Hello. As one who didn’t know want until I separated from my narcissist wife, I need to thank you for the hope you provide to people on this platform.
Today, my need is so great that I don’t know where else to turn.
For reasons unknown to me, I have lived a truly extraordinary life, just not in the way that you yourself might hope to live.
I’ve tried so hard for things to work out well for me and my children. But because enough of the people who have been closest to me depleted me emotionally, and because I fell through almost every conceivable crack when it came to the help I might have otherwise received from organizations, I have known catastrophe for most of my 54 years.
Please allow me to explain, as relating no one event in my life can begin to paint the picture for you.
1. Because my maternal grandmother shamed my biological mother into putting me up for adoption, I was adopted through Lutheran Social Service, and was raised by two people who tried their best, but whose emotional intelligence could not fill a thimble. Dad was the most angry, backbiting, cynical farmer in our neighborhood. And Mom was just as quick to cut another person down, though her backbiting came from a place of extreme personal insecurity.
I am a survivor of institutional negligence.
2. I was in the gifted and talented program at my school through 2nd grade, wherein I was essentially educated as a 3rd grader. I had no technical aptitude to please my parents on the farm, but I excelled in the classroom.
After 2nd grade, my school closed, and I was transferred to another school. The records of my gifted status did not follow, and I got to repeat the 3rd grade over, despite successfully completing it the year before.
My parents provided no support with which to correct the mistake. The result? On the very first day of 3rd grade at my new school, the love of learning was sucked right out of me. I wouldn’t recover educationally until my junior year of college.
I am a survivor of profound parental and institutional failure.
3. By the time I was 9, Dad started to expecting more of me on the farm. But no matter how hard I tried, it usually ended the same: raging at me that I was no help to him, and sending me to the house in tears, where Mom would tell me, You know, if you really cared about your father, you’d be out there trying to help.
I am a survivor of my parent’s continual emotional abuse in the form of gaslighting and scapegoating.
4. My mom would continually shift expectations at home, creating an emotionally unstable environment for all of us. Best examples:
Throughout my childhood, I begged my mom to be in Boy Scouts, as I knew it would be good for me, but she refused.
In 8th grade, I begged her to let me try out for the basketball team. I sucked ass, but Coach said I could have a spot on the C Squad.
When I got in the car, I told her with the very height of excitement.
I’m not going to take you to basketball practice every day after school, she said.
I am a survivor of my mother’s emotional abuse in the form of crazy-making.
5. These things continued all the way through High School. (Ask me to share a call w/ you about Grand Canyon circa 1983 or so and I’ll curl your toenails.)
I remember sitting on my bed just prior to graduation, summing up the whole of my life. I knew three things to be true about myself:
1) Whatever the work was, I couldn’t do it.
2) I could not love.
3) I could not be loved.
I knew those things to be true all the way down to the bottom of my feet.
I am a survivor of emotional abuse and abandonment and self-harm via negative, reaffirming self-talk. If not for the fact that I grew up on super-hero comic books, I would have neither a morality or any optimism whatsoever that my situation could improve.
6. I would be easy pickings for Christine, to whom I was not attracted whatsoever.
She preyed on my loneliness and my capacity for empathy, giving me sob story after sob story, until after the third night, I let her into my apartment. We talked some, she made advances, and we made out.
It felt like love, so we started going out. In no time whatsoever, she turned on the heat sexually, and it was over.
I am a survivor of emotional abuse via love-bombing and trauma bonding. (Look it up. It’s a thing.)
7. For the next 30 years, we attended church and marriage counseling and every marriage seminar under the sun to understand the wall between us.
For the whole of those three decades, my own wife gaslighted and scapegoated me, and because of the cognitive dissonance her blame-shifting caused me, I could not see it for what it was. I went entire years, from 2010-12 specifically, uncertain as to what degree I had a grip on reality.
I wouldn’t realize the extent of her narcissism until after I was laid off in 2017 and did a deep dive as to what was getting in the way of us enjoying a fruitful marriage.
All told, I am a survivor of five decades of emotional abuse.
8. When I took the matter of the shipwreck of my marriage to my pastor, a conservative Baptist, he told me I was reading too much Psychology and not enough Scripture.
I am a survivor of spiritual abuse. (To this day, I cannot set foot in a church, and I’m okay with that, as my understanding of faith and personal agency has broadened well past my earlier notions.)
9. I have taught high school English for twenty years, both in public and private schools. I believe I made the biggest impact with students who are at risk not to graduate (for reasons I’ve already explained here).
But in 2008 and again in 2017, I was laid off from work, leaving me to scrounge for whatever FT job was available.
I am a two-term survivor of vocational trauma (for lack of a better term).
10. In 2019, I respectfully wrote, under the umbrella of the mutual rights policy there at Mayo Clinic, asking if upper study team members might dial down the intense micromanaging that my cohort and I were experiencing.
I was scapegoated, given the most grievous discipline a person could experience without being outright fired. I received a 2-year black mark on my record, making it impossible for me to transfer out of this toxic department.
How toxic? I was the 40th to leave a department of 14 people in the six years that my supervisor ran the department.
Her boss knew of the troubles we were experiencing, but we kept turning out the studies.
I followed the policy to the letter, but the Appeals Committee upheld the discipline 9-0.
That Mutual Rights policy? It’s there for show. Peons have no rights there, and I learned the hard way.
I am a survivor of psychological abuse in the workplace. (Look up “workplace bullying.” It’s a thing.)
11. Trigger warning. (If you yourself have experienced emotional abuse, and you have yet to fully recover from the trauma, you’re going to want to skip reading this one.)
After my defeat at Mayo, my doctor put me on a two-month-long short-term disability leave for major depression and anxiety. I believe he saved my life. But it was early into my leave when my wife started to exhibit behaviors beyond anything I’d ever experienced before.
Emotionally and physically, I was like a zombie, overseeing my boys August while Christine went to work. She would ask me to do some chores throughout the day, which I agreed to do. On three separate occasions in two week’s time, this phenomenon occurred, all according to the same script.
She’d come home shortly after 5:00. The boys, 10 and 8, would be playing in the living room, just off the kitchen, where I would greet Christine.
She would ask about the chores, and on these three occasions, I shared how I got them done except for one, and that I was planning to get the last one done after supper.
(Note: my problems with chronic fatigue had been known to Christine for years by this point.)
She would ask how it is that I couldn’t get all of the chores done, what with all the time I had.
I tried to explain the best I could, then she would ramp up with volume and intensity, asking the same thing.
This continued back and forth until she was nearly yelling at me, with me pleading with her, Why are you getting so upset?
Then she would rage, which had from my youth always been a trigger of mine.
I don’t know if you know much about PTSD or Complex PTSD. But it really challenges the notion of free will for the sufferer in that moment of trigger. One’s menu of options collapses to either fight, flight, freeze, or faint, with no ability to do anything else.
Without thinking, I watched myself speed-walk out of the kitchen, past the boys, who heard this entire exchange, out the front door, and ran like a man on fire across the front lawn, the street, and park across the street for two blocks, until I was completely out of breath, with my subconscious screaming at me, I matter! I matter! I matter!
Again, this happened three times like clockwork within two weeks. But I was too depleted emotionally to do anything about it.
Then a few days after the third instance, after putting the boys down to bed, she told me:
I asked the boys today if they were afraid of you. They said yes.
That’s when I knew. That’s what I knew that my wife, my life partner of three decades, had exploited my C-PTSD in order to alienate my own sons from me. Wind him up and watch him go.
I am a survivor of emotional abuse in the form of parental alienation. May you never experience such heartache and sorrow.
12. Two months later, I escaped. But nearly all of my close Christian male friends, all of whom knew the sordid details, judged me and condemned me to abject loneliness in my greatest time of need, emotionally speaking.
I am a survivor of spiritual abuse and abandonment by those I trusted.
13. I reached out for help to various agencies in town, they’re all geared for women. And because men who have been emotionally abused, politically speaking, I’m a unicorn. I don’t exist.
I am a survivor of institutional betrayal of the highest magnitude.
14. Some people have a messy divorce. My ex weaponized the divorce against me, all because the courts favor women, and my abuser can lie as well as I can tell the truth. And in the midst of Covid, when no one was hiring, Christine lied about our financial situation, making it impossible for me to access funds that were mine to live on. I continue to live out the fallout of her lies to this day.
I am the survivor of financial abuse.
15. Seventeen months ago, I was training for my life insurance license, but I had zero capacity to recall what I was studying during the quizzes, regardless of how many times I read the materials.
My neurologist concluded that I have Post-Concussion Syndrome, but not for having my bell run. People who experience long-term emotional abuse can be likewise impaired.
I am a survivor of neurological damage as a result of decades of emotional abuse. My condition has worsened to where I can no longer manage well enough the simple details involved in delivering for DoorDash.
If I hadn’t taken an unorthodox route to heal emotionally and psychologically, and the dozen or so providers who have helped me, I do not believe I would be alive today.
I have no family outside of my kids. And because no support exists for men who have been abused by their wives, and because most of my friends left me after I separated, I made some significant financial mistakes, none of which can be reversed.
I used my 401K and Teachers Retirement money to pay bills and survive during Covid and since, but I still owe tens of thousands for lawyer’s fees and doctoring, and I have no idea where my next month’s rent is coming from.
I’ve applied to the County for emergency assistance, but with the bills I owe, and the cost of living here in Rochester, I’ll only get further underwater over the next year while waiting for Disability without help.
Please help me and my family. My lads and their older sister mean everything to me. They are my greatest earthly treasures.
One day, I hope to write about my experiences to advocate for others who have had experiences similar to my own.
But for today, I need significant help in rebuilding after this, my lifelong catastrophe.
Thanks for reading,