After my relationship with Narcissist #1 ended, I was in shock. I didn’t see it coming at all. I knew nothing about Narcissists, and I didn’t have anyone around that knew a lot about Narcissists either–including therapists. I was getting a lot of bad advice such as, “get over it,” or that he was a “selfish assh*le,” but I knew deep down what he was more than “just” a liar and a cheater, and that what I was going through was more than the breakup blues.
My relationship didn’t run the standard course of a Narcissistic relationship (idealize–devalue–discard), there was no “devalue” phase in my relationship, at least not to my face. And there wasn’t a “discard” phase either. He was Prince Charming the whole time we were together–until I accidentally stumbled upon his double life, which was so over-the-top there was no way he explain his way out of it. I was devastated, and he was totally nonchalant. Three hours earlier we’d been discussing this business that we were going to open together, and the house that we were going to buy. I was floored at how little he seemed to care about our breakup. It was though he was upset with me for finding out the truth about him than anything.
I couldn’t get over the fact that our relationship seemed to mean nothing to him, when three hours before we were getting along famously, planning to start a business together and buy the property that we were living in. I felt like I was losing not only my best friend, but the best thing that had ever happened to me. I just couldn’t understand how I felt this intense connection, and that we had so much in common and he didn’t seem bothered that he’d never see me again. I felt like I had been shoved off a boat into a cold, dark ocean and was trying to figure out how I got here, catch my breath and start treading water all at the same time.
Over the next few days, I dug and dug into his email, into his Facebook account, into anything that I could get access to. The more I found, the more my suspicions were reenforced that the person I was dealing had more than just bad behavior–his behavior was so unnecessarily malicious, but I couldn’t figure out why. All of his lies and the level of his deceit just seemed like such a big, hateful fu*k you. After all, he was the one that wanted a monogamous relationship, not me–I was fresh out of a divorce, and wasn’t ready to get seriously involved with anyone. Outside of being incredibly hurtful, all his cheating, lies, and resentment was just so…bizarre.
In an attempt to understand how he seemed to hate me so much, but pretend to be my ultimate man, I contacted his ex wife on Facebook. She was gracious enough to talk to me, and I told her what had happened between us, and that I was contacting her for some clarity, or to talk, or something–I wasn’t really sure–I was just feeling so lost. She explained that one week after they got married he got fired from his job, and seemed to want to be a kept man. A few weeks later, some friends of hers told her that they’d seen him on multiple dating sites, and while he denied it, she later caught him “sex camming” with people on the internet. Three months into their relationship she filed for a divorce. She said that she told him he could stay at her house (which is where they were living) until he could find a place of his own, but that she was going to move on with her life. She started dating other people, and when he found out, he went nuts and started throwing her stuff out onto the lawn! (Of course in his version, she was bipolar, cheating on him and an alcoholic…poor him.)
All of my questions about where the relationship went wrong, and why he hated me suddenly became very clear. He was a scam artist, and the scam wasn’t paying out as fast as he’d hoped. The more I began to dig around on the internet and in his email, I began to really see his total lack of empathy and complete lack of regard (he was using my pet name for him as his screen name on these dating sites!)–and then I began to wonder just who in the hell I’d spent the past 18 months with…and the thought of what the answer was terrified me. The best advice I got during this time was from her, and that advice was to “run far and fast and never look back.” Which I did.
Like most people, I turned to google to try and make sense of it all. I read a lot of things on Narcissism, and Sociopaths, and the more I read, the more things made sense. However, I was left feeling incredibly broken, and for a long while I was scared that I would never recover. I was having nightmares, and would wake up screaming or crying. I became suspicious of everyone–including my friends and family, and wondered who else in my life had some sort of hidden agenda. My self-esteem was shattered, and I it took me a long time to feel attractive and worthy. I know now that I probably had PTSD from what happened to me, and I wish I could go back in time and give the broken me a big hug, and tell her that she’ll get through this, and to just hang in there. Since I can’t do that, my goal is to share everything I’ve learned while going through all that with the hopes that it can help you.
Out of everything I did, here’s what helped me to recover from Narcissistic Abuse the most:
1. Figure out what you need. If you just got out of a relationship with a Narcissist, then it’s important that you realize you are going through a lot more than just a bad breakup. You just went through emotional hell, and are most likely feeling shell-shocked and mind fu*ked–and that’s normal. Right now the biggest thing you can do for yourself is to think about what you need in order to support yourself in order to make healing possible. Will being around other people help or not help? Would being on some anti-anxiety, or anti-depressant medication help? Do you find journaling a good outlet?
Think about what you need to support yourself emotionally right now, and then don’t be afraid to ask your support system to help you in those areas. (If you struggle with codependency issues, this part might be hard for you, as we are the ones that are so used to taking care of other people–but consider this a good opportunity to learn how to ask for help!) If you don’t have a good support system that understands what you are going through, then I recommend finding one. There are lots of support groups online. Here’s a link to mine, and I recommend that you join a few in order to find one that is the best fit for you.
2. Creating my “Buddha Board.” My Buddha Board was the first thing that I created in order to capture, and remind myself of the mindset that I wanted to have. I had it in my bedroom for awhile so I could see it first thing in the morning, and the last thing at night. This board has brought me a tremendous amount of peace over the years, and it’s one of the few items that I brought with me when I moved from New Mexico to Michigan.
3. Designate a color to remind yourself that you are loved. I was feeling really down one morning, and thought to myself that I was tired of being disrespected and feeling used and unloved. I then realized that I needed to take charge of the situation, and start respecting and loving myself. Since I am a very visual person, I decided that I needed a visual reminder that I was loved, and that I mattered. I declared the color red as my reminder color, and went out that day and bought some red towels, so when I got out of the shower I could give myself a hug. Maybe that sounds kinda lame, but it was a small thing that reminded me every day that I was loved, and knowing that made me smile–and at that point in my life, I needed all the smiles I could get. I started telling my friends about my color and what it was about, and they began giving me items that were red too.
4. Affirmations. The worst part of my day was right after I woke up. I was having nightmares that were so bad I was waking up screaming or crying. If I wasn’t waking up that way, I was waking up with an intense “heavy” feeling of having to carry all this emotional weight with me all day. I couldn’t shake the feeling of a tremendous sense of loss and sadness. I decided to take some flashcards and write an inspirational quote, or some sort of reminder on each one. (Some of the cards said, “The best revenge is a good life,” “You can do this,” “Learn what you can from this, and shake off the rest,” “Be kind to yourself,” “Follow your peace.”) I’d go through these cards before I went to bed, and then again a few times in the morning. They really helped to remind me of the mindset that I wanted to develop, and to find the strength I knew I needed to tap into.
5. Circling the wagons. Find your support people. I ended up calling my mom, who lives several states away, and she (thankfully) was able to come out and stay with me for almost two months. I also had a few friends that I’d told my story to, and even though I wasn’t sure I could trust them, as I didn’t trust anybody at that point, there were there for me. (Although I’m not really sure that any of them believed I was really involved with a Sociopath/Narcissist, as most of society thinks of Charles Manson when they think of a Sociopath/Narcissist.) I even ended up moving in with one for awhile. Don’t be afraid to lean on those key people that you do trust, and sometimes those people are found through support groups.
6. Counseling. A good counselor can really work wonders. Try to find one that has experience with Narcissistic abuse, and/or emotional/psychological abuse. It’s understandable if you just want to shut down and not talk about what happened to you. Many victims (myself included) feel a lot of shame and embarrassment about what happened to them. Please try to keep in mind that the Narcissist should be the one to be embarrassed and ashamed by their behavior, not you. Sometimes finding a good therapist can be difficult. Don’t be afraid to try out more than one–especially if you don’t feel a connection with them. Most domestic violence centers also offer free or low cost counseling, as emotional and psychological abuse is abuse, and is considered a form of domestic violence.
7. Make a Doctor’s appointment. If you are feeling severely depressed, or suicidal, please get help now. What you went through was hard enough, you don’t need the added burden of depression or anxiety. Consider making an appointment with a psychiatrist or a psychiatric nurse practitioner who is familiar with Narcissistic abuse. There are medications you can take to help with the anxiety and depression. There is no shame in this, and you need to do what you need to do in order to cope. (This is something I wished I done a lot sooner than I did!)
8. Reclaim your power. The first few months after finding out the truth, and getting readjusted to my new life were the hardest. I had a hell of a time just getting out of bed and into the shower. I remember one day having to tell myself out loud to get out of bed–and to move my right leg off the side of the bed, and then my left leg, and to march my body into the shower. I was at such a low point that morning, and then something in me clicked. I’d realized that he’d already taken so much from me, that I wasn’t going to give him anymore power to hurt me–that I needed to reclaim my thoughts and emotions, and get busy making a life that I loved.
9. Create a Vision Board. If you are feeling anything like I felt, then maybe you feel like your life just shattered into a thousand tiny pieces, and you are left struggling with how to put them all back together. One cool thing about your life shattering like that is that you can assemble a new life, and you only have to pick up the pieces that you want. To get an idea of what I wanted my new life to be like, I created a vision board. A vision board is where you search for images and words that describe what you want in your life. It could be images or words that describe people, places, things, or ideas. (There is no wrong way to make a vision board–just enjoy the process! Some of the things that I put on my board were images of lakes, images of a woman writing, of being a nurse and in a job that I enjoy, and encouraging and empowering other people.) After you find all these things, you simply tape them onto either a large sheet of paper or a poster board. You want to place the board somewhere that you’ll see it everyday. When you do see it, try to take some time and really feel how having those certain items in your life would feel. A vision board helps you to define an ideal future, and the more you focus on that, the more inclined you are to steer your life in that direction. Fast forward four years, and I am living the exact life I had on my vision board!
10. Educate yourself. What just happened was not your fault. Let me repeat, it was not your fault. There’s nothing that you did or didn’t do that would have changed things. Your Narcissist may have blamed you for everything, but the reality is that they don’t lie, cheat or steal for the same reasons normal people do. Everything they do is to feed their ever-hungry ego, and unfortunately that means destroying a lot of other people with their bad behavior. I found that the more I read up on Narcissism, the more it helped me to really put down the idea that I was somehow at partial fault for our relationship ending. Having the words to describe what happened, was also incredibly helpful. I’ve had several run-ins with Narcissists over the years, and I now that I know the red flags to watch out for, I feel really confident that I’ll be able to keep them out of my life once I spot them!
11. Support Groups. There are tons of support groups out there, both online and in person. (If you are going to join one on Facebook, you may want to consider creating a fake profile just to participate in the groups, because even though most of the groups are “closed” or “secret” they still show up as groups that you are a member of–and other people can see that you are a member, although they can’t see what you are posting.) Here is a link to the support group I started, although I’ve found that it really helps to join a few.
12. Help others. I’ve found that when I’m having tremendous amounts of emotional pain in my life that it really helps to go help someone else. I guess it’s a way of putting aside all my issues, and helping someone else with theirs. I know you probably don’t feel like showering, let alone volunteering, but it really does feel good to get out of your own pain and focus on other people for awhile.
13. Gratitude. When your world is falling apart around you, it’s understandable that your focus would be on everything that’s not working. But the reality is that there is a lot of amazingly wonderful things that are going on in your life. Try to take some time on a daily basis and think about ten or so things that you are grateful for. Did you shower with clean water this morning? Be grateful for that–a few small percentage of the world has that luxury. Do you clothes in your closet, your health, or food in your fridge? Again, many people don’t even have that. Really visualize these things, and let the gratitude that you have for them wash over you. Nothing puts a stop to fear and stress like gratitude.
Recovering from Narcissistic abuse isn’t easy or quick, but it is possible, and it is possible to create an even better life for yourself than the one you had before.
Just remember that you are not alone in your healing. Please keep me posted on what’s worked for you, and how your healing is coming along. If there’s anything I can do, of you just want someone to listen, don’t hesitate to contact me. Take care, and (((hugs))) to you.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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