Vanessa Reiser is about to set out on the run of a lifetime.
The 47-year-old clinical therapist from Rockland County, New York, will be running 285 miles across the state of New York over the course of 12 days — but she won’t be wearing typical athletic clothes.
Instead, Reiser will be wearing her wedding dress as a way to raise awareness for narcissistic domestic abuse, something she has experienced herself. She told Fox that the wedding dress symbolizes the way narcissists often use the promise of marriage or engagement to control their victims.
“The narcissist uses this as a way to entangle people,” Reiser told Fox.
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Reiser herself was engaged to a diagnosed narcissist and sociopath, she told Fox. She said during their relationship, there was a lot of “circulations.”
“They will wound you and then soothe you,” Reiser said. “This is what a lot of cult leaders do.”
In one instance, she said her fiance left her without a car in Cape Cod, then padlocked her out of the house after she rented a car to get home.
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Several months later, in March of last year, she decided to leave him. In response, her fiance spit on her and called her names.
“[He] told me my father was a loser — my father died when I was 18. I’m going to be 48 — And then he bleached my clothing,” Reiser said.
He didn’t leave it there, though. Reiser said he also tried to get her kicked off the board of the Center for Safety and Change, a local domestic violence center.
“It was just very scary — I would liken it to a nuclear fallout emotionally and then, kind of climbing out of that hole,” Reiser added.
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Though she was unemployed when she left that relationship, Reiser went on to start a nonprofit called Tell A Therapist, which helps victims of narcissistic abuse. She is also a licensed therapist in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts and is developing a life-coaching program that will be available globally, she told Fox.
Currently, Resier — who has already done two Ironmans — is also training for her solo 285-mile run.
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She’ll start in Oswego, New York, on May 17 and will run about 23 miles a day for 12 days, ending in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City on May 29. To prepare, she’s done long runs of 30 and 40 miles on some weekends or four back-to-back days of 20-mile runs on other weeks.
Resier is also trying to raise $200,000 to donate to domestic abuse shelters in the nine New York counties she’s running through, which include Oswego County, Onondaga County, Madison County, Otsego County, Delaware County, Sullivan County, Orange County, Rockland County and New York County (Manhattan).
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Though it’s going to be long, Reiser’s run will also be somewhat therapeutic.
“I’m a runner, I find it’s like my own personal therapy,” she said. “A lot of this is like my own healing. So as I’m going through the run, you know, it’s like a cathartic thing for me … because it’s going to bring awareness and it’s going to make me sort of challenge myself.”
However, the run is ultimately about helping others.
“I just want people that are going through this to know that they’re not alone,” Reiser said.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.