“And I don’t really want your sympathy
I’m just telling you so you’ll understand
This is me, sincerely
doing the best that I can.”
– Ani Difranco, Allergic to Water
250 days since I said enough and meant it.
It’s also Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day.
I’m still here. So much better off than I expected to be if you’d asked me at day 50. Not free from his abuse, really, but so much steadier and able to let it roll off of me.
On day 50, my mantra was like a duck’s back. I haven’t said that out loud in a couple hundred days. But it’s what happens.
Awareness. I have so much of that where I had so very little on day one.
So much more that I’m arrogant enough to think you should listen to me. That I can tell you something helpful.
What do I want you to know?
I guess what I wish I had known.
What do I wish I had known?
That sociopaths are larger in numbers than we think.
The percentage is low. But the numbers are high. Too high for us all to not know this until we’ve had to get out of it.
That a lack of empathy can look like just not having the right communication tools to someone with a lot of empathy.
Especially to someone set up to love broken people.
But also to maybe even you.
Or your child.
That some people (a small percentage, but a very large number) lie about almost everything and do it so well that you believe them. For a long, long time. Even when your gut tells you something is off.
That there is a covert type of narcissism that flies way under the radar for a long time because they play the victim, or the martyr, or the good guy so well that none of their friends or family will believe what they do at home. So well that you can live with them and it can still take years – years- to see the depth of the lies.
That trauma bonding is some fucked up shit and you don’t even know you’re in it until you’re out of it, really.
That a hostage bond isn’t something for movie storylines and bank heists. It happens all the time to all kinds of people. Whether you are physically hit or not.
What love-bombing is. How it comes in alluring and intoxicating waves to make you ignore your gut.
And how it starts (and keeps feeding) the trauma bond. How you will chase that energy way past knowing better. How you will hang all your drive and hope for staying on it only to realize later it was all fake anyway.
I wish I had known that all the energy and attention they put into wooing you in the beginning will continue in equal but opposite ways once you’ve pulled yourself away for good.
Until you can cut off all contact. My gawdddddd I envy the people who can make that choice.
(Just last night I got six rapid fire messages because I offered to swap to give him father’s day weekend but he didn’t like the times I offered. Attacks for a kindness I shouldn’t even have to think of for him. One I offered partly to avoid the tirade I would get if he waited until the last minute to ask and I had to say no in order to not lose my one weekend a month with my daughter.)
What future faking is – because I got the future faked out of me like nobody’s business. We all do. Over and over and over.
I set so many boundaries and like the hero in an action movie, he would agree to them at the last possible second. And then drag it out and have so many excuses that you’d redraw the boundary. And then you’d run that loop like a relay race.
Why did you redraw it? Because: gaslighting. And trauma bonding.
Future faking is like watching Ali in the ring: all fancy footwork and distraction so you don’t even see the arm pulled back, poised to strike.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
You are, literally, in a near constant state of adrenaline fueled confusion and you mistake it for not knowing what to do. It feels like not knowing what to do but it’s really just a brain fog that keeps you from reading all those sentences in your brain that are telling you what to do.
The knowledge of what you have to do is there. But it’s obscured and blurry.
I wish I had known I would learn a whole vocabulary of terms that serve as shorthand for us survivors.
Like secret handshakes. Code words. The words and phrases above. Shorthand for horrible things that we somehow find ways to joke and laugh about.
One or two words and we can laugh and roll our eyes about things that used to give us shingles or heart attack symptoms or crippling anxiety (or, for so, so many: lasting autoimmune diseases).
Here’s what you really need to know:
It’s lonely here. Especially when you first step off the carousel. It feels like no one knows – or can know – what you are leaving. What you are living.
And no one knows – or can know, yourself included – how bad it is about to get.
The x starts, even before the end, setting you up as the bad guy. As the crazy one. As the abuser.
The cruelty you feared was there (wouldn’t let yourself acknowledge you knew was there) is only surpassed by the ruthlessness of what he (or she) will now do once you are of no use to them.
Now that you are, in fact, a real danger to their well manicured reputation.
It’s hard to believe it’s true. Even as you’re living it. So of course outsiders don’t get it.
250 days ago, I was still pumped full of adrenaline, my body wracked from years of fight or flight or freeze. I had been in freeze for so long that I forgot I could flee.
My mind was so foggy that I couldn’t even say, to four different therapists I’d been in front of in the last three years of the relationship, that I was actually more scared to leave than to stay.
My brain was tired. My heart was, literally, tightened and tender. My jaw ached and I had cracked three different molar fillings.
My body was so exhausted it almost wouldn’t get me out of bed. I would, literally, say out loud as I took one leg by the hand and flung it over the edge of the bed: fuck this shit.
And then I would make coffee and get my daughter up and ready and I would go to work.
200 days ago, I was still pumped full of adrenaline. Fighting for my daughter’s life, literally, because to surrender her to the madness I had left felt like forfeiting the life she deserves.
I still said fuck this shit but my legs would move themselves over to the edge of the bed and my feet would be on the ground.
Ten days ago I had video court to defend myself against negligence charges. I didn’t even need to say fuck this shit that morning. My body woke early and felt ready for the day.
I am stronger.
Today, I am grateful. And calm. Mostly.
I have a five year old, so sometimes it gets less calm around here. Especially when her father tells her things like mommy got me fired and you shouldn’t tell her anything because she’s always mad and you’ll just make her mad.
I want you to know that there is no ‘co’-parenting with someone like that. There isn’t. So asking someone why they can’t just work it out is like asking the frog to just trust that scorpion and stop being so paranoid.
Trust us. Our boundaries are rigid because they have to be. We wish they didn’t.
I want you to know that there’s a lot to read. A lot to know. A lot to teach our children about the people with no empathy and how to draw maps around yourself that show those people that you are not their new land.
A lot of work to do with our kids about seeing the difference between what someone says and what they actually do. A lot to teach them about the difference between empathy and making excuses for someone’s behavior so that you let them eat you alive.
To teach them about loving themselves so when someone loves them too fast and seems too perfect that they trust their gut when small things don’t line up.
Awareness. So there’s no abuse.