Poetry – Am I the Monster

I have just recently been officially divorced from a man who I believe – based on my combination of education, years of experience of him, research, and observation – is a passive aggressive covert narcissist. He has 4 of the 9 criteria for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. 5 are required, so he is subclinical, but that does not change the fact of his abuse. He is not my first trip to this particular rodeo, and not even close to the worst one. That honor belongs to my father, who had 6 of 9 criteria, and qualified for an NPD diagnosis, followed by a relationship that was mostly off, but occasionally on, with a malignant narcissist (he met all 9/9 for NPD, and also 7/7 for antisocial personality disorder, ASPD).

 

One thing abusers love to do, narcissistic or not, is gaslight. This comes in many forms, and it is not always intentional. Some people gaslight “by accident,” because they need to bend reality to conform to their view of themselves. My family were gaslighters, but not successful because I was an odd child who had an odd response to their gaslighting. Instead of letting them “inside my head,” as the expression goes, even as a young kid, I chose to control my emotional reactions and focus instead of facts and details of events. As a result, I have crystal clear memories of their behavior and specific, particularly egregious incidents -and those are borne out by contemporaneous writings, and on one occasion, even photographs. In short, really obvious, overt gaslighting does not work well on me.

 

But it does work, kinda. My now ex husband turns out to have been a gifted gaslighter. Where others have failed, he succeeded in making me wonder – to this day – whether his perspective is right, and I am the monster. Of course he would probably tell you he doesn’t think I am a monster – but I have texts to support the examples of his behavior that I share in the “poem” I am about to put on here. To this day, I feel the need to go take narcissist checklists, and I am constantly asking if I am the monster, even though the healthy part of me knows that his behavior was the instigator, he treated me terribly, in a way healthy, normal people would not accept, and this self-doubt is a byproduct of his somewhat successful gaslighting. As long as I did not talk to him about things, just kept my head down, did my job, took care of our child, paid for everything, did all the chores with no help or support, paid to replace things he damaged or destroyed, sometimes over and over (I have spent $700 on brooms – not because I love brooms, or buy designer brooms – because he has destroyed that many to make temporary tools that do not work well), and did not attempt to raise any concerns about our relationship or circumstances, it was pretty clear to me what was going on. But if I tried to talk to him about anything, all of a sudden, i was this horrible, passive aggressive, bitchy woman, and my perspective seemed totally wrong and disturbed. My perspective was this:  chores should be shared 50/50, bills should be shared at least equitably (when he could be bothered to work, he made more than I did, but paid less than 1/3 of the cost of living at the most, there were times he paid nothing, and years where he paid $400 a month towards his own cost of living, nothing for our child , this was justified in his mind, and he blamed me for overspending against his wishes), child rearing should be a team activity, and adult men with no disabilities should work and support their own selves, as well as their children. I went through hell with my job as a lawyer, working at times as many as 80 hours a week while also taking care of our child (she was at work with me, and with me when I came home and brought the work with me to do at night), and I would come home to filth and messes, damage to my house, unfinished projects that created dangerous conditions for our child and others (some persist to this day because I cannot afford to have them repaired and he says they are my problem), him tearing me down for not being a “good woman,” which meant not doing the chores well, not preparing all the meals, and not seducing him at least 3 days a week. If I tried to stand up for myself, he would attack me and the person he described sounded like a total monster. It made me question my perspective, so I just did not want to talk to him at all about anything. He would make promises to do more, but never deliver, just more blaming and shaming and projecting.

 

The thing was, some of what he said was sort of true. I did become cold and “frigid.” I recoiled at his touch. Sex with him was a repulsive prospect for me. I did not want to be with him. I have since learned that emotionally withdrawing and shutting down is a coping mechanism I picked up from living with my abusive family of origin, where my father berated me at least weekly for some character flaw, misdeed, or failure, and where all of them would invade, tease, and mock me if I expressed sadness, frustration, or any other normal emotion. If I happened to have a moment of happiness or joy, they would collectively find ways to shut that down; that happened enough times that I learned to fear the feeling of being happy or joyful. Instead, I learned that there was safety in being numb, in denying myself emotions. I also learned that my anger scared them off, and it is, to this day, my most well-developed, nuanced, and readily expressed emotion. When I slip into my active C-PTSD state and go into that protective cocoon, rage and anger are the only emotions that do get out easily. But that is also a state that only emerges when I am in an active combat situation, i.e. in the midst of an abusive environment. That means, really, that he was the monster, because I would not have fallen back into that place if he had been decent and kind.

 

This “poem” is raw and unedited, and a work in progress. I am not good at metaphorical poetry, and it needs work, but it expresses that reality, and maybe is relatable for other people who have been gaslit by a passive aggressive covert narcissist.

 

Am I the Monster?

 

Am I the Monster?

You moved in the week we met, you had your own neglected place

I let you

Am I the monster?

 

In the first month, you demanded my cats move out

I did what you wanted

Am I the monster?

 

You wanted space in my cramped apartment

So you took over my daughter’s bedroom

I supported you

Maybe I am the monster

 

You refused to pay any share of the cost of living

It was my apartment, my name on all the bills

I chose to buy the food you ate

Am I the monster?

 

We moved into the house my parents helped us buy

You still refused to pay your cost of living, my parents helped, so you were entitled

I was pregnant, working full time, you were unemployed by choice

Am I the monster?

 

Working 60 hours a week, six months pregnant

You had no job, I looked for a second one to do at night

You said if I took a second job, you would leave me

Am I the monster?

 

The day she was born, you made me late to her induction

Time to leave, I had to wait for you to eat, you were starving after not working all day

You said I had a bad attitude and pregnancy made me a bitch

Am I the monster?

 

Through the years, I worked, I did the chores,

Paid the bills, took care of our child, and all your needs,

You did as you pleased, reminded me regularly of all my flaws

Am I the monster?

 

I became cold, withdrawn, unemotional, unable to be intimate

Did not want you to touch me

You told me I was a bad woman, threw things at the walls and raised your voice

Am I the monster?

 

Screwing up my courage, I asked for financial input from you

I asked for chores to be shared, you to help with parenting

Projects to be finished, messes I did not make to be cleaned

Am I the monster?

 

You said I am a cold fish, frigid, incapable of love

Lazy, selfish, manipulative, and passive aggressive, fat, old, unattractive, let myself go

All I wanted was help around the house and with the bills

Am I the monster?

 

I asked you to share the burdens, do some chores

Help with our child, pay some of the bills, support the family

You said I have never been a team player

Am I the monster?

 

It’s been ten years

I cannot feel, I have no joy, quit all my pastimes, all I do is care for a child and work

Surrounded by a messy home, undone projects, and broken dreams

Was I the monster?

 

I asked you to leave, many times, you refused

You say I am a bad woman, cold, selfish, manipulative,

Not a team player, your favorite refrain,

I am not so sure I am the monster.

 

Finally I find my voice

I tell you to leave

You say I never loved you, and I do not love you now, and now I am sure

You are the monster.

 

 

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