Stepping Away: Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Breathing erratically, my mind raced. I prayed for God to take away this pain that pierced deeper than any physical pain I could have imagined. Reeling, I was sick to my stomach. My brain was trying to re-wire itself as to what was real and what I had been told was “real” from a loved one. Their reality and actual reality had finally collided.
God, in His infinite grace and wisdom, had slowly been lifting the veil, and now it was fully lifted. I could see the truth plain as day. I couldn’t play this person’s game of lies and deception anymore.
To them, I was not an individual, I was a part of them. When I flexed my individual thoughts, feelings, and doubts, I was lectured, put back in line, ridiculed, or gaslit to believe that what I felt, saw, or heard didn’t really happen or didn’t matter. My thoughts and feelings were of no value to them unless they aligned with their own thoughts and feelings.
While it may seem like common sense to step away from this type of relationship, when you’re so close to someone or raised in this environment, you don’t know any different until God shows you different.
I had tried so hard to be seen and known by this person my whole life, but the reality was finally setting in- this person didn’t really care about who I was. This person only cared about control and controlling the narrative of who I was when it benefited them.
That truth was the hardest to swallow.
The lies and smear campaign started as I stepped away- the hateful messages, the shaming, and guilt-tripping. But I had to remember why I stepped away. God was revealing what healthy relationships should look like. I couldn’t keep someone close to me who I couldn’t trust and who didn’t respect me as an individual.
Even though I had my husband by my side, I felt alone in my experience and pain. I wanted others to believe me, but I didn’t want to keep fighting for others to believe me. I was tired of sharing the damage of the relationship fallout and this person’s lack of responsibility for their actions. I was tired of people telling me I had to “put up with it because they were a family member” or because “they had been through a lot”.
At what point does a person need to take responsibility for their actions and behavior? Just because a person has been through a lot doesn’t excuse their abusive behavior. I am not, nor can I ever be someone’s savior- only Jesus can. And if someone doesn’t want to face the reality of their situation, reflect on how they’re living, or ask for genuine help, I am only enabling their toxic behavior. I become a crutch for them.
“Putting up with it” is not loving, it’s damaging. It’s continuing a cycle of abuse that is accepted and passed on to the next generation. It’s teaching my children that others are allowed to cross boundaries when they have the title of “family” or “insert other titles”. That is not okay.
Regardless of a person’s title, there are times to step away and let people sit with the consequences of their actions. When someone knows you will “put up with” their behavior, they aren’t motivated to reflect on the damage of that behavior. They will then never change because they know that no matter what they do, you will stick around.
While stepping away from that relationship three years ago was extremely difficult, God stepped in to re-shape how I viewed relationships. Those closest to me now may not be blood relatives, but we hold a tighter, eternal bond because of Christ. My dearest friends in Christ have listened, stood by me, and just let me talk as I’ve worked through this process. They’ve challenged and encouraged me in this journey of healing.
I don’t understand why I went through what I did for so many years, but I see how God is using it for something bigger- for good. God has equipped me with a keen sense for recognizing those difficult relationships. He’s brought people into my life who are struggling with similar circumstances that I went through, and I’m now able to help and encourage them. He’s given me words to write about it, sharing my experience, so that I can shine a light on narcissistic abuse.
You’re not alone if you’re on this healing journey too. I’ve been in those dark, hurting places where you want to hold on, you want to help, but you feel helpless because you can’t. Keep turning to God. Even when you don’t feel like it- keep praying, keep asking for people to come into your life for support, read God’s Word, and allow yourself to be directed by the Holy Spirit. And when others won’t listen, find someone who will listen to your story and allow your voice to be heard.