I have this problem. I feel responsible for the man who abused me. It’s like the weirdest parental role in existence; being the “parent” of a narcissist for whom I have to make sure everyone sees him for who he really is, and to make sure he never harms another person EVER…well, perhaps it’s more like being the warden. It’s strange how reporting the abuse to the police and testifying in court still doesn’t feel as though I’ve done enough to protect others from him. This has caused of a lot of anxiety for me; to constantly be worrying about how much stuff he is getting away with while on probation. Notice* I said “how much he IS getting away with” and not “IF he is getting away with anything”. For me it’s not a matter of if he will try to get away with something he’s not supposed to be doing while on probation, but a matter of will he get away with it. You see, my abuser thinks he’s smarter than everyone around him, just like a true narcissist. So, I have no doubts he thinks he’s smart enough to get away with things, and it will be a matter of is he getting away with it or not.
Is he being monitored closely enough? Another one of those anxiety inducing questions I often ask myself. Then there’s the question I ask myself the most that is probably one of the most anxiety inducing questions: Who’s going to make sure he doesn’t harm anyone once his probation ends? I’d be happy with probation for life; however, I don’t see that happening. My greatest concern (perhaps, more like greatest nightmare) is that he will try to harm another person and there will be no one there to stop him.
His probation ends in 3 years, and the closer it gets the higher my anxiety is about it. When his probation ends so too does the no contact order, and that terrifies me. Intellectually I know he will leave me alone once his probation ends, but the fear of him that I have says otherwise. I talked with my counselor about these fears. She pointed out all these fears I have are over things I cannot control. I have ZERO control over his actions. I CANNOT control whether or not he gets away with things while on probation. I CANNOT control him and keep him from harming another person, and it’s not my responsibility to do so! It is his responsibility to not harm others, and those around him need to be vigilant. While it’s unlikely he will contact me, I CANNOT stop him from doing so. What I CAN do is take self-defense classes or perhaps practice shooting at a gun range. I can do things to help me feel confident about my ability to protect myself and my family.
What I need to do is focus on what I can control, instead of focusing on things I cannot control. I bet many of you are rolling your eyes right about now because you have heard that said so many times. It’s easy advice for someone to give especially when perhaps they don’t understand how much harm you have been through, and the fear and anxiety you are dealing with. These fears and anxieties may cause a deep need for you to want to control situations out of an even deeper desire to simply want to feel safe. It can even become easy advice from someone who has gone through what you are experiencing. They have been though their own hell and know the freedom of letting go of what you cannot control, and know how curtail this step is. They most likely aren’t claiming it’s easy, but what they are saying is it’s necessary. What isn’t talked about is how to reach that seemingly magical place where you can let go of such deep-rooted fears; the kind of fears that leave a desire to control things so that you can have a sense of safety…something that was stolen from you. I wish I could tell you how to reach that wondrous and magical place.
All I can offer is to share with you how my journey on this is going. I’m starting to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of just how much these fears and the need to control these fears (aka to control my abuser and all that goes on around him) has been and is affecting my ability to function the way I want to. I’m starting to truly see how it is tainting everything going on within me and the effects it has not just on my life but on the way in which I live my life with those most precious to me…my husband and three kids. I try to be present and active with them both physically and mentally, however, it often feels like a challenge I am losing. I am pretty good at not isolating myself physically, but horrible at not isolating my self mentally. This keeps me from being the interactive wife and mother I desire to be, and keeps me depressed that I fail to do so. I’m seeing and understanding the price I am paying for holding onto this need to control is devastating my life. I cannot afford to allow this devastation to continue.
I keep repeating phrases like, “I’m seeing and understanding”, “I’m starting to”, I’m truly seeing” because it’s not an understanding that solely is in my mind, but a much deeper understanding which compels me to change. Without feeling compelled to change there would be no change. I would have knowledge and know change is necessary, but would feel powerless to make any changes. My counselor talks to me about the importance for me to work on my thoughts. When my mind goes to places, it shouldn’t be going to she talked to me about working on saying to myself “nope, I don’t need to go there” and then redirecting my thoughts to things I can control or onto a different topic all together. The more I practice this the better I’ll get at it. There is no switch to turn on to suddenly control your thoughts. It’s a skill that has to be developed and practiced over time. The other thing which is helping me, is I finally feel as though I’m on the right combination of antidepressant and anxiety medication. This is crucial for me because depression and anxiety cause chemical and hormonal imbalances in the brain which can make it much more difficult to work on those thinking skills that are so crucial to getting better. My medication helps to correct those imbalances so I can not only function the way I want to, but also helps me to work on my healing journey in the way I not only want to but need to. Being on the right medication is helping me to practice those crucial thinking skills I need; so, one day when I no longer need medication I will have those important skills needed to successfully be off of the medication.
When I started writing this post I thought the problem was with me feeling responsible for my abuser. A responsibility where if he does anything wrong or hurts another person the responsibility for it would fall on me for not finding a way to keep others safe from him. I did not view these anxieties I was having about him getting off of probation as worrying about things I could not control, but viewed the end of probation as a loss of safety not just for me but for all of society. With each fear looked at individually, my counselor was able to help me see how each fear was over something I could not control. Now I recognize what I need to do when these fears and anxieties show up. So, for now I’ll try to not focus on how fast these next 3 years will go by, or on all these things that worry me about my abuser getting off of probation. I can look at these next 3 years as the perfect opportunity to work on redirecting my thoughts from things I cannot control to what I can control.