Written by Felicia Buckle
I have this tattoo on my thigh people always ask me about. It is of a fierce, blue-skinned woman with six arms, holding massive swords and sitting on a pile of skulls. Many people who see it believe it is dark and negative. Especially when they hear she is the Hindu Goddess of Chaos, Death and Destruction. Her name is KALI. She represents so much more than what she seems to on the surface.
To me the idea of Kali is what has gotten me through my darkest times in life. She is believed, in Hindu mythology, to bring transformation through chaotic and destructive times. When invoked she is said to bring to the surface all the hidden darkness within a person, everything they are hiding from, about themselves, that is bringing them down and like a protective mother, bring those things to a chaotic end, forcing a person to be confronted with how toxic those things are to them and leading them to let go, so they can be transformed into a wiser and stronger person.
This concept of her is what inspired my tattoo and inspired me through the darkest time of my life. Two things coincided, I was diagnosed with Bipolar type 2 and I started a new relationship. I was lost, scared and confused upon being diagnosed. I felt out of control of my mind and that who I had believed I was up until that time was just the mental illness. The person I met promised to be there for me, love and support me through it, so of course, I let myself fall hard for him. It wasn’t often I met someone who liked me for the erratic, intense, unpredictable person I was and still am in some ways. I was feeling vulnerable so I opened up and let myself get close. I don’t want to dig deep into details, as I’ve gone over it so many times in my head and analyzed every tiny part.
It started out amazing. He was loving and would always put me first, make me feel special and go out of his way to please me sexually. He had stories of his other exes and how they had been abusive towards him and made me feel like I was the perfect, kind, loyal girl he had been dreaming of his whole life. Which made me feel incredibly special, to be someone’s fantasy.
Soon though, he changed.
He became very selfish and cruel. He convinced me to just stay at his house all the time and I complied because I figured, we had so much fun hanging out that I didn’t want to go home anyway. He then started to stay up till 4am, even when I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. He would endlessly play loud music and encourage me to drink all night with him. If I said I wanted to sleep and even when I broke down and cried because I was sleep deprived from days of it and needed an early night, he would yell and scream at me and make me feel like the worst girlfriend ever.
This led to a pattern of getting me to do everything for him. Go out and buy his groceries, cook nice dinners, do all the clean-up, and if I didn’t get one thing perfect he would barricade me in the room with him, refuse to let me leave and yell and scream at me for hours. If I tried to push past or leave he would block the door. He started to tell me I was borderline whenever I yelled back or told him how horrible he was treating me. He wormed his way in, warped my thinking and made me believe I was delusional and deserved his rages and abusive behavior. The fact I was on lithium made me malleable to his psychological games.
Being diagnosed and on a psychiatric drug made me doubt my own perceptions and made it easy for him to reinforce that I had a mental illness so my thinking, memories and perceptions couldn’t be trusted; that he was just trying to deal with my erratic behavior as best he could, and anyone would lose it at me the way he constantly did.
I ended up believing him, internalizing his behavior as being my fault.
I remember one scenario, which was so dramatic that I broke up with him and moved back in with my parents. We had planned to celebrate Halloween together; drink at his, dress up and go clubbing. It was a special idea because we never went out in public together. He convinced me it was because I was too borderline and would embarrass him by getting overly emotional and making a scene. I had anxiety about getting in costume on time, he promised after one more song, but ended up playing three more, so I pulled away and said: “I’ll just have a shower and get ready, and then we can play music, dance and drink”. He refused to let me and tried to force sex on me, I said I wasn’t keen right then because I just wanted to have a shower, he got angry and started yelling and screaming at me, so I ran off, locked myself in the bathroom and started to have one anyway, he burst in and yelled and screamed at me, I got out, got dressed, did my makeup. He guilted me for not having sex with him when he demanded it, because he had wanted to do it before I was in costume as not to ruin my makeup.
I skulled down a few more drinks because he was stressing me so much, and I felt like I had to earn him taking me out in public and showing me off.
After I had put my makeup on he had another go at me because I hadn’t done it how he wanted, and he had wanted to do my Halloween makeup all along. I let him fix my makeup, things were calm again and he was still playing music. I said we should go to town as it was midnight already and I’d been excited to go all night. He had a rage at me and said I had been so bad all night he didn’t want to go out in public with me and we would just stay in, then started to yell and rant at me about what a horrible girlfriend I was. I stormed out of the house with my bag when he wasn’t looking and tried to go to town to go clubbing by myself. He chased after me, I told him to leave me alone as I didn’t want to stay home with him. He grabbed me and physically dragged me back towards the house with him. I was fighting and struggling. I was so scared of being dragged back with him that I stumbled in front of an oncoming car on purpose. The person pulled up and yelled at him to let me go, even offered to drive me home themselves. He played the nice guy and said I was drunk and he was just trying to look after me. I was too out of it to say much, I was falling over and he was holding me up. She rang the police and they came by. He pulled the nice guy act that he was only saving me from myself and thought I would get raped if I went to town alone so was dragging me back for my own safety. The female cop who spoke to me didn’t believe him and took me home. After this incident, he rang and harassed me for 2 months. Playing the victim, claiming I got drunk and was acting erratic and the incident was all my fault.
I ignored him and tried to move on in life, but his harassment was so relentless, I got lonely eventually and let him suck me into believing he was the only one who could understand me AND I was the messed up one, who was to blame for all of it, and was distorting reality because I was borderline. I stayed with him another year, the abuse and control got much worse, it wasn’t till he did it in front of two friends that I left him on the spot and stuck to it.
I had to change numbers, deactivate all social media and change email. He harassed me online every chance he got, and when he couldn’t get through to me, he tried it on my friends and family. It was really tough to get through, but I ended up reading a lot of articles on narcissistic abuse and realized that everything he did to me was common to all Narcissists.
It was such a relief to find out that he truly was the crazy one, by definition. And in realizing that, I realized a narcissists greatest wish is to be important enough to have a permanent impact on their victims.
So I decided two things. I blocked all contact and ignored every attempt he made to contact me. The result was, he spun out in desperation for a narcissistic fix from me and everyone saw him for who he truly was, and when I shared my story, they found it easy to believe me about what he had done. I told the police everything, with the help of another ex, he victimized in the same way and told his parents. I made sure to simply ignore him, but expose him to those around him.
Next thing I did was work hard to build a good life for myself. I got myself a job a week after the breakup. Held it down, which I never could do when I was with him. I took myself off lithium successfully and learnt to manage my mind and emotions without medication and I have been stable for 4 months. I analyzed myself and why I let myself be sucked in and abused by him. I have made myself a better and stronger person from what happened. He doesn’t deserve to have me broken or messed up. I now have a car and license, and when I was with him I never believed I would ever be able to drive or own my own car.
I focused on the mantra: “I will become better, not bitter from this.” Being controlled by someone else for 2 years of my life, made me really value having freedom and independence again, so I have fought hard to have control over my mental health and life again, and I have succeeded.
This experience reminded me that only I should be in control of my life. I need to be strong for me, I need to succeed for me, because this is my life and I deserve to live a good one.
This experience has taught me that I do not need to let toxic or narcissistic people into my life. I no longer let them control me through guilt. If people behave manipulatively towards me, I cut them off immediately. I enjoy being by myself and doing my own things in life. I don’t need others to validate me, like I did when I met him. Because I know who I am, I know I’ve fought through so much to be stable in my mental health and be happy. And now I am fully comfortable with who I am, and no one can tell me who I should be anymore. The only people I allow in my life now are those who love and accept me for me. Because that’s what I deserve.
So this experience was like a cleansing for me. I feel like all the parts of me that were weak, insecure and desperate for approval have been shed. I have become who I never would’ve imagined. And I am so glad I had this experience, because now I know that my freedom and mental stability are worth everything to me. That I can live a happy stable life and I deserve only those in it who genuinely love and support me. So now I won’t settle for anything less.