14. Expressing gratitude for your stories

Before I started on this journey of sharing my story—before my decision was made to be vulnerable and honest- I was hesitant and afraid.  I questioned myself. I went through all of the worst-case scenarios and I felt all the insecurities I think one would feel before going so public.

I went through all of the why’s: Why do I want to do this? Why do I feel strongly about telling my story? The same reasons would always come: 

During my marriage I wish there had been more blogs like mine. As this Washington Post article points out: Emotional abuse is not talked about enough, or written about enough. And that makes me angry. I wanted to do something about it and to make a contribution to this vastly ignored topic.

Another reason: In my 5 years as a TV reporter I’ve learned the value of stories. My job was to convince people daily to tell their stories, and to encourage their vulnerability during interviews.  I’ve told countless people they could trust me with their stories.  I could do this convincingly everyday- and wholeheartedly- because I believed in the power of stories and I knew how much we need to share people’s stories. They change us. Stories connect us to humanity in a way nothing else does. They alter our views, they make us think and decide what we believe, and why we believe. And stories can even startle us into changing as we realize a story has challenged the way we’ve thought about our cherished beliefs for years. What a beautiful moment that was for me to be startled by my own long-held beliefs and to take the risk of telling my story. It means I’m continuing to grow and learn.  I love people’s stories, because they’re powerful and necessary. And I believed my story was finally worth telling, especially if it might startle some people out of complacency and help them to change.   

Yet, just months ago I was doing the same dance so many of my interviewee’s had done when I was a reporter- questioning myself. I was doubting myself and the idea of taking my story public. What will people think? How many will turn their backs on me?  Who will I embarrass if I tell the truth?  Who will embarrass me?  Do I really want to take off all of these layers so openly and honestly? Do I really want to unveil so many painful experiences and truths from my past?

But then I’d remembered this Joseph Campbell quote:

Joseph Campbell The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

The treasure I sought was far more important than my fears. I wanted to help people. I wanted to provide a voice for those stuck in similar situations. I wanted women and men to know they’re not alone. I wanted the world wide web to hold some answers for those who were looking, just as I was looking for similar answers and hope not so long ago.

Sharing this story has not been easy. Some of the consequences I feared have begun.  I’ve almost stopped several times. An older generation of men and women think sharing stories like mine might be “airing dirty laundry” – and you just don’t share your most private life.  “Why can’t you just talk about abuse without having to share so many personal details?,” they might say. “Because,” I would reply, “the devil is in the details and all worthwhile stories show the bitter truth in addition to telling it.” I wanted- no needed- to show the details of my story to convey the real difficulties of living in a toxic relationship. But I’ve also paid a price.  I’ve lost some friendships and I’ve been ostracized from some social groups as well.  Some friends have become more distant and uneasy over my blog and they avoid mentioning it for fear of broaching an uncomfortable topic. I have fully understood these consequences, however, and, for the most part, I’ve prepared myself for these reactions. I don’t blame anyone for feeling uncomfortable or feeling the need to part ways with me. It comes with the journey. All worthwhile journeys and stories necessarily involve some pain and sacrifice and I’ve begun to experience my share. That’s how I know this journey is well underway.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear. Ambrose Redmoon CORRECT

To be clear: this blog is not- nor will it ever be- about dirty laundry or gossip, although I suspect some people will interpret it that way. And this blog is not about seeking revenge or getting back at any people who have hurt me. I’m a journalist and I’ve been trained to document and describe people’s stories- including my own life- from a factual perspective.  Additionally, I have moved on and my ex-husband occupies no meaningful space in my life. I have no need for revenge. He’s a distant object in the rearview mirror along with all the other debris from my past. I’m in a very good place now—a happy place, the best place I have ever been—with a man I’ve been waiting for my entire life. I can’t wait to share that story! Stay tuned because joy in my blog is about to follow.

Before I can tell that story, however, I need to tell the authentic story of how I arrived in such a good place, which means reflecting back upon all the pain and sorrow that led to some wisdom. I doubt I could have found my current partner without first experiencing everything I did not want from a marriage. The most fearsome cave always holds the most valuable treasure.

So I am telling my story so that you might be able to clarify and share your story. So that you too can begin to own what has happened to you- maybe not publicly, but in a way that acknowledges the reality of your life and honors your story. In being honest with our own lives and our stories, perhaps we can begin to lessen our shame, to heal together, and to move forward with our lives. We are all always united as humans beings in our pain and joy, but rarely can we experience one without the other.

Here then are some of the stories you’ve sent me since beginning this blog. I’ve reached out to those who sent these privately and asked if I could share them. I thank you all for these wonderful stories- they have all touched my heart. In those dark moments when I wonder if I will go on, when I’ve wanted to stop, when I’ve questioned myself, your stories were my treasure and the reason I keep going. Never stop seeking your treasure, even if the journey becomes treacherous.

Finding Answers to prayers:

Thanks for putting a voice to what has been going on in my head. To be able to read the words that I didn’t know I needed to hear is an answer to my prayers. I’ve been married for 15 years and two weeks ago my two children and I left in the night from my husband. I don’t know what will happen with my marriage but I’ve taken that first step. I have put my life in the Lords hands and I’m following him 100%. Thank you for helping me see and understand things. My sister was the one that found your blog and reading it actually opened my eyes for the first time. It helped me see what I have been dealing with for all these years. Thank you for your courage to share your experience. It has blessed me more than I can say.

Questioning her decision:

I’ve been reading your blog and it brought me to tears. Thank you for your beautiful, raw writing. It really hit home. I have struggled for years wondering if I did the right thing, especially now having a daughter, and after reading your posts I know that what I did was the right thing – no doubt. I still deal with the control to this day with our daughter, but I am so happy that I’m not in that marriage anymore. Not controlled anymore. And not feeling like everything I do is wrong.

Struggling to let go: 

My ex-husband once told me he couldn’t be married to me if I didn’t stop crying, that he couldn’t handle it when I cried. He didn’t understand that I cried because I cared. In order to avoid the fights though I forced myself not to cry. I wanted my marriage to work, so I let him break me. Whatever he wanted, that’s what I did because anytime we fought he would tell me “maybe we shouldn’t be married”. I never felt my opinion mattered, so I kept my mouth shut & forgot who I was & what I wanted. We had four kids & I stayed for them, because I wanted them to grow up with their mom and dad. He said hurtful things. He didn’t find me attractive anymore after I put on weight,  and he said he wanted to leave me before we found out I was pregnant with our daughter, but then he felt he had to stay.

We were separated for a year & he wanted to come back. We moved back east for a fresh start & two months later he said it wasn’t working for him. We have been divorced for almost three years now, and honestly some part of me is still holding onto him. I don’t know why, I know I’m better off without him. I’m still trying to get my confidence back and I’m slowly becoming the person I want to be, not the old me before he broke me, but a better me. 

Thank you for sharing your story. Your hope gives me hope. 

Searching for a sign:

I stumbled upon your Instagram account by accident today… I have to say I believe this is my  long awaited ” sign” I was looking for , and quite possibly saved my soul. Just read your articles. Just finally ( trying!) to end 7 years with a man I have known to be a narcissist. Same played out back & forth story. Five years of back and forth grief & heartache for me. Waiting for my sign to finally walk away for good. My mother just died from cancer in October. I was in a position to hold on desperately. Single mom of a 13-year-old boy & about to turn 40.

Thank you for sharing. I can’t thank you enough.

Overcoming addiction: 

 I just want to thank you for sharing your story. I felt all the shame, humiliation and sadness you endured but have thankfully come out on the other end. Sharing your story is a comfort to women and validation we aren’t alone. After 3 failed marriages (2 of the 3 were to narcissists) I am happily single and have never had such peace, serenity and joy. God is at the forefront. I am able to share my experience, strength and hope to women in situations through recovery (I chose to mask my pain with drugs and alcohol for many years). Today I am nearly 2 years sober and grateful for the journey. 

Advocating for speaking up:

It took me a long time to understand that a marriage doesn’t have to involve hitting to be abusive. … I am so sorry you went through this also. Good for you for doing this. The issues you are getting into aren’t discussed enough because women tend to feel ashamed and/or scared. You’re being really brave and doing something that really matters. 

Finding hope: 

I was also 34-years-old when I separated from my husband of 8 years. I feel your pain in realizing that the person you thought you married was not the person he really was. 

My soon-to-be ex-husband had a bad childhood. Looking back I realize that was what attracted me to him. I wanted to help him and make sure that his life would turn out ok after all he had to endure. Unfortunately though, love cannot make somebody change.  Even though I did everything for him, and loved him unconditionally, he refused to love me back in the same way. He would mentally abuse me while blaming me for it.  Despite all the abuse, I stayed with him for 9 years. He was my first true love and I truly believed in loving someone through good or bad until death do us part. I was blind. Blind because of love and my beliefs. The bad signs were always there even before I married him, but I chose to ignore them. I wanted to believe he would turn out to be a better person if I just loved him enough.  But he only became worse as the years went by. I felt more confused and alone living with “the love of my life”. I became depressed and angry. I would think about committing suicide sometimes, and later I would fantasize about killing him as well. He drove me to the brink of my sanity many times. He would call me crazy. He had this power where he could tell me basically anything and I would believe him. When he started to tell me that I must be mentally unstable I believed him as well. 

Over time my self-esteem plummeted to such an extent that I wasn’t able to believe that one day I could have a better life. 

The dreams I had didn’t matter. He would tell me that I couldn’t finish anything anyway so there was no reason for me to go back to school and get a degree. I wouldn’t succeed anyway, he would say. Before I met him I wanted to go to university and get a degree in civil engineering. I had dreams and hopes for my future.

Today I am stronger and more hopeful than ever. 

I separated from him last December and recently I started divorce proceedings. Hopefully I can get the divorce done before my 35th birthday. I am planning to go back to college next year and I have my dreams and hopes back. I am a much happier person today. I am more secure about who I am and I keep learning a lot about myself.

I wanted to share all this with you because reading your blog really inspired me. Also the fact that you also divorced when you were 34-years-old gave me hope that I can still find someone who deserves me and with whom I am able to have a family. I also want to raise strong children and I want to make sure that I provide a good example for them. We all have our challenges in life and I thank you for sharing your inspirational story. Please keep writing and I wish you all the best in life! 

Supporting my story:

Lauren- I admire your courage in writing about this topic and your personal experience. Just over 3 years ago, I too was in an emotionally abusive relationship with a narcissist and experienced gas lighting. It was a nightmare. I’m glad you got out (and me too!) and that you’ve found a healthy, kind man and are enjoying a healthy, happy relationship now. I admire your bravery in your writing and sharing your experience – I’m sure it will help a lot of people not feel so alone… Or “crazy”. 

Sharing a male perspective: 

Reading your stories made me feel less alone in the world.  Thank you for sharing them. 

I feel like you and I have been in a war together or something due to our similar experiences in toxic relationships.  I am very happy to read that you have been able to move forward and find love again.  For me, I think it was almost 3 years before I even went on a date again after I left my ex.   I still battle feelings of, “How was I so fooled by this person that I didn’t recognize the beast lurking beneath the beauty? How did I fall in love so deeply with such a monster? How can I ever trust myself to judge a person’s character again in the context of choosing a spouse?”  It really is like dealing with PTSD.  

The mental and emotional abuse of being made to feel unlovable, flawed, or “almost perfect” by the person you have picked to be your partner can be insidious. As you are living through it, you may not notice it at first. When you realize that your partner is trying to change you, you may justify it by thinking, “well he / she is only doing it out of love- maybe I do need to improve on this because nobody is perfect.”  But when you start to notice that you are trapped into walking on eggshells and you can’t be yourself without upsetting your partner, you are most likely in a toxic relationship.  They are not trying to help you from a place of love and respect.  They are trying to control you for their own satisfaction. 

These are issues that people generally associate with women being the victims and men being the perpetrators.  So men who are victims might not have as much support, and even worse, they can get ridicule from people they reach out to for help. Thanks for acknowledging that men can be victims too. – even my closest friends brushed me off at first when I’d tell them what I was going through so I learned to just keep my mouth shut and “man up” as some would put it. 

Working to heal: 

Just had the desire to reach out to you to tell you how much I love and appreciate your blog!  My marriage is/was a long gruesome story full of addiction, lies, betrayal, double lives, gas lighting, manipulation, mental illness and emotional abuse.  My husband did eventually leave me last year and I’ve been working my butt off on healing myself, learning, growing, getting closer to God and being there for my kids.  But it’s a total mind game.  It’s always helpful to read other people’s stories and remind myself that I’m better than that, and I deserve so much more, which can be devilishly hard when I still have to interact with him due to our children.  So thank you for being one of those positive voices!  

It’s a hard balance of wanting to share my story and experience after keeping it hidden and secret for so many years, but it is my truth and facts are facts, so I’m opening up when it’s appropriate.  Keep doing what you’re doing!  I wish I had realized years ago that what I was experiencing was abuse, manipulation and gas lighting (the other stuff was much more obvious). It broke my soul and made me feel so much shame and worthlessness when I did nothing wrong.  

Thank you all again for sharing your personal stories.  I am so moved and honored to witness so much honesty and struggle in your lives. I will keep telling my authentic story so that you can share yours. We are all in this together- and sharing our heartfelt stories makes it so.

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story”

Further reading Washington Post Article: He didn’t hit me, it was still abuse.

Copyright © 2016 Lauren Matthias / LaurenMatthias.com copyright 2016. all rights reserved. You may not take  content from this site without written permission.

If you’re experiencing the pain and devastation (whether now or in the past) of being in an abusive relationship with a narcissist and you’re ready to get your life back – Click “contact” at the bottom of this page for a 45 minute “Love Life Recovery” Makeover Session. We’ll set up a plan so you can look forward to having the life and love you deserve.

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Terry Ann Myers

    Dearest Lauren,

    I’m sure you already know how much I love you !! It saddens me to know how deeply your heart has been hurt … although we both understand what the learning processes of life are truly meant to be. I wish there had been resources like your blog & the internet in general in my younger years.

    Back in the day, emotional topics were forbidden territory. It was just understood ,.. you don’t go there. “The times, they are a-changing” & I thank God every day !! I grew up at the mercy of 2 classic narcissists, mother & my only sibling. Those were “normal” people according to my exposer & experience. Unfortunately, I also gravitated to that type in other relationships because it’s what I was familiar with, & I knew “my place” in that environment.

    I’m eternally grateful that my dad & I were always each other’s safe space. He taught me by example how to be content & creative from my alone space within. We didn’t have to talk about anything. We simply occupied ourselves together. He’s still my rock.

    10 years into my 2nd marriage that was heading for the rocks, I found this quote in a Stephen King novel. “The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” Needless to say these words shook me to my core & I cried so hard my stomach muscles hurt for days. It took 9 more years for that marriage to finally die.

    In 2006, 20 years later & 1/2 way into my last & most devastating marriage, I found myself in professional counseling with a man of the same religious faith as mine. He introduced me to the study of personality disorders. At the age of 60 I finally discovered that it wasn’t my fault that I was an easy & accessible target !! He also taught me to be able to smell the particular aroma of those types, before they could snare my trust. You can’t know what you don’t know until you figure it out.

    Long story short, I heartily applaud your decision & your courage to bare your soul & put your experience out there for whoever else may be there. Not knowing where to look for comfort, or even that there IS help out there, is a torturous place to be. Knowing what I know now, I personally don’t mind being someone else’s object lesson. I can say that with confidence because I KNOW my Savior holds me up & will not let me be destroyed in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s