Emotional abuse… I’ve recently begun ‘no contact’ with a person whom I’ve had a very unhealthy relationship with. It wasn’t easy, she’s my sister (J). She closely resembles what I’ve read about those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The classic manipulation of a narcissist is in making you feel like you are the one who is behaving as the bully, in making you feel like you are responsible for their cruel behavior, in making you feel crazy or ridiculous for being hurt by what they had done or said (in my case, it includes spiritual abuse, something I’ve learned is a term some call, Psychological Socialism, where they manipulate by equalizing blame).
I’ve actually removed her from my life before, but I just didn’t want to completely let go. So year after year after year, upon reaching out to her, I’d be met with a passive insult that could easily be twisted into me over reacting. I’d end up apologizing for behaviors that she had convinced me I had done. I was always the one apologizing despite her abusive actions.
Several months ago I really began to process her role in my life, along with my sister L who she lied to and has thus used to participate in treating me in this manner by creating division. It all hit me at once as I began seeing the reality of those moments over the years with this disorder in mind. I read article after article and could have titled them, “my relationship with J and L and all that it’s looked like.” It was actually kind of eery, as if someone had been following us around and logging all the things I’d noticed along the way but would rationalize myself through despite feeling like it was all wrong.
Add to that the processing and healing of my sexual assault as a child that I was working through* as all this emotional abuse began and now, her words will actually bring me back to those moments that the assault was exposed and I felt dirty and shamed. So I’m faced with the reality, not only was she just mean, but my physical response was so intense, I didn’t understand why I wasn’t able to just let it go and why I was having such a seemingly ridiculous reaction.
Well, J had never particularly stalked or harassed me before other than what I had deemed at the time as a major falling out, but the stalking and harassment was something I had read in nearly all narcissistic cases. When I shared that I’d be removing her from my life, I was told that I should be prepared that once I commit to no contact (NC) with her, that she will indeed make contact. I doubted it. I had it in my head that she would interpret my silence as a battle of the wills and see it as a competition of who could outlast the other. I decided I was okay with that – because silence meant she couldn’t hurt me anymore.
So come eight months ago, I deleted my facebook account. I created another not long after and didn’t add her. Two months later, I took my first act of NC when I shared that I was pregnant with our sixth precious surprise and didn’t inform her. Three months after that, I found myself having a panic attack upon seeing her name in my friend requests. I thought to myself, ‘Why in the world am I having a panic attack at seeing her name?!’ I wrestled with how to act and what to do. At first, I chose to do nothing.
The next day, I had a weird flashback that brought on such an intense realization regarding my sister L, close friends with my sister J, whom I dealt with regularly following my aforementioned assault. Feeling the hurt from both of them. I didn’t evaluate whether it was intentional or not, it happened nonetheless, and I had to face that hurt to the most real and raw degree in order to move forward.
Through this revelation, I determined that I needed to remove them both from my life, even if to just process. So I rejected the request and removed L from my facebook and blocked them both. For two months, silence. I felt free and I felt hopeful. Bitter-sweet though, because I do just wish things were normal and we could move past these issues, but it was clear that at that point in time, there was no where left to go but to end the relationships.
Then, 2 weeks ago, two months later, I received the first contact from L. It was modest, simple, but didn’t seek much of a response. It was hard not to respond because she was seemingly not the aggressive one in my life. However, her seeming passivity hurt me more than anything else – her seeming passivity in my assault, in how I was treated after the assault, in the relationships surrounding my assault that she maintained despite what had been done to me, her passivity (and enablement) in regards to the treatment done against me by J, and her passivity in my life in general.
A little over a week later (less than a week ago), I received my next contact by J. It was a very seemingly humble message, but because of this new understanding I had in relationship to how she speak to me, I saw what was being said: “I’m wise, I understand, I’m a victim of humanness, I am thinking of you – and I’m sorry.”
From anyone else, and from her in the past, I’d have felt validated and understood and would have appreciated those words. But this time, I saw that the message was all about her and not about me. I chose to not respond.
I saw a bit later in the day that she had created a new facebook in order to message me on fb as well, so I went in and deleted the message and blocked her new account. This brought on a second message in my email. By the time I had noticed it, there was also a third message. The second message, despite acknowledging that she was invading my space, deemed it necessary to tell me again that she was thinking of me, was sorry, and stated that she “got the message” from me blocking her. Ending it with “Take care of yourself ok.”
The third message however, was sent only seven minutes after she sent the second; sent without any response whatsoever from me. Seven minutes. This time, it was cruel and mean, accusatory and insulting. She declared that she knew personal things about me and didn’t judge me for it, that I thrive on making others feel small so I can feel empowered in my otherwise out of control life, and that she had carried my burden for far too long and will be letting go of it. She ended this awful note with a declaration of victimhood to screwing up once again in how she treated me and requested that I forgive her. While I admit, I scoffed at the end of the email because this was exactly what I was told would happen (and if she was genuinely sorry for how she had just treated me in the current email, she could have just not sent it), I was still shaken up.
I learned how to block her address from my email account, however it wasn’t until after I found myself shaking violently like I did when I was made to ‘confess’ that I was ‘having sex with David.’ I experienced the same physical response when I told L what had been happening to me by her ex-brother in-law. I shook and trembled, my teeth chattered while my heart raced, and I was short of breath. I sat having a panic attack (unbeknownst to me at the time) and no one hugged me and no one cried for me and no one sought to calm me. Nothing.
Narcissism. It’s not just a self-centered, egotistical person. It’s an abusive person who has found ways of thriving on their mistreatment of their chosen targets. I don’t claim that J is a narcissist. I’m not a psychologist or licensed in any medical field, however, the way J treated me closely resembles the things I’ve read about narcissism. As a result for her treatment so closely following the year long sexual and mental abuse by David, and the shaming and blaming of others that surrounded me, now I am dealing with symptoms of PTSD.
Since having done the research, I see the manipulation and deceit, the abusive tactics to overpower, and I’m so very thankful that I see it and can walk away. I didn’t even know she was being abusive. I just thought we misunderstood each other horribly and that we had clashing personalities. It’s not simply a misunderstanding. Unfortunately, it’s much deeper than that and though I’m finding my freedom, those words being spoken to me about my character, my heart’s intent, and how I treat others around me, still wound me and leave me stuck in my head doubting myself. I know they are lies; my heart is to encourage, uplift, and cheer everyone on that I encounter. Also, when the times are appropriate, my heart is to be that friend to share a hard perspective, but never in a way to shame. I don’t pretend to have all the answers… I mess up regularly and I’ve never pretended otherwise … but I am still struggling to shake what they said off…
STILL I am finding my freedom. Thank God for that!
*You can read more on this topic in light of the sexual assault I endured in the entry I posted, titled “But it DOES matter…”