How I Got Here
Eight years ago, I married my best friend. This marriage was as close to perfect as perfect can be. I had previously divorced my first husband whom I was with for 14 years because he was holding me back in life and we had no relationship left. It was dead. I was never allowed to work or go to college. Shortly after my divorce, I met my best friend, he encouraged me to pursue my career and dreams. He stood by me and encouraged me every step of the way through college and life. Any life event or tragedy, he was right by my side. We never argued, we always discussed everything and we were always on the same page. We worked together and built a beautiful life. We had it all. We were inseparable, best friends. We took care of each other. No matter what, he was always there for me and I was always there for him. We respected each other one-hundred percent.
One day after five years of marriage, he left. He texted me one day and told me he was moving out and he would be by to get his stuff. This hit me like a ton of bricks. Thoughts raced through my mind as I tried to figure out what, when, how and where did he stop loving me. I was clueless. I was in shock. I was confused. I was devastated. I deserved answers but couldn’t find them. The only answer I received from him was, “I rented an apartment and you can bring the kids over any time you want and eat pizza.” What? How? When? I was devastated and confused.
He came home on Valentine’s Day and threw a teddy bear at me as he walked through the door. He sat down, ate a bowl of homemade vegetable soup and continued to tell me that he didn’t want to be there anymore with no reason. He finished his soup, packed his clothes and left. A few days later I saw his relationship status with another woman on Facebook. They were living together and the Facebook pictures were him and her at the exact place that he and I said: “I do”. I recognized this woman as one of his employees at the restaurant he managed. I remembered when she got hired a few weeks before this. I remembered a conversation I had with her at the place of business. She told me then that she had some issues with some of the other workers and I told her she needed to talk to him about it and get it resolved. She told me she hadn’t been able to find time to talk to him away from the others so I gave her his phone number so that she could contact him and make him aware of the situation happening at work. I gave her his phone number! I had complete trust in this man. He was my life. My best friend. My soul-mate. I never had any reason not to trust him. Communication and trust were one-hundred percent in our relationship.
A few weeks after we separated, my Special Needs daughter came to me and told me that her stepdad, my husband, that I thought was perfect, had been sneaking into her bedroom at night, robbing her of her childhood, for years. At this point, everything finally started coming together and making sense. I felt extreme guilt and shame. I felt anger, resentment, and I blame myself still till this day and I always will. How could I not know? How could I not see any red flags? And what if I ignored the red flags? I racked my brain trying to figure this out. This was my fault. I taught them from a very young age, not to ever let anyone, no one, not even their dad, touch them inappropriately. I taught them to always come to me. I taught them that I would always love and protect them no matter what. I failed. Somehow, I failed. This left me even more vulnerable as I have always run from problems instead of facing them. I wanted to escape reality so I moved thirty miles away to a new town and started a new life with the man who made me forget all my problems to later find out that he is living a double life. I know they say love is blind but how could I be so naive?
I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t function. All I could do is lay in bed and cry. I went to the doctor and asked for help. I explained the situation to the doctor and he prescribed me a thirty-day supply of Xanax. Finally, I could relax and sleep. After a few days, I was able to go back to work and slightly function.
I lost myself. I lost my mind! I went out, started drinking, and fell victim to an abuser. He found me at a very vulnerable time in my life. He raised my spirits. He swept me off my feet. He was a real charmer. He pretended to be everything a woman wanted and needed. I had no idea at the time that he was setting me up for what would be the worst years of my life. After all, no one walks up to anyone and says “Hi, my name is ###### and I am Abusive”.
Now, you must understand that I am a “Caregiver” by heart. It is in my nature to nurture the needs of everyone. I thrive off of making other people happy and taking care of others. This man led me to believe that he needed me. I took care of him financially, emotionally and physically. I lifted his spirits. I made him feel important. I didn’t know he suffered from mental illness nor was I familiar with the severity of mental illness at this time. Mental illnesses are invisible. Until you live with someone for a long period, you may never see it. Have you ever known someone who committed suicide and you thought to yourself, “I never knew he/she was so unhappy?” That’s because some types of Mental Illness are not noticeable by the outward appearance. Individuals who suffer from mental illness are very good at hiding it in public. The only people who will ever see these illnesses are close family, spouse, live in roommates, etc. The problem is, once you are sucked into a world of illusions, it is very difficult to escape. For vulnerable people with low self-esteem, like myself, it is even more difficult.
I was just like “you” at one time, I thought I would never fall victim to abuse, I couldn’t understand why anyone would stay in an abusive relationship. After a couple of years of wondering how I got here and why I am still here, I began searching for answers. Everything I googled on the world wide web brought me to these: Narcissism, Psychopath, Sociopath, Trauma Bond, Stockholm Syndrome, Manipulation, Gaslighting, Brain Washing, Power, Control, Psychological Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Financial Abuse, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Isolation, Identity Insults, Projection, Survival Mode etc. The more I read the more I understood. There are things that people do to you that is “Abuse” and you don’t even realize it! Abuse goes far beyond what you have ever been taught in your lifetime. It can affect your mind before you even realize it. You can be a very strong, independent, outgoing, “never take shit from anyone” type person and still fall victim. You wake up one day and realize that your whole life has been taken from you without you even noticing. By the time you realize this, it is too late. You are at the pit of an extremely deep, dark world and there’s no way out. You don’t even see the hole while it’s being dug because your brain is in complete survival mode. You don’t realize what is happening because it happens very quickly and very casually. One day, you wake up at the bottom and there is no way out.
My abuser has been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Psychopath Personality Disorder (PDP), Sociopath Personality Disorder (SPD), Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), Bipolar Personality Disorder (BPD), Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCD), Paranoia and Schizophrenia. He has seen multiple Therapists whom he manipulated into believing there is “nothing wrong with him”. Thankfully, they had medical records with medical documents from multiple Psychologists to prove him wrong. He refuses to go to counseling or take any kind of medication. He is a ticking time-bomb.
Only if you have ever encountered any of these disorders up close and personal, will you have the mental capacity to understand how extremely frightening they can be. Unless you live with this person, you will never see any symptoms of those disorders and possibly even deny the fact that they exist inside him/her. They are Master Manipulators, they can and will make you believe anything and everything they want. I don’t care how educated, alert, self-aware and/or invincible you think you are, they can and will make you believe that the sky is not blue and the grass is not green.
Abusers have no conscious. They will drain you emotionally and physically and have no remorse. They take advantage of everyone and every situation. They will act like your best friend to your face and rob you behind your back with no sense of remorse ever. The occasional “compassion” toward you, is fake. They live in a fake world. Nothing is more important than their own selfish needs. When the abuser realizes that you are on to them, you have “figured them out”, they will discard you. No one is or ever will be too good for the discard process. Unless you are an enabler, they do not need you. This forces you into Survival Mode because, at this point, you have already invested so much of your mind, heart, and soul. You are attached. No one easily gives up on a relationship. You try to make it work, right?
Victims have a conscious. We feel sorry for people. We give people the benefit of the doubt. We are understanding, compassionate and forgiving. All of these traits are what abusers look for in a person while searching for their victims. They will interview you from the very beginning without you even acknowledging they are doing so. During the interview process, they will learn your traits to determine if you are an eligible candidate. They will even sneak in a few questions about your past, for back-up, to use against you later when you start to uncover the mask.
The abuser projects his negative behavior onto the victim. The victim introjects this behavior, by owning it. The victim then projects his good nature onto the abuser, assuming that the abuser “is just misunderstood” and also a victim. Thus, an abusive relationship cycle is born. Now both the abuser and the victim are projecting each other’s nature upon the other. The victim, however, has the disadvantage because he/she is taking on the negative qualities the abuser is projecting on to him/her. For example, after a conflict, an abuser will turn the situation around and make their partner feel guilty or as though they are somehow at fault.” Victims then justify the Abusers behavior, taking full responsibility for the relationship. This is extremely exhausting thus forces the victim to excuse abusive behavior to avoid conflict. After all, we all just want peace and happiness in life, right?
The fact that people you meet throughout this journey, that have known the Abuser for thirty plus years, who will verify that they have known this person for so many years and have never known them to lie or abuse anyone, referring to the abuser as “a good person”, will make you question your sanity and is proof that unless you live with them, you will never know.
Emotional abuse destroys your self-esteem, making it feel impossible to start fresh. It’s hard for those in abusive relationships to leave their partners after they’ve continuously been made to feel worthless and like there’s no better option for themselves. You don’t notice it happening. Maybe you are unaware of the different types of abuse. Maybe you were raised with it and think it’s normal. Or maybe you were like me and didn’t know this type of evil exists, so you try to wrap your mind around it! You don’t notice it until it’s too late. Until you are so far gone emotionally that nothing matters anymore.
I didn’t know what was happening until I started googling everything that was happening to me and why it was happening to me. At 38 years of age, I had no idea that Abuse could be so invisible. And I guarantee that every one of you reading this right now do not realize some things that are considered abuse. Most people, “I know I did”, think of abuse as physical, emotional, maybe even sexual. However, there are other forms of abuse that I never recognized until I experienced it and researched it. “If you don’t do this for me, I will…” is Manipulation. Manipulation is Abuse. Brainwashing is Abuse, “This is all your fault. You started this. You’ll never find anyone to tolerate you.” Identity Insults (name calling) is Abuse, it will turn you into a completely different person before you realize it. Before you know it, you believe everything they say. They will Isolate you from your family and friends because they want you to feel helpless and alone. Isolation is Abuse. They feed off of being in control of every situation. Control is Abuse. Control can often be so difficult to spot. Of course, we all notice when someone is Controlling finances or the way we dress. However, when it’s in the form of what can be misinterpreted as someone just “caring for your well-being”, it’s easy to overlook. For example, You go to the kitchen to cook dinner and you hear from afar, “Use the blue pot and black skillet.” Knowing you have cooked this same dinner for them one hundred times before. Or, they tell you to lock a door or turn off a light when you have already done it. My point is that they will control you in such an unnoticeable way. It becomes so familiar that you ignore it. You pick your battles and continue with your day. Even though you ignore this, it still harms your brain, your emotions, the way you think and feel about yourself. You will find yourself feeling as if you can’t even make a daily normal life decision on your own.
Why I’m Still Here
Upon determining “How I Got Here”, I discovered “Why I’m still here.” I didn’t only learn about how I became a victim, I also learned why I remain a Victim. Trauma Bonding is loyalty to a destructive person. It is much like any other bond that all couples create only it is very unhealthy. This is what happens after months of Manipulation, Brainwashing, and Isolation: Your self-worth feels entirely dependent on the Abuser. You deny your own needs & focus exclusively on meeting those of the Abuser. Boundaries are either non-existent or very weak because again, you “pick your battles”. Communicating your own needs is nearly impossible because you don’t even know what they are anymore. You take responsibility and blame for the Abuser’s actions and behaviors. Your fear of abandonment is disabling. You have an intense need for approval from the Abuser. You forget who you were before because Survival Mode forces you to concentrate on what’s happening now. Surviving is your main focus. It becomes a way of life just like “your” way of life.
Every one of you has a special bond with your partner, the only difference is, some bonds are healthy and trauma bonds are unhealthy. None the less, Bonding is an addiction. Now, I want you to think about some instances in your relationship that were toxic. You didn’t just throw your entire relationship away because it wasn’t perfect for a minute, right? We have the same mindset as you. We feel emotions just like you, we love the same way you do, we forgive the same way you do. We try to make it better, the same way you do. We don’t give up, the same way you don’t.
When someone tells you the same lies every day, it eventually becomes a reality. “They don’t love you. They don’t care about you. I don’t see them here with you…”. It’s human nature to want to feel loved, wanted and needed. Everyone needs someone, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a partner, we all need someone. We all need something to live for. God created us this way.
After they brainwash you, forcing you to believe that no one cares about you, the Manipulation begins. “If you leave, I will kill myself. If you leave, I will tell your Parents everything you don’t want them to know. If you try to leave, I will flatten your tires. If I ever see you with another man, I will kill both of you.” At this point in the relationship, you haven’t witnessed enough craziness to believe every word of it! You hate drama, you hate conflict, so you give in and take it. Ignore it, let it go, and hope for a better tomorrow.
He’s friends with every cop in town. He tells the Chief of Police, right in front of you, that if you come up missing, he has a shovel, a deep hole, and an alibi. The COP laughs. Now, what are you going to do? The Town Sheriff has known him since he was a kid. He pulls a knife on someone inside a local store then goes straight to the Sheriff and tells him what he did, the Sheriff does nothing. Now, what are you going to do? You file for an EPO, he denies charges in front of a Judge, the judge reschedules the hearing so that both parties can supply witnesses. No one is going to testify against someone they are intimidated by, instead, they are going to testify on his behave because they are intimidated by him! Now, what are you going to do?
Hi, my name is ####### and I am a CODEPENDENT
Why is trauma bonding for codependents different? Here’s why:
When trauma bonding kicks in with the Abuser, you are likely to recognize it as ‘this is what love is, this is what happens in relationships. This makes recognition of abuse even more difficult for you than it is for non-codependents. With no comparative way of being or experiencing significant relationships, to you, the abuse is normal. This makes leaving the Abuser more complex.
Trauma bonding for codependents reinforces all you have ever known of yourself and the world. This strengthens the ties to the Abuser and fuels your Codependent beliefs.
How? Your internal dialogue has always told you that to be “good enough”, approval must be sought externally from others and achieved through giving, giving, giving. You now have an Abuser verbalizing this as well, and demanding their needs be met upon threat of abuse. Trauma Bonding for Codependents is like flicking the switch on the self-destruct mode of a bomb.
As a Codependent, you believe it is your job to fix others. This is how we determine our self-worth. We need to believe we are helping and fixing others to feel worthwhile. And what more broken people around are there than Abusers? We don’t realize that we can’t fix them until it’s too late and now we need to be fixed!
They slowly erase you. Your body, soul, and mind don’t even belong to you anymore. It doesn’t even exist. You don’t even know it’s happening. It’s like you wake up one day and think, “Wait, what happened to me, where did I go?” When your mind is in survival mode, you are meeting the needs of the enemy every second of every day. You forget about yourself. You don’t exist anymore.
After a long time spent in an abusive relationship, it is almost impossible to relate to anyone, even family or old friends. There is a biological craving for the intensity that no normal relationship will satisfy. This provides a feeling of being alone, and empty. At first, only going back to the primary aggressor can overcome it.