There were also the occasional snide comments from Richard that I never could tell if he was joking or not: Saying that my saving all my letters and e-mails to and from friends was somehow stalkerish, because of some Ally Sheedy movie he saw where a girl did that.

Making jokes like, “Are you stalking me again?” when I never did stalk him: I merely asked about some info that automatically showed up onscreen every time I opened a private chat with him on IRC.

It made me start feeling insecure, like I was somehow clingy or something.  But my behavior was perfectly normal: It was just his gaslighting that made me feel this way.

But Richard and Tracy both made me feel insecure when there was no need, over things that, often, they themselves would do, or that their friends did, or that I see other people doing all the time.

They made me feel like a stalker just for wanting to hang out with or talk to my best friend on a regular basis, made me afraid to do anything I normally would do to interact with my friends, for fear they’d see it as “creepy” or “stalkery.”

More gaslighting, basically, and it’s common for narcissists to take, take, take, then accuse the other of being too “clingy” or “needy.”

Sometimes I wonder if Richard started doing this after reading my book The Lighthouse.  I gave him a copy in 2008; the story “All Together Now” depicts a girl being gaslit and falsely accused of stalking by her ex-boyfriend.

Except that it actually started before that: When he first moved into my house, I pulled out a folder with pictures, which online friends (mostly on the Forum) would post so you could see what they really looked like.  I didn’t print every picture, but special ones from special people, including Richard and Tracy, since I had not met them yet.

But Richard adopted a tone and look to make it seem like this was “creepy” somehow.  I thought he was joking, but now it seems like part of one big campaign to keep me off-balance, questioning myself and my sanity, and that it started way back in October 2007!

One of the many things he told me to gaslight me, was that it was somehow “creepy” that I save letters I receive, and copy letters I write.  In late January 2009, he wrote on his blog that his water heater had just flooded, destroying some letters.

So I wrote, “If any of the letters you lost were from me, just let me know–I have copies.”

His response on his blog (so this was public to all his friends/family, just like some of his Facebook jabs of me “stalking” him, and some of his wife’s criticisms of me on Facebook):

LOL In a way Nyssa, its kind of creepy that you keep copies of letters you send to people.

I saw one movie in the 1980′s were a stalker kept everything they wrote down they kept as well as the person they were stalking and used the info to entrap them and force them into submitting to their whims. It was an awful movie, like one of those late at night Showtime 1.3 star flicks starring Ally Sheedy.

Not saying this is the case, but it sparked a bad memory when you mentioned that. :P

He even had his wife help him with this gaslighting: He sat me down and the two of them told me how creepy and weird it was, while asking me not to “take offense.”

Tracy then made fun of me for copying my letters before sending them.  She said you don’t do that unless you really like to write.  Well, I really like to write–and I often would use copiers, type copies of handwritten letters, or simply save a word processor file after using it to type a letter.  No biggie.

She and Richard both practically accused me of stalking because I have always kept all my letters and interesting e-mails to and from friends.  Isn’t that ridiculous?

I mean, come on, I like having a detailed record of my life.  They’re like a diary to me, for crying out loud!  They remind me of thoughts, hopes, and events not just in my life, but in the lives of my friends, memories that don’t fade over time.

I spent several years writing down everything that had happened to me, first college memoirs that filled hundreds of pages, then memoirs of the years following, then high school and childhood–until pregnancy, morning sickness and eventually having to watch over a small child, put this on hiatus.

I had always wanted such a detailed account, ever since I read the Little House series as a child.  These accounts, and all the diaries I filled and letters I saved, were meant so I could remember everything interesting that ever happened to me.

I also kept ICQ records if the conversations were interesting, and same thing for some IRC chats that gave details of the life or thoughts of the dear friend I was chatting with.

These were never to be used for stalking purposes, like Richard had seen in that movie.  These were for me and me alone, to help my memory, and also in case I wanted to base a story on events in my life (which I did on occasion), or wanted to write memoirs about a time or incident in my life (which I also do on occasion).  These are all perfectly normal things for writers to do.

I had noticed over time that while I could remember in surprising detail many things that had happened in the past few years, such as conversations or events or what people were wearing at a certain time, details farther back in the past began to fade, and I didn’t like losing them.

I do wonder if this desire to record everything is another sign of Asperger’s or NVLD, but there is nothing pathological or creepy about it.  That’s just absurd, and when I posed the question to my longtime college friends, they didn’t understand Richard, either.  They said it was my own business what I wanted to do with my letters.

In probably February 2010, Richard posted the results of one of those fake tests going around Facebook in those days, saying that I visited his profile the most.

Turns out those tests were fake because it was impossible back then to make such a tally, and you’ll note they haven’t been on Facebook for some time, for being security risks.

But he posted, “I have a stalker!” (referring to me).  Chris posted, “I thought it would be me!”–which softened the blow and made it seem more like a joke, but–I just couldn’t be sure.  Then my family went on a short vacation, but I spent the whole time worried about this.

I now recognize this as part of a campaign to make me think Richard and Tracy were perfectly normal and I was crazy, to keep me from seeing his narcissism and her abuse, and realizing how he’d been manipulating me and using me all along.

This is something narcissists and abusers do to you, to get you to stop complaining about bad treatment and start seeing yourself as the problem, while they change nothing and apologize for nothing.

Even if you know in your heart that you’re not doing anything wrong or weird, just by being your trusted friend, a narcissist can plant one of these “mind bombs” in your head to get your brain thinking subconsciously, “What if he’s right?  What if I am a creepy clingy stalker type?”  (Just because you like to save old letters and keep a diary?  Oh pleeeaaase!)

In fact, keeping diaries while you are being abused in some way and gaslit, is highly recommended, both for your sanity and as evidence in trials.

What did I actually do with my diaries/e-mails?  I used them to prove to myself that I was not imagining what happened.  I used them to write an authentic memoir, with changed names, to express what happened, try to heal, and help others validate their own experiences and heal.  I used them to prove to friends that I was telling the truth.

It seems that every other abuse blogger out there–from the biggies like Narcissists Suck, or One Mom’s Battle, to the little ones you come across while googling–posts e-mails and letters from their abusers.

They’re used to demonstrate how narcissists and abusers twist things around on you, so you can understand what’s going on in your own life.  They’re used to prove to readers what they’ve been dealing with.

And normally, the names are changed, so nobody outside of the blogger’s inner circle, knows who these people are.  Because this is about understanding what happened to you, dealing with it, helping others deal with their own issues, then healing.

There was no trying to get Richard/Tracy to submit to my whims, none of that kind of crap, or whatever the heck went on in that movie I never saw.

I used fake names and carefully kept out anything that would identify where they worked, where they used to live, forum handles, pictures, etc. etc.

Only a select few of my friends/family knew their identities, and they weren’t reading my blog, especially after I stopped linking to it on Facebook. (I wanted the freedom to write fully about what happened, without worrying what my friends will think.)

Their accusations of me in an e-mail in 2012 were so absolutely bizarre that I now wonder if it was more of Richard’s paranoia from that stupid movie, because it sure as heck was from nothing I actually wrote.

They came across my blog by accident, or maybe somebody told them, but it sure wasn’t me–and they certainly didn’t Google their names and find it.  (I have the stat records to prove this.)

Then when they did find it, I posted that if they apologized, I would remove what I had written from my blog and never speak of it to them again (as a sign of forgiveness).  And if not, then I wanted nothing to do with them, and I wanted them to stay away from me, stay out of my life, don’t contact me. 

That’s all I said.  Period.  Finis.

I’ve been going through my old college diaries, letters, and the memoirs I wrote right after graduation, in order to update my online college memoirs.  Tonight I found that on June 19, 1994, I wrote in a letter to a friend,

My dad has an old copier now, and it makes letter-writing so much quicker.  I used to write a letter, then hand-write or type up a copy for myself.  Now I just take a few minutes to copy it.

It’s so odd to not have to pay a dime a copy [like at school], and bad copies aren’t such a problem when you don’t have much money to make more.

In “Clarissa” by Samuel Richardson, Clarissa and Lovelace are always copying letters or having their servants do it.  Then they sometimes copy other people’s letters so their friends can read them.  How they would have appreciated having copiers!

I started copying letters around the same time I started writing them: in the mid-80s, my early teens, to my pen pal in Luxembourg.  If I didn’t do that, my Mammoth Cave account would have been lost, never turned into this post.

So…Apparently I’ve been “creepy” for some 28 years….

I believe I wanted to record what I wrote to this stranger in a foreign country.  As I signed up for more pen pals in other countries, I also saved the letters I wrote them, as well as the ones they wrote me.  I had a different folder for each pen pal, with “to” on one side and “from” on the other.

Those folders are still in my fireproof vaults, along with letters written and received from my college friends all through college, and nearly all e-mails exchanged after we graduated, from then up until the present day.  (I recently began archiving e-mails on my computer instead, to save space, and I back up my e-mails periodically on a portable backup drive called My Book.)

There were some letters I didn’t copy here and there, but I later regretted this, because I would have loved to have that written account of everything that happened when my parents took me to college for the first time.

I wrote a church friend about the spires in Milwaukee, but I don’t have a clue what else, and now it’s lost to my memory.  The letters I did keep, have allowed me to write accurate college memoirs full of detail, making the scenes far more vivid than, “Well, we did this, then this, but I’m not sure what else.”

This is also why I’m confident that my story about Richard and Tracy is accurate, because I have this record of our interactions, not just e-mails and letters exchanged with them, but e-mails I wrote my mother, college friends and husband during those years.

When Richard accused me of somehow being “creepy” for saving letters people send me, and copying letters I send others–and when Tracy made fun of me for it like some mean girl in junior high–I knew this was absolutely frickin’ ridiculous.  As I mentioned before, I wrote to my college friends about it as well, to find out their thoughts:

I was baffled today by what a friend meant as a teasing comment, but it made no sense to me that he would even make it. His apartment just got flooded by a broken water heater, and he lost some letters, so I wrote, “If you lost any of my letters, let me know because I have copies.”

He wrote that it’s “kind of creepy” that I save the letters I write to people, and then he recalled an 80s movie with Ally Sheedy in which somebody kept every bit of correspondence with a person, and then used it for blackmail.

He told me in person that it wasn’t meant to offend, he was just teasing me. But it shocked me when he said he doesn’t know anybody who saves their own letters.

His wife doesn’t do it, either, and Jeff told me he doesn’t, either. I always thought that EVERYBODY saves copies of their letters, not just the ones they receive but the ones they send.

I found a website here by someone who recommends copying/printing every letter/e-mail you write or send, because it will bring back memories and be very valuable to you many years later.

This has always been how I feel about it.  It never seemed “creepy” in any way, shape or form to me, and even as a joke, I don’t understand why anybody would say that.

Am I really in the minority here, or is it just because he’s a guy????

Sharon wrote:

I can only guess at why your friend said that. I keep letters I receive from people, somewhat compulsively….

But I know a lot of people who just experience and enjoy letters at the given time, and don’t keep them for later.  So, with this in mind, perhaps your friend has never heard or realized (as he said) that some folks do keep their correspondence.

And perhaps the first brain association he made was with the movie he talked about. With only that in mind it might seem creepy to him. Don’t’cha love the media?

Anyway, I really appreciate that you kept and made copies of the college journal, because it really is fun to look back and reread it.

So don’t feel bad about wanting to keep those memories; there’s nothing “creepy” about it.

Mike wrote,

If it means something to you to hold onto every letter you send and receive, go for it. The world will not, I suspect, become a better or worse place because of it. Do what makes you feel good.

He said he didn’t save letters (except from his wife), but only because he didn’t have the room to store them all.

Clarissa said it’s okay because it helps you keep memories.

Note the huge difference between the reactions of my true friends, and who I thought was my true friend, Richard.

As for Richard calling it a “joke,” another abusive trait is to say some nasty things about you and then say it was just a “joke.”  Usually you can tell a true joke from an insult.

After growing up with brothers and a father who could zing you with humor, I am used to guys zinging each other as a joke.  I know that zinging doesn’t work so well with girls, because they take everything personally.  And Richard and I did occasionally zing each other.

But this “stalking” and “creepy” stuff–It’s like he zeroed in on one of my fears, maybe from reading The Lighthouse, and then exploited it in his “humor.”  See, having NVLD makes you clumsy in social situations, so we are at risk of people calling us creepy, when we are well-meaning people just looking for friendship/love like everybody else.

It also didn’t feel funny.  In fact, he often criticized me in a deadpan for the oddest things–taking a shower daily, calling me a prude for my taste in movies–then I got upset, then he later claimed he was “joking.”

Not only that, but after “joking” with me in his blog comments, right where his family and friends could see him call me “creepy,” the next day he came over with his wife, sat down with me and then both began telling me how “creepy” it was.

Some “joke”!  No, this fits the narcissistic/abusive trait of trying to control you through gaslighting and fake “jokes.”

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if saving letters like this, is a “writer” trait.  Writers journal; we write diaries; we save odds and ends; we want to remember so we can write about it later, or just to remember.  Some of us save for posterity, historians and/or biographers.

A lady brought in her journals to Writer’s Club one night, full of playbills, photographs, written accounts, even movie ticket stubs (I do that, too).

And that’s what I’m doing: saving it to write about it later.  Or to save the letters dear friends have written me, because they are dear friends.  Or simply to remember.

In fact, the first time I ever heard of people just chucking old letters, was when Richard told me it was creepy to save them!  I thought everybody saved their letters, simply because those are your friends writing you, they took the time to write you, and the letters are worth saving because of who they came from.  I also wanted to remember what I wrote to people, as a diary, so I saved those as well.

I call it all part of my journal.  The letters and e-mails are saved with other mementoes, neatly organized in date order in file folders, many of which are stored in fireproof vaults.  These are all valuable memories which otherwise would be lost as my brain jettisons things over the years.  Even old letters, mementoes and pictures from my exes are still preserved.

(Anyone who gets jealous over their mates saving such things, I think they’re absolutely ridiculous.  I do not save these because of pining over my exes: I lost all romantic interest in these guys 20 years ago!  I save them for the same reason I save all my other letters: as a diary, reminders of something that was important to me once.  No one has any business telling their mates what to do with old letters from exes long gone!  That’s wanting to control your mate, even their memories!)

I don’t write diaries like I used to, because it’s much easier to save letters and e-mails: They cover many of the events of my life and what I think about them.  Also, nowadays I use my blog and website as a diary/journal.

Then in Writer’s Club in 2014, one meeting was on journaling/diaries.  One member found a treasure trove in his deceased mother’s letters: both to and from people, because she saved drafts of the letters she wrote.  We were encouraged to keep journals of our lives, to save letters.

I posted on Facebook,

As I heard today (and already knew), my archives/journals are perfectly normal–especially for writers–and encouraged. The saving of memories is considered valuable, whether for yourself or for posterity. I must drain the poison of psychological abuse, not allow myself to take any of it to heart and spoil this wonderful thing I have always loved to do.

My friends said things like, “I do the same thing,” it’s beautiful to save letters/journals, who cares what other people think about what you do with your own life.  The president of the club wrote, “Nicely said, Nyssa.”

Come to think of it, Shawn, who sexually used and psychologically abused me back in college, objected to, even scolded me for, keeping a diary about the things he did with me:

He had also complained about me writing in my diary everything that happened between us.  He thought special memories should be kept in the head and not written down.

It was an odd idea that I’d never encountered before, because even special memories begin to fade over time.  In fact, if I hadn’t written these things down, these memoirs would be far less detailed, because I had forgotten so much!

His objection also came from his time in the mental hospital, though I won’t explain how; I had no such experience.  He asked if I worried about anybody finding it; no, I did not.  If they did, they’d realize I wasn’t as innocent as people thought, and I didn’t mind that. –March 1993, “Shawn Rips Me Apart”

Shawn is the only person I’ve ever encountered who thought a diary was somehow a bad thing.

I’m convinced that anyone who objects to someone else keeping a diary or old letters, is afraid of discovery, that they are abusing that person and don’t want it known. 

I believe the real reason Richard and Tracy said these things was to make me feel just as creepy as they told me I was acting, so I would destroy all my letters and e-mails.  I believe they feared that I was writing down the things they were doing and saying, and that their house of cards would soon fall when I added it all up and realized they’d been deliberately deceiving and manipulating me.

As I record in more detail here, such records give the target of a narcissist and/or abuser more credibility with others, and also help the target keep straight what is real and what is gaslighting.

I have absolutely no fear of anyone keeping diaries or old letters/e-mails to or from me.  Also, if you keep records of your interactions with an abusive person, then you can one day have that “ah-HAH!” moment that means the narc/abuser has now lost all control over you–and that you have proof for others to see, as well.

Yet writers have always been hyper-aware their correspondence might have enduring literary merit. Hunter S. Thompson, for one, made carbon copies of many of his letters…..

One writer who systematically saves his e-mail is Nicholson Baker, whose book ”Double Fold” was a cri de coeur about what is lost when libraries convert newspapers and other rare materials to microfilm.

”I regret deleting things afterward, even sometimes spam,” Baker said. ”I’ve saved almost everything, incoming and outgoing, since 1993, except for a thousand or so messages that went away after a shipping company dropped my computer. That amounts to over two gigabytes of correspondence — I know because my old version of Outlook froze when I passed the two gigabyte barrier. When software changes, I convert the old mail into the new format. It’s the only functioning filing system I have.”

Salman Rushdie is also a saver. ”Yes, I have saved my e-mails, written and received since the mid-90′s when I started using computers regularly, and yes, I suppose any archive deal would include these (pretty extensive) e-mail files,” Rushdie said.

”I e-mail a lot, so there’s all sorts of stuff there, but don’t ask me to remember what it is. Private correspondence, texts, business mail, jokes, everything.” Rushdie said he had backed up a lot of his correspondence on an external hard drive, where he had also transferred messages from old computers.

–Rachel Donadio, Literary Letters, Lost in Cyberspace

The comments to this blog post are full of reasons why old letters and journals should not be destroyed, for sentimental reasons and for posterity. There is regret over letters which were destroyed to de-clutter.  Destroying letters and journals is seen as sacrilege.  Letters and journals are not seen as clutter even if you have a lot of them (not a bit like old clothes or broken lamps).  There is regret over the destruction of letters between one’s parents.

Also see here and here and here. Look at the joy it brings so many people to save these things!  And the historical or sentimental value to much of it!

During my late forties, I began making copies of the letters I sent to my many epistolary friends. I typed those I’d written in longhand before mailing them, and made carbon copies or photocopies of those composed on the typewriter.

By that time the absence of such a record had on a number of occasions been a cause of my dismay, puzzlement, or keen regret.

It happens that I had become a devotée of the forth-and-back call-and-response pulsations of corresponding with souls of widely different temperaments, interests and points of view.

Each of them brought out another side of me: what was sacred to one might be anathema to another; what enthralled one was less than fascinating to the next; what entertained one, another found was not at all amusing.

When the spirit was upon me, I penned or typed long letters to my friends-in-writing in response to theirs. Because each of these epistolary friendships was sui generis, I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually begin saving both sides of each correspondence.

I had learned well that a good habit for indefatigable letter writers to cultivate is to review what was written to whom, and when, lest one weary or wound or offend through a slip of the pen….

The passion to preserve my own papers, strewn with the seeds of every living thing I have read or written, was born of the desire to honor the covenant between the generations. Who has not dreamed the impossible dream of imperishability of all we have loved well? –Audrey Borenstein, Saving Words: Old Letters and Journals

So go ahead, save your old letters and diaries.  And if anyone tells you it’s wrong, tell them it’s your life and you’ll do what you want!  Those memories will become more precious to you over time, as the ones in your head begin to fade.  And your descendants may find them precious as well.  Also, use my story to help you be on guard against narcissistic mindscrews.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

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