by Mary Jo Fay
Walking on Eggshells
If I printed all the stories people have sent me, this book would be so big you couldn't carry it. Yet, one of the most interesting things about gathering real-life accounts was the commonality in language and feelings among respondents. I found it absolutely fascinating that these people, who came from all over the country and with completely different circumstances, could use exactly the same phrases and describe exactly the same feelings:
I was always walking on eggshells around him
It felt like I was on a never-ending roller coaster ride and I just couldn't figure out how to get off.
I felt like we lived inside a tornado.
The silent treatment was constant and deafening
I never knew what I did wrong.
I always felt so stupid.
Everything was always my fault.
I carried such guilt every day of my life.
And, when victims first learn about narcissism and realize that they are not alone and they are not crazy to think or feel the way they do, they are all equally overwhelmed with relief. It's like they've awakened from a coma after years of sleep with continuous nightmares. Then they start to examine their situations more closely for all the tell-tale tracks that narcissists leave in theor wake. They start to see the red flags they ignored for so long. And only then do they begin to have hope and see the possibility of a future with sunshine and blue sky.
The warning signs of his narcissistic behavior appeared early on. He controlled every situation, without regard to my needs or feelings. In one instance, we were visiting his family in Europe and my period started a week early. He had some visits with friends scheduled that day and I told him that I needed to go to a drugstore. He insisted that we go to his friends house immediately in order to stay on schedule. Needless to say, it was the most uncomfortable visit I have ever had! Just one more of those nagging red flags I chose to ignore. In hindsight, I wonder where my head was not to see the ridiculousness of it all.
The fact is that life with one of these people is like living in a storm always struggling to find the eye of the tornado for a moment of peace. On the other hand, I believe that when we rely on seeking validation from others instead of ourselves, that's how we fall into their tempest to begin with. True validation is not something you can seek outside yourself. It is the fruit of an inner journey and discovery. To know oneself from the inside-out, rather than from the outside-in. Like love, we think it is outside ourselves so we try to grab it, hold it, and then control it ... then poof! It's gone, like an illusion or dream. Sometimes it takes falling apart to wake up and see what is real. That's when the inner work begins and passion becomes a product of grace, rather then greed or need.
His verbal abuse was constant and mostly subtle. From an outsider's perspective, it might be seen as a form of friendly teasing. But the tone and frequency would indicate it was nothing but destructive. He maintained a sense of superiority by letting me know that I could not do anything as well as he could. He reminded me constantly that I was not as organized, knowledgeable, driven, ambitious, smart, or capable. He repeatedly told me that he had to do everything for me, because I was incapable of doing it right in his eyes. Why did I believe him for so long?
My birthday was always neglected. The first year it fell just before our wedding and was forgotten in the rush. The next year my husband was traveling and didn't have time to send a card or get me anything. When I pressed him on it, he brought out a present two weeks later. I was pleasantly surprised, until I saw that it was a windscreen for his car. The third year we actually had dinner together and he gave me a small gift. Then last year, he decided to throw me a birthday party. I was so pleased at first, but it turned out that the party was not actually for me. He invited his two groups of friends and a few of mine. Out of the 30 people who attended the party, I knew about 6. It was everything that he wanted; the music, the people, the alcohol. I put on a smiling face and thanked him for his effort. Then I went upstairs to take a phone call and was gone for about 25 minutes and no one even noticed my absence. He enjoyed himself and took pictures of his friends (I'm in two shots out of all of them). It was very clear that he threw himself a party and invited me along. This was one of the most insulting things I had experienced. And yet I stayed.
He has now filed for divorce and has been pressing me to keep it out of court to minimize expenses. I decided that I am not going to go alone in this process without the support of legal counsel. He is threatening me that if I do not comply with his wishes, We'll go bankrupt. It's obviously a ploy to make me feel insecure and question my own decision. Since I have been away from him, I feel much more confident and have begun to realize that almost everything he demands of me has an underlying motive for his self-interest. I feel that I am beginning the healing process through the physical and mental separation. I can now look objectively and see his manipulative ploys for what they are. I no longer get caught up in his emotionally charged tangents that used to make me feel confused and 'less-than.' This is the best thing that could have happened, given the circumstance. I now feel stronger and smarter and hope to develop a healthy relationship with a 'normal' man sometime in the future.
The marriage was definitely emotionally abusive. The remarks were always very subtle. He questioned every decision I made, from what type of mayonnaise I purchased to why I went to graduate school and incurred a student debt. He told me that I was using the wrong knife to cut vegetables. 'Don't you know that?' he would chastise me. Or, 'I always have to do everything (correctly) for you' implying I was incapable of doing anything right. He told me that my parents did not educate me properly 'Didn't they teach you how to open the bed every morning to let the moisture out?' He reminded me, 'What would you do without me? Aren't you glad that you're with someone with a head on his shoulders?' Nothing I did could ever measure up to him. It took me the longest time, but at last I learned to trust my gut and not what he said any longer.
It's very subtle, the manipulation. You can't even see it happening. It creeps into your life. It's amazing and fascinating. It's not obvious abuse. You don't even have any scars to prove it. There was just something in him that was very sadistic and evil under his gorgeous exterior shell.
My kids used to say I changed whenever I was around Tom. They knew the minute I would let him back into my life. 'Where did you go? What happened to you? Is anybody home?' they would ask. And they weren't talking about my physical presence. They said I went to 'Thomasville' whenever I was seeing him again. It wasn't a location it was an emotional and behavioral place I lived in that was outside of the 'usual me.' Like that old movie, The Stepford Wives. They said I was like a robot. Not even human. I kept thinking if I just tried harder we could work it out, so despite my kids begging me I would pick up the phone and make up with him again and again. This last time was different though. I noticed some old and uncomfortable triggers that I knew I would not be strong enough to challenge. I immediately closed the door. However, the experience has helped me see how far I've come and how far I still have to go on the journey. I can't honestly say that I am completely over him, but I am getting there.
Keeping your head above the water when the waves are rough is exhausting, sometimes unbearable. If we don't drown, we become stronger swimmers and the joy and gratitude, when all is calm, magnifies everything.
If I don't believe this, I will drown.
Maybe that is having faith.
Many victims and survivors frequently talk of entertaining suicidal thoughts. The never-ending mental exhaustion, depression, anxiety, sadness, chronic confusion, and fatigue leave them feeling that there is no other way to stop the noise. The fear they have of leaving their narcissist often outweighs the fear they have of staying. And so, they wonder if suicide is their only chance at peace.
The last week he was living in the house I realized suicide was the only alternative to divorce. Thank God he left.
For God's sake don't tell him you're thinking of killing yourself. You'll receive absolutely no empathy or compassion but plenty of criticism. I had suicidal thoughts all the time. Sometimes I fantasized that it would stop the pain. You start to think it's the only option. But here's the thing you finally realize that if you kill yourself, your tormentor will still go on living and it just pisses you off when you think about it that way. I think that's what kept me alive through the worst of it. I refused to let him win.
Thank God I never went through with it.
My life is finally peaceful now. It was worth the wait.
I used to wish I would die of natural causes. I was on antidepressants for years, but they never seemed to help. I even think I had some pretty risky behaviors from time to time. I flirted
with death but never took pills or cut myself. I resorted to prayer and support groups to keep me alive until I figured a way to get out. My own experience with suicide I was one of those who had to hit rock bottom before I could pull myself out of the darkness. My self-esteem torn to shreds. My personal belief in my value, non-existent. The depression so severe I slept half of every day away and yet remained exhausted. I felt as though I was walking in a never-ending fog that wouldn't quit. Squinting to see daylight. Blinking my eyes in an attempt to clear them, but with no luck. And constantly hoping for some direction, some reprieve, some end to the emotional turmoil that ate me alive.
I actually wrote a suicide letter. Fortunately, the mere act of writing it scared me back into reality. The truth is I never really wanted to die. I just wanted the pain to stop and couldn't figure out how. Yet, that terrible moment is probably what changed my life. It scared me so much that I knew I had to do something dramatically different or else I would just end up right back in that black abyss at a later date. Whether I took my own life or ran my car absent mindedly into traffic or just curled up in a corner and died of complete depression, it didn't matter. I knew it was only a matter of time if I didn't do something drastic. I made a conscious decision to live and to change. I was especially lucky. I had some money stashed away and an empty nest that gave me the freedom to get 'outside my boxx' and I moved to Cozumel, Mexico to live and work for six months. I escaped without car, phone, mail, or friend and I went so far away from my normal treadmill that change was bound to happen. It just couldn't help it. My time in Mexico was the best gift I ever gave myself. It gave me space to breathe and heal and be mindless. It gave me the time to rebuild my self-esteem and become whole again. It gave me an environment and an opportunity to test my boundaries with new people. I know in my heart that had I not reached the point of seriously considering taking my own life, that I would still be a zombie walking in a fog. I guess the old adage is correct that God only gives you as much as you can handle. It has become my mantra.
I have a new respect for people who talk about suicide now. I know their pain. I find myself bristling when I hear those who don't understand, tell me that 'suicide is the most selfish act anyone can ever do.' What that tells me is that the voice behind that phrase has never been in such a dark place that the only way out appeared to be through death. They know not of what they speak. However, what I also learned through this journey is that no matter how bad things may seem,
THERE IS ALWAYS AN ALTERNATIVE.
The greatest quote I discovered later is this:
SUICIDE IS A LONG-TERM ANSWER TO A SHORT-TERM PROBLEM
- Iris Bolton, The Phases of Grief
I only recently discovered the author of this quote and I want to thank her from the bottom of my heart for speaking these thoughts so perfectly. When looked at from that perspective, it is a lifeline for anyone on the edge of despair. If ever you have suicidal thoughts, grab this quote and repeat it to yourself over and over and over until you believe it in your soul.
SUICIDE IS A PERMANENT ANSWER TO A SHORT-TERM PROBLEM
Let it be your mantra too. Let it remind you that no matter what you¡¦re dealing with in your life, there are answers. You may just need to find someone who knows how to help you find the switch to turn the light back on and bring you out of the darkness.
We are out there.
Find yourself someone you can count on for times like these and hold them in a special place in your heart. There are many of us who can help. Just reach out to us we'll be glad to take your hand.
One more thing about suicide - narcissists rarely commit suicide. It is not in their makeup. I mean think about it for a minute would God commit suicide? You see the ridiculousness of it? This is not to say that they are incapable, but is a gentle reminder that it is most commonly the victim who has suicidal feelings. So, if your narcissist threatens suicide if you leave, do not let that hold you. More than likely it is just another piece of his ammunition in his ongoing battle to keep you in your place.
I feel like I have a future and hope again. I thought I was stuck on a horrific roller coaster and couldn't get off. I thought I had no control over my life and no hope for love, relationship, and family. Now I know that I control my life. I have a second chance. I am pursuing my dreams now and moving on to healthy relationships.
Life really is wonderful!
Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
Labels: abuser, betrayal, confusion, guilt, narcissists, psychopath, ptsd, sociopaths, victims, walking on eggshells