Narcissists cling to those who have big hearts because they can tolerate a great deal of subliminal abuse. But it’s only so long until they finally realize the damage being inflicted on them and build up the courage to walk away. It’s a process we’ve seen play out over and over, but what no one seems to realize is the impact narcissistic abuse can have on your mental health post-relationship. Your mental health still deteriorates, even after you free yourself from a narcissistic relationship. I know this first hand because the truth is, being in a relationship with a narcissist caused my anxiety disorder.
It all started with the verbal abuse sinking deeper and deeper into my system. The awful things my narcissistic ex said about me echoed in my mind so often that they slowly became my reality. I felt like I was nothing without him, I thought I was too sensitive, I over reacted too much, I thought everyone hated me and honestly, I started to hate myself. I lost touch with family members, I stopped hanging out with my friends, I had completely and totally isolated myself without even realizing it. And it’s all because his narcissistic abuse convinced me to do so. I was alone and trapped in this world where I had absolutely no control over the things that happened to me… I was terrified and frozen.
This went on for a while, too long, until slowly I began to realize how toxic he actually was. I wanted my old life back and I did everything in my power to get there, which included cutting him out of my life entirely. Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I had to do, but it wasn’t until I was out of that relationship that I could see how much damage he had actually inflicted on my life. I wanted so badly to go back to feeling like my old self, but something felt… different. I realized that even though he no longer has me in his grips, my mind was now in a different type of prison.
My mind switched from self-loving to self-loathing, from trusting to suspicious, from stable to uncontrollably anxious. My brain functions literally altered: the way I thought, the way I saw myself and thought about others… I didn’t feel even remotely like my old self and I couldn’t figure out why. After hours of research, I finally found that according to a number of different studies, “verbal abuse can affect your brain functions and lead to a host of psychological problems, including anxiety disorders.”
The emotional torture I endured deteriorated my mental health. I spent so long trapped in the hands of a man who did nothing but look at me and my life under a microscope that I lost my ability to confidently think for myself. My new anxiety disorder lead me to not trust the very thoughts that crossed my mind, or the words that formed in my mouth. I was held captive by my anxiety, it stole my sense of comfort in who I was and my relationships with the people who once meant so much to me. I suddenly felt anxiety creep in when I’m in social situations, leading me to overthink even the slightest interaction, going over in my mind all the things I could’ve said or done differently for days after the fact. It consumed me and colored my world in fifty shades of nervousness and worry.
And it breaks my heart that even though I finally found the strength to walk away, the verbal abuse continues to affect me. I wanted so badly for this feeling to disappear, I prayed that the trauma would just disappear along with my narcissistic ex… but then I learned from another study that “verbal abuse can cause significant psychological problems in later years and brain damage, including anxiety, depression, anger-hostility, and dissociation.” Even years after I’ve cut the toxic out of my life, there’s still no telling how long it’ll take for my brain to fully recuperate from the abuse. I was living in a hostile environment for so long that I became accustomed to it and now my brain is continuing to suffer.
To say it’s been a process working to overcome my anxiety would be an understatement. It’s an uphill battle, but one I’m willing to give my all to because I know the outcome will only be a better me. Each day I find myself accepting the fact that I have an anxiety disorder a little more. I may have anxiety but it doesn’t define who I am, nor will it ever.
Millions of people have anxiety, and now I’m with them, fighting this battle. I dug deep to find the strength to walk away from my narcissistic relationship, now I know I will find the strength to live with my anxiety. I allow myself the freedom and time to feel every ounce my anxiety to the fullest. If I have a gut feeling that’s telling me to avoid going out, I’ll accept it. I’ve taught myself not to force anything that doesn’t feel right.
In some ways, my anxiety is almost another protective guard around my heart. I might be a little bit hesitant to trust, but I know the right people will show me it’s okay to let my guard down. And I might fight off being vulnerable around well, everyone but that’s for a reason. Right now, I’m still healing, I still need to be selfish and take care of myself in every way possible. My anxiety disorder is just another way to help me heal and become the best possible version of myself. And I know I will get there.