The following is a followup article to the one I linked to in my post After Narcissistic Abuse, in which Michelle Mallon talked about how her psychopathic therapist almost destroyed her life and stole her soul.
This is an important topic, because malignant narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths are so often in the “helping” professions, especially psychotherapy. They prey on vulnerable people who come to them in desperation, hurting and wanting to trust someone. These “mental health” professionals know this. After gaining a patient’s trust, evil-intentioned and sadistic therapists like Michelle’s therapist use the things their client told them in confidence against them, or even use them to threaten or gaslight them.
I’ll only post the first part of the article, which is long. But the journey back to feeling normal from PTSD caused by abuse is sometimes a long and arduous journey. There’s no way to describe this process in just a few words or even a few paragraphs. To read the rest, you will need to click on the link to Michelle’s article, which appears at the end of this post.
Reclaiming My Life
By Michelle Mallon, MSW, LSW
In this article, Michelle Mallon discusses her healing journey following abuse by a psychopathic therapist.
Recovering from therapist abuse is hands-down the most painful experience I have ever gone through in my entire life. Healing was incredibly difficult for so many reasons, some of which make me very angry and some of which have brought me great insight. Because of the impact healing from therapist abuse has had on my life, I find it impossible not to want to reach out to others who have been hurt by mental health professionals. Some people have told me that this is because I am unable to “get over” what happened. I explain to them that there is a difference between “getting over” something terrifying and callously moving on, leaving so many others behind knowing that you were very lucky to have ever healed. (I usually say this right before I tell them what they can go do with themselves.) The reality is that for most of us trying to overcome therapist abuse (regardless of whether it is sexual, emotional, spiritual, etc.), very few other people have any idea what we are going through (even the mental health professionals we finally get up the courage to see after the abusive ones to try and pull ourselves back together). And because of that, healing can be significantly more difficult than it should be.
Just recently, I began reading the Your Stories page on this site. I was immediately reminded of the isolation and fear I felt as I tried to find my way through the aftermath of therapist abuse. I drafted a message for the Your Stories page and then I immediately felt like it was just not enough. I then asked Kristi if I could write a piece that would hopefully reach more survivors. I have found the path to healing. I don’t really know how I ever found it because, looking back, I can see just how carefully hidden the path is. I don’t know if my path to healing will be similar to yours. In the hopes that there will be some similarities, I want to identify the things that helped me find my way through this in case it can help even one survivor.
This time last year, I was just beginning to feel my “old self” returning. I was finally able to leave my house for short periods of time without having panic attacks or near panic attacks. I was beginning to be able to focus on something other than what had happened in the years before. And I have to tell you, I couldn’t have been more relieved. The truth was that for a very long time before this, I wasn’t sure I would EVER recover from what I had been put through. In fact, I truly believed I was broken beyond repair. It was the most frightened I have ever been in my life.
This year, my life is very different. I look back at the woman I was a year ago and I can see tremendous growth. However, I can also see that even as I was beginning to re-find myself under all of the manipulation and destruction I had been through, I still had a long way to go. There were times when I first started out on this journey where I was making progress, but I didn’t realize I was making progress. I would frequently begin to feel stronger only to be dealt a cruel blow of fear and confusion that would set me back for days, sometimes weeks. If I would have known then that this was how the process went, I don’t think the journey would have been nearly as frightening. And perhaps, this time next year, I will look back and see that I have continued to grow, even from this year. It’s impossible to say. This journey to healing has been nothing short of miraculous. Just when I think I have “uncovered” all of the insight this journey has to offer, I am humbled by another incredible phase of insight. I don’t know if this growth and self-discovery will ever stop. Perhaps if I viewed all of this more as a journey and not as simply reaching a destination, I would have found more peace in the whole process. But to be perfectly honest, as I started out on this journey there was nothing peaceful at all about any of this.
The truth is that the very start of my journey, like many of yours, was incredibly painful—almost unbearable at times. I felt completely lost. I really didn’t know how I had gotten to where I was, and I really had no idea how the hell to get back to where I was before. Some of the worst parts of the journey to healing after therapist abuse had to do with trying to make sense out of what happened with the abusive therapist. And because I still missed him, I was convinced there must be something wrong with me. For almost a year after I refused to see him any longer, I replayed everything that happened during the time that I knew him, trying to make sense out of what happened. I tried desperately to understand what I could have done differently to prevent the relationship from crumbling the way it did. I would look at certain aspects of what happened and think, “He must have cared about me and just lost sight of what he was doing.” And I would be at peace with that thought for a few days. And then nagging doubts would creep in, “But if that were true, why did he just leave me to fall apart on my own? Why, after I told him just how much this had harmed me, did he choose to remain silent and not help me find closure?” A person who cares doesn’t leave someone they hurt (even if it was unintentional) to self-destruct in the aftermath. It seemed like no matter which way I looked at what happened, I could not come up with a “reason” for what happened that made any sense at all. And for that reason alone I was doomed to continue to replay the events in my head, searching for an answer I might never ever find. How else could I feel safe against something like this happening again in the future? The only way I could move on was if I understood what happened and why. And the person who needed to help me understand all of that made it very clear that he had no intentions of ever helping me get to that point. And because of that, it felt like he completely controlled my recovery from this.
And then it happened. Driven by a relentless desire to understand WHY, I had searched tirelessly online for something that would help me understand what the hell happened. I had been seeing a new therapist for about nine months (and I have to tell you, doing that took all of the courage I had in my body!). There were so many times that she seemed just as confused as I was about what happened with the abusive therapist. I was trapped in a cycle of reliving everything that happened over and over again, searching for answers. It was driving me to the point of insanity. As I learned more and more about this thing called “Narcissistic abuse” I began to realize that there was a reason why I had been spinning my wheels trying to understand what happened. There are people who exist who lack any ability or desire to feel any empathy or remorse. Even worse, they lack a conscience. They can cruelly destroy people who are loving, caring and honest and not feel a bit guilt or sorrow for having done so. In fact, in many ways they appear to be “annoyed” by the fact that the people they have hurt are making such a big deal out of what happened. Even worse, they are masters at making themselves out to be victims. Oftentimes, people like these leave behind them a trail of broken bodies and wounded souls as they continue on their destructive paths.
I began to learn new words—words like grooming, gaslighting, trauma bonding and soul murder. These were words that I either had never heard before or had never truly understood until I lived them. These words—words that described things that I experienced but couldn’t put into my own words—were a vital part of my healing. Suddenly I felt a lot less alone. I knew that if someone came up with these words and the definitions that explained my story, somebody, somewhere understood.
But learning these words and reading about Narcissistic abuse was really just the start of my journey. Taking all of it in was a different story. I would frequently find myself wanting to read as much as I could about Narcissistic abuse and then I would experience times where I didn’t want to look at anything at all about it. At first I would get angry at myself because I thought I needed to go through this process a specific way and it was not always the same way that I was feeling. I would get so frustrated with myself as I would read pieces that helped me begin to move forward in my understanding of what happened, but then feel like I was moving backwards. I remember thinking that maybe I was just making myself believe that I was feeling better and that I was really not making any progress at all.
It turns out that understanding and reprocessing what I had been through happened in phases. This wasn’t like any learning I had done before. In the past, if I wanted to understand something I would read about it and integrate it into my way of seeing things. With Narcissistic abuse, there were so many “layers” of understanding that were essential to my healing that this linear process of learning that had worked for me in the past was ineffective with this. There were many times where I would read an article or a book about healing from Narcissistic abuse and feel as if I had taken all of the important insight that the piece had to offer. And then later, I would stumble upon the work again and be shocked that there was insight in it that I hadn’t noticed before. It wasn’t that the piece had been edited. It was because my brain was allowing me to take in more of the picture of what I had been through. That brain of mine, that part of me that I thought had surely been destroyed in the abuse, was actually guiding me carefully through the process of slowly taking in what I could handle. In fact, I can remember times where my brain would almost “compel” me to read more about Narcissistic abuse and times where it would want to do anything other than reading about Narcissistic abuse. I slowly learned to listen to my brain and do what it seemed to be urging me to do whenever it would do this.
And there was another aspect to understanding what I had been through. As I began to understand what my abusive therapist had put me through I began to realize that I had seen this kind of abuse before in my life. In fact, many adult survivors of Narcissistic abuse eventually come to learn (if they can find the path to healing) that they have been primed by previous Narcissistic abuse to tolerate later Narcissistic abuse. For me, like so many other survivors of this type of abuse, I found myself not only healing from one emotionally destructive relationship, but several. The grief was overwhelming.
Perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of the abuse that I had tried to understand was where in the relationship with the abusive therapist that things went wrong. For a while, I believed that the therapist had somehow changed, since he seemed so competent for a long time before the abuse actively began. And I found myself searching for some point in time where I should have stopped trusting him. I think I believed that knowing this was important so I could have understood at what point my “screaming gut” was right. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine pointed something out to me that I hadn’t thought of before. He told me that there wasn’t any point in time when I should have trusted the abusive therapist. He said to me, “Michelle, he’s a predator. The only reason why he seemed so competent and trustworthy for so long at first was to gain your trust so he could effectively lure you away from your comfort zone. Tell me, would you have allowed him to say many of the things he said to you if he had started the relationship out doing that? No, your inner alarm bells would have been going off like crazy.” This was a pivotal moment for me because I had not given any thought at all to this possibility. I would never imagine hurting someone like that. It was finally starting to click in my head that I didn’t understand what happened for a reason. In fact, I never saw any of it coming because I never imagined anyone would ever treat another human being like this. My own profound compassion and deep empathy for others was something I assumed everyone else had. I am finding that many survivors of this type of abuse “suffer” from the same naiveté because of their own inner compassion and empathy.
Read the rest of Michelle’s story here: http://www.survivingtherapistabuse.com/2015/03/reclaiming-my-life/
Also, please read this article: 50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy or Counseling.
If your therapist does any of these things, they are red flags. Be wary or find another therapist.