My Gaslighting Movie: How My Reality Was Stolen by a Narcissist

I believe my ex is a sociopath.

A malignant narcissist and manipulative gaslighter that does not know empathy, trust or love. In his world, he is the most important. Other people exist on this earth for one purpose: to serve him.

I come from a good family. I have wonderful friends. I’m level-headed. I’m strong. “How could you end up with this guy?” they all ask.

So how do we end up with men who hate us?

ENTER KEITH:

The first time I saw him, he stared at me as if laying eyes on a Goddess. His penetrating gaze lingered, on the border between interest and obsession. Lonely and desperate for attention, I stared back.

He was charming and charismatic. His flattery was subtle, flooding my brain with dopamine and pleasure over and over again.

You’re the most beautiful woman inside and out. I can’t wait to see more of you,” he said. I had another instant rush of pleasure and exhilaration.

And like an addict, I craved more.

I binged.

He opened his heart to me, telling me stories of his childhood, of hardships and tragic stories, of past relationships and fatherhood. He had raised a child that wasn’t his for three years. The mother had lied about who the father was, then abandoned the boy in his care. She returned after a few years, demanding her child back. He had no choice but to give up his son, but he still kept in contact with him. My heart swelled at his compassion.

He whispered in my ear how it was heavenly to be in my presence. He was in love with me because I was perfect in every way: smart, beautiful, kind, ambitious, accomplished. It was surreal – a man so sensitive, vulnerable, and nurturing. It wasn’t long before I succumbed to the emotions. He loved ME. I was his world. I was his queen.

I fell in love with being loved.

I didn’t care that he was a “bad boy.” My friends warned me, but they didn’t understand him. He had been unlucky in life, a victim of injustice, born into an underprivileged world. He had a haunting past, but I could cure that pain. I could fix him. He was a good and whole person.

Others had preyed on his kindness too, like his ex-girlfriend. She was batshit crazy and had refused to move out of the house they lived in, leaving him nowhere to go. How could I let him suffer?

He moved in a week later.

Meanwhile, my friends sought out to prove their point. They made outrageous claims that he was cheating on me, but I wouldn’t listen. They persisted and showed me messages between him and his ex-girlfriend. I read them slowly and carefully, my mouth dry, my breathing deep and my lips numb.

They were still together.

Humiliation overcame me. I was nauseated. I didn’t want to believe it. He had a heart of gold. I had to catch him in the lie to prove it to myself.

We were sitting on my ragged red couch when I showed him the messages. He was incredulous.

He spoke to me as a child who didn’t understand. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

I stared in disbelief.

“You’re cheating on me. You’re still with her. Here’s the proof.”

He grinned and looked at me with pity. Didn’t I know? He had to send those messages to her. He had to pretend to still love her so that she wouldn’t do something crazy to his house. Didn’t I remember? He told me about it last week.  

My mind was racing as fast as the pounding pulse in my ears. I probed further, and he had swift answers for everything. He had done nothing wrong. In fact, he was doing it to protect us, and with my blessing. He recounted the exact time and location he had asked my permission.

How could I not remember?

And my friends were lying to me out of jealousy, and one friend was even in love with me. They were deceiving me, and he had proof, “Your friends are the dishonest ones. You need to figure out who has your back.”

“But the messages…” I whimpered.

“You’re letting them get inside your head,” he said sternly.

His face. His fucking face was unwavering with conviction for his truth.

His tone escalated. “How dare you question me?” he warned. “I’m not going to put up with this. I don’t deserve this from you.” He threw his belongings together while I tried to make sense of things. I froze, paralyzed in thought. I didn’t know who to trust. I had so much doubt. He can’t be that good at lying. I can tell when people are lying. There wasn’t a SHRED of guilt in his face. No sign of remorse.

He was almost out the door.

I was shaking, my breaths shallow. I gripped the fake leather of the couch with white knuckles. Rejection. Humiliation. Abandonment. Fear.

I was about to crash from the high.

It was all collapsing.

“NO, PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME!” I pleaded.

That night I sobbed into his chest as he caressed my hair and reassured me that he would always take care of me.

That was the beginning of my twisted reality.

We moved across the country for my work. He left everything behind, sacrificing his career for our love. I would be the breadwinner while he looked for a new job. It was logical.

He landed a contract, but a month passed without work. Some idiot had messed up and the contract fell through. “That happens sometimes,” he said.

Money was getting tight, so I asked about the savings account he had mentioned. He went to retrieve it, but his ex had taken the money out! She also canceled the cell phone plan they were both on. “I’ll take care of it,” I said, and I added him to my cell plan.

He got another contract, and we celebrated by buying him new work clothes. His work was a mile away, but walking there would mean his new clothes would be sweaty. Instead I would find rides to and from work so he could have my car. He was working tirelessly, sometimes until 9:00 or 10:00 pm. He was miserable from not seeing me. It was affecting our relationship. After two weeks, he decided it wasn’t worth it. We started to argue. He needed to be there for me.

So he quit because he loved me so much.

And he did love me so much. He would boast to friends about how wonderful I was. He would flood social media with pictures of me as the “love of my life” and “my everything.”  He would cook for me, buy me gifts, shower me with affection, and always spend time with me. We didn’t go out much since he would rather spend quality time with me than hang out with our superficial friends.

He was ready to marry me and have children. He found the perfect ring and couldn’t wait to propose. He had to have me as his wife.

He promised to pay me back soon.

Several months passed. He was searching for jobs and still not working. I was stealing sugar packets from work and restricting the hot water to save a few dollars. It was inconceivable that I could support us on my salary alone. His family was poor and couldn’t help, he said. Desperate, I pressured him to find a job.

He didn’t like that.

After that day, everything changed. The emotional torture began.

He demanded his own car if he was to get a steady job. He didn’t feel like a man without his car, his preferred car. It was my fault. I had forced him to move across the country. He would never be happy without his car; he didn’t feel like a real man. This was absurd to me since I was walking to work. Yet, this was the argument we had, every single day, for months. The fight would begin when I walked in the door – before even setting my things down – and continue until I shut the door to sleep.

On my birthday, he went and got a massage because he was stressed and his muscles were sore from working out. I spent the day at IKEA looking for furniture for our  cheaper apartment. When he picked me up, I commented on the irony of the situation. He yelled at me for being selfish. I cried uncontrollably, hugging my body in an attempt to soothe myself. He swerved into the exit lane, cursing about having to cancel surprise dinner reservations because of my behavior. He even paid for a cake that said “Happy Birthday” that would now be in the dumpster. I drowned in guilt.

Then things got worse.

The arguing reached a new level. It was constant yelling, mostly screaming. He guilted me for working too much, for not making enough money. It was my fault he was here. It was my fault he didn’t have a job or a car. It was my fault he was unhappy.

He degraded me.

I was selfish. I was controlling. I was too emotional and “hormonal.” I was too sensitive. I was irrational. I was stupid. I was fat and getting stretch marks. I was a bad girlfriend and a bad doctor.

The worthlessness was overwhelming.

I hated coming home. The arguing would circle for hours, accomplishing nothing. Every painful swallow reminded me of the screaming from the night before. What was happening to me? Was I being unreasonable? Was it my hormones? I never used to be this angry. I confided in one of my colleagues, and she handed me a purple pamphlet on domestic violence.

He’s not hitting me, I told myself, so it sat at the bottom of my bag.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I bought him the car and the storm subsided. However, there were problems with it, and we had to return it.

Then things got ugly.

He got a job and became absent. He lost interest in me, and we had stopped having sex. I questioned his whereabouts. He looked dead into my eyes and snarled.

“If you ever cheat on me, I’ll fuck you up.

Then he laughed.

I took medical leave and disability for reasons my lawyer states I can’t disclose.

He would take my car and leave me alone for twelve hours then argue about the car at home. I couldn’t handle the solitude and then him screaming at night. I didn’t care anymore. I put a down payment on a sports car and financed the remaining $15k under my name.

Now, I could have peace.

But his absence grew. He would text, “leaving now,” and arrive two hours later. He would come home reeking of pot and rambling on the phone, then boast about his incredible work performance. When I confronted him, he would say he texted me fifteen minutes ago. He called me OCD for counting the minutes. “Your hormones must be acting up,” he’d say.

I never knew when he would be home, or what days he worked. I was always misunderstanding or mishearing him. When I asked, he would respond: “Remember, I told you I would be working that day?”

I never remembered. I was so tired.

I began to think I was losing my mind from stress and sleep deprivation.

I wrote things down and recorded conversations to stay sane. I started telling my friends and family about his words and actions.

Was he a liar?

Or was I the one going crazy?

When I reviewed everything, he would distort and twist my words. The more I tried to uncover his lies, the more exhausted I became. Drained of all emotional and physical energy, I resigned to his way of thinking. I accepted it as the new norm.

Until one night.

I felt drunk with exhaustion. I was almost asleep when I caught a whiff of marijuana. Something seemed odd. My body felt like a sandbag, but I had to check. What I saw next on the red couch burned into my soul.

At the recommendation of my lawyer, I can not yet disclose what I saw.

I shut myself in the bedroom. I considered calling the police. After several minutes, he followed me inside. I was more alert than I could ever remember. My life was possibly in danger.

I would not miss a single word he was about to speak.

“What’s wrong?” he wondered. I told him exactly what I had seen. “What are you talking about?” he grinned. It was the same unflinching innocence I had seen before. I had a fleeting image of the time on my fake-leather red couch, the same couch where I had just witnessed horror.  Not this again, I told myself.

I stared at him without blinking, cradling myself.

He said I was seeing things. 

I continued to stare at him. “I know what I saw.” I said with conviction. He gave every excuse. It wasn’t working.

“Do you really think I would do that?”

“How could I do such a thing?”

His arguments went in familiar circles. This time, I knew what was happening. This time, I was defiant. This time, I was certain of my reality. “I know what I saw.”

He turned on me. “You’re seeing things. You’re tired. Your hormones are all messed up. How dare you think I would do such a thing. You’re acting crazy.”

For the next three days, I didn’t allow him to touch me. And he didn’t notice.

In an instant, I fell out of love. The veil had come off. I wasn’t the crazy one, HE WAS.

He had distorted my reality for this long. I had let myself get swept up in his games. 

His tricks were over.

I was done being the victim.

He stole my reality. I would steal it back.

EXIT KEITH

What happened to me was gaslighting.

The most well known gaslighting example is from the movie Gaslight, about a woman whose husband slowly convinces her she is going mad.

It is emotional and psychological ABUSE.

The end result is a person who cannot trust herself, has no self-confidence, and who is a shell of her former self.

He invalidated my emotions, perceptions, and memories to the point where I questioned my own reality. It is one of the many malignant traits of a narcissist.

Can you relate? I know you can.

There is a spectrum of abuse, of manipulation, of malice, of selfishness, and of TAKERS. But we have all been there.

And we’ve all allowed it.

The truth is, my reality wasn’t stolen from me. I gave it away.

As a mother, you’re pulling double-duty. You’re working tirelessly to provide financially. You battle with the balance of being both the ‘fun’ parent and the ‘strict’ one. You want your children to feel nothing but your overflowing love. You put them first, always.

You are a GIVER.

If you are exhausted, burned out, angry, resentful, or lonely, you are in danger of losing yourself.

In the year after my partner and I separated, I suffered. The anger continued, the resentment was overwhelming.

But I wasn’t going to let it break me.

So I did something about it.

I became unbreakable.

By the end of my journey, I was grateful for everything that happened, and to this day regard it as one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

How can we protect ourselves from abuse?

Become an Unbreakable Mom.

Prioritize your wellness. Practice sacred self-care and compassion, stick to your own truths and principles, demand greatness for yourself, and live abundantly. 

It’s not about what has been done TO you, it’s about what you are not doing for YOURSELF.

So, start doing something.

Join our community of fierce women and become an UNBREAKABLE MOM.

You are STRONG and UNSTOPPABLE. And you are NOT alone.

I took my life back.

And you will too.

Dr. Juli La Rocca, M.D.
Chief Resilience Builder
Board Certified Family Medicine
Fellow, Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine

Want to stop resenting your life as a single mom?

Take the 4-week

MAKE ME UNBREAKABLE

challenge today!

Learn more

6 thoughts on “My Gaslighting Movie: How My Reality Was Stolen by a Narcissist

  1. Juan Jose Villar-Benavides says:

    This was very touching and I praise you for take charge back, for getting back to your feet. You are a strong, confident woman and those experiences have only made you stronger, and better woman today.

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