Any story about spiritual abuse will, at one point or another, include a narcissist. This is part 5 in the series of my journey into and out of spiritually abusive situations. If you’re just tuning in, click here to start at the beginning.
When we last connected, I was in the ER hearing that the anxiety attack I just experienced was my body’s way of saying, “We’re not jumping off this cliff again, baby girl!” I opt not to fill the prescription of anti-anxiety meds I’m offered and, instead, resolve to figure out the stress thing. I see an actual internist and she tells me I’m taking more meds then she gives to a person without a working thyroid. Oh God … what have I done?!
I receive little support from those I work for, although those I work *with* aren’t surprised by the panic attack. While I struggle with how to reduce my stress levels, I close on my first home and move in just a few weeks after the ER trip. My boss decides I should be able to do more in less time, and I decide I’m done. There’s no way I’m willingly taking a second trip down that scary path.
I give the church three months’ notice and begin putting things in order to hand off to my replacement. I discover my immediate boss is a narcissist who has been taking credit for my work and sabotaging my reputation behind my back. She threatens to force me to leave sooner if I say anything.
And just like that, God chooses *this* moment to pull back the curtain and begin to show me four of the most amazing gifts. (Of course, I don’t recognize them as gifts at the time, but give me time. I will.)
- Narcissists are everywhere and whether or not they ever change – or are exposed for what they are – is not my burden to carry. This is super important, because it means I can’t blame one deviant person or one dysfunctional organization for the trials in my life. And, it’s freeing because it underscores that I am not responsible for the behavior of a dysfunctional person. I can move on to a situation that is safe and healthy and trust God to care for those left behind. His agenda is not compromised in any way by the limits and appropriate boundaries He has built into my design.
- Counselor #1 tells me, “It seems like you don’t think God is really sovereign.” I want to argue: of course I do! But my actions betray me. In my heart of hearts, I wonder if He’s really in control and, if He is, what the #@*! is He doing with my life?! I’m about to learn that death always precedes resurrection. It can’t happen any other way.
- Counselor #2 says, “I don’t think you believe God really loves you.” WHAT??? Did you know that sometimes the farthest distance is between your head and your heart? One of Satan’s original lies was, “Did God really say …?” And, it’s often followed by a powerful second, “Does God really love you?” Did you also know that God will permit death if it’s the only way to show how serious He is about loving you?
- Phil is a true friend. A prayer warrior. Loyal as they come. Even though I think: “He’s not my type. Never happening.” I’m oh-so-grateful when he walks me to my car on my last day and hugs me goodbye.
This picture was taken the day of my going away party. These two women walked with me through all three years and stood by me during those last three agonizing months. I knew I’d been betrayed. I had no idea what I was going to do to pay the mortgage on my new condo. I was leaving my livelihood, my ministry, my church, my social circles. Costly indeed. But those gifts I was taking with me? Priceless.
Ironically enough, I have a narcissist to thank for them.
“What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” ~ Joseph
The songs mentioned in this post were the soundtrack for this season, and the one that followed. Needing encouragement and the reminder that you’re not alone? I hope you find this playlist as soothing as I have. And, this book! I can’t say enough about Bold Love by Dan Allender. I just discovered it recently, but it’s already done more for me in helping to process spiritual abuse and dealing with narcissists than anything else I’ve read to date. And Shannon Thomas’s, Healing from Hidden Abuse, provides a helpful roadmap for recovery from emotional and psychological abuse that can happen in relationships, families, cults, and even churches filled with mostly amazing and wonderful people. This post lists some of the others that were helpful as I began transitioning to a new normal. If you’re a survivor too, can I just encourage you that there’s no right place to start healing, as long as you begin. It may be cliché, but it’s true: if I can do this, you can too!