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The most treacherous, difficult and dangerous time of an abusive relationship is usually when it is nearing the end.
Many years ago I was intrinsically entwined in a relationship that was emotionally, mentally and physically draining. I was a feed for a narcissist, an energy vampire, and I almost had every last drop of life sucked from me.
For those who have experienced a similar type of relationship the phrase, “I went to hell and back” will ring eerily true. I went to hell and the fire ravaged me so badly that every road and each bridge I tried to walk burned beneath me.
I almost didn’t make it back.
What I see now is that many abusers are similar to crows. This is because they are known to be attracted to glittering and shiny objects. They are inquisitive and will prod and play with their trinkets, trying to dissect them to see what they contain. To an abuser their victim is a glistening trinket.
The more intriguing, fascinating and complex the trinket is, the greater the crow is enticed and the longer its interest is sustained. When the crow loses interest in the trinket the crow becomes bored and its attention will quickly dwindle.
So, instead of being a trinket I became a “Gray Rock.” Although my experience was over 10 years ago, I only recently came across this theory so I now also refer to it as “Gray Rock” as it reflects my situation accurately.
As Skylar explains in her description of Gray Rock:
“I chose the words Gray Rock because I needed an object for us to channel when we are in an emotionally charged situation. You don’t just practice Gray Rock, you become a Gray Rock. There are gray rocks and pebbles everywhere you go, but you never notice them. None of them attract your attention. You don’t remember any specific rock you saw today because they blend with the scenery. That is the type of boring that you want to channel when you are dealing with a psychopath. Your boring persona will camouflage you and the psychopath won’t even notice you were there.”
When I began to find strength to find an escape route from my relationship I knew I had to tread very carefully as my personal safety was at serious risk. I felt if I just walked away the threats that had become a normal part of day-to-day life would possibly come true.
So, I made the decision to dim my light so I would fade and discreetly blend into the background.
As soon as I made the decision I instantly felt empowered and knew that although it appeared as though I was powerless, I was finally taking control back of my life.
I became bland, boring, uninteresting and most of all emotionless. I stopped reacting to everything. The drama that was being played out on the stage in front of me no longer led me to flinch or applaud. To explain it in just a few words, I stopped providing my hungry-for-my-emotions abuser with his much-needed feed.
Communication was kept at a minimum and I refrained from attending any social events that I could excuse myself from.
I also stopped stroking the ego of my abuser, as that was something I had done from the beginning of the relationship. I also believe that this is one of the main elements that kept us so intrinsically connected. I had praised and adored and looked up to my ex partner with awe and admiration and finally seen that by doing this I was magnifying his grandiose sense of self which kept him high on the pedestal and me in the slums below.
There were many dynamics to the relationship that kept the abuse alive and all of them were marinated in drama. When there is no one in the audience to watch the display, the actor will lose interest in performing. At first I swapped my front row seat for one in the second row. Then slowly but surely I edged my way to the back of the theatre hall until I reached the doors with courage and confidence. I took a deep breath and inhaled my new life.
With many lessons learned, I knew I had played the part of an escape artist and if there were any other route, I would gladly have taken it. It didn’t feel good to have to mimic a chameleon and if I had known a safer option, I would gladly have taken it.
Throughout this period I was very careful. I knew that if I had immediately withdrawn my emotions, which were the source of his energy, I would be putting myself at huge risk of being figured out.
So, I gently and delicately weaned my abuser from my emotions. Instead of being drained of my energy, I was renewed and revitalized, even though from the outside I can see I must have appeared weakened.
Mainly, I became fully aware of how my behavior was keeping the relationship flourishing in toxicity and I watched in amazement at how it gradually died out as soon as I altered how I responded.
As I changed, so too did the person I was in the relationship with. He eventually became bored with his plaything. I was no longer the prey for the predatory lion. As I played “pretend dead” on the inside my abuser no longer found me nourishing, attractive and exciting. I became worthless in his eyes and no longer sparked something within him.
I was no longer frozen and immobilized through being pinned down by sharp and vicious claws. When his grip eventually loosened I was able to slowly move away.
I ensured I never received the final bite that would have immobilized me permanently. It was a fight for survival and one that can be won regardless how difficult the battle may seem when in the midst of it.
The reason I write about my experience is because I struggled so badly to find my way through the madness. I felt trapped in a haunted labyrinth as each door I tried to open locked the moment I touched it.
From an outside point of view, I can kind of see why people have no understanding as to why others stay when relationships are extremely bad. If I hadn’t experienced it myself, I may also wonder and question why. However, until someone has walked in those shoes, it is impossible to really know how it feels to spin dizzily through the days, weeks, months, and years trying to see through the haze that insidiously poisons the mind.
I have written this in hope that it may help anyone else caught in a destructive relationship with an abuser. Please note though, the following method is only recommended for those entangled with someone with a personality disorder, for example narcissists, psychopaths, sociopaths or those with borderline personalities.
One thing that juts out in my mind when I think back to how I felt when my relationship was at its worst is the overwhelming feeling of helplessness. I didn’t know whom I could to turn to for help or support, as I was so ashamed of the situation I was in. I felt as though others would judge me for staying, so I kept quiet and silently endured the pain as my mind and life unraveled.
Now, I know there is a vast amount of help out there. If it is too difficult to talk to a family member or friend, there are many support groups and organisations that are a lifeline throughout these relationships and also when they end.
I know that at the time I was a mess and I have to take full responsibility for the situation I was in. No one forced me into the relationship. Yes, I had been tricked, deceived and lied to so many times during the early months of dating, that I did not have a full understanding of what I was heading into.
However, there were many warning signals and the red flags frantically swung up in front of me. Unfortunately, I chose to ignore them as I thought what I had found was true love and I badly wanted the fairy tale.
I am also to blame as I reacted and was triggered by some of the things I said and the way I behaved was not always reasonable. The levels that the abuser stooped to were beyond anything I would have believed possible within the realms of “love.” At the time, I didn’t know how to respond to many of the slurs that were hurled at me or how to deal with the premeditated and endless emotional, mental and physical prods, provocations and pokes.
There was a stage of the relationship whereby I found some strength within to fight back as I thought I was regaining some power. I now see that all this did was feed him the most nourishing and exciting fuel for his soul. I personally would never recommend trying to fight on the same playing field as an abuser as they fight callously, cruelly and without any show of compassion.
The smirk on my abuser’s lips and the glint that shone in his eyes when he watched me reach rock bottom will never be forgotten. I did not realise that witnessing someone break is the ultimate prize for an abuser.
For a long time I was lost and there were many days whereby the pain of being alive was more than I thought I could handle. Now that I am out of that situation I look back and breathe the deepest sighs of relief that I was able to cling on to a glimmer of light that was barely flickering in the background. It guided me to eventually find the road to safety.
Gray Rock can also be used as a way to reduce or remove any drama when the relationship has ended but contact still needs to remain, for example if there are children involved.
Just to reiterate, I shared this for those suffering at the hands of abusers and not just as a means to gain an “it’s not you it’s me” end to a regular relationship. Although Gray Rock may seem to some as a manipulative method of removing oneself from a relationship, sometimes it is the only effective option to escape without detrimental harm being caused either physically, mentally or emotionally.
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Zlatko Vickovic