I have been in recovery for almost eight months. The sixth of May will mark the day that I first came face to face with the pivotal moment that changed life as I knew it. It sounds strange to clump all of life into this whole Narcissist fiasco; however, HE was the catalyst for change, despite the destruction he created. I remember vividly the early days of recovery. It was a very scary, isolating, psychologically devastating experience made worse by the fact that no one seemed to understand. I had difficulty weeding my way through distortions, everyone seemed evil to me, I feared insanity my whole life due to suppressing other pain, and at that moment, the horror I could only imagine came to life…my worse fear realized – I believed I was clinically insane.
I tried very hard to find “help.” Despite my effort and belief that I needed professional assistance, somehow instinctively I felt that the resources available would do more harm than good. One therapist missed the “trauma” altogether despite the fact that I entered his office in shambles perhaps a thread shy of showing up in a bathrobe and slippers. Worse still, I could not articulate why I was so distressed, as the “trigger” at that point was merely the Narcissist carrying on a virtual affair on Facebook with some woman a few hours away in another town. What I did not realize in the midst of the emotional chaos was that all of this was building slowly right beneath the surface and that I was the victim of a stealth attack on my psyche which was why I was unable to pin point the exact reason for my extreme distress. He was slowly chipping away at the gray matter until there was little left! Worse still, he “justified” it, through the art of “projection.”
Furthering the victimization were others who could not comprehend my extreme reaction to what some men have been doing for centuries…”Cheating” – this was not about THAT…this was far worse I would later discover.
The strange thing is that the PTSD did not surface right away…I found myself still involved with the Narcissist even after the “betrayal” as it still did not register, and somehow, despite all good common sense, I kept trying to “make sense” of the insanity. I was desperate for validation FROM HIM…an apology, accountability and all the while he was justifying and placing blame upon me. I began to buy into that package, owning the blame. It was weird as he had erected a wall until I conceded. I remember that clearly and the chill up my spine that ensued; nonetheless, at the time I still could not make heads or tails of that reaction from him. It seemed as if he was on a mission of self destruction and he was hell bent on dragging me down with him. I made one discovery that was shocking *my story is posted* and shortly thereafter, I left town for a month to try to re-group. The timing could not have been worse, I did not expect to spiral down the rabbit hole while away and it was a scary ride into the depths of hell, and I held on desperately to that one ounce of sanity I had left long enough to get my son and I back home where I temporarily but completely lost my mind.
The irony is that it was not all about him, but pain that I suppressed since childhood. Pain I denied out of fear that it would take me down – as it did- and when I came face to face with that demon, my only choice was to look him in the eye and take the ride down with him…there was no turning back, I surrendered to it determined that one way or another, I would win the war but that the only way to overcome would be to dive in. I don’t suggest this, it is not for the faint of heart; however, I don’t believe I had any other choice in the matter. When we avoid things and sweep them under the rug, they don’t disappear and I had run out of options.
I remember being filled with such anxiety; I could not leave my house. Several times, I flirted with the idea of committing myself but I kept fighting the urge. All I wanted to do was rock, suck my thumb and be sedated; however, I had a thirteen year old son to take care of, and I also knew in the back of my mind, to some degree, I wasn’t crazy, but could not figure out for the life of me what was going on…it felt like “crazy” would feel, but I still had a portion of my mind that could reason. The distress was overwhelming, such extreme despair and rage all wrapped up into one and I felt out of control. I never felt suicidal thank God, but I could not speak. I literally could not speak at all without crying without bawling my eyes out, without wanting to let out such a primal scream and so, I sat locked up in my room for a month and did not utter a word except for those things that were necessary, and I stayed glued to this forum twenty four seven. I forced myself out once daily for a cup of iced coffee simply to stay grounded in “reality” to keep in touch with “life” to stay connected and walking that block to the shopping center for my coffee was a battle.
Bathing was a struggle, combing my hair was an insurmountable task; I donned sunglasses even on cloudy days because walking through the streets the tears would just come. I remember one night after about two weeks in this state of mind, trying to get it together enough for my son to take him out to dinner, and I got in the car and drove about half a mile and the anxiety and the lump in my throat became so painful, and the tears just started streaming and I wasn’t even talking, I had to turn the car around and tell my son I couldn’t do it…we ordered out, and I locked myself up in the room again. I remember when speaking to my son being unable to utter a sentence without crying…and my only choice was to come clean with him, and share with him, where the source of all this pain was coming from…and to re-assure him that I would be okay, and even shared all that I hid from him, all I “sheltered” him from, I shared my secrets with him with the hope that he would not only understand but learn and become aware of what “abuse” is. I am sure this overwhelmed him at first, and he didn’t say much about it, I am sure he was hurt to see his mother come undone, but we had no one to help us, it was me and him and the only thing that I could do was level with him, as I felt that to act as irrationally as I was, and deny an explanation would have been cruel and create anxiety in him. I used discretion in what I shared, but elected to open up to him, rather than try to hide as the truth was, I had nothing to be ashamed of – I was human, and hurting.
The days would turn to night and night into days and the depths of this morose abyss seemed to have no limit but I continued to ride the turbulent waves, clinging for what felt like dear life. I felt like my sanity was being held together by a single thread and I was fearful, but I kept clinging. I purged every insane thought on this board, I fluctuated between extreme hate and compassion for the “Narc” that had been afflicted with an “Incurable Mental Illness” and by the grace of God, had many a member on this forum screw my head on straight every time I uttered yet another “delusion.” I owe my sanity to this board. It was through this board I was able to own what the reality is about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the nature of my relationship.
I don’t remember the exact moment that I was graced with peace and clarity and ownership, but I know it took a fair amount of time.
Recovery is not something that one just rushes through. This experience for me was not just about a relationship gone wrong, it was about a life gone wrong. That may not be the scenario for everyone, but for me, I believe that certain patterns were in place long before the Narc entered my life. It is the reason why I also became aware of a number of other toxic people in my life. This was the start of making many valuable connections to how my distorted thinking led to many of the mishaps up until this pivotal moment in my life. While I did not intentionally seek out the Narc, there was a foundation in place that I believe made me more susceptible to such an attack – although I still maintain that anyone can be a victim.
While I cannot predict the final destination of this journey because I am still very much in the recovery process, so far I have accomplished a lot. I have become aware of what abuse is, what toxic messages are and the language of verbal abuse even when voices aren’t raised. I have learned how to detect when someone is engaging in breaking you down even when the campaign is disguised with a smile, as well as how others will attempt to project their insecurity and insanity onto me and of equal importance how to reject the message and identify it as THEIR issue, not mine to own. I have taken inventory and noted how very early messages in life have molded me to accept crumbs, to think that I am not worthy or deserving and how that is a LIE…I am worthy, I am deserving, I do have gifts, I am valuable, lovable, intelligent, beautiful in my own skin even with my flaws. I have noted some of my flaws and I have learned that they are what make me human. I have learned that I won’t ever be perfect and it is an exercise in insanity to try to be perfect. I have learned that words mean nothing, it is the actions that speak – and I have learned that I have it within myself to be my own best friend. I have learned how to appreciate simplicity, peace of mind, and serenity even in the midst of a storm. Most importantly, I have learned how to live in the moment and not try to forecast the future and have tried to discipline myself to enjoy each moment, to be patient with myself and to indulge myself rather than look outside for my “comfort” and it feels good. There is a way to go, but I am still open and look forward to continuing on the Path Forward. I am convinced, this journey will be a lifelong process if my goal is to live authentically and remain open to change. Life is not stagnant; there will always be challenges that require growth and adaptation.
During this process, I find myself constantly in search of words to uplift my spirit and I happened upon this quote:
“At this very moment, you may be saying to yourself that you have any number of admirable qualities. You are a loyal friend, a caring person, someone who is smart, dependable, and fun to be around. That’s wonderful, and I’m happy for you, but let me ask you this: are you being any of those things to yourself?”
~Phillip C. McGraw
Oddly enough, it is excerpted from “The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom” I was a bit hesitant using a quote from a weight loss book – after all, if we’ve been hitting the Ben and Jerry’s through this ordeal, that might be yet another triggering issue; however, I think it is appropriate and significant if we examine “weight” in another context…DEAD weight…the weight we carry around we have no business dragging around with us, the negative mental weight we need to shed, that must be purged. We need to release all the toxins and negative messages from our psyches in order to heal.
At this juncture, I am at peace. The narc is still living rent free in my head – I don’t know when he’ll leave, but I’m not going to worry about it – he’ll leave when it’s time to leave. In the interim, he won’t haunt me, I am in control, I am dealing with what I need to deal with and I am doing the work. As long as we tend to our gardens, water OUR plants, and provide lots and lots of TLC – in time, we will see many beautiful flowers blossom and as long as we put real effort into planting seeds, soon we will be able to appreciate and reap the rewards of our harvest…
During my period of isolation, I sought various outlets and activities to express the pain I was feeling. I created the following video as a creative expression of the madness I felt enveloped me:
If you’re new to the realization that you’ve been involved with a Narcissist, for a time it is normal to feel that you’ve lost your mind. I encourage you to seek professional help despite what I’ve outlined as my personal experience; however, I want to re-assure you that these feelings will pass, you will heal and you will overcome.
You are not alone. Continue to share, educate yourself on NPD, and stick to the forum as it is a safe place to “Get it Out.” Moreover, I cannot urge you enough if you haven’t been able to do so, try your best to establish No Contact as it is instrumental in removing yourself from the source of insanity – The Narc.