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  • Janis E. McKinstry

Surviving Narcissistic Abuse

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Where do I start? Sometimes it seems like a dream, and sometimes it seems like a nightmare. I've come to the conclusion that it's both.

There's a lot of information out there about narcissism these days, but when I was younger it was "boys will be boys," "if they hurt you it means they like you," "what did you say/do to provoke them..." and of course "you're too sensitive," "just go along with him," among other gaslighting terms hurled against me.

Being an Highly Sensitive Person has somehow landed me in some shady relationships. The early dismissal of my sensitive self served to dim or override my intuition. I didn't listen to my inner wisdom when it so clearly warned me. Instead I tried to fit in and go along with the crowd. It never felt right, but being an HSP left me feeling like an outsider anyway, so I tried to fit in.

I married a covert narcissist and at first it felt like a sweet coupling. I thought his quiet demeanor meant that he was sensitive. He was a hard worker and provider and that was the measure I was told was the mark of a good man. He was handsome, tall, and strong. He could pick me up and carry me up stairs and over rocks, and though that sounds romantic, think again. He took me out to dinner at nice restaurants, took me skiing, on trips to beautiful places that he wanted to go, and we were very active together, mostly separately. I thought he treated me well and I did feel special sometimes... until it all added up and I didn't feel much of anything but confused, hurt, and trapped like that cat in the cage. He provided a beautiful home and support so that I could stay home with the kids, take care of the house and his needs, drive a nice car, and all the things that looked so good, but there were conditions to that status. Emotionally expensive conditions. It looked so good on the outside, but looks aren't all that matter.

Those things came at a very high cost; my nervous system frayed, my health suffered, and my self esteem paid that price. At first it was little "jokes" about me with his brother and father, later it was cruel bullying, shoves, beratement, isolation, dismissal, insults, control, silence, hiding money, lies, sexual abuse, and more. It all happened so smoothly and a drop at a time that I began to believe I was a somehow causing it and if I complied it would get better. It got worse. I felt trapped. I couldn't breathe. I was diagnosed with C-PTSD.

I finally escaped. Literally escaped. I grabbed a small backpack and put a few things in it and ran to the woods in the nearby park. I made it even through his attempts to stop me. I hid in the woods and felt like Dorothy as the swooping flying monkeys of my fears were attacking me. Somehow I made it to a friend's home and she took care of me through the night. I could barely move. I was in shock and so scared, and somehow I made it out alive through a minefield of the long toxic intimidation and threats during divorce. It was not easy. It was grueling. And, I'd do it again in a second, and I feel great gratitude for making it out alive! Actually with hindsight I'd leave at the first sign of control or abuse.

That was almost 20 years ago and I've come a long way since then. I've learned to stand up for myself, to say no, ask for help, and to love myself so much that I don't allow such manipulation and abuse in my life. If you have been, or are in, a similar situation and any of this resonates with you, please don't try and navigate it alone. This is abuse. Please get the help you need and deserve. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). And,when you're ready I'd be honored to help you calm your weary and raveled nerves, heal from the trauma, find your confidence, love yourself fully and embrace your wonderful life with a feeling of self empowerment and divine right to your own needs and desires.

Please contact me if you'd like to explore how I can help you find your breath, and feel safe again. It's my greatest honor to guide your healing process and witness your awakening into your authentically empowered self.

Warmly, Janis E. McKinstry, MA


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