Today is exactly one year since I cut off contact with Narc. Yahoo!
A year ago I couldn’t even imagine being at this point. I was drowning in darkness and pain and utter confusion, reviewing every moment of my 4.5 year relationship within the context of NPD.
Looking at it from this side now, I thought I’d take a moment to highlight the ten things that were most helpful for me in getting through the last year, in the hopes that they may help someone who is just starting out on their journey of recovery.
1) Online Support. People in real life generally don’t understand NPD, people online understand it all too well. Wherever you ‘live’ online, build your support group. Survivors are everywhere – twitter, facebook, here, everywhere. Don’t be shy to reach out and write about whatever you’re going through – there is always someone there to listen and offer support.
2) Education. I spent countless hours reading about NPD, sociopathy, psychopathy, watching videos about it, reading other people’s stories – matching up all the information to my own experiences, analyzing his hoovering tactics to spot all the techniques I was reading about. Like they say, knowledge is power, and practice makes perfect. If we learn it and practice spotting it, we’ll stand a much better chance of avoiding falling into it again.
3) No Dating. In those early days, we are so hurt and confused and we want someone to make the pain go away, but the only way to really heal ourselves is to work through the pain. We don’t know who or how to trust, we need to slowly make sense of our lives, of our selves, and that will not happen with the distraction and added confusion of adding new people into the mix. Plus, narcs can sniff out vulnerability a mile away so dating before we’re ready just makes us easy targets for them (I believe). Take a break from dating for a while and focus on yourself.
4) Feel Your Feelings. So what to do with yourself when you’re sitting at home, not dating? Ride the waves of feelings – cry when you need to, for as long as you need to. There will be little rhyme or reason for when or why you cry, but you need to get all that accumulated pain out of your body. Grieve the lies, the loss of the relationship, the loss of your belief that the world is a good and safe place. Feel the anger, feel the hate, every feeling is OK. You have spent too long suppressing your feelings to try to keep the peace in your relationship, it’s time now for all those feelings to come out. It probably feels like they will never end, but they will.
5) Take Your Time. There is no formula for this, no timetable for recovery. Don’t let other people pressure you or guilt you into doing anything you don’t feel ready for – dating, hanging out with friends, acting like you’re ok. This is your life, not theirs, and you need to live it your way. Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to get through each day. I ignored some friends, I cut off others. The ones that really matter understood that I needed to go through this in my own way and they are here on the other side, telling me how proud they are of me. They’re not mad that I was a hermit for months. So take your time and do things your way for as long as you need to.
6) Exercise. Yes I know sometimes all you want to do is lie in bed and either starve yourself or eat crap and drink wine, but make sure that once in a while you force yourself to exercise. Endorphins are hugely helpful for your mood, and exercise is great for self-esteem. Even if all you can do is go for a walk, it will make a difference. I always say to myself, ‘something is better than nothing’ and it’s true. Every little thing you do to take good care of yourself makes a difference.
7) Journal (or blog). When a memory hits you hard, when a tidal wave of feelings starts to drown you, when you feel tempted to break No Contact – write about it. Sometimes you have a lot more to say than you feel you want to say in a facebook group or you can fit into a tweet. Get all those thoughts and feelings out of your head and heart by writing about them. The more you can get out from inside of you, the less you will carry forward, and that’s a good thing.
8) Investigate Your Past. This is going to get messy, you may want a therapist/counsellor for this. We need to understand why we accepted being in a relationship with an NPD for any amount of time. Why we chose to set our needs and feelings aside to keep the peace with him (or her), and loved and supported him (or her) at our own expense. We need to look at family of origin, at past relationships, and work through unresolved pain. They say if we don’t do that, we’ll keep repeating patterns, and given my history I’m inclined to believe them. Two books that I found helpful: Dr. Phil’s Self Matters and Dr. Karyl McBride’s Will I Ever Be Good Enough?
9) Trust Your Gut. As you analyze your whole relationship, you’ll start to realize you had lots of red flags early on and throughout the relationship. There were lots of times your gut was telling you something was not ok, and you set it aside to try to make things better with narc. The good news is, your gut is in perfect working order! Now you just need to start trusting it. Stop talking yourself out of it and making excuses for other people. If you trust your gut, you will naturally have better and stronger boundaries and reject unhealthy people even if you can’t put your finger on why you need to reject them. Your gut doesn’t need labels for things, it just knows “safe” or “unsafe” and ultimately that’s what really matters.
10) Tell Yourself “I Love You” – A Lot. We’re pretty good at being hard on ourselves, and we’ve heard a lot of not nice things said to us throughout the relationship (and probably throughout our lives). Let’s start changing the soundtrack. When you wake up, tell yourself “good morning, I love you”. When you do something well, or make a healthy choice for yourself, tell yourself “good job, I love you.” When you’re going to bed, whisper “sweet dreams, I love you.” Even if you don’t really feel it right now, the more you say it to yourself, the more you will start to really feel it on the inside. And besides, isn’t it way nicer to hear that than all the other self-critical stuff you say to yourself? You’re an awesome person and super lovable, so you may as well tell yourself so!
I hope this has been at least a little bit helpful. Somehow, day by day, things do get better and eventually you find yourself celebrating an anniversary you never thought would come.
I wish you all love and strength in your journeys. xo