Confusion in Toxic Relationships: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Confusion in Toxic Relationships: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

After my first marriage, I found myself missing my toxic ex. It was the strangest thing! I knew logically that it was not healthy for me to feel this way but I couldn’t stop remembering the good times. The longer I was away, the more the bad times seemed to slip my mind.

As it turns out, I’m not alone here.

So often, I hear survivors of toxic relationships are sad about the loss of a narcissist – not the toxic person they currently know, but the person they thought they’d known – or the person they believed they were involved with.

Today, we’re going to talk about why there’s so much confusion in toxic relationships (video) – and what you can do to eliminate it.

So why is there so much confusion in and around toxic relationships?

Well … on an essential level, its because the narcissist hides behind a sort of “armor” that is their “false self.” That means that they fool you from very early on.

Your first impression of the narcissist may have been a very good one; that’s because he or she showed you only the best parts of themselves when you met – they constructed a series of qualities and traits that are those they present to the outside world.

They make it very difficult to see who they truly are – you’re stuck deciding whether you’ve really got the sweet and charming love you signed up for, or whether the wool was pulled over your eyes and the real narcissist is actually the toxic, abusive, insulting and manipulative narcissist you’re dealing with in real life.

Of course, this leads you to a serious kind of mental torture that causes you to literally be at odds with yourself – we call that cognitive dissonance. You’re trying to reconcile the illusion you were initially presented with the person you have now got to deal with.

In a lot of cases, in order to cope with this mess, you start trying to improve your SELF – to change for him/her. But in reality, you’ve done nothing wrong and you’re not the issue at all – you’re just subconsciously trying to uphold that initial impression you had of the narcissist – the image of his or her false self that is challenged during the inevitable devaluation phase.

By the time you get to the discard phase (also inevitable with a narcissistic person – the cycle, like the beat, goes on), you’ll be treated to glimpses of the truly ugly face of the narcissist – the one that spews out the cruel and painful poison that causes you to lose all faith in yourself faster than you can say boo.

And you see the coldness, the callous indifference that leads to what feels like absolute torture to you.

While your first reaction is that everyone has a bad moment and this can’t be who they really are, the truth is that this is probably the closest you’ll come to actually seeing the narcissist’s REAL self.

This is about the time you recognize that the amazingly charming or engaging or otherwise awesome person you got involved with in the beginning is gone – and suddenly you see this horrible contempt that they have for you. And when you realize they felt that way all along, your heart breaks a little more, if that’s possible.

But what you have to realize here is that none of this is your fault. In reality, narcissists are not capable of feeling genuine love or empathy for anyone else – they just use people to meet their own selfish needs. Once they exhaust one source of supply, it’s on to the next.

Don’t let yourself believe in the magical connection you once thought you had – it was just a part of the whole narcissistic abuse cycle – an illusion, just like the narcissist’s identity.

So now that you know all of this, what do you do with it?

You start picking up the pieces of yourself, and you begin the healing process. You go forward, and you go no contact (or low contact, if you’re forced to deal with him/her – say at work or as a co-parent). You aren’t to blame – you were simply used as a pawn in the narcissist’s game.

Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

If you’ve experienced being in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you may be dealing with symptoms that don’t make a lot of sense to you as you navigate the muddy waters of narcissistic abuse recovery. This post will fill you in on narcissistic abuse syndrome, an often-unrecognized disorder that affects victims of narcissistic abuse in profound ways. 

While you won’t find the term “narcissistic abuse syndrome” in the DSM, it is one that many advocates believe should be included. 

What is Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome?

Narcissistic abuse syndrome (also known as C-PTSD or narcissistic victim syndrome) is a psychological disorder that can develop in response to the prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context in which the individual has little or no chance of escape. such as being in a toxic relationship with a narcissist.

This condition manifests during or after a relationship with a narcissist. Unfortunately for surviors of narcissistic abuse, there are many negative side effects we’ve got to deal with as a result of the gaslighting and manipulation that goes along with it – and narcisistic abuse syndrome (C-PTSD) is one of the most common issues for survivors and victims of narcissistic abuse in relationships. Learn more about C-PTSD here. 

How can you tell if you’re the victim of a narcissist?

Understanding these typical “mind games” and manipulations will help you understand if you’re dealing with a toxic narcissist in your relationship.

Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome Video

In this video, I explain what narcissistic abuse syndrome means, fill you in on the signs and symptoms of narcissistic abuse syndrome and also explain how to recover from narcissistic abuse syndrome (sometimes also called post-narcissistic abuse syndrome). In addition to identity erosion and losing the self, understanding what happens after narcissistic abuse and how to perceive it in a whole new way can really be the first step toward healing CPTSD or complex PTSD. If you are a victim of narcissistic abuse syndrome, this comprehensive healing video is for you.

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

If you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, chances are you’ve got some healing to do. Not just “regular” healing, either.

We’re talking about whole life healing – body, mind and soul – because narcissistic abuse will affect every aspect of your being.

When you’re actively dealing with narcissistic abuse, there will be many telltale signs, including but not limited to the following.

You’ll be less physically healthy. You’ll be less mentally, psychologically and spiritually healthy, and you’ll find yourself suffering from low self-esteem, a loss of identity and more. When you’re ready to begin to take back your life, you’ll be ready to begin the journey of narcissistic abuse recovery

What is Narcissistic Abuse Recovery? 

In order to understand what narcissistic abuse recovery is, we must first define both “narcissist” and “narcissistic abuse.”

What is a Narcissist?

A narcissist can be a man or a woman, and they will most definitely have a very a high opinion of him/herself. The toxic narcissist will have a sense of entitlement (most often unearned). The toxic narcisist is a verbally (and sometimes physically) abusive person who may have narcissistic personality disorder.

This type of narcissist will show little to no empathy for the people around them and will act from that perspective. They don’t think about or concern themselves with how others feel, and you can tell because of the way they treat the people around them. They may be overtly narcissistic, or they may be more of a covert narcissist.

Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic abuse is verbal, emotional and occasionally physically abuse that can be experienced by anyone in a close relationship with one of these toxic people.

Narcissistic supply may include childen, spouses or partners, parents and other friends, relatives and acquaintences. Those who remain close are often used as a form of narcissistic supply and not treated like an actual person.

Sadly, even the most intelligent and educated people can be manipulated and abused by a narcissist.

DID YOU KNOW?

You’ll need to grieve the loss of a narcissist.

Many people assume that going through a toxic relationship with a narcissistic abuser would require no grieving process – no mourning – no grief at all. People assume that you should be glad it’s over.

However, despite popular assumption, we need to go through the stages of grief in narcissistic abuse recovery – but it’s a lot more complicated than your standard grief process. 

Traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • A belief that he or she is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • A requirement for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement – unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Interpersonal exploitativeness – taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • A lack of empathy and an unwillingness to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Enviousness of others – along with the belief that others are envious of him or her
  • A tendency to arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes

Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Defined

The process of narcissistic abuse recovery varies for everyone, but with intentional effort and focus on healing, recovery is possible for most survivors of narcissistic abuse.  There are four basic stages of narcissistic abuse recovery

Stages of Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

The Discovery Phase – When you’re first recognizing that you’ve got a problem in a relationship – and maybe for the first time ever, you’re starting to recognize that YOU are not the problem. You might suddenly realize you’re not the crazy one, after all – and if a friend, therapist or family member did not point it out to you, you may have come across a video or article that showed you the light. 

The Understanding Phase – You know or are pretty convinced that you’re in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, whether it’s a romantic one, a family one or a friend or coworker one. You are pretty sure you’ve got to leave, or you’ve already left, but you feel stuck and you can’t seem to break free. You’re reading and watching everything you can about narcissists and narcissistic abuse because not only is it helping you wrap your head around what you’re dealing with, but for once, you’re feeling a sense of validation. 

The Overcoming Phase – You know or are pretty convinced that you’re in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, whether it’s a romantic one, a family one or a friend or coworker one. You are pretty sure you’ve got to leave, or you’ve already left, but some part of you feels stuck and you can’t seem to break free emotonally and psychologically. Still, you’re in the right frame of mind to take your healing to the next level, and with intention, you will get there. 

The Evolving Phase – You’re free of the narcissist and ready to move into creating the life you truly want. You are finding and following your own passions and you’re finally beginning to evolve into the person you’ve always been meant to be. Life is starting to get really, really good. 

What stage of narcissistic abuse recovery are you in? Find out now. 

Could you be codependent in a toxic relationship? Find out now. 

How Can I Get Help With Narcissistic Abuse Recovery?

In some cases, you can find help with traditional therapy, but based on what we’ve learned, that isn’t always the right option since it can be hard to find a therapist who fully understands your situation. However, here at QueenBeeing, we offer several free and low-cost options for narcissistic abuse recovery support, in addition to our one-on-one narcissistic abuse recovery counseling and support. 

The SPANily Official Group

Support for People Affected by Narcissistic Abuse in Toxic Relationships – A free, private Facebook support group that is professionally moderated by an amazing team of admins and the QueenBeeing coaching staff.

Go!

Divorce Support

Divorce Support – Offers Support for Divorcing a Narcissist, Before, During and After. There is no greater emotional pain that can be inflicted on someone than divorce, whether you initiate it or your narcissistic partner does. 

Go!

SPAN Book Club

SPAN Book Club – Get your intellectual stimulation and share camaraderie over a shared hobby, while alleviating the typical loneliness and isolation suffered by survivors of narcissistic abuse from the comfort of your home.

Go!

Boldly Evolving Empaths

Boldly Evolving Empaths (QueenBeeing BEEs) – For those survivors who are ready to thrive and who have passed the discovery and understanding phases and are ready to push forward into the next phase in their lives.

Go!

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

 SPANily Support for Co-Parenting with a Narcissist – If you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, this is the group for you. A parenting-focused narcissistic abuse recovery support group by Angie Atkinson and QueenBeeing.com.

Go!

Adult Children of Narcissists

Support for Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents – If one or both of your parents were narcissists, chances are, you’re struggling more than you may realize. Get support from people who have been there.

Go!

Small Group Coaching

New Group Coaching Program – Several weekly session times available for small group coaching. All levels of recovery served. Learn more and sign up for sessions here. Program director, Certified Life Coach Lise Colucci.

The SPANily Home

The SPANily Home – QueenBeeing.com’s OFF-FACBOOK private narcissistic abuse recovery and resource center. Closely monitored and managed by our team of certified narcissistic abuse recovery coaches. Pricing starts at $3.99 per month.

Get One-on-One Support in Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Our team of certified life coaches is here to serve you, during and after your narcissistic abuse recovery. Click photos to learn more about each coach and schedule a narcissistic abuse recovery coaching session.

Social Anxiety Disorder and Toxic Relationships: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Social Anxiety Disorder and Toxic Relationships: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

If you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might have found yourself avoiding social situations and feeling a lot of anxiety when you’re forced to go out into the world. And if you consider yourself an empath, this could be magnified by your ability to sort of “feel” everyone around you. I know that’s been the case for me in the past. Whether you could be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD) or you just struggle with social situations, it could be a result of your toxic relationship.

This can be an ongoing issue for many people, even after narcissistic abuse recovery. For example, while I have recovered from my own narcissistic abuse, I sometimes still struggle with a little social anxiety. But there are things you can do to deal with it, and I’ll be covering some of those here at QueenBeeing over the next few weeks.

What is social anxiety disorder (SAD)?

Also called “social phobia,” social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes you to have an extreme, unrelenting fear of being watched and especially judged by people, including not only strangers but also people you know. This crippling fear can affect your ability to function in the world – whether at work, school, or any of your other daily activities. Many sufferers of SAD report that it is difficult for them to make and keep friends.

What does SAD have to do with narcissistic abuse recovery?

Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships can cause you to feel overwhelmed and isolated on their own, but they also cause what psychologists call a “toxic internal environment” that can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, and a wide variety of other physical health problems. Social anxiety can be a side-effect of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) as well – and many survivors of narcissistic abuse suffer from C-PTSD.

Don’t underestimate the effect of a toxic relationship on your health.

Consider this: a 12.2-year study that launched in 1985 and followed more than 10,000 people found that people who reported being in unhealthy or negative relationships were far more likely to develop heart problems, including a fatal heart attack or cardiac event, than study participants who had healthier, less negative relationships.

And on a more practical level, since narcissists are so likely to isolate and control us in these relationships, we become hypervigilant of their moods and behaviors and this can leave us not only exhausted emotionally but also unwilling or unable to deal with other people during the relationship. This could be because we are too overwhelmed by the narcissist’s need for attention and supply or because we grow tired of trying to behave “correctly” in public (so that the narcissist doesn’t further abuse us when we get home). It could also be for a number of other reasons (or a combination of reasons).

What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD)?

According to NIMH, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
  • Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
  • Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
  • Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
  • Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
  • Be very afraid that other people will judge them
  • Stay away from places where there are other people

What does social anxiety disorder (SAD) feel like?

One of the worst aspects of suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder is the feeling that you are entirely isolated and alone in the world – even (and sometimes especially) if you’re in a room full of people. It can feel as if you are cut off from the world and your inner self. Worse, it feels like you have no control over the bad feelings and that you’re trapped forever in feeling anxious and alone.

It may be helpful to hear that even if you’re feeling alone, there are some symptoms that therapists have noted are the hallmarks of SAD and just about everyone suffers from them.

  1. The feeling that no one understands you.

When you’re in the grip of social anxiety, it feels like you are cut off from everyone and that no one can understand what it feels like inside your head, not even your therapist or your best friend.

  1. You’re trapped forever in anxiety

SAD transcends time and space. It feels as though you’re stuck in a cycle of perpetual anxiety, even though part of you knows that SAD doesn’t define you and that no matter how severe your current flare-up is, it will pass. Anxiety tells you that you are stuck and can’t move out of the trap you’re in, even if your rational mind understands it’s not like that.

  1. You feel like a fish out of water.

Chronic anxiety feeds on negative messages that tell you over and over that you don’t belong, you don’t fit in, that there’s something wrong with you. The deeper you get into this negative mindset, the more isolated and alienated you feel, and you withdraw from friends and family. A vicious cycle sets in to keep you apart and deepen the feeling of alienation.

  1. A negative mindset takes over

When you’re suffering from anxiety, you tend to look at the world through very gray-colored glasses. Your brain’s default setting becomes irrational and negative. You can misinterpret things people say or do, even kindly-meant advice from your therapist or counselor.

That can spill over into feeling like a failure.  You can fall into a spiral of self-criticism and self-loathing, raking over perceived mistakes and failures from the past.

  1. Overwhelming self-consciousness

Social anxiety can make you feel as though you have a layer of psychological skin missing. You feel self-conscious like everyone is looking at you and judging you. You worry over every little detail of your behavior, your clothes, what you say and what you do.

The self-loathing and stress that comes with chronic social anxiety can make it virtually impossible to live in the moment and get on with enjoying life.

Note: Because this issue is so prevalent for narcissistic abuse survivors, I’m working on a new course on the subject over at Life Makeover Academy. I’m currently searching for people to beta-test the course. While it’s normally a $99 course, I’m offering it to people who are willing to beta-test it for half-price. If you are interested in testing the course and sharing your thoughts with me, you can click here to get lifetime access to the course (and all future updates/additional material) for just $49. Please note: the beta testing period will close at the end of July, when the course will be ready to roll out at full price, so get in there now if you are interested. 

You might also enjoy this video I made on the topic.

Brain Food to Stay Sharp: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Brain Food to Stay Sharp: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Part of taking care of yourself during and after narcissistic abuse is taking care of your head – more specifically, your brain. We’ve touched upon the types of food that can enhance brain health, but now I want to get into the nitty-gritty of what the brain-boosting foods you eat should contain. You should strive to consume a mix of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients for your brain in order to keep it functioning at its best levels. Read on to learn more about these components, what they do and how you can get more of them.

Proteins
Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in the brain that allow communication between cells. They are made up of a number of components including amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Eating foods high in protein help you to maintain a healthy balance of neurotransmitters. When neurotransmitter levels are low, you could experience a number of difficulties. These include poor concentration, low mood, inability to concentrate and difficulty sleeping. Poultry, meat, fish, dairy and eggs are all good sources of protein.

Antioxidants
With age, the nerve cells in your brain become susceptible to damage by destructive compounds known as free radicals. Not only do these unstable molecules of oxygen exist freely throughout your body, but they’re also found in the environment in the forms of pollution, smoke and ultraviolet radiation. Antioxidants are found in nutrients like selenium, beta-carotene and Vitamin C, and can protect your body from the damage done by free radicals. Eat foods like blueberries, dark chocolate, coffee, pecans, artichoke, cranberries and kidney beans to be sure you get sufficient antioxidants in your diet.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
As we age, our brains encounter additional inflammation, the nerve cells decrease and blood supply begins to decline. All of these issues, combined with fewer neurotransmitters, reduce the efficiency of cell communication. Omega-3 fatty acids help to improve brain cell communication by restoring the efficiency of electrical signal release among them. They also work to reduce inflammation and have been shown to keep memory loss at bay. Oily fish like salmon and trout are full of these fatty acids, but there are lots of other foods containing them, as well. Eggs, walnuts and leafy greens are good sources. As are oils like krill, flaxseed, chia and cod liver.

Complex Carbohydrates
Energy can’t be stored in your brain cells. Therefore, they must receive a constant supply of glucose in order to maintain a healthy, working supply. These types of carbs keep blood sugar levels stable and provide the fuel needed to move nutrient-rich blood to the brain. This energy is delivered efficiently through complex carbohydrates in vegetables and fruits. Whole wheat can be problematic for brain health, though, as it causes blood glucose levels to rise too quickly. Blood sugar spikes are believed to contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Now that you know some of the best nutrients for your brain, you can make wise choices regarding your food intake. Try adding some of your favorites from these categories as you work to improve your overall brain health.

Mental Gymnastics Can Be Good for You in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Mental Gymnastics Can Be Good for You in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

We’ve touched on the importance of memory as the storage and filing system of your brain and how it can be affected by narcissistic abuse. As a survivor, I’m sure you’ve encountered frustrating memory lapses such as forgetting why you walked into that room or being unable to remember where you put your keys. While these types of things are a part of life, you can work to lessen such occurrences by exercising your brain. Let’s take a look at how your memory is like a muscle and the ways you can start to “work it out” to make it stronger.

Work to Improve Current Skills
It’s likely you have a set of hobbies you are good at and enjoy. That’s wonderful. You may have noticed that what you love to do has gotten easier over time, possibly less challenging or even boring. That’s because your brain has become accustomed to doing these activities, and new connections aren’t being formed in your neuropathways. You can change that by pushing yourself to push your skills or to pursue more difficult activities in your current hobbies. For example, try an advanced crossword puzzle or learn some new painting techniques.

Switch Up Your Routine
On that same note, the things we do every day as a matter of our daily self-care, leisure, household, commute and work habits can become complacent and boring. Doing things the same way day after day isn’t stretching your brain’s limits or causing it to gain new connections. Try switching things up by attempting the opposite of what you ordinarily do each day. This will cause you to use the other side of your brain for a change. Use your less dominant hand for things like writing or using your computer mouse. Take a different way to work. Make a concerted effort to talk to someone new. Watch a documentary instead of your usual Tuesday night sitcom.

Get Physical
Yes, physical exercise also gives your memory a workout. The reason for this is that our brains rely on an adequate supply of oxygen in order to function well. When you engage in physical activity, you’re boosting the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain. Aerobic exercise like running or cycling work best for ramping up the blood flow.

Take a Class
Learning something new is a sure-fire way to increase brain health and make your memory stronger. Sign up for a class in something you’ve always wanted to try or even just look up a tutorial online for a start. Anything that causes you to work your brain in new ways will have the effect of creating additional neural pathways and connections.

Teach What You Know
Another method for upping your brain power that many people may not realize is to teach something to someone else. Showing someone how to do something causes you to organize the material and to figure out ahead of time how to present it. These steps lead to increasing your own understanding of the information and your ability to recall it with ease.

These are merely a few common ways to keep your memory working and the brain connections forming. Anything new you can add to your routine will probably help. Have fun adding activities to your own memory strengthening regimen and see if you notice a difference in what you’re able to remember.

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