I have very low tolerance for people who play the victim. By playing the victim, I mean those who like to blame others for their misfortunes and refuse to take responsibility for their own poor choices. For example, I once dated a guy who would play his victim card anytime he needed an excuse to justify his blatant stupidity. He showed up to work hungover: "It's because my dad left when I was just a kid and I never had a good role model." Or you could just not drink to excess on a weeknight…or ever. He received an eviction notice because he hadn't paid his rent in months: "If my dad wouldn't have abandoned me I'd have someone to help me." Or you could not blow all of your money on beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets…and pay your bills instead. He had excessive ear wax buildup: "My f*ing dad never taught me to clean my ears." Or you could ask yourself what are these fancy cotton-tipped swabs for? Seriously, dude, own your sh*t. The only thing he could partially justify placing on his deadbeat dad is where he peaked on the intelligence spectrum…education and environment can only do so much to combat the effects of inferior genetics. Needless to say, that relationship didn't last long.
And so I am having a heck of a hard time writing this blog series. The whole subject matter of having been in an abusive relationship makes me queasy. I don't like portraying myself as a victim. I don't like making a grand show of placing blame on the Narcissist for the ultimate demise of our marriage. After all, there are two sides to every story. I'm sure he could give you an earful of what I nightmare I was to be married to. In fact, I could give you that same earful, because, unlike my ex-boyfriend with the earwax issue, I own my sh*t.
Nevertheless, each time I sit down to write, I have to fight off my inner voice telling me to quit whining and move on and instead remind myself that telling my story serves a greater purpose, it is a means to reach out to others who need to experience healing in their lives. As I've said in both of my previous installments, my goal in writing the Subtle Slave series is to be a voice for those who are or have endured the abuse of a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. To do so, I have to perpetually encourage myself to step out of my comfort zone in order to do what needs to be done, even if it means that I am viewed as the very thing I despise – someone playing their victim card.
In this instance, putting myself in the limelight is a necessary evil in order to achieve a greater purpose. I'm not telling my story so that others might look at me with pity and say "You poor thing, you suffered through a lot." Firstly, that's complete B.S. While it's true that my marriage was essentially a steaming pile of cow feces from the word GO, and that I felt miserable and trapped much of the time…I did not allow myself to suffer. Suffering is a state of mind. If I suffered, then I had let him get the best of me. So, except for short intervals when I was exceptionally exhausted from the fight or was otherwise hyper-emotional, I would talk myself through the pain. I would frequently give myself pep talks: "You are strong, Kristin, don't let him break you.", "You are smart, Kristin, don't buy into the lies he's feeding you.", and "You are brave, Kristin, you can stand up against him and protect yourself and your children." I wasn't looking for others to run to my rescue. I would not allow myself to be a victim.
And yet I was. No matter how much I convinced myself to be strong or smart or brave, my pep talks did nothing to stop his rapid-fire psychological warfare. He was as equally determined to pierce me as I was to be impenetrable. I could keep myself from playing the victim, yet I couldn't prevent myself from being victimized. Not until I got out.
Unlike normal, healthy relationships where allowing yourself to be vulnerable to the other person helps to create an environment of acceptance and increased intimacy, opening oneself up to a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder only serves to provide them with a storehouse of ammo that they can later use against you. It's a double-edged sword: by withholding you cheat yourself out of the possibility of having an authentic loving relationship, but by lowering your guard you only invite more abuse.
Intellectually, I know that most humans don't operate the way that persons with NPD do, so I am gradually learning to deprogram myself of the safety mechanisms I had put in place for my own sake of self-preservation. I am retraining myself to trust others. But I've got to tell you, it's scary as hell. Anyone who's suffered through an abusive relationship with a spouse, parent, boyfriend/girlfriend, sibling, etc. knows that once you've been damaged, it's hard to smooth out the dents…and even if you manage to do so, you'll never again be in show condition.
It's been over two years since my divorce and I often still find myself in warrior mode, guard up, ready for battle. Deprogramming takes work and vigilance not to fall back into the old patterns of thought and behavior. If you are a victim, former or present, it is imperative to surround yourself with people who 1) believe your story, 2) allow you to tell it, and 3) allow themselves to be vulnerable with you as well. Guarded people don't help break down the barriers of guarded people. Nowadays my personal pep talks are something along the lines of: "It's okay to trust, Kristin, your friends aren't conspiring to hurt you.", "It's okay to be vulnerable, Kristin, your friends aren't looking to prey on your weaknesses.", "It's okay to love, Kristin, your friends are capable of loving you back."
I want to extend my deepest gratitude to those who have encouraged me to tell my story, as it inspires me to press onward with my mission. And now that I have openly confessed my fear of being viewed as a buck-passer and an attention-seeker, I can move beyond yet another of my internal roadblocks. Now I can finally start to get down to the nitty-gritty of what it's like to live with a person with NPD and share techniques that I have learned along the way to combat their abusive tactics. So stay tuned, folks, because sh*t's about to get real.
Love to all,
P.S. If you are struggling to overcome your own victim identity, here are a few resources that may help…
Positivity Blog – How to Break Out of a Victim Mentality
Psychology Today – Emotional Abuse (Overcoming Victim Identity)
7-Mindsets: 7 Powerful Ways to Overcome the Victim Mindset