In this survivor of domestic violence story written by a courageous young woman who we will call Abigail, you’ll learn about:
- The craziness that takes place behind closed doors with a pastor who is an abusive covert narcissistic parent
- How overt and covert abuse compromises the health and well-being of the child
- The ways childhood abuse enters adult relationships
- How others complicate the harm through double abuse
- And how you can become free from the abuse and find healing
Thankfully, Abigail met The MEND Project at one of our recent training programs designed to help anyone in high-conflict relationships and victims or survivors of abuse. By learning from Annette and our team, she found clarity and healing.
This story contains intense and challenging subject matter that can be hard to read and may trigger you. Please care well for yourself and decide whether it’s OK for you to read on.
I Learned That Even Pastors Can Be Covert Narcissists
My story of abuse is lengthy, with many layers.
My first abuser was my mother.
Later in life, I was to realize she was a malignant narcissist.
And it all makes sense now.
I grew up in an affluent area and attended good public and private Christian schools. Mother was an Associate Pastor and Drug and Alcohol Counselor at my church.
At home, she was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually abusive.
I Was Blamed For How She Treated Me
She always told me that I was crazy and that I needed therapy.
As a small child, she would have me see Christian therapist after therapist because she would tell them something was wrong with me.
Then, she created this false narrative to others that I was a sociopath, liar, thief, and, later, a whore.
My life growing up was very confusing. I was constantly sick and in and out of the hospital for one ailment or another. My mother controlled everything.
Yet, She Was The Malignant Narcissist
She made one pot of food each week that she expected to last the whole week. For example, if she made spaghetti on Sunday night, that spaghetti would be expected to be eaten every night until the following Sunday. Mother told us to scrape off the growing mold and eat the food provided. Later, she would take any remaining food in the home, put them in red toolboxes, and lock them in her room so my siblings and I couldn’t access it.
She also locked up sheets, pillows, and blankets. She put old slide locks on the bypass glass shower doors so we couldn’t take showers unless she allowed it. Often, my youngest brother and I would rig a hose to the fence on the side of the house where the dog run was so we could shower. Finally, at thirteen, my mother told me she would no longer buy me deodorant or tampons when I needed them most.
I Ran Away and Straight Into the Arms Of Another Abuser
By the age of fifteen, I left to live with my boyfriend. My High School offered a work experience program I could participate in, and I learned typing and secretary skills. This program allowed me to get High School credit and work to support myself.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly in retrospect, my first boyfriend was also abusive. He abused me physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually.
Yet, I remained with him for eight and a half years. I had nowhere to go when our relationship ended, so I returned to my parent’s home. During these young years, I struggled with functional alcoholism that worsened until I got pregnant with my firstborn son.
Even My Church Became an Abuser
The church I attended while growing up was also very dysfunctional and abusive.
When I was thirteen, I attended a church camp for teens in the mountains. One night, the speaker asked us to turn around and pray for the person behind us. It was a straightforward exercise to get a bunch of teenagers to pray for one another.
I obeyed, turned around, and prayed for the girl behind me using simple language and terms. It started like, “Dear Jesus, thank you for _____.” Almost immediately, the girl behind me began to scream in a scary male voice. She fell to the floor and started slithering and screaming at me. I was scared to death. Inside me, I had an inkling of what was happening, but I had only read about these things in the Bible and wasn’t sure what to do.
The laity approached me and got very upset about what happened. I was scolded for doing what I was told to do, pray. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. After that incident, I felt very targeted by the laity.
The incident encouraged other children to bully me during that week-long camping trip.
Growing up, I was used to hiding food or candy, and I had hidden a Ziploc bag of SMARTIES that had gotten crushed in my pillowcase while I was at camp. The girls in my cabin found this bag of SMARTIES and gave it to the laity, who called the police on me. When the police arrived I explained to them that it was SMARTIES, the police tasted what was in the bag and let me go.
I walked away from the church shortly after that and didn’t return until I gave birth to my firstborn son at twenty-one.
Becoming a Mom Myself Changed Everything
The birth of my son resulted from alcohol and seeking love in all the wrong places. His biological father refused to be in our lives and left me to raise our son alone.
After giving birth to him, I had what I coined as a “bomb” going off in my mind. I didn’t realize it then but later discovered this was my first mental break due to CPTSD.
By then, I was living again with my abusive mother and attending therapy. This was the first time my “heart” had grasped that my mother was abusive. My “head” had always known that what was happening to me wasn’t normal, but my “heart” wouldn’t or couldn’t accept it.
I Tried To Confront The Abuse But Retaliation Was Brutal
In my immaturity, I confronted her about the abuse, and she was RELENTLESS in her retaliation.
She threw me and my two-year-old son out of her house. I became homeless and lived in and out of hotels and churches.
I was entirely out of my mind with flashbacks, constant anxiety attacks, and vomiting from continuous anxiety. This was the worst time I could remember in my adult life. Yet, my God held on tightly to my son and me and provided like never before.
On the other hand, my mother was actively trying to take my son from me. She was telling my family members that I was on drugs.
Let me assure you, I was never into drugs outside of alcohol which was my drug of choice. I had a problem with alcohol for many years, but having my son compelled me to become sober, and I did.
As an additional measure of retaliation, my mother had my oldest brother come and take the car my Dad had co-signed for me that I was paying for. I was vulnerable, desperate, hungry, tired, and mentally shattered.
In Desperation, I Sought Refuge By Marrying Another Abuser
This was when my first husband appeared. He was twenty-four years my senior and had been in and out of prison most of his life. He had six children from three prior relationships and lost parental rights to all six children.
You would think this would be a red flag for me, but red flags weren’t something I was familiar with at the time.
Clothes, food, shelter, and protection from my mother were enough for me to stay with this man. I wasn’t physically attracted nor “in” love with my first husband but I was utterly desperate and needed help in the worst way.
We were married quickly after we met, and he didn’t hide his abuse. He choked, kicked, and hit me a few times, but the verbal, emotional, and mental abuse was worse. That’s what people don’t seem to realize.
Psychological abuse can be much harder to deal with than physical abuse. At least, it was for me.
I went to secular and Bible colleges while married and educated myself as much as possible. We had three children, and out of fourteen years of marriage, I can recall ONE good time during a trip to San Francisco. Eventually, I couldn’t take the abuse anymore and went to the laity at my church of eight years. The woman’s Pastor counseled me weekly for approximately a year and knew my marriage was abusive. I was taught that divorce was unacceptable and God would reject me if I divorced. So, divorce couldn’t be a solution for me.
Attempting Suicide Saved My Life
At one very dark point, I decided to end my life and took actual measures to make this a reality. I called my Pastor and reached out to her in desperation before my attempt.
She rejected my call. Their answer, in short, to the abuse I was receiving was that I needed to pray and read my Bible more. I needed to obey the authority figures that God put over me.
Rather than taking responsibility, the head pastor told me in no uncertain terms that his associate pastors were faultless and that anything I believed they did or said was wrong would not receive any correction from him.
I went to every marriage intensive, marriage counselor, and group therapist and read many books on abuse. I left my husband twelve times before I finally took the chance to get away for good. Magical thinking and toxic empathy deceived me for many years.
By God’s grace, and to my surprise, I was still alive the morning after my suicide attempt. Everything I had done to end my life failed, and my brother broke into my house and took me to the hospital. Ironically, I found out a few days later that the specific Pastor I had contacted was posting on social media how she was about to attend a workshop on how to help people who were suicidal.
I Cried Out, “God, Do You Hate Divorce or Abuse More?”
After my suicide attempt, I began to CRY OUT to God as I had never done before. I pleaded for him to help me and free me from my ex-husband. I fasted, prayed, and cried out to God.
I would go into my closet and scream to God on my knees to look at my situation and set me free. It took three years of this INTENSE praying for my escape to come about, and I wasn’t ready for it, to be honest.
The question that changed my life forever that I needed to ask and answer for myself was, “Did God hate divorce or abuse more?” My answer changed my life forever.
My ex-husband was a Drug and Alcohol Counselor and manager at a methadone clinic. I was a stay-at-home Mom with four children. I home schooled and went to college. He was a chameleon, a lot like my mother; everyone loved him and respected him. He had a great “story,” a guy who went to prison for twenty years for drugs and got out of prison, changed his life, and now helps people who were once him.
What a joke!
At year eleven in our marriage, he relapsed on Methamphetamines. He was a needle user, and our marriage went from bad to extremely bad. He would leave the house for long periods and stay in hotels.
And I Finally Left
I later found out that he had sex with prostitutes and even seduced a family member in her adult teen years. He left needles and drugs under our bed; he took tons of money from our bank account.
He stole a lot of money from family members, and needless to say, it got wild. What ultimately ended up freeing us was something I don’t believe any human being can prepare for, and yet it’s an issue that desperately needs training in our churches.
Police arrived at my home one Saturday morning and found child pornography on my husband’s cell phone. He was handcuffed and put into the back of the police car. A sergeant was called out to our home, and my ex was released because the Governor of our State had recently changed the laws to make watching child pornography no longer illegal.
He left our home that Saturday, and I filed for divorce Monday morning. I received a restraining order that is still in effect today. Detectives and child protective services came into our home. It was a complete nightmare. What followed for my family was nothing short of devastation.
I had no idea that my husband of fourteen years was a pedophile. The icing on the cake was that I learned his entire family knew he was a pedophile and understood that he had even molested a family member. But they never warned me and did nothing to protect our children. Instead, everyone protected him and didn’t tell me anything.
When We Disclosed the Abuse, Our Church Doubly Abused Me and My Son
When our church family found out about what had happened – let me preface this by saying that my son was a part of this group of boys that grew up together and were always at each others’ houses since the age of five years old – some of my son’s friends rejected him for the first time.
He was no longer welcome into the fold, and although I didn’t know it yet, neither was I. I will never forget it, and I would be lying if I said that recalling this day didn’t still make me extremely angry. I am, however, working on it…
My son’s best friend was having a birthday party, and my son wasn’t invited for the first time. He came to me sobbing and showed me the social media video posts of his friends getting together for the first time without him.
These were boys that I taught at home school co-ops. They spent countless hours in my home. I drove to swimming, tennis, and Latin lessons with them. You name it, and we did it. The hurt my son experienced that day is hard to forget. Soon I learned my son wasn’t the only one ostracized. No one from that church spoke to me again.
In conclusion, I have experienced so much more double abuse that it would shock most people. The pain and harm to my family and me through their responses or reactions to our trauma were unimaginable before. But now I could fill a whole book about the double abuse I experienced in my lifetime. My doctor believes writing a book about what I have experienced may be therapeutic. Who knows, I might.
I Found Healing When I Encountered The MEND Project
I am forever grateful to Annette Oltmans for giving what I experienced a name.
This short synopsis of my life is sad and has debilitated me for many years. I still have a lot of side effects from CPTSD. I struggle with nightmares, anxiety attacks, intrusive visions and thoughts, depression, paranoia, driving anxiety, and other debilitating mental struggles. Although I work hard, I thrive spiritually. God has healed me in so many areas I never thought could be healed.
I am educated and married to a wonderful, caring, compassionate, kind, sweet, good father to ALL our children. Surprisingly enough, I attend a rather large church weekly with my children, but I find comfort at a distance from the laity and church members at large.
I participate in weekly group therapy and monthly therapy from my doctor. You know the old saying that hindsight is 20/20? Well, when I look back at the wreckage from the vantage point I now enjoy, Jesus was there the whole time.
Please Know You Are Never Alone
God never left me nor forsook me. He comforted me even when I was in my darkest, quietest hours.
Please, my dear friend, if there’s one thing you take away from my story is that He, Jesus, is there with you too. So listen to me, dear ones, if I could do it, trust me, you can too!