When I was little, we had one of those memory card games. Not just ANY memory card game—one with flags that you flipped over and had to find the match. I remember liking that game although I don't remember being all that great at it. I now know that the abuse I suffered as a tiny child—which triggered my ability to easily block things from my mind—has always made it hard for me to remember childhood memories. Even the good ones are still blocked.
Fast forward to now. It's December and I've officially been recovering from narcissistic abuse, as my therapists have said, since July. One thing I've noticed is that my memory has gotten worse since 2014—a side affect of having endured the kind of abuse I did for more than three years. The same thing happened when I was little: I blocked memories. What's hard about this is it isn't like i can pick or choose what I block. It just all kinda fades to black. I have to fight hard to remember good and not-so-good moments in time.
I noticed this memory decline in other ways, as well. While I was still in the relationship and I had lined up several on-air hosting gigs where I had to memorize lines to repeat on camera, I struggled more than most. I had the hardest time remembering the lines to the point where I was panicking about it and had to repeatedly look at the lines on paper.
Anyone else out there dealing with this lovely physical side affect of abuse? I read the best article the other day that talked about this very thing and how "neuroscience has revealed that long-term narcissistic abuse may cause brain damage." Fortunately, through healing methodologies like EMDR therapy, memory can be improved.
A few important things to note from the article:
I noticed that I was gaining weight in my mid-section during the most stressful times—the lovely affects of too much cortisol in my system. I always felt like I was in a state of high alert and started to have panic attacks while in the relationship.
Also, I literally started pulling my hair out from the stress. It wasn't something conscious—it was my equivalent to chewing on fingernails. I would find myself doing it and not even realize it. In a nutshell, I was a complete physical mess.
I am much better now but I still find myself having heightened reactions to any kind of experience that has the slightest overtone of abuse or control and my emotions are really extreme.
There is no doubt in my mind I have been changed by the abuse but I also know I can fight to heal the damage.
Now, where are my damn keys?
* If you've been through this, I'd love to know how you're doing, if you can relate, and what helped you.
Neuroscience reveals that long-term narcissistic abuse may cause brain damageby Lachlan Brown | Nov 17, 2017
I wrote a bit about the emotional rollercoaster I experienced while filing for and being granted a restraining order but I wanted to share a little more in hopes it will help the countless women I know in this position. I had no idea what to expect because I didn’t have any experience with the court system. I hope what I share below is helpful!
Here are SIX THINGS I wish I’d known or I feel are important to know from the get-go….
Do you need a lawyer to file for an order of protection? What does it cost to file?
No lawyer is needed, however; I did consult with law enforcement and one lawyer. It doesn’t cost anything monetarily to file. The forms were easily found online by looking up the Justice Court in our/your area.
What kind of proof do you need to show? (This is my experience in Arizona https://www.allenlawaz.com/order-of-protection-arizona/.)
In order to obtain an order of protection, the plaintiff must present the following to the court:
You will meet with the judge and a court reporter in a closed courtroom. You will be sworn in, etc, and it will take at least thirty minutes, from my experience. I wrote more about my experience in this blog; however, I will say I came to court armed with physical proof in the form of print outs of harassing emails to myself and co-workers, screenshots of online harassment at my place of work, and a police report from a domestic violence call.
What were some key points made by the judge?
The judge, in my case reiterated, that while this order is in place and protects me legally, that it truly does not protect me from domestic violence, if he chooses to come after me. He urged me to be aware at all times. What it DOES do is it makes it illegal for him to contact me in any way, shape, or form.
If the defendant lives out of state (which mine does), you have to pay a process server to serve him the order of protection before it was considered active. It’s not cheap. I paid roughly $500 and that was a steal. If the defendant dodges the serving (does not answer the door, etc), then you might have to pay extra for the server to do surveillance to serve him when he is out and about. This is exactly what happened to me.
What if the defendant doesn’t read the order?
It is still active no matter if he reads it or not as long as he is served. According to the process server (who writes up an affidavit with photos of the defendant when he serves him), he must touch the envelope. In my case—and in the case of many others who are dealing with not-so-ethical folks—they will deny their identity. In my case, he threw the unopened envelope on the ground and denied his identity before driving off. He also denied his identity when Flagstaff PD called to make sure he knew the order was in effect.
*Side note: The cop I was working with here in Flagstaff told me immediately that with these types of DV (Domestic Violence) cases, most of the time, the defendant will try to get around the system by sending some kind of message to the plaintiff. And sure enough, he did. He sent messages via fake Facebook profiles. I was able to trace the profiles back to him and provided the cops with the information.
If the defendant violates the no-contact order of protection, then a warrant for his arrest is issued.
The most amazing thing has happened since I started speaking out about what I endured—. women and men are writing in and speaking up. I'm so honored to read their stories and I really value and appreciate the courage it takes to face it, let alone write or speak about it.
I'm sharing a Q&A between myself and another brave soul/surivor who happens to be a friend from my hometown in Ohio. If you would like to share your story, please let me know. I'm happy to share yours here on the blog, either anonomously or with your name attached. The more we share, the more we learn about the patterns and warning signs that occur in these types of relationships.
Shelley, can you give us an overview of what you went through in your 5-year relationship with someone who was emotionally and verbally abusive? What are some moments that stand out in your mind?
As with most relationships, it started out beautifully. He was very caring, supportive, loving, and funny. He was everything I was looking for in a man. Things progressed quickly because I thought I had found the man of my dreams.
I wanted to purchase a home for myself and my daughter, but he kept telling me I should just move in with him for a while and save up money. Logically, it made sense because we would both be saving money so I agreed. After approximately six months, his whole personality changed. Here are some examples of what I endured that I never saw coming:
We have talked previously about how it seems the abusers are handed the same handbook—they all seem to behave very similarly. Much of what you’ve already shared resonates with me personally, especially the memory of not being able to have contact with men without some sort of blame/shame/argument.
How and when did you fully realize what you were going through was abuse and how did you get out?
It wasn’t until the last two years of the relationship, that I realized I needed to get my act together financially and mentally. I needed to prepare myself for the day that I would have to leave. I knew it would come to that. I never planned an actual date, I just knew it was wrong and that one day I would have the strength to just do it. That's exactly what I ended up doing. I woke up one day and left. I visited one apartment complex, signed the paperwork, and put money down immediately because I knew if I didn't do it right then and there, I never would. I would never have the perfect opportunity like the one I was being presented. Plus, I finally had the courage to stand up for myself and I wasn't going to let myself fall back into the old routine again. I was done, especially I saw my daughter run from him because he scared her with his yelling fits.
Did you run into issues with him after you left? I know you work for the same company.
Yes, we do work together. Overall, there was a pattern of manipulation and control after we split, as well. He would find reasons to not let me gather some of my things that were left at the house. He was very slick about covering up everything he would do after we broke up. Emails and texts would be civil, but face to face meetings would be verbally and emotionally abusive. I had to block him from calling and contacting me.
At work, he would find ways to stalk me. I was always looking over my shoulder because he was (and still is) ALWAYS there. Friends, co-workers, and supervisors saw what was happening but no one could really do a whole lot.
In addition, he sent threatening messages to me that he would hit or run my fiance off of the road if he ever caught him on his motorcycle.
He is now telling half-truths and flat out lies about me, which seems par for the course with what I’m learning about narcissistic abuse. He would tell a small bit of a story so as to look like the victim but if the whole story was revealed, he would in no way be considered a victim in the situation. He always plays the blame game with me. He would turn the tables and nothing was ever his fault.
You’re a strong, independent, smart woman. It’s likely why he was attracted to you in the first place. Looking back, how did his behavior and abuse affect your demeanor and self-esteem?
He was always getting into confrontations with everyone that came across his path. I found myself absorbing his personality and attitude, mainly because I was so miserable and guilty about my actions. I felt like this was my own Karma for past behavior and that I deserved all that was coming to me. I made excuses for all of it whether it be him, me, or the situation in general. I felt I had made my bed so I had to lie in it.
He made me feel worthless—I began to feel I had little confidence to do anything on my own. I couldn't survive without him. I still don't know how this happened because he never directly told me I was bad or a “piece of shit” or anything like that. It was just something that I feel I became conditioned to over time after the initial honeymoon stage was over and he started tearing down of who I was inside.
If we were speaking to a group of survivors of this type of abuse, what would you say to them in regards to what has helped you heal the most? What is your advice to them in general?
If I could give any advice to someone dealing with someone similar to my ex-boyfriend, I would tell them that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. You have to realize that you are strong enough to fight back. That you are worth it. Life is too short to wait for happiness that will never come no matter how loyal you are, how long you wait, or how you think he will change. None of it will ever happen.
Quit focusing on all the reasons why you can't leave or what could go wrong, and start focusing on what could go right. I believe that having a couple great and supportive friends, changing your own attitude towards yourself, and teaching yourself that you deserve better makes all the difference. Being your own biggest fan and supporter changes everything. We are only as weak as we allow our minds to believe. We will rise.
This morning, I shared on social media what my friend Sara Sophia Eisenman wrote….
"You will very often have to give up your short-term gratification, validation, comforts and even "safety" to actualize what is being asked of you. You will have to go thru blind tunnels and terrifying vision quests. You will have to suffer mockery and attempted humiliation by total fools. You will have to have faith when there is little reason to. You will have to stretch beyond your capacity again and again. You will have to pull miracles out of thin air, and then learn to stand on them.
It will all seem daunting and impossible. You will wonder why you came.
But you will be so much more than fine.
You will soar.
You will be free.”
--Sara Sophia Eisenman
I read it three times. Everything about what Sara wrote resonated with me on so many levels, especially given what I’m doing now and what I’ve been asked to do throughout my life.
I kept fixating on the “validation” part, mainly because my ex used to throw that in my face all the time in a shameful way. For example, if I channeled and shared something related to a case, and one of the detectives I work with sent "validation" saying that whatever it was helped provide evidential proof, he would say I relied too much on validation as a medium. In fact, his mantra or slogan is “no validation necessary” which makes sense given he seems pretty much entitled to do whatever he wants, no matter the cost or hurt to others. I’ve since learned that as just one of many women (and men) healing form narcissistic abuse, that this is really common. And that, in the devaluation stage, they tend to do two things: find your weaknesses and start picking away AND project onto you their vulnerabilities and insecurities. According to the mental health professionals I know and love, if someone slaps “no validation necessary” on everything but the kitchen sink, they likely need some serious validation.
With that said, there have been times I relied a lot on validation—most people pleasing people do. It’s something I learned early on as a childhood sexual abuse survivor and I think to some degree, because it’s just who I am. I’m someone who wants to be of service but I definitely had some boundary learning to do! I’m lucky that I was taught from an early age (by my awesome parents) that I was worthy and mattered in the world. I had a foundation of strength and clarity about myself that helped to balance the need for validation.
When I first started to channel messages from spirit, I was terrified and experienced first-hand what it felt like to not have means for validation. I seriously thought I was losing my mind. It was something I recognized in my soul as a true calling but still, it’s much easier to be the mom/wife/entrepreneur who doesn’t talk to dead people. I was not prepared for what I was being asked to do.
I had to do so many things without validation. Like Sara said above, I was knee-deep in “blind tunnels and terrifying vision quests.” I had to make decisions to reach out to grieving parents and to law enforcement. Many times, I was shaking in my boots! And did I mention the subject matter is not light?!? It’s death. Murder. Kidnapping. Suicide. Miscarriage. Abortion. Gut wrenching stuff. Again, I pretty much felt paralyzed with fear all the time but I chose to trust my intuition and push through the fear. When I went on Shark Tank, I felt the same fear to a lesser degree, but I dove in anyways.
When I started traveling down the road I did three years ago, I had to have faith it was the path I was supposed to take. Looking back, I truly believe—despite the pain involved— it was exactly where I was supposed to be. So many wonderful things have come out of it that I never would have predicted—healing and growth for both Scott and me, an opportunity to speak out against predatory abuse which has clearly been a constant theme in my life, and chance after chance to trust myself no matter how crazy I looked to some.
As Sara said, if we keep on keeping on, we will all be much more than fine. As we’ve seen recently with the millions of voices speaking out against harassment and abuse with #metoo, I think we’re more than on our way.
We’re about to soar, my friends. We’re about to be free.
*** Thank you, Sara, for always being so real, raw, and inspiring. Follow Sara here: thesacredfemme.com and www.facebook.com/sarasophiaeisenmasenman.
To the woman who bravely wrote to me two days ago about your experiences with him before I came along,
I would love to connect more, if you feel comfortable. I will keep what you say confidential. You can always send messages to firstname.lastname@example.org (or through my form on the website) or if you'd like to talk on the phone, I'm ready when you are.
Thank you for sharing what you have already. You have no idea how much it means to me. I believe every word you say and am so sorry he put you through what he did. Seems to be a pattern, as you've been reading.
Please reach out again if you feel comfortable. I will continue to stand up for all of us!