Thursday, 8 September 2011

YES! – in so many ways :D


Yes, it has yet again been way too long since I’ve posted here.

Yes, I’m rubbish when it comes to keeping my friends up-to-date with my life.

Yes, I had a truly amazing summer

Yes, I am guilty of seriously bad judgment when it comes to a certain aspect of my personal life

Yes, I have been denied entrance to a night club

Yes, I’ve been kicked out of a summer house

Yes, I am madly in love

- - - And yes, it’s a different one

- - - And yes, this one deserves me

- - - And yes, I am happier than I’ve been for years

Yes, I am back in Thailand, already working my butt off to provide as many people as possible with as good a holiday as possible

Now that we’re clear on that, I’ll elaborate….;)

First of all, let’s get the tedious subject out of the way. I can’t count the number of people who have called me an idiot, fool, gullible, na├»ve and similar descriptive words after hearing the updates from my personal life earlier this year. You were right and I was wrong. Leopards may camouflage their spots, but eventually the spots shine through, and anyone hoping to be able to change or cure that, is indeed a fool. Love doesn’t cure anything; it just makes us blind ;) I must admit that I am very impressed by all my friends: you stood by me through abuse and depression and you have tried your best to “save me”. Yet, nobody has said “I told you so” (yet) ;) ……..Since you’ve gone through the really tough times with me, now it’s time you get some good news ;)

The summer in Denmark offered quite a variety of experiences; there’s being spare mum for my 2-year-old niece, there’s welcoming her tiny sister to this world, there’s seeing my oldest niece’s son for the first time, there are social gatherings left, right and center – including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day lunch and New Years Eve. In between there was time to chill and talk with my awesome family, and I spent lots of time with my gorgeous siblings and their equally gorgeous spouses and children. I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I can’t say it often enough: I absolutely love my family and I am so grateful for having each and every one of them in my life. Even through my idiotic decisions the last couple of years, they have been ready to catch my fall and help me back on my feet. They have suffered with me, but they have never lost patience or abandoned me :D


This summer had a few firsts for me as well: first time I was kicked out of a rented summerhouse and first time I wasn’t allowed into a night club. It was also my first visit to Weymouth and it was the first time in a few years that I’ve felt ecstatically happy – and yes, there is a man involved and his name is Paul. It wasn’t, however, the first time I met Paul, nor the second…….

Bear with me for a quite long, yet in my humble opinion sweet, story of two people who meet, lose each other, and then have to go through so much hardship before they finally meet again and live happily ever after:

February 2005 I was on a business trip in Dubai and decided to take a short holiday, which I spent diving off the east coast of the Emirates. I’d booked a transfer with them and was picked up by the owner himself, who happened to be in Dubai that evening. Have you guessed his name?? It was an almost 2-hour drive, but we talked and talked and talked and were quite surprised when we were suddenly at our destination. During my week there we spent a lot of time together and also went diving. I had the biggest panic attack I’ve ever had – which Paul handled with an incredible amount of patience and understanding. He says he doesn’t remember that bit, but I don’t really believe him; I think he’s just letting me keep my dignity ;)

There was definitely a spark there, but circumstances were against us. I still had a proper job, earning real money, I was living in the Netherlands and I had my own house and (lovely) car. It was all a bit complicated and so we kept contact for a couple of months, but neither of us was ready for the big step, and our contact sort of faded away. Shortly afterwards we were both in new relationships.

Thus unknown to Paul, I moved to Thailand, did my divemaster, worked a bit and then I moved to the Philippines where I did my instructor course and worked for a very nice resort. Customer service was top priority within the resort, so for instance a dive staff member always picked up the guests from the boat, walked them to the resort and did a tour of it, explaining everything. It was much appreciated by the guests. This meant that we had morning meetings where – among other things – the “meet & greet” was delegated and we were all informed of names etc of the guests.

If I’d had coffee, I would have choked on it, when one morning in spring 2007 I was given “meet & greet” duties for the first part of a group. When I saw the name of the dive shop, I double-checked the name of the group leader. Yup, it was Paul. Blushing heavily, my colleagues quickly realized there was a story and made fun of me, while the red colour of my skin intensified ;) Paul wasn’t in the first group though, so I didn’t pick him up, but at least I was warned.

Paul wasn't warned ;) He arrived the next day and naturally we ran into each other in the resort. It was a precious Kodak moment when his jaw dropped ;) He didn’t know I’d become a dive pro of course, so it was a complete surprise to him. We talked and chatted a bit in the evenings and there was definitely a connection - which we didn’t pursue though, since we were both in relationships.

After Philippines came Saba. I was out of one relationship and into the next. Then I moved to Thailand again and back to Saba. Indonesia aaaaand Thailand again. As readers of this blog know; the relationship was turbulent to say the least, until one day in June this year, I saw history repeating itself, finally had enough and ended the relationship.

Paul and I had been in sporadic contact for a few months, but it was purely professional – I was hoping to convince him to bring a group on the Oktavia. Anyway, our personal circumstances made us single on exactly the same day this year, and Paul suggested (jokingly I thought) to visit me in Thailand to get away from everything. I told him I’d be in Denmark and then he said he would visit me there! What???

As you know, I have learned from bitter experience that people aren’t necessarily trustworthy, reliable or honest, and I feel myself being more cautious as opposed to earlier, when I would trust people almost unconditionally. So while I thought it was fun to innocently flirt via emails etc, I didn’t expect him to actually come to Denmark – it seemed a bit hasty and silly (ok, to be honest I thought he just wanted to get laid and that it wouldn't be worth the money and effort to fly to Denmark just for that). After all, we hadn’t seen each other in 4 years, and a week can be a very long time if it’s spent in awkward silence.

Obviously, I needn’t have worried. We continued right where we left 6 years ago in the Emirates, it’s quite bizarre really. We spent a wonderful week in Denmark and rented a small summerhouse (read: hut). Unfortunately, the landlord had forgotten another booking and so we were kicked out 2 days earlier than we planned. That meant one night on a mattress in the living room of my sister’s house (two huge glass fronts and no curtains!) and one night sharing a single bed ;) It could have been me testing his ability to adapt, adjust, be spontaneous and relaxed. It wasn’t. But he would have passed it with flying colours ;)


Saying goodbye at the airport was difficult. I knew what I was feeling, but I was afraid of getting my hopes up and get hurt. I felt that I couldn’t afford to be humiliated again. Uncharacteristically, I was quiet and put myself in waiting position, playing cool towards my family “oh we’ll see what the future brings”. Hahaha, how very teenager ;) Again, I needn’t have worried; when Paul wants something, he doesn’t let details like distance or logistics stand in his way. And it became apparent that Paul wanted me too!

Flights were expensive from UK to Denmark and back; the solution was to fly me to the UK instead - that's when I was in Weymouth without letting anyone know. I honestly didn't realize how many nice people I know in that area plus it was a spontaneous decision. Next time I’ll let you all know in advance :D. It was another fantastic week. I met his family and some of his friends. Funnily enough, during a night out I was actually denied admission to a club for the first time in my life; the bouncer claimed I was drunk. Which, ironically, I wasn’t then (that came later). Apart from that bouncer, I was greeted with open arms and hospitality everywhere. Paul had effortlessly integrated himself into my family, and now I was welcomed into his. It was awesome and so everyone’s happy all way round, except that little “but”……….


It’s tough to live on separate continents when you’re in love. Paul’s solution? He’ll be here in two weeks (actually 13 days and 8 hours, but who's counting ;) ) and spend at least part of the season in Khao Lak and Phuket. He’ll work here on freelance basis - quite a step back for a master instructor who’s owned a dive center for years, but he says I’m worth it :D

I’m completely smitten and I feel both loved and appreciated. Being with Paul feels right in so incredibly many ways and I’m excited about the life and future we can build together! I’m happy we found each other in the end. Our lives would have been different if we’d dared back in 2005, but I’m thinking we weren’t ready for each other. No use crying over spilt milk anyway – we are together now and that is all that matters :D

So, that's the status......

Yes, I'm one super-happy girl (can I still be a girl when I’m 40?? I sure feel like a teenager ;) )

Yes, I deeply love the man I'm with

Yes, I thoroughly enjoy being loved and treated like the best invention since sliced bread :D

And yes, I’ll definitely TRY to be better at updating you ;)

Much love & warm thoughts to all you wonderful people out there

Karin xxx


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Snap out of it!


A year ago I wrote “The Silent Victims” about victims of people with narcissistic and/or anti-social personality disorders. I wrote it partly for my own benefit, working through some events in my life and partly because I was sick (literally, more about that in a while) of the taboo surrounding victims of emotional and verbal abuse. Much to my surprise, that blog entry has shown up in many internet searches and is being quoted on several other pages. Now I’m facing another taboo, so I thought I’d try the same therapy and I’m afraid it’s another long post…….please bear with me while I slowly get to the point ;)

Many of you know that I suffer from migraine attacks. Nobody knows why, we just know that certain things are likely to trigger attacks. There’s probably a chemical imbalance in me, but scientists aren’t sure. Yet, nobody who’s seen me during an attack has any doubt that I am in severe pain. To my knowledge, nobody challenges the diagnosis or has any objections to my use of painkillers during attacks. It’s socially acceptable to suffer from migraine and to try to ease the pain with medication.

It is also fairly known – especially by people who’ve seen me in a bikini ;) – that I have undergone surgery for scoliosis. Again, it was a serious disease or malfunction and nobody questions the diagnosis or the need for treatment. Get the point I’m trying to make? When people see that we’re ill they are understanding and support us in our quest for treatment and healing.

Nine years ago my husband, Martin, died. My sadness was disabling and so severe it was almost tangible. It was easy for people to see that I was grieving and for several months I was allowed to be selfish in my mourning. After that, the first voices started “you really should get another man”, “you have to snap out of your grief”, “you have to think positive”. When I still wasn’t “over him” two years later, I only had a minimum of support left – only my closest friends and family accepted my state of mind (or emotions).

During my grieving period I was offered both psychological and psychiatric treatment. I declined, because I believed that psychiatric treatment would mean that I didn’t process my emotions and that I would turn into an emotionless zombie. I wasn’t alone with that belief. There is no doubt that I was suffering from a depression, which had been triggered by the death of the man I loved. At that point in my life I’m pretty sure that nobody would have frowned if I’d undergone psychiatric treatment. What I’d gone through during Martin’s illness and death was too tough to comprehend and ending in a depression was a natural consequence.

What very few people know is that I had suffered from depression several times before. I definitely had episodes of depression as a child and young teenager, but the first severe case was when I was 17/18 and something strange happened in my life. I was very good in school, I had many friends and I was known for being constantly happy, helpful, friendly, joking and smiling. I had every reason to feel happy, but I didn’t. Unknown to me and not triggered by anything, I was in a depression. It was a very scary experience which lasted several months. I had no idea what was happening and I made up crazy stories about my illness and absence because I had absolutely no clue how to explain to anyone what was going on. I almost got kicked out of business school and I knew I was extremely sad, felt lonely, helpless, hopeless and suicidal – but I didn’t know why.

So how does it look, this depression thing? What is the reality of a depressed person? First of all, being in a depression is not the same as being sad. Somewhere I read the description “malignant sadness”, which is quite accurate, I think. Secondly, depressed persons will invariably have different perceptions just like migraine sufferers have different perceptions, but essentially we go through the same thing. And just like a person who has never had a migraine attack can’t relate to that pain, a person who hasn’t been in a depression can’t relate to that pain. One of the best descriptions I’ve read is by Mary Rowe in an article published in The Telegraph March 2010:

“They say clinical depression is crippling. I say it’s like being buried alive. Crushed under the weight of your own sadness, you scrabble at the walls, gasping for air, for light, for someone to help you escape. It feels like every part of you – mind, body and soul – is dying, and eventually you lose the strength to struggle, become calm and sleepy ... and just wait.”


Being in a depression means sleeping for days or sitting for hours (literally) and stare at the wall, unable to move. Simple tasks like getting out of bed, taking a shower or eating become insurmountable hurdles. It means getting scared when the phone rings, not wanting to talk to anyone ever again and it takes hours of mental preparation to call in sick. I once sat on my bed with my toothbrush in the hand for nearly two hours – I’d finally managed to get it from the bathroom, but I didn’t have the strength to stand up while I cleaned my teeth and once I sat down I couldn’t find the strength to get up and walk the 5 meters to the bathroom. It means carrying an inhumane burden on your shoulders, having suicidal thoughts, feeling utterly hopeless and helpless. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Believe me, it truly is horrible. But it gets even worse….


Apart from the obvious physical and psychological problems of being in a depression, there is the social aspect of it. Being in a depression isn’t really accepted unless there is a valid reason (for instance the death of a loved one). A gifted, smart and attractive young woman has no right to be depressed, she should be grateful. Right? So, apart from being depressed, we also feel guilty and worth less because we can’t “just snap out of it”. We are reprimanded for not contacting our friends whereas just the thought of having to talk to someone makes us panic. And of course we’re very likely to be confronted with the standard patronizing remarks from people who have absolutely no concept of what it feels like:


“You don’t like feeling that way? So change it! You’re responsible for your own happiness”
“Life isn’t meant to be easy.”
“This is what life is like. Get used to it.”
“Pull yourself together.”
“You just have to get on with things.”
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself, other people are far worse off and they manage”
“You have so many things. What do you have to feel down about? Count your blessings”
“You just need to cheer up.”
“I know how you feel. I get really sad at times too”

“How about I cook you a good meal. That will make things better.”

“You’re not depressed; you’re just feeling a bit down. That’s normal”

Once we manage to get out of that super-deep, super-dark hole yet again – after weeks or months - we feel battered, bruised and tired, but also very relieved that we survived. That would be the perfect time to go out and tell “the world” what we’ve been through, but unfortunately most of us have learned from our earliest childhood to hide our true emotions. Especially when they are embarrassing to watch. So while we recover from our depression “attack” and build up strength inside, most of us continue spending whatever energy we have to maintain the image of happy, successful people. Even during the early stages of depression we manage to find the strength to keep up the public image, so that most people who meet us have absolutely no idea what’s going on. We work, we socialize, we smile – and inside we know and we feel that we’re on the verge of falling into that deep, dark hole. It is a feeling of complete and utter loneliness to be surrounded by people and know that the world is about to collapse on us. By pretending towards the world that we’re fine we are of course shooting ourselves in the foot. Rather than focusing on getting better, we focus on appearing to be fine. And while people could surely help us during our recovery stage, we automatically waiver our rights to receive help or empathy by making them believe we’re doing just fine. Our closest friends, colleagues and family members often recognize the symptoms and are very often frustrated because they can’t help us.


About a year ago events in my personal life triggered another depression. Everybody could see that I was ill: I was underweight, tired, grumpy, and sad, I didn’t care about anything or anyone, there was no spark in my eyes and I had dozens of open wounds due to an auto-immune disease. It was obvious that I was ill, but most people just didn’t know what was wrong with me. Thanks to my family, I came back on my feet and finally sought professional help. I was diagnosed with periodic depression and acute depression and now receive medication against both. Now, imagine depression would be recognized for what it is: a disease caused by a malfunction. Just like migraine, depression is a disorder which can be diagnosed and treated. In my case, a chemical imbalance plays a big role. It’s like a diabetic needing insulin to function.


I was so relieved to discover that my everyday life is easier to handle. I have more energy and at the same time feel calmer. Once I found good migraine medication, the frequency of attacks went down, because I wasn’t afraid of getting them anymore. I imagine there is a certain portion of that in the case of my depression medication. Also, to my surprise I realized that I have absolutely not turned into a zombie; I still laugh, cry, get scared, have fun – the whole spectrum of emotions is intact. I’ll probably still fall into deep, dark holes; but I trust that they won’t be quite as deep and dark, not as disabling – and it’ll be easier for me to come out of them again.


It was a big step for me to seek professional help and it was definitely triggered by desperation. I simply couldn’t go on anymore so it was a matter of suicide or getting help. It was a relief to find out that I am “just” suffering from periodic depressions. I’m not insane, there’s nothing wrong with me, I’m not a weak person – I suffer from an illness. And still, when I have told people about it, some of them have reacted the “old” way. “That’s wrong, you’re not depressed” (said in a grave tone of voice as if depression is an embarrassing STD) or “that’s a load of BS, you just need to make the decision to be happy”. These remarks hurt. A lot. Which is why I find it important to spread awareness and understanding of emotional disorders (sounds nicer than mental diseases, don’t you think?). And in some ways, “going public” with it now is an even bigger step. With this, I am opening up to criticism and ridicule – but of course also to understanding and empathy. Approx. 10% of the population suffer from depression disorders. How many people do you know? You never thought I suffer from depression, did you? Don't I look happy in this picture?


When I went to hospital here in Thailand a couple of months ago and spoke to a psychiatrist, he asked about my history. He was shocked and his jaw dropped when I told him that my first definite case of depression was in my late teens and he said with moist eyes “you have lived with this for twenty years? That is so sad”. He was right, it is indeed very sad. If emotional disorders and their treatment were less of a taboo I would probably have sought and received help many years and several depressions earlier. I would have been spared so much pain.

I am still me. I am a happy, friendly and smiling person. I am reasonably intelligent and attractive. I am strong, self-confident and independent. I am also a person who suffers from migraine and periodically gets “depression attacks”.


Thank you for listening and to everyone who’s helped me: I am deeply grateful for your patience and tolerance


Yours

Karin xxx

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Where is it then?? - Life's pause button? ;)


Is it just me or are there more people out there who wish we could press pause once in a while? Don’t worry about answering; it’s a rhetoric question ;) Sometimes things happen quickly and events overlap each other. That’s when I wish I could have just a day or two to catch my breath. Doesn’t work like that in this business though, so it’s a matter of hanging in there until low season :0

After the visits around Christmas and New Year, it was back to normal in January. Normal plus whatever work had piled up on my desk while I was busy enjoying life with my family. Business finally picked up with more tourists in the streets and more bookings - needed after a near-disastrous beginning of the season. One day chased the other and suddenly we were in February.

January is a bit of a blur, I’m not sure I did anything, except working. I’ll let you know if I think of something ;) February was quite eventful, though. I started off with tour leading our boat on a full charter with 23 Austrian divers. I won’t go into details, but I’ll just mention that I truly, honestly and completely deserved a cold beer when we returned with all guests and without causing permanent bodily harm to anyone J

My colleague, Bernie, had taken care of things in the office while I was on the boat, so unexpectedly there weren’t any extra piles of work waiting for me. Luxury :D A week later Bernie and I decided unanimously and spontaneously that I should go on the boat one more trip. Two boat trips in one month, SWEET :D Office work isn’t that boring with a boat trip here and there to remind me why I moved to the warm countries in the first place.

Last Saturday, we took 17 children from the Home & Life orphanage on a boat trip with fun, games, swimming and food. It was magic to see that many happy & smiling faces on the Oktavia! I am impressed that “my owners” made this possible – many people talk a lot and do very little. They immediately liked the idea and made it possible. Amazing :D

The orphanage is a beautiful place, a family home rather than an institution. Unfortunately, they don’t get support from the government, so they rely on private funding, which makes life very difficult. We do whatever we can to raise awareness and get donations, so that this incredible place can keep running. A day on the Oktavia didn’t get them any more food on their plates this month, but at least the kids (and adults) had a fun day out :D

Now it’s time for the month-end closing and as usual I find myself digging out all sorts of things that have higher priority. Such as updating my blog ;) I’m about to book my flights for this summer – I’ll be in Denmark mid-June to mid-August (ish). And I am seriously considering some major investments……….a vacuum cleaner (already decided) and a mountain bike. The vacuum cleaner makes sense – sweeping with a broom just doesn’t do it for me. The mountain bike would be nice to have, but must admit that I wouldn’t have much opportunity to use it in high season – and in low season a canoe would be more useful in the streets here :0

Enough said…it’s back to work now……..take care lovely people

Karin xxx

Saturday, 1 January 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR


It's definitely been an eventful year. Of all the words I could use to describe it, "boring" would be the last I'd think of. Guess that's nothing new in my life, really ;)

2010 started with worries, a never-ending row of illnesses, an emotional breakdown, 7 kg underweight, and way too much work. 2010 ended with happiness, good health, emotional stability, my ideal weight, and a day off :D


Between those, there was a long stay in Denmark and Norway with my lovely family. I met my niece, Freja, and felt very fortunate to have enough time to bond with her. My oldest niece announced her first pregnancy (it's ok, she's 26 ;) ) and gave birth to a healthy baby boy just a couple of days ago. My sister & family inaugurated our, oeps I mean their, new (and very luxurious) summer house - which is of course the gathering point of our entire family, just like the old one was.

It had been 3 years since my last visit and it was about time. Many things have happened in Denmark since I left the country 16 years ago. The language has changed a lot (why do people think it's cool to translate American terms directly into Danish?? - It sounds silly and wanna-be) and it would appear that Danish culture has changed a lot. There seems to be less "hygge" and tolerance, but more narrow-mindedness and sense of entitlement. Or maybe it's me getting older. Or maybe it's me having widened my horizon by living in other cultures.

Going back confirmed that I love the country and my friends and family dearly. Going back also strengthened my suspicion that I would find it very difficult to live in Denmark again. But to be fair, I have been (or am) known to make surprising decisions ;)

Speaking of surprising decisions.......do remind me to tell you about my personal life at some point.......never a dull moment and a huge surprise for everyone, especially myself (no I'm not pregnant!!!) ;)))

In September I returned to Thailand to continue working for M/V Oktavia, the best live-aboard in Thailand (if I do say so myself). 2009 I came to Khao Lak just a couple of weeks before the season started and there simply wasn't enough time to set up the organisation the way I'd have liked to. Hence the early start this year. The result is that the administration runs more smoothly this season and we have transformed our office into a rather nice-looking shop. Unfortunately, shops are open till 21-ish here, so my spare time is rather limited - but I do have an assistant this year, so I don't start work until noon-ish. This gives me time to go to the gym in the morning, something I've missed quite a bit.

Speaking of gym, my brother and his family came to visit a couple of weeks ago. You may not see the connection, but they brought me a lovely present: new running shoes :D Some things are just difficult to get here. For instance Danish Christmas cookies, Gammel Dansk and salty liquorice. And Asics running shoes ;)) They all came on the boat for a 5-day cruise and did some snorkelling. One of my bonus nieces did her Open Water course with me and Torben went diving for the first time since 1989. His ears weren't happy about it though, so we left it at the one dive.

Before the trip I was a bit worried about my sinuses after all the trouble I had last season and the doctor's verdict that I need surgery. I didn't have any problems at all and it was absolutely wonderful to be back in the water - 11 months after my last dive! Being on the boat was of course still work, but it's very different from sitting in an office all day every day. Besides, I have awesome colleagues, who basically wouldn't let me do any boat work during the trip - so I was just teaching and doing office work whenever the phone connection allowed it :) I felt my batteries charging day by day :D After the trip, we all spent Christmas eve at a Swedish restaurant here in Bang Niang. Surprisingly enough, Swedish food isn't all that bad. It was quite lovely, really - I grudgingly admit ;))


Speaking of which (I'm quite good at those transitions, ey?).......there's something else I have to admit: there's a new man in my life. he has the same name and looks exactly the same as my previous partner, Jan, but this one behaves in a very different way. We both spent the 6 months apart wondering and considering what we want, need and expect. The result was that Jan came to Thailand 2,5 weeks in December and left today. We have both learned a lot about ourselves and each other and we have both grown a lot. And so we've decided to wipe the board clean and start from the beginning again without the mud of the past. There are of course still some issues and it'll be a long while before everything's dealt with, but we are both very happy, both very much in love - and now we're taking things step by step. It feels very good and very right - and who could possibly ask for more.

After two weeks with humane working hours and lots of fun with family, friends and partner it's time to roll up the skirt again. Uhm, that'd be sleeves, I guess. I'm way behind at work and have been pushing the work load in front of me, where it's still sitting, towering over me. I also have to move into my new place properly - I moved one day before we went on the boat and have been otherwise occupied the past 10 days, so the place still looks like the first day (apart from the shelf units, which Jan assembled and I still haven't filled). Cha-cha as we say in Thailand - slowly slowly ;))

Speaking of cha-cha.....things are really moving slowly in one area: there is something missing in Khao Lak.........a tourist or two. It's a BAD season down here; very few tourists and the ones we see don't want to spend any money. Quite disastrous in an area which depends almost entirely on tourism and where most people are constantly living on the edge - financially. Many businesses have closed down already and many will follow. There are less volunteers for the charity projects and less donations for the orphanages and Burmese schools here. I always find it interesting when European tourists complain about the current financial problems. They can still afford to fly to Thailand, they probably all have a nice place to live, they don't have to worry about finding money for the next meal and I'm pretty certain they own at least one car and one TV. Try walking through a Thai village, think again and then stop complaining! Most people in the Western world have a lot to be grateful for; they just sometimes need to be reminded of it ;)

Speaking of which (last one today, I promise - just couldn't resist)........Before I dig into work it's time to say a big fat THANK YOU! I am humble when I think of the fantastic people I have in my life, my wonderful friends, my incredible family, who always makes me feel safe, secure and loved - no matter what life throws at me or what I throw myself into ;) Thank you all for 2010, I look forward to going through 2011 with you.

I wish you all a good and happy new year with lots of precious moments

Karin xxxx








Saturday, 24 July 2010

THE SILENT VICTIMS

My sincere apologies in advance for a very long post. Today's topics are things I had to process and since I've never been in favor of taboos, I decided to share it with all of you. Maybe one day they won't be a taboo anymore and maybe one day we can talk openly about this type of things, thus making it easier for the victims to get help and stop feeling guilty, ashamed and inadequate for something that was never their fault.

There is a lot of prejudice when it comes to infidelity and emotional abuse. There seems to be the common belief (at least until the Sandra Bullock "case") that women are cheated on if they are unattractive and/or not interested in sex. Likewise, there seems to be a general opinion that women in abusive relationships are to blame for the continuous abuse, because "…they could just get up and leave". I hope to help spread the understanding that it is far from being that simple.

To avoid lawsuits, let me at this point assure that all examples and scenarios below are fiction. Any and all resemblance to existing places and/or persons is purely co-incidental and completely unintentional. I have "borrowed" material from several websites, blogs, and support groups - I thank the suppliers of the material (especially Dr. Sam Vaknin).

Deal or No Deal?

'Here's the deal, sweetie. For several months or so, I'm going to pretend to be everything you ever wanted. I'll shower you with attention, affection and all manner of stuff to make you feel special. Then, once I know you're depending on me as your significant other, and have made a commitment, I'm going to quit pretending and be who I really am. I'm going to start treating you really badly, I'll say insensitive things, I'll lie, I'll cheat, I'll be really cruel, possibly humiliate you in public. Your job will be to figure out what happened and do everything in your power to restore the relationship to what it was, until you either die, try to kill yourself, or collapse and get sent to hospital, which will be pretty funny because there's no chance whatsoever I'll ever pretend to be that 'nice guy' again – and by the way, it WAS a pretence. So what do you say, sweetie? Do we have a deal? Several years of hell in exchange for a few months of fantasy?'

Obviously, nobody would accept that deal, but for approx 2% of the Western population - the majority of them women - the above scenario is reality within their relationship. These people have become involved with a person who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (N) or is a Narcissistic Sociopath (NS).

The Psychopath

If you have been lied to AND cheated on AND humiliated/discredited in public AND verbally abused AND bullied AND disrespected in other ways within a relationship, you very likely suffered being the prey of an N or NS.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines narcissism personality disorder (NPD) as an all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts.

To an average person, a narcissist may seem to be quite self-confident and accomplished-- but really the narcissist suffers from a great deficit in self-esteem and needs an outside supply of adulation, admiration, fame, greatness.

A typical Narcissistic Sociopath:

· is a convincing, practiced liar and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment. They will tell horror stories of their (previous) partners and create a web of lies to convince third parties that they are cute, patient & innocent, whereas their (previous) partners are horrible people.

· has a Jekyll and Hyde nature - is vile, vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature - only the current target of the serial bully's aggression sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as "charming" and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as "evil"; Hyde is the real person, Jekyll is an act

· excels at deception and should never be underestimated in their capacity to deceive

· uses excessive charm and is always plausible and convincing when peers, superiors or others are present (charm can be used to deceive as well as to cover for lack of empathy)

· is unusually skilled in being able to anticipate what people want to hear and then saying it plausibly

· cannot be trusted or relied upon

· fails to fulfill commitments

· is emotionally retarded with an arrested level of emotional development; whilst language and intellect may appear to be that of an adult, he/she displays the emotional age of a five-year-old

· exhibits unusual and inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters. Often, he prefers pornography and sexual auto-stimulation to the real thing. The narcissist uses other people's bodies to masturbate. Sex with him - pyrotechnics and acrobatics aside - is likely to be an impersonal and emotionally alienating and draining experience. The partner is often treated as an object, an extension of the somatic narcissist, a toy, a warm and pulsating vibrator

· in a relationship, is incapable of initiating or sustaining intimacy

· holds deep prejudices (eg against the opposite gender, people of a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious beliefs, foreigners, etc - prejudiced people are unvaryingly unimaginative) but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial aspect of their personality secret

· is self-opinionated and displays arrogance, audacity, a superior sense of entitlement

· displays a compulsive need to criticize, especially previous and current victims

· refuses to be specific and never gives a straight answer

· undermines and destroys anyone who the bully perceives to be an adversary, a potential threat, or who can see through the bully's mask

· is adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise collate incriminating information about them

· is quick to discredit anyone who can talk knowledgeably about antisocial or sociopathic behaviors

· is also quick to belittle, undermine, denigrate and discredit anyone who calls, attempts to call, or might call him to account

· gains gratification from denying people what they are entitled to

· is highly manipulative, especially of people's perceptions and emotions (eg guilt)

· when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others, responds with impatience, irritability and aggression

· is spiritually dead although may loudly profess some religious belief or affiliation

· is mean-spirited, officious, and often unbelievably petty

· is constantly imposing on others a false reality made up of distortion and fabrication

The Narcissist often lacks insight into his or her behavior and seems to be oblivious to the crassness and inappropriateness thereof; however, it is more likely that he/she is aware, but elects to switch off the moral and ethical considerations by which normal people are bound.

Narcissists are PATHOLOGICAL liars. This means that they are either unaware of their lies – or feel completely justified and at ease in lying to others. Often, they believe their own lies and attain "retroactive veracity". Their very essence is a huge, contrived, lie: the FALSE Self, the grandiose FANTASIES, and the IDEALISED objects.

Most narcissists reject the notion or diagnosis that they are mentally disturbed. Absent powers of introspection and a total lack of self-awareness are part and parcel of the disorder. Pathological narcissism is founded on alloplastic defences - the firm conviction that the world or others are to blame for one's behavior. The narcissist firmly believes that people around him should be held responsible for his reactions or have triggered them. With such a state of mind so firmly entrenched, the narcissist is incapable of admitting that something is wrong with HIM.

While victims of Narcissists are generally codependents, most have no idea how they got in this situation, because in the early stages of the relationship the Narcissistic person can be the most charming, Academy Award winning actor or actress (according to the DSM-IV, 50-75% of narcissists are men), of the century.

The early days of the dating is fast, furious, and vastly romantic. Oftentimes marriage proposals come within a few weeks. The "victim" sees the narcissist as the "Perfect Partner". She's never met someone so wonderful in her lifetime and falls head-over-heels in love. The two go on to live happily ever after - or so she thinks - until the "real" partner surfaces. The once wonderful Dr. Jekyll turns into the dangerous Mr. Hyde who quickly instills fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and total confusion to the relationship. She often finds out that there were other women on the side all the time.

The change can be quick and powerful or slow and insidious.

We are all way too familiar with overt narcissists: those abusive husbands who send thousands of battered women to the emergency room each year. They feel it is their God-given right to beat, abuse, and otherwise mis-treat their partner in whatever method they deem necessary and no one can tell them otherwise.

Then there is the verbally abusive and controlling narcissist - the one who uses emotional abuse as his weapon of choice. He erodes her self-worth to nothing to keep her under his control.

Who else could possible want such a worthless woman as she? With that belief, she will never leave him for good, although she makes many brief attempts to do so. She always returns. The brainwashing that continues day after day is emotionally exhausting, draining, and vastly unhealthy.

Yet almost worse is the "Stealth Narcissist," so sinister and silent in his ability to drive his partner crazy that she doesn't suspect anything bad is happening until it's too late. He is the master of the little digs - "Honey, why on earth would you cook eggs in butter? NO ONE does it that way. What's wrong with you?" Or, "If you'd only do what I say then we'd both be happy."

He issues the "silent treatment" when he is slighted, punishing his spouse by ignoring her for hours, leaving her wondering what she did "wrong" to make him act this way. He may "forget" birthday or Christmas presents, year after year. He may show up hours late and his partner is just supposed to understand, with no explanation even offered. He may have another woman on the side and feel quite entitled to do so. Yet, to those outside his inner kingdom he looks like a saint. He may tell her she's too skinny while openly admiring over-weight women - or vice versa.

No matter which type of narcissist he is, the end result is the same - a slow, insidious, breaking down of the self-esteem of his victims until there's next to nothing left, at which point, the narcissist will frequently throw his partner out in order to look for someone new and full of life to make his next target. Leaving his victim an emotional wreck wondering what she did to destroy their once "perfect" relationship. He typically discards his partner after 11-13 years and generally has his new prey lined up already.

The Narcissist himself rarely changes. Why should you change your behavior for anyone else? Yet the biggest secret is that deep inside, he loathes himself, and is desperate that no one find out who the "real" person is inside his tough, outer shell.

When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed -- they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie.

Assuming he's rational (aren't all men?) and wants what you want (loving mutuality), you strain to make sense of what he says. But it's nonsense, designed to confuse you. The shocking truth is, he seeks control, not intimacy.

The N/NS has many alters, many secret lives, and they count on others to reinforce the idea that they 'would never do such a thing' and that they 'are not like that'. Ironically, the N/NS will tell lies and slander their "friends" and previous partners, offering privileged, private and intimate information they were told in confidence.

The Abuse

The problem was swept under the carpet for generations and even today, society largely ignores domestic violence and abuse. This induces feelings of shame and guilt in the victims and "legitimizes" the role of the abuser.

Abuse and violence cross geographical and cultural boundaries and social and economic strata. It is common among the rich and the poor, the well-educated and the less so, the young and the middle-aged, city dwellers and rural folk. It is a universal phenomenon.

Overt abuse is defined as the open and explicit abuse of another person. Threatening, coercing, beating, lying, betraying, berating, demeaning, chastising, insulting, humiliating, exploiting, ignoring ("silent treatment"), devaluing, unceremoniously discarding, verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse are all forms of overt abuse.

Verbal abuse escalates gradually; you adapt. (The abuse might also become physical.) He's Jekyll and Hyde, with just enough sweet times to keep you hoping the relationship will improve.

Covert abuse revolves around the abuser's need to assert and maintain control over his victim. It can wear many forms, not all of which are self-evident, unequivocal, and unambiguous.

Ambient abuse is the fostering, propagation and enhancement of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There are no acts of traceable explicit abuse, nor any manipulative settings of control. Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a premonition, a bad omen. This is sometimes called "gaslighting".

For those who don’t know what gaslighting is, it’s something our abusers do or say to make US think WE’RE the ones who are going insane. They say and do things to make us question our sanity, our memory of events, our boundaries, our values, and our beliefs. It’s when they says things like:

• “I never said that.” (when you KNOW they did and have a clear memory of it)
• “You’re imagining things.” (when you KNOW you’re not)
• “You’re always overreacting.” (when you’re reacting EXACTLY as any normal, well-adjusted person would react.
• “You’re such a drama queen.” (when HE is the one creating drama)
• “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” (when you know EXACTLY what you’re talking about)
• “You’re always accusing me of things.” (when, the reason you accuse him of things is because you KNOW he has lied or cheated)
• “You’re always so suspicious.” (when he has given you AMPLE reason to be)
• “What about all the sh*t you’ve done to ME?” (when you haven’t done a THING to him other than love him, appease him, cater to his every want and whim)

Gaslighting is when your husband crosses the line in his flirtations with another woman at a dinner party. When you confront him, he asks you to stop being insecure and controlling. After a long argument, you apologize for giving him a hard time - you believe that there is something fundamentally wrong and that his inappropriate behavior is perfectly all right. Typically, he will tell the other people at the dinner party that you are jealous, possessive etc.

In the long term, such an environment erodes the victim's sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Self-confidence is shaken badly. Often, the victim adopts a paranoid or schizoid stance and thus renders herself exposed even more to criticism and judgment. The roles are thus reversed: third parties consider the victim mentally deranged and the abuser as the suffering soul.

Most abusers use more than one type of abuse.

A proposed law in France will make chronic emotional abuse a criminal offense this year. This is a global first in the war against psychological abuse in relationships.


The victim

Whatever happened? - You ask yourself. After all, he came on like a hurricane. You were probably blown over from day one, isn’t that so? He was practically chasing you and the more you resisted, the more he tried to win you over. He wanted you to move in with him almost immediately and even asked you to marry him after only weeks or a few months together.

It is easy to slip on blinders when some handsome man with seemingly so much going for him suddenly wants to see you all the time. And then, there were undoubtedly romantic dinners, those flowers, and extravagant gifts that seemed a bit much because of the newness of your relationship. Nonetheless, you likely accepted them because he had some reason why you should. He kept pointing out how much you had in common. That he had never lived fully until he met you. That his previous relationship was boring and meaningless - and that he only stayed with his ex out of a sense of duty.

Because he was being so nice and so thoughtful, you didn’t want to hurt his feelings, either. Besides, everything seemed just oh so right.

Until it seemed all so wrong instead.

What is remarkable is that most people who experience this kind of manipulation are actually very successful in every other area of their lives and could never imagine themselves in an abusive relationship, but this is such a gradual process that it tends to creep up on them - and by the time they realize it, the damage is usually already done.

The abuse doesn't happen because the victims volunteer for it. The abuse happens because the abusers lie, manipulate and speak in mixed messages, and out of love and a sense of fairness we trust them.

The narcissist / narcissistic sociopath is bad even for your looks – reason enough in itself to leave him quickly. He will make you feel ugly, unwanted, inadequate, not up to his standard, no matter how intelligent, good-looking, or smart you are. He makes you feel like this so that you are in line with his dreadful feelings about himself.

Many women never realize they were victims, even when they are discarded by the N/NS after 11-13 years, which is the time it typically takes him to suck a soul dry. They are left wondering what happened, why he said "I love you" one day and left her the next day. And how he can get over her so quickly that he has a new "love" within only weeks or even days.

We have to deal with the fact that even knowing what they're doing, and how unfair and hurtful it is to us, the N/NS may not care … due to their lack of compassion for anyone else, and because they are emotional sadists.

Loving a N/NS is like fighting an addiction. Even if you realize what is happening and what he is doing to you, you may not be able to resist him. It's entirely understandable. At one time you felt great love and passion for this man, and there is some part of you that WISHES he wasn't what you know him to be, WISHES it wasn't all true, that it didn't happen the way it did, and that you could GET BACK that guy you thought he was. A woman is easily tempted to think maybe this is some sort of aberration, something going on in his life, stress, mental illness, and that the OTHER GUY, the one she fell in love with was the REAL HIM. It is horrible having to finally face the fact that she fell in love with a Jekyll and Hyde facade. It absolutely sucks.

What is it like when you are the victim?? - He knew how to seduce you. In fact, you enjoyed great sex in those early days. After a while, though, it might be practically nonexistent or else abusive. Often, he continues seducing other women despite being in a relationship with you (he'll flirt, have sex, use Facebook/MSN/emails /chats/dating sites - he'll make sure he has supply available, his self esteem needs it as a boost).

But despite the fact this man now shouts obscenities at you regularly, you probably make excuses for his bad behavior. You want to cling to the image he presented in the beginning. You are most likely a lovely woman, and it is because you are a lovely woman that he was attracted to you in the first place.

He probably suspected you were the codependent type who would bend over backwards to please him. Yes, you would forfeit your own needs and desires while he battered you with his emotional abuse and verbal abuse. It is probably because you are a caring and empathic person that you have trouble seeing the truth about your relationship, too.

You tell yourself that if you could only be better yet, things would be okay. You blame yourself for the fact he is not pleased – and secretly believe he has the right to belittle you. It can be difficult to take off the blinders you are invariably wearing and stare the truth hard in the face. You should remind yourself how long it has been since your narcissistic spouse has come bearing flowers and gifts – including just the gift of kind and empathic words.

How do you get out?

A narcissist is with his partner because he regards IT as a Source of Narcissistic Supply. He values the partner as such a source. Put differently: the minute that the partner ceases to supply him with what he needs - he loses all interest in IT. (I use IT judiciously - the narcissist objectifies his partners, treats them as he would inanimate objects.)

The transition from over-valuation (bestowed upon Sources of Narcissistic Supply) to devaluation (reserved for other mortals) is so swift that it is likely to inflict pain upon the narcissist's partner, even if he previously prayed for the narcissist to depart and leave him alone. The partner is the narcissist's pusher and the drug that he is proffering is stronger than any other drug because it sustains the narcissist's very essence (his False Self).

Without Narcissistic Supply the narcissist disintegrates, crumbles and shrivels - very much as vampires do in horror movies when exposed to sunlight.

Here lies the partner's salvation. An advice to you: if you wish to sever your relationship with the narcissist, stop providing him with what he needs. Do not adore, admire, approve, applaud, or confirm anything that he does or says. Disagree with his views, belittle him (or put him in perspective and proportion), compare him to others, tell him that he is not unique, criticize him, make suggestions, and offer help. In short, deprive him of that illusion which holds his personality together.

A narcissist / narcissistic sociopath will decide when he's finished preying on you, when you may be discarded. If you try to end the relationship, he will behave like a 5-year-old, whose favorite toy is taken away: he'll be angry, he'll try to make you feel sorry for him, he'll pretend he doesn't want you and then he'll throw another jealousy tantrum - he'll continue until you give in and take him back, or until you manage to make it absolutely clear that you will have nothing to do with him ever again. If you offer him any attention, he'll take advantage and once again manipulate you into staying in the relationship.

There is only one way: run, run fast - and don't look back!!

Many victims suffer 2-3 years before finally recovering reasonably from a relationship with a N/NS - and many receive treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When comparing experiences it is remarkable and quite scary to notice how similar their N/NS partners were/are - it feels as they are all a clone of the same man. They do and say almost exactly the same.

If you do manage to break free, congratulate yourself that you got out of there before he drained your soul completely and be proud that you saved yourself.

If you didn't break free, if you were hit by the steam roller and still have no idea what went wrong and why you were suddenly discarded, please remember that it is NOT YOUR FAULT. He is a sick man and though you may still love him, he is seriously bad for you!

Here's a big hug to all my old and new friends - especially those of you who have helped me through the past 18 months. Thanks to you, I am now free and strong; rather than broken and devastated.


Karin XXXXXX