A Guide to Recognizing and Navigating a Narcissistic Relationship.
The Story of Narcissus from Britannica:
Narcissus, in Greek mythology, the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was distinguished for his beauty. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book III, Narcissus’s mother was told by the blind seer Tiresias that he would have a long life, provided he never recognized himself. However, his rejection of the love of the nymph Echo or (in an earlier version) of the young man Ameinias drew upon him the vengeanceof the gods. He fell in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring and pined away (or killed himself); the flower that bears his name sprang up where he died.
This myth is what defined the psychologic condition narcissism:
excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance.Similar:vanityself-loveself-admirationself-adulationself-absorptionself-obsessionconceitself-conceitself-centerednessself-regardegotismegoismegocentricityegomaniaOpposite:modestydiffidence
PSYCHOLOGYselfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
PSYCHOANALYSISself-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.
I knew self absorption was a thing.
I never knew it had a name, and…
I never knew I was a victim of it.
If I am being honest, I learned about narcissists, narcissism (that it was a real thing) when I left my ex-husband in May of 2020. We had been in an eleven year relationship that when it was “great” it was great, but when it was a disaster, well, that would be an understatement. There had to be a reason for the feelings I often, and when I say often mean almost always felt whenever we had a fight, argument, or minor disagreement. I was married to a narcissist.
Here are some consequences of narcissistic abuse (VeryWell Mind)
Many narcissistic abuse survivors live with anxiety. After experiencing narcissistic abuse, you may experience extreme fear or anxiety in relationships with new people. Those who leave abusive relationships may experience separation anxiety, leading them to feel panicked and disoriented when they’re not with their abusers.
If your symptoms include anxiety attacks, panic attacks, or hypervigilance after being abused by a narcissist, know that these symptoms will ease over time, particularly if you can work through your trauma with a professional.
This has shown up for me in spades with my relationships post-divorce. When I wasn’t with my new partner, I experience literal separation anxiety, one of these relationships was a long distance one, and so add a whole other level of anxiety on top of an already loaded anxiety salad. I know I am not alone, I know there are a million narcissistic abuse survivors that have this same ANXIETY.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Many people who have experienced narcissistic abuse also develop depression. Survivors often struggle with feelings of worthlessness after months or years of being told how useless and stupid they are by their abuser. After years of being manipulated and gaslighted, you may also isolate yourself, which can make feelings of depression worse.
I am not sure I experience depression in the “true” sense of the word. I do know I experience highs and lows and I likely experience them probably a little more acutely than another. I know there are a million survivors who are battling DEPRESSION.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
As a narcissistic abuse survivor, you will likely have symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Your brain will be on high alert, looking out for danger. This is because the traumatic events triggered a fight or flight response within you. As a result, anything associated with those memories can trigger an anxiety attack.
After experiencing narcissistic abuse, you may feel the need to be on guard 24/7. Victims of narcissists often mention that they never knew what their abuser was going to do next. You may struggle to relax because of chronic hypervigilance and expecting them (the abuser) to be around every corner.
You may also steer clear of certain situations or things that remind you of the abuse. This can range from avoiding certain places or particular people.
I am confident I don’t suffer PTS in the traditional. But what I will say is I am wired to believe the best, even in my narcissistic abusers to the point that I often mis-interpret “red flags” for circus flags. I know when I feel insecure I find myself stepping gingerly to avoid perceived relationship land mines. I do know there are a million survivors who are always walking on eggshells in the next relationship, and the next, and the next. POST TRAUMATIC STRESS is REAL.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Loss of Sense of Self and Self-Worth
You may feel as if you have completely lost yourself. Narcissistic abuse is a form of brainwashing, and as such, it can destroy your sense of self-worth. You may no longer feel like the person you were before all this began.
In many cases, those who have experienced narcissistic abuse will struggle to recognize themselves in the mirror because they no longer see their true reflection staring back at them.
You may also have trust issues with other people (especially those closest to you), and constantly find yourself doubting or second-guessing yourself.
You may begin to feel like you are not good enough or that you did something to cause the abuse in the first place. This can lead to shame and embarrassment, which may often stop you from reaching out for help.
You may also have trouble making decisions. You may get confused by simple decisions, or you might feel unable to make any decision at all.
This one… this one here, I own in spades. I live with constant, consistent, loud imposter syndrome. The belief I am not, nor have I ever been “good enough” I have lived a life full of diminished self worth, and rest assured it was created long before my marriage and subsequent divorce. I believe, have believed, will believe I was not good enough yesterday, am not good enough today, and will not be good enough tomorrow. I think it’s why I love Snapchat filters, Facebook filters, lipstick, hair color and ANYTHING else that helps me to believe I am worth it, I am good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough, and whatever ENOUGH we can tag on to this endless list of ENOUGHS. When I divorced from my first husband, I cited a loss of identity, I believe this is because of some other narcissists/narcissitic tendency havers in my world. Loss of Sense of Self and Self-Worth. This one is big, and I really believe this one here has the most catastrophic effects one the survivors of narcissistic abuse. Oh my fellow survivors LOSS OF SENSE OF SELF AND SELF-WORTH is so REAL.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
So that’s it for today.
If you’ve been in a narcissistic relationship, you are not alone. You just aren’t. I know it feels that way. I know sometimes the crazy you feel will take you to the edge.
Don’t let it.
My next few blogs I am going to spend looking at the narcissists in my life, the narcissistic tendencies I have and need to be aware of (we ALL have them). More importantly I am going to share what we can do to recover, and navigate our relationships in the face of the abuse and trauma we’ve experienced, lived through and have survived.
WE ARE NOT ALONE.