“Other people could react with emotion — I couldn’t.”

So begins a list written in my journal a fortnight after discovering narcissism in 2013. I was listing the difference between normal people vs people whose personality has been molded by narcissistic abuse. The list goes on.

“Other people could speak without thinking — I couldn’t.

Other people could do things spontaneously, on a whim or desire — I couldn’t.

Other people could feel their emotions and know what they were feeling — I couldn’t.

Other people could weep when they hurt inside — I couldn’t.

Other people could enjoy close friendships — I couldn’t.

Other people could spend time together without being exhausted, rethinking every word they said afterwards and cringing — I couldn’t.

Other people had their own opinions — I couldn’t.

Other people had strong likes and dislikes — I couldn’t.

Other people could label things as ‘stupid’ — I couldn’t.

Other people could be sad — I couldn’t.

Other people could live without a constant guilt trip — I couldn’t.

Other people could say a strong ‘NO!’ — I couldn’t.

Other people could displease someone without feeling horrible about it for days — I couldn’t.

Other people could have someone walk up behind them without jumping out of their skin — I couldn’t.

Other people could rebel and become their own, unique, adult person — I couldn’t.

Other people could tell if they were being sexually harassed, abused and touched — I couldn’t.

Other people could get sick and not even feel guilty about it — I couldn’t.

Other people could make their own decisions alone — I couldn’t.

Other people could set boundaries — I couldn’t.

Other people could have privacy — I couldn’t.

Other people owned their own bodies — I couldn’t.

Other people could live, really live — I couldn’t.”


If you grew up in a fairly healthy home, this list may sound like errant nonsense, victim-playing. But if you’re a survivor of narcissistic abuse, then you nodded your head through the whole list and maybe wiped away a tear or two.

What is on your “I couldn’t” list? Please share in the comments section.

Oh and by the way. It does get better. The more you recover, the more “I CAN” will replace all those
“I couldn’t’s.”