Friday, August 27, 2010


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!