My niece…the redheaded yogini doing her best downward-facing dog.
It’s never too late OR too early!
It took me three days to wrap my head around why I was reacting in such a visceral way to this campaign and to the Wall Street Journal Live interview Sheryl Sandberg gave earlier last week. Making sense of the senseless. It’s practically impossible! Sound familiar!?
The inherent fallacies and dangers of Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign by Paula Carrasquillo for Communities Digital News, LLC
Yesterday was my 42nd birthday. (That’s me above celebrating my 8th birthday with three of my sisters.) This morning, I decided to start sharing, in parts, my personal deconstruction process which has helped me in my healing and recovery from trauma and abuse.
Although my book and blog specifically detail my recent life history and abuse, the bigger story of my abuse started many years ago long before I met the sociopath. I’m hoping by sharing the bigger story of me, of Paula, others can come to terms with their past as I have and accept themselves, warts and all, in order to move forward with more awareness of our capabilities and our limitations.
How did I fall victim to sociopathic abuse? Why was my self-esteem and confidence diminished despite all of the seemingly good things I had going for me? Why was I delusional and depressed? Why did I choose alcohol to drown my fears and need to forget? Why is it important to remember in order to finally let go?
My wish in writing and sharing my deeper story is to shed light on possible answers to these questions, for me and for you.
Part 1: A Victim of Childhood Abuse Becomes My Abuser
Never in a million daydreams would I have imagined being a victim. Being a victim of trauma never even crossed my mind growing up.
As a child and young woman raised in the Appalachians of western Maryland, I was surrounded by economic extremes. I attended kindergarten sandwiched between friends who didn’t know what a home-cooked meal looked like and friends who rode to school in luxury cars and wore fur coats at recess.
I didn’t allow myself to think too much about how unfair life seemed for Timmy or how much I wished I were Cassandra. I was generally happy and content being me.
I loved my parents; I loved my sisters; I loved my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. I grew up feeling loved and respected by the people who mattered most in my life. And I was determined to make them proud of me and never regret loving me.
I had older sisters I looked up to and a younger sister I protected. I yelled at boys who teased her and defended her against mean girls who took her meekness for weakness.
The funny thing is, unfortunately, when it came time to defend myself against a giant, I failed.
I was 18. A high school senior on my way to college in the fall. He was also 18. Already graduated but not in college. He was working at a local pizza parlor and trying to break into semi-professional lacrosse. A year before I met him, he had been a member of the Maryland High School Class 1A State Football Championship team. I thought that was impressive. He was passionate about sports and had dreams and potential. At 18, that was good enough for me. I called him my boyfriend for 6 months.
The abuse started in subtle ways (at least they seemed subtle to me then; today I would see them as glaring red flags). There was a poke here on the arm and another on my forehead. The pokes would come unannounced as I was talking or expressing an opinion, an opinion he didn’t like.
One day, the pokes were replaced by full-shoulder grabs, like he was trying to contain me and constrain me from speaking more about whatever it was I was trying to say. I was initially shocked and confused.
I remember saying, “Why are you grabbing me? No one grabs me and touches me like that! My father never even grabbed and touched me like that. What makes you think you can?”
Instead of him standing back and recognizing what he had done and that it was wrong, this 18-year-old boy began to cry. Sob. Stories of his childhood abuse at the hands of his father came rushing to the surface, spilling out of him. They seemed to never end.
Being locked in a closet for hours and sometimes days. Witnessing his father beat his mother until she bled. Witnessing his brother being terrorized. Being beaten senselessly with a belt or a bat or a pot or a pan…whatever his father had handy.
I cringed. My emotions oscillated from anger to shear disillusionment as I listened attentively to his accounts. I didn’t know how to soothe him other than to hug him and tell him that I was sorry that he went through what he went through.
I tried the best any ignorant 18-year-old woman could try. One would think he would welcome my attempts to soothe him by hugging me back or with a “Thank you” or a “I’m glad I can talk to someone about this.” No. My attempts were not met with humility. Rather, they were met with contempt and with anger and violence:
“You think you’re so special and smart and good. You’re nothing! You don’t know how easy you’ve had it. You have no idea what I have been through. Don’t pretend to understand!”
And the pushing and the shoving commenced, which, over a short period of time, eventually led to smothering, kicking, attempting to break bones, and threatening me with a loaded gun.
Why? For what purpose? How did hurting me, beating me up and shaming me help take away his pain and suffering? An eye for an eye?
Again, I felt shock mixed with fear and pity. I wasn’t recognizing that this person was taking out his hurt and pain on me. I kept thinking I could help him and make some sort of difference in his life. Model love and care. I wasn’t seeing that this victim of childhood abuse was now becoming the perpetrator of violence against me, an innocent young girl who desperately wanted to understand him and to see him free from his pain.
Instead of telling my mother or even my younger sister, I kept his secrets inside while shameful secrets of my own were forming. I made the mistake, 24 years ago, of trying to make sense of the senseless. Little did I know, my attempts were in vain and would chip away at my self-love and self-worth and lead to my own self-destruction.
To be continued…
Roughly two (2) years ago when I started actively writing on this blog about my experience with the boy in my story, I never imagined that one day I would be awarded with a Narc Slayer Award. But that day has arrived, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Kim, the very talented and insightful blogger over at Let me Reach with Kim Saeed, presented me (along with ten (10) other bloggers/Narc Slayers) with this honor on December 13. Thank you, Kim!
Like all blog awards, I have a responsibility as a recipient. I must:
1. Thank the person who nominated me and link back to them. CHECK!
2. Place the award logo on my blog. CHECK!
3. Write a blog post and nominate other blogs for the award – there is no minimum or maximum number of blogs required to nominate. CHECK!
4. Inform my nominees on their site that I have chosen them for the honor. CHECK!
5. Share one positive thing I took away from my relationship with the Narcissist.
Well, crap! I can do 1 – 4 with relative ease. But #5 stings my eyes just reading the words. Something positive? Other than the fact that going through hell has given me a greater appreciation for all of the beautiful people and encounters I experience on a daily basis, the positives are best described as things I have learned as a result of the toxic relationship:
I learned how NOT to live and navigate this world.
I learned that I may make mistakes, but those mistakes do not have to define who I am forever and eternity. I’m allowed to change and be better without constant and repeated shaming.
I learned that love has always been abundantly present in my life. I was just too stupid and blind to recognize and appreciate it. (I love you, George!)
I learned that loving with my whole heart is possible and even more fullfilling when I am with those who also love with their whole hearts.
I learned that change is possible, real change, as long as I remember that falling down doesn’t mean something’s over; it means I get a chance to try again with greater insight and understanding.
I learned that love truly is patient and kind; but in order to receive it, I must really love and value myself first.
I learned that regardless of how alone and powerless I feel when it comes to any and all challenges life throws my way, there is someone, many someones, out here who feel as I feel and desperately do not want to feel alone either.
I learned that there is strength in numbers and anything is possible if I simply have faith…faith in myself…faith in my family…faith in my friends…faith in God.
I learned that I do believe in something greater than myself and that something is with me every day as long as I never stop believing.
I learned that judgment truly is the root of evil, and that judgment of others begins when we judge ourselves. I’m finding peace in just being and not judging.
I learned that stating facts and responses to how I was treated are not judgments and that silence only encourages evil and abuse to perpetuate, grow and fester.
I learned that injustices eventually “get served” and that good truly does triumph over evil. However, unlike the drama-fueled victories depicted in movies, real-world victories are far more subtle and happen unexpectedly. There’s no applause or obnoxious cheering, but there are many silent smiles and feelings of validation and accomplishment.
Above all, I learned that patience is my best friend. (I wish I had met her sooner!)
© 2014 Paula Carrasquillo and Paula’s Pontifications
The Rise and Fall and Rise Again: The Evolution of You Inside and Outside the Toxic Relationship with a Sociopath
Okay. Here goes:
Imagine meeting the most charming, independent and interesting fellow who seems to love everything about you. He showers you with love, affection and attention. He likes everything that you like. You share the exact same dreams and hopes for the future. He seems like your perfect match and “too good to be true.”
Within a few short months of meeting (but well after you have become emotionally invested in him), this “great guy” begins to devalue you, seemingly out of the blue.
He tells you that you should dress better, stop drinking so much, be a better parent, look into finding work that suits your skills, consider dropping some of your friends who have no purpose and to stop being so selfish.
These are all things that you recognize could be holding you back and are even some you have seriously considered changing about yourself before, but why does he have to be so cruel and harsh in his assessments and judgments?
You let him know his words hurt. But instead of backing off with the criticisms, he pumps up the volume and frequency of them. He seems to get pleasure in knowing he’s hurting you.
Every attempt at change you make and everything you do or say comes with belittling reactions from him. It hurts. His words hurt. And being hurt sucks away all of your motivation to make any of the changes he proposes you make. And because of the emotional investment you made and the “taste” of the good man you thought he was, you keep holding out hope that his poor opinion of you and his bad behavior is fleeting, and he’ll soon see the error in his heartless ways.
But it continues. Each time you protest to his hateful remarks and threaten to leave, he immediately apologizes and promises never to do it again. The good guy persona appears briefly, always and inevitably replaced by the ugly head of his monster side.
This causes you great confusion and despair.
“What happened to that loving and caring guy I first met? He MUST be in there somewhere. I can’t just walk away even though he’s hurting me. Imagine how much I would hurt him if I left? He just doesn’t understand that he’s really hurting me. Poor thing. I can’t just leave him. He’s so lost.”
But then his despicable nature becomes harder and harder for him to hide. His “good guy” mask is chipping away and disintegrating completely right before your eyes.
And because all of your hope has washed away with his mask, you start letting him know more and more how you feel about what he says and does that hurts you and others.
What’s his reaction? To point a blaming finger back at you. YOU are why he does what he does, and it’s YOUR fault that you can’t handle the truth.
He’s partially right. You are to blame for why he behaves and hurts you. But not for the reasons he proposes.
He claims you’re weak and mentally ill. Wow! You’re floored. After all, you simply tried to explain to him that what he did wasn’t nice or what he’s thinking about another person might not be 100% accurate. You never once said he was sick or mentally ill for behaving and saying those things. Why would he claim you were sick and mentally ill unless you were sick and mentally ill?
So you ponder that idea: “Am I sick and mentally ill? No one would suggest such a thing unless I were, right?”
But because you aren’t sick and mentally ill, you become sick and mentally ill trying to uncover issues to prove you are sick and mentally ill. At the same time, you’re trying to make sense of the actions and behaviors of a man who you have yet to realize lacks empathy and remorse.
You go crazy wondering what you did to cause someone to react to you in such ugly and hateful ways.
And this is where your ability to empathize, be compassionate, and exercise your conscience works against you. You are dealing with a sociopath who lacks all of those things but is able to manipulate and control you because you have them!!!
Do you see the irony and silliness in this toxic situation?
You do see it! You finally do! And you realize it can’t and won’t stop unless you exit the ride. But you might not have the right words to explain what you feel. That’s okay. There is no time to explain. More than likely you’re going on what your gut has been trying to tell you all along, that something is f*cking, stinkin’ rotten in Denmark.
You finally listen and are able to start seeing and accepting him for what he is. You begin to see the reality that he can’t change and that you are absolutely unwilling to give up your freedom and your will in order to please him. You have yourself to make happy. He’s a grown man. Let him deal with himself, alone. You’ve had it!
So you no longer make excuses for him, to yourself or to others. He’s never given you that courtesy, so why give it to him.
You leave him. Who would want this in their lives:
He’s a racist, sexist, misogynistic douche bag to the nth degree. You realize that all of those nasty, derogatory comments he’s made in the past about you and everyone else were because he really believes them to be true. They weren’t comments made by someone who cares if he hurts someone or not.
“Wow! Even the squirrels in Maryland are black.”
“Your boyfriend lost his leg? How can you date someone who is only half a man?”
“Why would you order coffee before I’ve even finished my meal, you selfish whore?”
“I put those Amish framers to work! Good thing they don’t know the real value of their efforts.”
“I told her at the entrance to the theater that she looked like a cream puff in that dress. It’s not my problem she dislikes me. The truth is the truth.”
“So my mom nearly dropped my niece and my brother screamed at my mom calling her a clumsy fat pig! Hehe! Can you believe it? You should have seen my Mother’s face! I don’t know what she was thinking carrying my niece that way.”
“You knew I was like this when you first met me.”
And there’s the rub.
Yes. I knew he was a little on the egotistical side. I thought he was like that because he was young (35) and his mother hadn’t taught him any better. (Sorry moms. It’s always easier to blame you.)
The part I didn’t know, however, is the part about him being without a conscience and lacking the ability to empathize.
It’s our conscience and our empathy that has allowed us, non-sociopaths, to grow and change and become better and more understanding people as we live our lives. We make the false assumption that everyone we meet has both empathy and a conscience. That’s where we fail ourselves and cause ourselves undue suffering when we cross paths with a sociopath.
Mr. and Ms. Sociopath are incapable of growing and changing and evolving into respectable and caring human beings, people we would all be proud to call our partners or friends in life.
Does that make me sad for sociopaths? No. I am detached from feeling anything for them.
What it makes me is incredibly thankful and proud of myself for having the strength and courage to face my own demons in order to wipe away the false demons a sociopath created and tried planting inside of me.
I certainly have my faults. But none that can’t be recognized and fixed with a little hard work and lots of empathy and help from my conscience.
Today, I dictate my own thoughts. No longer does another try to control how I see myself. That’s freedom. And we all deserve it and can reach it.
(image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/280208408035377747/)
My latest for my column Living Inside Out Loud in The Washington Times Communities:
Teaching Yoga to Children – Harmful or Beneficial?
Will the religious roots of yoga prohibit it from becoming part of the health and wellness of children’s public education in the United States?
On the heals of leaving the boy in my story and trying to make sense of what happened, I spoke of and wrote about how much I believed his mother was just as sick and equally responsible. Now I understand she really had no choice but to enable her “unreachable” son.
The boy’s mother learned how to “take” her son’s abuse, which more than likely began at a very, very young age. One story the boy seemed especially proud to tell was of a time when he was 5 or 6, and his mother sought help from a psychiatrist. His mother was baffled by the boy’s behavior and needed to know what she could do about it and if there was hope for it to change.
The boy described that visit to the psychiatrist with enthusiasm and glee. He told the story in expressive soliloquy-style, bubbling with great animation accompanied by a chuckle here and a smirk there.
(I can’t deny that I was mesmerized by his presentation. It was flippin’ Oscar-worthy! He came to life when he told it—much like he did any time he reminisced about his past diabolical behavior).
During that visit to the doctor, the boy destroyed the psychiatrist’s office. He claims the doctor sat there stoically talking to his mother as the boy transformed the once neat and orderly room into a sea of tossed books, papers and chairs. Nothing was left untouched or unmoved. The boy described the aftermath as an absolute mess and disaster.
And he received zero punishment or consequences.
For the boy, this remains one of his proudest pieces of personal history. To him, he had accomplished something noteworthy that day.
That day IS noteworthy. I agree. It was the day he and everyone else in his life set the stage for the boy’s life journey. It’s the day he realized he could do any f*cking thing he wanted to do and get away with it.
According to the boy, the psychiatrist told his mother that he was just a boy and his behavior was normal. He’d grow out of it.
Normal, huh? Grow out of it, huh? I highly doubt that’s what the doctor said. I think that’s what his mother wanted to believe, because the truth was too much to bare—her son had a serious behavioral issue and a lot of time, counseling and resources were needed to fix it.
After that incident, his mother pretty much gave up fighting him. Instead, she allowed his behavior. Why?
I suspect for the same reason any of us would: Who wants to believe there is anything seriously wrong with their child? Who wants to accept some negative, mental-health label? How much guilt is connected in doing that? How much social stigma is attached to that?
How, then, was she able to allow the behavior?
Again, I can only speculate, but based on how detached she was from him as an adult, I suspect she began detaching herself from him when he was just 5 or 6.
She worked a lot. Traveled solo a lot. Helped her husband with his business a lot. Bottom line, she kept busy with menial tasks, so she didn’t have time to mother her son beyond providing him with shelter, food and other basics.
And so the boy’s shitty behavior was free to grow, prosper and escalate. He had no reason to change or better himself (not that it would have happened even if she had decided to mother and nurture him more).
To this day, his mother remains detached and enabling. She still keeps busy, busy busy doing absolutely, f*cking nothing.
But she is always there to bail him out. From financial pinches to relationship disasters. She’s the one who took in his ex-fiancée when he kicked her out as he tried moving me in. She was his buffer. His saving grace. His mother defuses his shittiness and allows him to go about his life “business as usual.”
The guy is a loser but looks like a success because his mother, whom he lacks total respect for, chose a long time ago not to challenge him or his behavior. If she had, she probably would have ended up on the other side of one of his rages, the rages reserved for his girlfriends, fiancées and any future, unfortunate wives he might fool.
I can’t say that I blame his mother for saving herself from being on the receiving end of his rages. It’s not a pleasant place to be. I’m sorry I ever blamed her.
So peace to his mother. May she one day find the courage to finally stand up to him and maybe run away, too.
After about 18 months, I was able to finally let go of the abuses against me, because I understood that the sociopath could not help himself. Causing harm is what feeds the sociopath. Making people doubt their worth and goodness gets them off. I accepted that and realized the sociopath was not a person I would ever want back in my life or my family’s life. I knew I would never receive an apology or anything close to justice. So, I let go.
But letting go of the abuses against my son has been more difficult.
How do you explain to a child that the treatment against the child was not the child’s fault but the fault of a sick and twisted human being?
As parents, we are supposed to teach our children about love and forgiveness. We are supposed to be models for our children.
How was I to expect my son to forgive the sociopath if I did not forgive the sociopath? After all, only people worthy of love and friendship deserve our forgiveness. If a relationship was built on quicksand, there is no foundation for personal forgiveness, in my opinion. And generally, forgiveness means we understand that the person who committed the offense against us will never commit that same offense against us in the future. We trust the person.
With a sociopath, there is no trust, so there is no forgiveness.
But I was able to forgive myself for putting my son in harm’s way, for exposing him to the darkest human type in existence.
I apologized a lot to my son. I talked to my son about trust and expectations of those who love you. I talked to him about shame and blame.
But I also held back from telling my son the truth about the sociopath. Can a 5-, 6- or 7-year-old really understand that kind of evil? Do children have the capacity, without the life expereince, to understand evil among us?
My son knows I wrote a book. He can read and has read the title, but he doesn’t know it’s about “Mommy’s” experience. One day he will read my book and have lots of questions…or maybe he won’t.
Maybe by the time he is able to sit down and read my book cover-to-cover he will have completely forgotten about the sociopath and that the sociopath is the boy in my story.
My son’s forgetting would be the ultimate justice.
(with my son on his 2nd birthday)
I am writing a follow-up book to Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath and would like you and your story to be a part of it!
My second book will focus on healing and recovery from pathological love relationships using mindful approaches like yoga, meditation, writing, journaling, joining support groups and much more.
I believe that the more real-life examples victims, survivors and advocates read, the better our collective understanding. The better our collective understanding, the easier it will be to increase our support systems and see real change in how divorce, child custody, domestic violence, rape and intimate partner abuse cases are approached, investigated and determined/prosecuted.
By following the “Submit Your Story” link, completing and submitting the form, you agree to have your story shared anonymously. However, if you would like me to use your name in my book, check the box at the end of the form prior to submission. Your name and home state/country will be included in the book’s acknowledgments.
If you have any questions prior to completing the form, send me a private message.
You can complete as little or as much of the form/questionnaire as you would like. Keep in mind that writing about your experiences may cause anxieties and a flood of emotions. If you are triggered in any way, stop writing and speak to a trusted counselor or loved one.