Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Bitterest Pill: Always The Victim?

I found this wonderful story online by an amazing woman who delved deep inside herself and didn't like what she found, it offended her, it upset her, and it deeply hurt her , yet she was able to pull herself up , dust herself off and become stronger through it by dealing with the issue head on!

This story is not meant to offend anyone , nor to trivialize, Minimize, nor invalidate anyone's experiences of abuse. It is just a gentle reminder for all victims of how we can get stuck in the "role of the victim" if we are not careful in our steps to recovery.

Online support groups are great, I often hang out in them and read, but I have noticed a growing trend on many Narcissistic Abuse Recovery boards.....

Scores of abuse survivors/victims posting the same questions/stories/No contact issues/Situations or Predicaments over and over again. These wonderful women are given advice , great advice in fact but are so loathe to take it, I notice they then post again asking the same questions or seeking the same answers a few days later . Why are they stuck in the same place they were a week/month/year ago?

The excuses as to why they can't/shouldn't/won't are a running theme, which leaves no right answer except the one they want to hear.

When you have a board you are going to get many people with very similar histories, stories or past experiences. You may even find a few victims and survivors are all enabling each other , they often tell each other "What they want to hear" instead of "What they need to hear"

I am not saying any of their questions are invalid, or not of any importance, they are important questions! it's is the repetition of behaviour I am pointing out here.

Are they using the forums to relive or re-feel the pain? Using the forums as an excuse not to move on? is it the drama? why do their posts convey a hidden desire to be chased/phoned/stalked by the Narcissist? I had my suspicions but I didn't want to make assumptions.

I found my answer today and I admit I too have been In UltraDeb's shoes, I too have played the victim role for too long in the past. I want to be a Thriver, not a victim or survivor , but a Thriver!!!! I am not quite there yet, I am a survivor, but it is a goal I want to reach and I want my readers to be Thrivers too!

From Victim to Survivor to Thriver Chart Which One Do You Want To Be?

By UltraDeb.

When I was 21, I fell in love with the most wonderful, kind, attentive, generous, adoring, loving man I had ever met. We were so in love, we started a band together, got a joint checking account, moved in together. It was magical. We went on beachside holidays, walked under the stars, made love on the deck of a boat beneath a night sky.

Four years later, he would put the barrel of a c0cked, loaded single-action pistol to my head when I made my first serious attempt to leave him. This was the first of many times that he would break out this gun.

I would stay with this man another five years. Nothing he did over the course of nine years will surprise any of you. He pulled from the same bag of tricks as all abusers do: verbal abuse, emotional abuse, crazy-making, gaslighting, name-calling, degradation, projection, blameshifting, lying, affairs, smear campaigns, ruining holidays, sabotaging my efforts to finish college, drug abuse of literally every imaginable drug (including heroin), spending MY money in strip clubs, cheating with strippers, passing on a venereal disease to me after he picked it up from a stripper, disappearing for days at a time, destroying my things, crashing my car, tearing up my photos and birthday cards from prior relationships, manhandling me, knocking me against walls, dragging me across floors, smacking me in the head, choking me, coercing me into having sex or performing fellatio. And on and on and on.

Oh, and I should mention that ALL of these things had already happened by that fourth year, that first time I made a real attempt to leave him by packing my suitcases with only my most precious belongings while he was out at work. Needless to say, he came home early that day, and I wasn’t quite quick enough to shove the suitcases back into the closet.

He held me at gunpoint for about 45 minutes, during which time I calmly talked him down and assured him that I would not leave him. He finally unc0cked the gun, put it on the nightstand, and collapsed into my arms weeping, apologizing, and telling me how much he loved me. I stroked his head like a child while he cried. Then I cooked dinner, and later that night, we had sex. I pretended to enjoy it. I faked an orgasm. It was as if nothing had happened. I seemed to have some sort of auto-pilot function where I could snap into “Keeping the Peace” mode on command.

Naturally, I went crying to my friends and family the next day, as I often did. I had even developed a relationship with N’s mother (who had left N’s father because he was—shock!—ALSO an abuser), who always quickly consoled me after a particularly awful incident. Oh, LOTS of people felt awful for me after that incident…

“Oh, Deb, honey, he’s SO awful! And you’re SO wonderful! You don’t deserve this.”

“He’s a BASTARD, Deb. He doesn’t deserve a wonderful, intelligent, successful woman like you.”

“Deb, honey, there are LOTS of great men who would be thrilled to have a beautiful, radiant woman like you. Get away from this a$$hole!”

“Deb, you’re such a lovely, bright and talented young woman, and you don’t deserve such horrible treatment.”

“What can we do for you, Deb?”

“Let us know if you need anything…anything at all. We’re here for you.”

My friends and family (at this time) were more than generous in outpourings of love and support and “Poor Deb.”

Except for ONE friend—my closest and best friend who had known me since I was 14 (I’ll call her S). S had received more than her share of calls from me crying after the Narcissist had done this or that horrible, abusive thing. I called her, expecting more of her usual honey-dipped words of comfort and validation of how wonderful I was versus how rotten the Narcissist was. I cried, told her about the gun incident, cried some more…she remained silent on the other end. When I finished the story, I waited for her usual, soothing words. She said nothing.

“Hello? S, are you still there?”

“Yeah, I’m here,” she said flatly.


“Well what?”

“Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“What would you like me to say?”

“I don’t know…ANYTHING. I mean, what do you think? Can you believe how horrible the Narcissist is? How can he treat me like that? Especially after everything else he’s done.”

“But, Deb, you WANT to be a victim, don’t you?”


“You WANT to be victim, right? You enjoy the attention, don’t you?”

“S, how can you say that to me?!”

“Because it’s the truth, Deb.”

“Why are you saying this to me?” I cried. “How could you say something so CRUEL?”

“I’m not being cruel, Deb. I’m being honest. You’ve been doing this for more than three years, now. And I’m just trying to find some logic in your decision to stay with a guy like this, and it MUST be because you enjoy being the victim on some level. And I can no longer be one of these people who just says, ‘Oh, poor, Deb.’ It’s obviously not doing anything to help you to move on from this sick relationship. Really think about this question, Deb: You LIKE being the victim, don't you?”

I defended myself, going through the laundry list of reasons that I couldn’t leave him at this time: he’ll kill me, he’ll kill my family, we have credit cards together, we have three cats, we have joint bank accounts…excuses ad nauseam.

S finally cut me off. “DEB! I can’t do this anymore. Leave the relationship or stay in the relationship. I’m calling it as I see it, and from what I see, you NEED to be the victim. You WANT to be the victim.”

After that call, S and I would not have any contact again for almost six years—a year AFTER I would finally leave the Narcissist.

Over the next five years following this first gun episode, one by one, members of the Poor Deb Gospel Chorus gradually dropped their memberships in Deb’s Church of Self Pity and Attention-Seeking. Of course, I did not yet realize that I was the figurehead in my one-woman church. Unlike S, these other members merely disappeared, changed their numbers, became aloof and standoffish if I ran into them in public. I was no longer invited to parties or gatherings of any kind. My phone simply stopped ringing—and people stopped answering on the other end (caller ID had already been invented). I immediately brushed everyone off as “unsupportive,” “unsympathetic,” and “heartless.”

With no one left to cry to, I sought out a therapist. I found a woman who specialized in working with abused women. On my first appointment with her, she let me talk for about 30 minutes, took notes, made a lot of eye contact with me. When I finished, she leaned forward, looked me in the eye, and said, “It’s very important that you understand what I’m about to say to you.”

“Okay,” I nodded.

“Abusive men DON’T CHANGE. You have to stop making excuses, pull yourself together, and GET OUT. NOW. Stop crying, stop seeking sympathy, and stop complaining. You need to become ANGRY, and you need to GET OUT.”

That was it? That’s what $60 per hour got me? Um, WHY was this woman so highly recommended by her professional peers? I dropped her after that one session. I couldn’t believe her audacity.

Miraculously, by around year six or seven, I convinced my Narcissist to enter into couples therapy. I had found a lovely, new-agey female therapist who operated out of her lovely home. The first three sessions, I felt, went really well. I felt good about her. She was soothing and understanding and sympathetic, nothing like that tactless, harsh woman I had seen before.

Then one day, she called me. When I answered, oddly, her first question was, “Are you alone?” I told her I was. She then asked if there was any way for me to arrange to come and see her (at no charge)—secretly. Secretly?

“Don’t let the Narcissist know you’re coming to see me. It’s very important.”

“Um, okay.”

I went to her home, and she was her usual warm, radiant self. She offered me tea and cookies, and took me into a back room with zen fountains and bonsai trees. After a few minutes of small talk, she leaned forward, took my hand in hers, looked me in the eye and said, “You MUST leave this man. And NOW.”

Whoa. Was this happening? “Um, HUH? What?”

“This is going to be hard for you to hear, but I beg you to trust me. You have fallen into classic Victim Syndrome, and you are with a very dangerous man. I believe this man will kill you one day if you don’t get out of there.” For the next 30 minutes, she went on to describe how I was contributing to the dance macabre I was in with the Narcissist, how my own attention-seeking behavior was starting to border on the histrionic, and how I was mirroring the Narcissist’s behavior. She also said something to the effect that I was “enjoying” my victimhood, that I had developed a twisted sense of entitlement of my own in that if I didn’t get the attention and validation I was seeking, I would throw a tantrum like a child and cut off the very people who were trying to help me. I remember thinking, “What CHEEK this woman has!” But she was such a warm and kind lady, I sat there and took it. Before sending me on my way, she armed me with literature on abuse cycles and phone numbers for women’s shelters, police departments, social services, et cetera. As well as her private home number.

The next day, she called our answering machine and left a message saying that due to scheduling conflicts, she would not be able to keep us on as clients. The Narcissist, of course, was relieved. But she called me the next day and offered to see me individually if I so chose. Again, she begged me to leave the Narcissist, telling me there was “no hope” for him, that he was “beyond help” and that she was dropping our couples counseling because it only served to enable us to continue the abuse cycle. I thanked her, and never called her again.

Does anyone see a pattern forming here? The funny thing about patterns is that you can never recognize them until you look back at them. While you’re IN it, there’s no way to see it.

So, like an airplane in the fog, I kept a holding pattern, with still so safe place to land.

For the next couple years, although I had long dismissed S as “not a true friend,” her words, more than anyone else’s, began to resonate louder and louder: You LIKE being a victim, don’t you?

You LIKE being a victim, don’t you?
You LIKE being a victim, don’t you?
You LIKE being a victim, don’t you?
You LIKE being a victim, don’t you?
You LIKE being a victim, don’t you?

Her voice in my head became like something out of an Edgar Allan Poe tale. It was an unwelcome and uninvited mantra that refused to exit my brain. I could no longer ignore it. I started secretly attending meetings with other abused and battered women.

I also got myself into individual cognitive therapy with behavior modification. It was gut-wrenching as I slowly awakened and started realizing that I also played a role in the abuse cycle, and that it was imperative to my survival to wake up and recognize my own shortcomings, weaknesses, and bad behavior. I had become an Inverted Narcissist. I was mirroring many of the Narcissist’s terrible behaviors. I had become “victimized,” attention-seeking, drama-making, self-centered, needy, blameshifting, and insufferable. I threw tantrums, I dismissed anyone who tried to deliver any kind of tough love, and sought ONLY those who would coddle me, validate me, and shower me with attention. I had become a great big blubbering 28-year-old CRYBABY. The revelations about myself made me nauseated, disgusted, and ashamed. I knew it was true, that the Narcissist was beyond hope, but I couldn’t keep blaming him and vilifying all those who failed to coddle or validate me. I was finally forced to face myself.

Over the next couple years, I empowered myself. I continued with my meetings and therapy, returned to college and completed my B.A. in Psychology (with an emphasis on abnormal and criminal psyhopathologies, if you can believe it), started working in film and television production, moonlighted as a Dominatrix (and you wouldn’t believe how amazingly empowering that was!), and made new friends. Meanwhile, the Narcissist spiraled deeper downward into an abyss of heroin addiction, crime, and unemployment. After turning 30, I extricated myself from the SOB—and I never went back. He hoovered, he begged, he left bottles of Gaultier perfume on my doorstep, he stalked me, he threatened suicide. I told him to GO TO THE DEVIL. I called the police, filled out reports, got a restraining order, the whole Nine Yards. The one good thing about the fact that I was with him for so long (9 years total) was that by the end, I truly did HATE him. I had not one stitch of love or compassion or feeling left for him other than hate, contempt, and disgust.

Through those years of therapy and group counseling, I came to understand that the Poor Deb Gospel Chorus (although they may have meant well and truly cared about me at the time) had done little more than provide my OWN Inverted Narcissistic Supply. These people meant to help and support me, but they were really just enabling me, stroking my bruised ego, and validating my behavior. They became a part of the disturbing dance. When some of them failed to provide me with Supply, I vilified and dismissed them.

Others simply became exhausted and fed up with my nonsense, and dropped me without further explanation. At a time when I desperately needed someone to call me out on my own behavior, instead I got a chorus of, “Oh, you poor dear.” The couple of people who DID try to call me out, well, I basically D&D’d them, didn’t I? I never realized until I was well out of my own abusive situation how truly unhelpful (and even damaging) these “Oh, you poor dear” chants are. Genuine sympathy was one thing, but what I didn't need was hand-holding, coddling, and rescuing. What I needed was someone to give me a cold slap of reality, to wake me up from my delusion and hypnotic sleep of denial and blame. I needed someone to literally shame me into wanting to RESCUE MYSELF.

A year after I celebrated my one-year anniversary of being Narcissist-free, I called S. We hadn’t talked in around six years. I gave her the nutshell version of everything that had happened during that time. She started to apologize for her harshness and for “not supporting me.” But I quickly cut her off, and told her most sincerely that it was HER words in the end that snapped me out my denial.

“You LIKE being a victim, don’t you?”

Those seven words, in the end, was what it really took to pull me out of the quicksand.

We don’t always KNOW what we need, but I’m convinced that when we’re in the thick of despair, we often THINK we need one thing, when what we really need is quite another. Sometimes, you really have to suck it up and swallow that most bitter of pills to even begin to heal and change…

From Victim to Survivor to Thriver