When I’m talking with other abuse survivors who survived relationships with sociopaths and narcissists, I hear, “I wish I would have woken up sooner.”
“If only I had put a final stop to it all before I did.”
“I can’t believe I let it go on so long.”
Believe me, I get it. And I’ve said those things before but the further away I get from the abuse, the more I realize that maybe it ended when it should have ended. No earlier, no later.
One thing I know for sure is survivors carry around a lot of guilt and shame to begin with, whether it’s self-inflicted or not. Shaming oneself (or being shamed) for not getting out of an abusive relationship earlier undermines the survivor who is desperately trying to stand on her/his feet again after enduring pure hell. Personally, the survivors I know are the strongest, most loving people on the planet.
With that said, I know in my heart that if my personal hell would have been cut shorter than it was, I wouldn’t have learned several very valuable lessons about the journey I was on to heal myself. And I wouldn’t have learned different types of drastic measures taken/used when the abuser doesn’t want the partner to leave. Measures that I’ve been able to pass on to other survivors who, like me, were finally able to recognize the manipulation at hand and stop blaming themselves. I’ve taught a few how to investigate for proof, when proof is available. It’s the proof that helps survivors see the truth of everything they endured. It wasn’t until I saw proof of what I had suspected that I started making my way down the long, dark hall to the final exit door.
For those of you struggling or on the other side but you’re trying to make sense of what happened, know that what I’m about to describe is sadly textbook M.O. for many abusers. When you start to recognize emotional and psychological abuse in a relationship, the lengths to which the abuser will go to in order to keep control and reel you back can be drastic and unthinkable.
Had my relationship ended before it did, I wouldn’t have been on the receiving end of the:
I didn’t know that a loved one would be capable of causing such horrific pain by pretending to be hospitalized for a heart attack and then cutting off communication for a good length of time (silent treatment) AND would then go on to pretend to be standing on a bridge about to jump while I was 3000 miles away.
My intuition (and my detective skills from working on cold cases) came in handy, even though I still believed he was telling the truth the whole time he was sending me messages, because something felt off. In both cases, I resorted to tear-filled fact finding. In the case of the fake heart attack, I called every hospital in Philly to learn that not one had admitted someone by his name. (Unless the patient specifies their name not be given out, the hospital is allowed to confirm the patient is hospitalized.) Later on, I went straight to the source (those who knew where he was at the time) and received confirmation that despite a very elaborate tale of heart attack symptoms, an ambulance ride, his mother and brother by his side supposedly texting me on his phone from his hospital room shaming me for causing the heart attack, there was indeed no heart attack. No hospital stay. Only a ploy to make me feel it was my fault—which was thrown at me multiple times—and a way to reel me back into the relationship.
I continued talking to him despite knowing that he was likely lying about all of it, but at the time, I didn’t have the proof I needed to know for sure. Abusers tend to be very good at lying and part of me wanted to believe he wasn’t capable of doing something like this. To add insult to injury, I was still stuck in the cycle of abuse both emotionally and chemically, I just didn’t realize it. I went back to believing him even though my intuition was screaming at me.
About the time I was starting to pull away again after more abuse and control, the second ploy was, well, employed. This time it was a suicide attempt. Again, I believed him. I was in tears pleading with him to slow down and take a breath on text. He wouldn’t talk on the phone. Again, he blamed me for hurting him so deeply that he was led to the bridge that night to end his life. “Goodbye, my precious precious, love,” he wrote. Of course, this was after writing that he wished he’d never met me and that no one would ever hurt him again like I hurt him. I threatened to get his cousin involved in order to stop him from doing what I thought he was about to do. He flew into a rage. I now know why: he wasn’t about to jump. Hell, he was probably sitting in his car somewhere fabricating this whole scene while smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee.
In a puddle of tears, I frantically called one of my dearest friends who is an intuitive and she said, “Kiers, this isn’t true. He’s trying to reel you back in. He needs your reaction.” My cousin said the same thing. Others around me pleaded with me to recognize that it was, again, just a tall, excruciatingly painful tale. This time, it hit home.
A short time later, I came to learn that the bridge he mentioned in his text message to me was not a large bridge like I was envisioning in my head. Not even close. For the record, maybe he didn’t think I’d go as far as to investigate this (or that he should have used a different name of a bridge) but I did and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Turns out, this particular bridge is featured all over Youtube as a family-friendly place for pre-teens to jump into the water below while the camera is rolling. Parents are applauding their daredevil kids who decided to take the plunge off the beautiful, stone golf course bridge. The height of the bridge suggests that a jump off of it into unusually shallow water might possibly cause a break or a bruise. Or maybe he would have simply gotten lucky and found a few lost golf balls.
I’m now grateful to know the truth of all of it and be able to pass on the lengths psychological abusers will go to in order to keep control in a relationship. Before I experienced it, I never imagined it possible. Who knows, maybe the timing of this post will help someone struggling with something similar. I sure hope it does. And I hope if you’re beating yourself up about how long it is taking (or how long it took) to get out of an abusive relationship, you will take some comfort in knowing that there might just be a bigger picture you can’t see in the moment. Just keep trusting your intuition and keep searching for answers.
Timing truly does mean everything.