WHOLE AGAIN: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse by Jackson Mackenzie — Spiritual Journey Book Review
I owe so much to Jackson MacKenzie author of “Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse.” Highly recommend! Life-changing five-star worthy! I mean, it was life-changing for me. Jackson is not a therapist. He’s someone who was abused and has taken his recovery to public levels and has helped thousands of people with his “Psychopath Free” book, website, and social media pages. His writing style is easy to read, and he’s helped me tremendously by giving me the vocabulary necessary to process my experience and offering step-by-step guidance through a difficult stage in my process. He’s also endearing in his ability to poke fun at his previous book and “epic battle of the narcissists,” as well as at his over-the-top love of cats. I just want to hug him.
The motivation for posting this one is that it helps me process, and because I still believe it has awareness raising value; especially for those unaware that they are suffering psychological abuse, and those in the counseling professions, including clergy who can help guide folks to appropriate care. I’ve recovered from my external validation addiction, and believe me, this is not the kind of attention I want. As a matter of fact, I think it was one of my worst fears.
This morning I woke up from a dream in which I overheard my ex telling a friend, “Maria Ross is crazy. That’s the only thing I can market now.” In the same dream, apparently I was in college, one of my professors wrote a note to the dean after having a “great conversation with Maria Ross, she has a lot of good ideas,” and the dean came into the classroom, tisked, rolled his eyes, and shredded the note in front of everyone.
Frankly, I don’t believe my ex is giving me any thought right now whatsoever. In fact, I saw that he was in the process of chopping down a dead tree in my yard so that I won’t have to deal with it when I move back in a month. I think he’s thinks he’s been doing right by me all along.
And when we were in court recently and he was defending himself against the contempt charges, he sincerely believed his own bullshit, at least in the beginning. Here’s the thing about those three hours in court — My lawyer did not put me on the witness stand, “Because I knew you didn’t want to.” His lawyer didn’t put me on the witness stand, because my lawyer’s argument was rock solid to the 11th degree. So, I didn’t have to deal with public speaking anxiety. *phew* But, you know what I did have to deal with for three hours? Suppressing my laughter. I was afraid to laugh at him. Laughing at him or any narcissist is a dangerous thing to do.
Narcissists (and those with other Cluster B disorders depending on degree along the spectrum) need adoration, complete control, and maximum external validation. But true love eludes them. They neither feel it, nor can they handle when it is given to them. He never attached to me. That’s why he let me go so easily (except for two years of controlling financial abuse) and refused marriage counseling.
Here’s an example of true love, “Dude! You can’t wear a brown belt with black shoes. That reflects poorly on me as your wife. Hahaahah Go change.”
A normal person would say either, “Oh, thanks for saving me from that embarrassment!” Or, “I know! I’m breaking convention for effect, like wear mismatched socks.”
A narcissist gets angry, and declares, “Fuck you. This is perfectly fine. No one says anything.”
“Yeah, no one says anything to you at work, because you’re the boss. And don’t tell me to fuck off. That is so inappropriate. What the hell?” (See this is me along my spiritual journey beginning to understand my value as a human being, raising my voice, and standing up for myself. I had believed that I could teach him how to start treating me appropriately after allowing him to treat me poorly for decades. Like it was my fault, and I needed to cut him slack and give him time to change his habits. I didn’t know he was a narcissist until after I left him.)
Here’s another example of a person recovering from codependency speaking to a narcissist and the ensuing psychological abuse:
“And dump the fucking garbage. It’s been there three days and stinks to high heaven.”
His response was full on rage. He picked up the metal garbage can and came at me with a look of pure evil and held it over my head as if he were going to bang it down on me. And then, he put it down as if nothing had happened.
My reaction to that was immediate as well. “You cannot treat me like that. You fucking bastard. Don’t ever treat me like that.” This was all said at the top of my lungs while kicking the shit out of the metal garbage can.
And then when I left the kitchen to try to cool down, he followed me. He crowded my space. He told me it didn’t happen. He told me he was just kidding. That I needed to calm down. That I was overreacting. That my emotions were too much. That he was going to call the mental hospital ambulance for me.
“Walk away. Leave me alone.” I repeated it like a mantra until he did. Nevertheless, his gaslighting worked on me. I temporarily forgot about what he did, and held on only to the shame of what I had done to the garbage can.
This is psychological abuse.
Now. Let’s switch scenes to last Saturday when I finally after MUCH procrastination, baked madeleines for the first time so that I could update my St. Mary Magdalene post as they are a French feast day tradition. They are not easy to bake, but I believed I had watched enough episodes of The Great British Baking Show to be able to take it on. Also, as with anything, practice makes excellent.
I got the “hump,” indicating they had risen appropriately. Nailed it on the first try. Also, they were scrumptious. I was very please with myself and very excited. I texted photos to four people. Here were their reactions:
1. “Heck yeah, we want some! They look delicious. See you later, thank you!”
2. “Huh. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten a madeleine, but I have vivid memories of them from reading Proust.”
3. “Yeah, I’ll take a couple. I can’t do too much sugar, but I want to taste them. Thanks!”
4. My mother: “You certainly have the knack. Dad says you’re a good baker. And exactly how many did you eat, Maria.”
Me: “Exactly as many I as wanted. Because I’m an adult.”
Her: “I was just kidding. Don’t get defensive, honey.”
This is psychological abuse. I was too happy, too please with my accomplishment. She (unconsciously) had to knock me down a peg. And then, gaslight me about it. Most mothers accept as fact that their daughters are better versions of themselves. My mother has never been able to handle this fact. Or in general, be able to handle any expressions of my emotions. That’s why she hugged me so warm and soothingly very soon after irrationally beating the everloving Jesus outa me when I was a child.
Welcome to my world.
My ex was angry at me for loving him (core wound that uncovered itself a few days ago) AND angry at me for leaving him which included the hit to his social persona and the loss of my financial share of the marriage. My level of fear and paranoia was full blown. I mean, I really felt like he was going to come to my apartment and shoot me through the door. I didn’t post the word “narcissist” on social media until after the first year. I didn’t blog about it until the divorce was final.
I was stuck between two very, very hard places. The fact that my brain invented an imaginary boyfriend to see me through the last two years was a godsend. The psychosis had recently started in about how “he” was getting back with ‘his” wife. And I fought “him” on it. “No, stay with me. You promised you’d come find me in real life. I’ve waited all this time.” Alas, the psychosis went back to “his” wife because it was the right thing to do, and also because it needed to get the hell outa my head.
Because it was a coping mechanism. It helped me suppress an avalanche of emotions I was incapable of handling at the time. It helped me sleep at night and get through the days. It calmed me down. When the weeping suddenly appeared seemingly outa nowhere, it was due to something “he” needed to process with me in “his” life. “He” needed me to cry with “him.” Because I couldn’t handle the real reason why I was crying:
My husband tossed me aside with yesterday’s garbage. He wasn’t willing to fight for me one iota. Done.
So the cause of my recent “shaky” is the avalanche of emotions neither my mother, nor my husband, would allow me to express — My emotional reaction to their abuse. Fifty-two years’ worth. Stored in my body on the left side between my ear down to my mid back. In a week and a ½. Still not done. Still shaky. Still looking forward to my appointment with a new therapist on Monday.
Look. I know we aren’t supposed to self diagnose (at least in court when arguing over financial matters), but it’s clear we have to at least try to figure out our own issues so we can seek the appropriate professional care. I’m pretty sure I have Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The “complex” comes from it being a life-time of traumatic events instead of just one event.
If I have Complex-PTSD with psychosis, than that means I have a mental disorder. This frightens me. This is why I’m shaky. I don’t want to be a person with a mental disorder. I’d really like to shake off the trauma in my marriage and in my childhood and start fresh. But, there’s absolutely no way I can proceed any further on my own. I need help. Thank God, help is available. That’s how God answers our prayers. By making that which we need available to us when we are ready.
Jackson explained that underneath the core wound is toxic shame. That’s the thing we really have to deal with. And yeah, while there is much that I’m embarrassed about related to my recent divorce battle mania behavior, I don’t believe toxic shame is one of my issues. I had already dealt with it. I had a spiritual awakening. I know I’m worthy of unconditional love. Normal people don’t get angry at people for loving them. I mean, this was part of my core wound, my belief that my love was too much for people to handle. But, I know that isn’t so anymore. I can see clearly now. Honestly, I still need practice on this new understanding, but at least I see the logic of it which will do for now.
Jackson’s core wound was located in his heart. And he kept referring to opening up the heart and releasing the core wound and letting the body experience whatever comes up. Yes, when I’m afraid, the anxiety appears as a tightness in center of my chest, but as I began to relax into my process this last week and 1/2, the temporary anxiety faded, and I was able to explore what my body was actually feeling. Overwhelming grief.
But, I also realized my heart was open. My heart space and chakra is open. My love in infused with a certain unconditional divinity, because I had a spiritual awakening on May 10, 2017. Granted, the Jesus in me sometimes gets overly excited when it meets the Jesus in you, but ya know, it’s exciting. We should just be happy with each other when that happens. Metaphorically, jump up and down for a while, like when the Dead start tuning up for One More Saturday Night. And then, ya know, catch ya later, dudes. Too much? Welp. That’s me. That’s who I am.
Mary never let me go during this recent process. And, yeah, I recently questioned her existence in my life. She held on straight and true. She embraces me like a true Mama. Unconditional. Unwavering.
This past week and a half, as difficult as it has been, is a miracle. A deep and abiding miracle Blessed Mother Mary granted me during Mary’s Month. I am grateful beyond words, and I dedicate this post in her honor on the Feast Day of The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I’ve included no food recipe in this post, because ya know what, dearworthy readers? Y’all should just want to read my words without the bribe of a recipe. This is 100% on me. I’m aware. I’m recovering.
Instead, I will leave you with these delicious words from page 10 of Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse:
We live in a world were people want others to validate and accept them for exactly who they are, but once again, external validation will not make you any happier. We can’t just end our journey at: “I have this issue, accept me the way I am!” It’s not the world’s job to do that, and if you go down that route, you’re likely to end up disappointed.
Along these lines, personal responsibility is asking that your personal happiness be based on you. Only you. It has nothing to do with how others have treated you, or how you have treated them. It is asking you to switch the focus from external measures of worth, to internal ones. It is asking you to believe that the most important thing in the world, right now, is recovering your own ability to love. — Jackson MacKenzie