THE MARIBAL SISTERS

On November 25th 1960, in the Dominican Republic, three women were clobbered to death by the henchmen of the dictator then at the head of their country, General Rafael Trujillo. Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Maribal were vibrant, educated and courageous women who resisted not only Trujillo’s violent and bloody regime, but the man itself. The culprit at the heart of their death can be traced to the machista culture so well documented and rampant in the Dominican Republic. The General loved the company of young girls and consumed them at will. Before becoming a revolutionary, Minerva had caught his eye and had refused his advances by slapping his face-the untinkable- while attending a private event.  Publicly humiliated, Trujillio from then on tormented Minerva’s family and toyed with her personal life, fuelling and provoking the rebel in her and her sisters. It is not per se the sisters’ involvement in clandestine activities against the violent government that signed their death sentence, but the simple fact that they were women who had defied the supreme male authority.

Six months following the deaths of the Mirabal sisters, also known as Las Mariposas (the Butterflies), the general was assassinated- an event most likely precipitated by the murder of the sisters- toppling the regime. While Las Mariposas became an iconic symbol of feminist resistance and courage throughout the country, still today, the impact of their sacrifice on the reality of women is heartbreakingly negligible. In the Dominican Republic, as in many other Latino countries, the wave of femicide- the murdering of a woman by a man because of her gender- is frightening. In Central America and the Caribbean this scourge has not yet been contained.

Most if not all of these gender-based murders share one strong common denominator: they are committed in male dominated cultures, cultures that encourage, legitimize and normalize violence to women, whether physical, sexual or psychological. In these countries, women are limited by the perception men hold of the feminine role, rarely allowing women to step outside the script they have been told to follow. In this world inhabited by insecure men who sadly rely on domination, denigration and control to establish their virility, the independent woman may pay a high price for pursuing ambitions that fall outside of the family arena.  This machismo culture has infiltrated minute aspects of daily living, at home, at the workplace, diseasing the government apparatus meant to protect everyone. Everyone.  For this dance to be allowed, there needs to be an accomplice. This accomplice is machismo’s counterpart, ingrained also in the Latino culture: the marianismo ideal. This unattainable ideal presupposes that women are to be obedient, passive, pure, dedicated solely to the family imperatives. The many women that adhere to this blue print of unreasonable gender behaviour signals to society that they are tacitly willing to ignore acts of abuse. This is where hyper-masculinity collides with an unsustainable feminine archetype, with one clear victim: women. I urge these capable women to keep on moving and to transform this marianismo ideal into a modern one capable of opening new avenues and securing new defendable modulations of co-existence.

Unesco defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”  Because of the misogynistic brutality at the centre of the murders of the Maribal sisters, Unesco, since 1999, has declared November 25th to be the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

These murders have come to symbolise the plight of women caught in a world made of men afraid of the feminine being, men frightened by their own vulnerabilities. Hatred, spite and condescension have targeted women the world over, for hundreds of years, yes. But to the men of the Dominican Republic specifically, I now say this: honour the message these courageous women have given you. Help your mothers, your sisters, your wives, your partners and your daughters become the best of themselves knowing your country as a whole will pulse to the beat of a unique vibrancy, that of a society thriving on equality.  Most of all, Dominican men, abandon the obsolete code of honour at the heart of your machista way of thinking; they only highlight your cowardice, insecurities and contribute to the murder of women, no less. Instead, embrace the bright, positive and constructive code of conduct your Spanish ancestors have laid out, the caballerismo. There, bravery, not aggression, respect, not degradation, accountability not gutlessness, dictate the strong man’s moral code.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080429084317.htm
https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Dominican-Republic-Notes-Terrifying-Rate-of-Femicides-in-2017-20170613-0033.html
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/03/dominican-republic-police-routinely-rape-torture-women-sex-workers/
https://www.cepal.org/en/pressreleases/eclac-least-2795-women-were-victims-femicide-23-countries-latin-america-and-caribbean
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianismo

A French-Canadian writing in English

Words mean everything to me. I love to dissect their meaning, weigh their purpose in a sentence, and evaluate the efficacy with which they deliver their message. Words affect me. Words move me. Words rule my world. I am a writer, yes, but also a life coach. I know how choosing the appropriate word, term or expression, can significantly alter the course of a conversation, a session, a relationship even.

When I decided to write my story, I had a choice to make—an important one.  In which language would I deliver these words?How would I best impact the reader? Would I write in the language of the oppressor, English, or in the language of my ancestors, the language of the oppressed, French? I was raised in a strictly French-speaking home. Even though half of my school life unfolded in English, communicating in French at home was a priority, a must, a non negotiable. My parents had foresight. They, as French-Canadians, had been the victim of the Anglo-Canadians’ patronizing ways, the target of their humiliating comments, the object of their spitefulness. My parents had made the choice to protect me from the feeling of indignation they would carry most of their life. I was to learn English yes, but under no circumstances was I to ignore my heritage, my past, and my roots. My mother, whose French-Canadian accent had never been heard nor suspected, often mistaken for a Parisian herself, was obsessed with vocabulary, grammar and verb conjugation. She made sure all my tenses were mastered by the age of ten, paving the way to the only trophy I would ever win: the elementary grade 3 French grammar award. I would give life to their own ambition, they hoped, an ambition I tried to transfer as well to my own children. They too would be harassed by a mother obsessed with the sustainability of the French language, the preservation of the French-Canadian culture and its integrity. A pain in the ass, the annoying French sort, is what I would become in my own home. No less.

Quebec basks in a sea of English speaking individuals, locked in by English Canada on one side and by the United States on the other. Unsurprisingly, English seeped into my everyday life, firmly planting itself once I married an English speaking Canadian. I had caught the virus, I had committed treason to some, betrayed my French roots to many. Canadian author Hugh MacLennan brilliantly highlights, in his iconic novel, “Two Solitudes,” the many ways in which our Canadian identity can become entangled in high wired principles that only feed and fester animosity. The fear of diluting our core, our origins, our purity is at the heart of this turmoil, a turmoil I never quite escaped. I think I typify MacLennan’s version, vision maybe, of what he predicted would emerge from this conflicted identity: a new breed of Canadian. Maybe it is what I have become, a hybrid of some sort. But I am a flawed specimen, of that I am more aware, more certain, more convinced. I float between two worlds filled with words that mesh and melt into each other to form the Gallicism and the Anglicism I have been accused of using. I seem to be unable to shake their grip. I am stuck between these two worlds I think I will never be able to fully please.

In the end, my choice to write in English points to a truth—the heavy kind, the kind that tugs at you, nagging at your conscience. My ancestors, with their pasts, their stories, and their legacies, they are the ones I fear most. Don’t get me wrong, the judgment of the English speaking community I do fear, but to a lesser extent. The scathing and merciless opinions of the French speaking community, whether from the New or the Old World…well…that causes me to question myself, my writing capabilities, my relevancy in the writing world. Do not worry, I do not discriminate in all matters as I hope and pray for both their literary indulgences.

Would I still have made the same decision had my story unfolded in French? Who knows? Maybe I simply linked the words to the emotions, letting the emotions organically dictate the choice. One thing remains clear to me: there is a limbo, a no man’s land, a language conundrum in which I feel caught. MacLennan was pointing to the birth of a Neo-Canadian.

This, for me, points to the birth of a third solitude.

 

 

 

 

 

somatic narcissists: beautiful worthless shells

Most of us display narcissist traits and experience what psychologists call healthy narcissism—a healthy, functional love of self. Through this state, gratefulness for the good that we recognize in ourselves and thankfulness for our innate/acquired abilities both mark our personality. With healthy narcissism, our self-esteem and our sense of security can waver without permanently threatening who we are at our core. Because, simply, we know who we are at our core. Narcissists do not. They have no insight. They become a reflection of the prey they have chosen, adapting their “personality” to mirror their prey’s dreams and hopes, aligning themselves with the target’s life purpose. In the healthy individual, emotions are acknowledged and dealt with internally. The narcissist’s emotions are fleeting at best; inside their minds and guts, fluctuating insecurities and self-esteem are temporarily quieted through a flowing supply of adoration they manage to attract. But rarely hold on to…

Individuals plagued by Narcissist Personality Disorder will display five of the nine following traits:

Arrogance;

Grandiosity;

Preoccupation with success and power;

Lack of empathy;

Belief of being unique;

Sense of entitlement;

Need for excessive admiration;

Exploitative nature;

Envy of others.

While there exists many different types of narcissists, this blog entry is about the cerebral narcissist’s counterpart: the beautiful, the handsome, the charming and very sexual somatic narcissist, a dangerous male proposition.

Derived from the ancient Greek word, soma, the term somatic refers to anything that relates to the body, eclipsing elements that relate to the mind, the spirit and the soul. The somatic narcissist, unlike his fraternal twin, the cerebral narcissist, relies heavily on his physical appearance and ability to charm, lure, and capture the supply of adoration and attention he needs to feel alive. The cerebral narcissist uses and flaunts his brainpower to secure his drug whereas the somatic narcissist rarely does. He may be intelligent, he may be cognitively functional but his sense of security is obsessively tied to his physique; he is concerned with the feeding of his ego through the absorption of beautiful, fresh flesh, not intellect. A hypersexual being, this narcissist depends on the number of sexual conquests to fill his bottomless void. His insatiable appetite for constant attention and his voracious sexual neediness govern his warped sense of purpose. His goal is: to increase his popularity index through triangulation, plotting his conquests against one another, thereby creating an aura of desirability. He will often, if not always, seek a high-grade supply of beautiful young women that add to the narcissist’s magnetism. When this type of supply disappears or loses its flavour, the somatic narcissist will have no difficulty lowering his standards. In a state of crisis, of dire need, he will indiscriminately seek and enjoy any form of attention. Young, old, slim, fat, blond, brunette, plain—anything will do.

They are attention whores at their core, attention-seeking putas.

There is one dominant relationship that supersedes all the others, one single affair that will render the rest of them quasi-infertile—the relationship that welds him to his body. Here, his inability to bond and attach is momentarily suspended, sustained by a deathless love for his physique. His fixation on health, fitness and beauty plagues his mind with concerns about hairs that need to be dyed, tweaked and shaved, about trendy diets, about innocuous physical ailments that trigger his simmering hypochondria while receding hairlines and impending baldness jolt him out of his believed immortality. There is an autoerotic dimension to this relationship, one that points to a unique verity: bodies are absorbed to form one—an extension of his own. Lovers are consumed, their fleshy fuselage appropriated. They become masturbation devices as the only person the somatic narcissistic makes love to is himself.

While he may be considered a sexual addict, his equally dangerous compulsion lives inside the quest to seduce, lure, catch and, often, hoover. Bored by the prospect of stability and monogamy, he is haunted by the need to hunt, connected to a twisted sense of vitality only the chase can offer. Yes, the world’s gaze validates his existence, yes, sexual trophies feed his ego, but the main high will most often be secured by the hunt.

And hunted I was.

I just had turned 50 and was leaving my husband. Living in a country that was foreign to me, I had to face the foreigner that I, myself, had become. Rootless, in a state of acute disequilibrium, my future felt uncertain. For the first time, the prospect of aging, of aging alone, petrified me. Still, I felt youthful, confident about my appearance even if the man I had started to date was 10 years younger than me. I never thought twice about the age difference.

This is where it became tricky for me.

The sniper’s ammunition of choice, bespoke adoration, hit its mark.

Like superheated water gushing from a geyser, loving words flowed from his mouth at the outset of our relationship. Exposed to lethal doses of mind-bending manifestation of adoration meant to lure and groom, I took the bait. Quickly.

He had studied me well.

Like many somatic narcissists, he was drawn solely to his idea of physical perfection, one that never stays constant, projecting unto me his ever-changing wish list. Sensing he had captured an excellent fuel-generating specimen, he maliciously crafted compliments that poked at my vanity. Tailored with surgical precision, these honeyed words would be given one day only to be negated the next. My so-called perfect figure, my flawless white complexion or the exotic French accent that marked my English all made me the faultless answer to his prayers. So he said. The pull he felt was brittled by his incapacity to see my real worth, a fact that took awhile for me to understand. I had apparently answered his prayers but somehow was continuously confronted to one truth: his prayers had been, all along, whimsical vespers. So, vulnerable and insecure, drenched in confusion, I started to doubt myself, questioning my own appearance, something I had never allowed to happen before. Anxiety that fluctuated to the beat of his inconsistent and paradoxical comments on my physique was now my default mode of feeling.

After falling into his trap, I tried to hang on to anything to that could break my fall. The focus of my life had become narrow and sterile: to be, to stay beautiful every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day. Shamefully, my purpose had become stale and superficial. Like him. Thinking I was still standing on his pedestal, I had become a perfect nothing.

When the mirror becomes your only point of reference, you become the accomplice of your own objectification, because you have allowed yourself to be disposable. It took me six months, following my escape, to reacquaint myself with mirrors: the ones hanging on the walls of my apartment, the ones that framed my walks while dawdling on the streets of Montreal, the ones decorating boutiques or walling the subway corridors. I didn’t want to look at myself, afraid to hate the image that would greet me. Or not. Eventually, I started to lift my head to meet the bathroom mirror while brushing my teeth. Slowly, over time, I fell in love with the soft wrinkles caressing my naked face, the freckles decorating my nose bridge, the full mouth from which laughter can now be heard and land in my eyes, the prickles of my unshaven skin, the surprising appeal of my un-manicured nails, the whiteness of my hands.

I tamed it all. I finally came to rest peacefully inside myself.

I understand now that all narcissists see promises of a healing future at the heart of each new relationship. Hope is the only state that keeps them going. The target represents, at first, everything they thought they had ever wanted. Like I had been, their hope is placed atop a wobbly podium and, like I did, it crashes to the ground. Their hope doesn’t cumulate any learning, it doesn’t retain the lessons, it cannot evolve. The ballet of women that grace their floor always meet a curtain call as narcissists orchestrate what they fear the most: their own abandonment. That hope will match the somatic narcissist’s inability to understand the futility of their hunt for the two things no one can or will ever be able to give him, the impossible: absolute perfection and eternal, vivifying lust.

 

 

 

 

Writing a memoir

Writing a memoir laced with the revealing motifs that contoured and filled my existence for two years was risky. Publishing it, I knew, could be perilous. Not only did I share intimate details about my emotional fragility, exposing vulnerabilities and shame…shamelessly…I also articulately couched  the desires that shaped my thirst and my quest for sexual experiences. As a writer, I wanted to paint a very real portrait of an experience I knew couldn’t be held by the spoken word only, for the spoken word would not have been heard. Really heard. Truly understood. The spoken word, I noticed, can dilute the message, drain the very meaning of its essence, leaving filaments of fragile truths simultaneously exposed but ignored.

Inhaled, with its dive into darkness, was meant to shed an intense light into a space, an unsafe and very real space. Through it, I focused ardently on the subject of emotional abuse, describing its composition and mostly its subtle but devastating blows to an already disturbed and shaky existence. I intentionally overexposed myself, my life, my despair.

From these revelations, tightly knit by carefully chosen words, I expected a certain audience,  made of friends, to be shaken…but not muted. Yes, their silence, the absence of pride in my “achievement”, their feigned indifference wounded deeply, at first. Dinners, get-togethers and general outings where Inhaled was treated as the proverbial white elephant in the room were hurtful…but not that revealing. Was I really surprised? During the writing process, I had felt their apprehensions but had still expected a level of understanding that could match their ability to detach and contextualize, to understand, empathize, and…alleviate. Nothing but loud silences, unease, and clumsy avoidance greeted me. Who and what did they fear for most at that point?

And then the book came out, wrought with its violent indulgences, uncovering my sadness, my void, my wants, most likely confirming their fears, whatever these were. It is true, I must admit, I didn’t hold back. I realize now that I never really did. No one had ever noticed. Until now.

So, another wound to make sense of, to transform into a truth I avoided facing, emerged; their limits, their boundaries, I do not share and never will. My own self-discovery lead me to discover theirs as well. Had I sought shelter and protection from individuals unable to give it to themselves? Had I mirrored to them parts of their own reality, fragments of unaddressed emotions, a lack of courage and honesty vis à vis their lives? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing remains; a writer owes nothing to the world but the truth, her truth, whether in a work of fiction or nonfiction.  That, if anything else, should always be recognized and applauded.

 

 

The healing power of a booty call

To heal from abuse, be it narcissistic or psychopathic abuse, is a process mined with hurdles. When I emerged from my nightmare, numb and fearful of almost everything male, I barely felt alive. I was unable to sustain the level of concentration required to fuel a proper conversation. I avoided social gatherings and family events, craving unhealthy isolation. I knew I carried trauma within each cell of my body, that I was still very vulnerable, fragile. I also knew I didn’t want to remain in this state, that I had to move, act and provoke. Yet again.

Under the watchful eye of caring friends, I returned to the gym, I accepted dinner party invitations, I attended music concerts. I fought the pull of wanting to disappear, to be erased and forgotten. Kept alive by the memory of the other me, the one who, in another lifetime, had always held on to her stage with comfort and ease, I needed to do. But I had to face the truth: I was no longer the same person. I had been profoundly altered, remodeled and somewhat recreated altogether by my story. To do would hold another weight, another meaning, another direction.

I finally dived in and attended a party, the type I abhor: a Halloween costume party. If you don’t know me by now, I have to confess that I can be a little vain. Even younger, I hated to suit up in anything that could potentially spoil my appearance. Through out my early childhood, each Halloween, I had dressed up as a Gypsy. Nothing else would do as it allowed me to play with my mother’s scarves, jewelry and make-up—a delight. I recall vividly that Canadian-cold Halloween night. I was five years old. They…my parents, had insisted I wear a bulky snow outfit, a shapeless garment over which they had pulled one of my mother’s dresses down over me. Distress! I had decided to sit on the floor and withhold my breath…just like a newborn entering the world upon being delivered, the slap that followed brought me to life. But there had been no trick or treating that night.

I walked into the party with an orange wig that my friend had lent me. She was a new friend, the only friend, in fact, I knew at the party. You probably guessed it: the wig was in a bag, leaving my face unframed, my hair untouched, my initial appearance intact.

Everyone at the party, everyone, was costumed. It quickly became obvious to all present that I was refusing to play by their rules, embrace their silliness and simply blend into their colour schemed landscape. I could have dodged the bullet had it not been for the arrival of a party crasher. He had walked by the house. Pulled in by the music, he had entered the premises, uninvited. From a distance, while dancing in the living room, I could see the party organizer forcing a bright-red costume unto the new guest. I smiled. “Poor sucker,” I thought to myself as they placed the ketchup cap over his head. I pursued my dancing, somewhat entertained, my back to the unfolding scene. It was then that I felt someone tap on my shoulder. I turned around. “The guests insist you dress up as well,” the host said to me as he assessed what must have been a stern and annoyed looking face. Before I could resist, I found myself, in a flash, covered up in yellow. And yes, I too had a piece of cloth placed on my head, a yellow piece of garment: the mustard cap.

The decision to leave with the ketchup was easy to make… I had quickly assessed his body, his dancing moves and most importantly his kissing abilities. This strawberry-blond haired man with green eyes was exactly what I needed, I decided on the spot, quite excited by the impromptu gift the evening was dropping at my feet.

Scanning his bedroom, a feeling of dread came over me, a feeling of disgust and fear. I panicked. While he was in his bathroom, I quickly dressed up, kissed him goodbye as he stepped out of the bathroom; I escaped, in a hurry, relieved to hear his silence chase me softly. I didn’t know his name, his phone number; he didn’t know mine.

Exactly eight days following this encounter, dancing with the same friend, this time, at the Montreal Casino, I suddenly missed my stranger. I felt guilty. I wanted to apologize, I wanted to explain. The untamed empath in me was reemerging. Fiercely. He knew nothing about me, but I remembered where he lived. The only solution was to go.

I rang the doorbell twice only to be met by the barking of his dog. He wasn’t home. I wrote my phone number on a piece of paper, signed my name and giggled as I wrote that I liked ketchup on my eggs for breakfast. I folded the note and placed it in his mailbox. I thought I had been cute, funny and so clever.

 

So did he.

 

Over the course of the following two weeks, I saw my new beau three other times. While each encounter would hold the promise of nothing, I still felt a form of attachment show its unaccommodating head. Yes, it seemed that the booty call was a challenging concept for me to integrate and execute. But in time, I would learn…

Thankfully, red flags had started to pop up everywhere, accelerating the much-needed detachment, allowing the booty call to regain its rightful healing role in my journey. My mind had recognized it early enough, though. His toxicity. Letting him go was easy. Besides, I never really had eaten my eggs with ketchup. Ever.

 

I always had drizzled them with a thin filet of truffle oil…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The power of the trauma bond

Image result for trauma bonding photography

 

“Why don’t you leave him? Why are you staying?” they always would ask me as I clung to the barely visible fragments of dignity I had left in me. Still, to this day, I must admit, when I rewind and replay these questions in my head, anger resurfaces, fuelled by their lack of understanding and their emotional absence. If only they had known how I hungered for human connection, how helpless I felt, how my soul was being destroyed, how I needed to be held. Really held. Rocked, even. My anger, I now see, was wasted energy, energy directed at the ones whose ignorance almost buried me with shame…More of it.

I was marked by the weight these questions carried with them. I was stunned by the heaviness seeping from the absence of support—a loud void felt upon waking up each morning from a never-ending string of sleepless nights. The loneliness was unbearable, barely manageable, suffocating. It brought with it constant flashes of being abandoned… the fear of it never very far—too far. Sometimes, when I travel back to these moments of despair, I am convinced that within the core of the human, humanity has left, that compassion is no longer existent. How can a well-meant intention placed at the heart of those seemingly innocent questions be so poisonous? Couldn’t they see I had been trapped in a strange world, that my will was stolen, that I had lost my way, my destination, that despair was my only ally to rely upon? Couldn’t they see, that I was dying? Couldn’t they hear it in my voice, feel it in their bones?

No. No, they couldn’t. For all of them, logic dictated I remove myself from a harmful situation. Period. How could I blame them for thinking I could function still as the intelligent, cerebral and logical woman they had always known? No. This is how powerful and lethal the trauma bond is: from the outside looking in, it defies our understanding of what normal and functional human behaviours ought to be; from the inside looking out, there is nowhere to escape to.

Why did I stay? Simple: because it was physical, in all sense of the word. I was addicted to the adrenaline, the dopamine, the serotonin and the oxytocin I had been fed. The ability for me to detoxify from such a potent cocktail, one carefully designed, measured and administered by an unscrupulous individual, was crippled by the creation of a monumental emotional mindfuck. And so I became addicted to the toxic tides of the relationship, to the lulls that were laced with paralyzing uncertainty, to the promises that held me chained to the magician’s masterful illusions. Weaning oneself from this emotional and chemical rollercoaster is as agonizing as weaning oneself from heroin. So yea, that it was difficult to leave is an understatement.

 

Related image

 

Many excellent articles and stories on the subject of trauma bonding/betrayal bonding exist. Of course, the content of the actual experiences obviously vary, but the pattern remains, unfortunately, the same for all. At the heart of it for me was the unpredictability of my abuser’s demeanour, keeping me in a constant state of fight, flight or fuck mode, assuring the adrenaline was constantly pumping into my veins. My quest had been to please him at all costs in order to regain the sensations that had marked the beginning of our relationship. Central to the abuse were the random and rare acts of kindness, crumbs of attention, thrown at me in order to confuse and pacify the occasional rebel that would defy the lies—his distorted views of reality. Little things, really. A million of them. A sweet word well placed, a timely kiss, a stronger embrace. Anything to hold on to, all dispensed with minute calculation. These moments redefined my perceptions of us.

They made me believe. He knew it.

Each time I had gathered the courage to leave, the hoovering, the stalking and the love bombing started. The intensity of it all, the feeling of being that desired, created a form of hypnotic amnesia that would cloud my rational mind, annihilating the truths I had momentarily perceived, until eventually, I had to face them. When I decided to see them, those truths, to fuse myself to the facts, then, my bond to the abuser and the addiction to the abuse weakened enough for me to flee, safely. The antidote to the trauma bond is to ground yourself in reality, its ugly and painful truths the only lifelines. And so I did.

Escaping the physical relationship is one thing; escaping the damage that has reshaped your brain is another. In my case, complex-post traumatic disorder followed my departure from the relationship. Recurring nightmares, repeated flashes of tolerated mistreatment, obsessive reconfiguration of reality plagued my days, leaving me drained, apathetic and completely depressed. I had navigated my escape alone without support; I would also navigate the recovery, unaccompanied. I did seek the help of a trauma specialist, but still felt the sting of my friends’ and family’s incomprehension, lack of understanding and acceptance. They thought that because I had left, I was safe, secure, and functional. They were wrong, and to this day, I think, are still unaware, unaware that the capacity to trust myself had disappeared, that the capacity to trust others had vanished, that the belief that I could be heard had gone. More importantly, they failed to see that their absence had configured a deeper sense of isolation…and that isolation can kill the strongest of souls.

Against this backdrop, I still made it to the other side.

In the process, I forgave myself.

And I forgave them.

https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/complex-ptsd-symptoms-behavior-and-treatment/

https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2018/04/5-signs-youre-in-a-destructive-trauma-bond-with-a-toxic-person/

5 Signs You’re In A Dangerous Trauma Bond With A Toxic Person

What is Sociopathy?

Disclaimer: My expertise lies in my ability to make sense of what happened to me-  and me only. I was given (or took…) the opportunity to study, from up close, an individual who displayed extreme character disturbances.  This led me to dive head first into the subject of sociopathy, psychopathy and malignant narcissism. What follows is my own personal interpretation of what these personality disorders are.

One will find that sociopathy is officially referred to, in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM, as Anti Social Personality Disorder, a category that seems to have confused matters more than anything as the term refers only to behaviors. Therefore, many individuals who are criminals are labeled ASPD without being sociopaths. The term sociopathy is sometimes also referred to as psychopathy.

Some experts have stated that sociopaths are the product of their environment while psychopaths are simply born already impaired. Others have also said that sociopaths, while sharing many traits with psychopaths, are capable of minimal empathy and lack mental organization. Whatever the case, both will display an array of unsettling characteristics.

In Inhaled, I have labeled my antagonist a sociopath. The sequel to Inhaled will provide the answers to my choice.

The general consensus is that most of the following traits will be present in both profiles, to varying degrees.

-Glibness/superficial charm

-Grandiose sense of self

-Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom

-Pathological lying

-Conning/manipulative/deceitful

-Lack of remorse or guilt

-Shallow effect

-Callous/lack of empathy

-Parasitic lifestyle

-Poor behavioral controls/impulsivity

-Early behavior problems

-Lack of realistic, long-term goals

-Irresponsibility

-No accountability

-Adult antisocial behavior

-Narcissism

It is said that their fearlessness is at the heart of their absent conscience. They have no inner dialogue capable of steering them away from the amorality of their choices. They know right from wrong, but do not care and have little to no understanding of the consequences their actions may trigger.

The facts:

  • 4% of the population is considered to be composed of sociopaths/psychopaths: 1/25
  • Brain scans, MRIs and functional MRIs have shown brain abnormalities in most sociopaths/psychopaths studied. The prefrontal cortex, which helps us monitor our behavior, our emotional learning and our decision-making appears to be impaired.
  • The amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for the acquisition of information that reinforces learning and recognizes emotionally important information, appears to be abnormally developed, hence the fearlessness.
  • Extended para-limbic structures appear to be dysfunctional as well, highlighting impaired episodic memory, challenges in the area of self-referential experiences and emotional poverty.
  • Sociopathy/psychopathy is incurable, untreatable although some approaches are being examined. The hope seems to focus on the younger segment of that population.
  • Sociopaths/psychopaths account for 16 % of the prison population. They have 20-25 more chances of ending in prison than the non-psychopath and are four to eight times more likely to relapse.
  • Psychopathy/sociopathy is twice as common as schizophrenia, anorexia, bipolar disorder and paranoia and almost as common as bulimia, panic disorder, obsessive- compulsive disorder and narcissism.

Additional Resources:

 

 

The Inspiration Behind Inhaled: Ulysses and the Sociopath

Beyond educating the reader on the topic of narcissism, sociopathy, and psychopathy, my aim here, in this space, is to bring the audience into my journey as a writer, a survivor, and a life lover. The writing process, my road to recovery and everything in between will be addressed, all while the sequel to Inhaled is being written.

 Here we go!

 ULYSSES  AND THE SOCIOPATH

So. What inspired me to write Inhaled, a book about becoming unhinged, about sex, about emotional abuse? Why did I think that my story was better, more original, worthy of being shared…publicly? What made me think that my narrative was so much more compelling than the millions of stories already being lived, as we speak, by other victims of emotional abuse? What made me think that I was so special, that my circumstances were so unique, so singular? And what about emotional abuse? Isn’t it considered to be the tolerable abuse, the forgettable abuse, the softcore abuse, the type many of us have been taught was part of the living “à deux” experience?  Is it really interesting to talk about such a lukewarm topic? After all, if you can’t see it, does it really exist? Rhetorical question.

The truth as to why I wrote Inhaled is quite simple. I wrote to cope, to survive. I know. Unoriginal. Strange events-strange to me, the straight, good girl- started to unfold in my life, prompting me first to loosely document them in a journal.  Slowly but steadily, though, the feelings accompanying these events started to crush my everyday life. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t eat, sleep or think. These manifestations of distress became the signal. They became the springboard and platform from which I would structure my story, the real writing allowing some air to reach my lungs and oxygenate the mind.

Along the way, confused, I somehow decided I would remain in a twisted and dangerous relationship, betting against myself, pulled by an unhealthy curiosity, knowing something was not right. Transfixed by a visceral need to stay and observe him, I allowed myself to become a voyeur, a vulgar voyeur, a common voyeur, and an unapologetic voyeur. I knew he was crazy; I knew everything about him spelled danger, trouble and dishonesty. Yet, I wanted to know, fully, if the monster was real or just an illusion. I wanted to dissect his ways, unearth his secrets, dust off his mask and remove it from his face even, completely, all from the comfort of his home, his bed, his couch. An overzealous anthropologist is what I transformed myself into. Like Homer’s hero, Ulysses, I decided to tie myself to the mast of the empty vessel that was his home, thinking I wouldn’t succumb to the charm of my siren’s songs, his words, his promises, his lies.

Yes, you see, sirens come in all genders, mermaids to some, mermen to others. They strike under whatever form guarantees a catch, securing the wreckage, using their silences as much as their chants to numb your defenses and pull you inside their world.

Like Ulysses, I heard the voice of those sirens. I exposed myself to their melodies over and over again. Like Ulysses, I wanted to indulge, thinking it was safe to do so, thinking that I was strong. Stronger. But unlike him, I ended living with those sirens, sharing minute elements of everyday life with its king, my handsome Triton. I ate with the creature, slept with it, played with it. Ulysses was able to navigate successfully and pass the siren’s seductive island, resisting its pull, pursuing his journey. Mine, my ship, well…it anchored.

To what extent I survived remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 

Inhaled: Chapter One Excerpt

My mind, and only my mind, started to wander early on in my marriage,
revealing the permeability of its seal. The courtship had been long and
relentless on John’s part, his insistence drilling successfully through the
boundaries I had thought solid. But in all honesty, the decision to marry
still came rapidly, as I decided, almost unilaterally, he was going to be the
one. He had struck his own black gold.

The pre-honeymoon phase took a nosedive one week prior to the ceremony.
It was more than a case of cold feet; this was pure, visceral knowledge
that he, most likely, was not the man for me. I remember the morning of
the wedding, telling my maid of honor that I could not go through with it.
There I was in my rose-colored silk dress, with freshly-curled hair, a hint
of makeup, and a yellow and pink rose bouquet in hand. Elegantly dressed
in a yellow tailored suit and a blue wide-brimmed hat, my girlfriend of 15
years stood silently in the doorway leading to the garden. This moment
would crystallize into an emotional blueprint for both her and me. It would
become a canvas where the consequence of my ignored inner voice would be
immortalized. Though I was teary-eyed and paralyzed with fear, she still led
me to the limousine awaiting us at the edge of the garden. Caught in a daze,
I let myself be led. I was going to marry John; there was no turning back.

To be fair, it was a gorgeous day and an exquisite 50-guest lunch affair. It
was held in one of Montreal’s landmarks: a quaint little Inn, located where
the International and Universal Exposition had been held in 1967. John
and I had planned the wedding together and the venue had been carefully
scouted. It had an unbelievably beautiful rose garden and a country ambiance
that made a small, inexpensive wedding feel grandiose and regal.

At 28 years old, fresh from a seven-year relationship that had ended badly,
I had fallen in love with a man who would prove immature his whole life
through. At first, I had been seduced by John’s tenacity, his perseverance
in courting me. That someone was able to keep up with my abrupt and
cynical side had stoked my curiosity, as each of my genuine pushbacks had
been met with such nonchalance and humor. It would take me 23 years to
rightly interpret the significance and true meaning of his approach.

I remember walking happily on St. Paul Street, with him poking my
introverted bubble with such laid-back insouciance. He would grab the nape
of my neck, without evaluating the comfort level at which I would allow
such close physical contact, and I would pull away. This would become one
of the many metaphors illustrating the challenge of living with someone
who allowed the reptilian part of his brain to dictate most of his decisions
and behaviors. But the romantic veil, behind which the first stages of love
is unleashed at the start of any relationship, prevented me from seeing it,
his toxic impulsivity.

From the beginning of our relationship, the sensations I extracted from
my time spent with him were sensations that filled me with unconditional
acceptance. And that was my opium. For the duration of my entire marriage
with John, I would rely on this feeling to legitimize my union with him
and to tolerate the many deviant behaviors that would come to mark our
relationship. So yes, the way he fully accepted me, the whole of me, complete
with my curvy personality and sharp edges, had seduced me.
“He truly wants me. This is what love is supposed to feel like,”
I had thought.

John and I met at a private party in Montreal, and I would later understand
that his emotional inadequacy was responsible for what I perceived as
his tenacity. He had followed me to the taxi, running behind me, begging
for my phone number, which I had declined to give him. He had attended
the party with his then-girlfriend but seemed oblivious to her presence,
and oblivious to my reticence to give in to him.

Somewhat handsome, an average 5 feet, 11 inches, his body, while
somewhat lean, showed signs of impending doughiness. Our lovemaking
had allowed me to touch and feel the potential for his body to become fleshy.
I understood that he probably had peaked physically a few years earlier, his
trained body then the subject of an intense sports regimen. I would discover
over time, how my slow disinterest for all things sexual would correlate
with John’s inability to care for himself: body and soul. I would see a lean,
well-kept body and my stomach immediately would tighten, my heart race
inside my chest, pulsations of want reddening my cheeks. The sight of a fit
body would awaken sensations that would tingle their way to my insides,
preparing the terrain with gliding substances meant to ease the pleasure.
But for years, that terrain would become stale and remain sexually incapable
of welcoming the strongest dandelion seeds.

Inhaled: An Introduction

What was meant to be a lifelong, passionate affair had shrunk into
a minuscule version of itself, slowly burning out at its core, leaving the
simmering ashes to become a cold powder. I never thought my years of
marriage were perfect. Who’s are? But, I had held the firm belief that to
better one’s relationship, however flawed, you must look inside, not outside
the marriage.

I knew I was not the only woman who had had the safety of her world
destroyed, the structure of her life disjointed, the foundation of her union
blasted. Countless stories depicting evidence of marital crumbling are
readily available to the insecure voyeur like me, seeking reassurance in
futile comparisons. I wanted to share my story, not as a premise for revenge,
no; I wanted to unburden myself from the encompassing guilt that had
woven its way into my stomach. I needed to describe, in painful detail,
this unexpected life passage I had chosen to walk, its fine line sometimes
erased or redrawn, oblivious to the hurt and destruction that would ensue.

My desire to share was a function of survival, as I needed to finally
breathe properly, dilute the shame and access the universe’s forgiveness.

From the moment we decided to sell our house and cars, pack our
container and leave Montreal, I felt the urge and stamina to finally write.
Fate had interfered and injected multiple obstacles to stunt my initial efforts,
until the right subject had imposed itself on me.

What follows is the description of my journey into an unknown world,
a senseless world devoid of depth and purpose. A world where mistrust and
deceit seep their way into everyday life, guiding the twisted and misguiding
the wronged.