by Laura Allnutt
You usually know a narcissist when you see one. He’s the person who hoards conversations, always managing to steer attention back to himself, even if he has to interrupt others to do so. He expects you to care about him more than you care about anyone else, including yourself, and frequently positions himself as someone supremely important.
But sometimes he worms his way into your life unexpectedly, even charmingly. You haven’t caught on yet because, for now, he’s making you feel special. You haven’t yet learned that he’s using you for his own special interests.
So functions the monster of mental illness, soaring in like a masked hero to save you from a world full of tragedy and suffering, stopping you at the door of your home. “What if you have an attack while you’re out?” it says logically.
“That’s true,” you reply and step back in the house.
When you plan a trip, it reminds you of all the things that may go wrong: “Don’t forget your essential oils,” it says snidely. “Better pack Advil and Pepto-Bismol, antacids, muscle cream, heat pads, and cold medicine. You never know what pain may ail you.”
“You’re right,” you say, and you spend more money than you’d budgeted just to plan for what may never happen. You now dread the trip you’d once anticipated, and by the time it comes, you’re sick with nerves.
“It’s probably best if you don’t go to the party,” he warns solemnly. “They already think you’re a little off.”
“I’m glad you reminded me.”
Mental illness soars in like a masked hero to save you from a world full of tragedy and suffering.
Sometimes, especially in those beginning days of your relationship with the narcissist, you consider that this monster makes you smarter, more cautious, better equipped for a dangerous world. You can’t understand why some people think roller coasters are acceptable forms of entertainment, why some people can pack one carry-on without medical supplies and have a fantastic trip, why some people love going to parties. They don’t have the wisdom, the sense of responsibility that you do, thanks to the monster, and so you pity them, bless their hearts.
It doesn’t occur to you until much later, long after you’re lost in mental cycles of fear, that your absence may protect you from life, but it’s also keeping you from living.
It isn’t easy to break up with a narcissistic, especially if he isn’t done with you, and the monster is never done.
“I’m going out anyway,” you tell it, grabbing your purse and keys.
Because it must be obeyed, the monster roars, pounds your chest, and constricts your lungs. With each step to your car, your determination falters.
“You see?” it says. “You can’t handle this. I only wanted to protect you.”
It isn’t easy to break up with a narcissistic, especially if he isn’t done with you.
But it’s just a trip to Target, coffee with a friend, the new movie you’ve wanted to see. Logic tells you that you’ll be fine, but the monster insists you won’t, and you can’t find the balance, the light to your path out of darkness. You’re angry that everyone else in the world can do these simple tasks with joy, with smiling Facebook posts, as if the truth of tragedy doesn’t exist.
It does exist! Why can’t they see it? And why doesn’t it bother them? It isn’t fair! And you hate yourself and your monster too.
You can’t wake up and change your mind, for the monster has trained you well—Stockholm syndrome at its finest.
There is no divorce, no easy act of separation. Your only power is the will to resist, to get in the car and put it in drive.
It will go with you, and it will call you a fool. Resist.
It will tell you to turn around, leave early. Resist.
It will grab your breath and knock your balance just when you think you’re fine. Resist.
It will remind you of tragedies. Resist.
Resist, resist, and keep on resisting, even when you’re weak, though you’re fighting a battle on an invisible stage with a hundred unsuspecting onlookers. The more you resist, the weaker the monster becomes and the stronger you grow.
One day, you’ll plan a trip. “Don’t forget about . . . ” But the monster’s voice is a whisper you’ve learned to ignore.
You’ll grab your keys and go.