I was blinded by a narcissist. If you know what that is like, then you know how hard it is to get away, get free of the mental mind games and be free from an emotional vampire.
I wasn’t sure how I allowed it to happen – I was always strong-minded, strong-willed, independent and had my boundaries set. However, this particular person threw my world upside down and made me into a cowering, scared and beat down person. The psychological and verbal abuse was evident to everyone else but me.
I feel partly to blame because I was a Special Education teacher at the time. I worked with students that had emotional disturbances, learning disabilities and oppositional defiant disorder. I was used to dealing with temper tantrums and physical fits every day – getting cursed at and having classroom items thrown at me all the time. So when he did it – I found myself going into “teacher mode” where I felt I could just help him through his bouts of anger and yelling.
I had no idea till it was too late that he was using my love and affection against me – to control me. After 4 years of dating – I was able to get away. But that is where the anxiety came in. He made me afraid to leave my house. I had to switch from one campus to another, only for him to find me. I moved three times, only for him to continue to find me. I had to move into an apartment where he couldn’t see which building was mine. I bought a new car, he still found me. The protective order didn’t stop him, he still found me. He would show up at my work or at a birthday party for a co-worker or friend – and cause a huge scene, screaming obscenities at me calling me unspeakable names. Even being arrested on school property didn’t stop him. I was afraid to go to Walmart. The thought of leaving my house was crippling. I was running scared with nowhere to go and no way to protect my boys (not his) from him.
My school district helped me with a therapist and my doctor put me on anxiety medication. Each time he showed up – I would have a panic attack and pass out. I couldn’t handle it. At times, I would have rather chosen to die than to live with the constant torture and fear he instilled in me. My friends were supportive and let me ramble on and on and repeat myself crying not understanding why he wouldn’t stop. See – he had already moved on and was married to someone else. So why is he doing this to me?
The therapist had me journaling – and I did this….a lot. I went through online private journals where I could type away, sometimes at work during my breaks, I would hand write in my journals. I had at least 25 books filled with emotions during one school year. The next year, I moved classrooms and I took all my stuff home for the summer.
One night, while watching TV with my boys – I looked at them and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I went to the kitchen. I had black circles under my eyes, looking like a zombie and I was disgusted with what I saw. That was not me. That was not me. That was NOT ME!
The next day- I called the Doctor and asked to start decreasing my anxiety medication. After 3 months – I was off of them completely. Over the summer, I moved cities, school districts, cars, phones and social media. As the new school year started, I was moving my stuff back into campus and I found my journals. I didn’t realize that I had stopped. I read them and I felt STUPID. I felt ASHAMED of what a weak person I was and how I allowed someone to make me feel that way. But I also felt STRONGER. What changed that summer? I stopped listening to his voice in my head and started listening to my own again. I had to learn to love myself again. I did some cognitive behavioral therapy on myself. When I had a negative thought, I would replace it with a positive one. Every time I tried to glamorize our past, I would combat those thoughts with the truth. The panic attacks slowly decreased. I started slowly going back and doing the things that I liked to do – like having dinner with my friends. When the fear of getting out of my car struck, or I found myself looking around like an owl – I would snap the rubber band on my wrist and re-focus on the person with me. Slowly but surely it all stopped. I had to decide to make it stop and I was the only one who could control it.
Not everyone is able to do it – but I had to. I had two boys to raise and they needed the mother they had before who showed them how to be strong, know your worth, be proud, work hard and be a good person.
I finally found my husband when I wasn’t looking. It took being with Travis to appreciate Mike. Now I know what true unconditional love is – and it starts with loving yourself.
Written by: Nicole Watts