By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
I’ve written here many times that I used to think that healing was a place we arrived at and that once we got there “everything would be wonderful.” I have learned in my latest tangles with the multiple psychopaths in my life that healing is NOT a place that we arrive at, but it is a Journey.
I have no doubt looking back at my relationship with my P-sperm donor that I had PTSD when I escaped from his clutches at least alive, which is more than some of his victims have done. I was 19 and had no one to advise me. Looking back, I wanted to talk to people about this trauma and no one seemed to either believe or care. Even my Egg Donor didn’t believe a word I said. I felt invalidated and alone. Eventually I managed to “move on” with my life by burying these memories and injuries, and I felt I was “healed.” I thought I had arrived at healing.
Frustrated about my son
Years later, in dealing with my psychopathic son, I was so frustrated that I couldn’t get through my beloved son’s head that he was ruining his life with his criminal behavior. All he had to do was to quit robbing and stealing, apply himself in school and he could have had a free ride scholarship to any school in the nation, on his SAT scores alone. But I was frustrated because I couldn’t find the “magic words” to show him how much I loved him and how great his life would be if he would listen to me.
A few years later, when he was 20, out of prison on parole, I found out that he had murdered a 17-year-old young woman. Talk about a “relapse” into PTSD— I had one. I still didn’t really realize just what I was dealing with. I only knew that my son, who of course denied he was guilty, was going to prison for possibly the rest of his life. I locked myself in my house for three months and cried continually. I didn’t eat for nearly two weeks, and didn’t sleep at all for one full week. Can we say “Shell Shocked” or “PTSD”?
Then, eventually, I felt like I was “healed” from the trauma of learning my son was going to prison for “life” and adapted. Life went on and I planned for the time he would get out and come home to live and straighten himself out. He could have some life left after prison. The family would support him and help him reestablish himself.
Father and son psychopaths
I read Robert Hare’s book Without Conscience, and I saw that my P sperm donor was a psychopath. I yellow highlighted almost the entire book, but I was in denial for years that my beloved son, also fit every criteria. Eventually, though, I realized that my son was just as much a psychopath as my P sperm donor and that I could no longer “be supportive” of him. I cut him off. No more visits, no more commissary money. NO CONTACT.
The “summer of chaos” came, when I realized that he had sent someone to kill me. Then the PTSD returned in full force as my other son and I fled our home in fear of our lives. All the issues I had buried and not dealt with from my family of origin resurfaced. I had to heal or die, I was a total mess, like I had melted into a heap, and I knew somehow I had to find that elusive “place of being healed.”
Learning and healing one layer at a time through self help
I started to read obsessively about psychopaths. I read everything I could find on the Internet and in books about them, and about self-help for healing from trauma and I started to find comfort. I found Lovefraud and I realized I was not the only smart woman in the world who had been traumatized by psychopaths. I had to find some way to stop the pain, though. So I would find comfort in one thing and “get over” something else. It was like “peeling an onion—”when I got one layer of trauma peeled, there was another one underneath that one, and so on.
I learned all I needed to know about psychopaths, and knowing all of that helped in my healing. It made me feel better, but I also realized I needed to learn about myself. I needed to learn a lot about myself. Why I allowed people, not just the psychopaths, to walk on me. I realized I felt responsible for other people’s happiness, and that I would let them walk on me repeatedly. I realized finally, that my boundaries were weak or non-existent.
The healing “journey”
Finally, at some point I realized that I would never find a “place” called HEALED. I would never be totally and completely healed. I realized that healing is a journey, not a destination. I realized that it starts off learning about them. At some point though, we realize that all the knowledge in the world about psychopaths isn’t going to heal us. We reach a point that we may not know everything about them, but we know enough. Then we must start to learn about ourselves in order to really start to move toward healing. I used to think I knew “enough” about myself and that I was a pretty nice person and fairly well adjusted to life. But I realized, finally, that now the healing road is a continual one, one that moves on and on.
Sometimes that road may have smooth sailing. Other times it may have pot holes, or steep mountains to climb, or snow and ice and chilling winds as we start to process what happened to us. But there are always going to be setbacks in life that will try our strength and our determination.
I’ve worked on fixing myself, from things like learning to set boundaries about how I will or will not allow people to treat me. I’ve learned to enforce those boundaries even if it meant that long term relationships were lost.
I’ve also done other things to “improve” myself, like stopped smoking, lost some weight, went on a low sodium diet, all the things I used to advise my patients to do, but didn’t do myself. I quit being a hypocrite, in other words.
I learned the “red flags” of a toxic person, and realized that if a person is dishonest in any way, or irresponsible, a liar, or unkind or lacked empathy or compassion, I didn’t need that person in my life.
I’ve done a lot of things to improve myself, and I realize that I need to continue to work on becoming the kind of person I would want my children to be. There is no place called “Healed,” but there is a journey called “healing” and it is “life.” Anyone who has dealt with a psychopath for long enough that they were traumatized by the association needs to heal, and that “healing” is a process that takes time and work, and is a journey, not a destination.