Once upon a time, people used to accuse other people of being anal retentive, or just “anal.” You could also get a reaction by calling people “neurotic.” Remember “nymphomaniac?” That was a word used to shame girls who liked sex, even though it referred to a compulsion that couldn’t be satisfied.
Today, it’s “narcissist.” People throw this term around like it’s fairy dust, meant to undermine or discredit anyone you don’t like. In fact, only around 1% of people are narcissists in the clinical sense.
To some degree, narcissistic traits are healthy and useful. But the label Narcissist should be applied with care, unless you want words to stop having meaning, in which case I hope you’re good at interpretive dance. I think it’s safe to say that Trump is a narcissist, and maybe my dad, who wasn’t interested in anything that didn’t mirror his sense of his own wonderfulness.
Some poor children who hate their mommies are still writing to me, to offer their diagnosis of my narcissism. Again, please study your DSM. I am profoundly depressed, with some PTSD. Got it? Self-help culture has confused a whole bunch of fragile, angry Adult Children. Some of them don’t even understand satire. It’s probably Mommy’s fault.
Anyway! On SNL the other night, Pete Davidson did a sketch about depression, and his recent diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. If you thought he was joking, he was, but not about his disorder. He is not ashamed of his diagnosis, and he can see the funny side of suffering. He is going to help remove the stigma of mental illness, and god bless him.
Borderline Personality Disorder is a tough one. It’s core conflict is “I Hate you, Don’t Leave Me,” the title of a really good book on the subject. People who tell you about their psychotic ex will often accuse them of being Borderlines. What they usually mean is that the ex dumped them abruptly without explanation and they are fucking furious as well as hurt and baffled.
I love abnormal psychology! I have shelves of books on various disorders, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, of course, and some good ones on OCD. OCD is particularly poignant, I think. Especially the kind where you think you ran over someone in your car and have to keep driving back to check. Personally, I have no OCD traits but don’t worry, I have plenty of trouble without them.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing is kind of a fatuous cliche but it applies pretty well to psychology. How many times have you yelled “You’re projecting!” during an argument? Or what about “control-freak?” If you’re mean, you probably like to accuse people of being “too sensitive!”
Those of us who live with mental illness are keenly aware, for the most part, of our challenges. If you want to call us names, just stick with “nuts” unless you know what you’re talking about.
And here’s something exciting: I’ve discovered a brand new disorder that might explain my entire life!!! I have to discuss it with my psychiatrist before I announce it, but as awful as it is, I’m prepared to joke about it. Gallows humor is not only my brand, it’s my life force. I don’t mean this in a narcissistic way – I’M JUST SAYING.
Thoughts, delusions or rationalizations, anyone?