Single Mom Out Loud

The joys (and desperation) of raising a boy without a man

Understanding Narcissistic Abuse – How I Went From Victim to Survivor


October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In honor of this I hope to shed light on the more insidious form of emotional abuse that, while not physically visible, causes as much damage and trauma while leaving what can be lifelong scars on the hearts and souls of its victims.

Before learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I spent years in shame and silence, taking the blame, hating myself, hiding away and gradually slipping into a numbed emotional state to survive the emotional punishments from a man who took great pleasure in inflicting them.

Narcissistic Abuse is a dark and confusing tunnel where victims might spend years not realizing what is happening, unaware that their abuser has maliciously and intentionally created a world to demoralize, and dehumanize their victims to better feed and supply their disorder. It is my hope that by giving definitions to the language surrounding NPD that those currently suffering will see their own story reflected in mine, gain the knowledge necessary to better assess their situation, and then take the first steps needed for escape and eventually healing.

Because as Maya Angelou once said: When you know better, you do better.


I fell hard. And fast.

Overwhelmed by his attention and adoration, I jumped in headfirst without blinking, believing him after only weeks of dating when he declared his never-ending love and that I was his soul mate, that I had brought meaning into his meaningless existence.

I was everything he had ever wanted, ever dreamed for, ever hoped for, he said, and proved it daily by drowning me in love and passion. He couldn’t keep his hands off me, we made love often, sometimes up to five or six times a day. Not an hour went by that I didn’t hear from him. He wrote me notes, he wrote me poetry, he told everyone I would be his wife, that I was the next mother of his unborn children.

I didn’t have time to think, to reflect, to question. There was nothing I could do but free fall into his love and ride it like a roller coaster with my eyes squeezed shut—it was scary as hell, but I didn’t want to get off.

But that was then, before I knew anything about…

Love Bombing

A manipulation tactic involving lavish demonstrations and constant bombardments of attention and affection in an attempt to gain control by moving the relationship forward quickly.

Everything he did was perfect. Everything he said was perfect. It was as if he had some secret insight into my soul and what I wanted in a relationship, as if I had handed him a list of the top 20 qualities I longed for in a man and within the year had checked off every last one. He said it was because we knew one another in a previous life and we were destined by the Universe to find one another. He had searched for me for so long and then I appeared just at the right time.

But that was then, before I knew anything about…


A calculated and predatory act of maneuvering a person into a more dependent and isolated position by claiming a “special connection” where they are more vulnerable to accepting future abusive behavior.

I gave him everything, without question, without reservation: my kindness, my loyalty, my love, my money…

But that was then, before I knew I was an…


A highly sensitive and empathetic person who feels and often takes on the emotions of others often at the expense of their own emotional well-being.

I was full of forgiveness and understanding. I had to be. Otherwise, I would have been forced to listen to those quieter voices in my head suggesting something wasn’t right, things didn’t add up. I would have had to open my eyes and see the small cracks in the shiny mirror of love that had started to form.

But it was easy to ignore my inner voices when he seemed so full of remorse anytime another side of him was exposed—or rather a side that I had found out about. All his bad behavior was in the past, he promised. He hated the man he used to be, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He was just misunderstood, he said. Deep down he really was a good person who was just trying to be “allowed” to be a dad. A victim of religion and crazy women. And he wouldn’t hurt anyone on purpose. Especially me.

But that was then, before I knew I had entered the world of a…

Pathological Liar

A person who habitually and compulsively lies in order to suit their own needs.

Over the years, even if I did stumble upon something new about him that made me question the relationship, Like the names of women that would pop up on his phone everywhere, he swooped in so fast and drowned me in so much love that I couldn’t help but become dizzy in his grasp, even question my own intentions to assume such terrible things about him. How could I think he would do that (whatever “that” happened to be each time)? Then I would feel guilty for even asking him about it. I loved him, after all, and I was his soul mate, as he claimed. I honestly think that he has convinced himself of his lies so that he doesn’t have to face his failures and shortcomings as a man and as a father. 

But that was then, before I knew anything about…


A tactic used to desensitize a person to inappropriate or abusive behaviors; manipulating a person to agree or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms, or their own basic code of behavior.

I had never met anyone more charismatic or charming. The first few months I was the sole receiver of his attention, which made it easier to let that inquisitive side of me, the one interested in the truth, fall away. So by the time he began sharing his charm with others, saving less and less for me unless I had something he needed (such as approval or sex), I had already subconsciously resigned myself to being a part of the audience in his one-man show.

Going out with him in social situations became a spectacle. I was in awe of how he transfixed a room, captured every ounce of energy there was to be had. Everyone liked him, or so I thought. All of his charm was now being directed to any other woman in his immediate presence, no matter their age, no matter if they were married or single. Nothing mattered to him outside of making them laugh or smile through his own efforts.

But that was then, before I knew anything about…


A narcissist’s insatiable need to gain the attention and adoration of others for the purpose of building them up and confirming their false sense of superiority and entitlement.

I soon became exhausted, focusing solely on getting through each day. I blamed everything on myself.

But that was then, before I knew anything about…

Ambient Abuse

The stealthy, subtle, underground currents of maltreatment that sometimes go unnoticed even by the victims themselves until it is too late; the fostering and enhancement of an atmosphere of intimidation, fear, and instability; often viewed as the most dangerous type of abuse.

During the years of back and forth there were days I wouldn’t leave my house, the dark pockets under my eyes from all the crying and shouting and begging, making it appear as though he had hit me. But he never hit me. He punched me with his cruel words instead. I learned to remain stoic during this ritual and listened patiently while he reminded me how crazy and horrible I was and how lucky I was to have a man who loved me so much, who put up with me. Since I had no faith in my own emotional state, I had no choice but to believe him. I told myself I was lucky to have him, especially considering how crazy I had begun to feel, losing all logic, questioning myself at every turn, staring into the mirror day after day and not recognizing the woman who stared back.

But that was then, before I found myself in the office of a psychologist who was an expert on…

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A personality disorder in which the individual has a distorted self-image, unstable lifestyle, is overly preoccupied with vanity, prestige, power and personal adequacy, lacks empathy, and has an exaggerated sense of superiority. NPD is closely associated with egocentrism—a personality characteristic in which people see themselves and their interests and opinions as the only ones that really matter.

And my life would never be the same.

I was a victim of emotional abuse. But my story doesn’t end there. In fact, that is where it begins.

Through empowerment, education, and enlightenment I have not only survived but thrived in my new life of freedom and peace. I was a victim, but I am no longer a victim. This, however, was only due to the journey I committed myself to take in understanding what exactly I experienced in my relationship with a Narcissist, which included understanding the language surrounding it. With this knowledge, I was then able to forgive myself, recognize I was not the one with the problem, and take responsibility for my own growth and emotional development upon escaping the situation.

Above all, however, my healing has come only because I granted myself the love and the time needed to heal. Unlike all those years ago, now when I look in the mirror I immediately recognize the woman looking back. And she is awake, and she is brave, and she is loving and strong and compassionate.

The one thing she is not, though, is crazy. And as I finally learned, she never was.

If you believe you might be a victim of Narcissistic Abuse, my hope is that through your own education and enlightenment you will then gain the tools and find the support necessary to help you escape your suffering and find the peace that you so deserve.

Because when you know better, you will do better. I promise.

Author: Brisa Pinho

Brazilian. Piscean. Project manager. Raising a boy in a man's world... without a man.

4 thoughts on “Understanding Narcissistic Abuse – How I Went From Victim to Survivor

  1. This is fascinating. I went right down the line and checked off every item. The same thing happened with me and my ex-wife, just with the genders reversed.


  2. It’s Christmas Eve 2015 and I have spent most of the day crying. I’m married to a man with NP who thinks of no one but himself. I can closely relate to every bullet point you’ve presented in your story. Thank you for helping me to identify these attributes in him and for reassuring me that I am not crazy. I will get through this.


  3. This is currently what I am going through. I have become so absorbed into all this. I cannot recognize my former self. I envy happy people. I feel I am a looser at relationships. He is a narcissistic bastard. He blamed it all on me. He knows I won’t go anywhere. He controls me by blocking me. HE would not talk to me if things were not his way. He lies and does drugs. He says he does that because of my erratic behavior, He has no time for me but all time for every activity in the world. I am still stuck. I would like to find myself. I envy my earlier self before I met him and I wish I had not destroyed my life to all this. I am loosing myself. I don’t wanna cry anymore. I have too many bags under my eyes to hide. I wanna smile and be positive. I don’t trust myself emotionally. I am too weak to do this. How to get the emotional strength and the iron will.


  4. You have a beautiful soul. Thank you for sharing how love can come in one very sick form. What we so long for can also be our demise if we are not careful with whom we choose to love. tricia


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