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At the time of this post, it’s October. October 3, 2017, I got the call that my father was on a ventilator without much time left to live. He died twenty days later.
During that time, as I’ve shared before, I was subjected to cruel attacks, multiple times a day, from my family because I didn’t break no contact to say goodbye to my father. My home & cell phones rang constantly, & often when they rang, they would ring for five to ten minutes straight. I got tons of text messages & social media messages. I dodged all calls & messages as best I could, but there was no escaping reading the first part of some messages due to how texts, emails & social media messages are designed. The hatred & venom coming from even that little bit I read was simply astounding! And, one of the social media messages was from the account of my aunt who had been dead for three years at that point! I’d blocked her daughter some time before & she used her mother’s account to try to bully me. Ain’t family grand?
As a result of that horrid time, every October, I struggle. It’s like a month long emotional flashback. I can count on depression, anxiety & nightmares plaguing me even more than usual on top of the natural sadness connected to my father’s death. The fact this happens during my favorite time of year makes this even more frustrating. I just want to enjoy the beautiful leaves changing & cooler temperatures in October!
The reason I’m sharing this is in the hopes of helping anyone reading this who experiences something similar.
Sometimes we go through things that are so traumatizing, that even well after the trauma is done, we can’t help but suffer effects. Even if we try not to think about it, it’s still lodged in the back of the mind, not going anywhere. We might get anxious or depressed around the anniversary of the event without even realizing the date. Or, we experience the same emotions we did at the time of the trauma. This is known as an emotional flashback.
The body remembers too, & as a result, we may feel ill, have some unusual aches or other odd symptoms without medical cause suddenly appear for a brief time. If you were physically injured at the time of the trauma, you also may feel the pain of that injury again. This is what is known as a somatic flashback.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic wand to wave & make these symptoms stop. If only it was that easy! Instead, if you want to survive this with some semblance of sanity, you are going to have to do some work. Not all of it will be bad, but some will be pretty unpleasant.
You are going to need to face your feelings about what happened & feel those emotions. You can’t ignore feelings or they will manifest in some pretty unhealthy ways such as in the form of addictions, self harm or self destructive tendencies. My best friend says, “you have to feel your feels” & it’s true. To do this, you need to find healthy outlets that help you. For me, that means prayer & writing in a journal. For you, it could be speaking to a counselor, pastor or trusted friend. Whatever works is what matters.
“Feeling your feels” is hard work, & you will need to take breaks when you start feeling that it’s just too much. What helps you to relax? Creative outlets are wonderful for relaxing & healing your soul. If you don’t have one, it might be time to find one. If you are out of ideas, notice what your friends are doing. One of their hobbies might appeal to you. Or, consider what you enjoyed doing as a child & start doing that again. Get some finger paints, doodle, or buy a coloring book & crayons.
Take care of your physical needs as well. Make sure to allow extra time for you to rest since emotional work requires a lot of energy. If you like exercising, go for walks, swim, ride a horse… whatever you enjoy that helps you to feel good physically.
Most of all, don’t forget to lean on God. He will show you what you need to do, & help you to get through this trying time. All you have to do is ask for His help.
When you have been subjected to abuse at the hands of a narcissist, whether that person was a parent or romantic partner, obviously it does a lot of damage. Most everyone knows about the depression, anxiety, C-PTSD, low or non existent self esteem, inability to make decisions & difficulty trusting other people. One thing that is almost never mentioned though is how greatly your perspective about your problems is damaged.
What I mean is this. I mentioned a problem in passing to a friend recently & didn’t really think anything of it. Her reaction was shock that this had happened. I had offered no clues anything was wrong, let alone I was going through something so difficult.
Later I thought about this & realized I’m pretty messed up!! First, the problem was serious & I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. I brushed off my feelings about it as not important, & me overreacting rather than recognizing there is a problem that needs attention. Second, in coping with said problem, talking about it never crossed my mind. I’ve always been the one to talk to, not one who talks about my problems. Not to mention the bad experiences I’ve had when I finally do open up. Often when you aren’t one to talk about problems, people assume you’re stronger than you are. When you finally do open up, some people invalidate & minimize because they think you should just handle things & leave them out of it. That is a topic for another post though.
In contemplating all of this, I realized that the reason I am messed up in this area is due to narcissistic abuse.
Narcissists constantly make sure their victims feel unimportant & are all too aware that the narcissist is the only person in the relationship that matters at all. Naturally, if they are the only important person, then their problems are important too. By default, this means their “unimportant” victim’s problems are also unimportant. After being exposed to this treatment, over time, it affects a person. Eventually, you too believe that your problems are unimportant.
Narcissists also convince their victims that they are oversensitive or overreacting, which also gets inside a person over time. I haven’t been around a narcissist in years, but my automatic reaction was still to assume I was overreacting to my problem.
Narcissists also value secrecy. They forbid their victims to discuss the abuse. If they do, the victim will pay dearly. This secrecy becomes a way of life in time. Discussing things like personal problems isn’t something a victim may consider an option. For me, it’s such a deeply ingrained habit not to discuss them, it seldom crosses my mind that I have people in my life I can talk to.
If you are like me in this area, I would like to let you know what I am telling myself. It is perfectly OK to question things. If something bad is happening, don’t automatically minimize your feelings. They are valid! Consider the situation & ask yourself why do you feel this way? Maybe you are being overly sensitive, but that is fine! That simply shows an area where you need more healing. Or, maybe you aren’t. Maybe you have been wronged & are upset for a very good reason. If you need to deal with this challenging situation, your emotions can help motivate you to do that.
If you are unsure, then one thing that can help is stepping out of your comfort zone & talking to someone. You are allowed to do that! No one can tell you what you can & can’t discuss. Talk to someone safe & non judgmental. That person’s reaction will tell you plenty. Remember my friend being shocked at my situation? I honestly didn’t realize my circumstances were so bad until she reacted that way. That was very eye opening to not only that particular situation but my incredibly dysfunctional way of handling problems.
While God created people to rely first on Him, there is nothing bad about looking to friends for help sometimes. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 in the Amplified Bible has this to say about friends, “Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; 10 for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, then they keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? 12 And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Everyone knows some basic red flags in relationships that people can show, such as lying, cheating, stealing money or possessions. There are other ones though that don’t seem terrible at first but they actually are bad. Many of these relate to romantic relationships, but in some cases, even abusive friends can behave in similar ways.
When someone is jealous of time that you spend with friends or family, that is a red flag. It really isn’t normal for someone to be jealous of time spent with the other people in your life unless you are obviously out of balance. (Such as ignoring your spouse to spend time with your family on a regular basis.) This could be a sign of the jealous person wanting to isolate you, so they can abuse you without interference from other people.
Along those same lines is the person who does their best to discourage you from spending time with your friends & family. Naturally if someone is toxic, anyone who loves you will want you to stay away from that toxic person. If that is not the case though, someone who behaves this way is trying to isolate a person from people who love them.
Constantly calling &/or texting can be another red flag. We all have people we’re especially close to. They are the ones we call & text often possibly even a couple of times a day. Even so, these people know when we are going to be busy & don’t call or text at that time. Abusive people will call & text constantly even during those times. They have no problem interrupting your time spent with that friend you haven’t seen in years or while you’re busy studying for a test. They do this in order to keep tabs on what you are doing to be sure you aren’t doing something they disapprove of & also to annoy the person you’re with enough that they will end the time spent together early so you will return to them.
Money can be another red flag. If someone constantly asks to borrow money from you that they never pay back, even with what sounds like good excuses, that is someone irresponsible with money who will take advantage of you. Or, if you’re married to someone who controls all the money & won’t discuss what they do with it, that is another huge red flag. That is a controlling person who probably also has something to hide.
Similarly, the husband who wants you to stay home so he can “take care of you” isn’t necessarily as loving as he may sound. Many abusive husbands start their financial abuse of their wives by gently suggesting they quit their job & let him take care of her. Over time, he renders her unable to find or keep a job if she opts to return to the work force. He can refuse to repair her car or give her money for the train to go to work, or if she does get a job, he may frequently call her or demand she leave early so her boss fires her.
Wanting you to look as they want to is another red flag. People who love you may have opinions on your clothes, hair & makeup but they won’t tell you how they think you should look. A controlling person may come across nicely by saying they think you look good when you look a certain way, but eventually that gives way to demanding you look the way they want you to.
There are some red flags where sex is concerned, too. Violently raping someone isn’t the only way a person can abuse sexually. Trying to coerce someone who doesn’t want to have sex by using guilt, shaming someone for not wanting to do certain activities or trying to get someone drunk or high in order to have sex with them or get them to do something they are against are also abusive behaviors.
If someone you know behaves in any of these ways, know that this is just the tip of the abusive iceberg. It is going to get so much worse! Please protect yourself & abandon this relationship as soon as possible!
When children grow up with narcissistic parents marry, it can be incredibly challenging. Usually, either one person is a narcissist & the other isn’t, or one is trying to heal & the other prefers staying in their dysfunction. The last scenario seems to be the most common. There isn’t a lot of information available on the topic, which is why I opted to discuss it today. It happens pretty often & people in this situation know how to handle it!
When you learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it can be so incredibly freeing! That’s how it is when you learn truth, though. Not everyone sees it that way, however. The truth isn’t always pleasant or easy, so many folks prefer to avoid the ugly truth in favor of pretty lies. The pretty lies are easier & preferable to some people because they’re what is familiar. Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. Sometimes it breeds cognitive dissonance in the adult children of narcissistic parents.
That cognitive dissonance can be incredibly difficult to live with for someone married to a person who prefers to avoid it whenever possible. When you see the truth so clearly & someone you love avoids it like the plague, it is so frustrating!! You just want them to wake up & see the truth, but they won’t. Instead they continue to tolerate their toxic parents abusing them & even you & your children if you have them. They also will fight you on this topic, even if they aren’t normally disagreeable. If you complain about their parents, they will tell you things like it’s your problem & to leave them out of it. If this kind of thing doesn’t make you want to scream, nothing will!
I prayed about this behavior recently when it came to mind & God showed me some things.
While this behavior feels intensely personal, it isn’t. It’s about them, their dysfunction & self preservation.
When a person has a spouse that loves them & a narcissistic parent, the spouse is the safer of the two people. In this situation, the adult child knows someone is going to be angry & they will suffer for it. In their minds, the spouse is the safer one. They’ve had a lifetime of knowing just how incredibly cruel their narcissistic parent can be, so they do their level best to avoid their anger & cruelty. It’s safer to deal with the anger of a loving spouse than a narcissistic parent, so they choose (albeit unconsciously) the safer of the two people to anger.
Unfortunately for the spouse, this means that their dysfunctional mate is going to put them in some pretty awful positions. They’ll expect their healing spouse to tolerate whatever the narcissistic parents dish out, & when the healing spouse doesn’t, arguments are going to happen. Even if the narcissistic parent in question is the healing spouse’s parent, the dysfunctional spouse most likely will be upset if the healing spouse is setting boundaries or even severs ties with their parent. The dysfunctional spouse is going to minimize, excuse or even deny abusive behaviors. This can be so difficult because the healing spouse wants to heal but also wants to have a good relationship with their dysfunctional partner. Sadly, the relationship can only be so good while one is dysfunctional & the other is trying to heal.
If you’re in this position, you will need God’s guidance on how to navigate this situation. He knows so much more than you could possibly know so let Him help you! And, pray for your spouse to see the truth & be able to handle it, too. That is what someone in that position truly needs!
Also always remember that your spouse’s reactions aren’t personal. They’re about that person’s dysfunction. Keeping that in mind will help you to be less hurt & angered by their behavior, which will in turn help you to deal with the situation more effectively.
Don’t be afraid to set your boundaries! Just because your spouse is fine with being abused doesn’t mean you have to tolerate it. Protect yourself & if your spouse is angry about it, that is that person’s problem. There is nothing wrong, bad or even un-Christian about protecting yourself!
When you must discuss your spouse’s or your narcissistic parent with your spouse, try to keep your emotions under control. Any anger shown on your part could make your spouse become very protective of the parent in question, which will start a fight between you. Avoid it as much as possible by remaining calm when discussing parents!
Lastly, don’t give your partner an ultimatum to choose either you or their parent if you want to stay married. Those who do that usually lose their spouse. The one given the ultimatum feels their spouse is being manipulative, which naturally pushes them away & towards the parent. Don’t put your spouse or yourself in that position. If you end up wanting to go your separate ways, find another way to discuss it. Ultimatums end in anger & make the situation worse.
I wish you the best!
The definition of emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of, express, & control one’s emotions. It also includes the ability to handle relationships with empathy & fairness. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence are often kind, fair, understanding & tolerant of the mistakes of others while not tolerant of abuse.
Narcissists hate emotionally intelligent people. There are many various reasons they can feel this way. Possibly the main reason is because narcissists are very emotionally unintelligent, & therefore can’t understand the emotionally intelligent so they hate them. Narcissists understanding the emotionally intelligent would be like the average person trying to understand how geniuses like Einstein thought. It would be impossible… although the average person at least wouldn’t hate him for his intelligence.
Another & even more likely scenario is because emotionally intelligent people aren’t easily fooled or manipulated. Narcissists want to fool & manipulate their victims so they can get whatever they like from them. Emotionally intelligent people have good boundaries & they understand people. This makes it nearly impossible to fool & manipulate them. It may happen briefly, but it won’t happen long. This makes them very unnerving for narcissists.
For the emotionally intelligent person in this situation, the narcissist & their flying monkeys will be incredibly shaming. They come up with all kinds of ridiculous things to say to the victim in order to shame them into compliance. In Christian circles, often the Bible is twisted around for the purpose of shaming the victim: “If you remember, the Bible says to honor your parents!”, “Wives should submit to their husbands!” & “Love covers a multitude of sins!” are some examples of Scriptures being used to shame victims into tolerating abuse. When Scripture isn’t used, the ridiculousness doesn’t get any better. People try to shame the victim by saying equally stupid comments such as, “You need to forgive & forget!” “That’s in the past…”,“That’s just how she is.”, “You need to understand her better.” & “But he was abused by his parents!!”
Comments like these can create a great deal of conflict & confusion in someone victimized by a narcissist. A person who is emotionally intelligent however, isn’t conflicted & confused. They recognize the bad behavior for what it is, & have no problem calling out the people who say these things.
If this happens to you, a very helpful thing you can do is remember what type of person is saying these things. You aren’t dealing with another emotionally intelligent person. They don’t say such stupid, heartless comments. You also can ask God to tell you the truth about this situation, & ask if they were right in what they said.
It also helps to look objectively at your situation & ask yourself does what this person said to you make any sense? If you can’t seem to look at the situation objectively, I know a trick that can help. Pretend a friend has told you of this same situation happening to them. Doing this can help you feel disconnected enough to look more objectively at your situation.
Please remember to be proud of being the emotionally intelligent person you are. Narcissists & their flying monkeys only criticize it because it means you see through their abuse. Don’t accept their shame! The shame belongs to them & you have no reason to carry it!
When you grow up with a narcissistic parent, you can’t help but to have a root of shame. This is because shame is a very powerful weapon to help a person control another, & narcissists are incredibly talented at using it to their best advantage.
One of the many problems that shame causes is the lack of ability to accept a complement in a normal, healthy way. I admit to struggling with this to this day, although much less than I have in years prior. In my younger years both as a child & younger adult, if someone paid me a complement, I would tell them why what they said was wrong. Anyone could have done that thing I did, so it’s nothing special & I’m not smart. Or, I’m not pretty because I’m fat & ugly. You get the picture. I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you have behaved in much the same way.
While this may not appear be the biggest problem shame causes or even a huge interruption in life, it can be an incredibly annoying problem. It also can compound the shame that is already there. When you don’t know how to do something so simple as accepting a complement, it makes you feel stupid. Most of us have been told by the narcissists in our lives how stupid we are, so feeling stupid validates their cruel criticism & adds to the shame they have made us feel.
So why do people do this? Is it really that hard simply to say “Thank you” & go on with your day? Honestly? Yes. Yes it is that hard for some people. The reason is that complements go against our sense of self that we learned from the abusive people in our lives. Parents in particular have a great deal of power over their children’s sense of self because they are there during their children’s formative years. Anyway when a complement goes against that sense of self, & it triggers shame. It goes against that sense of self, & causes a person to feel as if they have tricked someone into believing they are much better than they really are.
This is a very difficult habit to overcome, especially after a lifetime of functioning this way. It is possible though.
As always, pray. Ask God to tell you the truth about yourself & listen to what He has to say. Let Him help build up your self esteem & to help you to see that the narcissist in your life lied to you.
Remember too, when people say something genuinely complementary, they aren’t doing so from a place of selfishness. They are saying something they truly believe, something that comes from their heart. You can trust what they say.
Consider what the person has said too. Why do you think what they said is wrong? Is that something you honestly believe yourself or is it because you were told to believe it by the narcissist in your life? If it’s because of the narcissist, ask yourself why you would continue to believe something told to you by this person. Narcissists lie & try to destroy their victims. They don’t do constructive criticism, so what they said was clearly NOT meant to help you!
If you’re still struggling, ask God to tell you the truth about this complement. Is it really true or are you whatever bad thing you’re thinking you are, then listen for His answer. You are going to be very pleasantly surprised by what He has to say to you.
I know it can be hard, but please try to remember simply to say “Thank you” the next time someone complements you. Countering their complement makes them feel uncomfortable & adds to your shame, so why do it? Instead, simply thank the person who was kind enough to complement you. The more you do that, the easier it gets to do. And, the more you argue in favor of the complement & against the criticisms of the narcissist, the more accurately you will see yourself. You might even start to like what you see!
One thing I have noticed a great deal of in the community of abuse survivors is comparisons.
Those without PTSD or C-PTSD sometimes think those with either disorder are weak, & shame them for being so weak.
Those who have siblings shame those of us who are only children, because they think we had it so easy growing up without abusive siblings.
Still others who were older children look down on their younger siblings for having it so easy as to be “spoiled” by the same parents that abused them.
The problem is that these mindsets make no sense whatsoever.
Someone who managed to escape an abusive childhood or abusive marriage without PTSD or C-PTSD should be grateful for that fact rather than judging others who live with these disorders. Those without such disorders are in the minority. The fact is that surviving an abusive relationship often causes either disorder, & it’s not very common to escape without them. Rather than looking down on those of us you may deem weak, instead be grateful that you don’t live with PTSD or C-PTSD. Be grateful you don’t have any idea what it’s like to live with crippling anxiety & depression, or have nightmares every night, or live with being so hyper-vigilant that your own spouse coming into the room where you are can make you feel blind terror for a few moments. Living with such horrible things is an absolute nightmare. Be glad you don’t suffer with this!
If you think those of us who were only children had it easy, then think again. I won’t say it’s easier for only children to survive an abusive upbringing than those with siblings, because each situation has its own unique challenges. I will say as an only child, I can speak from experience in saying that being the sole focus of a narcissistic parent’s rage is a nightmare. It’s just as bad of a nightmare as it is for someone who grows up with siblings who turn out like their parents, & abuse their scapegoated sibling. One is no better or worse than the other, simply different. Different does NOT mean one had it easy & another did not.
Rather than waste time comparing your experience to someone else’s, I would like to encourage you today to accept not only your experiences but the experiences of others to be valid. Everyone who has survived abuse has seen some horrific things. While yes, some experienced worse than others, that does not make the experiences of those who experienced less horrific abuse any less valid or abusive. Abuse is abuse & it hurts. Period. Accept that. Validate your experiences. There is nothing wrong with this! In fact, doing so can help you to heal. Not doing so, & comparing your experiences to that of others invalidates your pain. It makes you feel your experiences don’t matter. They weren’t so bad, so just ignore them & pretend they never happened. That mindset is incredibly unhealthy! I know facing your demons is hard, but it also is healthy, brave & a strong thing to do. It’s necessary if you wish to heal from the trauma in your life. So why waste time comparing your experiences to those of other people when you can help yourself to heal?
I read a truly interesting article recently on TheMighty.com. The author spoke of her life with C-PTSD. She was in a relationship with someone who pointed out how she was able to (as he described it) swallow physical pain & continue on as if nothing happened. Apparently she didn’t realize she did this, which lead her to research why she behaved in such an unhealthy way.
Long story short, she learned that people with PTSD tend to be very out of touch with pain or very highly in tune with it, depending on their mental state at the time. Often in times of really bad anxiety, people with PTSD experience oversensitivity to pain. Anxiety causes the body to tense up, which certainly could explain that. It also explains why many people with anxiety experience chronic pain in their bodies.
Interestingly though is what the author described next. After a serious injury, her anxiety levels were very high, which triggered other pain not related to the injury. The man she was dating then noticed how at times she’d just “swallow” the pain after a minute & go on as if nothing happened.
This is a survival skill that can be very useful. If you’re in a dangerous situation & can ignore the pain long enough to get yourself to safety, clearly this is a very useful survival skill! In daily life however, it isn’t. In daily life, it means you will ignore your pain & not take the time to rest & recover that you need.
I have realized I do this. After my back injury at 19 when my mother threw me into a wall, although I was in constant pain of varying degrees for 10 years, there were times I was so disconnected from the pain, I wondered if people who said I was faking the pain so I didn’t have to work were right. Maybe it wasn’t all that bad or maybe I wasn’t even injured at all. Hardly healthy behavior!
Another point in the article is people with PTSD who dissociate generally tend to have a much higher threshold of pain than people without the disorder. Dissociation is known for allowing a person to disconnect from emotional pain, but it also can allow a person to disconnect from physical pain as well. This means they naturally won’t feel pain as intensely as others who don’t dissociate.
Knowing this information was very helpful for the author of the article, because it helped her to change how she thinks about her chronic pain & treating it. I believe it also can be extremely helpful for the rest of us whether or not we have issues with chronic pain.
Recognizing that it is very unhealthy to disconnect from physical issues helps you to have a better perspective on them. Unless you’re in a very dangerous situation, this survival skill isn’t needed. It’s healthier to recognize what is happening & deal with the issues accordingly.
Having this problem myself, I also realize that there are times it feels like you should be ashamed of having a physical problem which probably contributes to disconnecting from your pain. The narcissists that have been in my life had zero tolerance for my illnesses or injuries. In fact, I never told my parents I nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2015 because of that.
I know health situations can be incredibly hard to handle. Adding in this dysfunction to the health problems can make them utterly miserable. In fact, I’m not really great at handling health issues myself. I have found something that helps me to have a healthier perspective on health issues. That is to remind myself constantly that there is no reason to hide the problems anymore. My health is my responsibility, & I have every right to handle it however I see fit. If that makes me something bad in the eyes of other people, so be it. They don’t live in my body & don’t know how I feel.
Sometimes there will be simply dysfunctional but not narcissistic people who have no patience for others with health problems. When dealing with them, I remind myself of the same things. Also, when their opinion hurts because it is so negative & unexpected, I remind myself they must have some sort of dysfunction when they respond to the health problems of someone they care for in such a bad way. Doing that helps to take much of the sting out of their thoughtless words. It’s an excellent reminder that what they say isn’t personal. It’s about their dysfunction, not me.
I’ve noticed that people respond very passionately to genuine people, either positively or negatively.
I realized something else about this phenomenon. The healthier a person is, the more positively they will respond to genuine people. The more dysfunctional, the more negatively they will respond to genuine people. This makes sense when you think about it….
Healthy people are genuine. If they’re having a bad day, they won’t deny it. They will say, “Today hasn’t been a good one” rather than pretend all is right in their world. Not to say they’re negative, of course, they’re just being real & admitting the truth. They also have no trouble admitting they make mistakes or have flaws. They don’t judge others for their mistakes or flaws either.
Dysfunctional people are very different. They value the appearance of good over what is real. I learned this when my father was dying, & various relatives attacked me for not going to say goodbye to him. Their daily influx of abuse was intense to say the least. One day, I asked God why they acted this way. He showed me that they were operating out of their own dysfunction. One of the reasons behind their behavior was they didn’t want to face bad or traumatic things. They clearly never dealt with their own traumatic experiences. They instead created this illusion that all was right in their world & everyone in our family was good. Me not being there for my father at the end of his life threatened this delusion by showing that things were so bad, I opted not to say good bye to my father at the end of his life. Rather than face the fact that maybe this delusion isn’t a good thing, they tried to force me to go along with their delusion so it could be reinforced. If I had gone, they would have had proof everything was good, & could continue in their dysfunction as they had before.
My situation with these dysfunctional people wasn’t terribly unique. Many of my readers have said they experienced something similar with their family. Sometimes it was when a narcissistic relative was dying, but not always. It also happened when some severed ties with a narcissist. They were attacked by their own family, those who should have been there to support & love them.
To sum it up, it seems to me dysfunctional people often treat genuine people like the scapegoat. They act like genuine people are the ones with problems, who are lying & nothing but troublemakers.
The more you heal from narcissistic abuse, the more genuine you will become. It just seems to be a natural event. Unfortunately, this can mean the dysfunctional people around you will be cruel to you for it.
My hope is that you will see the situation for what it is & not change your ways! Being genuine is a wonderful thing! It’s so refreshing in a fake world! Don’t try to change to please these people who are too dysfunctional to appreciate the real you. Instead, you just do what is right. Be genuine & if others don’t like that, remember that is not your problem. They are functioning in their own dysfunction. Their negativity or even abuse isn’t personal. It’s simply a reflection of their dysfunction rather than a reflection of you. They’re allowed to be dysfunctional if that is what they want to do. It’s certainly not a good choice but it is their right. And, you also have rights. You’re allowed to be functional & protect yourself from their toxicity.
Some time ago, I shared something on Facebook someone else disagreed with. The way this person stated their opinion triggered shame in me because they sounded much like my mother & ex husband used to sound when they disagreed with me. The good part about this was I realized very quickly what was happening. This person didn’t intend to shame me. The way they stated their opinion was simply a trigger, nothing more. I also realized this person was wrong, but rather than blindly believe this person or get into some big debate (which I absolutely hate), I simply deleted my post.
Do you have any idea how very important this is?!!?
Until the last few years, when someone disagreed with me, I automatically assumed I was wrong, they were right & I should be ashamed of myself for thinking what I did. Growing up hearing how wrong you are about everything will do this. You naturally assume you’re wrong about everything, even when every fiber of your being knows otherwise. I’m sure many of you who also were raised by narcissistic parents can relate all too well to this. The behavior goes deep & is hard to change. Yet, I conquered it!!! That is worth celebrating!
Another common behavior of those of us with narcissistic parents is to minimize our accomplishments & not celebrate them. I always thought my parents expected me to do great things not because I was smart or talented, but just because they thought I should do those things. As a result, I learned not to celebrate anything I did because I figured I was just supposed to do those things. It took me writing several books before I created a celebratory ritual that I do once I publish a book. Prior to that, I just published a book & started another. No celebration was involved.
Some time back, after considering such things, I decided to celebrate more often & that includes when I recognize how much I’ve healed. The incident I mentioned at first almost went uncelebrated. Old habits die hard, after all. It took a few days for me to realize what had happened & that I should be proud of myself for healing to this point. When I did though, I gave myself a mental pat on the back for healing.
I want to encourage you, Dear Reader, to do the same.
There are going to be times when you backslide in your healing journey. We all do that. Chances are good you spend plenty of time beating yourself up for those times. I certainly do! Why not spend at least the same amount of time celebrating your successes? The more you do that, the better you’ll feel about yourself. And as an added bonus, the less the backsliding times will affect you. They’ll still annoy you of course, but they won’t be devastating.
By celebrating these times, I don’t mean you have to have a big party or anything so elaborate. If you like that, by all means, go for it! If not, that’s fine too. The celebrations can be simpler. I often reminded myself of how far I’ve come. I remember some things from my younger & much more dysfunctional days then thought of how that person is now a stranger. God has helped me heal so much, I don’t even recognize the old me. I sit with that for a while, knowing God truly has blessed me. Sure, I still have issues. I still have C-PTSD. But, I also no longer make rash or foolish decisions based on what other people want while ignoring what I want. Other people can no longer control or manipulate me. These are really important accomplishments! It took a lot of work & listening to God’s guidance to get to that point & I am proud of myself for what I have done.
You should feel the same! Be proud of everything you have accomplished in your healing. Even the baby steps count, so if you feel you’ve healed in one tiny way, be proud of yourself for that! That still took work & is something special. Congratulate yourself on a job well done!
When you have experienced trauma in your lifetime, in particular repeated trauma, it’s going to affect you. Some expected signs of trauma in a person are things like depression & anxiety. There are a host of other, lesser known signs that can be extremely disruptive to a person’s life.
Hyper-vigilance may be the most common sign of trauma in a person’s life. It happens often in a person who has lived with their abuser, such as the child or spouse of the abuser. Living with an abusive person means you must be on your guard at all times, so you don’t do anything that upsets the abuser. That hyper-vigilant behavior often stays with a person long after they have ended the relationship with their abuser. It also leads to a host of other problems.
Physical pain in victims of abuse is often a sign not of an injury or illness, but of having experienced trauma. In particular, this pain often manifests in the neck & back. This is due to living in a hyper-vigilant state for an extended period of time. Hyper-vigilance causes your body to be in a state of not only emotional but physical stress, & that can cause physical pain in spite of there being no injury.
An extreme startle response is also caused by having to be in a state of hyper-vigilance. It manifests as being drastically more startled than you would expect to be in a specific situation. This startle response often cause anger or even tears in the startled person.
Sleep disturbances is another common sign of trauma in a person’s life. Nightmares that either relive the trauma or trigger emotions similar to those experienced during traumatic episodes happen often. Waking up often during the night or struggling to fall asleep in spite of doing things to help even including taking sleep aids are also common. Some people can wake up throwing punches, because they are so accustomed to protecting themselves. This happens with those suffering from PTSD who have served in the military or those in law enforcement.
Being too busy is a trauma response that many people employ. These people will keep themselves as busy as possible during their waking hours. They work long shifts, participate in many activities & rarely take time to just rest, even when they’re sick. They do this as a way to avoid facing their pain. If they don’t have time to think, they also don’t have time to think about their pain.
Similar to being too busy is losing yourself in activities. Staring at social media or watching tv for hours is another way to escape facing pain by focusing attention elsewhere. While neither is bad, doing so for hours on end is unhealthy, especially if the one doing so is unable to stop.
Eating disorders can be another sign of unresolved trauma. It is a way to regain some control when a person feels like they have no control otherwise.
Avoiding places & people that remind a victim of past trauma are more trauma responses. No one wants to face reminders of pain, of course, but those who have been through extreme trauma will go to great lengths to avoid it.
Avoiding conflict is very common in those with traumatic pasts. When abuse happens during conflict instead of dialog designed to work things out, it instills fear in a person about conflict with anyone, not only the abuser.
If you recognize yourself in some or even all of these symptoms, hope is not lost! The more you deal with the trauma in your life, the more these unhealthy patterns will break. Not overnight, but they will happen. Keep working on your healing however works for you. Pray, write in a journal, talk to a supportive friend or therapist… whatever you do that helps you, keep on doing it even if you don’t feel like you’re making progress. Healing isn’t a simple thing. Sometimes it looks like nothing is improving, then suddenly you make big progress. Other times, you’ll slip back into old, dysfunctional habits. It’s ok! It’s just a part of the healing journey. Don’t give up!
In case you haven’t heard the term, highly sensitive people, or HSPs, are people who are especially sensitive, just as the name implies. They also are known to have a high sensory processing sensitivity. This means HSPs can be very sensitive to all sorts of things such as textures, loud noises, & bright lights. They also are very in tune with other people, & are often easily stressed by tense situations & violence. Due to their sensitivity, highly sensitive people can become overwhelmed very easily. There are very good parts of being a highly sensitive person though. They tend to be very creative & empathic people with good quality relationships & a deep appreciation for beauty in all its forms.
In my experience of talking with many people who have been abused by narcissists, many victims of narcissistic abuse are highly sensitive people, which is why I have chosen to discuss this topic.
Due to the nature of being highly sensitive, life easily can become overwhelming sometimes. Highly sensitive people need to develop healthy routines to maintain good mental health & prevent burn out.
I firmly believe a close relationship with God to be vital. The closer you are to Him, the more peaceful you naturally feel because you know He is in charge. He also will help you figure out ways you can avoid burn out.
Getting rest is essential. HSPs need more rest than most people, due to their senses working so hard. While it may not sound it, that really can be exhausting. It’s important to get good sleep, so investing in a comfortable bed with good quality linens is money well spent. You also may want to listen to soft music or nature sounds to help you fall asleep. Pillow speakers can be a great investment for those who sleep with a partner.
Part of getting rest is prioritizing down time. After a long day, it’s very important to take time to relax & decompress. What can you do to enjoy your down time? Pray? Read? Listen to music? Knit? Think about what helps you feel calm & participate in that often, preferably daily.
Reevaluate your schedule. While being busy is valued in today’s culture, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Being too busy reduces the ability to enjoy down time, can interfere with sleep & cause a plethora of mental & physical health problems. What can you eliminate from your schedule? Are there ways you can at least cut back on certain activities? Is there anything you do that you can get help with doing from your spouse, kids or coworkers?
Reevaluate your boundaries. Many highly sensitive people are so in tune with the needs of those around them, they ignore their own needs. This clearly is an unhealthy habit! While it’s great to be there for those you love, it’s also important to take care of yourself. There is nothing wrong with limiting what you do for other people. In fact, doing so is a very loving thing to do for you as well as them.
Consider your home. Home should be your sanctuary, away from all cares of the world, where you can relax & be at peace. Does that describe your home? Clutter can create anxiety so if you have clutter, clear it out & your anxiety should diminish greatly. If you aren’t happy with how it looks, make changes to turn your home into your personal sanctuary. Those changes may be as simple as decluttering or as drastic as repainting every room.
Start journaling. Journaling is a wonderful thing. There are no hard & fast rules to it. Your journal can be as fancy or as plain as you like. It can be online only or a physical book. You can write as much or as little as you like, as often as you like & in whatever style you like. Some people write as if they are writing a letter to a friend when they journal or they write out their prayers. Others draw pictures or cut out pictures from magazines & such then paste in the pages of their journals. There are also countless journaling prompts available online to help if you get stuck.
If these suggestions seem too much, then don’t try to do them all at once. Start by doing one. Add another when you feel ready. The changes you make will help you physically & mentally.
I have had more people come to me with their problems during my lifetime than I can remember. It just seems to be a fact of my life. Most of the time, I find people usually just want someone to validate them & say things like, “I understand” or, “I’m sorry that happened to you!” It can be draining, but I can handle that.
Then there are the emotional vampires like narcissists who only want a listening ear. Unlike other more functional people, they don’t want validation. They don’t want advice. They want to treat someone as their emotional trash can, dumping all of their negativity onto that person in order to make themselves feel better with no regard to that person’s feelings.
For a long time, I didn’t realize one of these two types of people was just using me & being toxic. Eventually I figured out some ways to tell the difference & I hope sharing them will help you.
If someone needs to vent, often they have respect for your time. They will ask if you have a few minutes because they need to vent. You are free to say not now & their feelings won’t be hurt. The more toxic the person, the less likely they will do this & the more likely they also will take up a LOT of your time. As an added “bonus”- they won’t apologize for taking up your time when they realize they have been talking for hours.
Someone who is venting wants a solution. If there isn’t one, they are frustrated about that fact. A person who is toxic has no desire for a solution. Instead, they simply ramble on & on about their issue, & every time a possible solution is offered, they offer reasons why that solution won’t work.
Similarly, the toxic person also isn’t open to constructive criticism. If they have done something wrong in the scenario they are discussing, they don’t want to hear about it. They get defensive or make up excuses as to why what they did was ok & the other person was all wrong. Healthy people are open to constructive criticism & will own up to any mistakes they have made.
If you are the listener & you try to show the speaker in this situation the perspective of someone else, a healthy person is willing to consider that. A toxic person isn’t. They don’t care about the other person’s perspective in the slightest, only about their own.
When the speaking person was clearly wronged, you can see the difference easily between a toxic person & a healthy one. The toxic person will not only be upset about what happened, but will play the victim. In other words, they will accept no responsibility for any wrong they have contributed to the situation, they will claim life is so hard & unfair for them, claim they had no other option but to be in this painful situation & more.
Toxic people in these situations also are notorious for dumping a barrage of issues at once on their listeners. They don’t seem to notice that the listener has become overwhelmed, either. They just keep on talking. Healthy people don’t do this. They vent about one issue, sometimes two, but that is all. They also notice if their listener is feeling overwhelmed.
If you have the misfortune of one of these toxic types treating you as their trash can, my heart goes out to you! Just remember, you have every right to set boundaries. You can leave the room or hang up the phone. You can refuse to take their calls if they call you often. And yes, you even have the right to end the relationship. Protect your mental health!
I recently caught a show on the Oxygen network about the Cleveland strangler, Anthony Sowell. I believe the show was called, “Snapped Notorious: The Cleveland Strangler.” If you don’t know him, he was a serial rapist & murderer in whose Cleveland, Ohio home the bodies of 11 women were found.
I found the show fascinating. Not only because of my interest in true crime but mostly because of the surviving victims. At the end of the episode, four victims who miraculously survived Sowell’s attacks were interviewed. They were very strong & inspiring ladies! I regret that I didn’t make a note of their names. I was too busy jotting down notes from what each lady had to say to think of names at the time, but if you get to watch this show, you can find out their names.
Anyway, what these ladies had to say was so inspiring & I think also very valuable for victims of all kinds of abuse, which is why I wanted to share their wisdom.
One lady shared that she wants to start an organization called Cracked Not Broken whose sole purpose is to tell people there is always hope. She said too that there needs to be more support for victims. She’s right. There isn’t much good support. She & the other three ladies on this show supported each other though, & that is so wonderful! I think victims of crimes & any type of trauma & abuse need to support each other because they can do so better than anyone else. They understand the pain, the difficulties in healing, & more. What healing could take place if more people supported each other rather than compared their traumas or minimize the traumas of other people!
Another lady stressed the importance of never minimizing your experiences. Many victims of abuse minimize their trauma. Since she said this, I assume victims of crimes do it as well. It’s not a healthy thing to do! To heal, you need to accept what was done to you for what it was, not some watered down version of it. Then you can get angry about it & really start to heal.
She also said the only way to heal is to “get that stuff off you”. That is so true! Holding things in doesn’t help anyone & is detrimental to mental health. This particular lady suggested reaching out for help. If you are unwilling or unable to do so, there is always journaling. That is incredibly helpful in “getting that stuff off you.” Better yet is prayer. God truly will help you to heal from anything!
Another lady said victims need to know they didn’t deserve what was done to them & not to blame themselves. This happens to so many people who were victimized in any capacity. The woman who was raped blames herself for wearing a short skirt, the person whose car was stolen blames himself for forgetting to lock the doors, the victim of a narcissistic parent blames herself for making her parents abuse her. This is so wrong & it needs to stop. No one can force another person to abuse them & no one deserves to be abused. Period!
Another lady said just because the person who hurt you didn’t see your value, that doesn’t mean you don’t have value. You are valuable! You deserve to love yourself. And, as you heal, take each day a step at a time. Don’t rush the healing process.
Lastly, this same lady said one thing that helped her to heal was to keep her head up & never give up. Clearly she knew she had no reason to be ashamed of what happened to her, so she wasn’t going to carry that shame! So very wise!
I hope you were as inspired by these brave, beautiful ladies as I was! xoxo
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I’m a huge fan of the ID channel’s true crime shows, & I watch them often. It fascinates me the things that people are capable of. Not only those who commit heinous crimes, but those who have the strength & wisdom to outwit their attackers & survive brutal attacks.
Recently I was watching one of these shows. In it, a woman’s ex boyfriend kidnapped her under the guise of saying he wanted her to come with him to say good bye to his daughters. He said there was a party in another town, & he would take her to the party where his daughters would be so she could say good bye. On the way there, he threatened her & even tried to choke her. Sadly, when they got inside the house where the party supposedly was, it was empty & abandoned. It’s where he killed her.
What got me about this show was what happened just before they got to that house. The boyfriend told her to behave herself when they arrived at the party, in other words, act like he hadn’t just tried to choke her. It struck me – that is exactly how narcissists act! They can do the most painful, vulgar thing to a victim, & victims aren’t allowed to show others any signs of the trauma they just survived.
Naturally, narcissists do this to hide their horrible behavior so they can continue to do it & to impress whoever they want to impress. However, there is another facet of this behavior. Not allowing someone to act as if they have been through trauma instills shame in them.
Hiding your emotions in such a situation is good for survival, but at the same time, it can make you feel like something is very wrong with you for being upset about the trauma. I wonder if it’s partly because of how narcissists think. Many act like their victim is supposed to be able to do anything. Not because that victim is capable or smart, but because they want the victim to do things. Certain things are just expected of a victim, no matter the victim’s abilities, strengths or weaknesses. Acting normal after trauma is one of those expected things. When you feel as if you can’t act normally or struggle to do so immediately after a traumatic event, you can feel ashamed of your feelings.
Another reason for shame in such situations could be how many people treat victims. So few people are sympathetic to victims. Many people expect victims to “just get over it”, “let go of the past” or “forgive & forget.” Not a lot of people have patience for a victim who still shows signs of having been through trauma & they do their best to get them to act normal. Being around such people can instill a great deal of shame in a victim.
I’ve also experienced shame by being around someone who isn’t affected as strongly as I am by similar traumas. As an example, my husband is someone who can go on no matter what. No trauma slows him down. I’m not sure why he’s that way & trauma hits me much harder. There have been plenty of times I would see him keep going to work, working in the yard & doing other normal things after something traumatic happened. Yet, let something not as traumatic happen to me & I struggle to do things I do every day. This kind of comparison also can instill shame just like being told to act like nothing happened can.
When you experience this type of scenario, & chances are you will at some point, you need to turn to God. Pray about it. Tell Him how you feel & ask for help.
Also think about your situation objectively. It’s not normal to act like nothing happened after trauma. It’s normal to feel certain things & to act differently. If it was 95* outside, it’d be normal to sweat. Would you be angry at yourself for sweating in such hot weather? No, because it’s totally normal & understandable. Similarly, it’s normal & understandable to act differently after trauma. You have no reason to feel shame for acting differently.
Just remember, Dear Reader, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you for being affected by trauma, no matter what the narcissist or insensitive people may think. xoxo
Gratitude is a topic that is presented as of the utmost importance in society. And, gratitude is a wonderful thing. Life is much happier when you are grateful for the good things in your life. I feel so much joy when I focus on appreciating little things, like going for a drive with some good music playing in the car.
There are times though that gratitude isn’t the best solution. It may even be impossible.
If you have lost a loved one, for example, you will get to the point where you are grateful they’re no longer suffering & that you had them in your life for however long the time was. To get to that point though, you first will need to go through the grief process. That is going to take time, & involve some unpleasant emotions like feeling lost & alone, anger & intense depression. To get to the grateful place is messy, & shouldn’t be skipped over. Focusing only on gratitude for that person while not properly grieving means you’re ignoring pain that needs your attention in order to heal. Ignored pain finds alternative ways to get your attention, & those ways aren’t healthy. It can manifest as unhealthy relationships, addictions, physical & mental health problems.
This is also true when it comes to dealing with abuse in your past.
There are people who tell victims that they need to be grateful for the trauma because it supposedly made them strong or it made them who they are today. This can be so harmful for victims! It’s invalidating & also can create a great deal of shame in a victim who is struggling & unable to feel any gratitude. It is so cruel to tell someone this & make their struggle even harder than it needs to be!
This post is for people who have hurt such comments about how they need to be grateful for what they have been through. There is nothing wrong with you for not feeling grateful. Healing is ugly. It involves a lot of terrible feeling emotions. It also is a grief process, because you have to accept that some pretty terrible things were done to you, & that caused you to lose precious time in your life, maybe even your whole childhood if your abuser was your parent. How can any human feel gratitude during such a process?! It takes a long time & a lot of healing first before you can feel any gratitude related to your situation.
Rather than try to create a grateful heart at this time, forget that. Not necessarily forever, but for the near future at least until you are further along in your healing journey. Focus on your healing instead of gratitude. Feel all the ugly emotions & process them fully. Then, maybe you can be grateful for some aspects of your experiences. There are a few things to be grateful for after all.
You can be grateful the trauma & abuse didn’t destroy you, that you have a lot of inner strength that enabled you to survive it, that the abusers are no longer in your life & that God has found some purpose in your pain such as writing about it to help other people. You also can be grateful for having the courage to face your struggles, because that courage isn’t something everyone has. Please remember that gratitude can be a good thing to help a person add joy to their life, but it isn’t a cure all. It isn’t a healthy alternative to pain. It isn’t like an ointment that will soothe your pain either. You can feel gratitude while also facing painful, even traumatic things have happened to you. Just remember not to try to rush yourself into feeling gratitude.
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I just thought I would let everyone know I’m thinking of making a change in my writing. Instead of only sharing what I learn about NPD, narcissistic abuse, & C-PTSD, I have decided to expand that a bit into ways to add more joy into your life.
Since I turned 50 in April, I guess you could say I’m having a mid life crisis of sorts. (No, I’m not going to divorce my husband, date a guy who’s half my age & buy a Mazda Miata.. lol) I’ve come to realize how little I’ve enjoyed my life. NPD has taken up so much time & space in it! It’s time to make some changes.
You know how the Bible says that the enemy has come to steal, kill & destroy, & is looking for someone he may devour? Well, I firmly believe he does this, but not always in obvious ways. Sometimes those ways are subtle. Being abused by a narcissist is both obvious & subtle in its devastation to one’s life. The abuse itself is obvious of course, especially when it’s someone raging at you like an overt narcissist does or giving you intense guilt trips like a covert narcissist. But the aftermath is much more subtle. It is so easy to get caught up in obsessing over trying to understand what happened & ways to heal, that you can fail to enjoy your life. That has happened to me & I’m tired of it! I would guess that many of you reading this feel the same way.
At the time I’m writing this, I have about 8 months worth of blog posts written & scheduled to publish. You won’t see many posts on enjoying life for a bit because of that. I may rearrange & reschedule as I go to interject some but I’m not sure yet. That depends on what I feel God wants me to do. More of those posts definitely will be published in the future along with my usual educational type of posts though.
Please just bear with me through this. I’m not entirely sure yet how this is going to play out. I’ve felt God putting it on my heart to write more about enjoying life from a Christian perspective as I learn to, but as of the moment, not many details have been forthcoming.
Thank you for your understanding & patience with me, & always being there! I love all of you! xoxo
I recently realized something that I’ve been living with for my entire life is most likely a symptom of narcissistic abuse. It never occurred to me before, so I started researching it & found absolutely nothing on this topic. All I can share with you is my personal experience, nothing I learned from anyone or anything else.
Many of you who know my work know I survived Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in 2015. As a result, I live with symptoms of that & a Traumatic Brain Injury from either the oxygen deprivation to my brain during the poisoning or the concussion I most likely got from hitting my head when the poison made me pass out or a combination of both. I don’t discuss these symptoms much partly because I don’t want to sound like either my mother or mother in-law who used their health problems to gain attention. I also doubt my problems in spite of the glaring evidence that something is wrong. Sometimes I think I’m exaggerating or even faking it in order to get attention like them. And, I don’t want to “bother” anyone with my trivial problems.
I know how ridiculous this sounds. How can I think that way when I know better than anyone else just how difficult my life is because of the symptoms? And for attention?! I minimize them to everyone, including myself. As far as burdening anyone, I’m not one to ask for help easily so I of all people should know if I want to ask for help, it’s very necessary. I know all of this, yet these thoughts are still there. Why?!
Suddenly it hit me. These thoughts are there because of narcissistic abuse!
Growing up, my illnesses & injuries were taken as an inconvenience. My mother could be nice to me when I was sick or hurt. A part of me looked forward to being sick or hurt for that reason. But, she would remind me even years later how much of a burden it was when I was sick. The older I got, however, the less likely it was she’d be nice to me when those things happened. In fact, I never missed a single day of high school even though there were days I really should have stayed home.
When I was 19, as I’ve mentioned before, my mother & I got into a physical fight & she threw me into a wall. I am reasonably sure she wanted to kill me that night. I lived with awful back pain for 10 years after that. No doctors believed I was injured & my mother was convinced I was faking it. Looking back now, I think the pain was due to the emotional trauma rather than any physical injury, because when I get extremely stressed, my back aches in that same location. At the time however, I didn’t realize this, & thought if even the doctors think I’m faking it, maybe I am.
As an adult, other people haven’t believed me when something was wrong or acted as if my pain was nothing but an inconvenience to them. My ex husband being the worst of them, but there were others too.
I believe the years of being accused of faking problems led me to doubt myself, & think that I am faking whatever problems I have, unless there is undeniable proof. I realized this recently when I learned one problem I have is a common symptom of brain injuries. It should have simply been eye opening but instead it made me happy because here is proof that something is wrong! I’m not faking it!
I also realized I hide so much from my husband because I don’t want to burden him, & I don’t feel I have the right to expect his help when I need it. Pretty ridiculous, really. He should help me if I need it! That is what spouses do for each other!
It occurred to me that if I experience this with my own health problems, then others who have endured narcissistic abuse probably do too. That is why I wanted to share this with you today. You’re not alone & you’re not crazy! I totally understand!
Unfortunately as of yet, I don’t know of any ways to change this dysfunctional thinking, but if I come up with anything, I definitely will talk about it in the future. In the meanwhile, please know I understand & am praying for you!
Admitting you were abused or hearing stories by other people of abuse they endured is very uncomfortable & unpleasant. No one wants to talk about abuse. I sure don’t! I’d love to write about more pleasant topics & never think about the abuse I endured ever again. Yet, I know this is impossible. Even if I quit writing about it, the aftermath of abuse never goes away. It’s always there to some degree, so talking about it is normal. Most people talk about abuse in their past either slightly, a lot like me or mostly somewhere in between.
Anyone who has decided to open up about abuse has learned that not everyone is a willing, compassionate listener. When you gather your courage to discuss the most painful experiences of your life only to be met with invalidation, it can be incredibly painful. I hope to help you learn some ways to cope with that in this post by sharing some common comments people make to abuse survivors.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” Many people who haven’t survived abuse don’t understand why a victim wouldn’t reach out for help. It’s totally acceptable to educate anyone who asks this question. Abusers threaten their victims to keep quiet. They also tell their victims no one will believe them. They even destroy their victim’s self esteem to the point the victim believes no one would care anyway, so there isn’t a point in telling anyone.
“You shouldn’t talk about this. It’s not the Christian thing to do, making him/her look bad.” People who say this are often also survivors of abuse, yet who lack the courage to face their pain. Others facing their pain makes these folks feel badly, so they try to shut down the open person. Often, there is no getting through to these people, so it is best not to discuss abuse with them. It is vital to know though that there is nothing “un-Christian” about discussing your experiences. You aren’t making the abuser look bad. The abuser already did that by being abusive.
“Are you really sure that’s what happened?” This comment is often said by someone who knows both victim & abuser. This is said by someone who really doesn’t want to accept that someone they care about is capable of such awful behavior. It also is said by a narcissist’s flying monkey who is trying to instill doubt in the victim so they tolerate more abuse from the narcissist. Take this comment as a red flag that the person saying it is NOT safe! Don’t discuss your experiences with this person. Doing so only will lead to you being hurt, possibly also being the victim of a smear campaign.
“Nobody’s parents are perfect,” “No one gets along perfectly with their parents,” or “Everyone has childhood hurts.” When a person says these statements, it hurts. They are lumping vicious abuse in the same category as simple personality differences. So invalidating!! Shock value can make a person realize how foolish their words are. Saying something like, “So my mother berating me to the point of obliterating my self esteem while I was a child is the same as another mother not letting her child wear a certain shirt to school? That’s what it sounds like you’re saying, & I disagree with you.”
“Stop thinking about it” or “Stop dwelling in the past!” Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy?! Again, it’s acceptable to educate whoever asks this question. Tell them that C-PTSD & PTSD are common after abuse, & are brought on by experiencing such horrific trauma, it literally broke a person’s brain. A quality these disorders share is constantly reliving the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares & intrusive thoughts. Not thinking about things is impossible when your brain won’t let you.
“Why would you talk about this now, all this time later?” When in the midst of suffering abuse, the victim is busy trying to survive. Talking about it at the time rarely seems important. Once the victim is safe, survival mode ends & this person can think clearer. They often try to process what they just escaped by talking about it. Or, they are triggered by something… a sound, smell, someone that reminds them of their abuser in some way. Not a lot of people are aware of this, & that may be the case with the person who says this to you. Tell him or her.
“You’ll get over it,” “It could’ve been so much worse!” or, “Look for the positive in everything!” Such comments are what I think of as toxic positivity. While it is good to be positive, too positive is unhealthy. It’s unrealistic which easily can lead to disappointment. Comments like this also make a victim feel ashamed for still being affected by the trauma or needing to discuss it in order to heal. Don’t waste your time talking about past trauma to people like this. You’ll only end up hurt by their calloused words.
“At least he/she didn’t hit you!” A common belief is that the only type of abuse is physical. Anyone subjected to narcissistic abuse knows this is utter nonsense. Emotional, mental, sexual, financial & spiritual abuse are all horrific forms of abuse. They simply don’t leave the clearly visible scars that physical abuse does. The uneducated need to be aware of this, including the person who says this to you.. You can also tell them that PTSD & C-PTSD are physical damage done to the brain by exposure to abuse & trauma.
“What did you do to make him/her treat you that way?” This invalidating & shaming statement is so common! It makes victims feel responsible for the terrible things their abuser did to them, & that is utterly wrong! No one can make another person abuse them, period, no matter what they do or don’t do. Did Jack the Ripper’s victims do anything to make him kill them? What about Ted Bundy’s victims? No. These men saw an opportunity & took advantage of it. Their victims did nothing to deserve what these killers did to them. This is a point which you can bring up to the person who says such a disgusting statement.
“You should be more patient with him/her!” No. Just no. The more patient you are with an abuser, the more they will abuse you because they see that you will tolerate a lot. It could help to ask this person why should anyone be understanding with someone who repeatedly hurts them & shows no desire to improve their behavior?
“You should be more careful when picking your romantic partners!” This statement is nothing but victim blaming. What the heartless person saying this fails to realize yet needs to know is abusers can come across any way they like – very charming, kind, compassionate, romantic, successful. They rarely are abusive monsters 24/7. If they were, no one would get involved with them because it would be clear what they were really like. They lure victims in by appearing to be much better people than they truly are. While this seems like common sense, unfortunately it isn’t. The person who says this statement to you needs to be educated! Tell them this!
Unfortunately, there always will be people who don’t understand what it’s like to survive abuse. There also will be people who want to silence victims, no matter how much or little they discuss their experiences. The more you heal, the less these people will bother you, I’m happy to say. I also hope this post has helped you to learn some ways to deal with these people! xoxo
Often people who are very forgiveness centered seem to think that to forgive someone means that whatever they did to you no longer triggers any negative feelings. You will be completely immune to any upset on that topic. For example, if your narcissistic mother constantly told you that you were fat, & someone else calls you fat, if you have truly forgiven your mother, some people think that means that this other person’s words won’t bother you in the slightest.
I really don’t believe that is true. You can forgive someone yet still be angered by certain behaviors.
Forgiving someone doesn’t always mean you have forgiven & forgotten what they did, & everything is now unicorns & rainbows. Forgiveness can mean that you release any expectations on them of apologizing & trying to make it up to you for wronging you. While doing this is a good thing, it doesn’t automatically release the anger or hurt you feel that their actions caused.
Even if you have managed to release all anger & hurt you feel at the person who has hurt or even abused you, their actions still can be very upsetting. Let’s say for example you were robbed at knifepoint. You have recovered from any physical injuries & have forgiven the robber. Maybe you even learned he was out of work at the time & trying to get money to feed his starving children, so you felt some compassion for him with his plight. Do you really think that all of this would make you ok with anyone robbing anyone at knifepoint? No! It definitely wouldn’t, because you know this behavior is wrong, no matter what the story behind it is. You also know how it feels to be in that position, the terror & anger it stirs up in you, & wouldn’t wish that on anyone. If you were in this situation & heard of someone else being through what you have, you naturally would be upset, no matter how much or little anger you feel towards the person who hurt you.
Honestly, I think it is not only normal to be upset by reminders but healthy.
Not being bothered by reminders of your trauma would mean you are desensitized to it. How is being desensitized to trauma good? It doesn’t help you, & may in fact hurt you. If you’re numb to the trauma you experienced, that probably means that you have ignored it for a very long time rather than process it. That is not even close to mentally healthy!
Being desensitized to trauma doesn’t help others who have experienced trauma either. If you think what they say was a traumatic experience wasn’t a big deal, & you tell them that, it will instill shame in them. They will become ashamed of being so affected by something so “trivial”. They will wonder what is wrong with them, why they were so traumatized by something that other people wouldn’t be bothered by. They could begin to shut down & ignore their pain rather than deal with it. Doing this could lead to a plethora of problems such as physical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or digestive disorders. It also could make them turn to substance abuse, shopping addiction or promiscuity rather than face the fact that they are hurting.
Dear Reader, please know that no matter how much you have forgiven your abuser, things that they have done will continue to upset & even anger you, & that is totally normal! In fact, let the emotions motivate you! Become an advocate against the type of abuse or trauma you experienced. Talk about it, so people know that these things are wrong. If you feel bold, write a blog or a book. See what you can to do get laws changed so other abusers like yours will go to jail. Good truly can come from those feelings, & remember, they aren’t proof that you are unforgiving or bitter. Far from it. They prove you’re a person with a wise & compassionate heart.
Those of us with C-PTSD are all too aware of the bad triggers. They remind us of traumatic & painful events, sometimes even to the point of having flashbacks. They can be a good thing in the sense they show what areas need more healing, but they sure don’t feel so good when they happen!
There is another kind of trigger too, which is much more pleasant & much less talked about. Good triggers are just as important, yet sadly there isn’t much information available on them.
Good triggers are things that can trigger joy, comfort, pleasant memories or nostalgia. For me, the smell of Old Spice cologne always reminds me of my Granddad, who I adored. The song “You’re My Best Friend” by the band Queen always reminds me of my husband since that is our song. The scent of a fireplace burning on a cool autumn day reminds me of my favorite time of year & triggers a sense of coziness.
Please think about what good triggers you have, & write them down. If you are unsure, I can offer you some ideas…
Another thing I am in the process of learning about to bring joy into my life is the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Hygge is about creating a cozy, comfortable & relaxed lifestyle that leaves you with a feeling of well being & contentment.
There are no hard & fast rules to living this lifestyle, other than what makes you feel cozy & comfortable. I have come to realize that less stuff is an important aspect of hygge to me. Less stuff means less to clean & maintain, & less clutter in my home, all of which help me to be more relaxed. This also means my home is easier to clean, because of having less stuff which also helps to contribute to a more relaxed state.
Learning about hygge also inspired me to simplify every aspect of my life. For example, each week I have most of our bills paid automatically by going on a credit card that gives cash back. I pay this credit card bill weekly, so it doesn’t get out of control, & sometimes I also use the cash back to help pay the balance.
Focusing on your good triggers, creating new ones as well as living a more relaxed & comfortable lifestyle are all very good for bringing more joy into your life. I hope you are inspired to make some healthy changes in your life!