The last post was very left-brain of me, and this one might be, too.
I’m talking solutions, after all.
The acute phase is just what it sounds like…the hours, days, weeks, maybe even months, after severing a relationship with a narcissist. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Everything is painful, a life almost defined by pain. I’m no stranger; without pain I might not be sure I’m sucking air.
It’s not that the relationship was necessarily less painful than the breakup. Please, remember this, gorgeous ones. Every time you think of going back to him (or her). Every time. The truth is, we’re addicted, literally addicted. Brain chemicals oxytocin (bonding) and dopamine (pleasure/reward) have tag-teamed us, bathing our brains in vats of feels-so-good. And the brain has responded in kind, the brain cells popping more and more receptors to catch these chemicals, because it wants More! More! MORE!
For some, the abuse itself actually starts to work the same way as the early-days pleasure had. Some get locked into the cycle of being abused. I can’t necessarily relate to that myself; I searched and searched for solutions and strategies, convinced that I could wave a magic wand and a light-bulb moment would appear. Miracles do happen, after all. Not necessarily in narcissism, of course, save for a brain trauma from a near-fatal accident that causes brain damage to whatever parts of the brain fire up the narcissistic tendencies of rage and ungratefulness and whatnot. That’s a true story, but it’s literally one in a million.
Anyway, the relationship itself is painful as hell, but either our brains start getting off on the pain, *or* we encounter just enough good times to suffice. Either way, we’re hooked. It’s truly an addiction. Much like any synthetic/illicit drug out there.
…Which is why we feel these insane, intense, insatiable withdrawals when we sever contact (or even go low-contact) with a narcissist. My ex is still the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. I find myself distracted all throughout the day by thoughts of him, wondering what he’s doing, who he’s texting with, how he’s feeling, what he’s thinking, how much he’s suffering, what his true motives are, what he meant when he said This or That, how much he’s grieving or missing me, what he’s wearing, what he did that day, what he plans to do today or this week, and so on. And he’s the last thing I think about when I go to sleep at night.
When we were together, everything I did was to prepare for his arrival (when he visited) or to busy myself until we could meet up after work (once he had moved here). I couldn’t get enough of checking up on his social media pages, combing through his Liked Pages on Facebook or trying to see when he was last active on Messenger or Hangouts, or combing through his blog and devouring every word like I had a schoolgirl crush. I’d walk by his apartment while outside walking around on a phone call to my sister or a friend, I’d check for his car when I drove by (he lives in our same apartment complex).
That’s addiction, gorgeous ones.
Now that we’ve separated, everything I do is to take my life back, re-establish a routine of my own, one in which he is either not included (for at least some time yet) or optional (should we ever successfully establish a platonic friendship at some point). I make it a point to engage in a combination of activities that are mine alone and those we shared together. I’m now focusing on myself, and I realize that right now, the stubborn self-focus is mainly geared toward separating from him and asserting my own individuality, proving to him and myself (and everyone else) that I can be my own person, too, more than it is actually finding who I truly am and rising up. It’s more reactive than proactive, I know.
And for right now, that’s okay. Because I’m engaging in healthy activities that do indeed focus on myself. I’m doing work that needs to be done. And some of that has helped immensely.
I’ll share mine with you. Yours may be different from mine; what works for me might not work for you, and that’s okay, too.
Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET) – This has by far been the most effective in efficiently helping me break those emotional ties, beginning with the treatment I had this morning. This morning’s treatment was not my first since the relationship broke down; it was actually my third. But three times was the charm, as I had a massive emotional release during today’s treatment, and it’s now nightfall, and the tears have not surfaced again since, which is in stark contrast to the past 5 days, where I was breaking down sobbing every few hours. NET is gentle and powerful; I highly recommend it.
Psychotherapy – This is good, too, although it all depends on the therapist, how well you click with them, and maybe even how narcissism-literate they are. Mine is, at least partially – not a Dr Ramani-level expert or anything, but he gets a little more than the basics. It works more slowly than NET, though. But the good news is that you get to talk, and while doing so, we hear ourselves. A good therapist will also clear up any confusion about the nature and gravity of the situation, and suggest action steps to take when in certain situations, whereas NET will not.
Yoga – I’m doing this at home on YouTube these days (it’s free and there’s no driving or mask-wearing required). There are literally tons of videos of varying lengths, yoga types, goals/purposes, target populations, yoga experience levels, and instructors to choose from. You can do an 12-minute routine to boost your brain or a 40-minute one for strength and stability, or anything in between. It’s great in the morning and afternoon.
Spiritual videos – YouTube is getting a workout these days. I gravitate toward videos in which various topics such as depression, attachment/letting go, fear, grief, disappointment, emotional pain, and many others, are tackled through a lens of Buddhist wisdom and teachings. I find that this is effective for helping ground me, solidify my place in the universal consciousness, and find my inner peace. I also watch Buddhist videos on why we’re here, finding contentment, being at peace with oneself, and so on.
Narcissism videos – You guessed it–YouTube. This was a powerful first step–arming myself with information, educating myself on the nature of the situation I was (and still am) in. I actually began watching a lot of these videos long before the relationship actually disintegrated. This was an unpleasant leg to my journey, but a necessary one. During this phase, I learned the various traits of narcissism and how they might manifest in real life, the various vocab words used in articles and videos about narcissism, why narcissists won’t and typically can’t change, and how to either break up, go no/low-contact, and/or survive in a relationship that can’t be left. I also learned about the various subtypes of narcissism, of which there are about 6 or 7, and I realized that I’d dealt with many more narcissists than I’d ever imagined – not only my most recent ex, but also my husband, all of my previous exes, 3 out of 4 grandparents, and even my father. Most importantly, I learned how to detect the early warning signs of a narcissistic relationship. And now, I’m learning how to heal from narcissistic abuse.
For narcissism videos on YouTube, I recommend delving into Dr Ramani’s channel first. She has a glossary section that defines all the different subtypes and vocabulary terms that serve as an excellent Narcissism 101. Then, I recommend Lisa A Romano and Dr Les Carter, who focus a little more on relationships with narcissists and how to deal with them. Finally, I recommend Melanie Tonia Evans, since she’s much more upbeat and proactive when it comes to actually healing from narcissistic relationships and abuse. Yes, there is plenty of overlap between the various channels, but I’ve summarized the focus of each one, based on my (limited but growing) experience thus far. Do be sure not to spend too much time on the “dissecting the narcissist” “what went wrong?” stage, or it can replace the narcissist for the brain-chemical hit and continue the addiction. Once you’ve got the lay of the land, shift into more proactive/strategy/healing/recovery information.
Hobbies – This is paramount. What are your hobbies now? If you’re not sure or can’t quite remember what you used to do before your narcissistic relationship consumed you and your time and energy, try reflecting back to what you used to do before that relationship began. For me, this is sampling new music and coloring in grownup coloring books. It also includes reading and writing/blogging.
Structure to your day/week – This is also paramount. Days that lack structure are fraught with depression, grief, and anxiety. The loss weighs heavily on you and the void left by the ended relationship threatens to swallow you whole. Without structure, we tend to wander aimlessly, not really having a clue about what to do next. And then thoughts of the ex-narc begin to invade our heads and hearts, tempting us to just go back to their familiarity and control–or we whip ourselves into frenzies trying to figure them out, in a fit of analysis by paralysis. A day that is well- (but not overly-) structured by self-focused activities offers protection against the tendencies to relapse back into the narcissistic relationship.
Time with friends/support system – It’s vital to build or join (or reunite with) a positive support system. This can consist of good friends, support groups, MeetUp groups, or others with common (healthy) interests. You don’t want to find a gaggle of bar buddies here; you want to find boardgamers, book clubs, running mates, fellow musicians, art clubs, intellectual discussions, local “let’s do something” groups, etc – anything you’re interested in. Bonus: interest-based groups (or meeting up with friends with plenty of common interests) not only gives you contact with other people and structure to your day, but also re-immerses you into your hobbies, reminding you of who YOU are.
Self-Care in general – This is super-important. As tempting as it is to say “screw it” and let yourself go, do not give into this temptation. Do make sure to eat, and eat well, for you need to feed your brain and body and give them the nourishment they need so that they can function and you can maintain your mental and physical health. You need to be able to think, focus, feel, process, create…all the things that make you YOU. You need to have enough energy to function well and get through this. Exercise/movement is crucial as well; it actually stimulates your brain and uplifts your mood. Getting out of the house is quite beneficial, too; changes of scenery are uplifting and give purpose to the day and ourselves. Getting out into the sun is even better, for the Vitamin D (antidepressant activity) and glandular benefits.
We will get through this, angels. We’re strong, or we would not have made it this far. We can do this. We got this. ❤