Aug. 24, 2022

TL Durand - Emotional Abuse - A Survivor's Reality | Trauma Healing Podcast

Join our FREE COMMUNITY as a member of the Unbroken Nation:   Are you in a toxic or abusive relationship? Abuse means treating someone with violence, disrespect, cruelty, harm, or force. When your partner treats you in any of these ways...
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Join our FREE COMMUNITY as a member of the Unbroken Nation: 

Are you in a toxic or abusive relationship?

Abuse means treating someone with violence, disrespect, cruelty, harm, or force. When your partner treats you in any of these ways, it's called an abusive relationship. Abuse in a relationship can be physical, sexual, or emotional, or it could be all of these.

In this episode, I speak with TL Durand, the author of TOXIK, and we talk about the signs and how to leave a toxic or abusive relationship.

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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation. Hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. Very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest TL Durand, who is the author of toxik. TL, my friend, how are you? What is happening in your world today?

TL: Oh, I'm wonderful. It's a beautiful day in Phoenix, Arizona, only 108 degrees today.

Michael: As it does in Phoenix. So, for those who don't know, you tell us a little bit about your background, how you got to where you are today and why you decided to write toxik?

TL: Great. So, a little bit about my background. I grew up in the Midwest, originally born in North Dakota, moved to Wisconsin, then lived in Wyoming, just, you know, kind of a country girl living the simple life. And in 2008, my husband and I moved from up there down to Phoenix, Arizona. We wanted to get out of the snow and out of the cold he's in construction so we thought this would be a great place for him to do his business and be able to work year-round. We moved down here, my sister was here, it was a really good life for a while. I had a daughter; my youngest daughter was with us and we were here probably eight months when he was in a motorcycle accident and he passed away. So, that really threw me into some turmoil obviously being a single mother, my daughter was only eight years old at the time, so she wasn't really sure what was going on in her world but I lived with my mom for a while, she moved down here to take care of us and to be there for the family. So, we lived with her for a little while and then we got our own place and I started to feel like I was ready to get out into the world and met who I thought was a really wonderful, fabulous man and was so excited about everything that he had to offer to me and my daughter. I had a pretty good job at the time, I'm an accountant by trade and was working at a really fabulous place. They were there for me the whole time throughout, you know, the loss of my husband and everything that we went through. And so, I was in a pretty good place, but I was ready for some fun and adventure. I had been a mom pretty much, you know, cuz I do have an older daughter, so she was 13 when that happened and I really never had a chance to live my life. And this guy came along and just seemed to be everything; he seemed to be everything that I wanted and everything that I needed for myself and my family. And he really just swept me right off my feet. I've always heard the expression and I kind of laughed about it, but then it happened to me and my whole world was great for about six months. And then the reality of the relationship and the person started to set in and everything changed pretty quickly. And that relationship went on for a very long time. So, now to get to the point where I am now, there's been a lot of ups and downs and I'm so excited and thankful to be where I am now.

 Michael: Yeah. That's quite the story and quite the journey and obviously my heart I'm sure many of the listeners go out to you. One of the things that I'm curious about and where I'd like to start this conversation is looking at this space and time around falling into this relationship, being swept off your feet and kind of what happened there. Talk to us about that experience and what started to happen?

TL: Okay. So, the night I met him, I was out at a bar, which I hadn't done in a very long time and my sister dragged me out and we were just having a good time and just happened to meet him. And you know, I wasn't looking for a relationship, I was looking for a little bit of fun, he seemed kind of fun, but at that night, and then it was a couple weeks later when I finally met up with him in person. And he talked about his plane and his cars and his motorcycles and his houses and all the trips he'd been on and all the jobs he'd had and all the famous people that he knew. And he was just very confident, very outgoing, very sure of himself, pretty much everything that I felt that I was not. And so, I was so just drawn to him by, you know, like he had all the qualities I wished I had and it felt like he completed me and he was gonna be this great provider and this just really fun person. And I just got tangled in that whole web of everything because the last nine months of my life had been so much chaos, you know, since my husband passed away and just everybody feeling sorry for me and I didn't even wanna talk about what happened with my husband passing away ‘cuz I was so tired of people feeling sorry for me. And this was like a whole new world where nobody knew my story and it was quite a while before I actually even told him my story, because I didn't want him to treat me any differently because of that.

Michael: And what was the swing? Right? Because obviously me understanding and knowing kind of the depths of the book and the experience. I'd love for you to kind of go into depths about what started to transpire that would eventually lead down the path that leads us to this conversation.

TL: In the relationship, I was very taken in by him, like I said, and I didn't wanna lose that. So, it only took like three or six months, it wasn't a very long period of time before little things started happening. In fact, if I think about it, the first few things that started happening were within a couple of weeks, but I just kind of blew it off, cuz I was like, I'm not in a relationship with this guy, his behavior is how however he wants to act. But as we went along, things progressively got worse. Right? So, things that seemed like no big deal, all of a sudden, I would bring it to his attention and it seemed like a big deal and then he would justify it. And so, I would think to myself, well, he's just a confident person, he's a big city guy, so he acts differently than I do being, you know, more introverted or country girl. I just don't understand the way that he acts because he's had a different upbringing than I have. So, his behavior just got more and more controlling, more and more hard to understand, and he would just justify it or he would blame it back on me. Well, if you didn't do this, then I wouldn't have done that, you know, and he had such a huge group of friends seemed like friends like he knew everybody, everybody loved him. So, I thought, well, it's definitely gotta be me. Like, if everybody else loves him, then something is wrong with me. And that literally was my feeling because if you read the book or you talk to any kind of abuse survivor, that's been in an abusive relationship, you're thinking, why didn't you just leave? And when I was in that situation, I never once thought it was his fault, I never once thought that anything was wrong with him, it was always me. So, I thought that if I worked harder on me, then everything would be just fine.

Michael: What were some of the signs or the things that were happening early on that might have, or could be beneficial to somebody listening to be aware of or on the lookout for.

TL: One of the biggest things was like I said, when the very first, when I first met him, he just talked about all of his stuff, right? His planes, his motorcycles, his houses, all of his money, all of his travels. So, narcissists typically exaggerate or they're worth and they try to make themselves seem better than they actually are. So, he talked about a lot of things that, and didn't really talk about himself as a person that much, it was always about his things, so, trying to impress me with his money. He bought me really expensive gifts like I'm not a jewelry person, but he bought me like one karat, diamond earrings and necklaces and we went on trips to Miami. So, one of the things in the beginning they often do is try to lure you in with money or promises of something that they think that you might want, which is trips or gifts those are some things you can notice right in the beginning, most people don't do that, they talk, you know, they wanna get to more know you on a personal level. And another thing he did is probably within three or four weeks of me knowing him, he was starting to tell me that he loved me. He was calling and texting me all the time, you know, he always wanted to know where I was, what I was doing, how I was doing, he was overly complimentary about literally everything in my life which most people don't do. Like you don't normal people don't try to rush into things, they give compliments in the beginning, but you don't compliment everything. You don't try to give extravagant gifts, you kind of go into things slowly and he was just a hundred miles an hour from, you know, the first time I met him.

Michael: One of the things that you said that I think is really interesting that I want to go back to, because I think it'll help create some context. And especially in where you were at the time emotionally is you said that you thought, you know, the thing that was the problem was you. Right. He has all these friends and everybody knows him and like all this and that feels, and from my understanding to be very common, a thing that a lot of people arrive at when being in narcissistic or abusive relationships, like I'll even tie it to my own experience of being a child like I always thought to myself, the reason I'm in this abusive household, it must be me, this is probably my fault, this must be because of how I behave or the way that I think, or things of that nature. And so, when you were in that, were there other people around you that were like, Hey, you might wanna second guess being in a relationship or around this guy, were you just so deeply enmeshed in it at that point? Like what was kind of going through your head? When you were thinking this, I guess is what I'm drilling down to?

TL: In the beginning? No, everybody loved him. My family loved him, my friends loved him, my kids loved him, everybody thought he was the best guy ever, because all of the things that he did that were emotionally abusive were never in public. He never hit me, he never called me bad names in public, he never put me down in public, nothing that happened in public. So, you know, like one of my friends actually said to me, you need to let him take care of you because I was trying to be very strong and independent. You know, I had a child, I was a single mom and somebody actually said to me, you need to let him take care of you. Men like to take care of their women and you need to just kind of back down a little bit and let him do that. And you know, that was kind of the starting point of me, me actually doing that, cuz it's not really not my nature, honestly. So, nobody suspected, nobody knew a thing and they probably wouldn't have, if I wouldn't have started to tell them some of the things, he was doing behind closed doors.

 Michael: And as you got into that, I think one of the things people are so scared of those kinds of relationships and I'd love to know your thoughts on it is like, I guess what I would drill into here is at what point do you know that you're in a toxic or abusive relationship? Cause I think that so many just subtleties and things are elusive in these kinds of relationships. So, if someone's listening and they're like, okay, maybe some of this makes sense to me, my private light foot this person, male or female is very different than my public life with them. Are there some, like other telltale signs that you could use to have this kind of open communication with people in your life?

TL: Yeah, of course. Some of the telltale signs, like when I was in the toxic relationship, I didn't know it, I honestly, we were together probably seven years and it wasn't until I got out of that relationship and started hearing the word narcissist, I never once thought he was a narcissist until I was out of the relationship. And you can look back in hindsight and be like, wow, you know, you read things, you hear things. And you're like, wow, he did that to me and I didn't even, you know, it didn't seem right. There were a lot of, I considered it disrespectful things that he did. And, you know, for example, one night I went out with my friends and my sister and I came home and he was mad and he had cooked me some food. And so, I went to bed cuz I hadn't been drinking too much, I didn't wanna eat, well, he came in there, tore all the covers off me and threw the food on me because I didn't eat the food and I didn't think, oh, he's so toxic, I thought, wow, that was really disrespectful. So, when you're in those relationships, there's more information about it now so maybe people do start to think that, but you just think, you know, wow, this is not normal behavior, I would not treat you that way. And I think that's probably the biggest red flag if you're thinking, wow, this is not how this is supposed to be if you start to get that gut feeling that I would never treat somebody that way that's probably your biggest red flag right there, because normal people don't do stuff like that.

Michael: Yeah, that's actually a really strong, strong point in hearing you even tell that story. I just think to myself, holy shit, like that's super intense. Right? Let me ask you a different question, cuz I think this'll be really, really helpful for people. I think most people will hear something like this and be like, whoa, that would be the moment I would leave like no questions asked and I just know from A - being a coach for so long and B - speaking to people, who've had stories like yours, like that just sometimes is not the case. How do you leave? How do you put yourself in a position to take your life back, take control back from this you've sat in it you've looked at it, you've said, you know what, actually, this is a toxic relationship, I'm with someone narcissistic. And again, I believe this goes male and female both sides have, can be guilty of this, of course, but in this, where is the line in the sand for lack of a better way to phrase it? I wish I had a better word that came to mind, but I don't, where do you start to leave a relationship like this?

TL: I started to leave probably five or six times honestly. And he would what's called love bombing. Right. So, he would realize that I'm leaving or he would actually move out for a few days and then he would go back kind of to the beginning of our relationship where he was complimentary, you know, he wanted to take me on dates, he would buy me gifts. So, I actually got sucked back into the relationship like I said, probably five or six times before I finally realized. You know, I started to see like the 90 day cycle of he would be on his best behavior trying, and everything was wonderful and that's why you stay is cuz you crave that high of the beginning of the cycle where everything is wonderful and fabulous and you think, well, if I just do X, Y, Z, then we'll get back to wonderful and fabulous or if I keep doing these things, then he won't go back to that bad behavior and we'll just stay where we are. Well, eventually I started to realize that this was pretty much a 90-day cycle, and I didn't wanna keep going through that, honestly, I didn't wanna keep putting my daughter through that or my family through that. At first, I started to withdraw from my family and friends because I didn't want them to know that I was still in this and nothing changed and he was doing the same things over and over.

Michael: And were they aware at that point, did your community kind of had a better idea of what's happening?

TL: No. They had no idea.

Michael: They still had no idea.

TL: They didn't know. In fact, when I moved out, I was too afraid to tell my family and friends, because I was so sure that he was gonna find out somehow. And so, I didn't tell anybody, I didn't start packing until 8:00 AM the day the mover showed up, they were showing up at nine. I started packing at 8:00 AM, cuz I was terrified that of what he was gonna do. And I didn't tell him I was moving out until the night before and then that night I slept with a gun under my pillow, cuz I was terrified of what he was gonna do and I made my daughter go sleep somewhere else. So, it was a really hard decision, I think it was easier because my daughter was involved like things between him and her. He pushed her, you know, he started to get more and more out of control and he was getting more aggressive, he wasn't physically abusive, but I was afraid it was getting there, you know, like he came home one night and he was trying to find the keys for one of our vehicles and he just trashed the whole house trying to find those keys and he was walking around and he was yelling and throwing things and I was I'm shaking right now. Like I was terrified and my daughter was there for the whole thing. And so, that night, and that experience was the point where I was like, I have to get outta here before this thing does turn physical and I already had a plan in place. Like for months I had written down on a piece of paper, I'm gonna do this, I need to take these things with me, this is where I'm gonna get a vehicle ‘cuz I didn't have a vehicle, I didn't have a job, I didn't have any money. And I had laid out a whole plan on my like emergency exit plan and like an actual move out plan.

Michael: And I'm so glad that you did that. You know, I can't help, but sit here and think like, and rewind to the relationship my mother had with my stepfather and just never leaving that situation, never walking away and the abuse that we suffered at his hand and her not doing that. And I understand why when I look back at it, because there's so many circumstances, I mean, it's just, like you said, you had no vehicle, you had no thing, sometimes the control in these relationships is literally everything, the entire livelihood of people. And I think that the fear for a lot of people and I believe this was my mother's experience as well was they didn't know what to do. Like if you were to lay this out, cuz I want to create some massive practicality here and rewind you a bit. Lay out what it looked like for you to create this game plan because I want to give people who might be listening to this a starting point for how to get out of a relationship like this.

TL: Right. For me, it took a while. Like you really have to think about, you know, what's important cuz I can't take everything with me. So, you wanna make sure you have like your legal documents in place, you wanna make sure you have money, you have a safe place to go where they can't get to you or find you. You want to have obviously a vehicle and you need to have a way to support yourself. So that's kind of the technical part of it and just really think about what you're gonna need in your life to support yourself. The harder part is the mental part of it because by the time you get to that point in the relationship, you really have no self-confidence. I had no self-confidence; I questioned every single choice I made, I didn't know how I was gonna survive on my own, and I didn't know how I was gonna provide for my family. And I almost just have to take a leap of faith because I didn't know how I was gonna do it. I had the technical part down; I knew I could borrow money from this person and I could get a job and I could get a vehicle and I could take all my legal documents with me and my important mementos, the rest of it, how am I gonna survive without them? You miss them. You want to be with that person that they are in the beginning and you just have all of your hopes and dreams pinned on the life that they've told you that you're gonna have with them. And you have to find a way to realize that is not reality, everything they've said is not a reality because you feel such a loss, right? Like the biggest hardest part about moving out and the day that I moved out, I literally had a breakdown in a parking lot of Sam's clubs on my way to get the U-Haul and called my best friend and said, I can't do this, what am I gonna do? I'm gonna lose everything that I have. And I don't know how to go on without him. And she was just like, he's never gonna change, everything that he's told you is a lie and you have to get out for you and your daughter. So, when somebody's trying to get out of one of these relationships, it's actually the emotional part, that's really the hard part to get past and that's the part that keeps sucking you back in because to figure out the money and the transportation and the job and the living, that's actually the easiest part, but you get so caught up in your emotions that you need to have those steps written down, or you're gonna forget something.

Michael: So, that's very powerful. And you said leap of faith and I can't help, but think how true that must be the willingness to go for it. And in this circumstance, it's like, you know, I think about this, like it's such a dark complex scenario where everything is intertwined and meshed and groomed into this and yet, you know, that you have to make that decision. And you talked about that leap of faith, what advice or thoughts do you have around people who are listening and they need to have that leap of faith that they've contemplated, they've been in pre contemplation, they're a decision away from action because one of the things that I fear the most is that, you know, another person in a relationship or another child comes and exists in a childhood like I had where it's hyper volatile and incredibly dangerous and you get hospitalized in all those. And I think to myself, like if I were to give someone a piece of advice here, what would it be? What is something that you believe can help somebody take that leap?

TL: My best advice for that would be to realize that you have people that will help you. We feel isolated usually I felt so isolated like I couldn't trust anybody and you have to trust that somebody is gonna be there for you. And especially when you're not in a physically abusive relationship, like nobody knew what I was going through and I had to reach out to people and tell them what was going on. We try to keep it a secret, you know, we feel ashamed, we feel guilt and narcissists, especially are really good at making you feel that way. Like you have to trust in the people that you used to trust in. So, family and friends, I would say that would be my best advice is you have to be vulnerable and you have to, which is so hard to do because the narcissist takes your vulnerability and they just brutalize you with like just use it against you in every way. And you have to maybe remember back before you were in that relationship, like who were your go-to people back then? Because now you're not the same person you were back then, but you want to, you know, those are the people who are gonna be there for you now. So that would be my best advice is, think about, you know, who were my go-to people before this happened. And can I go to them now? I have to put myself out there to get out of this situation that I'm in right now, because otherwise it's never gonna change.

Michael: And I'll have to say this, that the people around you will help you. And I think that a lot of people fear that they won't get into your point about being in isolation is people think, well, nobody's gonna be able to help me, they don't get it, they don't understand. And I'm like people get it. Like the one truth, I know probably more so about the human experience than anything is that the people around you want to help you, they want to see you succeed, they want to get you out of these kinds of experiences. And a lot of times they'll give you a couch or money or a car, whatever it is to help you get out of that because innately I do and inherently, I do believe that people are good just unfortunately, sometimes there's an extreme circumstance that we get in. So, you're in this moment, you're in the U-Haul you call your friend what's next? Cause I think this is kind of the pendulum swing, right?

TL: It really was. I would say that I wouldn't say that was the hardest day of my life though honestly, there was a moment, probably nine months before that, where I suddenly realized that he's never gonna change and that was my lowest point. And it was like three months after we got married, I realized he was never gonna change. But in that moment, the moving out moment, honestly, I can't remember much from that day, I was in such, just shock, disbelief, you know, it's almost like an external body experience, right? Like I'm just going through the motions. I get the U-Haul to the house, he knows I'm moving out, he keeps every room that we're in, he keeps coming into that room and just standing in the doorway, just standing there watching me. And I had to go, I had to take boxes and just start in one corner of each room and just go around and start throwing stuff in boxes. And I was so detached from all of that, just there was no emotion, there were no emotions that day, I just, I was very task oriented, I have to get these things done. And by the end of the day, you know, my body was exhausted and my mind was numb and I just collapsed into my new house, I just collapsed and just cried for probably six hours, honestly. And my phone was blowing up. Right. Because the whole time I'm moving out, he’s texting and calling everybody I know, my family, my friends, he's calling everybody. I know to tell them that I'm leaving him and he doesn't know why. So, not only am I trying to get through the day and get my stuff done and moved my daughter's there with her boyfriend, trying to get their stuff done, my phone is blowing up with family and friends. He's hovering over me like this whole day is just it is so exhausting and the next day was so exhausting, I couldn't even start unpacking, I just laid in bed most of the day.

Michael: You know, what came to mind is I feel like, and I don't know, I wasn't there so this is why I'm asking you the question. This must have been to some extent, a sense of relief and if it was, where does the healing journey start in this?

TL: The day after was a bit of a relief and then, so I moved out on a Friday. Saturday was a bit of a relief, you know, I kind of relaxed and just, like I said, stayed in bed and thought about what I was gonna do next. I was starting a new job on Monday ‘cuz when I moved out, I didn't have a job, we owned a business together and he was keeping the business and I had to go get a job. And then Sunday rolls around and I started unpacking things and feeling really good and all excited for my job the next day and it was probably four or five days after I actually moved out that I thought, holy shit, what did I just do? How am I ever gonna survive without him? And how am I gonna do this? I was trying to think of, you know, the reality of it and I wasn't making very much money, I didn't know how I was gonna afford rent, you know, like I was good for one month, but what happens when bills come due next month? And so, I started to miss him, I started to question my decision and now, you know, he's contacting me, he wants to know if what he did wrong, what he can do to make it right, he's doing the whole love bombing thing, trying to get me to come back to him. And this cycle just goes on for months honestly, I would go talk to him and try to work things out. We're married, you know, maybe if we live in separate houses, but we still see each other, everything's gonna be okay, we can work it out and it took two and a half or three years actually, before all of that stopped. And I finally started my healing journey and realized who he really was.

So, the healing by any means, didn't start when I moved out that you can't just get out of a toxic relationship, you know, there was so many ups and downs and so many things that happened in the two years after I moved out. And yeah, it was probably, three years after I moved out before my healing actually started.

Michael: Yeah. I mean, that makes so much sense to me. What did that healing journey look like? Like what were your experiences, what did you find worked really well for you? What did you find didn't work really well for you? What became kind of the process of, for lack of a better way to phrase it, like rebuilding yourself?

TL: It was really hard because I didn't trust myself for anything, I was very introverted, I had a lot of social anxiety, I didn't have many friends. My daughter was getting ready to graduate from high school and it was the point like four months before her graduation, cuz my whole life revolved around her at that point. Right. I'd work and I'd do stuff with her and I thought, holy shit, she's moving out, she's graduating in four months and I have no life. So, that was kind of the aha moment that started me on my healing journey. And the first thing I did was got a life coach and my life coach walked me through some hypnosis, which if you had never done hypnosis, is a totally amazing experience, it was so helpful, it took two sessions to totally get me out of social anxiety. And my life coach did NLP with me so that was kind of the beginning is to gain some confidence of myself, to break down those walls of self-imposed, you know, social anxiety and introvertedness. And I would do little things that made me happy. Right. So, for example, would color in a coloring book like I was, you know, three-year-old coloring book with the big pictures and the crayons, you know, just kind of simple things to just calm my nervous system, right? Playing with playdough, I listen to music, I'd go for walks, things that I could do by myself, that I didn't have to worry about the judgment of other people, the criticism of other people, but they made me feel good, they made me feel good about myself and just making simple decisions and just kind of doing whatever I wanted. Right. Because everybody makes fun of some a 40-year-old that colors in a three-year-old coloring book. Right. I didn't care. I was happy, it was mind numbing, it was relaxing. So that was kind of where it started and I really loved to hike moving here from Montana. I really loved to hike, so I was too scared to go hiking by myself so, I would just go walk around like a neighborhood park by myself, and I felt so proud of that. I remember feeling so proud the first time I just walked around a park by myself. The first time I went to a restaurant by myself, so in the beginning I did all so many things by myself. I loved to do everything by myself and then realized, you know, you need to have a little bit more than that in your life. So, I got my brother-in-law to go out with me one night, dancing and we went to this a local bar and we went out dancing and it was really fun and he's very social. So, we met a ton of people and I forced myself, it was so hard I forced myself to go back the next week because all of those people would still know me. Right. And that's how I started to make friends. I kept going to this bar. I wouldn't go out drinking. I would just go out dancing or shooting pool. I joined a dance group. And from there my friends have exploded, my life is so busy now and so fun now that I literally have to schedule time off and it all started with, you know, coloring books and Play-Doh, and just doing things for myself.

Michael: That's incredible. And I think so much of this journey is, and again, I hear it and you didn't say it, but I'll say it, the facing the fear, right? Being willing to go and put yourself in uncomfortable circumstances and situations to grow, to figure out who you are to understand at depth and scale a deeper level of self. You know, I think about it all the time like the only way that you grow, the only way that you create and understand who you are is by the willingness to face what's in front of you. And I think that's such a powerful point that I hope people will hold onto is, I mean, you know what, sometimes you got fucking color in a coloring book, like fine, it is what it is, like seriously? Like what are you willing to do to have the life that you want to have? Right. And I think that's a really, really difficult question. And I think it is the question of life. As you're in this, and you've gone through the healing journey, life is so much better and you're looking at what it is that you want to have in your life, who you want to be, what you want to create, why did you decide to write this book?

TL: I decided to write the book because there's so much talk about narcissism right now. And you know, there's checklist how to spot one, how to avoid one, how to get outta relationships. There's movies about narcissist relationships with narcissism. There's songs about it like we're all aware of narcissism. We don't need to raise awareness of that anymore. But the thing I realized, reading those things, watching the movies, you know, listening to podcasts about them is the things they're talking about are kind of from a Psychology standpoint, they're not actually the reality of it.

So, I decided to write the book because my relationship with the narcissist wasn't anything like anything I'd read in an article or a checklist or seen on a movie because all of it was behind closed doors, nobody knew what was happening, there was no physical signs. Like he wasn't physically abusive to me, he didn't cut me down in public, he didn't do any of those things that you typically think of a narcissist or a toxic person doing, it was all behind closed doors and it was all emotional, it was all mental, you know, just a mental mind, fuck for a better lack of better term, it just really was. And so, I thought, you know, you see people in physically abusive relationships and you know, that's abusive relationship, but if it's not physical, how do you know? You know, and they're really good at gaslighting you and saying, oh no, that's not what I said, that's not what I did, you misunderstood, you start to tell other people about it and they do the same thing. Like victims of emotional abuse, they kind of get Gaslight by society too, because they see the side of the narcissist that he wants them, or she wants them to see and think they're a grand and wonderful person. And so, I must just be taking it the wrong way or being over dramatic about whatever.

So, I wanted to write the book and I didn't use any clinical terms in the book. I wanted to show people how you get into this kind of relationship, how it's not as black and white as the checklists make it seem, you know, the articles, the movies, it's not like that, the reality of it is way different. You're not gonna see some checklist and be like, oh, that guy's a Narcissism system walking the other way, that is not how it works.

Michael: Yeah, it's definitely not. And sometimes I see those and I go, wow, what a great way to put people in a corner because people always find all those checklists apply to everybody, I promise you, we all have those behaviors, but the real life of it, like you said, and which is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to have you on the shows because it is very different than just what's portrayed in the media and on television and on checklists and blogs. Right. That said tell everyone where they can find the book and learn more information about you.

TL: The best way to find the book and learn more information about me is on my website, which is that really is the best way. I do have a Facebook page too, but it's not so much about the book it's called Triumph Over Toxic, where I share, you know, memes and books and podcasts. I'm gonna share some of your podcasts on there and your books and just kind of trying to help people who are past the initial stages of trying to get out. Like, there's a lot of like, support groups, great support groups on Facebook for people who are narcissist relationships and trying to get out. And I'm kind of, mine is more past that, right? Like you're past the initial shock, you've moved out, you've moved on and now you you're celebrating your triumphs, your kind of looking back on how things were and maybe laughing at it a little bit, you know, making fun of that and realizing, you know, you're kind of a dumb ass back then, or, you know, just whatever. So, we've triumphed over the toxic and now we're moving on with our lives. We're owning our story and writing the next chapter.

Michael: Love that. And there's so much about own your story or let your story own you and so, I'm a big fan of that. And of course, we'll put the links in the show notes for all the Unbroken Nation to go in, find out more. My last question for you, my friend, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

TL: I love this question. I love the answers that people have given on your podcast. And for me to be unbroken means to live my life on my terms. Like, I'm no longer defined by my past mistakes, I'm no longer defined by my trauma, even though it's something I live with every day, it no longer defines me. And I own my story, I've come out of that darkness and stepped into my strength, honestly, and that strength has allowed me to share my story with everybody, right? Because before I was ashamed of it and now, I have the strength to share it and help people, other people do the same, you know, like you don't have to stay stuck in that darkness. And you can share your story and you can live your best life on your terms.

Michael: Brilliantly said my friend, thank you so much for being here. Unbroken Nation. Thank you so much for listening.

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Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.

TL Durand Profile Photo

TL Durand


Born and raised a country girl from the Midwest, TL Durand led a fairly simple life – a mother, wife and accountant. A move from peaceful country life to the big city changed everything.

Suddenly a single mother, TL found herself not only struggling with the immense heartbreak but facing bankruptcy and the loss of everything she worked for her whole life. She and her youngest daughter spent the next nine months living with her mother while she got back on her feet. Then, within a few short months, she met the man who would change her life but not in the way she’d hoped.

Toxik chronicles her relationship with Kristopher, a malignant narcissist, whose emotional abuse nearly destroyed her.