DID: Chronic Illness and Envy

A few days ago I told my partner I envy people who can live their lives without DID.

He asked how envy made my life better, and I said, ‘It doesn’t. That’s the point.”

No one wants to admit to feeling envy, yet learning to manage envy is crucial to successfully managing a chronic illness.

These days I struggle with an old demon: raised in a culture of disdain for intelligence, intelligent little boys were beaten for ‘showing off’.

The beatings were especially brutal when they came from my Mother.

I’ve spent most of my life avoiding attention and playing second fiddle.

I’m not afraid of succeeding, I’m afraid to be seen succeeding.

I’m most vulnerable to feelings of envy when I’m struggling.

Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.  Susan Sontag  1978

I’ve always had Dissociative Identity Disorder but I have not always been sick with it.

Prior to my diagnosis in 2009, I had a career, interesting friends, and an active life

One day I woke up and I was permanently too sick to go to work.

I told myself I hated the job, I told myself I’d find another job, I told myself I’d eventually get better, I told myself I brought it on myself, I did not have DID, I was burnt out and needed a rest.

Ten years later, it’s obvious that I’m not going to get well enough to work and I’m getting old, as in elderly.

The difference between fifty-seven and sixty-seven is like the difference between five and fifteen in reverse.

Whose body is this? Whose aches are these?

The problem is acceptance; I know I’m ill and getting old, but I still live in emotional denial.

I still expect myself to be healthy.

Knowing is not accepting and this is at the core of my envy and sense of frustration.

Accepting Envy

Envy is about someone getting ahead of you, someone doing better, someone possessing qualities that you wish you had. You think you are losing the race. You are falling behind. And you are feeling sad, angry, resentful, anxious and you just can’t accept it.  Psychology Today

It’s easier to be angry, or sad, to smother envy with somatic symptoms or to project it onto others.

We don’t want to admit to envy. We see it as a petty, selfish, sour-grapes emotion. So we hide it, we harbor it; we disguise it with claims of unfairness or with character assassination. And we may avoid the people about whom we feel envious. You might think, “I don’t want to be around him because it reminds me that they are doing better than I am doing.” Psychology Today

Finally, who wants to admit to wishing ill on the healthy?

Defusing envy is not as simple as not feeling it

Not letting yourself feel or validate envy makes it more toxic; repressed emotions express themselves in passive aggressive ways such as criticizing others, hostile and cynical comments, shaming and chronically feeling unappreciated.

The first step in defusing envy is acknowledging that it really does suck to be sick: life is already hard, and on top of it, you have a painful illness that saps your strength.

It really does suck to have an illness that interferes with your talents and goals.

The illness ends when you die; it’s a fact you have to accept.

In 2009, I could write a six-hour training presentation in less than a week while working full time.

That’s gone.

In 2009, I could walk for miles without panic attacks.

That’s gone.

In 2009, I thought I would be the clinical director of the agency I worked for by 2019.

That’s gone.

In 2009, I was still a young man.

Today I am old.

Acceptance is a daily practice.

Just for today, I can accept my life as it is, and I will let myself feel joy when others succeed.

Just for today, I can focus on my talents and take pleasure in my substantial accomplishments.

Just for today, I can forgive myself for being human and respect myself for having the courage to discuss my envy.

When are you most vulnerable to envy and how do you cope with it?

Rob Goldstein 2019

 

Mental Health: When the Narcissist is Normalized

In this post I use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ because my subjective experience is that of multiple separate people.

The children of pathological narcissists must blind themselves to behaviors that healthy people consider unspeakable.

Food deprivation, the killing of pets, theft, forced sex, gaslighting and other forms of psychological abuse and the threat of psychological annihilation.

The child of a narcissist must have no dreams of his own, and no vision of life without the clinging demands of a parent or parent surrogate who is essentially a two-year old without mercy.

My Mother despised my intelligence and did everything in her power to kill it.

I normalized her contempt and used Dissociative Identity Disorder to save my mind.

My talents became a boy named Peter who only emerged when Mother was gone, or when he was with his Grandmother with whom he felt safe.

A male who must contend with a female pathological narcissist is at a disadvantage in this culture because the assumption is that the male always has power.

This assumption doubles the power of a female narcissist.

My Mother used her advantage as a ‘helpless woman’ to destroy my Father, who ultimately lay down and died.

My Mother’s threat to me was if I wasn’t ‘careful’ I would end up like
my Father.

VR photograph of two male avatars, one who stands in front of a mirror and the other who is emerging from it
People Like Us

We’re still blind to most narcissists but we are now alert to certain clues.

A narcissist is usually charismatic, charming, flattering and warm.

My Mother was a waitress at a greasy spoon.

When she worked she was on stage.

Everyone loved her.

A narcissist looks vulnerable and reserves for herself the right to pass judgment on others. This is not the same as learning another person’s strengths and weaknesses.

The people who loved my Mother were dismissed as undeserving trash.

The suggestion that she might be one of them was the same as asking
for a beating.

A narcissist traffics in envy and in her mind everyone wants what she has.

If the meaning of a word doesn’t suit her she changes the definition.

Vicious beatings are acts of love.

Letting guys rape me is getting me ‘straightened out’.

A narcissist never gets the attention she thinks she deserves.

My Mother often provoked my Father to violence.

One night he loaded us into the car and drove to Reynolds Ave, North Charleston, SC.

Reynold’s Avenue was where the sailors in Charleston went to play.

My Father got out of the car.

I saw my Mother through the open door of a bar.

She was sitting on some guys lap.

My Father dragged her out of the bar by the hair and beat her in the street.

My memory goes blank after this.

The point is that his reaction to her behavior was an excuse for her to call her Mother and beg to come home to New York.

Her family pulled together the money to set us up in an apartment in Queens.

My Mother took us back to Charleston after three months.

A narcissist takes without giving back.

Whatever you give is simply her due.

The narcissist is a rhinestone among rhinestones; a glittering fake.

Today I am a diamond among diamonds, some big and some small.

I still don’t know my worth, but I know I’m real —

— and I’m very glad to be here.

Rob Goldstein 2015-2019

 

 

I Am a Madman

I am a madman and all madmen are me.
The Gods are my calling
Dionysian my stance
This pact is exacting
Between my soul and the Fates
and I will sing no other way
for this is my life
my vocation
my passion
my voice

Rob Goldstein 2015-2019

This is What a Christian Looks Like

“Dr. Martin Luther King was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was twenty-five years old, in 1954. As a Christian minister, his main influence was Jesus Christ and the Christian gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at church, and in public discourses. King’s faith was strongly based in Jesus’ commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself, loving God above all, and loving your enemies, praying for them and blessing them. His nonviolent thought was also based in the injunction to turn the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus’ teaching of putting the sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52). In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King urged action consistent with what he describes as Jesus’ “extremist” love, and also quoted numerous other Christian pacifist authors, which was very usual for him. In another sermon, he stated:

“Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.

—King, 1967″