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Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

The word recovery turns your stomach.  How does one recover from a situation you willingly walked into?  You could tell he wasn’t the most stable guy, yet you understood him.  He had been mistreated and that you had in common..

 The reunion fantasies that play out in your head are unrealistic but never lose their appeal. To assuage your guilt you try to convince yourself “It wasn’t all bad.”

 Mutual acquaintances report he isn’t any better than when he was with you. The truth is he doesn’t have the inclination to be better – yet your mind drifts off considering the fantastical possibility of what you could be if he was better…

 The term narcissistic abuse feels a little too neat for what happened. It was a Tsunami – everything you cared about was wiped out in one swift wave.

 It is scary to say it out loud – you miss being wanted that badly. You catch yourself doing the mental gymnastics required to consider reaching out.  You claim the need for closure  – pity you can’t even buy your own bullshit…

 It didn’t take much to pull you in – you just needed to matter to someone. He loved you when you were messy and you owed him.

 You were directionless with too many regrets and insecurities to count.

 Just between you and me, I feel a little pressure here to say it was a fairy tale romance – to collude with how Hollywood portrays the beginning of a narcissistic relationship.

 Abusers are presented as so charming.  His charm is a get out of jail free card for the heroine not having foresight.

 Yet it wasn’t some romcom gone wrong. He felt dangerous from the beginning.

And we can’t make others comfortable by whitewashing the ugly.

 The occasional nightmare reminds you of what it was really like to be with him.

 Somehow he felt like a judgment. The universe proclaiming what you deserved.  Or at least that is what you thought.

Despite all of his flaws, what you see the most clearly is your own sickness because he felt like the only air you could breathe – he overshadowed everything.

A get out of jail free card is the last thing you want – otherwise you will end up in the same position again.

No, you want to know exactly where you went wrong as it is your only shot at freedom.

You weren’t looking for a relationship that you know is true. He recognized you immediately and the intensity of his gaze was unnerving. You ran away from his magnetic pull but you weren’t fast enough, once caught you froze.

Of course you went along with the fairytale despite the foreseeable unhappy ending because it was still better than the life you were living.  

Hope led you on a fool’s errand. 

He wasn’t even that hot but he could read you.  And apparently that is all someone needed to do for you to welcome in chaos. It was so familiar, chaos was home growing up.  The chaos was your fault and yours to fix.  You were set up, groomed even for this kind of relationship.  And yes that was a shitty set up

It is painful to remember how naive you were about your ability to love another out of their own sickness.

You wonder how to know for sure you are a survivor of narcissistic abuse

I mean what’s the difference between a narcissist and just a bad guy? 

Patriarchy is a thing right – doesn’t our culture create all males to be narcissists?

Can we talk about how quick you rationalized that, helped yourself to not feel what you were beginning to feel?

How you keep your expectations so low, especially with men..

It is really hard to sit with the horror of it all. Shame is such a tricky thing…

You dodged the shame by developing an auto response – that voice that justifies your self destruction in the name of love, obsession or whatever it was.

Where did you go wrong?

Was it your parents’ generational curse you couldn’t shake?

Befriending that mean girl in middle school who made a game out of humiliating you?

Not attending the college you really wanted instead of the most practical school?

How did you end up here amongst the ashes of your life?

Everything you thought was going to work out is up in smoke.  He wiped out every plan – where you wanted to live, your career, and eviscerated your relationships.

A question that haunts you is, “What normal person would want me after this?”  It is followed by questions of how anyone could see you as anything other than damaged.

It makes sense that you don’t recognize yourself though you don’t know what you would be looking for anyway. You sold yourself out for love before you knew who you were.

Walking through life with nothing to keep your spine straight and mind focused is a bitch isn’t it? It’s not enough to have something to do, you need something else to be.

So here’s what I know

I could write you a letter highlighting the gory details with all the pop psych terms – the love

bombing, triangulation, gaslighting, scapegoating and hoovering

We can talk about the FOG (Fear, Obligation and Guilt) you lived in, and the ways you learned to defend yourself. Regardless of what you tried, it made no difference.

Yet you already know the cycle – you lived it.

Why don’t we talk about how you kept and maintained this relationship that fundamentally did not serve you.  Not that you are responsible for another grown ass adult as you certainly are not.

But you are responsible for you. The lines got blurred between who you were and what he wanted you to be.  Your people-pleasing kicked in to develop a pretty specific skill set to keep this thing afloat and that is what we will be diving into.

Can we list out what we are up against? A lay of the land, so to speak, then we can agree on our tasks.

You have trouble making decisions – you flip back and forth and find it easier to let decisions be made with or by others. You scan every thought overestimating how things could impact others and under estimating the impact on you.

Your self-doubt stalks you, questioning your experiences, thoughts and behaviors. When bad things happen your go to is denial of what happened – you fantasize about having a witness every moment for an on the spot reality check.

Oh, and there’s your freezing, at the worst times. There’s a long list of regrets that could have changed everything if you just didn’t freeze. The freeze is why you can never accept the adjective strong as having anything to do with you.

And this is why you have such a sense of over responsibility – it is your fault you provoke people. This is a little lie you tell yourself because it allows for you to pretend you have control in your relationships – it also gives anyone hurting you an easy out but we can talk about that later.

You have never met a boundary you respect enough to enforce. They are some kind of urban legend – you have heard of them, you are told they exist but never see them coming.  You don’t realize someone is pushing your boundaries til it’s over or you see it but tell yourself it will be different this time

Loss of identity You can tell me so many facts about others’ likes and dislikes. You still follow some of these preferences that felt like rules even though he is gone – funny how that works.  If I ask you what your preference is you have to think a little too long to answer – embarrassing eh?

Isolation The people that were the closest thing to your inner circle are long gone.  They got sick of watching you self-destruct. When things got really bad you started avoiding friends as your predicament felt worse when there was an audience.  You have so much time on your hands now and can’t imagine sending a text to those former friends, it would feel too pathetic.

Guilt and shame “I’m bad” and “I’ve done bad” thoughts that feel so amplified. The ugly ending of that relationship confirms your worst fears – that you deserved what you got.  What if it was your fault and he is now Mr. Prince Charming for some other woman after you put in all that work?

(this is where I start coughing ‘bullshit’ as we both know that is just a fantastic example of your imagination)

Avoidance, Whatever the hard of the moment is you find a way to avoid it – mostly because you are trying not to freeze. You don’t trust your ability to make the right decision and are fearful of freezing. A new job, a move, a self care routine, any of the above you run from as you aren’t a fan of change.  Anything that makes you feel too much is a no-no.

You need someone that can hold all of this.  Someone who knows the truth and won’t write you off as damaged goods.  This happens to be my speciality.

Lucky you.  For reals, I am not kidding about that.

Not all therapists have the stomach for what you went through. The awful truth of what happened needs to come out.  You won’t have to edit what happened as it is the sharp nature of your experience that we need to heal.  All of my training was built upon addressing the sharp edges of pain.

There is room for redemption – a space where forgiveness doesn’t feel like a cop-out and growth comes from deep roots.  Where decisions feel strong and peace is a relief. You don’t need to stay in the ashes of what was, nor do you need to torture yourself about your past to heal.

Let me let you in on a little secret that therapists know.  No one googles narcissistic abuse recovery for fun. We can be honest with each other about that –  make an appointment today.


PS. Go here to set up your appointment.

  1. Gerard Cronin
    February 10, 2024 at 12:14 am -

    I eagerly await your next post.

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