It’s a long road to recovery following emotional abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting, but the following suggestions can help to ease that journey
Over the past couple of years, narcissistic abuse has become a social media buzzword – more and more people are becoming aware of the signs, and working to break free from it. Since 2017, I’ve been helping abuse survivors from all over the world to get back on their feet, regain their mental health, and recover who they were always meant to be.
Every person who walks through my door says something along the lines of, “I don’t know who I am any more.” Or, “I don’t recognise the person looking back at me in the mirror.” Some don’t even see anyone else at all. The complete loss of self, caused by the tactical erosion of identity, is one of the most difficult and heartbreaking consequences of narcissistic abuse.
The good news is that with the right tools, and the right support, you can find your way back to you, and when you do, this connection with yourself will be stronger than you could have ever imagined. So, how do you do it?
1. No contact (no ifs, no buts)
This is the most important rule of abuse recovery. Also, admittedly, one of the most difficult steps to take. If you stay connected, even if it’s keeping their number on your phone, just in case, you will not heal. Period.
Does this mean you’re selfish? Does this mean you’re a bad person? Does this mean you’re turning into a narcissist yourself? No, no, and no. No contact and narcissistic silent treatment are not the same at all. It serves your self-protection.
If no contact isn’t possible due to shared custody or legal proceedings, the contact needs to be highly modified and kept to the absolute minimum, with no personal touches at all, ideally through a neutral third party and/or apps such as OurFamilyWizard (ourfamilywizard.co.uk).
2. Take responsibility for your journey
It’s really easy to feel sorry for ourselves when we’ve experienced such unspeakable horrors and struggle with our mental health as a consequence. Is it fair? Absolutely not. The reality, however, is that we can’t change what has happened. All you can do is change how you feel about it. Can you take full responsibility for yourself and your recovery, make life happen, and feel empowered and in control? The decision is yours. Remember: you are the CEO of this operation!
3. Shift the focus
Shift the focus away from them, and what happened, and onto yourself and your healing. There is a time for reading books about narcissists and victim stories, and engaging in self-help groups, but eventually, you need to start to focus on yourself and begin to learn about things that actually will move you forward.
4. Self-care, self-care, self-care
I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care in finding yourself. This is something that very likely doesn’t come naturally to you. You’ve probably spent your whole life sacrificing yourself, and have always put others’ wellbeing before your own. Now is the time to change that. It’s like you putting your oxygen mask on first on the plane before you help others.
Self-care is where the magic happens. It is essential to put a solid, daily self-care routine in place, whether you like it or not – and I promise you that you’ll learn to love it.
Remember: no contact is your number one self-care decision!
5. Take action
Many are looking for a magic pill that’ll make all of this go away in a blink of an eye. Sadly, that doesn’t exist. There are no shortcuts. What we are dealing with here is multi-layered, deep, and complex trauma. The only one who can fix this is you. You will have to put in the work and go all in, whatever it takes – though you are not alone in this, and it’s OK (and necessary) to ask for professional help.
The good news is that with the right tools, and the right support, this is actually much easier than you think, and doesn’t have to be a long and painful process. So, make yourself your top priority today. Be 100% determined and committed to your healing. Persevere and you will succeed.
If you would like support, visit the Counselling Directory or speak to a qualified counsellor.