Narcissism & Dehumanization

5:03:00 PM

“Someone asked, “What is my true nature?”
            Joshu said, “If that is what you say, what is it that you dislike?”
If you search for your “true” nature, you grant the existence of a “false” one. If you make no attempt to define your nature, you will find nothing in it that is not true.”
          - Yoel Hoffman, Joshu (Chao-Chou 778-897)

I have been in a very lucid lull in my life for almost three months now. I have occupied my time with the company of friends and family, food and drink, medicine and drugs, dogs and rabbits. There is little much that goes beyond that sphere. Some days I find myself, happily, mad at myself that I had let myself live in an artistic, intellectual, and literal squalor; most days I find myself not caring at all.

I have been apathetic with myself, but I have taken care of myself. I have disregarded myself, and yet I have paid more attention to myself. I have respected myself, and at times engaged in activities with little regard for my own well-being.

I have been wondering why it is so difficult to actually take care of yourself, and partially in awe at the actual effort you need to do so. It’s like standing in the middle of a war, where you want to succumb to L’appel du vide but your self-preservation instincts tell you to stop and move on.

I had become a victim, and then a survivor of narcissistic abuse. It has been a fast and slow, back and forth journey of understanding what this meant to me. It was initially, easy to scratch that idea on the surface level first. You realize that your partner only had the ability to care about themselves. Once you delve deeper and realize that to preserve this lifestyle, they had to manipulate everything about them to make sure that they were always the most important – you realize that you were nothing more than an item to this person.

I know that I have had a partial enlightenment to some degree. You would assume that a partner will always be in the top 5 of anything.

1. Themselves
2. Their Career/Inspiration to live
3. Their Partner
4. Their Family
5. Their Friends.
The most terrible thing someone else can do to you, is the refusal to put you on that list.

At a certain point, my narcissist took my inspiration and respect from me. They will see everything about you as a mere inconvenience or a trait to be used for their purposes. Everything about you – will belong to them.

I was a brittle person when I met him. Honestly, I was trying too hard to find a sense of normalcy, and had a deep need to be wanted by someone. He had touted himself as an empathetic person, who wanted to help bring me up and work together with him to be the best people we could be. He would chat to me about my hobbies and go out of his way to show me that I was his world by planning picnics with me, telling me I was adorable, and making sure I was in the inner part of the sidewalk while holding my hand.

The juxtaposition of this person who I had deemed as sweet with their actual treatment of me as a person and as their partner would be baffling. I remember distinctly very poignant scenarios where their reaction to something I had done had seemed very far from what I knew of them. Sometimes I felt like the things that I had asked of them, or suggested was seen as a pitfall, or an embarrassment to them. I didn’t realize how much of my own insecurity or desire they would prey on, that they needed to make themselves seem necessary to my survival.

I remember going on my second trip by myself to Seattle, to attend the West Coast Lolita International Lolita Day "Royal Jubilee" with my friends. I was ecstatic for this trip. I was ecstatic about life, about everything. I had been on my own for two months, and I had recovered a semblance of who I was again by myself. I had reconnected with old friends, and made an effort to make new. He would stay over but make side remarks about how I was so into preparing my coordinate for this event. Initially, I would think nothing of it. I would leave and he told me he would miss me too much. I reciprocated, but thought nothing more about it. One evening, my first night I was in Seattle, while me and my friend were preparing to go to bed. I had stepped out briefly to call him – to tell him about my day and that I was safe. He would tell me that he felt slighted that I had gone on a trip and left him behind. He repeated that all he wanted to spend time with me, but he couldn’t – because I had gone to Seattle for a weekend. 

I remember returning from the phone call annoyed. I chatted briefly with my friend that his oversight felt weird. I went to bed mildly annoyed. This was the first time where I noticed our value system was different, and that it was silly of him to even think such a thing. Perhaps this short dialogue had started a significant pattern in our relationship, where I would go somewhere, anywhere, without him and always felt like I needed to bring him back an object, to show him my affection was still there. This idea of "not being able to spend time" became a chip that he would  use to guilt trip me while I would prepare myself for outings with my friends or large events. 

Two years ago, I had waffled on wanting to model for Baby the Stars Shine Bright. I decided at the 11th hour, and out of desperation asked him to help me take full body shots. He became very defensive. It escalated to him being angry at me, for reasons I couldn’t understand. He told me that he never saw me as a person who wanted to degrade themselves in such a way. He had before told me that he had been very upset at an ex who would dress in "skanky" Halloween costumes and appreciated the fact that I wore very modest clothing. I realized he was upset about me because he thought I was showing that same kind of vanity, of “showing my goods”, or "wanting attention.” I remember crying through a majority of this impromptu photo shoot – where I needed three pictures: a full body picture of me in Lolita, a full body picture of me in more form fitting clothing to show physique, and a head shot. After assisting me in taking these pictures, he realized how upset I had become and recanted - saying that he had been unfair, and apologized. He had assumed I would be posing in my underwear.

When we first started  dating, he encouraged me to lean on him as the ear who would always listen to me. However, almost quickly, hearing my thoughts and feelings turned into disgust and revulsion. Where had the sweet boy who let me cry on his shoulder had gone?

He had begun to tell me that my crying was unnecessary – that the act of me crying was belittling the state of our relationship. I had begun to develop true panic attacks from our interactions. Anxiety had always stopped me from communicating through my life. I would get upset, and I would shut down. However, panic attacks was a sign that my anxiety had reached a whole new level of cerebral shutdown. He would become upset at me for little things; the most frequent being not being able to pick a place to eat. I remember vividly walking through the streets of the Lower Haight crying, stunned into a panicked silence, hoping that no strangers were watching me cry. On one occasion after being regaled for once again not being able to figure out what to eat, I had cried myself into a panic attack - and he was livid and hungry. He told me we were going to Magnolia.

The short walk there was fine, the peaceful night air was soothing to my throbbing temples. I relished  the little amounts of peace that I could achieve. However, the interior of the restaurant, not so much. I remember sitting there, watching all the sights and sounds meld with each other. I couldn’t hear anything. My vision blurred. I was incapacitated to do anything. He forced me to converse with him, and I had made a daring effort to, even though my voice was lodged in my throat and I was heaving between sobs. He would then almost sarcastically be proud of me, saying, “That wasn’t that hard now, was it?”

Our relationship was tumultuous. I have had to sit in many restaurants crying, leading me to become embarrassed of coming back. Public spaces became very terrifying for me. He would constantly rebuke me if I walked across the street in a manner that didn't agree with  him - either stopping for a car because it was their turn to go, or stopping him for fear of his own injury. He would brush me off for trying to plan dates with him, telling me he never knew how he felt until the day of. He would be mad at me for asking him why he never held my hand anymore.

One evening, his disdain for me was beyond palpable. He told me I was no longer the confident girl he had met when we first started dating. I was confused. It was like someone else telling you, you weren't you anymore. I had become significantly more depressed in my relationship with him - and I was struggling to support us both emotionally. He demanded I stopped crying. His threats amounted to "if I couldn't stop crying, we were over". He had grabbed me and held me down, shaking me, telling me to stop crying. In truth, I really wasn't the girl he had met, he had turned me into someone who wasn't capable of standing up for herself, someone he could abuse - and get away with it.

I remember countless friends telling me this was not okay. That when you came home, you should be safe, you could cry, because if you couldn't cry there - where could you? I was upset. I had never been touched in such a demanding violent way. I wanted  to run. In fact, there have been multiple moments where I had run, but I couldn't find myself to keep going. The fear of losing everything and starting over was more powerful than being safe.

He was always telling me, "It doesn't have to be this hard."

One rough day I had been upset, for reasons I couldn't even remember. At this point, I more or less knew his general path he would take to get home. After disembarking from my own commute,  I sat down on a bench outside a bus stop in a park and waited for him. Eventually, the skies became dark and I was approached by a seedy individual who I feared would harm me if I stayed. Fearful, I meandered home. I sat outside on the steps, waiting for him.

As he saw me on the steps his face went from confusion of "Did you forget your keys?" to a face of contorted rage - "Why are you out here?" I had told him I was upset, and that I was just waiting for him to come home so I could  get a hug. Instead, he berated me for exposing myself to danger, and putting myself in a public space where the neighbors could gawk - and be involved.

I didn't realize this then, but he was very concerned about hiding our relationship to the public eye. He told me that our business was our own, and no one outside of us should know. When I had first met him, he had picked me up from my therapist's office, and I had given him a short summary of the general topics I spoke about. When I mentioned that he was a topic, he became visibly upset. He told me that he found it wrong that I was speaking to my therapist about him. How could I not? This beautiful boy had come into my life - and I was happy. To me, it was a strange request from him.

His request for our relationship privacy escalated once he found out that I was speaking to my friends regarding our relationship. My friends were always willing  to lean in, lend an ear and give me opinions, helping me sort my thoughts and genuinely care for my safety. Once he realized I was talking to my friends about our issues - he blamed me for the fact that he and my friends could never be in the same room together without it being awkward. I remember removing myself from my friends at this point, not going into depths about anything that had upset me at home. I lived in a quiet lull. I have now come to realize that this was his ploy to isolate me. We fought here and there, but now I no longer had the support of anyone but myself. I wanted things to work, and I strive to succeed in everything I do.

I do not claim to have been a perfect partner. I had my own shortcomings, just as everyone else; but I refuse to allow anyone to tell me that my effort was nonexistent. I am a person who tries until it its a disaster. I can't give up on people, and I can only hope they never give up on me. The effort I had put into this relationship was tremendous.

I was afraid to speak my thoughts when I was upset for the longest time - and only after years of therapy I had been able to correct this. Before therapy, I would sit as an upset lump, untouchable and unphasable by any action of the world except my own. But a breakthrough had happened, and soon - even if it was in-between sobs - I could communicate my emotions and thoughts. It was a moment of joy for me. This was a problem I knew I had, and I had solved it.

This joy sadly, was never meant to stay. Being able to communicate wasn't enough. I was not only ordered to not only communicate, but to do so in a calm, level headed manner; that if I cried or became upset during so, that my entire rhetoric, logic, claims - were all false because they were uttered while I was being "emotional." I became frustrated at this. My temper would flare, because why downsize my triumph by telling me I am still failing? I would break small objects out of frustration. I regret my violent actions. Being angry to the point of violence is never acceptable.

This negation of my thoughts, my side, and the refusal  to compromise his ideas, was to be blown up in the biggest fight we had ever head.

I had been invited to a house party of long planning. My friend had recently moved into a house very close to where we were living, and I was overjoyed to live between  so many friends. It had been so long since I was given the opportunity to easily find myself in good company. I was excited! I was in such a good mood before the party, I drank one of my favorite beers before we had taken off on a short walk to her house.

I like to think the party started off well - lots of hugs, hanging around and chit chatting with friends. I didn't truly introduce myself to anyone out of my circle, but if I was in close proximity, I would. I would become inebriated, but it seemed like  we were having fun. He was quiet as he always was, tailing me. We seemed to be always attached hip to hip when we were out.

At one point, I needed to sit down. In the yard, adjacent to a fire pit was an open lawn chair, or what I had assumed to be an open lawn chair. I had sat on the arm for the seat was significantly lower and reclined too deeply for me to be comfortable for a quick rest. I didn't realize that this seat was actually preoccupied by someone who had stood up briefly. Embarrassed, I apologized. I took this as an opportunity to introduce myself. You overcome awkwardness with friendliness I believed, always.

What I hadn't noticed was him sulking away. After finishing my conversation with the chair owner, I went to look for him but could not find him. I figured he was in the bathroom. I flitted from one social group to another. Still, he was no where to be found. I had placed my belongings in my friends bedroom, and went to check my phone. There on my phone was a single message of foreboding things to come, "We need to talk when you come home."

Suddenly I was filled with panic. What had I done? I cried into the arms of my friends,  as I didn't understand why he had stranded me at this party. I wondered, was it because I could hold my own at a party, and he couldn't? One of my friends had volunteered to walk me home. Before we parted ways, she hugged me close, and told me even though we weren't close, she would be there for me.

I came into the house and his face is a mix of rage and utter disappointment He told me that I had embarrassed him at that party. He told me he never expected his girlfriend to flirt with another man. He told me all theses things, attacking the integrity of my character, my dignity, and my loyalty. What could I do? I was upset - all of these things were wrong. I did not do any of this! I told him over and over, crying, but he wasn't listening. Of course he wasn't listening - he refused to listen to anyone who was crying and "emotional."

I knew this evening had broke me. I had finally succumbed to the fatigue of being verbally berated. I had finally accepted that I was "emotional," that his image of me was being reduced to a "naive girl who didn't know any better," and someone who could "embarrass him" at social gatherings. It was  me, reluctantly, assimilating his views into me. I remember sobbing into his chest, apologizing for his views about me, telling him that I never wanted to be viewed as disloyal by him in that way.

After this incident, I retreated farther and farther from friends and family. I put in an extraneous amount of effort to get treatment for the ailments that I had developed during this relationship. I started anti-depressants that mitigated anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorders, and found myself in a quiet lull that I had never had before. Suddenly the things that used to bother me, bully me, and pervade my thoughts no longer visited frequently. I learned to breathe for the first time in my life, while feeling like I was in a peaceful sleep.

I was most likely, the ideal puppet at this point of our lives. There was no more fight left in me. With medication, I no longer asked him to help clean. I no longer preened and held him up on his pedestal. I was too tired. I no longer pushed him to try harder. I no longer complained about him not holding my hand, or our lack of dates. I was no longer upset that I had made a breakfast that he would only get to eat an hour later,  once it was cold and partially congealed.

I believe that he loved to fight me when I could still fight. That he took some enjoyment out of breaking another person, making sure that he was always number one. That he was the money maker, that he made all the decisions, that all his ideas and ways were right; that he was never wrong. I believe that he truly hated me, from sheer jealousy, and that dehumanizing me was the only way he could be "better."

My parents purchase of a house would be somehow, my way out of this. I dreamt of starting our relationship again, from the beginning - figuring it all out  together, piece by piece. I had been dreaming for a long time off moving to a bigger place with him. I wanted a kitten. I wanted a puppy. I wanted to not sleep in a room covered in mold. What I didn't realize was that he saw this as a form of a power play. He saw this house as something else - that even at the depths of despair, I had managed a feat he could never be lucky enough to do for himself. I believe that this broke his ego, and he saw me moving out as leaving him.

He would quickly find someone else, in the week I was gone. I had hung out with my friends and decided to pop over to our apartment - because in my mind, there was nothing wrong. I was just dropping off yogurt and the uji-matcha kit kats he had loved so much. He berated me for coming to his place without asking. I was confused. This was our place. How could I not be welcomed there? He demanded my keys back, and I left his apartment feeling empty. I told him, that if I had a separate pair of keys I would have given them to him.

It has been three months. When people ask me, how do you want to live your life now; I always tell them I want to live peacefully. I never want to return to a world of fear and drama. 

Carving Out a Node for Yourself

4:30:00 PM

This will be a very personal post for me, because the idea behind this post is rooted in a lesson I learned a little late (though, I would like to think I've intuitively known it all the time.)

Life is all about coordinating your space and other peoples space in tandum, while carving out a space for yourself. As a child you share the "public" spaces with your parents, such as the dining room, bathroom, and kitchen. Growing up, these are the only spaces you truly learn to share. However, because of internal family hierarchies, you don't necessary have any input on these spaces. Your parents may say, "Hey let's go get a new couch," and you probably sat on a bunch of couches and you would tell your parents your preferences. However as a young member in the household who isn't intended to spend more than 1/20th of your life in that space, your opinions probably didn't really matter to your parents. I find that this odd scenario does not set up people for success once they move out of their parents space into a shared space, whether it is with: your significant other, roommates, communities, etc.

(Though, not to be a negative nancy, but my parents did decide to take my input on a bean shaped swivel glass table as a table they hadn't considered before because they liked the tier functionality, so not all hope is lost when trying to buy staple furniture with your parents!)

In reality, the space you had "control" of, and could really assert your own personal aesthetic and space choices was your room. Growing up, I always felt my room was contested territory. I would move my own furniture from a young age, unhappy about the position of my bed, or my dresser, or how things were displayed. If you asked my parents, I'm sure they would tell you how many times I rearranged my room, and how bothered they were by how they had to return it back to its previous arrangement. I was fascinated by the seasons, and I took it as an opportunity with myself to change the decor, the color, and the feel of the room between the seasons through the use of different bed quilts, accent colors of displayed objects and variety of stuffed animals.

As I am about to move into a more permanent space, I'm reminiscing about my past choices in the places I've inhabited and the things I've done correctly and incorrectly. 

My first true feeling of needing a space manifested itself when I originally lived in the Mission, at my "Folsom" apartment. I was living in this space when I first started wearing lolita fashion, and had just started my first real job. For the first time in my life, I could afford items I wanted for my space.  The apartment itself was large, but it was very much a space that I had no control of. I shared a double room with my boyfriend at the time, and a menagerie of shared "public" spaces with roommates. 

The need for  my own space was very clear to me, even before I started accumulating a closet. I had rearranged the rooms a multitude of times to accommodate my storage needs (books, a space for my makeup, floor space for large drawings, rearranging  furniture to eliminate dead spots where clutter could accumulate) to create a space that could fit both me and my partners needs. It became very clear to me that I needed my own space, or a space I had an understanding of what I controlled. 

These controlled spaces, I believe provided a respite for me. I believe the feeling of belonging in a household is deeply connected in the ability to control a space, and feel like at home and safe in it. I truly didn't have  this kind of a space until my closet grew past anything that could be accomodated without furniture of  fixtures.  In this apartment my space was always my growing lolita closet. As it was two rooms divided by sliding doors, there wasn't much of a space past a nook in a corner. I found out in this example that your space doesn't need to be big in any way. It could truly just be your desk, your vanity, closet. You don't have to stick to the idea of a "room" for you, but just a "node" for you. It's a place for you to just touch down, and be comfortable.
`(Images of my Closet "Node" from the Folsom Apartment)

In July of 2016, I moved in with my current boyfriend into his "studio" apartment in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco. The space comprises of a main living space, kitchen, bath and detached bedroom. The apartment itself is very compact, but it boasts being situated in a lively, safe neighborhood with  close adjacencies to large parks and shopping.

(Floor plan of Lyon Apartment)

I had moved in with a lot of items, but no large furniture. However, I still had way too many items for this space. I had hoarded all kinds of floral decorative elements to create an intimate space for myself. in previous apartments that were bigger. But to move into this space, I found myself throwing out a lot of useless items such as large jewelry trees, decorative boxes, trays, birdcages, etc.

Our space was challenging, but my boyfriend and I were convinced to be able to work together. He himself really loves efficient, clean and well designed spaces. With me always moving furniture to create the right flow of circulation and usable space, we knew that we were able to accomplish a space both of us could enjoy. 

As we had organized our space, I found myself unhappy in moments around the house. It wasn't a sense of organization, or furniture, or even a need for more storage space. In reality, what we had built for ourselves in that apartment was a space to co-exist. I find our living room to be a stunning example of living with another person. We had created a wonderful "public" space between us. What I had as my space was a couch and a coffee table that lifted up to be my desk, and a computer that was attached to the TV that was my workstation.

I later had come to understand that although we had an efficient living room where we both coexisted, it was not a space for me to retreat to. I had avoided the bedroom in apprehension owe would come together as a couple to push a concept onto  the space, like we had done to the living room. He had said he wanted the bedroom to be pure white, since the space was so small. However, throughout my time living there, the bedroom was also my closet and just a space to sleep in. In fact, it was an amazingly ignored space. 

Once I realized this, I quickly went to work, really recognizing the potential of the space so that I could have a moment of respite in my own apartment. I decorated enough the room and the walls enough to make me feel comfortable in my own space. Small accents such as my favorite postcards in frames, so when I woke up I could see my something joyful. I made sure to not feel ashamed of having my stuffed animals over the bed as it made me feel at home. I hung memorabilia and more postcards to line the wall to truly make it feel like a lived in space. After I had done this, it became immediately present that it had triggered a sudden change and understanding in how I would use and understand this space. 

Since the reclamation of this room, I would spend time in my space reading, playing mobile games before winding down and falling asleep. 

(Images of the current Bedroom)

I hope that this post helps everyone recognizing that organizing and coordinating with other space-sharers can be a huge compromise between multiple parties, and is important. However, I hope that you learn through my mistakes t hat you should never give up a space just for your self. You won't regret it, no matter how small it is .


New Homeowner

2:45:00 PM

As of the beginning of this month, I am a new homeowner.

If you knew me very closely, you knew that I was not planning on buying a house at all. It was a surprise to everybody involved (including me). I am excited, and terrified.

I have been in and out of apartments since I moved to Berkeley and back to San Francisco. I have lived in a dirty apartment with a room to myself with a hamster. I have lived in an overly spacious apartment with no closet space. I have lived in a glorified living room. I have kind of learned to love the hustle and the bustle of shared spaces, especially since apartment locations tend to be more centralized and in more vibrant neighborhoods (except that glorified living room).

I am currently living in a tiny studio in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, and to be honest - it's the bomb. There is nothing technically wrong with my current apartment. I live between two beautiful parks. I am in walking distance to two friends. I live down the street from some of the best Edomae sushi and Al Pastor burritos I've ever had. My apartment is urban, hip to a fault, and exciting. I had the most amazing first date here. It is really hard to come to terms with leaving a specific kind of  "city bustle" that I've been so used to.

I love living in the middle of San Francisco. There is so much to do and you'll never run out of amazing food to try. There is nothing more cool than having friends over and being like, "Hey there's an amazing restaurant down the street." "Ice cream? Yea man we can walk for like 20 minutes and get liquid nitrogen ice cream churned on the spot." Heck, I bought a California Academy of Science's membership because it was twenty minute walk away and I wanted to spend my days reading and drawing in their exhibits.

I feel like older people have ostracized me regarding my affinity for apartments and wanting a split level mezzanine condo as the "end game" portion of my life. I personally don't understand what's there not to love about apartments. As a kid, I used to imagine moving to a city like New York and living in one of those tall residential towers and hopefully having a tiny window that doesn't face a wall. That was the dream.  If you're like me, you really don't need a lot of "living" space. You just need a good space for all your books, a couch/bed combo and probably about 36 square feet of living space to make some kind of crafty DIY mess on the floor, and of course a place for all your clothes.

Of course, I entirely understand the downsides of owning a apartment condominium versus a house. You will never own the land. You don't get to knock down that wall you hate to renovate interior spaces. Even though you've "bought" the condo, you still pay HOA (Home Owner Association) fees for the general upkeep of the apartment building. It will probably never stops feeling like you're paying rent, but at least someone is sweeping your hallways and if something is wrong with your apartment they'll have someone to fix it.

A lot of houses in San Francisco have been subdivided, so even though it may look like you live in a house, you really only own a portion of it. These are still considered condos, and I think the most fearful things about owning one of these is the idea of  "Tenancy in Common." Essentially, if one of your neighbors forecloses, you and anyone else you share the property with will need to pony up to pay that neighbor's share. To be honest, these homes are quite lovely and tend to be newly remodeled before going on the market. I've looked a lot at these, and they really capitalize on renovating to create an open floor plan, but emphasizing original Victorian and Edwardian aspects of the space (high ceilings, windows, decorative elements, light wells and hardwood floors).

My new home is nothing like a remodeled flat. It has had two owners since it was built, and was renovated by those two owners. However, it seems to have been renovated and maintained since the 1970s. There is mustard paisley wallpaper in the kitchen. There are two ovens with stove temperature assigned head setting buttons. There is bright blue carpet. It is old, but somehow in the space it feels really open. The renovation work from the previous owners included lots of skylights, and the space has a great amount of windows for an attached house. I know that as this home's new owner, I am prepared to do a lot of work on capitalizing the space that the house frame is providing. I am absolutely ecstatic about this. However, since this decision was rather rash and quick, I'm still awestruck and can really only comprehend a couple things about owning a house and moving.

My boyfriend and I have been not-so-jokingly talking about what we will miss the most about our apartment. Our #1 item is Street Taco's Al Pastor Super Burrito, which is a really endearing and pleasant thought. I would like to believe that it shows you that even though we won't  live in the neighborhood anymore, we don't necessarily feel like we're losing all of our special places - it'll just be farther away, because the burritos will still be there.