“As a naïve 18-year-old, thinking I knew anything about life, I entered a relationship with a narcissist, thinking he was amazing…at first. Before I knew it, which was a matter of about 6 months, I was isolated from my family and friends, financially dependent on him and his narcissist family, and only just learning the kind of abuse he intended for me.
Within the year he was psychologically and sexually abusive, but to spice it up, he would physically abuse me, telling me, ‘Go ahead and try to leave b***h, you’re nothing. Nobody will believe you.’ I was gaslighted, made to look crazy, intentionally, in front of people to confirm the lies he spewed about me. He would hit me, choke me, rape me, then tell me, ‘I hate that you make me do these things to you. Don’t you learn or are you really that stupid?’ If I cried, I was taunted, if I was silent it would happen again, if I stood up for myself, he put me back in my place.
Entering the next year, I discovered I was pregnant. This was something that was my worst nightmare but also a glimpse of hope. At around the same time, I discovered that he started using heroin. He became more erratic, unpredictable, and violent. I kept my head down, walked on eggshells, submitted, so I could keep my baby and body safe. When she came, I finally had hope, she brought me power I hadn’t had. ‘If you try to leave me and take her, I will kill us all c**t.’
Although the drugs made him worse, they were eventually my out. I had lost my baby once to child protective services, I had to prove that I wasn’t an addict like him. They told me if anything ever happens again, we would lose her to the system. That was my out. When I saw he wasn’t clean and he was risking her, I used that, and I ran. ‘You’ll come back you evil wh**e, or at least she will.’ I still wonder why he didn’t try to kill me that night, he didn’t think I was strong enough to stay away. Thankfully, after a month of being stalked and terrified, he overdosed on multiple different drugs and died.
The violence I experienced didn’t just leave my brain like I had hoped. The memories of the things he did to me turned me into a shell of a person. ‘I’m trying Baby, I’m so sorry,’ I would tell my daughter, sobbing. I couldn’t look at her without being debilitated by flashbacks and the physical urge to hide, fight, and run. She watched me recede into myself, she watched me lose my mind.
Along with therapy and medication, time does heal. When my mind was clearer and I could see her as the beautiful human she is again, my newest obstacle arose. She wanted nothing to do with me when I was around but would lose it if I was out of sight. In public if she didn’t get her way she’d scream, ‘Don’t touch me! Who are you!? HELP!!!’ We saw professional after professional, only to be dismissed and told, ‘She’ll grow out of it.’
For years I struggled to parent my child who frequently threw violent tantrums, would run away from me, who cringed when I tried to hug her, broke and destroyed everything that was given to her, and frequently expressed how she hates me or how she wants to die.
At 6-years-old, we finally learned she has reactive attachment disorder, meaning her ability to trust her caregivers was severed during development and she lives in fear of bonding with others because they might leave her or be unable to keep her safe. This is why she behaves as if she hates me, why she tells me, ‘You’re not a good mom, I’d be better without you.’
I partly deserve that. I had to make choices that took dangerous people out of her life, people she loved regardless, I had to put my crazy self-back together with her as a witness, and I had to work whatever job I could find and whatever hours to support her financially. She was handed a rough start. Now I am unlearning coping and defense mechanisms, as well traditional parenting methods. We are learning how to bond with each other in ways that make sense to her. We have more hard days than good days, but now I live for the random snuggles and ‘I love you Mommy.’”
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