I usually like to keep everything very lighthearted at Chez Mrs. D but life can’t always be fun and games – not when there’s an important topic to be discussed.
Like almost everyone, I abhor all forms of abuse against another human being (yes and animals too!) but there’s something about narcissistic abuse that really hits a nerve with me. It’s because narcissistic abuse is something that has affected me personally. It’s because it has affected people I care about. It’s the reason why one of my schoolmates is no longer with us and why another one has serious emotional health issues. This is not a club I ever wanted to belong to but I found myself becoming a member without even realising what I was signing up to – which is quite often the case with people who have endured narcissistic abuse. And even though some of the emotional scars still remain, I’m definitely one of the lucky ones.
World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day
June 1st 2018 (tomorrow) marks World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day (WNAAD) an internationally recognized event that raises awareness of narcissistic abuse as well as providing education and resources for survivors. WNAAD was established in 2016 and now occurs on June 1st every year. It may only be two years old but WNAAD is a growing global movement and is committed to raising awareness of narcissistic abuse, and provides education, resources for survivors, and wants to take steps towards a change in policy.
Survivor Empowerment Telesummit 2018
An important part of World Narcissist Abuse Awareness Day in order to highlight the problem and raise the profile of narcissistic abuse is the commencement of a two day online summit, The Survivor Empowerment Telesummit 2018 where seventeen speakers – mental health practitioners and leading industry experts – will be giving advice and sharing insights.
What is narcissistic abuse?
Many people are still a little confused as to what exactly narcissistic abuse is. I plan to write a longer, more informative post on the subject but simply put it’s a form of psychological and emotional abuse. Unlike physical abuse which leaves visible cuts, bruises and broken bones, victims of any kind of emotional abuse wear their wounds on the inside – mentally and emotionally, hence why WNAAD came up with the hashtag, #IfMyWoundsWereVisible. That’s not to say that the abuse can’t later become physical but many of the abusers are often too clever, too charming and too subtle for that. Many people suffering from narcissistic abuse don’t even realise that what’s happening to them is a legitimate form of abuse. Somewhere down the line they may realise that something doesn’t feel right but can’t quite explain what and why. Family and friends will notice that something’s wrong but not know what it is or even how to help. For those of us who have endured narcissisitic abuse, we know just how awful, confusing and scary it is.
Why is it necessary to raise awareness of narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic abuse is a problem that goes by undetected until it’s usually too late – but the epidemic of narcissistic abuse is escalating and I’ve seen that just with the people around me. But sadly there isn’t much in the way of education, campaign or funding to tackle this subject. According to the WNAAD website, studies indicate that between 1% and 6% of the population suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and that’s just narcissists alone – this statistic does not include the other cluster B disorders. It is estimated that in a lifetime, each individual suffering from NPD will have relationships with approximately five partners, thus highlighting the enormity and grave impact of this abuse. But although we know the number of people affected by NPD in one way or another is huge, it is difficult to calculate a near enough exact number. One thing that people often forget is that the narcissist isn’t always a partner: it could be a parent, child, or other family member, friend, housemate, or colleague – in short, it could be anyone.
Because the issue of narcissistic abuse is one that’s very close to my heart, I’m delighted that people are now talking about it and awareness is being raised because it gives the narcissist less place to hide and hopefully they’ll never cause pain or mental anguish to another human being again.
For those of you who are interested in the Survivor Empowerment Telesummit and wish to register you can do so at http://www.wnaad.com
They say you should never judge a book by its cover but I have to say that it was the cover of Pear Shaped that caught by eye: pretty and dainty in light blue with splashes of bold colour including amethyst and hot pink (my favourite colour combination) featuring a girl carrying a scrummy looking dessert. It screamed girly heaven and I believed that this read was going to be all sweetness and light. Little did I know that there was an element of darkness lurking between these pages…
In Stella Newman’s debut novel, we meet Sophie Klein, a confident, sassy independent thirty-something with great friends, a good social life and the best job in the world – pudding developer for a company called Fletchers. She gets to come up with ideas for new desserts; think up packaging and best of all, she gets to taste-test them – an aspect of the job Sophie absolutely loves.
But Sophie’s life isn’t all rosy in the garden. She is getting over a broken relationship; her mother and brother live thousands of miles away in America; there’s her annoying neighbour Amber and the boss she can’t stand, Devron, and her beloved elderly grandmother who can no longer care for herself. Sophie, being the ever resourceful girl that she is, just takes these things in her stride. Unfortunately life’s about to throw a curveball she won’t be able to manage…
On a night out, Sophie meets the charming and charismatic business owner James. Although he is not conventionally good-looking and a fair bit older, Sophie takes a shine to him. They soon start dating and James makes grand gestures in order to really sweep Sophie off her feet. It isn’t long before the attraction she feels for him soon turns to love.
However, after a while Sophie starts to feel quite insecure in the relationship. James doesn’t seem ready to commit, and then there are his frequent absences as he goes away on business and his erratic texts and phone calls. The fact that his ex-girlfriend is a model also doesn’t help. Sophie begins to wonder if James is too good to be true – and it isn’t long before his true colours begin to show. During a heart- to- heart, James reveals that he’s never been out with anyone like her, referring to her size. James doesn’t seem to realise that although this is a woman who tests puddings for a living, Sophie isn’t fat but he’s obviously comparing her to the skinny model exes.
So it all goes down hill from here as a pattern develops in this book: Sophie gets close to James; James pulls away; Sophie tries to move on; James reels her back in. As irritating as Amber and Devron might be (they do incidentally provide some of the comic moments in the novel) James is by far the most unlikable character in this book. Shallow, arrogant, selfish, insincere, and a man who befriends cheats and liars, it’s quite obvious that he doesn’t care for Sophie, constantly putting her down, but at the same time he can’t quite let her go.
I could relate to this story and Sophie’s pain as she desperately tries to move on and get her life back on track, as we’ve all had the misfortune of knowing a James at some point in our lives. We’ve either dated him ourselves or our friends and sisters have. We’ve either been yelled at by worried friends and relatives who insist we leave the relationship, or we’ve been the ones doing the yelling. Despite feeling saddened by Sophie’s plight and seeing her sink into depression for which she eventually needed medical attention, there were times, I just wanted to reach into the book and shake her. This is a young lady who has everything going for her, who could easily find a man who treats her better – if only she could shake off that horrible James. The Jameses of the world are not easy to spot because they are charmers and schmoozers who know how to say and do all the right things to get you sucked in, causing you to ignore all the warning signs, as Sophie soon found out.
Despite being light-hearted and comical at times, there is a deeper, darker element to this novel. Stella Newman explores the sinister side of relationships: infidelity, emotional abuse, the need to control and the devastating effect it can have on the person on receiving end of it. Sophie’s lack of self-respect and insecurities are a sharp contrast to the feistier elements of her character which shows the effect this unhealthy relationship is having on her. Without wanting to give too much away, there is a somewhat semi-happy ending but I did find the climax to be a little disappointing as I felt that such a dramatic and thought-provoking story needed a stronger conclusion.
However, I do think that Newman is a brilliant and witty writer. I loved her lengthy descriptions of the puddings (food porn for us dessert-aholics!) and another thing I liked about this book is that the author lists the places she likes in London and New York (both cities feature in this book) plus restaurant reviews and recipe sources. Perhaps the only real love affair in this novel is between a woman and her sweet-tooth! But I just couldn’t get away from the fact that this was a novel about an abusive relationship and it was brave of Newman to tackle such a taboo subject for a chick-lit novel. There has been criticism that the novel reflected badly on women but I disagree. This is a novel about one woman’s heartbreak and her attempts to rebuild her life – with the help of lots of sugar!