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How I Realized That I Experienced Narcissistic Abuse and My Journey of Healing

“I remember moments of feeling completely hopeless like I had no identity outside of my dysfunctional relationships. At my lowest, I numbed feelings with unhealthy habits. With support and inner work, I’ve realized my worth comes from within. Now I know approving of myself is what matters most.”

Hello! Who are you?

Aloha! I’m Mona Kirstein, Ph.D, and I wear many hats in my life—serial entrepreneur, holistic coach & consultant, and advocate for conscious living. I live on the beautiful island of Oahu in Hawaii, where the natural surroundings serve as a constant source of inspiration for me. 

I share my life with my loving husband, and together we find peace and purpose in the simple joys of this journey called life. I’m passionate about nature, engaging in deep soulful conversations, traveling to new places, and the never-ending journey of learning. 

Currently, in my early forties, I find myself in a phase of life where I am genuinely happier than I’ve ever been. Years of self-work and embracing my true self have led me to a space where I feel not just comfortable but proud of the life I’ve created.

Empowered by my own transformative journey, I’ve dedicated my life to guiding ambitious women toward embracing and expressing their authentic selves—a gift I believe is the most precious offering we can make to ourselves and the world.

Mona Kirstein 1

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

Life hasn’t always been this fulfilling. For decades, I lived under the shadow of Narcissistic Parental Abuse, a struggle that profoundly affected my emotional well-being. The symptoms were subtle but deeply damaging: emotional manipulation, lack of genuine affection, and constant undermining of my self-worth. 

He would dismiss my emotions, like calling me “too dramatic” or “oversensitive” if I cried. 

When I made a wrong facial expression, he’d accuse me of disrespecting him and take away privileges. He constantly twisted reality and made up stories about things I’d supposedly done wrong, grounding me for infractions that never happened. 

He crafted fictitious stories about my behavior to justify punishing me for things I never did. If I objected, it confirmed to him I was lying and disrespectful. He wove complex false narratives that made me constantly defend myself against things I never did.

I started distrusting my own memory and perception.

Even later in life, I’d share successes and he’d react with envy and disdain. Imagine telling your dad you’ve been offered a spot in a Ph.D. program, and he says, “That’s just a sign you’re too lazy to get a real job.” Yeah, that happened. 

This struggle wasn’t confined to my childhood; it persisted well into my adult life, affecting my relationships, my career, and my sense of self. 

It wasn’t a phase or a temporary challenge; it was a relentless companion that cast a shadow over multiple aspects of my life.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

At my lowest, the struggle with the internalized voice of narcissistic abuse felt like an insidious cloud that hung over every aspect of my life. I was carrying an invisible weight that made even the simplest tasks feel like climbing a mountain. 

Instead of specific moments standing out, it was more like a constant undercurrent of feeling rejected, worthless, and too flawed to be around others. 

This struggle severely impacted my happiness, creating a barrier that prevented me from fully enjoying my successes and relationships. I got really good at putting on a brave face, but inside, I was a mess.

The hidden struggle of codependency

I struggled with codependency for years without realizing it. I had this deep inner belief that I was unlovable unless I pleased others and earned their approval. This led me to make poor choices—ignoring red flags, minimizing abuse, and clinging to harmful people.

I remember moments of feeling completely hopeless like I had no identity outside of my dysfunctional relationships. At my lowest, I numbed feelings with unhealthy habits. With support and inner work, I’ve realized my worth comes from within. Now I know approving of myself is what matters most.

Behind the mask of success

Externally, I was achieving milestones in my career and personal life, but internally, I was in turmoil. I became adept at hiding this struggle, wearing a mask of composure and success. To the outside world, it seemed like I had it all together, but inside, I was fighting a battle that very few knew about. This duality made the struggle even more isolating.

Truth silenced, reality distorted

One of the most insidious aspects of narcissistic abuse is the suppression of truth. Narcissists often create a distorted reality to maintain their sense of control and superiority. 

As a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), I have an innate ability to perceive and question things. This often put me at odds with my narcissistic father, who would go to great lengths to silence my truths because they threatened his constructed reality. This dynamic not only made me question my own perceptions but also instilled a deep-rooted fear of speaking my truth.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

After years of feeling weighed down by an invisible burden and struggling with codependency, the turning point in my journey came when I began to consciously challenge the internalized voice that had been undermining me for so long. 

I started working with professionals who helped me identify and reshape these negative thought patterns. The moment I remember feeling a change for the better was when I could look at my accomplishments and genuinely feel pride, rather than dismissing them as flukes or attributing them to external factors.

Conscious choices, lasting change

When it comes to the change in my life, it’s all on me—100%. I didn’t just luck into a supportive environment or find the right therapist by chance; I made those things happen for myself. Every healthy habit I started, every professional I worked with, every support network I built, and every moment I spent reflecting were all intentional choices. 

Mona Kirstein

Journey to empowerment

This journey took years, maybe even decades, but each step I took was a conscious effort to heal and improve myself. And let me tell you, the sense of empowerment that comes from knowing you’ve turned your own life around? That’s incredibly rewarding and feels pretty amazing.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

The final turning point for me was finally putting a name to what I had been experiencing: narcissistic abuse. Understanding this was like flipping a switch. I worked with a psychospiritual therapist who specialized in this area.

She helped me identify the internalized voices that were holding me back. For instance, we did exercises where I journaled conversations between my “inner critic” and my “inner advocate,” which was eye-opening.

Journaling as a mirror to the soul

One strategy that helped me immensely was journaling to identify my inner critic voices. I would write out conversations between my “inner critic” and my “inner wise mind”, paying attention to repetitive phrases like “you’re too sensitive” or “you don’t deserve success”. I then learned to cultivate my inner wise mind to reframe those criticisms.

For example, when the voice said “You’re too sensitive,” my wise mind would respond “I have the gift of perceptiveness.” Reframing these inner narratives was so empowering. I also found spiritual practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga invaluable. The combination of inner work and outer practices allowed me to get centered and tap into my inner wisdom.

Trusting your inner compass

Another huge step was embracing my intuition and inner wisdom. I explored various healing modalities and spiritual practices. These choices were guided by my inner voice, which I learned to trust more and more. This approach helped me understand my triggers and how my nervous system responds, giving me tools to cope better.

The healing power of acknowledgment

I think giving a voice to all the internalized voices, even the ones that seemed “bad,” was transformative. We can only heal what we bring to the surface. I started actively listening to these voices, understanding their origins, and working on reframing them. This was a big part of my therapy sessions and healing journey, and it’s something I’d highly recommend to anyone going through a similar struggle.

Breaking free from suppressed truths

Another transformative realization was understanding the power dynamics at play, especially the suppression of truth inherent in narcissistic abuse. I saw this pattern not just in my family but in other relationships and even in broader societal contexts. 

The tendency to attack the messenger instead of facing uncomfortable truths is something I’ve had to navigate carefully. Through my healing journey, I’ve learned to detach from the reactions of others and live in integrity with my own truth. This has been both liberating and empowering, allowing me to speak out without the crippling fear of rejection or ridicule.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

Sharing my struggles has been a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, I’ve always been open about what I’m going through, but the feedback hasn’t always been constructive. In unhealthy relationships, the advice I received was often misguided and even harmful. 

Phrases like “just have compassion for him,” or “love is the answer,” sound good on the surface, but they can be incredibly damaging when dealing with narcissistic abuse. I remember listening to a podcast “It’s Me, Dr. Z.”, where she shared a story that really resonated with me. People would say, “But it’s your father, and he’s old now,” and she’d reply, “But it was me, and I was 5!” That hit home for me and reinforced the idea that stepping away can sometimes be the most healing action to take.

Letting go for a healthier tomorrow

There were also people in my life who felt threatened by my growth. As I started to get stronger, it seemed to challenge the illusions they had built up for themselves. Realizing this was both painful and liberating. I had to make the difficult decision to let go of certain friendships, but doing so opened up space for healthier, more genuine connections.

Opening up about mental health struggles is never easy, especially when the people you expect to be your support system turn out to be part of the problem. But the journey, as tough as it has been, has also been empowering. It’s helped me sift through my relationships and keep only those that are truly beneficial for my well-being.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

If I could offer a single piece of advice to someone else facing similar struggles, it would be this: Own your truth, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Your journey to healing is about you, not them. Don’t dim your light for anyone. Trust yourself and your intuition, and don’t hesitate to seek specialized help.

I wish I had known earlier the importance of putting a name to my struggle and seeking help from professionals who specialize in this area. Understanding the dynamics of narcissistic abuse and how it affected me was like turning on a light in a dark room. It gave me the clarity I needed to start the healing process.

Another thing I wish I had known is that it’s okay to step away from relationships that are harmful, even if society or well-meaning individuals tell you otherwise. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for yourself is to create distance and establish boundaries.

It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of self-respect and self-love. And remember, you’re not alone. There are communities and professionals out there who understand what you’re going through and can offer invaluable support.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Over the years, I’ve dived into lots of books and talked with experts to better understand the connection between body, mind, and soul. This approach has been a big part of my healing journey.

While it’s hard to pick just one book that changed everything for me, some have really stood out. One of those is ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel van der Kolk. This book led me to explore body-based therapies and underlined what I already knew: healing has to be viewed holistically.

In addition to that, I’ve been deeply influenced by exploring the concept of the Higher Self and our spiritual connection to the universe. These works have opened me up to trusting my intuition and inner wisdom, which has been a cornerstone in my healing journey.

One of the most impactful resources has been my work with Julie Clark, a psycho-spiritual coach. Her approach combines psychology and spirituality, and she specializes in narcissistic abuse.

Working with her has been like finding a guide who speaks my language, helping me navigate the complexities of my struggle, and offering invaluable insights and tools for healing.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

If you’re interested in diving deeper into my philosophy and approach to holistic well-being, I invite you to visit my website, The Wholehearted Path.

There you’ll find a range of resources, from personalized holistic coaching and consulting services to articles on conscious living, emotional well-being, and entrepreneurship.

I also offer expert guidance in various essential aspects of life, such as healthy lifestyle choices, relationships and communication, mindset development, and spiritual growth.

You can also find me on Facebook and Pinterest.

Is there anything else you think we should have asked you?

One question that could add depth to this interview is about the role of spirituality in mental health and well-being. I believe that our struggles are not just psychological but also spiritual in nature.

For me, embracing spirituality was a significant part of my healing journey. It helped me understand the interconnectedness of mind, body, and soul, and how each aspect contributes to our overall well-being.

I also want to point out the importance of finding the right kind of help. Not all therapists or coaches are equipped to deal with specific issues like narcissistic abuse. It’s crucial to find someone who specializes in your area of struggle, as this can make a significant difference in the speed and quality of your recovery.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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