When I was little, we had one of those memory card games. Not just ANY memory card game—one with flags that you flipped over and had to find the match. I remember liking that game although I don't remember being all that great at it. I now know that the abuse I suffered as a tiny child—which triggered my ability to easily block things from my mind—has always made it hard for me to remember childhood memories. Even the good ones are still blocked.
Fast forward to now. It's December and I've officially been recovering from narcissistic abuse, as my therapists have said, since July. One thing I've noticed is that my memory has gotten worse since 2014—a side affect of having endured the kind of abuse I did for more than three years. The same thing happened when I was little: I blocked memories. What's hard about this is it isn't like i can pick or choose what I block. It just all kinda fades to black. I have to fight hard to remember good and not-so-good moments in time.
I noticed this memory decline in other ways, as well. While I was still in the relationship and I had lined up several on-air hosting gigs where I had to memorize lines to repeat on camera, I struggled more than most. I had the hardest time remembering the lines to the point where I was panicking about it and had to repeatedly look at the lines on paper.
Anyone else out there dealing with this lovely physical side affect of abuse? I read the best article the other day that talked about this very thing and how "neuroscience has revealed that long-term narcissistic abuse may cause brain damage." Fortunately, through healing methodologies like EMDR therapy, memory can be improved.
A few important things to note from the article:
I noticed that I was gaining weight in my mid-section during the most stressful times—the lovely affects of too much cortisol in my system. I always felt like I was in a state of high alert and started to have panic attacks while in the relationship.
Also, I literally started pulling my hair out from the stress. It wasn't something conscious—it was my equivalent to chewing on fingernails. I would find myself doing it and not even realize it. In a nutshell, I was a complete physical mess.
I am much better now but I still find myself having heightened reactions to any kind of experience that has the slightest overtone of abuse or control and my emotions are really extreme.
There is no doubt in my mind I have been changed by the abuse but I also know I can fight to heal the damage.
Now, where are my damn keys?
* If you've been through this, I'd love to know how you're doing, if you can relate, and what helped you.
Neuroscience reveals that long-term narcissistic abuse may cause brain damageby Lachlan Brown | Nov 17, 2017
I wrote a bit about the emotional rollercoaster I experienced while filing for and being granted a restraining order but I wanted to share a little more in hopes it will help the countless women I know in this position. I had no idea what to expect because I didn’t have any experience with the court system. I hope what I share below is helpful!
Here are SIX THINGS I wish I’d known or I feel are important to know from the get-go….
Do you need a lawyer to file for an order of protection? What does it cost to file?
No lawyer is needed, however; I did consult with law enforcement and one lawyer. It doesn’t cost anything monetarily to file. The forms were easily found online by looking up the Justice Court in our/your area.
What kind of proof do you need to show? (This is my experience in Arizona https://www.allenlawaz.com/order-of-protection-arizona/.)
In order to obtain an order of protection, the plaintiff must present the following to the court:
You will meet with the judge and a court reporter in a closed courtroom. You will be sworn in, etc, and it will take at least thirty minutes, from my experience. I wrote more about my experience in this blog; however, I will say I came to court armed with physical proof in the form of print outs of harassing emails to myself and co-workers, screenshots of online harassment at my place of work, and a police report from a domestic violence call.
What were some key points made by the judge?
The judge, in my case reiterated, that while this order is in place and protects me legally, that it truly does not protect me from domestic violence, if he chooses to come after me. He urged me to be aware at all times. What it DOES do is it makes it illegal for him to contact me in any way, shape, or form.
If the defendant lives out of state (which mine does), you have to pay a process server to serve him the order of protection before it was considered active. It’s not cheap. I paid roughly $500 and that was a steal. If the defendant dodges the serving (does not answer the door, etc), then you might have to pay extra for the server to do surveillance to serve him when he is out and about. This is exactly what happened to me.
What if the defendant doesn’t read the order?
It is still active no matter if he reads it or not as long as he is served. According to the process server (who writes up an affidavit with photos of the defendant when he serves him), he must touch the envelope. In my case—and in the case of many others who are dealing with not-so-ethical folks—they will deny their identity. In my case, he threw the unopened envelope on the ground and denied his identity before driving off. He also denied his identity when Flagstaff PD called to make sure he knew the order was in effect.
*Side note: The cop I was working with here in Flagstaff told me immediately that with these types of DV (Domestic Violence) cases, most of the time, the defendant will try to get around the system by sending some kind of message to the plaintiff. And sure enough, he did. He sent messages via fake Facebook profiles. I was able to trace the profiles back to him and provided the cops with the information.
If the defendant violates the no-contact order of protection, then a warrant for his arrest is issued.
The most amazing thing has happened since I started speaking out about what I endured—. women and men are writing in and speaking up. I'm so honored to read their stories and I really value and appreciate the courage it takes to face it, let alone write or speak about it.
I'm sharing a Q&A between myself and another brave soul/surivor who happens to be a friend from my hometown in Ohio. If you would like to share your story, please let me know. I'm happy to share yours here on the blog, either anonomously or with your name attached. The more we share, the more we learn about the patterns and warning signs that occur in these types of relationships.
Shelley, can you give us an overview of what you went through in your 5-year relationship with someone who was emotionally and verbally abusive? What are some moments that stand out in your mind?
As with most relationships, it started out beautifully. He was very caring, supportive, loving, and funny. He was everything I was looking for in a man. Things progressed quickly because I thought I had found the man of my dreams.
I wanted to purchase a home for myself and my daughter, but he kept telling me I should just move in with him for a while and save up money. Logically, it made sense because we would both be saving money so I agreed. After approximately six months, his whole personality changed. Here are some examples of what I endured that I never saw coming:
We have talked previously about how it seems the abusers are handed the same handbook—they all seem to behave very similarly. Much of what you’ve already shared resonates with me personally, especially the memory of not being able to have contact with men without some sort of blame/shame/argument.
How and when did you fully realize what you were going through was abuse and how did you get out?
It wasn’t until the last two years of the relationship, that I realized I needed to get my act together financially and mentally. I needed to prepare myself for the day that I would have to leave. I knew it would come to that. I never planned an actual date, I just knew it was wrong and that one day I would have the strength to just do it. That's exactly what I ended up doing. I woke up one day and left. I visited one apartment complex, signed the paperwork, and put money down immediately because I knew if I didn't do it right then and there, I never would. I would never have the perfect opportunity like the one I was being presented. Plus, I finally had the courage to stand up for myself and I wasn't going to let myself fall back into the old routine again. I was done, especially I saw my daughter run from him because he scared her with his yelling fits.
Did you run into issues with him after you left? I know you work for the same company.
Yes, we do work together. Overall, there was a pattern of manipulation and control after we split, as well. He would find reasons to not let me gather some of my things that were left at the house. He was very slick about covering up everything he would do after we broke up. Emails and texts would be civil, but face to face meetings would be verbally and emotionally abusive. I had to block him from calling and contacting me.
At work, he would find ways to stalk me. I was always looking over my shoulder because he was (and still is) ALWAYS there. Friends, co-workers, and supervisors saw what was happening but no one could really do a whole lot.
In addition, he sent threatening messages to me that he would hit or run my fiance off of the road if he ever caught him on his motorcycle.
He is now telling half-truths and flat out lies about me, which seems par for the course with what I’m learning about narcissistic abuse. He would tell a small bit of a story so as to look like the victim but if the whole story was revealed, he would in no way be considered a victim in the situation. He always plays the blame game with me. He would turn the tables and nothing was ever his fault.
You’re a strong, independent, smart woman. It’s likely why he was attracted to you in the first place. Looking back, how did his behavior and abuse affect your demeanor and self-esteem?
He was always getting into confrontations with everyone that came across his path. I found myself absorbing his personality and attitude, mainly because I was so miserable and guilty about my actions. I felt like this was my own Karma for past behavior and that I deserved all that was coming to me. I made excuses for all of it whether it be him, me, or the situation in general. I felt I had made my bed so I had to lie in it.
He made me feel worthless—I began to feel I had little confidence to do anything on my own. I couldn't survive without him. I still don't know how this happened because he never directly told me I was bad or a “piece of shit” or anything like that. It was just something that I feel I became conditioned to over time after the initial honeymoon stage was over and he started tearing down of who I was inside.
If we were speaking to a group of survivors of this type of abuse, what would you say to them in regards to what has helped you heal the most? What is your advice to them in general?
If I could give any advice to someone dealing with someone similar to my ex-boyfriend, I would tell them that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. You have to realize that you are strong enough to fight back. That you are worth it. Life is too short to wait for happiness that will never come no matter how loyal you are, how long you wait, or how you think he will change. None of it will ever happen.
Quit focusing on all the reasons why you can't leave or what could go wrong, and start focusing on what could go right. I believe that having a couple great and supportive friends, changing your own attitude towards yourself, and teaching yourself that you deserve better makes all the difference. Being your own biggest fan and supporter changes everything. We are only as weak as we allow our minds to believe. We will rise.
I’m overwhelmed by the women and men reaching out who have endured abuse in very similar ways. Thank you for taking time to read, question, comment, and extend a supportive hand to me.
I thought I’d take a moment to answer questions I’m asked more than once. If several of you are asking, it means many have the same questions.
First, the hard ones.
Why keep writing? It’s over?
A few people in my life, including family, have asked if I’m concentrating too much on it. And one commenter on Instagram suggested I “move on.” So the question is why talk about it now that I’m back with my husband and am moving on with my life?
I have a three-part answer to this one!
He loves me. He knows what I went through and he wishes he could make it go away in one fell swoop, but he understands it’s not that easy. He saw me change and he knows what I endured. He knows my bigger purpose in all of this and supports it.
The short answer to that question is his text to me last week:
Can you recommend any good reading material around abusive relationships, particularly when it involves someone who shows narcissistic behavior/abusive tendencies?
I can! These articles have helped me immensely. And I frequently share them with new and old friends who write in and ask how I got through the stages.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/understanding-narcissism/201708/why-do-narcissists-abuse-those-they-love (This one came today from a male friend who went through similar.)
You’re a medium. How did you not know?
I’ve come to know over the last 8 years, I’m pretty good at helping law enforcement put the pieces together on cases. And I can pass messages from kids in spirit to their parents. And occasionally, I can help find a lost cat. (Never a lost wallet, for some reason!?!) What I know in my soul, and what I have heard from spirit, is that I couldn’t have avoided it. I wasn’t supposed to know it all when I met him. Being human and all, I was just falling into it mostly with my inner child mind but didn’t realize what was happening (wounded attachment). I likely could have shortened the experience with free will choice—like how I knew something wasn’t right but still didn’t end it. I could also have gone on to completely lose all that I am by continuing to let him back in and believe the lies. I will say spirit had a very big role in helping me see the truth along the way. The truth I knew in my soul but didn’t want to really see. I believe it was a meant-to-be opportunity for healing and growth. I’ve written about it in several places here on the blog: http://www.kierstenparsons.com/blog/category/there-are-no-coincidences and http://www.kierstenparsons.com/blog/category/life-lessons.
What was the process like for getting a restraining order? What kind of proof did you need to have?
My next post will be about this very subject. I had never been through this before and it was exhausting, time-consuming, and scary. I wrote a little bit about the day I had to plead my case in court but I will write more about the types of proof you need and statute of limitations, etc.
You should write a book....are you?
I am! And it's really hard to write, right now. I have a love/hate relationship with it because some of the prep requires me reading back through emails where I was called a thick fucking brick and told "fuck you" multiple times and it takes me back to that feeling of being put down. It's not easy but I'm doing it and I'll share excerpts as I go along. As my friends and family say, with the sudden onset mediumship, working with cops on cold cases, Shark Tank, leaving a marraige, abuse and conditioning, restraining orders and eventually coming back to center, it's like a "good" bad Lifetime movie! And it's all real!
I don’t dream a lot but when I do, it’s as if the universe is hitting me over the head. I am not feeling well at all—damn stomach flu—so I didn’t sleep well last night, and was apparently dreaming up a storm. The man who abused me as a child showed up in several of them which made me think more about both predators in my life.
I haven’t talked much about the man who abused me as a child, other than sharing the letter I wrote to him. I know quite a bit about him but because he’s a distant relative, I’ve been cautious to write about him.
In my dream, it was pretty clear that the doppelganger version of my childhood abuser walked into my life in 2014 and I had no clue. As you may have read in my initial post, I fell hook, line and sinker without realizing I was falling into a similarly abusive situation with a predator who resembled my relative.
To say they have a few things in common is an understatement. For instance, when my childhood abuser was married, he admitted to having been with 100+ women, all age ranges, during his ten-year marriage. Also, I know I’m not the only child he abused. He is charming, good looking, funny, and charismatic. He’s everything people don’t want to believe makes up a predator.
If the letters and comments I’m receiving are any indication, my ex is right up there with the number of women he wooed, during and outside of his marriage. Women of all ages; two younger than I can even comprehend. Courting multiple women at one time while ensuring none of them knew about the other seemed to be his favorite game.
How did I not see it? I do believe we can attract the same type of energy from abuse in order to heal the original wound, but I thought I would have been smarter than this. It’s a strange place to be because while I feel that way, I can also see the big picture. The last three years helped me heal from the original abuse. I’m so grateful for that!
While I’m hopeful my dreams are lighter and brighter tonight, I’m thankful for the opportunity to connect the dots today and hopeful it will help others reading this.
Much love to you all! <3