If you already know about narcissistic or socio/psychopathic abuse, my story will sound a lot like the rest of them. If you don’t know what this brand of abuse is, this video does a great job of explaining it.
You can read my favorite study conducted here and this chart can help you see what circumstances can be found often in people with personality disorders.
This blog post is just my story but that data is where you can equip yourself with information to spot red flags before you fall into the pile of cow shit I did.
Well, you still might but holy shit I hope you don’t.
Like many other victims, I was raised by a narcissistic abuser. I didn’t know any of the terms or the signs until after I left my romantic relationship. Once I did, the floodgates opened the hell up. I felt used, ashamed, and useless. I had to recover from that and then dig into my past to do some early childhood recovery.
Great for my spirit, because I get to work on that old stuff, but not so easy for my little human heart.
When I met my abuser, he offered all I needed and then some. My dad had just died, I was in the horrible habit of doing stand-up comedy, and I was fresh off a few “emergency moves” (which is never a good way to have to describe a move).
I didn’t even know what “holding space” was before I met him and here he was holding some for me. That was a feeling that he would channel for the rest of our relationship to keep me in the abuse cycle and an image of him I would cling to when I tried to leave.
This was his opportunity to learn my insecurities and fears to abuse for months to come. From where I stood, though, it was the support that I refused to accept elsewhere. It also fed into the messages that I needed a man to take care of me and that being in a partnership was the only way to get by in life (gagging sound) which was a forest I could not see from the trees.
So, how the hell did a brilliant, smart, and strong woman turn into victim putty in the hands of a blatant narcissist?
The Disconnect From Women
The messages that our culture perpetuates about jealousy and competitiveness in women had been reinforced my entire life. This made it easy for me to treat my failed friendships and family relationships as a gauge for how women would always treat me. It kept me from forming meaningful friendships because I honestly could not trust women.
While these images of women were viewed through the window of a misinformed child, they manifested in a really obvious way in my adult life. I would be drawn to men and open up in my relationships with them. I would allow them to offer support that I’d never ask for or expect in a woman. Even when I dated women, I’d shut off an emotional vulnerability to them due to my lack of trust.
Healing my poor relationship with the image of women by working through what it looked like in my childhood helped me see that it was damaging my life. Friendships are a great place to give and receive healthy support. Being able to build a network that supports me and that I can offer support to has healed some wounds easily picked at by abusers.
The “I Can Do It Myself” Pattern
That old story that a lot of us have will rear a nasty head in times of grief and trouble. In my case, I had gone a long time without making a request for emotional support. My history had taught me that sort of thing was either unavailable or an imaginary need. It is true that we will need it and we will need to ask for it, but it is also true that for some of us it is difficult or impossible.
When my dad died in November, I was in desperate need of help and support. Due to my inability to directly ask for it or seek it out, I was handling amazing amounts of grief alone. Boy, I thought I was so strong. This pattern runs so deep for me that I would reject help when it was offered. Except when it was offered in a romantic relationship.
Healing this inability to ask for help has changed every aspect of my life. I asked a group of women if I could text them when I felt like texting my abuser to help maintain the ever difficult “No Contact” rule for disconnecting with a sociopath or narcissist. So many women stepped up that I couldn’t even text all of them.
All I had to was ask and it probably saved my life.
To separate how we see ourselves and how others see us from the truth of ourselves is one of the greatest challenges we face as human beings. We build a whole reality out of perceptions and cling to them in order to survive. This hurts us spiritually and emotionally but is a part of the human condition.
When I met my abuser, I had very little confidence. I felt terrible about my body, my intelligence, and my value in the world. That’s a hard thing to admit because in those same moments of self-hatred I would try to show the world that I loved myself. A lie.
Narcissistic abusers can smell low self-esteem from miles away (12 miles on a dating app, to be exact) because they are composed nearly entirely of the stuff. My lies to myself were fuel for his insults, jokes, and belittlement from day one. My inability to be honest with myself was a huge contribution to his ability to manipulate me. I thought those things were the truth of me and he brought me a to a place that validated that lie.
While my personal caretaker pattern is rooted deep in family trauma and early childhood experiences, there is a general blanket of this pattern that covers all women. We as a gender are expected to do emotional labor in a relationship because men “can’t”.
The lies that men don’t have feelings aside from anger or they “just don’t get it” are just that: Lies. They invade our culture so immensely that even men themselves forget their own truth. While that is very sad, it is not a woman’s job to compensate where society has failed us.
My belief that my “job” in a relationship was to take care of the man emotionally lead me down the path of explaining away his abuse and taking care of him when he hurt me. Now I have an understanding that emotional labor should be equal among partners. That is something I wouldn’t have learned if I had not nearly killed myself by taking care of the traumas of an abuser.
I thought I was a powerful feminist that had it all together and had all the answers. I kept all of my relationships superficial and found comfort in my emotional solitude even when it really hurt. I knew that if I was being abused I would leave.
So why didn’t I leave when I knew I was being abused?
I didn’t consider any of those awful things abuse. I considered them what I deserved. I was confident in my ability to leave a man if he hurt me and I was confident that I’d know when I got hurt. That “confidence” was rooted in all of the other things I’ve listed above. My ego was so firm while my intuition was screaming for me to get out of that situation.
The ego had been in the lead for so long that my intuition was easily ignored. I once needed an abuser to survive. I needed them to feed, protect, and put a roof over my human body. That is why my ego knew how to make it survivable for me and the only way we can survive that is to ignore the inner voice. And so I did.
Every story is different but there are many of them. They are everywhere. When I began reaching out for support I was met with many responses from many people. It was shocking. Even I had the story in my own home growing up and I had no idea.
Stories are powerful. They are warnings, ways to connect, and salvation for so many people. The light that my abuser helped me discover is the light that he would dim with jealousy, abuse, and attempts to isolate me from my passions.
As one of his ex’s said: “There is a rainbow on the other side of this man.” She is right.
I offer everybody the opportunity to reclaim their light from those that do not understand or appreciate it. I offer readers the opportunity to discuss openly what their hurts have taught them. I invite abuse victims to reach out for healing and answers.
We are not alive to endure relationships. We are alive to celebrate them.