Dealing with a narcissist, in general, can be difficult.

Parenting with a narcissist can be complicated.

Facing a narcissist in a custody battle might just be impossible.

Facing a narcissist in a custody battle, while in severe physical pain and trauma… Well, there might just be no point.

Except the kids won’t be safe with their father.

So how does a victim of years of emotional, psychological, spiritual and sexual abuse with severe physical pain and trauma survive a custody battle?

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, continues her conversation with Isabelle, about how she found healing from debilitating physical, mental and emotional pain and how she endured a long custody battle with her narcissistic ex-husband. Previously, Isabelle shared her story of how she came out of the fog of years of marital rape and abuse.

Try To Avoid A Custody Battle With A Narcissist

Being Catholic, once Isabelle realized things had to change, divorce was not her first choice.

Her only thought was that she and the kid weren’t safe, so she opted for separation.

She wanted a legal separation, so she started talking to attorneys.

Each attorney she spoke to, however, found out her situation and made the same suggestion, “You’re being abused. Your children are being abused. You need a divorce, if you’re going to really be safe.”

Even the Catholic attorneys suggested divorce.

Not wanting to talk about the abuse from her husband, Isabelle asked the attorney that she finally hired if she would have to prove anything to get a divorce. He told her she didn’t because she lived in a no-fault state.

She filed for divorce.

She had mentioned talking to an attorney about separation before, and her husband had responded with threats of taking everything they owned and leaving her and the kids, and never paying child support.

When she told him that she’d filed for divorce, he was “shocked.”

This was no surprise to Isabelle, of course, by this time, she had realized he lied a lot.

“I can be pretty certain that he probably never told me the truth about anything. That everything that even sounded like truth had some sort of distortion to it, and that I’d stay in that. That helps me to stop trying to figure it out. Because you can make yourself crazy trying to figure them out. I’ve realized I can’t go in his head.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle was still willing to work with him on shared parenting. She tried cooperating and making things simple.

That didn’t work.

A Battle With A Narcissist Is Inevitable When You File For Divorce

Isabelle’s husband refused to move out.

He wouldn’t sign the divorce papers.

Instead, he would leave them in the envelope on the kitchen counter with a crucifix on them.

Each time he did this, she would simply return them to his office.

He would put them back on the kitchen counter and tell her things like, “If you didn’t want the kids to see, then you shouldn’t have done it. Take it back. You can still put an end to this.”

He still refused to move out and he got more abusive.

“He started following me around the house and trapping me in closets, unlocking the bathroom door and coming in when I was in the shower and not letting me out. It got to the point where I was packing up a bag for myself and my youngest and leaving the house really early in the morning and just trying to hide.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle would find places around town to hide from her husband. The library, Starbucks, anywhere she could think of.

Then, one night, everything changed.

He had her trapped in the laundry room for two hours.

Isabelle said, out loud, “I can go from raging to crying and being the poor little victim.”

Instantly, her husband started with the tears, blaming her for their problems and for her hurting him, saying that she wouldn’t admit to not being a “perfect” wife.

“I told him that I had always admitted that I was not a good wife, but that nothing I had done, or failed to do, could equal the hurt of him raping me. He looked at me and said, ‘There you go bringing that up again. When are you going to get over it?’ We didn’t know it, but our teenage daughter had heard that part of the conversation.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Her husband had admitted to raping her and Isabelle, unknowingly, had a witness.

“The next day, my attorney was able to get him out of the house.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Her husband hired an attorney and immediately told the attorney everything that Isabelle would say. He told her they were lies and that she was crazy. He was a good Catholic, husband, and father.

From the beginning, she was going to be seen through his eyes.

“Not only did I have to prove what he had done, I don’t care if anybody ever even knows, now I had to prove it and I had to disprove that I was a delusional liar.”

-Isabelle, Shero

It wasn’t just what he was saying about her that would cause her problems, though.

“In eight states in our country, marital rape is not a crime. You cannot charge your spouse with rape. There are spousal exemption laws.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle had been raped by her husband, repeatedly, over their entire marriage.

Unfortunately, her talking about it, didn’t help her case.

“I had people within the court system who, immediately, when they heard that I thought he had raped me, that was evidence. Just my thinking that, was evidence that I was a liar because I was told it’s impossible.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Her husband’s attorney talked to her attorney on the phone.

Her husband had turned the issues she had wanted to keep private into the whole issue.

A Narcissist May Pull Out All The Stops In A Custody Battle

After that first meeting with her husband’s attorney, Isabelle’s attorney called her.

He needed to know. Everything.

She told him.

She told her attorney about the abuse. She told him about the emotional, psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

“I know exactly what you meant when you said that you would wish that he would hit you. No one within the system wanted to believe that what he had done was abuse or physical abuse, and the courts really didn’t seem to care at all about the emotional and psychological abuse. Not of me and not of my children.”

-Isabelle, Shero

The case dragged on.

Isabelle’s children had to continue seeing their father.

They had to continue being abused because no one in the system believed their father would do such a thing.

The people who were appointed, by the courts, to protect Isabelle’s children, didn’t.

Her children were being further traumatized.

In the more than three years it took to finalize the divorce, two of her children were hospitalized for suicidal ideation and children’s services were called several times during his parenting time.

More than three years, several attorneys, guardian ad litem, and custody evaluators later, they finally had a reprieve.

“It wasn’t until near the very end of going to trial that he, in front of three of the older children, bit my youngest child hard enough that there was still a bite mark when she got home to me. I was able to get her to the guardian ad litem so she could see the evidence, and then she had to stop saying that the children and I lied, that we were the liars.”

-Isabelle, Shero

The whole experience was long and excruciating for Isabelle and her children.

It finally came to an end on Valentine’s Day, the perfect gift.

With the conclusion of her marriage and the end of the custody battle, Isabelle could finally breathe a sigh of relief, but her journey wasn’t over yet.

Enduring A Custody Battle With A Narcissist Can Strengthen Your Faith

Whether it’s God or a Higher Power, any woman’s faith can be strengthened when she makes it through a trial.

For Isabelle, her faith in God carried her through when she just couldn’t make it anymore.

She’s been able to see the little ways in which God was working in her life throughout the divorce and custody battle.

“There were moments of almost despair but there were also moments when I could see that God was at work and that His timing is perfect, and He knows the whole story. He can see it all and we have tunnel vision. In the end, it had to take that long and get to that point because now my children don’t have to see him unless they want to.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle has identified many miracles in her life through all of this, but the greatest miracle of all was one that she wasn’t even looking for.

Isabelle suffered from chronic pelvic floor dysfunction.

“For years, I had debilitating physical pain. Sometimes, the pain was all over my entire body, so I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, herniated discs, and all kinds of back diagnoses. Tested for lupus repeatedly, and just thrown on lots and lots of meds to try this and try that. Nothing worked.”

-Isabelle, Shero

She never made a connection between the pain and what she was experiencing in her marriage.

“It wasn’t until he was forced to move out of the marital residence that, all of a sudden, PTSD symptoms popped up, this was like flashbacks and PTSD nightmares. The pain that I experienced was, primarily, in my pelvic area. My hips and my back and it would shoot down my legs. Basically, I lived feeling as though I was being raped all the time. All the time.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle’s body seemed to be remembering rapes that she didn’t even have a conscious memory of. She would relive them in her mind and her body.

The constant pain was triggering memories.

“There were moments, even driving the car when, all of a sudden, I’d find myself screaming, ‘Get off of me!’ It became a real problem in the divorce case because it was looking like I was crazy to people who didn’t believe that I had been traumatized.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle couldn’t sleep. She cried all the time and they were threatening to take the kids away from her.

Then, one day, she went to a new physical therapist, a young woman.

After treating Isabelle a few times for back pain, the physical therapist asked Isabelle a personal question.

“She asked me if I had ever been sexually abused. Of course, I was like, ‘Why? Why would you even ask that?’ She said it was the way my body was responding. First of all, she could feel fear. She could feel fear when she touched me, and she said those muscles, in a woman, clench and tighten like that because they are trying to protect. That’s what they do, is protect that part of your body.”

-Isabelle, Shero

The physical therapist told Isabelle that she needed to see an internal pelvic floor therapist.

Surviving A Narcissist Can Help You Find Healing

After years of severe pain, Isabelle finally had an answer, but it still took some time to gather the courage to see a specialist.

Once she got to the specialist, she went through many different treatments over a couple of years, but, still, nothing worked.

Finally, the specialists told her she would have to finalize her divorce, go through years of EMDR and get over the PTSD before they could try anything else for her pain.

One doctor was prepared to testify at the divorce trial that she would never be able to work and would never heal from this pelvic dysfunction.

Through all of this, Isabelle had been seeing a therapist who had given her some guided visualization and muscle relaxation recordings, Christian-style, to help with the pain and flashbacks.

(Progressive muscle relaxation took her through each part of her body and had her relax each of those muscles. Christian-style had her add Jesus standing there, touching her, and, her, feeling His warmth and healing power, relaxing her muscles, and feeling His tenderness.)

One night, after the divorce was finalized, as she was doing her guided visualization and relaxation, she was in so much pain and so exhausted.

Isabelle couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much for her to bear.

“On that night, lying there in my bed, I just started sobbing and I said, ‘Jesus, I’m so tired. I can’t keep just imagining you touching me and healing me. I can’t do this. I’m so tired.’ Immediately… Immediately, this warmth and this comforting, I don’t know, I want to call it a heaviness, but not the heaviness I knew from the sadness and the suffocation, this was like being held so tightly. Just warmth and peace, and I felt those muscles just give.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Those muscles hadn’t relaxed in 20 years, but, that night, they relaxed, and Isabelle fell asleep on her back. She slept through the night.

When she woke up the next morning, she thought a good night’s sleep, with no nightmares, was her miracle.

She soon discovered it was much more than that.

She started getting the kids ready for school and bent down to pick something up in the kitchen and stood up.

Isabelle hadn’t been able to stand up without holding onto the counter in years.

Where was the pain?

She thought something was wrong, but the pain didn’t come back.

After about a month of no pain, she went back to the internal pelvic floor therapist and requested an exam, because she couldn’t believe she was healed.

With tears in her eyes, the therapist told her it was true.

Not only was she healed, but Isabelle’s pelvic floor had no sign of dysfunction, not even for her age, having nine children, and never exercising.

The therapist told her those muscles were soft.

“She told me they used to feel like hard, dry clay and it was so painful that she could never even reach all of them because I would just begin to have flashbacks. I had no pain. I have no pain.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle still has no pain.

It’s not only her physical pain that has been healed, though, her trauma seems to have healed too.

“When He healed the physical pain, it healed the PTSD. I no longer take any medications of any kind. There is no depression. There is no bipolar. It was all abuse. It was all the effects of abuse.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle lives a completely different life now, pain-free, with a brand-new perspective.

Finding The Miracles In Your Battles With A Narcissist

Isabelle has been putting her trust in God for a long time, but now she understands God a lot better.

She has a better understanding of how He works.

Isabelle just wanted a moment of rest, instead she got was a life-changing miracle.

She’s not sure why her, but she tries her best to put her trust in Him and find the small miracles too.

“I don’t worry anymore. That, to me, is a miracle too. I have seen what God can do, what He saved us from. Little miracle, big miracle, what do I have to worry about? What will He not take care of when I trust in him? Now I see miracles all the time.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle, like many betrayed and abused women, knows what its like to be in severe pain, physical, emotional and psychological pain.

And now she knows what it’s like to be out of the pain, to be healed. To have peace and hope.

“I think about how it really is true that, when you have seen the deepest, blackest darkness then it’s like the light is so beautiful and brilliant. I think it’s because we’ve seen the darkness, that now, what other people miss sometimes, I don’t miss it anymore because I know what it’s like on the other side.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle says the people that went through the whole ordeal with her have commented that there’s no way she could have done that alone, especially through the pain she was in.

They marvel at her strength to have made it through.

She says she didn’t do it alone.

“This is what I learned, because I learned to trust in Him. I learned that He knows better than I do. I learned that, even in the horrible pain I was in and the emotional pain, with Jesus with me, within me, I can do all things.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Often, women wonder why things don’t happen at different times. Anne asked Isabelle what she thought about this.

“Why not during the divorce proceedings where you’re in so much pain? Logically speaking with our mortal minds, it would have been a really good time to heal you because then you may have been more confident or stronger or less emotional.”

-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Isabelle says she’s learned to trust in God’s timing and in His ways.

“Our human sight is short-sighted, and when we think that our prayers only have one way that it could possibly be answered, God’s up there saying, ‘Oh, no. You know what, I can see a hundred possibilities for answering that prayer.’”

-Isabelle, Shero

Anne says her big miracle didn’t seem like one, at the time, and reminds women that they may not always see the miracle that is happening right in front of them.

“Even though you might not recognize your miracle right now, or you might not see it, but that it will happen or something like it. I prayed for a miracle in 2015, and then, a few months later, my ex was actually arrested, which is not what I thought the miracle would look like, but that’s what it looked like for me.”

-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Isabelle observes that God works in His own way that shows His love for us.

“He does it in a way that is not what we thought but is just always coming back to the fact that He is love. He IS love. Nothing but love.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Enduring Battles With A Narcissist Doesn’t Mean Enduring Abuse

Isabelle leaves listeners with a reminder that no one deserves to be betrayed or abused.

“He made us. We were created by love for love and we are loved. Not for abuse, we’re not created for abuse.”

-Isabelle, Shero

Isabelle will be back in a few months to give an update.

Meanwhile, Anne wants all women to remember that abuse is never acceptable to God and it shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.

“Abuse is Satan, it’s Satan’s tool. Women who have been in our situation, I feel like we have looked in the eyes of evil. We’ve seen evil. We’ve had it in our home, and it’s like a nightmare. A never-ending nightmare.”

-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

She reminds women that they are worthy of love, peace and safety.

“God absolutely loves you and you have not been abandoned. If you hold on to God’s love and know that you don’t deserve to be abused and harmed, even if it’s ‘just’ psychologically, even if it’s ‘just’ emotional abuse, even if it’s ‘just’ that your husband is viewing pornography, which is a gateway to harm and abuse, that you can make your way to safety because you deserve to be absolutely adored and loved like God loves you.”

-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Betrayal Trauma Recovery wants all women who have been betrayed and abused to find safety.

One way we can help is by providing a safe place to share. With more than 15 sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

Last week, I started my conversation with Isabelle about her abusive relationship with a man who was not only deceiving her and lying to her and viewing pornography, but also marital rape. If you didn’t hear the first part of our interview together, please go to last week’s episode, catch up there first, and then join us here today.

If you haven’t checked out our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group session schedule, you can go to btr.org, click on Services, and go to Daily Support Group. You can get in to talk to a professional BTR Coach and other women who are going through similar circumstances that you are, today because our schedule has multiple sessions per day in multiple time zones.

Please check that out. It’s an amazing resource. We built the way that we did so women can talk with other women who really understand it and can help them get to safety right away, rather than talking to people who don’t really understand emotional or verbal abuse.

Now, we’re going to continue the conversation we had last week with Isabelle.

Legalized Marital Rape Helps Narcissists In Court Battles

Anne: As you were getting divorced, you had mentioned that the marital rape issue became an issue with the law. Can you talk about that and how that made things worse for you in the divorce?

Isabelle: Yes. When I first decided that I was going to need an attorney, I first went talking to attorneys for a legal separation. Being Catholic I thought, “I can’t get a divorce, but the kids and I need to get out of here.” Of course, they said, “Oh, no. You’re being abused. Your children are being abused. You need a divorce if you’re going to really be safe.”

Even Catholic attorneys were telling me that, just, “You need a divorce.” I didn’t tell anyone. Even when I hired my first attorney, the first questions I asked him were, “To get a divorce will I ever have to talk about things that went on between him and I?” That’s how I phrased it. “Will I have to prove anything?”

He said, “Oh, no. It’s a no-fault state, anybody can get a divorce. You don’t like that he snores, you get a divorce.” Not quite true, because I told him, I said, “No one will believe me. No one will believe me. They will believe him.” I went ahead, and I filed for the divorce. I even told my former husband, when I told him that I filed for the divorce, that we can just work this out.

Anne: Was he shocked when you told him?

Isabelle: He said he was. He sure acted like he was, which I had already told him, a few months before, that I had seen an attorney about a legal separation. Of course, he just threatened me that if he ever heard the words separation, divorce, attorneys come out of my mouth again he was taking everything we owned and leaving me and the kids and no one could make him ever pay child support or anything.

Anne: You actually do it, amid his threats and, my guess is, he was kind of shocked? That would be my guess.

Isabelle: Yeah, I can be pretty certain that he probably never told me the truth about anything. That everything that even sounded like truth had some sort of distortion to it, and that I’d stay in that. That helps me to stop trying to figure it out.

Anne: That’s a good plan. Sorry, if I’m encroaching on that plan.

Isabelle:  Because you can make yourself crazy trying to figure them out. I’ve realized I can’t go in his head. What was funny was I told him that we don’t have to talk about anything. Nobody has to know the things that went on. Even at that point, I was still willing to work out shared parenting and I was trying to be very, very cooperative and make it simple.

We had to live together for a few weeks after I filed. He wouldn’t move out. It got to the point where it was just scary. It was very, very scary. He left the divorce papers in the envelope with a crucifix on them in the middle of the kitchen counter.

Every time, I would move them into his office, he would put them back and say, “If you didn’t want to have to look at this,” or, “If you didn’t want the kids to see, then you shouldn’t have done it. Take it back. You can still put an end to this.”

He started following me around the house and trapping me in closets, unlocking the bathroom door and coming in when I was in the shower and not letting me out. It got to the point where I was packing up a bag for myself and my youngest and leaving the house really early in the morning and just trying to hide. Moving around town: the library, Starbucks, wherever I had to go to try and hide.

Finally, after a night of him trapping me in the laundry room for hours and while not knowing there was a child in the room next to us, I said, out loud, that I can go from raging to crying and being the poor little victim, the poor little boy. In a second flat, he started the tears in the eyes, saying, “You know, our problem is really that you just don’t want to admit the ways that you’ve hurt me and, if you could just admit that you haven’t been the perfect wife and that you’ve hurt me, then maybe we could work on getting some change.”

This was after about two hours of being trapped, and I said that that was not true. That I had always admitted that I was not a good wife, but that nothing I had done or failed to do could equal the hurt of him raping me. He looked at me and said, “There you go bringing that up again. When are you going to get over it?”

Witness To A Confession From A Narcissist

We didn’t know it, but our teenage daughter had heard that part of the conversation. The next day, my attorney was able to get him out of the house. He hadn’t hired an attorney yet. He was forced to hire an attorney and the first thing he did was tell his attorney that I was crazy and delusional and mentally ill and that I would start saying all of these things.

He told her all of the things that I would say and that they were all lies and that everyone knew that he was a good Catholic man and husband and father and if they listened to me, they would think he was a monster. They all knew that wasn’t true, that I was the crazy one.

Then, right from the beginning that’s how I was seen, and I had that to disprove. Not only did I have to prove what he had done, I don’t care if anybody ever even knows, now I had to prove it and I had to disprove that I was a delusional liar.

In eight states in our country, marital rape is not a crime. You cannot charge your spouse with rape. There are spousal exemption laws.

Anne: And you’re living in one of these states at the time?

Isabelle: Yes. I had people within the court system who, immediately, when they heard that I thought he had raped me, that was evidence. Just my thinking that, was evidence that I was a liar because I was told it’s impossible. “A husband can’t rape his wife, you’re lying.”

Anne: I was accused by my ecclesiastical leader of being abusive and the proof he had was that I’d said my husband was abusive. A supportive and nurturing wife does not claim her husband is abusive. Yeah, so I get that.

So, here you are. What happened? What happened next?

Isabelle: My attorney gets off the phone with his attorney, their first meeting, and he calls me and says, “We have to meet right now. You’re going to have to tell me the story because he’s already gone out there and said you’re going to say A, B, C, D, E, F, G. You have to tell me what happened. Now, he’s made it THE issue.” What I had said nobody ever needed to know, he turned it into the whole issue.

It took over three years, several attorneys, guardian ad litem, custody evaluator, and further trauma for my poor children. The system and their father, the people appointed within the court, who were supposed to protect the children, further traumatized them.

I know exactly what you meant when you said that you would wish that he would’ve hit you. No one within the system wanted to believe that what he had done was abuse or physical abuse, and the courts really didn’t seem to care at all about the emotional and psychological abuse. Not of me and not of my children.

It didn’t matter that, in the course of the divorce. two children were hospitalized for suicidal ideation. Children’s services were called several times during his parenting time. None of that mattered. It wasn’t until near the very end of going to trial that he, in front of three of the older children, bit my youngest child hard enough that there was still a bite mark when she got home to me.

I was able to get her to the guardian ad litem so she could see the evidence, and then she had to stop saying that the children and I lied, that we were the liars.

We still went to trial. I can see now, and even at the time, there were moments of almost despair but there were also moments when I could see that God was at work and that His timing is perfect, and He knows the whole story. He can see it all and we have tunnel vision.

In the end, it had to take that long and get to that point because now my children don’t have to see him unless they want to. Which, where I am, the attorney and everyone said that that is miraculous.

Anne: My kids would love that. That’s how they feel right now. Like, “We just wish we didn’t have to go unless we wanted to,” but they’re forced to go, and they don’t like it.

Isabelle: In the end, it all worked out beyond what anyone could imagine. The safety and the peace that we have now—before, I was living in an absolute nightmare. Whether I was awake or asleep, it was just a nightmare. Now, there are days when I walk around and I’m like, “Wait a minute. Am I dreaming? Am I awake?” It’s like, “Is this real?”

Anne: Do you feel like—I feel like this sometimes and I think it’s just a terrible thing to say—but, when I’m at church and the other women at church are talking about the HOA and how they charge them an extra $25 or whatever, just stuff like that, that they’re really concerned about, I’m smiling.

I’m thinking, “Oh, you poor women, who are so upset about the HOA. I wish you had gone through hell. Then, you’d be like, ‘Oh, who cares about the HOA.’” I don’t know if that’s how you feel sometimes. “Oh, I’m so blessed, and life is so good that these little things aren’t a big deal.”

I’m sure, even with the safety that you feel, there are still things that are happening. Do you still live in the same city or are you completely away from him now?

Isabelle: No. Not completely away. In a different home now.

Trauma Created A Battle With Physical Pain

Do you know of chronic pelvic floor dysfunction? Do I need to describe what that is a little bit?

Anne: Yeah, you should describe it. I don’t really know and then I’m sure some other listeners don’t know, but I’m guessing it has something to do with being raped repeatedly, abused, and having nine kids?

Isabelle: For years, I had debilitating physical pain. Sometimes, the pain was all over my entire body, so I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, herniated discs, and all kinds of back diagnoses. Tested for lupus repeatedly, and just thrown on lots and lots of meds to try this and try that. Nothing worked. Years and years of physical therapy.

It wasn’t until he was forced to move out of the marital residence that, all of a sudden, PTSD symptoms popped up. I guess that’s because, when you’re actually still being abused, it’s not considered PTSD.

Anne: No, it’s still trauma. Constant trauma. I love it when women are living with their abuser, they say things like, “I got triggered today and I need to know how to deal with the triggers.” I’m like, “No, you got triggered because you’re still in abuse.”

Isabelle: Yeah, and this was like flashbacks and PTSD nightmares and that all started. The pain that I experienced was, primarily, in my pelvic area. My hips and my back and it would shoot down my legs. Basically, I lived feeling as though I was being raped all the time. All the time. It began to trigger memories of rapes that I didn’t even have a conscious memory of. I would start to see them, feel them, relive them.

Now, the pain, I’m living in this chronic pain, it’s triggering all these memories. There were moments, even driving the car when, all of a sudden, I’d find myself screaming, “Get off of me!” It became a real problem in the divorce case because it was looking like I was crazy to people who didn’t believe that I had been traumatized.

Why did I have PTSD now? Why were my kids saying I was crying all the time and not able to sleep? It was very scary because they were using it to try and threaten to take the kids from me. “Well, if you’re not well, you know, the kids should not be living with you.”

I ended up seeing a new physical therapist, a young woman, who after only treating me a few times for my back pain asked me if she could ask me a personal question. She asked me if I had ever been sexually abused. Of course, I was like, “Why? Why would you even ask that?” She said that the way that my body was responding, first of all, she could feel fear.

She could feel fear when she touched me, and she said those muscles, in a woman, clench and tighten like that because they are trying to protect. That’s what they do, is protect that part of your body. She said, “What you really need is an internal pelvic floor therapist. This isn’t a back problem. It’s your internal muscles, it’s your pelvic floor muscles.”

It took a long time for me to get up the courage to go see someone, and I went through a couple of years of doctors who specialized in chronic pelvic floor pain and internal physical floor therapists. Botox injections, where they put me to sleep and dig ten needles into my pelvic floor. Nothing. Nothing working.

It got to the point where, pretty much, they all said, “Look, until you’re divorced and you go through years of EMDR and therapy and get over the PTSD, we really can’t do anything more for the pelvic pain.” One of them was ready to testify at my divorce trial and say, “She’ll never be able to work. She’ll never be healed from this.”    

Two Battles Endured And Won

The divorce gets done. It was actually just this past Valentine’s Day. One of the things that I have been using to try and cope with the pain and the flashbacks from the pain was my therapist had made me Catholic guided visualizations and muscle relaxation recordings.

You know, progressive muscle relaxation takes you through each of the parts of your body and has you relax those muscles. She added to it having Jesus standing there touching me and, me, feeling His warmth and healing power relaxing my muscles and His tenderness. She would move into Him touching my back and my abdomen and my pelvic floor muscles relaxing in the warmth of His healing.

On that night, lying there in my bed, I just started sobbing, and I said, “Jesus, I’m so tired. I can’t keep just imagining you touching me and healing me. I can’t do this. I’m so tired.” Immediately… Immediately, this warmth and this comforting, I don’t know, I want to call it a heaviness, but not the heaviness I knew from the sadness and the suffocation, this was like being held so tightly. Just warmth and peace, and I felt those muscles just give.

Like, just relax and they hadn’t relaxed in 20 some years. I actually fell asleep lying on my back and I slept through the night. I slept through the night on my back, which never ever would I have done that.

I woke up and I thought, “Wow! Jesus, you gave me a good night’s sleep. Thank you!” I thought that was the miracle. I had slept through the night without any nightmares. “You gave me a goodnight’s sleep, thank you.” I got up and I started getting them ready for school and when I bent down in the kitchen to pick something up and I just stood up like I didn’t have to hold on to the counter.

“Oh my gosh, something’s wrong, where is my pain? Where is my pain?” It has never come back. After about a month of no pain I went back to the internal pelvic floor therapist and asked her to please do an exam and feel those muscles and see. Were they really healed?

She had tears in her eyes, and she said, “I cannot explain it.” She said, “I would expect more dysfunction in your pelvic floor just for being the age that you are, having the number of kids that you do, and never exercising, and they’re healed.”

She said, “They are soft.” She told me they used to feel like hard, dry clay and it was so painful that she could never even reach all of them because I would just begin to have flashbacks. I had no pain. I have no pain. When He healed the physical pain, it healed the PTSD.

I no longer take any medications of any kind. There is no depression. There is no bipolar. It was all abuse. It was all the effects of abuse.

Finding Miracles In The Battles You’re Enduring

Anne: That is an amazing story. I’m so grateful that you shared it. I’ve been thinking about miracles a lot lately. Like big miracles and this is one of them. There are several things in my life, I want to see a big miracle. It’s interesting to me that you weren’t necessarily looking for a big miracle, right. You were just wanting to relax at that moment.

I wrote down all the big miracles that I would like to see, and I wrote them on a piece of paper, and I said a prayer. I said, “God, I can’t do the loaves and the fishes or bring Lazarus back to life or anything like that. I’ve tried those things and I’m not spiritual enough or not capable or whatever,” and I wrote them down and I prayed.

I said, “These are the things that I would like to see but I’m going to leave it up to you.” I put it in a drawer and I’ve just left it there, but hearing your story gives me hope. Not necessarily for the miracles that I want, but to surrender my will and my life to God and let Him bring to pass the miracles that He sees fit.

I’m so grateful hearing your story that that’s the miracle that He bestowed on you in addition to all the tiny miracles that both of us probably see every day, and maybe don’t recognize.

Isabelle: You know, when you were talking about how you hear other women and the things that they’re worried about and complaining about. I don’t worry anymore. That, to me, is a miracle too. I have seen what God can do. What He saved us from. Little miracle, big miracle, what do I have to worry about? What will He not take care of when I trust in him? Now I see miracles all the time. Everything.

I think about how it really is true that, when you have seen the deepest, blackest darkness then it’s like the light is so beautiful and brilliant. Sometimes, I just say to him, “God, when are the miracles going to stop? You don’t have to give me anymore. You’re overwhelming me,” but I think it’s because we’ve seen the darkness, that now what other people miss sometimes, I don’t miss it anymore because I know what it’s like on the other side.

Anne: Yeah, and I’m grateful to talk to you today because I think I’ve been—I don’t know if angry is the right word—resentful, frustrated but there are these prayers I’ve been praying that would take a huge miracle, right. He’s answering the little prayers.

Just over this week, we got to this camp spot and it didn’t work out, and I told my kids to pray that we’ll find a better camp spot and we drove up and there was a great camp spot. I had everybody pray and be grateful. I’m like, “Okay, He’s answering all these little prayers and these big ones aren’t happening.”

Isabelle: Do you know what though? Do you think you could look and see, if maybe the big ones are, but they’re not happening in one big shocking moment?

Anne: Yeah. It might be, and that’s what prompted me to write them down because I recognized that part of my problem is that I have so much faith that when I pray and I know God can do things and He doesn’t do them, I also know they’re good, it’s not like I’m praying for—  

Isabelle: Just to win the lottery so you can go buy some new clothes and cars.

Anne: Yeah, although that would be great. I know these would be good things and they don’t happen. I get like, “Why? You’re God, you can do anything.” It feels like He’s purposefully withholding it or something. I recognize all the little ones and that’s why I decided I’m just going to write these down. These are the things that I am frustrated about and I’m going to put them into a box and I’m going to pray about it and I’m going to give it to Him.

Ever since then, I’ve just been praying that my desires and my will, will be in line with His so that I can see the miracles that He wants to give me. The ones that He decides, “This is the right thing for you.” I can recognize that and live in gratitude rather than just being frustrated all the time. Like, “Why isn’t this happening?”

Isabelle: Yeah, I think that’s huge. I would pray, when I was in all that pain, especially in the divorce, because I knew they could use it to take the kids from me. On top of the pain and the flashbacks, it was scary.

It was so scary, and I would pray and ask “Why? I know you can do miracles. If you can heal me with one word, why are you not healing this?” Part of it was that His timing, He knew the right timing for it.

My pelvic floor therapist, you know she said, “I always knew God would heal you, but I thought it would take a lot of time and you would have to work really hard at it.”

Anne: The other thing I think is fascinating, if you don’t mind me really getting into this, is that He can heal you instantly and He did, right. Why not during the divorce proceedings where you’re in so much pain? Logically speaking with our mortal minds, it would have been a really good time to heal you because then you may have been more confident or stronger or less emotional.

Isabelle: This is what I learned, because I learned to trust in Him. I learned that He knows better than I do. I learned that, even in the horrible pain I was in and the emotional pain, with Jesus with me, within me, I can do all things. People have said, “You were unstoppable. How did you do it? It was not humanly possible.” Now, I can witness to people that, with Jesus, if you rely on Jesus, you can do all things through Him. You can, and I did it. It’s hard for me to say it. This is probably the first time I have actually said I did it out loud, because it’s hard for me to take any credit for it, but I could not have done it alone.

Anne: You’re not glorying in yourself, you’re glorying in Jesus, right, and in God.

Isabelle: That’s the thing, people who hear my story, and the people I know who walked my story with me, are like, “There’s no way. It’s not humanly possible. God was with you because no one could do that alone.”

Anne: Absolutely. Absolutely, and I’m proud and honored to be able to hear your story, especially at a time like this in my particular life where I’m hoping and praying for miracles that I’m not necessarily seeing yet or maybe ever, but to know that they do happen and the angels are with us and that God loves us.

I want all of our listeners, who are praying for miracles to know that, even though you might not recognize your miracle right now, or you might not see it, but that it will happen or something like it. I prayed for a miracle in 2015, and then, a few months later, my ex was actually arrested, which is not what I thought the miracle would look like, but that’s what it looked like for me.

Isabelle: Yeah, that maybe, because our human sight is short-sighted, and when we think that our prayers only have one way that it could possibly be answered, God’s up there saying, “Oh, no. You know what, I can see a hundred possibilities for answering that prayer.” And He does it in a way that is not what we thought but is just always coming back to the fact that He is love.

He IS love. Nothing but love, and after having been abused by a narcissist, that just is incomprehensible sometimes, most of the time, to see how God loves. It’s so different, and so just trusting in that love and that He only wants what’s good for us.

Anne: Isabelle, I appreciate your faith and your testimony today and your willingness to come share such a vulnerable story. I know so many other women are going through similar things, and I hope that, through listening to this podcast, they come away with a couple of things.

Number one, that God absolutely loves them and that they have not been abandoned, and that, if they hold on to God’s love and know that they don’t deserve to be abused and harmed, even if it’s “just” psychologically, even if it’s “just” emotional abuse, even if it’s “just” that their husband is viewing pornography, which is a gateway to harm and abuse, that they can make their way to safety because they deserve to be absolutely adored and loved like God loves them.

I hope that women can take that with them today. Knowing that through your story, that they can know that God loves them too just as much as He loves you and continues to love you.

Isabelle: And He made us. We were created by love for love and we are loved. Not for abuse, we’re not created for abuse.

Anne: Yeah, and abuse is Satan, right. It’s Satan’s tool. Women who have been in our situation, I feel like we have looked in the eyes of evil. We’ve seen evil. We’ve had it in our home, and it’s like a nightmare. A never-ending nightmare.

Thank you. I would love to check in with you again in a few months. I’m sure listeners would love to hear how you’re doing, so stay tuned. Maybe in six months, or so, we’ll have Isabelle on the podcast again to talk about where she is now and how she’s doing. Thank you so much for your time, Isabelle.

Isabelle: Thank you.

Anne: The reason I want to talk about and educate women about verbal abuse or emotional abuse is because, if they know about the porn use or if they know about the infidelity, usually women focus on that, which is a good thing to focus on, but they also don’t realize the ways in which they’re being psychologically or emotionally abused. If they’re educated about it, then they can make good decisions about it. They can say, “Oh, I’m not being abused in this manner,” or they could say, “Whoa, I didn’t realize it.”

I think, as women learn more about psychological, verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse, they’re able to better asses the safety of their situation. For women who are afraid of the word abuse or they’re thinking, “Oh, I don’t want to go down this road because I don’t want to get divorced,” if you put your safety first and if you think, “I’m going to learn about what it means to be safe,” then you will make your way to a better place, whatever that is.

Some of you, in your study of emotional abuse, might realize that your husband is not emotionally abusive in these ways, and that can put your mind at ease and comfort your heart. Learning about it is not the problem. The abuse, in and of itself, is the problem, and so I always want you to remember that.

I’m currently reading the book Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans and I want everybody, after this episode, to go to the library and put it on hold. It really opened my eyes. I’m going to add it to our Books page. If you click on it from our page, it will take you directly to Amazon where you can buy it.

It is super eye-opening, and I think it will help everyone really understand the verbal abuse that women experience in this scenario. We know that pornography use adds to this dynamic of a woman being an object or a man feeling entitled to power over her.

I’ve recently started doing new YouTube videos, so please go check that out. Our YouTube channel is Betrayal Trauma Recovery, and that’s a fun place to see a weekly update. It’s a little recap of the podcast episode and then we take your questions or comments and then a BTR coach responds to those questions or comments. Again, that’s on YouTube at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. You can also follow us on Instagram @BetrayalTraumaRecovery, on Facebook look for Betrayal Trauma Recovery, and on Twitter @BetrayalTrauma. We’d love to interact with you on our social media platforms.

It really means a lot to me when you guys comment on these podcast articles and I get to see your responses and see what you think. I also really appreciate all of you who have rated the podcast. I love seeing your reviews and what you think and how you’re feeling about it. I really appreciate that, and it means a lot to me when I receive those reviews and those comments. For those of you who have rated the podcast and given it a review, thank you. I really appreciate that.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

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