The beginning of my healing journey started with removing myself from an abusive situation and cutting off contact with the narcissist. The one time I sought help while still in a controlling, abusive relationship, I faced fierce retaliation leading me to fear ever seeking help again.
Towards the end of that relationship, our children’s pediatrician insisted on family therapy. As some of you may already know, a narcissist does not seek treatment except to prove themselves right and attempt to show the instability of their partner.
Fortunately, the family therapist was very intuitive and experienced with narcissistic personalities. The narcissist knew the therapist could see through his mask. The result was a furious rage and a near assault on the aging therapist. This experience crystallized my resolve to escape and begin healing.
The realization and acceptance of my role in past trauma is a driving force for the fear I struggle with daily. The belief that pure chance had brought the narcissist to me was blissfully ignorant. I figured that I had already met my quota of bad luck, and the future had to be brighter.
There may be a small nugget of truth to chance or fate, but the bulls-eye painted on my back is made highly visible to the narcissists seeking to harm me. I tolerate their bad behavior, have no boundaries, and lack of self-confidence.
The knowledge that I still healing amplifies the fear of repeating the past. In response, I reinforce my walls to rest in the safety of solitude, for now. Venturing out is too dangerous until I finish healing.
There is no co-parenting with a narcissist – only hurt and despair. The health and welfare of our children were never his priorities during our marriage. During the divorce, the children were manipulated to obtain information about me.
They were all under age ten and missed their dad even though he was abusive towards them. Parenting time with the narcissist was used to continue the abuse. The children were met with demands by the narcissist to secretly remove items from their childhood home for him and met with rage and fury if they did not comply. They were grilled relentlessly about my activities and screamed at when he heard something he did not like.
He screamed at our young children because he was mad at me. I’m an adult, and his screaming and tantrums mean something different to me. This behavior towards the children was incredibly destructive and painful.
Eventually, the children told me they no longer wished to visit their dad, and, as he claims, in retaliation, he moved hundreds of miles away. The narcissist slowly cut off contact with the children until this past Christmas; there was no contact at all.
There is no co-parenting with a narcissist; only damage control.
My upbringing encouraged me to hold in my emotions and deny my secrets. While this muting was not malicious, it resulted in devastating consequences for my life. A strong person, I was taught, was one who did not react to emotional situations. They restrain themselves and their feelings. Love was one of the emotions kept under wraps in my home including physical and verbal expressions of love.
In the end, hiding the abuse inflicted by the narcissist resulted in physical and emotional illness, job loss, and financial ruin. I can’t help but wonder how different things would be if I were encouraged to share my thoughts and feelings as a child. It is difficult and many times uncomfortable to share my story or “sing my song,” but I know the process is healing, and I am determined to prevail.
As much as I cringe at some memories in my life, the passage of time has proven them a potent learning tool. Reading a book, attending a lecture, listening to my parents or friends could never teach me life’s lessons so clearly. People who dole out hurt and manipulation, narcissists, exist in this world in higher numbers than I care to consider.
The role narcissists play in our lives is painful but can be incredibly wisdom building for those who survive. There was a time when I wished for a different life where bad things never happened, and narcissists never hurt or mistreated me. Yet, without those bad experiences, I would not be the same person. Many broken pieces of me still need mending, but once healed, those pieces will be stronger than ever before.
The term healthy boundaries is a relatively new addition to my vocabulary. I realize now that my lack of boundaries left me open to abuse and manipulation from the narcissist and others. It is not easy to define one’s boundaries when there are none to begin with, but it is entirely necessary for self-preservation.
There are things in this life I am not willing to accept any longer, and I am better off alone than in another boundary-lacking, abusive relationship. The thought of another person entering my life and wreaking havoc and constant chaos where there is relative peace now is simply unacceptable. The truth is, there may not be room in my life for any more people right now, and I am okay with that. For the time being, I plan to define my boundaries clearly and maybe even write them in stone.
I love this diagram explaining the layers of healing. My knowledge of the healing process was almost non-existent when my journey began. Just getting to the first layer, Naming Abuse, was a marathon in itself.
I naively believed that removing myself and my children from the abusive situation with the narcissist and finding safety would fix everything. In reality, we were all in the beginning stages of healing, and all of us are in different layers now. I am happy to say we all understand and can name the abuse we endured. We are all safe now and have resources to help us continue our healing journey on our unique paths.
The final six layers are very personal to each of us. A handbook, instruction manual, and a map would have been beneficial in the beginning. We are here to support each other no matter how damaged we may still be. The collective knowledge we have of shared traumatic experiences with the narcissist, and our need for healing is invaluable as the journey continues.
I always thought I could keep the situation under control and that things were better living with the narcissist than in a broken family. It took a brave and caring person to point out my lack of control and the danger that held for all of us. It was only then I realized my life was everything I wished to avoid and nothing of my true self. Once I accepted that change was vital, the wheels set in motion, and I started the journey back to who I am.
Without self-love, we accept whatever the narcissist to give and fail to see their mask of love. They offer the idea of love without actually loving. When we don’t care enough for ourselves, we fall prey to those narcissistic parasites who live in chaos and conflict, all the while confessing to love. Without personal peace and acceptance, we are unable to love others genuinely.
One of the best things I ever did was insist that the narcissist remove his stuff from the house we once shared. He hoarded everything from old movies and magazines to food and broken appliances. Nothing of his was ever thrown out, not even shoes the cats used as a litter box. I couldn’t stand the sight of his things and felt like they were swallowing me up in the shadows.
I asked him politely to get his things, but he refused, so I packed up everything and moved it to the garage. Even a two-car garage was not big enough to hold all his stuff, so I asked him again to get his things, and still, he refused. Ultimately, a court order was necessary to motivate him to collect his precious items.
The entire situation was just another way he sought to control me. If I had his things, then he always had a reason to come back and badger me. For years he accused me of still having some of his stuff and even enlisted our young son to smuggle things out of the house to him. Fortunately, our son quickly realized he was being manipulated and told me.
It has been almost eight years since the relationship ended, and just this past summer, the narcissist tried to get my now teenage son to take things from the house to give to him. In truth, the narcissist has multiple storage sheds full of things – so much so that he doesn’t know what he has or where it is – yet he fumes over the possibility that I still have some of his things.
His things are toxic to me, and I want nothing of them, but to the narcissist, they are treasured memories. He holds onto clutter as he holds onto dysfunction and hate. How thankful I am to be free of him and the clutter he finds so valuable.