This article is brought to you by the letters “S,” “C” and “R.” It’s coming to you late because along with Stress comes the inability to Concentrate. And when Stress rears its ugly head, Recovery packs up its old kit bag and smiles, smiles, smiles as it jumps a freight to all points West.
But seriously. all the unhealthy coping mechanisms that kept me alive for thirty-three years with narcissists are, unbeknownst to me, still there. Ingrained. Part of my DNA. I thought I’d exorcised them. Given ’em a one-way ticket out of Dodge…but no!
Cue some major stressor…and they all come crowding back like it’s their Forty Year High School Reunion, high-fiving each other and having a grand ol’ time. There’s Always Blame Myself chatting over the punch with Don’t Make Anyone Angry Ever. Comfort eating at the buffet table is Codependence on Steroids while Self-Loathing hits the dance floor with Be an Invisible Person (aka You Don’t Deserve to Exist.)
And what of my hard won healing, my Recovery? It must be around here…somewhere. Probably hiding in the bathroom having a panic attack. Ah, there it is while my old friends Don’t Pity Yourself and You Can’t Self-Validate powder their noses. Yes, they’re here too while I Can’t Possibly Cry For Myself sits in a corner, smiling constantly, trying to feel as happy as she looks.
I really thought these days were over. That I was beyond my childhood ways of thinking and my young adult ways of coping. Most of the time, yes, that’s true.
But certain triggers are like that old song: “Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight, Make me a child again just for tonight!”
But not in a good way.
What triggers it?
- Strong emotions
- Lack of validation
- Getting angry at someone
- Someone getting angry at me
- Deep thinking
- Having my boundaries bashed
Cue any or all of these and suddenly, I feel like I’m down in my parents’ basement again, head in hands, whispering over and over, “Don’t exist, don’t exist, don’t exist.”
People who don’t exist don’t think deeply about things, set boundaries, notice disrespect nor upset other people by verbalizing all-of-the-above.
Time has been kind and I’ve forgotten so much misery during the Narcissists’ Regime. Forgotten things like the ingrained belief that if someone got angry with me, it’s ALWAYS my fault.
That someone might be angry with me and it not be my fault was never considered.
Ergo, if they are angry, you are in the wrong. Being in the wrong, you have no right to cry or “have a pity party.” Ah, codependence, thou infectious scurvy-valiant skainsmate! (Nobody can spin an insult like Shakespeare!)
Thankfully, that so-called “logic” is dead wrong.
Unlike normal people who take others with a grain of salt or are aware that other people have “agendas” or are “working an angle” as Bing Crosby calls it in White Christmas, I’ve always taken people at face value. I trusted them to be logical, factual and truthful even while angry.
So if I made them angry, if they fought back with venom, it never occurred to me that I might actually be in the right. That anger comes from pain or guilt or embarrassment and often expresses itself via hyperbole never occurred to me.
Oh no! I took everyone dead seriously…even when they were spouting nonsense. Lacking the ability to self-validate, and always being automatically in the wrong, you’re Bull$hit Meter is inaudible from long-suppression.
Meanwhile, while everyone is giving vent rather dramatically to their strong emotions…you are shamed, silence and sent-to-your-room-until-you-can-express-yourself-calmly. Oh yeah. Been there. Only a calm voice is allowed while all those around you are drama, drama, drama.
In recovery, you unlearn all this crap.
In stress, it all comes back again…temporarily.
The good thing is that it’s only a temporary “blip” on the radar. Some of you can calm down quickly. It takes me a long time to return to serenity. Longer than I care to admit. Damn cortisol!
The bad thing is that you have to Work The System to return to your nice, comfortable recovered place. Everyone’s system is different. Mine includes…
- Chatting with friends to get their perspective, opinions and validation
- Re-reading apropros portions of books
- Seeking out similar situations written up online
I also find it calming to…
- Watch comedy
- Do full-spectrum light therapy (in Winter)
- Take Vitamin D, Calms Forté, St. Johns Wort and other calming herbs
Of course, going to your therapy session is an excellent choice as well.
Just know that you’re not alone. We all have moments when stress makes us feel like all our hard work at recovery was for naught. But that’s not true. It’s just an anomaly, a momentary setback. A blip.
Don’t let it throw you for a loop.
Thank you for reading! If you enjoy Narcissism Meets Normalcy, please also check out my new food blog, Reluctant Cook, Cheap Foodie for food history, kitchen hacks and a really whiz-bag recipe for Amish bread.