One of the most difficult aspects of leaving a narcissist is that there is no closure. Few people really understand what it’s like to survive a psychological abuser. Not only will the narcissist ever understand your point of view, he or she will never attempt to try. In addition to spending the entire relationship feeling misunderstood and shut down, the survivor of a narcissist must pass through a firewall of gaslighting, manipulation, and character assassination when they leave. A narcissist will use whatever resources they have to attack you, whether that’s your own friends, family, finances, or children. Chances are, they will succeed. Escaping a narcissist almost always means losing everything and everyone who became toxic by proxy.
All of this results in a deep longing for the survivor to be understood. Survivors often feel a variety of symptoms of anxiety and hypervigilance. They often fear they are going crazy. Not only is their self-esteem destroyed, survivors worry they can no longer trust their own thoughts. They desperately need people around them who get it.
Well, I get it, and I’m here to tell you that if you survived a narcissist, you are a freaking warrior.
Survivors of psychological abuse are true heroes. In order to survive the narcissist, they had to take a giant leap into the unknown. Often, they had to walk away from everything they once knew. Often, the only ones they had to lean on were themselves. They were willing to put everything on the line in order to be free from abuse. Survivors often don’t give themselves nearly as much credit as they deserve, but they are walking miracles.
But on most days, survivors don’t feel miraculous. They are sad, hurt, confused, angry, and long for closure they will never get. Due to trauma bonding, many will even miss their abusers. Due to gaslighting, many doubt their own experience, even when it was pure hell.
When a survivor feels this way, it’s time to shift focus. Understanding and closure from the narcissist will never happen, so it’s important to feed that need in other ways. The more a survivor can find and surround themselves with people who understand psychological abuse, the better. Trauma-informed therapists and trauma recovery coaches get it. Group therapy and online communities help to reinforce and validate the experience. The key is this. Whenever a survivor feels the urge to want or need anything from their former abuser, they must turn it around and meet the need through a supportive community.
Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly worn down, I just need to hear someone speak kindly to me. When it’s not logistically possible to call on a close friend, I listen to guided meditations (I love Lisa Romano’s on YouTube). Audibly hearing another person’s voice speak loving and encouraging words can go a long way to drown out the abuser’s voice in my head.
Psychological abuse is a relational trauma, and the only way to heal from it is through healthy relationships. Finding and establishing those relationships after trauma doesn’t always happen overnight, but every little step toward them helps. Not everyone will understand your trauma. The ones you want and need to understand may not. But there are many people who do, and we are waiting for you with open arms.