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Rising from the Ashes - An Equine Photographer's Journey Beyond Narcissistic Abuse (TW)

Discover the empowering journey of an equine photographer who rose from the ashes of narcissistic abuse. This heartfelt, controversial story unveils the brutal reality of such relationships and inspires resilience and self-worth.

Today, I’m sharing a deeply personal and controversial part of my journey. This is about rising from the ashes of narcissistic abuse and how it’s shaped my equine photography business into what it is today. I don’t want people to read this and pity me - that is not my intention here. The term ‘narcissist’ is thrown around a lot these days - is that because it’s being wrongly used, or people are growing more aware of the insidious nature of these people? I'm not sure. But one thing I am sure about is that I want to offer vindication and understanding to those who have felt controlled, belittled, or isolated by a partner, friend, family member, or colleague. Know that you are not alone—and you can overcome it. 💪🏼🖤

The Steps He Took To Break Me

  • Belittling and Undermining Achievements

Whenever I celebrated a small victory, he’d downplay it or outright dismiss it as insignificant. At important events in my life, like birthdays or Christmas, he would always find a way to cause an argument, make me feel anxious, upset, or make the drama revolve around him. I remember I had a very important in-person portfolio review in London, which I was incredibly nervous about as it was a big pivotal event for my art career. He insisted he came with me even though I wanted to go with my mum. I gave in, and he somehow made me feel guilty for 'making the day about myself' and that I was being selfish, made me cry in the cafe…. And then he took my A1 art portfolio off me and threw it across a busy street in London. I felt humiliated scraping it up off the floor. This, of course, is just one example of many. His constant belittling led me to doubt my abilities, contributing to my feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.

  • Isolation from Support Networks

He isolated me from my support network, my friends, family; he tried to convince me my own mother was a bad person. He didn’t like me spending time with one of my best friends and accused me of cheating on him with her (completely disregarding the fact we are straight women), saying she was a bad influence on me. He also regularly told me his best friend hated me… I found out years later that this was completely made up. All of this was making me feel alone and dependent on him. He’d find faults in the majority of my friends and family, convincing me they were against us, they didn’t want us to be together, and they were trying to break us up. If not this, he would just make me feel guilty for choosing to spend time with them instead of him. Isolation made me feel vulnerable and cut off from the outside world, increasing my dependence on him and deepening my emotional trauma. Rebuilding those bridges took time, and sadly, I lost a lot of friends along the way. But now, I’m surrounded by people who truly support me.

  • Gaslighting and Emotional Manipulation

He used gaslighting to make me doubt my reality, making me feel like I was always in the wrong, especially after I voiced my concerns about how he was talking to me. He used to call me a Heffalump in this awfully vehement voice…. “You’re overreacting,” he’d say. “Learn to take a joke”. “You’re so sensitive”. “You’re making that up”. He would use my emotions against me, turning my vulnerabilities into weapons. If I expressed sadness or frustration about anything, he’d twist it to make me feel like I was the problem. This manipulation left me feeling emotionally exhausted and traumatised, unable to trust my own feelings. I did feel like the problem for a very long time. This manipulation led to PTSD and severe anxiety, as I constantly questioned my sanity and reality. His relentless criticism exacerbated my body image issues and contributed to chronic depression, making it difficult to see my own value. Constantly criticising my appearance and abilities, he made me feel worthless. But I wasn’t. My feelings were valid then, and they’re valid now.

  • Threats and Intimidation

Occasionally, I would find the inner strength to feel like I had the confidence and drive to actually leave this man. And I would tell him I was unhappy, that I wanted to break things off as I felt we were not good for each other. But even then, he used threats of violence to maintain control, “You won’t leave me.… because I’ll k*ll you.” Either this or intense guilt-tripping such as “You will spend the rest of your life making up for this behaviour.” This constant fear for my safety and the safety of my loved ones created a pervasive sense of dread and anxiety. Weirdly, now I laugh when I tell people this and say that it would make a great skit in a black comedy… not sure if that is a testament to my growth, dark sense of humour, coping mechanism, or a weird combination of all. Who knows!

  • Undermining Independence and Creating Financial Insecurity

I remember he told me that I had no idea what I was doing when I started my photography business and that I would most likely fail because I needed him to help me. Without him, it was on a collision course with failure. He would make comments about financial and business decisions, who I chose as clients, and who my competitors were. This was another means to undermine my independence and make me feel incapable of managing my own affairs. It created a sense of financial insecurity and dependence that was difficult to overcome. But I did. This is one of the few times I stuck to my guns and said I flat out refused to let him in on my venture.

  • Cruelty Towards Animals

He would direct his jealousy and anger towards my animals, regularly trying to shove my pony or being unreasonably rough with my dog. If I asked him not to, I would be accused of being “too sensitive” and that he was doing nothing wrong. This cruelty towards my beloved animals was devastating and a clear attempt to exert power over me.

  • Physical Intimidation and Inappropriate Behaviour

Sometimes he would follow me to work and turn up at the yard where I kept my horses, ensuring that I felt watched and controlled. While I used to say he “never physically abused me so it wasn’t that bad and I was probably overreacting,” the constant pinching, pushing, grabbing, and being inappropriate in a sexual nature, to the point where I would sometimes get bruises, says something else. Of course, through all of this, he came across as funny, caring, and charming to the outside world. He painted me as the one with the issues, the crazy one.

Overcoming Abuse and Building Flo Knoyle Photography

Through all of this, he methodically dismantled my confidence, making me feel unworthy of success and happiness. His constant negativity created a mental prison, where I felt trapped in a cycle of self-doubt and fear. Overcoming this was one of the hardest battles I’ve ever faced.

But, I had one thing he didn’t have. My horses were my saving grace.

I’ve owned Cracker since I was 12, and he’s been my rock through absolutely everything. I have had other incredibly special horses along the way, but Cracker has been there through absolutely everything. When I felt lost and broken, Cracker was there, providing solace and strength. His unwavering presence reminded me of my own resilience and worth.

Recovering from narcissistic abuse has informed every aspect of Flo Knoyle Photography. It’s given me the strength to create a space where my clients feel seen, valued, and empowered.

Here’s how:

I understand what it feels like to be torn down, to feel like an empty, vacuous hole capable of utterly nothing. I know how it feels to want to just lie down in the dirt and disappear. Nobody should feel like this. That’s why I build my clients up. Every photoshoot is designed to make you feel fierce, confident, and unapologetically yourself. I am super passionate about creating a safe, supportive environment where you can express your true self without fear of judgment.

I’ve learned to be true to myself, and I encourage my clients to do the same. Your unique style, your quirks, and your passions are what make you beautiful. Let’s celebrate that.

Having been through some complete and utter horror, I’m here to offer support and understanding. I know the battles you’ve fought, and I’m here to remind you that you’re a warrior.

I go against the grain because I know what it’s like to be forced into a box that doesn’t fit. My photography challenges traditional equestrian norms, offering a bold, alternative vision.

My journey has taught me resilience. Every challenge has made me stronger, and I bring that strength to my business, inspiring my clients to embrace their own resilience and growth.

Isolation no longer has power over me. I’ve built a community of like-minded, fierce individuals who support and uplift each other.

To anyone reading this who’s struggling with similar abuse: You are stronger than you know. You have the power to rise, to reclaim your life, and to thrive. Let’s show the world what true strength looks like. 🖤🔥

Stay fierce, unapologetic, and true to yourself.

With all my love and strength,

Flo xx

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