Mod 6: My story – Max

My two experiences of escaping narcissistic abuse occurred 22 years apart, and were very dissimilar. The differences in the two stories, if you compare this section to the next one about breaking with my Dad, illustrate the importance to your recovery of your connections to other humans. You’ll also see what a difference it makes when you have a good understanding of your abuse and can articulate it to others when you need to.

In 1992 there was no World Wide Web. While the internet can be a real pain sometimes, it is also a gift that can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Without it, all I could do after my separation was look in the Yellow Pages for a counselor, make an appointment, and share my misery with this person.

She diagnosed me as being codependent, and sent me to a few sessions of group therapy. I also bought a couple of books on codependency. The diagnosis made sense all right—I could see all the traits in myself. But what passed completely under the radar was the fact that my ex had NPD. I’m not even sure if the medical profession had much awareness of it at all back then.

While this whole exercise wasn’t completely unproductive, I found that I didn’t have a lot in common with people married to alcoholics and gambling addicts and the like. Sure, it was a great idea for me to work on setting boundaries, and valuing my own needs and wants. But this didn’t address in the least how I lost my boundaries and became codependent in the first place: my upbringing and the abuse by my ex-husband.

Meanwhile, I did the usual “griping about the ex” that divorcing people do, to my friends and a bit later to my new boyfriend. I think he (my future second  husband) got the clearest picture of my ex; his diagnosis was basically “asshole.” Not clinical, but accurate! That much I knew, but I understood nothing about what made Max tick.

I suffered from PTSD for a year, self-diagnosing this as “abandonment issues” because Max had failed me. I had no enlightenment or advice concerning how to deal with my anxiety attacks, and was fortunate to be with someone who was patient and supportive.

One way in which I was lucky was that virtual “no contact” was foisted upon me. A fair share of narcs will come back after their victims after discarding them, starting the cycle again, sometimes repeatedly. It was my good fortune that after discard, Max soon had no interest whatsoever in me and almost none in his kids. He could barely be bothered with them when they happened to live in the same city as he did, by coincidence rather than any design on his part. The little contact he had with them only did them more damage, so I’m glad I at least was spared (poor girls).

How much better this all could have gone for me and my daughters had I had a true understanding of what happened to me! Or if I had other victims of narcissistic abuse to communicate with!

As it was, I muddled along without any particular enlightenment for two more decades, the latter part of which I spent once again the key source of narcissistic supply for my other narc. Let’s proceed to my story with Dad….

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