When you’re going through narcissistic abuse recovery, you might hate to admit it, but sometimes you really feel like you’re just phoning it in. Going through the motions. There are days (and sometimes, weeks) where you just do the bare minimum that you can to just get by. It’s almost like you’re avoiding life. And it doesn’t feel like you’re doing it on purpose; it feels like you’re not controlling it. Sound familiar? You might be dealing with brain fog.
What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is the feeling of dissociation or disconnectedness that is very often experienced during and after narcissistic abuse. It can also be a symptom of C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), which is commonly seen in people who have experienced traumatic, abusive relationships with narcissists and other toxic people. If you have dealt with brain fog, you will have struggled with feeling lost, like you’re not really there, or like you’re watching your life through a screen or a bubble.
What Are the Symptoms of Brain Fog?
How can you tell if you’re struggling with brain fog, anyway? You start by checking in with your doctor to ensure that there’s no medical reason for your struggle, of course, but once you’ve done that, watch for the following symptoms to find out if you’re dealing with what we call “brain fog.”
- You’re exhausted all the time.
- Your body feels stiff, sluggish, immovable.
- Your joints and muscles ache.
- Your head feels like it’s in a constant fog.
- You’re not really depressed, but you’re definitely not happy, either.
- You just feel sort of … numb. You feel like you’re in limbo.
- Your house is a mess.
- You may not shower as often as you’d like.
- You feel like you cannot function properly.
- You feel like you can’t get up and do what you need (and sometimes even want) to do. It’s like some kind of weird ALMOST involuntary paralysis. Like, if there was a fire, you would get up and go. But if you need a drink of water or to go to the bathroom? You’ll wait as long as possible before you move.
- You rarely find yourself feeling alive, excited or truly happy.
- Colors don’t seem as bright as they used to, and food doesn’t taste as good.
- You can’t stand to be around people for too long.
- You find yourself isolating, hiding, and never wanting to leave the house.
What does brain fog feel like?
You feel unhealthy, physically, mentally, and otherwise when you’re dealing with brain fog as a result of narcissistic abuse. When it comes to your narcissist, you feel alternately invisible and smothered. You feel stuck. Paralyzed.
If that sounds familiar, chances are that you might have brain fog. And if you’re anything like me, you probably want to start digging into it – figuring out what the heck is going on with you. If you haven’t already, you might now start googling stuff like “why am I so tired all the time,” and “how to stop letting other people’s negative energy affect you.” You read up on burn-out, walking depression and anxiety. You start looking for ways to get out of your funk.
You open 17 tabs in your browser and plan to read and watch the best tips out there. It’s not like you haven’t read all the articles and watched literally like every video out there on getting…well, unstuck already – but part of you hopes that something will jump out and smack you in the face with some amazing insight that will change everything.
You already know all about mindfulness and logically you get it. You have even tried it in the past, and you know it helps. But something is different this time. You know all that stuff, but you can’t even bring yourself to do any of it. You KNOW it will help, because it has helped in the past. But you still find yourself not moving.
Inside Your Own Brain (Fog)
In your head, you try to psych yourself up so you can just gain a little momentum and start moving. You remind yourself that “a body in motion stays in motion,” and you plan little baby steps that you know will work to kickstart your energy again. You think, “I’m going to just get up and go walk around the block, and that will help me stop feeling this way,” or “Maybe if I drink more water,” or “I need to eat better/sleep more/whatever,” but when it’s time to take action, you almost feel as if it’s physically impossible to do so.
And the cycle continues. Before you know it, you’ve pretty much shut down contact with the entire outside world, and you don’t care. You just hope no one knocks on the door or calls. And if they do, you do your best to avoid answering either.
You have stopped living. Now, you just sort of exist. And while one part of you is screaming at you to get up and get moving again, this other (seemingly more powerful) part sits on your chest and feels like the weight of the world.
You understand how the law of attraction works. And you are well aware of that fact that when you are focused on the fact that you cannot function properly, you will not function properly.
Despite the fact that they can’t quite put their finger on it, doctors and researchers may tell you that you have chronic fatigue syndrome or major depressive disorder or even adrenal fatigue. In other words, they don’t really always know the answers.
Alternative health gurus will suggest that you aren’t eating well (and they may be partially correct) or that you need to detox your body (also maybe partially correct, but again, not a solution that will get to the core issue).
Still, many studies link narcissistic abuse to these exact symptoms you’re having. At one point, they discussed adding a new diagnosis to the DSM – narcissistic abuse syndrome. But there’s no pill you can take that will fully resolve this issue, at least not at the core.
How do you deal with brain fog?
So what are we supposed to do? How can we manage this stuff ourselves? And really, why do we do this to ourselves, even when we know better?
We know that if you change your thoughts, you can change your life. We can understand this logically. But when we’re feeling sad and stuck and flat-out paralyzed, we cannot seem to budge our minds. Why is this such a difficult concept when we need it the most? What is the answer?
Sadly, there’s no magic bullet, but there is one way you can shake yourself up and gain a little momentum so you can get yourself back on track.
You have to start small because at this point, anything that’s more than a tiny bit of effort will seem to be too involved. The honest-to-God truth is that you have to just do SOMETHING. Doing even one thing will help.
And you have to give yourself permission to do that; to do just one thing and then to stop again. Once you’ve done the one thing, if you do stop, then wait an hour, or a day, and do one more thing. Keep doing this, every hour or day or week – however it feels best to you.
Here are some ideas for things to try. I know it might feel hard right now, but pick one and do it. Any single one. Then, comment on the YouTube video and tell me what you did (or plan to do).
- Go Outside. I am not saying you have to go out for the evening, to the store or even to leave your front porch – but go outside and breathe in some fresh air. Let your skin be exposed to it and open your eyes wide, taking in the environment. Notice the grass and trees, or the cars and the people. Spend five or ten minutes out there, and be sure to take deep, cleansing breaths while you do.
- Create Something. Creating stuff can stir up your energy in surprising ways. Just start doing something, anything at all that forces you to get a little bit creative. Pour your anxiety, stress or “nothingness” into it. Ideas: Write in your journal. Draw something. Doodle on paper. Record a song. Design something. Sew or sculpt. Cook something or redecorate a room in your house.
- Clean Something. If there is something in your space that makes you feel overwhelmed and icky, clean it up. If it’s your WHOLE house that feels overwhelmingly messy (which does happen when you’re dealing with CPTSD and dissociation as a result of narcissistic abuse), then pick ONE thing and clean it up. Maybe a messy table, for example, or a corner where you tend to toss stuff.
- Drink Water. A lot of times, we feel exhausted because we are dehydrated. This has a lot to do with our aches and pains in some cases. Make sure you’re fully hydrated. Experts say 64 ounces of water each day is enough.
- Listen to Something. Listening to your favorite positive, upbeat songs can really empower you to get moving. Even if it means you just sit on the couch and listen at first, force yourself to stop watching TV and listen to at least ONE good song. Something powerful. Check out my favorites at QueenBeeing.com/Playlist.
- Pattern-Interrupt Something. Next time you notice yourself stressing or worrying about anything, notice it. Then realize that you are in a sort of pattern, which leads to your brain creating and reinforcing certain connections that lead to habitually negative thinking. But good news: you can change the way you think (and thereby sort of reroute those neural connections) by simply changing the way you think. Use simple pattern interrupts when you feel like you’re stuck in a negative “loop.” For example, brush your teeth, wash your face, stand up, move into a different part of the house. Do something to change your environment and/or to sort of bring yourself into the moment and into your body. It helps. A lot more than you think.
- Stop Obsessing About Something. If you’re anything like me, you get to the point where you begin to obsess about the fact that you’re paralyzed. This only keeps us stuck! So start telling yourself a new story. Maybe to stop obsessing about being paralyzed, you can practice intentional vibration management. I (think) I invented this term and what I mean by it is to start being your own thought police. So, pay attention to your thoughts and when you catch yourself obsessing about being paralyzed, change your mind and focus instead on something you DO want, or something at the very least that you have some direct control over.
- Stop Trying So Hard. It’s so easy for us to get stuck because we know we’re not supposed to stop. But the idea that we’re failing seems to really drive us to keep going – even if we’re just “going” by beating ourselves up for NOT going. So maybe you really do just need to take a day or two off from life. Do it, and then get moving again.
- Give Yourself Some Care and Compassion. Yes, I mean take care of yourself. When we neglect our own needs, we cannot keep moving in any positive direction. It’s just like on the airplane when the stewardess tells you to put your own oxygen mask on before you help anyone else. When you’re not providing for your basic human needs, you cannot help anyone else. So take care of yourself – body, mind and spirit.
- Trigger-Proof Yourself. If you’re triggered into panic or despair by sad songs, movies and news stories, go on a negativity diet for awhile. Only watch, read or consume content that is positive in nature. This can really quickly improve your odds of finding your proverbial mojo again.
What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section on YouTube and let’s talk about it!
Helpful Resources for Narcissistic Abuse & Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups (Online)
- Best books on narcissistic abuse recovery, according to a poll of more than 5,000 survivors
- Start Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today for Free
Helpful Reading for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
- Toxic Narcissism in Relationships: Top 10 Warning Signs You’re Being Gaslighted
- Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury: What You Need to Know
- How Self-Proclaimed Narcissist Sam Vaknin Gaslighted Me on Facebook
- Are you married to a narcissist? 12 easy ways to know for sure
- Exposed! 10 Shocking Facts Your Narcissist Doesn’t Want You to Know
- Broken Eggshells: The real reason you haven’t already left your narcissist
- Twisted Toxic Love: Inside the Distorted Mind of a Narcissist
- Are you being gaslighted? 10 things you need to know
- Toxic Relationships and Narcissism: Know the Stages of Gaslighting
- The Narcissistic Flip: Why and how it’s always your fault
- Take Back Your Power After Narcissistic Abuse
- The Addict or Alcoholic Narcissist and Codependent, Toxic Relationships
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.