It is difficult at best for a victim of stealth forms of abuse to articulate exactly where and how the injury took place. Emotional/psychological abusers don’t always leave bruises – the injury takes place in the mind. If one is not aware of the various ways psychological abuse takes place, then one will find themselves at a handicap articulating the harm that was done.
In my case I believe the abuse did cause a C-PTSD episode (and just because it’s not recognized in the DSM does not mean it doesn’t exist); however, not being truly aware of my own abuse history, I was unable to spot the red flags early on (because abnormal was ‘normal’) and as the various tactics were doled out, no warning bells sounded. I assumed I was being ‘too sensitive’ and that ‘one day’ things would change. The reality for me is that things would never change because I believe this individual is personality disordered. My only option for ‘change‘ was getting out whether it was by ‘choice’ or ‘circumstances’…their abandonment is actually your blessing you will find in hindsight.
There are some schools of thought that believe those who struggle with BPD can be helped only because on the Axis II Cluster B spectrum they have found that those with BPD actually CAN love but it is their challenge with abandonment that causes them to spiral more towards the Narcissism spectrum when triggered. I am not a mental health professional, I am not qualified to make any statements about who can be cured, and who can’t and who can love and who can’t…
I can only share resources that might be helpful.
I was terribly disappointed that at the peak of my ‘stress breakdown’ I was unable to articulate exactly WHERE the harm was done…all I had was: “He had a virtual affair with a woman on Facebook” however the level of harm was not in keeping with the behavior. I was a heap of hot mess on the floor rocking and sucking my thumb while he was busy shacking up with new supply…I had no method or means to reconcile how I had been destroyed to that level. I did not know about narcissists, soul suckers and certainly could not comprehend how from night to day my significance to this individual I invested years with could spiral down to ZERO simply because he decided he was bored…
There was a lack of closure, there was no explanation, years invested meant nothing and he was able to scoop up another unsuspecting victim in a matter of weeks…moving her in within a month. Another individual who obviously is not educated on the red flags. This of course is NOT my problem…my goal is to create awareness for anyone who is in need and is attempting to understand.
The lack of words makes healing difficult. I highly recommend if you are new to this that you engage in research in order to understand there was probably nothing you could do to change the circumstances. Even if engaging is part of a pattern (due to childhood abuse or other issues) it’s not about blaming yourself, but rather working towards healing. I don’t feel comfortable with those who rely on online support forums solely but I do understand how sometimes good professional help is hard to find. I almost ended up with the diagnosis of bipolar simply because the trauma was so severe. I tried THREE therapists and not one could identify what was wrong. I could barely get a word out other than “He had a virtual affair” then I’d collapse in a pile and begin sobbing uncontrollably.
When I learned of a study in my area on PTSD, I did not qualify because I kept going back to a previous traumatic event and so this experience was not the ‘initial’ trigger, I went through life at times being triggered but never understood how or why I would react when certain things occurred. The questions for the study were limited to within a certain time frame (three to six months) and I could not articulate anything and so the clinician shared: “It sounds like depression” – Well no shit! BUT it was much much more than depression and if I were suicidal their incompetence might have been fatal; however, I cannot fully blame the professionals if only because they cannot read a crystal ball, they could not put the pieces together for me, first I had to be able to articulate and I had not connected the dots myself. Therapists can only arrive at a conclusion based upon what we share and so if we cannot articulate, they have no tools to even begin to unravel where the problem and challenges are.
It is important to be able to explain fully what was done, that is the only way we can be co-pilots in our recovery. It is also helpful I suppose to be able to understand the concept of repetition compulsion although I surmise a good therapist after some time might be able to walk one through this once the initial crisis is at a level of manageable.
Below are some resources, one a list of 70 traits of people with Personality Disorders ‘engage’ or better said ‘victimize’ their victims and beneath that a video which also outlines various stealth methods of abuse.
I also recommend the website: Goodtherapy.org as there are various methods of treatment and you owe it to yourself to be well-informed on the qualifications of any professional you choose to help you. It is important that the therapist is a good fit, and sometimes it will be a process of trial and error but do not give up and please, do not rely solely on the advice and opinions of information you find online. It is imperative at this time you learn how to best advocate for yourself, taking bits and pieces of what applies and sometimes electing to leave the rest. One size does not fit all here.
All the best to you on your journey…
(see also: Out of the Fog)
For more insight on C-PTSD see: Effective Treatment for C-PTSD and Early Attachment (PDF)
of additional interest: