Am I Narcisstic Because I Write About my Past?
The Importance of Self Reflection
So, my heart broke yesterday.
A family member (who has not read my writing on Medium) and also has not read my memoir published under a pseudonym in 2014 (but knows about it) phoned me about something else, and during the course of the conversation started to say that I live in the past because I write about it.
That I need to “forget about it” and “move forward”. That “everyone has a story” and I am not “special”.
“Who do I think I am writing about my life and experiences?”
I should be only looking forward. That means not talking about the past — ever. I should forget it.
I was stunned.
I was lost for words for some time and I responded — by NOT responding.
And then after the phone conversation had ended, my heart felt heavy. Really heavy.
I went over their words, over and over again in my mind.
Am I really living in the past by writing about past experiences?
I do not believe so as:
- I never mention my past to this person except for an occasional reference in passing when it is relevant. It is not a daily topic of conversation, in fact, I hardly ever have a conversation with them.
- This person is actually in my book, and I sought permission off them before I wrote the book, and they gave their permission — as I wrote under a pseudonym. They have repeatedly asked me in the last three or four years how the book is going sales wise and asked what responses I have gotten as they were interested. They appeared to respond very positively and with happiness.
- I have been in therapy to deal with my past as I recognized it was negatively affecting my present life. I went for the first time 19 years ago, and I stayed in it for some years. To be fair, I was in the process of not just leaving the Jehovah’s Witness religion which I had been brought up in from childhood and stayed in for 35 years, but I also was leaving my marriage and dealing with past childhood sexual abuse trauma that had been activated. So it was a combination of current life situations that were overwhelming as well as past circumstances that drove me to seek help at this time.
- I honestly do not think I would have survived and still be alive today without the help I was given as it was such a traumatic time. I will forever be grateful.
- I then went into therapy and sought help from a somatic body therapist (based on work of Dr. Peter Levine) on healing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) when I had a resurgence of symptoms about two years ago, after experiencing prolonged bullying in my workplace. I have not discussed this therapy with anyone in my family or friends, in fact, most in my family are not even aware I sought professional help.
- The reason I did not talk about it with even those closest to me in the last two years (except for my husband who has been my absolute rock) was because of shame.
All-encompassing engulfing shame.
That the depression was back.
That I could not get out of it on my own.
That my husband was experiencing all this stress in our lives with me stopping work because of me, and he deserved better.
That no matter how hard I tried, and all the tools to fight against sliding back into depression I had learned — none of them worked.
I went back into that dark hole, and I couldn’t get out on my own.
I went back into therapy, not for love of myself. I had lost all respect for myself at that stage. It was for love of my children and husband. My husband told me that my adult children would never recover if I committed suicide and I believed him. I had seen the effect on my eldest son that same year when a close friend unexpectedly and suddenly suicided. It devastated him.
This was another reason I never shared with my children the depth of my depression during this time.
I never told them of the time I was so ashamed and disgusted and full of self-loathing for my inability to climb out of it that I put a rope in the back of the ute and drove off to find a patch of an isolated bush with a tree so I could hang myself.
I planned to back up the ute under a tree and climb up and hang myself from a branch on the other side. I figured no one would find me for a while and hopefully by the time they did my body would have disintegrated and my husband would be spared the horror of finding me dead.
The words of my husband about never recovering if I died or my children kept going over in my mind. I felt there was no way out. I was doomed to have to forever have this pain I did not feel I could cope with if I didn’t kill myself and if I did kill myself I would hurt other people. I felt lost and without any hope of knowing what to do or how to get out of the situation.
I pulled over and parked the ute and rang a suicide prevention hotline.
I sobbed inconsolably for about an hour hardly able to breathe or draw breath. I do not remember much of that hour. I know I kept repeating over and over — I can’t do it anymore. I frightened the operator so much that she started begging me not to kill myself and I realized I was traumatizing the poor woman.
I rallied enough to reassure her and promise her I would not kill myself and that I would go home and tell my husband how I was feeling (which I did).
I will never forget the irony of sitting in the van and within my fog of misery, snot pouring out my nose, coughing and choking, it penetrated through my brain that this woman needed MY help as she was upset she could not save me from myself.
These tendrils of awareness reaching into my consciousness helped me enough that I was able to pull myself out of my absolute loss of all hope and desperation to “help” this woman not feel so upset about ME being so upset.
But, I thank her for losing it on the phone as maybe it would not have penetrated through in my head, that my actions and my distress were having consequences on others.
But, my family and friends know NOTHING of any of this.
Of the weeks where I could barely get out of bed, or didn’t eat for days, and would shut everyone and everything out as it was the only way NOT to kill myself. My husband and I had made a pact. I would go and get help, and he would support me while I did so. He knew I had been in this place 17 years before I met him and pulled out of it and so believed in me that I could so again. He had absolute belief in me and challenged my perception over and over that; I was an utterly hopeless, useless and lousy person because I was back in this dark hole.
He also was aware of the circumstances I had experienced in my workplace over the previous two years which I also had not shared with anyone due to shame but have written about here.
My book was published in 2014. It was motivated 1) by a dream that felt like a life’s mission promise I made to my dead nana and 2) by a desire to write down how I overcome the deep depression at the time I left the religion of my childhood and been cut off and treated as if dead for doing so by everyone I knew.
I thought if I wrote about my recovery and how I got through this time that may be in the reading of my struggle someone else who was going through anything similar may not feel so alone and it may prevent someone suiciding.
The rate of suicide amongst ex JWs is high because all family and friend support is removed from them at a time of high stress and they are condemned by the religion as having lost god’s spirit and told they are evil and will die at Armageddon. It is too much for many to cope with.
I discovered Medium in October last year (2018). I started writing at the beginning of November and have not looked back. It has given me a voice, and it has provided a sense of meaning and purpose and drive that has helped me get back fully on my feet from the last vestiges of depression I was experiencing.
But this person who asked, “What makes you think you’re so special? Everyone has got a story. Not just you” -they are unaware of ALL of this.
I DO think I am special. There is ONLY one of me. I am the ONLY me there ever will be in this world.
I also think EVERYONE else is unique, including animals, insects and the natural world. All are unique and vibrant, have a place and are connected.
And I do agree with the statement EVERYONE has got a story. But, not everyone chooses to tell it that is for sure. Not everyone wants to tell their story. And that is okay.
But for me, I want to have a voice. I want to tell my stories (the 100s of stories that make me ME and that have shaped and continue to shape me).
It is the MAIN thing that gives a sense of purpose to my current life. I have my husband and adult children and my joy in everyday mundane things that also provide me with satisfaction, contentment, and love which is interchangeable.
BUT, writing is my lifeblood. It is my life’s work. It is what gets me up each morning. It is what I do when I come home from work. It FEEDS me as much as I give out to others.
Does this make me narcissistic?
I believe a narcissist would be motivated by self-elevation, self-glory, and ego. I 100% refute that those are my motivations.
I have examined my heart, and I believe that I am more self-flagellating towards myself in my writing than towards others.
I expose all my faults and struggles within the topics I write about, not to get any glory but to SHARE.
To have a voice.
To speak about what has happened to shed light on things which have remained typically in darkness to help prevent them maybe happening again, to other people.
To help others who read who also may relate to NOT feel so alone.
To add my story to the vast collection of stories that feed and nourish souls.
I want to always write with the purpose of uplifting, exposing, or sharing gems which have helped me on my journey.
My motivations are simply to write from MY experience as I CANNOT write about things I have not experienced.
So, does writing about our past make us narcissistic?
Well, that depends on your motivation, and only YOU know that truly in YOUR heart. NO-ONE can make that judgment on you as they cannot read the depths of your heart.
Rumi said, “Keep breaking your heart until it opens”.
I will keep writing and opening up my heart and allowing pain out and love and light in as much as I can.
The opening of our heart space is the one thing that truly connects us to others.
I seek connection through my writing.
Most of the time I am not even aware as it is happening as most people do not leave comments or maybe even clap. But I know they are reading as I can count the minutes, and hours each day people are reading my articles. I know people commune with me, even though I cannot see them.
The knowledge of this NOURISHES me. Is that narcissistic or just human? I think it is the latter.
I read articles on here that I sometimes do not comment on (although I always try to clap) but that put a smile on my face, make my heart feel a little lighter or that cause me to deeply think and contemplate. Sometimes an article will be more practical and add something of value I incorporate into my daily life. Not all the writers will know how much they have affected me. I have read plenty of library books and books that the authors have no idea how profoundly their words have helped me in some way, either small or large. I always try and leave reviews on Amazon but have not always done so.
Words have been my savior in the past, and my way to rise above past hurts and pains and also bring pleasure to me. More so than any other medium.
So I will continue to write words. I can only guess and will never know for sure what motivated this person to say what they did to me.
But at the end of the day, I am ONLY writing for myself, first and foremost. To have a voice. If anyone else benefits or not, from what they read from me, it is immaterial. It indeed is heartwarming and affirming — but it is not necessary.
I am not going to let their words stop me, but it has been good to stop, and self reflect on my motivation. It will help me pause and think about each story I am writing.
Thinking about my WHY — helps me be aware of the power of words and be mindful of what words I am putting down.
Words have power. I will do my best to use them wisely.