I firmly believe that no one can heal and recover from sociopathic/pathological abuse alone. I also believe that not all support is good support.
Although I have written about the power of online support in my Washington Times Communities column and have often encouraged readers and those who comment to consider some form of online support, there is a definite line of defense we all need to consider before opening up ourselves to any person or support group outside of licensed, certified and experienced mental health care professionals and care givers.
When I began my blog and book journey in February 2012, I was very naive and oblivious as to what I would encounter. I had no idea whether or not my blog and story would be believed, accepted or laughed off the internet. I was desperate and at a standstill in my healing and recovery and really didn’t care about the consequences. Before rapidly moving forward with my blog writing, I was frozen in disbelief at the lack of progress I was making.
Why was I so frozen?
One of my biggest roadblocks to healing was my continual denial that I was suffering from anything I couldn’t fix myself. The least of which was trauma.
“Me? Traumatized? No way!!”
Why did I do this? Partly because I wanted to hold onto the idea that I was strong, but mostly because I didn’t want to feel like the sociopath had won. I wasn’t going to allow him to defeat me, and in my naiveté, I thought that pushing the pain deeper into the recesses of my mind meant I won.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Not facing the pain caused confusion and my body and mind to fester in a mixture of ugliness, grief and more pain. I made mistake after mistake in my personal life. I hurt myself with each emotion I denied myself.
On top of suppressing my pain and suffering, I arrogantly thought I could fix myself. After all, who knew me better than me? I was so blinded by the idea that I just needed to “get over” the abuse that I neglected to realize that I needed to walk through the trauma in order to find peace on the other side of it.
Luckily, I gradually became unfrozen, and by mid-April 2012 due to reader comments and responses to my story, I was thawing out, discovering my wings and true power. It was amazing.
The comments that struck home most and had the deepest impact were those that suggested that my writing was therapy for a trauma I needed to release.
That word “trauma” kept popping up on the screen and wouldn’t stop creeping into my mind. And no matter how much I fought to eliminate it from my reality, I couldn’t fight the truth so many were trying to get me to see.
“You suffered something, Paula! Stop being so stubborn. Accept it!”
But even after repeatedly hearing this and finally accepting it, I still thought I could fix myself. I thought if my writing helped me reach this breakthrough moment, it could help me completely heal myself without burdening my family and friends further with my goddamn issues!
But none of us are an island. None of us are super heroes. (Although, I’d like to think I wear a cape some days, it’s just not healthy to be so delusional, is it? Hehe!)
So again, a few months later in August 2012, I found myself floundering and in need of something else that would propel me forward. I realized my writing had just been a temporary fix, a band-aid of sorts. I had written and published my book by this time but still felt incomplete in my healing.
What was next?
What was next was something I never dreamed could come next:
On the very day in August 2012 in which I was laid off from my job, I received a private message from a woman who ran a rapidly-growing Facebook page. She asked me to help co-administer her page. The page touted itself as a place victims/survivors of abuse at the hands of narcissistic and borderline personality disordered individuals could collectively learn and heal. She needed me, along with her other three administrators to “man” the page so there was always someone available to connect with members regardless of time of day or day of the week.
“How honorable,” I thought. This woman seems to really care. I wanted to be a part of that and maybe learn something from her that could help me on my journey.
But that didn’t prove to be the magic pill for healing, either. In fact, it nearly negated all of the progress I had made up to that point. If it hadn’t been for my blog and its supporters, my yoga practice and my monthly counseling sessions, that online support group experience could have destroyed me all over again.
Why? How can I be so certain of this?
For starters, the woman who ran the page and its private support group was in no place to give others any advice. Within a few short months of being “indoctrinated” into her team of administrators, I learned from observation that she was too sick herself to offer any real help to anyone who was trying to heal. Her life was an absolute mess, and she shared each and every detail of her daily struggles publicly on the page’s timeline.
On top of me believing she was too sick herself to offer sound advice, she lacked any professional mental health care credentials or accredited training. She didn’t even have a high school diploma nor had she made any attempt to earn her GED.
Although her lack of education didn’t set off immediate red flags for me, it should have. As a person who values both formal and informal education and who has spent as much time in the classroom as I have in an office cubicle, I should have put more thought into her credentials and been more discerning about the information she shared on her page.
She repeatedly touted herself as an expert on personality disorders and in healing and recovery. She gave, as I interpreted it to be, unsound advice to victims/survivors who blindly trusted her—unconditionally. I can only assume that each and every one of them asked themselves the same questions I had repeatedly asked myself:
“If this woman didn’t really care, she wouldn’t be out here trying to help, right? She must know what she’s talking about. After all, she was abused, too.”
I, too, initially bought into her “strength of character” defense and believed she shared so others wouldn’t feel alone in their pain and suffering. But soon I realized that the reason she shared was much more benign than benevolent and in July 2013, when I had finally had enough and asked to be removed as an administrator, my support for her immediately ended along with all of the excuses I had created in my mind that aided in that support.
Not only was she not qualified to offer any advice, the advice she did offer was disseminated carelessly. She was able to mask her actual ignorance by plagiarizing the intelligence others. She sprinkled her “advice” with the words and research of credible professionals and sources, individuals she never bothered to cite or acknowledge.
As a writer and researcher, I couldn’t take anymore of her blatant disregard for the work of others. And as a victim/survivor, I was not interested in becoming the victim of another lying and manipulative con artist.
I became completely convinced that she used and continues using the weakened state of desperate victims to infiltrate their healing and recovery journey. She tells her tales of woe and faux abuse in hopes of gaining financially and feeding her narcissistic supply.
Although this realization did not surprise me after what I had experienced with the sociopath, it did hurt. Deeply. But as with any hindrance to my momentum and journey to finding peace, I was determined to push forward and make the most of what I had learned.
After informing my blog readers in early August 2013 that I no longer supported her page—a page I had previously promoted often and frequently—I very quickly became aware that I was not alone in my suspicions and misgivings of this woman and her page. Many victims/survivors who had stumbled upon the page also felt as I felt. I miraculously found myself being supported and uplifted by a group of like-minded and highly intelligent and giving women with nothing to gain by supporting me.
We served to validate each other, and that’s all the push we needed to put the ugliness of being deceived by false support behind us.
In addition to this very public lesson, there are many more I have learned since January 2011 when I escaped the sociopath and struggled to put his deceptions far behind me.
In the pages and chapters of this book, I hope to accurately present each lesson learned and to uncover how no single group, counselor, yoga practice, one-on-one bond, exercise or self-help book/website will make any of us whole again. I believe the journey to peace and freedom is a combination of many of these things and much more.
You’re unique. Your story is your story. Your journey to healing and recovery is and will continue to be as unique and as colorful as you are.
My hope is that my journey along with the personal journeys of others shared in this book will serve as a model for what to consider and what not to consider. My hope is that you can learn from my successes/their successes and from my mistakes/their mistakes. My hope is to help you help yourself.
But my biggest hope is that you remain hopeful and believe that no matter the length of the journey, no matter the obstacles or bumps in the road, you’re worth giving yourself another chance at happiness, joy and ultimate peace.
© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and Paula’s Pontifications.
(image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/224687468882548535/)