The Laugh Always Spotlight Edition features guest posts from brave souls who come forward and want to share their stories of personal triumph. Laugh Always has been created to highlight those difficult journeys and to celebrate the badass people that live to share their journey. I welcome you to the newest edition of the Laugh Always Spotlight! Please read on for Laura’s story.
I am an eight year survivor of narcissistic abuse by my ex-husband. I’m a Midwest city girl who left her beloved Chicago and moved to the East Coast for a job a little over 10 years ago. I grew up in a multi-cultural family. I’m MBA educated, come from a middle class family, proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and a well accomplished professional. I was always known for being a strong, independent, fearless woman who knew what she wanted and got it with hard work and determination.
None of that prepared me for the eight years of hell I endured. It took four of those for me to finally accept the fact that I was in an abusive relationship. That word “abuse” was for me a scarlet letter, so no way in hell that could be “me.” I had no physical marks, no bruises, no black eyes, no busted lips… All of my wounds and scars were internal. What I did have were years of depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and a laundry list of physical ailments I blamed on “early menopause.” I had insomnia, bad headaches, stomach issues, hair falling out, no appetite, drastic weight loss – because you see when I’m stressed I don’t eat. Add to that I’ve recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia to go with the osteoarthritis I already had.
For the first few years, I didn’t have many friends much less close ones to help me. My mom came at one point to try to put me on a plane and take me with her, but I didn’t go for two reasons. One, I was terrified of the consequences if I did. And two, I didn’t want to be a failure or quitter because at that time we’d only been married a year or so and I thought I was “strong enough” to handle it. For years I justified in my head, “well, at least he doesn’t or hasn’t hit me (yet).” That was why I stayed.
Eventually, I realized this man was “killing me slowly” one day, one hour, one minute at a time being with him. One day my girlfriend, who after seeing and sort of living my hell from the sidelines, called me and said her therapist told her she was dating a narcissist. And that guy reminded her exactly of my ex-husband and how he treated me. That was the day the “lightbulb” went off for me and I researched the hell out of narcissists, NPD (narcissistic personality disorder), narcissistic abuse, etc. For years, close friends and I would wonder if he was bi-polar and needed medication. But, there he was described in article after article to the tee!
In my research, I found countless Facebook group pages on surviving narcissistic abuse which helped me /during my initial healing journey. I came across dozens of women who survived a relationship with a narcissist or was still in one – lost, confused, and desperate to get out. Through my own vulnerability and transparency in sharing on social media posts, my story has often attracted various women to reach out to me directly. They ask me questions about my experiences, how I survived, how I “got out” and share their own stories with me. It’s like somehow we are all strengthened by sharing our stories with each other. Sometimes we may gain some clarity about our situations whether we’re still in them or fortunate enough to have survived and gotten out.
I cannot impress enough the importance of advocacy, education and the sheer power in numbers there is when we all tell our stories. During my eight years of hell I kept journals of the abuse. It was both for documentation sake and my therapy. I always say that my writing and yoga saved my life during those years. I found my lost voice through my journaling and it ignited a passion within me that someday I was going to “tell my story” and help other women going through similar trauma. I’d always been a good writer, but those years of “’survival” writing were draining. As soon as I moved out and into my own apartment, I couldn’t bring myself to writing another word. I huge wall of writers block emerged and it took up until this past summer when I finally did some healing work with a local domestic violence organization that I volunteer at to break through it and begin writing again.
The initial healing process was rough and took its toll on me. But, out of the fire pit of hell I’ve emerged stronger, better and more alive with purpose than I ever have in my life. I’ve learned a lot about myself like how much my childhood played a key role in every decision I made in my entire life. My lack of self-love, self-esteem, self-value and self-respect came directly from my childhood and the role models in my life—especially my mother. I was emotionally abandoned by my mother at an early age due to her own trauma and childhood abuse. I never knew my biological father and even though I had the most amazing step-father I still felt completely lost and inadequate. My entire life I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I always “stood out” in some way and I never felt like I was “enough” in multiple scenarios – my own family, at school where I grew up, in college, professionally, in relationships, etc. ALL of that played into a life of looking for LOVE in all the wrong places. And after my dad died in 2007 and being in Maryland all alone, it made me extremely vulnerable and easy prey to a predatory narcissist. I’m amazed at the number of women who have survived or are in narcissistic abusive relationships. All our demographics couldn’t be more different and yet that’s the one common thread which makes all our stories very similar.
So, I feel that it is my calling to do something to raise awareness, educate others, and help create a healing community. During my years in hell, I realized the worse thing is the feeling that you are alone in what you are going through or that your support network just doesn’t understand. This is why I’m an advocate. My vision was to create an online community where real women can share their real life stories and how they survived with one another. I proud to share that I recently launched a blog website called “SpunkyDiva Diaries.” My goal is for it to become a virtual sisterhood and support network. It can become a “go to” resource for women to learn about narcissistic abuse, read survivor tips and stories, how survivors moved on, what we still struggle with, the importance of self-care, self-love and self-worth, and much, much more.
But, I also didn’t want the abuse to define me or my legacy. I’m so much more than those 8 years of hell. When you survive and come out on the other side, we often have to relearn this thing called life, rediscover who we are as women, and rebuild our entire lives into something “new” with our newfound “freedom.” We start over. I rediscovered my love for cigars and travel. I’m an avid foodie and obsessed with wine and great cocktails. I’m still working on getting back to my yoga practice because I need it to save my life again with this fibromyalgia. I used to be such a fashion diva…so I’m hoping that part of my “SpunkyDiva Tribe” will be able to lend their fashion tips and expertise to get me back into it. So there will be lifestyle stuff on there as well as interviews with other amazing women sharing their stories about survival and starting businesses.
A little bit about my SpunkyDiva brand…I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE pink and pineapples! Pink and green are also my sorority colors. Pineapples are also the symbol of hospitality, warmth and friendship which are exactly what I want SpunkyDiva Diaries to symbolize and embody for women. Our tagline is “Real Women. Real Life. Real Stories.” It’s my passion project and I’m enjoying it.
My very first post was my own “story” and the impetus for why I created SpunkyDiva Diaries. It’s called: “I Have A Story To Tell” and it is the first piece that I’ve written since I started writing again. I hope you read it and that it inspires YOU to find your voice and share your own Warrior Diva story!