By Kristy Best
All smiles. That’s me. As a TV show host, I knew how to be excited about anything. Give me one hundred kids in a row telling me the same story and I will make each kid feel like it was my first time hearing it. See, I care a lot about making people feel heard, especially children and I now realise, for the longest time, the one person that wasn’t being heard, was me.
I survived my most damaging relationship with a narcissist 9 years ago. After only 6 months together, I became so highly anxious that I would double over in pain whenever I ate. He kept a tight leash on me. He expected me to text my whereabouts at all times, he monitored who I socialised with and he would blow up if I interacted with other men. He challenged all my creative choices and questioned my intelligence, daily. At the same time, he would openly flirt with women online and monopolise our conversations with women he had been with. He wanted me to feel worthless, and he succeeded.
I wanted to leave and nearly did when he seemed to shift gears overnight. It’s almost like he sensed my exit. I don’t think I really expected his new, reasonable persona to last, so when he slipped back into his old ways, I had to make a move. Luckily, someone older and much wiser came to my rescue. This person recognised that I was in an abusive relationship, and they not only got me out but they connected me with a good therapist. This was the turning point for me and the moment I promised myself that I would do whatever it took to avoid making the same mistake again.
I’d love to say after therapy I instantly became immune to narcissists, but I can’t. I met many more, some, I didn’t even register as narcissists because they were the covert kind. I knew I had a long road of learning ahead of me and I wanted to work both on myself and my understanding of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), so I continued to arm myself with knowledge.
I became so informed (obsessed) with NPD, that I was excited to share all I had learnt with anyone that would listen. I was doing this so often that my friends began connecting me with friends of theirs who were in toxic situations. In connecting with others who had similar experiences, it was becoming obvious that there wasn’t enough awareness about narcissistic abuse and people simply didn’t know what it was that had happened to them, they simply felt hurt, alienated and humiliated.
My research didn’t end with narcissism. I wanted to understand those attracted to them too; which led me to studying the personality traits of other cluster B disorders, as well as how environmental factors, parenting techniques, attachment and trauma can impact this. I guess you could say, all in all, my research was cathartic. Knowledge is power, right? And the more I knew, the more protected I was.
I had never thought of writing something about my experiences. It wasn’t like I didn’t have countless stories to share, after all, I had dated a number of narcissists, it just simply had never occurred to me. Until I met “the one”. For the first time, I was in a beautiful relationship with a secure attachment (psych speak for no baggage) and all the work, the growth and the recovery felt like it had finally amounted to something.
Now that I finally knew what it was like to feel safe, loved and accepted, I wanted others to feel the exact same way. Especially those that had walked in my same shoes. So, when it was suggested by a producer in the UK that I pen a web series about narcissists (after I monopolised a 4-hour long coffee with my knowledge on NPD), I was ready. I finally had enough distance to delve into all the muck to create something that was informative, based on fact, true to my experiences, wickedly funny and above all else – helpful!
I threw myself into the writing process, madly plotting the series on a flight from Oslo to Sydney, bursting at the seams with all the ways I was envisioning the direction. Once in Australia, I assembled a skeleton crew and gave myself two weeks to finish scripts, lock down locations, costumes, actors and shoot it. It took us 2.5 days to shoot 6 episodes with a crew of five all giving up their time to help me realise my passion project. But shooting it was the easy part, finishing it would turn out to be a different story.
It would take a year to find the funds and the people to finish the series. It meant that I was talking about narcissism and watching the footage on repeat the entire time. I’d be lying if I didn’t say anxiety didn’t creep back into my bones. But it wasn’t until we held a private screening for our supporters that I finally saw through the jokes in the series to the core; to the pain beneath. I felt sad for how much I had to survive to grow, and seeing the series on the big screen in its entirety definitely took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
I think even Septimus Caton, who played Derek the narcissist and is a long-time friend of mine, could see behind the smoke and mirrors in that screening – but people were laughing and we were too, nervously!
When it came to releasing the series on YouTube in March, I admit I was nervous about how it would be received. After all, I had made a dark comedy/parody that resembled Adam Ruins Everything meets Fleabag called, How to Know If You’re Dating a Narcissist. The title gets a laugh but you know before you press play that it’s going to be pretty damn dark.
In making something so loud and unapologetic, I was concerned that other victims/survivors may not understand how I could laugh in the face of trauma. I was also scared the series might attract narcissists back into my life. Unsurprisingly both happened – in very minor ways – and remarkably, I handled it. It was reassuring to see my boundaries held true and my belief in the right to share my story took precedence above all else. This is my story, my pain, my learnings and I no longer have to ask permission from anyone to speak my truth.
How to Know If You’re Dating a Narcissist, isn’t just for me to let go of my past, it’s a playbook for young girls and boys who have begun dating, experienced women and men in the thick of it with a narcissist and those who have been there, done that and are ready to acknowledge how far they’ve come. People at all stages have expressed their relief in being able to shake the shame and use the series to talk to their family about what they have experienced. It has also helped a few understand past relationships that left their mark and given many more the chance to feel less isolated.
This series may not be for everyone, but I am delighted I have been able to celebrate my trauma in my own unique way. My voice has been heard and it has been on my own terms. It’s just the beginning for this sweary canary.
How to Know If You’re Dating a Narcissist will be released on Facebook via the Sweary Canary Facebook page today (June 1) to support World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day and it can be viewed on the sweary canary youtube channel – youtube.com/swearycanary.
Kristy is a filmmaker, actor, and TV presenter. Nominated for a Reel Women Film Award at Cornwall Film Festival in 2011, she is working on a bunch of projects and dreams of seeing her online projects on the second screen. She hosted a show that was nominated for a Logie (Australia’s Emmy’s) in 2018.