Part of the abuse cycle with a Narcissist (and other personality disorders as well) is the crazy-making or gaslighting. Through this tactic, the Narcissist distorts your reality so much that you end up jumping through hoops to give them what they want and achieve their approval. As time goes on, you know that something isn’t right yet you can’t explain it logically or even really grasp exactly what the problem is because none of it is logical… so you start to react with crazy outbursts as a way to express the frustration that you are feeling. The craziest part is that after you do this the Narcissist uses your outbursts as examples of how you are the unstable and the crazy one. You look back on the entire experience and question yourself and your own rationale because you did do something crazy… maybe it is really all your fault… and you are back to square one.
Loving a Narcissist is one giant mind f*ck and I have done some crazy ass things in the name of loving the Narcissist that were completely out of character for me. At a family cookout yesterday we started talking about one of my cousin’s weddings which I actually attended with the Narcissist. I got really really drunk and we all laughed about the fact that the “Cousins table” lit a napkin on fire during the father daughter dance… but I think back on that event and remember so much more.
Getting the Narcissist to willingly agree to attend a family event was becoming more and more of a struggle. There was always a reason, there was always some form of ‘rationale’ as to why it was better not to, and sometimes it was just so damn difficult on me that I avoided it all together. However, for whatever reason, he had agreed to attend my cousin’s wedding with me. We had known about it for months in advance and as the weekend finally approached I can remember him expressing frustration over the entire thing. Having to buy new clothes to wear to the event was a huge inconvenience… having to stay at the hotel overnight was obnoxious, having to attend a wedding over Thanksgiving weekend was ‘rude.’
I remember the real conflicts bubbling up while dress shopping for me. You see I didn’t ever get to shop on my own. The Narcissist accompanied me to purchase everything from bras to work clothes to workout clothes and everything in between. I made the mistake once of venturing to the mall and picking up a few things without him. He hated them all, guilted me hardcore for not appreciating him (“most women don’t have husbands who love them enough to want to shop with them, or who care about fashion at all… and you just take me for granted!”) and eventually I returned all of the items and apologized profusely. Over time this resulted in me feeling like I didn’t really have my own sense of style or the ability to express myself through clothes because everything I owned was essentially picked out and approved by The Narcissist. He would sit in the dressing rooms with me, he would instruct the sales clerks to get me other sizes or colors, he would run the show.
The Narcissist also had a habit of putting things off the last minute which drove me into a state of anxiety all the time. I am a planner; I like to do things in advance, I like to be early, I like to plan ahead. Its never been compulsive, it’s been healthy and normal and has contributed to my success over the years. The Narcissist used this against me though, and would say that I had a real problem with my Anxiety and that I needed to be able to “go with the flow” and “not be so controlling all the time.” How ironic.
So, that is how, I found myself during Thanksgiving week trying to find a dress to wear to my cousin’s wedding. It was actually the night before Thanksgiving, and we had 1 hour until the mall closed. We had to leave the morning after Thanksgiving to go to the wedding so I literally had 1 hour to find a dress and shoes. The Narcissist of course, had ordered his tux/suit months ago and had already had it tailored to perfection. I didn’t need to approve all of the Narcissist’s shopping because he obviously had a better sense of fashion and style than silly old me.
After visiting a few stores and having no luck, I started panicking. I literally didn’t have a backup plan – nothing in my closet was suited for a wedding on a mountain in November and we now had 30 minutes until the mall closed. I had just come back from 3 years on an island… If I didn’t find something I was literally going to have to wear a pant-suit or a sundress to the wedding. As I started to get stressed out, the Narcissist couldn’t deal with my emotions and started to get angry at me. At one point I was standing in the middle of the mall surrounded by Christmas decorations crying and borderline hyperventilating and The Narcissist told me I was acting like a selfish child and walked away from me. I of course chased after him pleading for his forgiveness and begging him to help me find a dress to wear. Somehow by the end of the night we ended up finding a dress and shoes which were way more expensive than what I wanted us to spend, but they were the only option. (You know, after the Narcissist convinced me not to buy several others that I liked because “they weren’t flattering on my body shape”… because I had gained some weight since our days on the island.)
We attended Thanksgiving with my parents, which we hijacked so that we could cook an all Paleo, all gluten free, all dairy free, all sugar free Thanksgiving dinner, which we were late for because we spent the morning flipping tractor tires across the front lawn. We woke up the next morning and went for a 5 mile run, and then had to pack for the road trip. By the time we got to the wedding venue and checked into the hotel it was late afternoon and we had only eaten a protein shake after our run. The Narcissist justified that we had such a large Thanksgiving dinner, we still had plenty of fuel to burn through today. We got dressed and ready and went to the wedding.
I actually felt pretty glamorous in my dress and shoes, I did my hair and makeup and felt awesome. I tried to take photos with the Narcissist but he didn’t like most of them for one reason or another. By the time we were seated we decided to order a bottle of champagne for the table and I started drinking. The whole table was drinking with the exception of the Narcissist – he doesn’t really like to drink and I have never seen him drunk, ever. He will slowly sip on a few drinks throughout the night but always remains in a state of awareness and control. Since I couldn’t even eat the bread on the table it seemed like forever before I finally got some food into my system, and we were a few bottles of champagne deep by that time. Someone at the table mistakenly put their cloth napkin down on top of a votive candle and our table went up in flames. We were all laughing and having a blast.
Eventually after an hour or so of dancing, the room got too hot for me – there were several fireplaces going and a few hundred people crammed into the space, and all of a sudden I needed some fresh air. The Narcissist took me outside and sat on the chair lift at the bottom of the hill, breathing in the cold air and laughing about the napkin fire incident. I can remember telling him how drunk I felt and that I hoped I didn’t get sick and he was busy trying to shove his hands up my dress. For whatever reason, this really got to me at that point in time. I can remember saying to him that I didn’t feel like he loved me, and he was making me feel like he just wanted to use me for sex. We got into an argument which I am sure my drunken state made impossible to navigate… and at some point I told him I was going to the bathroom and I walked away. After I went to the bathroom I decided that I had enough, and went and found a seat on the shuttle bus that was there to drive people back to the hotel.
I was asleep on the shuttle bus and he was apparently frantically looking for me throughout the reception. He eventually found me and convinced me to get off the shuttle and drive back to the hotel with him in the car. On the walk to his car, we started arguing again and I took of one of new expensive shoes and threw one of them at his head. I threw the other one at the side of his stupid car. Eventually he got me into the car and spent the next 20 minutes searching the parking lot with his phone light trying to find my shoes. When we got back to the hotel he dropped me off at the front door and went to park. I thought I was going to find our hotel room and got hopelessly lost. I wound up sitting in the ice machine and vending room on our floor where he later found me asleep. He got me to our room, put me in the shower and brought me ginger ale, water, and snacks from the vending machine and then went to visit the after party so that “people wouldn’t be worried about us.”
The next morning I awoke to one of the worst hangovers I have ever experienced. When I finally was able to stop puking we went and got in the car for the 2 hour drive back home. He wouldn’t stop for coffee or bagels or anything that would have actually helped me (because Duh, I wasn’t allowed to eat those things… even if I was ridiculously hung over)… so I spent the 2 hours sipping my bottle of water and being lectured about what a horrible terrible no-good wife I was.
Some of his key messages were that: I might be an alcoholic, I have serious anger issues that I need to work on, I don’t love or appreciate or respect him for the amazing husband that he is, I don’t have any respect for nice things… i.e. my shoes, His car was going to need to be waxed immediately to get the scratch off the door from said shoes, he had to cover for me in front of my entire family, he had never been so embarrassed before, and he no longer trusted me to drink at all, ever. By the time I got home I was actually feeling pretty guilty, pretty reckless, pretty freaking crazy.
At the time, I let him convince me that I was bad, I was wrong, I should apologize to him, and I should make it up to him. I let him make me feel guilty from there on in, whenever I even wanted a glass of wine. I let him use this as a reason to why I shouldn’t drink, and as fuel for his campaign about how he was suffering in an angry marriage with an angry woman.
I look back now and I see that I was at my breaking point for the last several years of my marriage. I was clinging to the edge of a cliff for dear life. When my brain couldn’t process the things that were wrong, and the abuse that I was dealing with… my emotions started to go crazy. The littlest things would set off an avalanche of pain and suffering and unhealed wounds that were caused by the Narcissist… and every time I gave into those emotions, it would only give the Narcissist more evidence, more proof, more tangible events that showed that I was really the one with the problem… I was the one abusing him.
It was a no-win scenario… either I could vent the emotions that were bubbling up inside of me and be convinced that I was the angry and unstable one… or I could bottle them all up and continue to suffer and feel crazy and risk one day really freaking exploding.