Chaitanya Pankhania thought she had found the man of her dreams, but his deeply manipulative methods made her think about taking her own life. Through courage and inner strength, she finally found freedom and a rich

Chaitanya Pankhania

They say love is blind. But when you love the complex heart of a narcissist, it can be deaf and dumb too. These types of victims believe they are truly in love. The narcissist, however, by their very demeanour, character and behaviour, is always self-serving, always severe, and always duplicitous. I was one of these victims, and here I will share my story.

Honest as I am, I always expected others to be as straightforward as me. This was my weakness. When I met my ex-partner, he was charismatic, charming and passionate. To get to know me, he created different lies and excuses to contact me. Time went on and his texts turned to phone calls. These calls then turned into hours of deep conversations. The more we spoke, the more I fell for him. Little did I know he was in another relationship.

The first six months of the relationship was like a fairy tale. I was the princess – the centre of the story – and he was my hero. Every day he would tell me how beautiful and amazing I was. He literally worshipped the ground I walked on, professing how much he wanted to marry me, and once even performed a romantic private proposal. These were all examples of the “overvaluing” that narcissists do to their victims. I flew into his woven web, like a love-blind fly looking for a beautiful escape.

During the start of our relationship, I noticed his need for status and fame. He had high ambitions, making friends with those who benefited him, but he also criticised them harshly behind their backs. This made me uncomfortable, but I never saw it as a problem, until I was at the receiving end of his disrespect.

Chaitanya Pankhania

Soon, the fairy tale ended. Finding out about his biggest lie – him cheating on his ex-girlfriend with me – was like pulling off the first bead of a necklace. All of the other hidden lies soon cascaded. Previously, I had had intuitive feelings about the other girl, which he shrugged off as my insecurities and paranoia (a term called “gaslighting”), but I realised that I was right all along.

As I was no longer giving him the adoration he craved (his narcissistic supply), his growing nastiness took many new forms. He began to cut my self-esteem down by devaluing me. He said my parents and family didn’t love me and that he was the only person in the world who did, despite him treating me like he hated me at times. He told me that if I ever became seriously ill he wouldn’t want to take care of me, because he had his own life goals to pursue. At times, he “showed me off” to certain friends and family members; at others times, where I added no value to his image, he lied about his relationship status and would even ignore me at events we attended together.

I blocked his mental and verbal abuse with my mind's self-protective instinct, but I recall being in floods of tears alone in my bedroom

I felt incredibly used and disregarded. He deflected all responsibility for his lies and misbehaviours and found some way to blame me every time. He would scream and shout at me on the phone, but in person his way of solving arguments was through physical intimacy, and I began to feel like he only cared for my body. I blocked his mental and verbal abuse with my mind’s self-protective instinct, but I recall being in floods of tears alone in my bedroom countless times, wondering why he treated me this way.

Truly I was lost. My self-esteem was chipped away and a numbing emptiness began to weigh upon my heart. I walked on eggshells around him, not knowing what would set him off. Now you may ask: “Why did I not just leave him?” Quite simply, his flippant love and manipulation had utterly confused me, and I could no longer see the wood for the trees. I was trapped between my hope for the fairy tale picture he had painted, and his manipulation of my mind. I did have that “inner voice” constantly urging me to leave him, but I never truly listened.

Finally, after a year, I broke down in my car after work one night following yet another phone-call-from-hell. I felt like my soul was almost disappearing and I realised I was becoming a shell of myself. Being quite a spiritual person my whole life, I cried out to god that night, pleading with him to get me out. A week later, he broke up with me.

That day was painfully liberating.

All this time I had seen the two sides of him: the snake and the charmer. But that day I saw his real broken self. He cried like a child, condemning himself. He told me that I had taught him how we could only love another after first loving ourselves. “And I hate myself!” he exclaimed. Shocked at his state of mind, I felt pity.

Chaitanya Pankhania

Unfortunately, this raw and real self didn’t last long. It took little time before he reverted back to his false, narcissistic self. He publicly acted as if nothing had happened, as if he didn’t know me, and he continued to lie. He told others he had been “forced” to date me from the start. Furthermore, I found out that he had cheated on me for the last six months of our relationship. This was yet another stab in the heart. His lies continued and so did my wrath. I was angry. I was livid. I was burning inside.

I felt anger over the injustice, but anger mainly towards myself. How could I let somebody fool me so badly? Why didn’t I leave him sooner? How could I have been so stupid? These were the questions that I tortured myself with. Mixed with anger, there was loss. Loss of the person I thought he was, loss of the dream he sold me, and the loss of my self worth. There were dark times where I wanted to take my own life due to the emotional pain being so unbearable. He had lifted me up so high and cut me down to the point I had almost lost myself. Almost. The only things that helped me were three good friends and my spiritual practice of mantra meditation. My friends listened to my pain and shared my anger. Through meditation, my faith in a higher power gave me a strong, yet soft, place to fall.

He cut my self-esteem down by devaluing me. He said my parents didn't love me and that he was the only person in the world who did

The key turning moment for me was gaining knowledge. Knowledge helped answer the questions of why he lied to me, and why he duped me.

Learning about narcissism, I realised the problem wasn’t in me, but in him. Now I could understand his character, his need for narcissistic supply, his self-serving manipulation, his gaslighting, overvaluing and devaluing. Internally, all narcissists are deeply wounded individuals who seek validation through their manipulation and fame.

As I shared my thoughts in therapy, I gradually came to forgiveness. Yes, the F-word! It’s not what you want to hear, but it’s the best thing to free you from your hurt. I could choose to remain in pain, or choose to be free from it. And I chose freedom. I wanted complete emancipation from a complex and damaged person.

In some ways, I thank him for the experience because I am stronger, wiser and more grateful. I now work as a UK registered psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, and my experiences have helped me understand the pain of others. Do we give up on ourselves? Or do we stay with ourselves? This is what I help my clients with as they navigate through their life. As a professional, I believe sharing this story can help others, but also topple the pedestal that counsellors are placed upon.

We are all human.

Chaitanya Pankhania

My 5-step plan for defeating narcissism:
1. Understand what narcissism is, because knowledge gives strength.
2. Find other people who understand narcissism. This will validate your feelings.
3. Give yourself time to heal. Release your emotions in healthy ways such as writing, drawing, sharing and talking. If you need some therapy, don’t let pride get in your way.
4. Cut ties with your narcissist. This allows you to regain your power. Turn away from them and focus on your own life.
5. Listen to your intuitive inner voice. Your gut feeling's there for a reason, take heed of it.

Graeme Orr, MBACP (Accred) UKRCP Reg Ind Counsellor, writes:

Chaitanya’s story shows how quickly the ideal relationship can become a prison. She feels trapped by love, yet alone and empty as her partner chips away at her self-esteem. When she breaks the ties holding her, she starts the journey back to health. Therapy helps, despite her blaming herself at first. The support of her friends and learning about narcissism helps as she emerges free from the bonds of her partner.