Thursday, April 02, 2009

Yes, he really does think it's all about him...

Last week I tossed a bullet point in my list about IFKAMH being a continuing source of stress and frustration in my life and about how I'd be seeing a therapist to help mitigate some of that. I'm happy to report that I think she will be very helpful in this manner. She listened to me try to recap almost 4 years of history in a little more than an hour, and at the end of it all, she made me feel like I'm okay and not deserving of the looney treatment. Not that anyone other than IFKAMH was trying to imply I needed the looney's just having that professional opinion aligned with the opinions of everyone around me that somehow makes it really seem okay.

As I was preparing to leave her office, she handed me a slip of note paper with three words she'd scribbled and told me to look it up when I got home. Some of the things I'd revealed about IFKAMH concerned her and brought this term to mind. What could she want me to look up? Do they have information on the internet for selfish idiots nowadays? Well, sort of. She wanted me to look up Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

On my way home from the appointment, I returned a call from my mom only to find out my grandfather had passed away the night before. It was not expected though it kind of was. I guess it was just a sooner than expected reaction. He wasn't well and had been requiring around-the-clock care, but no one really thought he was ready to go yet. But, he was, and my family is doing their best to help my grandmother through this transition. Without him, her time is not dedicated for any specific purpose like it was, and that is likely to be extremely hard to get used to.

Once I got home, it didn't take too long to start Googling. What I found on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) was like a factory of light bulbs turning on in my head, flooded with light. The clicking in my brain was probably loud enough to annoy the dogs in the house. The more I read, the more once-inexplicable things began to make some sense. I not only believe without a doubt that he suffers (though his suffering from it really just means more suffering for those involved with him) from this personality disorder, I am leaning towards a belief that he learned these behaviors from his mother.

His incessant lying, his poor response to fatherhood, the manner in which he left our marriage, the attempts to hold on to some ideal of our relationship long after it had died, his general inability to understand and accept his responsibility for his life, and now his need to force the boys into some unrealistic relationship with him all relate to symptoms of NPD. The lack of empathy, that irritating way he has of not considering or caring how his actions and statements impact others, was the most telling factor for my therapist and is also a major factor in determining if someone's behavior is just rude or actually disordered.

His mother's attempts to control her grown son via threats and, often, bribery, her uncanny knack for not hearing people talk and then not remembering what they've said (or even what she's said if it no longer suits her goal), her not understanding people's comfort boundaries, her odd belief that infants might have the ability to remember a rarely-present father-figure several years later despite his absence from their lives...again, all relate to symptoms of NPD.

Unfortunately, the very nature of the disorder means he's unlikely to ever get diagnosed or treated because he'll never believe there's anything wrong with him. Also unfortunate is the effect he could have on the boys, which is what I'm most afraid of these days and what prompted me to seek counsel from a therapist. Some of the things that have bothered me already are fully in line with the behaviors and rationalizations of someone with NPD. My pleas with him to alter some of the ways he's treated the boys were specifically related to the likely effects an NPD parent can have on their child, like lowered self-esteem, inability to express individuality, and unreasonable compliance to make the parent feel better in hope of avoiding a conflict with said parent.

I have another session this afternoon. She'll hopefully have gotten some information from one of her other clients who has a very protective-of-the-children parenting plan that could be useful for me in the coming months, and maybe we'll be able to discuss the best ways for me to communicate with IFKAMH in the future that won't immediately draw out his defenses, which results in his attacking and insulting me.


Anonymous said...

I always thought he had Peter Pan syndrome. I read a book on it in HS and when he pulled the running away stunt when the boys were babies I thought it was because if he had kids that meant he had to grow up. Are you thinking about possibly arranging therapy for the boys too?

Churlita said...

I bet my ex has that too. You'll help a lot with your boys' self-esteem by keeping it in context for them.

Just last week, my teenage daughter had to tell her dad, "I know this might come as a shock, but there are some things in the world that aren't about you." He refused to speak to her the rest of the night.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

Amy - With NPD, the likely reason he ran away was because the babies required too much attention from me, which lessened the attention I could give to him. Without me "feeding" his need for attention, he had to find another source. I'm hoping to keep the boys out of therapy, but she is a family therapist, so if I'm not able to fully counteract his negative influences, then I may have them go as well.

Churlita - I wouldn't be surprised if your ex had it as well; that tidbit about how he reacted to your daughter's reality-check statement definitely fits. My therapist tried to assure me yesterday that just having one stable, caring parent will help alleviate the negative effects of the other.

Susan said...

I'm not sure every man I've ever dated doesn't suffer from this. lol

Seriously, though, I hope you can get things sorted out. Also, I'm sorry for your loss.

NoRegrets said...

Interesting. And sad because it's so hard to deal with. Glad you have a strong family to help support you.

Roadchick said...

I wonder how many exes out there have NPD - I know that Rockboy's dad certainly has it. It was always all about him, all the time. The straw that broke the camel's back with him was when I enrolled in college. He was gone 2 weeks later. If I had known it was that easy, I would've done it years earlier.
What's weird is him referring to himself in the third person when he talks to Rockboy:
"You know Daddy doesn't it like when you do that."
Rockboy is 19.

The good news is - the counselor is right. Rockboy has had no ill effects from the contact he's had (albeit limited) with his dad and puts up with very little from him when they are together. Thank GOD he took after me.

It will be ok - just keep your head up and keep fighting. And I'll hope that the judge wakes up and gets real. We were so fortunate that I had a judge that assigned me complete and total control over everything - even visitation. Made it so much simpler.

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