Can you heal from abuse? What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day. And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough. Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation. But it doesn’t have to be a five year process either. Millions of other survivors around the worlds entire lives have been impacted by their narcissist. Yours doesn’t have to. To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.
Marissa: Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month for April. Like I said, last week, we are going to be doing interviews with real survivors talking about their stories and how they healed every Wednesday this month. Today we have with us my amazing friend, Liz. It is so awesome to be able to see you and talk to you in our messy buns and sweaters because we are self-quarantined for Coronavirus.
Marissa: I haven’t brushed my hair in two days. Liz was born and raised in Long Branch New Jersey. She graduated with a BA in communications. She says she’s very anxious about sharing her story for the first time. But after years of dedication to her healing and recovering. She wants to share her story as a way of promoting survivors to speak up about their abuse. She has a boyfriend and he has been a huge supporter of her and everything that she has been through and everything she’s doing. So I want to welcome you to breaking through our silence. How are you today?
Liz: Thank you so much. I’m well, you know, like you said quarantined right now telecommuting for work. So, um, it’s definitely interesting, but I’m good. Thank you.
Marissa: All right, awesome. So let’s just get into it, if you don’t mind sharing with us your story and a little bit about what you went through?
Liz: Yeah. So um, it’s kind of a weird story. Still, to this day, still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Actually, I owe a lot of things to you and your books in your podcast has really been helpful on the way you analyze things and explain things in the way sometimes people react or do things. It’s helped make a lot of sense of some of the things I went through. And it’s helped me be able to sit down and really find the right words and actually be able to form a timeline because the mess I went through with this weird friend group I was involved with just didn’t make any sense for so long. And I’ve finally now has sat down and made a timeline where I can say, Okay, this is when this happened. And then this is when everything really did start going downhill.
Marissa: So tell us a little bit about it.
Liz: So um, we’re all like high school friends. It’s just so weird. Like, I can’t even imagine this is something I went through. Like, this isn’t anything I would even be able to like, you know, I just can’t believe it’s still to this day. But anyway, so what happened was, we were the four of us were all friends. And, you know, high school drama of who’s taking who to prom and everything. And there was me, Jeff, Zack, and Dan, and really simple friend group. There was like a few other people that were like, in and around the friend group. But there was like the four of us that were mainly involved in the situation. So actually, and it’s really funny, because the first I always had this crush on Dan. Like, basically from the time he and I became friends. And for years after that, like I just always had a crush on him and junior year because we met in freshman year. So junior year, is our first prom. And Zack had actually asked me to it but I wanted to go with Dan so I told him I messaged him, he Facebook messaged me to ask me to prom. And I Facebook messaged him back saying, you know, I’m really sorry, but I’ve actually been waiting for Dan to ask me and I guess they must have talked. Dan told me that they and said that he wanted to go to prom with me. And I was of course just as any other girl would be like, over the moon happy. The boy that I want to go to prom with asked me to go this is amazing. It was it was just great. We went to prom together we started dating. I don’t even remember how we dated, I just remember hanging out a lot. Watching him play sports or just hanging out with him at his house or driving around because he had a car a little bit before me, it was just like those really sweet, cute little like, fun thing. There wasn’t any pressure to it. It was just something we were kind of doing like we were boyfriend girlfriend just having fun. Really light and carefree. Just really simple. The mess started to occur the summer going into senior year when them and a few other people kind of involved in our friend group went on this trip, and I didn’t go on the trip because of finances. You know, my family doesn’t have as much money as many other families in those towns surrounding Long Branch. So I didn’t go I was like the only person in the whole friend group who didn’t go. When they got back. Things were really weird. Like I said, before they left Dan and I were over the moon, super cool, happy, having a good time, whatever. And when they got back, I didn’t hear from him at all. Like, he just wasn’t texting me back or calling me at all. And I was so confused and Zach didn’t seem to know what was going on. But Jeff seemed to have magically all these answers. He said, “Oh, while we while we were on the trip, Dan was hanging out with this other girl and really falling for this other girl and he doesn’t want to, see you anymore or talk to you anymore. He just wants you to stop contacting him.” And because he’s my friend. I trusted him. So I was like, yeah, cool. Okay, I mean, not cool. But, you know, I’ll stop contacting him. Little did I know? And I didn’t find this out until a year later, he was doing the same thing to Dan. He was telling him that I didn’t want to talk to him, even though I don’t know where the miscommunication was, because I was the one texting and calling. That’s the background information. Going into senior year was like a real mess. Actually, that was also when I had met my current boyfriend that I’m with now who I love tremendously and we have such a wonderful life now. But at the time, my friend Jeff like was just so like, involved in my life, because he was such a close friend. He was so involved in my life. I just trusted him so innately. Whenever he told me like not to talk to someone or not to do something, or vice versa, I would just do it because I trusted him. So he even convinced me to stop talking to my boyfriend that I’m with now. And it’s so weird to think back on the horrible things he said to me and think how like, I just trusted it. He was like, you know, I don’t really think this guy is a good guy. He doesn’t sound like he really wants you for the right weight reasons. You probably wouldn’t want to keep talking with him. It was just one of the things where I was just like, Okay, I guess it makes sense. It was long distance. I guess it makes sense. So I stopped talking to him to which really upset me because I didn’t know how to stop talking to him. I didn’t know how to tell this person that I really didn’t know for that long that I didn’t think he was really into me. So, I just kind of ghosted him. And it definitely hurt me as much as it hurt him because even all these years later, or even after him and I got back together, it’s something that still haunts me. And something he and I still talk about every now and then because, you know, I just love him so much. He’s definitely someone who I think I’m going to be spending the rest of my life with. And to know that I did that to this man that I love so much because of this guy that just had so much control over me. I was just so naive, I can’t even believe that I allowed that to happen. I allowed him to control so much of my life, even the people I spoke with and dated.
So about a couple months after that, maybe not even that long, it might have been like a month and a half or so he made a move on me. He was like asking to hang out with me all the time, which I did. Because you know, I was just like, whatever, like, we’ll hang out. I really just didn’t think anything of it. And then before I knew it, he had kissed me. And we had like, started dating and everyone at school knew about it. Like we were just all of a sudden boyfriend-girlfriend, and it happens so fast. I was like, Okay, I guess this is happening. And I just so passively allowed these things to happen. I allowed him to talk me out of talking to people allowed him to talk me out of hanging out with people. And it just really quickly kept declining from there. I lost friends because as our relationship progressed, he would tell me I couldn’t do this, or I couldn’t do that meaning like, he wanted me to come straight to his house every single day after school. So as soon as school let out, I was to go right to his house, and I was to stay there for dinner. I had dinner with him and his family every single night for like, almost the entire senior year of high school. Because that’s how long this relationship ended up going on for. He would even like tell me like, you know, if it was time for me to go home, like if my dad was texting me like, you know, it’s time to come home, he would give me such a hard time and it was causing problems with me and my family, obviously, as well. It caused me to have this big fight with my mom and it kind of caused me to have this big fight with my dad and my step mom. And it was just this big, like, snowball going down this hill that was just growing and growing. And I didn’t know how to stop it. It was just messing in every aspect of my life. But yeah, so that’s like the meatiest part of the story is like all the things he ended up doing. It even got to a point where he had like spies. There was this one kid that lived next door to a friend of mine and I just went over to hang out with this friend of mine. This kid that lived next door to him that knew I was dating, Jeff, would go back to him and tell him if he saw me there because it got to a point where I wanted to see my friends, but like I couldn’t, because he would tell me, No, you have to be here with me. You have to come right to my house and be here with me. And if I lied to him, like I said, like, oh, I have to go talk to my mom or I have to go to this appointment a couple times, I lied to him like something like that, so that I could go hang out with some friends so that I could get some space. And the kid that was like, basically spying on me would go back to Jeff and say, like, Oh, she’s over here or she’s there. And it was so weird and crazy. It made me feel so vulnerable. I was like, Oh, my God, he’s got like, spies everywhere. He knows exactly where I’m going. He knows when I lie to him, because somehow he’s got these people like spying on me. I’m like, I don’t even know where to go now return. So literally got to the point where I had no friends left. All I had was him. And I just became so dependent on him. Whatever he said, we were going to do was what we were going to do, and I didn’t have a choice in the matter.
Marissa: So he tried to well actively isolate you from all of your friends and family so that he can have full control over you. That’s awful.
Liz: Yeah, and it worked. It worked because I don’t have the most Kodak picture-perfect family. So I have my own issues there about family. So it was easy to get me away from family it was I don’t have the best relationship with some people in my family. So that was easy. The hard part was distancing me from my friends, because I always did have such good connections with my friends, at least the friends I had at the time. I still have a couple friends from that group. It’s just, I just don’t have anyone else. I literally only have one or two friends left from that group. It’s weird how much it all ended up affecting me It ended up I literally like lifelong friends I had through high school and like school and whatever, like I don’t have any more and it’s really weird to think about how like all this unraveled and touched so much of my life.
Marissa: How do you think that this abuse is still affected you?
Liz: It still affected me because it makes me so hard to trust people now I don’t know what kind of ulterior motives are lying behind what someone wants from me. Like, it makes me always second guess, well, why does this person want to be friends with me? Like, what are they going to get out of this friendship and it makes it so hard and like kind of makes me feel a little lonely. Because like I said, like, so many people ended up getting involved in this situation, and not all of them know the truth. So that’s hard to like, a lot of rumors ended up going around a lot of false information that made me look bad, not even him. So at the end of the day, like he’s the one that caused all this, you know, mess. And then I’m the one who gets the short end of the stick nobody involved in the situation wants to hang out with me or be my friend anymore, because they hear these lies and like the untrue part of the story. And it’s like, you know, now all these years later, it makes me feel so lonely in betrayed.
Marissa: How did you get out of it? How did you leave? What was the last straw? And what did you do?
Liz: It was right around May. He and I got into a few altercations. In the March-April timeframe, which I still don’t know how to, like get the words out of my mouth about. But it did result in him putting his hands on me in a way that he should not have. And so that was the final straw that was like, I did this weird dip with my, emotions. I really hit rock bottom where I was like, that’s it. I’m just always going to be treated like this for the rest of my life. And then I did this weird rebound, right in the beginning of May, where I was like, You know what, no, I’m not gonna be treated like this, I am going to find a way out because High School is almost over. And there’s a way to get out of this. There’s other people in the world that do care about me. And it was right around the time that my mom and I were actually patching things up. So I went to her house for Mother’s Day and met her new boyfriend who was now my stepdad. We were talking and hanging out and it was just a really good time. And I ended up confiding in her some things, you know, saying how unhappy I was and how he’s just ruining everything about me. He was ruining me as a person. He was making me an unreliable person. He was making me lie. And I just, I’m so sick to my stomach with this relationship I need to get out. And actually it involves me moving back in with her. During the course of this relationship, He had convinced me to get into a fight with my mom and move out of her house and with my dad and then was causing fights between me my dad, so I moved back in with my mom because we were fixing things and I had confided that with her. Unfortunately, it still took a couple more months. So unfortunately, like I still went to senior prom with him. I didn’t have a choice in that I had to go to senior prom with him. There was no way I was getting out of that. So I did that and it was just the worst night of my life ever. People ridiculed me all through post prom. It was just horrible the public humiliation I went through with him. And then the last straw was he invited himself on this family trip we were all taking. And I told my mom, I said, I can’t, he cannot come with us. He needs to realize this relationship is ending and it’s over. And he just needs to stop. He needs to stop contacting me. He needs to stop being around me. He definitely cannot come on this trip. And she said, you need to call him and tell him that. So I called him and I had him on speaker and I actually was literally I was sitting on the floor. My mom was sitting on the stairs and I called him and put him on speaker. And I did say I said you know, things with us are over. Please do not come on the trip. Please do not show up tomorrow morning. Please do not come. And I was very nice. Just very civil like that. And he was just so insistent. He said, No, I will be there and coming on the trip. We’re going to fix things he just had it so intent in his heart. He was going to fix everything. And I just said to him, I said over and over again. I can’t even like remember how long the phone call lasted but it felt like forever. Just be begging him. Please, please do not come. And I got to the point where I even though like maybe if I tried to use like a scary voice like I don’t know, I just thought like if I put on like big girl pants and like this did girl voice like maybe he would get the memo. And I did say at one point I said I swear to God, if you come on this trip, this is not going to be a good thing. And like I tried to be as demanding as possible. But it just wasn’t It wasn’t happening. He showed up and came on the trip anyway. And throughout the whole trip, we fought. I was sick the whole time, violently sick the whole time. Like my family was so confused by what was going on. Like kind of bragged on me about it too. Like, why is she always in the bathroom? Like why won’t she come out of her room? Why won’t she come out and enjoy family time? And it was because he was there? And no, no one was really backing me up and saying you know what, you shouldn’t be here, you shouldn’t be coming on this trip, and you should go home. So, that was the final straw and we did finally, by the end of that trip, we had finally officially broken up.
Marissa: Okay, good. Well, I’m glad that you got out of it. I’m sorry that, you know, he came on the trip and ruined that trip for you and all the things that came with it, I want to go back real quick and just comment on being on the floor. I also like being on the floor. And I think it like grounds us, you know, we can be so comfortable. And I don’t know the kind of physical abuse or anything that you’ve endured. But for me, I was pushed off a lot of chairs, and my chairs were flipped and things were you know, so like I was always falling and hitting my head or hitting my back or hitting my shoulders. And so for me sitting on the floor is like a very comfortable thing. Because like I can’t fall, you know. And it’s been 10 years since my abuse and I’m still always worried about falling. Thank you so much for sharing your story And I’m sorry that you went through everything you went through. I know that you said earlier that my books and everything have helped you. And that makes me feel really good. So thank you for saying that. What have you done thus far to help you heal from it? Because obviously, you’re in a great relationship now.
Liz: Yeah, so many things. Another thing that kind of got me in the situation I was back then was low self-esteem. I was bullied all throughout middle school and a good portion of high school. And another thing I’ve just been coming out and talking about recently is an eating disorder. I actually was anorexic on and off. And of course, like that was never a good thing. I had severe anxiety and I just had such like low self-esteem. So I believe that, that was the core problem. So that is the first thing I addressed when trying to rebuild and heal and recover. So I got into healthy eating and yoga and working out lots of meditation and just focusing on the things that I love about myself and not the things that I hate and just building myself up instead of tearing myself down. So when I look in the mirror, I don’t say like, oh, your skin looks bad and you’re fat. I say like, dang, you thick and you beautiful and have awesome hair. And it’s like, okay, I can live with that. Like you had mentioned my boyfriend. I mean, he had the best reaction out of anyone I’ve ever told. So I told him when he and I originally got back together. I waited about I guess it was about a month to tell him the gory details. He had the best reaction. I mean, nobody else reacted the way he did. He just put his arms around me No one has ever hugged me when I told them they were just skeptical and wanted to know more and he didn’t care. He didn’t care about the details. It took me so much by surprise that I didn’t know to hug him back. He literally like just he grabbed my arm to like stop me from talking just pulled me in into this like the most comforting hug I’ve ever had. I almost like I was just so frozen. I didn’t hug them back. It took me like a few minutes of him hugging me to be like, Okay, this is the part that I actually hug back and reciprocate that feeling. So yeah, he’s just been amazing. And he’s never pushed for me to tell him any more than what I have. I mean, he’s always been open for me. He’s always said, you know, whatever you want to tell me I’m here for. He’s like, but I’m not going to ask. And I’m not going to push. That has been the main thing that has supported me because people that have found out have really pushed me to give more detail like, well, what was the part that really was the bad part? What was the worst part? And there are so many rumors. There’s rumors of more like violence, like, there wasn’t this violence of like him punching me constantly. He kind of did this thing where like, he would like, wave his arms really close to me or wave his hands like in front of my face, or by me and like, when he was angry, he was yelling at me like, as intimidation. But I could never actually say that he hit me. He had never hit me. He just made me feel like he was about to all the time. And that was one thing. Another rumor that went around was that he choked me out. He didn’t choke me out. He just scared me. And that’s what people like, people that started finding out more things that happened. More people started misconstruing them and like lying, like, Oh, I heard she got choked out. And I heard like, he punched her. Like, it’s not what happened. It wasn’t abusively violent like that. It was just him manipulating me to give him anything he wanted. And that does include us having sex on that was the first time I had sex. And it was the whole thing was manipulation from beginning to end of like, we’re just going to do this or we’re just going to do that we’re not going to you know. Don’t worry. Like, you know, you love me. So because you love me, you’re going to do it anyway. And like, just this weird mix of like, comforting me with comforting words. Like don’t worry, its okay. And then this weird, like aggressive part where it’s like, well, you love me. So you’re going to do this. It was just all manipulation, I don’t have any other word for it than that. And it just, yeah So when I started to try to tell people how like, it was just, it was just this mess of things of all these things I didn’t want to do, including having sex I did not want to do that did not want to have sex with him. But because it was what he wanted. And because he used his the words the way he did to benefit himself. He got what he wanted.
Marissa: So no matter if he hit you or not, it’s abuse. And I personally think that emotional and verbal abuse are more lasting, because the words really stick with you and they haunt you for years. I mean, like I said before, I’m 10 years out, and sometimes I still wake up and I’m like, wow, I’m a real big piece of human garbage. And I’m like, No, I’m not I am worthy. I have to get, you know my ex’s voice out of my head. And another thing is those situations where you’re being manipulated or coerced into sex is still sexual assault. Any unwarranted unwanted or unwelcome sexual advance. It could be them saying something inappropriate to you or manipulating you into having sex and that is still sexual assault. It leaves an imprint on you negatively, like I know for me, after I was assaulted by my boyfriend, sex didn’t feel good for years. I couldn’t figure out if it was me. Or if it was, I didn’t know. But I just had such a horrible traumatic experience that I couldn’t understand why people love sex so much. Did you have something like that?
Liz: Actually, exactly that. And in one of, I believe your stories in Breaking Through the Silence: The Journey to Surviving Sexual Assault, at one point you it said like even when it was happening to like when you know you don’t want it but like you can’t control it, you just feel numb. Like when it was happening. I don’t even remember what it felt like. So like my first time ever having sex. I don’t even remember what it felt like because I just remember feeling numb and scared and afraid and not knowing what to do. I was just there. I was just existing in that moment. And I don’t know anything else. So when this was all said and done when truth started coming out, and he actually did admit to what he was doing at the end. So at the end, there was this weird meeting between me, Jeff, Dan, and this other kid that was kind of involved in the situation. And he did admit to the four of us and in that circle that night was like, yeah, no, I lied. I lied to her and I lied to him to break them up. And this is what I did. And like he admitted it, he had totally admitted it and was not denying anything. So, once things started progressing like that, and dust started settling Dan and I actually did get back together. We dated on and off the first year and a half into college. And I have to say, he was such a tremendous support. During all those times whether we were on or off. He never pushed me and it definitely was tough being sexually active with him because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was still scarred and afraid of the things that had happened. I didn’t know what to do next, I didn’t know how to be with a guy, and my first time was just ruined. And now this new time that I this new chance I have, I still don’t really know what I’m doing. So it definitely took a while for me to come around. But I have to say I could not have asked for a better boyfriend at the time than Dan. He was super, super supportive. Whatever I said I needed he did or he got for me. And it was just great. And to this day, we’re still really good friends, I still hold him as like a really good friend to me. And my boyfriend completely knows all of this, like when we are getting back together. And I was divulging all this stuff you know, I told him all of that I was like, Listen, like, Dan and I were still friends because he him and I had just been through all of this mess together. And we’re just we just still even years after we’ve broken up, still support each other no matter what we’re doing career wise. And he’s got a girlfriend who is wonderful. I think she’s a nicest person in the world. Like, couldn’t ask for a better person for him to be with either. That’s really the light out of everything that had happened is my friendship with him. And I’m still really good friends with Zack too. He is a really cool friend of mine. We’re always joking around. And we call each other every now and then because we’ve all moved away. No, none of us live there anymore.
Marissa: So what advice would you give to other survivors who have gone through or are going through something similar?
Liz: The advice I would give, is to talk despite whatever voice that is in your head, or weird feelings you have about it, talk. I went years without talking and even after so like I would have these weird like occasional explosions, like at one point, I had not talked about it for like a year. And then I had an explosion about it with my mom and my stepdad. And I had another explosion about it a significant period of time, like six months or something like that with some other like another group of friends that I had made, like these weird explosions. And it came to a point where I was like, maybe I wouldn’t explode if I talked about it in a healthy environment and got it out of my system. So that’s what I started doing. One of my best friends now that I made in high school, she is also really super supportive of all this. And she has been the main person that I’ve gone to like when I feel it bubbling up again. And I feel like something’s come up where I need to, like express this or express that she has been awesome, where I’ve been able to, like call her or like go over her house and be like, Listen, I need to talk about this. And you don’t have to say anything back because, you know, sometimes there’s nothing to say back. But I just need to like say this out in the open in the air so that it’s not inside me. I’ve actually still haven’t really formally seeing a therapist. It’s a daily debate for me. I, to this day, a million years later, I still wake up every day and at least once a day think about like finding a therapist to talk to. But I have this weird pride about it, and I would say to survivors to not have that weird, stupid pride. Because I have this weird battle inside me about therapists where like, I know, I should go to one and I should really keep working on the progress I’ve made. But I have this other side of me that’s super proud of the progress I’ve made. And all this time being alone without a therapist and just being like, you know what, I don’t need a therapist, because I already did the significant amount of work that needs to be done when you’re healing. But I would say don’t do that, because it’s not healthy what took me probably 10 times longer than it should have to heal. So I would say talk and talk to someone professional.
Marissa: Yeah, that’s a good idea. Professional help can be very, very good, for some people, it doesn’t work for everyone. So I always tell people don’t rely on a therapist, you have to do a lot of work yourself as you’ve learned Liz. But having an ear like a listening ear with somebody professional can be very, very helpful. Also know that it’s not like a one stop shop. Not every therapist is a perfect match for you. So if the first one doesn’t work, keep therapists shopping, because you’ll find somebody that fits you perfectly and understands you. It’s not like they’re all trained exactly the same. Well, it’s really good that you have such a support network, though, I’m really happy that you have friends to turn to and have a better relationship with your family that you feel comfortable talking to them. And that you found somebody that rewired you back to a good sense of self and of what you should expect from a relationship. That’s really important. I’m so proud of you.
Liz: Thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah, and that’s the main reason why all these years later, I’m finally ready to like talk about it because I do finally have the support network that I should have had in the beginning. And like I said from the beginning like your organization, your podcasts your books, have helped me tremendously like reading all the stories and hearing everyone else’s stories and being like you know what, there are other people in the world that makes their stories publicly known. And I can do that I can speak up. So yeah, thank you. Thank you.
Marissa: Thank you. I hope and I’m also really glad that you felt confident enough and empowered enough to speak up and want to help other people do the same. I think that’s really admirable. And I love you. Oh, is there anything that you want to share any projects or anything?
Liz: Actually, um, I have started a book about my life. So it does go from like, my childhood about middle school-esk time to current day. I don’t know if it’s something I’ll ever publish, but it’s something I’m doing as part of my healing to like, put everything down like in a book and be able to like, look back at it and read on it and just be like, you know, what, I’ve been through the wringer. I’ve been through a lot of things in my somewhat short life. I mean, I’m only like, 26. So I just been through, I just can’t even believe all the things I’ve been through. So yeah, I am writing a book. Whether I ever publish it or not, is another story. But yeah.
Marissa: Well, if you ever decide to publish it, let me know I can help you.
Liz: Cool, sounds good.
Marissa: Thank you again, so much for being here, Liz. I really appreciate you speaking out and empowering the survivor community to speak up and become the champion of their voice like you have, and I am just so grateful. Thank you very much.
Liz: Oh, of course. Thank you so much for having me. This was so wonderful.
Marissa: Oh, good. Okay, well, I’ll have you on again soon. We’ll do a month check back or something on your book and on your therapy.
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