Surviving Narcissism - A Guest Blog by Ashley
So you’ve gathered the courage to walk away from a toxic relationship. It was hard, and probably terrifying, but you did it. And that is amazing! YOU are amazing.
I don’t just say that – I get it, friend. I really get it. You see, I spent six years with a narcissistic alcoholic. Oh the stories I could share of things I now can’t fathom putting up with! The constant gaslighting and emotional abuse, and feeling like I was doing something wrong or that I wasn’t enough – it was awful. If you’ve been there, you get it.
I was 24 with two kids and broke as a joke when I decided enough was enough. He was finally crossing over to physical abuse. My daughters and I deserved better, and I wasn’t going to let them grow up seeing this. I had no idea how I would support us. I was certain he would make leaving hell, but it needed to happen. When I finally decided to leave, I planned the best I could for the foreseeable hurdles. But inevitably, there were plenty of things I didn’t see coming.
Fast forward seven years – I am happily remarried, and have many successes under my belt both personally and professionally – but it pains me to admit I still deal with the lasting impact of how my ex-husband treated me. Like, how is this possible? It’s been seven years! I’ve spent so much energy on personal and professional development, I’m in one of those ridiculously awesome relationships now, so why is this still impacting me so much!?!
If this was something I could predict it may not bother me as much. For instance, if I knew what would trigger being pulled back to that feeling of worthlessness I could mentally prepare for it. Instead, it can be as simple as my now husband coming home from a bad day and just being in a sour mood. The next thing I know, I’m worried it’s all my fault. I start playing the broken record of insults in my head to prepare for it even though it’s not coming. I know this for certain because my husband has never spoken to me in a disrespectful way. How messed up is it that it still distorts my thinking even SEVEN YEARS LATER?
There are still times I question my own memory. When you’ve been manipulated for such a long time and told you didn’t see what you saw, or someone never said what you heard and you must be crazy you actually start to believe it. A cycle of replaying events takes place where you dissect every part of your memory for consistency to make sure it’s real.
To someone who’s never been here, the thought of this even happening seems crazy. Gaslighting is such a subtle form of abuse for outsiders. The abuser may make it sound like a joke. After enough time they may be able to just give an “are you stupid?” look, or wave the abused away as if to say “Get out of here with that”. Observers may think the abuser was just being a real jerk in the moment, but they clearly don’t understand that the abused is constantly being made to second guess themselves.
If you have been in this situation, please be patient with yourself. Walking away from the relationship is part of the uphill climb to living a healthier life. Physical and emotional wounds can heal but it takes work, patience, time, and oftentimes help.
Personally, I have found keeping an achievement journal is helpful. When I first heard this I wasn’t really on board. I like to take action and see real results and this didn’t seem like it would work for me, but it has. Just like the vile words of your abuser have left a lasting impact on you, so will the consistent positive words you now write.
If you are reading this, maybe you have recognized you are in an awful situation. Maybe you have cleared your thoughts enough to walk away and start a new life for yourself. This is an accomplishment on its own, and a great start to your journal! Now you get to dive deeper! Did you secure new housing? Did you tell your loved ones what you had been living with? Did you get through feeling alone and missing the person you cared for, even if the relationship was toxic? All things you have overcome is because you are strong, determined, and intelligent.
Please give yourself time, this will get better! And girl, you’ve got this. ~Ashley
A MESSAGE FROM TRICIA:
A huge shout-out to Ashley for writing this guest blog! I appreciate your vulnerability, Ashley, and am thankful you were able to help. Nobody understands abuse by a narcissist like someone who has lived it. And if you have lived it and are struggling with the aftermath, please know that you are not alone, and that there is help! It's OK to not be OK. But let's work on getting you to an OK place. ~Tricia