Shakespeare wrote, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” Healing from narcissistic abuse never runs smoothly either. Many of you asked, “How are you healing from narc abuse, Lenora?”.
Sometimes, getting away is the best way to heal and put things in perspective. As I travel, stay with kind friends, gather evidence and interview witnesses, my journey of healing is coming into focus, sharp and full of clarity. This is the crooked Path of Healing I tread, complete with backtracks, quagmires and ROUS’s (Rodents of Unusual Size).
That “Aha” Moment
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already had your “aha” moment about narcissism. You’ll never forget it, will you? For me it came when I was Googling “parents brainwashing kids” after my husband mentioned that I was behaving very much like a brainwashed, abused cult member. Thank God, I stumbled across a site on narcissism.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Me Ol’ Darlin’, Denial
After that delicious “aha” moment, denial is the next step on your road to healing. It’s natural and normal. No one wants to believe they’ve been in relationships with narcissists. If I could ‘ve concluded anything else, I would’ve been thrilled. But after studying narcissism from morning ’til night, reading hundreds of websites, highlighting books, watching umpteen videos and writing journal after journal, I could conclude nothing else.
Yet, denial threatens me every day. I fought it on Day 1 and I fight it still today.
“I’m never alone. Denial is my constant companion,” I wrote in my article entitled Denial, Denial, Denial: The Bane of My Existence. “She wakes me in the morning, stays close by my side all the day and sings me to sleep at night. I’m never free of her. Never alone. Never totally at peace.”
The good news is…it gets better. The bad news is…it takes time. And trauma.
That Rackin’ Frackin’ Anger
Temper. Anger. Rage. Expect it. Express it. But don’t get mired in it.
Having quelled and quenched the anger from hundreds of hurtful events from the age of six, I had a lot of anger to deal with. But I made a mistake. I viewed anger like a big, bubbling cauldron. Surely, if I expressed my anger, the cauldron would eventually be emptied.
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Au contraire, mon ami.
The more I expressed my anger, the more there was. My anger was like a cannibalistic dragon, feeding on itself. As long as I dwelt on my anger and yelled in the privacy of my car, it just didn’t go away. It took a couple of years but I finally realized that it will never go away. It’s a bottomless cauldron, a perpetually hungry dragon.
As long as the hurt is there, the anger will be there too. I learned that from listening to my husband talk about all the abuses he endured growing up and into adulthood. He’s hurt, but he rarely indulges in anger. I love that he’s not an angry man. I don’t want to be an angry woman either.
The hurt is still there, so the anger is still there. It’ll be there ’til death or Alzheimer’s…whichever comes first. But I’m no longer feeding my anger-eating dragon. And it feels awfully good.
Studying, Learning, Research
Like so many of you, after that “aha” moment, I was obsessed with learning about narcissism. It became my new hobby as I “reverse engineered” what the heck happened! Followed every bunny trail…cult abuse…codependence…paranoia…stockholm syndrome…mind control techniques…trauma bonding. It’s all C-O-N-N-E-C-T-E-D.
Along the way, I collected the resources most helpful to me and prepared for my dream career: writing about narcissism and all its rotten bedfellows.
No, your children don’t need grandparents if those grandparents are narcissists. Don’t subject them to the same abuses you suffered.
This one’s a no-brainer. Just do it. Yeah, we’ve all toyed with the idea of trying to educate the narcissists in the hopes they too will have an “aha” moment, apologize and change. Ain’t happenin’. Staying in contact will only extend the pain ’til the inevitable happens.
Go “No Contact” early and stick to your resolve. You’ll save yourself a world of hurt.
The books tell us to grieve what narcissism stole from us. The comforting mother, the supportive father, the loving spouse. Being an engulfed Golden Child, I felt I had a loving upbringing…or at least, a very well-maintained façade of a loving upbringing. But I grieve anyways.
I grieve the normalcy I never experienced.
I grieve the friends I could have had.
I grieve for the experiences I missed out on.
I grieve for the places I’ll never get to see, the travels I was forbidden to have.
I grieve for believing myself to be bad and owning the false guilt.
I grieve for my OCD-ravaged complexion, thanks to the stress the narcs caused me.
I grieve for the façades my family maintained, façades I loved and miss.
I grieve for the woman who’s psyche was broken by decades of abuse at the hands of those who claim they love her.
But, most of all, I grieve for a curious, blue-eyed baby girl with a zest for life whose dreams were dashed, her goodness trashed, her love exploited and her heart wounded. She deserved better. I grieve for the potential I had and the senseless pain I’ve borne. It’s called self-compassion…not “having a pity party.” And it’s okay to grieve and have compassion for yourself.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
Lest I’m giving the impression that healing is a simple, straightforward journey….pffffft! Forget that!
Since my “Aha” moment in October 2013, I thought the pain would never end. My brain was wracked with anger, mired in disbelief, tortured with silent screams of, “Really!?!”…”Why!?!”…”How could you!?!”.
When I had an epiphany, there was a day or two of peace. “I’m well on the road to healing,” I’d think. Then…
Kablooey! Something would happen…a trigger…and suddenly I’d be back to Square 1. Talking and acting exactly as the narcissists trained me to talk and act. As if I hadn’t learned a damned thing!
“I need a refresher course,” I’d tell my husband. So, back to the books and websites I went. Journaling like a fiend. Crying. Carrying on generally.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum…especially during PMS and when I had any contact with the narcissists.
Sometimes, going away for awhile is cathartic. Getting away from the same ol’, same ol’ has been extremely healing. I realized that my self-worth is inviolable. I don’t have to prove my worth by working my ass off, serving others hand-and-foot, having the perfect house, serving perfect meals, etc. Nope. It’s high time I actually enjoy my own life.
That’s the exciting journey I’m on. Figuring out what foods I want to eat. What shows I want to watch. What hobbies I enjoy. What I want to do with my life, every moment of every day.
What About the Narcissists?
Like you, I too indulged in dreams that they’d read my blog, have their own “aha” moment, apologize and the relationships would be restored. I know, I know. Naïve of me. But hey! “Love hopes all things.” (I Cor 13:7)
It’s not going to happen. I know it’s hard to accept, but there it is. If your narcissists attack you, consider it a blessing because they’re betraying their true colors…the best antidote to denial, denial, denial that exists.
After years of begging God to free me from my denial and trauma bond, He answered my prayer. The answer was incredibly painful, but it was the answer I needed. First, they tried to publicly shame me on my own blog by posting comments demanding I return gifts freely given and honestly, gratefully received when I was still their brainwashed, loving, slave. And when I didn’t respond, they threatened to sue me.
At last, my eyes are wide open and my emancipation complete!
The Torturous Path to Healing
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It’s twisted, torturous and confusing. There are umpteen cul-de-sacs, curlicues, backtracks, land mines and ROUS’s along the way. Luckily, healing does not have to be done “perfectly”…despite the narc’s demand that we do everything “perfectly.”
We’ll never become the person we could’ve become if we’d never met the narcissists. We’re better than that! The fact that they chose us as their victim is a kind of back-handed compliment. We were kind, gentle, honest, loving and compassionate when they nabbed us. And now…we’re wise and fearless too!
But there is hope! There is healing! It is possible to live, laugh and love again.