The first time my narcissist left me, I was a senior in high school. We had met that fall. It was now six months later and he simply walked away–no explanation, no closure, nothing. I was so incredibly confused. We went from “everything is wonderful” to nothing in an instant, at least if I listented to his words. What happened in reality was not even close. But he was my first boyfriend and I missed all the red flags. So badly so that when he came back later I married him and lived through narcissistic abuse for the next 31 years before finally emerging and finding healing.
Healing from a narcissist requires that we understand the level of abuse that has happened to us. That involves finding the right counselors, friends, support groups, legal representation, books and other resources. With healing, you will find you need a significant amount of time because most damage is severe. And healing will not be linear. You will make new friends and notice positive physical changes while rediscovering your identity. You will lose the brain fog and become emotionally healthy! The whole new world you will find yourself in will be amazing.
Let’s take a closer look at what that journey will look like.
Table of Contents
Realize That the Damage From a Narcissist Can be Severe
One of the scariest aspects of narcissistic abuse is that many times, victims never realize what has happened to them or how they need to heal. They can feel like something is really wrong. But because the narcissist blames them for everything and changes their reality, they cannot emerge with a healthy perspective. So they blame themselves for their “lack of” and promise themselves that they will become a better wife, child, employee, student, whatever the relationship. But they never rise to the perfection the narcissist demands of them.
This causes an unspeakable amount of harm to the victim. Finding stability in themselves is nearly impossible while still in relationship with a narcissit. And once out from under the abuse, it is an uphill battle. But it can be done, and victims of narcissistic abuse are finding their strength and health in greater numbers than ever before as the world catches on to the tactics of narcissistic abuse.
Once you realize the depth of damage the narcissist relationship has caused, you will be able to find the best resources to help you. It is important, especially in the beginning of your healing process, to find counselors and professional support with experience in narcissism. This may be the single most important thing you do.
I was very lucky. I didn’t seek out a counselor. My narcissist ex dragged me to a Christian counselor to “make me obey” because I was no longer bending to his every wish. What I didn’t realize was that not only would they not force me to obey him, they would recognize the abuse for what it was and my journey of healing would begin. I have since realized that most stories of narcissism do not end this well.
Healing From a Narcissist Takes a Long Time
I was also very lucky in this regard as well. I was raised in a home with a narcissistic mother, which is how I ended up married to a narcissist later. I had no ability to recognize the red flags for the danger they were. In spite of being under the control of narcissists for nearly 50 years of my life, the long term damage was not nearly as bad as many others. Narcissism can cause victims unspeakable pain and emotional and psychological damage. Malignant narcissism (covert and overt) have even led to C-PTSD and even suicide.
With such severe issues, healing from a narcissist usually takes years to work through. I was not diagnosed with any major mental illness and it still took two to three years to start feeling emotionally healthy. And years later, I can still get momentarily triggered by sights, sounds, smells, or other memories. The good news is that as time goes on, the triggers are merely inconveniences that help me remember how far along I have come. And it is a great reminder to never go back to the unhealthy state I lived in for so many years.
Healing From a Narcissist is not Linear
With almost anything in life, there are good days and there are bad days. This is especially true with when healing from a narcissist. In fact, rather than linear, you will feel more like you are on a roller coaster with no end in sight.
And then, suddenly, the roller coaster will stop. And you will finally feel the stillness and peace.
I don’t know why it works that way. For the months leading up to our separation, things were very toxic. I couldn’t sleep. And I lost 25 pounds very quickly. (Honestly, I was really happy about that!) After our separation, I still didn’t sleep but maybe two to four hours a night. I did get a whole lot of work done during this time though!
Our divorce process was quite drawn out between Covid closures in court and custody issues. I kept reading and hearing from friends who had divorced that once the divorce is final everything changes. I would start sleeping again. And my appetite would go back to normal.
And sure enough, almost overnight I started sleeping again after literal years of sleeplessness. My day-to-day didn’t really change. But maybe just the idea that the battle was over was enough to allow my body to rest. Regardless of what it was, I was incredibly grateful.
Did it work out that way for you? When did you notice that things had changed significantly?
After Healing From Narcissism Everything Will Suddenly Start to Make Sense
One of the first things my counselor told me to do once we realized we were dealing with narcissism was to make as much conversation as I could in writing. That wasn’t really a problem since we could hardly be in a room together without getting into an argument.
Something I noticed almost instantly was that disagreements over what was said was no longer nearly as fuzzy. He couldn’t change my words. Because they were in either text or email form. And when he told me I was wrong about something all I had to do was go back and see what I actually wrote or what he wrote to me. That is when I started realizing that I wasn’t as wrong or fuzzy as it seemed all those years.
Once I had the ability to go back and confirm my words, my head cleared up very quickly. And my confidence in myself soared for pretty much the first time in my life. (I was raised in a narcissistic home and married straight into my husband’s narcissistic home. This was literally the first time in my life that I was not being manipulated by emotional and psychological abuse.)
As time goes on, you will be so incredibly shocked at how cloudy your thinking had become without you even realizing what was going on. This may be one of the biggest healing stages that y9ou will experience!
When Emerging From Narcissism You Will Make New Healthier Friends
This is a very good thing. But unfortunately, it is the flip side of the fact that you will lose some friends. There will be people who just can’t see the narcissist for anything but the masks that he wears. They don’t want to see what you have seen and experienced. Those people are equally as unhealthy as the narcissist when they refuse to acknowledge the truth because they like the fake version better. What they don’t realize is that by supporting the false self of the narcissist, they are actually contributing to the narcissistic abuse.
The best thing you can do about this is move on to friends who will value the truth over the lies. You will know quite quickly who is who. And while it will initially hurt, finding and making new friends will help your healing in a most substantial way.
There will, of course, be some old friends that stand by you and support you through the process of separation and divorce. So maybe this is the best of both worlds. You will see who your real friends are. And you will gain new lifelong friends.
In my case, while the vast majority of my church of 26 years was incredibly supportive, including the leadership, there were a few people in the church that chose not to believe the truth. And they made it very clear to me how they felt about it. It became too hard for me to continue to worship there when they were making it clear to me that I was not welcome there by them. And as a result, I ended up leaving for those few families. The ironic thing is that most of those families ended up moving on to my ex-husband’s weird and cultic church.
Healing From a Narcissist Helps You Rediscover Your Identity
Once you start thinking more clearly, you will all of a sudden realize that you lost your own identity and didn’t even know it until now. Dreams, plans, patterns of thinking, literally much of what was in your mind comes back. And you start to feel like you are back in your own skin again.
This is one of the best parts of getting your life back. There have been times I have felt like I went back in time 30 years. Unfortunately, I don’t have my whole life ahead of me anymore. But I have my identity back. And I have new similar dreams with some wisdom and experience added in.
I feel like I have opportunities now that I have never had before. But I also have the knowledge of some missed opportunities. That would happen even if I had lived a perfectly charmed and protected life. Curveballs come to all of us, not just those of us that led difficult or oppressed lives. Needless to say, I am excited to see what the future holds. And I also get to see the same thing in the lives of people who I have been able to walk with on their road to healing. God has not only helped me, but made me an instrument of healing for others who are suffering.
Healing From a Narcissist Could Even Have Physical Benefits
This was one way that healing from a narcissist was a total surprise for me. Once I had been separated for a while and in counseling for a couple of years, people started approaching me and talking about ways they had seen a definite change. My former pastor said that I walked taller and with straighter shoulders. I had never even thought of the possibility that separation and divorce would change me physically.
A couple weeks later I realized the truth of what he had told me when I went to get something off the top shelf of my kitchen cupboard and I was able to easily reach it when in the past I couldn’t even when on my tiptoes. I was actually standing taller. From the time I was a teenager, I had been told that my posture was a problem. I always thought there was something physically wrong with me. And now multiple people were telling me that they noticed I was standing taller and straighter than before. That was one of the best feelings for me.
My former pastor’s wife also told me soon after that that my eyes and expression had more life than before. I really was a different person. When I posted pictures of social media, people wrote that I looked happier than ever before. This was such good confirmation for me that I had done what was good for me. I was finally healing in a better way than ever before.
Side note: have you or a loved one hit a milestone along the way that you would like to commemorate? Check my list of perfect ideas to remember the important progress that has been made!
After Narcissism, You Become More Emotionally Healthy Than Ever Before
When you put together all of the different ways that you are healing after so many years of narcissistic abuse, you will be amazed at how different you are. You will be amazed that you never noticed how far downhill you went without even realizing what was happening to you. And you will be surprised at how quickly the you that was hiding and protecting itself emerges when gently coaxed out of its hidden spot.
You will finally feel like a whole person again. You will start to feel emotions that have been buried for years or even decades. I always thought I was a non-emotional person. I now realize I was suppressing my emotions so that I didn’t rock the boat. I walked on eggshells my whole life. And now, I was finally free to feel and experience life in my own way.
As you start to recover emotionally, a great book to help you along is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzaro. I found it amazing and enlightening when I had first begun my counseling journey. I read it again later and was even more amazed at how much more I learned even over the first time I read it. Check it out! You will be so glad you did!
What has your experience been as you have emerged from the damage of a narcissist? Have you found your healing from a narcissist to be freeing and the ability to be a whole you again? I would love to hear how you story has played out and where you are in the process. Feel free to reply below or contact me here if you don’t feel safe to post publicly.
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