When a Pathological Dies

If you have been reading our magazine site, then you probably have read why and how I got started in pathology. Like you, so many years are initially spent not knowing what is wrong with the pathological. Since part of pathology is the ultimate in projection (taking their traits/behaviors and saying they are your traits/behaviors), most people walk around believing they ARE the problem. Sometimes the pathological is charismatic, successful and well liked by others so others also look at you as if you ARE the problem. Eventually, you believe it too! Cognitive dissonance sets in (they’re good/they’re bad, I’m good/I’m bad), obsessions about proving they really ARE the problem, and constant intrusive thoughts replaying their statements to you and your mental health begins to tank! It makes you feel vulnerable and crazy. It only proves to you that what they pathological said about you is true. You and your mental health are the problem.

Somewhere down the line, you eventually stumble on some miraculous gift–something that makes you rethink your own mental health in light of their pathology. Maybe you found our site or books and you begin to recognize the problem is not you, or even the relationship—it’s the disorder in them. Much like a medical disease process, pathology is just being/doing what it is—hurting things in its path. Although it sounds personal to you, it isn’t. Pathology does this to everyone, eventually. So you get a clue that maybe what has been occurring in the relationship has something to do with something bigger than you, bigger than them, bigger than what counseling can do for your relationship. The spark has been lit in you to find out more. However, “the best time to see the light is as soon as you can” might be years down the road. You might have had a lifetime with this person as the pathology continued to damage you. Seeing the light, recognizing and even being able to ‘name/diagnosis’ them, isn’t always initially enough to emotionally help someone out of the pit of pathology. You stay and watch, and confirm in your mind, and find resources, and plan, and eventually you get the hell out of hell.

You’re out of hell–now what? Why don’t I feel better? Why are my symptoms even worse now. Why isn’t getting away and cutting off exposure to them enough to kick-start my recovery? When you peek inside yourself you find fragility & fractured-ness, distraction & dissociation, dissonance & disgust, obsession & objectification, Post Traumatic Stress & Preoccupation. Good Lord, I AM SCREWED UP you think. Assessing your inner damage, you calculate you have at least 25 years of therapy ahead of you and you’re 42 years old! I won’t live long enough to feel well is your biggest fear. So you dive in–self help books, group, Ala-non, self esteem programs, Boundaries books, therapists, coaches, retreats, inpatient care, medication….

The damage is huge and the path to recovery seems long. You tally up everything a few years with a narcissist or psychopath has cost you: Friends, family, health, career, promotions, mental health, spirituality, sexuality, finances, your home….and the list goes on. Thousands of dollars later, you sort of feel less depressed. On good days you can actually take hold of your own obsessional thinking and control it for 5 minutes. That’s progress you think.

You have fought tooth and nail to understand pathology, save yourself, and then heal. You feel justified in your feelings of loathing for someone so harmful, dangerous and disordered. You see the years it has taken from your life and your children’s lives. You see the countless ways others and even society is harmed by their disorder. No one would ever blame you for loathing them or their disorder. You finally feel some power in your ability to be rightfully angered, even indignant to the damage done.

And then they die.

Relief? Yes. Safety? Yes. Justification? Yes. Restitution? Yes. God finally answered? Yes. The playing field has somehow shifted–just exactly how, we are often unsure. Their death feels like a flood–waves of discordant feelings. Shouldn’t you rent the Hyatt and have a party? Why are you so sensitive when people tell you ‘You should be glad they are gone now.’

Last week, one of the pathologicals in my life died. I watched her horrendous death from the sidelines of a hospital chair. I coordinated her care with hospice, spent hours on the phone with doctors, advocated for her care without insurance, sat commode-side in a urine soaked nursing home, and held a yellow-green hepatitis-infected hand as she drifted in and out of consciousness.

After all, she was my sister. It took me years to get to the place of recognizing her pathology and accepting her disorders. I have spent enormous time in research and in therapy ‘coming to accept’ this insidious pathological disorder. (How else do you think I became so skilled at recognizing pathology and running a clinic based on it?)

There I sat staring at death-dulled eyes watching her slip from this world into the next and hating pathology again, for the millionth time in my life. I hate what it did to me, to others. I hate what it took from her life. She never, ever had a normal life or felt normally about others. She missed real love, real joy–a whole spectrum of feeling she could never experience because of her own pathological neurology.

Can you miss what you never had? I asked myself as I watched her die.

Inevitable flashes of our lives together—a bedroom shared but no conversations, her never-ending problems with drugs/alcohol, men/violence, homelessness/mental illness, her empathy-less smirk when others were hurt or when she hurt others, her parasitic lifestyle milking my mothers money and energies, her narcissistic investment that her chronic drama was always first place in everyone’s lives, the Jekyll/Hyde of a manipulator and yet a child.

The playing field of her death felt like standing on the vault line of an earthquake.

FLASH: She cracked my head open throwing me down the stairs at age 5.

FLASH: She never belly laughed.

FLASH: She pushed me down a big hill into traffic the first time on my roller-skates.

FLASH: She was scared of the dark.

FLASH: Drugs, alcohol, arrests, legal problems that never ended.

FLASH: Her empty heart and life and lifeless eyes.

FLASH: Me coming to know her pathology after years of studying to find out what was wrong with her.

FLASH: Her huge bloated cirrhosis-filled belly — unrecognizable to me.

FINAL FLASH: She’s gone.

Even when the pathological crosses over out of our personal space of potential harm, they leave behind their own legacy. Nothing really changes when they cross. The cognitive dissonance of their pain caused/pain received lingers on. It doesn’t change because that’s what pathology is—a heaving vault line of the uneven feelings about the good and the bad in those with the disorder.

I am reminded I don’t have to choose one side or the other in how I remember her. She was after all, Jekyll & Hyde. And those uneven feelings and memories reflect her disorder and the relationship I had to establish to have a relationship with someone who was split in two halves of harm and need.

I have come to accept pathology in all its ugly forms and with all its hard wiring that I realize she never asked to be born with. I always thought I would feel differently when she died. But I recognize now that I SHOULD feel conflicting feelings reflecting her own nature as Jekyll & Hyde. Rest in peace my sister. There was no peace for you on this side.