“An Open Letter to My Abusive Husband”

divorcing_abusive_husband

A very courageous woman named Samantha wrote this “open letter” to her abusive, narcissistic husband which appears on her blog The Narcissist’s Wife, which I recommend for anyone trying to divorce or leave a narcissist.

Her “open letter” had me on the edge of my seat because it’s so triggering and fits right in with the article I just posted about “Daniel.” Narcissists all follow the same rulebook: Idealization and promising you the world, followed by The Devaluation and finally straight up abuse.

I am only posting the first part; to read the whole article there is a link to read the rest on her blog.

An Open Letter To My Abusive Husband…
By Samantha Matthews / July 22, 2015

Things were bad right from the start, but I was too young and naive to see it. That’s why you picked me, isn’t it? I was so trusting, and innocent. I had no idea you were broken, no idea our relationship wasn’t normal. I believed you when you told me I was messing up, and I didn’t question you. You could control me, keep me at arms length, and enjoy all the effort I gave into making our “relationship” a success.

And then, one day, I started to notice. Notice how controlling you are, how you turned everything I had issues with back on me, and how you never admitted you were wrong. I notice how you never listened to me on anything, and would later tell me the same truth after you heard it from another source. I noticed how you discounted my opinions and called me a hypochondriac whenever I felt sick. I noticed how you kept me separate from your friends and your social life, and resisted any efforts on my part to make couple friends we could hang out with together.

I noticed how you left me to grieve my grandfathers death alone, and didn’t give me so much as a hug. I noticed how you hid my engagement ring and let me search frantically for an hour before you told me you had it, and how you thought that was funny even though I was in tears.

I noticed how you lied to your friends, your boss, and your family, easily and without a good reason, just because you didn’t feel like doing something. I noticed when you told me about the drugs you did for the entire time we were dating/engaged, how you changed when you stopped doing them. I noticed that I never even knew you had been lying to me then. And how you thought that that revelation shouldn’t change a single thing in our marriage.

I noticed when you complained about how boring the hospital is while I was recovering from having our first child and pushed me to rush us home, and how you discounted all my pain and discomfort during my second pregnancy even while I was working 6 days a week at our business and taking care of a four year old.

I noticed how you never helped me in our business, even as you yelled and raged at me for how poorly things were being run (in your opinion) and how I needed to do more at the shop. I noticed how even when you committed to doing something, I ended up being the one to take care of it. And I noticed how you took and took and took money without contributing at all. To the extent that we ended up having to close the doors. I noticed how you blamed me for that too.

I noticed how you have discounted, dismissed, and mocked all of my accomplishments over the last 13 years. How you tell me the things I’ve done don’t count because they weren’t as good as what someone else did. You tell me I don’t follow through with anything, but you sabotage my efforts and make me feel horrible, and then throw it in my face if I do anything different than what you would do.

I notice how you talk about people behind their backs and say horrible, judgmental things about them. And I checked your phone, I saw how you say those same things about me too. How you mock me and only refer to me as the wife, as though I am not anything more. I notice how you put me down in public and deliberately humiliate me in front of our friends, in order to tell a story or try and make yourself look good.

Read the rest of her article here:
http://www.narcissistswife.com/an-open-letter-to-my-abusive-husband/

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Godzilla and the gazelle.

wedding

The other day I was cleaning the home of one of my regular customers. I speak to this woman casually, but she loves to talk and always does the bulk of the talking while I mostly remain quiet and make polite noises where I think they need to be.

I can tell this woman, Heidi, is terribly lonely and desperate for someone–anyone–to talk to. I’m not the best person to engage in small talk with, but I try to for her sake, because she seems to need adult companionship even more than she needs her house cleaned (which, truth be told, doesn’t seem to be her #1 priority).

When I first met Heidi, she screamed Victim. Not in a bad, manipulative way, but there was a strange sadness about her that I recognized right away. She seemed so desperate for love and acceptance. She’d ramble on about her religion (she’s a biblical Christian) and her love for birds. She purchases bags and bags of bird food to give to the outdoor birds that populate the thick grove of trees that surround her home.

She is also a hoarder. She had no furniture to speak of, but never throws anything away and keeps ordering stuff from QVC or wherever she orders from–useless things no one needs that she is always trying to give away. She loves to make herbal remedies herself at home using various herbs, and there are bottles and jars of strange concoctions all over her house.

There is a sadness in Heidi’s eyes that her smile and cheerful manner can’t hide. So I wasn’t surprised when she told me that she was divorced and in hiding from her abusive ex husband, who she told me was abusive in every way it’s possible to be abusive. He had left her with nothing, but he continues to stalk her. He drinks heavily. They never had children.

Heidi’s demeanor is sweet, almost naive, although she’s seen more than anyone should ever see, and experienced abuse so horrendous she could have been a war veteran. She even has scars to prove it. Once she showed me the weltlike scars on her back and chest from when he had beat her repeatedly.

sad_angel

I noticed on her small bookshelf are books about PTSD and major depression; the rest are religious books, books of daily affirmations, and several Bibles. She said she was never religious until after her divorce, when she realized how evil the man she had been married to was. Jesus was her only comfort.

Heidi only has a few pictures gracing her plain white walls. The one that takes center stage, placed lovingly in the middle of her living room mantel in a gold-toned embossed frame, both mesmerized and disturbed me. It showed her as a younger woman (but not looking much different) at her wedding. Her smile is radiant and her blue eyes are glistening with happy tears. She was the bride every man dreams of marrying, the bride every mother dreams that her daughter will become. She trusted the man who faced her. She loved him. She looked into a future that promised happiness, security, comfort and a family.

She got none of those things.

I could tell immediately the man in the picture, the man who became her husband, was at the very least a malignant narcissist and very possibly a psychopath. It was his face and body language that gave him away. He too gazed into his wife’s face, and he held her arm, but the odd thing was the way he held his body at a distance from hers. As Heidi leaned forward, he almost seemed to be recoiling from the love she was feeling. He looked stiff, as if he was playing a role. But even more telling was the man’s face. There was no love in his eyes, no warmth, not even liking for Heidi. His eyes appeared cold and dead–small pinpoints of glittering gray-blue that were as absent of emotion as a doll’s eyes. And his smile–if it could be called that–was a smirk. The overall feeling I absorbed from looking at the two of them was a predator who had just captured his prey and was preparing to rip his kill to shreds to be consumed the way a lion rips apart a gazelle he intends to eat.

trapped

Although the picture was taken years ago and she is safely away from that man, I felt afraid for her looking at that photo. My heart felt as if someone had packed it in ice cubes.

Even sadder is that Heidi still appears to be in love with that evil POS, keeping their wedding photo on the living room mantel with two vases of flowers on each side of it, as if it’s a shrine to what they never had.

Looking at that photo made me realize just what the vulnerable of this world–people like Heidi–are up against when they fall in love with narcissistic predators. I hope one day she can move on emotionally and stop loving a man who nearly destroyed her mind and soul, and caused her so much suffering.

The point of no return.

u_turn

Last night Fivehundredpoundpeep disagreed with a post I wrote, saying that people who chose narcissism reach a point of no return when become thoroughly evil. She has religious reasons for this view (“reprobate” is a religious term that means the person even while still alive is destined for hell because God has turned his back on them due to their bad choices). While I don’t share her literal biblical beliefs in certain damnation for some (I believe this is from Calvinist thought), I agree with her that most narcissists do get worse with age and many reach a point of no return, where they become so hardened they have no hope of changing-and I do agree this change is due to a total selling out of whatever conscience they may have had, if they ever had any. I have seen this up close and personal with my ex, who is a frightening example of someone who completely sold his soul, for lack of a better phrase, to the devil. All Cluster B personality disorders have a spiritual as well as a mental component, but narcissism is a slippery slope into inescapable darkness and misery.

When I married my ex in 1986, he was definitely a narcissist but lower on the spectrum than he is today. While still being abusive and extremely manipulative, he did have moments where he showed what I believed was genuine goodness. He was actually a good father to our two children–at first. In fact, he was more patient with them as babies than I was. It was later that he began to scapegoat our son (who like me, is highly sensitive and able to see through his father) and started to use our daughter as a sounding board for his own problems when she was still just a child as well as a junior flying monkey against me and her brother.

I’m not entirely sure when he crossed the “point of no return” but it seemed to be between 1997 and 2001, during the time his mother lived with us before entering a nursing home. This is when I believe he became thoroughly evil and it was because of the way he treated his ailing mother.

His mother was a thoroughly malignant narcissist who was very abusive to my ex while he was growing up. She too became worse with age, but in the late 1990s, she developed Alzheimers and could no longer live alone, so we brought her to our home where an eye could be kept on her. As malignant as she was, she was losing her faculties and her mind and it would have been inhumane not to try to help her.

Most of her care fell on my shoulders, a difficult thing because my kids were still very young and I was trying to raise them too. I was also suffering from severe depressions during this time due to my ex’s increasing abusive behavior as well as his heavy drinking and drug taking, for which I had to be hospitalized twice. So you can imagine I wasn’t the most patient caregiver, especially because his mom could still be so unlikeable. It was hard for me to not become angry with her. I tried to control this, but found it so hard, especially when she began losing control of her bowel and bladder. Every day I was confronted with messy bedding because she kept pulling off her diaper and would fight me or start crying whenever I went to change her. I was never cut out to be a nurse, but this was too much and there were those times I’d yell at her in frustration.

old_woman
Unknown artist.

My ex hated his mother, but did not want to put her in a nursing home due to the expense. Of course anything I had to say about the matter fell on deaf ears. He had actually made her sell her house when she moved in with us and obtained a power of attorney so the money from the sale was in his name (the money was gone within one year). I never felt this was right but admit I enjoyed having more money, so I never said anything to him about it being wrong. While what he did wasn’t illegal, it was extremely unethical and selfish. While his mother’s immediate needs were taken care of, he had complete control of the money and most of it did not go for her care and went for luxuries for us instead. I always felt badly about this and for years felt like my sin of overlooking this would never be forgiven. (Recently I repented and know I have been forgiven but it still bothers me sometimes).

But enough about that. My ex was increasingly abusive to her while she lived with us, and reached a point where he became physically abusive and would spank her like a bad child–IN FRONT OF MY CHILDREN! As awful a mother as she was to him, she did not deserve this. Whenever I brought up how wrong his behavior was, he said he had a right to treat her that way because she was such a horrible mother. He said it was karma. Not once did he ever admit he was wrong. After a while, my bad case of narc “fleas” became so bad I began to join in the abuse–not hitting her, but I stopped trying to defend her and began to think maybe his spanking her wasn’t really wrong. After all, she did act like a naughty three year old. I didn’t know it, but I was suffering a form of Stockholm Syndrome, where a victim begins to identify with their abuser and make excuses for their bad behavior. Still, I begged him to put her in a nursing home but he still refused.

It was during this time he began to grow pot in our outbuilding, and his immoral behavior ramped up a few notches. He recruited our 8 year old daughter to water the plants and watch out for cops! I couldn’t believe he would do this, but I said nothing because nothing I said ever was taken seriously or I’d be belittled for bringing it up. He also started to hit my son, and berate and belittle him constantly. All this was new for him. Before his mother had moved in he had never been physically abusive to our children and stayed away from alcohol and drugs. Now he was drunk or high most nights and began to change into a person I was becoming extremely afraid of. His look became harder and colder, and he was rarely affectionate anymore. His eyes became very cold, almost demonic at times. Both of us had affairs (I’m not proud of this either because I was actually worse than him). I was mentally ill myself due to the abuse but this doesn’t excuse the part I played in this whole mess of a marriage.

In 2000 his mother developed cancer and after her hospitalization, finally entered a nursing home. We hardly visited her at all but whenever we did, he would tell the kids how stupid and horrible his mother was and encourage them to insult and demean her. He told them she deserved the way he treated her because of the way she had treated him.

She died in January of 2002 and to this day, my ex never went to pick up her ashes.

It was during these five years from 1997-2001 that I saw my ex change from a person who could sometimes be nice and was often a lot of fun into a monster who appeared to have no emotions at all or any empathy for anyone else. Looking back, I think it was because he crossed a line from “mere” malignant narcissism into full blown psychopathy brought on by continual abuse of his helpless mother. Yes, his mother was a highly malignant narcissist herself and his hatred of her was understandable, but no one with a conscience would have treated her the way he did when she became ill. It scares me to think how close I came to becoming evil myself, because of my collusion with him in this horrible abuse. For the past few days I have been struggling with the evil I see in myself, and as a borderline, I’m so close to being a narcissist anyway. There were so many times while I was with him that I flirted with turning my back on everything good and right. I’m having a rough time accepting this and forgiving myself. But that’s for another post.

From 2002-2004 our marriage continued to worsen and the psychological abuse grew worse (not the physical, because he stopped drinking and he was only physical when he was drunk). We obtained a divorce but in 2006 I made the mistake of allowing him to move in with me. By this time he was parasitic and refused to work. I’ve written about this elsewhere.

walking_indarkness

Today I see no goodness in him at all. I’ve never seen a person so filled with hate and rage. His conversation is always sarcastic, biting, and negative. He never has anything positive to say and spends most of his time trolling political websites and getting high. He’s not out there committing violent crimes, but he’s a person who seems to have no soul. The rare times I do see him (I avoid this as much as possible), I can’t even look him in the eyes because they’re so dead and empty. I’m afraid just looking into them can infect me with his evil. Our daughter unfortunately is still in thrall to him, and I pray all the time she will be okay. I’m afraid further close contact with him can destroy her soul the way it almost destroyed mine, and she’s halfway there already, showing a number of narcissistic traits. Like me, she has a really bad case of “fleas.” I can’t keep her from seeing her father though. She is an adult and I have to accept that I can’t make her choices for her.

While it’s very sad to see a person so thoroughly gutted spiritually, I have no sympathy for my ex. I do have sympathy for the little boy he used to be, but he died a long time ago.

My son, who was scapegoated by his father, seems to be the most mentally healthy person in the immediate family. He does have some anger and self esteem issues (don’t we all?) but he is strong and determined to escape the fallout of the family illness. I am so proud of the man he’s becoming.

Lies my narcissists told me.

lies_honesty

I was told many lies about myself while growing up within my my FOO (family of origin). I have no doubt this had everything to do with my developing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD), and lifelong severe anxiety.

Why personality disorders are so difficult to cure.
Personality disorders (PD’s) are formed very early in life, normally before the age of six–which is the reason they are so hard to cure. Because the child’s personality is still in a malleable state (meaning it hasn’t fully formed) until around age 5, PD’s become an integral part of the personality and therefore can be extremely difficult to eradicate because they were formed so early the child doesn’t believe it’s a problem, just the way things are. Their misery seems normal to them. They know nothing else.

Of course some PD’s are more amenable to treatment than others, and sufferers of some PD’s, such as Avoidant, Dependent, and sometimes Borderline, are much more likely to seek treatment than those with, say, ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), NPD (narcissism), or Schizoid PD.

Lies I was told growing up.

sensitive_people
As the family Scapegoat (and occasional Golden Child which I’ll explain later in this article), here are some of the lies I was told while I was growing up:

“You’re too sensitive!” — This one’s the Big Kahuna for many of us ACONs, especially if we’re also HSPs (highly sensitive people) by nature. “You’re too sensitive” isn’t so much a lie as it is a verbal twisting of a wonderful gift and ability to see the Truth into something…more resembling an embarrassing defect. Narcissistic lies sometimes appear in the form of turning something good into something shameful and bad, and vice versa.

“You have no sense of humor.” (see above)

“You don’t really want that.” (the parent is telling the child what they really think–this will just cause confusion and identity issues for the child)

“No one wants to know how you feel.” (so we learn to swallow our pain and lock up our emotions)

“You cry too much.” (I had to unlearn this–unfortunately I unlearned it too well and now find it difficult to cry even when I know I need to)

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” (invalidation and devaluation)

“You know you don’t really think that.” (massive mindfuckery)

“You don’t really want to join the swim team. You know you don’t like competition.” (see above–the real message here being “you are a weak, pathetic, scared loser” to really drive the message home)

“You’re too fat/heavy/even ‘obese’ (I was never more than 120 lbs at 5’4” as a teenager)

“They don’t like you because you’re always so unpleasant to be around.” (Real nice)

“You never smile and it makes your face look unpleasant.” (Fake Narc smiles look even more ‘unpleasant’)

“You read too much.” (okay…would it be better if I snorted Smarties instead or went around throwing rocks through the neighbors’ windows?)

“You know you’re not really good at that.” (whenever I wanted to try something I hadn’t tried before)

“You know you can’t do that, let me do it.” (I wanted to wash the dishes when I was 6)

“You’re too idealistic” (mmmkay…and that’s a bad thing?)

Because I was raised as an only child (I had half-siblings who did not live with us), I also served as the Golden Child. So I also heard lies like,

“They’re just jealous of you because you’re prettier than they are.” (even as a first grader, I knew this was bullshit).

child_on_pedestal

“They’re just jealous of you because you’re smarter than they are.” (my grades weren’t much above average, in spite of having a high IQ)

“You are more talented than they are.”

“We have better genes than those other people.” (Narc genes?)

“You come from a better family than your friends do.” (I call bullshit on that.)

You were the best dancer in the school play.” (I have two left feet and even my dog would have known that was an outrageous lie).

It doesn’t stop when you go No Contact.

flying_monkeys

These are some of the lies told about me by my mother to her sycophants (the ones I’m aware of):

“She’s a loser just like her ex-husband” (Nice.)

“She always makes such terrible choices.” (True, but there were extenuating circumstances at those times she would never understand)

“If only she had done what I told her.” (If only I had had the courage to take a few risks-I am extremely risk-averse)

“If only she had listened to me.” (Again, if only I had taken a few risks and not been so afraid of my own shadow)

“She’s a nothing.” (I guess that’s why people tend to always talk over me, look through me, and never hear what I have to say in group or social settings–where I FEEL like a nothing)

“She was ruined by her ex” (this is a half-truth…but RUINED? Really? Let’s tone down the hyperbole, shall we?)

“She will always be poor.” (and the poor are always with us, right?)

“She will never achieve anything.”

“She can never stick with anything.” (This has actually been true but has gotten a lot better)

“She has mental problems.”

“She is sick in the head.”

Ad nauseam…

Conflicting messages as Scapegoat/Golden Child

ConflictingMessages

Black-and-white thinking (idealizing/devaluing) and outrageous contradictions prevailed in my FOO.
As both Scapegoat and Golden Child, I was receiving two sets of messages (sometimes both at the same time), such as, “You know you don’t really want that, because you’re too sensitive, you hate competition and you are smarter than they are.”
I think you get the idea.

Being raised with conflicting sets of messages and being treated as beloved/rejected child at once was incredibly crazymaking.

Borderline Personality Disorder (or even narcissism!) and Avoidant Personality Disorder (I have both BPD and AvPD) both seem like logical, almost sane reactions to having been raised with two conflicting sets of messages–I was either all bad or all good, with no in between.

And finally, it doesn’t end there. Raised by narcissists, I married one even worse. A narcissist so malignant he made my parents look like empathic light beings in comparison. I was trained to be Supply and was WAY too good a student. If awards were given for Learning How to Be Narcissistic Supply, I would have been valedictorian.

Lies my psychopathic narcissist ex-husband told me.

gaslighting

Following are the lies my malignant narcissist sperm donor told me about myself and also told all the flying monkeys he had succeeded in turning against me (some of who included my friends) over 28 years. This led to my PTSD and clinical depression (where I had to be hospitalized for suicidal ideation). Most of these were projections of his own character flaws onto me.

“You are selfish/self-centered.”

“You always overreact to everything.”

“You never listen to me”

“You don’t care about me or my problems.”

“You have no empathy for me.”

“You are narcissistic.”

“You are becoming just like one of them” (he was referring to Republicans, who he hates)

“Oh, so now you’re living the high life?” (when I took in a roommate while he was homeless)

“You are a b**ch, c*nt, Tw*t, whore.”

“You are stupid.”

“You have no common sense.”

“You’re insane.”

“There’s something wrong with you.”

“You’re just like your family–all crazy.”

…as well as a constant barrage of hateful sarcasm at my expense, whether there were people present or not. If I objected to this mean spirited “humor,” I was told–WHAT ELSE???–I was “too sensitive” or “have no sense of humor.”

Because of having grown up in the midst of a labyrinthine web of lies, and then marrying into another one, I have always valued Truth. That’s why I put a premium on complete honesty, at least in my writing.
Not that I don’t ever lie–we all do, it’s part of the human condition. But I am very aware of dishonesty when I see it and won’t hesitate to call it out in others.

A culture of abuse.

It looks like these are the “official” attitudes toward women by fundamentalist Muslim men in places like Afghanistan.

islam_women

I realize not all Muslims believe this, just the most fundamentalist sector. It’s like they live in the 14th century. It’s been speculated they ARE living in the 14th century–Islam is a young religion, compared to Christianity, which held similar attitudes toward women during the Middle Ages. I can’t even imagine survival in such a culture.

Even people who are not psychopathic can embrace such attitudes if they are led to believe a certain group of people aren’t really human. In fundamentalist Islam, women are thought of as objects, not human, which justifies the men’s abusive treatment of them.

Serial killers and abusers in general do not think of their victims as human. In war, soldiers can be brainwashed into thinking of the enemy–even women and children of the enemy–as something other than human, and that justifies killing them. It was attitudes like this that led so many Germans to embrace Hitler’s beliefs about the Jews and other targeted groups, such as homoesexuals and the mentally deficient.

“Constant Supply”: the narcissist’s wife

This is the name of another blog I just found. I haven’t read much on it yet, but it looks intriguing, so I’m adding it to my blogroll too.

http://www.narcissistswife.com/

Yes Virginia…evil people really do exist. Don’t think–run!

evilpeople

Those of us in an active relationship with a psychopath usually either don’t see or choose to ignore how purely evil these characters are–and that they are set out to destroy the relationship, the victimized person, and even the children if there are any involved. Many times a victim feels like they can’t leave, especially if they don’t have financial resources (which is often the case when a person is enmeshed with a psychopath, who may have made any funds impossible to access), a supportive family to help them escape, or there are children involved.

Like most women (and men) enmeshed in a marriage or relationship with a psychopath, I waited far too long to leave my abuser. My son, although scapegoated by his father through most of his childhood, escaped relatively unscathed (although he has some anger and self esteem issues), but my daughter is another story. She was deeply damaged by her father’s manipulations and by having to play the role of his junior “flying monkey” and participate in his triangulation and gaslighting games when she was just a child and young teenager, not to mention being introduced to things a youngster should not have to deal with: drugs, alcohol, family violence (and even possible sexual abuse, though this has never been proven). She’s taken on a few of his narcissistic traits (she’s good at manipulation and isn’t always honest), although narcissism is to some extent genetic and her symptoms don’t seem to be too severe. She is also bipolar and suffers from C-PTSD, as I do.

For many years, I didn’t even see that he was an abuser. He wasn’t usually physically violent (except when drinking); his method of abuse was much more subtle–and more diabolical than that. I didn’t know what hit me and like most abused spouses, learned to blame myself and came to believe the discord was MY problem, because I “overreacted to everything” and was “crazy and unstable.” Having to spend time in a mental facility in the late 1990s was “proof” that I was the one with the mental problems–and in fact I did have serious mental problems, but they were brought on by my mind being played like a violin by a very evil man. He was a virtuoso crazymaker.

buddha

Other people saw how evil he was and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see it too. I remember a friend of mine from work came over once with another friend when Michael was home, and while he was pleasant enough to them, neither of these friends ever wanted to come to my home again. When I asked Holly (one of the friends) why not, she said, “I don’t like your husband and neither does Teresa. He gave us the creeps, there’s just something not very nice about him.”

Parents of two of my daughter’s friends had met Michael, and would not allow their children to come to my home because of him. Oh, he was always on his best behavior with adult visitors, but one of the mothers told me, “he seems perfectly polite, but I just don’t feel comfortable around him and don’t want my daughter around him. I’m very sorry.”

I saw the evil in him on one occasion while we were still married–and what I saw scared the shit out of me. It was one night when he was very drunk, we had been fighting all night and ended it by having sex. The sex was rough and angry though, and suddenly I looked up and saw a totally expressionless face. There was no love there, just pure hatred. I could feel the hate emanating from him. But worse than that was his eyes. Normally a steely gray-blue, they had turned solid black, very similar to the solid black eyes demons in horror movies have. I know I wasn’t imagining this–what I was seeing was what he really was but kept hidden. No, not a demon, but something worse–a person with no self, a person who had sold his soul or never had one. There was nothing there, and nothingness is what evil actually is. That’s why malignant narcissists and psychopaths need to wear masks, to cover up what isn’t there.

Michael knew I had seen it, and knew I knew, because he immediately ended the intimacy, pulled on his clothes, and left the house, but not before giving me the most hateful sneer I had ever seen.

jesus

My father had talked to him one night during one of our many fights. Now my father has never been a particularly religious man and never believed in Satan or hell, so he didn’t say anything about this to me at the time, but years later, after Michael and I separated, he confessed that night he had heard Michael speaking in a low, gutteral, demonic voice. It scared him so much he decided to read M. Scott Peck’s book,”People of the Lie,” and after he was done he sent me the book. I was riveted by the book and also shocked and scared to death. That was the first time I began to realize that I had been dealing with a malignant narcissist who was dead set on destroying me and my children and almost succeeded.

People outside the relationship–casual friends, mothers of my children’s friends, and my father had all seen immediately what he was, but because I was enmeshed and had young children, I couldn’t see it–or refused to. It gives me chills to this day to think I spent 28 years in the presence of pure evil, but that’s what it was. I’m lucky to be alive today and even luckier that I didn’t completely lose my soul. My children are lucky too, although my poor daughter is the most deeply damaged by him and may never fully recover.

If you are in a relationship and others are wary or uncomfortable around them and can’t explain why, or you see the countenance of pure hatred and evil that I did (and also the solid black eyes), run away as fast as you can. If there are kids, take them with you. You may think you can’t, but even if you don’t have a supportive family or are financially unable to find another place to live, most towns and cities have services and even shelters for abused women and their children. The shelter I stayed at with my kids was very nice, and the counselors were wonderful (I went back though). If you are a man, it may be more difficult to find this kind of help, and you might have to dig a little deeper or even move to another area to find services, but they do exist. Take advantage of the government programs that still exist–food stamps, Medicaid for the kids, in some communities even housing vouchers. Churches and other charitable organizations have limited funds, but may be able to provide some food, help with bills, or other services. Seek counseling–many communities have free or low cost mental health services for abused parents and their children. Don’t worry that you have to move out of that big house you bought together, or that your kids will be without their father (or mother). This is life or death–don’t think about what you’ll be losing because at the end of the day, it won’t be much. Just get the hell out.

lincoln

Waking up from the nightmare

Woman Looking at Reflection

So after 28 years of narcissistic abuse I finally felt free. Before, even though there were periods where we hadn’t lived together, I never felt completely free of Michael’s toxic influence. But my daughter Molly and I were quite literally survivors and both of us had psychic wounds that ran deep and would take years to heal, if they could ever be healed at all.

My job (which I still have) doesn’t provide health insurance so I couldn’t afford to pay for a trauma therapist, but I started reading everything I could about NPD and PTSD/C-PTSD (the type of PTSD that’s associated with abuse). Molly still didn’t want to go to therapy but was still getting her meds for Bipolar and she was in a fairly stable relationship and was no longer getting into trouble the way she used to. She was also beginning to understand why I did some of the things I did and acted the way I had, and I learned she too had a lot of anger toward Michael.

But things were not perfect between us either and we did continue to argue from time to time, and when she was angry, she liked to bring up the fact I had given up custody of her to DSS even though at other times she says she understood it was the only thing I could do at the time and it did save her life. So I don’t let those occasional attacks bother me too much. I know it’s manipulation. Sometimes I think she may have NPD herself, but she does have a conscience and empathy so more likely she just has narcissistic traits which are common people with Borderline PD.

So in March I had to go to court and testify against Michael in order to obtain a permanent restraining order (the one that was issued at the magistrate was good for only 1 month). I was working with an organization that helps abused women and their families, and they counseled me on what to say in court. It was ridiculous I had to jump through all these hoops just to obtain a piece of paper to keep a man I wasn’t married to anyway away from me and my property, but it was what it was.

I knew I had a good case and no reason to be worried but I was still terrified of having to face him in court. Michael is very glib and has a lot of charm when he wants something. He can make himself sound like a victim and make the other person sound like the devil himself. He managed to be surviving pretty well in the men’s shelter, although he told Molly when he saw her how much he hated it and wanted to come back. He also made her go buy him things, which she would do. She felt guilty and caught in the middle between the two of us. It wasn’t fair to her.

Ethan came to visit in early March (on his way from Illinois to his new apartment in Florida–he graduated college in January and is is seeking work in film editing or something related). He wanted to make sure Michael was not going to show up. I assured him he wouldn’t. We had a fantastic time, but he said when he tried to call his father, Michael didn’t want to see him. For some reason he thinks Ethan was the one who convince me to kick him out of the house. No matter how much he’s told Ethan had nothing to do with it, he still blames him for brainwashing me. Huh? Talk about blame-shifting.

I had to write everything I wanted to say in court because I knew my mind would go blank when I had to get up at the stand and talk about why the restraining order should be extended. The big day was in mid-March. Several other cases were heard first and I avoided looking behind me because I knew he was there. I could feel his eyes burning holes into my neck. Finally I was called to the stand and presented my case. I didn’t cry (because it’s really hard for me to cry anymore) but I was trembling and my voice was shaking from fear. The judge had to keep asking me to speak up. I studied her expression but it gave nothing away.

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Michael was called up after me and gave a ridiculous story about how Molly had hit him first and he gave her a black eye in self defense (which is total BS because he didn’t have one mark on him). He gave some other lame
“reasons” why he needed to move back but since he really didn’t have a good reason, they didn’t fly with the judge. In fact, he was almost laughable and seeing the manipulation from more of a distance now, he seemed so transparent. Although I hated him, I almost felt sorry for him.

I won my case and the restraining order was extended for one year. The counselor from the women’s organization that had been working with me gave me a validating hug. I went home feeling lighter than I had in a long, long time.

Michael wasn’t done with me yet, but since I was no longer supplying his narcissistic goodies, his attempts at revenge were rather lame. He did things like trashing me on Facebook, saying what a horrible wife and mother I was and how he wished he never met me. He threatened suicide over and over again. I was kind of embarrassed for him, but because of it I stopped using Facebook, which I wasn’t using much anymore anyway because my mother and other family members had found me there (even though I had changed my first name a little to throw them off).

I had to adjust to my new life. For several months I just tried to take things easy, not get involved in too many new things. I read a lot of books, mostly about NPD, malignant narcissism and personality disorders in general. I read a lot of other books too, and started researching all these disorders online and reading a lot of blogs and forums.

I started making glass, mirror and ceramic suncatchers on weekends and have tried to sell some of them. Mostly I just make them for pleasure though. They also make great gifts. I have several of them on my porch and I love watching the way they catch the light and send colored prisms everywhere.

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But writing has always been the one thing I know I’m best at, yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to write anything beyond a forum post. It just seemed like too much work, and I was afraid I’d forgotten how. I feared I was no longer as smart as I used to be. I didn’t realize at first these numb and dumb feelings were symptomatic of C-PTSD. I knew if I ever did write again it would be to tell my story, but I had no idea where to begin. It all just seemed overwhelming. I thought about blogging but I was afraid it would be complicated and technical, and I still didn’t know what to write about or where to begin.

I re-read M. Scott Peck’s book “People of the Lie,” which I have reviewed in this blog, and realized Michael was not just narcissistic, but was truly evil. Despite it’s medieval connotations, I believe evil and evil people really do exist, and I was very lucky that I survived and both children survived. While most evil people don’t usually murder (they want to maintain their benign appearance), they are murderous and often drive others to suicide or self-destruction. They lie about everything.

I joined a gym and got back in shape. My job is also physical and that keeps me in shape too. I started liking what I saw in the mirror again. I also started meditating, something I started back in the ’90s and then stopped.

About a month ago I revisited the idea of blogging, inspired by some blogs I had seen by other survivors through my readings. On a whim I decided to start one. There’s been no looking back. At first it was meant to be self-therapy, a sort of online journaling, but now it’s turning into so much more and a few people have even said they feel inspired and it’s helping them too. And that makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I still have a purpose in this world and am not just marking time until I die. I want to think that everything that happened to me happened for a reason and that something good can come out of this.

I still have a long way to go, and as soon as I can I want to start seeing a trauma therapist. In the meantime life isn’t unbearable anymore. It’s getting better.

About a month ago Michael was kicked out of the apartment an organization called OctoberRoad was providing for its mental patients. My daughter allowed him to live in her car. He left the windows open during a rainstorm one night and the car was nearly destroyed. She took the car keys away and she hasn’t heard from Michael since, which is very odd, since he would call her up to 10 times a day to demand things.

She has no idea where he is. We think he may have killed himself. She wouldn’t have been notified because she had his wallet in her car and there’d be no way anyone could identify him.

Michael was having his mail sent to the house, which I did allow. After three previous rejections, Michael’s SSI finally came through — and that includes several years of back payments, so he is getting a check for about $30K.

If he is dead, how ironic that it happened just as he finally had a means to be independent and no longer had anyone he could use and abuse. Maybe that was the only reason he stuck around so long–as long as he could use up and destroy others. With that opportunity taken away, and with no real self to fall back on, there was no longer any reason for him to live. Or maybe he was finally forced to look in the mirror and all he could see was an endless black void, and that was just too much to handle. What he has been reduced to is just a shell of what he used to be, but was there ever really anything there?

Seven more years of NPD hell.

Gaslight-2

After Heather tossed Michael to the curb, and Molly returned to our new Section 8 apartment, Michael asked if he could move back in. At first I was resolute and said No (surprisingly he seemed to accept this), but he did have a job and managed to secure a place to stay for a few months–first in a basement room of where he worked (their business was conducted in a huge Victorian house) and later as someone else’s roommate.

Molly was having serious issues at school, and oftentimes didn’t even attend. Several times I was called from my job as a convenience store assistant manager to come pick her up because she was in some sort of trouble again (fighting, stealing a pair of expensive boots, acting “high” at school, etc.) When she was there, she hated it. Since I had to open the store by 6 I had to leave my house before 5 am and there was no way I could remain home to make sure she made the bus. Ethan tried but most of the time couldn’t even get her up (he was very good about getting himself up and to school). The school informed me if I couldn’t get her to school, that I could be charged with neglect and willfully keeping her out of school. It didn’t matter that I had to work and that I had no one else to keep an eye on her. Well, as it turned out, I was fired from my job primarily because of my poor attendance due to disruptions and early leaves caused by Molly, so that sort of solved the problem except she still wouldn’t get up most of the time, even if she was home.

When she was home (which wasn’t often), she was surly and snappish and spent most of her time on MySpace, which was still popular at the time. It was 2007 and she was about 15 by now. For three months she managed to keep her activities a secret from me but eventually I found out she was seeing an older man she met on MySpace (he was 23) who had a jail record for selling drugs. I had given up trying to control what she did. She convinced me not to have him arrested by saying she would kill herself, so I did nothing and prayed for the best. I knew they were doing drugs and kept begging her to stay clean to no avail. She had Medicaid, but refused to see a therapist, although she did agree to go in to be evaluated for medications and that’s when she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. Countless times the school called meetings to discuss what to do about her attendance and behavior and I begged them to put her into a special program they had for kids with emotional problems but they said she would have to wait until the following school year.

One day Michael showed up at the door and informed me his last roommate had kicked him out again. He told me he’d been drunk and after he was booted out, he tried to kill himself by running his car into a telephone pole. The pole and the car were totalled, but Michael was fine. He started crying when I still said he couldn’t move back in and started the manipulations, convincing me it would be in my benefit to have him there because he would make sure Molly went to school AND he would help me with the bills. Since Molly was more likely to listen to him than to me (and begged me to let him move back in), I conceded, telling him he would have to find another place to live in three months. Well, that three months turned into almost seven years.

At first things seemed fine. Michael stayed sober, was working, and actually did contribute most of his paychecks to household expenses. Molly’s behavior improved a little–at first. She was still with the older guy but was more cooperative when she was home. However I noticed that she was in her room a lot with Michael with the door locked, or sometimes Ben (her boyfriend) was in there with them. If I tried to interrupt them or ask what they were doing, I got screamed at and told to mind my own business. I tried to listen to what was going on in there–it didn’t sound sexual (which worried me) but it did sound suspicious. One day I found a crack pipe on the floor of her room and questioned her about it. She said it was Ben’s and assured me she wasn’t smoking crack or any other hard drugs. Often I smelled pot smoke coming out from the room so I knew they were smoking pot together a lot. I didn’t think pot was so bad, but couldn’t believe her father would be so irresponsible as to smoke it with his under-age daughter.

crackpipe

I tried to talk to Michael about this, but he refused to listen, at first denying they were smoking anything, and then when he couldn’t do that anymore, telling me I had no right to tell him what to do since I had “gotten him the felony” (this was a refrain I would hear over and over again for the next seven years–he always used it as an excuse to do whatever the hell he wanted). So the three of them continued to get high in her room, leaving me out of everything and treating me rudely when they did talk to me. I was being gaslighted and triangulated against again, although this time, Ethan kept to himself and didn’t get involved in our drama. He busied himself on the computer and refused to participate in any arguments. Good for him!

In 2008 Molly broke up with Ben, but her drug problems had become more severe and I was at my wit’s end. One day I was home and Molly was out on the second-floor deck talking on her phone. I had to pick up a few things at the store and let her know I’d be right back. Twenty minutes later, I came home to find an ambulance in our driveway. My heart pounding, I ran into the house and found out Molly had been straddling the deck and had fallen off onto the ground (she was high). She was taken to the ER and it turned out she had fractured one of her lower vertebrae. She wasn’t too seriously injured but she could have been (and she’s had back problems ever since).

It turned out the be a blessing in disguise because finally, after begging for Molly to go to rehab for so long (and the school would do nothing to help), she was court-ordered to go. The one catch was that the only way Medicaid would pay for her treatment (I couldn’t afford health insurance for her through my job), was if I allowed the state to take custody of her. It was a painful decision but she was 16 and almost an adult anyway. It didn’t mean she couldn’t come home to live with me again. What choice did I have?

Molly was irate that I “gave up custody” of her and at first couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing. (Later on she came to understand and told me I saved her life by doing that).

The rehab was a six month live-in program, and Michael and I were allowed to go see her, although it was required a social worker was always present. The visits were awkward and forced, but she did seem to be improving (even though she hated it). She started gaining weight back and didn’t look so pasty anymore. Finally I felt like I didn’t have to worry so much about her.

Without Molly at home, Michael and I started to get along better, until he got fired from his job. At first he seemed to be looking for another one, but soon it became apparent he was spending most of his time in chat rooms and on political websites. I questioned him and he said no one was hiring. I offered to take him around to look but he always found some excuse. He sweet talked me into buying pot for him, even though I couldn’t afford it.

Meanwhile, Molly graduated from her program and went to live in a group home for teen girls with substance abuse issues. She liked the home and made some friends there (she is still friends with two of the girls), but since she wasn’t being supervised as closely, was able to obtain and use drugs. Pain pills were her drug of choice (but anything would do in a pinch, including alcohol), and one day she was so high she was taken to another residential treatment program in Tennessee. She called me crying, and wouldn’t tell me where they were taking her at first, but that she wanted to kill herself. The program turned out to be a sort of boot camp, where the kids lived in a rustic setting where they had to build their own fires for warmth and live in a cabin even in the cold months. But there was hiking and horseback riding. It was supposed to build character. I hoped it would. She hated every minute of it but on her 18th birthday would be allowed to return home.

When Ethan was nearly 18 he told me he was gay. I assured him I wasn’t upset and kind of suspected out that he was. He started to show more confidence and become more social. But at home he was testy and impatient with both Michael and myself. He hated all the arguing and was out more often. He made friends with a female police officer who worked at his school. He couldn’t take being in the house anymore with all the drama, and moved in with the policewoman for a few more months until he could find another place to live.

leavinghome

Ethan came back home after his 18th birthday but not for long. In mid-2010 he told me he had met someone online and would be moving to Illinois to stay with him. The guy he met turned out to be a supportive and mature person and they are still good friends today although they’re not together anymore. Of course I worried at first but there was nothing I could do. He was 18 and could do what he wanted, but it was actually the best thing for him.

In early 2011, it came to the attention of the landlord Michael was living with me, and he informed Section 8. I was told to move out by the end of the month. We had very little money and had to move into a trailer in a crappy trailer park that was rife with drug and gang activity (two years ago, someone was found shot to death outside one of the trailers). The toilet in one of the bathrooms was literally falling through the floor and the tub in the other bathroom didn’t work. The rooms were tiny and the walls paper thin. The kitchen wasn’t too bad though and even had a dishwasher, although it broke shortly after we moved in. I sold most of my belongings at a huge yard sale to raise funds for the move.

It was becoming apparent Michael was no longer going to work. He had developed diabetes and complained about the food I bought–I got food stamps, but I still couldn’t afford to buy much red meat and he said he needed it to control his diabetes. He became insulin dependent but had no medical insurance so he had to go to the free clinic to get his doses. He also saw a psychiatrist who had diagnosed him with Bipolar and PTSD (!?!) and prescribed him medication, including Klonopin, which he started to sell for cash. At the end of 2011 he applied for Disability (SSI) and so now had a handy excuse not to look for a job–since he was disabled, he wouldn’t get SSI if he was working (this turned out to be false if he worked part time but I didn’t know that).

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In April 2011 Molly turned 18 and returned home. For awhile she seemed a lot better. Even though altogether Molly had probably only finished one and a half years of high school, she managed to get a GED in just one month because she is very intelligent. She started looking for a job and was hired almost right away, but she never seemed to be able to keep a job for long after that, even though she always found one quickly. She refused to attend college, even though if she had, she would have been able to get government benefits for housing and school until she was 26, as well as continued Medicaid. But she hated all the jobs she had and almost always wound up being fired for getting too involved in interpersonal drama. She told me the more I talked to her about college, the more she didn’t want to go. I left her alone after that.

She had a string of boyfriends who were no good for her, although none were as bad as Ben had been, and the most recent one was clean and sober although his future prospects weren’t that good because he only had a high school education and no ambition. He worked as an auto mechanic but only doing oil changes and inspections and didn’t seem to interested in advancing. When they were together he spent most of their time playing video games, with Molly watching.

At the end of 2012, we moved again, this time to a real house. We lucked out–it was another duplex with two bedrooms and in a nice neighborhood. It was an older house with a lot of character and the original Arts and Crafts windows, and I had fun decorating it and painting it (although I never had much furniture). Michael slept in the living room; Molly and I took the two bedrooms. Michael was becoming unbearably annoying, constantly whining about how sick he was because I wouldn’t buy decent food for him, and watching political shows on TV and whining about how much he hated Republicans (I didn’t care for them much either but his constant bellyaching was irritating and he did nothing to help himself). I told him if he wanted better food he would have to get a job. Of course he refused (“but I’m disabled!”) and every day I’d come home after a long day at work to find him passed out on the couch or ranting about politics on Huffington Post. He never bothered to pick anything up and smoked like a chimney–both pot and tobacco. The living room was a mess, and Molly and I always wound up having to clean it. He never washed the many dishes he used, and they’d be all over the place. Living with him was almost unbearable and I was starting to really hate him. When he was high he acted stupid and oblivious to everything (and was loud); when he wasn’t high he was mean and sarcastic, calling both me and his daughter horrible names. He was so ungrateful, never apologized for anything, and just did whatever the hell he wanted. He made Molly or me go pick up his pot for him (I refused to do it after awhile) and complained about everything. He bought lottery tickets or pot from the money he got from the illegal sale of his psychiatric meds (lottery tickets were another thing I refused to foot the bill for). He ordered us around and stole money from me several times, although he never would admit it and tell me I (or Molly) was imagining things. He acted so entitled. Even Molly was becoming sick of him and we started to become closer.

In early 2013, Michael decided he wanted a dog. We already had one (and also 4 cats), and had said I absolutely could not afford another pet nor did we have the space. But telling Michael no about anything was futile. He always had to have his way. So one day I came home to find him holding a puppy. I told him to get rid of it and he refused, resorting to his old “you’re just an animal hater” guilt tactic. He said if I got rid of the dog, he would kill himself. I let him keep the dog.

I love dogs, but I couldn’t stand this dog. He was a jack russel/Beagle mix, cute but the most hyper dog I ever met. Michael refused to control him or discipline him and the dog pooped and peed all over the rugs, chewed on the furniture and everything else he could, and constantly ran off and would bark uncontrollably. When I complained to Michael about it, he would make excuses like “but he’s just a puppy!” He’d say this even though when the dog was over a year old. Molly and I had no luck training him, but her most current boyfriend was able to get him to stop pooping in the house. However, he continued to run off, and many nights I’d hear him barking somewhere in the neighborhood. Three times neighbors called animal control and the third time, I told them to please just take him away. If it happened again, I would have been fined. Normally I would have felt terrible having a dog taken to the pound (because I have always loved animals) but with this dog I didn’t feel at all guilty. It’s not like I had ever agreed to adopt the dog in the first place.

destroyinghouse

Michael was livid and wouldn’t speak to me for days. He was becoming angrier and more unpleasant and sometimes he just acted downright insane. I think some of the “insanity” was fabricated so he could continue to get all the free meds and also it would help him get his SSI sooner, or so he thought. Just about everything out of his mouth was sarcastic, angry and intended to offend. Half the time he made no sense. He seemed to hate everyone and everything, especially his daughter and ex-wife who were keeping him from being homeless and sacrificing so much for him. He kept saying I needed to be more patient because he was sick with diabetes and had mental problems. He never, ever apologized. I’ve never been a mean person but I didn’t like the person I was becoming around him. I was turning into the bitch he always said I was. I no longer even tried to be nice, and tried to be away from the house as much as possible. When I was home I went in my room and locked the door to get away from him. I had no idea how to get rid of him because he threatened suicide every time I did and I knew if he killed himself my daughter would be devastated. I was afraid how it would affect her. Michael always reminded me of this too, and even threatened to kill himself in her room and warned me how that would really fuck her up. Oh, he was evil alright. He never thought of anyone but himself.

One day in February 2014 I got a phone call at work from Molly telling me to meet her and her boyfriend at the police station. She explained that Michael had lost his temper and beat her up. That was the last straw for me. I no longer cared about his excuses, I wanted him out. The police officer there told us to go to the magistrate’s office if I wanted to press charges and file a restraining order. I did but Molly started feeling bad for him (even though she had her eye blacked and had other bruises on her) and refused to press charges herself.

We arranged to go home and pretend we had all gone to the mall. Later that evening, the police came and took Michael off in handcuffs. He was released the next day but didn’t dare come back. Finally I was free! But I had a lot of work ahead of me.

I’ll write a post later (it won’t be anywhere near as long as this one!) describing what the aftermath of his abuse has been like, and the steps I’m trying to take to recover from years of being under his control.

Held hostage: living with the enemy

trapped

Finally, I’m getting around to posting this last part of my story. It will be in two parts, because it’s going to be so long.

After Michael kicked me out of our home in 2003 (which by that time was in foreclosure), I had no job, no place to go, and no friends or family who would take me in. Michael told me I couldn’t take the children with me, and since I had no place to go, it was obvious that for the time being they would have to stay with him.

I had just been released from the psychiatric center for Major Depression and severe PTSD, and I still wasn’t all there. I was medicated too, so that numbed my emotions even more. So I didn’t try to fight his demands, even though I could have. I could have gone to the local chapter of Helpmate, an organization that helps battered women. Even though I wasn’t battered physically (usually, unless he was drunk), the type of abuse I had just suffered was even worse because it was so insidious and soul destroying.

As for the children, I didn’t think there was anything I could do. I had no place to go, and couldn’t them with me to wherever I’d have to stay.

I had 30 days to leave. I wanted to leave right then and there, but my daughter’s 10th birthday was coming up so I wanted to stay around for that. But the next two weeks were torture. Michael and his flying monkey Rachel amped up the volume to full blast on their mind games and gaslighting, and the shitty car I had access to was taken away from me so I couldn’t leave until they wanted me to. Rachel took away my car keys. If I needed something, I had to ask for it. I was a prisoner in my own home. I’m convinced they wanted to keep me around just to torment me.

My daughter’s birthday was miserable. Molly was depressed. Michael and Rachel used her to triangulate against me and my son, who was also treated horribly. I think a part of Molly hated being in this role, but she knew she didn’t have a choice if she didn’t want to become a target herself. It was an awful thing to do to a child.

I left the next day. I had $1,000 in my pocket and the old car. Michael and Rachel didn’t say goodbye. Ethan wept quietly in his room. Molly said goodbye but didn’t hug me. Paul was the nicest. He came over to the car window as I was pulling out of the driveway and whispered “you don’t deserve this.” I don’t know if I was imagining things or not, but I thought he had tears in his eyes. Paul was a nice guy, but was very weak willed and as much under Rachel’s control as I was. The only difference was he wasn’t a target. He had pretty much kept to himself the whole time they lived with us, staying out of the hate campaign but not fighting against it either.

So I drove 11 hours to New Jersey, where an old friend was letting me stay with her for a week. Somewhere in Pennsylvania, I became fatigued and had to find a motel to stay in for the night. In my room, I thought about the gravity of what had just happened. I thought about my children and wondered if I’d ever see them again. I thought about how emotionally damaged they both were by Michael’s mindgames. I thought about Ethan’s love of Twix bars and his silly grin and hair that stood straight up when he got up in the morning. I thought about how sweet Molly could sometimes be and the way she still slept with her threadbare puppy at night. I thought about the way they both ate cereal straight out of the box. And for the first time in many months, I cried.

car

But I had to keep going, somehow. The next day I met my friend in New Jersey and accompanied her on her pet sitting job. I helped her with the animals. The animals were therapeutic for me, and I felt almost happy when I watched them or stroked their fur. I felt like they understood me and what I was going through. I would have liked to stay with my friend longer, but it wasn’t possible, and after a week I drove back to North Carolina, and crashed with another old friend for about a month. Things didn’t work out too well and the friend resented my having so much “stuff” (I had only brought 4 bags out of the car) and finally told me it was too crowded (it was a one bedroom apartment) and I would have to go.

I was almost out of money. In the nick of time, I found a job in a gas station and moved into the local women’s homeless shelter. The shelter actually wasn’t too bad. It was midsummer and there was no air conditioning (and I had a sore tooth that later had to be pulled but the pain kept me up at night), but the rooms were okay, and I only had to share my room with one other woman, a crackhead in her 60s. We didn’t get along. So I stayed out most of the time, if not working, then just going to the library, walking around the mall, or driving around. A few times I went to church to pray. I didn’t have the money or energy to do anything else. There was no room in the room for any of my stuff, so I kept everything in the car. I had to bring up my change of clothes from the car every night and lay it on the bed for the next day.

During this time I had several conversations with my parents. My mother feigned sympathy but offered no help. She kept asking me “what are you going to do about the children?” or saying things like “A good mother would keep her children with her.” Oh, the hypocrisy was stunning–these words coming from a woman who had given up her own two daughters for a man. She knew I could do nothing and had no place to take them. I think she was deliberately taunting me by bringing it up all the time and making me feel like a horrible mother.

It was my father who finally came through. In spite of his drunkenness and physical punishments of me as a child, I don’t think he was psychopathic. Under all that anger, I think he cared about me and the children. But he was deep down a weak man who always allowed himself to be manipulated by narcissistic women. The first time I had asked for his help, his wife (a narcissist who controls all their funds) said no. She told me I was an adult and had to pull myself up by my bootstraps and shouldn’t be asking them for help. I never felt so unsupported. No one cared!

As a requirement for staying in the shelter, I was seeing a counselor, who asked me if my parents would help me pay for a small place I could take the kids. I told her they would not, but she took it upon herself to call my father anyway. Somehow hearing a professional voice instead of mine convinced him, and his wife grudgingly agreed to help me pay for an apartment on a month to month basis.

So I moved into a cute one bedroom. During this time, the kids had been living with Michael, and because our home had been foreclosed on, they had all moved to a rented house in town. I found out my poor son Ethan was required to do all the work and made to sleep in the basement. He didn’t get one of the bedrooms, though everyone else did (even though the two girls had to share). Ethan was constantly taunted about being gay (even though he was years from coming out). When he fell down on his bike one day, Rachel just stood and laughed at him. This shattered my heart.

The kids moved in with me. Ethan was thrilled, even though he had to sleep in the living room (Molly and I shared the only bedroom). At nearly 14, he was developing a love of computers and spent hours playing with the boxy old desktop I had picked up at Goodwill. We had no Internet (I couldn’t afford it, or cable either) but he had loads of games he would play and he opened up Word to write poetry and song lyrics. He was a quiet and well behaved kid, who also loved to ride his bike and sit outside on the tiny deck, watching nature. He was fascinated by weather, and set up a little homemade weather station outside he had put together with a kit.

computergeek

Molly was sullen and clearly didn’t like being with me anymore. She thought I was boring. Molly was then and still is addicted to chaos and all too often, the wrong kind of excitement. She can be a drama queen. She may be borderline or God forbid, even narcissistic, but she, like me, has been diagnosed with severe PTSD.

It was 2004 and Molly was 11, turning into a physically beautiful girl, but preteen angst mixed in with hatred for me, fueled by the brainwashing she had received. Our time together was awkward and forced. When I’d tell her to do something, she’d refuse or make a sarcastic remark, usually repeating something Michael and Rachel had said about me. Most of these things were lies. The worst was when she told me Michael and Rachel had told her the reason I left was because “your mother is selfish and doesn’t love you anymore.” I was stunned by this incredible lie. I told Molly it wasn’t true at all, and I loved her very much and she shouldn’t listen to them, but I don’t think she was convinced. To this day, there’s a rift in our relationship due to their gaslighting and triangulation that made her believe I didn’t love her. It’s gotten better and she does realize now she was lied to and manipulated. But the wounds haven’t completely healed and it’s still having repercussions in our relationship and her behavior today. She is also showing disturbing early signs of being narcissistic. But more on that later.

I wasn’t thinking straight and was making terrible choices. I got back together with the man who had gotten Michael and I in trouble for the marijuana 3 years earlier. This was a huge mistake, as he tried to take over and criticized how I was raising my children, who he thought were spoiled. They both couldn’t stand him, and after a few months, I decided I couldn’t either, and gave him the leave ho. He continued to call me for a couple of years after that, but after a while, I just started hanging up on him. Finally he gave up.

In the meantime, Michael was trying to worm his way back into our lives. Rachel and Paul had thrown HIM out of the house, and he started love bombing me and the kids, acting all simpering and apologetic, even saying he was sorry for everything he put me through. He bribed me to let him live in our tiny one bedroom by promising to be a better dad, and cooking dinner every night. He also had a job and offered to help me pay the bills. Mainly because Molly did seem much happier with him around (and I believed his empty promises) I stupidly conceded.

Michael didn’t become abusive this time, but he became loud. He was never a quiet person, but he was smoking pot constantly and when he was high, his voice became loud and he blasted his horrible music. The downstairs neighbors, who were elderly, complained the the landlord several times, and we were finally asked to leave.

Luckily I had a better place to go with the children, and the timing was perfect. The apartment we were living in had been a month to month arrangement, and my father had told me he could no longer afford the rent payments (actually his wife just didn’t want to foot the bill anymore). I didn’t earn enough at my job at the gas station to pay the whole rent, so we had to leave anyway.

I had been working with an organization called Interlace, which works with single mothers and children who have been victims of abuse. They’re a fantastic organization, and they provide free housing on an 18 month basis. The only thing they required was covering the utility bill, being available for weekly home visits and attending monthly group meetings. The group meetings were fun. Dinner was always served, and after the meeting, there was usually some group activity, usually involving arts and crafts, that both mothers and their kids participated in. They also sponsored group picnics and other events.

So we moved into a clean, well kept 3 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment with more storage space than I’d ever had in my life. There were two levels and there was even a tiny room (really an oversized closet) under the stairs that the kids had a lot of fun redecorating into a little private domain complete with large pillows, stuffed animals (both kids still loved their fluffies) and an old black and white TV that actually worked.

There were rules too. The most important one was no overnight visitors, even family members. That didn’t stop Michael from trying to manipulate and sweet talk his way in. He convinced the kids (even Ethan) that we were better together as a real family and they needed a dad. I told him it wasn’t allowed but he promised to be quiet and never answer the phone or the door. I was so broken down and afraid of him I broke the rules and said yes. Every day I was terrified we’d be discovered (we could have been thrown out), but we never were. Fortunately the weekly home visits were scheduled ahead of time, so I always made sure he was out when the counselor came over. No one suspected a thing, and the neighbors didn’t care.

But Michael didn’t stay long. After a few months, he started acting cranky again, and he was out a lot more. I didn’t mind his absence, but Molly did. She was still sullen and snippy and her grades dropped from A’s to mostly C’s and D’s. She acted like she didn’t care about anything.

It turned out he had a girlfriend. She had her own apartment and asked Michael to move in with him. Strangely, I was jealous. Or maybe just resentful because I felt I’d been duped and used. After all the hell he put me through, he actually dared to leave me? But overall, I was relieved–until one day Molly told me she wanted to live with him and not me.

Molly had been spending a lot of time with Michael and his new girlfriend (I’ll call her Heather) and always seemed in a much better mood after she had been with them. She spent less and less time at home, and there came a point where I hardly ever saw her anymore. Michael and Molly both told me Heather was a much happier and more positive person than I was, and they both preferred her company to mine. Later it turned out she was a drug addict; that probably explains the “happiness.”

Molly said if I didn’t allow her to live with them, she would hate me forever. Oh, she was good at manipulating her mom–she had learned from the best. She actually cried and said if I made her stay she’d be so miserable she might kill herself. I didn’t know what to do or say, so I allowed it.

punkgirl

Finally, in early 2006, the divorce came through. I had agreed to joint custody, not wanting to anger Michael and fearing what he might do if I “took his kids away from him.” I also didn’t want Molly to hate me by not allowing at least partial custody. So although technically we both had joint custody, the kids were allowed to choose. Ethan remained with me and occasionally visited Michael and Heather (when they wanted him around, which wasn’t often–he got on their nerves), and Molly of course got to live with them.

If I had any idea of what was actually going on in their home (I was so naive and trusting back then), I would have grabbed my daughter and ran.

Michael was regularly drinking again, and now mixing alcohol with pot AND pain pills. Heather turned out to be a pill addict and also a heavy drinker, and a number of times Molly couldn’t get to school because no one was sober enough to drive her (and there were no buses in the rural area they lived in). There were parties every weekend, where Heather’s friends, a motley crew of crackheads, meth addicts, drunks and assorted addict, came over to the house. Molly was only 12 going on 13. But that didn’t stop Heather from letting my daughter try “just one pill”or have a drink or two.

The police were called on a couple of occasions because of the fighting. Michael and Heather got into violent arguments. Unlike me though, she wasn’t afraid of Michael. She finally reached her limit and one night tossed him out, along with all his belongings. Molly had to come back home with me, but by now she had developed a taste for both drugs and alcohol, thanks to Heather’s “education,” and became worse than ever.

pills

Michael disappeared after that. I had no idea where he was and none of us, not even Molly, heard from him. Molly hated this and missed her father, but I was relieved and secretly hoped he was dead.

At the gas station, I was promoted to assistant manager, and although were were still pretty poor, I could afford a few nice things now and a new car. Our 18 months in the Interlace apartment were up, and just in the nick of time, our Section 8 came through. We moved into a charming Craftsman style two family house. We rented a three bedroom apartment on the ground floor with a front porch and a deck in the back. Section 8 paid half of the rent. And we were finally allowed to have a pet–one dog only, but that was fine. Daisy, our dog who had been a gift for Molly’s 6th birthday, been living with Heather and Rod (and various friends before that), but she was growing older and was a little arthritic, so she came home to live with us. Daisy was so happy to be home.

Molly’s drug problems were beginning to affect her at school, and her behavior at home was becoming frightening. She started wearing long sleeves all the time and when I asked why, she changed the subject. But one night I saw red marks on her wrists and forearms. She was cutting herself. When she was in 8th grade, she was caught at school with several Klonopins (she said she had gotten from her dad), which she was sharing with her friends. She was caught, and suspended for two weeks. It was at the end of the school year, so even though she got her diploma, she wasn’t allowed to attend her own graduation ceremony.

I was slowly becoming fat. I smoked too much. I was stressed and miserable, and other than work, I had no interests except eating, reading crappy novels, and watching court shows and sometimes movies on TV. I was becoming the “slovenly” mother Rachel had accused me of being several years before. I was emotionally numb, yet also prone to to occasional fits of anger that at times became violent. Either nothing affected me, or it affected me too much and I overreacted. Most of the time I felt like I was an autopilot, just going through the motions of life. There was no beauty or joy in my world, and all I could see ahead was a vast emptiness that stretched out until death. But I plodded along like an ailing cow, accepting that this state of affairs was normal. In fact, I was showing symptoms of unresolved PTSD.

My only ray of hope anymore was my dog Daisy, and my son Ethan, who was becoming a sort of guardian angel to me. By default, he was now the man of the house, and became a responsible teenager, getting himself up for school and always at the school bus on time, and always doing his homework. He had always been a B and C student, but he began to apply himself more and started getting A’s and even on the honor roll. When he was home, he was quiet and spent most of his times on the computer playing video games, posting on entertainment and racing forums, and setting up his own car racing forum. He also started making short films with his beloved new digital camera my father had bought for him. From the get go, it was evident he was talented. Soon he transferred from the regular public school to an adjunct school that specialized in computers and technology.

The more mature Ethan became, the worse his sister got. She was addicted to MySpace (we’re up to 2007 now, and that was still the most popular social network of the time) and without my knowledge, met a man online 7 years older than herself. Ben had been in prison for fraud, but passed himself off as a “good guy.” He wasn’t.

I need to take a break and eat something, so I’ll post the next part of this story in a little bit.