Hemmed in by fear
Time is a great healer or so the saying goes. It is my belief that time isn’t the only healer when it comes to narcissistic abuse, knowledge also helps. Four years ago I regularly visited this site and devoured all the information and shared stories posted. I was crippled by fear and looking for some reasons or answers to what had gone so badly wrong. I couldn’t make comments or leave messages of support for other members because I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing (I’ll get back to this later). Things are different now and I can share my story and journey of growth.
Prince Charming waltzed into my life nine years ago with promises for the fantastic future we were going to have together. I was blown away at finding a man who showed so much interest in me. The romance moved along like wild fire and quickly we became so wrapped up in each other that not much else mattered to me. We had so much fun, so much in common and he did his fair share of cooking me special dinners too. He literally was all I thought about twenty four hours a day, yep I would dream about him too. Within a couple of months we were talking of moving in together along with the ideas we had for our future. Move in together we did a few months later.
This is where everything changed. Some of the changes hit me in obvious ways and other changes were so subtle they slipped passed without me really noticing. In hindsight it was those little subtle changes in his behavior which were the ones that had the most impact. I say this because I found recognizing a week long sulk easy. It was obvious he was grumpy. I can’t say I didn’t look for reasons why he was grumpy and tip-toed around him trying to make him happy again. I most definitely did. But recognizing the insidious undermining of my sense of self, which in the long run, was the thing that became my undoing, was extremely difficult.
All of his violence towards me was non-physical, although he did rape me towards the end. I often used to question if the violence had been physical, would it have made any difference to the situation. Would I have left earlier? I’m still not sure; possibly it would have in the early days. Although perhaps that does a disservice to women in physically abusive relationships. But that is another tale and to keep this story short I had best get back to it.
How did he undermine me? He stopped using my name and called me by another. At times he would just whistle at me as one would to get a dogs attention. He began to give me advice, all for my own good of course. He isolated me from friends and family. He would start fights before important events, and then act like nothing had happened as I was left reeling from the emotional onslaught and the event was ruined. He mocked everything I valued about myself and about the world I (had) lived in. He talked to me with contempt dripping from each word. He made all the major and minor decisions about everything. He manipulated and twisted most things I said and blamed me for not allowing him to do things. At first I made a stand. But after a few sulking sessions with some symbolic violence (smashing things, punching walls that kind of thing) thrown in for good measure I found it was easier to not rock the boat too much and he got away with it. All the time I kept emotionally investing in this relationship and I wasn’t going to give up on it easily.
I can’t remember when anxiety, depression and an increase in the amount of alcohol I was drinking crept into the mix. It was definitely within an eight month period after moving in together. The more he de-humanized me, the worse my mental health became. It was a vicious circle. My mental state became ammunition for him to throw back at me, couple that with the shame he made me feel at being such a useless person/girlfriend, it was a perfect situation for him to take complete control of me and he did. The thing is, I now see that it never was my shame to carry, it was all his. I think maybe the shame I felt may have stemmed from the idea that I was responsible for keeping the emotional side of a relationship intact. We see it all the time in the entertainment industry. Women are the carers, the gentle ones who pull it all together by being ‘feminine and intuitive’ for want of better words.
I was so frightened of him, so frightened of being mentally ill and letting people find out, that I kept everything to myself. I would put it out there that we had a good relationship and at the same I found more and more excuses to not visit or invite people over. It was easier not to. I had nothing left to give them anyway, all my energy was taken up just getting through the day and thinking about how I could fix this.
Yup…….. What can I do to make things better in this relationship consumed me and gave me no space to think rationally. I made every excuse under the sun for his behavior, maybe it is because of his experience of childhood abuse, or maybe he is stressed at work, or maybe this, or maybe that. The harder I tried to be a better girlfriend the less he bothered to be a good boyfriend. This worked really well in his favor, because when I was focused on fixing things and looking for reasons why, I forget about taking care of myself.
I hadn’t had a light bulb moment at this stage. That was still to come in the form of a crust of bread.
A panic attack while eating the crust from a loaf came completely out of the blue. I knew I wasn’t supposed to eat the crust, it could sometimes incur an explosion of anger, because “it keeps the bread fresher to put the crust back over the exposed end”, (rolls eyes). But this time I just couldn’t help myself. I had always loved crusts and used to eat them up first. Anyway half through eating it, he pulled into the driveway, home early from work, and as my anxiety went through the roof, bang a moment of clarity happened. Perhaps it wasn’t me that was the problem. Eating crusts of bread had never given me anxiety before. That is how I found myself looking for answers on the internet and came across this site.
I had no voice left, as I said at the beginning of my story. I was petrified of speaking my mind because of being torn down so often. I would start writing something to one of the members on here, a supportive comment or some such, then delete it all.
Today, I have my voice back again and use it all the time to raise awareness of abusive relationships. The support I found here inspired me.
You see, I started focusing on me again. The process of extracting myself from that abuse was difficult, painful and finally, life changing. I read everything I could, listened to advice, and worked on changing parts of me that maybe were vulnerable to exploitation. I came to terms with the idea that he was never going to return to the man I met. I began to look at the benefits he gained from being the one with all the privileges in our relationship. Why on earth would he want to give those up? I embraced feminism and changed the way I looked at the world. I was determined to help other women in similar situations and it was a proud moment when I gained a graduate degree. I leave you to guess the topic I based my research thesis on.
I think the point of writing this story is to show that there’s hope and a life to reclaim after narcissistic abuse. To thank everyone who contributes to this site. Your stories and support touch peoples’ lives in ways you may never know. It is so important to have a safe environment in which to explore what can be some extremely painful and raw moments. For some who have temporarily lost their voice, the connection with others just through reading and feeling part of something, can be a life saver.