narcissist recovery

One of the most common traits in a survivor is self-doubt. Especially after psychological abuse, survivors may spend months analyzing themselves and worrying that they might have actually been at fault. They may even suspect themselves of being a narcissist or a sociopath. A lot of this has to do with the sense of defectiveness that abusers instill in their targets. When someone you love betrays you, criticizes you, ignores you, or cheats on you, the default message absorbed is “something must be wrong with me”. But the truth is, when someone does those things, they are showing you what’s wrong with them–not you. They are revealing their own psychological damage and attachment issues. As you begin to accept this, you will stop worrying so much about yourself and instead learn how to offer yourself love. When we judge or distrust ourselves, we are only strengthening the message left behind by the abuser. Far too many survivors get diagnosed with disorders they don’t even have, when really it’s just unresolved trauma that needs your love and care.
Awareness is tricky. At first you’re sad, upset, uncomfortable. You start to realize all the unfairness in your life. You stop lying to yourself and admit that what happened to you was wrong and after you grieve what you idealized, you start making the right choices. You start living.
—  Crazed Love.

I used to depend so much on what people thought of me and weather i was useful/welcome presence in their life because I honestly thought that i couldn’t live if nobody wanted me alive, I couldn’t matter if i wasn’t bringing benefits to everyone, I wasn’t a good person unless I was proving it constantly and giving everything I had to anyone who could benefit from it, I needed people to want me alive, because if they didn’t, I was afraid I’d be abandoned and left to die.

It changed when I realized I could live without anybody else. I could live even if nobody else wanted me alive. I could feel good about myself even if I wasn’t constantly doing favours to everyone and giving myself away to others. I could survive even if I wasn’t beneficial to everyone.  Because I finally did the crucial thing, I put myself into that equation, I counted myself as a person. I want me to be alive. And that’s enough. Me wanting to live for myself is enough. Nobody else needs to benefit from my existence. I don’t have to do anything for anyone else’s sake, ever. This life is mine, all mine, and nobody else has even the right to decide weather I should live or die. I get to be beneficial to myself, and nobody else. I get to do whatever I want, weather others like it or not. I get to do this unapologetically and without guilt, I get to own and live my own life because this life is all I got.

I’m the only one who is going to experience consequences of my choices, there is nobody who I owe my time or favours, there is nobody who I need to impress, nobody I need to like me, nobody I need approval from. And no, this is not an abusive mindset, because I don’t need to hurt anyone or benefit from anyone in order to live, taking my own life for myself does not hurt anyone in this world, only ones losing something here are the abusers who assumed the ownership on my life, to which they had no right. My life is only mine, and I’m going to fight and defend the right to do with it whatever I want until the ends of this earth. My freedom is the most valuable thing that I have, and I resent that they could have ever convinced me that it doesn’t matter if I have it or not.

Many survivors struggle to believe the abuse happened. They don’t want to believe it. It’s too painful to think about. They don’t want to accuse family members or face the terrible loss involved in realizing “a loved one” hurt them; they don’t want to rock the boat. Many survivors were told they were crazy or liars for so long, they don’t trust themselves.
—  Allies in Healing by Laura Davis (via speakoutbeheard)

An Open Letter From those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder:

Dear Friends, Family Members, Lovers, Ex-lovers, Coworkers, Children, and others of those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder,

You may be frustrated, feeling helpless, and ready to give up. It’s not your fault. You are not the cause of our suffering. You may find that difficult to believe, since we may lash out at you, switch from being loving and kind to non-trusting and cruel on a dime, and we may even straight up blame you. But it’s not your fault. You deserve to understand more about this condition and what we wish we could say but may not be ready.

It is possible that something that you said or did “triggered” us. A trigger is something that sets off in our minds a past traumatic event or causes us to have distressing thoughts. While you can attempt to be sensitive with the things you say and do, that’s not always possible, and it’s not always clear why something sets off a trigger.

The mind is very complex. A certain song, sound, smell, or words can quickly fire off neurological connections that bring us back to a place where we didn’t feel safe, and we might respond in the now with a similar reaction (think of military persons who fight in combat — a simple backfiring of a car can send them into flashbacks. This is known as PTSD, and it happens to a lot of us, too.)

But please know that at the very same time that we are pushing you away with our words or behavior, we also desperately hope that you will not leave us or abandon us in our time of despair and desperation.

This extreme, black or white thinking and experience of totally opposite desires is known as a dialectic. Early on in our diagnosis and before really digging in deep with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), we don’t have the proper tools to tell you this or ask for your support in healthy ways.

We may do very dramatic things, such as harming ourselves in some way (or threatening to do so), going to the hospital, or something similar. While these cries for help should be taken seriously, we understand that you may experience “burn out” from worrying about us and the repeated behavior.

Please trust that, with professional help, and despite what you may have heard or come to believe, we CAN and DO get better.

These episodes can get farther and fewer between, and we can experience long periods of stability and regulation of our emotions. Sometimes the best thing to do, if you can muster up the strength in all of your frustration and hurt, is to grab us, hug us, and tell us that you love us, care, and are not leaving.

One of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder is an intense fear of being abandoned, and we therefore (often unconsciously) sometimes behave in extreme, frantic ways to avoid this from happening. Even our perception that abandonment is imminent can cause us to become frantic.

Another thing that you may find confusing is our apparent inability to maintain relationships. We may jump from one friend to another, going from loving and idolizing them to despising them - deleting them from our cell phones and unfriending them on Facebook. We may avoid you, not answer calls, and decline invitations to be around you — and other times, all we want to do is be around you.
This is called splitting, and it’s part of the disorder. Sometimes we take a preemptive strike by disowning people before they can reject or abandon us. We’re not saying it’s “right.” We can work through this destructive pattern and learn how to be healthier in the context of relationships. It just doesn’t come naturally to us. It will take time and a lot of effort.

It’s difficult, after all, to relate to others properly when you don’t have a solid understanding of yourself and who you are, apart from everyone else around you.

In Borderline Personality Disorder, many of us experience identity disturbance issues. We may take on the attributes of those around us, never really knowing who WE are. You remember in high school those kids who went from liking rock music to pop to goth, all to fit in with a group - dressing like them, styling their hair like them, using the same mannerisms? It’s as if we haven’t outgrown that.
Sometimes we even take on the mannerisms of other people (we are one way at work, another at home, another at church), which is part of how we’ve gotten our nickname of “chameleons.” Sure, people act differently at home and at work, but you might not recognize us by the way we behave at work versus at home. It’s that extreme.

For some of us, we had childhoods during which, unfortunately, we had parents or caregivers who could quickly switch from loving and normal to abusive. We had to behave in ways that would please the caregiver at any given moment in order to stay safe and survive. We haven’t outgrown this.
Because of all of this pain, we often experience feelings of emptiness. We can’t imagine how helpless you must feel to witness this. Perhaps you have tried so many things to ease the pain, but nothing has worked. Again - this is NOT your fault.

The best thing we can do during these times is remind ourselves that “this too shall pass” and practice DBT skills - especially self-soothing - things that helps us to feel a little better despite the numbness. Boredom is often dangerous for us, as it can lead to the feelings of emptiness. It’s smart for us to stay busy and distract ourselves when boredom starts to come on.

On the other side of the coin, we may have outburst of anger that can be scary. It’s important that we stay safe and not hurt you or ourselves. This is just another manifestation of BPD.

We are highly emotionally sensitive and have extreme difficulty regulating/modulating our emotions. Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of DBT, likens us to 3rd degree emotional burn victims.

Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, we can learn how to regulate our emotions so that we do not become out of control. We can learn how to stop sabotaging our lives and circumstances…and we can learn to behave in ways that are less hurtful and frightening to you.

Another thing you may have noticed is that spaced out look on our faces. This is called dissociation. Our brains literally disconnect, and our thoughts go somewhere else, as our brains are trying to protect us from additional emotional trauma. We can learn grounding exercises and apply our skills to help during these episodes, and they may become less frequent as we get better.
But, what about you?

If you have decided to tap into your strength and stand by your loved one with BPD, you probably need support too. Here are some ideas:
Remind yourself that the person’s behavior isn’t your fault
Tap into your compassion for the person’s suffering while understanding that their behavior is probably an intense reaction to that suffering
Do things to take care of YOU. On the resources page of this blog, there is a wealth of information on books, workbooks, CDs, movies, etc. for you to understand this disorder and take care of yourself. Be sure to check it out!
In addition to learning more about BPD and how to self-care around it, be sure to do things that you enjoy and that soothe you, such as getting out for a walk, seeing a funny movie, eating a good meal, taking a warm bath — whatever you like to do to care for yourself and feel comforted.
Ask questions. There is a lot of misconception out there about BPD.
Remember that your words, love, and support go a long way in helping your loved one to heal, even if the results are not immediately evident

Not all of the situations I described apply to all people with Borderline Personality Disorder. One must only have 5 symptoms out of 9 to qualify for a diagnosis, and the combinations of those 5-9 are seemingly endless. This post is just to give you an idea of the typical suffering and thoughts those of us with BPD have.

This is my second year in DBT. A year ago, I could not have written this letter, but it represents much of what was in my heart but could not yet be realized or expressed.

My hope is that you will gain new insight into your loved one’s condition and grow in compassion and understand for both your loved one AND yourself, as this is not an easy road.

I can tell you, from personal experience, that working on this illness through DBT is worth the fight. Hope can be returned. A normal life can be had. You can see glimpses and more and more of who that person really is over time, if you don’t give up. I wish you peace.

Thank you for reading.

—  The author of this letter has since RECOVERED from Borderline Personality Disorder and no longer meets the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. She now teaches the DBT skills that helped change her life over at DBT Path where you can take online Dialectical Behavior Therapy Classes from anywhere in the world. Co-facilitated with a licensed therapist. You can read Debbie’s books at healingfrombpd
Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.
—  Brené Brown, researcher and author of the Gifts of Imperfection
Closure is only a fairytale, a myth, a legend. The only true closure can come from within. The truth becomes the only mirror you can trust and sometimes you are the only one who can look in it and find yourself again. This is a game he or she doesn’t have to win. This is a nightmare you may have to awaken from again and again in order to realize you’re no longer dreaming.
This is a type of love story where the happy ending lies in not finding Prince Charming. Rather, it lies in the realization that he never existed at all.
—  Power; Surviving & Thriving After Narcissitic Abuse, Shahida Arabi
There are so many bad people in the world. They’re not aware they’re bad. They don’t even have the capacity to see right and wrong like you or I - you can’t change that; no woman can. She can only be crazier than him, or defeated by it and sad her whole life. And he knows you’re not crazy. He’s trying to take control of something he has no control over, because he is sick and hollow.
Abuse Survivor Checklist

This was originally an answer to an ask, but I thought it would be helpful to everyone.

These are the steps I took to get over my abuse.

• Realise you are being treated more poorly than you deserve
• Don’t second guess whether or not it was your fault. It wasn’t. Keep that in your head.
• Understand that someone who abuses you should never be the source of your self worth.
• Adjust your emotional connection with them accordingly.
• After you emotionally move away from them, try to do it physically. Its amazing how much some distance between you and them can help.
•Assert yourself. They do not have control over you If you don’t allow them. If you are a child living at home, try to move in with another relative or friend. This might have to be something you wait out.
•Understand that everything they say is ridiculous. Try to find the humour in it. That helps a lot.
•Accept that you’re not a bad person for being angry at them. Anger is healthier than hopelessness.
•Leave them the fuck behind in your entire life if you want. You don’t owe them a relationship. You don’t owe them anything.
•Accept that you may have learnt some abusive or unhealthy behaviors from your abuser. Be mindful of this and pull yourself up for them if you notice them. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect all the time. It also doesn’t mean you are like your abuser. You are making yourself better.
•Consider seeing a therapist if you feel you need to
•Accept that you will have some bad days and that’s ok. It was a traumatic part of your life and you are human. It doesn’t mean you’re failing.

Mother's Day

I was talking to my therapist today about the fact that I needed to buy a Mother’s Day card for my mom. She said, “No, you really don’t.” But I explained that I prefer to have minimal contact with my very toxic mom (in order to maintain contact with my brother, who lives with her), and NOT sending a card would result in DRAMA. I would get SO much shit from my mom if she didn’t get a card. And I have very purposely avoided almost all contact with my mom for the past few years. So buying and sending her a card results in LESS contact, and is therefore preferable.

But then I went through my annual agony of Mother’s Day card shopping … because all the cards are about how “You’ve always been there for me” or “I’ve always known I could turn to you” or “Your love has given me the strength to blah-blah-blah.” Well, my mom was never really there for me, I knew I could never turn to her, and her love has always been pretty much all for herself. She hurt me, she put me in situations where other people could hurt me, she watched other people hurt me, and she never took responsibility for any of it. She’s a shit mom and I’m not going to lie about that, even in a card.

I finally found a card that basically just says, “I hope you have a really nice Mother’s Day,” because that’s pretty much true. I mean, I don’t particularly want my mom to get hit by a truck on Mother’s Day, so sure … I hope she has a nice day … in the same way I hope the cashier who rang up the card for me has a nice day. Because I hope everybody has a nice day. It wouldn’t make my childhood any better if my mom had a crappy Mother’s Day, after all.

My therapist had suggested that I buy MYSELF a Mother’s Day card, as well, since I have learned to mother myself much better than my mom ever did. I spent a long time searching for one that felt right. In the end, I chose one that says inside, “Having a mom like you is pretty rare … and pretty wonderful. It’s your day, and you deserve all the love coming your way. Happy Mother’s Day.”

Because the love I give myself now IS pretty rare and wonderful. And I DO deserve any and all love coming my way.

So I am going to do my very best to have a happy Mother’s Day. Thousands of miles away from my mother. Because that’s the way I like it.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, and verbal or physical assaults.

Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased.

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching,” or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones (Engel, 1992, p. 10).

~ Types of Emotional Abuse:

Emotional abuse can take many forms. Three general patterns of abusive behavior include aggressing, denying, and minimizing.

• Aggressing

Aggressive forms of abuse include name-calling, accusing, blaming, threatening, and ordering. Aggressing behaviors are generally direct and obvious. The one-up position the abuser assumes by attempting to judge or invalidate the recipient undermines the equality and autonomy that are essential to healthy adult relationships. This parent-to-child pattern of communication (which is common to all forms of verbal abuse) is most obvious when the abuser takes an aggressive stance.
Aggressive abuse can also take a more indirect form and may even be disguised as “helping.” Criticizing, advising, offering solutions, analyzing, probing, and questioning another person may be a sincere attempt to help. In some instances, however, these behaviours may be an attempt to belittle, control, or demean rather than help. The underlying judgmental “I know best” tone the abuser takes in these situations is inappropriate and creates unequal footing in peer relationships.

• Denying

Invalidating seeks to distort or undermine the recipient’s perceptions of their world. Invalidating occurs when the abuser refuses or fails to acknowledge reality. For example, if the recipient confronts the abuser about an incident of name calling, the abuser may insist, “I never said that,” “I don’t know what you’re talking about, “ etc.
Withholding is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusing to listen, refusing to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. This is sometimes called the “silent treatment.”
Countering occurs when the abuser views the recipient as an extension of themselves and denies any viewpoints or feelings which differ from their own.

• Minimizing

Minimizing is a less extreme form of denial. When minimizing, the abuser may not deny that a particular event occurred, but they question the recipient’s emotional experience or reaction to an event. Statements such as “You’re too sensitive,” “You’re exaggerating,” or “You’re blowing this out of proportion” all suggest that the recipient’s emotions and perceptions are faulty and not to be trusted.
Trivializing, which occurs when the abuser suggests that what you have done or communicated is inconsequential or unimportant, is a more subtle form of minimizing.
Denying and minimizing can be particularly damaging. In addition to lowering self-esteem and creating conflict, the invalidation of reality, feelings, and experiences can eventually lead you to question and mistrust your own perceptions and emotional experience.

~ Understanding Abusive Relationships:

No one intends to be in an abusive relationship, but individuals who were verbally abused by a parent or other significant person often find themselves in similar situations as an adult. If a parent tended to define your experiences and emotions, and judge your behaviors, you may not have learned how to set your own standards, develop your own viewpoints, and validate your own feelings and perceptions. Consequently, the controlling and defining stance taken by an emotional abuser may feel familiar or even comfortable to you, although it is destructive.

Recipients of abuse often struggle with feelings of powerlessness, hurt, fear, and anger. Ironically, abusers tend to struggle with these same feelings. Abusers are also likely to have been raised in emotionally abusive environments and they learn to be abusive as a way to cope with their own feelings of powerlessness, hurt, fear and anger. Consequently, abusers may be attracted to people who see themselves as helpless or who have not learned to value their own feelings, perceptions, or viewpoints. This allows the abuser to feel more secure and in control, and avoid dealing with their own feelings and self-perceptions.

Understanding the pattern of your relationships, especially those with family members and other significant people, is a first step toward change. A lack of clarity about who you are in relationship to significant others may manifest itself in different ways. For example, you may act as an “abuser” in some instances and as a “recipient” in others. You may find that you tend to be abused in your romantic relationships, allowing your partners to define and control you. In friendships, however, you may play the role of abuser by withholding, manipulating, trying to “help” others, etc. Knowing yourself and understanding your past can prevent abuse from being recreated in your life.

~ Are You Abusive to Yourself?

Often we allow people into our lives who treat us as we expect to be treated. If we feel contempt for ourselves or think very little of ourselves, we may pick partners or significant others who reflect this image back to us. If we are willing to tolerate negative treatment from others, or treat others in negative ways, it is possible that we also treat ourselves similarly. If you are an abuser or a recipient, you may want to consider how you treat yourself. What sorts of things do you say to yourself? Do thoughts such as “I’m stupid” or “I never do anything right” dominate your thinking? Learning to love and care for ourselves increases self-esteem and makes it more likely that we will have healthy, intimate relationships.

~ Basic Rights in a Relationship

If you have been involved in emotionally abusive relationships, you may not have a clear idea of what a healthy relationship is like. Evans (1992) suggests the following as basic rights in a relationship for you and your partner:

• The right to good will from the other.
• The right to emotional support.
• The right to be heard by the other and to be responded to with courtesy.
• The right to have your own view, even if your partner has a different view.
• The right to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real.
• The right to receive a sincere apology for any jokes you may find offensive.
• The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is legitimately your business.
• The right to live free from accusation and blame.
• The right to live free from criticism and judgment.
• The right to have your work and your interests spoken of with respect.
• The right to encouragement.
• The right to live free from emotional and physical threat.
• The right to live free from angry outbursts and rage.
• The right to be called by no name that devalues you.
• The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered.

Abusive Conversation With Parent
  • I've been in therapy for almost two years now and I have a much better understanding of love, abuse, trust, boundaries, what I want and what I need. I stopped all contact with my mother who's been the worst but I kept the window open with my dad, giving him the benefit of the doubt, hoping I had at least one parent I could talk to.
  • Growing up, my dad was physically abusive and drunk for the most part. When he was home it was only when he was hungover. He disappeared from my life for almost ten years after they got divorced in the early 00s and for the past couple years we've been in touch. Now that he's in his late 50s he drinks less and seemed to be more enlightened. Since going no contact with my mom for about two months now, he's been sending me messages everyday wishing me a good day, telling me he loves me and preaching god - even though he knows I am an atheist. I never trusted him and today, after getting one of those morning messages I told him they make me uncomfortable. The conversation went kind of like this...
  • Dad: Good morning I wish you a wonderful day and a relaxed weekend. I love you, you're everything to me. May god be with you. I love you, I love you.
  • Me: I'm sorry dad but these messages are making me uncomfortable. I would like to talk about when I was a kid and you used to beat me up.
  • Dad: I never hit you! You imagined everything. Maybe a couple times I gave you a little spanking but it was for your own good.
  • Me: No dad, I remember it vividly. I remember screaming asking you to stop. Maybe you weren't sober, I just need you to acknowledge it so we can have an adult conversation about it. It's the reason why I don't trust you.
  • Dad: Listen to me, I never hit you. Never ever. These are lies your mother told you about me. And I've always controlled my drinking. You're an adult now so you make your own choices but I never hit you. I pray for you everyday and I'm gonna pray for god to enlighten you because I never did that! Goodbye my daughter, it makes me so sad because I love you so much.
  • Me: Love is about honesty and respect. It's about listening to each other, it's about -
  • Then he blocked me. This has been going on all my life, only before I would go back there and just not talk about it so I wouldn't upset him. But it's different now.
  • Posting this in case you relate. You're not alone.
  • - Crazed Love.