Today would be my 8 year wedding anniversary with The Narcissist. This time of year with the anniversary and the holidays and all of it certainly reminds me of him and makes me reflect back on the experience of it all a bit.
I’ve realized that one of the most substantial and empowering parts of my healing journey was finally being able to forgive myself for everything that happened. This may not seem intuitive… (I mean what should a victim of abuse need to forgive themselves for?!?) but I have found that it really made a huge difference for me.
Before I really forgave myself, I was struggling with the scars of The Narcissist…
Life with The Narcissist made me my own worst critic.
Years of having the most critical person on the planet critique and evaluate your every move left me in a place of severe criticism of myself and of others too. I was constantly re-playing scenarios in my head thinking about how I could have done things better, faster, stronger, etc. I was constantly beating myself up for not thinking of a better way to do things in the moment. I was constantly grading myself on a scale of impossible measurement that was set by The Narcissist. I actually developed anxiety around making decisions and would feel extreme pressure trying to decide very basic things in a non-stressful environment. I would over-analyze to a point of insanity and then after making the decision I would crash and the panic would set in that I did the wrong thing and would now have to face The Narcissist. When I left The Narcissist, that was still my mindset… I was still evaluating myself and critiquing myself like a maniac. This made it difficult to not look at the entire situation with The Narcissist and blame myself for absolutely everything that was wrong. Early on I was constantly thinking about how I could have done things differently, how I should have stuck it out longer, how I was the failure that caused the relationship to fail.
Life with The Narcissist made me bully myself.
Much like the self criticism aspect, I found that I was really mean to myself in the beginning. It was easy to hear The Narcissist in my head… all of the messages he had constantly beat into my brain. “You’re lazy.” “You’re a quitter.” “You don’t strive to be the best.” “You don’t love me enough.” “You don’t love yourself enough.” “You’re just like you’re family.” “You’re fat.” “You don’t deserve me.” I was constantly winding up at these conclusions for myself… particularly when things were stressful, things went wrong, or I was feeling low.
Life with The Narcissist left me angry.
I really struggled with my anger at the end of my marriage and in the early days of leaving The Narcissist. I had so much unresolved anger for years of being abused and mistreated and neglected and never ever ever having any of my feelings, needs, or wants acknowledged. I wasn’t allowed to show my feelings because they didn’t matter to The Narcissist and as a result I was bottled up anger ready to explode. I was angry at The Narcissist for sure… but I found that I was much angrier at myself. My anger for myself was saying things like “Why didn’t you know better than this?” “Why didn’t you listen to your gut instinct and pay attention to those red flags?!” “Why did you go back after you left the first time?!?” “Why did you take 8 freaking years to finally do this?!?” “Why did you let this mad ruin you?!” “Why did you waste all of this time?!?” “Why were you okay with being treated like this?!”
There was not a clear turning point where I woke up one day and decided to forgive myself. It happened slowly, and almost in my subconscious where the ways that I thought about everything began to change. The longer I went without having any of The Narcissist’s messages in my head, the longer that I went with having healthy people in my life providing me with feedback and encouragement and positivity, and the more that I focused on myself and finding happiness within me…. I started to realize that I had forgiven myself without even trying.
I look back on the section of my life with The Narcissist and I can see who I was and what I was trying to do. I fell head over heels in love with someone (albeit someone that I did not know very well.) I followed my heart into a decision with conviction, with hope, with love at the center of it all. I stood by that decision and stood by my man through thick and thin. I nearly killed myself trying to be the best wife I could possibly be. I did absolutely everything that was ever asked of me in hopes to make that marriage work. I did everything humanly possible to help him heal, grow, change, and thrive. And eventually, when I finally realized that there was absolutely nothing that I could do to change the outcomes I was getting from The Narcissist, I made the decision to put myself first and do what was right for me.
I can’t be mad at myself for that…. there is nothing wrong or bad or selfish about the things that I did. This was my journey… this was my path. Sure I could have avoided the pain and suffering, I could have come to this realization sooner, I could have chosen a million different decisions along the way… but none of it even matters (and I have learned to let go of that over-analyzing shit!)
I’m here today… I am happy, I am healthy, I am really enjoying my life… and I forgive myself. I forgive myself for choosing someone broken to fall in love with. I forgive myself for trying for so very long to make it right. I forgive myself for all of it… and today my smile tells the world that I survived.