That feeling of powerlessness during a toxic relationship with a Narcissistic Personality Disordered individual leaves indelible marks on a victim’s psyche after the relationship is over. I should know. After my disordered ex left me in a most callous way a week before Christmas, two weeks before the New Year and less than a month before my birthday — a discard after months of devaluations and withholding of physical intimacy — I felt like my entire world had collapsed and I was a shell of the person I used to be.
I did not quite understand the toll it had taken and would continue to take on me. I could not yet know the extent of the psychological damage this type of relationship had done to my soul. I was devastated trying to reconcile the different versions of who this person pretended to be with who he ultimately became during the narcissistic devaluation and discard phase of the relationship (i.e. inconsistent — loving one minute and cruel the next; dismissive; passive aggressive; punishing). All I knew was that I was experiencing severe emotional pain. I later came to understand that I was continually grappling with cognitive dissonance, constantly questioning my recollection of events, wondering whether my toxic ex was correct in blaming me for everything that had gone wrong, and doubting myself and my entire world view.
I sensed there was something not quite right about this type of breakup. This was not a typical breakup where one or both partners feel the relationship is not working and decide to go their separate ways. This was a breakup with an individual who not only lacked the ability to empathize, but also went as far as to sadistically punish me by questioning my sanity and distorting the reality of my experience — ultimately, painting himself as the true victim in all of this.
Thankfully I had some level of understanding left in me and the drive to save myself. I immediately recognized that I needed to contact a doctor and get professional aid to help ease the sense of dissociation and helplessness that I was experiencing. I came to discover that I was (and three months out of it, still am) suffering with symptoms of C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Part of healing from the psychological damage inflicted was beginning to understand what it was in fact that I was experiencing. Reading and learning about the cognitive and physiological changes following narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding during narcissistic abuse was the first step on the path to recovery. I was not abnormal or crazy or somehow deficient as he oftentimes tried to make me believe I was during the devaluation phase. What I was experiencing was a direct result of the abuse and toxicity I had endured. I had been suffering intensely with anxiety attacks, feelings of low self-worth, sleeplessness, lack of interest in activities I once enjoyed and confusion from all of the cognitive dissonance. Understanding that there was a name for it and that I was not alone made me feel less isolated and helpless. Understanding what I needed to do to slowly recover from this gave me hope during times I felt utterly lost.
What I could control became my focus. I researched Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse. I began talking to a therapist who is highly versed and specialized in this. I discussed my experience and told my story as often as I needed to, turning only to understanding and validating friends and family. I found that exercise, meditation, essential oil aromatherapy, journaling, enrolling in a writing class and starting to go out with supportive friends made me feel better and brought some much needed positive reinforcement into my life. I slowly began to re-discover my sense of self.
It has been three months, and although I am clearly doing a lot better, I still have moments where I feel depressed. The difference now is that I have learned how to ride out the waves of longing, the melancholy, the stream of tears, the anxiety attacks and all of the self-doubt. I let it all wash over me and then dissipate on its own. I will not sugarcoat how difficult it can feel at times. How often I pray for permanent relief, where it does not feel like a daily struggle. I still have moments where I falter (for instance, looking at his social media and then feeling bad about it). The difference now is that I am armed with the knowledge of what it was that I actually experienced and what it is that I need to continue doing to build up the self-esteem that he chipped away at.
By distancing myself from my toxic ex, I gained clarity and a newfound level of awareness about myself as well as a deep understanding of what I experienced. Despite moments of sadness or longing, I know that what I am truly sad about is missing a person that never was or a love that was not my definition of what love should feel like. His idea of loving was one-sided, devoid of true care and respect that grows past the infatuation stage into a real lasting relationship. That true concern and respect that comes with genuine, healthy love is not something a Narcissist is ever capable of; they can easily do infatuation and even believe that they are falling in love. What they cannot do is empathy and compassion. As long as I was an extension of him, mirroring his every need and dream, I was “loved” and valued as such. This is a truly sad realization but a necessary part of recovering. It does get better. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, and so shall you.
Originally published at medium.com