From the moment years ago when I began sharing my story and telling the truth about my experience with abuse, specifically at the hands of a narcissist, I have had women reaching out to me asking why I’m not afraid to speak out, making the assumption that I must not be afraid since if I was then I wouldn’t dare open my mouth.
These frantic questions I get reveal the basic fear all victims of abusers — especially of narcissists — feel deeply and is unexplainable to anyone on the outside who’s never “been there.”
- “Aren’t you afraid of what he’ll do?”
- “What if he comes after you?”
- “Aren’t you scared?”
- “What if he sues you?”
I know exactly where these questions come from and why it is always women asking them (to be clear, abuse is not limited by gender, but overall it is women who fear men more than the other way around).
Those of us who have been to hell with a narcissist — with a good many not yet making it back — know the fear intimately of being the only one who knows the truth of someone who has seemingly fooled everyone else into thinking they’re a good person.
We hold secrets, dark ones. We are bloated with the real story. A story that we choke on in the effort to keep it within, knowing full well the consequences we’ll face from an abuser who has made it abundantly clear that we’re to keep our mouth wired shut. Or else.
Over time, we are conditioned — trained as well as a drug-sniffing dog — to keep those doors closed so that whatever happens behind them doesn’t get out. Through tactics such as gaslighting, projection, and both covert and overt threats, narcissists create an atmosphere of fear and foreboding that instills a deep sense of obedience within us to protect them at all costs.
In essence, we’ve tread lightly on eggshells for so long that we have no idea how to walk on solid ground.
And we don’t trust the ground beneath us when we do.
I still remember the moment nearly five years ago when I hit “send” on my first attempt to start telling my story. I had always been a writer, so it wasn’t the process of writing that held me back. It was the words themselves. After sixteen years with a diagnosed narcissist, this was the first time I would be revealing what really happened behind our closed doors since up to that point I had become a master at hiding it. And hiding him.
This first piece took me four months to write. Every time my fingers hit the keyboard and the words began to appear on the page, my heart raced and I’d feel a combination of intense fear, anxiety, and also some strange release, like a loud exhale after holding my breath for all those years.
During this time, I was also going through a brutal divorce with my ex who swore he would punish me for leaving him.
As I wrote the words of my first piece, Understanding the Language of Narcissistic Abuse, which would immediately go viral all over the world within minutes of it being published, I was also being stalked, cyberstalked, and followed by my ex who still viewed me as his property.
My days were spent with lawyers and obtaining restraining orders and filling out police reports. My physical health suffered to the point where I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and anxiety. I went to doctor after doctor for ailments ranging from severe stomach problems to numbness in my extremities to panic attacks and unexplained heart pain that left me paralyzed in fear.
And yet still my fingers found the keyboard for the four months it took to finish. And I haven’t stopped writing since.
Was I scared? Oh hell yes. Terrified, actually. That’s what abusers, especially narcissists, do to us.
I had spent so many years keeping his secrets, and not only protecting him but also participating in the charade that was “us” as a couple. No one knew his cruelty. No one knew how he deliberately broke me down over the years so eventually I wouldn’t have the strength to fight back. And certainly, no one knew about his double life that included grooming young immigrant girls for his pleasure and was the reason I finally left (nothing says get the hell out of Dodge like finding out your husband is a pervert at the same time he’s treating you like shit).
Since my voice had been silenced within the marriage, there was no other choice for me than to eventually warm up those dormant vocal cords and put them back to work.
In the beginning, my voice shook. I stuttered through the words that acted as the key to my eventual freedom. The first few years when I wrote and shared more and more of my story, I did live in fear of what he would do, what the consequences might be, and how I might regret ever speaking out in the first place instead of crawling back into a dark hole where the world couldn’t find me…and therefore neither could he.
But fear was not alone within me. Anger held its hand. Heartbreak embraced them both.
And whatever rebellious spirit that currently blooms in a burst of color within me today started back then and refused to let the threat of outside forces from my past ever choke me into silence again.
So when women ask me those questions that they always do, here are my answers:
“Aren’t you afraid of what he’ll do?”
No. I already know what he’ll do because he did it and continues to do it. He has tried to use my words against me. He has written scathing emails in which he calls me the narcissist and says that everyone, including our children, has figured out the fraud I really am. He is still stalking my every word and either reads all of my writing himself or has his enablers (aka “flying monkeys”) alert him to what I write. He has smeared my name in the small town I used to live in order to cover up his own dirty deeds. Over the years, he has lied to and manipulated our youngest son so it appears that my ex is the victim and I’m the abuser. When he couldn’t convince our two older children of the same, he accused me of brainwashing them. Knowing that my father was abusive and had caused my family much pain and suffering over the years, he took advantage of this knowledge and used my father as a tool to cause me further pain.
“What if he comes after you?”
He already did. For years after I left, he hacked into my email, bank accounts, credit cards, Facebook messages — you name it, he was in it. When I tried to open a new credit card, he impersonated me and closed the account without my knowledge. Though he lived three states away, he had me followed and whenever he was visiting our children, he would follow me himself. Today, he still prints out many of the pieces I write and once, while we were battling in court, presented a three-inch stack of my writing to the court psychologist in his attempt to use my own words against me (inevitably proving the truth of what I wrote about). Only recently, he wrote me a long email detailing exactly what his smear campaign looked like, including the admission that he was still stalking me, still badmouthing me to anyone who would listen, and still playing the victim while taking zero responsibility.
“Aren’t you scared?”
Yes and no. There will always be a part of me deep down that will be scared of him because I’ve seen the lengths he will go to and I’ve seen what he is capable of. When you’re dealing with someone who is that controlling and aggressive, along with being a diagnosed narcissist, it would be naïve to ignore those facts about someone who clearly has it in for you. But then there is the other part of me that is not scared of him at all. In fact, I know in some ways he is actually scared of me since he knows that he can no longer control me. When I open my mouth to speak, part of what fuels me is fear. And anger. Justice, of course. And a little bit of “Fuck you” thrown into the mix. Simply because he has already stolen too many years of my life away from me. I’m not about to let him take any more.
“What if he sues you?”
Bring. It. On. You can’t sue someone for speaking the truth. Plus, his life hasn’t been affected negatively in any grand way. He’s still living in the big house, enjoying the big income, with the young girl I first left him for (and she no doubt has her own stories that he doesn’t want getting out). The thing is, I would welcome the attempt since then we could put all of our dirty laundry out there for the world to see. Because I’m not the one with anything to hide. I’ve been silent for so long that I’ve got a lot of words saved up that are ready to come out. So sue me. I’ve got a ton more to share.
Telling my story has nothing to do with vengeance or bitterness or paying it back. It actually has nothing to do with him at all.
Instead, I use my voice as a key. One that has freed me from my own internal prison of the past when someone else maintained control and enforced my silence, and the other as a way to pay it forward and help all those who are still suffering in the darkness of what is emotional abuse.
Because silence only enables those who do have something to hide or someone to control. And I for one have been through enough at the hands of a narcissist to the point where I refuse for one more day to stay quiet so that he can stay comfortable.
In the words of Anne Lamott:
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
That’s why I’ll keep talking. I’ll keep using my voice since I know there are so many women out there who are unable to use theirs.
And for those like my ex and his posse who are keeping an ear out to see if my mouth is still open and the words are still coming out, all I have to say is…
Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram where I share more of my story of surviving and thriving after narcissistic abuse. To get a free copy of my book, “You’re Still That Girl: Get Over Your Abusive Ex for Good!” visit my website at www.suzannaquintana.com today!