Growing up, I was always “under my mother’s thumb,” as in, she was, as far as she was concerned, in control of every aspect of my life: my activities, thoughts, feelings, ideas – everything. And this didn’t end when I grew up and moved out. In fact, it continued until I was 35 years old.
I learned that her feelings, thoughts, and ideas were more important and more “real” than mine. She taught me that I needed to keep her happy and that I wasn’t ever good enough because I couldn’t be, say or do whatever it was she thought I should. It never seemed to matter how hard I tried, either. Even as a dang adult.
But that day, everything changed. See, I had recognized that she had betrayed me, in an unforgivable way that I could never have imagined. It woke me up and fast.
Something Broke Inside Me
The very moment I realized what she had done, I almost physically felt something break inside of me – that seemingly indestructible cord of obligation that had always been there and had always caused me to bend to her will – it broke.
In one single moment, I lost the ability to care how she felt. And more than that, I lost the fear of her. She had always intimated that if I stopped doing what she wanted, or refused her too many times, she would abandon me, and then I’d have no one. I lived in that fear for 35 years.
I could never have imagined (nor would I have believed) that she would stoop so low to hurt me. I cannot even come up with the right words to describe the way I felt – it was almost like the time I was running in the dark as a kid and tripped over a branch, knocking the wind out of myself. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.
Soul-Twisting, Ugly Rage
But then, I got mad. Well, not just mad. After years of being a people-pleasing, self-hating codependent, I was filled with blistering, blinding rage.
You know, the kind of soul-twisting, screaming, ugly rage that comes up from deep inside and nearly forces you to take swift action. The kind that causes you to get crystal-clear on what you want and what you deserve real quick. I was filled with what I now know is justified rage. I was indignant. And in that very instant, I was done. I went no contact and I have not looked back.
But it wasn’t so simple. My mother wasn’t done yet. She had been in control for 35 years and she wasn’t about to give it up without a fight. First, she got very angry. Then, she told a lot of lies about me and spread malicious gossip to everyone in the extended family, as well as to some of her friends.
And later, she’d end up publishing my name in her little work newsletter, asking people to pray for me and my “mental health issues.” After that, I heard through the grapevine that she was playing the victim, telling everyone how she had absolutely no idea why I wasn’t talking to her “after all she had done for me.”
“She’s always looking for attention!”
She minimized and invalidated me and justified her feelings by saying things like, “She’s always looking for attention.”
In fact, I was doing the opposite: I was looking for peace. I wanted nothing else from her. But a few months after I went full no contact, I heard that she planned to send my brother over to my house during the holidays to straighten me out. The plan, according to the grapevine, was that he would just show up without calling. I nipped that one in the bud.
But why did she play all these little mind games? I suspect it was for one simple reason: because she was no longer able to control me. See, narcissists don’t like to lose control over any source of narcissistic supply. And when they do, they have some fairly predictable ways of reacting. Nearly every manipulative thing a narcissist does can be broken down into a pattern if you look for it.
As a survivor of narcissistic abuse, I know how hard it can be to believe you could have been abused by someone you thought loved you. It’s not just that they were charming, seductive, and desirable. It’s also that they seemed to care about you. You may have even felt loved – at least on some level. It’s hard to imagine that everything you thought was true about your relationship might have been a lie. This is one way you can deal with serious cognitive dissonance. And don’t worry – you’re not alone here. This happens to nearly every narcissistic abuse survivor somewhere along the way. You might also be living with a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that significantly affects your everyday reality.
What is cognitive dissonance?
Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (disagreeing cognitions) we experience when we encounter information that contradicts our existing set of beliefs or knowledge. In other words, when we experience cognitive dissonance, we feel anxious because part of us wants to reject new information because it is threatening to our established beliefs – but another part of us knows that the new information may be true and is demanding that we accept it as such. This internal tension can cause stress and anxiety – especially if we are unaware of its source.
It’s true! The chemicals oxytocin, which encourages bonding, endogenous opioids – responsible for pleasure, pain, withdrawal, dependence; a corticotropin-releasing factor which involves withdrawal, and stress; and dopamine which is connected to the craving, seeking, wanting the narcissist back, even when they’ve caused you extreme emotional stress and pain. Toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse lead your neurochemistry to fall into dysregulated states, which makes it really hard to leave a narcissist and even harder to finally get over a toxic relationship. Take Dr. Daniel Amen’s free Brain Health Assessment to discover your Brain Type and your Brain Fit Score!
How can you re-wire your brain after narcissistic abuse?
Your brain is neuroplastic, meaning it can change and heal in some pretty amazing ways. When you’re dealing with the type of brain damage that is caused by narcissistic abuse, you can sort of re-wire your brain yourself. (Of course, you should always check with your medical professional to ensure there’s not some other underlying reason for brain fog or being forgetful.) Speaking of brain fog, let’s define it.
What is brain fog?
Brain Fog is the feeling of dissociation or disconnectedness often experienced during and after narcissistic abuse. It’s a very common symptom of narcissistic abuse-induced C-PTSD. Most survivors report feeling lost like they’re not really there, or like they’re sort of watching life happen through a screen or a bubble.
Self-Help Options for Healing Brain Fog After Narcissistic Abuse
Most memory training techniques involve exercises to improve linking objects to certain items or using numbering systems to stay on top of being forgetful. However, oftentimes the only thing that is needed to keep your mind on track is to get organized and to stay that way! Below are a few good tips that will help you:
Use a filing system effectively
Take the time to think through your filing system. Figure out what organization will work best for you – client files versus project files, color coding, and so on. Once you’ve worked out your system, make sure to use it. File all pertinent information in the appropriate file (not a desk pile). It’s also helpful to attach blank sheets of paper to the inside right back flap of file folders. Then, you can take notes on relevant conversations, memos, and meetings right where you need them. And make sure you put your files away in an organized fashion.
Use a task list for projects
Overwhelmed by a complex project? Think through the project concretely, step by step. Then, make a list of all these steps, or tasks, to help you get them done. Here’s another suggestion: Keep your task list stapled to the inside front cover of your project file. That way you can refer to the task list whenever you work on that project. Personally, I LOVE Bullet Journaling for this kind of stuff.
Avoid paper piles
Are you surrounded by a sea of papers at work? Is your dining-room table so covered with mail that you’re not even sure it’s still there? There are generally two things that happen to information buried in a paper pile – either it is forgotten or it can’t be found when you need it. Paper piles are like the plague – they should be avoided at all costs. When you get a piece of paper, you should do one of three things: file it, write the information down elsewhere (such as in your scheduler) and toss it, or simply toss it.
Un-sticky your life
Avoid constantly putting information on sticky notes and other small pieces of paper: If you need to write something down, put it on your Master Plan or on your to-do list. While it’s okay to use a reminder such as a sticky note every once in a while, using such notes all the time will make them less noticeable and—as a result—less useful.
Don’t overdo it
Organize your day according to your energy level: Most of us are at our best in the morning. Therefore, set aside time in the morning to work on projects that require your full focus and ability. Schedule less important meetings and other tasks for later in the day.
Supplements That May Help With Your Healing
Did you know that there are certain supplements designed to help with healing your brain? Did you also know they can be taken while your brain is still in recovery from trauma bonding in narcissistic abuse? Are you wondering what supplements actually do this and if the claims are true? I’ve compiled a list of supplements that have helped me and others I have coached in recovery. It is based on personal experience, what I have read, and what other people have told me. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but my aim is to help you find some useful information about healing your brain in recovery.
Calm My Brain: Quell your worried mind with this highly effective formula for the relief of anxiousness, featuring the ultimate calming mineral magnesium, the powerful stress-busting herb KSM-66® ashwagandha, and the fast-acting amino acid L-theanine.*
Attention Support: Trouble concentrating? Can’t sit still? Attention Support contains natural ingredients selected for their clinically proven benefits to help you relax, stay calm, and increase your attention span.
Betaine TMG: Provides the nutrient betaine (trimethylglycine, TMG), which enhances SAMe for healthy mood; provides crucial methyl for DNA, brain neurotransmitters, melatonin, and myelin production; and helps cells regulate their water content.
Brain & Body Power: The easiest way to get your daily mind and body essentials – parceled into convenient packets including a brain optimizing multi-vitamin-mineral, and pure omega-3 fish oil capsules.
Brain & Body Power Max: The most advanced memory-directed formula – perfectly portioned into convenient daily packets including a multi-vitamin-mineral, maximum memory-boosting nutrients, and omega-3 fish oil for complete daily nutrition.
Brain & Memory Power Boost: Our most advanced, best-selling memory formula with a lineup of powerful nutrients clinically proven to help protect circulation in your brain, boost mental connectivity, sharpness, and sustained focus.
Brain Boost On-The-Go: Fight brain fatigue and tackle your day with the zero-calorie, caffeine-free, and sugar-free, effervescent berry blend that’s perfect anytime, anywhere. Quick natural energy and hydration to help promote mental clarity. Simply add to water and enjoy.
Craving Control: Anyone who has ever tried to make better choices knows all too well how cravings can sabotage the best intentions. Craving Control contains all-natural ingredients that help to calm the craving centers in our brain, balance blood sugar and promotes a positive mood.
NeuroLink: Feeling irritable or sad for no reason? NeuroLink helps to balance our emotional ups and downs by delivering an exclusive blend of key nutrients to neurotransmitters in our brain helping us to feel tranquil and clear.
BrainMD’s GABA Calming Support: Calm your mind naturally with GABA Calming Support, an exclusive formula that contains clinically studied nutrients that help to calm your brain waves and help act as the biochemical “brakes” your brain needs to slow down your anxious or fretful thoughts.
Serotonin Mood Support: Does your mind race with negative thoughts? Try our customer favorite Serotonin Mood Support, which contains a patented form of saffron along with other key nutrients that help to promote calmness, positive mood, serotonin balance, and even healthy weight management.
SAMe Mood and Movement 400: SAMe Mood & Movement 400 provides SAMe (S-AdenosylMethionine), a nutrient with very high energy that helps power numerous enzymes important for the brain, joints, liver, muscles, and other organs. SAMe is fundamental to the body’s renewal, repair, and overall well-being.
Trauma therapy is often focused on the past but will also guide you toward future goals and dreams while teaching you how to deal with various triggers. Awareness of cognitive dissonance, trauma bonding & emotional flashbacks can be instrumental in understanding what your inner experience of the relationship was so you can work through it & begin letting go. Find a therapist here.
You are not to blame for your traumatic relationship with a narcissist. By understanding what happened to you and having the right support on your healing journey, you can go on to live a happy and meaningful life. After overcoming narcissistic abuse, you may find yourself feeling like a whole new person. If you have found yourself in that stage, take comfort knowing you’re not alone. It is a journey that is as exhilarating as it is exhausting, but the end result is well worth all the effort.
You can recover. You just have to take your time, and you have to trust the process. Give yourself permission to rebuild your life from the ground up. It’s going to be a long and difficult road, but it will be worth it in the end.
Get Help With Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.