When you have been abused by a narcissist (or several!), you are going to have ongoing issues as a result of their abuse. This is likely to continue for many years, even long after the abuse has ended or even after the abuser dies. Today we’ll be discussing one of the lesser discussed yet potentially devastating issues: lacking a healthy perspective about yourself.
Not long ago, in emailing with a friend, I mentioned something traumatic that my mother did to me when I was in my teens. She was floored, then told me how horrible it was & how badly she felt for me. I was stunned by her reaction. Yes I knew it was traumatic but somehow I didn’t think it was all that bad. This same scenario happened a few times. Then a few weeks after that first email conversation, during a phone call to a different friend, the scenario happened yet again. I mentioned a past traumatic experience, & she too was flabbergasted. And again, I was stunned since I didn’t think of the experience was all that terrible.
Being prone to over thinking everything, these experiences got me thinking. I didn’t understand why I didn’t think these experiences were so bad, yet other people did. It isn’t like they haven’t been through the same & worse experiences, & I recognized theirs were pretty terrible.
Then, I learned something interesting that at first I thought was unrelated. I’m always tired, & I assumed it was because I can’t get to sleep or stay asleep without medication, & have constant nightmares. Not long ago I got a smart watch that monitors all kinds of health processes including sleep. It showed me that I get virtually no deep sleep. That explained why I’m always tired, but not why I don’t get deep sleep. I researched this & found PTSD & C-PTSD cause a person not to get the deep sleep they need. Upon learning this, my first thought was, “wow, I really DO have C-PTSD!” My second thought was wondering what is wrong with me?! I’ve had symptoms of it for my entire life! How could I doubt it? Suddenly, things began to make sense when I thought not only of this but my interactions with my friends a few weeks prior.
When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, they dictate everything about that relationship as well as about you. They do this through gaslighting. After being exposed to this toxic behavior long enough, a person takes on the narcissist’s narrative. If the narcissist claims you’re stupid enough, you believe you are in spite of having an above average IQ. They claim you’re fat? Absolutely believable, even if the scale says you only weigh 110 pounds. This gaslighting goes much deeper than those superficial issues however. Narcissists all convince their victims that what they’re doing isn’t so bad, clearly it’s not abusive, it never happened, or if it did then it’s their victim’s fault.
This gaslighting also branches into the realm of health conditions too. Narcissists are the only ones who have any sort of health problems, at least according to them. Also, narcissists aren’t above faking an injury or illness or even making themselves sick, they assume everyone does it. These two things mean that narcissists don’t care when their victims have any problems. They assume their victims are just faking as they would do. Or, if there is undeniable proof of a problem, they minimize it so they don’t have to pretend to care or to help the victim.
This gaslighting is why I was shocked my friends not only saw the events in my life as traumatic, but validated me & cared how I was affected as well. It also explains why I felt surprised to find proof I really do have C-PTSD, in spite of having the symptoms for so long.
If this sounds familiar to you, my heart goes out to you. I wish I could help you fix this right now, but I can’t. I can tell you some things that I’m finding out that help me though & I think they’ll help you too.
Prayer certainly helps! I have asked God to help me have a healthier perspective on myself & talk to Him regularly about this. Also, when I recognize any minimizing behavior in myself, I tell myself the truth about the situation instead. Progress has been slow going with me, but it’s still progress & that counts!