Lasting Damage

I’ve learned that my current condition fits what’s known in psychological circles as Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) or more specifically, in my case, Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome.

That’s a general catch-all. I couldn’t say for certain where, exactly Tina lands on the Cluster B personality scale. She has destructive traits that overlap into antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders, but as far as the state induced in a long-term partner of someone suffering a cluster B disorder, it’s the same result.

Of course, Tina has co-morbid substance abuse issues and it’s been said that all addicts are narcissists. So, it’s also not possible to tell what behaviors stem from what disorder. My therapist advises that it’s hopeless to try to pinpoint it, but it’s a natural instinct of many who survive this kind of abuse.

Perhaps the worst and definitely the most persistent aspect of surviving narcissistic abuse and gaslighting is loss of confidence in my ability to reason.

I’m experiencing decision paralysis. I’m constantly second-guessing myself and as a result, everything takes much longer to accomplish. A lot of things are sidelined. Even simple decisions seem to have become mind-benders. I was standing in the bakery section of the grocery store, deciding on a treat. I picked up a box of tasty-looking donuts. I noticed apple fritters. I haven’t had those in a long time. Do I like apple fritters? I think so. Maybe I should just get the donuts…

I stood, contemplating the two boxes for a good five minutes before I became aware that I must have looked pretty odd just standing there, staring back and forth between two $4.00 boxes of pastry. Even realizing how long I was taking, it still took another minute or two to break the decision paralysis and put the apple fritters in the cart.

That’s just one example. It’s a daily struggle. I have lost confidence in my ability to do complex work. I’ve ceased all political involvement, for example. I don’t even know how I used to give speeches, testify to the legislature, devise legal arguments and strategies… When I think of those things, I feel overwhelmed and asea.

Gaslighting is no small thing. It’s extremely harmful. It warps a person’s whole sense of reality, destroys confidence in their mental prowess. It can take years to dig out and recover from this kind of psychological and emotional abuse.

Tina had managed to convince me that I was the problem – that it was in my head. I was misinterpreting what I saw and heard. I was being paranoid. Possessive, jealous.

When she was getting phone numbers from other men at the bars, there was a perfectly valid and innocent reason for it. When she wanted to spend weekends with her “former” sex partner, it was just to spend time with his sisters. When she came back all marked up with intimate bruises or bite-marks, that was Scott just worried that his hands weren’t strong enough to inflict pain and bruising on a woman anymore. Perfectly innocent. How dare I question it?!

I was essentially trained over a course of years to doubt my own judgement. “Word salad” and gaslighting kept me confused and off-balance. It’s especially malevolent behavior that causes lasting harm in order to rob a person of their free will, manipulate and control them.

The situation was made worse because of one time I was wrong. I was very wrong about one situation. Spectacularly and embarrassingly wrong. Others will surely find the story entertaining when I get around to retelling it. That caused me to question my own judgement. It made me fearful of being wrong about other things, or even being perceived as suspicious.

Tina convinced me that I needed anti-depressants because I was sad and confused and terrified about Tina’s relationship with Nate becoming inappropriate. I was happy when we were in agreement about how to move forward, and then devastated when she continued to refuse to take any steps at all to correct the situation and alleviate my justifiable discomfort.

Going from questioning Tina’s faithfulness to becoming convinced that I was crazy (and alcohol-dependent to complicate things further) to accepting responsibility for everything that had gone wrong after I stopped drinking to needing to suppress and compartmentalize information that would cause dissonance or anguish, needing to avoid questions that could be perceived as suspicion to realizing that I was essentially right in my instincts all along has been a wild and convoluted, confusing trip.

I’ve been reassessing numerous past incidents with new eyes free of scales. Behind every door, it seems, there is fresh torment, humiliation and chagrin as difficult realities slowly replace the contradictory memories of cognitive dissonance or the semi-conscious avoidance thereof.

New revelations come unbidden, often enough that it causes undue rumination. Documenting all of this is one way I’m coping with it all and trying, in particular, to dispel the feelings of shame and embarrassment.

I thought of myself as a pretty intelligent man. I got far on my wits so I struggle with understanding how I could have been so astoundingly stupid for so long. How could denial and loyalty to someone who had so little regard for my feelings override the advice and urging of truly caring friends and family? I’ve seen men in similar situations. I judged them harshly for their willful ignorance and tolerance of obvious abuse. Now I am that poor sap. My pride makes that hard to accept

I know this much: Before I met Tina, I didn’t experience chemical dependency to the point of withdrawals. I hadn’t ever felt the need to get counseling and I wasn’t taking any medications for anxiety or depression (I’ve been calling them my Tina Pills for years). The relationship was toxic. Tina was worse for me than booze, but harder to quit.

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5 comments

  • Anonymous (Chris Stowe)

    Wow, been reading this one for a little while now and with this post I think I can say without any doubt that you're a special kind of nuts there, buddy. Getting dumped or cheated on sucks, sure but you're taking the victimhood to a whole other level. Maybe get yourself a goldfish or a cat or something to help deal with the neediness.

  • Dan

    Yes, asshole. It is a special kind of nuts. It even has its own name. It's in the first sentence. That was kind of the gist of this post. Glad you understood what I wrote.

    After years of being manipulated and trained to doubt my own observations and conclusions, I find that I now significantly lack confidence in my own judgement and my mental performance has seriously deteriorated.

    That's why I'm in therapy. Thanks for the constructive feedback. I don't think a goldfish will help me understand how I allowed myself to be put in this position.

    Since it doesn't seem like you are seeking insight into abuse you may have suffered yourself (the audience I expected might be interested), I have to wonder why you've been following my musings. Was it just to ridicule my difficulties? Voyeurism/Shadenfreude? Or are you personally invested in my story, Anonymous Poster?

    Who ever said I got "dumped," by the way? I don't think I've written about how the relationship between Tina and I came to it's final conclusion.

    That's beside the point. I've had relationships end before. I've been cheated on before. As you say, it sucks, but it isn't traumatic. This post is about coming to terms with the fallout of years of psychological and emotional abuse and manipulation.

  • Anonymous (Chris Stowe)

    Sounds like a lot of excuses to me. Just the kind of thing that a beta would say. Your therapist is just gonna charge you money to tell you why you're a victim instead of telling you how to take control. You need to ditch the money waster and start looking up Jordan Peterson's stuff. His books, his videos, all of it. You're letting a female run things. Letting her control you. That's how I know you didn't dump her, you're a beta, betas don't dump women, they sit around and let a woman walk all over them until they get dumped because she's bored or because finds an alpha who wants her to himself. And then they complain because they couldn't be a real man and either take control or kick her ass out early.

    I came here because someone posted a link on reddit in a thread about screwing over whiny beta cucks, and it was funny. But now it's just kinda sad and pathetic. You let yourself get cucked by this female and all the guys she was seeing on the side and then throw out all of the psychobabble stuff to try to excuse it when the truth is that you were weak and so she did what women do and used you until she got bored. Wake up, take control of your life, and ditch the beta victimhood. I did it and now I'm married to a woman who would never pull that kinda shit on me because she knows I'm strong.

  • Dan

    So AWALT is your general philosophy? I don't subscribe to that notion.

    Here's something I found about the clinical psychologist you mentioned (and thank you for the actual advice – I'm looking into it):

    "Psychologist, Dr. Jordan Peterson, in one of his lectures, talked about how people may be devastated by tragedy but eventually could withstand it. What he says people have the most difficulty overcoming is malevolence. It causes trauma, cognitive dissonance and if not processed properly, the aftermath can last for a long time."

  • Dan

    Your Reddit link is fictitious. You're either in Tina's circle or one of the people from mine that she seduced to further humiliate and gaslight me (Chris, Mike, Tom, Nate, Cassidy, Doug, Selah, Justin, Mr. Purple, et-al, et-al).

    Men aren't supposed to be abused. If we are, we're not real men, right? That's why men don't talk about this kind of suffering – others will ridicule and heap more abuse on. I've dug into a well of courage to express humiliating experiences to take the feelings of shame and embarrassment head on.

    You seem to think Tina and women like her just need a big strong alpha man to claim and control them. Because they're strong – how? By smacking them around? Who would want a relationship like that?

    My strength is best applied to protecting and providing. If I have to waste energy policing my spouse, she doesn’t deserve my love.

    Being the #1 guy in a woman's harem isn't good enough. I deserve to be the only guy.

    Yes – there were many instances when I should have seen the light and bailed out, but the connection I had felt like it was spiritual and euphoric, so I tried applying patience, forgiveness and reason. I knew Tina had her flaws and I loved her, not just in spite of them, but even because of them. She herself is deeply wounded and lives in a torturous world. She had my compassion.

    It wasn't easy to walk away. I'm fiercely loyal and devoted. It required horrifically bad mistreatment to finally flip my switch from unconditional love to loathing.

    I feel what I did was right. Don't try to blame me for Tina's psychological problems and bad behavior (and perhaps your own). You're just heaping the same BS on me that she did with that.

    And I know I'm a better man than you'll ever be, Mr. Anonymous. I think you know it too.

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