There was a period of about a week where Lauren had gotten a rash from a brown tail moth. She had been putting ointments on it and stuff and I even extended her a little bit of sympathy for once.
I was going into mine and Angela’s room to starts to count my plates. We’d incubate them overnight and then count how many colonies would grow the next day.
Peter was already in the room reading out his results from his plates at one of the microscopes. He was talking in a muffled voice to Angela and they were laughing.
I walked in and walked passed the huge amaryllis on my desk. Angela had gotten it from somewhere and decided that my desk was best for it because it got the most sun. I started asking what they had been talking about. I speculated that they had lied. They were talking about Michelle, they had said, the big boss that everyone disliked. Angela said something along the lines that some people never learn social skills. They could be talking about me, I worried, but they could actually be talking about Michelle like they had said. I was angry. I was reasoning in my head and trying to avoid the paranoia that was, not only creeping into my head, but stomping around like a hairy sasquatch. I tried rationalizing and quieting the hungry sasquatch, but my coping skills felt like all I had to over was a day old wilted salad. The sasquatch continued stomping around, not letting me calm my mind. I was assuming and letting my imagination run rampid like Margaret always suggested, trying to steady myself and focus on my breathing.
Then Peter began to talk about Lauren’s rash.
Angela turned to me and said, “Yeah, I’m surprised that you don’t have it too.”
It took me a little longer than it should have to respond. What was that supposed to mean?
“Um, what?” I finally said.
They both laughed sheepishly.
She quickly made up some horrible excuse that we both lived in the same area, so she figured that’s why I would have it too.
But I knew what she had meant, or at least I could imagine. I used to go everywhere Lauren went maybe, so possibly something along those lines. Insinuating in my own head that I was pathetic and tied to her hip so naturally, I would have it too. Something like that. I felt hurt and completely ashamed, but happy I paused long enough to ask what she was talking about.
But these were the thoughts I was creating for myself. I was hurting my own self. Angela didn’t even have to say anything along the lines of ‘you’re pathetic’ for me to imagine it for myself. I automatically had gone into panic mode right when I heard the laughing and the hushed voices. I hadn’t had the most optimal character in the lab as of late because I was giving Lauren plenty of attitude and avoidance and she had noticed. And she’d been telling other people. Who knows what they were saying about me, but I knew they were saying something.
I went down to the break room with my next little span of flexible time. Luckily no one was in there. Sometimes I just sat in there looking over the expanse of water. It was beautiful in the breakroom. 10 big talls window making it so you could see in three directions. The harbor rolling in along with the clouds and fishing boats every now and then made me almost forget where I was and what I had created for myself. I tried to give myself some compassion that I desperately needed. I was aware how horrible it was that my mind automatically went back to calling myself pathetic. After carefully analyzing, the conclusion that I came to was that they might have thought I was like a hurt puppy dog who lost their owner, (Lauren).
I was confounded. I was merely trying to tell myself that I deserved better than a friendship like the one I had had with Lauren. I finally knew that I didn’t want to carry on friendships like that. I didn’t want to waste my energy in that way, and I was proud of myself for it. But why was I getting so much hell for it?
A lot has been written about the narcissist- empath relationship and I started learning more and more about narcissists and had pinpointed Lauren as one. I even joined an empath support group on Facebook. I became quite obsessive over it because it was the only thing that really made me feel better during that point in time.
I learned that they give little gifts or other things to people as a way to make you feel indebted to them. My mind reeled back to the past Christmas when she gave me the essential oil, Arborvitae, that I had been wanting. Had she just given me that so I would feel indebted to her? Were all the snacks she was always offering to share with me just more ways in which she could just have more control over me? Control over everyone in the lab?
Narcissists like to target people that have an elevated level of confidence and beauty and success. If they can take those people down a lot of levels, then it can give the narcissist a sense of having more power and give them the confidence the lacked before.
When you don’t have a highly-developed sense of self, it’s easy to take on everybody else’s version of you, like the version of me that follows Lauren through bushes to get the same rash as her, as the only view of yourself that there is. I used to completely rely and depend on external stimuli to tell me who I was. You can see how that could set anyone up for failure. Especially so, if you are surrounded by people who would love to see you fail.
The first time I saw myself differently than how other people saw was when I realized just how Angela and Peter really saw me. I was successfully able to separate what I thought of myself from what they thought of me. I could grab on to the thought that I was hurting, give myself compassion and realize in that compassion that I deserved better. I realized that I was more than this ‘failure.’ It helped me gain perspective in my life path and just how far I would go from there in growing and learning. When before I would have been obsessively concerned about what I did wrong, but now I finally wasn’t worrying about what Lauren thought or said. I wasn’t considering what Angela and Peter were thinking and saying. I was only loving and accepting myself and it felt good.