A Hell of a Break-up
One of the first things my ex wrote to me was “I will show you what broken means, and then some.”
I’m not sure whether he was referring to his damaged sense of self, the broken perception he has of reality or his non-existent soul. Whatever he meant, he has indeed shown me something broken, splitting up with him nearly broke me in return, and meeting him definitely changed me.
It wasn’t the first break-up I had in life, and it may very well not be the last one, but I can honestly say, it was unlike any other. And it wasn’t because it marked the end of the greatest love of all, a decade-long relationship, or because I had to part from the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. Not at all.
I have been, and still am, recovering from an abusive relationship with a narcissist psychopath; this type of recovery feels unlike any other and it generally takes between 12 to 24 months to get back to a good place again. You’re definitely not recovering from a lost love or a failed relationship, it is more like recovering from warfare, a Blitzkrieg.
You learn that everything you knew about this person, this relationship, every connection you felt, it was all made up, unreal, and in the end, it felt like he’s burnt it all to the ground.
Let me tell you about what happened, for anonymity purposes, let’s call my ex with a different name: Bungle (I find it a fair nickname and quite a suitable one too).
Since the beginning, Bungle introduced himself as passionate, a bright writer, an orphan, a victim and a survivor of domestic violence; he was a lonely little boy, neglected and abused by his mother and father, and then, as a young man he’d been abused by his exes (most of them apparently, which if you ask me, seems now a weird coincidence), and lately, as a man, he’s been wronged by the entire English system.
He claimed he used to be a singer, a chef, an actor, a musician, a producer, a director, but more proudly he would say he used to be a writer (and apparently still was, although I never saw him writing a single poem, story or saw any sign of the 2 books he was writing at the time. Neither did I see him reading a single book in 2 years), what a wonderful, creative lad he was! Bungle would also quite often describe himself as a generous, forgiving, loving, kind and passionate man.
I would learn for myself that he possessed neither of these qualities; definitely not kind or loving, and not passionate at all. His most intense and heartfelt response used to be “it’s ok” – unless him being sexually turned on by seeing me hurt counts as being passionate?
The truth is, after his initial love-bombing, the narcissists’ primary weapon, he slowly revealed himself for the rather unpleasant, unkind, antagonising, manipulative, patronising and rude bully he is.
It took me a few months to realise.
Anyway, he’s got quite a strategy there, and as the cliche goes, the nurse inside me couldn’t quite resist.
Are you familiar with the dynamic? New man, sad story, nurse comes to the rescue. But then, of course, normal healthy people do develop real feelings, healthy dynamics, affection, connection and normal human interaction.
If he was reading this, he’d laugh and accuse me of defaming him along with the squad of female perpetrators who have apparently been gaslighting and harassing him for a few years now.
Or perhaps he’d say that I am a bitter, resentful woman, one of those “petty witches who gather together and bitch about their exes once the relationship is over”.
I can promise you, this is definitely not what happened, I did love and support him. And when I look back at him now, I see an abusive manipulative liar, lacking in warmth, empathy and decency. I see a monster, incapable of forming healthy relationships with other humans, unless it is in a power-seeking, antagonising way.
As I mentioned before, like all narcissists do, he love-bombed me from the very beginning.
If you are not familiar with the concept, imagine you meet a man and he’s telling you all that you want to hear, at the right time, in the right way, multiple times a day, every day. Imagine that this man is telling you he has never liked anyone this way before, he feels connected to you and that he believes you could be the love of his life. He tells you that you’re perfect in every possible way and he KNOWS with absolute certainty that you are meant to be together.
He doesn’t want casual sex or random encounters like most guys you have met before – however, he is indeed offering mind-blowing sex that, as he says, it’s inevitable given our unmistakable connection. – he wants the whole package.
He tells you he wants a wife, a lover, a family, commitment.
Imagine that you have been searching for a true partner all this time, waiting to hear exactly that. Wouldn’t you have grasped the chance, or would you have not chosen to believe him?
I have to confess that I did find him a bit overwhelming and pushy (he used to call me “Johnny Browntrousers” and “spaz” for toning down our conversations, for telling him we hadn’t even met at that point, that maybe it was wise to meet up before issuing important statements about how great we were going to be together) but the end of the day he was offering all I have been looking for and I told myself, “why shouldn’t I, for once, couldn’t believe that it was my turn to be happy?”
I’ve seen all the red flags and I ignored them. My advice here is, Trust Your Guts. Always.
The right man will wait for you, will adjust to your pace. He won’t push you or challenge you right from the very beginning.
If you’re naive, trusting and perhaps vulnerable enough, you would have ended up believing him as I did. However, his stories did raise some questions, sometimes details were a bit vague, and I felt bad for noticing it and wanting to know more.
This guy was abused and survived crazy ordeals, who was I to doubt anything that has happened?
So I shut up all the voices in my head telling me to slow down, to be careful, ignored all the little signs that were telling me that there was something weird going on.
One of the first flags was when he sent me a voice message telling me “I will never lie to you baby, why should I?” – I don’t know Bungle, why should you? And why did you feel it was necessary to tell me so unless you were lying to me already?
Very soon into our relationship, out of the blue, I have been contacted by one of his exes, A. She wanted to warn me, and she happened to have split up with him for only a few weeks before Bungle and I started dating. Her message came as a shock as she’s never been mentioned (he said he felt embarrassed by the age gap between them – A was quite young – and the fact that apparently she’s been abuser #2 and “I was supposed to be the one he’s met after abuser #1” – I would like to add that although is not up to me to say anything about her, I did meet this girl, and she happens to be a lovely young woman. The complete opposite of what he’s been telling everyone).
A told me how manipulative and controlling Bungle used to be with her, how he would tell lies to manipulate people around him and get sympathy, affection and support; she told me that all women are told the same, that they’re the love of his life, that he’s been abused, that he only wants to be loved and give love (because of course, as he said to me “he had so much love to give”)
She warned me about all that I realised myself over a year later, and I wish I listened, I wish I did believe her, or at least questioned her more, asked more information, more evidence. It would have spared me a hell of a year.
Unfortunately, I didn’t.
I was in a very difficult position, as I knew him since very little, and I didn’t know her: who was I supposed to believe? I did what my mum advised: “you need to see for yourself what a person’s true character is; people tell lies and you have at least to give them the benefit of the doubt”
Turns out A’s warning was actually valid and real and Bungle ended up showing himself for what is: a narcissistic malignant psychopath, quite a misogynist, and a pathetic one.
Bungle blamed me for reading his ex-girlfriend’s message, and for asking her for proof of what she was telling me, for asking her for proof of what she warned me about, and I was punished for it. Every. Single. Day.
And I tried to make it up to him. Every. Single. Day. For over a year.
If I didn’t fall for his “hear the smallest violin playing the saddest song” or felt so guilty for “betraying his trust”, despite the massive love-bombing, I wouldn’t have accepted his behaviour or justified the constant bullying and would have left him long before I did.
You can love someone so much, but when they start hurting you badly, intentionally, and with no apology, it is time for you to leave.
The hardest thing to reconcile after a relationship like this, is the discovery that it was all fake, all a lie. Narcissist people create a fake persona, with whom they love-bomb you, mimicking your values, interests, expectations, hopes and dreams, they shower you with attention and praise, until you get into their trap.
Once you are deep in their grasp – yes, it feels like being clawed by an evil gargoyle – they will start manipulating you, in all possible ways: mentally, sexually, emotionally and psychologically.
At some point, you will actually think – as I did – that you’re going crazy and your mind will experience strong depression, anxiety, sadness and guilt even, for not being “the best version of yourself”. However, your very understanding boyfriend would just tell you that you are being stroppy and difficult because you are in your PMS and that if you treat him badly, if you are unreasonable, he cannot possibly be nice to you.
You will be put through emotional hell, drama, retaliation, constant arguments, belittlement and bullying. Are you still wondering why it takes so long to recover from this kind of relationship?
Following the initial “romance”, the relationship starts going bad, you start being a little less special, but it’s ok, because he tells you that even if it is your fault, he loves you anyway and he’s here to teach you how to be a woman, and he constantly tells you he’s forgiving you.
But pause for a moment: what should you be forgiven for? For demanding your boyfriend’s respect and for complaining when he calls you “idiot” when you don’t want to watch the same movie?
Should you be forgiven for wanting to hear from him during the day or for falling asleep watching a movie late at night? Or for not fussing around him at your best friend’s birthday?
Would you not believe, even if a little bit that you must have done something bad if you’re constantly being told: “you’re being forgiven”?
I could list dozens of examples of his mean sneaky ways that were meant to break me and upset me, he created drama when there wasn’t any, poison me with self-doubts, throwing little mean remarked here and there (like “you don’t look as pretty as you used to” or “my ex-girlfriends didn’t complain about this”). He would call his behaviour “pushing boundaries” or “pushing you out of your comfort zone” – I now call it bullying and abusing.
All that is actually happening is manipulation. Bungle manipulated and drained me whilst trying to destroy me.
His meanness reached my insecurities like water slips through little cracks. And now I know, what he meant at the beginning, he just wanted to see me break.
I could only describe this relationship as being upsetting and emotionally challenging. It would slowly get worse and worse, and regardless of how mean and sick this narcissist of a boyfriend was to me and to people around me, I believed all his lies and excused his behaviour. Wasn’t he the product of a very unfortunate beginning? Wasn’t he deserving of love? Despite his abusive behaviour, Bungle convinced me he was such a wonderful man with a wonderful soul. Wasn’t I lucky that I had a fighter for a boyfriend? Wasn’t I lucky that this compassionate man chose to love me?
I stuck around, months passed by and I kept hoping things would get better; and they did, for a day or two, and then they went bad again for weeks, then even worse, all the while I felt uneasy, like walking on eggshells; and as things went on, this became an endless cycle.
This unhealthy dynamic creates that bitch known as Cognitive Dissonance – which will make it very hard for you to move on after the breakup.
I kept asking myself so many questions: did I really let Bungle down? It felt like it. Did I really change since we met? Was I making these incredible mistakes that required Bungle’s forgiveness?
I have learnt now that the answer should have always been a loud, and clear NO.
I was the same person he met, going slightly nuts at that point, but I didn’t change. And I was still clinging to a person who didn’t exist in the first place, as the man I met on our first date wasn’t real at all.
Picking up the Pieces
After breaking up with Bungle, it took me a while to realise that I have been emotionally and mentally abused and bullied, even longer to realise I’ve been sexually abused and manipulated.
Just to be clear to all women out there, whether you’re in a relationship or not, NO means NO, and you’re entitled to withdraw your consent.
You have the right to demand respect, the right to be acknowledged and cared for. You have the right to be listened to, and when it comes to being intimate together, you have the absolute right to say NO. At any moment and under any circumstances.
And when you do, your boyfriend should never tell you that “there’s no such a thing as saying NO to your boyfriend”. You are in charge of your body, this should be respected at all times.
I said NO, and Bungle should have respected that.
How do you reconcile what is happening with what he’s been telling you all along? How could the man who loved me and whom I loved, do all he did and later on, try to convince me I was mistaken, that nothing happened, that I was crazy?
He could as he had no moral compass, no respect, and ultimately, no soul. But he’s been telling me all along that his moral compass is impeccable, that he’s kind and that he’s the ultimate victim – Cognitive Dissonance, remember?
But I shouldn’t have been surprised.
I have been warned about all that I have then discovered for myself, his lies, his abusive ways, his lack of decency.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I broke up with him. This happened during the summer, and it took me a lot of thinking as I had been pondering on the decision for months – I kept hoping things were going to change, and they didn’t. I was feeling bad for letting him down and failing him, I felt I was failing myself too but I couldn’t take it anymore, I was emotionally exhausted and on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
I wanted and deserved to be happy, to feel loved and respected and it was clear that I was with a man who didn’t envisage his future with me by his side. Bungle only wanted me to worship him, praise and glorify him, all while he would carry on his witch-hunt against women – especially his exes – masked as “campaigning against female perpetrators”.
I didn’t realise this back then, and I actually supported this goal of his 100%. Bungle would disagree and accuse me of defaming him and lying – of course, because admitting that you’ve been manipulated and abused is such an easy fun story to tell the world.
At this point, as Bungle realised I was no longer a good player in his pity me/worship me-game, a new supply (aka girlfriend) was required. To end things his way, and to punish me, he manipulated me into going back together.
Which I don’t need to tell you was the worst mistake – and it happens to be one of the narcissists’ favourite games. But could I resist his tears? He sobbed telling me I was one of the best things that had ever happened to him. How could I not believe his tears?
A couple of months later, Bungle broke up with me. Unexpectedly (considering that the day before, he was making plans with me to celebrate my birthday a
month later). He texted me, as telling me in person, would have been too
dignifying or respectful at the very least.
However, the second this relationship was over, my first thought was “finally” –
that is a good indicator, if you do feel the same way, do not fall for tears and promises. Trust your gut. Leave.
The Truth Always Comes Out
Finding the truth saved my mind.
It took me a hell of a lot of reading, digging, and learning to identify him as the narcissist monster he is and uncover the layers of lies he’s covered himself with. And there I was, reconciling all the new information I discovered, with almost 2 years worth of lies and bullshit.
I absolutely doubted my mind, and my own instincts (thanks to the daily brainwash and the constant bullshit-drilling); I really struggled in validating my own thinking and feelings and if you do struggle yourself, it’s absolutely normal. This recovery felt ever so confusing and at times, it felt impossible.
Cognitive Dissonance, remember?
At this point, you’re not with the monster anymore, but unfortunately, it’s not the end.
I was “free to be” but I had to figure out a way for me “to be me” again. And during the following months, I felt depressed, suicidal, completely worthless. The most consistent feeling was emptiness, feeling robbed and worn out.
I didn’t sleep for more than 3 hours per night, suffered from panic attacks, PTSD, developed new exciting OCD (and on this note I should thank Bungle, as my cleaning skills have gone to the next level); I felt alienated and mostly unable to relate to fellow humans in a normal healthy way.
Everything – from sleeping to eating – is a struggle at this point; but it is normal, give yourself time to adjust yourself back to normality. It is a long slow process, please allow yourself to feel and do not get stressed with yourself.
The Monster is gone: Doubts and Questions and Moving On
We have all been there, some of us have been there time and time again, and recovering from a broken heart is always difficult and painful but we know the steps it entails.
Unfortunately, no “traditional” breakup can ever prepare you for what follows a relationship with a narcissist sociopath.
You will torment yourself with the questions I have mentioned before “have I failed him?”, “was I not enough?”, “if I didn’t do that would he still love me?”
You would have spent very likely a long time with your boyfriend/husband/partner, during which you have loved and supported him, cared for him and allowed him to abuse me in more than one way.
Why was it so hard and shocking for me to believe that the man I loved and supported lied to me? How could I grieve for someone who bullied, disrespected and used me during the whole relationship with no sign of remorse?
And then you ask yourself more difficult questions:
How did you let this happen? How can you forgive yourself? Do you forgive him? And if so, how do you do that?
Recovery takes a while to start properly, it took me a few months; anything that followed this break up has been a slow up and down progress (kind of all over the place) and you cannot start healing until you have stopped grieving.
I don’t need to tell you I grieved for months, processing all that happened, dealing with all the crazy thoughts in my head, and at the same time, feeling bad for not healing quick enough.
Please don’t do that. Be patient and gentle with yourself.
You have been through hell, you made it back. But you’re strong and you will get there in time, and you won’t be alone, there is great support out there (find links here below)
This road is rockier, longer, bumpier, more confusing and difficult to walk and at this point, you’re very likely experiencing Cognitive Dissonance which I already told you is a bitch.
What helps is relying on a close friend, someone who’s been constantly and consistently there for you. This friend (or friends if you are lucky as I am) will be your constant. You will be able to rely on healthy parameters and you will slowly learn to listen to your instinct again.
You may still doubt yourself from time to time, perhaps often, but you will start feeling like things make sense again, little by little, and it will feel like seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Healing after Narcissistic Abuse is a rocky road.
To me, it felt like crawling my way back from hell (yes, yes, quite a dramatic picture, but that is really how it felt. Also, it is important to say that this recovery will not be linear at all.
I want to stress that one more time: it will NOT be linear.
Feelings come and go unwelcomed, unannounced, halfway through your healing; after a great few days, you may suddenly feel very sad again and will think you are going backwards, but you aren’t.
It is about taking one step at a time, maybe two forward, one backwards, a pause, and then again, you keep going. Don’t be harsh on yourself, this process takes time. Take this time.
You indeed feel bruised and battered, and even if you haven’t been physically assaulted, you feel emotionally raped; you’ve been touched by evil down to your deepest core and you do need time to restore your soul to health.
I felt alienated, detached from the rest of the world, and although I had lots of friends who would not leave my side, most couldn’t really grasp what I went through, and were not able to help me the way I needed or wanted them to.
Some friends, upon meeting up, were like “omg you look great, I mean, I can’t believe what happened to you but you seem to be doing so well!”
Yeah. Fucking Great.
No, not really.
Please know it is not anyone’s fault, this break up is unlike any other, and it is difficult to understand this kind of pain and journey if you haven’t been through it. Please just ask the people around you to support you the best they can, ask them to be patience, you’ll come round and behave like yourself again!
Good Days, Bad days and New Stuff
Good news! This shitty relationship and horrible breakup will bring you gifts (and crap days too – sorry, but good stuff comes as well as I am about to say)
The best gift of all will be yourself. Have you met your new self yet?
Getting in touch with my new feelings, new healthy patterns and interactions, felt like I was dating myself in a way. I was going out with a new me, a new person. A new version of myself, one that carried most of the old traits that made me, “me” but indeed a stronger and more assertive person.
I have finally found new love for time spent on my own.
Also, as I did, you will realise who your real friends are; they will gather around you and support you (and help you walking what I call “the insanely alienating emotional roller coaster” of healing after narcissist abuse)
You will lose the bullshitters – who needs these? Consider it a kind of spring cleaning; you will also make new friends!
Ad yes, you may feel and act a little awkwardly at the beginning, unsure how to trust your instincts, unsure of how to relate to them.
You will ask yourself how to find out if these new people are sincere, honest, real.
I promise you that you will be able to tell, just listen to yourself, take your time – your guts instinct have always tried to talk to you, since the beginning.
I can guarantee you this recovery will be the most important path you’ll ever walk, the most important lesson learnt in life. And, at times, more often that you would imagine, you will feel grateful that it has happened as it would have made you more determined, wiser and, I dare to say, luckier than ever before.
Some days still sucks – and it is ok. Just trust the journey and the fact that everything happens for a reason. It was a hell of a journey for me, and some days still is, but I am forever grateful for the new me I got to know; for the old friends who have constantly been by my side and for the new ones I made along the way.
It is important to mention that I got to meet the new ex-girlfriend, the one who came after me, another wonderful lovely woman, who I feel very grateful for, and close to. I felt I had to find her and help her, I did see her as “the end of my journey” – or so I told myself. I thought “If I can do something, to support her, guide her, get her away from this awful person, it would make more sense that I have gone through this awful experience”
It is not unusual to develop this urge of wanting to help the next prey. It is our compassionate nature, it is a great thing. But please, be safe, as contacting the next victim, may also expose you to your narc once again, and NO CONTACT is the best form of protection you have from his poisonous ways. If you can, do not engage in any form of communication: phone calls, messages, social media stalking, emails, meeting them in person. Avoid the whole lot (I sent a friend to retrieve some of my stuff that he didn’t return on the day we officially broke up. He’s been particularly nasty, don’t allow him to have another window to use his power)
Thanks to another wonderful new friend, we were able to support and help her, not to save her from him, but to help her with the beginning of her new journey. We share the same experience, we share many similar interests, and thanks to meeting her, I have learnt that women are indeed stronger together.
One day I wondered – what if I was taught to love my fellow women fiercely, instead of competing with them, and be jealous, this may have been a completely different experience.
However, I am grateful for the awareness that this journey sparked in me, and for showing me how resilient my spirit is. I am grateful for the kick in the ass that made me love myself more and a more compassionate person.
I have learnt that our instincts are strong and powerful, we should listen to them. I’ve learnt that I grew up in a world that taught women to compete with each other and be jealous when actually, women are stronger together, we can conquer anything, as I have found strength and comfort in getting to know wonderful females who have been fiercely supportive and ever so gentle.
Don’t be afraid to ask for support, it is not an easy journey, but please trust me when I say that this experience has hurt you and certainly bruised you, but it did not break you. It has shaped you into the new you; you are stronger and more beautiful than you have ever been and you should be proud of yourself and grateful for the journey you have gone through.
You’re made of gold, never let anyone, ANYONE, treat you like you are less than that, and remember, as tough as this journey will be, is a priceless experience that you went through for a reason.