Did you ever watch The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu? During this Quarantine, I have been binge watching it in the down times. Wow. All I can say is, “Wow!” At first, I thought this was a real far stretch as an alternate world that could only be in books and movies. No one could take over and ambush the souls of so many so quickly and so strongly. Right? Right. I had to believe that. Because a world where women were just weaker and so insignificant seems so, well, unrealistic.
But after watching episode after episode after episode, it became more real than fiction. It became a visual impersonation of what it is like to live with severe narcissism. It felt painful and searing in my heart that the torture and imprisonment that these women were under was all too real. It was what I felt. Like I was being subjected to stay in a house where I had an evil commander using me to have his kids and make him look powerful and important but I was just someone he used to get that done. I could’ve been any other girl in a red dress with the right parts. It didn’t matter. I was being used for the person that I was. For what I had to give him. I was chosen because I could properly fill his need. I could play the role of a good wife and mother. I could fulfill his need for love, affection and attention as a solid wife and partner when he didn’t have “another woman” to fill his ego-driven needs. I was a faithful woman to make him feel that special attention that only a faithful wife can. I spent years helping friends and women in the Ala-non and affair recovery programs feel better and heal and sometimes get out of the bonds keeping them attached. But I stayed and endured. I stayed and tolerated. I stayed and got more and more hurt by his behaviors. I never wanted to be a victim or weak. So I was strong for everyone else, except myself. I carried on like I was fine, okay and even normal. But I wasn’t. I was growing more and more empty with each passing year. I just wanted to make my children feel like this was a solid, happy family. Like we were normal. These women in the show, they pretend these babies are their babies. They pretend to give birth to them. She pretends even if the child is completely different race, that it is her child. I pretended we were a happy, normal family for so many years. I started to believe my own lies in my head. Finding needles in the laundry isn’t normal. Being in the car as family and a text shows up on the screen reading, “Sweetie, I want sex.”; isn’t normal. Having another woman and her kids sleep in our house with our kids while I am visiting with family isn’t normal. Having a child come to me crying with a needle in his hand and knowing what it is, isn’t normal. Having daddy constantly disappearing or leaving early, isn’t normal. Having daddy falling asleep on the couch just after getting up everyday, isn’t normal. Having daddy disappear at Disney to go to a close-by bathroom, isn’t normal. Having daddy forget Mother’s Day one year, isn’t normal. Having daddy choose his friends over his family and say that out loud, isn’t normal. Yet I made these things okay, fine or tolerable by me so it seemed normal to them. I made excuses for him. I made excuses to myself for his behaviors. So that I felt less pain. So I didn’t crumble under the truth. They knew as they got older and saw friend’s families in action…that what we had isn’t normal. What had I done? Why had I lied to myself? Why had I let them live this lie too?
I was not different then these women in the show. I was sweeping all of his male egos under the rug and pretending it was okay. Pretending that I was okay. Pretending that it was all okay. I realized watching this show that I am a piece of each of these female roles in this new harsh society called Gilead.
I was part submissive Wife of the Commander. I had the family and pretended it was all normal. I knew my husband went astray. (Never knew to the extent that I do know now). I knew that it was a double standard and I could not do that or else I would be beaten up by him with a very mean and harsh divorce or worse. He would break me in some way for not being faithful to him; he was the greatest thing that could have happened to me and an amazing husband in his eyes and mind. I was to know and accept the other women happened and move on with him and forgive and forget. No questions asked. At least I didn’t have to sit and watch him and women like in Gilead. But I did have to read many different texts and emails to and from many different women that were as visual as being in the room. And as hard to forget ever reading.
I was part Handmaid. I was asked to lay with him in hopes of making babies for our image. Don’t get me wrong I wanted children so badly. I wanted the family. I was devastated when I lost one at 39 during the first month. But it was God’s hand in that because he was using drugs and cheating at the time and it only got much worse after that. I was asked to also be submissive to him and not asked questions or doubt him in any way. I was criticized if I thought differently about him and his actions that were inflicting extreme pain on me. I walked on eggshells to not upset or stir the pot and bring anger to my days. It was exhausting and depressing at the same time. I felt so trapped in emotions of fear, sadness, confusion and frustration.
I was part Martha. I cooked and cleaned and stayed home to take care of the “chores”. I was actually subtly criticized at times if the house wasn’t clean enough or I didn’t feel like making dinner. I had to ask if I could buy things because I felt guilty spending his hard earned money because I just stayed at home with the kids. I didn’t just come up with that feeling. It was slowly implanted with sarcasm and little comments over time. To remind me how lucky I was to have a husband like him. The money was never what I wanted. I wanted love and security in my partner’s faithfulness to me and us.
I was part a Jezebel. I acted like his sleazy girlfriend too. This part is one thing of marriage that I enjoyed. That feeling of being safe and sexual with one person. No fears of what just having sex meant. Safety in fidelity. But I was just another Jezebel in his show. I was maybe Monday and Saturday nights. The other nights were filled with other Jezebels working that shift. There was no physical safety there. I had to endure three std tests. So frightening and humiliating for a married woman.
It is crazy how one show can bring so many emotions to the surface. How one show can make an understanding of a complex, not normal situation. How one show can have such a profound affect on the healing process of Narcissistic Abuse. This really is a closer look at Narcissism and the extreme effects it has on those around the person inflicted with this heinous illness. I was extremely affected by the heinous illness of Narcissism. I am extremely affected by the heinous illness of Narcissism. Some of these women got out and escaped to Canada, the free safe land. They carried the pain and scars suffered under Gilead. I escaped from the tyrannical forces of Narcissism but I will always carry the scars and pains of living under its harsh hands and words. I will adjust my sails for calmer waters but I will always have those inner scars to remind me to never go back. To remind me that that is a place I do not belong. To remind me that normal is love. Normal is a family that doesn’t have to pretend. Normal is a family that feels safe. Normal is a family that supports each other. Normal is trust. Normal is honesty. Normal is acceptance and understanding. Normal is being a family completely together. Normal is now. Normal is wanting to escape to safety in “Canada”. Normal is starting over and healing in my own way and time.
Breathe Out Suppression, Breathe In Freedoms. Breathe Out Pretending, Breathe In Honesty. Breathe Out Staying in Pain, Breathe In Leaving for Peace. Breathe Out Fear, Breathe In Safety. Breathe Out Isn’t Normal, Breathe In Normal.
God speed on this journey to freedoms from pain, sadness and not being enough. You are worth it all and deserve it all.