Suzanna Quintana
Writer. Abuse Survivor. Narcissist Recovery Coach. Bestselling Author of “You’re Still That Girl: Get over Your Abusive Ex for Good!”

And why I see these changes as a good thing

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Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

I am not the woman I once was.

This is not a bad thing, though it took me a long time to understand this due to all the pain involved in how I got from there to here.

And anyone who has been involved with a narcissist knows the pain I speak of.

Healing after a narcissist ripped out my heart and ate it in front of me was no easy task. …

And start living a life you deserve

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Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

“Narcissists believe they are powerful. Yet their so-called power lies in their ugliness and contempt for those they cannot defeat. Their hatred is their only source of power and it is ultimately meaningless. That is why they work so hard to maintain a power that will never be theirs.

Do you want to see real power? Observe the warrior who has walked through fire and survived, time and time again, and lived to tell the tale. Those who can rebuild themselves from the light of their own strength and willpower are truly the powerful ones.” — Shahida Arabi

The healing journey after narcissistic abuse is not linear, it does not go from A to Z, nor step by step with movement always forward. Instead, I compare it to being on a rollercoaster…in a washing machine. …

The power of music to heal or to hurt

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Photo by Spencer Imbrock on Unsplash

When I left my abusive marriage to a diagnosed narcissist the final time (like many abuse victims, I went back to my abuser, which was, in the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, a big mistake. Big. Huge), listening to music from the past became an elixir to my many wounds.

Once I fled from the state where I’d spent nearly two decades and found my way back to my Arizona roots, the songs I used to know and love were waiting like a loyal friend to remind me of the girl I used to be.

At the beginning of my healing journey, and upon discovering 80s on XM, I would drive around aimlessly just so I could finish any song. …

When you’re looking for clues but missing all the signs

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Photo by Saffu on Unsplash

“You’re looking for clues but missing all the signs.” — Cory Lambert, Wind River

No one wants to be a victim, especially a victim of abuse at the hands of someone they love. Just the word implies a kind of helplessness and invokes a feeling of pity or sympathy…or judgment of stupidity or weakness.

The word “survivor” sounds much more powerful. And yet, how do we survive something without first being a victim of it?

This is one of the challenges that any victim of emotional abuse faces. Because the pain is not visible to outsiders, because we lack bruises or broken bones to prove we are suffering, what often happens is we don’t even believe our own perception when trying to figure out why we’re hurting so badly. …

And why it’s a red flag for future abuse

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Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

I hadn’t known him for more than a month. The ink on the divorce papers from my first husband wasn’t even dry. I was vulnerable because of pain from my past that I’d yet to work through. I was a newly single mom to a young son and had moved to a new city to start over.

And at the age of 29, I was empty, which fed my desperation to rid myself of that emptiness.

Then he stepped in. …

Lessons from an abuse survivor

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Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Confession #1: I do not regret the choices in men I made in the past due to the outcome of having three beautiful sons today.

Confession #2: If I did not have three beautiful sons today, I would totally regret the choices in men I made in the past.

There is a good amount of great guys out there. I know this because in the past I dumped them in favor of men who treated me like shit right from the get-go.

Today, after having escaped two abusive marriages, the last of which nearly ended my attempt at sanity and from which I’m still recovering from financially speaking, I am able to openly and honestly reflect on all of my past relationships with men. …

Especially in an abusive relationship

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Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash

From the time we’re young, we are inundated with the message that no matter the question, love is the answer.

Women, especially, might as well cross-stitch this into their pillows and stencil it onto their kitchen walls (are we still doing that?) given how prevalent this message is sent home. It becomes our mantra in marriage. We employ love as we would duct tape — apparently it can fix anything.

When trouble arises in our home, love becomes the fire extinguisher. It is the ointment on our open wounds, the prescription for our sickness, the disinfectant for our infections. …

So don’t waste your energy trying

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Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

How could he do that?

Why would she do that?

What made them do that?

It makes sense that we try to figure people out. We want to know how they tick, what makes them tick, and why they even tick at all.

Even when someone has hurt us and broken our hearts, we still want to get to the bottom of How, Why, What?

Those of us who are in or have escaped an abusive relationship are used to asking ourselves these questions for the simple reason that we cannot wrap our head around the fact that someone we love and who professes to love us could be cruel or cause us pain on purpose. …

The loss of my autonomy to the highest bidder — my abuser.

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Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash

When we first met, I mistook his possessive nature for passion. I had never met a man so consumed with what I thought was love. I had never been the receiver of such affection and intense emotion.

So when he showed up in my life at a time when I couldn’t have been more starved for love due to a past of men who wouldn’t even hold my hand in public, I became easily drunk with the toxic cocktail he offered me to drink. …

And what it means if you don’t

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Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

Abuse is oftentimes non-physical (emotional, verbal, financial, psychological, sexual) and is defined as a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

For those of us who have the misfortune of coming from a home with an abusive parent(s), especially if that parent was a narcissist, the odds that we ourselves will enter into abusive relationships are, unfortunately, pretty good.

The simple reason is that we become conditioned at a young age to accept behavior that is otherwise unacceptable. Our perspective is skewed. We don’t have healthy models of what a loving relationship should look like, so we often mistake abuse for love because of underlying feelings of inadequacy and low levels of self-worth. …

Beware of narcissists in disguise

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Photo by Irina Nakonechnaya on Unsplash

Leave it to the girl with a history degree to find a connection between a three-thousand-year-old war and what it’s like to be a victim of narcissistic abuse. Yet here we are.

And a more apt metaphor one could hardly find. Though to be clear, Greeks aren’t really narcissists, but I’m hoping you’ll find my take on this piece of history both humorous and helpful.

If you’ve been a victim of a narcissist and have yet to put into words what it’s like (and maybe don’t even quite understand it yourself), this tale is for you.

The year is 1184 B.C. …

And how this will stop your healing journey in its tracks

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Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Trigger warning: abuse.

Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person. It is often non-physical and comes in many forms, such as emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, and verbal.

Women return to their abusers an average of seven times. There are many reasons why. One is due to a victim’s inability to see the past as it really was, to view their abuser through honest eyes, and accept them for who they really are.

If you’re trying to recover after an abusive ex broke your heart, this one aspect of the truth is absolutely crucial for your movement forward: Facing the reality of how the one you loved treated you. …

It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door

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Photo by Carolina Pimenta on Unsplash

It is a myth that women who find themselves in abusive relationships are weak or broken.

In fact, especially when it comes to narcissistic abusers, women who consider themselves strong and already have their life in order are the ones most likely to be targeted. These are women who are oftentimes empaths, who are kind and believe in the inherent goodness of other people, and who have been successful in various areas of their lives.

Narcissists target those who are better than them, who have qualities they themselves do not have (empathy, compassion, the ability to love), and who are vulnerable because of those qualities because they trust that others are the same. …

Emerge from the cocoon you’ve been healing within.

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

“Why can’t you just move on?”

Every victim of a narcissist has heard this question at least once and sunk further into a pit of despair when they realize that it’s just not that easy.

There is no switch to turn off so that we no longer feel anything toward the one who hurt us. And let’s be clear, there is no other outcome but pain when involved with a narcissist, who are self-serving emotional vampires lacking empathy and remorse and who suck the very life out of their victims to the point of trying to make them disappear altogether.

Because of this, feelings that are common among survivors…

How he changed and how long it lasted

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Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

I’ve often said that I feel fortunate my ex was clinically diagnosed as a narcissist. If nothing else, at least I had a starting point at which to begin unraveling my experience as an abuse victim, since if I could name the problem then I could move forward in trying to fix the problem.

Unraveling is a good word to describe the long and slow bad dream that I woke up from the moment the words left the psychologist’s mouth: Your husband is a narcissist. …

The search by women to be legitimized

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Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

My life up until I was in my late forties could be described as one long journey of seeking validation from those around me. Because I had grown up with an emotionally abusive father who cemented my lack of worth at every turn, once I left home at the age of 18 I was already fully trained in the art of jumping through hoops and balancing balls on my nose to get the attention of whoever happened to be standing in front of me at the moment, but especially from the men I would love and marry.

Since I had spent my childhood and teenage years vying for my father’s attention, approval, and love, all of which I never received, it made perfect sense that I would fall right into marriages with men who took over my father’s role and compelled me to continue in my own. …

Take your power back

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You can try all you want, but there is no such thing as co-parenting with a narcissist. It’s more like counter-parenting since a true narcissist has no intention of ever working with you for the sake of the children you share because a) they don’t care about their children in the way you do and b) they don’t care about you.

Narcissists are in it to win it, whether that means a divorce, custody battle, argument, or just life itself. If you are the ex of a narcissist, congratulations you’ve now become the enemy and have a target on your back. …

It was my proudest mama moment

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Author photo/NOH8 Campaign photo by Adam Bouska

My oldest son loves to tell the story of my initial reaction when he told me he was gay. I just wish I remembered it.

I do remember the before and after of when he came out to me and his stepfather at the age of nineteen. He was home after another semester of college where he was on the ballroom dance team; he was getting ready to move to England and start training with his new partner and compete internationally.

This is why he decided to tell the world he was gay. He was making a fresh start in a new country. He was turning twenty that year. He would no longer be a teenager. …

Making noise to stop suffering in silence

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Photo by Andraz Lazic on Unsplash

I used to spend a lot of time in stillness.

Not the good kind. Not the mindful meditative kind. But the kind where the pain inside my body was so overwhelming that it felt like my heart would concave, like my throat would close for good, like the echoes of his words and his actions had replaced the blood running through my veins.

I spent a lot of time standing in front of windows, staring out at a world I wasn’t a part of anymore, and standing in front of mirrors, wondering who it was who stared back. …

Hard lessons from an abuse survivor

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Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Despite the heartbreak, despite the overwhelming pain of having my life stolen from me without my consent by a man I trusted and loved beyond measure, whenever I look back on that moment of transition from before to after escaping an abusive marriage, I still feel somewhat lucky to have had my abuser, my husband at the time, professionally diagnosed as a narcissist.

I feel lucky (I use that term loosely since there is no upside to loving a narcissist) because for the majority of victims of narcissistic abuse no diagnosis is ever rendered, thereby opening a gaping hole that leaves victims continuing to feel like they’re the crazy one. Some victims even question whether they are the narcissist after having been gaslighted for so long (by the way, if you question whether you’re the narcissist, that means you’re not since a true narcissist would never self-reflect and ask themselves that question). …

And the relief of finding someone who “gets you”

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Photo by youssef naddam on Unsplash

When I was pregnant with my first child, I asked the doctor what it would feel like to give birth. Because my doctor was a doctor and therefore had all the right credentials, degrees, and certifications, they were the expert and surely would have all the answers to my specific questions.

While I listened, however, there was a part of me that suddenly felt unsafe. The description of giving birth sounded accurate enough — there would be peaks, there would be valleys, there would be pain, and there would be epidurals for that pain. But I began getting even more nervous than when I first posed the question. Not because of the experience of childbirth or the fear of the unknown, but how the doctor described in exact detail what I could expect, down to the “really bad period cramps” (uh, no, that’s not what labor felt like) or how breathing techniques would lessen the pain of contractions, which again felt like really bad period cramps (still wrong). …

Especially for survivors of abuse

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I have trouble sleeping, courtesy of years in an abusive marriage to a diagnosed narcissist, a merciless divorce the effects of which I’m still feeling today, and being cyberstalked, harassed, and verbally attacked years after leaving an ex who still takes any opportunity to let me know what a failure he thinks I am.

I’ve come a long way though. I’m still not sleeping through the night, but at least I’ve made friends with it. It was only a few years ago that I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and anxiety. During that time of criminal investigations and obtaining restraining orders against my ex, while simultaneously going into even deeper debt due to inept lawyers who saw me only as a number, I began staying home and isolating myself when the stress became overwhelming and unable to manage. …

“A woman’s life is safer with someone she doesn’t know than with a man she knows.”

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Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

A woman’s life is safer with someone she doesn’t know than with a man she knows.

Any woman who has been in an abusive relationship, whether physical or non-physical, knows the importance of knowing how to placate her abuser. How to “calm him down.” Whether or not she’ll be successful in that attempt, unfortunately, is out of her control.

This knowledge also doesn’t save women from being killed by any stretch of the imagination. Nor does it always save us from any degree of injury, whether physical or emotional. Hence the burden women bear:

Having little to no control over the outcome, we are still responsible for the attempt to stop a man from hurting us.

Short answer: Oh hell no.

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Can we just get something out of the way right from the start?

Stop telling victims of abuse that they need to forgive their abusers!

Whew. That felt good. I don’t use exclamation points often, but nothing else will do when speaking about a subject that has re-victimized and re-traumatized so many who have already suffered enough.

I want to clarify that I’m not going to the other extreme and saying that forgiveness can’t include the one who hurt you. …

Because when you know better, you do better

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Photo by Ryan Graybill on Unsplash

Whatever mistakes, miscalculations, or bad decisions there are to be made in leaving a narcissist, I made them.

After sixteen years with a man whom I’d built a life with, had children with, and thought I knew, I made the naïve assumption that I could predict what ending our life together and getting divorced would look like. …

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