I have a dark chapter in my life. I am a narcissistic abuse survivor. And like all survivors I need to tell my story even if my voice shakes. Because it may encourage others like me, to break the vicious cycle of narcissistic abuse in which they may be trapped. By writing about it, I acknowledge the injustice that happened to me. Though it happened years back, I will not brush it underneath the carpet and hide my pain from the world any longer. By writing about it, I bear witness to the dehumanisation, the shame and the suffering I was subjected to. By writing about it, I bear witness to the fact that nobody – no one around me at that time, tried to intervene or help me, and that I, helped myself out finally. By writing my story, I take back the power, they took away from me.
The malignant narcissist can be anyone. Your partner, spouse, parent, sibling, in-law, child, boss, teacher, senior, classmate, neighbor, friend; anyone can be the bully.
Blood relations cannot discount the violence or trauma the victim suffers in the course of the given relationship. In fact, familial relations only aggravate the viciousness of the abuse. Long term bullying and gaslighting may make the victim delusional when he/she actually starts conforming with the abuser. I have suffered the viciousness of one such relationship in my past. Luckily for me, I also mustered up the courage to walk away from that entrapment and save myself and my older child from further harassment.
For seven long years, I stayed in a toxic relationship, walking on eggshells. I was a people-pleaser of the highest order. Anybody could walk over me and complain that I wasn’t flat enough to be a doormat. I was happily dedicated to servitude and there was hardly any time for me to take care of myself, pursue my passions or even get a little rest. Often my inner voice would tell me, “This was not a way to live.” But I stayed on and the noose kept tightening.
Before long, I found myself fatigued to the core of my soul and completely pushed to the wall. And all that had to come out in some way.
So, it came out in the form of the biggest health crisis of my life.
You may be having metastatic stage 4 cancer and you may pour your guts out to them, thinking they will empathise, as normal humans do. But beware. Some people’s capacity for empathy is absolutely nil because they clearly lack conscience. And if that isn’t enough, any personal information you share will be used against you on a later date, for shaming and humiliating you.
It was only a matter of time before they started doing the same things to my child. I became aware that if I didn’t muster the courage to take charge of our lives, I would be a silent witness to my child getting hurt from being bullied, gaslighted and sidelined like me. That was my wake-up call.
I decided to reclaim our lives. It was a scary proposition. As any victim of long-term narcissistic abuse will tell you, getting your power back from a malignant narcissist is not easy. When you demand dignity for yourself, you are in fact, rubbing them the wrong way. Toxic people are experts at gaslighting. If you ever try to reason it out with them, they will project you as the “crazy one,” thereby creating doubts about your sanity in other people’s minds.
When all negotiation, reasoning and logic failed, I tried to walk away. But they followed me by giving false hopes and promises. I went back and got severely punished. I fled again. They pulled me back again. And I went back, again, thinking I should try even harder to please them, only to be met with dire consequences each time. The dynamics of that particular relationship was quite complicated, because of which I stayed paralysed in that emotionally traumatising environment for so long. It is easy to generalise and pass judgements on those who continue to stay in unhealthy relationships. Very often victims feel pressured to maintain the facade that “everything is fine” because of family or societal pressure.
But one day, I finally broke away from them and turned a corner in our lives.
But it was devastating to finally let go, because I had invested years of unquestioning obedience, physical and emotional energies into them, when in reality, there existed no authentic relationship at all; it was all one-sided.
When toxic people realise that they have lost control over you, they try to control how others see you. They will try to isolate you socially, by discrediting your character.
Walking away was the bravest thing I ever did, to save myself and my child.
It took a lot of inner work to recover, heal and reclaim my life after I ended that relationship. I reeled under chronic post-traumatic stress. Exercising, pursuing my creative interests, and practicing self-compassion helped me. Most importantly, surrounding myself with emotionally healthy people who appreciate me for what I am, has helped me regain the trust I had lost—in myself and in people; a serious side effect of being in a long-term abusive relationship.
I now realise that my time is precious and it can’t be wasted on people who don’t value me. I feel happy, healthy and whole again. By letting go of the bad, I created space for good things to come into my life.
What happened to me can happen to anyone. It may be your lover, spouse, family, peer group or a workplace bully who is emotionally harming you. If you can’t get rid of them due to familial/work obligations, then the best way to deal with such people, is to stay detached and by keeping minimal contact. But with a malignant narcissist, the only course of action to be taken is to go “no contact,” especially when children are involved. Because some toxic people defy the general perception that “human beings are essentially good.”
I protected myself and my child by removing ourselves from that place. You owe it to your children to save them from falling into the same vicious cycle of soul-shattering emotional abuse.
P.S:- This post was originally published in Huffington Post in 2017 when I was a contributing writer with them.