This story is dedicated to survivors and victims of narcissist, emotional & mental abuse. Your trauma, though invisible to the eye, is real, important, and valid. You are seen.
This is also dedicated to my loving husband, without whom I may still be sitting in the forest.
TRIGGER WARNING: Narcissist abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, physical harm.
You’re hiking through the forest on a warm, sunny day when you stumble upon some small animal bones. “Odd,” you think to yourself, “to find bones out here. Well, the ‘Circle of Life,’ as it goes.” As you turn to continue on your path, you notice a wilted plant in need of care. “Sweet plant friend,” you say, as you take out your bottle of water to give it some sustenance. “I wonder if those mean animals damaged you before they died so now you are having trouble blooming. I bet I can help make you better.” After you have provided nourishment, it shoots out a thorn which penetrates the skin of your right forearm. “Ouch!” you shout, but then you think to yourself, “It’s okay. I’m sure it didn’t mean it. It’s probably just instinct. It can’t help it.”
You stick around to make sure it’s okay. You wonder what beautiful array of colors it will display when it blooms. You talk to it so that it is fed with carbon dioxide; an awe-inspiring design God fashioned to make humans and plants codependent upon one another. But it does not convert your carbon dioxide, so you choke a little, thinking, “It’s okay. I’m sure it doesn’t realize it’s not converting my breath to oxygen. It’s probably just too wilted to function properly.”
You decide you’ve spent enough time waiting on the plant and to move along. Suddenly, as you turn to walk away, it begins to bloom! It has the greenest greens and reddest reds you have ever seen! You think, “How lucky am I that I have caught a glimpse of this, when others have likely walked away too soon!” Despite its beauty, you are surprised to see that it appears to be an abnormally large version of a Venus Flytrap. It is angling toward you and you think, “It’s okay. I’m sure it doesn’t realize it’s angling toward me. It’s probably just coincidentally the same direction of the sun. Photosynthesis!”
You realize it is actually nightfall by now, and you cannot see very well around you. “How did I let a whole day go by and end up in the woods at night?” you think. “That’s so unlike me. So irresponsible,” you criticize yourself.
By now, you have noticed a stinging pain shooting up your right arm. You think maybe you need to stretch it out. You bend your left arm upward and slide your right forearm into the crease of your left elbow to give it a good stretch. There, right in front of your eyes, you realize the wound from the thorn your sweet plant friend accidentally shot at you has become infected. Your veins around the wound are swollen and dark blue. Your skin is purple and painful to the touch. You look at the plant and you begin to wonder:
“Was it intentional, after all?”
“Does it realize it attacked the one who is caring for it?”
“Did I fail to treat the wound properly?”
“Am I going to die?”
You fear the answer to your last question as you suddenly feel weak and very thirsty. You reach for your bottle of water and it’s gone. The flower’s thorny roots have strangled it and poked holes so that its roots could drink to its contentment. “It’s okay. I’m sure it didn’t realize I also need water. It’s probably just so thirsty it didn’t consider me.”
But then you stop to consider the recent events and ask yourself a few more questions.
“Does it matter if what it has done is intentional or not? The outcome is the same regardless.”
“Why do I feel responsible for this plant?”
“What if it tries to eat me?”
“Am I willing to give my life to sustain it?”
You feel convicted about the answer to your last question as you try to stand. You feel weak as you stumble away. You notice that the rocks below you are very odd. Such long, thin rocks that make it difficult to walk as they slide across one another. Some of them actually crunch beneath your feet. That’s strange for rocks.
“Wait, are those more bones?”
You look around. They are strewn about everywhere surrounding the plant. The peaceful garden where you once sat, waiting for your plant to bloom, was actually a graveyard of its past victims.
“…Those are not rocks. ..Those are more bones.”
You continue to hobble away as your sweet plant friend starts to spit out thorns in your direction, likely hoping to cripple you permanently so it may completely devour you. You can feel a couple pinches as it attempts to penetrate your clothes, however from behind you are not as vulnerable since no skin is exposed.
As the bones crunch beneath your clumsy feet you consider the small unsuspecting animals that fell prey to the plant which you once thought “sweet” and considered a “friend.” “I was the next planned meal! I was to be the main event!” you think to yourself as you build momentum.
Sitting for so long made your legs numb, and now with the adrenaline flowing from the panic of your realization, you regain much of your agility, and your walk becomes a run. You are so fearful that you think your knees just might give out from under you.
You make it out of the woods as the sun begins to rise, dizzy from the mental strain of attempting to understand what happened to you over the last 24 hours. It feels like a blur. “Was it just 24 hours?” “When was the last time I have eaten?” You wonder how you can warn others about the plant. You are angry with yourself that you were so naïve and ignored the warning signs. You saw the bones and didn’t think there was a connection until it was too late. You made excuses for the plant when you should have left after the first thorn was shot at you. “Oh, my arm!” you remember. Now your entire arm is purple. “I hope it won’t have to be amputated.” You begin to cry. You grieve the loss of your peace of mind, and possibly your arm. You are glad it’s your right arm and not your left, which would have been closer to your heart. You tie your sweater around your right arm to restrict blood flow and hopefully impede the infection so you can have a shot at getting out of this unscathed.
You set on towards the hospital and wonder how you will ever be the same. You regret having been so loving and giving to begin with. You blame yourself because you are responsible for stewarding your own body, but you neglected it to steward someone else’s whose needs appeared to be more urgent than yours. They did not reciprocate so your basic needs went unmet while they actively hurt you.. and you stuck around. You feel guilty for leaving the plant on its own.
Then you feel guilty for feeling guilty. After all, you are not truly responsible for the plant. It’s responsible for itself. You chose to leave to care for yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
In Christ’s Healing & Forgiveness,