I stared at the screen, reading over the titles, subtitles; the long endless list of hundreds and thousands of links to websites, videos, articles, studies, books, and stories of victims who have survived Narcissistic Abuse. I stared at the screen in absolute dismay as I read, watched, and processed this new reality. It was a reality that I could have never considered or fathomed. It was the only reality that made sense of all the madness that had consumed me and left me in a disoriented fog for the entirety of my relationship with her.
As I read the stories, the cycles, the patterns, and the cookie cutter ways in which this pathology called narcissism plays out-- I felt myself having an out of body experience. The stories were all the same. All I could think was, “That is me, that just happened to me.” I could have written their story and they could have written mine. I was bewildered.
Are you fucking serious? This is a thing?!?!
Yes, Kayko, it is a REAL thing.
I was in a textbook relationship of manipulation of almost four years. I was one of those women that I watched from a Lifetime movie that I watched from my adolescent room, snacking while in my boxers and oversized t-shirt. I would root for the woman in the movie to escape her sociopathic abuser, outsmart his vengeance, and for her to gain her power and freedom back with her head held high.
How could this be? How could something that felt so real, that went on for so long have been an illusion? What about that time she told me how much she loved me? What about those grand gestures of love? Where was I this whole time? How did I let this happen to me?
With each sentence I read, this pathological understanding of this sickness was destroying everything I had ever thought I knew and felt in my relationship. Suprisingly, it was actually liberating me. It was the only thing that made it all finally make sense. It was the only thing that could thread all of the screams that I had shouting within me, it was the only thing can could validate all my confusion, it was the only thing that could diagnose what just always felt so fucking off.
I was in her movie and in love with her character. I was the co-star and she, the narcissist, was the star. She acted out a role of a passionate and intense lover who had never felt the way she did, as she did for me. I was her girl, the love of her life. We fell madly in love and despite all the things that could and would go wrong—our love was all that mattered.
Were there red flags? Absolutely. Did the role and character she played ever waver? All the time. She fell out of character and would pull a stunt that was quite disappointing, disrespectful, and inconsiderate. It would leave others including myself, hurt and confused. Her mask would slip and it left us questioning her integrity and intentions. Then she pulled the mask back up, would do a grand gesture, a thoughtful act, and eventually once again we would all be on board—hey we are all humans right? Some would walk away and never come back. Looking back, it seemed she knew it was a movie because she always believed and thought people were watching us. She always wanted to be “ON” and when our movie wasn’t playing out as she desired, I was “ruining it.”
She was a pantomime, she was a hologram, she was a regurgitated projection of all the mannerisms and personalities that she studied from movies and observing others. She would take on the interest and traits that she thought people would love. Sometimes I would catch her quoting me or others without giving any credit. I remember it giving me an uneasy feeling but I brushed it off thinking it was her absorbing and growing and I should be happy she is learning.
As all narcissists do, she was merely here to feed off my soul, I was food for this gluttonous lover. Perhaps my romantic notions of vampires and love were actualized in this pathological way. The empathic good hearted mortal, a hopeless romantic, falls in love and self-sacrifices with a sexy, dangerous, unattainable mystery without a soul.
It is a character study much like an actor would do to win the audience, gain admiration, to capture the emotions of the watchers, and to reap the benefits of such an Oscar winning performance. I felt so in it. I was engrossed in the love story, feeling every emotion, following every twist, sitting on the edge of my seat. This was a romantic comedy that would occasionally flash into a psychological thriller. I was left disarrayed in lies that I did not know how to get back into myself, my body, my vessel, who was sitting and watching the movie in the audience.
When the reality of my relationship with my partner began to reveal itself to me, when her mask completely fell away, when the jig was finally up, the credits started to roll and the lights came on. I hauntingly recall looking into the eyes of my lover and seeing an emptiness that terrified me.
The Terms & Definitions
Educating myself helped me to identify terms and definitions for what I went through. Words and names for the experiences that many others were also having. I was being seduced by a histrionic, charming, narc. Wooed and pursued, love bombed, and then slowly but surely being relied on for help and survival, creating an enabling and dependent dynamic. In the moments of disillusionment you are then gas lighted then drowned in pathological lies. I was ambiently abused, projected upon, given the silent treatment, dosed, bait and switched, and just when I was feeling loved, it would suddenly be withheld leaving me confused and wondering what I did wrong. When I could not take it anymore and would try to distance myself and leave—I was hoovered back in because she so desperately loved and needed me. I was needed as supply for her survival. I was put in positions where I had to carry her weight and responsibilities. When I would create boundaries, she would pull a vanishing act and eventually leave me discarded like a piece of trash. And don’t forget the flying monkeys they recruit to do a smear campaign on you to make them look like they need saving from your relationship and controlling ways. Many who are in relationship with a narcissist suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. It ends so badly and abruptly that you are left wondering if you ever meant anything to the narc. I went through the cycles several times. It was psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically abusive.
Typically the victims of the narcissist are high acheivers, have great reputations, are intelligent, kind-hearted, giving, empathic, and nurturing. The Narc needs to choose persons of high value so that their own stock can go up. Of course we must also recognize the shadow aspects of these traits that the victims have as they manifest into the need to be needed, of co-dependency, and the martyr with poor boundaries. The Narc is drawn to people who are understanding and have potential to being a doormat simply because they are more likely to tolerate and forgive them. Narcs need someone who can make them look good. The more popular, the more successful, the more rich, the more respected-- the better.
How a Narc becomes a Narc
The narc typically develops in childhood. There is usually a narcissist adult and this becomes fertile grounds for a child becoming either a narc themselves or a magnet for a narc. The potential narc child doesn’t get the love, attention, or validation that they felt they needed. At some point the child discards their true selves similar to the metaphor of selling their soul, and commit to getting their needs met at all costs. This insatiable desire to get their needs met can never be actualized because they seek it from the external and not within. Sure, many of us will do this, search externally for our happiness but the narc does so without any regard or empathy for others. If you can’t give them what they want, you are useless. They carry a grandiose sense of entitlement to absolutely every aspect of their life because they were so wronged as a child. They spend their lives externally seeking to meet their unmet needs at the expense of anyone who may be able to supply it. This need for supply is survival and the world is against them and it is everyone’s fault but their own. Because they felt so robbed as a child and carry much anger toward their caregiver for not providing it, they project that same anger and resentment onto the world and all the people in it.
For the victim, the honey moon is eventually over, followed by the gaurenteed whirlwind of drama, betrayal, and confusion. When the Narc is confronted the victim is then discarded into what feels like a room with no doors, no lights, feeling as though they are on the brink of insanity, imprisoned in a spiral of what feels like a bad batch of drugs that got slipped into their drink. That is hopefully when they realize—this isn’t and never was, LOVE.
When The Viel is Pulled
I got lucky. My life was falling apart, she was cheating on me again, lying to me again, and the lies were finally catching up. I went through great lengths to discover the truth and when I did, I no longer recognized the person I was living and sharing my life with. When I told my director that I needed some time off to make some major changes in my life and that all jokes aside, I think I might be in a relationship with a sociopath, he looked at me with a knowing glance and sat me down. He pulled out the DSM 5 and told me he was going to bookmark a few pages that I could read when I felt ready. He had his own experiences with a NPD mother and a few NPD relationships before finally becoming an expert on the matter.
Being in a relationship with a narc can be the most absolute destructive experience of psychological warfare that one could ever experience. They leave a trail of people in shambles behind them without any sense of remorse. It is not until you have personally experienced narcissistic abuse that you could ever possibly wrap your head around it. The biggest tragedy of all is that some victims never find out that what happened to them is an actual thing. That is why knowing and educating yourself about it can be so extremely healing and liberating. Many victims of narcissistic abuse go on living in a state of disoriented depression for years until they one day became enlightened to what actually happened to them.
Awareness is key. Knowledge is POWER. Truth indeed, will set you FREE.
It is an absolute nightmare to have been in bondage with a narc. But like all nightmares, you eventually wake up, catch your breath, and come to realize that it was just a dream. You are still you and there is something to say about the symbolism that lies in the dreams that we have that can provide us with so much cues as to what we can start to begin to understand about ourselves. Sometimes the most extreme of experiences is what catapults us into radical transformation.
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