So apparently it was World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day yesterday! I didn’t know, surely I should have received an invitation in the post or something? I am after all, a fully fledged member of the “abused by a narcissist” club… damnit.
I didn’t even know that such a day existed. Perhaps next year I will be able to “celebrate” properly but for this year, I am going to pretend it is today so that I haven’t missed it.
Now clearly I am not trying to imply that being a member of the “abused by a narcissist “club is a good thing, nor is it fun – obviously… BUT there seems to be a community of people who are dealing with recovering from narc abuse and it seems only fair that we should have a day once a year where it is recognised that the invisable suffering these arsehole narcs cause us is worthy of a whole day, worldwide, being dedicated to such a cause (I know that isnt’ the right word but I can’t think of the right one). Hopefully you know what I mean. It kind of allows narcissistic abuse to be viewed appropriately as severe.
So few people seem to know about narcissistic abuse. I can’t decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On the plus side, hopefully this means that lots of people, most people even, haven’t experienced the soul-destroying abuse but then again perhaps they have and like me until two and a half years ago, they just didn’t know there was a “name” for it, a term, that it was a thing… that it was abuse. Abuse is a strong word.
I remember having a bit of a “light bulb moment” one day fairly recently where I woke up and realised that I had been abused. I don’t use that word lightly. I always associated abuse with physical violence or horrific sexual abuse. One day I woke up and really felt that I had been abused and I am currently experiencing the fall out from that.
How would I describe the feelings that go with that realisation?… fuck I don’t think it is possible to explain.
I have experienced everything from:
- Elation: Absolute elation. You read the check-list of narc traits and your abuser meets every single one (or a lot of them) and you feel the weight of the world lift off of your shoulders. There is a reason and it wasn’t me! You want to shout it from the rooftops “hey everyone, listen!!! My mother was narcissistic, it wasn’t my fault after all!!!!!!!!!!!!” but clearly you can’t do that because you would sound like a crazy lady. I genuinely believe that I will remember this evening for the rest of my life. The day T told me to go home and read up on the internet about narcissistic mothers changed my life forever.
- Guilt: Absolute truck loads of guilt. How could you think this about the woman who brought you into this word? Who put a roof over your head your entire life and made sure you were fed and watered?
- Fear: Oh the fear. I am fighting this often at the moment. When you have been programmed to fear your caregiver (or whoever the narc is), that shit gets in deep. Deeper than deep. What if they find out what you are saying? That you are exposing them? When you have spent your entire life trying to gain the approval of a narc and never getting it, you do whatever you can to keep them “safe enough”. Something is better than nothing after all and you know what they are capable of, you have seen their narcissistic rage often and you do not want to be the subject of that. You fear they will leave you, that they won’t love you anymore, that they will tell everyone how bad you are and everyone will side with them and leave you totally alone. You fear they will hurt you so badly that you will die. I don’t think I am doing this fear as much justice as it deserves but even writing about the fear is bringing up lots of feelings in my body. It is making my arms tingle and feel weak… see? deeper than deep.
- Denial: It couldn’t have been that bad, right? I have probably exaggerated this. Because there are not visible bruises or wounds, it is hard to “back up” your truth. It is hard to prove to yourself but I think deep down, you just “know”.
- Grief: Grief that hurts your heart, makes you feel empty, alone and helpless.
- Anger: Realising the impact that the narc abuser has had on who you are, who you were and mostly for me, who you COULD have been.
- Rage: Wanting to smash the bathroom up and feeling like an unexploded volcano.
- Depression: Waking up with what I call “head cloud” and feeling completely numb to life.
- Sick: Not quite a “feeling” admittedly but something I have been feeling a lot lately. Physically sick. Sick to my stomach. Wanting to vomit and get out the horrendous and intolerable feelings that this is bringing up for me.
- Loneliness: The feeling that your mother doesn’t/hasn’t/can’t love you is something that cannot be put into words. When I am in the thick of this it throws me into an emotional flashback where I am 6 years old wondering in my house in my nightie on my own. I become so alone, so helpless, so powerless. I feel I might die. The feeling that there really is nobody in the entire world that can love you completely unconditionally invokes a feeling of loneliness that I just can’t describe.
- Gratitude: Feeling grateful that I’ve been able to “label” this lifetime of suffering with a term… realising it wasn’t MY fault… trying to come to terms with the fact that I have survived this long and I will survive going forwards. Gratitude that I took myself for counselling and gratitude that is hard to comprehend that I have found a highly experienced, empathetic and attuned therapist to hold my hand as I go through these feelings over and over again.
My recovery hasn’t been linear which I don’t think is uncommon. I was stuck in the denial phase for what feels like eternity. I intellectualised my knowledge of narc abuse very well – but I didn’t seem to be able to “feel” the effects and I didn’t seem to marry up the words with my experiences. I understand now that this was my psyche protecting me. I didn’t WANT it to be true. I didn’t WANT to feel these things. I didn’t want to accept my truth. That I was abused.
Yesterday I told my T that when I left my session Tuesday evening I cried in the car and again at home. When she asked me what thoughts or feelings were making me cry I didn’t know. I told her that I felt a bit “numb”. This is a feeling I have been getting a lot lately, I think perhaps it is still an element of shock. I sometimes wonder whether this shock will ever wear off.
Recently I have felt like I am going backwards. That I am less stable now than I was before I came into therapy. That is a very destabiling feeling because it makes you want to trick yourself into believing that things were better before and that you can get back to that if you run now – run back into denial and back to pleasing the narcissist every day. I think this often but can you truly ever un-know what you now know? I’m not sure….. possibly I suppose if your defences are strong enough.
I feel like I am on a rollercoaster at the moment in this recovery. One day I am happy and I feel strong and like a survivor, other days I feel completely and utterly floored by the whole thing and it smothers me until I feel I can’t even breathe.
In therapy I realise more and more the ways I have been hurt by my mother. Some sessions the reality hits me afresh and the pain is overwhelming. It is confusing, it is scary and it is bloody painful but I keep on going because in the end I know that I will feel better. That life will feel brighter and easier.
The main driver for sticking with this process is that she has done enough damage. She has “won” long enough and now it is my turn to win.