A Literary Heroine

Book love

In the late eighties, Obernewtyn, by Australian author Isobelle Carmody, opened up a new fantasy genre to young adults.

Fantasy has become popular among young readers over recent years with its sci-fi, supernatural and post-apocalyptic themes.

When I was 14, I borrowed a copy of book one in Isobelle’s The Obernewtyn Chronicles from my English teacher. I became an immediate fan of Isobelle’s work, as did two of my girlfriends. We devoured everything she’d written.

Isobelle was a key author who sparked in me a great love for stories. So you can imagine how I felt when I met her, after hearing her speak at Margaret River Reader’s and Writer’s Festival (MRRWF) in May 2015.

Until this year, I knew nothing personal about the famed Isobelle Carmody. It turned out that I had a lot in common with her.

 

Writing for young adults

Isobelle loves the adolescent voice because it is filled with what she describes as a ‘vivid fear’. ‘Teenagers fluctuate from feeling in control to feeling powerless,’ she said.

This tipping back and forth between feelings of power and powerlessness is something that adults can also identify with and it’s likely the reason adults, not just teenagers, also enjoy her fiction.

 

Maybe curiosity didn’t kill anything

An engaging and inspiring speaker, Isobelle entertained us with funny life stories that revealed her curious mind.

She loves doubtful people because, she says, doubt indicates to her that they’re thinkers. ‘People who are certain about life scare me,’ she said.

To Isobelle, every person is a mystery. She plays out, in her mind, different scenarios of how the people she meets would react in fictional settings.

She has a deep understanding of people. As such, throughout her stories Isobelle has successfully created authentic, loveable characters. She is certain of what her characters would and wouldn’t do, would and wouldn’t say. This is a major reason why her stories are effective.

 

Excellence created by obsession

Until I heard Isobelle talk, I believed that achieving a balance of everything in all aspects of life is what nurtures good mental and physical health. Isobelle may have convinced me otherwise.

She works according to her obsessions and she’s obsessed with The Obernewtyn Chronicles.

Given the success of all her books, I can’t help but think that maybe living and breathing the fictional stories I write is what’s required for them to succeed. Having permission to obsess over stories appeals to me – what a way to escape and enjoy life! (Maybe my addictive personality isn’t all that bad after all…)

 

Philosophy in fiction

Not only is Isobelle greatly influenced by the weather, (rain and storms are her favourites) she’s also a philosophical thinker. Underlying her work are always the questions; can people better themselves? Do people ever really change?

Isobelle is on a life quest to understand courage and bravery. People who are courageous fascinate her. She is intrigued by the dynamics of how bravery works. She said there is a great paradox in that; to be brave, you don’t feel brave, but fearful.

 

Lion heart

When Isobelle told the MRRWF audience about some fearful situations she’d lived through, her interviewer remarked that she seemed like a very brave person. Isobelle’s response was, ‘when being brave, you don’t see it that way. At the time, all you feel is fear’.

Isobelle often puts herself in the way of fear. She said she feels most alive when she’s afraid. Her words resonated with me as I thought about the most exciting moments from my life and how scared I was during those times but also, how those moments were worth the trade of courage.

‘When we’re vulnerable and afraid, we’re most sensitive to our environment. The fear strips a layer off us and makes us see the world with new eyes,’ said Isobelle. I hadn’t heard such a simple yet profound, and inspiring, statement in a long time.

 

Sacrifice

There’s no doubt that great sacrifice is needed to be a writer. For Isobelle, writing has brought her everything she thought she was giving up to write – and more. What an encouragement!

 

The world is full of lovely Creatives

Isobelle has only ever written for personal pleasure (and her daughter) but she is deeply grateful to have created stories that have also brought delight to others.

My impression of this long-time, personal literary heroine was wholly positive. A gentle, curious spirit, full of courage and wisdom, Isobelle was a delight to meet. She exceeded my expectations and caused me to buzz inside. I walked home on Cloud 9.

(Isobelle’s a self-confessed hermit, yet she came to MRRWF. Of all the places in Australia, she came to Margaret River in WA! I felt incredibly blessed by the odds.)

 

Next up

Isobelle has returned home to finish The Red Queen, in what she calls ‘lock down’. This seventh novel in The Obernewtyn Chronicles is due to be released in November. That’s just enough time to read the previous six books if you haven’t already!

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How to Respond

Part 5 of 5 – NPD series

 

Damage control

Psychological abuse creates emotional wounds and later, leaves scars. The damage can’t be seen but it is real and it is serious.

As I said in an earlier post, victimisation is not a reflection of how strong, or weak, someone is.

Remember that just because you wouldn’t get sucked into a narcissist’s game, doesn’t mean one of your friends won’t. Each of us is unique and we all struggle with different issues throughout our lives. Some of the issues other people struggle with will seem foreign to us. Try to understand.

 

Be gentle

If you know someone who’s being psychologically abused, please take it seriously. She needs supportive friends to help her through this hard time.

I detest the modern saying, ‘toughen up princess’. It’s so insensitive. It completely dismisses a person’s feelings. Telling your abused friend this (or anything like it) will just add to the self-hate she’s already feeling.

Please don’t highlight the things she may have done wrong, unless she has specifically asked you to!

 

How the victim is feeling

Your friend might be feeling worthless after a narcissist is done with her. Nobody feels good after being mistreated, even if it’s clear the offender was being a complete jerk.

She’s probably going through an episode of depression and feeling more than a little red raw.

She’ll likely also be feeling very stupid for not realising a narcissist had been taking advantage of her. She might be beating herself up for it.

I can assume what your friend might be feeling because I’ve been there and I’ve felt all these emotions.

 

Encourage and highlight

Encourage your friend to look at the positives she can take from her bad experience. Help her to develop tools she can keep on hand in her relationship tool box.

Highlight to her that her vulnerable traits are actually qualities! We don’t need a world with more hardened hearts. We need to nurture the soft-hearted.

Soft-hearted people feel emotions deeply. Be conscious of this and be patient. Your friend needs time to heal.

Gently help your friend to move on by being the most supportive, present friend you can be.

I needed nurturing and that’s exactly what my true friends gave me. They gave me all the love in the world.

 

This concludes my five part NPD series. Thanks for tuning in!

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I was a Victim

Part 4 of 5 – NPD series

Character traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder = susceptibility not strength

It wasn’t neediness that attracted a narcissist to me (although it’s likely that neediness does attract narcissists). And I wasn’t wearing a sign that said ‘abuse me’, either. In other words, that awful treatment I received at the hands of a narcissist? I wasn’t ‘asking for it’.

The honourable character traits that draw a narcissist to us can be the very traits that make us vulnerable to a narcissist’s abuse.

The narcissist targets people who are compassionate, forgiving, sensitive, trusting and loyal. Although having these attributes make it easy to fall prey, they do not make us weak. The difference between being weak and being strong comes down to whether your heart is unguarded or guarded.

 

Unguarded heart

In my experience of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) I left my heart unguarded and that is why I ended up so hurt. It wasn’t because of who I was or who I am.

I refuse to believe that we need to change ourselves in order to repel and prevent abuse from a narcissist. I’m convinced we can remain authentic to our character and be strong and wise to ward of any bad treatment.

I refuse to harden my heart just because someone hurt me. I’m soft hearted and I’ll never give that up. I’ve simply become a wiser version of myself. I’ve learned from my mistake and moved on.

 

Bad timing

I met said narcissist at a course where I was looking to establish new connections. I realise now that I was too open. I was caught up in the excitement of meeting new people (I do love to socialise).

I was also going through a lonely, bored season of life (but that’s a whole other story). In the beginning, this new friendship was exciting and fun. I let feelings distort my perspective.

 

Recognise red flags

To my detriment, I didn’t acknowledge the red flags. I let caution slip and stupidly left myself wide open to hurt.

The experience reminded me that in any relationship, we must stop and listen to our instincts. What’s your heart telling you about this new person? Be cautious; tread carefully.

 

My worst me

There’s no doubt about it, I reacted badly in response to how I was treated. The key word there is reacted; I said awful knee-jerk words of anger that I’m terribly ashamed of having said. I was hurt and confused by NPD games.

I’ve accepted responsibility for my unpleasant behaviour – there’s no excuse for it. And I also think, hell, no one deserves to be treated like I was. I wouldn’t wish such treatment on my worst enemy (even if I had one).

As a friend of a narcissist, I became someone I didn’t like and others didn’t like. I wasn’t being a true representation of myself. This is my biggest regret – losing my true self (for a short while).

 

Regrets

I also regret that I didn’t listen to the people around me who were telling me this friend wasn’t worth my effort.

At the time, I didn’t know NPD was playing with me but I still should have opted out and put myself first. I could have guarded my heart by withdrawing from the relationship.

I wouldn’t have ignored this friend (I find it hard to ignore anyone) but I certainly would have kept him at a safe distance.

 

Learning curve

I chose to believe the best in my friend. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a best in him to begin with. It was all just ‘smoke and mirrors’, as the saying goes.

I’ve learnt something I deeply wish wasn’t true and it’s this; you can’t believe the best in everyone. There are actually people out there who aren’t worth your time, effort and heart. Better to let just them pass you by.

 

Choose your thoughts

There are several reasons why we leave our hearts unguarded. Inexperience is one reason.

Experience equips us with tools for our future. Learning by doing is unavoidable. I encourage you to view a bad friendship experience as a valuable life lesson and harness the wisdom you’ve gained from it. Put what you’ve learnt in your relationship tool kit.

Try to see the positives from your experience with NPD. Dwelling on the negatives will only make your heart bitter and bitterness will rot your soul.

 

One more thing

My words of advice to you are; don’t rush into new friendships; tread cautiously. Above all, don’t bare your heart to anyone who doesn’t reveal some of his or her own heart to you.

 

How do you respond to a victim of narcissism?

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Friends with a Narcissist

Part 3 of 5 – NPD series

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) reflect honourable character traits in you, myself and others. This makes it hard to tell if someone is a narcissist.

 

Mr Private

Narcissists are very private, at their whim. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against privacy. Many of my friends like to lead much more private lives than me. But what was considered private to this person changed depending on his mood and agenda.

 

Excuse me?

The narcissist I knew said nothing plainly. I had to read between the lines all the time. Afterwards, he’d tell me I was too literal and needed a dictionary definition for everything. I felt stupid.

 

Mr Bully

He laughed often at my expense. He poked the kind of fun that broached boundaries I had set in our friendship. I told him when he hurt me, but he didn’t respond.

I brazenly told him when to back off, but he’d come back to a sensitive topic another time, another way. He was always pushing me.

I wasn’t to make him feel like the bad guy, even though he knew that’s what he was. It was too intense, too burdensome for him, to bear the responsibility of his actions. He wanted an easy friendship that required no effort on his part. I had to be fun fun fun!

 

Mr Honest

My narcissist friend came across as very honest. He said things like, ‘you can be bare with me’ and ‘I’m one of the good guys’, inviting me to trust him. He implied he cared but his later, punishing treatment proved otherwise.

 

Bitter Pills

My friend would not grant me forgiveness. He did once, in the beginning. He even said sorry… once. Only once.

Sometimes I offended him (and sometimes admittedly I was in the wrong) but often, he would be offended for no known reason. Later he revealed his unforgiving nature.

I had to play by his rules or I was out. I was told not to take offence to anything he said because, ‘he never intends to hurt anyone’. If I responded in a way he disliked – if I defended myself and stood ground – I was blamed for misunderstanding him. (Funny, because I’ve always been quick to listen and slow to judge.)

 

Call me Sally

I was called a multitude of things I had never been called in my long history of healthy friendships. I was tip-toe-ing on eggshells to keep him happy and prevent the abuse.

 

Mr Charity

He claimed he liked to help people but he only helped if it served his purposes as well. One of his solutions to one of my ‘problems’ was very inappropriate. And he kept pushing it, because it was what he wanted.

I was made to feel like the odd one out of an entire world of normal people who put these normal solutions in place. It was creepy.

 

Ostracise me, pleeease!

Towards the end, I don’t even think my friend liked me, yet he hung around. I was still a good supply source for his narcissism. He didn’t want to get rid of me. He would do so in his own time, on his own terms.

I was repeatedly ignored for varying lengths of time as a form of punishment for something I’d apparently said in the ‘wrong way’. No amount of contact from my side would move him to acknowledge my pain. I felt he didn’t care that I was suffering. And so, this is basically how our friendship ended. Mr NPD got shelved.

How on earth did I fall for his tricks?

 

 

 

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