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Florida, United States
Southern born, Southern reared. It's a quirky place and we are unique folk... These are my people and these are my stories.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday's Southern-style Faith (Our Story Continues)

"Narcissus" by Gyula Benczur (1844-1920

He was beautiful to behold, but not so lovely to know. Those who dared to love him were shunned by him. One day, having been drawn to a pool of water, he bent down, peered in, and saw his own reflection. So enamored by what he saw, he was cursed. He couldn't move from this striking beauty before him and, frozen in place by his own desire, he eventually died.

This is not a true story, of course. It is but one of the many versions of the story of Narcissus. You may remember him from Greek Mythology 101, a class I aced because it was all about telling stories. I've always loved the art of storytelling. Thus, I became a writer of fiction.

"Narcissus" by
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610)
Today, Greek mythology gives us some of our most common sayings, whether we know it or not. Have you ever heard the line, "She's his Achilles' heel"? That's one.

She has the Midas touch. That's another.

Even the term "mentor" comes from Greek mythology.

Initially, I was Jo's mother's mentor. In time, I came to love her as though she were one of my own. And, in time, I felt the same about Jo. Enough that I committed to rearing her, with my husband, to adulthood. Not just a verbal commitment. It was on paper. Legally binding. More or less.

But I've just run down a rabbit trail. (I don't think that comes from Greek mythology. I think that comes from ... well ... rabbits.)

From the name "Narcissus" we have derived the medical term "Narcissism" or more properly put Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Now, I can hear what you are thinking: What? Thinking you are "all that" is a disease? No. Thinking you are "all that" is just being vain. There is a difference.

Those with NPD:

1.  Believe they are better than others
2. Fantasize about power, success, and attractiveness
3.  Exaggerate their achievements and talents
4.  Expect constant praise and admiration, constant attention
5. Fail to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
6. Expect others to go along with their plans and ideas
7. Take advantage of the generosity of others
8.  Express disdain for those they feel are inferior
9. Are jealous of others
10. Set unrealistic goals
11. Have trouble forming and keeping healthy relationships
12. While they see themselves as better than others, their self-esteem is fragile
13. Appear unemotional
14. Reacts to any form of criticism/guidance with anger, shame, or humiliation

Sometimes we can look at someone with NPD and say, "Well, they're just confident! They know what they want!" It can appear that way, yes. But the person with NPD feels all this to a pathological level. They don't "rise" because of it ... they suffer due to it.

When at least five of these symptoms are found in a patient, a qualified doctor can make a diagnosis of NPD. However, other diagnoses need to be ruled out first. Typically, poor early childhood parenting and genetics is at the root of the cause.

Is there treatment? Yes, of course. But it's often difficult and time-consuming. And, remember, anyone with any personality disorder typically cannot see themselves as ill, therefore they reject treatment. Most often, family members beg a loved one to "get help," which leads to treatment.

For any parent with a teenager, you may be thinking, "Sounds also a lot like being a teen to me." True. But, I'm here to tell you from my own experience, that numbers 5 and 13, coupled with any of the other symptoms, make a dangerous combination.

And when I say "dangerous," what I mean is ... dangerous.

When a teenager with NPD, one you brought into your life and loved as your own, looks at you--looks through you--with cold eyes and says, "There has never been anything between us ..." and when you find the pieces of picture frame that were shaped like shanks to be used for your own murder ... it's dangerous. The child may be the victim of the illness, but then you, as the parent, are the victim of the child.

What's worse is when you become the victim of the system you thought would help. When, in our case, DCF and CBC of Central Florida failed to recognize who the victims really were ... and then left them in the dust to figure it out on their own.

And that's just a part of our story.

[I implore you to learn more about Personality Disorders. I am doing what I am doing to educate others about them--as many as I can think of--not necessarily saying that J was diagnosed with these illnesses, but that these are very real. And very dangerous. If you or someone you know has adopted a foster child, taken in a foster child, adopted or become the permanent guardian of a child whose history is not completely clear to you ... you must learn more about these illnesses. One day, like in our story, everything is fine. And then, one day, it is not. It is really, really not.]


  1. I'm so sorry. I have a relative with this and it's heartbreaking. The scars run deep and the walls are built high out of necessity.

    Praying for peace.

  2. Thank you Virginia. Pray for change in our system, too!


  3. Thank you for this great column, Eva! My brother and his wife have been victims of county agencies while they were serving as foster parents. Let me explain that word "victims." They were never given any background information about their foster children, so it was challenging dealing with the children's behavioral problems and underlying causes. In the end they adopted three of those kids -- a brother-sister pair and another younger boy. After quite a few years things seemed just fine until they found out that the older boy was abusing the younger boy. As things came out, they also found out that the county knew the brother and sister had been abused, as well as other issues my brother and his wife were never informed of. The resulting legal messes, juvenile hall imprisonment, and horrific costs to my brother about killed their family and marriage. The system needs a huge overhaul. I sympathize with you and pray for you, Eva.

  4. Thank you so much for educating us, Eva Marie! I have learned so much from your posts. And I truly hope that the "powers that be" get these issues figured out and dealt with appropriately so Jo can truly get the help she needs. We're praying for you all daily!

  5. Janet, I so feel for your brother and sister in law. What I have learned, among many, many things in this whole affair, is that the "powers that be" really do need an overhaul. They've been given far too much power and not enough education or accountability.


    PS: Thank you Kathleen!

  6. It's always heartbreaking to hear the stories of those who are victims of a broken child protection system. We must pray and advocate for better education, training, and adequate personnel numbers toward improving the chances of children who will otherwise be left behind.

  7. Thank you "T." I know you know all too well ...


  8. You have been so faithful to love and to do all in your power to protect. Now if only those sworn to help, would help....

  9. That describes my husband to a T. :-( No real treatment. (of course he superior to everyone else so who could help him?) Antisocial as well in that he will not bend to any authority - even that of our Lord. (he claims faith though - there's just no fruit). Tough stuff but God is bigger.

  10. Thank you again, Eva, for this series of posts. The information has been very helpful in understanding those who have mental disorders. I look forward to every new post, and will pass the link on.


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  11. Thank you Linda. You walked this entire road with me, seeing me through all these ups and downs. You also saw how much love was poured out on Jo.

    Lilly ... I'm so sorry you have to go through this. Have you sought professional help for yourself, to help yourself deal with living with someone with mental health issues? I pray you will.

    Gail... Shalom, Shalom. May the shalom of Y'shua pour itself down upon us all.

  12. Eva,
    You and I, of course, have talked personally about this. Our adopted daughter has traits of personality disorder and is currently in treatment. When the child you have loved and cared for tells you that YOU are responsible for all their problems, that the relationship is hopeless, and that they are washing their hands of it, it can break your heart! She insists there is nothing wrong with her; it's everyone else!

    Yet, we remember our goal. It's another thing we do for our children. We endure because we love and press on regardless.

    We have been fortunate in that we have had people get involved with this that have been extremely helpful and we are able to get M the help she needs yet doesn't want. I pray that same will happen for Jo.

  13. Working with families experiencing similar troubles all the time here in RI, Eva. Wonderful of you to speak out. There is power in sharing your story and I'm sure that's why God has trusted you with it.

  14. Thank you, Lori. I needed that! Sometimes I wonder ... But I know there HAS to be a reason. I'm ready for the next step in this. And He knows it. :)


  15. Very interesting blog. I am dx'd with BPD myself, so I would love it if more people were aware of these disorders. Education is the only way!

  16. CC, I wrote about BPD in a previous post. Just look for my Friday posts.

  17. Scooter: You have been "lucky," but you have also pushed heaven and earth to get what should come naturally. These children don't choose to come to us damaged, but it happens ... and what we need is for the system to start recognizing that this is often, too often, the case.

  18. No one should be able to take a child from a loving, caring home. This system is so crazy. I have a family member who suffers from NPD and the worst thing that could have happened would have been for him to be ostracized from people who care about him. Despite his self-aggrandizement, he needs to see that the people who say they love him will still be there when he sees the truth.

    1. Thank you so much. Because of the state of Florida and most particularly the actions of those taken at CBC of Central Florida, she hardly remembers 12 years of love any more. But this is one reason I am writing this blog. Their ignorance to a medical issue only made it worse. If they would have NOT allowed the CHILD to make all the rules and would have treated all of this as a real illness instead of staring at us like we had done something wrong, our story MAY have a chance. But they have doomed it to hell. The only One who can rewrite this story now is God, and I pray daily he will Just this morning I added the words, "Talitha cumi!" which is what Jesus said to the little girl who had died. "Little girl, wake up!" Words are powerful. Therefore, I will speak powerful words!

  19. I want to express my deepest gratitude to Eva Marie for her deligent, persistent, efforts in aiding those with mental illness.
    Acceptance, treatment, hospitilizations, countless psychiatric drug, stability, supportive family, love and above all ... prayer. These are all necessary to care for a person with a mental illness. I know. I AM a mental patient with a psychotic form of Bipolar Disorder.
    Waking up with a mind infiltrated with chaos, voices talking to me, not able to focus, incessant crying, not leaving the house certain days due to my sharp tongue and THEN my obessive compulsive disorder kicks in.
    I think of Jo, thousands of times, pray for Jo thousands of times. Imagine, a teenage girl, bipolar,on the streets, vulnerable to dangerous situations, no medical attention. Why isnt she with the family who loves her? She was yanked out when she needed them the most.
    Cant help but wonder if the decision making individuals really realize the danger and pain of mental illness.
    Some patients succumb to the demons in their minds. The pain becomes anguish. All that is left is suicide. I firmly believe I would have been a statistic had it not been for my family, brilliant doctors and the love and protection of Jesus Christ.
    Eva Marie, you are earning jewels in your Heavenly crown ... you are putting a smile on the face of God ... and you warm my heart like no other! I Love You

  20. Thanks for this post, Eva. I had no idea this was what you were dealing with. Keep blowing the whistle on this, and educating those who don't understand these disorders. It's vital and God has surely prepared you for a time such as this. Praying for you...

  21. Working in the medical profession, I've seen various types of personality disorders. Sadly most do not want to admit this is a problem and choose to label it in other ways. Thanks for having the courage to bring this topic into the light Eva. The shame that many with this face can only be overcome by professional medical help and the illumination of God's grace.

  22. Thank you, Dr. Dalton-Smith. And thank you for reposting on Twitter! :)

    We cannot fight what we do not understand. I'm trying to understand it myself. Only those who have walked this particular path can truly understand. It's LIKE losing a child to death, only they continue to live, so it's a LIVING DEATH. How do you come to grips with that?



  24. Being the daughter of a paranoid schizophrenic, I understand. The system isn't about helping. I also had a relative who was diagnosed with narcissism. That person has never managed a loving relationship. So sad.

  25. Oh Angela ... I'm so sorry. I have heard your story before and it breaks my heart each time. No one knows until mental health issues forces its way into YOUR life. Then you know first hand. As I said before ... it's a living death.

    I have lost both my mother and my father as well as many friends and other loved ones. But a living death is the worst. At least DYING is a part of LIVING. This is just a part of anguish.

  26. Eva, I remember being in FL with you and your precious family, including Jo. She was so secure, sitting there beside you, snuggled under your arm, entertaining us with her jokes. What a talented little girl she was! The love and admiration she had for both of you was so evident.

    To go from that kind of environment to what she's been through in the past few years is unbelievable. I pray for you and your sweet hubby, and for dear Jo, the one who needs to remember what real love is all about. Your home is likely the only place she ever saw that kind of sacrificial love.

  27. Eva -- I spent almost ten years as the director of a non-profit that advocates for children in the foster care system. You are so right that the system needs more education. These children SEEM okay, but they are not.
    I applaud your efforts. We need change!

  28. Vonda, thank you for that.

    Mary: if you have any thoughts on how we can make a change, please let me know. I'm trying everything I know how. I have attempted to write the director of DCF in Tallahassee but I suppose I have been ignored. I contacted my senator and he contacted me, telling me that since we are no longer her guardians, he cannot help me. Well, of course we are not...we had our rights removed WITHOUT due process. And I didn't know the law well enough to know that what they did was beyond appalling ... it was not legal. Now, it is too late for me to flex that muscle, but it is never too late for me to tell our story.

  29. Have you pursued legal action with a family court attorney? There are often low cost options through law schools.

  30. Dearest Mary,

    My heart aches for you and your family, Mary, and for this precious and troubled child who is blessed to have someone like you in her corner!

    My prayers join yours (and no doubt thousands of others) in the hope that our Lord's mercy will override everything else!

    Do keep us posted, and we'll keep praying!

    Blessings to you and yours,

  31. I've just found your blog and learned much in this post. I'll explore your other postings and signing on to be a new follower. And we'll pray that God reveals Himself to all involved, touches Jo with His healing hand. I'm always appalled when I hear and read about the happenings (like this) in Florida. From watching the news, I've long said there appears to be real problems there with child services, etc. I agree there should be an overhaul; and child services EVERYWHERE need to be re-educated. Praying for you and your husband, Eva Marie.

  32. Jess(Jessie/Jessy) ... and we don't know until it comes knocking on our own back door ...

    Loree: Thank you.

    Sherri: Yes. We were, essentially, too late. By the time we found out that what DCF/CBC had done was without due process, too much time had passed. One figures that if a judge okay's something like this in court, it's legal.

  33. Appalling, bizarre and shocking can’t begin to describe what happened to Eva Marie and her loving daughter.

    I had the opportunity to witness Eva Marie and Jo interact. I also spoke to Jo. The sweetness, confidence, and maturity of this precious little girl deeply impressed me.

    So much so that I asked myself--Do I have that passionate concern and unselfish love for my own biological children? I admire Eva Marie’s genuine love for Jo which was displayed at all levels. She and her husband gave Jo so much more than a home—they gave her immense love, opportunities, extra provision and a Godly atmosphere.

    I expected Jo to be a great woman, successful, confident and a role model for many. Why? Because Eva Marie and her husband gave everything to foster that kind of future for her. From what I observed, Eva Marie and her husband would have stopped at nothing to provide the help their daughter needed. The “system” robbed them of that opportunity.

    The tragedy, (this can only be called this) is that the state, local and county agencies view this as a “case” or a “number,” disregarding the human side, overlooking the consequences, and the severe implications of a flawed system.

    A life ruined? More than one. Devastating is the fact that this may not be an exception but a common occurrence in today’s failed system, one that destroys lives rather than build them. A system that ignores common sense and promotes absurd red tape at the cost of a young girl’s life.

  34. Very moving and heart-breaking post! Thanks for the information, Eva, and for spreading the word about personality disorders. My heart goes out to you and Jo!