A viciously intense rollercoaster of emotions and experiences is how most victims would describe their time spent with a narcissist. You’d hope, then, that once you break free of their grip, this unpleasant ride would come to an end…but you’d be wrong.
The ups and downs tend to continue long after you’ve left them behind, as if their poison still courses through your veins. Recovery from narcissist abuse is just like any other form of mental or physical recovery – it takes time, work, and determination for the wounds to heal.
There are so many elements of this process that it makes sense to address each one separately.
Feelings For Ex Partners
Despite everything they put you through, you can’t simply flick a switch and turn off the feelings you have for a romantic partner. This is doubly true for a narcissistic ex because of the levels of manipulation they use to induce powerful emotional states in their victims.
Leaving them was no doubt a struggle in itself, but staying away from them is just as difficult. Like with any relationship, you will experience a sense of loss and even one of grief.
You will probably find yourself fighting the desire to rekindle the flame that first drew you to them; you will wish to return and “make things work” even though you know they can’t. Your heart will pull you back in while your rational side will remind you of all the bad times that made you leave in the first place.
This process of longing for your ex while simultaneously reliving the torturous time you spent with them can be extremely painful. You will feel conflicted and confused just as you did during the relationship itself.
This is made all the worse when the narcissist comes back into your life to try and win you back. They will pour on the charm once more and you will have to fight against your urges and stand your ground; it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
Separating From Family Members
No less difficult is the process of distancing yourself from members of your own family who are either narcissists or who side with the narcissist in your life.
Family is so important in our lives and when these connections come under threat, it can be hugely upsetting. These are people who have been a part of your life for a very long time – perhaps since you were born – and whose influence has helped to shape who you are.
Narcissistic parents are particularly challenging because they represent your past, your upbringing, and your introduction to this world. Your bond to them may not be as strong as a traditional parent-child relationship, but as your mother and father, they will always hold a place in your heart.
The separation from members of your family needn’t always be because they are narcissists. Sometimes a narcissistic ex-partner will be so persuasive and calculating that your own family will blame you for the breakdown of a relationship. It might even be the case that your ex and your family still have contact with each other, and that to remove one from your life, you must, reluctantly, say goodbye to the other too.
Whatever the reasons are, cutting ties with members of your family will be a serious challenge. You might have to forego events such as birthdays, Christmas, and funerals in order not to see them. Your own special occasions may also prove difficult because of the family ties that still exist; take your wedding or the birth of a child, for example, and not having certain family members present.
You will also have an incredible number of memories – both good and bad – that will enter your conscious mind from time to time and these will be bundled up with all sorts of emotions that can bubble up to the surface again.
Loneliness And Isolation
A narcissist will often try to push other important people away from you in order to maintain their control. Narcissist partners will try to keep you away from family and friends, while narcissist family members drive away friends and love interests.
Once you have broken free, you may find that you face a good deal of time alone. Some of this may be out of choice as you simply try to rediscover yourself and heal from your experience. Other times, you may want to be social, but face the situation where you no longer have many good friends you can count on or family members who you are close to.
Your freedom can be both liberating and disheartening in equal measure and it will often shift back and forth from one to the other.
Having had your sense of self dismantled by the narcissist in your past, you will face the task of rebuilding it again once you leave them behind.
This process not only takes a significant amount of time, but it requires you to face your demons and exorcise them. These demons are the remnants of the narcissist; the scars they have left upon you. They are the false beliefs about yourself that grew out of your experience and they need to be dispelled before you can start reconstructing a new self.
Unfortunately, this is rarely a straightforward task; you will have days when you feel as though you’re making great strides, but there will also be days where it will seem like you are back at square one. Elation and confidence can quickly make way to despair and desperation; it really is a rollercoaster ride.
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One of the phases that you may go through many times during your recovery is the desire to get your own back on the narcissist. You may want them to suffer and to know how you felt during your time with them.
Revenge may sound like an appealing premise, but each time you return to this wish, you open up old wounds all over again. You stir up unwelcome feelings and bring back unpleasant memories which push you back a step on your path to a narcissist-free life.
The problem is, your rational mind knows that it’s a silly idea, but your emotional heart can’t help but come back to it over and over.
The Call Of Curiosity
Another reason why your emotions can be all over the place after leaving a narcissist is curiosity. Wanting to know what they are up to and who they are seeing is sometimes like having an itch you just have to scratch; social media makes this a trap that is all too easy to fall into.
Just seeing pictures of the narcissist from your past can stir up all sorts of conflicted feelings.
What makes it even more unhelpful is that they rarely show any emotional torment or upset and can appear to move on very quickly. This can make your feelings seem all the more irrational, even though they are 100% natural and understandable.
You will also have to face questions from your own mind as to why you didn’t spot the red flags earlier on in the relationship (this mainly applies mainly to romantic entanglements).
It can be easy to beat yourself up and subject yourself to ridicule for overlooking things which are now so plain to see. Of course, everything is clear in hindsight, but that’s not how you will see it.
You will alternate between forgiving yourself and berating yourself and each cycle will cause inner turmoil and upset.
On top of this, you will ask whether you’ll ever be able to trust again, and the doubt will make you feel very pessimistic about your future prospects. You will envisage a lifetime alone, never again being able to commit to someone else as you’d like to. Of course, this feeling won’t be permanent, but it can creep back into your mind many times before it disappears for good.
Cold Turkey And Time
These are two things you’ll need most in order to bring your own personal rollercoaster to an end.
As was covered extensively in another article, the only way to truly deal with and move on from a narcissist is to leave them behind completely with zero contact. Only once you have done this can time start to heal some of the hurt that you have suffered.
The first few weeks and months will be the hardest, but as time passes, the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster will become smaller and smaller until, eventually, they are virtually non-existent.
This is not to say that you won’t, occasionally, experience a huge down when something triggers an emotional response, but they will be fewer and farther between as the years pass.