Once the toxic relationship with the sociopath or narcissist has ended, we don’t immediately tend to our healing and recovery needs. Why? For starters, we simply fail to recognize our need to heal and recover. Although, we are good at spotting desperation and unhappiness in others, we are either too proud or in deep denial about our personal need for care and attention.
When I escaped the sociopath in January 2011, I was numb. My mind was unable to clearly process what had happened to me during those three (3) short years with the sociopath. I was lost. I struggled to make sense of the chaos of my thoughts. I struggled with shame and blame. I struggled with nightmares and cold sweats. I struggled with discussing what had happened to me, what WAS happening to me.
In my struggle, I failed to grasp the severity of the abuse and its impact on me. I failed to ask the right internal questions about how I was feeling. I failed to see the signs that I had suffered serious mental and emotional anguish that needed attention.
I ignored my needs, because I was desperate to understand ‘him,’ and I couldn’t bare the additional burden of facing a broken self.
Instead, I read and re-read every blog entry and website page that discussed and detailed sociopathic and narcissistic behaviors. I had many ‘ah-ha’ moments about ‘him’ and the relationship but not about me.
In the aftermath of the toxic relationship, most of us who have left or been discarded by a sociopath or narcissist spend an exorbitant amount of time learning how to recognize the signs, behaviors and red flags of the sociopath and narcissist. We do this for a couple of reasons:
- To make sense ‘the source’ of the mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse and exploitation we experienced.
- To hopefully avoid falling victim to another sociopath, narcissist or Cluster B personality in future romantic relationships.
There is great empowerment in educating ourselves about ‘him,’ but we can’t forget about educating ourselves about us.
Although I was seeing a counselor immediately following my escape, I rarely spoke to my counselor about the toxic relationship or ‘him.’ I stuck to discussions about my current life and mending my broken marriage and re-establishing trust. I spoke to my counselor about my struggles with alcohol but never talked about why I chose to self-soothe, self-medicate with booze. It just didn’t seem important to me, I thought.
Now, I realize that I was in deep denial. I just wanted my hatred for ‘him’ and his behavior to magically disappear, so I didn’t have to talk about it. Little did I know that I was directly ‘damaged’ by the relationship and had to face that ‘damage’ in order to move past the destructive aftermath.
How did I finally see that I had to start paying more attention to myself? Probably because I was becoming a person even I didn’t like to be around. That was tough to admit. I hated who I had become. I hated being angry. I was always such a happy person. I was always dreaming and thinking about the future. I loved being alone with my own thoughts.
Suddenly, I recognized that I was no longer behaving like the ‘me’ I had grown to know. I didn’t like myself and certainly didn’t trust myself. How did I expect anyone else to love or respect or trust me? I couldn’t.
Because I didn’t want to lose my family, I was determined to find myself and to learn how to trust myself again.
If I had been more aware and honest with myself, I would have recognized the following red flags of depression and despair sooner rather than later and would have been equipped to tackle and beat these after effects of pathological love:
- Feeling depressed.
- Feeling numb.
- Loss of friends.
- Cold sweats.
- Destructive forms of self-soothing and self-medicating like eating too much, not eating enough, drinking alcohol, abusing pain killers, etc.
- Loss of enthusiasm for activities that were once a substantial part of your identity and existence.
- Feelings of inadequacy in your abilities, skills and job performance.
- Constant rumination; reliving episodes of abuse and trauma.
- Avoidance of certain people, situations and places.
- Inability to control anger as a result of a threat, real or perceived.
- Constant need for validation from others in how you are feeling.
Many who read this will think, “Everyone experiences these types of feelings at some point in their lives.”
That is true, but we aren’t talking about fleeting feelings. We’re talking about constant, chronic, never-ending feelings that just won’t go away, regardless of our efforts to make them vanish. We’re talking about feelings and emotions that lead to self-destruction. No kidding. Self-destruction!
When we recognize the recurrence and insidious nature of our thoughts and emotions, we must realize it’s time to start making a plan to help ourselves by seeking help from others.
- Reading a book isn’t always enough.
- Joining an online support group isn’t always enough.
- Talking to a counselor isn’t always enough.
- Joining the gym isn’t always enough.
- Practicing yoga isn’t always enough.
- Getting out and doing things for the first time isn’t always enough.
- Taking medication isn’t always enough.
Healing and recovery is a unique and individual path. What works for ‘her’ may not work for you. What worked yesterday, may not work today. Getting to the bottom of ourselves in order to change and better ourselves is a long and sometimes arduous journey. The first thing we must learn to do is to be patient with ourselves. Baby steps are required. Just because you recognize the effects, doesn’t mean they can all be remedied overnight.
What do I recommend?
Visit the website for The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education for free and low-cost therapy and recovery assistance. Founder, Sandra L. Brown, has over 25 years of experience as a psychoanalyst with expert knowledge and understanding of helping men and women who have suffered trauma as a result of pathological love.
You are not alone. Don’t be ashamed. There is help and hope for you!
(image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/118289927683868545/)