Being Heard

It feels like complete acceptance, total respect, absolute acknowledgment and warmth all wrapped into one big bear hug.  It’s not the first time I’ve been heard.  I have amazing family and friends who have supported me and believed me about NPD and it’s effects on my family.  Even so, there was always a glimmer of doubt that perhaps I had been clinging so desperately to the belief that my ex was a narcissist, in a vain attempt at making sense of a messed up marriage.

The validation that comes with speaking to a professional –  someone who understands personality disorders –  is an entirely new level of understanding.  And prior to yesterday’s visit, I’d been to two other counselors who had completely dismissed me.

I had decided to not play the narcissism card right off the bat.  I had a lot of time to present a picture of the history of my relationship with Mark, from the time we first started dating.  I included my observations about the boys from his previous marriage and how I had assumed, based on what Mark had told me, that his relationship with them was strained because of his ex-wife’s influence.

I tried my hardest to leave out emotion, name-calling (that was really hard) and nit-picking.  I presented clear-cut examples of bizarre treatments and behaviors.  I told her how Mark announced when Will was 6 weeks old, that this family thing wasn’t for him.  I told her how the kids weren’t allowed to makes messes in his house.  I told her how he would remove himself from conversations if the talk didn’t center on him.  I told her about the insidious picking and critiques of Will and Jen’s hair styles, wardrobes and choice of hobbies.  I told her how I kept trying, after our separation, to come up with suggestions of what Mark and the kids could do together.  I told her that I opened my house to him for visits, even after learning about “the incident”.  I told her about how the kids refuse to call him on his behavior because of potential repercussions.

Periodically, she would look at me in total dismay.  Several times, as she was writing fast and furiously, she would say, “Wait.  Back up?  What did he say?”

She was disgusted with the story about Mark reminding Will to “use the potty, so he wouldn’t have an accident on the chairlift.”  She was stunned that the kids weren’t allowed to erase mistakes because he didn’t like eraser shavings on his kitchen counter.  She asked me to repeat the part about Mark telling us that he needed more control over us.  She kept shaking her head and writing and shaking her head.

When I felt that I had covered everything that I wanted to say, I referred to my notes.  I hadn’t looked at them prior to this.  The only things I had left out were ‘parental alienation’ and ‘narcissism’.  By this point, I was feeling very comfortable with her.  We had an easy repoire.  We talked a lot about current child rearing theories.  We talked about the use of art and illustration to draw kids out and help them express their feelings.  I really clicked with her and trusted that she was getting me.

So I looked at her and said, “The only thing I haven’t covered is ‘Parental Alienation’.  And she actually chuckled a little before saying, “Well that’s what Mark presented to me.  But, clearly, you bent over backwards to try to create an environment where your kids could have a relationship with their dad.”  I said that I often worried if maybe I was raising two co-dependents-in-training.  To this she said, “I prefer to say that your kids have been in Survival Mode.  Everything you have told me about how they relate to their dad is an indication that they know what to expect, and they are going to do their best to avoid any more abuse.”

When she said this, I felt completely comfortable bringing up NPD.

Her first comment was, “Do you think you are dealing with narcissism here?”

I explained how I’d discovered narcissism and how when I was at my most desperate, it seemed to shed light on the bizarreness of my marriage.  I offered that he certainly had never been diagnosed, and that I can’t say for sure, but that all the signs point to many of the characteristics of narcissism.

At this point she said, “Well, the truth is, I don’t have a lot of experience with narcissism.  Narcissists don’t seek counseling, so there aren’t a lot of counselors that do have experience with NPD.”  She pulled out her DSM and ran down the list of NPD characteristics, reading them aloud.  For fear I would have to backtrack, I offered, “There are a couple that Mark doesn’t really exhibit.”  She said, “You only need five for a diagnosis.” (In my own assessment, I think he has 9 or 10 characteristics and he also has OCD.)

And here’s the point where I knew she got it.

She said, as if the light bulb had just gone off, “That explains why he can’t take influence.”  I had to ask her what she meant.  She said, “Well, when I was talking to him, I couldn’t get him to directly answer my questions.  He kept veering off to topics he wanted to address.  It wasn’t that he was necessarily avoiding me, but he wasn’t answering me.”  She also asked if I was familiar with cure rates for personality disorders.  She reminded me that personality disorders are ingrained, and that a potential cure is based on the subject first acknowledging that they even have a disorder, and then agreeing to what may be years of counseling.

Then I asked if Mark had mentioned the baby voice.  (God.  I am so sick of talking about that stinking baby voice, but it’s important to Jenny.  It is a real indication of his inability to relate or empathize.)

And the IDIOT didn’t mention the BABY VOICE.  Geez.

How many times have we told him that it makes Jenny uncomfortable?  It’s at the top of every “How To Be A Better Dad List,” that the kids email him.

She continued to flip through the DSM and said, “This explains telling an 11 year old to use the potty.  This explains his control issues.  This explains why he doesn’t perceive that his kids aren’t comfortable around him.  This explains his charm, because he is charming.  But I just couldn’t get around the fact that I couldn’t relate to him, even after two visits.  It is my job to see people, get them, and be able to work with them.  This guy really had me at a loss.”

I brought up annexation and dismissal of the source(s) when the source isn’t interested in being the source.  I brought up his issues with time, and his need to have us look like him.  I brought up whatever I could think of without getting emotional.

She admitted that she has a whole lot of reading to do before her appointment with Jen and Will.  I smiled at her and said, “Actually, it’ll be pretty entertaining.”  And she laughed and said, “I’m afraid I’ll recognize too many people I know in the characteristics.”


My goal was to be factual

And I didn’t cry in 1 hour and 45 minutes.  NOT ONCE!

That is the power of being heard.  I didn’t feel frustrated or denied or coddled or patronized.


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  1. I heaved a sigh of relief when I read all the details. I’ve waited for your post all day. Didn’t want to bug you. Again, I’m SO happy for you that you were heard. That she gets it. That she wasn’t snowed by the charm. Thank God! Thank the Universe. Thanks to Whoever it is that’s responsible for this. It’s about time. It won’t make him a better dad. But somebody can be an unbiased sounding board for you and your kids. And somebody can help you with additional tools to help your kids cope. What a great day it was.

  2. And the kids are really excited to talk to her tomorrow.

    I can’t wait to hear what she has to say after meeting with them.

  3. Hooray!! I’m really glad to hear it went so well! I totally agree with Pat, in that counseling probably won’t go very far in helping Mark become a better parent. But the validation you and your children will receive from a therapist who “gets it” is invaluable. She sounds perfect. Best of luck to Will & Jenny in speaking their truth tomorrow!

  4. Thanks Lisa!

    I just tucked the kids in for the night, and the last thing Will said was, “I can’t wait to talk to the counselor.”

    Wish I could be a mouse in the corner.

  5. I am so happy. I am actually at a loss for words. I love your new counselor. And you and the kids. I think I will celebrate. With a nice thick strawberry milkshake. Because this is a great day and the beginning of a wonderful week. I can feel it in my bones.

  6. Phyllis,

    Enjoy your milkshake, honey.

    How’s your knee?

  7. So relieved! First thing I did this morning after getting the kids out the door was check in with you. What an amazing feeling to be heard by a professional – esp after your previous experiences. I can’t wait to hear how it goes with the kids. Give them kisses for me. Wish I could hug all of you!

  8. Kate,

    I can’t wait to have the chance to sit down and write after the kids’ appointment.

    I’ll deliver those hugs. ;)

  9. One question? Did Mark find this counselor? The fact that she is connecting with you/kids, is incredible! What looked like a mountain of grief to put the kids and you through, is looking more like a rainbow at the horizon… So happy for you and the kidlets.. !

  10. It truly is a joy to be heard. I’m so happy for you and the kids.

    Can’t wait to hear about their experiences.

    And since Mark is paying for this, well I kinda like him too…but just for a minute!


  11. Annie,

    Yes. Mark found her. I suspect he may shop for a new counselor once he hears what she suggests.

  12. Donna,

    I won’t hold that against you… since you’re only liking him for a minute.

  13. Yeah!!!!! Finally!!!! I can’t wait to read what happened with the kiddos! I am sure it will be equally liberating for them!!!! YES!!! YES!!!! YES!!!!

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