I am so beyond sick of hearing from the survivors that walk into my office that they have been diagnosed with personality disorders or told that they are codependent while trying to navigate through and beyond abusive relationships.
Besides being an incorrect and shaming diagnosis, it can be extremely harmful to a survivor who is trying to feel better and be better and start a new life for themselves.
Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of the concept of codependency within personality until I started working as a trauma therapist in substance abuse treatment. Then suddenly it was all over the place.
It made me feel ashamed about my past. It’s shaming to say that you experienced this abuse “because you’re codependent.” That you have some sort of innate character flaw that led you to stay in that relationship. It’s shaming and stifling- and it’s wrong. It causes survivors to not want to tell their stories of strength and resilience and surviving really hard life experiences.
And I believe that we have to share our experiences; that we heal through sharing our stories, through saying #MeToo and I survived, and I believe in your strength to get through this too.
This past year I started working with a client who had come to see me after leaving an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. Months into working together she shamefully admitted to me the story of being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder when she had started seeing a therapist because she was “feeling and acting crazy” while in her relationship.
Just to clarify, that’s what abuse is- crazy making.
She told me how incredibly painful this diagnosis was for her. She shared that she had withdrawn from all of her friends and other relationship because “I didn’t want to hurt anyone just by being me.”
Withdrawing from your much needed community is the last thing that you want a survivor to do. We need community to heal- to feel loved and accepted again during and after such a challenging experience.
Unfortunately, many mental health practitioners are not trauma informed. If you are reading this and work in this field, please go get training to better understand the impact of trauma and abuse in mental health symptoms.
When you are in a crazy making abusive relationship, you act crazy, feel crazy, and think that there’s something wrong with you. That’s what your abuser has brainwashed you into thinking.
Abusers tend to have personality disorders themselves, often narcissistic personality disorder, so they are brainwashing their victims into thinking that they are the ones with the problems.
You don’t have a problem. They have the problem.
You were in a crazy situation with a crazy person and you survived.
The next thing my clients and I talk about is “why was I magnetically drawn to this abusive relationships to begin with?”
Besides a narcissists’ telltale trait as being incredibly charming AND/OR that we grow up believing in childhood fairytales of Prince Charming AND/OR because of some sort of dysfunctional family dynamic that led us to believe that it’s our job to save someone because of our inability so save __ (insert brother, sister, mom, dad) AND/OR because we grew up witnessing or experience abuse in our childhood …. AND/OR whatever else… besides all of that – I believe that we are all put on this earth, in this school of life, to evolve our soul.
And while it’s not ok that you had this experience, I have to believe that this was an experience you were meant to have. Mainly because you had it, and I don’t have a time machine, so I can’t change anything about your past experiences.
But also because you’re here now, which means that you survived these extraordinary circumstances.
Even though it may not always feel like it, your awareness of your inner wisdom and resiliency far exceeds your capacity before the abuse.
You wouldn’t be here reading this if it didn’t.
This is why we have to share our stories with the world.
We have to shine our light so that others can find their way through the darkness.
Part of shining that light means wading through the societal muck, the false beliefs of whatever we tell ourselves is the reason to hide behind the dark cloak of shame, and to embark in our own healing journey so that our healing will ripple out into the world.
So let’s heal together and examine red flags and learn about boundaries and narcissism so that never happens again. Let’s build each other other up.
The world needs you. We need you. We need your voice, your strength, your spirit, and your love.
Thank you for being here.