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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5334
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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I'm female, 50 y.o., professional, diagnozed with depression

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I'm female, 50 y.o., professional, diagnozed with depression combined with anxiety disorder. During last two months my condition worsened pretty badly, because my mother suddenly got breast cancer, and sister's breast atypia (pre-cancer) is under investigation. I started visiting Psychiatrist who helped a lot to cut my panic through very effective (in my view) medications. While panic diminished, depression increased. I started having suicidal episodes (2-3 times per week, mostly night time). Since I've learned that depression is sometimes could be relieved through psychoanalysis, I made two visits to a very expensive psychoanalitic specialist. However, I feel that all these efforts are undermined by my family situation at home. I think, My husband ) is the major contributing factor into my acute depression now. He tends to be very aggressive and rude with me. Sometimes, after conversation with him I feel like I've stepped on the snake. He constantly reminds me about my mental health in a very rude words, lately he started making very degrading comments about my appearence (like: how old and ugly you became, you look like white trash who lives in trailer, you dress like my grandmother and look older then her). His constant topic is my inability to clean the house regularly. I work pretty long hours mostly in night time, eveyday from 3 to 10PM, Sat from 9AM until 7, and recently I had no day off for three weeks. I feel pretty tired because I needed to add to my work caregiving to my mother, stayed in hospital with her and my sister, etc. but I can't even think about hiring a cleaning lady, because I know how violently he will react to this. My sister lives close to me, but I'm afraid to move to her place: my acute depressed state can hurt my mother who also has very bad heart and hypertonia annow is recovering from mastectomy (she is 83 years old).
I don't know what to do to stay home and fell secure; each time when I tell about separation, husband orders me to move to my sister which I can't do due to the reasons above. I was hoping to get some advice how to talk to this man so I can avoid his harassment. I'm afraid to talk tough, because he might be very violent (during last two years he tried to kill me, even threatened with knife during petty scandals). I feel thathe needs psychiatric help even more then I do. I feel like a rat in a trap, and really, really want it all end. I can't stand anymore the constant panic and fear for my family, painfull harassment from this man, feeling of hoplessness and uslessness of my life (I am childless). Please, help me
I have sister living nearby, but can't move to her for now, I'm afraid to
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 5 years ago.

Hi, Marina! You know, to give you the best answer, I think I should ask you a few questions first that will help define the problem and the situation.

Marina, I am very concerned for your safety. As your story developed, I thought we might have to talk about your husband and narcissism. But by the end of the story, I am worried for you and his narcissism is aggressive and abusive and dangerous.

I know that moving to your sister's is difficult given her own problems she's facing. But would she let you stay with her temporarily while you find a way to live on your own?

Are there other relatives you could stay with? In your mother's house perhaps?

Would you be willing to stay in a women's shelter until you can get settled on your own?

Because you are right: he needs psychiatric help and may be dangerous.

Any extra information that will help, feel free to share.

Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Dear Dr Mark,
the problem is that my mother lives with my sister. Each time when I stayed there depressed like now, in the end she developed very high blood pressure. The problem is, when I am like this I tend to talk with her about my problems, and she gets very nervous. But I can't help myself, when I feel THAT hurt, I want to cry and talk. <y sister works long hours, and I am very private person and do not have friends close enough to share all disgusting details.
Feel strange about shelter: never exercised this idea, because, after all, we are not entirely poor; we make around 75-80 K . However, two years ago after one episode of my depression that ended with his violent attack, I went to social services and they offered help. At that moment, I did not reveal his name, was afraid to hurt him.
I think, I eventually will move to my sister, but I can't do it now when my mother is so fragile and vulnerable. Her cancer is IIA and she got two surgeries within less then a month. My idea was to get an advice how I can co-exist with this person until the time I will feel secure to go to my sister place. I might need shelter info, but still exercise an idea that I myself part of the problem and can't just find correct words to talk to him. I tried really hard not to talk AT ALL, not to stay in the same room, avoid eating together.)Believe me, it feels weird even for depressed person like me to stay in the same house without saying a word by days. Feels like cemetery. And his hatred that I feel like a cloud enveloping me) But sometimes, we need to talk, like tonight. He wants to fix brakes n my car tomorrow (I need to drive for working), and when I told him that I have an appointment with analyst, he got really mad because he told me that he needs my help to do the job. He, in fact, demanded me to cancel the appointment (which I will do to avoid further confrontation).
The problem, he can't stand opposite opinions to his words and actions. Sometimes I can't help to say something that contradicts him, and he explodes. Sometimes, he just finds something wrong with my appearance (like unfortunate hairdo I did today) and sends an insult instantly, without a single word from my side. That was a "white trash" thing.
Two days ago, when my sister bought 3 tickets to opera (to cheer us up), right in the opera house he says: how ugly and old you are! Believe me, I did not tell a word to him for half an hour, at least, prior to this, probably, that was a mistake? He felt ignored?
I'm asking, because, I already decided about divorce. However, I need somehow to pull until the thing. And it is really technically difficult to stay under the same roof and NEVER talk. I just need to survive week or two w/o additional pain. I feel I can't take it much longer. I already feel miserable, complete looser for all my useless childless life, and when my real family got into this danger all of a sudden, I felt like I really want to die NOW, because I do not want to see in future my mother or sister dying from the cancer and stay around not able to help. Every morning I wake up feeling like there is a heavy plate is on top of my chest. I think, it is anxiety, but really hurts to breath.
NIghts are the worst because during the night I feel my depression like a thick blanket on top of me. I know that to see the person like me is NOT a great thing for him, and can't really blame him for hating me after all. I will follow any advice that can teach me how to sneak around w/o being hurt for 1-2 weeks, because I'm afraid that my constant grief and anxiety combined with sharp pain from his comments can push me to some stupid action
THanks a lot for helping me, Marina
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 5 years ago.

Marina, thank you for the added information. It helps a lot. I believe I can now be of help with this issue.

First, let me say it sounds like you've put up with a lot for a while now. I think your husband is not just abusive because he has an anger management problem. Marina, your husband is narcissistic. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or people who have features of the full disorder are very controlling and very belittling of others who are in their "orbit". When narcissists are also threatening, it can be scary. And so I'm concerned about your wanting to continue living with him.

And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. You know from your years of experience that he will not accept help. Why not?

Because narcissists never believe the problem is in them. The problem is always in YOU. So if they ever seek help, it is only to get what they want. Then they stop coming to therapy once they've convinced the people who have forced them to get help that they have tried. And all the while, they keep doing what they believe they should be doing. So, I need you to stop trying to hope beyond hope that you are going to somehow stop him.

I'm concerned more about you. What do I mean?

You've put up with a lot and you are considering putting up with more. Clearly you love him but he's using you up. I need you to understand that he is not going to change because of your giving nature. Your goodness is not going to one day make him see the beauty of also being a good person. Narcissists don't change like that. It takes years and years of therapy. And so all he sees is someone to use. You're a good person and if you stay, I can understand: you've invested a lot into this relationship and you may decide at this stage in your life that the stability of your life is worth more than the upheaval of change. But it's not always the best thing having a stormy relationship where you are crying and feeling abused. When someone lives with a narcissist, it is very difficult to tell how much of their depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms are because of themselves and how much because of the toll that narcissists take on those who live with them emotionally and psychologically and spiritually.

Let me remind you of what you know within yourself is true because you've experienced it:

It is very difficult for people to imagine how pervasive NPD is. They tend to keep doing things with the narcissist as if he's normal. Then they get burned and they are very hurt. He will alternate charm and invective. You will be hurt. You are a normal person and have a view of personality that we call "whole". Your view does not allow for what has happened to his personality: it has become "fractured". What do I mean?

Let's use a parable of a house. You understand personality as being an open plan. There is the main big room where everything in the personality is and there are some smaller rooms off the main room, but they all have open doorways so that there is a unity there. If a person reacts from one of those smaller areas in his personality, it is coherent with the rest of the house, it fits into the decorating scheme of the main room, etc. It's all unified.

He isn't like that. He has different closed rooms. When he says something to you, it responds to some need and "truth" of a certain room. When he wants something else, it responds to a different room that contains that "truth". They don't have to agree for him to feel he is being okay and truthful. Because they are responding to different needs in him. Like different closed rooms.

You would not be able to feel whole that way. You would feel rather creepy. Well he doesn't feel whole. But he doesn't know how to feel whole. And he doesn't know what feeling whole is like. And this by the way is part of what makes him charming to women: they (and you) get their "I can fix him" module all tingling because they and you can sense that broken aspect. would be messing with locked rooms that are protected by fire breathing dragons...

If you choose to leave, I am going to recommend a wonderful book that you need to read and with it I'll give the Amazon page for it:

It is called: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life by ***** *****ez-Lewi.

You have a right to make your own life. Being on your own may be hard but if you resist the temptation to isolate yourself and put yourself out there socially, you can be fine.

But if you decide to stay, what can you do? Well, I am going to give you two step program that has had success in my practice for loved ones of people with personality disorders. You are already considering divorce and even before I begin with what you can do, I have to tell you that most people I see who are married to narcissists, if indeed he has this personality disorder, do wind up divorcing. They are charming at first but then they are so controlling and belittling that it is intolerable. So, if you choose to divorce, know that I will support your decision. But you may want to try more ideas now, so here are the best ones that can help for at least a little while.

Step 1. You must accept that you cannot change him. This is the heart of the matter: what you see is what you are going to get for a long time (see step 2) if not for the rest of him life. Your job and your goal is to learn how to accept him the way he is and not be affected negatively by him. Yes, this is a tough, big job. But that is what he needs. You cannot be his therapist; you have to accept that this is how he deals with the world and that your job is to be there for him and with him without you getting too hurt by him personality difficulties.

Step 2. You probably should not encourage him to seek professional help. You know better than anyone that even encouraging him will probably not go over well with him, and he won't go, so you have to go back to step one!

So, that is your situation. Acceptance is the key. Making sure not to get too wrapped up in his negativity and his rigidness is vital. This is the way you will be able to continue in your relationship with him if you decide to stay.

I'm going to prescribe a couple of excellent books you can get on how to live with a narcissist. Because you are not going to change him. What I wrote to you above is even more what you must stick with. But these books WILL help you as they have been tried and I've seen them have good effect if you follow the suggestions of the authors:

1. The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship by Eleanor Payson. This is a great book that will help you with the lack of self-esteem that living with a narcissist or being close with a narcissist will do to you. Amazon:

2. The Object of My Affection is in My Reflection: Coping with Narcissists by Rokelle Lerner. This book is newer but is extremely clear and insightful and has helped people since it came out 2 years ago. Amazon:

Marina, I don't encourage people to stay with narcissist spouses, but it is your decision to make. I wish you the very best and support whatever you choose to do in this difficult situation!

Please remember to click the green accept button because: even though you have made a deposit, I do not get paid for my time unless you press ACCEPT. You are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing ACCEPT. Feel free to continue the discussion even after pressing ACCEPT as my goal is to get you the best answer possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, ***** *****

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