I would like to say thank you so much for all your work that you have done to help people understand what NPD is and give them tools to recover. My story is like a short journey into what happened when I met the love of my life and discovered that she was a narc. She is diagnosed with borderline/bipolar 2 but I realized after some time that there’s more to it than that. She is fifty years old and has been in a DBT treatment recently but has not handled it well.
It made her worse in many ways coz she used it to hide behind instead of reflect over her own behaviour. I suspect that she has fooled her therapists in a smart way and played the victim card. Coz as we all know they are experts in acting. And she has her monkeys plus talking shit about all her exes and they are many.
Still she has contact with all of them just as “friends” by the way. When we used to talk it was all about her and nothing about me. And if I tried to say that I felt bad by the things she did to me, she would reply quickly with a short, “Not my problem. It’s you who are sensitive and pathetic.”
It was and still is hell to realize her total lack of empathy. I became her sex toy and it was real nice. I would be lying if I said it was not. But she used it to control me over time. So off and on for five years, love and pain in a twisted dance. And now I’m trying to recover but the hurt and cuts inside are very deep… I trust no one and look for the signs in everyone I meet.
I cry a lot and feel so empty inside. But I’m on my way to becoming myself again, slowly doing the grayrock. I became like her I realized in the end and that was a painful insight coz I always try to think of others and feel for them but at the end I was cold to all people around me. Nothing matters when you’re down and sad.
I drank a lot and got laid off from work. I dated and it was not one of the things I’m proud of then. I hurt a girl who loved me and I’m ashamed of that.
I was thinking a lot of ending my life but my inner voice saved me from that. The hard part is that you have no one who can understand why I stayed for so long and try to help her get better. (Mission impossible) So I’ve lost friends and family members who think I’m stupid for having loved her at all.
In my case, I had worked in a well-known bank for some eight years and in a variety of functions. My latest position had been my favourite and the most rewarding, but we had recently experienced some staff turnover, and the incoming colleagues replacing those of mine who had left displayed an incompetence and a lack of professionalism the likes of which I had never seen in my entire professional life.
This meant that, instead of doing the job I loved and focusing on quality and a great customer experience, most of my day was spent on damage limitation, not unlike bailing water out of sinking ship while your teammates are drilling holes in the hull. Combined with a general managerial disinterest in our team’s activities, it wasn’t long before I started looking for a position elsewhere within the organisation. When a former manager of mine mentioned that another department was recruiting and that my background was a good match, I jumped at the opportunity.
Introductory interviews with the manager of that other department were soon set up. These were fairly informal, since it would be an internal transfer, so my employee transcript was freely available, and it was taken as given that I knew the ins and outs of the bank, both in terms of systems and procedures, and in terms of people and departments.
Unlike my previous managers, who had tended to be pure products of the organisation, or specialists in operations or controls, this new manager was a high-profile expert in her field, and the type whom journalists and news networks occasionally approached for informed commentary.
My knowledge of the workings of the bank, combined with my quite respectable language skills and academic achievements, came across well, and rather than finding myself in an interview situation in which I had to sell my skill-set to a prospective employer, it almost felt like this new manager was courting me: singing my praises, waxing lyrical over my CV, expressing amazement that “someone of my calibre” had spent “so much time” in “dead-end jobs”, and promising me significant promotions and pay increases. Being thoroughly fed up in my then-role and with my then-colleagues, I took the bait, and within a couple of months, was installed in my new function.
The job itself was challenging on several levels. First of all, although I had been nominally hired as a “business manager” (in itself a title so vague as to be almost meaningless), I found that there was no exact precedent in the organisation for what was expected of me, my responsibilities falling somewhere between project management and IT support/development, neither of which I was versed in. As my manager was herself a new appointee (the previous manager—and entire team—having resigned and left the bank some months previously), the majority of my initial work was essentially “continuity management”: painstakingly going through the records of the past, so as to maintain a semblance of Business As Usual, while myself learning those procedures and attempting to update them to the new team’s requirements. In this, I achieved a measure of success; not as a self-congratulatory self-evaluation, but gleaned from the appreciative remarks I received from several higher-ups.
The red flags started after perhaps three months, corresponding, coincidentally, to my notice period. At first, there was the occasional odd remark from my manager (addressed to me or to colleagues) or questionable conversations I might overhear, as I was seated right next to her.
While she made good on her promise of a pay increase (and later on, of a promotion), when she told me, without a trace of humour, “Take the time to get to know the activities and procedures really well, because by year-end, your honeymoon period will be over,” I did wonder what I had signed up for. Given that I wasn’t exactly spending my days hob-knobbing with colleagues at the water cooler, but was instead putting in nine or 10 hours of hard graft a day, I wasn’t sure how that could be described as a “honeymoon period”. It wasn’t an exaggeration, though.
Questionable, inappropriate, and frankly unacceptable incidents came thick and fast. She was not stupid; she systematically reserved her worst behaviour for private settings behind closed doors, or for brief tête-à-têtes while on a lunch or cigarette break, where there were no witnesses.
On more than one occasion, I overheard her on the phone with Human Resources, wanting to fire an employee for not having done things the way she wanted, or for having failed to show adequate deference, the poor HR employees being in the unenviable position of having to stand their ground, explaining that what the manager was suggesting amounted to unfair dismissal, and that she would likely get the bank hauled in front of an employment tribunal.
In meetings, she would regularly denigrate other employees’ comments and suggestions, and during telephone conference calls, rather than being encouraging, fostering discussion, or leading by example, she would often resort to bullying tactics, quite literally shouting orders rudely down the phone. These conference calls at this point could have upwards of 20 participants, mostly middle and senior managers worldwide, so her behaviour was no longer even on the down low, but more of an open secret.
It was an open secret, known to those in our immediate sphere of activity, but also (I would later discover) known to Human Resources, who maintained a “blacklist” of problematic managers, not that it did much good. Although her abusive behaviour was known to us, it wasn’t tolerated. She was essentially the bank’s global head of activities for our area, so the abuse was that much harder to counter than had it been coming from someone on the same hierarchical level. Instead, the period during which I was there saw probably the highest staff turnover in recent memory, outside of any actual organisational restructuring.
Increasingly, being the closest thing to her right-hand man, I also became the subject of much of her ire, even though I was regularly assured by colleagues, with some sympathy, that I was doing a sterling job. Note at this point that I was already incapable of telling whether I was really doing a good job myself, as my sense of validation, understandably, but in this case toxically, was based on feedback from someone I’m quite happy to define as a malignant narcissist.
In team meetings, my comments would be derided and denigrated in front of everyone, the insinuation being that I had nothing of value to contribute, and leading to much post-meeting commiseration from appalled and well-intentioned colleagues. In bullying fashion, and perhaps in an attempt at some “good cop, bad cop”, she would try to commandeer my workstation, so as to send rude and wholly inappropriate emails to her underlings from my email account, forcing me to physically shut down my computer. On a couple of occasions, I witnessed her being (mildly) taken to task by her senior colleagues or her own managers, but it did no good.
By the end, I was living in a liminal nightmare scenario of constantly being made to feel inadequate and incompetent, contrasted with the positive feedback I continued to receive from colleagues, all the while pulling 10-hour days, with this monster sitting next to me, for 18 months. My sleeping and appetite were affected, with friends outside work commenting that I looked positively gaunt; I was drinking too much by way of self-medication; and ultimately, I suffered two nervous breakdowns, not just while working for her, but literally at the workplace.
I took some much-needed holiday time one summer. Two weeks, but it was barely enough to recover from the psychological abuse. My manager had already planned to take two weeks off immediately after me, so I fancied I’d essentially have four weeks of breathing space and comparative normality. That didn’t happen. The very day I got back, I was subjected to ongoing and almost daily emails from my manager (while she was on holiday) enumerating what she saw as all of my failings and incompetence. (For the record, until this posting, I had a stellar employee record.) I saw these emails more as a reflection of her frustrations and panic at being left alone without me to do her bidding, but by then I had already reached breaking point.
I decided that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t face her again), and wouldn’t even wait for her to return from her holidays. I did my work as per usual, tied up some loose ends, and took my leave on a Friday lunchtime for a wisdom tooth extraction (this was actually true, not a ruse). I then consulted my GP and told him all that had transpired, and he put me on sick leave, so that I didn’t have to return to work.
This sick leave was extended for a period of three months (after my GP, it was granted by a psychiatrist I started seeing, in combination with a psychotherapist specialised in work-related PTSD). During my official absence, my manager tried to contact me several times (which is technically not allowed), leaving voice messages imploring me to contact her. I did no such thing.
I then started receiving calls and voicemails from colleagues who had never previously contacted me, so it became obvious that she was trying to get me to contact her in a roundabout way, perhaps not unlike police trying to track a line when they’re on the phone with a hostage taker. It sounds paranoid, and perhaps it was, but at that stage I believed her to be capable of anything.
The bank belonged to those companies that had had their share of regulatory and employee woes; there were quite literally legal practices in town that specialised in the fall-out from employees taking the bank to court. I think this bank was eager to avoid legal action, as I could certainly have made a case, and they were already aware my manager was a problem for them. Instead, my contact with them was limited exclusively to HR managers (they no doubt informed my manager of this, too), and they offered me a generous severance package, along with an excellent letter of recommendation (signed by my manager, through gritted teeth, I imagined).
I spent a total of six months in therapy, recovering my sanity, my sleep, and my health, after which I moved to Berlin for a month, both for the language experience (languages being my first love), and to have a real holiday, away from the looming prospect of working with a pathological narcissist, and looking forward to writing a new chapter in my life. My experience in therapy and the insights it gave me was an incredibly positive one, and inspired me to take university short courses both in philosophical logic (constructing and deconstructing arguments, learning about logical fallacies), and in psychology, where I focused on abnormal psychology, specifically.
I don’t think one ever really completely gets over such an experience. Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is the day you no longer think about your abuser, not as a result of repression, which is unhealthy, but because you’re as over your abuser as you can hope to be, and they no longer have a hold on your emotional and psychological processes—or at the very least, when you do think of them, the thought is no longer a trigger for distress. That, I think, is when you’re free, and at present, I’ve rarely been happier.