BETHESDA, Maryland, October 8, 2014 — Helen* is a survivor of sociopath abuse living, raising her family and recovering in Australia.
Before the relationship I spent six months learning who I was, having fun and having no restrictions or implications from just being myself. I say all this, because I had just come out of a physically abusive teenage relationship.
I was carefree and happy for the first time in a long time and then I met my ex, who I believe is a sociopath.
Granted, my previous boyfriend was most definitely on the sociopathy spectrum also, but I had so little clue of what to look out for. He was my knight in shining armour, sweeping me off my feet and promising everything I had always wanted….the ‘fairy tale’.
The start of the relationship was good for about four months and then his mask started to slip, revealing who he really was.
The next 13 years were constant good vs. evil scenarios.
One moment good, next evil until back to good. The cycles of evil started small and easy to overpower, but with each passing tease, they got longer and harder to overcome. Until it came to a point that it was mostly evil with little bits of good.
The six months immediately after the end of the relationship were the hardest I have ever experienced. They were dark, lonely, emotional-rollercoaster days with sections of empowerment and self-care and self-love. I experienced a whirlwind of guilt, shame, failure, joy, happiness, truth, trust, doubt – everything all mixed into one mind. I never knew how each day would be.
As these emotions started to abate and become clearer in my mind, I started to see me for who I really was. I saw the abuse I had suffered and no longer thought it was my doing. I opened my eyes from the dark nightmare, and all around me was life and beauty. Inside me was love, compassion, will to thrive and joy – so many good beliefs in myself and the belief that I could accomplish it all.
He moved in one week after being together and convinced me that we were soulmates.
He told me constantly he loved me from that week on and even when I raised the issue that I could not say it back. He pressured me for weeks until I caved.
He was always turning on the charm and finding those buttons with intense compliments, gestures. notes, texts, never leaving my side, mimicking my dreams and hopes and desires, proclamations of undying love, soulmates and proclaiming that I was everything he could ever hope for.
After just six weeks, he asked me to marry him, that he wanted to start a family.
But then nothing I did ever made him happy. Nothing could stop the guilt trips. He constantly told that I was controlling and manipulating and that he gave up everything for me when, in fact, it was I who had left my friends, pushed my family away, never went to any social events, stopped answering the phone and stopped talking to males for fear of being accused of cheating.
When I did not do something he wanted, he accused me of not loving him. When I didn’t want to make love to him, I was cheating on him, I found him disgusting or I never loved him in the first place.
I could not do anything to make him happy. If I tried the approach he wanted, he found a new thing he didn’t like or that I did deliberately to ruin his day
I pushed for four years to go to couple’s counselling. My ex always fabricated an excuse not to go. The biggest excuse was that it was always in my own mind, that it was I who was imagining there were problems, and that if I could just lighten up a little I would see that I was treated like a queen.
I realize now that it was all a controlling plot on his behalf to isolate me further from anything that even remotely smelled like truth.
Right at the end, he agreed to see a counsellor. The session went as expected if you have read a textbook on personality disorder – the problems in the relationship were all my fault, my doing, he was perfect and he was being broken by a woman he could not please.
I was ruining his life, and it was all he could so to just stay for the kids. He projected all his evil onto me. The counsellor saw through it, which did not go down well; he ended up abusing her, too. It was disbelieving.
Nearly every day for the last six years, I felt I was not being true to myself. I no longer did any of the activities I enjoyed, I lost my friends and isolated my family from me. I knew in my head countless times that what I did or said was not being true to me, but I did not want to lose my relationship. I questioned constantly if I was indeed losing my mind, that it was all my fault, that I was too controlling and manipulative, that I was never happy and that he could never win with me because I was insane.
He placed all of these doubts and fears in me. He slowly and insidiously manipulated my thought patterns, my emotions and my way of life. It was alI I could do to not breathe too loudly for fear of invading his space and upsetting him with that, too.
I was not myself anymore, but deep down inside there was a tiny piece of me still there saying, “You know this isn’t right. You know this is not how relationships should be. Open your eyes, wake up and see.”
Thankfully, my ex had not been able to squash all of me, and it was that tiny piece that made me challenge what was happening to me.
Suicide played over in my mind continually for the last year of my relationship. I ran through the different ways it could be accomplished with speed and ease. I even Googled how to make a hangman’s noose, so that it would slip properly.
I also started cutting myself along my arm to help relieve the pain I felt inside and to test if I could suicide via wrist cutting. Over three months, the cuts got deeper and deeper. All my ex ever said was that I need help that I was going crazy. He never wanted to delve into why I was feeling the way I was.
My defining moment that I knew I needed to get professional help was when I thought about the children if I left this world, what they would have to live though and that I should take them with me in a car gassing. That was my slap in the face, realizing I was willing to to sacrifice my kids, too.
I called my doctor the next day; two days later, I told her everything. I remember clearly that when I told my ex about my thoughts, all he could say was, “Well, now I can’t leave the kids with you; you’ll kill them.”
For the last 12 months, I distracted my thoughts with smoking pot. The last year I smoked every afternoon until I was numb. I did not care. The house stayed messy; my clothes went unwashed; my appearance did not matter. I just smoked pot and forget. Somehow, I did my best to make sure my kids did not suffer because their mum was “crazy”.
They were always fed, had clean clothes and were sent to school.
My biggest challenge is having to see or talk to my ex. I have no choice, because we have kids, so “no contact” is not a possibility. I found for a while that everything he said to me could still get a reaction, so he continued. As time goes on, it has gotten easier to keep my poker face on. His words can still make me angry, but I do not show him. I stay calm and collected. Once it is over, I call my mum, she is my support person. I go to her and let it all out.
My other big challenge was accepting that there would be no closure. My ex, the sociopath, has no accountability for his actions, words or way of life. He has no empathy, no understanding and no acceptance from his side. I had to learn for myself that he is what he is and does not understand how he acts. I had to let it go or continue chasing my soul in circles trying to get closure. I closed the book myself and opened a new one, one that features me as the lead character, and I am awesome.
I went to psychologist, who was the first person to give me insight into the toxic relationship. He provided me the clues that opened my eyes – I was not crazy and I was not to blame for this relationship failing.
From there, I reached out to Emma House for support.They specialise in domestic abuse and understood very well the destruction emotional and psychological abuse can wreak. I also confided in a handful of close friends, my parents and sister. They had been aware for a very long time that my relationship was destructive. They had always been there for me, especially my mum. She had, in her own subtle ways, been pointing out the way I was being treated and that it was not healthy, not normal and destroying who I was.
As I recovered more and more, it was my mum that I went to to talk through my emotions, which were all over the place. She helped me put them into perspective, to understand them, that, of course I was going to be highly emotional, that I had tried so hard to make it work, that I changed myself so much to please my ex and that I had given my all.
My mum told me something that sticks in my mind, “Sometimes failure can be a form of success.”
This advice helped me let go of the feeling that I had ruined my dream by ending the toxic relationship and that failing at this is not really failure at all.
My best advice to anyone who is struggling is to educate yourself on personality disorders.
- Gather and absorb as much information as possible. I found that by knowing who I was dealing with and how the interactions with my ex impacted me helped me to overcome any doubts I had about leaving.
- Gather a support network that you know and trust and can go to when confusion and doubt sets it. A support system will validate that the emotions you are going through are normal and real.
- Get a counsellor that specialises in helping people recover from personality disorders individuals, their support is worth it’s weight in gold because they understand it is real and it is happening.
- Try to go no contact or limited contact. This gives you time to heal. The sociopath will either bombard you relentlessly or will throw you away without a care in the world and find someone new. Sometimes both will happen in a short amount of time.
I was in the relationship with my ex for 13 years, from the age of 19. We have 4 children together. My children are my saving grace. If not for me wanting to keep them from continuing to live this nightmare, I would have ended myself.
I now live for them and for me. I show them that anything can be overcome, and life is beautiful.
Each day during the month of October, column author Paula Carrasquillo will feature a story written by a survivor of domestic violence. At the end of October, a compilation of all stories will be available for free as an e-book.
*All names have been changed to protect the survivor and the survivor’s family and friends.