Surviving a Narcissist

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 1-30-2023

(2 Years ago in Brooklyn, NY)- I was standing on the roof of a 6 story building, the one where I shared an apartment with my ex fiance, literally my ex, the sting of our broken engagement was still fresh. I looked down as I contemplated jumping. It took me a good twenty minutes of thinking about it before I snapped back to reality. I had to therapist myself: “What would I tell a client in this situation? A man that could get you to a point of contemplating suicide, is NOT the right man for you. There it is. Now, walk away and keep walking. It’s time to get your life back together. It won’t be easy, it’s going to be painful for a while, but you need to leave this place and never return.”

Early 2018– I was recently out of one relationship (A 9 year relationship that fizzled out slowly) and right back into another. It took what seemed like just a few weeks. But this time it was ‘different’. He was different. I wanted something different, it felt new, exciting, adventurous. I was on Cloud 9. I threw caution to the wind for the first time in my life. Before I knew it, we were living together (he asked and I couldn’t say no), and everyday felt ‘magical’. Every now and then there was something that was a bit ‘off’… Such as being out in public at an MMA fight with friends. One of my ex ‘flings’ happened to be there. And one of my BFF’s kept bringing up his name. My boyfriend seemed angry. Before I knew it he was whispering in my ear: ‘If she mentions that guys name one more time I’m going to snap his f&$ing neck’. I froze; I was speechless. I then took my BFF to the ladies restoom to beg her to stop talking about that ex fling. She was confused, “why is he that jealous, he really shouldn’t be that jealous about something from your past.” She was right. But I let that one get swept under the carpet, like many other things.

Love Bombing (My crazy 2018)

The issue right away was the end of my long term 9-year relationship I had just had; I needed a new roommate to help with rent. My ‘fresh out of college social worker salary’ was not going to cut it in NYC. The new man in my life decided to be ‘kind’ and offer me his BFF who was living with him and his Third child’s mom. Yes, that’s right! He had three kids, and from three different women. According to him he was ‘living with Baby Mom 3, but they were ‘separated’ and only together for the baby.’ This was my first “Red flag” I chose to ignore. He tempted and enticed me a lot despite my fears of his baggage. He made himself out to have a steady job, a lot in savings, a high work ethic, a humble man that could admit his flaws, and he was an incredible athlete (we both shared a deep love for MMA), fun sense of humor etc. He was the opposite of the ex before him; far from boring. And he didn’t’ body shame me! At least, not immediately. The fact that he would help clean without being nagged/ begged was quite the bonus too. At least… he did at first. He gave me tons of compliments & reassurance and sweet talked the hell out of me. He literally proposed within weeks. I had to pump the breaks on that initial proposal. It seemed crazy, yet romantic. Crazy romantic! At the time (I was newly 28 years old) I had never heard the term “love bombing’ before.

Let the Lies/ Mind games begin (More of my crazy 2018)

So, there I was in a whole new living situation. New live-in boyfriend, a female roommate that he had gone to HS with. They were cool initially. They were cleaning, they were paying their rent on time, they were ‘chill’. I had to move; my landlord was not happy with the 3 people arrangement & threatened to increase the rent. Before I knew it, I found myself in my new boyfriends Aunt’s basement apartment in a very crappy inconvenient location. Things started to get strange. My boyfriend’s card would not work sometimes when we were out shopping. “Oops I guess my baby’s mom robbed me again…” or the good Ole “I forgot my wallet today” trick. Very quickly he went from a man with ‘steady work and savings’ to a man that was just ‘laid off’ and didn’t appear to have anything. And his third child’s mother started to verbally harass me online. I blocked quickly, but it did not seem like she had the attitude of a woman that was ‘separate but living together with an ex’. More like the anger of someone that was just left in a shocking manner….’ (I wish now I could tell her sorry and I had no idea… LIKE really! I had no idea). What made matters worse is our roommate also started to skip out on rent and invited a man to live with us without our permission. Yes, we had a squatter on our hands, and even the cops couldn’t remove him. My now ex’s aunt tried to pressure me to pay all the rent that wasn’t being paid by anyone else, (I paid my share and my exes share when he couldn’t, but I was not paying our room mates 1/3rd) and I refused. This was NOT my responsibility. I pressured my BF at the time to move, we NEEDED to move! He kept trying to refuse but later realized he had to cave. I was not dealing with the situation well.

A ‘Fresh’ New Start (Late 2018)

I was so excited to be moving from Queens to Brooklyn. I was much closer to work (I worked for the Brooklyn VA and the commute was killing me). The new apartment took ALL of our money. ALL of it. NO friends, no family favors, a real apartment hunt/ broker and the money was ridiculous. But per usual I always say, “You cannot put a price on freedom”. It felt magical. Spacious apartment, we worked out an arrangement for the kids every other weekend. He found new work. Then would get fired or quit and find more work. We did have quite a few tiffs about this. The stress of being unable to keep a job and perhaps seeing the disappointment on my face got to his ego. His anger reactions started to get worse. He would yell, curse, name call, deflect, project onto me. I would then get triggered/ angry and talk back. Not yell, talk back. I then started to catch him in white lies, and eventually, heavier lies. For over a year he had been telling me these over-the-top stories of serving in the military, and our friends as well. I couldn’t take it anymore, and with a serious confrontation he finally admitted it was all a lie. I cried hysterically; he made me out to be dramatic. He literally told me “I made him lie”. His reasoning? “You would not have dated me If I wasn’t a Veteran, I had no choice”. I also caught him messaging a girl and inviting her over to the damn apartment I was paying for (he was in between jobs so much that yes, I paid a good majority of the bills at this point). His chosen lie was that he was ‘inviting her over for a tattoo job’ because he needed work (A girl he had flirted with in the past… yeah right…)

It got Physical… (2019 Ups & downs and all around)

One of the projects we were working on as a couple that I did cherish at the time; BJJ documentaries. We traveled from gym to gym with a camera buddy and other friends and would film our experiences at so many MMA/ BJJ gyms around NYC and Long Island. But eventually, our video editor friend got burned out, and then my boyfriend did too. We had so much footage to get through and I was the only one working on it. One particular weekend we argued about this. I was working full time, doing half the chores, doing all of the editing, helping buy his children things because him and Baby mom 3 were often broke. The argument escalated quite badly, I decided to walk away and leave the apartment to cool off. (I promise I did not throw the first swing). As I attempted to walk out, he stormed at me and grabbed me by my hoodie collar and dragged me back into the apartment and shoved me down on the floor. I looked to my left and vividly remember his toddler (2.5 yrs. old at the time) staring at us with wide eyes. I cried hysterically and ran to the kitchen after I got up. He came in two minutes later as calm as a clam and tried to ‘comfort me’. I slapped him in the face as hard as I could. (As destructive as this sounds, I wanted to test him at this point. Would he hit back? How bad of a situation am I really in?) He did not hit back.

He recalled the situation very differently than me. He used lines like “I did not push you, I touched you and you fell over”. And when I told him how upset I was that his son saw; that it’s not good for a baby to witness domestic violence his comeback was always: “he wasn’t there, he did not see anything”. I started to feel insane. (Yes, this is what gaslighting actually looks like. Take notes!)

Drugs can get you through almost anything (2019-2020)

Believe it or not, 2 years into the 3-year relationship he proposed, and I said yes. I have to rewind enough to mention, he also introduced me to weed and psychedelics. When I first smoked weed, I felt like it was something I had been missing my entire life. I’ve suffered from major depression since I was 11 years old, and my work stress was causing some severe episodes, the drugs uplifted my mood. I recall a time where he had an extreme verbal outburst toward me, because I was venting about hardships with work. He screamed at me while I sobbed; “you have it easy, your life is good, you don’t work hard, you are always complaining!!!!’ So, what did I do? I went back to a tactic from my childhood, silence. The drugs helped me get through domestic violence. That is both a ‘good and bad’ thing I suppose. No matter how awful he was acting, I could always sneak off into the bathroom with a pipe or bong. Or I could consume an edible hallucinogen and have the ‘time of my life’. He would verbally explode, I would consume, as would he. Then we would calm down and ‘make up’ until the next outburst. He had a talent for sweet talking me after an outburst. He could cry on command if he needed to, and I am highly empathetic. He knew how to gain my trust again. It felt like a constant environment of control; him controlling me through verbal tactics. Belittling, name calling, criticizing, demanding, lying, deflecting, projecting and so on. Why though? Perhaps some jealousy? I recall a friend of ours asking me about my experience deployed to Afghanistan. My ex got very frustrated with that question, I could see it written on his face, and as soon as I started to talk about my combat experience, he interrupted and changed the subject to him. When I confronted him later about this, he denied it. He always denied. If I talked back, he screamed louder. He always won; I was on eggshells.

He loved calling me lazy. Even when I was working full time, going to classes part time (I used my GI bill to further my education and help us get more money!), training martial arts, helping with his kids every other weekend; my fatigue meant I was ‘lazy’. He loved to force me up at 3 am and drag me to the woods in the freezing cold and claim that it would cure my depression. He would then proceed to yell at me for not hiking fast enough. At some point, he pushed me down for a second time… he also threw something at me very hard because I accidently washed a cast iron skillet with water again. Oops. That being said, I started to live in a state of constant hypervigilance. He started to resent me for coming home to a comedy show and the bong while remaining silent; as I was not allowed to vent anymore. He did not acknowledge that perhaps he had a major part in this cycle.

Begging/ Pleading for BreadCrumbs (2020)

When he was offered a Steady job as a part time building superintendent, we were both so excited. I viewed this as a way for us to salvage what was breaking. After all, if he had steady pay, perhaps that would be the confidence he needed to tame his ego, and I would be better off for it. At this point I was paying most bills; I paid his child support a few times too. I had to literally beg him to pay his child support, I had to pay it first for him to even consider doing it. I had to beg him to go to his own custody/ child support hearing. And the various times he was laid off, I had to beg him to do housework as he started to hold out on helping around the home. He used my car often for his side hustles and racked up 500 dollars’ worth of parking/ speeding tickets. It was like living with a teenager that had to be reminded of their responsibilities daily. When we moved, naturally I had to do a lot. Transfer over all the utilities. He told me I did not have to pay rent for six months, as he was finally acknowledging he was indebted to me; diapers, formula, baby clothes, rent, utilities that I had paid at least 3/4’s of for two years straight. Done deal!

I can honestly say, I have never seen a ‘grown man’ gripe about working so much. The hypocricy of ‘me not being allowed to vent about work’, but him yelling about his new job everyday was quite frustrating. Anytime work angered him, he blamed me. He blamed me for ‘making him get a job that made him so unhappy’. He made it clear he was jealous of the fact that I could ‘sit down all day’ and make more money than him as a physical laborer. The job made his ego worse. I begged him to hang onto the job just until I got my LCSW, and then I promised he can do ‘whatever he wants and build his own business and work for himself’. And I meant it. The dream at the time was Colorado.

The inevitable Ending (January 2021)

Our schedules were insanely busy. We helped train and manage MMA fighters during the pandemic as a side hustle. We both got increasingly burnt out. I started to have suspicions he was flirting with one of our female students; he called me crazy of course. I caught him in many more lies. He did not have a savings bond, as he once insisted. Every now and then I would still catch him telling our friends about his ‘time in the military’. One of the few outbursts I had toward him involved me calling him out on the fact that ‘there is nothing adultlike about him, as I had to keep reminding him to take care of adult things; paying his share of bills, paying his child support, setting up a utility, keeping track of deadlines.’ etc etc.

So, after all the work and tireless effort I put into raising the narcissist, he was so ‘fed up’ with me, he decided to go on a two-day camping trip in which I was not allowed to contact him. He vanished. I received maybe 1-2 texts which triggered my attachment anxiety. Then within a week, he sat down and had ‘the talk’. “We should separate” he said, looking at me with a smile on his face. I’ll never forget that he was smiling as he said this. I ran off into the bathroom (my safe place) highly emotional. Within several hours, I was texting my father and supervisor my plan to escape. (From NYC back to SoCal; my hometown) I was truthful. Work burnout, pandemic, and abuse took its toll over the years, I was no longer functional. I also texted the Veterans crisis line because for the first time since I was a teen, I started having suicidal ideation, but this time there were more plans; pills, jumping off a building.

I had to live with him for one month after this ‘separation’ he proposed. All the while he played mind games. It’s important to note he said lines like “It’s me, I need to work on myself… I should be single….” but then would have days where he would get angry and blame me for everything. Including the job “I made him have”. (Because for some reason having children is not ‘enough of a reason to work’ and make an income….) Another memorable line he said: “I’ll never get with someone that has PTSD and depression again.” Ironically, he has PTSD with anger issues.

It doesn’t End even after you Move on (Feb 2021)

I earned my LCSW right before I moved to NYC, miraculously I was able to achieve this despite the mental pain I was in. I put all my focus into it, and then split for good. I kept contact with the narcissist for only 1-2 months. He tried to sweet talk. He told me he missed me and still loved me at one point. Then he would try to make me feel guilty about moving, told me I took the ‘easy way out’. He told me he wanted me to move out of his apartment, but not away from NYC. He liked to control me through his texts/ calls, half of them ended in screaming matches. Then, a close friend of mine confided in me and shared that my ex was already hooking up with a girl we trained with in martial arts. The girl! Our student, who is ten years younger. The one I was suspicious of. (So much for “I need to be single and figure myself out….”)

Right then and there when I received that confirmation from my friend, I felt a surge of rage. It was most definitely the worst type of rage I had ever experienced. My brain started racing through all the shit I put up with after the breakup, his screaming, yelling and blaming. His very blatant lies about ‘needing to be single’ just one year after he proposed and gave me a ring. The fact that I gave him 1K of my savings because ‘we were saving for CO and it was only fair’, it was me giving him pity money because he never was able to save truthfully. The fact that I asked him to send me my things I could not fit into my car during my road trip back to CA, and instead he sold all my stuff without my permission. Then, there was my intrusive memories of everything I did for him in those three years. Helping financially with his kids, helping him financially. Carrying his weight when he was clueless. Helping fund his business and providing my car/ funding tools/ cards etc. Taking care of him when he was laid off or quit; 4 times in 3 years! And all the while being subjected to belittling, blame, manipulation and even some physical abuse.

Off and on I would unblock him just to send rageful messages, and then block again. I decided I would never give him the satisfaction of having a voice. He will NEVER have a chance to lie to me again. Everything out of his mouth is, in fact, a lie, so why listen? I follow narcissistic support groups on the regular now, and every recovery coach will tell you that no contact is the ONLY way. And it’s very true. I struggled with stopping myself from the unblocking at first, my rage would take over. (It didn’t help that I found out even more lies he had said about me to a couple of our other friends: that “he was paying all the bills.” HA!!!!) But I can proudly say I have discontinued that bad habit last year.

My Rainbows after the Storm (Early 2021- Present day)

In the past two years, I have accomplished more than I could have ever imagined. Especially when I think back to those days in Brooklyn where I was near my end mentally. I took a good five months off from work, then worked part time doing social research from home. (Something I’ve always wanted to try) I voluntarily admitted myself into substance abuse treatment, received medication, and got various medical checkups. I applied and received an increase in VA disability for PTSD, depression, hypersomnia and an eating disorder. I had many walking ‘magical trips’ in the desert where I cried alone. I created many new boundaries and non-negotiables; raised the hell out of my standards! By early 2022 I was working full time again; my first position as an LCSW. Shortly after, I realized I could finally become a homeowner; I bought my first house in April of 2022. During this timeframe of being back in CA, I published two books: Unseen in July 2021, and ‘In my Head’ in November 2022. And I’m also a proud glamping host! There is a beautiful glamping site in my yard that was built by my new (sweet/ caring/ amazing) boyfriend that is already getting booked. 🙂 We were up and running by December 31st, 2022; an amazing way to start the New year of 2023.

If you have gotten this far, thank you for reading my story. I truly hope, per the usual, that my story can help someone. That telling this story helps empower other victims of narcissistic abuse. You can leave, please know your worth. Please don’t let anyone else define your worth. Seriously, I could be dead right now, all because of some asshole that I really never needed. I was brain fogged. That’s what they do to us.

Below are links to my books if you are interested, as well as the Glamp site.

Glamp Site:

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

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