“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning. (Little Gidding)” ― T.S. Eliot
There are no victims here, only warriors of truth.
If I tried to explain the last five years of my life to someone who knew nothing of the abuse, who knew nothing of “narcissists,” it would be like trying to explain color to the blind. For this reason, I am sharing my story of narcissistic abuse and how I survived it.
Five years ago, I met a girl. I hadn’t necessarily been looking for love or even the One. I know now that that mentality of looking without, instead of within, to fill the void was perhaps the greatest weakness of my character. To believe in love at first sight, to believe in princess charming, to believe that one day I would be saved from my own inner loneliness…
How wrong was I, in this whole experience?
Experience, that I sorely needed; I have come out now with fresh new eyes, a new mind set, new knowledge of what people can truly be like. I once believed in monsters, the ones hiding under the bed, the ones lurking in the shadows of our closets, ready to pounce at us, to grab at our ankles.
It was the same for believing in love, I think. I grew out of being afraid of the monsters but still believed in Love, with a capital L.
How naive I was, how innocent. How trusting, how loving was I to trust the Devil with my heart. I look back on my life, realizing that I had always had a brush with narcissists, but this last one was the worst, staying in my life like a piranha on prey. Something about me, some inner vulnerability must have led her to me, like a shark to blood in the water.
She love bombed me, made me feel like the only person in her whole universe. Made me feel like we were soulmates; made and created for one another. She made me feel safe to share everything about me with her, my strengths and weaknesses. My hands are trembling, memories just below the surface, twisting and fighting, like a pit of hungry snakes, writing and slithering.
I try not to dwell on what was, but what will be. I do not see myself as a victim. I am a survivor. The day I realized that all those years she was simply abusing me, using me; with a fake smile on her lips, reveling in the misery I felt, her nails painted red with my blood as she had clawed at me, like a hysterical animal snared in a bear trap; I knew what madness had claimed her.
She was not like me.
She would never be like me.
These creatures, these human “beings,” lack everything necessary to grow, to become whole themselves. For this reason, they seek us out, hoping to capitalize on our own securities and vulnerability, brainwashing us, taking us for a ride. They mirror all of who we are back onto us. The saddest part of all this is that despite having all of our wondrous qualities and strengths mirrored at us, we think we can never be without them. This is all an illusion. A perfect performance worthy of an Emmy.
The truth lies in understanding that we fell in love with ourselves. That we fell for an illusion of who we thought they were. Nothing about her was real. It was like falling in love with a dream, one that felt so real; a lie we wanted to believe so strongly, out of fear, out of desperation.
She was my everything and I hers.
But soon, after the months and years of struggling for money, and her tearing into me like a hungry shark, that illusion was being challenged, every day. Why was she always criticizing me, why was she always talking about herself as a victim, why were things always going wrong, why did I feel so nervous and unsure in her presence? Why was I always doubting myself? Why was my health, slowly but surely, getting worse?
I spent years fighting to get her to admit to her faults, to take responsibility for her words and actions. I tore myself in two trying to get her to love me as I loved her. I burned the candle at both ends to prove to her that I was worthy of her love, her trust, of her time. I spent so much of myself trying to get my ex-narcissist to love me.
And in all this madness, I felt like I deserved it. Some sort of karmic retribution? But for what? Even God himself was not that spiteful, and yet, I allowed this daily ritual of chastising to happen to me, to allow my whole soul, mind, and heart to be assaulted by her own damaged thinking, and her own twisted version of what love was.
I felt I deserved it, even as she brought an ex-lover into the picture. I allowed it, out of love, trust, and to prove I wasn’t insecure or jealous. I should have left so many times before that day. But I think the worst emotion to have when it comes to these kinds of people, is to have hope. Hope that they can change, that they will change, that if you work at it things will get better.
They use hope to keep us captive; we basically put our own selves in chains and give them the key.
I had no boundaries. No self-respect for my own self. The worse thing I thought while with her was, “If she loved me, she wouldn’t do this.” “If I trust her, she’ll respect me enough not to do this.” “If I do this for her, she’ll need me.”
All these thoughts I’ve had, all created to keep me trapped and in a relationship that was eating away at my soul. I became a ghost of my old self. I was ashamed to show my face to my mother, to my father, to my siblings. I was ashamed at my own weakness, at how love had made me a victim. I was also stubborn; I never asked for help. I just rolled with the punches, every single one aimed at my soul.
This whole time, there was a spark in me, that would rise up for a week, every month, coming out of hiding, crying and screaming at me that I wasn’t happy, that I deserved better, that this was not love. That I had to end things, I had to move on, I did not deserve this…
THIS ISN’T LOVE.
It was like having Tinkerbell, arising out of the shadows, shedding light and reason into my world.
The day it all ended was when I said NO!
No to giving her money, to disregarding my feelings, to being abused, used, and discarded. NO! to having my own kindness turned into a weapon against me. NO! to having my boundaries constantly tested. NO! to being treated like an object.
It was over. I had reached my limit.
On the drive home, my face red from a numbing slap unmistakable with the scratches on my face, neck, and arms, I cried. I hadn’t even touched her. Nothing in my behavior had warranted that attack on my person. I was numb. There was only numbness for how I felt but there was also acceptance.
There was Tinkerbell’s voice, chiming in my head telling me, “I told you this did not love.”
As I drove home, I cried, talking to myself out loud.
“This is not love. This isn’t love. This is not love!”
The last came out in a scream as I gripped the steering wheel, blinking away tears to clear my blurred vision. I was done, so done with all the pain, the madness. I exhausted. I was tired of trying to save someone who didn’t even have a soul, tired of throwing myself down the rabbit hole. She could stay there, in her own version of Hell. She didn’t need me there when all I was was something to keep her afloat in her own madness, while drowning me at the same time.
I was done with it all.
And when I left, she didn’t fight for me. She already had her next supply. A girl that I had hated, a girl that mirrored my own kindness. A girl that was also in love with the idea of love itself. Another person who wanted to save an already lost soul, and who was just as naive and innocent as I had been, despite being present in more than half of all the drama.
There was anger and hate, but I realized that wasting that kind of energy on those emotions is like drinking poison, waiting for the other person to die. I take it one day at a time, being grateful for the experience, for the pain I had endured. It was something I needed to learn, pain that I needed to feel, madness that I needed to touch, and have it envelop my whole world to know that I did not want this in my life any longer.
So, I say this; your kindness to the world, your naivety, your innocence is not a weakness. It is only such viewed in the eyes of those who have none. Be as pure of heart as you can possibly be in this world. Not all who love, can hurt us as much as their kind can. Be pure, be honest, if a little bit cautious. You aren’t blind to the truth of the monsters. You know they exist, and they walk among us.
Be strong, be brave, my survivors.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
Often, a narcissist will humiliate you in public as part of an active smear campaign – and while I’ve previously explained smear campaigns, today I’m going to go a little more in-depth on the public humiliation part of it – which, in my opinion, is one of the most traumatic parts of the whole smear campaign tactic. So, first off, I’m going to give you a few real-life examples of how toxic narcissists have used public humiliation to hurt the people who loved them.
In today’s digital world, nearly everyone can admit to having snapped a sexy photo for the one they love and even, in some cases, participated in on-camera sexual activities with that person.
And you know how narcissists are, right? Yep. SEVERAL of my clients have told me that their narcissists – both male and female – have either used or threatened to use nude or otherwise compromising photos of them in order to blackmail them into doing what they wanted.
For example, a narcissistic wife of one of my clients managed to humiliate him by spreading gossip among his female co-workers about his sexual health – none of which were true, but all of which really changed the way his co-workers saw him.
Her intention, of course, was to ensure his fidelity as he worked alongside his attractive coworkers each day. But in her selfishness and lack of concern and empathy for her husband, this narcissist had managed to make sure that he felt completely isolated, alone, and humiliated in his workplace every day. The environment eventually became so toxic that my client moved on to a new company – and thankfully, he got divorced (and eventually moved on with a much healthier girlfriend).
In all three of those cases, there’s a similarity – and I’m not talking about the obvious one (the humiliation factor). I’m talking about the fact that none of these people recognized at first that they were even being abused – or at least, they couldn’t admit it.
So let’s talk about that.
The Humiliation Factor: No One Wants to Admit They’re Accepting the Abuse
So, how can you possibly “miss” the fact that you’re being abused?
The problem with abuse is that most relationships don’t begin with abuse. Instead, there are subtle shifts along the way, silent reprogramming until the abuser feels confident that they can control the relationship.
In most cases, by the time the abuse becomes recognizable, the victim has been so brainwashed that she or he (men can also be victims of abusive relationships) doesn’t recognize the actions as abuse and actually takes the blame for his or her predicament.
Victims often can’t be convinced that they’re experiencing abuse. They’re so busy justifying the behavior of the abuser that they don’t see it for what it is.
In many cases, the simple answer is that it’s hard to admit you’ve allowed this to happen. But if you recognize some of the following patterns in your own relationship, it’s quite possible that you are in fact, a victim of abuse.
Narcissistic abuse really does a number on your inner child, and most people who go through a toxic relationship that involves a narcissist find they have a lot of inner child healing to do during their narcissistic abuse recovery. Can you relate?
What is the inner child?
We talk often about the inner child in the narcissistic abuse recovery community, but do you really know what it means? On a very basic level, according to psychologists, the “inner child” is simply that part of you that never grows up. It is your inner childlike aspect. It exists within you and seems to only recognize those things you learned as a child before you hit puberty.
It might help you to see it as a separate aspect of your whole self. In analytical psychology, the term The inner child refers to a semi-independent sort of subpersonality. It is separate from your waking conscious mind, but it directly affects your experiences and your understanding of the world.
Healing your inner child is a big part of the narcissistic abuse recovery process and is used in various psychological and health settings. The inner child concept became popularized by the books of John Bradshaw.
What Would You Say to Your Inner Child?
What would you say if you could talk to your child self? What if you could go back in time and talk to the child you once were? What would you want your younger self to know? What did you need to hear that no one said to you?
Here are the top ten things I’d have said to “me” back then.
1. You’re already enough. Stop caring what anyone else thinks and just be yourself already. Turns out? You’re pretty cool. And you’re a LOT better looking than you think – a lot of what makes people look hot is an illusion. You’ll become a master of it one day. 2. Here’s how to stop the tummy aches. You’ll never believe me now, but one day you’ll understand that getting so scared that you get sick to your stomach is actually part of what’s causing all of your problems. See, when you let yourself get so focused on negative thoughts that you can’t see the good stuff, something called the Law of Attraction causes more of the negative stuff to be pulled toward you like a magnet. This is not hocus pocus. It’s legitimate and as you grow older, you’ll see it for yourself. Learning this now can change your life significantly. 3. Your dream is real. It WILL happen, so don’t give up. You will become a successful writer. Someday you’ll have many, many books published. And you’ll make your living from your writing. 4. You are destined for a beautiful life – eventually. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and don’t believe anyone who tells you to lower your expectations and that you don’t deserve to have the very best in your life. It is the belief that you can’t have something that ensures it – don’t forget that. 5. There is nothing wrong with you. It’s okay to be pretty and girly and smart and strong all at the same time. You can even love glitter, shiny and sparkly, and watch sitcoms and STILL be awesome. Yup. So stop trying to pretend you’re anything you’re not. You, specifically, have a huge amount of creative power and if you learn this now and stop doubting yourself, you cannot lose. Whatever you are is okay as long as you are staying safe, healthy, and legal. Embrace yourself and trust your instincts. They are spot on. 6. Big boobs aren’t as awesome when you get older. TRUST ME! Someday you’ll appreciate the fact that you never got out of a B cup. I PROMISE. Also, just a random comforting fact about the future: the size of the breast does not in any way affect the quantity of milk you’ll produce for your babies one day. But less bulk makes for easier nursing for all involved. Get yourself some padded bras and move on. You’re welcome. 7. Let that bright light shine and stop trying to cover it up with what you THINK is desirable or expected. Being dark and disturbed is not required to be a successful writer or artist. It’s also soooooo much less attractive than you realize. Stop it and admit you love pink already. It looks really good on you. And baggy grunge clothes don’t look good on anyone – especially you. 8. Give yourself a big hug and apologize for all the mean things you think about yourself – then stop doing that. And speaking of which, stop calling yourself fat. You’re not fat. But you will be if you keep focusing on that. Instead, focus on feeling good in your body and moving your ass. When you’re talking to yourself, don’t say anything that you wouldn’t tell your best friend about herself. Yes, it definitely does matter. 9. Crazy ain’t sexy, and you ain’t crazy. You aren’t bipolar or obsessive-compulsive or anything else. You just don’t fully understand the world and the people who live in it yet because you’re just getting started. But tell your mom to have you checked for ADD. Yes, girls can have it. And you do – learning this at 18 could change everything. 10. Hold on, your time is coming. You are a whole and worthy person with valuable and important things to do in the world. Stop doubting your ideas and your abilities and embrace the truth of who you are. Life will get so much better.
And, earlier today, I did a post in my SPAN group – asking…well, take a look at the video…
So here were their answers – they really came through.
You’re worth it.
You’re good enough
You don’t deserve your mother’s abuse (beatings, verbal abuse, etc.)!
You are valuable as you are. (Haley)
There is no need for perfection as you think about it, or as you think other people see it. (Haley)
It’s okay to be you. (Haley)
Abuse is not your fault you are good kind person
It is ok to be queer – or whatever you happen to be.
Not everyone be at your spiritual level
Do not rush relationships
Do not do all the giving
Stay put – as in do not move so many times
Look for a man like my father! And take a relationship slow! Get to know someone really good before getting into committed relationship!
Watch for red flags.
“Don’t date this guy, this guy or this guy…”
Get an education
Stop thinking you’re so ugly!
Let go of all the pain you feel about not being loved. And then learn to love yourself! (Linda)
You are not all the things people say you are. You are good, you are beautiful, you are strong, you are caring. All this stuff you feel means you are an empath, learn about it. (Linda)
You are going to be ok.
You are a survivor.
Keep doing what you are doing.
The straight path is the right path.
You will help many on your way. ? (Linda)
It’s not your fault that the people you loved, trusted, and looked up to were not there for you and abused you.
You are enough.
You have a voice.
You are beautiful and not fat.
Slow it down and don’t start dating so early.
You only need you.
Know yourself and learn to love yourself so you don’t depend on others for love and valuation.
Set boundaries. Know you are a survivor. (Mary)
“It’s not your fault.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong by being born.”
“You belong here (on this earth).”
Focus on building yourself first – before committing to a serious relationship.
Life doesn’t come with a guide manual. Try to learn why you are who you are.
These are people you should look out for – and let’s talk about narcissists and codependency and everything in between.
You’re a kind, loving, smart person who has a lot of good in you.
Show others how to treat you by example.
Don’t try to keep up with your brother’s eating habits. He doesn’t know everything he thinks he does!
Learn to let go of negative people
Speak up more.
Don’t be so scared
Don’t value yourself by how a man treats you or doesn’t treat you.
You are worth more than you realize and don’t put anyone before yourself!
You are lovable and need to find someone that can love you unconditionally and puts God first.
Know your worth because others do – or they would not try to take advantage of you!
You can not fix anyone especially if you believe you are worth nothing.
Believe in yourself – and don’t believe them when they tell you otherwise.
You’re not lazy.
You’re not bad or stupid or otherwise unsavory.
Your feeling and thoughts are real and legitimate.
Don’t believe anyone who pretends to be better than you – everyone is equal.
You are actually pretty cool.
You don’t have to settle – ever.
Choose your friends wisely.
Get into a relationship with someone you know really well.
Choose yourself first.
This is how you do the gray rock method.
One day, you’ll understand why it had to happen.
You will come out of this stronger than you could have ever imagined.
It’s okay to cry – but don’t cry forever.
Being depressed is only making your life harder – be happy.
Nobody’s perfect, least of all your mom or dad.
You’re going to get through this – and when you do, stay focused on the goal.
Don’t drop out of college.
Date people who get you – not people who hurt you.
You can’t change anyone but yourself.
Your brother (or sister) wasn’t really better than you.
You have to learn how to be enough for YOU – you’re already amazing – but you just have to start owning it.
If you imagine that your life is uphill all the way, it will be.
You’re really, really smart – and that is a very good thing.
You’re right – nobody understands what you’re dealing with right now. Hang tight – you’ll make it.
When you feel paralyzed, just do one thing – make one move. It might lead to the next one – but if not, at least you tried.
It’s okay to fail.
You should never give up on yourself – despite what others say.
What you like is okay and not weird – go ahead and like it.
You don’t have to be what your mother says you are – you get to choose.
Remember that you matter as much as everyone else.
Start focusing on what is good in your life – that will help you bring more of the good.
Don’t give rude people free rent in your head.
Don’t let people walk all over you because you think you don’t deserve any better.
No one who claims to be doing you a favor by treating you politely or even letting you live there is telling the truth.
You don’t have to sleep with someone to make them like you.
You were abused, and it was not your imagination.
You aren’t crazy now, and you won’t be crazy in the future.
Remember that your home life is temporary – the future is where you get to make choices.
You can still trust people – just don’t trust the wrong ones.
Just get through it – life can be beautiful if you let it.
Do you think you might be dating an abusive narcissist? Just as a mutually satisfying, loving relationship truly is one of the greatest joys in life, an abusive dating relationship can corrode every single aspect of your life.
My guess is that if you’re here, reading this article today, there’s something inside you that says something isn’t right with your new love.
I’m not trying to be harsh when I tell you this (but if you stick around, you’ll learn that I tell the truth!): The sooner you see the signs and get out, the less you’ll have to suffer. There are other forms of abuse besides physical and sexual – and if you’re dating a narcissist, one of them is a lovely form of manipulation called gaslighting.
And don’t forget: if your partner is continually undermining your self-esteem by making fun of you, calling you names, flirting with others or smothering you, all of these things are forms of psychological abuse and can often escalate into physical or sexual abuse.
The people who seem to ‘need’ to have this power over others are often seen as losers who feel so bad about themselves that they need to step on someone else to make themselves feel better – and that kind of person is almost always toxic.
Sure, you’ll feel sorry for the narcissist – after all, it’s pathetic and sad to watch sometimes. But if you’re in a mentally or emotionally abusive relationship, it can also be extremely dangerous – even physically if you’re not careful. In some cases, even seemingly non-violent narcissists have gone rogue and violently lashed out at a partner after years of not doing so. And more than one person has died at the hands of one of these abusers.
Make sure it doesn’t happen to you by being willing to keep your eyes wide open and educating yourself.
See the Truth, Not the Illusion
When it comes to relationships, we are all guilty of seeing only what we want to see – at least to a certain degree.
Here are a few things you should watch out for when you first start dating someone. They aren’t all signs of abuse necessarily – they are warning signs of someone who has some pretty significant feelings of insecurity which often leads to abuse:
1. Watch for signs that your date likes to be in control.
Narcissists are all about being in control. While it may not appear “controlling” for your date to order for you, or otherwise sort of “run the show,” be really aware of what happens when you try to speak for yourself or when something doesn’t go as planned. If your date flips out or attempts to take away your voice, you should be concerned.
3. Does your date make eye contact with you or are they always looking around the room?
Not being able to look you in the eye is not a great sign. It could mean that they are shy, but it could also mean (if coupled with other things) that they are bored, insensitive, or scoping out other people, none of which is a good sign if you are on a first or second date.
4. Can your date poke fun at themselves, or are they too serious?
If your date can’t laugh at themselves, it’s yet another sign of someone who is insecure. Look, no one likes to look foolish or be laughed at. It takes a person who is very comfortable in their own skin to accept this type of situation gracefully, but if your date just seems to go over the top when this happens, be concerned. They may have not only self-esteem issues but anger management issues as well… that’s a bad combination, one that is seen in narcissistic personality disorder.
In order to avoid getting into an abusive dating situation or end up dating a toxic person, forget about the idea of putting your dates on a pedestal. Try to see them for who they really are, flaws and all. That way you’ll be less likely to be taken off guard. And hey, if the two of you do hit it off, you’ll know that you love who they really are and not just who you want them to be.
Are you ready to date after going through narcissistic abuse recovery? After being in a toxic relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic traits, you may be feeling a whole, confusing spectrum of emotions. You might be struggling with fear of running into another narcissist, or fear of being rejected. You might feel old, or out of practice. You might even feel excited and ready – and everything in between.
But as long as you feel pretty comfortable in your codependency recovery, it might just be a good time to get back out there and start dating again Still, dating post-narcissist is a little more complicated in certain ways.
Why Dating Again After Narcissistic Abuse is Hard
In this video, I’ll explain exactly how and why dating after narcissistic abuse can be difficult at times.
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
Heads up! I’ll be going live tomorrow with Kristen Darcy at the Divorcing Intact Online summit. There are still spots available as far as I know and it’s free to attend! Sign up here. Hurry, the first speaker goes on today!
I’m honored to report that I’ve been invited to speak at an online summit for women on April 5, 2016 at noon – but I’ll be one of a series of experts you’ll have access to for the 5-day event that’s dedicated to helping women who are going through divorce and especially those who are escaping from toxic marriages.