Once the narcissist has drawn you into his drama-laden world of deceit, ambiguity, triangulation and inconsistency, you begin to gradually lose control over all areas of your life. They confuse, hurt and frustrate us to such an extent that we can no longer function properly in our daily lives. The ensuing feeling of inadequacy, weakness and powerlessness adds greatly to the general frustration until we reach the point where we think we cannot take it any longer. If the worst comes to the worst, we can lose the will to live and even catch ourselves thinking that it would be a great relief if a giant bottomless pit could just swallow us up whole. It takes a very long time to recover from the pain and despair we are left with as a result of being in a relationship with a narcissistic emotional abuser. In some cases, we can no longer manage to get back on track on our own and are dependent on emotional support. As it often takes so long to recover, we tend to be too hard on ourselves – thinking that it is another sign of our weakness and dependency that we cannot manage to regain our emotional well-being faster.
During the entire time I was involved with the narcissist I felt as if I was standing on the edge of a yawning abyss that I could fall into at any moment. I’ve never before felt so drained of energy and joy, and so close to completely going insane. The fact that my well-being and emotional health was so deeply intertwined with the narcissist’s behavior made me question my entire being. How could it be possible that someone else had gained so much control over me? Why was my happiness completely dependent on him? Why was I so deeply affected by someone who clearly wasn’t nearly as attached as I was? Why did I care so genuinely and deeply about someone who was exposing me to so much pain and who disappointed me over and over again?
All the drama and insecurity made it nearly impossible for me to get on with the daily concerns of my life. Both at work and at university, I found it incredibly hard to keep my focus. My thoughts kept revolving around his ambiguity and inconsistency as I was trying to make sense of his behavior. I sometimes felt so down and frustrated due to the many disappointments that came my way that I had to invest all my will power to keep me from bursting into tears. At the time I was involved with the narcissist, I was supposed to decide on what I wanted to work on in my Master’s Thesis. However, I found it completely impossible to find the energy and brain capacity to do so and consequently completely neglected my studies. As you can probably imagine, my inability to get ahead with the things I was supposed to do led to an enormous amount of self-doubt and self-loathing. I hated myself for being so weak and for not being able to get my priorities straight.
What also greatly contributed to the feeling of losing control was the fact that my physical and emotional well-being deteriorated so drastically as a result of being with the narcissist. I felt constantly on edge, drained of energy. I suffered from insomnia, stinging pains in the chest and a loss of appetite. It seemed as if he had completely sucked all joy and resolve out of me. I spent entire days on the couch, unable to move, shaking all over, agonizing over his thoughtlessness, his indifference and distance. Whenever I had worked myself into such an emotional state I was completely apathetic about all the other areas of my life. I was no longer interested in my studies, I no longer cared about reading books…I couldn’t have cared less about everything that was going on around me. My mind was completely occupied with his drama and the pain he caused me through his unavailability.
As a result of repeatedly being pushed aside and of having to deal with so much insecurity I got severely depressed. I felt as if I was a complete failure, absolutely powerless, dependent on the affection of someone who was incapable of giving it to me. Trivial matters could bring me to start crying, and often the only thing I longed for was falling into a dreamless sleep – something that had become almost impossible due to my insomnia. In addition to feeling frustrated and depressed, anger was heaping inside of me. The inconsideration, distance and indifference with which he treated me caused me to get extremely angry at times. However, since I never dared to give a voice to it out of a deep-seated fear of losing him, I swallowed and almost choked on it.
The narcissist’s strategy of keeping us in the dark and the deep feeling of insecurity that arises from it often drives us into a state in which we are tortured by obsessive thoughts. I spent a lot of my energy and brain capacity on trying to find answers and excuses for his behavior. I refused to accept that he just wasn’t as attached and that he enjoyed torturing me with his drama and ambiguity. In my obsessive mindset, I started to blame myself for what was going on – dwelling on the same questions over and over again: Why am I so damn weak and dependent? Why do I allow him to blow me off and disrespect me? Are my anger and frustration even justified or is he right when he says I’m overreacting? Am I expecting too much? Where is all of this headed? Why do I get so attached to someone who is unable to offer stability, security and committment?
In my case, what greatly contributed to the feeling of losing control was the humiliating experience of becoming a victim to triangulation. I was constantly pushed aside because he prioritized his exgirlfriends feelings. He often cancelled on me because his exgirlfriend didn’t allow him to meet with me and threatened to throw him out of her apartment. As if this hadn’t been enough to handle, I also was harrassed by her, as she constantly tried to call me and sent me text messages in which she reminded me of how much power she still had over him. Once she even had the indecency to point out to me that she would do everything in her power to keep him from spending the night at my place. It was nerve-racking, humiliating and just plain crazy. He repeatedly assured me that there was nothing romantic or physical about their relationship and that the only reason he still lived with her was that he felt responsible for her. In the end, I didn’t know what to believe anymore. The deceit, craziness and bullshit accusations that were a fixed part of the triangle, were sucking the life out of me. I couldn’t stop obsessing about the nature of their relationship, and I couldn’t stop loathing myself for allowing him to expose me to so much humiliation. Being consistently treated like a secondary option left lasting marks on my psyche. I was never really in control of what was going on and the resulting feeling of powerlessness was paralysing me.
Now that the relationship is over and all the drama and insecurity has finally evaporated, I need to work hard on regaining my inner balance. It will probably still take some time to regain the control over my life that he has so completely taken away from me. He left me so completely shattered – a shell of my former self – that it will be hard work to fully recover. I will never get back the time I lost due to the exposure to drama. I will probably hand in my Master’s Thesis later than I planned to, because I have been unable to focus on my studies for such a long time. I try to not put too much blame on myself for failing to get ahead in all areas of my life. I consistently need to remind myself that given the amount of stress and drama I was exposed to, it is only natural to not find the energy and mental capacity to function the way I was supposed to. However, I still find it hard not to loath myself for prioritizing an unavailable man over academic achievement.
I’ve already come a long way and am glad that I’ve learned a lot during my process of recovery. I am incredibly thankful for the emotional support given to me by my family and friends. They have always been patient and understanding with me, allowed me to talk to them about my worries, and therefore helped me regain my balance. I really don’t know where I would be without them. Knowing that there are people out there who genuinely care about you and want to see you get better really lessens the impact of the fall. He was almost successful at completely breaking my spirit and making me lose the will to live. In the end, however, I was strong enough to recover. He couldn’t break me in spite of the fact that he tried his hardest to do so – and it is thanks to my family and friends that he failed.