The First Layer of Survival: The Abuse Itself
It’s been almost four years since I left an abusive relationship, and now that I’m so far removed from the pain of that abuse, it’s easy to look back and see the relationship for what it was. The man I loved more than life itself took my heart into his own hands, and he crushed it underneath his boot. Not only did he crush it, but he also left it in so many pieces that it took all this time to stitch it back together. It hasn’t been easy coming to this point, but it has been educational, to say the least.
Several months after I left him, something occurred to me: the reality of what had happened to me during that abusive relationship revealed itself to me in layers. And layer by layer, I learned something new about myself and the pain my abuser caused, but I couldn’t get there without first peeling back the first layer of narcissistic abuse.
It wasn’t long after I left him that the first layer revealed itself to me through my acknowledgment of the abuse itself. Until I could first recognize what it was, what he had done, and what I’d experience, I was going to be able to begin to heal. But it doesn’t come right away, and it’s not easy.
At first, I was in denial. It took multiple people telling me over and over again that I’d been abused. Abused? Not me! He didn’t lay a hand on me! These thoughts revolved repeatedly in my head until I began to see the truth. And after doing a lot of research, I did, in fact, finally admit that I was the victim of emotional and verbal abuse. That was the first layer—or step, if you like that word better—in beginning my walk down the path of growing out of the victim mindset and into the survivor I am today.
Once I started doing my research, I looked back on all the memories that caused me pain, and I could finally admit to myself that I wasn’t crazy or needy or making things up—like he tried to convince me several times. I allowed my hidden truth of those moments to be filtered through his lens of lies simply because I wanted to hang onto that awful relationship for as long as possible. And why? I knew deep down it wouldn’t last, but I was so afraid of how much more pain I’d endure in his absence.
It’s true. I did experience a lot of pain after I broke up with him, but it was a pain with a purpose. If you have to choose between the pain that comes with the truth or with a lie, always choose the truth. It keeps you from lulling yourself into a false sense of peace or security, because at any moment during that relationship—if I had stayed longer than I did—I could have paid with my life, my family, or my physical and emotional health. (Though, I learned later that my physical health would be forever changed because of the trauma I experienced in that relationship, but that’s a whole other topic for a different article.)
So, I urge you. If something in your current relationship doesn’t feel right, or a man or woman you’re dating signals even one red flag, pay attention to your instincts in the beginning. It didn’t matter how the good parts of him made me feel in the end because his entire mission turned into trying to ruin my life in any way possible. And in some ways, he succeeded. But like I said, that’s another topic for another time.
Keep your eyes open. Protect your heart. Listen with a cautious ear to what your loved ones are saying. These things aren’t random occurrences in nature. It’s the world telling you that things could get much worse if you don’t act sooner rather than later.
And if you need a second opinion or someone to listen to your story, contact me. If anything, my hope is that me talking about these things can help at least one person. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.