Baby, you got a bad bad mouth
Everything is poison that’s coming out – PJ Harvey
A large part of my life has been a struggle for peace. It’s taken me years to realize this, and it took coming into contact with someone I hate as much as I’ve ever hated anyone to realize it.
And when I say “coming into contact with,” what I really mean is that I was forced to spend 8 hours a day with him, 5 days a week, for too many years. About a month ago he was permanently removed from my life, and I’m still processing how miserable he made me and the other people around us for years and how hopeless I felt in the face of his all-consuming negativity, narcissism, and cruelty.
Every day of my life was spent either being triggered, worrying about being triggered, or walking on eggshells to avoid being triggered by this person. I spent my lunch hours worrying what kind of shit he’d try to stir up when my lunch hour was over. I spent my evenings and weekends alternately worrying about how he was going to try to humiliate me in front of others, and beating myself up for not standing up to him.
I couldn’t sleep at night because I dreaded the idea of having to see him in the morning, and then I’d beat myself up for not getting enough sleep, because I knew I was going to be too exhausted to deal with him, and that I’d spend the next day being triggered by him all day, full of adrenaline with a pounding heart and the inevitable headache and sour stomach adrenaline leads to.
I won’t go into detail about the way he behaved, because anyone who’s been around a narcissist knows what they’re like. Suffice it to say that every moment of every day he dominated our small department with his temper tantrums, his misanthropic opinions, his sadistic sense of humor, and his ADHD–the crutch he uses to excuse his behavior.
If I had to boil him down to one essential quality, I’d say that he lives to make other people uncomfortable, stressed out, and miserable. If I had to describe my feelings for him in a word, that word would be loathing. I loathe him, and I do not wish him well. I don’t feel sympathy for him, or empathy, because he doesn’t feel those things for others and he doesn’t deserve anything but apathy.
I hope to eventually move on to apathy once I’ve worked through loathing.
Popular wisdom would tell me not to publish things like this on my blog, but popular wisdom also says to be authentic. I can’t get much more authentic than this, because a constant state of heightened anxiety has been my homeostasis for much of my life, and it’s only been since this person was removed from my everyday life that I realized some things, namely that being anxious is not the natural state of being.
I finally realized that being anxious is not the natural state of being, at the age of 37. I am allowed to be calm and have peace in my life. I’m also aware that this is a luxury not afforded to everyone.
Earlier I said that this person triggered me, and that’s because his behavior reminded me of growing up with my father, who has many similar behavior patterns. He too frequently behaves like a child throwing a temper tantrum; he too can’t stand it if everyone’s attention isn’t focused on him; he too displays attitudes that are cruel, misanthropic, and sadistic.
Being an only child and a teenager living with a parent like this is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
My dad suffers from extreme anxiety. It seems to me that he’s more uncomfortable if there isn’t something to worry about than he is when he’s at his most stressed. When I was a child/teenager, he had nothing to do but focus all of his anxiety on me. I was always the cause of all of his stress. Not because I was a bad kid–the hours of brow-beating lectures weren’t worth it–but because everything I did upset his equilibrium.
If I was sitting still, minding my own business, he would get on my case about just sitting there like a lump and being lazy. He’d make faces at me like kids make when they’re calling someone retarded and tell me that was what I looked like.
If I reacted to an adverse situation calmly rather than falling on the floor in hysterics and tearing my hair out, I was a bad person because I didn’t care; I was letting people take advantage of me; I was being lackadaisical (a word brought to his attention by a commercial I remember, and detest, to this day). Conversely, if I ever displayed any signs of anxiety, stress, or tension, he’d bark at me to stop being so stressed out! You’re too young to be this stressed out, he’d say, stop it now or you’ll have a heart attack before you’re 30!
Anxiety was the water I swam in, and for years after I moved out of my parents’ house I still let him get to me every time I talked to him. But now even he doesn’t get to me. I don’t ruminate for hours about his constant complaints that I talk too loudly, or the way he attempts to turn every conversation into a discussion of my perpetual need to lose weight.
It’s taken me many years to be able to say that I don’t care. He is not me, he is an unhappy person, and I don’t need to internalize his opinions.
It’s kind of ironic that this revelation may never have come to me without the intersection of my life with that of the shithead I mentioned at the beginning of this piece.