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As within, so without

Jill Wautlet

We met in college and dated 5 years. On the outside, we were like the royalty couple always dressed to the nines and lovey dovey. All of my focus was on him, his dreams. I thought he was a genius and ahead of his time. I was always fawning and putting my own needs to the side.  He would take me shopping and buy me nice things. During college, he also started a small business on campus. I would go along with him and thought I was there to participate but I wasn’t.  It felt like I was becoming his ‘employee’ instead. 

At the end of 5 years, we broke up and he dated his new ‘employee.’  I knew that staying in town wasn’t good for me so I bought a ticket to another state where I got a new job and had started a new life with another noxious man.  After 2 years had passed, I received a phone call from him. And without hesitation, I was right back on the hook and felt like he was coming to save me.  

He moved out to where I was living, we moved in together, and quickly got married. Our marriage lasted just shy of 28 years.  During this time the emotional, psychological, and financial manipulation was so incredibly subtle that I didn’t even notice.  It was a slow burn. The snide underhanded comments. The covert ‘jokes’ about me having a ‘triple belly’ or big feet and then feeling like I was the one who couldn’t take a joke. Nothing was ever quite good enough.  

For decades we had this on-again off-again dynamic.  There was never true teamwork, harmony, or reciprocal partnership. We had tons of good times over the years, but I would feel myself pulling away because something just felt ‘off’ and then he would pursue me and I would always accept the crumbs of attention.  Or he would ignore me so I would begin to pursue him instead. It was such an unhealthy cycle that I thought was normal.  It’s all I had ever known. I was doing the best I could with what I knew at the time.

Over the years, the confusing word salad, neglect, withholding, underhanded insults, financial irresponsibility, and abandonment grew worse until I started to shut down and check out. I stopped attending his work events as a trophy to make him look good. I stopped feeding him with compliments, doing his laundry, cooking, going out or being seen in public with him.  I tried to share my emotions, ask for help, or speak up about my own needs but they were dismissed or ignored until eventually I just pretty much stopped talking altogether. I started to self-medicate through alcohol, video games, shopping, and television to numb out. I developed severe panic attacks, digestive issues, and anxiety that morphed into a form of agoraphobia. I was overly responsible for other irresponsible people. I felt like if I wasn’t in control then I was out of control. So I desperately tried to handle and control everything. It was my survival mechanism. But I was still clinging to the idea that maybe we were just going through a ‘rough patch’ as many long-term relationships do from time to time.  It wasn’t a rough patch.  

When I finally stopped putting any attention onto him and started exploring my own interests the silent treatment and neglect escalated even further. I didn’t talk to him anymore and he didn’t talk to me. We walked right past each other with no acknowledgment. 

The relationship finally came to a catastrophic collapse. He had found a new ‘employee’ once again to worship him and carry out the day to day tasks that were beneath him. (Wash and repeat.)  It was inevitable. But I had lost myself along the way.  I didn’t know who I was because I had placed my focus on him for decades.  I didn’t know how to speak up for myself in a healthy way. I was a people pleaser, co-dependent, and had assigned him as my own source of survival. I wished that he was different, but it was me who needed to be different. 

And so began the feverish study and research regarding the various types of narcissism and co-dependence.  We had been a perfect vibrational match for one another!  Both of us needy.  My neediness for affection, validation, and attention from him and his neediness for adoration, attention, and validation from social media, television appearances, magazines, and public fame.  Neediness nonetheless.  He betrayed me on many counts.  I betrayed myself by fawning, pining, and putting my own needs to the side.  Betrayal nonetheless.  My co-dependent patterns and empathic traits aligned perfectly with his narcissistic traits.  Givers attract takers and takers take for granted!  No wonder the collapse was necessary.  It was unhealthy, I was depleted, and it just wasn’t sustainable.  

So I made the decision to start over. I detached and let go of all contact and cleaned out social media including ex-family members. It wasn’t easy but I knew it was necessary in order to grant myself the space to make peace with the past, heal, and move forward.  I joined a remote recovery and quantum healing program and found a good therapist who understands the impact of emotional trauma and psychological abuse.  I worked my butt off turning inwards to clean up old life patterns, childhood trauma, and false beliefs that no longer served my highest purpose. Finally, I found the Badass Unicorn Sisterhood who contains other survivors and thrivers of narcissistic abuse.  I fell in love with the ladies in the group because it’s not about constantly talking about narcissism or repeating our sad stories.  It’s a forum that keeps the focus on growth, expansion, awareness, and building a life beyond the storm. Within the group, we’ve all been there and there is freedom to speak in a safe environment. It is about taking the mess and turning it into a message. 

To this day, I do not consider him to be an evil person. I believe him to be a hurting person who thought that hurting me would make himself feel better.  I don’t feel sorry for him because abuse is never ok under any circumstance.   I am not a victim either. This experience has revealed my own shadow. It has been a spiritual calling to come home to my soul. I have been set free to live life on my own terms and reclaim my own energetic power. Doing the deep inner work has empowered me to have difficult conversations and speak up honestly and in truth.  I allow myself to be vulnerable and not vulnerable as in weak but more authentic and able to say what I feel or ask for what I need knowing full well that it could be met with rejection. Maybe that’s not vulnerable, maybe it’s just brave. I am able to walk away from things that do not align with my values and set boundaries about what I will accept in life. I’ve bought a vacation home, travel more than ever before, and have an entirely new circle of supportive relationships.

This experience is not about who I was.  It’s about who I am now! 

I have been where you may be right now.  Crippled on the floor trying to catch your breath wondering what  happened. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better but hear me loud and clear! It’s not your fault.  You did nothing wrong.  You are enough just as you are.  Be brave! Take your life back because it belongs to YOU and nobody else. You are not who you think you are …. you are SO much more!

There is a universal law called ‘as within so without’ – our outer world is merely a reflection of our inner world.  Heal the inner world and then sit back and watch the outer world unfold miraculously and beautifully.

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