Married to a Narcissist: Prologue (Draft)

So I wrote the prologue to Married to a Narcissist the other day and thought I’d share the first draft with you, dear reader. It’s likely to change in the future but I’d love to know what you think. Would you want to read more? If so, why? If not, why not?

Married to a Narcissist

Prologue

Getting started is always the hardest part of any project. The truth is, I’ve probably started this project half a dozen times in my lifetime. It’s taken the form of a memoir so many times I’ve lost count. I wrote over 180 pages when I was in my early twenties and then set it aside as being too melodramatic. I was still working to develop my writing voice.

Now, over fifteen years later, I’m still working on my voice but I seem to have found it for the most part. While my voice is still evolving, it’s pure and honest and clear. It’s free and unflinching. And in this book, my goal is to share that voice with you as clearly and as unadulterated as I can. Most importantly, this book is to share hope.

“It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.” ~ Paul Gallico, Confessions of a Story Writer

I’m thirty four years old as I write this. I am not sure where this journey will take me. I’m not sure how long it will take me. All I know is I want to lay my soul out on the page for all the victims out there in the world, so they may experience peace, love and freedom from the shackles of abuse. I’ve endured far more than my fair share of abuse in my lifetime. I don’t say that out of self-pity but to be quite frank, because it’s true. My life has been full of pain, tragedy, sorrow, and heartache. It’s taken me almost my whole life to this point to understand and accept the truth of that statement. It’s taken years and hundreds of hours of therapy and self-analysis. If I can save even one person from that, lessen it in some way, or give someone the strength to start their own journey, then my suffering will have all been worth it.

I have overcome over thirty years of abuse. And you can too. The power is within each of us. And maybe sharing my story will help someone else find the strength to take that first step toward finding themselves. I was fortunate to have a lot of help along the way. This isn’t a book about using God or faith or spirituality to give you purpose. This is about looking within, doing the hard work to overcome what’s keeping you from being who you truly can be. This isn’t about religion or twelve steps. This is about my journey to find myself. It’s about doing the hard work, the sweat and the tears that go along with tearing yourself down and starting over.

For me, I suppose it started simply enough. But first, you have to know where I’ve been before you can understand how I got through and how I’ve gotten where I am now, which is happy and healthy for the first time in my life.

November 20, 2014, Euless, Texas

It’s been eight months and two days since I sat down at our dining room table and told my husband that we were separating. I said it matter-of-factly but in a gentle soft voice. In fact, my husband didn’t react at all, probably because I was so tightly in control. It had taken a year and a half to reach that point and the gravity of the situation was not lost on me, even then. Now, I look back at the scared, timid, frightened woman I was and I smile. How courageous she was! How courageous she still is!

Inside, I was shaking and terrified. I was a complete, utter wreck. I had spent weeks visualizing what I would be doing to my family, this family I valued more than life itself but was coming to realize was all an illusion. I had sought counsel from a few select, trusted advisors: a Christian and fellow writer, my surrogate father, and my husband’s former best friend. To say I was on a slippery slope would be an understatement.

I was going to singlehandedly dismantle everything I’d built over the last four years and it would require some impossibly painful choices. I was filled with dread, grief, panic, and a sense of impending loss, yet on the surface, all was calm. I knew I faced the very real risk of losing my thirteen-year-old stepdaughter who I loved as though she were my own.

For months I considered staying in the relationship until she was eighteen, in the hopes I might keep my relationship with her. I realized how selfish it would be to do so and that in the long run, I would be modeling the wrong behavior for her. I knew I could lose my home, my car and a significant amount of my possessions, not to mention current and possibly future income. I would once again be a single parent, this time of a seven-year-old first grader.

My future was completely uncertain. I had no job, no financial resources, and no family. My car was repossessed five months earlier and my husband had borrowed money from a family friend to get it back. I had spent the last seven years as a stay at home mom and part-time self-employed for whatever work I could find. I had gone from a self-sufficient confident single mother to a burned out, exhausted shell of my former self. I had completely invested 100% of myself into this life.

All I knew was I desperately needed out of the relationship I was in. We would have celebrated our second wedding anniversary in a month but I knew that if I didn’t end the relationship and soon, I might not even be alive that long.

I was suffering a slow, horrible, internal death. My strength, which had seen me through countless tragedies, was gone. My will to live was a small flickering flame, dangerously on the brink of being extinguished. The emotional vampire sitting across the table from me was slowly consuming all the things that made me who I am – my very identity and soul. I contemplated suicide on a daily basis. I fought to find my will to live. It was a gargantuan effort to get out of bed every day. I spent most of my days doing everything I could to find an answer to the problems of my life. I was taking 200 mg of Zoloft every day just to get through it.

Why was my marriage falling apart? Why was I so miserable? Why did I feel so lost? What was the point of life? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be happy for once in my life? I had everything I thought wanted but suddenly it wasn’t good enough anymore. These questions plagued me every moment of every day. I stopped functioning entirely. My business began to falter and then outright fail. My depression grew worse with every passing day.

At the time, I was a somewhat successful fiction and nonfiction writer who had just won a major fiction award the previous September. I’d finished my second book tour and done pretty well for a new independent author. On the surface, I had the perfect life with a husband who, by all outward appearances, adored me and who I adored, and a blended family that seemed to have nothing but bliss. Under the surface, was an insidious darkness that I had never even considered. Moreover, it was slowly but surely destroying my spirit in ways nothing else could have. I had been abused almost my whole life, raped, beaten, molested, mugged and more but this man, who I had married and trusted with my whole heart, and who had never lifted a hand against me physically, was almost my complete undoing.

I married a narcissist. And I had no idea he was one.

I was completely fooled, caught unaware and flat-footed, despite over three years of intensive cognitive behavioral therapy before meeting him. I didn’t even know what a true narcissist was, other than my mother was one. But on that fateful day of March 18, 2014, I demanded more for myself and my daughter. My life would never be the same again.

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Afraid of Marriage

My fiancé has been talking lately about our wedding and for some reason it has just made me really weird. I get nervous and discombobulated. It started innocently enough, with him mentioning possibly getting married this summer. Everything seems so wonderful as is, I am loathe to change it. I tell myself that being married would only make our relationship deepen, that it’s a level of commitment that we both deserve but in the back of my head is the thought, what if he changes? What if HE becomes the monster under the bed?

Logically I don’t think that will be the case but the reptilian part of me, the instinctive part of me just wants to run and hide. The fear is very real and I don’t know how to deal with it. He has asked me hundreds of times if I would marry him and I know in my heart I want to but a part of me is still scared of it.

This divorce has really cost me a lot, mentally, emotionally and financially. I don’t know how to move past that. It isn’t marriage that’s the problem – it’s the people involved. People are what makes a marriage succeed or fail and I believe that my fiancé and I have what it takes. We are both people who have been deeply wounded and yet care a great deal for each other. We are the best of friends and there is no one I would rather spend the rest of my life with. Even during all the crazy stuff we have had to deal with, he has stayed strong and steady. He is helping me to be a better person and to become the person I have always dreamed of being.

I know marriage is a leap of faith. You sign on the dotted line and promise to do your best, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. You will never really know until you try. And what an opportunity you will miss if you don’t try.

So I talked to our oldest daughter about doing an emotional wedding ceremony and dedicating ourselves to each other before doing a legal marriage. Kind of like a trial marriage to see if it will work.

I just spent the last few hours talking to my daughter and am exhausted so I’m going to bed and hopefully will have time to post more tomorrow. One topic I really want to write about is sexual abuse in Hollywood, especially as it relates to the Bill Cosby mess.

Til tomorrow,

The Rambler

A Really Great Day

Today was a great day. For the first time in a really long time, I feel like I have myself together. I am moving forward a little at a time and today really showed that I am finally starting to gain some velocity toward my goals. If my life were a train, then I have been struggling up one big mountain and I think I have finally topped the crest of it.

I paid for my real estate exam and set an appointment for my fingerprints. My fiancé recently took a second job as a driver for Uber so I also signed up as a driver for Uber in my local area, which will hopefully give some additional income to get us out of this rut we have been stuck in for the last eight months. The nice thing is we will net $450 in referral bonuses because he referred me.

If you want to check out the program for yourself and earn an easy $250 (after your first 20 rides), just go here to learn more and sign up. My fiancé made $200 his first week for about 10 hours of work and he didn’t know what he was doing. It’s a great secondary income if you have a decent vehicle. We are even considering leasing a vehicle with them. We expect to bring in about $1,600 – $2,000 extra dollars a month, in addition to other revenue streams. It’s not for everyone but it’s going to get us on track with our financial goals.

I ran errands much of the day once my fiancé got home, including getting a Thanksgiving turkey and ham for next week as well as some other supplies we really needed. It felt good to be able to get what we needed for once. There weren’t any extras but after having so little for so long, it feels like abundance. Even scrimping and saving as much as I can, our grocery bill topped $600 this month (including food stamps which only covered 45%). Feeding a family of five is not easy. Feeding three people with metabolisms like horses is an incredible task.

Three of us are gluten sensitive or intolerant. I am allergic to a wide variety of spices (any kind of dried pepper essentially). Our nine year old son (P) has ADHD so we try to limit his sugar and he is growing like a weed! He eats the same amount of food as his father who is 6’2! Our oldest daughter (A) is 6 feet tall and only in the last month discovered she is severely gluten intolerant. It has put her in the hospital ER twice in the last six weeks.

Fortunately, thanks to a great digestive health specialist and the help of the internet, we have A finally on the mend. But trying to keep us stocked in vegetables and healthy proteins is a tall task. And expensive! I am sad to say I had to go to a couple food pantries for help this month because we just couldn’t keep up with the prices. Fortunately I was able to donate almost as much as we received in stuff we couldn’t eat.

One major issue we still have to deal with is getting P gluten free meals at school. I am not confident in my ability to pack him a healthy, filling lunch every day, especially with our financial pressures currently. I will soon be working as much as 50 hours a week as we try desperately to bring in enough money for Christmas. Fortunately, our oldest will be watching the kids for a while to make things work smoothly.

We didn’t eat badly per se but to make meals stretch further, I would buy cheaper meats in bulk and include a lot of pasta. I also learned that for ADHD children, protein is even more critically important. Now that we are feeding our son the right foods, and supplementing his meals with protein bars, his behavior has become completely compliant and we have our sweet boy back.

Last night I spent a few hours working on Married to a Narcissist and wrote over 2,000 words without stopping. It’s definitely hard to open up that way but at the same time it feels really good to analyze my life from a different point of view. I find myself including details and finding new insights as a result. I wore out at almost eleven, and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. That’s the first time I have done that in years. I was up again at six a.m., bright eyed and ready to take on the day. My optimism, hope, and strength is surging back and I am honestly relieved. I am by no means miraculously recovered but I have definitely turned an important corner.

I find myself looking forward to the hard work ahead instead of being overwhelmed by it. My spirit has brightened and my soul feels lighter than it has in months, years even. The darkness is receding and being replaced with light.

Our oldest daughter A is just starting her recovery journey. She moved in with us when she turned 18 and graduated high school. Her bio mother is a narcissist and her step-father is abusive. She is starting to open up to our help and learning to trust and accept our love. It’s taken six months of hard work but she is taking the first shaky steps and I couldn’t be more proud.

I see so much of myself in her. The pain and uncertainty. The fear and the desire to be strong through it all. The need to be in control and not rely on anyone else yet yearning for love and acceptance. Her PTSD is starting to really manifest itself and we are working on getting her counseling at a local women’s center. Since we both need it I told her I would go with her so she wouldn’t be alone.

I don’t fully understand why but I love this young woman. I was drawn to her the very first time I spoke to her on the phone. We talked for almost two hours while I was in Costco. I must have walked that warehouse ten times as we talked! Meeting her was like meeting an old friend again.

Maybe because the child within me recognizes a kindred spirit and wants to help heal her wounds. I see so much potential in her if she can overcome the pain. She is a beautiful woman who doesn’t realize it yet but I see it clearly. It gives me tremendous joy to watch her start her journey toward self-love and acceptance. I am witnessing the healing between her and her father as they come together and it is beautiful. Seeing these two people who I love grow in trust and friendship is incredible.

I am so very grateful for these gifts. I have a loving amazing family and our future is so bright together. I am so excited for the future. Considering where I was eight months ago, that’s a huge step forward. I would tell any victims who are struggling to just keep moving forward. Sometimes it’s two steps forward then one and a half steps back, but with time and perseverance, you CAN get there. I am living proof. Don’t give up and have hope!

Til next time,

The Rambler

New Project – Married to a Narcissist

If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

Ok, so here’s where I share some really great news that happened as a result of today’s blogging. I’ve decided to write a new book, a memoir of sorts and have titled it “Married to a Narcissist: My Struggles with Abuse, Homelessness and PTSD”. I’ve finally decided it’s time to share my story, it’s time to embrace my empowerment and share my struggles so others might find hope and answers. It will also be a cathartic work for me to let go of so much of my past, a chance for me to tear down the house I’ve built, and create a solid foundation to move forward.

I invite you, dear reader, to join me on this journey as I open myself up and share what I’ve learned and what I’m still learning. I’m writing this for all the innocent victims out there in the world. I am going to share my truth and stand up for the other victims in the world. This is a book that’s been hidden within me for over twenty years and I finally feel ready to write it.

The best part is that the book is not intended to be for profit. I will donate the book to local domestic violence programs, counselors and whoever else will use it to help other victims. I will share it on my blog through previews and short excerpts. My hope is the story will serve to help other victims feel less alone and find their power within themselves. To reach deeper and find the well of strength within each of us.

I will create a website that will accept donations and book purchases to be used to offset the costs of producing the book. Any profits will be donated to programs to help victims of abuse. This is a book for women to share with their sisters, friends, mothers, and women regardless of their life circumstances. It’s a book about hope, perseverance, and overcoming the shackles of abuse.

It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. ~ Paul Gallico, Confessions of a Story Writer

It will undoubtedly be the most difficult thing I will ever write. It will likely take me years to write but the best ideas start from a simple thought. The best plants can grow from a single seed. It will be me opening my veins and bleeding for my reader. Because that truth will set me free.

I have the most amazing support network – better than I ever could have imagined. I have a man who loves me in ways I never imagined, who is helping me to see my true capacity and is encouraging me to embrace it, to realize it and fulfill who I’m meant to be. I’m primed to finally do this. My hope is to send tiny ripples out into the world, to help others to find the way to find themselves. Together, we can overcome and be better, not just as individuals, but as a species. Together, we can overcome anything.

I almost lost everything about me. I almost gave up my will to live. Standing at the brink of that abyss was the most terrifying experience of my life. If I can save even one person from stepping off that brink, then my life’s work will be complete. If I can save more than one, then I am blessed beyond measure.

Yours,

The Rambler

Blogging is Hard Work and Defining Narcissism

My amazing partner recently reminded me that I need to be blogging, that I hadn’t blogged in far too long. Concerned for my mental health, he called me on the fact that blogging is like pushing a stone up the hill and “you’re avoiding the stone and the hard work that goes along with it.” He’s right, I’ve been avoiding doing the hard work that I know needs to be done, while expecting to just get better.

The reality is, that as an abuse and incest survivor, recovery is hard work and it’s an ongoing, daily process. It never ends. Just when you think you’ve reached a good place and the work is over, another demon you never even knew was there rears its ugly, wart-covered head and scares the shit out of you in the middle of the night. Sometimes knowing that is overwhelming and makes me just want to pull the covers up over my head.

Fortunately, I have a man who loves me more than life and knows me better than anyone else alive, sometimes even myself. It’s scary how well he knows me sometimes. He doesn’t let me slack if he sees me doing it and he sees both who I am and who I can be. So here I am, once again trying to do the hard, heart-breaking work that needs to be done. Trying to accept the fact that I will always have to do this work. That’s the burden of abuse – you never really get beyond it. It’s with you and within you forever. The scars are deep and while they might heal in time, they never disappear. They become part of who we are, changing us forever. Life can be better and even feel normal but it will always be lurking beneath the surface.

One of the battles I’m fighting is trying to be more open – not just with others but with myself. I’m trying to acknowledge the soul crushing pain I battle every day, without pity or shame but with pride. I’m a gladiator waging a war every day of my life – to be better, to overcome, to thrive despite all the barriers of life, my shortcomings and of abuse. I hope to be able to do so with clear eyes, a clear conscience, integrity and without sounding like I’m whining (too much). I’m not a person who generally thinks, “Woe is me, I’m such a victim, someone help me/save me/rescue me from this”. I look at life and a problem and say, “How do I get over/around/through/between/under this to overcome it? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I’ve got plenty of will, what I’ve been lacking lately is strength.

I have recently come to understand what was at the root of my marriage. I knew, if I looked hard and long enough, I would find an answer and I was right. I have always been someone who looks at a mistake and says, “How do I never do that again? What caused it in the first place? What can I change? What can I do better?” That same mentality was what was preventing me from moving forward. Like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces, I kept working on it until I found what I needed. And it was the reason behind my loss of strength.

My ex is a narcissist. The clinical definition is for Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an excessive sense of self-importance, an extreme preoccupation with themselves, and lack of empathy for others.

I fell in love with a man who was the complete opposite of me. I’ve spent my life trying to understand and help others. I’m compelled to help children, the abused, and the disadvantaged. The rich and accomplished don’t need our help, they’ve either already had it and used it to succeed or didn’t need it in the first place. It’s their job now to help others. The disadvantaged among us need the most help.

Unfortunately, narcissists (narcs for short) are a class all unto themselves and without the will to change, will not recover from the disorder. They will continually be disillusioned in their life, always wondering why the world hates them and is out to get them and feeling like everyone else is wrong but them.

My mother is a classic example of a narcissist victim. And toxic! Oh I haven’t spoken with her in over 15 years and when I confronted her (via letter) about what happened to me as a child and young adult, she literally acted like it never even happened. In her mind, she was a great mother, I was an out of control child. It’s not her fault, it’s mine. Forget about the fact that I was molested, physically abused and sexually molested by the man she married and got impregnated by. Forget about the fact that she abandoned her youngest daughter at 10 years old because it was easier to just leave and turn her back on the child she never wanted in the first place.

For my ex husband, the problems in our relationship were all in my head, I’m crazy and need therapy. The only reason I was crazy was because he was driving me there with his grand delusions that our relationship was fine and I would never leave him. He did absolutely NOTHING to try and fix our relationship or to admit there was a problem in the first place. Doing so would have shattered his own self image, something his ego couldn’t stand.

Realizing that I’m not crazy, that it was the relationship, has given me  empowerment again. I’ve always believed knowledge is power and this is another example of it. It was like someone gave me the key to unlock the box with all the answers. A few weeks later, I filed officially for divorce, something I was afraid to do because of the fear of having to face him in a court room.

There is an enormous amount of anger, rage and hate inside of me for him, now that I see him for who he really is. It’s like someone took the magic spell off and I can see clearly for the first time, the demon underneath. Many of my friends and family don’t understand this sudden reversal (thanks to Facebook). It honestly scares me that I let such a demon into my life and didn’t recognize it for four years. The only thing that gives me comfort is that there were circumstances at work, which I didn’t understand.

I was conditioned for two years by him, most expertly, to become a victim for him. He learned it from his narcissistic mother. It took two years to get me there – that’s a long time to hold out against a psychological barrage that has cause prisoners of war to curl up in a corner and will themselves to die. It took another two years to get me to the brink of that abyss where I wanted to die. It was sheer force of will that refused to allow me to take that plunge but it was definitely a close thing. I reached out the only lifeline I had – my best friend and now the man I hope to marry. If it hadn’t been for my best friend, now boyfriend, I might have eventually been beyond the point of no return.

My strength was gone and for the first few months, my boyfriend carried me entirely. It’s starting to come back and slowly we’re starting to be able to walk together side by side. If I falter, he’s more than willing to help me along if I need it.

A tremendous resource I want to share with you is from the amazing Kim Saeed, with Let Me Reach. This site was the key that opened the door to providing me with answers. I’ve mentally devoured almost all of the material on her site, and it has set me free to recognize that not only am I on the right path, but to appreciate the amount of courage it takes to do this. Recovery will likely be long but I’m determined to get there. I have plans, I have a future, and I have way too much to live for, least of all is my children. Going no contact with my ex was quite simply the best choice I ever made and she helped me see that.

Part of what makes Kim’s information unique is the way she breaks down these challenging psychological concepts and puts them into everyday situations which bring about deep understanding. I find myself often nodding my head, agreeing with what she’s saying and thinking, “Wow, she just described my ex perfectly. or , “Yep, that’s my mom for sure.” She’s helped me understand important behavioral terms like gas lighting, love bombing, and emotional manipulation.

After feeling for four years like I’d fallen down a rabbit hole with no end, Kim’s information has given me a lifeline to cling to and the answers I was so desperately seeking. Everything happens for a reason, and if we can come to understand those reasons, that understanding and knowledge can set us free. I’m living proof. Once I began to understand my abuse, I was given the tools to free myself from its clutches a little more every day.

Most importantly, she has lead me to other resources that also helped me recognize that I’m not a bad or weak person, but an innocent victim. What attracted the narcissist to me? Am I magnet for narcissists and abuse? In a way, I am the perfect magnet but that doesn’t make their behaviors my fault. All the amazing, wonderful things that make me who I am: my kind, caring nature, my empathy for others, are what made me the perfect victim BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN I NEED TO CHANGE WHO I AM. Who I was before the abuse is still wonderful. I worked for years to build that person up and now that I’m free of the abuse, she’s starting to re-emerge and flourish again. That’s the irony of narcissism – their goal (unconsciously or consciously is unclear) is to destroy the things within us that make us beautiful, to eradicate hope and bring you to their level. I refuse. Not going to happen. Ever.

Does that mean I’ll be abused that way again? I certainly hope not. I feel confident I’ve learned my lesson. I’m much more wary of people now. I study them for a while first to make sure they are who I think they are. I recognize that understanding people is a weakness for me so I consult others for their opinion of a person and then act as I see fit. I’m not so quick to accept people at face value because I am incapable of truly seeing them.

Does that mean I’ll never be abused? Does that mean I’ll never make a mistake? Probably not. In the midst of this, I had to end a three year friendship that I realized was bad for me and I didn’t know it. I was in the friendship for all the wrong reasons – out of a sense of obligation, not for any true commonality. There was a forty year age gap. We are both writers and kind of fell together as a result but it wasn’t really a relationship.  Was it a toxic relationship? Not to me. But what tipped it over the edge was when this person verbally abused the man I love right in front of me. I attempted to make him see his errors, to which he got defensive and angry so I cut ties with him. It was a side I’d never seen in him, he’d always been kind to me. I’ve never been so shocked in my life as I was to hear him call my love a psycho and essentially call him a pig because of his size. He was bullying him and that’s not something I will ever tolerate or forgive, especially not from someone who had created this persona of kindness.

Is that harsh? Maybe so. But I don’t have the time or energy to deal with that kind of bullshit. He was in the relationship to make himself feel better, to be a good Christian, not to be a true friend to me. He took pity on me because of my background and was incapable of seeing that. I don’t need pity. Understanding and friendship, yes, but not pity. I’m a strong, capable woman who offers a lot to others and my struggles have only served to make me stronger. I’m glad to finally see the relationship for what it was and to free myself of it.

Whew – I guess that’s been pent up for a while. Over 2,100 words in a post. That might be a new record for me. I do want to share some upcoming plans but I think I better do that in a separate post to give people a chance to breathe.

Until next time,

The Rambling Mind

P.S. This song came on my Pandora station when I first started the post and gave me hope. I hope it lifts you up too – the words are exactly what I feel for people in general.