so much in
such a short space of time?”
“I know it’s been hard, but none of it is my fault. You wanted to come to France, I
didn’t force you!”
“I wanted to come to France because thanks to you we were no longer able to stay in
Switzerland full time. I wanted our family to be together, not thousands of miles apart. I had no choice but to come to France.
“But, Bill, it’s your apathy that I cannot stand. I’ve never seen you pursue anything with such rigour and determination as you pursued me in the early days. Since we’ve been married, all that drive and determination has dissolved away! You don’t look after yourself. You’ve gained weight. You don’t want to take part in family activities. You lock yourself in your office. You say you are chasing ‘big deals’ but what deals? When has any single one of them ever succeeded? You ignore your youngest daughter! You have two daughters you know.”
“I do not ignore Alice!”
“Yes you do! You don’t even know you’re doing it! It’s not just me who has noticed
it, my parents have noticed it too, they spoke to me about it when they were here,and again at Christmas.”
“That’s rubbish!” He said. “Listen, all you ever do is criticise me recently. You say
I’m apathetic, but to be honest it’s difficult to remain motivated when all you do is hound me. I need your support; I need you to believe in me! You say you want our relationship to work, yet how can it when we sleep in different rooms? We’re not having a normal relationship. If we were having a normal relationship, I would be happy and motivated.
As it is, you clearly don’t like to be around me, so I keep out of the way. But know this,Sarah: I love you and I adore my girls. You are my world and I will do everything I can to give you the life you want. You just have to really want it, and you have to get back to believing in me.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
As soon as I heard the phrase ‘passive aggression’ it struck an instant cord with me. I knew I’d been on the receiving end of it, even if I didn’t realise it at the time.

Of course, it’s easy for me to recognise and acknowledge this with the benefit of hindsight, but for those of you who are still dealing with the person who is being passively aggressive; it can be difficult to spot the signs.

Start here: If you’ve ever had a conversation like the one described above, if these conversations happen regularly, and you are left feeling guilty and apologetic in the aftermath, then you are involved with a passive aggressive partner.

You can tell yourself as many times as you like, that you’re ‘not being abused’ but you ARE! Abuse doesn’t have to be physical to be real. This form of abuse may be subtle, but it’s no less damaging. You feel angry and frustrated. You feel you are the one who is always ‘losing your cool’, when he appears to remain calm and even a little perplexed by your behaviour.

You are being manipulated!

Passive Aggressive abuse is defined as follows:

Passive Aggressive behaviour is a form of covert abuse. When someone hits you or yells at you, you know that you've been abused. It is obvious and easily identified. Covert abuse is subtle and veiled or disguised by actions that appear to be normal, at times loving and caring. The passive aggressive person is a master at covert abuse."

A passive aggressive male always needs an object upon which to focus his antagonism. This is more often that not going to be his partner or spouse, but it can also be his child, co-worker or sub-ordinates. He will appear to be outwardly loving, caring, and generous, whilst simultaneously exercising an uncanny ability to undermine your confidence, deliver veiled insults (disguised as jokes), and leave you believing YOU are the one who can’t contain your anger.

It’s an impossible situation to find yourself in, and nothing you can do is going to change his behaviour. The best thing you can do, as I’ve said many times before, is to try to arm yourself with as much knowledge about this type of behaviour as possible. Acknowledging it, learning about it, and (most importantly) accepting it, will ultimately set you free.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll need persuading that what you are experiencing is real (and tangible) abuse. Please be assured though. Just because you have experienced abuse of this kind, it does not make you a weak person. It can happen to anybody, and indeed it happens to people from all walks of life, and at all social and educational levels.

You are not the one with the problem! Keep reminding yourself of this, because when you are deeply entwined with a person like this, they will try every trick in the book to make you believe you are at fault for all that is happening.

If, however, you are able to understand it and accept it, then you are a truly strong person. As soon as you have recognised the abuse, you have turned a corner, and are no longer a victim.

Keep reading, keep sharing, keep learning……

"The man with this type of pattern shows little consideration of the time, feelings, standards or needs of others. He obstructs and blocks progress to others getting what they want and then ignores or minimalizes their dissatisfactions and anger. He is silent when confronted as he has never learned to compromise. He may be a workaholic, a womanizer, hooked on TV, caught in addictions or self-involved hobbies."
"The man with passive aggressive actions is a master in getting his partner to doubt herself and feel guilty for questioning or confronting him. He encourages her to fall for his apologies, accept his excuses and focus on his charm rather than deal with the issue directly. He blames her for creating the problem and keeps her focused on her anger rather than his own ineptitude. When backed into a corner, he may explode and switch to aggressive aggressive behavior then switch back to passivity. He keeps his partner held hostage by the hope that he will change. He may appease her and clean up his act after a blow up for several weeks, then it's back to business as usual."
"The passive aggressive man is the classic underachiever with a fear of competition in the work place. He cannot take constructive feedback from others. His fear of criticism, not following through and his inability to see his part in any conflict keeps him from advancing on the job."
From the fantastic Blog Mailman Delivers....a story of betrayal

"It makes you the bad guy. Passive-aggressive hostility is so subtle, the skilled practitioner is often in a good position to deny it’s even there – blaming you for the inevitable confrontation that results. You blow up; he remains calm. Suddenly you seem like the aggressor. Maybe even to yourself. The incredible final straw, is when you apologize to him. Because your inner voice is telling you that he’s not being open with you, you experience conflict and stress."
Passive Aggression

"Recognize that a passive aggressive person is not a victim. Interacting with a passive aggressive person is like a dance. He plays the victim, and it is your role to bend over backward to “protect” him from being victimized. This dynamic puts the passive aggressive person in control. He is anything but a “victim.”"
Passive Aggressive Behaviour

"Rather than have a confrontation, the passive aggressive person acts sneakily.They lie and deceive. They give their word but do not keep it. They mumble rather than speak clearly."
Passive Aggressive

"Yet, the result is the same. Things are sabotaged by the passive-aggressive and it somehow is never their fault. A really good passive aggressive is very slippery with excuses, justifications, or alternative reasons for why things go awry. Passive-Aggression may not be expressed directly in behavior-but in words or humor. Sarcasm which communicates hostility is often a tool of the passive-aggressive person, as are jokes made at your expense"
How to deal with difficult people

Friday, September 3, 2010

Healing through learning….knowledge is power

I have been pretty overwhelmed by the response I’ve had these last couple of weeks to my post about the stages you go through in a relationship with a 'Cluster B' personality disorder. I wrote that post from my own (very personal) experience, and have been so amazed and encouraged to learn that so many others can relate to it, and indeed identify the various stages within their own toxic relationships.

It’s always good to know you’re not alone. I spent far too long believing I was the only person going through this, and not even realising I was dealing with a disordered individual. Certainly, when I first sought professional help and was told I’d most likely been married to a PD, I found it difficult to get my head around. I had been conditioned to believe I was the one with the problem, and it took a while before I was able to really believe that wasn't the case.

Sure, I knew towards the end that the person I was with was pathological, but it took me many months (and detachment from the relationship) to finally comprehend just what it was I’d been up against.

My therapist was amazing. She was the one who finally convinced me that it wasn’t me who had the problem. She helped me back onto my feet again, and helped me to re-discover the confident and vibrant person I had been prior to the toxic relationship. I will always be grateful to her for her unparalleled support and encouragement. She pointed me in the right direction, and waved me off down the road to recovery.

Since then, it has been a journey of discovery and information gathering. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve healed. When I began writing the book I had a fair bit of information about NPD, but was not aware of the co-morbid disorders, nor how seriously affected my ex partner had actually been.

But we can’t learn (and therefore heal) without help and support from our family,friends and peers. The internet is an amazing place in this respect. If we reach out, and use the right words, we can access information and support from all over the globe.

I would like to extend a very special thanks to top UK Forensic Pathologist Dr David Holmes.
I first wrote to David in early 2010 to ask him to read my book and give his professional opinion. I was amazed by the comments he wrote, and am truly grateful to have received professional endorsement of my book. You can find out more about David’s academic work in the field of abnormal psychology by reading his latest book, which includes a Chapter outlining Personality Disorders and the three 'Cluster' groups.

I would also like to recommend other resources which I have found to be invaluable along my ‘learning and healing’ journey. I hope they will also be of use to readers of my book and blog. Please feel free to contact me to add more to this resource list:

Lisa E Scott.
Lisa wrote a book called ‘It’s all about HIM’ which was released in 2009. Her book and website were amongst the first I came across when researching NPD and its related disorders. She helps her readers identify the traits of NPD and provides encouragement to those trying to escape the relationship. She also has a great site with a very supportive community for victims of toxic relationships, particularly NPD.

Forum:Out of the Fog
I was drawn to this wonderful forum after posting my Cluster B blog. It has a wonderful community and an abundance of information for those who have been involved with PD’s. If you are in such a relationship, be it with a family member, parent, child, spouse, or work colleague, you can get support on this forum.

Daily Strength
A huge on line community with support groups on just about every subject.

Joe Navarro
I recently found Joe on Twitter, and he has been kind enough to take the time to read my recent posts and recommend them to his followers. I’m only just beginning to discover Joe’s work, but I certainly wish I’d read this much sooner. Fascinating stuff.

Another unmissable book, is 'The Sociopath Next Door', in which Martha Stout debunks the traditional ‘Ted Bundy’ perception of a sociopath, and explains in shocking clarity the traits of the ‘every day’ APD.

Similarly,Without Conscience by Robert D Hare explains, in layman’s terms, the characteristics of a psychopath. If you suspect you are involved with one, this is another must read.

Next, there are the blogs of ordinary people, who have survived the extraordinary, and have gone on to share with the world. I'll add to these as I go along. If you know of a good support blog, please let me know.

Surviving Narcissism

The Story of my Life

Lovefraud

and finally.....

Web of Lies on FB

The new Sarah Tate Message Board

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recovery

Recovery is, by definition:

the act or process of recovering
restoration to a normal condition
the regaining of something lost

No time-scale can be given for the recovery period following years of maltreatment in a dysfunctional relationship, just as no time-scale can be given for the five stages you go through whilst actually in the relationship.

It varies so widely from case to case, and is also greatly dependant upon outside factors such as financial circumstances, if there are children to consider, or whether or not you have a reliable support network to support and facilitate your release and recovery.

It also depends very much on where your head is during the ‘release’ phase, and how well you are able to deal with the enormous amounts of stress you will undoubtedly be placed under. This is especially the case where children are involved.

One thing is certain, you will not come out of it completely unscathed, and a ‘restoration to a normal condition’ can be a long shot at best, impossible at worst.
So don’t expect ‘normality’ to return. Nothing will be as it was before. This is just another inevitability which you need to accept.

Another thing which is certain; you cannot enter the recovery phase until you’ve been all the way through the release phase. Recovery can be greatly delayed if you still have to deal with your pathological ex on a regular basis. It can still be achieved, but it will inevitably take longer, as you feel yourself pulled and pushed between the past, the present, and your hopes for the future.
Even if your ex is still in your life, it doesn’t mean release cannot be achieved. But it can only be achieved, when you are no longer an available supply to your pathological ex. Cut off the supply, and release will come quickly.

My advice is not to put too much pressure on yourself. Take it a day at a time, and don’t scare yourself by trying to predict what might happen. I made the mistake of expecting far too much of myself, far too soon. This inevitably led to me fuelling my own frustrations, and hence hampered my recovery.
Take small (yet steadfast) steps. Stay determined, and resolved. Don't let him/her sidetrack you. Once you're on the road....stay on it!
Over time, you’ll find your steps become strides, then leaps, then bounds.

First, though, there will be a dark, dark period to endure. It will be a period where you don’t recognise yourself or your behaviour. You may become severely depressed and anxious, you may become hypersensitive and restless, and you may well begin to drink, or turn to prescription drugs to find release. You may even begin doing things you had never previously contemplated (such as binging, raging, self-harming, or even shop lifting). These are all symptoms of the severe stress you are under. If you are exhibiting any of these symptoms, you must get help, before you head into full-blown breakdown mode. You are not going crazy, nor are you developing a PD of your own. You are cracking under the strain. But it is not irreversible! Escaping with your sanity in tact is not easy…but it can be done.

The duration of the ‘dark’ period is entirely down to you, and nobody else (not even your pathological ex). You must take responsibility for your own well being at this point. Don’t project onto him/her or you’ll end up co-dependent, and most probably back in the despair stage. As I’ve said before, you’ll need help during this time, but ultimately, it is YOU alone who must lift yourself out of the abyss.

You have to be kind to yourself, and you have to learn to accept what has happened. Without acceptance, there can be no understanding, and without understanding, there can be no recovery. Of that, I’m sure.

Don’t deny what has happened. Face it full on. In order to overcome it, you have to stare it in the face. I honestly don’t believe there is any other way.

Recovery is the regaining of something which you lost, or was taken from you. After years with a pathological partner, you may feel you’ve had your soul ripped out. You may feel as though you’ve lost your sanity, and you’ll most definitely feel that you’ve been robbed of precious years, perhaps even of your best years.

This will make you feel anger, and quite rightly so! Just be careful not to turn the anger inwards. It’s too easy to turn it in on yourself. You have to channel the anger, because this will give you the energy you need to get completely through the ‘release’ phase and into recovery.

Once in recovery, you need to keep a check on the anger. You don’t want to turn into a bitter and twisted person.

It’s OK to have moments of rage. It’s inevitable, so there’s no point fighting it. I think the best way to deal with it is to let it out. Vent. Scream. Punch your pillow. Don’t bottle it up. You are allowed to feel this way. You are allowed to indulge in the odd bout of self pity. You won’t be able to prevent it, so don’t reproach yourself for it. Just don’t let it become a permanent state of affairs. Remind yourself how far you’ve come, and how much stronger you are now than a few months ago. Accept that this is all part of the recovery process, and keep focussed on moving forwards with your life.

Recovery isn’t a phase. Recovery is the rest of your life. It can’t be rushed. You just need to keep telling yourself it will get easier, and it will. Slowly.

You need to learn to let go of the pain, and move on.


"Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain."
Kahlil Gibran


Friday, August 20, 2010

The impact of Cluster B: An ‘idiot’s’ guide…..

Forget text books, forget the psychology self-help sites. Here’s an amateurs guide to spotting the signs that you’re with a Cluster B personality disordered person, and how it's going to make you feel. From somebody who has been there.

It doesn’t matter which disorder it is. Each disorder of the Cluster B variety displays similar or identical symptoms, and invariably, where one of the Cluster B’s exist, so does at least one other co-morbid (that’s overlapping, to you and me) disorder.

Just for reference, here’s the list of the Cluster B’s

Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Histrionic Personality Disorder
Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopath/psychopath)
Borderline Personality Disorder



It should be noted at this point that sufferers of BPD differ greatly from the others in the group, as they tend to turn the abuse on themselves, and not others (many thanks to the poster below for pointing this out to me!)

Don’t try to over analyse which one of the other three your partner has. The chances are, if he/she exhibits the traits of one, then he/she will have at least some elements of others. At the end of the day, the impact on you is going to be the same for each of these disorders, and it’s the impact on YOU, the partner, that I wish to focus on.

You’re going to go through five distinct phases. During the initial phases, you’re not going to realise what’s happening to you, as you’re going to believe wholeheartedly that this person is the answer to all your prayers, and he or she can absolutely do no wrong. What’s important here is to be able to recognise the initial stages (with the benefit of hindsight) because when you reach stage four, you must make a decision, and for that you need understand what you’re up against.
You can save yourself a lot of distress (and possibly even long lasting, or even permanent damage) if you are able to look back and acknowledge what has been happening to you, and YOUR PART IN IT ALL. We all have a role to play in a relationship. It’s never, ever a one way street. You don’t suddenly just lose all your personality traits when you meet a Cluster B, and it’s important to acknowledge this early on if you’re going to gather strength and move on. There are certain aspects of your character which your Cluster B will exploit. You have to recognise this before you can move away, and this can sometimes be the hardest test of all.

Cluster B’s all require their ‘supply’ or ‘source’. They use relationships in order to feed their own desires and needs. Without a supply, these people cannot function. Every person they meet must in some way feed their requirements, and satisfy their desires and aspirations (be they, emotional, sexual, financial or professional). You are no different. You are the 'supply'. You are there only to serve a purpose. You just won’t see this in the beginning.

Here’s a guide to the stages you can expect to travel through on your Cluster B roller coaster:

Stage one: Euphoria

In the beginning, you are in a prolonged state of emotional elevation. It is better than any class A drug, and I can only describe it as ‘euphoric’. This is clearly non-sustainable, but you won’t be in a position to recognise this yet.
You are head over heels in love. You have never been treated so well by another human being. It is as though you have blown this man (or woman) completely off their feet, and all they can see is you. You are adored, you are worshipped, you are understood, you are believed, you are trusted. For him/her, only you exist. It’s a giddying sensation and the chances are it will knock you right off balance. You feel completely overwhelmed by all the attention and you truly believe you have found your ‘soul mate’. When he/she tells you that they cannot live without you, it’s real. You feel exactly the same. The world will stop if you’re ever apart again.
This stage will last for one, possibly two years. Most likely the euphoria will begin to dissipate once the relationship has in some way been cemented (by marriage, kids, or some other long-term commitment).

Stage two: Disquiet

Your Cluster B partner has had a difficult life. He or she has had many a disservice done to him/her, and is probably carrying emotional scars from either failed relationships, business dealings which collapsed, or other disasters which have befallen him/her. You are the person who is there to help your Cluster B overcome these issues. You have accepted the ‘baggage’ your Cluster B brought into the relationship without question, and you feel it is your duty to help him/her overcome these problems and achieve their (amazing) potential.
Nothing bad which has ever happened to your Cluster B was his/her fault. They are always the innocent victims in any mishap. Other people resent your Cluster B because he/she is in such an enviable position. Nobody understands your Cluster B, except you. It is down to you to support your Cluster B and help keep both your lives on track.

By now, the initial euphoria is gone and you are starting to have some niggling doubts about things. It could be that certain ‘stories’ aren’t adding up, or the level of attention is starting to wane. If there are children on the scene, you may feel as though the balance of the relationship has been upset by their arrival. Whatever it is, there is something unsettling going on in the back of your mind. It stays in the back of your mind though; because that’s the only place your psyche will allow it to be, for the time being.

A gap is opening up between you, and you don’t understand why. You blame circumstances (because despite everything, your Cluster B is still having incredibly bad luck at every turn).
You lie awake at night, and confusion starts to cloud your mind.

Stage three: Denial

Your Cluster B is withdrawing, and it’s your fault. You’re putting too much pressure on him/her and you’re not ‘giving’ enough of yourself to the relationship. Your Cluster B is suffering as a result of your inability to support him/her. You are suffering, because your Cluster B is draining your energy and you feel completely impotent. You want to help but you don’t know how .
Your Cluster B is always on the verge of ‘making things better.’ He/she has so many plans, and they are always about to come to fruition. Your Cluster B just needs you to stay strong and give as much support as he/she needs. By now you are forced to admit to yourself that all may not be as it once seemed, but you remain convinced that you can get things back on track with patience and understanding for your Cluster B. Whatever is going wrong now, it’s all your fault. You may have moments where you secretly admit to yourself, that perhaps you have made a huge error of judgement about this person. You quickly put these doubts aside, however, when your Cluster B tells you that everything he/she is doing is to please and to benefit you.
Your Cluster B always convinces you of his/her selflessness, and by this stage you would rather admit that it’s you letting your Cluster B down, than acknowledge the fact that you don’t actually mean that much to him/her.



Stage four: Despair


I called this an ‘Idiot’s’ guide. You are NOT an idiot, but when you reach stage four with your Cluster B, you will most certainly feel like one.

By now, you no longer recognise your Cluster B. He/she is so far removed from the person you first met, you can barely remember how it felt back then when life was a beach.

Your Cluster B can no longer bear to be in the same room with you, and when he/she is, they hardly acknowledge your existence. You feel you are being ‘tolerated’ and you feel complete and utter isolation. You’ll feel your sanity starting to slip now, and this is why it is important that you LOOK BACK during this stage and try to analyse what has actually happened to you.

You are now at a critical crossroads, and what you decide to do during the despair stage will have far reaching implications for your future life.

Your Cluster B will NEVER end the relationship. He/she does not acknowledge that he/she wants the relationship to end. It will always be down to YOU to end it. Your Cluster B does not believe you will ever have the strength to go. He/she believes you are bound to him/her. You may now find yourself in a situation where you are being physically abused, or the abuse may be emotional (but no less damaging). At this stage you MUST acknowledge your mistake and get out.

It’s the hardest thing to admit we’ve chosen the wrong person. It’s even harder to face up to the fact that you never really knew this person, but face up to it you must. It can only go one of two ways now. You either ‘pull the escape cord’ or you condemn yourself to a life of misery.

Even during the despair stage, you may still have moments when you want to cling to your Cluster B. This is normal. You’ve been made to feel you could not possibly cope in the outside world without your Cluster B, but you can. At this stage of the journey, you MUST get outside help. Friends, family, neighbours, it doesn’t matter. Reach out.

Your Cluster B is probably already cultivating another relationship by now, but still he/she will not release you from their clutches. There will be the odd moment of attempted emotional blackmail, but you have to remain strong.
In order to escape a Cluster B, you MUST get into the driving seat. Your Cluster B will do all he/she can to put obstacles in your way, but you have to just put your head down and roll with the punches.

Even if your Cluster B is not an axe wielding maniac by now (not many turn into Jack Nicholson), don’t underestimate how dangerous he/she can be to your long term well being.

Get the hell out, as fast as you can. Go as far away as possible, and DO NOT look back.


Stage Five: Release

Assuming you’ve made the break (if you haven’t, you’ll be stuck in stage four indefinitely…or worse), you will quickly be catapulted into stage five. Once your Cluster B realises you’ve gained the strength to walk away, he/she will cut you loose…completely. You will find this both shocking and possibly even hurtful at first, but believe me, it’s by far the best thing.

Once you have rejected a Cluster B (you always reject them, they never do anything to drive you away…remember, they are always the wronged party), there is no going back. You will be dropped, and left high and dry. This is the stage when it becomes clear that you were never loved. You realise during the release stage that your Cluster B is not capable of feeling love. He/she lacks empathy and emotion. If there are children involved, it becomes painfully apparent during this stage that they too are just objects to a Cluster B. It’s a devastating realisation, and it will send you into free-fall for a while, but you MUST accept it as the truth.

The person you fell in love with never existed, it was all an illusion.

There’s no easy way to deal with the release stage. You may feel elated one minute, then terrified the next. Again, get support from wherever you can. Look back over your time together and try to pin-point and acknowledge the different phases. This will help you to come to terms with what has happened, and accept the role you played in your Cluster B’s life. Don’t turn the anger in on yourself. It was NOT your fault. Your Cluster B had this problem before you met, and he/she will continue to have this problem long after you’re gone.

Cluster B’s rarely go to get help for themselves. They cannot acknowledge that they have a problem. Psychologists treat the Cluster B’s victims, rarely the Cluster B’s themselves.

I strongly recommend that you get professional psychological support during the release stage. The only way you can let it go, is to understand it. And to do this you need expert guidance.

Draw comfort from the fact that you are not in this alone……and be proud that you managed to escape. Many don’t.

If you need help, contact me via my website.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taste of the tabloids. Why this obsession with age and weight?

Recently, I’ve been taking a more than passing interest in the contents of certain tabloids and women’s publications. I have my reasons for doing this. Namely, that I was given the opportunity to potentially use one of these publications as a platform to discuss my first book 'Web of Lies' upon its release. This won’t be happening now (for reasons I’ll go into another time), and to be honest, I’m starting to believe this is a good thing.

I’ve been drawn in, like a moth to a flame, by stories of celebrities and how much weight they’ve lost/gained, or whether or not the ‘old’ celebs can hold an ‘aesthetic’ candle to the younger ones. I’ll be honest though, my on-line ‘research’ has left me with rather a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ll admit to becoming somewhat fascinated by the endless articles about ‘this’ celebrity or ‘that’ Hollywood star. There’s something strangely alluring about reading snippets of gossip and trivia about those whose faces we know, yet personas we do not…….at least in the short term. Try reading these types of articles every day though, and they really start to wear thin (if you’ll pardon the pun).

These tabloids, such as the Daily Mail (I use this as an example simply because I’ve read it ad nauseum recently), and magazines such as Bella, Best and OK! have a circulation which run to millions. This is why I find it so curious that, with an audience made up primarily of women, these publications should blatantly ram effusive, shallow, and patronising articles pertaining to peoples age and weight, down our collective throats......AND WE SWALLOW THEM!!!!

Come on, admit it….how many of us pay money to read this stuff? I have! I admit it! No more though!

So why are they doing this to us? Why are we doing it to ourselves?

Here’s an example from the Mail. A UK celebrity (she’s famous just for being famous, which in my opinion is fine, good luck to her). She’s perfect tabloid ‘fodder’. A former pop star, mental health issues, married the wrong guy, now divorcing him, etc etc etc…. and best of all, she’s had WEIGHT issues! Yippee! The woman has been what’s termed a ‘yo-yo dieter’. She’s been photographed looking overweight, and she’s been photographed looking fantastic. Last week, the ‘dose’ of fodder was about her BELLY. Yes, she has a BELLY….shock horror!! Stop the press!! Not only does she have a BELLY…but said BELLY has WRINKLES???…..Oh My God!!!!!!! Whatever next??

The woman has given birth to FOUR children, for crying out loud!!! She looks amazing in the BELLY picture, yet still the article refers to her WRINKLES. Err, what????

Who writes this stuff? Don’t tell me all tabloid journalists are a ‘perfect’ size eights (or Adonis’s) with no dimples, dumps or flecks? Surely, they too are real people with real flaws, just like the rest of us?

Why this obsession with how much somebody weighs? Does it make them a better person because they are stick thin? Or does it help if they were once flabby and are now stick thin? Is this something we should all aspire to? ‘Stick-thin-ness’??

Kerry Katona, Britney Spears, Charlotte Church & co were all vilified for being ‘fat’ (non of them have ever been ‘fat’, as in ‘obese’, by the way). Then they were applauded to the heights for slimming down, only to be vilified again as soon as a spot of cellulite was detected with a long range lens. The tabloids were there, waiting and rubbing their hands at the first sign of exposed, non-pert flesh. I can’t keep up!

So, should they, and other women who have given birth, all get on the treadmill and starve themselves down to a size zero?

Perhaps not, because the ‘thinnies’ come in for just about as much stick as the ‘fatties’,it seems.

So, what is deemed too thin, and what is deemed too fat? Well, it appears there is no real distinction. It seems to depend upon who you are. The lines are blurred beyond belief.

Too thin?
Too fat?

Confused? Me too! (and don’t even get me started on the latest problem…that of so-called ‘cleavage stretch marks’……oh give me strength!)

So, to further add to the confusion, let’s discriminate according to age as well, just to wind up the few of us who have not yet been riled to the point of distraction by the habitual weight & stretch mark references.

In the world of the tabloids, if you’re beyond thirty, you’re a ‘has-been’. If you’re beyond thirty and still in the public eye, you’d better watch out, because your wrinkles are being papped, counted and magnified on a ‘Daily’ basis. If you’re beyond forty…better get down to the plastic surgeon and into that gym, or else don’t set foot out of the house!

But wait, no! Even if you have been to a plastic surgeon, there’s still no escape, because you’re then accused of trying to ‘hold back the years’, and slated for not ‘growing old gracefully'.

Let’s face it ladies (and men, because even you’re not immune from the tabloid age & fatism obsession).We can’t win, no matter what we do. So why try?

To be fair though, I doubt the ‘journalists’ behind these types of features understand it fully themselves. They’re doing a job, I suppose. They get a remit from above to submit this drivel, because the public seem to want to read it. Supply and demand, right?

I’m slowly beginning to understand our fascination with the ‘perfect’ and ‘youthful’ body. Very few of us possess it, after all, or indeed ever will. Even if we have it now, we’re going to get older….yes, every single one of us (including the journos….oh hooray for small mercies!)

At the end of the day, it’s all just a clever marketing ploy. We’re led up the garden path on a ‘Daily’ and ‘Weekly’ basis. We’re lured towards impossible images of ethereal beauty, only to be subsequently spoon-fed with the audacious and brazen advertising methods of the multi-national slimming and beauty industries. ‘Celebrities’ are built up, then knocked down willy nilly, all to feed the gargantuan media machine, and keep us small (or not-so-small) people mesmerised and hypnotised into parting with our hard earned cash,just so we can read the next instalment. We will them to succeed, then we will them to fail. And the money keeps rolling in.

So, as fascinating as the psychology behind it all is, I’ve decided that my ‘research’ must end here, before the bad taste in my mouth makes me gag. I’ve resolved to judge public figures purely on their actual merits (artistic, or otherwise) in future. I don’t want to read any more about their botox, their cellulite, or how many kilos they lost last week. It was nice to peep my head around the door, but I think I’ve seen enough for now. I no longer wish to be reminded of how much more I should be working out, or how much less I should be eating. From now on, I’m going to be boring, and read the broadsheets or listen to national radio, whilst wearing jogging bottoms and a baggy T-shirt. Yes, I’m forty next year, I’m allowed.

And tonight, to wash that nasty taste away, I’m going to eat carbs, followed by chocolate, and maybe a glass of (approximately 400) empty calories....cheers!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The stage is set!

Tick tock, tick tock…..I’m nervously watching the clock.

I have handed over my work, given the first in-depth interview, and I now slowly have to release my grip on the piece of my life which has now been transformed into ‘Web of Lies’.

The cover artwork is done, the website is up and running, and the manuscript is now being polished and preened, ready to finally be presented to the world.

This has been an incredible journey. Fast and furious. From its first inception during an Email exchange with my now publisher back in 2008 (we were discussing the car wreck that was my life, and I actually joked I should perhaps write a book, to which she answered….’for sure’), to my first words being penned, to now.

What an experience!

I have learned so much in such a short time, and not just about writing. I’ve learned so much about psychology (personality disorders in particular).

I’ve had to learn what can and what cannot be said when writing a memoir, and how to relay my experiences honestly and openly, without resorting to gratuitous mud-slinging.

I've even learned what is permissible when writing a newspaper article to accompany a memoir.

And most of all, I've learned to really believe in myself, and what I'm doing. (This was the hardest part to learn, I can honestly say).

But what an education it’s been!

I have enjoyed the learning experience immensely, and I bow to all those who have helped to facilitate my development along this 'Web of Lies' road. I thank you all. I hope the knowledge I have gained on this journey will help me to enhance my future work (because now I have started, I don’t want to stop!)

So, now I have arrived.... not at the end of the road, but most certainly at a crossroads. How things go from here, is anybody’s guess. It doesn't stop when the book is published, it starts here!

With determination, and a bit of luck, I'll be busy over the coming months. A few months ago, a publisher said to me 'you get out what you put in', and I'm certainly not lacking in enthusiasm when it comes to 'putting in'. Bring it on!

I’ve blogged about my reasons for writing this book before, but I’ll repeat them again, just so it’s clear:

Firstly: To bring the subject of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and it's related disorders, to a wider audience, and to help overcome the stigma which surrounds both the afflicted and the affected.

Secondly: To give a voice to a person whom I believe was seriously wronged in her life, then slandered upon her death. She can no longer speak for herself, so I am doing that for her now.

And finally: To (hopefully) inspire those who have found themselves in a simliar situation to the one I was in. There are millions of us, the world over. And we all need some reassurance, that whatever it was which happened, it was NOT our fault, and it CAN be put right...with strength, and a little patience.

But I'd be lying if I said those were my only reasons for doing all this. There are, of course, other 'drivers' behind the 'Web of Lies' wheel. Three, to be precise. Three unquestioning sources of inspiration. Each with their own unique way of keeping me levelled and focused.

To my back seat drivers, I say;

Let’s get this show on the road kids. It’s our time to shine......

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Single Mum on Holiday!

Three kids, one adult, one hire car, one campsite....and a week in the sun with my little family!

Many people seemed surprised when I told them I was taking the kids away on holiday...on my own! But why is it surprising? I manage them at home....on my own! So why not abroad? What’s the difference?

OK, I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a challenge, but then, so is juggling daily life. It’s not rocket science. It’s just a question of planning (with military precision!)

I’m very blessed that my kids are such good travellers. I hear nightmare tales from other parents of kids who yell and squeak after as little as forty minutes on the road. Mine managed a four hour drive with just one quick stop (so mum could grab a coffee!) We had snacks, CD’s and good old chit chat to keep us entertained. The holiday began in the car for us.

We’d spent the last several weeks building up to our trip. Each night we’d been counting sleeps until we go for our holiday. The kids were excited and perhaps a little fractious, but they endured the long drive with aplomb, as though they were seasoned travellers.

Once we had safely arrived, unpacked, and settled ourselves into our temporary ‘home’ (a compact, but comfortable static caravan), we then set off to secure our place by the pool.

The kids were quickly in seventh heaven. Armbands on, sun cream on, water pistols at the ready, they were splashing, playing and squealing with joy in no time at all.

Now it’s time for mum to relax too, isn’t it? Well, of course not! It’s not really possible to fully relax when you’re on holiday (especially around water) with your three kids. You always need to be keeping an eye out for what they’re doing. There’s a nack to it, but as long as you accept that this is the case, you can ‘relax into it’, if you know what I mean.

As parents, we possess this sort of in-built radar system. We can spot our kids a mile off. We can keep track of them even whilst not looking at them. We’re in tune with their sounds and signals. If a child strays out of radar range, you know it instinctively. I would find myself sitting up, scouring the sea of red and whit swimming caps, checking off my offspring one by one. ‘There’s number one, safely in the paddling pool….there’s number two, checking out the ice cream stand (as usual)…..and there’s number three, splashing with another toddler….check.’ Breathe.

Of course, you cannot keep them tied to you the entire time. It’s not possible. You have to give them a certain amount of freedom. They need to be free to make friends, play happily….and yes, shock horror….be out of your sight for a while. But out of sight doesn’t mean off the radar ;-)

We settled into a happy routine. In the mornings we’d wake, have a bite to eat, get our swimmers on, then head to the supermarket for Mummy’s newspaper, some drinks and some nibbles. We’d then head to the pool, secure a couple of sunbeds (not an easy task, believe me, you need your wits about you for that!) then settle in for a day of splashing and summer fun.

There was an entertainment program for the kids, and a kids club. They only went to the kids club once though, for about and hour. I was thrilled when they asked if they could go, but then felt strangely lost when finally given an opportunity to switch off my ‘Mummy-dar’ for a while. I can’t say I relaxed during that hour, although it was nice that my newspaper stayed dry for a short time!

By late afternoon, we would make our way back ‘home’ to our caravan, where I would set up a ‘shower production line’ and hose them down, one by one. Then we’d apply aftersun, pour a drink, and sit of the decking whilst applying our ‘make up ‘ for the Disco evening ahead.

Let there be no mistaking. Applying 'Hello Kitty' lip gloss and glitter is a very serious business. So is getting your hair right, and wearing the correct disco outfit. And not one to be left out whilst surrounded by a bunch of ladies, my little boy was determined to get in on the act too. He has the tiniest bit of glitter (on his forehead) and Mummy pretended to powder his face. He was happy, and we would then head off for a pre-disco pizza at the Restaurant by the Lake.

Oh happy times!

And seeing the kids dancing to those disco beats was a joy to behold for Mummy. I think the discos were my favourite part of the holiday. It was time for me to really sit back and watch my three favourite people having a ball.....what could be better than that?

And when the disco finished, we all headed home and went to bed....tired and happy.

So, all in all, it went well. I can't pretend I didn't find it exhausting, but it was no more exhausting than being at home with them, and the fact that we were away, just the four of us, is what really matters.

It's about getting a break from the routine, letting them stay up late, letting them eat what they want, and relaxing the rules a little. That's a key to a good holiday with the kids. It doesn't matter that we all came back tired, or that the kids had too many ice creams, that we got covered in mosquito bites, or ate too much pasta. None of that matters. What matters is that we were all together, a happy, complete family. Nothing can be more important than that.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Tortoise and the Hare......in honour of my girls

Yesterday was the school sports day. My girls were both to take part in an 80m sprint. Lucy was up first. There were only three children in her heat (herself included) but as the start whistle blew, you couldn’t see Lucy for dust. She was metres ahead of the opposition, crossing the finishing line in record time.

Two summers ago, this ability to sprint so fast earned her the nickname ‘Forrest Gump’ from my mother. She was amazed at how Lucy would just bolt, knees high, arms pumping. Her energy seemed to know no bounds. Indeed, this is still the case today. Probably more so, if I’m honest. She is what I call my little ‘energy bundle’. She is always on the go, rarely sits still, and needs (much to my dismay), very little sleep. Even a case of childhood asthma has failed to slow her down. So siree, she’s unstoppable!

I do sometimes wonder how much of her energy comes from nerves, and how sustainable it is in the long term. She’s always been fairly highly strung. She frets and worries openly. She fusses and pesters. She would try the patience of a Saint. Sadly, to my detriment, I have failed many of Lucy’s patience tests. I feel we are perhaps too alike in many ways. We often clash, both of us having a strong will. She has staying power though, and I can foresee trouble ahead when puberty kicks in. But for now, as a seven year old, she is as open as can be. After one of our clashes, I’ll invariably receive a note or a drawing: ‘Sorry Mummy. I love you’ she writes, to which my heart melts, and all is well again.

She is the most openly affectionate and demonstrative child I have ever known. She will happily give her adoration to anybody who crosses her path. If a person appears in her life and stays around for more than a couple of days, they are rewarded with unlimited supplies of Lucy-love. She knows no inhibitions when it comes to expressing her feelings of affection. It is a joy to behold when a child behaves this way, because in her innocent openness, she commands so much love and affection in return. Everybody loves Lucy. It’s hard not to. I hope she remains as loving and giving as she is now. Although, as she grows, I’m sure that this innocence will diminish, so I guess I should learn to appreciate it whilst it lasts. I should learn to get better at the patience tests, and work on relaxing through the clashes, and extending the periods between them. For even though Lucy drives me nuts with her boundless energy and reluctance to sit still for a moment, I still adore my little Forrest Gump. Watching her win her race yesterday brought a lump to my throat. Like all parents, I was just bursting with pride (and glad I was wearing sunglasses so nobody could see my tears!) For me, there is always that extra little bit of pride though, the sort of pride only a single mum feels when her kids do well. Those of you who do (or have done) the same job as me, will know what I’m referring to.

Alice’s race was second, and just like her character is to Lucy’s, so the race result was reflected. Chalk and cheese. Alice is my little slow burner. She doesn’t like to rush. It’s part of her make-up, and one of the most endearing things about her. At the age of two, Alice was completing jigsaw puzzles made for five year olds. She will happily sit and play alone, and can entertain herself for hours. She much prefers sedentary activity. She’ll never be a live wire like her sister. They really couldn’t be more different in that respect. If there is a choice in the matter, Alice will choose to do as little as possible. She’s a thinker, and incredibly deep. If only I could read her as well as I read Lucy, but sadly I can’t. She’s an enigma. A beautiful, pale-skinned enigma.

But that’s not to say Alice isn’t feisty. Oh boy, don’t cross her! We too have our clashes. She can swing from quiet contemplation to fiery indignation in the blink of an eye. It pains me to say, but sometimes her mood swings catch me unawares, and I react in the worst possible way (by losing my temper) which only adds fuel the fire. That’s another point I should really work on; reading Alice better.

She is nowhere near as predictable as her sister. She has a protective wall around her, which sometimes even I cannot penetrate. She is no less affectionate than Lucy, but she’s a lot more choosy about who she shows her affections to, and when.

She doesn’t like to admit when she’s made a mistake either, and she hates to say sorry. Instead, she chooses other ways to show remorse. Usually, apologies from Alice will come in the form of some small home-made gift. I have a box full of cut out shapes and figures. Some are in the adult form (me), some are clearly children (Alice) and some are not of this world at all. All have little love hearts drawn on them though. That’s her way of showing she cares. Again, it’s heart melting. I can never stay cross with either of them for long.

Watching Alice’s ‘sprint’ yesterday, and comparing it to Lucy’s, put me in mind of the Tortoise and the Hare (but without the moral lesson). Alice came fourth (out of four), but she did it with pride and grace. For her, it really wasn't about the winning, but about the taking part. My tears for her achievement were equal in pride to those for Lucy’s win. She may have her funny little ways, but there is no doubt in my mind that she will be an achiever in the ‘long run’. In this fable, both players are winners.....at least to their Mum.

Pride doesn’t even come close to describing how I feel about them.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A musical kairos

I have always been a lover of music. From being a small child and marvelling at my Dads expansive record collection (if not at his taste!) right through until my ex bought an Ipod when they first came on the market, I like to turn it up, and lose myself in it.

Many of my own poems have been inspired by the music I listen to. There is meaning in everything, and invariably we can relate lyrics to our own lives. As Elton John put it; 'Sad songs say so much'.

We all have our favourites, which we can relate to a particular period, or moment of our lives. For me,Chasing Cars became an anthem for me and my children in 2008. It signified everything I felt about our situation; facing the world together, just the four of us. Oh how I listened to that song, over and over, tears flowing freely.

I spent a great deal of time in 2008 listening to music. Lying down and letting the words wash over me. Wallowing in the pain, letting out the tears, and getting angry,or inspired.....depending upon the tune.

I still do it today, although with less of the 'wallowing', I hasten to add!

But there was this moment, back in the summer of 2008, which I can only describe as my musical 'kairos' or 'moment of truth'. It was a song I'd heard many times before, yet before that moment in time, it had never held such significance.

Life was in turmoil, the Divorce was in full swing, and I had recently discovered some incredibly painful and unpleasant truths about the person I thought I had known, but,it turned out, was only just beginning to. I was in an emotionally charged place, and perhaps more vulnerable than ever before in my life.

A dear friend took me to Zurich to see a stadium gig. It was a massive piece of musical theatre, performed by an Artist I have always admired for her tenacity and originality.
The show was electric, full of energy and completely spell binding.

Then, came this moment, when she sang this particular song, and it was like the world melted away, and she was singing just to me. A light switched on, and every single word of the song rang true. I stood there, enthralled, and suddenly, I was hit with with the resolve I'd been so desperately searching for all those months.

I've played the song many more times since, and every word still rings true. It's about realising you've been kidding yourself about somebody. It's about recognising the lies and deceit, and taking that final step away, to save your own soul.

Life is full of these defining moments. They come from nowhere, they would seem innocuous under any other circumstances. Yet they are so important to us in that split second, almost as though they are messages from above.

You've got to love the Universe!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Can't we just get another one, Mummy?

My kids don't really want for anything.
We don't have great wealth, but they most certainly don't go without a thing. They are well fed, well clothed, and they are surrounded by toys and gadgets galore....much more than I ever had as a kid.

But we live in a 'throw-away-and-replace' society, so the kids tend to have this notion that anything can be replaced, at the drop of a hat.

During my marriage, this was certainly true, so I guess the kids learned certain behaviours from a very early age. If something got broken, their father would immediately replace it. If they lost something, it was also replaced. Easy come, easy go.
A DVD player, here, a computer there....it was all just 'disposable' and therefore (to the kids) valueless.

Since becoming a single mum, I find I'm trying to introduce certain values which had not been imposed in the past. They work for their pocket money, they do chores around the house, and I try my best to get them to respect their belongings and be grateful they have so much (although this part is still inordinately challenging!)

The older two understand that money is something which has to be earned, and that it cannot be taken from other people willy nilly. I've taught them that to take something and then not pay for it, is theft. And I've taught them that theft is a crime. It is wrong.

Sometimes things get lost or broken through no fault of the kids though. So I've been quick to reassure them, that in cases where nobody is to blame, if we work hard enough, we can replace the missing important items over time.

But kids have such impressionable minds, and they cannot always distinguish between the physical and the emotional.

So it stands to reason, in their minds, that if Mummy can work at replacing things they lost 'accidentally', then Mummy can also provide them with something else they 'lost'....a Daddy.

Now, this is where it gets tricky. I can do many things, but I cannot provide them with this one important 'item'.

'But Mummy, you like so-and-so, don't you? He's a man.'

'Yes, sweetheart, he is, and I like him, this is true.'

'So why can't you just marry him then, and he can be our Daddy?'

'Because it doesn't work like that I'm afraid. It needs to be special love for that to work.'

'But why not Mummy?'

'It's complicated sweetheart, it's just not possible at the moment.'

And these are the questions I'm fielding all the time these days. They don't care WHO he is, they just want SOMEBODY.

I guess this is one of the toughest aspects of being a single parent. You can provide your child with all the love and attention in the world, but when one parent withdraws completely, it's not easy to explain why, and it's impossible to just 'replace' this person with a similar model!

Instead, you try to fill the gap as best you can, and hope that one day, as they mature, they'll understand the whys and wherefores.

I believe mine will, over time. They will hopefully grow to understand that sometimes bad things happen for good reasons, and that some things are just impossible to replace. Indeed, sometimes it's just better not to even try.

There are things we can live without, and some things we just can't.

The last two years have shown us what we can live without.

What we can't live without, exists in abundance in this house anyway......and that can never be stolen, lost or broken.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rosebud

This one is about my middle daughter, the subject of my last blog....

The softest hair
The pinkest skin
Her beauty shines
From deep within
Her smile lights up
The darkest day
A love so pure
To guide the way
And when she sings
Her gentle voice
Lifts up my heart
Makes me rejoice
And Oh!
Such fiery temperament
The quickest flash
Then sweet lament
Her mind so open
An empty page
Absorbing life
Quick to engage
My Rose
She has eccentric style
Unique, yet wholly
Versatile
Her character
With years so few
Displays her strength
And shines straight through
A gentle heart
A giving soul
The softest touch
She makes me whole
Little Rosebud
Enchanting child
With smile so bright
My heart beguiled
I'll never tire
Of her sweet kiss
The cutest lips
Innocent bliss

Her hand in mine
Through love, she grows
A blooming flower
Enchanting Rose

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Selective Mutism.....its not through choice!

As the parent of a child who suffers from selective mutism, I have had to learn a great deal about this condition over the last year or so.

My daughter has been through a lot of upheaval in her short life. We moved six times inside five years. It was stressful for me to cope with, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for the kids.

The final two moves saw them removed from the ‘family’ home into temporary accommodation, then subsequently, into an affordable apartment which we could finally call our own.

In the middle of this, the girls began to attend the local Kindergarten. They had attended a Kindergarten previously, but one which was bi-lingual. At this Kindergarten, my daughter spoke, but only in English.

She would speak German at home, to her sister and sometimes to me, but not in Kindergarten with the other children.

Following the break up of the family and the subsequent moves, she was now not only required to start a brand new Kindergarten, with unknown children and unfamiliar surroundings, but this Kindergarten was also an exclusively Swiss one, and therefore one-hundred percent German speaking.

So when she didn’t speak in the beginning. None of us thought it unusual. She’d need time to adjust, we decided. It was a lot for a four year old to cope with.

The months passed, and she remained silent. Happy, but silent.

She would come home and enthuse to me about how much fun she was having in Kindergarten. She chattered to me non-stop about any subject she could think of. She played happily with our English speaking friends kids, and never had any communication issues whatsoever….even in a social environment. She played with our neighbours’ children and gradually her grasp of the Swiss German language became more and more solid. She took part in the Kindergarten nativity play….as a (non-speaking) sheep, and I almost burst with pride as I watched her ‘perform’!

More time passed, and still not a sound came from her lips…….. in Kindergarten.

Still, the teachers and I saw no cause for concern. She would happily attend, and by now was integrated into the class. Her piers had accepted her as she was. They loved my silent little girl, and as kids always do, they found alternative ways to communicate with her.

During the summer holidays we would regularly visit our local Lakeside Beach complex. Here she would play happily (and noisily) with the other children in our group. So it barely registered when one of her little Kindergarten friends came along to join in, that she would suddenly fall silent again. They would invariably trot off together, hand in hand, to play in the sand. It seemed all was normal.

The new term began. The second year of Kindergarten, and the year in which she would be assessed regarding her readiness to attend school.

Just before half term, they called me in to talk to them. By now, they were getting worried.

“We cannot assess her if she doesn’t speak.” They explained.

“She seems happy enough, and she’s very popular with the other children, but we are concerned she’s not progressing and this is because of her (lack of) communication.”

“What would you like me to do?” I asked.

“She has no problems communicating at home, it’s really only in this environment that she won’t speak. Plus when she is with her other Kindergarten friends. It’s almost as though she has built a brick wall and cannot overcome her fears.”

I felt devastated. I wanted my little girl to be happy. I didn’t want her to lack the confidence to speak. I blamed myself, thinking, almost inevitably, that this was something to do with the Divorce and the subsequent disappearance of her Father from her life.

We agreed that she would be psychiatrically assessed, after which we would decide on the best course of action.

Before we went for our appointment at the hospital, I spent a morning with her in Kindergarten, in the hopes that my presence may encourage her to talk.

She was so happy when I told her I’d be coming with her! Her little face beamed with pride and all the way there she chattered about her classmates and what they would be doing today. Then, as soon as we set foot into the grounds of the school, she fell silent. She nodded and smiled, but not one sound came out.

It was heartbreaking for me to watch, because this wasn’t the little girl I knew. I was shocked. And felt so desperately sorry for her.

At one point she was allowed to take me upstairs to show me the ‘Barbie Corner’, where they are allowed to play house in their ‘free’ time.

It was just the two of us now, so I was convinced I would be able to get her to speak to me. I picked up a doll.

“She’s lovely!” I said. “What’s her name?”

She just looked at me, her eyes pleading.

“Can you whisper it?”

She tried. She tried so hard. I was willing her on, but she was physically not capable of uttering a sound, not even to me.

It was only then that I realised how truly difficult this was for her, and this was not a choice she was making by herself.

I felt dismayed to see her like this. I wanted to help her but there was nothing I could do.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that the little girl before me was not sad, uncomfortable or tense in the Kindergarten setting. She was relaxed and enjoying being there. She just couldn't speak!

As we left to set off home for lunch, she began to whisper very quietly. The further we got from the school playground, the louder her voice became, until we were eventually out onto the street and my little girl was chattering away like anything. I couldn't shut her up all the way home!

The psychiatrist was very clear. My daughter has no learning difficulties whatsoever (if anything, she is overly bright). She is one of many children who suffer from this unusual disorder. The exact cause cannot be pin pointed. It is widely thought that low self esteem plays a part. One psychologist suggested it can happen to children who are bi-lingual. There are no definite determinants of the cause. It could be a number of things combined.

And now here we are, nine months later, and she's getting ready to take her first steps into the Swiss education system. The Teachers, Psychiatrists, Speech Therapist and myself are all confident that she will thrive in school. We're just not sure if she'll speak......yet!


We'll keep working on it though. We gently encourage but we don't push it. We let her express herself in a way in which she feels comfortable. We don't talk about the fact that she doesn't talk, at least not for now.

Here's hoping her confidence will grow over time, and with it her ability to overcome her fears. Until then, lots and lots of love, encouragement, and understanding are required.

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