Locked Down: How to Set Yourself Free from a Narcissist

Uncaged Bird
LOCKED DOWN https://wp.me/p9u5hw-2iK

*Trigger warning: this post discusses narcissists and narcissistic abuse. What is narcissistic abuse? Read How to Spot Narcissistic Abuse

Anyone who has dealt with a narcissist knows they are not harmless people who openly express their admiration for themselves, which is often the perception. There are actually different kinds of narcissists but being emotional vampires is what they all have in common – they feed off the emotions and reactions of their prey. Being in a relationship with a narcissist is like being a caged bird. It’s psychological captivity. For the narcissist, you cease to be a person in your own right with your own thoughts and feelings and instead become a puppet in their games. You are theirs to play with and discard as they wish. Narcissists will destroy someone’s life, claim to be the victim, and then portray their victim as the villain and discredit them should their target have the audacity to stand up for themselves and tell their story. I know because it happened to me. However, you can set yourself free from their cage, as I have been able to.

In the UK we’re now heading into our sixth week of lockdown due to the coronavirus, also known as the pandemic COVID-19. I am lucky to be in a safe place, isolating with a lovely man who is kind, funny and mature. We are having a lot of fun together, keeping each other entertained, but we also give each other space when we need it. However, as I have written about in other blog posts, I am still being cyberstalked by my abuser, my ex/boss, two years after leaving him. He persists in finding ways to try to contact me (cleverly finding ways that I cannot block) even though I have for the last year, privately and publicly, repeatedly asked him to stop. I last asked him to stop contacting me at the end of March. I have now given up asking. He has never respected my boundaries and like a true narcissist – he is a covert narcissist – he continues to just do what he wants (scroll down to read 12 Things You Should Know About Covert Narcissists). The most recent contact was yesterday (this post was written in April but there has been contact throughout May 2020). Fortunately, this has been going on for so long I’ve become desensitised and indifferent. I’ve finally developed narcissist immunity. Better late than never. The best strategy when dealing with a narcissist is to not engage – oh, if only I had known this five years ago when he first began messing with my head and emotions – and after discussions with my hugely supportive solicitor, our plan is to keep ignoring him rather than pursuing legal action, which I think would be beneficial to no one and seems to me to be the kindest response to an ongoing undesirable situation. Many victims spend years trying to get narcissists to take responsibility, to take accountability, for their actions, for the damage they do, but you will be wasting your time. The narcissist never genuinely feels that they have done anything wrong and they will blame their behaviour on you. The best response when dealing with a narcissist is no response. Starving the emotional vampire and walking away is the only way to reclaim yourself.

Being in lockdown with someone 24/7 means that someone else has been able to see first-hand my ex/boss’s attempts to contact me as they’ve happened, what he does and how he does it. For the last six weeks there has been a noticeable increase in the frequency of unwanted contact; he has been contacting me almost daily. I’m not really sure why when he’s been getting no response but I suspect he is hoovering due to low narcissistic supply, exacerbated by lockdown. I continue to keep a record of all contact and screenshot evidence as mentioned in my post Gaslighting Survival Guide.

My own situation has made me think about those who have been forced into lockdown with their abusers. My ex/boss does not know where I am, I no longer reveal my current location publicly either on my blog or Instagram on the advice of the police and my solicitor to protect myself and others in my life. This means that I am safe. Only people I trust have my phone number, email address, and can interact with me on Instagram. Others are much less fortunate and I worry about victims of abuse being trapped in unsafe situations, without access to their usual support networks. There are some amazing support accounts on Instagram that could perhaps offer guidance and a source of strength during this difficult time. I have certainly found narcissistic abuse Instagram accounts personally useful. Here are some suggested accounts for anyone who needs them:

@narc_proof_and_thriving

@dr_anniephd

@understandingthenarc

@thepersonalgrowth.project

@gracepowerstrength

@novas_narcissistabuse_recovery

@melanietoniaevans

For example, I can relate to this recent post from @melanietoniaevans:

I recently read that a narcissist’s worst nightmare is an educated empath. That’s absolutely true. Once you educate yourself and know what you are dealing with, it becomes easier to see through the manipulative behaviours. When you see who the person really is – not the public image they like to portray – and understand the insecurities that drive them, it makes it easy to walk away. Educating yourself is the key to setting yourself free. If you recognise that you are dealing with a narcissist, get away from them and sever contact with them if possible – this is unfortunately difficult to do when you have children with them and leaving them can become a painfully complicated situation with children being used as pawns within manipulative games. You have to completely disengage as any attempt by you to reason with them, or any reaction from you, either positive or negative, just feeds their need for narcissistic supply and sustains the emotional vampire. Accept that nothing you do will fix them or change them and cut your losses. Understand that you are not to blame for their abusive behaviour. Move on, heal and going forward, only invest your time in people capable of treating you with the love and respect you deserve.

My wish for everyone at this uncertain and challenging time is that you are in a place where you feel safe and loved. If that is not the case, my heart goes out to you and I encourage you to follow support accounts on Instagram and other social media sites, if you can, until you are able to access your support network (friends, family etc) and face-to-face counselling if you need it. There is help out there. Please know that you are not alone. Sending love.

Take care, Lisa.

12 Things Covert Narcissists 2

This post links with Inconvenient Truths; If You Know, You Know; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; How To Date An Arsehole; Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…); Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird

If You Know, You Know

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IF YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW https://wp.me/p9u5hw-2bK

When you first meet someone and you feel that ‘Wow’, the butterflies in the stomach, the magnetic pull towards them, the ‘I want to know everything about you’ impulse, it’s a special thing. Love makes us feel alive but it also makes us blind. When you have strong feelings for someone, your judgement becomes flawed. Realising that the person you have invested time, energy and love into, has repeatedly lied to you, manipulated you, betrayed your trust, is clearly not who they present themselves to be, is absolutely devastating. You blame yourself for not seeing the signs sooner, for accepting their lies, for being gullible, but it’s not your fault. You can’t beat yourself up for not knowing what you didn’t know.

In other blog posts I have written about my emotionally abusive, narcissistic, controlling ex not because I want to portray myself as a victim, but because I am motivated by a desire to educate and help others. I do not want anyone else to go through what I did. In October 2015 I blindly fell into a romantic situation that in the five years that followed caused utter havoc in my life, extreme emotional and mental distress, and nearly destroyed me. All because I fell in love with someone who is not as nice as the image he likes to portray. So many people have told me over the years that he is such a good man and implied that I must be responsible for the toxicity and abuse within our relationship. They are welcome to believe whatever they want. I have a collection of emails, WhatsApp messages and a voice recording that prove otherwise; the evidence speaks for itself. I know what I have been through and the impact the relationship has had on me and my life.

Gaslighters are highly effective convincing manipulators. They are adept at discrediting those who speak up about them. I am aware of the lies that have been told about me but here are the facts which I can prove:

  • My ex/boss initiated the relationship
  • He kissed me in his office during school hours
  • I refused to sleep with him as he was married
  • He sexually harassed me in the workplace and asked for sex on his desk
  • He refused to support me professionally if upset with me personally
  • There was retaliation in the workplace when our personal relationship was not good
  • He damaged my career and my relationships with co-workers when I worked for him
  • I tried to leave the relationship multiple times but he would always talk me round
  • He lied to and manipulated me throughout the relationship
  • He has cyber stalked me since I left him last year and has been reported to UK police

When I left my job and Dubai, where we lived, to get away from him, I had thought that a difficult situation in my life was over. How wrong I was. How naive. I quite rightly reported my ex to the company we had worked for for his professional misconduct and expected him to be held accountable – after all, I had been told by them to ‘trust us to deal with him’. I didn’t trust them and I was right not to. After seeing a statement by the CEO proclaiming how proud she was of him, and his continued attempts to manipulate and control me did not stop, I began speaking out publicly about my experience. This is 2019 – NDAs can no longer be relied upon to stop women telling the truth. Had I been left alone to get on with my life, I probably would have shut up and gone away like so many trolls told me to but I’m afraid no man gets to damage my career and wellbeing, scapegoat and villainise me, and harass and cyberstalk me when I had to leave my job and my home in Dubai to get away from him. That’s not a situation that anyone should stay silent about and was certainly not one that I was willing to tolerate and accept. How a woman – who refused to sleep with her married boss – in this day and age can be punished for speaking the truth whilst the man concerned is protected and rewarded for his abuse of power is unbelievable. The refusal to be honest, to take responsibility, and lack of accountability, is on him and the company. Shame on all of them, those who continue to condone his behaviour, and those who tried to shame me and trolled me for speaking up when they do not know everything that happened in the relationship, or its aftermath, or how many times I tried to resolve the situation amicably. I didn’t deserve how I was treated by him personally and professionally when I worked for him and I do not deserve to continue to be abused when I am getting on with my life. It is not OK to villainise women who find the strength to walk away from, and speak up about, abusive situations just because you don’t like what they have to say. Pretending the truth does not exist does not make it go away. My ex/boss is the one who has continued the situation and ignored requests to stop. Actions speak louder than words and his actions since I left him seem to indicate he feels he can still do whatever he wants and get away with it. However, no one is above accountability and what is done in the dark always comes to light.

I left Dubai over 18 months ago. Nearly two weeks ago I had to change my email address as yet another unwelcome email was received – containing porn and information only relevant to my ex and I – despite repeated requests to be left alone and warnings about legal action. Being cyberstalked is not simply annoying. It is not flattering. It’s not harmless. It is definitely not romantic. It is weird. It is frightening. It has been deeply upsetting and I cannot understand how someone I loved could put me through everything he has put me through over the last five years. I completely misjudged him and feel that I never really knew him. I fell in love with a facade. Had I known when I met him what he was really like and how fucked up our relationship would be, I obviously would never have gotten involved. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. To live my life in peace I had to change my phone number, change my private email address, disable blog comments, restrict followers on my blog and Instagram and make everything as private as I could. You don’t know how easy you are making it for someone to track you, to monitor you, to invade your life, until it becomes an issue. I urge others to rethink how much information they share publicly – you have no idea how vulnerable you are to cyberstalking and identity theft until you find yourself the target of someone who wants to abuse the power they have.

As a result of my blog and Instagram many people know what I have been through, and the identity of my Dubai ex. I won’t mention his name here. If you know, you know. I hope by speaking publicly about our relationship, I have prevented him from doing this again to another colleague, or to another woman. I also hope that he seeks help, and if he can’t be honest with others about the things he has done, that he has at least been honest with himself to learn from this. Everything we experience in life is an opportunity to grow and become a better person. I am not the same person I was: I am stronger, wiser, more resilient, more humble. Because I know what I want in life and all that I have been through, I will never allow myself to be in a similar situation again. I have reclaimed my privacy – though my Instagram is public again, my settings ensure only people I follow can interact with me. I am sure karma will take care of him eventually. Even when you think you have gotten away with something, the Universe is always watching. 

Only people who have been in toxic/emotionally abusive/coercively controlling relationships themselves know and really understand how damaging such relationships are, and will be able to empathise with my experience. Just because someone appears charming, kind and loving in public, it does not mean that they are not capable of abusive behaviour in private – appearances can be deceptive as I have painfully learned. He and I both know what happened between us; only one of us has told the truth. There have honestly been times when I have seriously wondered if there was much point in going on with my life but each time I felt that low, I found a reason to be hopeful and kept going. Now living a life radically changed to my old Dubai life, I’m so glad I did, and I hope sharing my story helps others. 

Take care, Lisa.

This post links with Locked Down: How to Set Yourself Free from a Narcissist; Inconvenient Truths; In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; How To Date An Arsehole; Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…)Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird

Invisible Scars

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*Trigger warning: this post discusses emotional abuse.

Identifying emotional abuse within a relationship is not about blaming, being a victim, and remaining powerless. It’s about empowering those, like myself, that have been in unhealthy/abusive situations and giving them a voice and the tools necessary to heal and move forward. 

This article is a useful starting point in helping people to recognise that they may have experienced emotional abuse within a relationship, and to then seek the assistance needed to recover: 61 Devastating Signs of Emotional Abuse in a Relationship

Speaking to a trained counsellor, like I did, can be invaluable in enabling you to articulate your experiences and then put steps in place to take back control and overcome the abuse/toxicity encountered. Recovery can be a slow process but having fought my way to the good place I am in today, it is definitely possible.

In my relationship with my ex, these were the aspects of the relationship that I identified as being emotionally abusive (comments on the screenshots give some examples of the behaviours I experienced as not every part of the description strictly applies): 

I was shocked when I read through the list to see so many behaviours that I had dismissed, made excuses for, and basically allowed within the relationship because I loved him. I don’t think he consciously realised he was being emotionally abusive until I blogged about our relationship – I hope not anyway – so discussing the issue openly, and acknowledging that unhealthy/abusive behaviours have occurred – however difficult that can be – is the first step to healing and to change. Your partner has to be willing to do the work, but if they refuse, then you should put your needs first, protect yourself and leave the relationship.

Help is definitely available – look online for support groups in your area and make an appointment with a doctor/counsellor/therapist (whichever you feel most comfortable with). Many people find talking to friends about their experiences helpful but it can be hard for them to fully understand, particularly if they are friendly with both you and your partner, so a trained professional can be an excellent objective person to speak to whose only goal will be to support you. Don’t feel too ashamed to ask for help when needed.

Good luck on the journey to healing…

Take care, Lisa.     

This post links with Locked Down: How to Set Yourself Free from a Narcissist; Inconvenient Truths; If You Know, You Know; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; How To Date An Arsehole; Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…) and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird