Chapter Eighteen

I stopped talking to Lauren. When she came in a room, I would leave. I started finding more and more online about toxic people, narcissists, and energy vampires. I realized she was a lot like these people they described online. How they will use tactics to get you to feel bad about yourself or make you feel like you’re crazy. How the best way to deal with people like that are to avoid them. If you give them any of your energy it is an “in” for them, they said. They can work with whatever you give them. I experienced it multiple times with her. I realized how I needed to set my boundaries with her. I decided I was going to be a straight wall of China when it came to her, after how she treated me.

That week, I told Margaret what had happened, she tried to reassure me and asked me if I could be sure that they really felt that way about me at work. Couldn’t you just be assuming or imagining it? She prodded. Maybe you were just being a little paranoid? She asked, kindly. I let the idea marinate me, but I was pretty confident by that point that I wasn’t assuming this time. So, I defiantly started telling her how sure I was and explained more in detail what had been happening. I was grateful that she consoled me.  Then she proceeded to tell me how childish they were. Yes, I thought, a confidant. A sanctuary. This is what I needed. She went on to ask me how old Peter was, as she was still getting to know the characters of my day to day life. It had been a couple of months since I had brought up my first concerns about Lauren to her. He’s sixty I said, sixty years old.

Awful intrusive? Margaret would say. Talking about Lauren. And I would deny the thought saying, she’s nothing but really caring. After all, she did invite me to yoga classes and essential oil parties. We were friends. I had baked her pumpkin chocolate chip bread when her father in law passed away and had gone to feed her dogs for her.  I was overthinking it, naturally, happy in my delusion.

Time marched on. Lauren would oh-so artificially try to start conversations with me. Bringing up various subject matters with the skill level of a hungry panther befriending a baby lamb. But being an empath, it was almost laughable how transparent she was after reading about energy vampires and narcissists. I had read a quote from that read, “An Educated Empath Is a Sociopath’s Worst Nightmare.” It was true. I read more about the empath-narcissist relationship and identified myself as an empath. The cookie cutter bullshit she was spewing to everyone about how good of a person she was, was all an act and it was so easy to see after I was on the other side of it. It started to enrage me how everyone else in the lab ate it up. I knew her true nature. After being oh-so-friendly to me I would hear her talking about me to anyone in the lab that would listen.

It felt awful.

But I didn’t feel bad for myself, maybe a little, but I also let myself feel angry for the first time in a long time or maybe ever.

Her and Peter talking trash about me a short three feet away from my desk every single morning became a ritual for at least a week or two or three. My name would be sprinkled into their conversations like candy at a parade.

I felt like I couldn’t straight up be a bitch to her, we had to work together after all. But I wasn’t falling for her games either. I hated how she still pretended like she wanted to be friends with me. I hated how I heard her say awful things about other people in the lab and then immediately become closer to them after I extricated myself from her life.

Like Mary. Suddenly, she was being friendly with Mary again. I didn’t know how she got away with this stuff. I wanted to grab Mary by the shoulders and shake her and say don’t give her any more of your heart! She will make you feel guilty for not telling you anything about yourself and then anything you do say she will just use to further destroy you.

I wasn’t talking to Lauren and now felt unsafe. She had an awesome relationship with just about everyone that we both worked with. It made me so mad to hear her talk to anyone because those were the same people she had been talking trash about every ride in and ride home that we shared together.. She didn’t have any real respect for anyone, yet showed everyone worship when she saw them. So, needless to say, I tried to control my anger as much as I could.

Lauren then started to play the victim. She would whine to anyone with ears about how mean I was to her. Stalking out new targets to listen to her and her complaints with the precision of a saber tooth tiger stalking its prey. Not having had a meal for a couple of hours she would pounce on people to get their sympathy. Needing their energy. It wasn’t long before everyone in the building knew what an awful person I was.

Why had I been so standoffish to her? She would lament. Poor her.  Peter would say, maybe just give her space.  I would hear from the other room. Maybe she’s grumpy because she has to stay in the lab every day he continued. Some people never learned how to control their emotions, I heard him say to her another day.

I was distraught. Is that what I was? Could this all be true about me? Am I out of control? I’m doing my very best not to be mad all the time, to keep my cool, but it did feel good to be angry at times. To be standoffish. But I was working with two people who always talked about me. Was I really supposed to chit-chat with them about their dogs after that? After they were constantly insulting my character?

I started being able to congratulate myself when I did find the strength to talk to them about random things. Exchange niceties in the very least.

This continued for months, she would come to befriend our new summer contract help. Once she had made an ‘in’ with them she made sure to throw in little sprinkles of, oh, by the way, Nicole’s an asshole. I don’t know what’s wrong with her, but she’s an asshole. Make sure you don’t like her either, always insinuated. It was like she was isolating me with every person she befriended. She immediately started befriending more people outside our lab too, suddenly becoming besties with a couple of girls down the hall.

I moved on. Or tried to. I willed myself to have as much patience as possible. To try not to think about her. But it was hard especially because my heart was nowhere close to forgiveness.

The thought arose across my mind that maybe I should try to talk to her again. But I feared that if told her anything especially anything to do with my personal feelings, it would end even more painfully for me. She could tell her closest confidants she would be eager to tell them even. So, I detached completely. I get flashbacks of that big wide toothy smile she showed me after I told her I trusted her. I didn’t want any more of my feelings to be everybody else’s entertainment for the afternoon. I didn’t want to give her any more ammunition against me. So, I decided confidently against the idea.

For some reason, I felt like I was doing something wrong. She made everyone in the lab believe I was doing something wrong and it was hard to not believe what she was saying about me. ! I continued to distance myself. Not only from her but from other people.

When I read about narcissism online it always said that a narcissist when threatened, will try to isolate you from other people. I started observing her possess every single trait I would read about or link them with memories I had had with her.

Even though I consciously knew about isolation techniques, it worked well. I couldn’t talk to people the way I wanted to talk to them. It was hard to avoid thoughts like, they are waiting for me to say something weird so that they can go run and tell Lauren.

I used to do it for her, so I knew. Mary would be talking to me and she could say anything and I would find fault in something she said and tell Lauren because I knew how happy it would make her.

So when I tried to talk to people I liked I began to be in a constant state of panic. If someone was walking down the hall that I knew was friends with Lauren my automatic thought would be Shit it’s so and so, how do I act? Do I act normally? I should show that I’m not scared. I should be friendly and courteous. Other days I wouldn’t be feeling good at all, I’m not feeling good, I’m upset and I have every right to be upset. People get upset on some days I don’t have to be that peppy when I talk to them, it’s not required. And I would show a different face.

I would always be worried that I would be standoffish so I would overcompensate and be extra friendly. I couldn’t be myself because Lauren made me feel like myself wasn’t good enough. Relationships and friendships can be a dangerous thing. Guarding your heart can be tough because it wants to love and be loved, but sometimes it can tell you when it’s not worth it. In this case, it tried, but I ignored it. I wanted to be accepted and loved and so I was for the character I was with Lauren. I wanted to be accepted and loved by other people in the lab, but I couldn’t handle rejection so I isolated myself.


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