women

Leaving A Narcissist: Day 7

I have woken up every morning since finding out, wincing. As if someone has poked my brain with a stick or found the spot in my brain that contains every memory of us and touches it as soon as I regain consciousness. We were together since July of 2016.  Even though he was still technically with his girlfriend, he was REALLY with me. At least, that was what I believed.

Everyone in my life knows, because the only way out of living a complete lie for 17 months is to be grossly honest. I know not everyone likes it; I know not everyone gets why I’ve decided to share this with the world, but when you’ve lived under the regime of the Prince of Lies for so long, it seems as if they only way to take back any power is to reveal the truth. And to have witnesses bear that and validate it for you, as I need people to help me reconnect with True North.

I am a therapist and a coach, I help people see their truth for a living. How could I be so skilled in assisting others and be so lost in my own life and relationship? Great question. How could I stay with a man so long that kept me hidden, gave me so little, told me nothing but lies, and gaslighted my reality? When you are “chosen” by a narcissist, you feel as if you have won the GD lottery. You are groomed, carefully, slowly, calculating. Our rules were laid out early and clearly and because I loved him so deeply, I agreed.

I tried to end the relationship with him. I asked him to let me go. I asked him if there was someone else he loved. I asked him to not make promises he wasn’t going to honor. I told him that I wasn’t going to do this sick dance anymore. I wondered why someone who looked so together on the outside, was so lost on the inside. I didn’t understand his truths. I knew he was lying to me about things and I didn’t push him on it because when I did he would pull away from me, sometimes for a whole day. It was my punishment for questioning the rules we both agreed to. When I would challenge him things, he would blame his mother, the death of his father, me for being too needy and never satisfied. He cited this as a reason that he didn’t love me the same way was because he felt as if he could never please me.

He would railroad the other women in his life and then tell me I was special. He would talk behind everyone’s back that we both knew and cared about and then would be charming and sweet to their face. I wondered what he said about me when I wasn’t there; and in actuality, I was more afraid that he wasn’t talking about me rather than saying anything negative. I worried I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough or popular enough for him. I worked on all those things consistently to prove to him that I was his perfect match.

He broke up with me in May, but never left my side. The longest we ever went without talking was 5 days, and that was in October of 2017, because I was finally finding my backbone again. He became frantic at that point and begged to come over and talk to me. I thought he was coming back to ask me to marry him. That is laughable looking back.

He never gave me a reason for breaking things off in May, only that he felt he had to work on himself around the grief of his father and his relationship with his mother. Like a good little girl, I instantly jumped to support him and show him that he still needed me. I begged him not to go and to let me love him while he did this work. I knew it was off, but I was addicted to him. He kept me close enough to make me still feel as if I “got a piece of him” but so far away that I could never find out who he really was and what he was really doing.

He was my only sexual partner during the entire time I knew him and I was obsessed. He told me that I was the best lover he ever had, that I taught him how to be “good”. Before and after every time we had sex, he would make sure to remind me that it “meant something”. I soon got irritated with this, because when you’re in a relationship with someone you love, you don’t have to tell them that having an intimate relationship “means something”. The reason the sexual component is so intense with a narcissist is because it is truly the only way to feel as if you are receiving any intimate contact with them. They hold you at bay, compartmentalize you and distort your reality in every other facet of life, that sex just becomes the quickest and easiest way to feel loved by them.

My friends and family watched from the sidelines, trying to pull me off him. They told me that he was too broken or something was off. They told me he was image obsessed and demented for starting a relationship with me while he was still living with someone else (this also makes me demented, I realize). But his promises of marriage, family and a life together kept me there. I wanted those things with him. I wanted to be his partner. I wanted to feel chosen by Jason. And he would tell me things like:

“you’re my muse for life”

“You are the reason I get up in the morning”

“you will always be mine”

“I have never been as attracted to someone as I am to you”

“Our babies will be so cute”

“I miss waking up next to my Nik”

“I’m putting all my effort into fixing myself so we can be together and live our life the way we want”

“I will always take care of you”

“You are my safe spot”

“No one knows as much about me as you do. You know me better than anyone”

“Pick a week and we can go to Mexico”

“I would rather go to Spain with you”

“I’m selling my house and then we can find a place and rent together before we buy our next house”

“I can only relax when I am laying next to you”

“It has never crossed my mind that we won’t eventually be together”.

A snapshot of why I stayed

A snapshot of why I stayed

 

And this is the tip of the iceberg. He made me feel as if I was the ONLY one that mattered, but these moments were stretched out, weeks between these professions of love. Crumbs that sustained me for over a year. I was addicted to the surge of love I would feel and I would chase that high. I tried to date other guys, but no one could compare to Jason. He was perfect in my eyes. When I told him that I had started to date again in September of 2017, he freaked out. He told me he was physically ill and couldn’t stand the thought of me being with other guys (even just for dinner). I thought this meant he was coming back to me, for real this time. It worked, I thought! The oldest trick in the book, dating someone else to get the attention of the guy you really love and want. No, it did not work. Because he came back just enough to reclaim my attention and I dropped all those other men. He said he was giving me his full attention and commitment and I instantly felt guilty for seeing other people (even though he had broken up with me, again). I told every one of them that I was back with my ex-boyfriend. We were actually dating again. He actually took me out to dinner at Martina, he actually slept over (mind you, this happened once). But soon, we were back to the same cadence. He wouldn’t call me his girlfriend, he was more and more elusive with his time, he wouldn’t give me straight answers, he was less affectionate on the phone, the time gaps between our conversations grew more and more. It felt like I was crumbing for less and less, and I was so exhausted. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted from this relationship with him. I was so fatigued and so twisted up inside I decided to take a trip to get away from him.

So I went to Bali. Before I left, he again, came over and told me we needed to end it. This scene is so familiar in our relationship that it didn’t even phase me. I think I may have actually rolled my eyes. And I was done. I told him, “Fine, let’s take these two weeks I’m gone and give each other some space.” And he agreed, but did not follow through (and neither did I-I’m a fucking Jason addict). Me being gone was like a renewed sense of desire; he FaceTimed me EVERY day, twice a day when I was Bali. He would text me non-stop. He was all of a sudden enamored and in love with me again. He talked about our future; our upcoming trips, our plans for when I got home, how much he missed me and loved me and couldn’t wait to see me. I was so happy. I was so encouraged. Again--oldest trick in the book, start focusing on yourself and your dude will open his eyes and finally see the light. No, he did not see the light because there was never a light to see between us.

The entire time that I was in Bali he was with her. His actual girlfriend. The girl that he brought around his friends. The girl that he brought to the State Fair, 4th of July, Christmas parties. The girl who would come to his house and cook for him. The girl he brought to his family home in Florida. The girl who was living the life with him that he promised me. He’s actually been with this woman for quite some time. The earliest marker that I’ve been told is October of 2016, when he text a mutual friend and asked about her. He took her out for dinner in May to celebrate her divorce. They’ve been on vacations together. He’s met her children. The list is sickening. This is why I wince when I wake up. The wince is about starting to marry what I believed to be true and what the actual reality of his life is, and how big I compromised my life for him. The contrast is so great that it is painful for my brain to process and accept. I am on Day 7 of finding out who Jason really is; it is not easy to realize that man you loved was an illusion. It is not easy to experience the emotions that come from ending a relationship with a true, living breathing sociopathic narcissist.

I realized and continue to realize through this unfolding process that I have undeniable codependent traits. That I devalue myself in my relationships with men. That I have soul searching to do while I pick up these pieces and go forward. I am so inspired and encouraged by making connections with other women that he has done this to. Simultaneous to me, before me, and whoever may come after me. I am here. I understand how you feel. We are stronger together and he is true criminal against women. He sins against our minds, bodies and hearts. He is a thief in the night. Although I have only known about his true character since Wednesday of last week, I already know of 4 other women besides myself that he has treated this way in the less than two years I knew him (and I’m sure that is just the beginning).

I write because I feel stronger when I write. I share my story because I’ve kept it inside for so long. I’ve protected him, sinned against myself, excused his behavior, compromised every part of me to be good enough for him. I know that he was a lesson that I needed to learn and someday I will understand it more fully. I know that I will continue to write and process and hope that it finds its way to whoever it is meant for. Right now I have gratitude for the beauty of truth. Painful, gut wrenching beautiful truth.

To myself and the Other Women I have hurt throughout my relationship with Jason:

I love you

I’m sorry

Please forgive me

Thank you.

 

5 Easy Ways to Reconnect With Your Voice

Build your dream house.

Build your dream house.

Reposted from previous blog. Original post from May 24, 2016

Recently, I had a moment in which I realized that I had been denying my inner voice. It came suddenly and fiercely. Long story short, I had been dating someone that I was passionately attracted to, and yet knew there was something off. On a daily basis I had been shoving down that voice that said, “This isn’t right”. I wanted so desperately for things to be perfect between us. Reality was far from that—and no matter who told me what, until I was ready to see it, it didn’t matter. He ended our relationship in an incredibly painful way, and even in that moment of visceral ache, I was released. Released from this incredibly denial and dishonesty that I had been prioritizing for 18 months. I was able to start to step into this place of authenticity and truth. I want nothing more than to take this lesson and spread it like gospel. Please know that I understand the pain associated with stepping into your truth, and I also know the light. 

I actually had a totally different introduction to this post, and it seemed less than authentic to begin from a place of authority. I am human just like you; I cry, I bleed, I love and I learn. I wanted to share this with you to start from a universal truth, that we are all in process. I can speak from a place of expertise, yet also from a place of student (and life just handed me a elephant sized lesson…thanks life :)). 

The way I integrate this lesson with my clients is that I askthem to honor how “not knowing” or ignoring their voice has served her up until now. I come from the belief that all our actions and belief start from a positive intention, and we must recognize what that is! Often, coping skills or defense mechanism do serve us, and then, at some point can become destructive or unhelpful. 

An example of this is passive aggressive communication. Passive aggressive means that you say something in order to avoid a conflict, however you are desperately wanting the other person to understand your frustration, anger or fear. Where I come from (Minnesota), this is the “normal” way to communicate, and anything outside this realm is considered rude, abrasive and unacceptable. The positive intention is to keep the peace, to manage and have happy relationships. Unfortunately, the result is the exact opposite! I cannot tell you how many people I’ve seen in therapy wanting to improve relationships, set boundaries and feel more congruent with their inner and outer message because of this pervasive style of communication. 

My goal and advice in each of these moments that clients come to me is the same: use your voice. Start slowly and begin to get familiar with what is in your heart; what is it that you actually want to communicate? What are you actually needing from yourself and those around you? What is your fear in embracing your truth? Begin to ask these questions and your brain will start the retrieval process for the answers (crazy, right)?

Often, our fear in embracing our voice, saying our truth, stating our needs, is that:

  1. We could possibly upset someone else and then their view of us will change
  2. As women, we will be seen as bitchy, rude, unlikeable or abrasive,
  3. It is not okay to ask for your needs to be met; you will be labeled as selfish, which apparently is a punishable offense. 

I want you to start to challenge some of these inner beliefs; are these really serving you? How might life be better if you stated what was really on your mind? How might your relationships improve if you allowed people to know the real you? How might your mental, spiritual and physical health improve if you started to ask for what you need and then allow it to enter your life?

I can tell you from personal and professional experience that relationships can grow exponentially through conflict. And not aggressive fighting, yet dialogue and allowing someone to know you, challenge you and encourage you to see something from a different perspective. How many times in your life has someone given you feedback that has shifted your perspective and made you a more productive, loving, kind person? Do you remember the gratitude and excitement you felt with this new revelation? Connect with this and allow yourself to engage more frequently with real discussions with the people you care about. 

Below are 5 easy, fun and achievable ways to start to use your voice, because your words, thoughts, feelings and desires are so important! Don’t let one more day pass where your voice is unheard!

  1. If you are angry, upset or frustrated with someone, speak out loud the words you would say to them. I often will tell clients to get it out in their car, in their bathroom in front of their mirror or when they are by themselves, where they don’t have to edit one single word. The point of this is not to actually cultivate your message, but to allow your emotions out! Let yourself say the things that you might NEVER actually say to that person. Engage with your feelings, so that you can come closer to a balanced message when you actually talk to this person.

  2. Get familiar with your emotions! Ask yourself “What am I feeling right now” and then LISTEN! Make efforts to understand your patterns of emotions and then record them in a journal or a note on your phone. Once you start to notice what feelings are coming up frequently, you can find ways to process them and approach the situation differently.

  3. Redefine the word “selfish”. I cannot tell you how much I despise this word; it is shaming and denies people (mostly women) the most imperative self care that they need. Self care is what we all need to move through this world; the things that give us energy, fill up our bucket and allow us to show up as the best versions of ourselves. I want you to pick one thing that you would have previously defined as selfish and do it anyways. This could mean, making your favorite dinner (even if you partner doesn’t like it), going to yoga in the middle of the work day, buying that purse that you’ve been eyeing, going out to brunch with your girlfriends, spending an hour a week in meditation or journaling. Replenish your spirit and you will be able to offer the world 10-fold what you think you’re capable of.

  4. Schedule a difficult conversation. We all have that one (or maybe 5) people that we’ve been putting off an uncomfortable conversation with. Stop delaying and text them immediately to meet for coffee, a drink or a Skype date. Write out what you want to say to them and always come from a place of love. Use “I” statements to diffuse any defensiveness. Be ready and able to own your own shit. Remember the goal is to use your voice; if the relationship also improves that is a beautiful bonus. It will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever was. It is worth it and you will remember that feeling going forward-it will ripple out and allow you to have more authentic, vulnerable and valuable relationships with people you love.

  5. Reestablish or reconnect with your identity. When was the last time that you really thought about who you are as a person? What are your values, your desires, your goals, your fears, your losses? If someone asked you, “who are you?”, what would your response be? Spend 10 minutes a day for the next week journaling about these 7 topics:

    1. Values
    2. Relationships
    3. Goals
    4. Career
    5. Fears
    6. The Biggest Dream I Could Possibly Dream Is…
    7. What I Want for My Future Is…

I cannot wait to have you get started on these amazing steps towards rediscovering your TRUE voice! Believe me when I say, I am walking this journey too and will share my trials and victories. Take the chance to be happy and connect with the truth that you, and everyone, holds within themselves. 

 

Celebrating a bitching blog post!

Celebrating a bitching blog post!

Be Well My Friends,

Nikki

Every Woman's Story: The Ubiquitous Tale of Body Hatred, Love and Triumph

Nikki_003.jpg

One of the challenges that I was put on this earth to work on is self love. I actually think this is a journey that most of us have come here to work on, and so I do not believe myself to be a unique soul in this capacity. My journey of self love also connects to self worth and my body. From the time I was a small person I can remember thinking my body wasn’t okay. I have a specific memory around 7 of me in my room, getting dressed and I looked down and pulled at the skin around my torso, and told myself, “You are too fat”. This is a voice that has followed me throughout my life; it no longer has the power it once did, but it still camps outside my front door, waiting for me to invite it in. I picture that voice looking like the mean girl in high school, only with stringier hair and more haggard now, (I mean she is camping outside my house and continuing to bully a grown woman, she can’t be doing that well). 

 

The story of the ups and downs throughout my life and the moments where I can remember other people commenting on my body (good and bad) are not special or that interesting. There are just a few that I think have followed me around like an old scrapbook. The time my slim French grandmother told me I was not thin, the time I opened a social studies book in the 5th grade and saw a stick figure with giant boobs drawn on it with my name underneath, the one time a mean boy in my 6th grade art class called me fat, the countless times my mother was on a diet and although she never commented on my body, constantly yoyo’d up and down with her own, never satisfied. These early moments shaped how I saw myself, and although, as an adult I can rationally disconnect from them, they all still hold an emotional weight in my heart.

Me (left), my cousin (right) around 1988. It was probably within the next 2 years that I started to criticize my body on a regular basis.

Me (left), my cousin (right) around 1988. It was probably within the next 2 years that I started to criticize my body on a regular basis.

 

I eventually grew into my body and started to get noticed in a totally different way around 8th grade; I was cute (not hot) and had developed early and significantly. Meaning, my breasts were unusually large and I had finally thinned out a little. Boys came a’running. I loved the attention but for all the wrong reasons. I think a lot of young woman can relate to this experience; after being told for your entire childhood/adolescence, there is something wrong with you or undesirable, and all of a sudden you are receiving the opposite message, holy shit, you have just entered the motherland of all highs.

 

Throughout high school and college I realized thin equated to better, and so I ran a pattern play that many women resort to, which is restricting food intake. I became addicted to diet pills (when the good ones were still legal to buy OTC), I lost my damn mind when ephedrine became illegal when I was 18. Whenever I hear any medication or countries that still allow ephedrine to be used, my mind goes immediately into addict brain for a millisecond before I come back to rational thought. This is something I rarely share with people—not my parents, not my friends, probably just my therapist and now here. But it was very real—I was addicted not just to OTC speed, but also to the idea of what being thin meant, the attention and power I thought it gave me and the fallacy of happiness. 

Me with some of my college roommates (who were all beautiful and naturally thin). I remember feeling myself constantly comparing my body to theirs. Even posting this pic is a little hard for me, remembering how I felt and probably what this version of me was feeling at this moment.

Me with some of my college roommates (who were all beautiful and naturally thin). I remember feeling myself constantly comparing my body to theirs. Even posting this pic is a little hard for me, remembering how I felt and probably what this version of me was feeling at this moment.

 

In college I met the man that was to be my ex-husband. He was funny, nice and safe. I felt like I didn’t have to try with him. I hid in our relationship. The dynamics between us suited both of us for awhile; my main awareness was that I got to feel more powerful and hidden at the same time. My body weight fluctuated more than it ever has in my whole life in this relationship, I gained so much weight and then would lose it. Gain and lose. Gain and lose. I was the most unhappy I have ever been with myself. This wasn’t his fault; this was my subconscious way of hiding. He ate a certain way, and I took implicit permission to do the same. I hated myself. I knew I had to make a change. Right around the time I completed my graduate program, I committed to myself the following: 1.) I needed to find a sustainable way of living and loving myself, and 2.) I needed to start now. I began to revamp my eating habits significantly; I quit drinking as much, I began to talk to myself differently. I joined the same gym as my girlfriends and started going to fun group fitness classes with them. Never in my whole life had I made such a huge shift that allowed me to regain control in such a short time period. 

 

My body began to change, slowly and then quickly. I could wear cute jeans again, I cared more about what I looked like (in a healthy, proud way). The more I exercised, the more I wanted to move. The thing with change is that it is a ripple effect. You cannot just expect to change your body and stop there; your relationships change, your attitude, emotions and beliefs change, your values and words change. Holy shit, life is actually kind of awesome. My relationship with my husband also changed; it began to deteriorate quickly as we grew further and further apart. Many might not say the reason that we inevitably broke up was because of my body revolution, and it absolutely was a player. I was confident, I reconnected with my needs and wants, I stopped hiding. We had outgrown each other. 

This was during my separation from my ex-husband (with my savior, Lutz); where I was finally rediscovering my body and how to take care of it. Funny, I've kept this shirt for over 4 years because it represented one of the first summer tops I wore that I felt confident in.

This was during my separation from my ex-husband (with my savior, Lutz); where I was finally rediscovering my body and how to take care of it. Funny, I've kept this shirt for over 4 years because it represented one of the first summer tops I wore that I felt confident in.

 

I look back on the choice to prioritize my physical health and how much that played a role on my mental wellness, and the connection is undeniable. My ability to move through difficult moments, elated wins and everything in between has been made more conscious and meaningful because I am connected to myself. I am fully connected to my body, my beautiful vessel that moves me through this life. I am more connected to my thoughts, emotions and words and how powerful they are and how much influence I truly have over them. My personal and professional growth have all been powered by the decision to invest in myself first. Those memories from when I was a little girl still tell a part of my story, and they no longer influence my beliefs about who I am and who I get to be. I am the queen of this hive and I GET to decide how I feel every single damn day. 

Earlier this year (2017) dialed in to lifting, eating a Ketogenic diet, yoga and loving myself daily through meditation, healthy relationships, fulfilling career and aspirations. This is a choice, it is a relationship with self--somedays come easily and others, not so much. Documenting it all :)

Earlier this year (2017) dialed in to lifting, eating a Ketogenic diet, yoga and loving myself daily through meditation, healthy relationships, fulfilling career and aspirations. This is a choice, it is a relationship with self--somedays come easily and others, not so much. Documenting it all :)

 

This is not a story of reaching the mountain top, putting my hands on my hips and declaring “I’m done!” There is still work, there are days that are hard for me, where I need to consciously decide to love my body, love myself, and love fiercely because if I don’t, no one else can or will. I hear the echoes of that mean girl, and that chick can be so loud sometimes. I am beyond blessed to have to tools to not react, not attach and not judge (myself or her). I simply come back to asking myself “What is right about you?” “What do you love?” “What can you do to move through this with compassion?”

 

Finding alignment <3

Finding alignment <3

I know there are more mountains ahead of me and my body: aging, pregnancy, shifts that I cannot predict or anticipate. I am armed like a warrior, though; I feel prepared for whatever is to come because I am strong, physically, mentally and spiritually. When I wake up each morning and make a commitment to practice love, towards myself and others, I am walking my most sacred, challenging, holy path. I may trip and fall, but my body and mind are agile and I catch myself before I hit the ground.