I’m not a narcissist and I can prove it
I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, some true, but the most frequent personality misreading people commit is calling me narcissistic. By definition, I can’t possibly fit into this category, and I can prove it.
First, understand that a narcissist is someone who thrives on bursts of joy that somehow come from personal pain or loss, usually his or her own. At first glance, you’d think “That’s her!” True, I lean hard on taking the emotional pain I’ve suffered, finding the funniest thing about it and sharing it. Even I begin to wonder sometimes if my recount of embarrassing events and stupidity might possibly be diagnosable in some way. The probability of me sharing details of poor performance seriously and almost disturbingly outweigh the chance of retelling of an accomplishment. For more on this see I renamed the PTA and I think they hate me or A dark, dark place.
By definition, a narcissist also makes fun of (enjoys) others’ painful experiences. Not only do I not fit into this category, but I am completely opposite of this. Of the phobias I’ve discovered throughout the years, perhaps the most easily spotted (besides the one of bats, which is only apparent when the creatures are dive bombing me and you are unlikely to witness because I tend to head indoors at dusk) is what is scientifically referred to as agliophobia, or a fear of pain. I can’t find a term for the fear of someone else’s pain, so if you know it, feel free to share it with me because technically, that’s what it is. This fear of pain extends to both physical and emotional pain, but the past year has really brought this phobia into the forefront in my life.
For about two decades, I had no trouble admitting that I have a real issue with watching people brush their teeth. There are two things I prioritize teaching my kids: getting their own cereal and brushing their teeth properly without assistance. The cereal thing speaks for itself and to my busy-ness or laziness, however you want to look at it. But let me tell you, the brushing the teeth thing is much more important to me, and by child number 4, I had the older ones teaching the youngest because I had simply had enough of it. I gag uncontrollably when other people put a toothbrush in their mouths in my presence. It’s the most ridiculous thing ever, and I can’t explain it. I can’t evaluate it and I now have to stop typing it because it makes me picture it, which creates nearly the same effect.
When my 16-year-old, then, was scheduled for all of her wisdom teeth to be extracted, you’d think I would have considered this issue. It wasn’t until the gauze in the back of her mouth had to be changed that I realized what I’d gotten myself into. I took the day off work to take care of her. I frantically posted a status update on Facebook that begged ANYONE to come and do this for me, please, in the next 10 minutes. However, I shot myself if the foot with my consistency in “just kidding” status updates. I’m positive that not one of my friends took me seriously (except one cousin who never showed up, which fueled a whole other personality issue of mine related to trust and self-reliance). What no one probably realized was that I was truly frantic. When I realized this had to be done, I put Ziplock bags on my hands and headed toward the challenge. I switched out the gauze quickly but to no avail. The patient nearly immediately lost not only the meager contents of her stomach but also the gauze. It was at this time that I realized I had another issue. I began shaking and pacing and crying and panicking.
I was not entirely disgusted by the physical nature of what was happening. I was terrified, not of her saliva, but of her pain. No one helped matters. “Throwing up causes dry socket.” “Dry socket is the worse than childbirth.” “If she loses the gauze pack too soon, she’s going to be in more pain than she’s ever been in.” Don’t say these things to people. It’s horrible and doesn’t say a thing for your compassion or sensitivity.
I became determined and was forced to face a fear I had discovered a mere five minutes ago. I neatly folded the gauze, got new Ziplock baggies on my hands and braced myself. My daughter still only was in a half-conscious phase, so I don’t think she sensed the anxiety I had about the task. As quickly as humanly possible, I replaced the gauze packs. I then ran, full speed, to the bedroom at the opposite end of the house and burst into sobs and sat down because I nearly fainted. I hadn’t fully grasped the meaning of this reaction until a few months later when what I perceive to be my most accident prone child, during a display of her agility while playing a game of tag fell at recess.
The school secretary called me and said, “We’d like for you to come take a look at her arm.” I didn’t even have to be there to begin feeling dizzy, but when I walked in the office and she removed the ice pack from her arm, I just about toppled over. There was nothing gross or gory about it. Swelling and bruising. I couldn’t even look at this poor 9-year-old girl while driving her to the doctor’s office for an x-ray. While I comforted her (she hadn’t yet begun crying at all) with soothing words and phrases, I couldn’t look at the source of her pain. When the doctor came in and said her arm was broken and she would need a cast (it was here where my little athlete started crying because I had haphazardly told her casts were extremely smelly), I prayed that she wouldn’t need to have her bone set. It was a selfish prayer because I’ve since been told that this little girl of mine has what amounts to an abundant tolerance for pain, which is extremely fortunate because I have no tolerance at all for her pain. I would have died, I’m positive, had I been forced hold her hand through or even imagine a bone reset.
Since that day, this little girl has challenged me to face my fear, but she’s also proven to me that I’m not a narcissist. I had to ask the school secretary for her seat just last week because the girl’s nose met unfortunately with a classmate’s knee during gym class. I couldn’t look at the doctor because he was touching her nose saying “does this hurt.” I do not at all look forward to this girl’s demonstrations of agility in the future, but I do relish that I no longer have to question whether my critics are accurate when calling me narcissistic. I’m not, and my kids can prove it.
As an aside, I am looking for someone who would be willing to be on call for events such as those described above. Qualifications include a willingness to drop whatever you are doing in the event one of my children becomes injured. You will need to be able to withhold from me the details that describe pain, sometimes to the point of blindfolding me to avoid seeing said pain, while ensuring that I do not inflict pain upon myself (by running into walls or fainting on top of a glass coffee table, etc.). Please respond with qualifications to the comments at the end of this blog if you are interested. Benefits include probably being able to take me for all I’m worth in the midst of my panic.