I wasn’t afraid of the bullies
and that just made the bullies worse.
– Fiona Apple, “Shameika”
Here’s the truth about leaving a covert narcissist who you have a child with: you are never truly free.
226 days after ending it, I’m up in bed after midnight anxious and on edge.
I know something is about to happen tomorrow that will set him on attack again. Something out of my control but that he will blame me for….
He’s already messaged me seven times tonight (most sent while he had his two hour visit with our daughter) trying to bully and intimidate me into submission again over financial matters.
I’ve had fitful sleep and muscle-tensing nightmares since I got the news of the upcoming change less than seventy-two hours ago.
To have him come at me, by way of the only way the court will allow him to communicate with me – a legally acceptable and unalterable record of communication – for hours as I don’t respond, the evening before when he doesn’t even knows what’s coming, has made my chest constrict and my breath go slightly shallow.
I am strong. I won’t buckle. And I’m not afraid.
Except that I also am afraid.
That’s the reality.
We can be brave and strong and unafraid and yet the wear and tear of someone hellbent on covertly kicking you over and over and over is brutal.
Because I have to stay in contact.
(I envy those people who get to ignore all communications – the jealousy sometimes makes my teeth ache.)
Because I have to be careful.
With what I say. With what I don’t.
Because he will use anything to try to control what happens and will use anything to hurt me – even our child.
Because. Because. Because.
I feel scared.
The nature of what covert narcissists do is to unsettle and confuse.
One can never know what will be next.
Tomorrow he may only make attempts to bully and intimidate and hurt at the level he’s been at for the last four months.
He may revert to the level of attack of last fall when I felt, daily, that if there was just one more thing that I may not be able to hold it together.
(Spoiler alert: I did and I will.)
He may be worse even than that.
The only absolute certainty people in my position live with is that you can never be certain what the x will do. Only that they will do something.
At some point.
Something to harm you. To unsettle you.
To make them feel strong. And powerful.
I’ve worked on not being afraid of that.
But the reality is that you can be both unafraid and still also terrified.
In the last twenty-four hours, I have consulted experts and drawn on the many resources that I have brought into my post-separation life.
I have an iPad ready to record my front yard so my phone is ready to call the police. I am ready to record what happens to protect myself from the rewriting of history he will engage in seconds after whatever happens.
I record a lot. Which often breaks my heart anew.
Just to preserve the truth and counter the constant stream of lies, I have to create an admissible record of reality while doing things as routine as child hand-offs.
I live in a world where I must always have something to prove my honesty.
I was fooled.
I stood up for myself.
226 days ago.
And every day since
And many many many times before that.
Because I can’t be controlled, he will still use fear to try to control me.
Only I’m not afraid.
Or I am. But not the way he wants me to be.
Not the way he needs me to be.
I guess what I’m really saying is this:
Check on your friends who broke free.
I promise you that they still struggle with standing up as straight as they need to just to live their new life.
That there is still a price that they pay. Maybe daily. For saying enough and meaning it.
Check in on them.
If they still have to be in any kind of contact, then it’s not just a story in their past. It’s not just something they get to move on from.
Let them know that you understand that the day they took their freedom wasn’t a wall. Wasn’t a fortress.
Wasn’t a solid line that kept them safe.
Let them know that you understand that abusers abuse.
For as long as they can.
Let them know that you believe them.
That you know that they are strong. But that it is hard. And tiring.
Especially now. When abusers have less to distract them. Less to get into.
While we all struggle with this brand new scary world we’ve found ourselves in, people who are still in contact with their abusers are getting more abuse. Lockdown narrows a person’s focus down to who they can reach the easiest.
Be someone who sees your friend’s reality and validates it.
So few do. It will mean the world.
I have these people in my life. And they mean everything to me. They help me stay stronger.
Check on the survivors you know.
They’re still having to survive. I promise you.
They are not afraid.
And they are.
Recognize that they are unbelievably strong. And yet still justifiably scared
Let them know you see that.
It can really be as simple as a text: I know things might be hard and I’m thinking of you.
It really can be that simple.