By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
Wearing my “nurse Joyce hat” is part of what I am, although I am retired. Even though I am no longer in practice giving out specific medical advice to patients and billing insurance companies, Medicare and private payers for the advice, I still am inclined to look at things from a medical point of view.
One of the things I used to teach my diabetic patients about their condition was that I was the “coach” and they were the “team.” I could not get out on the field of life and play the “game” — they had to do it. But if I were not a good “coach,” and didn’t teach them the “rules of the game,” they were not going to be able to play a good game. I told them that diabetes is a “do-it-yourself treatment plan.” They had to control their diet, their exercise and their use of medications in a wise way. It took all three things to successfully control the condition and prevent the side effects from literally killing their bodies, one organ at a time. In fact, lifestyle is one of the biggest things in any person’s health, not only in those with diseases like diabetes.
I have not always been a good patient myself … I have eaten too much, exercised too little, smoked cigarettes, and so on. I’ve put my needs last and others’ needs first. I am GUILTY of this, so I am not just throwing stones at someone else’s glass house. However, I have finally made a vow to make some changes in my life and my behavior, and put myself first. To make my own health a top priority.
Stress and illness
Back in 2007, during the “summer of Chaos,” I was living in my recreational vehicle with my adopted son D, hiding out on a friend’s property at a lake, while the man my son had sent to kill me was living in my mother’s home, conspiring with my daughter-in-law and my son, Patrick, to kill me, take over the family finances and ultimately to leave Patrick the sole beneficiary of the family trust. I was in such a stressed-out condition that I was a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wreck. I scored about 1,500 points on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, and a score of 300+ is over the top.
My immune system had almost shut down, leaving me prey to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Though I was obviously “sick,” I was unable to realize that I had been running a continual fever for weeks, before I finally got to a physician to confirm my illness. He was very concerned about my condition and actually thought I had cancer, because my “labs” were so out of whack. Stress does a number on our immune system, and as well on our ability to think critically and make judgments that are logical.
Dealing with psychopathic attacks, and the gaslighting that goes along with them, as well as the doubts we have about whether or not we have contributed to our own downfall, or whether we are at fault for what has happened to us, the frustrations we have in trying to “mend” the relationships with the psychopaths, and the grief responses that we experience in coping with the losses of perceived loved ones … all these things do a “number” on our bodies and minds.
Care for yourself
When you fly on an airline, the cabin staff gives you instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency. They tell you that if you are with a child when an oxygen mask falls down, that you should put the mask on yourself first. The reason for this is that if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot help others who are more helpless.
Many victims of psychopaths have small children that depend on them for emotional and financial support … and dealing with a psychopathic co-parent, poverty, loss of homes, finances, job changes, fear and frustration tend to make it difficult for the victim to focus on him or herself first! If our children are, or have been, abused, we would want to put them first because that is what a good nurturing parent does. Put the child first. If the child is sick, you stay up all night with them, depriving yourself of needed sleep, and then go to work the next day.
Well, let me suggest that you change your perspective and put yourself first before everyone. You cannot take care of your children or your job or your finances if you are not healthy. If you do not put your own health as a priority, mentally, physically, and spiritually, you cannot do an adequate job of caring for your other responsibilities.
When the world was crashing down around my head, and my life was literally in danger from the “Trojan horse psychopath” my son had sent to kill me, I worried about my house. I worried about my shop and barn; I worried about my animals and couldn’t make the logical decision to get the hell out while I was still alive and walking. Then something shocked me out of my denial and I started to act.
I had trouble waking my son D in the mornings. I just could not get him out of bed. I became very frustrated with him. Why the heck was it taking me from 7 to 10 a.m. to get him to get up and get a cup of coffee and start the day? Well, finally I got it out of him that he had been staying up all night from midnight to daylight guarding me with a gun because he was concerned that the Trojan horse would come during the night and kill us. No wonder I couldn’t get him out of bed. He hadn’t suddenly just become lazy; he was exhausted from over 30 days of no sleep. Of course, he was putting me first! So we both decided to put ourselves first and get the heck out of Dodge. Leave the house, leave the farm, save our lives.
It was at that point that I started putting myself first. I realized that I could not guard this house 24/7 from sneak attacks, and that the house was not nearly as important as the lives of D and myself. So I decided that I needed to put myself first, not the house, not even the animals. In fact, as we snuck our essential things out of the house over a period of a few days, we left the outside animals in their kennels, vulnerable to the psychopath, because I knew as soon as they were gone, the Trojan Horse would know we were gone. The dogs went with the last load of important papers. In a week we had “disappeared.” As much as I loved my dogs, I knew that my life had to come before theirs.
Slowly over the summer, even though I was safe, the stress continued to weigh upon me, and then I got sick, which added more stress. It takes time for the effects of stress on our minds and our bodies to decrease. When I realized I was sick, I started taking care and seeing physicians. I also got EMDR therapy, and spent time on Lovefraud, which I had finally discovered. I consulted with a minister friend about my spiritual health as well. I started, for the first time in a long time, putting myself first. I was way behind the eight-ball, so my recovery did not come overnight.
When the Trojan horse and my daughter-in-law were arrested, in August, I waited a few months and moved back to the farm in the RV, though I didn’t yet feel safe moving back into my house. I literally lived in the RV, parked near the house.
Even with the worst of the danger had passed, I had not “cured” myself of either the lack of critical logical thought, or of lacking in boundary setting. Learning to put yourself first is a step-by-step process, and one that if you are anything like me, you have to learn from scratch, as you have probably never done much of it in the past.
I allowed some of the peripheral psychopaths and users in my life to move in on me … and when I caught them stealing from me, I was literally embarrassed that I had “embarrassed them!” DUH! I had to learn to set boundaries for everyone, even those people that I cared about. I confronted them and asked them to leave my farm. I set boundaries for my mother when she showed no desire to process the devaluation and discarding she had done to me when I was being attacked by my son. Then she started to lie to me and to send him money and support. I went essentially NC with her, except for necessary legal business as co-trustees of our family trust.
Mending my ways
I decided to quit smoking and to mend my ways on diet and exercise. Stepwise, I started putting myself first. If I needed rest, I let the dishes sit. Let the floor go unswept. Confronted people who were being unfair to me, even if it meant the cessation of the relationship entirely.
Having fewer “friends” who added stress to my life left more time for those people who added peace and pleasure to my life. Taking care of me … going to the doctor on a regular basis for checkups and follow ups, doing what my physician suggested, those were all things that added to my physical improvement. As I improved physically, I also improved emotionally and mentally.
When I did have something that was a stressor, such as some long-term relationships that I realized were not healthy, probably hadn’t ever been healthy, and weren’t going to get healthy because the other person wasn’t willing to make any steps in that direction, I was able to sever these relationships with a minimum of pain and stress.
When stressful “life events” occurred that were not connected to anyone being “out to get me”— like flat tires, the car conking out, my dog being lost, I was able to weather these storms much better than I did back when I was not taking care of myself.
Not only did taking care of myself help me in every aspect of my life, from physical health to mental health, but my own self-esteem started to grow as well, because I was recognizing that I AM IMPORTANT TO ME. I am willing to do what it takes to make myself healthy. I matter to me.
Take stock of what you are doing to take care of yourself, and examine those areas in which you are not taking care of yourself. Don’t try to fix them all in one day, or one week, or one month, but do start to look at where you can make some progress in putting yourself first. Putting your own needs above all else. Get a medical check up, check into therapy, try to keep change to a minimum. Don’t make big changes unless absolutely necessary for your safety or security, and in those cases, where your safety and security are concerned, do whatever is necessary to ensure that you are safe!