Five years ago I left an abusive relationship. The man I was married to – Umut, a CFA-certified financial analyst currently living in London – turned out not to be the man I thought he was.
When the abuse started, I blamed it on his job but I know now I was lying to myself. I refused to believe what was right in front of my eyes because I was scared. Because I didn’t want it to be true. But then I found his divorce papers and the reason given by his ex-wife was physical abuse, I knew.
The thing with abusive people is that they don’t change.
At first, he appeared normal. We did normal couple stuff and fell in love but as our relationship played out, I began to notice irrational patterns in his behavior that didn’t add up.
One moment he was complimenting me and the next, devaluing me. He was terribly jealous and then more and more controlling. He would dictate where I could sit, what I could wear, and where I could go. I was “always” and “never” doing something to incite his suspicion or jealousy or anger. And he repeatedly replaced my feelings and thoughts with his assumptions; convinced he knew me better than I knew myself. His arguments made less and less sense and when he was angry his eyes would go completely black and he would disappear into his anger. When he came to, he denied it happened.
Beneath his shiny exterior, I discovered that he was not only insecure but also suffering from a personality disorder. Looking back now, the dots are easy to connect.
The gaslighting, the abuse, the lack of trust in anyone, the paranoia, the irrationality, and the inability to empathize with anyone all made it clear that he was suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.
The thing about narcissistic personality disorder is that narcissists are very good at hiding this disorder from others. They have spent their whole life learning how to fit in and mimic what is considered normal but the moment they get comfortable in relationships, their mask starts to slip.
For me, it was all over when the escalation of his abuse nearly killed me. It got to the point where he could no longer control his disorder or his anger. A part of me felt that he knew that I knew who he really was and therefore he saw no reason to hide it. The verbal and physical abuse became constant.
And then one afternoon in London he grabbed me by the throat and viciously attacked me. The reason? I didn’t have a napkin in my bag when he asked for one. Because, in his words, ‘All NORMAL women have napkins in their bags.’
He left me grateful that there was no internal bleeding. That I hadn’t suffered a concussion after being kicked by him and hitting my head on the concrete floor. That I wasn’t paralyzed or that my face hadn’t been cut up from nearly smashing into a mirror.
The attack left me in immense pain.
I was unable to walk and my back and arms were bruised yellow and blue. I was in complete shock and he ignored me.
On the day I left, he followed me to Shadwell Station. On the platform, he cried and told me that he was sorry. From his eyes and incoherent speech, I could see that he was mentally unwell. This – for the first time – was clear to me.
I stood away from him, detached, and said nothing. My mind hijacked by the pain shooting like fireworks throughout my body.
The moment the metro doors closed, I felt a sense of relief. That part of my life was done.
Alone in my room, I started to feel the extent of my trauma. In the darkness, I moved between deep waves of anxiety, grief, and nothingness. The intense burning sensation of the bruising made it difficult to think.
The Wisdom Gained
The wisdom gained from this whole traumatic experience was knowing what love is not.
Love is not caring for someone unconditionally at the expense of yourself. Love is not believing that someone has the strength to see what is right and change. Love is not saving others from themselves. Love does not hurt.
Discovering I Wasn’t Alone
When I left him, I knew that he would find another victim to latch onto. He would spin another web and destroy someone else’s life. So I decided to write this post and wait. Sure enough, in about two months, the reader map on the backend of WordPress began to ping and it was pinging in the UK. Two women reached out to me.
I agreed to meet one of them online and over a glass of wine, we talked and what I heard confirmed my suspicion. The pattern was the same.
The Book: Attempting the Impossible
As part of my healing, I wrote a book about my experience. It was my way of taking back my story from my abuser and grounding the truth. In celebration of my milestone of not only having survived this but also finding myself thriving in ways I never thought possible, I am releasing this book into the wild in the hopes that it can shed some light in the darkness for those who may need it. You can download it here.
A Commitment to Transformation
You can’t change others. You can only change yourself.
The gift of hitting rock bottom is clarity. I knew exactly what I didn’t want. And I learned the value of embracing my fears instead of running away from them.
And by doing this I discovered that I was so much more than what I was holding on to. That I had everything I needed right then to begin rebuilding my life on a more solid foundation. All I needed was the courage to align myself with my deepest values.
Transformation lies in the direction of your fears. Believe in yourself.
xo Martina Korkmaz