Narcissism is an evil that masquerades as good. Like a Pied Piper this master illusionist can lead you to Hell all while making you feel flattered to be chosen to go there. Only when you wake up in Hell do you realize the real evil that existed in his fluted song. By then it’s too late; not only have you fallen victim, but most likely you have paid for the flute, as well. Tigress Luv
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month so to mark these occasions Happiness Weekly will release a mini post series about narcissistic abuse, which often leads to domestic violence with physical abuse and also tell you a bit about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to draw your attention to a condition that can cause you to lose all control and power to someone else and all the while, the person with the disorder struggles to put into words why they’re getting such immense satisfaction from trying to destroy their target.
Throughout this mini post series you will learn:
Day 1 – All about Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Where narcissism began
- What a narcissist is
- How someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) affects others
- How to tell if you have NPD
- How does a narcissist continue their path of destruction
- Why did they develop NPD?
- The narcissist as the perfect person
- Lies and manipulation of a narcissist
Day 2 – I’m re-posting some of my bizarre experience which led to equally bizarre consequences – consequences that could affect me for the rest of my life, but also consequences that inspired my passion for exposing narcissistic abuse, and working in the area I do. I am also in the process of writing an eBook to show how such a painful situation became so impossible to break away from.
- Owning it – why I’m not ashamed that I was served with an AVO
Day 3 – No one wins from narcissistic abuse
- Signs and symptoms of narcissistic abuse
- Understanding trauma bonding
- After narcissistic abuse
- Are you at risk of narcissistic abuse
- Recovering from narcissistic abuse
- Moving on after narcissistic abuse
- How you can protect yourself
Day 4 – Understanding someone with NPD
- Life through a narcissist’s eyes
- Why you may attract narcissists
Day 5 – Fun memes about narcissism
- Laughing at narcissistic abuse to aid recovery
Through raising awareness of the disorder, I hope more people are able to recognise NPD before getting involved with someone who has it, or can understand how being involved with someone with this condition can be detrimental to their health and their life, and seek help before it gets out of control. While someone with NPD may threaten you will lose out financially, by reputation or in any other way if you leave them and/or don’t do exactly as they say, they may even carry this threat out – as in my case – and ensure you ‘lose’ … but I can guarantee that all you have to gain by staying is a longer and more complicated journey to recovery.
Both men and women can be narcissistic, however 75% of narcissists are male. NPD expert Dr Sam Vaknin says there is little difference between a male and female narcissist. For the purpose of my posts regarding NPD, narcissism and narcissistic abuse I will refer to the narcissist as male to align with my examples and personal experiences with a narcissist.
But first, let’s face it, ‘narcissist’ seems to have become a buzzword at the moment! People are very quick to throw it around and diagnose people who don’t actually have the disorder but merely just acted because they’re a jerk or an arsehole. It is possible to be a jerk or an arsehole without having NPD – people with NPD just happen to be the kings of this behaviour! What we’re talking about today is narcissism in its true form – if everyone who threw diagnosis around was correct, every second person would have NPD! The scary truth is there are no conclusive studies detailing how many people have NPD or how many suffer from narcissistic abuse.
Also, before I begin, as seen in my post Why labels are destructive, I generally find labels unhelpful, however when you’re recovering from narcissistic abuse it can be empowering to see the situation for what it was and helpful when you’re looking for further support. In this case, labels can be helpful where they are correctly diagnosed. I can be confident my case study suffers NPD after having a confirmed diagnosis from a psychologist and a psychiatrist – not just from the story alone, but also from the evidence I presented. They didn’t hesitate in saying this person had NPD. Ironically I came across someone who worked with him and his wife years ago, and I broke down – not expecting to ever be in that situation – before I said anything, she said the words “He’s a narcissist – I can tell, I’ve been with narcissistic men”. #reassured
Where it all began
Greek mythology introduced the term and this is where we’ll start:
Once upon a time…
In ancient Greece there was a hunter who was renowned for his beauty – called Narcissus. The son of a river god and nymph, he was exceptionally proud of what he did to those who loved him. One day Nemesis – the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to arrogance – lead him to a pool, where he saw his reflection for the first time. Narcissus instantly fell in love with it – not realising it was his image or merely an image itself. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died.
In the myth, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection – but if we look deeper what he really fell in love with was his reflection – this reflection was not his true self. This is a very key principle to understand when learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, because as far-fetched as the myth may appear, this is actually the case with NPD in reality today. We talk a lot more about a narcissist’s true and false self in our fourth post in this series – stay tuned!
“The very fact he fell in love with the illusionary part of himself meant he was not capable of loving his true self,” said Melanie Tonia Evans, who offers the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program.
A narcissist put simply is someone who loves themselves – these people are actually entirely fixated on themselves, but the fact is, it’s not their true self they love. Just as in this Greek myth, they are actually in love with the false self which is the version of themselves that they project.
Truth be told, we all have a bit of narcissism in us, but it’s not necessarily unhealthy or be a fully-fledged personality disorder. A healthy narcissist, according to Simon Crompton, is someone who has a self-esteem that can enable them to leave their imprint on the world, but also share in the emotional life of others.
However, when it becomes a personality disorder the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity. Psychology Today says it involves arrogant behaviour, a lack of empathy for others and a need for admiration. It’s this description which compliments Sophia J. Wien’s MA Drs theory that the name Narcissus derives from the Greek word “narce” which means “to be numb”. Someone with NPD is incapable of feeling empathy – they are numb.
Jeni Mawter very aptly describes the narcissist as “a soul without footprints”. If you experience a turbulent ending to a relationship with someone who has NPD, this may be one of the first things you can identify with. They are the original hallow man – and to fill their voice, they literally try to get their lifeblood from destroying the souls of their targets.
How does Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) affect others?
Roberta Cone defines a narcissist as “a person who deprives their partners of the ability to feel joy and love as a separate person in relationships. They deliberately attempt to destroy or compromise the separate identity of another. The longer the relationship continues, the narcissist not only becomes less considerate, but more actively cruel.”
Throughout my post series, I will refer to a person with NPD as a narcissist and I want to note here that a relationship with someone who has this personality type is not toxic – it’s abusive – and that’s why it’s called narcissistic abuse. So if you’re questioning why you’re so hurt from it, take peace in knowing this is why and it’s understandable you’re hurting! It’s not you, it’s this person deliberately hurting you.
According to Andrea Schneider a narcissist markets themselves in attractive, deceptive packages presenting with false bravado/charm, intense seduction, swift pacing of the relationship into commitment, intense sexual chemistry, love-bombing (repetitive texting, email, phone calls) and/or romancing excessively with flowers, gifts, fine dining etc. These are the initial warning bells and red flags that a narcissistic is targeting you, when you’re caught up in it, it’s the hardest to accept and let go of. Everyone loves to be loved!
Simply for the challenge, narcissists often target intelligent, self-sufficient, empathetic and generally highly attractive people. The person they are targeting may already be in a relationship and/or express a sense of vulnerability such as relationship troubles, grief, depression or other experiences that the narcissist will pretend to relate to. They set their sights on these people for the challenge to bring them down and they deliberately use their vulnerability to get inside their target’s head, heart and soul.
How can I tell if I have NPD?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, says a patient must exhibit five or more of the following traits to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes
- Grandiose sense of self-importance
- Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Belief that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- Need for excessive admiration
- Sense of entitlement
- Takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy
- Often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
What scares me when I read through that list is the person who left me with nasty scars and trauma that still wakes me in the dead of the night, actually checked every one of these, and it was shown in his texts. I wish I knew sooner. Please be honest with yourself, if this sounds like your partner, and identify this EARLY. Save yourself from the unfathomable outcomes that come with these relationships.
If you think you have NPD, I strongly suggest seeking psychiatric assistance to help delve into why hurting others brings you the satisfaction it does and how you can change your behaviour in order to have healthy relationships. Although Relationship Free assists people in all relationship situations, I will not assist someone who is narcissistic or has NPD – I will immediately refer these clients on. However it is unlikely I will ever have these clients because unfortunately the problem with narcissism and the reason for my mini post series is that a narcissist won’t seek professional help for their condition because it doesn’t fit with their perfect image of themselves. Their perfect image would never need help, and so they continue to destroy people – knowing that’s what they do, but not understanding why. My abuser was very conscious that he hurts people, he even said “I only ever hurt the people I love”, but he was so caught up, he couldn’t see why and too selfish to seek the help he needed before hurting me as well. For the record – it wasn’t love! Thank God!
If you can recognise these NPD traits in someone currently in your life, remove yourself from the person and cease contact where you can. No contact is the only way forward from a narcissist and that includes you checking up on them. I also recommend seeing a mental health professional for more advice and strongly recommend Kim Saeed’s coaching services to assist you in moving forward and the resources on her website to help rebuild your strength following narcissistic abuse. Life coaches and psychotherapists are a highly beneficial resource to keep in mind for narcissistic abuse recovery – I personally found them a lot more useful than a psychologist and a psychiatrist because they concentrate more on soul healing. I was in such a bad place, I didn’t care what qualifications people had, as long as I knew they could help me and bring me the peace I needed. And they did, which is why I’ve also chosen to go into this field!
If you are currently in a relationship with someone who has NPD or have recently left a relationship where someone exhibited these symptoms – you are not alone! I strongly advise seeking assistance, and join a support group or forum online get more advice from others who are experiencing it. I built some of my strongest friendships here and next year, I’m travelling the world to meet them! It’s extremely difficult for people who haven’t experienced it to understand what it’s like and how it feels. Have you ever had a nightmare where you’re being chased – and no matter how fast you go, where you hide or how much strength you use, the person catches you? That’s what narcissistic abuse is like – only you can’t wake up to escape it. I have more information to help you heal will be available in the third part of this post series.
Why did they develop NPD?
People aren’t born with NPD – it’s is a psychiatric condition that is developed. Sophia J. Wien MA Drs says NPD is manifested in childhood and fuelled by their dysfunctional upbringing.
“The pathological narcissist grew up with parents who lacked in attunement. The parental figures were not aware of the child’s needs and failed to properly support the child in developmental tasks like weaning, separation, rapprochement (the reunion with the mother after separation and the establishment of harmonious relations) and individuation. Instead they demanded the child fit their ideal, live up to particular expectations or please their needs,” said Sophia.
“Desperate not to disappoint his parents and to keep their love and attention, the child learns to abandon who he is, forfeit his vitality and becomes a master in performing – often playing a role, acting as-if and developing a false persona prescribed by the parental ideal. This means he is not able to emerge from the symbiotic stage, outgrow his legitimate self-absorbedness and become an autonomous and secure individual,” she said.
“Arrested in his development and crippled in his authenticity and independence, the child will continue to see the world as his oyster, into adulthood, and in more than one way,” said Sophia.
Did you know 73% of male abusers in domestic violence situations are known to have been abused as children?
So I want to touch on my experience:
The narcissist I fell in love with had severe NPD, which is why my case is so extreme, and the narcissistic abuse that I endured was almost incomprehensible. One day we were driving from Sydney to Melbourne so I could start training for a new job and during that ten hour road trip in his luxury car he told me about his dysfunctional upbringing. Ironically, it was this story that got me hooked in the first place because I wanted to take the pain from his past by helping him to have a loving and harmonious future. This information is from the description the narcissist gave me of his upbringing only a couple of weeks into our relationship because he “trusted me”:
The narcissist told me how his father would lock him in the laundry for hours as a young child until he stood in darkness. He would be screaming to get out the entire time, banging on the locked door. Scared. His father would eventually return and open the door, drunk, and he would torture him for making so much noise. One time he got whipped with a belt so badly his legs were “completely black from the bruising”. He then wet himself from the fear caused by the abuse to which his father grew further abusive towards him “for making a mess”. The narcissist’s mother wouldn’t intervene because of his father’s alcoholism, and he was known to turn on her as well. Everyone knew about his abusive nature. He said people noticed in his school but he covered it up. According to the narcissist, despite having a twin brother and a younger sister, he was singled out and the only sibling to suffer abuse.
Eventually his father got arrested for abuse following a confrontation which involved the narcissist attempting to defend his mother’s life. He was hero! A very common trait of a narcissist is that they often tell stories that make them out to be the hero, but will always omit any responsibility. As a young adult (about 17 years old), he watched the police take his father away with his girlfriend by his side (now his wife of 25 years who he was “separated” from), and he went to jail for two years. During this time the narcissist cut off contact with him completely – he refused to call or visit. Meanwhile, the narcissist’s mother drained the bank account she shared jointly with her abusive husband in a bid to escape the abuse and move on.
“When his father was released from jail, the narcissist quickly forgave him, but he cut his mother off for her crime – going as far as to go and see the solicitors about it himself, and piece together that she had forged his father’s signature in order to have the money released to her. For seven years he refused to communicate with her at all because of her actions. She would go to his workplace and try to talk to him and he would continue working, ignoring her. She would just stand there and try to be with him, but still he wouldn’t even look at her. It went on like that for years.
In hearing his story that day in the car my immediate thought was: Don’t do anything wrong by him because he will cut you off cold and you’ll never hear from him again. Unfortunately I wasn’t that lucky!
How does a narcissist continue their path of destruction?
In order to continue as a narcissist they need a source of “supply” – just like a vampire with blood and a zombie with brains, a narcissist will latch onto things that become their supply until they exhaust them and move onto another source – generally another person. Savannah Grey appropriately describes the narcissist as being similar to a “psychological parasite”.
The narcissistic supply preserves a narcissist’s fragile ego – according to Christine Louis de Canonville narcissistic supply can be “anything that shields the narcissist from feeling a sense of shame or abandonment, and this is an integral part of narcissism”.
Unlike zombies and vampires, there are two sources of supply for narcissists:
Primary: it provides all the attention that the narcissist addict craves which can be public (such as fame, celebrity, notoriety) or private (admiration, flattery, acclaim, fear, repulsion etc);
Secondary: it alludes to those people or things that provide supply on a regular basis (such as children, spouse, friends, colleagues, partners, clients etc.). This form of supply enables the narcissist to lead a more normal existence and provides them with pride, financial safety, social distinction and the alliance they need.
“Narcissistic supply is not confined to people only, it can be applied to any inanimate object that has the ability to attract attention and admiration to the narcissist, (for example, a flash car, property, clothes, being a member of a church, cult, club, or a business). In short, anything that acts as status symbols for the narcissist is ‘narcissistic supply’,” Christine says.
The narcissist as the perfect person
Sophia J Wein says the narcissist wants you to see him as he wants to be seen, not as he truly is, so he stays attached to the prescribed ideal. Generally they are extreme perfectionists and an expert in controlling perception and manipulation. If you come close to lifting the mask and revealing their true self, you will suffer the consequences.
A relationship with a narcissist generally remains superficial because they’re scared you’ll look too closely at them. They see others and the world as a means to an end and they feel they need to make up for everything they missed out on when they were growing up. They generally demand that their partner is unconditionally loving and adoring towards them.
In my experience everything was rituals and routine. The narcissist’s family home was spotless, which he blamed on his wife’s obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) the whole reason he couldn’t stand to be there (note: OCD is a common response to narcissistic abuse, and the inability to take responsibility is typical of NPD). When he moved into his own apartment, it was also always spotless, the bed had to be made to creaseless perfection each morning, he spent exactly forty-five minutes in the bathroom each morning preparing for work – his hair was always gelled, his shirts ironed to perfection, he was always exceptionally punctual. Soon I was making meals for him and I still have photographs of his bowls of cereal so I could get the portion size exactly right, if I got it wrong the abuse would begin. In my post tomorrow I reveal a couple of very telling examples of NPD behaviours: the Crunchy Nut cornflakes and the threat over a “lovelock” – a padlock with our names on it and the date we started seeing each other. When I continued to receive those threats, I started to realise how sick he was.
A narcissist’s lies and manipulation
“He re-writes the flow of information, with gusto that often borders on calculated abuse or outright propaganda,” Sophia J Wein said. The lies and manipulation can literally leave you winded.
“The narcissist firmly believes in the reality of his distortions and the truth of his lies, and that is exactly what makes him so certain and convincing in his fraud. He will sacrifice anyone for the sake of the perfect image, just like the addict will sacrifice anyone in the way of getting his fix. The narcissist is fully prepared to give up on human morals and human integrity for the comfort of the masquerade,” Sophia said.
The way they carry pain and rage is concealed and disconnected. According to Sophia, is this state of detachment that makes the narcissist feel desperately alone and they are perpetually fleeing from this sense of emptiness. This is another reason a narcissist will have multiple affairs to try to escape their pain by distracting themselves from it and in the process they will play people off against each other, which keeps them well entertained.
“Completely insatiable and insecure, there is never enough success, money or love to fill the void. Inevitably the narcissist is so busy surviving that life is never truly lived as winning becomes everything, while fairness and justice becomes irrelevant. Diplomacy and negotiation are abandoned for the power struggle, the war, the right to be right and the demand to surrender,” Sophia said.
Tomorrow I’m reposting a couple of posts that rehash fragments from my torture and suffering during my experience with narcissistic abuse. Although I am still traumatised from my experience, and I still suffer complex post traumatic stress disorder, I work every day to help educate others and create an environment where I heal others while healing myself.
Breaking free of love addiction – it’s hard to comprehend but you can actually get addicted to the toxicity in a relationship with a narcissist.
Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. Lyndon B. Johnson
Over the years I have become a walking Madonna. I’m a chameleon. I’ve been fat, I’ve been skinny, I’ve been pretty, I’ve been ugly, I’ve been blonde, I’ve been brunette, I’ve been kind, I’ve been mean… I’ve been through about a hundred transformations – but at least three of them have been really noticeable to myself and others. This photo on the left is how it looks – yup, that’s all me! As you may have noticed, I kind of held onto the girl-next-door look over the past few years. So this week, Happiness Weekly looks at how YOU can transform yourself.
1. Set the bar
I don’t advise this often, but look at all your wonderful awesome friends around you and consider what it is about each of them that you love. Imagine life has become PhotoShop and what you can do is copy pieces from each person and put them back onto you. Make a strong mental note about what you like about them. Even go onto your Facebook and have a look at who you admire and work out what it is that you admire about them – how do they portray themselves? (Take a look at their Facebook page if you’re not sure.) What do they have in their life that you don’t? More importantly, what don’t they have in their life that you do? Who do they have in their life? How are they treated? How do they treat people?
2. Set the goal
Fantastic! Now we know what we want, we need to set the goal. Just with any goal-setting, look at yourself in the mirror and decide what you want to change about yourself. Do some deep soul searching – is it just an attitude adjustment? Are you unhappy with your hair? Do you have chipped nails? Do you want to lose weight – how much weight? Work out exactly what you want to change. In one positive sentence, state exactly what you want. Write it down. You can make a collage around your goal statement to remind you what you’re aiming for.
- Prepare to change
It’s important to emotionally prepare yourself for what’s to come because change isn’t easy – and it can be frustrating! For example, you won’t lose weight overnight like the Hollywood stars, unless you have their kind of money. Change can be a slow process – and when you’re angling for a full transformation you need to keep your eye on the prize and be realistic. Now you have set the bar and you’ve set your ultimate goal, start looking at the steps you’re going to take to achieve your goal for a full transformation.
- Transform yourself!
Now put everything into action. While you’re setting the goals (which is the hard part), also set some rewards (manicures, fake tan, new phone etc) that will be given when you achieve your milestones. As you achieve your goal, you will notice you physically and emotionally upgrade as well, because you start surrounding yourself with nicer things and better things than you currently have. It’s important to change your behaviour as well as aiming to change your physical appearance – this will help to maintain your change.
- Keep yourself accountable
A complete transformation is easy to give up on, but if you work hard to keep yourself accountable to the transformation, you’ll notice you also stay motivated and on track. Ways to keep yourself accountable may be to do a before and after photo – or select the photo that best represents everything you want to change at the moment (this is why those Facebook tags are so great) and use that as your before photo. This photo should also be used to remind you what you want to change when you feel you are going off track.
- Get coaching
If you get stuck, I highly recommend life coaching to help you achieve your transformation. A coach will work with you to work out what you want and help you find ways to achieve it. I am currently offering one pro bono coaching session valued at AUD$110, in exchange for you to provide a testimonial after the session. Claim this by contact me: email@example.com – it will be held over Skype and we’ll arrange a time via email. Be quick – I only have one to give away!
The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall. Vince Lombardi
Today I’m celebrating! (And it’s not just because it’s Google’s birthday – although, wishing you a very happy birthday today, Google – you have been a fantastic source of information and a great friend to me!)
So … how’s your year going?
Are you still on track with your new years resolutions?
OK, so you probably forgot them by New Years Day … let me guess, too much alcohol? Great excuse!
Anyone who knows me knows my level of self-motivation and determination and this year I’m achieving everything I set out to achieve. I’m checking each and every one of my New Years Resolutions … it’s been one hell of a busy year, let me tell you!
As of this week Happiness Weekly has reached 100,000 people! I don’t advertise, I just blog and every now and then check in with a Facebook page. So I just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who is reading Happiness Weekly, or has read Happiness Weekly, and particularly to those of you who stumbled across my page and stayed or the ones who return time and time again without signing up just to see what I’m saying. After almost two years of consistent blogging, this is a fantastic achievement and I couldn’t have done it without YOU! The truth is in the statistics!
Thank you for joining my journey, for accepting me exactly as I am and allowing me to speak my truth. I’m dedicated to Happiness Weekly in a way that you would don’t see – I’m either writing for a blog or I’m thinking what to write next, and it’s one of the best aspects of my life. Happiness Weekly allows me to take every situation that comes at me and turn it into that positive and then enables those sunshine light rays to bounce off me onto the universe and directly onto each of you who are following.
A couple of weeks ago, I did two surveys for Relationship Free, my new venture, as part of a major research assignment. This week I’m opening a survey for you – my dedicated Happiness Weekly readers and followers as I try to get this community a little more active and involved and it’ll help me to deliver more of what you want … and need!
The survey is available here – thank you to everyone who participates: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TR8TKN6
OK, so following recent posts and despite my business Relationship Free being my new focus, I made the decision to sign up for another two years with Happiness Weekly. And you may be asking yourself what makes me such a damn expert in happiness when I’ve been sharing some misery of late.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what makes you happy?
What has to happen for you to be happy?
What does your world look like when you’re happy? How does it feel?
Stay in that moment. How do you look? What are your wearing? What’s your face look like?
Are you perfect? Are you wrinkle-free, super skinny, flushed with money? Or are you seeing yourself just as you are now?
Imagine yourself in that picture, physically, exactly as you are at the moment.
Although there may be a few changes around you, the way you look is who you are today – what we did just then was paint a positive happy picture around your current being.
The message is – you, and the things in your life, don’t have to be perfect to be happy. A lot of people strive for perfection in their quest for happiness and in the process of striving to be completely outstanding, they lose all sense of happiness. They also become numb to the simple pleasures, because they become so fixated that they can’t be happy until they have X, Y and Z.
I am far from perfect. In fact, I’ve made tons of mistakes in my time, and I’ve been open about them! But I’m happy – and I’ve maintained my sense of self and a certain consistent level of happiness, peace and harmony along the way. Sure, I’m not sunshine and rainbows all the time, but majority of the time I am.
You’re probably wondering how this can be given the level of adversity I’ve been through. The answer is: acceptance and gratitude.
I accepted that I would feel scared for a while following domestic violence, so I look at what fear is bringing to my life that is positive. For example, fear is keeping me safe at the moment – so I am thankful.
I accept that I was abused. I hate thinking of myself as a victim – because that’s not who I am – but I accept what happened to me and how it affected me, and I’m thankful that I’m safe now.
I accept that I’m not perfect. I’m adventurous, I take risks, and in the process, I make mistakes. I’m thankful that I have the ability to clearly see and understand the lessons and I can learn from them, and I believe I’ve demonstrated that I have!
And the reason I can accept so readily, is that I can see if it is useful for me or not. If it doesn’t align with my values, then I eject it from my life quite quickly. Values are really important. When we act out, it’s generally because something isn’t aligning with our values and we don’t know what to do with it or how to express it.
The biggest thing I have come to accept – which enables a lot of my happiness – is me. I let myself make mistakes – so long as I find the lessons and learn from them. I love my body, after years of hating it. I laugh at myself, instead of getting embarrassed all the time. I accept myself completely and unconditionally – and I think that’s what people can learn from. In accepting myself completely, I’m able to open up a new world of self-trust and self-forgiveness for when I do fail at something or when crisis does strike.
So what makes me such an expert in happiness? The fact that I can take a positive out of every negative – even the most painful things. This sets me apart. I have developed so much from who I once was and I have a lot of lessons to share.
Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. John Maxwell
Leadership – it’s the quality everyone wants and a lot of the wrong people think they have. One of the keys to leadership is leading by example and moving in the clear, concise direction you want to go. These two characteristics, leading and moving, can also categorise the difference between a good leader and a bad leader. Not everyone has leadership skills, which is why there are hundreds of courses you can do to develop these skills, or you can just read this post and get started on your own – the good news is: leadership is something you can develop. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how YOU can transform yourself into a leader.
Be passionate about whatever area you’re trying to lead in. If you’re passionate, you will naturally want to know more about it, and in knowing more about it you’ll become an expert, and as you become an expert people will look up to you, as people look up to you they’ll come to you for guidance and before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a leadership position! Leadership can almost be a natural progression stemming from passion – which is why it is almost essential to be passionate in the area you are leading.
Confidence in the area you’re leading in is essential. One of the most important leadership qualities you can have is confidence in your decisions, confidence in your knowledge of the topic and confident in the areas you need to grow and develop so you can actively seek that growth for yourself to strengthen your leadership abilities.
Choosing the right direction or the best direction that leads to the most positive outcomes is also important for a leader because it builds trust among the people who are following you. If a leader is unsure about the direction or demonstrates uncertainty by regularly changing the direction they want to go, it loses trust and rapport among peers. A leader should seek clarification and research the pros and cons of every direction before a decision is made so they can move in any chosen direction with confidence and clarity.
A leader must be able to know how and when to delegate. If a leader is constantly doing all the work, they will become overloaded and won’t be able to achieve tasks. Overloaded and overwhelmed, the leader won’t have time to see ahead of their own activities in order to lead people anywhere. Delegation is a critical quality in leadership.
It is important that leaders communicate transparently where they can. If people feel a leader is hiding something or not telling the full truth, it breaks rapport and the followers won’t continue to contribute to the best of their ability. Clear concise communication with all followers is a fantastic asset for any good leader to have.
Be the change you seek and set an example as you motivate your followers. Inspiration can come from witnessing the miracle. Be passionate in the area you’re leading and demonstrate reasons why others should be passionate about it too. Openly share your knowledge and encourage others to grow in your field as well.
A good leader always dresses well. The way you look impacts the way you do your work, the way other people relate to you and the way you are viewed as a leader. Top leaders often wear “power suits” that show their authority. You rarely see a leader of a country wondering down the supermarket in a tracksuit for milk. Dress your best and look the part!
Following these tips, you will be well on your way to being a leader. Want more? Enrol yourself in a leadership course through your local community centre or university and go forth with confidence!
Every man dies, but not every man really lives. Braveheart
So many people have begged me to watch this movie – Eat Pray Love – starring Julia Roberts, and I never seemed to get around to it. Now I’ve seen it, I’m not sure what took me so long. I guess I thought it’d be one of those movies you’d see on a rainy day – maybe I was scared it would change me – maybe I was worried I’d find it boring… But of course I can’t tell you how many terrible movies I’ve seen in the 1,480 days since its release date.
One day, while in the midst of despair, it was raining outside. I was falling apart in my apartment. I’d pushed everyone away who was checking in on me – I turned my phone off. I was crying uncontrollably from the worst hurt I’ve ever experienced. By this stage I was ready to give up – I wanted to quit my job, I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I wanted to move away – who knows where to, and I wanted to be alone. I shut down my social media accounts and stopped looking at my email. I couldn’t find any inner strength to keep going.
So, I turned to my computer. I wanted to switch off, even if I just sat there and did nothing. I scrolled down a list of movies I hadn’t seen and there it was. Eat Pray Love.
In a tracksuit, having not left my apartment in days, I sat on the couch, numbed in my pain, curled in the foetal position. I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate – but I had no appetite. I felt like a shell, like there was nothing left. I was all out of hope and I was definitely all out of happiness. In fact, as I sat there and watched in my morbid trance-like state, I felt as though I was watching myself. As it got to the scene where Liz was explaining leaving a toxic relationship and the stages you go through, I started to sit up and listen. I identified so strongly with the character, that within the first hour of watching, I was convinced I should buy a ticket to Italy and Bali and take off.
Just like Liz, every day since I was 13 years old, I have either been in a relationship with someone or ending one. It’s been a constant treadmill. Now I’m off that treadmill and I’m trying to find peace and just like Richard said to Liz, it’s up to me to do the work to achieve that.
This is the greatest healing movie I have ever come across. Although I sobbed helplessly intermittently throughout it and my concentration often took me away, walking to the kitchen, walking to my bedroom, walking to the bathroom … even sitting crying in another room but still listening – the messages it brought to me were so powerful. So here I am sharing it with you – through my experience of it.
First … if you have no appetite, it’s almost impossible to watch this movie and not feel hungry. Though I didn’t rush out to buy a margherita pizza – it did encourage me nibble at bits and pieces. The only reason I was scared to regain the weight I lost from stress was that I didn’t want it to restore me to the person I was – having said that, I couldn’t help but have a giggle when they discussed the “muffin top” – Liz was right – just go out and buy some new jeans.
There were many quotes in this movie that truly hit home for me but two of them were – “That’s what you do, not what you are” and “I don’t need to love you in order to prove that I love myself!”
So here I am – at 31 years old, I’m single. Completely single.
Not exactly where I was hoping to be in life at this age – but it is what it is. I would rather be happy and single than with someone and miserable. While I wouldn’t call myself happy right now – particularly given the above descriptions, I am at least on a journey towards it and it’s no comparison to the misery I felt in the abusive relationship.
I’ve been single for exactly 150 days today. My last relationship robbed me of everything I was and it took all my courage, against some truly ridiculous threats, to get out. And now? Just like Liz, I’m on a journey to find myself again.
As soon as I got out of that relationship I regretted ever knowing that person – a natural reaction after everything I’d been through? And while I don’t want to acknowledge him in any kind of positive light – and I don’t believe in soul mates – I identified with this:
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…”
Overall, Eat Pray Love inspired me to embrace my freedom. Why aren’t I on a jet plane right now?
The quotes littered throughout this movie are just beautiful, but this quote really stood out for me because it symbolised how I’m feeling inside and what may come:
“A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it a long with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins? It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”
Liz is right: “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation”. As soon as it was spoken, it was like my inner light flicked on again. I could almost say with certainty this movie and the entire story actually stopped me from giving up.
The story itself is so raw, so true.
Watching this movie has been so significant in my healing journey and the universe delivered it in perfect time. I always think of watching a movie as a present to myself, because I’m usually so busy between work and study that I just don’t have time to stop. I was craving for: “Dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing.”
And towards the end of the movie we are left with another insightful quote:
“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting and set out on a truth seeking journey either internally or externally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared most of all to face and forgive some of the most difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”
As I mentioned, I am currently studying and there are lots of changes ahead – including for Happiness Weekly. If you recognise any of the changes and feel my passion for Happiness Weekly is slipping – Liz said it best: “I am not checking out. I need to change.”
This is all part of my journey.
I know the whole purpose of Happiness Weekly is you guys come here to get help, but this week I was kind of hoping you may be able to assist me?
OK so here’s the thing…
As you know I’m trying to finish off my studies, with the goal in mind of having five positive certificates achieved by New Years Eve, and one of those is an entire new career direction and part of opening Relationship Free.
I have created a survey to form evidence for my Major Research Assessment. And I now just need as many people as I can to participate with their thoughts about relationships. I’m trying to establish if a life coach would be beneficial for someone suffering a relationship-related trauma or issue.
The survey is available here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Y8B7W3V
And it closes on Friday, 26 September at 5pm (Sydney, Australia time). Please share it with your Facebook friends and family etc. The more people who participate, the more people I will be able to assist ultimately.
It’ll take about two minutes of your time.
BIG thank you in advance to everyone who helps me. Love makes the world go around! xx
Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. Hippocrates
Sometimes even the flight of an angel hits turbulence. Terri Guillemets
This year I have very openly and very slowly worked to recover from the breakdown of my relationship with who I thought was my dream man … who not only intentionally hurt me, but trapped me with domestic violence and persistent threats. He then went on to continue to torture me slowly as he carried out ever threat.
The damage that person caused to me emotionally and mentally caused such inner annihilation and destruction, I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same. After I used the last of my strength to get me away from that relationship, and parted with thousands of dollars to keep me out of harm’s way, there was literally nothing that wasn’t wiped out inside. It felt like a bushfire had gone through and torched every living cell within me. The pain was indescribable.
“When the Japanese mend broken objects they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold, because they believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful,” Barbara Bloom.
I recently learned about Kintsugi – the Japanese art of broken pottery, where they fill cracks to make the shattered ceramic more beautiful … and possibly more valuable. And there’s a lesson in Post-Traumatic Growth with that, I have made the decision to become more valuable to people as a result of my experience.
When you love someone and you trust them, and it doesn’t work out, it’s heartbreaking – but to become consciously aware that the same person you love unconditionally is deliberately hurting you and getting off on the power, it’s the hardest thing to comprehend. My situation was particularly painful as I had to come to terms with the fact that I was never loved, I was just a pawn in a narcissist’s game. So, after receiving plenty of feedback that people are enjoying reading the lessons I get from my experiences (which is what Happiness Weekly is all about – taking something positive from times of adversity), today I want to share what I have learned as I ventured into the greatest adventure of my entire life – my healing journey:
If you think you can’t – you more than likely can and at some point the universe will prove it to you
You are emotionally stronger than you think at any one time, and smarter than you know
There are positives in everything that feels negative and in every negative or disappointing experience we endure – sometimes you just need to look harder to find it
Every event is just an event until we add perception to it – it’s up to us to decide if it is positive or negative
Nothing – NOTHING – in the world matters more than what you think of yourself and what happens to you. No one cares about your story as much as you do and no one will care about what happens to you, as much as you will
Don’t let someone control how you feel about yourself – whatever you don’t like, you have the power to change
Until you forgive, you can’t move forward – start by forgiving yourself
Release the guilt – you didn’t allow it to happen
Let go of the shame – you don’t need it and it’s never helpful
It’s up to you if you let people continue to hurt you or not
Laugh! If you laugh at a situation, your recovery has begun. If you can’t laugh at it, find someone who will. If they can shift your perspective, this person is an angel – make sure you tell them.
Don’t let a situation hold you back – as soon as you take a step forward, you have started your healing journey.
Try it! Even if you’re scared – try it – it won’t be as bad as you expect
Don’t let fear trap you – keep doing things until you have overcome your fear. Don’t allow fear to develop into a phobia. Don’t be ashamed to seek help
Don’t regret anything – you’ll have good days and bad, but have faith that your pain will eventually bring you strength
Force yourself to go out – even if you don’t feel like it, go – even just for a little while – it’ll get easier
Fact: Psychopaths, Narcissists and Sociopaths exist, even if you’re like me and you don’t want to believe it – and they look human – accept it and learn how you can protect yourself from them moving forward
Choose to be around positive people. If the conversation gets too serious or your stop enjoying the company, drop it and/or leave
Be selfish – no one felt what you felt, no one experienced what you experienced, do what you need to do in order to step forward
Share your joys with others – even the little joys. As you recover you will be more mindful and appreciative of smaller blessings, share whatever you find
New beginnings really do disguise themselves as painful endings – hang in there
This Buddhist chant brought me a lot of strength: “The lotus is a flower that grows in the mud. The thicker and deeper the mud, the more beautiful the lotus blooms”
Abusive people isolate their victims – nothing keeps you stronger than friends and family – treasure them always, reconnect as soon as you can
There are no positives to sleeping away a sunny afternoon, get out and enjoy it!
Strangers sometimes have a greater impact on you than your friends, be open to their kindness
Once the traumatic event has happened to us – it is done – you can’t undo it – don’t go over it
If people judge you – shrug it off, they don’t know any better
Everything happens for a reason – think where you would be if whatever traumatic event you went through didn’t happen to you. Could it have protected you from something much worse?
If you’re trying to take down someone’s reputation, be prepared to draw attention to your own. I can promise you, people won’t just look at the person you’re assassinating but they’ll also look directly at you
Normal people don’t go around intentionally hurting others. Pain caused by others means you’re still alive – use that to fuel you – and going forward, surround yourself with normal people
Use trauma to change the world so it doesn’t happen to others – write to politicians, raise the voice of what happened, get qualified to help others if you’re passionate about letting it shape you
You’re never too old, too smart, too educated, too rich, too anything, to learn. Always be open to learning and your challenges will turn to opportunities. Turn your painful lessons into pathways for growth and your life will continue to evolve even through adversity
Our intuition shows us all the red flags we need, if we choose to ignore it, it’s up to us to take responsibility for any consequences that follow
NEVER look back – unless you’re looking to see how far you’ve come
Revel in the bliss of ignorance. When we go through something traumatic, we often look over our shoulders this only opens us to more pain – shut down your curiosity unless it’s moving you forward
Education is the best way to true self-empowerment. Don’t put up with what happened to you, learn about it, understand it and empower yourself so you’re equipped to move forward
Always, always, always do the right thing by yourself – you’re the one who has to live with whatever happens next
Some people want you to be miserable and they will go out of their way to achieve this. These people are miserable. You will only be miserable if you let them in and allow them to disturb your inner peace
If someone abuses you, cut them out – if they find a way to seep back in, cut them out again
Moving forward is challenging but it’s a lot more rewarding than stepping back. Stepping back only repeats old patterns, particularly where a narcissist is involved – never surrender to being a source of supply more than twice or you’ll be prisoner for life
Give yourself time. Be patient. It took two and a half months for me to start seeing and appreciating these lessons. Before then: darkness. There’s no time limit on your healing journey and recovery – it won’t be immediate and it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it
Fairy tales aren’t real. The knight in shining armour doesn’t exist – don’t wait – muster up your courage and be your own hero: save yourself
Ignore judgements – narcissists can’t pretend events happened for long periods of time – but a victim will suffer genuine trauma. It’s clear when someone is genuinely suffering
Find a buddy who has been through a similar experience. Share the lessons you have learned and support each other when one is feeling they’ve reached their wits end
Let go – be prepared to lose everything because it is only then you can fully move forward
Alternative and natural therapies can sometimes heal you better and faster than modern traditional therapies – be open to them, even if your doctors aren’t
If someone is truly a victim, they won’t need to tell the story – you’ll see it
Smear campaigns are spread by abuser’s minions – don’t take offence, just think of them as those little yellow cartoon characters from Despicable Me and at the end of the day they’re manipulated victims just as you may have been
“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within,” Maya Angelou – keep your light shining
You can and will survive. If you made it out alive – be grateful for your life and your freedom, embrace it
Embrace work – a job gets you up in the morning and adds purpose to your day. Don’t quit!
When you feel bad – and you will feel bad as you recover – look at the areas in life you’re excelling at despite what you’re going through, concentrate on what you’ve achieved and where you’re heading
Life’s Plan B can be even better than how Plan A was ever going to turn out
No matter how much you try, some people don’t want to be helped. That’s their choice.
Don’t think negatively towards someone. No matter how much they hurt you, don’t wish anyone bad fate. If you’re not feeling bad enough from being hurt, you’re only going to feel worse by having negative, spiteful and malicious thoughts about someone. Don’t give your abuser any more power or satisfaction – always wish them well even if it’s just to set yourself free
Nothing is coincidence when someone is abusing you – they’ll make it look that way, but they intend on every fine detail
Love the people surrounding you. If they love you back, don’t take them for granted. If you do and you lose them, that’s your loss. Learn from your mistakes
SAY IT STRAIGHT! If you don’t agree with something, say it. If someone’s wasting your time, tell them. Life’s too short for bullshit
Don’t wait for anyone. If you get feelings for someone and they don’t feel the same way about you, but suggest “maybe later” – keep looking forward to the “what’s next” because it’s not them
If your instinct says no: the answer is always NO! Trust your inner voice
Remember your values. They’ll flick up in your mind when someone does something that you don’t agree with. These flashes are easy to ignore. Don’t deny the things you truly want because you’re trying to please someone. Instead, find someone who shares your values
When you feel shut off from the world, the real angels will appear in your life. Hold on to faith. I have established multiple friendships in the past six months that are stronger than friendships I’ve held onto for several decades
Be who you want to be!
Nothing screams Carpe Diem or YOLO (You Only Live Once) as loudly as a healing journey. Embrace it! Learn from it. Use it. Do everything you want to do. Be whatever you want to be
If someone makes you happy – happier than you feel when you’re alone – figure out what it is about that person that makes you feel that way. Now try to figure out how you can replicate it to make yourself feel that way. Once you’ve replicated that feeling, date them again – if you’re still into them, they’re probably good for you. This is a lesson in a healing journey: DO NOT depend on people for your happiness because you will be disappointed
Time doesn’t heal all wounds, sometimes we just learn to cope – and that’s ok too
Self-trust is the most important trust you can have
Self-forgiveness is the hardest thing to do – avoid putting yourself in a situation where you need to exercise it
And all I have left to say is this… WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER!
I’d now like to invite you to share with me – it doesn’t have to be big – what lessons have you learned while recovering from a traumatic event?
Recently I was forced to take a break from Happiness Weekly, and I decided to write a post about what has been happening…
But first – I need to break my silence:
2/3 of women served with an AVO are the victim of domestic violence in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, according to Women’s Legal Services in NSW. And of the cases that go before the court, 40% still have the AVO in place against them, even though they were actually the victim of ongoing abuse. Of this figure, no one can tell me how many women are too scared to show up to court and how many are just too exhausted to continue the fight so “consent without admissions”.
Last year, I was one of those women. My abuser had me served with an AVO on his behalf. For six weeks after the court hearing, I felt completely alone and ashamed. But when this statistic was released along with an accompanying research paper, it changed my perspective and brought me relief – because it prove it’s not just something that happens to me.
For most people that statistic that 2/3 of women served with an AVO are actually the victim of domestic violence would be pretty disturbing. But when I first came across it, I felt comfort and relief. That statistic kept me going for the six months that I had an AVO against me. For those who don’t know, I’m talking about an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (AVO) which is also known as a restraining order.
Many know it as “harassment through the legal system” – somewhat ironic when I was served on the grounds of harassment – but it happens all over the world, mostly in divorce scenarios (rather than AVOs) – but I guess this is how it happens for people who are otherwise in no way tied to our abusers. If I had the right support available, and if more people had spoken about being served before it, then maybe it wouldn’t have happened … but it did. So I have boldly decided to own it and use it.
In being served with the AVO I was given a 360⁰ view of domestic violence. I could see the frustrations with our systems (and trust me, I felt them!), I understood why victims feel forced into silence and I also learned how the current AVO system enables further torment which leads to further abuse, homicides and suicides.
I also uncovered some myths attached to the stigma of the order – for example, I didn’t have to stay a certain distance away, because my conditions didn’t include contact clauses. So as long as I didn’t stalk, harass, assault, molest etc. my abuser, then it was ok. The thing was – I hadn’t done those things in the first place, but careless police work allowed for this to happen. The fact is, my abuser already had his story, he just needed me to play into it. The reason for that is – to a narcissist – life is a game. So this is a prime example of how the court system is now being used for harassment.
Today I’m talking about my beliefs as the victim, which are common with other victims in domestic violence situations. I’m exposing the gaps between these beliefs and what actually happens as a result. And I’m giving you the reality that I saw in the lessons I took away.
Today I’m talking about domestic violence, getting an AVO, becoming caught up in a world that wasn’t mine – and what I’m doing about it.
“He’s not like this all the time” – the shame game
Belief: Like so many women in domestic violence situations – I didn’t seek assistance until it was really out of control. In fact, instead of seeking intervention early, I was too busy trying to help “save” him from his misery. I was doing everything in my power to make him happy.
The gap: Let’s face it – I stuck around until I was served with an AVO, then I magically found my courage to leave my abusive partner. That courage was always in me, I just had a lot of excuses, blame and denial for not leaving that over-shadowed the reason to leave: to save myself!
The process of trying to make him happy was soul-destroying – it left me feeling anxious, ashamed, humiliated and hurt. But still I stayed with him – to the point that I didn’t want to leave.
For the average person, there should be a lot of shame in being served with an AVO – not many people would admit it or want to talk about it – so I’m going to talk about the shame associated with domestic violence. While I wouldn’t say receiving an AVO is something I’m particularly proud of, it’s something I now embrace because there are much bigger issues that need to be exposed.
Shame is the number one feeling victims of domestic violence suffer from that keeps them hidden and silenced. And although I was being abused in my relationship last year – I didn’t ask for help, because for most of the time, I didn’t know I was being abused. So I want to give you some insight into the shame I felt as I looked back at the abuse and thought:
“I didn’t know I was being abused as he continued to shamelessly cheat on me with his wife” – but I did know how I felt when I’d confront him in distress and he would shrug, ‘Yeah? So?’ – it was always ‘just’ me over-reacting and it was always my problem. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused while he held me in place and spat in my face” – but I did know only moments later in my apartment, I was already shrugging it off ‘we’ve shared more bodily fluid than that before… it’s ok,’ I told myself to calm myself down from the shock and disgust. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused while he grabbed me and stopped me getting out of his car” – but I did know I felt enough fear that I became so desperate at that time, that I jumped out while it was still moving just to get away from him. Only for him to run back to me like a super-hero, apologising profusely to me only moments later, and me falling straight back into his arms. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused as I lay awake at night feeling violated following degrading sex on the living room floor” – but I did know his erectile dysfunction problem gave him license to dominate where, when and how we had sex – every single time… Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused when he held me up against the wall by my neck and threatened to hit me” – because all I could concentrate on at the time was how thankful I was that he regained his self-control and resisted. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused as he walked past my parents and I, with a wheelie bag, at the same time I was leaving to fly interstate to my friend’s wedding” – but I did know we had broken up and he was demonstrating that he was carrying out his threats to follow me. When I got to the airport I was so anxious and so scared that I broke down at the check in – I waited to be last to get on the plane to ensure he didn’t get on. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused as I stood before his car sobbing helplessly and he threatened to drive over me before edging into me several times” – but I did know, the man I once knew, would’ve leapt out of that car and said ‘Sair, I have to go but I’ll be back in an hour or two and we can talk about it then, ok? I love you.’ He would’ve kissed me on the forehead and given me a hug. It was impossible to accept the man who once adored me so much, was now threatening to kill me. Shame.
My abuser’s final words to me were: “I will say and do whatever it takes to take you down”.
I can’t even begin to explain how it makes you feel when the person you have loved unconditionally, who you did everything for exactly as they asked you to, literally stands before you and threatens to destroy you.
And what’s worse? I didn’t know I was being abused as he coerced me into participating in illegal activities, on his behalf, after his wife had allegedly threatened him at knife point – but I did know, as he reminded me, that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to him and I could’ve prevented it – at least I thought I knew. Shame.
What I did by doing as he asked was prevented myself from going to police earlier, because he had all the “evidence” he needed to demonstrate I was the one with the problem. It trapped me.
THIS IS ABUSE! THIS IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!
Reality: Yup, shame on me for not seeing it! Or at least not seeing it earlier.
Initially I felt a lot of shame – which was exactly what my abuser wanted.
But who does that help? What is positive about feeling ashamed?
Shame only holds you back.
The reason I decided to talk about it is this: to expose my abuser, as tempting as that is, I help one or two other people maybe – if they happen to see this post. But to expose the abuse I suffered as loudly as I possibly can – I could help hundreds, thousands and even hundreds of thousands – maybe even millions – of people who are in domestic violence situations and don’t know it or aren’t currently seeking the help they need.
And my message for them is this: drop the shame and be your own hero – do what it takes to save yourself, recognise what’s going on and quit the game – because there is life beyond.
“He never used to be like this – he loved me” – the power of denial and cognitive dissonance
Belief: The denial and cognitive dissonance that people experience while in a domestic violence situation isn’t something someone outside it can comprehend – and it’s not up for judgement. Abusers go to extreme efforts to groom their targets for what is to come. It’s the effort that abusive people put into the grooming phase that inevitably makes them feel entitled to their targets and they become possessions to them. It’s the grooming phase that set me apart from my abuser. I didn’t go extra miles to groom him, it was very clearly the other way around. All the while, the target is completely unaware. Men are meant to charm the pant off women at the beginning of a new relationship, right? And it’s exciting!
Gap: The problem is when abuse sets in, it’s what the victim thinks to first, they remember “how it used to be” and this drives them to want to stay with their abuser, believing that they’re really different, when in fact – this is the reality, and the grooming was fake.
Abusers crawl into your skin, to the point that you actually feel like the same person – it’s like mirrors in a funhouse – you actually can’t see where they end and you begin. Meanwhile your soul is being sucked out of you. This makes it impossible for an empathetic person to be cruel to their abuser, at least not to the extent that the abuser has been cruel to their target.
Let me tell you how it was. In the beginning it was a love I’d never experienced. Our arguments were sickly-sweet: who would take the bin out and who should have the last bite of dinner – we were always looking out for each other. It was picture perfect – random people would stop us to get a photographs of us, trying to capture what we had. He showered me in gifts, paid attention to me in ways no one else had, read my blog start to finish, wrote loving whiteboard messages to me every day, in times of hardship, he was there for me, he drove my 11 hours in his luxury car to have job training, he always had time for me and he’d always listen. He would tell people how amazing I was – in front of me. He made me feel special. I was beaming all the time – and we were completely inseparable. It was too good to be true.
In the end, my abuser got off on three things: intimidating me, seeing me humiliated and his consistent personal challenge of always winning me back – no matter how bad it got. I know he got off on these three things because he would constantly and deliberately set up these scenarios which lead to these outcomes, it was manipulation and control to make them happen, and he demonstrated it over and over. It wasn’t long until it became a pattern. And it’s important to recognise that in order for this to become a pattern – I had to be there.
My abuser was overly nice to me almost as quickly as he become aggressive, which made the abuse easy to forgive and even easier to forget. Sometimes I was in so much shock I even questioned myself that it had actually happened. When someone abuses you and then they just brush it off like nothing happened, it makes it almost impossible to process and invites cognitive dissonance – because it causes self-doubt.
In the end, it wasn’t Jekyll and Hyde at all, it was like more two consistent opposite personalities always in existence with each other in the one body. He was both kind and evil – all the time.
So when I said earlier that I wasn’t aware of my abuse, you may have thought it wasn’t that bad – or I could possibly have low intelligence, or a disability – but the abuse I suffered covered the entire spectrum of Domestic Violence. It was abusive emotionally, mentally, sexually, physically, spiritually, academically and financially. And the reason for that was that I didn’t know the first thing about abuse or domestic violence – because this doesn’t happen to people I know – that wasn’t my world. And it definitely doesn’t happen to me!
Reality: When you’re being abused, it sounds strange, but it’s almost impossible to see. And it took four solid months away from my abuser before I realised how bad it was and I was sure I wouldn’t return. It was only then that I could see how brain-washed I was and how my words, reasons and excuses were actually his. But there’s a lesson in my situation – everyone thinks domestic violence is physical abuse (including police a lot of the time), but just because you’re not being beaten senseless doesn’t mean you’re not being abused by someone you love – and just because the police won’t act, doesn’t mean it wasn’t that bad or that you should doubt yourself and stay.
Did you know abusers test their abuse before they action it? All year my abuser was testing what he could do to force me into such distress I needed time away from work to recover. That time away had me lying in bed watching day fade into night – I couldn’t even watch the television there was so much fuzz in my head.
He knew exactly what he had to do to get that sense of power and almost entitlement over me. It’s all about control, but it doesn’t look that way when you’re in it. So I would answer his caring text messages and open the door for him at the end of the day and I would listen to him say: “I knew you’d take the day off, I’m sorry I upset you”. This is called “Trauma Bonding” – a tool commonly used by narcissists. Every reaction I had, was playing straight into it – until he knew exactly how to manipulate me into doing precisely what he wanted. This is what caused him to be so familiar with affecting my work, and made him feel that he could ultimately control my future. So the only person I have to blame for him having this overwhelming power and control over me – is me – because I gave him that power, like so many other victims do, and I had no idea that all I needed to do was quit the game.
The reason my abuser had such power over me and was able to abuse me the way he did – was because I enabled it. I let him in, I listened to his elaborate excuses, I took his calls, I read his text messages, I accepted his hand written notes, I accepted every excuse – every story – every lie.
I responded to everything – and I even defended him.
The fact is, I was almost as bad as him for exposing myself to his ongoing abuse time and time again. And it wasn’t worth it – forgiving myself for enabling the abuse and sticking around was almost impossible. It’s something I consciously worked on to become healthy again.
Although my abuser’s behaviour was deliberately subtle and manipulative and when I did see I was being abused I went straight into denial. An abuser will behave in a subtle manner, so their target won’t have any conscious awareness of what they are doing and their abuse can continue. Therefore, their target won’t seek help, they won’t leave and they won’t try to take action against them. This means their cycle of destruction can continue.
By the end of the relationship, my self-esteem was so badly destroyed from ongoing abuse that I had little regard for my life whatsoever. The bizarre thing was, until I was removed from my abuser, I wouldn’t have said that I was scared of him. I knew I walked on egg-shells, but I was so sure we could resolve it. I thought he was just feeling pressure from his pending divorce. That’s what I told myself – and that once it was done, he’d be back to how he was in the beginning. Just like many in domestic violence situations, I told myself a lot of stories that made me stay.
The scariest part of all? Although I spoke to friends about what was happening – reporting any of these events to police, didn’t even cross my mind. And I kept my abuse from family because I was convinced it would change and I didn’t want to change their opinions of him. Every story I told, every excuse, every reason – it all originated from my abuser.
Looking back, it was a silent torture and while it initially left me traumatised and waking up in the night screaming, living in constant fear – it’s what motivates me today. All I keep thinking is somewhere, out there, there’s someone, just like me – having the same experience, trapped in their relationship – and this is my one shot to open their eyes.
“He’s lying and I need to know the truth” – seeking closure enables abuse
Belief: People in domestic violence situations will suffer through the ongoing lies and manipulation produced by their abuser because at the time they can’t see the forest between the trees, and they crave the truth. While people point blame at victims of domestic violence, say it’s their decision to stay, they’ll just go back, they’ll work it out again etc. Look at all the people surrounding them and judging them. People in domestic violence situations need intervention – not because they’re weak and helpless – but because their abusers have taken all their control. What they don’t realise is it doesn’t always take police to intervene to become safe. It’s your life, you’re the main character, and what have you done to be your own hero?
By the end of the relationship, I thought I needed closure. I couldn’t accept the man I thought I knew didn’t exist. I’m not alone. In fact, majority of domestic violence victims unintentionally enable their abuse as they stick around just to be sure they are acting on the truth. They have such low self esteem from the abuse that they don’t trust their own judgement. Without realising it, while sticking around in the abuse with self-promises – “if he does it again, I’m leaving for good this time!” – they lose all faith in themselves. Then in the end, as people who are being abused stay for answers – “once I know the truth, I’ll leave!” – their self esteem and self trust continues to erode. And it gets to the point that when the truth keeps presenting itself, and what seems so obvious to the outside world, is impossible for the person in the situation to see, because they continue to doubt themselves.
Gap: Before long, as I started seeking closure, the relationship became like heroin – logically I knew it could kill me, but I couldn’t give up on the fantasy of who I thought he was.
Chasing closure in itself becomes an addiction. People who are being abused in domestic violence situations often believe that once they know the truth, that that it will be over and that is what they need to leave and move on with their life. This is also more reason abusers will be manipulative and deceptive and may even ramp it up, knowing this is what their target wants to enhance the abuse. Meanwhile it’s the abused person’s own self-talk, denial and cognitive dissonance at the time these revelations appear to them that is the greatest problem. And despite the abuse, I continued to enable my abuser to hurt me by chasing that closure – and I got served with an AVO in the process. Even though at the time I was served, I had left the relationship and was already seeing other people and trying to move on.
While I don’t expect you to read this without judgement and scepticism (because I know I would), and even though this isn’t about my story but about my lessons and how I plan to use them, let’s do some very basic profiling to establish the facts:
Me, I’m 30, single, no children. My parents are still together – happily married. I grew up with a silver spoon in the wealthier suburbs of Sydney – a picture-perfect kind of childhood. I left my serious boyfriend for my abuser, and it was my abuser who convinced me to move to a studio apartment on my own for more independence (isolation). He moved in with me almost immediately. I paid for everything. I worked for a charity. I spent my spare time blogging for Happiness Weekly to help others through adversity and on weekends I’d visit my parents, catch up with friends and spend my time with my pets.
My abuser, 45 years old, two teenagers and a wife (he’s been abusing for many, many years). He had a hard upbringing. His father was an alcoholic who abused him. Both his father and his grandfather spent time in jail for abuse. Following his father’s jail time, his parents had a bitter divorce which resulted in him ceasing communication with his mother for more than ten years. My abuser claimed he was “separated”. Eventually he moved to his own apartment, one level up. (Note: 80% of stalkers are men). He worked for a public transport company. He spent his spare time boxing and training obsessively to run faster, often boasting about his strength.
Reality: According to statistics, 73% of male abusers were abused as children.
So while domestic violence wasn’t my world – I knowingly dated into it.
It turns out my abuser was a narcissist – which explains the grandiosity in his threat that he could simply take an AVO out against me on a whim – no empathy and no conscience. It also means he never loved me, which actually brought me relief – because it made it easier to accept everything was fake. So aside from the inconvenience of losing his “source of supply” (or target), none of this would have affected him at all.
When I suggested to the police that they do a basic profiling before serving an AVO they laughed at me: “It’s just an AVO – it’s not that serious”. It scares me how desensitised police who issue these AVOs have become, because how will they keep people safe if they actually don’t care? The reality of the system at the moment is that it’s a process line – it’s just about checking boxes and then NEXT!
“The police will save me” – the belief that stops you proactively helping yourself
Belief: Like so many people in domestic violence situations, I relied heavily on the fact that police would protect me – no matter what. I believed the police would help me because I was the woman, and if you saw me standing next to my abuser, you too would raise an eyebrow. And without realising it, I somehow believed that as soon as he would turn violent they would almost magically appear for me. I never envisaged me being the person that would call for help – I was always relying on the fact a neighbour would hear me scream or cry or all the banging around and they would report it.
Gap: My abuser and I lived in an apartment block with paper-thin walls – you could hear everything. Well, just like many other domestic violence cases, the police never came to my rescue – and the neighbours never stepped in, probably initially because they didn’t want to get involved. When they heard it night after night, it probably became the norm to them.
No one really wants to intervene in domestic violence. What many don’t understand is that while people are abusive in domestic violence situations, they are abusing targets w ho they have groomed and they know they have control over them because they’ve tested it. But much of the time to the outside world these abusers want to appear in control and often manipulate the situation to appear to be their target’s victim. Exhibit A.
One morning my abuser was yelling at me, hurling abuse, at 3am as he stood over his breakfast I’d prepared for him because the proportion size was “too much” and I had given him one less vitamin than he wanted. I stood there with a photo of his breakfast that he’d poured a previous morning “It’s the same!” I tried to tell him, comparing the portion sizes. His yelling would’ve woken Kuwait and still no one came. No one just knocked on the door to let me know they were there. But maybe that was lucky, because the way my abuser manipulated, I can assure you if you did come, he would have had you upset at me over the Crunchy Nut cornflakes as well! Did I leave? No, because I honestly believed it was my fault and by the end, he had me all but counting the tiny flecks of Crunchy Nut cereal in his bowl each morning. So not only did I not leave, but I altered the way I did things to try to adjust the outcome.
When my abuser began to overtly threaten my wellbeing – which means it had to get pretty bad for me to grow that conscious awareness of it – I went to the police to seek advice. By this stage I had been abused for a solid year and I was starting to realise it. When I didn’t want to make a statement to get an AVO against him on the spot they said there was nothing they could do – but they promised to leave a 24-hour window so I could think about it. In the meantime they called him as I had asked them to, to ask him to cease threats and contact.
The very next day, his estranged wife – who I had nothing to do with – went to the police to seek an AVO against me. What an uncanny coincidence! I contacted the police back and asked to proceed immediately and they said “It’s too late, we’ve heard his side of the story – we’re not taking action against him”. I had no doubt my abuser was convincing, they didn’t need to tell me – I’d stuck with his abuse for an entire year – he was very convincing! The frustration was overwhelming because at this point I knew he’d successfully get an AVO against me, so my friends and I prepared ourselves for what was to come and just hoped the system wouldn’t allow it to happen.
Expert in narcissistic abuse, Kim Saeed from Let Me Reach, explains the scenario perfectly in her post The narcissist, the ex and the new girlfriend – the art of triangulation. What if my abuser’s wife was successful in her quest? My abuser would’ve succeeded in separating us so he could continue abusing both of us and we would’ve remained completely oblivious. As for me being punished – I was the most recently groomed and as I was leaving the relationship anyway, I guess he made the decision that I was the less important source of supply – so he discarded me. If she was successful in getting an AVO against me, he would’ve just shrugged with the same “told you she was crazy” story.
Reality: When I followed up with the police about my abuser continuing to harass me only three days after the court hearing. He had emailled me to wish me happy birthday. Their response was: “It’s not a crime to wish you happy birthday”. The fact was, I went to the police on three separate occasions before I was served on my abuser’s behalf by the same police station I went to for help. The same police station had already contacted him twice to tell him to cease contact and stop the threats, they didn’t contact me once. And I look back at my AVO and shake my head. So here are the facts direct from my “non-urgent” AVO:
- I lifted my ex-boyfriend’s windscreen wiper blades – even though at the time he alleged I did it, I was out to dinner with my parents in a restaurant
- I questioned if he was back with his “ex wife” – who he never actually left (though he did file for divorce on her birthday – I know for sure because he had me check signatures and drop it in to the lawyer on his behalf)
- I used his intercom to contact him
- And he claimed I’d been harassing him for two months – even though I had text messages on my phone clearly showing we were in a loving relationship up until only a few weeks before. And it was far from one-sided!
OK, I can understand an urgent AVO – but if an AVO is “non-urgent”, why does it exist? Shouldn’t there just be an AVO or an urgent AVO? According to the serving police station, their evidence wasn’t substantial or serious enough to make it an “urgent” AVO. But if it’s not serious, or substantial, then why would an AVO be put in place?
What concerned me most was the fact that the police had contacted my abuser twice and he didn’t follow their instruction. This contributes to my concern that an AVO wouldn’t protect me from much when it came to him. In fact, I believe even if I had taken out an AVO against my abuser it would have protected me as much as taking a toothpick in to battle! People who remain in domestic violence situations have this fear. NOTHING will protect them. So when police won’t help – or that piece of paper fails – what will you do?
So as the abuse worsens, not knowing how to get help when you need it can be extremely detrimental. Because despite all his threats and the abuse which was quickly becoming more regular, more physical and more overtly obvious – I didn’t want to hurt or punish him – so I wouldn’t leave a statement. I actually said “I don’t want to take action, I just want his threats to stop!” And I wanted something on their records to show what was happening. Apparently police can’t record that detail, so I didn’t go ahead. I’m not the first person to cover for their abuser even when I knew it was really bad, and imagine what that did to my self-esteem, my self-worth and my self-trust – knowing I was being abused enough to need intervention but not being able to let go enough to follow through and get the help I needed.
Scarier still, once the relationship was over – I was seeing someone else – he told me to return a lovelock: a padlock with our names on it or something would happen to me. “Think carefully,” he wrote. Meanwhile the police shrugged again – “Not a threat of violence”. So when I didn’t do as my abuser wanted, (and imagine how it would have appeared if I did?) my abuser who was determined to set me up, carried out his threat and had me served with an AVO by abusing me and provoking me until I did react – by lifting his wiper blades. How that could be manipulated into a threat of violence is actually beyond me. My abuser was particularly convincing.
Something I have learned from Domestic Violence groups recently – is that people who take out AVOs, that need them, don’t threaten the person allegedly abusing them with it. Because if they need an AVO, then they would be scared that the person will retaliate if they were to do something – so taking action against them wouldn’t be a threat someone who needs an AVO would make. Someone who wants an AVO would make this threat. And there’s your distinction. The fact that even the delivery of his threat of the AVO changes from his wife wanting it, to then suddenly him needing it – this also suggests it was used as abuse rather than necessary action for protection.
When I told the police that my abuser was threatening to get an AVO against me, they shrugged: “So? It’s just a piece of paper” – they couldn’t understand the concept. Why would someone threaten that? The same police station made no attempt to contact me to say there was a complaint of harassment despite their records – and I know they had my details at the time. In fact, even the investigating police officer was more concerned with saving face with the police ombudsman than in changing systems to ensure a manipulated version of events won’t be taken in the future. As long as whatever was said and “proved” checked boxes, the AVO is warranted.
My introduction to trying to get help from the police was like banging my head against a brick wall. In fact, they admitted a lot of the “evidence” was taken at face-value. For example, in following up with me about my complaint for police negligence it was revealed that I allegedly left nine voicemail messages for my abuser, and they read out the times I allegedly left them. First, my abuser didn’t have your typical voicemail message: it was a second of air and then went straight to the beep. So if I did then it certainly wasn’t to hear his voice! Second, my abuser never checked voicemails when they were left, which I knew. So why would I leave a voicemail message? And finally, the times he claimed I left them, I was in the garage lifting his wiperblades on his car, where there was no reception. Irony. So I challenged the police and asked if they listened to even one of the voicemail messages. No. And I strongly doubt the phone records could have supported it with these facts, which means they obviously hadn’t checked the phone records. The police also admitted they hadn’t determined the length of time my “harassment” had been going for, and just accepted his version of events – which I disproved this. It makes me wonder if they kept a record of the threat of the AVO, and if they did, why this wasn’t checked and why I wasn’t contacted.
I asked all the right questions, and as far as I could see, I did the right things to try to protect myself. And I don’t lie. I wasn’t going to say he verbally threatened to kill me, when he didn’t. Still no one would help me. But while I did everything I thought I could have, I didn’t move out of the apartment block soon enough and multiple reasons and excuses kept me there.
I tried to get support before I was served on my abusers behalf, but the police couldn’t suggest any support groups (which turns out they could but they didn’t – and with all due respect, who are they to filter and determine who gets access support?). I went to a psychologist for assistance from the middle of last year and they couldn’t suggest anything either. Support groups only appeared to exist for inpatients, people in shelters or they were designed for the low-socioeconomic stereotype.
I broke my lease one month before it was due to expire, the day I was served with the AVO and moved out the day after the court hearing.
At the time, I asked all the right questions. For an issue where there are heaps of organisations dedicated to the cause and companies pouring money into advertising for it, it’s bizarre that no body knows where people can go to get practical support! So I decided to create my own. I got qualified, and I opened my company.
“I’ll give him what he wants so he goes away” – the dangers in giving up
Belief: Often people in domestic violence situations will continue attempting to please their abuser, and when they finally do – even for a moment – they reach a state of euphoria because it’s almost impossible. This is addictive in itself. Being addicted to an abuser also creates shame, particularly as they logically know they are being abused and still continue trying to please them. Part of the reason someone in a domestic violence situation may stay and continue like this is because of how they were groomed in the beginning – and their abuser “isn’t horrible all the time”. Unfortunately it also means people who have been in domestic violence situations let down their guard quickly once they are out of the situation, because we start thinking if they just have what they want then they’ll leave us alone. Victims become exhausted and get to the point where they give up and start giving into their abuser all the time so they leave them alone – the only problem is: abusers don’t function like that.
Gap: So when I was served with an AVO on the grounds of harassment I decided if I just gave it to him, he’d leave me alone – because he’d have what he wanted, right? Fighting it wasn’t an option for three reasons: it was expensive, it I won – he’d be back or there would be repercussions and I refused to fight for him anymore. I have a belief that what’s worth the prize is always worth the fight: the only thing worth the fight at the time was my freedom. And even looking back, my freedom was worth the consequence. So I decided to “consent without admissions”. In fact, I even hired a lawyer to say it for me, so he wouldn’t have the satisfaction of hearing me say it.
For six months following the court hearing, I didn’t leave my new apartment because I was so terrified that he would set me up again. Fear following domestic violence is the most common and complex emotion to overcome. And I had reason to be scared because separation abuse set in shortly after I moved into my new apartment – only days after the court hearing. I’d never heard of it before – but this form of abuse can be fatal – either through homicides, suicides or both. So here’s how it looked for me:
Just three days after my abuser had me in court, consenting without admissions, he wrote me an email to wish me happy birthday – which I mentioned – the police shrugged, “it’s not a crime to wish someone happy birthday”. I have spoken to several people who took AVOs out against their abusers and they would only wish them a swift decent to hell that soon after. Needless to say, having spent around $10,000 to get clear and safe from him: I didn’t respond.
When I didn’t directly react to my abuser’s birthday message, his employer contacted me (the owner of the company I used to work for, which is how my abuser and I met in the first place) in an attempt to bring my honesty into question. Interestingly, the same man said how honest and hard-working I was as I left his company, and here he was… just suddenly changed his mind? Just another coincidence?
When I didn’t respond to that either, my abuser went to a lot of trouble to comment on a Happiness Weekly post about escaping a controlling person, which I never approved. He used his real name, revealing commitment and intent:
“The exact stuff that you write is all about the exact person you are and have become. You just proved that YOU manipulate people. And I ask you, why was the AVO given to YOU? I didn’t give to you, you got it yourself! Deservingly, and in person by the Police. The Police make the descission [sic] if an AVO is valid. You are not a psychologist or have a qualification in this stuff that you write. Please delete me from Happiness Weekly as I don’t want any blogs sent to me ever!”
I’ll let you decide if that is a message from a domestic violence victim or not. Keep in mind, this was received within the week I was served on his behalf with an AVO and to leave a comment on a blog isn’t as simple as flicking an email to someone – you need to find the right blog platform, set up a profile, find the blog, and then leave the comment.
Two things stood out to me:
First, if I “deserved” the AVO, why was he going to such extreme lengths to contact me to tell me? Happy birthday one day and then abuse the next? Had I “deserved” the AVO, his behaviour would’ve reflected mine – doing everything he could to shut down, shut off and ensure his safety.
Second, he demanded I unsubscribe him from my blog – so what he’s saying is he felt strongly enough that he had to leave comment, and he’s intelligent enough to post it, but it didn’t occur to him to just type “unsubscribe” into a Google search? Seriously?
I complained again that their “protected person” was still contacting me after I’d asked for him not to on several occasions. At this point the police contacted him for the third time to ask him to cease contact with me completely – but not before they first asked me to produce his phone number for them so they could call as soon as we hung up.
My abuser then attempted to retract his comment, and in doing so revealed the email address linked to the profile he created. I searched it on Facebook. A fake profile appeared. Fake name. No image.
Terrified, knowing he was doing it to find me in my new location, I returned to the police only to be told I was on a “revenge mission”.
At this point – as the systems continued to allow him to abuse me, my self-esteem at an all-time low and I had total disregard for my life with limited support – I attempted suicide.
Reality: What’s scary – I felt my most rational at the time.
My thought processes were clear and if I lived everything the same way again, I can say with near certainty that I think it would drive me to that same point again because the only way I thought that I could stop it from continuing was to remove myself completely – and permanently.
In surviving that suicide attempt, I said to myself “Sair, what are you going to do?”
I answered: “I’m going to make sure this never happens to anyone else.”
“No one will believe me” – the decision to talk
Belief: Abusive people lie and manipulate, which is linked to the psychological makeup of narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths – and there’s not a lot of difference between those three types of people. Anyone who can abuse someone, knowingly, intentionally and continually lacks empathy and conscience can generally be linked to one or several of these labels.
Initially, I didn’t think anyone would believe my story. It may have been the response I received from the police that stopped me from talking about it. I walked around with my head down and my confidence sucked out of me – the smallest clothes size you could get caused by the stress, with fears of anorexic setting in. My self esteem sat at zero. I felt like a shell. There was nothing left.
Gap: Three months after I was served with the AVO I went out for the first time to my friend’s 30th birthday. It was the first time I’d been to the city in months and the only reason I went was that I was assured security would be there – and they were.
Zac, a very good looking and charming man, approached me – and in one breath, he said:
“Hello there, I know you’re not here to meet anyone because you’re avoiding eye contact with everyone in the room, but I couldn’t help but notice that you’re drinking red wine and that’s incredibly sophisticated of you – in fact, it’s my drink of choice as well – and don’t worry I’m not hitting on you, I’m gay – my name is Zac”.
No introductions – I immediately told him my ex-boyfriend had an AVO in place against me and that I didn’t want to meet anyone. Zac was the first stranger I told.
His reaction, was my turning point.
Reality: Interestingly, not one person I have told my story to has disbelieved me – even though I was the one served with the AVO.
So when Zac heard what I said, he looked me up and down and laughed.
He thought I was joking.
When I told him I was serious, he kept laughing because: “It’s just so ridiculous – look at you!”
That made me laugh.
From that night on, I owned the AVO and the abuse that happened to me.
The moment when we make that powerful decision that we’re going to own something that we’re ashamed of, we stand taller, more confidence and become a force to be reckoned with!
“I’m proud of myself today” – allowing the phoenix to rise
Belief: I didn’t do everything right. I made a stack of mistakes. I have this permanent blotch on my record that will forever tie me to my abuser, just as he wanted. It’s not fair! It sucks! But what happens next is up to me. So I told myself: “OK, that’s happened – and it’s not what happens to us, it’s what we do next and what we do with what’s happened to us that matters” – that thought opened me to self-forgiveness, so long as I could make something positive and productive come of the situation.
Gap: In the eyes of the police and the law, their intervention was a success, because I stopped “harassing” my abuser. But even if it had happened exactly as he said and the AVO was warranted, I don’t believe it was successful. Not in the current system as it stands. Because “the protected person” came back, which is what happens with AVOs to drive police to the point of frustration. It’s precisely this behaviour that invites the cycle of abuse to continue. Could you imagine working your butt off to help someone only to see them walk straight back into the abuse? That’s what our police see every day. People will return to abusive partners for their own reasons: maybe they’re duped again, maybe the threats get bigger, and it’s so easy to judge when your outside it. Hells, I’m still getting judged for my reaction to the trauma as I posted last week in my blog: My Life After Domestic Violence. But what if AVOs included no contact clauses in the conditions, for both parties, every time. Where there is property and children involved, it forces them to talk through lawyers. Wouldn’t that resolve the issue and really hone home the point of having an AVO? Wouldn’t it also stop the abuse of the system because narcissists don’t actually want to do it to lose their source of supply, but simply to punish – as in my case. So, I’m wondering: why are our systems encouraging any communication between someone being abused and an abuser? Because if it’s bad enough to have police intervention, it should be REALLY bad! And that’s why police are running in circles. What we need, and what I’m talking about, is a complete intervention that STOPS the abuse and the cycle. Not just at the magistrate’s discretion, but in general. It should just be an automatic condition of getting an AVO against someone. It will stop the abused getting duped and returning, it will stop abusers from becoming more abusive, and it’ll stop our system from having the headache of needing to follow up – again and again, over the same case. No contact clauses seems simple, but it’s what will change the system as it currently stands. Instead, our systems have upgraded so police can enforce AVOs on the spot. What makes people think police get it right? It’s not up to me … I’m just putting it out there. No contact conditions – for both parties, the serving party and the requesting party is the only way an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order will be able to work as a successful intervention. If the serving party breaks it, particularly if it’s used as a tool to then go on to harass the abuser – as in my case – then tear it up; if the abuser breaks it, then they get 2 years jail and the $1,500 fine. Fair??
Reality: Just like so many others before me, I could’ve returned as well – BUT I DIDN’T!
And I’m so freakin’ proud of myself because that’s where I go “This AVO didn’t protect anyone from anything – but I did! I quit that freakin’ game and I protected myself!” The truth is: the AVO wasn’t successful, but I was.
I left the apartment (and no one moves overnight unless they’re already looking – just sayin’), I worked out how to do NO CONTACT (big shout out to the talented Kim Saeed from Let Me Reach for helping me!) and I surrounded myself with people who supported me unconditionally and who shed tears watching me turn things around (big shout out to my girls Lara and Kat!).
Because I’m the one who had the strength to walk away, slam that door and not look back. I’m the one who grew strength to tell my story. I’m the one who gained more friends, more confidence and had ONE LESS LOSER! I’m the one who maintained NO CONTACT – and now I’m determined to help others. Because if I can do it – then I know others can too.
And I’m not saying it’s easy. This has probably been one of my greatest challenges in my life so far – but I can confidently say: it was worth the AVO to get to where I am today – clear of my abuser.
“How can I get the most out of this?” – picking up the pieces
Belief: I now look back – and the police were right – it was “just a piece of paper”. Although that blotch exists on my record insinuating I’m a hazard to society, fortunately, it didn’t affect me at all.
Gap: My abuser’s intent for the AVO was punishment not protection. He did it to try to silence, trap and further control me. One of Sydney’s top lawyers told me it was done to gain “the ultimate control”. And that’s ok, because the ultimate control came with a time limit.
That “piece of paper” was intended to cause damage.
But it didn’t – not just because I took the right steps not to let it, but because the people in my life haven’t allowed it to affect their opinion and judgement of me – and I have so much support in what I’m doing now.
Reality: That “piece of paper” stops me from repeating my mistakes – believing, trusting, forgiving unconditionally and returning to my abuser. It was the “evidence” for closure that I needed. That “piece of paper” gave me this 360⁰ insight into domestic violence that not many people see and that I have tried to give some insight into it today. That “piece of paper” became my Diploma in Surviving Narcissistic Abuse.
What my abuser didn’t count on – was for me to use it for something positive. It’s that “piece of paper” that motivates me to want to talk about my story on international stages, and my qualifications will enable me to help people all over the world.
That fact is, I’m not the first person to have an AVO served against me as part of my abuse – and I won’t be the last. Perhaps previous victims of this have become so wrapped up in shame and guilt that instead of talking about it, they wanted it to go away. Or maybe they went back. Or maybe it wasn’t a big deal to them and it’s just a big deal to me! So who did they help in staying silent? If someone had spoken about this as boldly as I am now, and if I had known how easy the system was to manipulate, maybe my story would be different?
So OWN IT! Talk about it. Be your own hero and take the steps to prove it!
“Here’s what I’m going to do” – introducing Relationship Free
Belief: Elizabeth Bank’s character in Walk of Shame says: “I’m not ashamed – not ashamed! And I don’t care what people think anymore, because … it is exhausting!” That’s how I feel.
My 2013 looked like this: a year of abuse and torment, served with an AVO and topped off with a suicide attempt.
I’m determined to turn that around!
Reality: So, I owned it.
I stepped out of myself, I left my ego behind and I got to work to help others recover from relationship traumas so this wouldn’t happen to them.
Relationship Free was born!
Relationship Free is my latest venture. It is forward thinking, forward focused and forward moving in all our approaches to relationship issues. Everything we do is designed for individuals not stereotypes. It has a strong life coaching foundation and it draws experts in specific fields from across the globe, who offer one-on-one life coaching, to one place where people can find the support, help and assistance they need from the comfort of their safe haven. All coaches appearing on the Relationship Free website are wounded healers (meaning we survived what we now specialise in to help people) and each of us partners with our clients work to build self-esteem, self-worth, self-trust and self-empowerment – all the things I lost through my abuse.
We help people to develop self-compassion to enable self-forgiveness, and ultimately we transform lives!
Relationship Free experts eliminate shame and fear of judgement with our main concern being “What can we do now?” Because no matter how complicated the situation, how hopeless it seems, how trapped you feel or how addicted you are to an abusive person – the journey beyond starts with you and it can start immediately!
The website, due to go live in November, will include a calendar of events, programs for purchase, resources, forums and heaps more!
So here’s what I’ve been doing!
Since I got served with the AVO:
- I moved out of my apartment and into my “Safe Haven” sanctuary
- I single-handedly transformed my whole entire life: my thought process, my friends, the way I dress, even what I eat! Everything changed.
- I reconnected with friends and family who I wasn’t allowed to associate with last year
- I educated myself as much as I could to enable me to help myself and others – I completing three courses and enrolling in a fourth, while completing my Certificate IV in Life Coaching, starting up Relationship Free and working full time (plus I got a promotion!)
- I regained my confidence, self-trust, self-worth and I forgave myself
- I contacted several Members of Parliament (MPs) with my story and evidence to ask for amendments to our laws. Concerned, they assisted me in following up with the Attorney General
- I contacted the Attorney General – directly (several times) and via my MP, with a call to have the procedures reviewed and the law addressed
- I contacted the police ombudsman to try to adjust procedures. Instead I found out more about the system and my serving police station has become a great supporter of my work. I look forward to working with the police in the future as we share the common goal to stop domestic violence.
- I put together a business plan for Relationship Free
- I designed programs to assist others recovering from domestic violence and narcissistic abuse
- I sourced local venues to host various support groups and events for people suffering from relationship trauma
- I gathered content and worked with designers for my new website which goes live in November
- I had the Relationship Free logo designed
- I connected with various experts around the globe to represent Relationship Free and offer the best assistance possible to people who would benefit
- I attended seminars to grow my knowledge and give me some ideas for Relationship Free
- I reviewed Happiness Weekly because my abuser is still subscribed … twice … and I decided I’m ok with that
- I’m writing my story to educate others of the dangers of a relationship with domestic violence and to show how it happens and why people don’t leave … and I’m going to sell it! And it’s frustrating because reliving the trauma slows me down. I can only write small parts before dropping it for weeks to recover – it can take forever to get there, I won’t let the trauma he created stop me from sharing it. It certainly demonstrates to me why people who are traumatised by domestic violence find it difficult to share their experience, and it’s another reason they’d just want to move on and forget it.
- I spoke to lawyers, solicitors and barristers about how I – and others – can stay safe with the current systems as they are
- I created a Facebook page called “Served with a false AVO or restraining order – harassment through the court” – and started providing emotional support to people who have been falsely served with an AVO
- I finished the six-month AVO period without a breach
And I married myself. While I was sinking to the bottom of the ocean in agony, drowning in fear, shame and guilt, I got down on one knee, and I said to myself: “Sarah, I will never leave you!”
It was at that moment that I made a full commitment to myself – and I realised I would never be abused again. Because until you are fully committed to yourself, you can’t be your own hero and save yourself. Making that commitment is the most powerful thing I have ever done. And the bottom line is, until you commit to yourself: you can’t live a full, happy life.
Today I’m launching the Relationship Free Facebook page so I can start building a supportive community to help others.
That’s just in six months.
Imagine how much of this list I would have completed and achieved if I didn’t own the fact that I was served with an AVO. If I just brushed it under the carpet and got on with life.
And imagine how much I will achieve by the end of this year because I have owned it!
“The fear won’t stop me” – setting my own barriers
If my abuser turns up to a Relationship Free event, there’s nothing police can do, and my initial reaction was to abort Relationship Free.
Then it hit me: I feel unsafe every single day of my life – whether I’m starting this business and my details and whereabouts are public or not. Despite going to great lengths and great expense to ensure my security, I still feel unsafe. My abuser is determined – if he wasn’t, I wouldn’t feel the need to go to the lengths I have to keep myself away and safe – but it also means, he would track me down if I started Relationship Free or not.
Besides, there’s other options. I can always hire security!
Because I refuse to live in a bubble and put my head in the sand while other people continue to be abused. Instead I will use my situation as a platform to help others. My mission in creating Relationship Free is this: whatever my limitations, I’ll find it, fix it and share it. I will not be forced to feel trapped, guilty, ashamed or humiliated.
As I was recovering, and continue that journey, I promised myself I’d never accept anything unacceptable again and I would use my new freedom to live my best life. So far, I haven’t let myself down!
How you can support Relationship Free?
If you would like to support Relationship Free, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. There are many ways people can help:
- Show your support: tell your friends about it, like the Facebook page
- Provide a physical space for Relationship Free to host support groups
- Invite me to speak and share my story
- Partner with Relationship Free
- Invest in Relationship Free so I can make this a full-time focus
- Use Relationship Free services, programs and come to our events
I want to thank White Ribbon for being an outstanding support, helping me find the contacts I needed and encouraging me to share my story. I’d also like to extend my compassion to Rachelle Yeo’s family and friends – and I want to thank you for being such amazing and inspirational people. Your work helps people like me to talk about what happened.
Best wishes and thank you everyone who reads this, for letting me share my story,
And I made a post video wrap-up for you! Check it out here.
Want to know more about Relationship Free? Watch this video!
- Part 1: Opening the doors on narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse wp.me/p212WY-FD fb.me/729EV8ieS 21 hours ago