"You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive,
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair,
And that you would never leave,
But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me,
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee..."
~~ Carly Simon, "You're So Vain"
*** TRIGGER WARNING ***
Unless you have met or been involved with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder it is VERY difficult to understand how quickly one can take a tumble down the Rabbit Hole.
Classified by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (offered by the American Psychological Association) as a member of the Cluster B disorders, which includes dramatic, erratic and emotional disorders, NPD affects nearly 7 percent of the U.S. population, according to the nonprofit organization, Personality Disorder Awareness Network (PDAN).
According to the DSM-V, those with NPD exhibit the following traits:
** Exaggerated sense of self-importance, entitlement, and a preoccupation with power and accomplishment. They require constant admiration and praise -- even when it is unwarranted.
** Arrogance, haughtiness, are envious of others, and are unable/unwilling to recognize the needs of others. And they have no qualms with taking advantage of others to get their way.
When you first met your abuser, odds are they seemed too good to be true. But, before long, your gut told you something wasn't right. Now, if you're anything like me, you ignored that initial twinge thinking you were just paranoid. Well, you're not.
By the time you acknowledge that twinge as justified, you are probably already experiencing signs of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome.
Here are a few signs of NAS:
** You feel like you aren't good enough. Nothing you say or do passes the test and just when you think you have a handle on it, the abuser raises the bar another notch.
** You are consumed by the relationship. It is difficult to work. All the relationships with family and friends you once had have dwindled to nearly nothing. Eventually you are living with the anxiety of constant Fight or Flight and you feel you must walk on eggshells around your abuser. Any little thing sets them off, and you will avoid those situations AT ALL COSTS.
** You feel completely alone. You've realized the person you fell for doesn't really exist. You live day to day on autopilot catering to the abuser's every whim to keep the peace. Adding insult to injury, your abuser makes you feel like he/she is simply tolerating you. Gestures of affection, attention or genuine interest are nonexistent.
** The constant gaslighting, triangulation, manipulation and coercion have eroded you to the point you feel unworthy of anything. You are no longer good enough and the only thing that will momentarily take away that pain is some kind of positive attention -- no matter how small -- from the abuser.
** The cyclical hurt/comfort that you experience from the abuser becomes EXHAUSTING. This is b/c the abuser preys on your emotions. Once you are beat down to the point of being unable to pick yourself up off the floor (either metaphorically or literally), then the abuser comes around offering affection and pseudo-positive attention. But at this point in the Game, you take what you can get and that little dose of sympathy offers you a euphoric high -- but it doesn't last.
** Values and convictions you once had are long gone. You have gone above and beyond what you ever thought you were capable just to appease your abuser. For example, you may find you are suddenly lying and bending the truth just to protect him/her. "Those bruises? Oh, yeah, well, I tripped over the coffee table" OR "I tripped on the stairs." Anything to deflect blame from your abuser b/c, after all, he didn't mean to hurt you.
I experienced EVERY SINGLE ONE of these.
I remember sitting in a restaurant one time and he was verbally laying into me about something I hadn't done to his liking. If memory serves, I wasn't showing enough "effort" to help repair the relationship after his most recent oopsie --- getting caught with another woman AGAIN.
I'll NEVER forget that glare he had as he leaned over the table to berate me in what he thought was a hushed, angered tone of voice. Little did he realize the people across the way heard EVERYTHING. I couldn't take it anymore and the dam broke. The tears started flooding down my cheeks and I got up leaving him at the table. I walked out and stood just inside the front door.
A kind woman, who had been sitting across the way, came up and said, "Honey, are you OK. Do you need help?"
I wanted so much to say, "Yes, please make him stop."
But no words would come. I simply shook my head no and kept my eyes cast to the floor.
Here he came. And my entire body immediately tensed up.
As he was at the register paying he started in again with a louder voice this time.
"What the hell are you doing? You're making me look like such a douchebag. Quit those fake-ass tears, will ya?"
I glanced up long enough to see the woman's family had come out and was standing around her and ALL eyes were on my abuser. No one said a word. But they all silently filed out behind us to make sure I was (relatively) OK.
He turned and looked behind us.
"See? You've got those fucking people watching us!"
Once we got to the parking lot it all started again. I got to hear how "fucking weak" I was. What a "piece of shit" I was. How I was "too sensitive," "only thinking of myself," and I "needed to show more effort to make this work."
That was just one of the many HUNDREDS of verbal attacks I endured. But, as mentioned above, I felt as though I had deserved it. Even though, deep down, a tiny voice kept telling me I had done nothing wrong. But I HAD to have done SOMETHING to trigger him. Now, if only I could figure out what that something was and fix it, this wouldn't happen again.
But it did. Again and again and again.
Now, being fair, there ARE two sides to every story. I am simply offering mine. If you ask the narc, it would be a totally different tale twisted in his favor to make it look like I drove him to attack. How my selfishness and unwillingness to change (for him) was my fault. But, NO ONE deserves such verbal abuse and humiliation (especially in public). Period.
Not ONCE did he ever make a genuine effort to change his ways. Sure, there were times when he would come around being apologetic offering token gifts and seemingly heartfelt affection -- but that was simply b/c he had no new supply to fall back upon. Soon as he would give me the Silent Treatment (and shortly after discard) I knew there was another waiting in the wings.
But the discard was never "complete," he would keep communication open just enough to "keep tabs" on me to know I was there to fall back on.
You have to understand (and unless you have experienced it, it's nearly impossible) how CONVINCING a narc can be. Desperate times call for desperate measures and by god, if he knew he was up shit creek with no means of escape he was Prince Freakin' Charming and I fell for it EVERY goddamned time.
And then his addictions took over.
When substance abuse enters the picture the entire dynamic of the relationship takes on a more volatile tone. Now, not only are you dealing with the personality disorder and the abuse, but also the unpredictability of the effects the substance, or substances, has on the abuser's personality and behavior. But that, my friends, is another topic for another time.
I hope that my offering a brief intro to NAS and sharing an excerpt from my own story is enough to help someone out there who may be reading this who is in the midst of the storm or knows someone who is. You are NOT alone.
It has taken me a VERY long time to learn and understand that you MUST love yourself before you can love another. If you let go of, or have never possessed that love, you're offering up a doorway for others to take advantage of you. And there are those out there who WILL NOT HESITATE to do so.
"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire Universe, deserve your love and affection."
~~ Gautama Buddha
In Peace and Love,